If you've read this chapter before and suddenly noticed its...different...its cos it is :P - since i've improved drastically from the early days (somehow practically everything about this story, from writing style to characters to plot has developed!) I've decided that you - the readers - deserve the very best story I can produce! To those who have read: fret not, the plot is still the same one you've read before...except completely rewritten.
As always, please read, review, comment, anything...well, anything except flame :P
Disclaimer: I do not own Ice Age or its characters...everything else is mine!
Now, without further ado...
Frank leant back in his chair, staring blankly at the ceiling. He thought he could still hear the distant shouts of the protesters and reporters that had arrayed themselves outside of the security perimeter over the chaotic din of mechanics and engineers working within the hangar itself. He smiled sardonically; the past three years had been building up to this moment, but he didn't feel like celebrating. Every radio station, newspaper and television channel spoke out against him, and he had driven past a dozen churches packed to the rafters on his way from home. Everywhere he looked, he saw the same fear, the same dread;
The whole world thought the end was nigh, and he was the harbinger of that end.
He sighed deeply at the cruel irony of the situation he had found himself in.
He turned his attention back to the work going on the hangar floor below, hoping to turn his mind away from doom and gloom. His mind drifted ever further as he watched everything get packed up, preparing to leave for the launch site within the hour.
"How are you doing?"
Frank turned his chair towards the woman now standing in his office's doorway. She leant against the doorpost, smiling softly at him. He smiled back as he hauled himself out his chair, wrapping her in his arms.
"I'm ok," He fumbled. "It's just…it's an odd feeling to be completely hated."
Claire looked up at him with a slightly saddened expression.
"Ben and I still love you, and I'm sure Sam does; she is your sister, after all," She replied. "Which surely means you're not completely hated." Frank smiled ruefully at her,
"I know," He whispered. "And I love you too," He looked her in the eyes and smiled. "I'm so glad you and Ben are coming with me."
"We are too, though it's going to be a little sad to leave here." Claire replied. Frank grunted,
"I take it you haven't seen today's papers then." He said dejectedly. Claire looked at him distantly,
"No," She admitted. "Can't say I have."
He walked across to his desk and picked up each newspaper, one by one, reading only their headlines. Claire winced; each headline was more vicious and angry than the last. Frank paused before reading out the last one, looking up at her with a pained expression. He remained silent, simply turning the paper around, enabling her to read it;
Kill them before it's too late.
"I hadn't expected humanity's inhumanity to find such an open and avid expression." She murmured. Frank flung the paper onto the table and leant wearily leant against his desk. He rubbed his sore eyes for a moment, before turning to stare at the crowds beyond the entrance.
"This life has become a nightmare for us, Claire," He sighed. "There's nothing left for us here now."
"Soon we'll be twenty thousand years away from them," She stated as she straightened out. She suddenly smiled, stretching out her hand.
"Come on, Frank; we still have a few things to finish up before we leave for the launch site."
Before Frank could respond, the phone on his desk rang loudly. Startled, he none the less picked it up,
"Frank here, what is it," He stated, pausing as the reply came. He furrowed his brow. "What? How come?" He paused yet again. "I see. Ok, thank you." He placed the handset firmly on the receiver. Claire looked at him expectantly,
"What is it?" Claire asked? Frank looked at her, genuinely perplexed.
"Charlie and Nigel are on their way, but they're having to be flown in by helicopter." He answered.
She looked at him incredulously,
"Flown in? But why?"
"Guess there's only one way to find out."
The noise grew from a gentle, distant hum into a deafening roar as the helicopter came in to land. Frank, leaning against the sheer force of pressure the rotating blades blew towards him, could see Charlie quickly hop out of the aircraft, with Nigel following at a more leisurely pace.
"GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US!" Frank bellowed against the near-overwhelming whine of the engines. Charlie grinned sheepishly.
"SORRY OLD CHAP!" He shouted back. "HAD SOME DISAGREEMENT WITH THE LOCALS; THEY BURNT OUT OUR CAR AND RIOTED."
To Frank's relief, the pilot switched off the engine. The absence of noise seemed almost deafening in itself.
"Was anyone hurt?" Frank asked.
"We don't know," Nigel interjected. "We we're evacuated whilst the riots were at their worst."
"Seems the only people who want this expedition to go ahead is us!" Charlie remarked.
Frank chose not to reply aloud.
Some of us were forced to make it go ahead, he replied mentally.
Frank smiled slightly,
"Well, now that you two are here, and not dead, we might finally be able to get this show on the road! Everyone else is in the main hangar, making final preparations."
Nigel nodded and gestured,
"Care to lead the way?"
They stepped down into a world of chaos. Frank paused, taking in the vista before him; mechanics moving so quickly they seemed to glide, the rest of the expedition arguing and debating the final list of things to take, the security guards standing a respectful distance, observing everything alertly. He sighed.
"Bet you never expected life to take a turn for this, Frank old boy." He muttered to himself.
His feet were barely on the ground floor before his son flew into his arms, nearly toppling him back onto the stairs. Claire chuckled, sidestepping them.
I'll be by your truck, She mouthed silently as she walked away. Frank let out a laughing cough,
"Ben!" He managed. "How are you doing?"
"Great dad…" He trailed off. Frank could see a questioning look in his eyes.
"What is it Ben." He asked.
"Well…" The kid began. "If we're going to the Pli…the Ply…"
"Just call it the ice age, Ben." Frank cut in, smiling.
"Ok, the ice age…why are we taking all these trucks and guns? It looks more like we're going dinosaur hunting or something big than exploring ice fields."
Frank grinned. "Well, there won't be any dinos, that's for sure!" He said confidently. "But it's better to be safe than sorry – especially when you and your mum are going to be in the expedition," He looked Ben earnestly in the eyes. "I don't want anything to happen to either of you."
Ben smiled, "Thanks dad, I understand now."
Glad someone understands something in all this, Frank thought to himself. He checked his watch, grunting in surprise as he realised it was ten to eight already.
"Crap, we're running late," He muttered wearily. He looked down at his son, "Go join your mother in your truck, we're leaving for the launch site any minute now."
Frank let a flash of panicked anxiety creep across his face, suddenly realising what he had resisted truly pondering all day; the day that had completely absorbed the last three years of his life had arrived.
Ben looked at him intently,
"You're not looking forward to this, are you?"
Embarrassed, Frank immediately smiled,
"Of course I am," He lied. "I just remembered I needed to do something, that's all."
Damnit, kids can be perceptive, He noted mentally.
Ben smiled knowingly, as if he could see Frank's falsehood,
"It's ok dad, I'm a little scared too," He muttered. He walked off towards his designated truck, turning round just as he was disappearing from Frank's view, calling out. "See you on the other side!"
Frank chuckled to himself, taking dubious pride in the knowledge he had seemingly raised an emotional psychic. As he looked down, his amusement was cut short, quickly replaced by bewilderment, followed swiftly by anger as he stared dumbfounded at the array of newly added weaponry - including a very conspicuous rocket propelled grenade launcher - sitting in the bay of his truck. He let out an aggravated sigh,
"I really don't have time for this!" He growled.
He paced about, craning his neck to see if he could spot the man he knew to be the culprit, but he couldn't see his brother in law anywhere. As his efforts to spot him failed, his patience – already strained by the day itself – snapped entirely,
"TERRY!" He yelled.
"Tag! You're it!"
Ronald's face visibly sank in dismay as the horrible realisation set in; he had just been caught by Sid. The entire playground burst into laughter, before suddenly realising that they now had to dodge someone who could actually run.
Manny watched wide-eyed from the side of the playground as the mass of children broke into chaotic sprinting, turning the previously easy-to-watch game into a melee. Manny winced repeatedly, seeing the children toppled and crushed the various snow sculptures he had painstakingly made as they scrambled away, trying not to get caught.
"Be careful!" He shouted as they wreaked havoc. "Don't damage anything!"
Ellie, sitting beside her mate, watched the game with glee. She chuckled, placing her trunk on Manny's neck, gently squeezing.
"Come on, they're kids!" She said. "It's not like they're intentionally wrecking the place, they're just having fun!"
"Yeah, but I have to clean up after them!" Manny protested. She cocked her head, noting his barely concealed smile.
"Then why ya smiling?" She asked, smirking.
He paused, turning back to the game unravelling before them. She followed his line of sight, looking past the aardvarks scrambling up the tree to escape Ronald, and saw saw a little mammoth, laughing and giggling as she ran about the playground.
"You see that?" Manny said quietly. "Our daughter is having the time of her life...if a whole lotta mess can make her happy, then I'm all for it."
She looked over at her mate, smiling lovingly at him. She saw something in him that, even after all the years they had been together, still surprised her.
He was happy.
She wrapped her trunk tightly around his, leaning in to him gently.
"You know, being a parent suits you," She whispered into his ear. "It shows that big, loveable heart of yours."
Manny's heart soared and sank at the same time; the words were a joy to him, but also reminded him of a great sorrow, one he had tried to move on from many, many times before. He looked intently at Peaches, now frolicking around the see saw. As he watched her, saw the joy in her eyes, he struggled to hold back the tears; for one brief moment, he could almost see the son he had lost at the hands of humans years before. With an urgency, he looked back at his mate, clutching her tightly.
"Do you know how much I love you?" He said. "How much I love both of you?"
Ellie looked at him with a smile, but her eyes conveyed a sense of concern.
"Of course I do, and we love you too, more than anything..." She said. "Are you ok?"
Thoughts flew through his mind, ideas of forcefully putting on a smile and pretending it was nothing, but those thoughts pained him too; the very notion of sweeping them aside, pretending they didn't mean anything to him was dishonest, and harsh of him. He took a deep breath, looking down at the floor.
"Yeah," He murmured. "It's just...when you said that, I remembered my son..."
Ellie looked nonplussed for a moment. Suddenly, her eyes widened, sorrow filling them.
"Oh Manny, I'm sorry." She said earnestly.
He shook his head,
"Don't be," He murmured, wrapping his trunk around hers, looking her in the eyes. "Knowing what I've lost helps me know what I have, and what I have is a beautiful daughter, the most loving mate I could ever have hoped for and a herd I trust with my life. Ellie..." He trailed off, a smile growing on his face. "...I didn't know I could be this happy after what the humans did to me. I actually thought I would never be happy again. But I now know, with all my heart, that I was wrong. I haven't been this happy in years, all thanks to you."
Ellie's heart soared within her, elation gripping her entirely. She had never dreamt of hearing those words, especially given her mate's past and his stubborn tendency to keep things internalised. Yet there he was, opening himself up to her, in the most unlikely of places. She couldn't stop grinning, so ecstatic she was to hear that. She looked at him longingly, opening her mouth to speak.
"TAG! YOU'RE IT!"
Surprised, both of them turned to look at who had just decided to disrupt their conversation by including Manny in the chaos they called a game. Peaches stood beside them, giggling wildly, a mischievous glint in her eyes,
"You're it, daddy!" She said.
Ellie and Manny both chuckled, sharing an amused glance.
"Well, if she wants me to..." He began. Ellie smiled,
"...Then you're all for it," She finished, "Have fun!"
Manny lurched onto his feet, running eagerly into the mass of children, now screaming with delight. He turned his head, looking back at her,
"Besides, I may as well make some of this mess!" He shouted back. "Gives me less reason to be grumpy later!"
Ellie laughed, watching the pandemonium that ensued as a ten ton mammoth charged around the playground, doing more damage than all of the children combined. She was laughing so hard, she didn't even see Sid waddle up to her. Wheezing heavily, he slumped onto one of her tusks,
"So...tired..." He wheezed.
"Sid, you were out there for fifteen minutes!" Ellie said. "And it wasn't like you ran at all during that time..."
"Hey!" He protested. "Running isn't a sloth's strong point!"
"Sloths have a strong point?" She said, feigning surprise. "What is it?"
Ellie suppressed her desire to laugh as Sid sat there, looking nonplussed.
"Well...erm..." He said, trailing slightly. "It's...erm...well I don't see you running out there!"
She chuckled, pointing her trunk at the destroyed region that used to be a playground, gesturing towards Manny as he still charged around the place, trying to tag someone.
"That would be why," She replied, grinning widely. "And you didn't answer my question."
Sid crossed his arms in a huff, staring ruefully at the floor. After a few moments, his head perked up, scanning his surroundings.
"Where's Diego?" He asked.
Diego lay in the underbrush, careful not to make a sound as he spied a lone wildebeest grazing in the open plain ahead. In the distance, he could hear the screams of laughter from the playground, realising with a pang of regret that he was missing the chance to play with his niece...
Focus, Diego reprimanded himself.
He scanned his surroundings, noting the forest to the left of the wildebeest, the steeply inclined hill to its right and the shallow, narrow stream that lay between him and his prey. Diego smiled slightly; once upon a time he would have been afraid of the water.
Thanks, Sid, He thought, ruefully admitting the truth.
Realising his prey looked set to move on, Diego tensed his muscles, crouching low as he prepared to pounce on the creature. Suddenly, just before he leaped, a forceful, angry roar echoed through the air. Startled, the wildebeest flung himself into the forest, scrambling through the thickly set trees in a desperate attempt to survive.
Incensed, Diego waited for the owner of the roar to come into view with a mind to 'teach' them never to get between him and his prey ever again. But all such thoughts drifted out of his mind as the wind changed direction, bringing new scents for him to pick up on. His heart raced in panic as the strong scent of sabres filled his nostrils. He crouched even lower, intending now to gauge how many of them there were before warning the herd.
He remained forcibly motionless as a pack of dozens of sabres came into view, come to a halt atop the steep slope. One of the sabres turned, looking at the others harshly. Even without being able to see him clearly, Diego could tell from the body language that he was the Alpha of the pack.
"We wait here!" The sabre shouted.
The voice sent chills down Diego's spine; he knew the voice well, having heard it day after day for most of his life. Diego shook his head slightly, focussing his eyes intently on the sabre.
It can't be, he reasoned. Manny killed him years ago!
Deciding he needed to get a better view, Diego risked being spotted, lifting himself up slightly from the ground. His jaw hung slack; sure enough, the sabre had the same built, pelt colour and features he remembered. As he scanned him, he went cold; he even saw seven distinctly circular scars on the sabres left side.
Against all odds, Diego knew he was looking directly at Soto.
As he scanned Soto's pack, he could make out Zeke and Oscar amongst the numerous sabres waiting on top of the slope. To Diego's surprise, he even saw a cub standing sullenly at the back of the pack.
Once more, his attention was grabbed by something completely unexpected. Noises and voices, distant and ethereal, suddenly whispered on the wind. As silently as possibly, Diego scanned the area for any other animals nearby, only to grow disconcerted when he realised that the only animals in the area were him and the pack.
What is going on he...
His thought was cut mid sentence as his vision was filled with a flash of bright, blinding light. He blinked away the echoes just in time to see two massive...things...crash through the forest to his left, smashing trees out of their way, eventually skidding to a halt just feet away from Diego.
The sabre remained crouched, not out of a desire to remain undetected, but because he was stunned. He stared at the two seemingly mammoth sized objects, noting the absence of any fur, the spinning circular objects where its legs should be, the clear sheet of ice-like material where its head should be...
Diego's muscles tensed as he gazed through the clear sheet at the innards of the objects as he realised, somehow, that there were people inside. As he looked closer, panic rose within him.
"Humans." He muttered to himself.
Diego sighed bitterly; suddenly, in the space of just a few minutes, two of his greatest fears had just been realised.
End of Chapter 1
I hope you have liked the new and improved first chapter of Lost in Time: Origins! As always, please review :)
Thanks for reading! Till next chapter y'all!