Title: Hero (part 10 of 11)
Pairing/characters: Cutter, Connor, Stephen, Abby, Jenny.
Warnings: Occasional mild language
Spoilers: Anything up to ep 2.4
Disclaimer: Not mine. ITV and Impossible Pictures own them.
Word count: 3897 (total 44,591)
Summary: All Connor wanted was a positive paternal role model. Was that too much to ask?
AN: Big thanks to fififolle for the beta. Written for the Big Bang fic challenge. Also sort of incorporates Era of the Month: Triassic.
AN2:This fic is set in the latter half of series 2, a while after 2.4, and ignores canon after that point. Also appears to ignore the existence of Leek.
The placerias slammed into the side of the car at full speed. The passenger side door caved in under the impact, and the placerias’ tusks screeched against the metal, scoring deep marks. The soldier who had been driving the car quickly stopped the engine and scrambled out of the driver’s side, and then pointed his assault rifle at the creature over the bonnet of the car.
“Hold your fire,” Abby yelled at him, and at all the other soldiers who had raised their weapons when the placerias charged.
“If they all start to rampage we’re going to have to start shooting, whether we like it or not,” Stephen warned, sighting the placerias down the barrel of his own tranquilliser rifle. He had no intention of shooting it just yet, but considering how big the creatures were, he was not inclined to take any chances.
“I told them not to get too close with the cars,” Abby snapped.
The placerias continued to head-butt the car and scrape the paintwork with its tusks, but otherwise seemed to be ignoring the humans. The rest of the herd were still hanging back, watching their angry pack-mate, but not making any moves to follow its lead, something which Stephen was immensely grateful for.
Their plan to hem the creatures in had almost worked. There was a natural barrier at the edge of the waste ground anyway, where a high, steep grassy bank was topped with another chain-link fence. The problem was forming any sort of cordon to either side of the creatures. They were too big to be worried about people standing and waving their arms, so vehicles were the only obvious ways of stopping them from wandering off. But Jenny had taken one of the cars to go to the supermarket for vegetables, and that only left them with three, nowhere near enough.
It had been Stephen’s idea to park two of the cars across the way that led to the industrial estate, to try to block that route as much as possible, and the third car had been simply driving backwards and forwards across the other side to form a mobile deterrent. It had been working, until, as Abby had pointed out, the car had got slightly too close, and one of the placerias had apparently decided it posed enough of a threat that it needed to be charged down and given a good kicking.
“I think it’s the male,” Stephen said, relaxing a little, but not yet ready to lower his rifle. “It probably thinks it’s protecting its females.”
Abby threw him a mischievous smile.
“Typical male, over-reacting.”
Stephen rolled his eyes at her, but also smiled.
The sound of a car heading towards them interrupted their banter, and Abby quickly went to flag Jenny down and stop her from approaching too near to the creatures. He heard a brief conversation between the two women, and then Jenny called out, “Stephen? We could do with a hand here, please.”
Stephen glanced round to check all the soldiers seemed to be okay and weren’t about to do anything rash, spared another glance at the placerias which was still beating seven shades out of the unfortunate door panel, and headed over to where Jenny had parked the car.
It appeared that Jenny had bought the entire vegetable section of the supermarket. As well as parsnips, Stephen could see carrots, turnips, several cabbages, and he could have sworn he saw three sacks of potatoes in the back seat of the car.
“Abby said to get a selection,” Jenny said when she caught his amused smirk.
“No, it’s a good idea,” Stephen said, still grinning. “And with the leftovers we can have the biggest hot pot ever.”
“It’s probably more vegetables than Connor’s seen in the last year,” Abby said, also grinning. “Come on, then, let’s see what works.”
Between them they started to empty the car of bags and boxes, and Abby quickly assembled a cardboard box with a few examples of every type of vegetable.
“Cover me,” she said to Stephen, and then picked up the box and headed around towards the rather more placid herd, skirting a wide arc away from the angry placerias and the ever more wrecked car door.
Stephen followed a short distance behind Abby, constantly scanning the herd for any signs of trouble. Abby stopped a little way short of the herd, put the box down and crouched quietly, letting the animals nearest get used to her presence before she picked a parsnip out of the box and crept a little further forwards towards the animals. Stephen realised he was holding his breath only at the point when he suddenly needed to breathe. A placerias at the edge of the herd snorted at Abby, and Abby immediately stopped moving and crouched again, presenting a small, non-threatening appearance. Stephen raised his rifle and trained it on the placerias, hoping he wouldn’t have to use it, not least because there was no way the tranquilliser could take effect fast enough to save Abby if the creature decided to charge like the other one had.
Eventually the placerias settled again, although the one nearest still didn’t take its eyes off Abby. Abby apparently decided she wasn’t going to risk getting any closer, and instead rolled the parsnip along the ground towards the creature. It stopped short when it ran into some rough gravel, and Stephen heard Abby curse quietly. She started backing slowly towards where she had left the box of vegetables. The placerias sniffed and eyed the parsnip warily. Then it moved forwards, snuffling at the ground until it nudged the parsnip with its beak. It poked it a little, nosing the parsnip along the gravel. Then suddenly snaffled the vegetable up and munched it, barely seeming to chew before it swallowed the unfamiliar food.
Then it looked up at Abby, its interest in the smell of food apparently warring with its natural caution of the strange two-legged creatures with their unnatural moving lights.
Abby took the opportunity to roll a cabbage across the ground to it, and then crouched by the box waiting to see what the taste-test verdict would be this time.
This went on for some time, as, one by one, Abby tried all the different things that Jenny had brought. By the time the box had started to run empty, a further three placerias were also taking an interest, and two of them had resorted to something of a pushing contest to get at the last of the carrots. Abby picked up the box and moved so that she was between the herd and the gap in the fence, and then carefully emptied the box onto the gravel. Then she very quickly backed away to where Stephen was standing.
“Now we see if they’ll come to the food, now they’ve got a taste for it.”
“That’s not going to do us much good if we don’t know where to lead them to,” Stephen commented, suddenly looking round. “Where the hell are they? How many people does it take to find one anomaly?”
Abby frowned and glanced at her watch for a second before her attention returned to the placerias. “They’ve been gone too long. Do you think they’re in trouble?”
“Sir, incoming!” one of the soldiers called out.
Stephen swung round to see something running out of the darkness of the building site towards the gap in the fence. Several guns swung round away from the angry placerias to the new threat.
Should have known it was going too easily, Stephen thought to himself.
The coelophysis approached cautiously, its head bobbing a little but its eyes never leaving Cutter.
“Shoo!” Cutter tried.
The coelophysis cocked its head to one side and seemed to be studying him. Then its gaze very obviously shifted down to Connor.
“No,” Cutter shouted, hoping desperately that it might be frightened by loud noises.
The coelophysis darted forwards and snapped at Connor, its jaws closing around Connor’s injured arm.
Cutter lashed out and his fist caught the creature in the side of its face. It immediately leapt back, barking in that high, sharp way again. It hadn’t backed off nearly far enough for Cutter’s liking, and he had a nasty suspicion that the creature was intelligent enough to have realised just how much of an easy target Connor was.
The creature’s barks were answered by another, and Cutter looked up to see a second coelophysis standing on the edge of the broken roof above them. It hopped lightly onto the fallen beam that Cutter had considered climbing earlier, and then carefully picked its way down using its long tail to balance, and jumping the last few feet to land somewhere behind the placerias.
Cutter shifted his grip so that he could have a hand free and still apply enough pressure to Connor’s chest. He thought he heard a faint whimper from Connor, and wished he had time to talk to him and reassure him, try to keep him conscious. Instead Cutter reached out with his free hand and snagged a broken brick. He hefted it, testing its weight for a moment, and then hurled it at the nearest coelophysis. It smacked the dinosaur on the shoulder, and it jumped back, barking and hopping and bobbing its head.
“Look, there’s a bloody dying animal over there that isn’t fighting back,” he growled. “Why don’t you go pick on that instead?”
In any other circumstance he knew he would have been trying to stop the predators feeding on the injured placerias, but however horrible the thought, right then it was far better than the alternative.
He snagged another brick and threw it quickly, hoping the creature wouldn’t have time to react. It dodged lightly out of the way and his brick thumped into a pile of debris and raised a cloud of dust. Nevertheless, the coelophysis did back off further and joined the second one in the darkness at the far end of the room. Cutter used the opportunity to grab as many bricks and stones and bits of wood as he could reach without letting go of Connor, and formed a stockpile.
He heard Connor whimper quietly again, or possibly he was just starting to wheeze.
“Connor,” Cutter said in a quiet voice. “You listen to me, Connor. You are going to be fine. Your dad has gone to get help, and the cavalry will be arriving any second now.”
It looked for a moment like Connor was trying to open his eyes, but in the end he just gave another breathy whine.
“Damn it, Connor. Your dad is going to bloody kill me if you don’t get out of here alive.” Cutter paused for a moment. “And if Mark doesn’t kill me, Abby probably will.”
The two coelophysis started barking again, short, sharp yaps that sounded too loud in the night.
“Come on, Stephen,” Cutter muttered under his breath. “Any time now would be good.”
The silhouette that appeared at the edge of the gap in the roof was not Stephen. It answered its pack mates with a single bark. Then it too started to make its way down the fallen beams and into the room. Above it, another, and yet another appeared, each of them bobbing their heads and sniffing the air.
Cutter glanced down at Connor and had a fleeting hope that the young man would be completely unconscious by the time the worst happened. He knew his stockpile of ammunition was not going to last long, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to go down fighting.
“Any time now.”
Mark Temple stumbled out through the gap in the fence and ran over to Stephen and Abby.
“Connor... Cutter... dinosaurs,” Mark gasped.
Abby immediately tensed, looking round to make sure nothing had been chasing Mark.
“What?” Stephen grabbed Mark’s shoulders. “What happened? Where?”
“Back there,” Mark waved a hand at the building site. “There were other things, not placerias. I think they were dinosaurs. They attacked Cutter, and he and Connor fell through the floor and they’re trapped.”
Fell through the floor?
“What’s going on?” Jenny asked, hurrying over.
Abby heard a snuffling noise behind her, and looked round to see a placerias munching on the last of the vegetables from the first box full. At least her plan was working.
“Jenny,” Abby said, thinking quickly. “Cutter and Connor are in trouble, but we can’t all run off and abandon the placerias. You need to stay here and keep the herd from wandering off. But don’t try to lead them back to the anomaly until we’ve found the others and it’s all clear.”
“Do you want backup?” one of the soldiers asked as Stephen quickly rummaged in the boot of one of the cars.
“No, you guys stay here and help Jenny,” Stephen said, emerging with a length of rope and a proper pistol, presumably in case his tranquilliser rifle wasn’t enough.
“Hey!” Jenny protested. “How am I supposed to control these things?”
“I’m sure you’ll work it out,” Stephen called back as he set off running into the building site.
“Mark, show us where they are,” Abby said, taking hold of Mark’s arm and pulling him along with them.
Mark pulled back. “You’re not seriously going down there with just two of you?” he said sounding incredulous.
“Have you got a better idea?” Stephen snapped, his long legs already giving him a lead.
Abby was practically dragging Mark behind her. “Where are they, Mark?” she demanded again. She couldn’t understand his reluctance. Connor was in trouble, why the hell wasn’t he leading the way to rescue his own son?
They were running between two long brick buildings, the beams of light from their torches bouncing and giving Abby flash images of what lay ahead.
Abruptly Stephen stopped, raised his rifle and fired at something ahead of them. Abby heard a sharp, high bark, and she immediately let go of Mark and pulled her own tranquilliser pistol out from where it had been tucked in a pocket, and ran to join Stephen. She saw something that looked a lot like the raptors they’d met at the shopping centre, but smaller and slimmer, standing at the edge of a jagged hole in the ground. Before Abby could raise her pistol, Stephen fired again, and this time the creature turned and ran towards the familiar glittering, slowly swirling light of the anomaly that stood out sharply in the darkness.
Abby heard another bark, but she couldn’t immediately place where the sound had come from.
“Cutter!” Stephen yelled.
“Stephen! Down here.”
Abby and Stephen raced to where a snapped line of warning tape fluttered in the breeze, but they both stopped short of the very edge of the hole. The floor looked, and felt, entirely too unstable when they stepped on it.
“I’ll find something to attach the rope to,” Stephen said, and quickly headed away from the edge.
Abby looked around, and came to a decision. She was smaller and lighter than Stephen. Alone, she might be able to move further out and see down into wherever this hole went to. She stepped out, placing her feet carefully and only fully transferring her weight from one leg to another when she was sure of the ground beneath her. She heard the sound of creaking wood, and somewhere below Cutter swearing. More barks answered, and Abby knew there was more than one creature already down there. The floor beneath her started to bend and Abby stopped, balancing her weight onto her back foot.
She didn’t need to go any further, though. She could see from here into the cellar below.
Four of the raptor-like creatures were beginning to fan out into a line, moving slowly towards their prey. One of them darted forwards, snapping, and then hopped back again. Another one made an attack and leapt away again, and then another one. Cutter was facing off against them alone, a piece of broken wood in his hands, wielding it like a baseball bat and swinging it at anything that came close.
But it was what lay behind Cutter that held Abby’s attention. Connor, lying utterly motionless, a crumpled wad of material on his chest soaked in what was quite obviously his own blood.
Then the creatures all attacked at once.
Cutter swung his piece of wood in a wide arc, battering at least one of the coelophysis in the face with it on the way. A second coelophysis lunged at him and its snapping jaws narrowly missed Cutter’s arm. He elbowed it in the face and was momentarily satisfied when he hit it in the eye and it leapt back, yelping.
He realised a second too late that while he’d been occupied, yet another of the creatures had got round him to Connor. He spun round as it leapt onto Connor’s legs and bent to sniff at the blood-soaked jacket. Cutter heard a quiet hiss, and suddenly a dart appeared in the back of the creature’s neck. It too yelped and spun round looking for its attacker, its claws raking Connor’s trousers.
“Cutter! Behind you!”
Abby’s voice came from above, but Cutter didn’t stop to look for her. He twisted round swinging wildly with the wood again in time to smack the fourth coelophysis in the head with it.
Another dart flew down but this time went wide by a long way.
Abby swore. “I can’t get a clear shot without risking hitting you or Connor,” she shouted.
A coelophysis leapt at Cutter and slammed bodily into him, knocking him backwards. His foot caught on Connor’s body and he stumbled and tripped. He heard ripping fabric and a sudden sharp pain in his leg. Cutter yelled and stabbed the wood into the creature’s face, aware of flailing limbs and excited yapping all around.
Something flew over the edge of the gaping hole in the roof and a long rope unfurled as it tumbled down into the cellar. Cutter spared a second to glance up and saw Stephen throw himself off the edge of the hole and slither down the rope, jumping the last five feet to land in a crouch. He quickly brought his rifle round from where it was slung across his back and took a shot into the melee. Another coelophysis yelped and two of them turned from Cutter to face the new threat. Stephen dropped his rifle and went for a pistol at his belt as the two creatures advanced on him. He wasn’t quite fast enough. A coelophysis lunged at him and he brought the pistol up and fired point blank as it crashed into him. They both tumbled backwards in an ungainly sprawl and the second coelophysis dived into the fight on top.
Cutter’s attention was dragged back by the one remaining on him as it snapped at the hand holding the wood. Cutter punched it with his free hand, snarling an angry Scottish curse at it. It lashed out with its claws and he had to duck and turn his head away to avoid taking a claw to the face. Abruptly the creature jerked sideways off him and staggered a few steps. Cutter looked up to see Abby spin round on one leg and kick it in the face. While it was still reeling from that blow she aimed her pistol at it and shot it in the neck. It clawed at the dart, yelping, and Abby spun another kick at it, taking one of its legs out, and it fell to the ground.
Cutter realised he was still lying on top of Connor and quickly scrambled off him and tried to stand up. As soon as he put any weight on his leg his knee buckled, and Cutter sank back to the floor, swearing.
“Stephen,” he shouted, trying to see what was going on in the tangle of limbs and claws a couple of yards away.
“I’ve got him. You protect Connor,” Abby ordered, already turning towards Stephen as well.
Before she could move in that direction one of the coelophysis crumpled to the floor and Stephen staggered to his feet, swinging a broken metal pipe at the second one.
Cutter reckoned at least two of the coelophysis had been hit with tranquilliser darts now, and one maybe with a live bullet, but none of them were showing much signs of slowing down. The one that Stephen had knocked down clambered to its feet and backed off, limping badly but very much alive. Its pack mate moved with it as the four coelophysis dropped back and regrouped.
Stephen and Abby likewise formed up in front of Cutter and Connor, both panting for breath, both looking utterly determined.
Cutter turned his attention back to Connor, and was shocked to see that his own jacket was now practically soaked through with red. He dropped his piece of wood and pressed down on the wadded material again. This time there was no whimper. Cutter didn’t want to think about what that might mean.
“The tranqs are taking too long to kick in,” Abby said, picking up the piece of wood that Cutter had abandoned.
“Can you hold them off by yourself while I get my gun?” Stephen asked.
Cutter looked up in time to meet Stephen’s questioning expression, directed at him rather than Abby. Cutter nodded. Much as he wanted to keep these creatures alive, he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice Connor on the altar of his own ideals.
“Do it,” Abby said, the determination clear in her voice.
Stephen nodded. He dived for the spot where he had fallen, scrabbling in the debris for his lost weapon.
A coelophysis lunged out of the darkness at Abby. She swung the two-by-four at it and there was a smack of wood hitting flesh. The creature’s bark almost drowned out Abby’s abrupt cry of pain. She swung again, yelling at it to back the hell off and leave Connor alone.
Cutter hated feeling so helpless and vulnerable, just crouching there with no weapons and his hands already occupied. It wasn’t in him to sit idly by and let someone else do the fighting for him, but he knew Connor needed him more than Stephen and Abby did right then. He tried to ignore the sounds of combat, the barks, the abrupt and horribly welcome sound of gunshots, the sense that a fight to the death was going on just a few feet away. He had to trust that Stephen and Abby would protect him. He had to trust them with his life, just as much as they were trusting him with Connor’s life.
It was the hardest few minutes Cutter had ever known.
Eventually he became aware that the coelophysis were going down, and those that were still up had dropped back further towards the other side of the cellar. Their barks became ever more agitated as, one by one, they succumbed to the effects of the tranquilliser, and four measured, precise gunshots did their work.
As the last one staggered and fell, Cutter closed his eyes for a moment and breathed. He was acutely aware of Connor’s chest rising and falling under his hands, that sensation somehow overwhelming the throbbing pain in his own leg.
“Okay,” he said. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”