Title: Losing Time
Chapter: 3 (A and B)
Author: Stormy1x2 (traveling_storm)
Notes: still blissfully ignoring S4 PMEVL and Losers comic canon. I can do this.
Sarah's heart nearly leaped out of her throat when the door opened and a tall man wearing – what was he wearing? – well, dressed in a black skin-tight outfit with some sort of army fatigues overtop. He was smiling brightly at them all, hands up in the air.
Becker was the first to respond – half a beat after the man entered and said 'hello', he had his gun out and was moving swiftly over to him. "Don't move."
"I'm cool with the not moving," the man said, still smiling that insanely affable smile. "I have a tranq gun in my right holster if you'd feel better about removing it."
Becker glared at him and stalked over, yanking the gun out while keeping his own pressed to the man's temple. "Sarah, call for backup."
Sarah was pressing the ringer on the phone. "I can't, it's out."
The blond man wiggled his fingers in a kind of greeting. "Um, yeah. That was me."
Lester sighed very loudly. "Oh, wonderful. An American version of Danny Quinn. Just what we needed." He turned around and came back down the ramp.
"Sir, you might want to stay back," Becker cautioned him, but Lester ignored him and walked over to stand next to his head of security.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?"
"That's kind of a long story but to make it a short one…" the man cocked his head to the other side and gave them a cool smirk in place of the easy grin. "You guys lost my cousin. I'm here to find him and bring him back."
"Your cousin?" Lester blinked. He looked genuinely surprised. Sarah had the feeling that didn't happen very often. "Who is your cousin?"
"Connor Temple," the man said. "You lost him and his teammates in the past and you're having trouble putting together the anomaly map so you can bring them back."
"The very idea of you knowing these particular details reassures me greatly about the state of our security," Lester said tightly. "Becker?"
"Comms are still jammed, sir," Becker said, trying the radio hooked to his waistband.
"Um, I can fix that if you promise not to shoot me," the man offered.
Becker pushed his gun firmly against the intruder's temple. Sarah could see it digging into the stranger's skin – it had to hurt, but the smile never left the man's lips. "No talking."
"Who are you?" Lester barked.
The man slid his eyes sideways at Becker and then back to Lester. His eyebrows waggled. "The hottie with the gun said 'no talking'."
There was a sigh as Sarah's boss eye-rolled the ceiling. "Why do I always find myself surrounded by comedians?" Lester asked rhetorically. "I give the orders here, and I said, 'Who are you?'"
"Jake Jensen," the man said, flicking one finger near his temple in an odd salute.
"How did you get in here?"
"Well, your online security isn't nearly as high-tech as the one I had to hack in Japan a few years back, and my team's pretty good at infiltration."
"Team?" Lester repeated.
"Black ops, sir," the man – Jensen – said with a nod.
Becker cursed and Sarah watched as Lester reached up to begin massaging his temple. "What does that mean?"
"It means he's good, and he's not alone," Becker said tightly. "Where are they?"
"Calm down," Jensen said in a soothing tone. "If we'd wanted to hurt anyone, we would have. No one's dead or anything – well, you have a couple of guys who'll wake up feeling slightly hung over, but that's all."
"Why are you here?" Lester snarled out one last question.
Jensen rolled his eyes. "I told you – I'm here to help you find my cousin. I know what happened, and I can bring him back."
Lester was starting to sputter, and Becker looked livid. Sarah decided to try and take matters into her own hands. "Please!" she said, moving forward and putting one hand on Lester's arm. "Let's listen to them." She turned to Jensen. "What do you know and why do you think you can bring them back?"
"I know you need a mathematician to put together Cutter's little three-dimensional map on your computer," Jensen said bluntly. "I taught my little cousin everything he knows about computers – but not everything I know. I've been keeping an eye on him since he was a kid. When I found out you guys lost him, I decided to come over and give you guys a helping hand."
Sarah blinked, choosing to ignore the huge security lapse in favor of focusing on the word 'mathematician.' "You can help me plot the anomalies?"
Sarah whirled around. "I need him," she said urgently. "If he really can help us—"
"We can't trust him!" Becker exclaimed. "He broke in here!"
"I'm having more Danny Quinn flashbacks," Lester muttered. "Coupled with a few of Cutter."
"I'll clear up your comms prob," Jensen offered. "Call it a good will gesture?"
Becker looked at Lester. After a moment, the man gave a stiff nod. Jensen held up a small palm-pilot, pulled from a holder at the small of his back. A few taps later, he nodded at them all. "Check your comms."
"Report!" Becker barked. Within seconds his men began flooding the comms in an effort to report in what was going on. He ordered everyone to sit tight and wait for orders, and then thumbed the off-switch. "Sir?"
Lester was watching Jensen warily. "I don't trust you," he said evenly. "But it appears we may need you, so I'll hold off on having you shot. I assume Becker was correct in assuming you're not alone?"
"Call them in. Unarmed or Major Becker here might forget that I said not to kill you. Understood?"
Jensen nodded again.
"Call them," Becker ordered, handing him his radio.
Jensen waved him off and looked back over his shoulder. "Colonel? Pooch? You can come out, we're all friends now."
Becker cursed again as the doors swung open and a grinning black man strode in, hands up and fingers wiggling in greeting. Next to him was a lanky, grizzled man with a faint hint of grey at his temples. Sarah shrank back automatically, even as the grizzled man sent a disarming wink in her direction. His words though, were directed at Becker who still had his gun out and aimed at them as a precaution. "Thank you for not shooting my hacker. Good op techs are hard to come by." He sounded highly amused.
Becker snorted and for a brief moment, looked vaguely amused. "That's certainly true."
"Colonel Clay," the man said, introducing himself next to Lester. "Here to help Jensen track down his cousin."
"Yes, well, perhaps next time you'll be good enough to make a proper appointment, like all decent visitors." Lester glared at him and then at Pooch. "Is that all of you?"
"Two of my team are outside," Clay said calmly. "Perhaps you'd like to send an escort for them?"
Pooch tapped his throat mike. "You catch that, Cougs? Play nice with the soldiers." A minute later, he looked at Becker and shrugged his shoulder. "He said they're with a Lt West and a Lt Jameson."
Jensen snickered. Becker growled and reached for his own radio. "Jameson?"
"What's the situation?"
"Umm… we've been captured, sir."
Sarah muffled a giggle. Becker groaned. "Are you injured?"
"No, sir. Um… the, uh, lady with the knives is untying us now, sir."
"Cooperation is always a good sign," Lester said dryly. "Get those idiots in here."
"Escort them in to the command room," Becker ordered.
"Roger that, sir!"
Sarah squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her body start to shake. She had to stop it, she told herself sternly, hysterically. She could not laugh – she would not laugh. Taking a deep – if shaky – breath, she breathed out slowly. Calm. Sarah opened her eyes to see Becker giving her a Look. She bit her lip. He rolled his eyes. That was all she wrote – Sarah began to laugh, clapping one hand to her mouth as a half-hearted attempt to keep it under wraps.
Becker's face was stoic but she knew that was reluctant amusement lurking in the back of his eyes. Lester gave a very loud sigh. "It's going to be another one of those insufferably long days again, isn't it?"
"I believe so, sir," Becker said calmly.
"Just remember you don't get overtime," he snapped and whirled around, striding up the ramp to his office.
"No OT? Dude, that sucks," the black guy said.
"Are you kidding?" Sarah shot him a mirthful look and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Working here, we're lucky we get paid at all!"
"Ah." He chuckled at that. "Bureaucracy. What's your name?"
"Sarah," she said, before she could stop herself. "Dr Sarah Page. And you are...?"
He winked at her. "Call me Pooch."
"But only if you promise him treats and regular walkies," Jensen chirped.
Pooch shot him a gesture known 'round the Western world and required no translation. Sarah felt the urge to laugh rising again.
A few minutes of tense waiting – interspersed with a few rounds of Jensen whistling '100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' and Pooch joining in when he hit ninety-seven – was rewarded with the doors swinging open to admit two shambling soldiers possessing red faces and if Becker was to be believed, only one brain between the two of them. Becker glared at them as they slunk into the room.
Directly following the soldiers loped a lean, dark-haired man wearing a cowboy hat which somehow managed to not look completely ridiculous on top of the fatigues/wetsuit deal they were all sporting. Half a step behind him was a lithe young woman with eyes of unyielding steel, somehow managing to make the camo-gear and skintight wetsuit look sexy. She had knife holsters strapped to her thighs and a dart gun still in her hand. Sarah's eyes zeroed in on the weapon almost immediately.
Fortunately so did Becker's. His own gun came up again, aimed at the woman. Who stared back at him as though he were an ant she was contemplating squishing. After a minute, she ignored the gun pointed at her temple entirely to ask in an almost bored tone, "So what's up now?" Her gaze was focused on Colonel Clay.
"You drop the weapon, that's what's up," Becker growled. "Now."
The woman sighed, flicked the gun around so it was aimed at herself and raised it so he could see her flick the safety on. Then she shoved it into yet another holster strapped around her waist and latched it shut. She did all this in such a relaxed and calm manner Sarah thought it was almost surreal. Then she turned her attention back to the grizzled man leading the pack, once again ignoring Becker. "Well?"
The Colonel waggled his fingers at her and gave a thumbs up gesture. "Jensen's got it all under control, right Jensen?"
"Absolutely," replied the cheeky monkey – who still standing with his hands in the air in a surrender pose.
"That's so comforting," the woman drawled.
Cowboy Hat snorted and Sarah, by virtue of leaning over as far as she could without calling gravity into play, could just make out the hint of a smile curling the visible part of his mouth.
"Hey, that's cold Cougs," Jensen complained. Sarah glanced at him curiously – she hadn't heard the quiet man say anything.
Becker's glares motivated his red-faced soldiers. They immediately stepped out and joined him in surrounding the group. A few more soldiers, these ones still armed, trickled in until the entire group was shut in.
Clay looked around, apparently completely at ease and looking infinitely amused. "Feel better now?"
"Actually, I do," Becker said. "I'd like it even better if you'd all put all your weapons on the floor – still holstered, of course."
Colonel Clay chuckled. "Young pups." He motioned to his team who took another minute to de-weaponize themselves. "Jensen? Where's your backup?"
The hacker had a sheepish look on his face. "That's a funny story, actually."
Cowboy Hat moved silently and quickly to the hacker's side, ignoring the way Becker's men followed his progress with their barrels pointed at him. He Looked at the hacker – much the same way Becker Glared at his own men, Sarah mused. There must have been some sort of unspoken communication because suddenly Jensen was muttering something about how he'd at least remembered his primary. Cowboy shook his head minutely and nodded at the Colonel which seemed to end the whole thing.
In no time at all, a small armory's worth of weaponry was piled on the floor. Sarah blinked. "You had all that on you?"
Clay crooked a smile at her. "You'd be amazed what we have hidden in plain sight. Maybe I could show you a few things-"
The scary woman elbowed him hard in the side and cut him off with a flat scowl. Sarah made a mental note to keep out of her way. She turned to Cowboy Hat. "And who are you?"
"That's Cougar," Pooch butted in.
"Does Cougar talk?" Becker asked coolly. Sarah could see him starting to relax a tad though.
"When he has something to say," Clay said. "Can we finish with the pleasantries and get down to business?"
"Yes, let's do," Lester said as he came striding back down the walkway. "I have a few questions I believe you have answers to."
"Oh yeah – I'll fix your phone too," Jensen piped up.
Pooch grinned. "Tried to call about us, huh?"
"Funny how we seem to have lost our ability to make or receive outside calls," Lester said, sounding rather annoyed. He eyed Jensen sourly. "While I could do without the Ministry checking up on me every hour upon the hour, he does worry. You know how it is."
"We want to work with you to find your teammates," Clay said firmly. "That's all. You keep my team out of any military channels and we disappear after."
"You do realize it's not that simple?"
"I do," Clay said, nodding. "I also know that I'm the one that handles these things. So why don't we have a chat about how we can help you retrieve your lost puppies and make it look good to the brass?"
Lester looked at the Colonel with a contemplative air. "What makes you so sure you can recreate the anomaly patterns?"
Clay held up his hands. "Not me." He pointed at Jensen. "Him. I'll join in on the 'retrieval' part of the operation."
"Same here," Pooch added.
Lester faced Jensen, still looking annoyed. "You – same question!"
Jensen blew on his nails and pretended to buff them on his shirt. "Piece of cake," he said. "It's not really that hard to do once you have the formulas down."
Sarah glared at the man who had so casually insulted her. "What makes you so sure you can reconstruct the anomaly time line?" she demanded. "Professor Cutter spent months putting it together, and he was brilliant at what he was doing."
The blond smiled at her confidently, holding up small, lightweight laptop and casually thumping it on the side. "Me and Pris already got an idea of what to do. I saw what Cutter did, and based on the mathematical profiles you were putting together, it's just a matter of finding the matches." His grin grew even wider. "Through time. Seriously, how cool is this?"
Lester looked like he'd swallowed a particularly sour lemon. "You saw what Cutter did?" He glared at Becker. "I was under the impression our security measures were enough to prevent leaks."
Becker held up a hand in self-defense. "For physical threats, we certainly are." He nodded at the Losers. "However, I am not technical support and I have no idea how he accessed our secured files."
"I can explain it. In great detail if you like," Jensen offered cheerfully. "Your firewalls are pretty weak, sorry to say."
"We currently utilize some of the best security software in the world," Lester bit out. Sarah was certain that any minute now, lasers were going to be shooting out of his eyes. "We spend more on the bloody security budget than some countries report as their Gross National Product."
Jensen shrugged. "Like I said. Weak."
The older man – Clay, Sara recalled – pinched the bridge of his nose. "Play nice, Jensen," he said, sounding rather resigned. He must have been through many diffusing situations before with such a volatile-looking team.
"My bad. Tell you what, I can hook you up with a patch job once I find my cousin," Jensen said with a shrug, apparently deeming that an appropriate apology for the insult to Lester's security systems.
Lester bristled and opened his mouth. Sara cut him off before Lester could insist Jensen show their technicians what he'd done that minute. He was already getting death glares from the silent hat-wearing presence beside Jensen who had been fondling what looked like a rifle scope ever since Lester had started raising his voice at the blond. "Alright, Mr. Jensen—"
The hacker visibly shuddered. "Drop the 'Mr', please?" He winked at her. "And may I call you Sara?"
Despite herself, she smiled back. "Very well," she allowed, nodding her head. "Jensen. Allow me to show you to my computer. The sooner we put this thing back together, the sooner we can track down where Connor, Abby and Danny disappeared to."
"My thoughts exactly." Jensen bowed, gesturing grandly. "After you, m'lady." He stood up, nudged shoulders with the sniper, murmured something and then looked at her expectantly. The longhaired cowboy gave her a level look that very clearly said 'hands off.'
She smiled, all of her intuition going off like firecrackers. They weren't very obvious but there were some things Sarah just knew. She held up one finger to indicate 'one minute' and waited to see if Lester had anything to add. As usual, he did.
"Colonel, you'll be with me," Lester said grimly, indicating the ramp that led to the second floor where his office was. "I need to figure out some way to use you and your men that can pass for legal in our files to the Minister." He rolled his eyes slightly, tilting his chin. "Something tells me you've got quite a bit of experience in these matters."
"And whatever Clay can't explain, Jensen can cover up later," Pooch chimed in. "Dude once made it look like we were helping a Boy Scout Troop with an afternoon of volunteer work to cover up an assassination in the Congo the same day. Amazing what that boy can do with flight schedules, credit card info, and having no witnesses - yet managing to produce notarized witness reports." He shook his head with a grin. "He'll pretty it all up for you, sparkles and glitter all the way, man."
"I can't tell you how relieved I am to hear that," Lester said smoothly. "The Minister simply adores things that sparkle. Colonel?"
Sarah shot a quick look at Becker, who nodded, and she turned to see the remaining two watching her with obvious amusement. "Gentlemen, if you'll go with Major Becker, he'll show you our weapons locker. Maybe he'll give you a tour of the holding pens while he's at it, give you some idea of what you'll be up against. Just be sure not to feed the animals and keep your hands and feet inside at all times, would you?" He looked at his head of security. "If you would."
Becker nodded. "This way, please."
Sarah watched the Major lead the two Losers out of the main room, and then turned back to Jensen – to see him already perched in front of the ARC's anomaly detector and past the first two log-in screens. "How did you do that?"
Jensen craned his head back so he was peering at her upside-down. "Trade secret, Sarah," he said winking at her from that odd angle. It was profoundly unsettling. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Sarah rolled her eyes, but smiled inwardly. The corny behavior did in fact remind her of Connor – she was finding it easier and easier to believe that the two of them were related. "Won't Mr. Cougar be jealous?"
Jensen's face froze – and then he was scrambling to keep from falling all the way backwards. Righting himself, he spun the chair around and glared at her. "It's just Cougar, and what do you mean by that?"
"Oh come now, it's completely obvious you two are an item," Sarah said, rolling her eyes – yet again, and that was yet another way to tell she was dealing with a relative of Connor's – and holding up her hands in self-defense. "He stuck by your side throughout the entire debriefing and when Lester was yelling at you, my lord, if looks could kill he'd be a grease spot on the floor." She smiled.
Jensen quirked a brow at her. "And you'll be keeping this to yourself, yes?"
Sarah sighed. "Ah, yes, that bloody 'don't ask, don't tell', business. Hasn't that been done away with yet?"
"Technically yes. Officially, unlikely." Jensen waggled his finger at her. "Either way, it doesn't really matter since we're not part of the army anymore. Still, we don't like to advertise our business. Too many people out there who would love to have info like that to use against us."
"Loving someone is always a risk," Sarah said quietly.
"Especially when you're captured and someone threatens to put a bullet in your lover's kneecaps to make you talk," Jensen said coolly. "So like I said, keep it to yourself. I don't like to threaten people, especially pretty girls." He blinked. "And Aisha doesn't count."
Sarah looked back at him, unfazed. "I've faced down man-eating bugs the size of tigers," she said tartly, folding her arms. Her foot tapped the floor impatiently. "You're not going to get far threatening me, even if you did think it was necessary."
Jensen eyed her another long minute, and then smiled. "I do like you, Sarah Page," he declared, tipping his glasses down with one gloved finger and adopting a British accent that made her wince. "You're a bit of all right, you are."
"You are too – or at least you will be once you promise to never mangle the British accent like that ever again." Sarah held out her hand. "Deal?"
Jensen shook it solemnly. "Deal."
"Right then." Sarah gripped the chairs handles and spun him back around so he was facing the computer. "Let's see what you make of this while I get my laptop and set it up out here."
The man jogged around the large room, long, loping strides. He swung his arms in wide circles as he did so, breathing deeply. Lap after lap, he moved without slowing, and in fact, sped up with each rotation until at least, nearly an hour later, he was full out sprinting around the room. He kept the lights off, able to move around the darkened room with ease, being intimately familiar with his surroundings. After all, he'd been there for months, and not much had changed in his set up.
Finally he began to slow down, and then abruptly dropped to the floor into a series of pushups: first with both hands, then just the right, then the left. Then he put his hands together in a diamond and finished off a final set before bounding to his feet. He jumped in place a few times, rolled his neck on his shoulders, shook out his arms, and then began to shadowbox. The large mirror that faced him served as his opponent as he danced back and forth in bare feet, jabbing his fists in lightning quick blows.
Sweat poured down his body as he moved; the air was dry, stale, but warm. He had a fan that was rigged in the corner of the room, blowing air at him from behind a metal, tamper-proof grate, accessed by voice commands, but he didn't have it on. It had been several weeks since he'd seen his captor, and he didn't know how long the power in his prison would last. He needed to conserve as much of it as possible.
Aside from the mirror – Plexiglas and shatter proof - on one wall, and the fan in the corner, he had a very large room all to himself. A small leather sofa sat in the middle of the room, and a desk with paper, a leather-bound journal, and pencils. 'To keep him occupied,' he'd been told. Paperback books lined the built-in shelves along one wall for the same reason.
Set in the back wall was a single door-less opening that led to his 'bedroom'. It was empty save for a cot with a pillow, several thick quilts and a few light sheets. To the left, as you entered, a bathroom was attached to the room – enough room for a metal, porta-potty type setup that thankfully still whooshed into functioning when he flushed. Which he did sparingly, again to save what energy remained in his prison. A stainless steel sink dispensed clean water so he could wash up as best he could.
On the right (again upon entering the 'bedroom') was another small room filled with cardboard boxes of MRE's, non-perishable boxes of food. And several crates of bottled water. One of the first things he'd done upon being shown his room was to go through and count everything he had. By his estimate, he still had enough to survive for another year – or a year and a half if he was exceedingly sparing with his reserves.
Aside from the economy-class conditions, the whole set-up was remarkably high-tech – and very prisoner-savvy. There were no switches to pull out and wires to cross – the lights, the fan and the heat were all voice activated through panels in the ceiling which were far too high for him to reach, even when standing on sofa ON the desk (and yes he'd tried that and several other combinations). There was nothing he could pull apart or break to make any decent tools, though he had, in a more morbid moment, counted at least a dozen ways he could commit suicide if he got to that level of desperation. The front of his prison resembled a zoo cage behind a wall of mirrored Plexiglas that prevented anyone from seeing inside.
One final knock-out punch to the mirror, and he finally finished his workout, dropping his hands to his knees and breathing heavily, sweat running down the side of his nose to drip onto the floor. After a few deep breaths, he stood back up and eyed himself in the mirror. A determined face stared back, almost daringly. No, he was still good. Still hopeful.
Steven Hart nodded grimly at his reflection, and then went to clean up.
"Dinosaurs," Pooch repeated as he and Cougar trailed after Becker. "Y'know, I saw the video and I am still having a hard time believing all of this."
Becker paused. "Well, the weapons room is just up here, but suddenly I'm thinking that if you require proof, I'd rather you be unarmed when we walk into the holding areas."
Becker couldn't contain his smirk. "After me, gentlemen. Prepare to be stunned."
Becker pushed the control panel door open and entered his pass code. A moment later, the door beeped, the red light went green, and the large bay doors began to slide open. Pooch tilted his head back and stared up at the high ceiling. "Why so big?"
"We needed to give the Mammoth enough head clearance," Becker said blandly.
Pooch nodded absently. Then he did a double-take, blinking his eyes wildly at Becker. "Say what? What Mammoth?"
Cougar nudged him and pointed across the large room. "That Mammoth."
And sure enough, across the room was a reinforced metal fence with a large woolly mammoth placidly peering through the bars. It had access to a large grassy paddock – also reinforced with what looked to be electrified fences and barbed wire and metal walls beyond that. The ceiling was a dome opened at the top that could obviously close whenever it needed to be.
The mammoth was large, brown and hairy, and was calmly accepting an apple from a technician in a white lab coat. Their entrance into an obviously restricted area was met with sharp looks by the armed guards, but Becker waved them all down. Apparently Becker was as good as law in these parts – the armed guards went back to monitoring their cameras and patrolling the fences without pause. The few technicians there were peppering the area, kept sending them curious looks but didn't bother to introduce themselves.
Pooch scarcely cared about rookie guards and brainiacs in lab coats. His attention was focused on the gigantic elephant wearing the fur coat in front of him. "Holy shit, that's a Mammoth!"
Becker was clearly amused by his reaction. "Indeed? You don't say."
"Shii~iiit," Pooch repeated. He took one step forward; then another. "Is she feeding it? Isn't it like, dangerous?"
"It's in a secure location, and it's calm right now," Becker said in an assuring tone. "We have numerous safety devices in place in the unlikely event of an escape."
"I hope those 'safety devices' include a rocket launcher," Pooch muttered, still awed at the sight in front of him.
Pooch shot Becker a quick look which the soldier met levelly. Then he snorted and shook his head, laughter burbling out of him. "Man, that is awesome. Cougar, man, are you seeing this?"
"Si." But Cougar wasn't looking at the Mammoth. Pooch followed the sniper's gaze until he saw the giant, green lizard in a second large paddock. "Está bastante un grande reptil, no?"
"Is that a raptor?" Pooch asked. He grinned at the look Becker sent his way. "Hey man, I seen Jurassic Park and all its sequels three times."
"It's a Draco-rex," Becker corrected him. Pooch would have sworn the smile he gave the animal was almost affectionate. "Vegetarian, apparently. It came through an anomaly, injured from a knight's lance. The knight had mistaken it for a dragon. I helped Abby patch it up but the anomaly closed before we could send it back. We're keeping it here – along with the rest – until we can find or open an anomaly that's set for their time period."
"That's awesome," Pooch repeated almost breathlessly. "This whole thing, it's amazing." He turned to say something else to Cougs, but the smaller man was no longer next to him. "Cougar?"
Spinning around, he saw Cougar taking an apple from the lab technician and feeding the Mammoth. The mammoth snorted and brushed against the hat, leading Cougar to back up a step. He reached up to adjust the brim. "Hey! No touching the hat, amigo."
"You tell 'em, Cougs." Pooch couldn't stop grinning. "Man, we gotta get Jay down here to see this. He'll flip his lid – what's left of it."
Cougar nodded solemnly but his eyes were crinkled up with amusement. "Si."
"How's it goin', Jensen?" Clay strode down the ramp and over to where Jensen hadn't moved from his perch in front of the anomaly detector. The screen buzzed away with information scrolling up and down them in formats Clay couldn't even begin to understand, but then again, he didn't have to. That's what he had Jensen for. Speaking of which – he reached into his pocket and pulled out a can of Red Bull, setting it down on the table. Like an Egyptian mummy suddenly revived, Jensen blinked twice, lunged for the can, nearly stripping off the tab in his haste to get to the sweet nectar within, and began to guzzle it down. Clay shook his head but merely pulled a second can out, setting it down. Jensen pounced on that one the second he was done with the first.
Dr Sarah Page was watching with wide eyes. Clay smiled at her – she was cute, in an innocent, history-lovin' kinda way. Someone to flirt with but not really his type. If he broke up with her, she was the type who would probably mope about it before bitching him out on her blog or something. She was unlikely to set up a car bomb on him, or try to blow his head off from one hundred meters away, and Aisha already had the 'set fire to his room' thing covered with what happened in Bolivia. Aisha would also likely cut off his balls with her machete and feed them to a T-Rex (surely they had one of those running around somewhere, no dinosaur film was complete without one and this whole thing was a script right out of Mike Creighton's computer) if he cheated on her. He nodded at Jensen who had slowed somewhat and was savoring the last few sips of his second Red Bull. "He'll be fine in a minute or so."
"It's almost like he was sucked right into the computer itself," she marveled. "He didn't hear me in between the mutterings."
"Mutterings?" Clay arched an eyebrow at her.
To his amusement, she began to turn red. "He, ah... he's very close to the machines when he hacks, isn't he?"
Clay laughed and clapped a friendly hand on her shoulder. "Be thankful he's still wearing pants," he advised her. The look on her face made him laugh again as he turned to see Jensen's eyes focus blearily on his own. "How's it goin' corporal?"
"She's a sweet little thing, but she just doesn't have Prissie's stamina," Jensen reported with a leer. "I've downloaded all the plot points from the anomaly detector plus all the data from Sarah's computer and I'm filling in the blanks with an extrapolator program now." He gestured to the anomaly detector. "Actually that thing helped a lot – the geographic coordinates and data meshed really well with the program Sarah was using to reconstruct Cutter's time-line thingie. It involves a lot of quantum mechanics and mathematical equations and my very own extrapolator but essentially, I'm just doing what he did in real life on the computer. I'm not actually interested in reinventing the wheel here."
That made absolutely no sense to him, but Clay was well-used to dealing with Jensen's techno babble. Clay cut him off with a wave of his hand. "So, in English?"
"I can do it, it's just gonna take some time for my program to fill in all the blanks." Jensen grabbed his laptop and turned it around to face Clay. Some golden lines flitted around a three-dimensional grid map with dots along them. There was a beep, and suddenly a dot appeared on one of the lines, complete with geographical coordinates and a date. Jensen whooped and aimed his finger like a gun at the screen. "Yeah baby! There goes another one."
"Another one what?"
"Another anomaly in history." Jensen grinned, rubbing his hands together eagerly. "See, Sarah's found patterns in history that kinda mesh up with anomalies – the appearances of strange beasts that don't belong in that time periods for example."
"The Draco-rex," Sarah interjected. "It's a beast from the Cretaceous Age and yet it was chased through an anomaly that was from the 13th century."
"So this pattern is plottable to a certain extent," Jensen continued. "I also took all the information on known anomalies from the anomaly Detector and fed those into the program – it helped match up a few more parts of the puzzle and made the pattern more evident. The computer is using what it knows to make a kind of 'best guess' where the other ones are."
"And if you're wrong?" Clay asked.
"Well, that's what we're going to check," Jensen said. He pointed to a small device on the table next to them. "Based on Connor's notes, Sarah's observations, and the hand-held module Becker's team brought back from that future site, when we're finished, we should be able to open anomalies to the times we choose. Gimme a few more minutes – okay, make that half an hour – and we can start running comparisons. The handheld doesn't work, and the chip is a bit sophisticated for the computers here." He grinned. "Future tech! Dude, do you see dollar signs where my pupils should be?"
"Down boy," Sarah said, thwapping him on the shoulder with a file folder.
"No love, no love at all. Anyway – " Jensen spun around in his seat. "I got some of the techs here working on modifying some of the computers to accept the chip. If we can do that, we can read whatever's on this puppy and then we'll be golden. Until then? We wait."
"How?" Clay started to ask, but then he shook his head. "Never mind. I already don't understand half of what you're saying."
"You don't need to, boss," Jensen assured him. "Go play with Cougs and Pooch. We'll tell ya when we're ready for the rescue planning."
Becker watched as the two men wandered through the weapon's room. He was half-convinced that the man named Pooch was about to start drooling over the FIM-92 Stinger he'd found. Cougar was running his fingers of over a pair of LRAD's (long range acoustic devices). "Like what you see, gentlemen?"
"I wanna play with this puppy," Pooch said dreamily, leaning against the anti-aircraft gun. "You use this against dinos?"
"Not yet," Becker said. "This is a slightly newer purchase – right after the fiasco with the Giganotosaurus. Rifles don't do much against a thirteen ton lizard with a mad-on." He nodded at the assortment of bazookas and shoulder-mounted assault weapons. "We try to carry at least two in the trucks in case we run up against anything like it ever again."
"You'll be eating dino-steaks for a week," Pooch commented. "Ka-BOOM."
"It's strictly as a last resort," Becker said firmly. "Our primary mandate is always to try and restore the animals to their homes through the anomalies. The former head of operations, Dr Nick Cutter, firmly believed that everything we do with these creatures influences our current time. Therefore we do our best to keep the balance in check and chase them on home."
Cougar sent him a sharp look. "Do you believe it?"
"I don't know," Becker admitted. "But Sara and Abby also have a belief that these animals are worth more than I am and they will beat me to a bloody pulp if I start killing them indiscriminately."
"Now that is a belief I'll subscribe to," Pooch chuckled.
A few hours later:
Jensen crowed in triumph as the computer beeped and started reading the chip. A technician had just brought up the modified laptop and he'd carefully plugged the chip into the USB port on the side. At first there had been no response, then scan-disk errors, followed by 'cannot read this file' messages flashing across the screen. He'd gone in and made his own changes, feeding code into the system line by line until finally he'd pressed enter and the computer started reading the information.
His heart was racing – what he had just done was probably worth billions to companies like Microsoft or even Google. He squeezed his eyes shut and moaned in despair as he remembered the non-disclosure agreements they'd signed in order to work with the ARC group. Ah well. He'd picked up a few things he could use later on down the road, at least.
"Got anything?" Jenny asked. She'd taken to watching him closely, apparently not as eager as Sarah to trust him. He couldn't blame her – he'd read his cousin's notes on Jenny/Claudia and if half of what Con had written was true, the woman had enough issues to fill a magazine rack. He wasn't about to pry and set off a potentially volatile woman – that was Clay's domain.
"Gimme a minute," he chirped. "It's reading the disk now."
Suddenly a string of numbers spilled across the screen – 1's and 0's. Jenny had moved closer and was peering at the screen. "Is that it?" she asked doubtfully. "It looks like gibberish."
"It's called binary," Jensen corrected her. "It's the language of computers. See, we don't have the exact equipment needed to read these babies – the computer was rejecting the chip as a foreign object."
"I'm with you so far," Jenny said nodding.
"So the techs built a port that would accept the chip, and I programmed it to transfer the files into a language it could understand. It may be a fancy-schmancy pc from the future – but at its core, it's still based on binary code." Jensen grinned and pretended to buff his nails on his shirt. "Not bad, huh?"
"It still looks like gibberish to me."
Jensen felt himself visibly deflate. "I swear, I never get any respect," he muttered. "And I can read 'gibberish', thank you very much. I also have a program that will decode all this stuff and make it readable for you."
"How long will this take?"
"A few minutes," he said proudly.
Jenny nodded. "I'll inform Lester and Major Becker," was all she said as she walked out of the room.
Jensen glared, affronted at the screen, raising one hand to casually touch Priscilla on the lid. "No respect, Pris, no respect at all."
End chapter 3
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