A/N: Primeval Secret Santa 2019 fic for tli and the prompt 'encountering the abominable snowman (or any cryptid)'.
Thanks to tygermine and fififolle for betareading this.
Trudging through the pine forest well past dusk with only a handgun and a tranquillising rifle was not Becker's idea of a good plan. The nondescript US government officials who'd met them at the airport to escort them to the general location of the anomaly sightings had insisted there were no reports of anything unusual, other than the 'strange lights' seen by several hunters in the area. Regardless, he'd negotiated the gun and a couple of the rifles. The agents had been peeved he questioned their intel but he wasn't backing down when it came to keeping people alive. There was already way too much compromised for his liking, including it being a two-man mission.
Connor had promised they were close to the anomaly an hour ago – 'can't be that far' he'd said. Becker had hoped it was true, too eager to get the anomaly locked down with that new permanent locking device of Connor's and get on the first flight out of there. Not that he's keen on another commercial flight so soon. At least on the return, he won't be essentially babysitting the diplomatic bag containing Connor's slimmed-down locking prototype, since the plan is to bury the locking device under the undisclosed location of the anomaly and simply inform the authorities here that it's handled, as per the agreement hashed out by bureaucrats in a nice cosy office somewhere. Except it wasn't even that simple. They weren't allowed to bring an anomaly detector in case it 'fell into the wrong hands' so Connor had to jury-rig a very basic version once they arrived and that was part of why they were stumbling around in the New Jersey woods at midnight.
The whole thing was so far from protocol; it left him with a bad taste in his mouth at the thought of what could go wrong with no backup. All because their governments couldn't play nice and share. Apparently not even when it was in everyone's best interests to prevent rampaging dinosaurs.
Listening to Connor regale him with factoids about his newly appointed diplomatic status to smuggle in their equipment away from prying eyes had been mildly entertaining for the first hour of their journey. By now, however, his patience is wearing thin from practically a whole transatlantic flight with Connor chatting his ear off on that bent. And then Connor talking him through making an impromptu detector, on the off chance he might remember the instructions if he ever needed to.
But maybe the chatter on the way here had been a good distraction from his concerns that continued to rub him the wrong way and was only getting worse now they were actively on this fool's errand. Everything about this mission set off alarm bells; not enough people, not enough equipment, not enough firepower, not even allowed his own gear. Unlike Connor - who'd taken the opportunity to wear a 'Keep calm because it's just Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff' t-shirt - he didn't feel remotely comfortable anomaly hunting in civvies.
The headlamps they had weren't really cutting it compared to the night-vision goggles he'd want in a situation like this, though the darkness made the anomaly easier to spot. The shimmering between the trees now they were closer was eerie. It was hard to tell how far away they were but surely it couldn't be that much further. Finally, reassuringly, the anomaly came into view properly. The fractured light thrown from it, continually in motion as its shape shifts, creates flickering shadows among the pines and around the ruins of an old industrial building that stands nearby. The constant changes in his vision set him on edge, brain ever more alert for danger at any turn.
They're within ten metres of the anomaly when Becker has a feeling that something is wrong. Everything is too quiet here. There's an odd noise, almost like a swooping and he catches movement out of the corner of his eye, something descending from the treetops into their path. Snatching Connor by the handle of his backpack Becker manages to pull him away in time to miss some kind of liquid projected in their direction. A very hot liquid judging by the steam that lifts up into the cool night air from where it landed. That's a new one to him but it isn't particularly important if shoot first, identify creature later works out as he intends. He switches off his headlamp hastily, no longer needed in the presence of the anomaly anyhow, and Connor follows suit.
Peering out from behind the brick wall he'd yanked them behind, he doesn't register anything more than nasty and winged before he takes aim, shoots with his rifle and quickly takes cover again. Another stream of scalding water, or whatever it is, narrowly misses him. Connor is still panting from the sudden shock but he hands Becker the second already loaded tranquillising rifle he'd been lugging around, saving him time on reloading. Connor looks like he wants to say something, mouth gaping for a second, but clearly thinks better of it. Becker indicates silently they should move further along the wall and is relieved when Connor catches on, no question of what any of his hand gestures mean these days.
For a few moments, there's no sound of movement other than their own, the creature hopefully staying its position, only grotesque background huffing heard. Then there's something like the swoop of wings again and he snaps his head up to check if it's above them in the overhanging trees. Nothing is visible in the foliage but that doesn't reassure him. Another wing flapping sound, exactly as before, and he cautiously looks out from an empty window space. The beast is standing there, flapping its wings in a show of aggression, fortunately not advancing. Now that he has a good view, he has even less of an idea what it is. Standing tall on two spindly legs, it looks somewhat like a permanently reared up donkey, except with wings and horns. Not to mention a pronged tail that is lashing around impatiently. The eyes creepily glow red too, staring at the last spot it saw them.
After signalling to Connor for him to shuffle along another metre, he's able to take another shot through the archway of the wall, ducking behind as soon as possible. There's a blood-curdling screech from the creature this time as he hits it in its flank. For a moment he worries a stream of hot liquid is going to come flying over his head through the archway but the creature isn't that smart, launching yet another attack upon the place at the edge of the wall. A few minutes go by and there's a tell-tale thud of it hitting the ground a lot quicker than he expected, meaning he probably overdid the dosage with two shots. Safety of humans is his primary concern, although he hopes it survives at least long enough for them to get it through the anomaly or else he'll get an earful from Abby if she gets wind of it from Connor.
"Wow. Didn't expect to see one of those."
Connor is already up and walking around the remains of the building to get a closer look.
"One of what?" Becker asks as he finishes reloading the tranquilliser gun as a precaution. He hefts himself up and jogs briefly to catch up to Connor, intent to stick by his side to stop him getting too close in case the thing isn't 100% out yet. He's not really sure he does care what it is as long as it's not attacking them. Still, Connor's piqued his curiosity considering he didn't expect such fast identification. The thing is ugly as hell and doesn't look like any dinosaur Becker's studied in preparation.
"The Jersey Devil," Connor says with glee, as if Christmas has come early.
"Wasn't that an X-Files episode?" he asks before he can think better of it. Now it's Connor who's intrigued, a certain glint in his eyes that makes Becker think he's not gonna hear the end of that for a while to come. Becker is pretty sure he knows what topic of conversation is gonna cover the flight home once this is dealt with.