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Title: Defying Destiny
Author: [livejournal.com profile] munchkinofdoom
Characters: (Numb3rs) Don, Charlie, Nikki, Liz, David, Colby, Ian, Tim King, Amita. (Primeval) Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Captain Tom Ryan. Brief Stargate cameo at the end. *veg*
Rating/Category: Gen. PG13 for explicit violence, some language.
Word-count 16,000
Spoilers: Spoilers for Numb3rs finale. Vague spoilers for eps 1x01-3 and season 5 of Primeval
Summary: Anomaly: 1.Deviation or departure from normal or common order, form or rule. 2.Time portal which enables travel between different time periods.
Rips in time are appearing and disappearing throughout the Los Angeles FBI Field Office, placing both agents and consultants in mortal peril. But they also give three men, who had each sacrificed his life for the Anomaly Project, a second chance. But first, everyone has to survive the experience.
Warnings: Explicit violence, death of OCs
Disclaimer: Numb3rs and its characters are the property of CBS. Primeval is the property of Impossible Pictures. No money is being made from this fanfic.
Artist/Vidders masterlink and feedback post: here.
[livejournal.com profile] numb3rs_novella Fic/Art Masterlink: here
Notes: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tli for her wonderful vid trailer. You've caught the sense and feeling of the story perfectly and you should have seen my face the first time I watched it. *happy sigh*
Also thank you, as usual, to my Evil Twin, [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett for hand-holding and betaing. A special mention also goes to all the people who followed this fic's progress during [livejournal.com profile] primeval_denial's May Primeval Writer Month daily sessions.

Video Trailer: password is d3stiny





* * * * *

It had been a long, tiring, frustrating night, spent mostly in the war-room of the LA FBI field office Violent Crimes Division, and Charlie was making his escape while the going was good. Don's case was far from concluded, and his frustration had showed in his behavior toward his younger brother. Charlie knew that Don hadn't really been angry with him, but his older brother was stubborn – it was a family trait, after all – and didn't always handle frustration well.

Both Charlie and Amita had classes later that day, and although Don had been less than pleased to lose his consultants, Charlie had insisted that it was past time for him and Amita to get some sleep.

So Don, his team and Ian Edgerton were still upstairs, working their way through piles of computer print-outs, FBI files and assorted information while Charlie and Amita caught an elevator going down.

Charlie held the elevator door open for Amita as she moved past him into the underground parking garage of the office building. His fiancée smiled ruefully at his actions but said nothing as she waited for him to join her in the dark, cavernous area. Charlie shrugged and returned her smile, hefting his laptop under his arm as he did so.

Amita caught the computer as it began to slip from his grasp.

"Thanks," Charlie said. He held out his hand to take it back.

"I'm fine." Amita secured her grip on her own laptop as she juggled Charlie’s in her other hand. "You do know where you put your keys, right?" Her brightening smile tempered her mild, teasing words.

Charlie nodded absently. He rummaged through his coat pockets as they approached his Prius, which looked even smaller than usual, surrounded by the FBI-issue Suburbans and SUVs. He pulled the keyring out of one pocket and frowned as he felt the keys move in his hand.

"Amita?" he called, holding out his hand and watching as the keys, on their keyring, crawled slowly across his palm.

"That isn't possible," she replied. She stopped in her tracks, facing Charlie head-on, and the keys' movement slowed. "How..?" She frowned and turned to look behind her. She gasped. "Charlie! Look at that car!"

He lifted his head, looking in the direction that Amita indicated. A large, black Suburban, much like the 4-wheel drive that his brother Don drove, was rocking slightly on its wheels. A strange light, like shattered shards of gold and silver glass, glowed behind it, brightening as they watched incredulously.

Then they gasped in unison as a man burst free from the strange lights, his black-clad body impacting sickeningly with the Suburban behind him. They heard a sharp sound of surprise as the man slid along the vehicle and fell to the ground beyond its rear wheels as he ran out of support.

"Amita," Charlie whispered harshly, reaching for her arm and pulling her backward as he realized their danger. "He's armed."

The black-clad man's head turned in their direction, his face a pale blur of fair skin and equally fair hair in the dim garage, and Charlie's eyes widened as he felt Amita's body stiffen. The man pulled himself up onto his knees, holding a rifle before him almost as if it was a shield against the lights.

"Run!" the fair-haired man yelled. "For God's sake, run!"

Amita let the two laptops fall to the ground and then she turned and ran for the nearby fire stairs, ignoring the elevator with its closed doors. Charlie took one last look at the strange man with the English accent and the huge gun, and took off on Amita's heels.

Boots made deep, thrumming echoes behind them, gaining on them as Charlie passed Amita and flung open the fire door. He turned, terrified of what he'd find, only to realise that their pursuer looked almost as panicked as they felt. The man slid to a stop beside them and turned back to face the way he'd come.

And then Charlie heard it – an eerie creaking, squawking sound, birdlike, but like nothing he'd ever heard before. A huge, heavy beak appeared from around one of the SUVs, its tiny eyes glinting darkly in the thick-set, lightly-feathered head. The head weaved from side to side, then seemed to home in on their gasping breaths as it froze, the binocular eyes locking onto the small group as if it had just found lunch.

Charlie shivered. "I don't suppose it's a herbivore?"

The stranger spared a moment to stare in amazement at him. "Scientist?" he asked. Then the man swore in what was definitely an English accent as the creature took one step toward them. It squawked again and turned its head as if something was coming up on it from behind. Then another massive head appeared beside the first.

"Fuck. Where do those stairs lead to?" the stranger asked as he proceeded to push Charlie and Amita through the open fire door. He pulled it closed behind them, checking the handle at the same time. He stopped for a long moment, trying to listen through the reinforced metal of the door. He seemed exhausted, his face shining with sweat. Finally, he leaned against the metal and turned back to face them.

"It goes to the first floor," answered Amita.

"First floor of where?" the man asked. Then he stopped and looked at the two of them, his blue eyes tired, but clear and inquisitive. He rubbed his hand on his dusty black clothes and held it out. "Captain Tom Ryan, Her Majesty's Armed Forces."

Charlie blinked. This was definitely surreal. He held out his own hand, returning the offered handshake. "I'm Charlie Eppes, Professor of Mathematics," Charlie replied.

Amita held out her own hand and introduced herself. "Doctor Amita Ramanujan."

"Medical doctor?" Captain Ryan looked hopeful.

Amita shook her head. "Math. And astrophysics," she added as an afterthought.

"Oh," answered Ryan.

Charlie thought he looked a little disappointed.

"Do you need a doctor?"

Ryan shook his head. "No. But we probably will soon." He sighed. "There's more of those buggers where those two came from."

Then the three of them jumped with fright as a heavy body threw itself against the fire door, making it shudder. Ryan sprang away from it, ushering Charlie and Amita further up the stairs as he held his rifle ready.

"They can't get through that, can they?" Amita asked, fear clear in her voice.

Charlie couldn't blame her. He'd never been frightened of a bird before, but these things were the stuff of nightmares. The thing he'd seen had been about the height of an average man, but its body had been heavy and muscular under the light covering of hair-like feathers. It reminded him of an ostrich, but one on steroids. The creature looked positively evil, and Charlie stopped, surprised at how atavistic his fear had been when the thing had locked eyes with his.

"What is that thing?" he asked, shocked at the fear still clear in his voice.

"Gastornis," Ryan said matter-of-factly as he kept them moving up the stairs. "Sort of like a terror bird, only not."

Charlie turned and frowned at that, catching himself as he began to trip. Ryan reached up and grabbed his elbow, steadying him. "There's more than one type of terror bird?" Charlie asked.

Ryan nodded as he gave Charlie's elbow a gentle push, setting him back on his way. "So Cutter said. In between a lot of running..." he said flatly.

"This Cutter was with you?" asked Amita. She stood aside to let Charlie pass, her face concerned as Ryan caught up with her. "On the other side of that spacial anomaly?"

Ryan stopped in his tracks and stared at Amita, his face clearing of all expression. A shiver ran down Charlie's spine and he ran down the few steps separating him from Amita. Ryan spared a quick glance at Charlie – obviously discounting him as any sort of threat, he realized ruefully – and then turned his stare back to Amita. It felt as if the temperature was dropping around them, and Charlie wished more than anything that Don was there with them. Don would know how to handle this man who reeked of controlled violence.

"Anomaly," Ryan stated. "You called it an anomaly. What do you know about them?" he demanded.

Charlie watched Amita take an involuntary step backward, her heel hitting the hard edge of the step behind her. He reached out and pulled her against him protectively, in no doubt about his inability to protect either of them from Ryan if the situation went bad. All over a word?

Amita took a calming breath and met Ryan's eyes. "You obviously came through whatever that phenomenon was, as did those creatures. What else could it be but a spacial anomaly?"

Charlie watched nervously as Ryan just looked thoughtfully at Amita. Then the soldier gave a wry smile. "Astrophysics, you said?"

Amita nodded.

Ryan sighed, slid the strap of his rifle over his shoulder and rubbed his tired eyes. Then he began to speak. "We call them anomalies."

Amita blinked, her eyes widening as they listened to the man talk.

"The first anomaly we experienced let through creatures from the past, an era Professor Cutter called the Permian. All I know was that it was hot, with bright sunlight and not a blade of grass to be seen anywhere. And the beasts were huge."

"How long has this been happening?" Charlie interrupted. "What locations? Who is investigating the phenomenon?"

Ryan held up on hand in entreaty and Charlie reluctantly stopped.

"That first anomaly was only a couple of months ago, so it's still early days. But we know that they've been occurring for at least eight years, since Cutter's wife went missing the first time the Permian anomaly opened. At least, we think it was the first time." Ryan shrugged. "The Home Office is in charge of the investigation, and I've been seconded to that unit."

"With this Professor Cutter you mentioned?" Amita asked again.

Ryan nodded, then went quiet for a moment, his thoughts seeming far away. "He was responsible for him, as well as his technical assistant, Stephen Hart. We were called out to a creature incursion – God, it can't have been more than a few hours ago – and found those birds snacking on a motorist who had stopped to take a piss and had seen the strange lights. His wife was hysterical, but safely locked in their car. I don't envy the public relations fiasco that Ms Brown is going to have to deal with."

Then he frowned as something seemed to occur to him. "When are we?"

"When?" Charlie asked, confused. Then he gasped as he realized what the solder meant. Amita's eyes lit up too, her expression excited.

"What was the date when you went through the anomaly?" she asked.

"July, 2006," Ryan said flatly.

"You've traveled four years into the future," Amita said kindly. "It's Wednesday, January 14th, 2010. And it looks like you've moved in both time and space, since we're in Los Angeles."

"With two, huge prehistoric birds running loose in the FBI parking garage," said Charlie, deciding it was time to get this conversation back on track.

"Can they get out of the car-park?" asked Ryan.

"It's a secure garage. We're going to have to warn security before those things find any more victims," said Amita.

Charlie nodded. "Don will know what to do. He's my older brother and a senior agent. We just left him and his team upstairs," he told Ryan.

Ryan nodded decisively. "Lead on, then."

Amita was slower to move. "What about the other men who were with you?"

"There's nothing I can do for them right now," answered Ryan flatly. "Hart is an experienced marksman and he's armed." He shrugged. "If I can't be there, then Stephen Hart would be my next choice. He won't let any harm come to Cutter."

Charlie could only hope that Ryan was right. Every decision that Charlie had ever made had been carefully thought through and all options weighed – the prospect of being lost in time, at the mercy of primordial forces, terrified him. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Resolutely putting his fears behind him, he and Amita led Captain Ryan up the hard, cold concrete stairs that led to the first floor and its banks of elevators.

Don would know what to do.

* * * * *

Cutter smiled gratefully at Stephen as they finally stopped for a breather. The urban landscape around them was a far cry from the Paleocene/Eocene era they had just escaped from. They hadn't been there long enough – and had been too occupied with their avian hunters – to narrow down the time period.

This new era was desolate, devoid of any sign of recent human activity. The buildings around them had long fallen into disrepair. Some looked like they'd succumbed to fire, but the stains left by burning were old, what they could see of the wrecked interiors long retaken by vegetation.

He didn't know what had happened here, but one thing was certain – they were on their own.

Apart from the strange creatures that had taken care of their little avian problem for them. Three Gastornis were currently being eaten by a pair of creatures that looked like huge, misshapen mole-rats, or maybe some sort of evolved bat, since they seemed to sense their surroundings by echo-location. Their huge heads were blind, from the brief glimpse that Cutter had got as the pair had ambushed the giant birds, killing one each and then teaming up to take out the last one. The birds, for all their huge beaks and talons, hadn't stood a chance.

The two men had stayed low, praying that their rescuers would be more interested in a ready meal than the possibility of a snack that was still on the move.

"What the hell were they?" whispered Stephen as he briefly looked around the corner and then tucked his head back in. Cutter couldn't blame him – he'd be very surprised if those two were the only examples of their species in the locality.

Cutter shrugged. "Some sort of bat, maybe, going by that clicking sound they're making."

"No wings," Stephen said.

"Wouldn't be the first creature to gain and then lose body parts. Look at the vestigial arms in dolphins."

"Then they’ve evolved pretty damn fast, Cutter. The damage to these buildings can't be more than a few decades old, going by the rate of reclamation by the local flora and fauna." Stephen rested his head back against the wall behind him and closed his eyes tiredly. "Those creatures saw off our species," he said flatly.

"Probably," said Cutter.

"After we were stupid enough to create them."

Cutter watched silently as Stephen opened his eyes and stared at the signs of the destruction of their civilization

"There's no sign of the creatures in the fossil record. Someone genetically engineered those things – or used the anomalies to bring them back from even further into the future, thinking they could control them – and this is the result."

"Yeah, probably," Cutter replied.

"And what's stopping them from just hopping through some convenient anomaly and doing it all over again, only earlier? I can't see anything smaller than a t-rex taking out one of those things. And even then, I wouldn't put all my money on the dinosaur."

"We'll find our way home and we'll warn them. We'll be waiting if - "

"When."

"If they make it back to our time. We know what to watch out for now."

"You don't think the people here knew what they were up against?" Stephen said incredulously. "They all died!"

Cutter caught Stephen's arm, pulling him around to meet his eyes. "We will find them, or we will find who created them – and we'll stop them."

Stephen nodded tiredly, and Cutter gave his arm a brief pat before stumbling to his feet. First, they had to get home, and that would mean travel by anomaly, of course. Hopefully without any of those bat creatures following them.

Then he frowned. "We can't keep calling them things. We should name them."

Stephen looked incredulously at him. "Name them? How about we avoid being eaten and get home first, then we can name the bloody things."

Cutter grinned – that was better. A pessimistic Stephen Hart was an affront to nature – and there were enough affronts to nature in this time already. Reaching down, he offered his hand and pulled Stephen to his feet.

"I hope you have a plan," said Stephen.,

"Stay away from the bat-thingies, stay close to the site of the anomaly that brought us here from the Paleocene, and get as far away from this time as possible."

"Even if it means going back to the time the birds came from?" asked Stephen.

"Can't be worse than here, Stephen."

"Okay." Stephen unslung the rifle that hung from his shoulder, checked the magazine, and then looked back at Cutter. "We'd better make it soon. We're running low on ammunition and I don't want to find out how many bullets it takes to bring down one of those bat-creatures."

Cutter couldn't agree more.

* * * * *

"This is worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack," Nikki grumbled.

"I saw that on Myth Busters once. I think that's probably easier," Colby replied absently, not even lifting his head.

Don tried to block out his team's idle chatter and leaned back in his chair. He stretched, letting his head rest on the back support, and closed his eyes. They'd been at it for hours, the tedious task only broken by trips to the restrooms and the break room for coffee. He had a low, constant buzz from excess caffeine, but it hadn't helped with their task.

Their target's financial records read like a monetary labyrinth and Don knew they needed Charlie if they were to have any hope of breaking through the layer upon layer of camouflaging transactions that hid what they hoped would be the evidence need to charge the bastard.

Don rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes and held back a harried growl – yes, Charlie had his own life, his own academic responsibilities, but it would all be so much easier if his little brother could devote more of his time to the FBI.

Don knew he was being selfish. He shrugged off the simmering frustration and straightened up in his seat. Leaning forward, he grabbed his coffee mug, with its long-cold contents, and got to his feet. Then his phone rang.

"Eppes." Don listened for a moment, a confused frown gathering on his face. He could feel the rest of his team, plus Edgerton, drop what they were doing to watch him. Rubbing his tired eyes again with his free hand, he tried to cradle the phone against his shoulder as he craned to check his watch. Charlie had only left 10 minutes earlier – he couldn't have got in trouble that fast.

"Yeah, yeah," he said, nodding absently. His team members stood up in unison and gathered around his desk. "I'll take responsibility. Send them up." Don hung up the phone and turned to face the others. He could almost feel the tension radiating off of Ian Edgerton from where he was standing.

"Something is up," Ian said flatly.

Don pondered the situation for a moment before nodding. "Maybe. Charlie and Amita are on their way back up, escorted by security. Somehow, they ran into a soldier after they left here. An English soldier."

"Lots of Brit ex-pats over here, boss," said Colby.

"This one is in uniform and armed with an M4 carbine. Security didn't know he was even in the building until a couple of agents ran into them in the stairwell coming up from the parking garage. There's also something about strange lights and big birds too." Don shrugged.

"Big Bird?" Nikki quipped cheekily.

"No, Betancourt, big birds, like ostriches," Don said, feeling a headache build behind his eyes. Then the elevator doors behind them opened and everyone turned.

Don was already moving by the time the doors finished opening. Charlie stumbled out, talking non-stop, and almost fell into Don's arms. Amita was hard on Charlie's heels, her head turned back to the rest of the elevator's occupants, saying something about checking the security footage if they didn't believe her. The FBI agents she was talking to seemed more intent on the last member of the little group than on what Charlie and Amita were saying.

And Don couldn't blame them. The man was of average height with fair hair cut in a military style, and clothed in black BDUs. And he was the calmest person in Don's line of sight at that moment. The soldier's gaze – and Don didn't doubt for a moment that he was military – quartered the immediate surroundings, clearly sizing up Don and his team before coming to rest on Edgerton. Well, Don couldn't really blame him. He'd learned the dangers of underestimating the sniper and was impressed with the newcomer's assessment skills.

A chill ran down Don's spine. He could almost feel Ian Edgerton's own stare. This wasn't a battle he wanted to be caught in the middle of.

"Don!" Charlie babbled. "Tell these idiots – there are two prehistoric predatory birds in the parking garage - "

"Not to mention an open anomaly," interjected Amita.

Don blinked, holding up his hands in a futile attempt to slow the two scientists down.

"Yes, yes! Don, we have to do something!"

"Okay, buddy, now slow down and tell me what's going on," Don said. He gently caught Charlie by an arm and pulled him out of the way of the two agents escorting the soldier. Amita followed Charlie almost instinctively.

The soldier was escorted past Don, and he watched as his team automatically straightened and reached for their holstered weapons as the little group went past them. Edgerton silently turned and followed them as they led the soldier toward a secure interview room.

"Don!" Charlie tried to pull out of Don's grip. "Don, listen – we're in danger."

"It's okay, Charlie."

"No, it isn't!" Charlie stopped in his tracks, bringing Don to a halt beside him.

"Okay, okay." Don turned back to his little brother, taking in the look of shock on his face. Amita stuck close, but seemed a little calmer. He gave her a small smile and she tried to return it, a little shakily, Don thought. "You trust that guy, buddy?"

Charlie nodded.

Amita then took the initiative. "We saw him literally fall through a rip in time right in front of us."

Don frowned at her story, but Amita just glared at him and continued.

"We saw it! He saw us and yelled for us to run. Then the two birds came through. Ryan said they were some sort of terror bird."

"Ryan?" asked Don.

"He said his name is Captain Tom Ryan, and he's in the English military,” Amita said. “He's attached to some sort of government unit investigating those anomalies. There are two men missing in time, Don!"

Don sighed. This was getting crazier by the minute. He nodded placatingly and herded his two charges toward the observation room adjacent to the interview room where Ryan was waiting. Don decided it was time to see what the Brit had to say for himself.

* * * * *

The computer forensics unit was quiet apart from the subdued clatter of keyboards from various locations. The various rooms and cubicles were lit only by the glow from monitors ranging from small laptops to huge wall displays.

No-one looked up when the elevator doors opened.

Matt frowned as strange clicking sounds came from beyond his cubicle. The clatter was wrong for heels, and it broke into his concentration on the computer monitor in front of him. Then someone screamed.

He froze for a brief moment at a sound that was foreign to their quiet workplace, but then the scream came again. Stumbling to his feet, he peered carefully over the low cubicle wall and gasped. A heavy head turned toward him, its huge beak bloody, and he ducked down. He crawled under his desk, quickly grabbing his cell phone from the tabletop, and held his breath, praying that the sharp, clicking sound of the huge bird's taloned feet wouldn't move closer.

All was silence, and he could almost hear the sound of his blood pumping frantically through his body. Then, finally, the sound of birdlike steps started up again, moving away, accompanied by frantic yells and screams.

Closing his eyes to try to calm himself, Matt finally pulled out his cell and hit the speed-dial for security. The phone rang, and Matt held it close to his ear, hoping desperately that there was no bleed-through of sound. Then security answered.

"This is Matt Li, Computer Forensics," he whispered. "We have a large wild animal loose. We need help."

He listened, replying as little as possible for fear of bringing the huge bird back, and then finally disconnected the call. They'd told him to stay hidden and Matt definitely thought that was a great idea. He burrowed further under his computer desk, curling into a small ball in the furthest corner of his darkened cubicle, and waited for rescue to come.

Off in the distance, he could hear gunfire, but the screaming continued.

* * * * *

Cutter ran for his life, terrified his slower speed would get Stephen killed as the other man's long-legged gate was pulled back in an effort to match him. Stephen held the rifle loosely in his right hand, the metal stock resting against his elbow as his fingers curled around the hand-grip, ready to bring the weapon into play if needed.

But Cutter knew it was useless. The night, falling quickly around them, was creating bizarre shadows in derelict streets and lanes, giving their pursuers an advantage, and it was almost impossible to make out the long, thin bodies as they sprung from wall to wall, sure-footed as if they were running on flat ground.

There was nowhere to hide and he knew that it was only a matter of time before one of the bat-creatures flung itself from a nearby wall and fell upon them.

Then, almost in answer to a prayer that Cutter would never admit to making, an anomaly opened in front of them.

"Go!" he yelled, and Stephen threw himself backward through the anomaly, the last thing Cutter saw as his friend disappeared was the rifle being lifted in readiness. Then Cutter was through behind him. He could feel the rush of breath on the back of his neck as something flew over his head and through the anomaly with him.

God, he thought. They were dead.

* * * * *

Don perched on the corner of the interview room table, all the better to stare down on Ryan, but was careful to stay out of the soldier's reach. He looked beyond the man to watch Ian lean against the far wall, just within Ryan's peripheral vision.

Their strategy seemed to being having little effect on the man they were about to question. Ryan sat straight in the uncomfortable chair and calmly met Don's eyes, obviously not feeling at all threatened.

Don shrugged and relaxed a little, content to let Ian be the heavy.

"Charlie said you're a captain. Army?" Don asked.

Ryan looked at him for a moment and seemed to come to a decision. "Special Forces," he replied.

Don blinked, that was too easy. Behind Ryan, Ian straightened and moved further out of the soldier's range, his hand coming to rest on his weapon.

"Where did you enter the country?" asked Don. "We've checked with Immigration and they have no record of you."

"I need to speak to the British Embassy. Immediately."

"You need to talk to us first," Ian answered from behind Ryan.

"I will answer any and all questions, subject to advice from my superiors, but the ambassador or the British government must be advised urgently of my presence here," said Ryan. "And I strongly suggest you listen to what Professor Eppes and Doctor Ramanujan have to say."

"Rips in time?" Don scoffed. Then he frowned as his cell rang. Standing up, he moved away from the table and answered the call. "Eppes."

Don felt his blood chill in his veins as security advised him that the building was going into lock-down. A Computer Forensics tech had been killed – and three others wounded – by a large bird. It had been brought down, but security, mindful of Charlie's information, were concerned that there was a second bird still at large.

Don ended the call and wiped his hand over his mouth, his thoughts running at a million miles an hour. "Charlie said there were two of those birds?" he asked Captain Ryan.

Ryan nodded, his face concerned.

Don sighed. "One got up into the building. Computer Forensics has casualties," he said, more for Ian's benefit.

"It's contained?" asked Ryan, and Don nodded. The soldier nodded thoughtfully. "You're Professor Eppes' brother?" Don nodded again. "Agent Eppes, we closed the fire door behind us, so it had to have traveled via the lifts. The birds I've seen have all been no taller than 180cm – about 6 foot."

"There's just the two?" asked Ian, and Ryan turned his head slightly to answer.

"There may be more. The anomaly was still open when we closed the door. It leads to their era – more may have come through after us."

Anomalies – Don didn't understand what the hell was going on, but those birds had to have come from somewhere. "Okay, we're in lock-down, so it doesn't matter how many there are, we aren't going anywhere just yet."

Ian stepped forward. "We'll need to guard the elevators. And let security know that there may be more of those creatures."

Don nodded. Then he looked up as Charlie appeared at the door to the room, his face both concerned and excited. Don waved him in.

"Don, we need to access the security footage for the parking garage! It will show us if the anomaly is still open. I might be able to check the logs too, to see if any more birds came through."

"Sounds good, Charlie." It looked like they had a plan.

* * * * *

The weapons practice range was quiet at that time of the morning, with only a few agents using the booths. The huge room was almost deserted, the only sound the concussive noise of firearms.

This was Supervisory Special Agent Amanda Hoskins' favorite time to use the range – the calm, ordered activity of preparing and firing her Glock without the added stresses of distractions and danger helping her to clear her mind before her day began properly. Putting aside her concerns about her cases, her junior agents and all other thoughts, she popped the weapon's magazine, then checked and smoothly replaced it before taking up her stance in the booth.

Then, in the space between an empty booth and an unmarked target, a bright light appeared, soon fracturing into blazing shards of translucent clear, silver and gold.

"Cease fire!" Amanda yelled as she stopped firing her Glock. Other agents started to converge on the strange phenomenon, their own weapons held ready.

Then something flew over the heads of the closest agents, even as two men burst though the light show and ran straight into them. An agent screamed and all weapons came up again, aimed at the two newcomers. But, even as they disarmed the young, dark-haired man, the screaming continued.

"Behind you!" the second man yelled, his Scottish accent striking Amanda as much as his warning did. She whirled, her Glock raised, and was confronted by the bloody corpse of a fellow agent.

"Look up!" the man yelled again, and then she saw it. High up on the concrete wall, a long, spindly figure hung as if it could defy gravity. It scuttled across the darkened surface sure-footedly and then launched itself off the wall toward another agent. Amanda tracked it with her gun, firing and completely missing as it flew through the air with impossible speed. Gunshots ranged around her as she compensated, firing just ahead of the hellish creature. She managed to wound it as it fell upon another victim, tearing out his throat with effortless ease before launching itself straight up into the air to hang upside down from the ceiling.

Blood dripped silently from above, drowned out by the sustained gunfire. But still the creature managed to throw itself across the ceiling and to a far wall, disappearing into the shadows created by the widely spaced overhead lighting.

"It's using echo-location," the Scotsman yelled. "It doesn't need light to find us."

"Aim ahead of it," his companion added.

Then someone screamed from behind her and gunfire sounded. Amanda whirled, her Glock ready. An agent was down, a second creature pinning her to the ground. The injured agent managed to keep her wits about her and had jammed her gun up under the beast's head and was emptying the magazine into it even as Amanda watched a pool of dark blood widen under her body.

The creature finally dropped, its body pinning the wounded agent, and Amanda ran to help her, keeping her weapon trained on the shards of light in case any more of the bastard things came through.

Amanda ran to the downed agent and tried, one-handedly, to pull the beast from the woman's body.
She looked up, scanning for the first creature, and spied it flitting from shadow to shadow on the other side of the huge room. She took the risk and tucked the Glock into her belt, praying that the strange portal in front of her wouldn't throw up another horror.

She looked down at the bloody body covered by the monster and was surprised to see pale, glassy eyes looking back up at her.

"It's okay, we're going to get you free," Amanda promised as she spared on last worried look at the portal and then leaned down, grasping the dead monster with both hands.

"Wait, wait!" a male voice called, and Amanda looked up as another agent ran to help her. He moved to the other side of the fallen woman and grabbed one long, spindly leg and started to pull. Amanda grabbed the other back leg and also began to pull the body away from the wounded agent and toward the portal. The body felt warm, its skin smooth and almost hairless, but it slid easily. Soon, the agent was free.

"Watch that thing," Amanda instructed the male agent and he nodded, taking up a protective stance over the two women as Amanda dropped to her knees. She flipped over the agent's ID, noting the name. "Ellie?" She gently touched the woman's face and Ellie's eyes opened again.

"You're going to be okay," Amanda promised, trying to keep eye contact with the woman. She could feel blood soaking into the knees of her pants and steeled herself to look confident. Ellie coughed as she tried to breathe, and Amanda gave her a small, encouraging smile as she pulled out her cell phone.

"Security," Amanda said into her cell, not daring to break eye contact with Ellie, fearing that the other agent would slip away without her. "We need help now in the firing range. Multiple injured, and we have a dangerous creature loose." She stopped and listened to the other end of the call. "Look up when you enter. The damn things can hang off the walls and ceiling. And hurry."

She quickly disconnected the call, not bothering to wait for a reply, and looked away only for a moment to put her cell away. It only took a second, but when she looked back, Ellie's eyes were glassy and her gaze fixed. Amanda checked the Ellie's throat for a pulse. She didn't find one. Sighing, she stood up. The agent standing guard over them quickly glanced at her and she shook her head. They both took a few steps away from the lights – and the body – and trained their weapons on the shards. Her Glock pulled slightly in her hands and she frowned.

The newcomer, his fair hair sticking in all directions, approached them, his hands up. "I'm Nick Cutter. I'm so sorry for your colleagues, but we're not out of the woods yet," he said.

Amanda stared at him for a moment before surveying the wreckage of the firearm range. Gunfire sounded sporadically as agents managed to catch sight of the remaining creature, and it was obvious to her that they were conserving their ammunition as best they could. She couldn't blame them – the lights in front of her showed no signs of going away and there was a better than even chance that there were more of those things where these two came from.

"What is that?" she asked Cutter, pointing at the portal.

"We call them anomalies," he replied, careful not to come between her and the spinning ball of light.

Them? That didn't sound promising, Amanda thought. She frowned at him and motioned for him to continue.

"It is a rip in time. In this case it goes to the future."

"There's more of those things on the other side of that?" she asked. Then the dark shadow of the remaining creature appeared above the anomaly and she could just hear, at the lowest range of her senses, a distinct clicking sound. She pushed Cutter to one side and raised her Glock, but she knew that the thing would be on her before she could get off more than a round or two.

But the beast simply dropped into the anomaly from above and disappeared. Then the shards of light flickered and disappeared after it.

Amanda lowered her Glock tiredly, feeling the adrenalin rush skitter through her system, and let her head drop for a moment. Then she looked up at Cutter.

"Is the anomaly going to come back?"

He shrugged. "I honestly don't know."

The doors to the weapons range flew open and SWAT entered in force, only to stop when everyone just turned to look at them. The SWAT leader, Tim King, sent his agents out to secure the room before approaching Amanda and Cutter. He looked down at the bloody, torn body near them and then at the dead creature beside her.

He looked up at Amanda, one eyebrow crooked, and asked, "What the hell is that?"

Amanda shrugged and pointed him toward Cutter.

Cutter turned back to look into the room, his face clearing as he spotted the other man who had come through the anomaly with him. The young man approached them, his strides long and confident. This was a man, Amanda thought, who knew his way around danger and had survived. The two men whispered together, and then they turned back to Amanda and King.

"I need to speak to someone in charge," Cutter said. "But first I need to contact the British Embassy, urgently."

Agent King nodded. "You're not the first Brit to ask that today. You’d better come with me."

Amanda watched King lead the two newcomers away and then turned back toward their dead and wounded. She could only hope that – someday – someone would be able to tell them what the hell had just happened.



Part 2
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