Authors Notes: Thanks to Fanwoman for the beta. Written as part of the 4400 ficathon, for the recipient Cypria. Six more chapters are to come...
It was deja vu all over again, except that Agent Owen Garrity hadn't witnessed this before. But he knew what had happened; he'd seen the replayed news footage of the gigantic ball of light zooming in and rolling across the visage of the lake. This occurrence had been somewhat surprising, but not entirely unexpected. NTAC had been keeping close tabs on any suspect "comets," in case this very thing happened. At 3am, they'd hit the jackpot, if you considered it fortunate, and the comet named Byers-Langley had veered off course for no discernible reason and was headed in a distinctly un-comet like fashion towards Mount Rainier.
After the first time, Homeland Security had drawn up contingency plans, but with years gone by and no sign of anything more, no one had thought it very likely the incident would repeat itself. Perhaps they'd amended their scheme because the future wasn't going to plan. It wouldn't be the first time for that, as they'd seen fit to abduct those 4400 children recently. Owen wasn't sure what to think, but he got on with his job, bracing himself for the impact he knew must come next. He was prepared, even if he had been called out at the crack of dawn.
It was the early hours of the morning, barely anything visible until the sphere appeared, giving a moonlight effect that lit up the water eerily. The dismal winter fog clouded the area, though the mists started to unfold in the centre, as if disturbed by the presence of the ball of light. One difference was they were met by a decidedly smaller sphere than the last, but it still wavered and shimmered exactly as the other had, drawing closer to the lake's edge in a near identical descent. Then it stopped, and for a moment there was absolute silence, before the shock wave shook everything within half a mile.
A few lucky agents had been manning the cars, and were now sat pretty compared to the others on ground who'd toppled like dominoes despite their best efforts. No one standing had been able to adequately stabilise themselves. The agents got back up, albeit slowly; everyone seemed dazed. He tried to shake off the odd sensation the blast had created. Nope, nothing could prepare you for that...
The light was gone, and if not for the sensibilities of NTAC, the blanket of darkness they'd been plunged into would have made it extremely difficult to locate any of the presumed returnees, had there been any. His eyes tried to focus on the mists that had been drawn back across the lake, obscuring what little vision they could hope for in the extremely dull light before the dawn. A call went up, and he shielded his eyes. They switched on the portable floodlights, and upon opening his eyes this time, he could see definite figures emerging from ground zero.
The first was a young woman, who stumbled across the lakebed at a quick pace, confusion evident on her face. Her hair hung loose, and she was dressed plainly in dark colours, making it impossible to identify what period she could be from, except that she wore trousers rather than a skirt, something unusual in many places before more recent decades. She couldn't be from too far in the past...at least they weren't dealing with periods too much earlier than the 1940's they'd handled before. Still, there were no other indicators as to when she was from. She obviously wasn't from any time pre-twentieth century, but they couldn't tell if she'd come from then, nor if she was from this century, and so they kept up their guard, following the protocol they had committed to memory previously.
"Government agents - hands in the air! Repeat, hands in the air."
He drew his gun, though it felt weird to do so. If there were more abductees – he didn't think consider it as being more 4400's because more would make that name technically defunct – then it wasn't a great way to be greeted. But it was necessary; they didn't know who might have been sent here. They could be sweet as pie, ordinary innocent individuals with no clue what was going on, or they could be people sent back with an ambiguous agenda. Already, they'd witnessed sleepers agents - people programmed by one of the factions from the future - and actual people from the future seeking to interfere directly. There was no telling who was on what side of the war waged by the future humans, and no way for NTAC to know which side they should be on anyway. This time, they weren't taking any chances; they couldn't afford to. He reminded himself to be on alert, no matter how normal they seemed, the prospect of apprehending them leaving him feeling on edge. He suspected the knot of worry forming in his chest wasn't going to go away until this was over and whoever they were had been securely placed under quarantine.
Two men joined the woman, glancing round wearily and also clearly thoroughly confused, as could be considered usual with this method of travel. Upon hearing the second request for hands up they complied but moved to stand protectively on either side of the young woman. Both were wearing similar, simple, dark-hued clothing. Another two figures, one male and one female, were revealed as the mists receded, and they quickly grouped with the others. Something wasn't right with this. Firstly, they acted as if they knew each other, and secondly, what was the deal with the nondescript attire? It was looking like they'd been purposefully dressed that way, or, considering the oddness of their familiarity with each other, they may have purposefully dressed themselves that way - it made him think "uniform".
He had a sinking feeling in his stomach as the first line of agents moved forward to restrain the troupe, but it dissipated a little as he watched. Thankfully, they complied completely, holding out their hands carefully. Yet, that had been the one aspect that had made him do double take; it the one thing that still didn't feel right about how this was playing out, despite that they were no problem. As they were being led to the cars, the reason came to him; it was like they knew what should be done, not at all the way most people would respond to the request – they'd known exactly how to best present their hands so they could be restrained quickly, easily and with the angle causing least pain for travelling. Not one had needed correcting as they'd had the handcuffs applied. Either they'd been on the receiving end of law enforcement too many times for their own good, or they'd applied the procedure to others enough times for it to be routine...