Title: Day Two: Survival
Pairing/characters: Connor, Ryan
Warnings: Occasional mild swearing
Spoilers: Anything through to episode 5
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: approx 5250
Summary: Action, adventure and prehistoric peril.
Connor woke to bright sunlight in his face, and a dawn chorus of diplodocus. He lay there for a long time, trying to decide if that meant he was still dreaming. But dreams didn’t usually hurt this much.
The compass was next to his head, and he looked at it hopefully before sitting up and trying to stretch the aches out of his stiff muscles.
“Morning,” Ryan said. He was sitting with his legs hanging down over the edge of their rock shelter. Connor felt a minor wave of vertigo just thinking about where Ryan was, and tried to make himself comfortable against the back wall.
“It wasn’t some really insane dream, then?”
Connor’s stomach rumbled.
“Don’t suppose there’s any breakfast?”
Ryan fished out one of the cereal bars, broke it in half, and they both sat there quietly eating for a while.
The sun was barely over the distant hills, and yet it was already becoming another hot day. Ryan had finally taken off his jacket, but the equipment vest was back on over his t-shirt.
“We should work on food and water supplies today,” Ryan said. “We have to hope the anomaly reopens, but we need contingencies in case we’re here a while.”
Ryan made it sound so matter of fact, as if they weren’t talking about trying to survive in a time when humans weren’t so much top predator, and more like light lunchtime snacks.
Connor also had a worrying suspicion that Ryan was expecting him to know something about finding food here. He didn’t immediately want to admit that he didn’t have a clue, and searched for an alternative conversation topic.
“I’m starting to think that gun’s surgically attached to you,” he commented, indicating the big gun still slung over Ryan’s shoulder.
Ryan glanced down at it, and raised his eyebrows at Connor. “Basic training. If I’m in a dangerous situation and this is more than two feet away from my hand then something’s gone wrong. Which reminds me.” Ryan got up and moved over to where Connor was sitting. He pulled the handgun out of its holster at his hip and held it out to Connor. “Do you know how to use one of these?”
Connor shook his head, not entirely certain whether he should take the weapon.
“Have you ever fired a gun of any sort before?”
“Not unless you count laser-quest,” Connor said.
“That’s what we’re doing this morning then,” Ryan decided.
“What?” Although Connor was fairly sure he knew what the soldier meant.
“I’m going to teach you how to use it.” Connor must have looked sceptical, or possibly just incredulous, because Ryan elaborated. “If we get separated, or if anything happens to me, I need to know you can defend yourself.”
“Are you sure it’s a good idea?” Connor protested.
“Yes.” Ryan holstered the handgun again when Connor didn’t take it, and started climbing down from their rock shelter. “Come on. We’ve got work to do.”
Getting down from the ledge wasn’t actually as bad as Connor had been expecting. He wondered if he was getting better with the climbing thing, or if it was just that his mind could only take so much fear, and on a scale of potentially being eaten by dinosaurs, this just wasn’t rating very high any more. They headed across the open plain towards the river, not far from the edge of the forest. The brachiosaurs were some way off, and Connor couldn’t help being distracted by them. More than once Ryan grabbed him and dragged him along when Connor stopped to stare at the huge creatures. At the river Ryan spent a few minutes refilling his water bottle, and then adding something from a bottle he dug out of one of his many pockets.
“If you can help it, don’t drink the water without purifying it first,” he advised off Connor’s confused look. “You’re not allergic to iodine or anything, are you?”
“Not that I know of.”
Ryan refilled Connor’s bottle as well, and showed him how much of the chemical to add, and how long to leave it before drinking.
Water supplies dealt with, Ryan seemed keen to get onto the other item on his agenda for the morning.
“This,” Ryan held out the handgun again, “Is a Browning High Power. It carries a magazine of thirteen rounds. Keep track of how many you’ve used, and more importantly how many you’ve got left.”
Connor nodded, trying to remember the information. He was still feeling more than a little panicky at the thought of firing a real gun.
“The first thing you need to know, the very first rule: never, ever aim a gun at a person unless you actually intend to shoot them. You screw up and have an accident with one of these, you might just kill someone. So don’t piss about with it. Ever.”
Connor suddenly wondered if Ryan had any kids. He had adopted that tone of voice more usually heard when parents or teachers were instructing children in something really important. He decided not to ask, and kept listening and occasionally nodding.
“That’s the safety. In this position, it’s on, that means you can’t fire it.”
“That’s safe, right, got it.” It occurred to him he should possibly be offended by Ryan’s tone of voice. But on the other hand, he was the one who had said he didn’t have a clue about where to start with a gun. Maybe Ryan was just erring on the side of caution. But still.
Ryan went through how to load the magazine, how to switch the safety on and off, the best ways of holding the gun – always use both hands, one to hold and pull the trigger, the other to steady the primary hand – the best stance for maximum control, or speed, how to aim. As the list of things to remember went on, Connor started to get really worried. In films it always looked like you just had to point and shoot.
“Okay, you try it.” Ryan gave Connor the gun, and it became clear he couldn’t avoid it any longer.
The weapon was heavier than it looked. Connor fought the urge to hold it at arms length, and for a moment just held it, getting used to the odd feel of it in his hand, and finding the most comfortable grip.
“You see that tree?” Ryan pointed to the edge of the forest at a distinctive tree with a broken branch. “Try to hit it.”
“Right. Okay.” Connor tried to copy the stance that Ryan had showed him, feeling rather embarrassed, and certain he looked like he was doing a bad imitation of an FBI movie.
Strangely, Ryan seemed happy with him. “That’s right. Spread your feet further apart, make sure you’re balanced,” was all he said.
Connor aimed at the tree, trying to remember everything he was supposed to be checking and double checking first. Ryan moved closer and reached round to adjust his arms slightly.
“That’s better. Support the primary hand, otherwise the recoil will hurt.”
Connor nodded, trying not to think about how close the other man was standing, or about the fact that he could feel Ryan’s breath on the side of his face.
“In your own time.”
Connor thought he would never be ready, no matter how much time he took. He took several deep breaths, and pulled the trigger.
Ryan had been right about the recoil. He was pushed backwards, and almost stumbled into the other man. Ryan steadied him with a hand, and seemed to be making encouraging noises. Connor couldn’t tell. Over the last few months he had got used to the sound of gunfire, but never usually this close, and somehow he hadn’t expected it to be so loud. The muscles in his arms and shoulder, already stiff from sleeping awkwardly on the rock floor, didn’t like this in the slightest.
When he finally looked, the tree seemed completely unmarked.
“I think I missed,” he admitted.
“I think I missed the entire forest.”
“Not quite.” Ryan was smiling. “Don’t worry. Seriously. These things aren’t designed for range. Unless you’re bloody good, the accuracy’s lousy at anything more than ten metres from the target. The assault rifle is better for range work. A handgun is the last ditch weapon for when the enemy’s practically in your face.”
“That’s not exactly encouraging,” Connor pointed out.
“I don’t want you to be under any illusions about what this is capable of. You aren’t looking to kill a creature with it. Even with years of training you might not manage that. At best you might injure one, slow it down. You’re aiming to scare them off, distract them, give yourself time to get away.”
“Again, can I point out that wasn’t the most encouraging thing you could have said.” Although a small part of Connor was oddly relieved at that news.
“Shouldn’t we be conserving the ammunition? We might need it later.”
“No,” Ryan said. “We’ve got plenty. More than enough to practise with.” Connor must have looked sceptical, because he continued, “All the ammunition in the world isn’t any good if you don’t know how to use it. Keep practising.”
They continued for the next hour or so. After the first few attempts, with Ryan offering further advice and adjustments to his aim or the position of his body, Connor started to add his input, pointing out what was more comfortable for him, which parts he was having difficulty with. He had lost count of how many times he had fired it when he finally managed to hit what he was aiming at. In a sudden fit of excitement he spun round, grinning madly, and trying to high five Ryan. Ryan ducked out of the way, snatched Connor’s hand out of the air, and reminded him in no uncertain terms about watching where he was pointing the gun with the safety off.
Ryan was a surprisingly patient teacher as Connor practised, even after he fluffed reloading the magazine five times in a row.
“I bet you wish it was Stephen here, not me,” Connor muttered, while he struggled to reload the Browning. “He already knows all this stuff.”
Ryan was quiet for a long moment.
“Actually, no,” he said.
Connor gave him a faintly surprised look. Ryan seemed to be considering whether to elaborate, and then continued.
“Stephen thinks he knows what he’s doing, and that’s dangerous because it makes him arrogant and over-confident. He won’t follow orders, and is more likely to go off on his own.” He met Connor’s look, his mouth pressed into a thin line. “I know he’s your friend and I’m sorry, but that’s just how I think of him. You think he’s all heroic? He’s not, he’s just lucky. And one day that luck’s going to run out, and it’s going to get him, or more likely someone else, killed.”
Connor remembered the arthropleurid in the underground, and wondered briefly if Ryan might be right.
“Still, he’s got all the survival skills and stuff,” Connor pointed out. Ryan was right about one thing; Stephen was his friend, and he felt he really ought to defend him a little.
“Maybe,” Ryan allowed.
It began to occur to Connor that it was possibly a good thing that Stephen wasn’t trapped here with Ryan. Both Stephen and Ryan had a certain alpha-maleness about them, and that much testosterone confined together couldn’t possibly end well. Connor, on the other hand, had absolutely no pretensions to alpha-maleness. While encyclopaedic knowledge of prehistoric life and, for that matter, a variety of other scientific disciplines, was great in a backup context, he knew it wasn’t exactly high on the list of qualities people looked for in an action hero.
Ryan insisted that Connor continue practising until he had got it, but after a while he seemed satisfied enough to leave Connor to his own devices. Connor worked on the reloading thing until he was convinced he had managed it twice in a row. When he looked up he noticed Ryan staring at the river.
“Are there fish in this time period?” Ryan asked when Connor wandered over, checking the compass again as he walked.
“Should be. Fish were some of the earliest vertebrate creatures to evolve, so by this time period they’ve been going for millions of years. Not sure about freshwater varieties though, most of the fossil record seems to be the open ocean stuff.” Connor trailed off when he recognised a familiar ‘too much information’ expression on Ryan’s face.
“Is there any reason we shouldn’t be able to eat them?”
“Not that I know of.” He wondered if he ought to point out that poison didn’t show up in the fossil record. Then he figured Ryan probably knew that anyway.
Connor waited for Ryan to offer any form of explanation, but he only continued studying the river.
“Is any of this relevant considering we don’t have any fishing lines?”
Ryan threw him an amused glance. “Who says we don’t?”
“Me and the lads might not exactly be boy scouts, but Special Forces live by a very similar motto.”
Connor grinned. “Cool.”
“If we head upstream where it’s narrower there’s a better chance of catching something. What do you know about plant life? What can we gather?”
Connor winced. “Not that much, to be honest,” he admitted. “Palaeobotany isn’t really my thing. I’m pretty sure that flowering plants and fruit haven’t evolved yet, though.”
Connor shrugged. “Plants don’t tend to get fossilised as easily as animals, so it’s difficult to know that much about them. There are probably edible roots or something, but like I said, it’s not my thing. I wouldn’t recognise one if it painted itself purple and jumped up and down shouting ‘hi, I’m an edible root vegetable’.”
Ryan laughed out loud, and it occurred to Connor that was the first time he had ever heard Ryan laugh.
“Come on then. Let’s get under the trees before it starts raining.” He indicated the hills on the horizon, where dark clouds were massing and threatening to head over their way and blot out the sun.
Connor tried to hand the Browning back, but Ryan just took the holster off his own belt and handed it over.
“It’s yours till we get home. Keep it with you at all times.”
That wasn’t quite what Connor had bargained for, and he had a moment of panic about carrying the gun with him. He double, and then triple checked that the safety was in the right position before he put it in the holster, and the weight of it on his belt felt awkward and uncomfortable.
They headed upstream into the forest. Where the river crossed the plain it was wide and deep, and relatively slow. Inside the forest it continued in the same way for a while, but very soon the landscape started to slope upwards, and the river became shallower, faster, and interspersed with mini waterfalls and rapids.
Ryan pointed out a shallow part, and they spent a while trying to attach a long roll of netting to an overhanging tree and weigh it down across the river. According to Ryan, the gill net was an illegal method of fishing across the EU, and several other parts of the world, but if you were in a hostile environment and needed food, a little poaching was a long way down your list of things to worry about.
As they worked together, Connor decided that Ryan was actually a really decent guy. He had probably said more to Connor in the last hour than he had in all the previous months they had been involved in the anomaly project, and once he got talking it turned out he was full of useful or interesting information. In turn, Connor quite liked the feeling of being involved and treated with a degree of respect. Sometimes it felt like Cutter was the only one who fully appreciated the depth of his knowledge, and his input on the project was often overlooked by those who regarded him as just an annoying hanger-on.
By the time the net was set up, Connor was almost surprised to realise he was enjoying himself.
“Back in a minute,” he said, heading further into the forest. “Call of nature.”
Ryan was still fiddling with the net, and just nodded. “Don’t go far.”
Connor was in the middle of zipping his trousers back up when he heard something moving in the undergrowth behind him. He froze, and then slowly turned round to see what it was.
A small head emerged from the thigh deep ferns and two tiny eyes peered at him. The head was attached to a long neck, which led to a large, mottled brown and green body. It was well over seven feet long from head to tail, and almost as tall as Connor’s chest.
He gasped, and then grinned. It was a baby diplodocus.
The diplodocus eyed him cautiously, and then went back to the far more interesting and important job of eating. Connor just stared, his mouth hanging open. It couldn’t be more than ten feet away from him. And it seemed completely unafraid. He glanced round to make sure there was nothing else nearby, and slowly took a few steps towards it. It looked at him again, but didn’t seem bothered as Connor got closer and closer.
I bet Abby would love this, he thought to himself. He wondered if he could get a picture on his mobile. But first there was something that he needed to do.
He made small, quiet, hopefully reassuring noises as he approached, and when he was close enough he slowly put out a hand and touched the creature.
It grunted, and looked at him, shuffling a little and Connor backed off. It went back to eating, and he moved close again, and gently ran his hand along the creature’s back. This time it just grunted, and carried on eating as if he wasn’t there. Connor realised he was grinning so much his face was almost starting to hurt. This was fantastic. It was amazing. It was impossible. It was… he ran out of adjectives to describe the emotions racing through him, and he just stood there, stroking the diplodocus and muttering happy noises at it.
“Connor.” A crashing sound announced the fact that Ryan was charging towards them. The diplodocus jumped, making a deep trumpeting sound, and turned and ran. Connor couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and got whacked by its tail and knocked flying.
“Are you okay?” Ryan was heading towards him.
“Yeah,” Connor picked himself up not really paying attention, and still staring wide-eyed at the retreating dinosaur.
Abruptly Ryan grabbed Connor’s shirt and pushed him back against a tree.
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” he yelled.
The grin dropped off Connor’s face as he realised the captain was absolutely furious.
“It’s just a baby. It wasn’t dangerous.”
“You’re all as bad. Bloody scientists.” He spat the word ‘scientist’ like it was an expletive. “For god’s sake Connor, you do not go wandering off like that.”
Connor felt a sudden surge of anger and glared right back at him.
“Yes. I’m a bloody scientist. That means I want to study them, get close. You said yourself, I’m the expert about this stuff. How can I not take the opportunity? They’re, they’re real, they’re here, I can see them, and touch them, and… Ryan, I’m a palaeontologist. They’re dinosaurs. What the hell did you expect?”
“You could have got yourself killed. You could have got me killed trying to pull your ass out of danger.”
“But I didn’t,” Connor snapped back. “Everything was fine until you barged in yelling and shouting and scaring it off.”
Ryan let go and took a step back, a look something close to contempt on his face.
“I’m starting to think it was a bad idea giving you that gun,” he said in a dangerously quiet voice. “You’re just as bad as Stephen.”
He turned and walked away.
The rain arrived that afternoon. One moment it was fine, the next it was like someone had turned on a power shower directly overhead, and a monsoon of warm tropical rain drenched everything that couldn’t get out of the way.
Connor was pissed off. Since the diplodocus incident, the easy conversation they had fallen into that morning was gone, replaced with an angry silence. Ryan appeared to have reverted to his usual vocabulary of curt monosyllables and orders, and Connor didn’t trust himself to speak much in reply because he was sure his voice was going to sound more than a touch petulant.
He was angry at himself as much as Ryan. He had let himself believe that someone actually took him seriously and respected his opinions. Well, clearly that wasn’t the case, and the letdown was just another reminder that he was only on the team because for some reason Cutter tolerated him.
Even under the cover of the forest they were getting soaked through, and after a futile hour or two searching the forest plant life for anything that looked remotely edible, Ryan decided they would be better off just heading for the cover of their shelter and waiting for the rain to stop. Connor wondered if the soldier’s tension was still down to their argument, or if he was worried that the constant drumming of rain in the trees was disguising the sound of potential threats.
When they got out onto the plain again Connor fully understood the meaning of the word downpour. It wasn’t far to the shelter, but by the time they got there it felt like he had jumped, fully clothed, into the river, and he kept having to wipe water from his eyes just to see. The climb up was rather more interesting than before with the rocks now wet, but with frequent help from Ryan he made it eventually.
Connor looked out across the plain through the constant drips and rivulets of water that were forming a beaded curtain affect across the opening of the shelter. The sauropods in the distance looked as subdued as Connor felt.
Ryan tucked himself against the back wall and closed his eyes. It was the first time Connor had seen him anything other than completely alert, and he wondered if Ryan had got any sleep at all the previous night.
It didn’t take long for Connor to get thoroughly bored and uncomfortable. Even though they were out of the rain itself, the atmosphere seemed so utterly saturated that he was sure his clothes were never going to be dry again. Eventually he found one of his notebooks, a little soggy round the edges even in his bag, and started to record everything that had happened over the last couple of days. He didn’t want to forget a single moment, partly because he had no idea what might be important for their reports when they got home. If they got home. He started to check the compass every few minutes, worrying if maybe they were too far from the anomaly site to detect the magnetic disturbance. Connor was also getting hungry. Okay, more hungry than he had been for most of the morning. There was one of the chocolate bars in his bag, but he glanced guiltily at Ryan. He probably ought to save half, he decided. But for a moment he wasn’t certain he’d have the willpower once he started, so he put the chocolate away again and went back to writing.
Anxious to record every detail, he got a little frustrated when he realised he couldn’t remember something that Ryan had told him earlier.
“What did he call that net thing?” Connor muttered aloud.
Connor almost jumped.
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I was.” Ryan rubbed his face and stretched uncomfortably.
Ryan glanced at his watch, and then looked amused. Knowing the time in the twenty first century was no help at all to them here.
Feeling calmer now, Connor put the notebook down and psyched himself up to get this out of the way.
“Ryan, I’m sorry about what happened with the diplodocus. But, it was just there, and how could I not want to get close?” He ploughed ahead, trying to say everything before he was interrupted. “I’ve spent my entire life studying these creatures in books, but being here, seeing them in their natural environment, it’s the most amazing thing ever. I don’t want to get home and realise I spent the entire time running away and hiding behind you.”
“That’s not what I’m asking you to do,” Ryan said carefully.
“No. But the way you’re acting… Ryan, I’m not a child, and I’m not incompetent.”
Ryan looked at him sharply. “If I thought you were either of those things I wouldn’t have given you the Browning.”
Connor wasn’t sure what to say, although he suspected that statement meant that things weren’t as bad as he had thought.
“Maybe I over-reacted a little,” Ryan said in a hesitant voice that suggested he was a man not used to admitting he was wrong. Connor didn’t say anything. ‘A little’ wasn’t how he would have described it.
“Look,” Ryan continued. “I know you and Cutter think I’m the bad guy who just wants to shoot everything, but that’s not why I’m here. My orders are simple - protect human life. I’m here to keep you people alive.” He offered Connor a wry smile. “And I have to tell you, Connor, you don’t make my job easy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Connor protested.
“The centipede, the thing in the reservoir, the flying creature on the golf course,” Ryan was ticking each one off on his fingers.
“Okay, point taken,” Connor admitted.
“Just do me a favour, okay?” Ryan said. “Next time you want to get close to something like that, for gods sake let me know. Don’t just wander off. Please.”
“Absolutely. No problem.” Connor honestly hadn’t expected that degree of compromise from the man, and he added it to his list of new and interesting discoveries for the day. It was becoming quite a long list.
He dug the chocolate out again and the last of the tension between them dissipated as they ate.
The rain didn’t let up for the rest of the day. They spent the time talking, or just sitting and watching the creatures that were still out on the plain and hadn’t taken cover.
The sky had been darker than normal all afternoon, and it seemed nightfall was going to come early to the Jurassic that day. Before it got too close to twilight, however, Ryan started to double check his equipment.
“I’m going to check on the net,” he explained. “Might have got something by now.”
“I’ll come too.” Connor wasn’t sure he liked the thought of being here by himself.
“No, wait here. There’s no point both of us going out in this weather again.” Ryan was already starting to lower himself down out of the shelter.
“Are you sure?” While Connor had very little desire to get soaked just when his clothes were starting to feel remotely comfortable again, he also didn’t like the thought of Ryan going off alone.
“I’ll be fine. No offence, but I can probably move quicker alone anyway.”
Ryan was halfway down the rock face when Connor leaned over the edge and called down to him.
“Ryan. Be careful.”
Ryan just nodded, and headed off.
Connor watched him all the way to the forest, where he lost sight of the soldier. He convinced himself Ryan would be okay. He was trained for this sort of stuff. Well, actually, no-one was trained for this sort of stuff, but after the last few months with the anomaly project, Ryan was the closest they had to filling that category.
After a while Connor realised he was beginning to enjoy the moment of solitude. Ryan had barely left his side for over a day and a half now, and while it was no doubt for the best practically speaking, it was starting to feel a little stifling. He finished writing his notes, and took a couple of pictures of the plain with his mobile. The sauropods were too far away to appear as more than lumpy blurs through the rain, and eventually he gave up and turned his phone off to conserve the battery. He lay back on his coat and tried to relax on the hard rock floor. What sort of fish might there be in a Jurassic river? He just hoped they wouldn’t be poisonous. That would be really bad, and–
A burst of automatic gunfire tore apart the evening quiet. There was a collective squawking, running, scuttling and movement of creatures startled by the alien noise. Then a roar echoed across the forest followed by the sound of something large crashing through the trees.
Connor sat up and scrambled to the edge of the shelter. He stared out towards the forest through the sheeting rain, trying to see something, anything. The crashing stopped as suddenly as it had started. On the plains, the herds of still unidentified bipeds gradually started drinking or grazing again as if nothing had happened.
In the shelter, Connor’s breath was coming in short, ragged bursts, and this time it had nothing to do with vertigo. His growing fear finally found an outlet in a single word, screamed into the wet Jurassic evening.
There was no response. No further sound of gunfire. No sign of the only other human in this time.
Connor had no idea what to do. His first impulse was to run to the forest to find out what was happening. He even started to climb down the rock face. Then he stopped, riddled with indecision, and climbed back up again. Ryan had told him to wait here. If they missed each other he could end up wandering around the forest all night, in the dark, trying to find the captain. What if Ryan came back and he wasn’t here?
An even more frightening thought pushed itself to the front of Connor’s mind. What if Ryan didn’t come back at all?
Twice more he started to climb down, and then thought better of it. His mind was finally made up for him by one very simple fact: it was rapidly becoming pitch black, and Ryan had their only torch.
He stayed in the shelter as darkness closed in, eyes glued to the edge of the forest for any signs of movement. Eventually he couldn’t even make out the outline of the tress any more, the rain and the darkness had obscured everything, but he remained at the edge of the rock shelter, staring into the black, and trying to stop himself from shaking. He shouted Ryan’s name again, but there was no reply.
Connor didn’t sleep at all that night. And Captain Ryan didn’t come back.