Title: Lines of Communication, part 3
Pairing/characters: Connor, Cutter, Abby, Stephen, Jenny (Connor/Abby UST).
Warnings: Occasional mild language
Spoilers: general series 2. Set between episodes 2.4 and 2.5.
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 2900
Summary: It seemed like a routine creature investigation. Then it all started to go wrong.
AN: Written for the ficathon for Purpleyin / missyvortexdv.
Based on prompt 1; that they find an anomaly to the not so distant past and meet humans (of a sort), and prompt 3; to cover some miscellaneous things that changed in the new S2 timeline such as their old jobs and Connor’s degree.
A cave, time unknown
“Look! It’s perfectly safe.” Connor stuck his arm into the anomaly for the third time. He didn’t keep it there for long, mostly because it was too bloody cold on the other side, and partly because he couldn’t help thinking of that decapitated raptor head when the anomaly had closed on it.
The Neanderthal eyed him cautiously, and then reached out and grabbed Connor’s arm and pulled it back out of the anomaly. He peered at it, yanked his sleeve up and prodded the now very cold flesh.
“See? It’s fine.”
Standing this close, Connor had been surprised to notice that the Neanderthal was shorter than him. Although it had also become obvious that not all of his bulk was solely down to the layers of thick furs, and he was actually very heavily built and stocky. Enough that Connor was certain that if the situation became violent then he was going to be in a hell of a lot of trouble.
The more time that passed, however, the more he became convinced that it wouldn’t become violent. His early impressions had seemed correct, and the Neanderthal seemed more curious and confused than anything else, and perhaps he sensed the genuine attempts to communicate behind Connor’s bizarre mimes and demonstrations of how things travelled through anomalies.
Yet he still seemed reticent to return through the anomaly himself. Connor could understand that to some extent. If there really was an ice age blizzard on the other side, he sure as hell wouldn’t want to go back to that if the alternative was a temperate forest complete with handy home-sized cave.
“Look, you must have gone through it once to have got here, so why won’t you go back? I know it’s weird and scary and you have no idea what it is, but your home is on the other side of there. Home. You know, family, friends, your tribe or whatever. All the mammoth you could ever want to hunt. That’s got to taste better than a MacDonalds burger, right?”
Connor’s ankle was really hurting the longer he tried to stand here, and his head still wasn’t feeling great. Although at least the occasional crazy spinning spells seemed to have passed. Either way, much as he was fascinated by this creature... no, this man, Connor was starting to just want to get him back through the anomaly and away, so that he could try to find a way out of this cave, and find the others. One by one flashes of memory had been returning in the last ten minutes or so, and he was sure Cutter, Abby and Stephen weren’t that far away somewhere.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to try,” he said. “I’m going to go through and prove to you that it’s safe, and then I’m going to try to get you to come with me, and then you’ll be home, and we’ll all be happy. Except me, if it closes and I get stuck on the wrong side.”
Connor hesitated at that thought. But this anomaly looked strong and stable, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t about to close on him.
“Okay, watch this.” He braced himself for the cold and stepped through the anomaly.
He wasn’t braced anywhere near enough, and the blizzard cut through his flimsy jacket like it wasn’t even there. His feet sunk into the snow as the wind whipped snow around him so hard it practically flayed any exposed skin. Connor turned and dived back through the anomaly as fast as he could.
“Bloody hell, that’s cold,” he gasped through chattering teeth. He blew on his hands, and tried to rub warmth back into his hands and face.
The Neanderthal was staring at him, his eyes wide with shock. Or at least, he guessed it was shock. The Neanderthal tentatively reached over and touched a patch of snow that hadn’t yet melted on Connor’s shoulder. He started to speak in his guttural-sounding tongue again, gesturing at him, at the anomaly, at the cave around them. Connor waited for him to stop before he carefully, slowly took hold of the Neanderthal’s wrist and edged their hands closer to the anomaly.
“I can’t explain it to you, that much is obvious. I have to show you.”
The Neanderthal hesitated at the edge of the shattered light, and Connor waited a moment again before tugging further. He was watching the Neanderthal’s face for a reaction, and saw his eyes widen, and heard the stunned gasp when their hands moved through the anomaly and into the snow on the other side.
Connor couldn’t help grinning at this moment of discovery.
“Okay, now the next bit.”
Keeping hold of the Neanderthal’s arm, keeping his eyes firmly locked on the Neanderthal’s, Connor slowly backed into and through the anomaly, and once he was fully on the other side he tugged the fur-clad arm, and kept backing away until, step by tentative step, the Neanderthal followed him into the Pleistocene.
“See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Connor tried to force his face into a smile, but with the wind and the driving snow he suspected it looked more like a grimace.
The Neanderthal snatched his arm out of Connor’s grasp, and walked around the anomaly as if searching for the cave that he just left behind. He prodded the anomaly with his spear. When he came back round to where Connor was standing, his arms wrapped around his chest in a futile attempt to retain some warmth, the Neanderthal started talking, fast and excited, gesturing with his arm in the direction of some sparse, bare winter woodland that Connor could just make out in the distance.
“Is that where you live? Is that where your camp is?”
The Neanderthal grabbed hold of him arm and started pulling him in that direction.
“NO!” Connor snatched his hand away. “I can’t go with you. I have to go back to my home.” He pointed back at the anomaly. “That’s my home.” He pointed at his own chest. “My home.” He pointed in the direction of the trees, and then at the Neanderthal. “That’s your home. You have to go, and I have to get back through the anomaly before I freeze to death.”
The Neanderthal started talking again, and Connor flailed his arms in frustration. “I don’t understand what you want, okay? It’s been great meeting you, but we don’t understand each other. So why don’t you just go home and tell your friends about your wild adventures in another world, and the crazy miming guy that you met.”
The Neanderthal was still stood there staring at him when Connor could take the cold no longer and stumbled back into the cave.
He got a few steps away from the anomaly, and then let himself sit down and take the weight off his ankle. He was freezing, and even away from the anomaly the cave itself was still cold. Yet again he tried to rub some warmth back into his hands and face as he kept an eye on the anomaly. He hoped he had done enough, but wondered if there was still a chance that the Neanderthal might follow him again and come back. After a few minutes he finally allowed himself a sigh of relief.
At least, he consoled himself, he could finally remember how he had got in here in the first place.
Unfortunately, getting out again was going to be another matter entirely.
Gwithian Vale, 17.49 PM
Connor had a theory. He knew he should have been heading back to find Cutter and the others to tell them Jenny’s news about the possible predator, but he needed to know if he was right. From what he could remember of the map it was only a small detour to go via the escarpment where there were supposed to be caves.
If he was right, it meant that there was a worrying loophole in the ADD’s ability to locate anomalies, which was more annoying the more he thought about it. He had spent ages working on it, all that time tweaking until it was as perfect as he could manage, and yet none of that had made a difference here. And if it happened again in the future...
Connor stopped himself. He needed to prove he was right before he started extending it out to the wider implications.
Abruptly the hand-held detector burst into life. Connor practically yelled with delight.
“Yes!” He looked up and around at the escarpment. “Now, where are you?”
After a few minutes searching he spotted what looked like a narrow fissure in the rock several feet up the slope. The rock face wasn’t sheer, and Connor scrambled up, grabbing whatever outcrops or tufts of sturdy grass or branches that he could get hold of. He was almost at the fissure entrance when his foot slipped, and in the split second reaction he fumbled the hand-held detector and dropped it. It clattered down the slope and landed in the grass below, still whirring rhythmically to itself. Connor contemplated going back for it, but he was almost there already, and surely if the detector had picked it up from here then the anomaly couldn’t be far into the cave. He carried on scrambling up until he reached the entrance.
Beyond the immediately sunlit entrance, it was dark in there. Connor could see that it opened out into a tunnel of some kind after the narrow opening, but there was no sign of an anomaly. He paused in the entranceway, and then pulled out his phone. There was signal. Barely, but there was definitely a signal.
“Conn.... re are you?”
Okay, maybe not the best signal in the world. Connor hoped it would be enough.
“Cutter, I was wrong, there is an anomaly. The detector didn’t pick it up because it’s inside a cave, and the rock must have been blocking the signal. I’ve only found it when I was standing practically outside the entrance.”
“What? I didn’t hea....”
“Jenny says there might be another creature, a predator somewhere. There’s backup on its way. I’m on my way there as well, but I just wanted to check this out first. Did you get that, Cutter?”
“What predato...? Connor, you... eaking up.”
Connor tried one last time, speaking slowly and loudly. “The anomaly is in a cave. There may be a predator. I’ll be with you as soon as I can. There’s a Special Forces team on the way.”
Whatever Cutter said in reply was cut off in the middle of a word and Connor gave up. It wasn’t like it was that far to where they were, anyway. He could pass the message on in person, just as soon as he was certain about where the anomaly was. If he knew that for sure then he had proof, rather than just a theory that they would all doubt and argue over.
He moved into the tunnel and stopped inside the entrance until his eyes adjusted away from the sunlight. Even so, there was precious little light coming in from outside, and he used the light from the screen of his phone as he moved slowly along the passageway. The ground was uneven, the rock walls narrowing and widening randomly, forcing him to squeeze in some places, while in others he couldn’t touch both sides at the same time with outstretched hands. The ground started to slope steeply downwards, and abruptly became wetter and muddier. Connor grabbed hold of the rock walls to steady himself, and stopped. Okay, this was getting a bit scary. Maybe he should just head back now, and come back to find the anomaly with the others.
Discretion won out, and Connor turned round to go back. A loose stone turned beneath his foot, and suddenly his ankle twisted under him. Connor slipped and fell, dropping his phone. It clattered away and the lights went out as Connor felt himself sliding, tumbling, rolling down the steep slope. He yelled, trying to grab hold of something, anything in the darkness. Abruptly he saw a flash of light, and then the tunnel floor dropped away and he was falling into nothingness.
Gwithian Vale, 18.22 PM
“Connor should be back by now.” Abby was glaring accusingly at anyone who happened to be looking her way.
Cutter was inclined to agree. It had been over half an hour since the very garbled phone conversation, and there was still no sign of him. And all attempts to call him back had been met with ‘number unavailable’ messages.
“What did he say?” Stephen asked. Cutter knew they had already had this conversation twice, and wasn’t inclined to tell Stephen the same information again.
“Cutter?” Stephen pressed.
“Anomaly. Cave. Predator. Special Forces backup on its way. That’s all I know,” Cutter snapped back at him.
“We need to find him,” Abby said decisively. “If there is a predator, Connor’s on his own out there. Unarmed.” Abby was the one who voiced the fear that Cutter suspected they all felt.
“Okay,” Cutter finally gave in. “I’ll go.”
“I’m coming too,” Abby said.
“No.” He held up a hand to stop her protest. “You two need to stay here with the creature. You’re the ones who know how to handle animals. If Connor is at the caves then he’s probably not even very far away from here. I’ll find him and bring him back.”
“Don’t go unarmed,” Stephen said. He glanced at Abby, but she hesitated a moment before passing Cutter her tranquiliser pistol.
“Abby, he sounded fine on the phone. I’m sure he’s okay,” Cutter said gently.
“Yeah. Well, he won’t be when I get my hands on him,” she said, apparently trying for bravado and not quite managing it.
Cutter was on the point of telling her not to worry, but stopped himself. He knew Abby would stop worrying when Connor was back safe, and not before.
After another few moments consulting the map with Stephen, Cutter headed off into the woods.
A cave, time unknown
Connor got up and limped carefully towards the tunnel where he had first seen the Neanderthal. He was almost there when a second fissure in the rock face caught his eye off to the side. It was narrow, and seemed to get narrower the further it went. Connor couldn’t see very far into it, but a brief exploratory squeeze a little way along revealed that it opened out again after a little way into another cave of some kind. But it just got darker, and without any form of light source he was reluctant to try going any further into the unknown. He squeezed back out again and headed for the other tunnel.
It sloped upwards, but gently unlike the tunnel he had entered the caves through. It was also a lot wider, but it kept turning corners, and very quickly the light from the anomaly stopped penetrating the darkness.
Connor stopped again. There were no other ways out of the cave, he was sure of it, but he didn’t dare risk further injury stumbling about in the black.
He was on the point of turning back again when he heard something. For a moment he wasn’t certain if it was real, or if it was just his mind playing tricks on him. He stayed still, held his breath, waiting to hear it again.
A tiny, faraway voice reached into the cave a second time, calling Connor’s name. He closed his eyes in relief for a moment, breathed a thank you into the darkness, and then shouted as loud as he could, “Cutter! Cutter! I’m in here.”
“Connor.” Louder this time, closer. Connor stumbled forwards along the tunnel, keeping one hand in contact with the wall to one side, and the other held out in front to stop himself from walking into anything. Abruptly the tunnel turned a corner and he saw sunlight pouring in through a wide opening. He headed towards it, breathing a thank you to the universe in general. A human outline clambered into the mouth of the cave from outside, and was silhouetted against the sunlight for a moment before Cutter started heading towards him.
“Connor. Are you okay? What the hell happened?”
“Cutter, you’re not going to believe this, there was a Neanderthal. And there’s an anomaly back there. I was wrong about that, but it’s not the detector’s fault, the cave must have been blocking the signal so that’s why it didn’t pick it up.” His words tumbled out quickly, mostly in sheer relief of having someone familiar to talk to. Someone who actually understood him. Most of the time.
“Neanderthal?” Cutter pulled a small maglite out of his pocket and Connor squinted and winced when he shone it directly in his face.
“Yeah. Ow.” Cutter grabbed his arm as Connor’s ankle turned and he almost fell over again.
“Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”
Cutter wrapped an arm round Connor and supported him as they turned back towards the cave mouth.
They both stopped dead.
Standing in the cave entrance, silhouetted just as Cutter has been a few minutes earlier, was another shape. This one wasn’t human. It was huge.
It growled softly, and the sound echoed through the cave.
Then it bounded towards them.