Disclaimer: If Threshold were mine…well, for one thing, it wouldn't have been cancelled.
A/N: The story incorporates quotes from the script- they should be obvious if you've watched it enough times! And yes, I know I can't hide the fact that I changed the attack just on whim…don't quibble over minor details!
How quickly life could change. One moment, you could fool yourself into thinking you were prepared, that you were in control and the next, that feeling of security and competence was put to the test and you were left trying to find your bearings in a world that no longer made sense. Yet that was what Dr Molly Caffrey found most enticing in the state of the world today; attempting to master the intricacies of its rapidly shifting balance of power and circumstances, trying to foresee all the repercussions of international incidents or global catastrophes. That was her job, after all, to deal in worst case scenarios.
She had spent just that morning lecturing at the Blackwood Institute, introducing her audience to the various number of worst-case scenarios routinely prepared for, her presentation deliberately skewed towards the most disastrous set of circumstances imaginable. That had been a simple exercise. This was so much more.
Her peaceful evening walk with her dog had been shattered by the droning sound of a helicopter approaching, blades whirring urgently as it set down nearby. "Molly Anne Caffrey," stated the formally suited man who disembarked to approach her. "Name's Cavennaugh, Federal Agent. One of your plans has been activated- you're needed in Washington."
Her first impression of this Cavennaugh focused on the aura of grimness that radiated off him, rooted in his air of ruthless professionalism. Men like him were devoted to their job, like she was, but rather than thriving on the conditions that governed their respective occupations, his type generally tended to view the situation personally, as a sore point that needed to be resolved in order to avoid loss of face and to appease the perfectionist tendencies that characterized their nature. Molly thought they could do with a healthy dose of humor. But enough about Cavennaugh's personality, what interested her was the circumstances under which they now met. "Which one?" she asked, shaking hands. Molly had devised any number of plans over the years.
"Threshold," he said matter-of-factly, taking in her expression of stunned surprise. "You've just become the most important person on the planet." Molly assumed that he must be fully aware of the implications of her plan being put into motion- otherwise he would not have known of its existence. However, his tone was bland and unemotional, matching his impassive expression, as though he were merely offering a comment on the weather.
So he likes to play it cool. Tough guy, she thought sarcastically as they boarded the chopper. "Hey, Mr Cavennaugh," she said on the ride over, making a cursory attempt at conversing with the man. "What's your first name?"
He threw her a guarded glance, before quipping, "I only reveal that on a need-to-know basis."
With a roll of her eyes, Molly decided the man had a sense of humor, dubious as it was. So he isn't an android after all. There was hope for their working relationship. Despite the wry acknowledgement, she filed away this moment under 'Unresolved Battle' and it was later, as she analysed her newly assembled Red Team, that Molly finally had the chance to deal a return blow.
"Number three, Arthur Ramsey," Cavennaugh read out from his list of Red Team members.
"Expert in linguistics and applied mathematics. If our ET needs to phone home, he'll translate the call. The guy is brilliant," she said, taking a perverse pleasure in striding briskly along, forcing the rapid pace.
Remembering the location they had discovered this much-vaunted linguist, Cavennaugh replied with irony, "Yeah, well, the guy also has a gambling, booze and stripper problem."
Molly shrugged it off, unfazed, "We all have our vices."
"Really. What are yours, Doctor Caffrey?" he asked, venturing a personal query of his own.
With a deeply concealed smirk, she said, "I only reveal those on a need to know basis, Mr Cavennaugh," in a tone as coolly detached as he had employed. She outpaced him finally, striding nonchalantly ahead of him, intuitively knowing that Cavennaugh was working just as hard to maintain a composed visage as she was, rather than succumb to the amused chuckle that they were both suppressing. Molly certainly thrived on worst-case scenarios, but there was nothing better than little give-and-take, especially when it was she that won this game of one-upmanship.
If this was a game, Molly did not feel like playing any longer. Walking down the long empty corridor, a sense of foreboding pulsing through her, she tried to maintain her composure, although in defiance of all reason, her breaths starting to become quick and fast, signalling her panic. This is just a dream, she told herself. Nothing to worry about. Yet she knew she was lying to herself. Whatever was happening, it demanded strict attention and it wasn't letting her evade it with that simple rationalization- this was no ordinary dream.
Her dog appeared in front of her, a symbol of normality, even as he turned and seemed to compel her onwards…towards…what? Molly followed, feeling a dreamlike trance take over her, urging her to go nearer, and she entered the room to find-
-herself, strapped down, a wild look in her eyes…
Molly stared down at her own body, transfixed at the sight. She met her own eyes, trying to decipher the message that lay in those depths, unable to understand the plea that resided there…and then it was too late, a strange speech issued from the other woman's mouth in a hushed muttering before convulsions wracked her form. Struck with horror at the realization she could do nothing to help save her, Molly whirled and ran.
She ran as the lights behind her gave out, one by one, adding to the illusion that the darkness behind was in pursuit, hastening to catch up with her fleeing form, so close…
…and then she was elsewhere, picking herself up cautiously from the ground. A surreal sight met her eyes, delicate formations surrounded her, shaped like trees in fantastical form- made of glass, it appeared! Fascinated now, Molly picked a path at random, gazing at the bizarrely beautiful sight. A forest constructed of glass. Whatever for? Seemingly deserted, but for the movements of an unseen person just on the furthest range of her peripheral vision…slowly, she closed in on them…closer…
A harsh discordant jangling dragged her from the tantalizing pursuit and Molly jerked awake, reaching for the phone automatically. "Hello," she answered distractedly, still caught up in the memory of her dream.
"It's Cavennaugh. You okay?" The sound of his familiar voice brought her fully around. It sounded…raw, a little perturbed, and that was unusual from the self-possessed soldier she knew.
"Yeah, why?" she asked, wondering why he was calling at this late hour. Wondering, with a chill, whether it was somehow connected to the eerie dream he had woken her up from…his next words confirmed this notion.
"I just had this dream," Cavennaugh confessed. Why had he called the contingency analyst? He wasn't exactly sure of the reason himself, but a strange feeling assured him that Caffrey would understand. "I saw myself, only it wasn't me. I know this is going to sound strange, but it felt like it wasn't just a dream." His own words sounded foolish to him- why had he thought she would grasp his meaning? Rushing on, Cavennaugh tried to describe it to her, "There was this place, it was like I was really there. It was a forest, it was a glass forest." The silence on her end of the phone was worrying him. "Molly?"
"Yeah," she said in reply, sounding dazed. "Sorry…I saw it too. I was there."
So his instinct had been right. She understood. "What's happening to us?"
A pregnant pause on her end. "I don't know," she admitted, before suddenly jerking her head towards the door, aware that something was wrong. How, Molly didn't know that either, but she could not suppress a shiver of apprehension. "Cavennaugh, hold on a moment."
Typically, he just could not restrain himself. "What is it?" he asked warily.
"Hold on," Molly repeated, leaving the phone on the dressing table as she slid out of bed. It was ridiculous of her to feel nervous- what could there possibly be to fear in her own home? Shaking her head at her foolishness, she walked out into the corridor, where the darkness that surrounded her was all too reminiscent of how she had fled an unknown entity in her dream. Well, Molly, there's nothing here- she began to reassure herself, before a small movement in the shadows drew her gaze sharply over to the ill-defined figure that had materialized there. It took a step forward, approaching her. "Gunneson?" she gasped, unable to reconcile what she was seeing with what she last remembered of him, plunging into the ocean bearing four bullet wounds that she had placed in him. Molly retreated a step, then abandoned composure and ran for her bedroom.
Cavennaugh waited impatiently on the other end of the phone. What was taking the woman so long? He wanted to discuss the dream they had both evidently experienced, speculate over what it could possibly mean. It had to be related to that damn alien signal they had been exposed to, but how could that even be possible? Cavennaugh made a mental note to find out whether Lucas Pegg remembered any weird dreams, since he had also been third person present when they'd played the tape recording. A clatter in the distance brought his senses to full alert- but it had not emanated from his immediate surroundings, which could only mean… "Molly," he called urgently. "What's happening? Is everything okay?"
She slammed the door behind her, then desperately attempted to wedge a chair underneath the door handle to keep Gunneson out. A hand unexpectedly broke through her door, startling a shriek out of her. Molly remembered the phone and cried out, "Cavennaugh, he's here! Gunneson's here!" Giving up the door as a lost cause and disregarding the phone now, she dashed for the window, batting the curtains away before climbing onto the window sill- too late she felt brutal hands grasp her hair and jerk her backwards, denying her escape. Air wheezed out of her lungs as the man slammed her against the chest-of-drawers, scattering the few bottles and other necessities she kept there. Trying to elude his grip was a futile task, and Molly found herself on the floor, struggling for air as Gunneson tightened his hands around her throat.
Frantically trying to get air to her lungs, Molly rasped, "Gunneson…you're not yourself." She gagged on his deathly firm grip. "We can help you…please…" There had to be some way of disabling him, she thought vehemently. And out of the corner of her eye, one of the spray bottles showed promise in achieving that end. As Gunneson spoke gargled words, jumbled and incoherent, she ignored him and stretched her arm out to the canister, fingers closing weakly around it. Summoning up the last vestiges of her strength, she stabbed a finger down viciously to release the spray directly into his face. Molly managed to scramble to her feet as he howled in pain, and this time, she made it out the window. Knowing all the while that he would be right behind her, there had to be a plan to incapacitate him more effectively- and when her eyes closed on a spade, a desperate idea was born.
Gunneson leapt out of Molly Caffrey's window with ease, searching for the woman who had resisted him to this point. Stalking her steps, he came to an open underground cellar and stood at the entrance while he gauged his next move, unaware of the woman stealthily approaching him from behind- and there was nothing he could do when she smashed the spade in her grasp firmly over his head, sending the man tumbling down the stairs. Molly shuddered, wondering how he had fared, whether he was still conscious, if he was preparing for another round…before she could tell, bright lights flashed and voices intruded on this private battle as more men flooded into her yard. It took a few moments for their reassuring cries to penetrate to her shell-shocked mind.
"Federal agents," they announced to her confusion.
"What?" Molly said, clutching her weapon reflexively.
"Boys from Cavennaugh," one said in a placating tone.
"He's down there," she didn't care who they were as long as they were friendly. With those guns, they were more than welcome, even if bullets had less impact on Gunneson than on a normal human being. With a shiver, she watched them go down to retrieve him, and it was to utter dismay and lack of comprehension that they reported finding nothing. Following them down the stairs, Molly swept the area with a searching gaze, but she was unable to detect any trace of him either- and yet the bruises on her body, the throbbing of her throat, these all attested to his presence there. Unable to explain this mystery, she turned to them with another, "How did you get here so quickly?"
"You had my house under surveillance?" Molly met Cavennaugh with an accusing stare after her bedroom had cleared of all other interested parties.
"Just interpreting your plans," he said with that infuriating smugness. "Safety of the Red Ream at all costs, right?"
She disregarded the fact that his interpretation of her plan had saved her life, eager to seize this opportunity for diverting repartee. "This is deliberate. You just love twisting my protocols to suit your agenda, don't you?" she said, crossing her arms as she sank onto her bed.
"To resort to a cliché," he said, deliberately provoking her. "I can neither confirm nor deny."
"Think of the bigger picture. I could have died today, without ever even knowing your first name." There was a tiny quiver in her voice, a strangled note that prevented her joke from coming off as upbeat as she had intended it.
"Molly," he said compassionately, "You don't have to be strong in front of me. It's all right to be unnerved by what happened today, after all, you didn't sign up for this. In addition to being attacked in your own home, we're facing an alien threat that we know nothing about and that we have no defense against, one which makes sane people become crazed beyond belief. It's only natural to be overwhelmed by it all at a time like this."
"Thank you, Cavennaugh. You're a real natural when it comes to comforting women."
He shrugged as he rose to leave. However, his eyes were caught by the intimate apparel that lay forgotten on the floor. "Never figured you for the type to leave underwear lying around underfoot," he smirked.
Molly shut her eyes in remembered irritation. "Ramsey- he realized I was deadly serious when I told him to drop it. And stop looking," she said defensively, although she refused to move to handle her underwear in his presence, as it would only draw more attention to the item of clothing. Waving a hand to catch his wandering eye, she redirected his attention, "You're learning entirely too much about me without offering nearly enough in return."
Raising his arms in an apparent concession of defeat, Cavennaugh headed for the door. Pausing on the threshold, he offered her two words, "It's Sean." He waited for the moment it took before her blank look of incomprehension turned into one of startled delight.
"Sean Cavennaugh?" she crowed. "I knew I would wrangle it out of you!"
He lifted a finger in a chiding manner. "Hold the celebration- it's Sean P. Cavennaugh." It took all his willpower to maintain the stoic expression on his face as hers took on the appearance of a child who had been denied a long-anticipated treat.
Cavennaugh savored the moment.
"You're not going to tell me," her voice was flat. "Of all the mean-spirited things to do…! I will get it out of you, you do realize that."
"Maybe," he gave in to his impulse to grin wickedly. "But on my terms."
"Out of my room," she flapped a hand at him briskly. "Out now!" As the door closed behind him, affording her the privacy to change and recover before heading to Threshold, Molly sprawled backwards onto her bed, groaning a little at all her sundry aches and pains, mind buzzing as she thought about all that had transpired that evening: Gunneson's mysterious appearance, his tenacity in pursuing and attacking her, his equally mysterious disappearance…and Cavennaugh. That man and his blasted contrariness.
Beastly man. He'll deserve what's coming to him.
There you go, my first Threshold fic at last! Now I feel like part of the team…