Jayden looked up from his workstation and offered Abby a tired smile. "Hey," he replied. "Looking for Connor? I noticed he didn't sign out last night."
"Yeah, he hasn't signed out all week," Abby said.
Abby spied the clipboard that Jayden was working from. Since the explosion last week, at the hands of Helen Cutter, the whole operation had been down, including lines of communication and the internet. ARC officials had to sign in and out manually while an intern updated them to a database at the end of the day.
"He and Sofi are in good company," said Jayden. "She hasn't been home since the explosion either."
"This is a stupid question, but how is she?"
Jayden shrugged. "When she's not trying to salvage what is left of her thesis, she's trying to recreate the Matrix," he explained. "When she's not doing either of those two things, she's pouring over that artefact that Helen discovered."
Abby nodded, squeezed Jayden's shoulder, and then headed into the ARC. White plastic sheets covered most of the surfaces, while builders operated inside the destroyed rooms. Interns moved infrequently around the work stations, clearing away debris and trying to salvage anything worth saving, most of it was thrown directly in the bin, but others were stored in files and binders, and then stashed inside briefcases for later.
As she bypassed the two labs at the end of the hall, Abby paused and looked inside the one on her left. She saw the youngest member of the ARC field team, crumbling up a piece of paper before throwing it at the wall. Abby felt her heartbreak as Sofi covered her face with her hands, and her shoulders shake as she sobbed.
Abby wanted to go in and comfort her friend, but she knew that there was nothing she could do or say that would help Sofi at this moment in time. She sighed and continued to the main ops room, where she found Connor fussing over the detector.
"Is it working?" Abby asked, drawing Connor's attention.
"No, not yet," Connor answered, struggling to remove a wire. "But it will be."
"You need to get some rest," Abby said as Connor shuffled past her and headed for the locking device he was trying to create. It has sustained some damage in the initial attack but was otherwise unharmed.
"What I need to do is finish the and then... then I need to fix the detector," said Connor. He paused and surveyed Abby as she looked around with a sigh. He heaved a deep breath. "This is the anomaly locking mechanism. If I can get this to work, Abby, we can seal anomalies."
"If you don't know where they are in the first place, then it won't be much use, will it?" Lester asked, appearing with Jenny in tow.
Connor sighed deeply and nodded. "Fine," he said, reluctantly, returning to the Detector. Abby followed and leaned against the back of his chair, supportingly.
As Lester left the Ops room, Jenny followed him. "You're working them too hard," she said.
"Right now, work is the best thing for us," Lester explained.
Jenny sighed and let Lester walk away. He stopped at the security desk and she turned her attention to the lab on her left. She spotted Sofi staring at the artefact that had been set up on her desk, but other than that, the red-head didn't move.
Pushing open the lab door, Jenny stepped inside and looked around. The lab had all but been destroyed. The explosion had caused the glass to shatter, so white plastic sheeting now replaced it, blocking Sofi's view on anything going on in the Ops room. Anything electronic had been destroyed, including the research Sofi had collected on anomalies over the years, and her PhD thesis.
Behind Jenny, in the adjacent lab, was the remains of the anomaly matrix. It's discarded poles and sticky notes lay on the floor, untouched and charred from the flames. Jenny shoved her hands into the pocket of her jeans and sighed heavily. Red tape had been strung from doorframe to doorframe, barring anyone from entering.
"Any luck?" Jenny asked.
She heard Sofi release a soft breath and turned to face the girl. Despite the conversation starter being an open question, Sofi still didn't reply. She merely shook her head, her gaze locked on the artefact in front of her.
"Any chance of putting this back together?" Jenny asked, returning her attention to the matrix. She half-glanced at Sofi as the youngster shook her head. "It's not your fault, you know?"
Sofi forced a smile as tears filled her eyes.
"If you ever need to talk about anything, Sof -"
"I'm fine," Sofi answered, her voice hoarse. "Besides, should I be saying that to you? "
Jenny forced her own smile and rounded the room so that she was standing beside Sofi. She wounder her arm around the young girl's shoulder and squeezed, tightly. "Maybe we could talk to each other," she said.
The pair were interrupted by the sound of the detector alarm. Sharing a concerned look, both Jenny and Sofi exited the lab and entered the Ops room. Sofi felt her heart hammer against her chest, this had been the first time since the explosion that she had stepped foot in the room.
"Is this a test?" Jenny asked, walking over to Connor and Abby.
"No, this is genuine," Connor replied, quickly trying to locate the coordinates.
"Do we have a location?" Jenny asked.
Connor nodded and downloaded the coordinates to the handheld. He then turned and held the small tracking device out to Jenny. He noticed her hesitation and glanced at Becker, as the Head of Security arrived with Ryan and Jayden in tow.
"Okay, let's go then," said Jenny, nodding. She steeled herself and turned to Sofi. "Ready?"
Sofi glanced at the monitor and then back at Jenny. "Ready," she agreed.
The car ride was silent, tense, and uncomfortable as Sofi sat in the back of Becker's SUV with Jayden, while Becker and Ryan sat upfront. So much had happened in the last week, and with Sofi being so closed off to everyone since the explosion, no one was sure what to say.
"I hate to do this, Sofi," said Becker, glancing back at the red-head.
"Then don't," Sofi replied, firmly. She knew what was coming, she had been waiting for it to happen all day.
Becker sighed and checked the road. Ahead of him, driving another ARC issues SVU were Connor, Abby, and Jenny.
"Mum's worried about you," said Becker, pushing the issue. "Doctor Bennett has left several messages..."
Sofi bit her tongue and stared, pointedly out of the window. There wasn't much scenery to watch go by, only homes and buildings within the city limits, but right now any distraction was welcomed.
"He's concerned because you've called to cancel three times this week."
Fully aware that everyone's attention was on her, despite them not looking specifically at her, Sofi tightened her hand around the handle of the door. She had noticed it was locked a mile back and had been cursing her brother for getting the drop on her. He had locked the doors intending to corner her for this conversation.
"You want to tell me why? And don't say it's because you're okay."
Jayden glanced sideways at his best friend. "We all miss Cutter," he said. "I carried his body out of the ARC, remember?"
"He shouldn't have been in the ARC in the first place!" Sofi snapped. "Neither you, Nick or Connor should've been in there!"
Jayden stared, surprised at Sofi as she glared at him. Tears of anger and grief mixed in her blue eyes. He instinctively reached for her, but she pulled away, curling herself into a ball in the corner of the back seat. The car fell silent again, the only sound was Sofi's sobs.
Finally, Sofi calmed down and straightened out. She stared purposefully out of the window again. "If Nick hadn't have gone back in after Helen then he'd still be alive," she whispered.
"You can't be angry at him," said Jayden.
"Can't I?" Sofi challenged. "Two minutes before she blew up the ARC, Helen had Cutter's clone hold me at gunpoint and threatened to put a bullet in me if Nick didn't do what she wanted... and he still went back in after her!"
"Why did she hold you at gunpoint?"
Sofi shook her head. While she hadn't gone home for almost a week, she did take infrequent naps at the ARC. Each nap consisted of her waking from the same reoccurring nightmare - being shot and then blown up.
"Sof?" Jayden asked.
"She wanted information on the artefact," Sofi answered. "She thought I would know what it was, but I told her that I would need to clean it up and research it first. She said that she didn't have time for that, so she asked Nick. He said that he knew what it was but he wasn't going to tell her, that's when she gave the order for a ten-second delay, before shooting me. She wanted to see how much my life meant to Nick."
"He gave in though," said Becker. "You're still here."
"It was a close call," said Sofi. "Nick didn't want to believe that Helen would just kill me. The clone got to nine before he intervened." She took a deep shuddering breath.
Becker glanced at his sister. "This is why you haven't been to Bennett?" he asked.
"The reason I cancelled all my sessions is that I don't know where to start," Sofi said. "I don't know what to talk about first. I don't know what scares me more - almost being shot, blown up, not knowing if all of you, and everyone else made it out, my anger at Nick for going back in to save Helen, or him leaving me here."
"He didn't exactly have a choice," said Jayden.
Sofi shook her head and angrily wiped away her tears. "He had a choice," she said, glancing back at the window. "He could've chosen to not go back in. So yes, Jayden, I can be angry at him."
Jayden released a breath as Sofi turned away and shared a look with both Becker and Ryan.
The scenery outside the window and changed. No longer could Sofi see the buildings of the city centre, only the green leaves of forestation, and a looming building on the horizon. She hadn't seen or even been to this building before, but she had heard about it. John Becker, her adopted father, had told her about the militaries many bases across the country, and this was one of them.
He hadn't given her a name, merely a contact - Christine Johnson of MI6.
"In there," said Abby, directing her handheld at the base doors and leading the way inside.
The ARC soldiers split up once inside, taking over every inch of the ground floor.
"Hello?" Abby called, her voice echoing off the glass-paned windows all over the building.
Connor turned in a full circle, trying to take in every piece of the building. "It's deserted," he noted.
"Or they want us to think it's deserted," said Sofi.
"What about in there?" Jenny asked, spotting a single solitary door leading to another part of the building.
Handing over his gun, Becker tried to prise the doors open, but they wouldn't budge.
"There must be another way in," said Jenny, turning away from the doors. She started to lead the others down a hallway when the doors opened automatically, and the team wheeled around in surprise.
Sofi shared a look with Jenny, and the older woman strode purposefully toward the doors. She stopped as Becker caught her arm and held her back.
"Wait, Jenny," said Becker, training his gun on the doors and entering first. Ryan and Jayden went next, with the team following behind, and leaving the last of the soldiers to keep guard.
There were a second set of doors stood at the end of the corridor, and they opened immediately, spilling another team of uniformed officers into the already tight corridor. Sofi noticed that their uniforms differed from the ARC's men, but she did recognise the man in charge.
"Captain Wilder," Sofi blurted out.
The older man looked surprised and stared at her for a long while.
"You know him?" Jenny asked.
"I know of him," said Sofi. "John Becker speaks highly of you," she added to the older man.
Wilder smiled and nodded. "So you're the Sofi I've heard so much about," he said. "It's great to finally meet you." His gaze shifted from Sofi and landed on Becker, and his smile grew wider. "Becker," he nodded. "I haven't seen you since your last deployment."
Becker nodded, dutifully.
"Is anyone else confused?" Connor asked.
"Becker knows him from Sandhurst, Connor," Sofi answered.
"The Military academy?"
Wilder nodded. "Becker was the top of his class," he informed the team. "One of my best cadets."
Connor looked towards Ryan and Jayden, but before he could ask whether or not the two knew Wilder, the door opened behind him and something nudged his shoulder. He turned to see an unidentified soldier, wearing the same uniform as Wilder, pointing a gun at him.
"Guys?" Connor said, swallowing.
"What's going on here?" Jenny asked, looking over her shoulder and then around at Wilder.
Wilder merely nodded towards the ground floor. "Move back into the foyer," he ordered.
The team compiled and stepped back. Becker, Ryan, Jayden, and the other ARC soldiers lowered their weapons and the team clustered together in the middle of the room. No one spoke for a few minutes, although Wilder did try and get a few words out of both Becker and Sofi before giving up when they didn't respond.
Ten minutes later, the doors leading away from the foyer opened again, and a smartly dressed woman approached Jenny. The way she held herself, Sofi could tell that she was a woman of authority.
"You must be Jenny Lewis," the woman said, marching directly towards Jenny and holding out her hand. "I'm Christine Johnson. Nice to meet you."
Jenny shook the woman's hand. "What is this place?" she asked, immediately after dropping Christine's hand.
"Jenny, an anomaly was definitely detected less than 100 feet away from here," said Connor, looking up from his handheld. He had been checking it over for any faults but had come up short.
Sofi watched as Johnson, the woman her father had informed her about years ago, studied Connor silently. She folded her arms and furrowed her brow as Johnson smirked and looked away, just as Connor gave her his full attention.
"I know that might not mean anything to you but trust me, not a good thing," Connor said.
"There's nothing to worry about," Johnson said. "There's no anomaly here."
Her interest peaked, Sofi approached Jenny. "What would an MI6 agent know about the anomalies?" she asked.
Johnson looked surprised as she turned her attention to Sofi. She then smiled and held out her hand. "You must be Sofi Wyatt," she said.
"Let's just have a look, you know, just to be sure," said Abby, drawing Johnson's attention away from Sofi.
"I can assure you, you'd find nothing," Johnson insisted.
Jenny looked around at her team and then up towards the upper floors of the building. She was curious to see what Johnson was hiding, which was something. "Right, I want unrestricted access to the whole place and a full explanation of what it is you're doing here," she said.
"I'm afraid that's not possible," Johnson said.
"I can make it possible with one phone call," said Jenny. "So let's just save some time, shall we?"
"James Lester has no authority here," Johnson replied, firmly. "Now, I suggest you go back to the ARC and do what it is you all do best."
"Did you hear what we just said?" Abby asked. "You could be in danger, just let us go in and have a look."
"That's very thoughtful, but we'll be quite safe," Johnson insisted. But, if you're going to continue to insist, I'll have to call my lawyer."
Johnson met Sofi's gaze with a knowing smile.
"Jenny, trust me, this isn't worth the fight," said Sofi.
Jenny looked from Johnson to Sofi and back again. She then sighed in defeat and turned towards the main doors.
"Do give my regards to James," Johnson said, smiling.
Jenny ignored her and headed out with Sofi, Connor, and Abby in tow.
Upon their return to the ARC, Jenny, Abby and Connor headed up to Lester's office for a debrief while Sofi returned to her lab. She was in the process of check on Topaz when the door opened, she looked around to see Ryan standing in the frame.
Sofi smiled weakly and turned her back on him. "I don't want to talk if that's why you're here," she said.
"Then maybe you'll consider listening," said Ryan. "Becker and I have been talking..."
"Oh, great!" Sofi said, putting Topaz back into his cage and locking the door. He yawned and curled up in the corner.
"We're worried about you, Sof," said Ryan, rounding the table. "We only want what's best for you."
"Teaming up on me to get me to go to a shrink isn't going to help!" Sofi snapped.
"From what I've learned you've seen Dr Bennett before," said Ryan. "When you lost your parents and Abel."
Sofi closed her eyes and turned away from him. She had just lost Nick, she didn't want to talk about her parents and Abel, too. Even though they had died over eleven years ago, the wound was still raw, especially now.
"Talking helps," said Ryan.
"And I've already told you that I don't know where to start," said Sofi.
"Just pick something, anything. Shout, scream, throw something, just do not keep it all inside."
Sofi bit her lower lip as it trembled. She didn't want to have this conversation. She wanted to do what she did best and that was work.
The detector alarms interrupted the couple, causing them to look around. Dashing around the table, Sofi rushed through the open door and into the main ops room, leaving Ryan to sigh and follow her.
"Is it the same place?" Jenny asked.
"No. No, this is a new one," said Connor.
"Okay. Let's get going, then," said Jenny, patting him on the shoulder.
"Uh-huh," Connor nodded.
Sofi looked around. "Wait, where's Abby?" she asked, noticing her friend's lack of an appearance. "Did she leave?"
"About ten minutes ago," said Jenny. "She said she had to meet someone."
Connor swivelled around on his chair and stared at Jenny with wide, terrified eyes. "Who?" he asked.
"I don't know. Jack somebody," Jenny said, shaking her head. "Come on. We'll call her on the way. Sof?"
Sofi looked from Connor to Jenny. "Yeah, coming," she said, bypassing Ryan as he stood behind her and headed for loading back, stopping at her lab to collect her things on the way out.
Finally, after Connor had received more than his allocated two minutes to set up his locking device, the trio was on the road, heading towards the new anomaly site. Sofi sat in the back of the car as Connor tried to contact Abby on his mobile, and Jenny contemplated her surroundings as she drove.
"What did Lester say?" Sofi asked.
"He admitted to not knowing that the place existed," said Jenny. "But he did also know that Johnson was a military liaison. She's been put in charge of appointing military officers for the ARC, and has already put forward several candidates for Cutter's replacement."
Sofi fell back into her seat. "Of course she wants her men leading this team," she said. "It would mean Johnson ranks above us, and just below Lester, if not on the same level."
Jenny nodded and Connor hung up his mobile after a third unsuccessful attempt.
"I have a question," said Connor, glancing back at Sofi. "Why were you so quick to back out when Johnson mentioned her lawyers?"
"It's about picking your battles," said Sofi. "And trust me when I say that this is one battle we were glad to have stepped away from."
"Makes me think you're afraid of her lawyers," said Connor. "Do you know them, like you knew Wilder?"
Sofi sighed and looked out of the window. "I can't say I would know all of them," she said. "But, there is a Military Lawyer that I know of that has represented Johnson many times in the past, and trust me, she's never lost a case."
"Now I'm curious," said Connor. "Who is this Military Lawyer that has you so freaked out."
Connor turned in his seat so that he could see Sofi's face. "Becker?" he repeated. "As in -?"
"Yes," Sofi nodded.
"Holy Shit! Your adoptive family sounds scary."
Sofi made a small agreeing sound as she returned her attention to the window. "The Becker's have strong ties to the Military," she said. "That's how I knew Wilder - John speaks of him every chance he gets. I mean, sure, he has amazing things to say about Ryan, but John fought alongside Wilder in Iraq. They're brothers."
Connor shared a look with Jenny as Sofi fell silent.
The car ride stopped at a barrier, blocking their way onto the airfield. Whilst waiting for staff to grant them access, Jenny turned to Connor. "How far?" she asked.
"About half a mile straight ahead," Connor answered.
Jenny nodded at hit the accelerator the second the barrier was lifted.
"Did she say anything else?" Connor asked.
"Who?" Jenny asked.
"Abby. About this Jack guy and who he was exactly?"
Sofi rolled her head to the side. "I thought you were going to call her?" she asked.
"I've tried, three times," Connor answered. "But..."
"LOOK OUT!" Sofi yelled as a familiar face jumped out into the middle of the road. Jenny hit the brakes but still clipped the man, causing him to fall backwards onto the floor.
Jenny trembled as she realised what had happened, and barely registered Sofi and Connor getting out of the car and approaching the man. As she calmed down, Jenny realised the man was, in fact, Mick Harper from the Evening News.
As shock gave way to anger, Jenny got out of the car. "What the hell do you think you're playing at?" she yelled.
Mick took a deep breath and looked between the trio. "Please, you've got to come quickly," he said.
"What is it?" Jenny asked.
"There's this thing. There's a big shining light," said Mick, describing an anomaly. "This creature came through and it started..."
Jenny and Connor shared a look and hurried back to the car, leaving Sofi to get more information from Mick. She considered the man carefully, having heard not so great things about him from Jenny.
"This thing, how big was it?" Connor called.
"Big," Mick replied.
Sofi rolled her eyes. "That's helpful," she muttered. "I thought you were told to stay away from this?"
"I wished I'd listened."
"It's all fine and dandy saying that now," said Sofi. "But, then, no one cares about their actions until after the fact, do they?"
Mick stared at her and then quickly turned his attention to Jenny as she and Connor returned. "Tell me what you want me to do," he said.
"Show us where the anomaly is," said Jenny.
"Right. It's this way..."
Sofi took a tranq gun from Connor and followed Jenny down the dirt path towards the warehouses. She loaded a tranq of ketamine into the barrel of her gun and station herself against one side of the door, opposite her, loading their weapons were Connor and Jenny.
The latter looked terrified.
"Maybe I should go first?" Connor offered, despite having a smaller gun.
Jenny shook her head. "No, me," she said.
The pair looked across at Sofi.
"On three," said Sofi, reaching for the handle. "One... Two... Three..." she swung the door inwards, opening up it's dark and cool inners to their attention.
As Connor and Jenny shuffled inside, Sofi followed. She swung the gun around, poking the muzzle into every nook and open space she could find, trying to startle out a creature that could've been hiding there.
But there was nothing.
A short whistle caused Sofi to turn around, and she found Mick standing in the doorway, a triumphant smile on his face.
"No!" Sofi yelled, lunging forward. She reached the door just as Mick closed it and locking it from the outside.
"What do you think you're doing?" Jenny yelled, slamming her hand against the grate.
"Thanks for the scoop, Jenny!" Mick called, a chuckle in his voice. His footsteps grew fainter as he walked away, and then he was gone.
Jenny threw back her head with a sigh and Connor shared a look with Sofi. They were now trapped on an airstrip where an active anomaly was open and had been discovered by civilians.
"We should try and search for another way out," said Connor.
Sofi motioned towards the room. "Be my guest," she said. "I'm not moving."
Connor sighed and wandered off, leaving Sofi and Jenny alone. He returned soon after, looking disappointed.
"No back door?" Sofi asked.
"No. Not even a window."
Sofi sighed and slid down to the base of the wall.
"I can't believe I let myself get taken in by that reptile of a journalist," Jenny grumbled.
"He's pretty good, though, as reptile journalists go," said Connor, trying to sound sympathetic. "He had me."
"I thought you were trying to make her feel better?" Sofi asked, taking out her mobile. She dialled a familiar number and pressed the device to her hear.
"Missing me already?" Jayden asked, teasingly.
Sofi rolled her eyes. "Put Ryan on the phone," she said.
"You wound me, Sof," said Jayden. There was a brief silence as the phone changed hands, and then Ryan was speaking.
"How far away are you?" Sofi asked.
"About a mile," said Ryan. "We're stuck in road works."
Sofi groaned and knocked her head back against the wall.
"What is it, Sof?"
"We got conned," Sofi answered. "There is now a camera crew from Evening News near an active anomaly, and the three of us are trapped inside some warehouse. You need to get here faster than fa -"
The whole warehouse jangled as Connor took a running leap at the door and then landed with a grunt on the floor.
"What the hell -?" Sofi asked, staring at Connor. He merely rolled onto his side, clutching his arm and groaning.
"Sofi, what was that?" Ryan asked. "Are you okay?"
Sofi shook her head and returned to her conversation. "Please hurry, I think Connor's starting to lose his mind already," she said.
"I'll see what I can do. Sit tight."
The call ended and Sofi looked back at Connor as he pushed himself into a sitting position. "Don't glare at me," she said. "You're the one who thought he could win a fight with a metal door."
"I was trying to get us out," Connor defended.
"Uh-huh," Sofi said, nodding. "How did that work out for you?"
Sofi wasn't sure how much time had passed since she, Jenny, and Connor had been locked in the warehouse. Her phone said it had only been ten minutes, but it felt longer. For a while, there had been nothing but silence, but now screams and roars were coming from the adjoining bunkers. The roars echoed off the walls and did nothing to help Sofi or Connor to wheedle down to a specific breed of dinosaur.
Amidst the roars, growls, and screams, the warehouse door had started to jangle and shift. Originally, Sofi had shouted at Connor for trying his luck again but soon learned that her friend hadn't moved from his position beside her.
Jumping to their feet, the trio backed away from the door and lifted their guns, prepared to fire on sight at whatever was coming for them. The door swung open and for a split second, the trio was blinded by the bright sunlight from the outside world.
The light was soon diminished as a solitary figure blocked it out.
"Danny Quinn?" Jenny scoffed.
"Oh, you don't want to do that," Danny Quinn said, smirking. "You need all the help you can get."
Sofi lowered her gun and turned to Connor. "Who?" she asked.
"He's the cop that locked me up during the future anomaly at the abandoned house," said Connor.
"You didn't tell me you were locked up," Sofi answered.
"It was terrible," said Connor, dramatically. "I never thought I'd get out. Honestly, Sof, I thought I'd never seen you guys again."
Sofi rolled her eyes. "Something tells me you forfeited your rights," she said.
"He didn't even know his rights," said Danny.
"Yes, I did!" Connor defended. "I knew about keeping quiet and asking for a phone call."
"You don't know the definition of keeping quiet, Connor," Sofi muttered.
Danny smirked as Connor pouted.
Ignoring the pair of them, Jenny led the way out of the warehouse and headed down the path towards the bunker. With Danny's help, she was able to locate the one where the screams and roars had been coming from and made a hasty sprint in its direction.
"What's your play?" Danny asked.
"My play is to secure the scene," said Jenny. "Your play is to leave now before I arrest you."
Sofi glanced at Connor. "I thought he was a cop?" she asked. "Couldn't we use his assistance to secure the scene?"
"I like her," said Danny, nodding at Sofi. "Just give me the gun and I'll go in first."
Jenny turned on Danny and aimed the tranq at him. "Take one more step and I will shoot you," she warned.
Danny held his hands up and stepped back. "Alright. Absolutely," he nodded, stopping.
Sofi watched as Jenny strode passed her, into the bunker, and then turned to Danny. "Normally, I know better than to go against my superiors, but we need all the help we can get, so, don't let me down."
Danny nodded and followed Sofi into the building.
The pair paused on the threshold, looking up at the giant anomaly hanging in the middle of the bunker.
Danny whistled and Sofi saw Jenny tense and turn. She offered the older woman a sheepish smile and scurried over to Connor, still staring at the anomaly. It was the biggest they had ever seen and documented, and she could only wonder what had come through.
Sofi spun around. Her gaze moved over to the overturned car, and her eyes widened as she saw an arm sticking out of the broken passenger's door window. "Guys!" she yelled, running over and trying to pry open the door, it wouldn't budge.
"You've got to get me out of here!" a woman frantically pleaded.
Sofi squatted down, careful to not catch herself on the broken glass that littered the floor and found herself staring at a frightened older woman, two men, and Mick Harper. "I think I found our camera crew," she said, as Connor joined her and Jenny peered in through the front windscreen.
Managing to get the door open, Connor stepped back and allowed Sofi to crawl inside. She reached across the desperate woman and slammed her hand against the inside door handle. It creaked and gave way, scratching across the floor as Danny shoved it open the rest of the way.
By the time both the crew members, the journalist, and the woman were safely out of the car; the rest of the team had arrived. Connor wandered away to start setting up the locking device, while Jayden made his way towards Sofi.
"Hey, you're Danny Quinn," Jayden said, spotting the bloke Sofi was chatting with.
Sofi looked at her best friend. "You know him?" she asked.
"He works with Craig," said Jayden.
Danny looked quizzical.
"Craig Whittemore," Jayden answered. "Just got promoted to Detective."
"Yeah, I know him, I'm wondering how you do?"
"He's his boyfriend," Sofi answered.
Danny surveyed Jayden and then shook his hand.
"We haven't got much time," said Connor, approaching with Jenny and Becker. "He's going to be back. He knows there's easy prey here."
"Look, here's what I think we should do," Danny started.
Jenny sighed and turned wildly to him. "There is no 'we'," she snapped. "This has got nothing to do with you. This is a secure zone, and I don't care if Sofi went over my head and said you could stay, you're still not authorised to be here. Leave now."
"Do you want me to arrest him?" Becker asked.
"Last chance," Jenny offered.
Danny glanced at Sofi.
"Don't look at her," said Jenny. "She's in enough trouble."
"So, where do you want all this stuff?" Danny asked, turning away from Jenny and walking over to help Connor set up. "Over there?"
Connor nodded as Jenny looked on in shock surprise.
Sofi bit her lip and avoided Jenny's gaze as the older woman turned her attention onto her, instead.
"You're being reckless, again," said Ryan, sidling up to Sofi.
"We need help," said Sofi, simply. "I don't see the harm in letting him stay, as long as he follows orders, do you?" She glanced sideways.
Once the locking mechanism had been set up, Connor fussed around booting up the onboard computer, inputting the codes, and preparing the electromagnetic pulse. He paused and glanced at Jenny, smiling nervously. "We're ready..." he sighed, straightening up.
Sofi kneaded her bottom lip between her teeth as she waited and watched. This was as big of a moment for Connor as it was when he created the anomaly field camera, and the detector, if not bigger. If this worked then they could prevent incursions of every anomaly they encountered.
Taking a deep breath, Connor slammed his hand down on the ignition button and drew back instantly with a cry of surprise and alarm as a small explosion ripped through the device.
"Connor!" Sofi exclaimed.
"I thought you said this was going to work," said Jenny, sounding tense.
"It does. It will," Connor said.
"Well, how long before we can try again?"
Connor shook his head. "I don't know. A few seconds, maybe. I don't know," he said, panicking.
"Connor, stop and think," said Sofi, edging her way through the team and kneeling beside Connor. He was fussing over the onboard computer, trying to find the problem.
"I don't have time to stop and think!" Connor said.
Catching his hand, Sofi forced him to look at her. "If you don't take the time to stop and think where this went wrong, then you're going to cause more harm than good," she said. "The problem isn't with the computer, the explosion came from the device itself. Start there."
Connor held Sofi's gaze for a minute longer, then sighed deeply and nodded. "Okay, you're right," he mumbled, straightening up. He turned to the device and removed a section on its side, revealing the wires inside. They were smoking, due to the explosion, but they were all relatively intact.
"I have a question," said Danny, speaking for the first time since setting up the device. "But has anybody considered closing the doors?"
"Right, that's it. Arrest him," Jenny ordered.
Ryan's hand had barely clamped down on Danny's shoulder when a roar echoed out of the anomaly. Sofi looked around just in time to see it shimmer and a large scaly foot with four large claws, stomped through, followed by a massive leg attached to a giant body, a short neck, and a large head.
"It's making a run!" Connor yelled, ducking out of the creature's path.
The jaws of the creature opened wide, showing two rows of pointy teeth, and then clamped shut with a mighty force.
Becker raised his gun, ready to fire.
"No! Don't shoot it!" Sofi yelled.
Becker hesitated and then sighed in annoyance as the creature stormed out of the hangar doors, and disappeared down the runway. He lowered his gun and turned to Sofi. She stared silently back. She understood is concerns to protect her and the team, but she had made the rule to protect the creatures, whatever the cost.
"The biker, he's gone," said Ryan, returning with Jayden and the rest of his team.
"His name's Danny Quinn," Jenny replied. "But right now I'm a bit more concerned with a T. Rex running wild on an air-field."
"That wasn't a T. Rex," Connor corrected. "That was a Giganotosaurus."
"Also known as a G. Rex," Sofi explained at Jenny's confusion. "That thing is bigger, it's faster. It's a lot more dangerous."
Jenny closed her eyes as she sighed. "Get the locking mechanism working and seal that anomaly," she ordered.
"You're not going anywhere, Sofi," said Becker, stopping her from getting in the car.
"I know more about this creature than either you and Jenny put together!" Sofi protested. "You need me out there."
"You're not going. End of discussion," Becker said, a lot more forcibly than before.
Sofi glared at Becker from across the car, then turned and stormed back to where Connor was working. She'd never hated her brother more than she did right now.
"Stay with them," Becker ordered a member of his team. "Anything comes through, kill it."
His orders given, Becker reversed out of the hanger and took off down the runway after the G. Rex.
Sofi huffed and sat on a box behind Connor. She met his gaze as he turned to look at her, offering a small smile.
"You know he's only looking out for you, right?" Connor asked, turning back to the device.
"I know," Sofi sighed. "But, it's at times like these that when I look at him, I can tell he only sees a scared little girl that needs protecting."
"Aren't you?" Connor asked.
Blinking back her tears, Sofi's lower lip trembled and she nodded. "But I don't need him telling me something that I already know," she said. "When that happens, it shows that I haven't been successful in hiding my true feelings."
Sliding away from the device, Connor wrapped Sofi up in a hug and squeezed her tightly. He held her for a few minutes before she pushed him away and wiped her tears. "Let's finish fixing this mechanism," she said.
"Prepare to be amazed," Connor said, chuckling.
Sofi watched as Abby and Connor sped away towards the runway. Connor had successfully managed to seal his first-ever anomaly when Jenny had called in a panic asking for help. Initially, she had tried to leave with them, but Ryan had returned and stopped her at the last second.
"We just want to keep you safe," Ryan kept saying.
"This is hardly the first time I've been in danger, though!" Sofi protested. "You know my track record. I've been hurt more than most people on this team, and in life-threatening situations where I've still walked away. I don't understand why you don't seem to trust me anymore."
"I trust you, Sof," Ryan insisted. "It's everyone else. You said it yourself, you've been hurt more than anyone on the team, and in many life-threatening situations. What happens if the next one is the one you don't walk away from?"
"Isn't that always a chance with this job?" Sofi asked. "I can't just sit in the lab for the rest of my career because you and Becker are afraid that I won't come back; Helen's already proven that not even the ARC is safe anymore. I won't give up what I do."
Ryan sighed as Sofi turned away and looked towards the runway. He wanted to keep her safe as much as Becker did, but he also understood her point. He couldn't force her away from this job, and she wouldn't willingly give it up.
"Sofi, can you hear me?"
"I need an exit strategy," said Connor. "I'm currently trying to outrun the G. Rex in a luggage carrier, but it's moving too slow."
"They aren't designed to go fast," Sofi answered. "Your best option right now would be to just stop. The momentum of the G. Rex could cause him to tip over at the sudden stop, and if he's down, he's going to have trouble getting back up. That'll be your chance to make a break for it."
There was silence over the comms. Sofi watched with bated breath as the large dinosaur, which was hard to miss, tilted forward and landed with an earth-shattering jolt on the tar mark. From her position outside the hanger, she couldn't see much of Connor, save for a tiny pinprick in the distance.
"Connor, you there?" Sofi asked, her voice shaking. "What are you waiting for? Run. He's getting back up! Connor!"
There was static and Sofi could only watch as the G. Rex made it back to its feet and towered over the pinprick that she knew to be one of her best friends.
"Who's that?" Ryan asked, pointing at a buzzing helicopter near the scene. The helicopter flew low over the G. Rex, drawing its attention away from Connor, down the airfield, and then in a tight circle, back towards the hanger.
"Sofi, you there?"
"Jenny! Where's Connor, is he okay?"
"He'll live. Sofi, I need you to listen to me very carefully," said Jenny. "Danny is leading the G. Rex back towards you. I need you to open the anomaly."
"You're telling me that Danny Quinn is inside the helicopter flying towards me?"
"Yes. Can you open the anomaly?"
Sofi turned and spied the locking mechanism. "I don't know," she stammered. "I watched Connor when he locked it, and I can remember what he did, but what if I screw it up?"
"You can do this, Sofi, I believe in you. We all do."
Sofi looked to Ryan and he nodded. She swallowed hard and then took a deep breath. "Get here as soon as you can," she told Jenny.
Jenny didn't respond, and if she did, Sofi didn't hear her. The redhead rushed into the hanger, missing the creeping twosome that was Mick Harper and his boss near the outskirts of the hanger, and started to redirect the power of the electromagnetic pulse.
While sitting and observing Connor's actions in locking the anomaly only thirty minutes ago, Sofi could remember in great detail everything he had done. She just hoped that doing the opposite of that was enough to reverse what had happened and unlock the anomaly.
"Freeze!" Ryan's voice rebounded off the hanger walls and Sofi looked around to see him holding Mick Harper and his boss at gunpoint. The pair were trying to smuggle their camera with video evidence of the G. Rex from their abandoned car.
Their other personal items that could've contained evidence had been confiscated, so the camera was their last-ditch effort to expose the ARC.
"What do you think you're doing?" Jenny yelled as she and the others arrived. She climbed out of the back of the blue mini, as Connor rushed over to Sofi's side. He took over for her, and she watched as he finished up before slamming his hand on the locking device. The electro-pulse hit the anomaly and it sprung open.
The helicopter whirred loudly as it flew into the hanger, the G. Rex following behind it.
Mick cowered behind his boss as she lined up the shot on the camera, backing up and up to try and fit the whole dinosaur into the frame.
"Look out!" Sofi yelled, but the warning came too late as Mick and the woman fell through the anomaly. Micks screams were the last thing the team heard as the G. Rex followed.
Silence hung like a cloud in the air as the team regained their footing. Becker, Ryan and the rest of the soldiers gathered around the anomaly, their guns raised and ready to shoot should another creature try coming through. Sofi was positive that Becker wouldn't heed her warning if she asked him not to shoot, even if she begged him.
"Danny, can you hear me?" Jenny asked into her radio. There was nothing but static on the line.
"We need to lock it again," Becker said.
"He might be alive," Jenny argued.
"We can't take that risk," Becker insisted.
"He's got a minute."
"I'm in charge here!" Jenny snapped. "Just give him a chance."
Becker scoffed and then leaned in towards her. "Well, I think you're making a big mistake," he said.
Sofi's heart filled with dread as the seconds ticked by in silence. She had been the one to let Danny stay, even if she had to go over Jenny's head to do so, and now there was a chance he was dead.
"Okay, do it," Jenny conceded. She turned to Connor and nodded, giving the order to seal the anomaly and any chance of Danny, if he were even still alive, to return.
"Something is coming through," said Abby, moving closer to the firing range.
"Lock it!" Becker yelled.
Connor turned to the locking mechanism and reversed the polarity of his last action. He raised his hand over the button, ready to release the energy inside the crystal matrix and seal the anomaly once again.
"Wait!" Sofi shouted as Danny stumbled through the anomaly, landing just in front of the team.
"There's a herd of them. And they're coming," Danny said, breathing heavily.
"Connor!" Jenny said.
"I can't lock it with him in the way," Connor defended.
Rushing forward, Ryan and Becker caught Danny under the arms and pulled him back, out of the way of the firing line.
Connor hit the button and the anomaly re-sealed itself.
The team sighed in relief at their close call.
"So, what did you do with the helicopter?" Jenny asked Danny.
"I'll just nip back and get it, shall I?" Danny asked, sarcastically.
Sofi released a shaky laugh.
A while later, Sofi approached Danny as he sat staring at the anomaly. There was a familiar look in his eyes, and she offered him a small smile as he turned his attention to her. "I know that look," she said. "Who did you lose?"
"My brother. You?"
"Same," Sofi answered. "I also lost my parents, too."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Sofi took a deep breath and sighed, tears clouding her eyes again. "Then, just last week, I lost my professor," she added. "Who was also one of my best friends."
Danny wasn't sure what to say.
"It's okay," said Sofi, reading his face. "You don't need to say anything. I didn't tell you all this so you'd pity me. Although, I do owe you an apology."
"Nearly getting you killed," Sofi answered. "You may have saved us, Danny, and we'll be forever grateful to you for that, but I shouldn't have let you stay today. I went over Jenny's head to make it happen, and I'm in a lot of trouble for that. But none of that even matters because I put you in a situation were couldn't have walked away."
Danny shook his head. "You know I would've stayed regardless of what you had said. So don't beat yourself up," he said. "I'm just stubborn, I guess."
Sofi licked her lips and nodded. "Still," she said. "You helped me realise something today. I'm getting more and more reckless, and since Nick's gone I've been putting a lot more people in danger. Becker and Ryan are right, I need to take a step back. I need to consider my place on this team before I go out in the field."
"I don't know you that well, Sofi, but from what I've seen today, you care a whole lot," said Danny.
"Thanks," Sofi whispered. She sighed heavily and wiped away her tears, just as Jenny arrived behind her. Sofi smiled at the pair and then wandered away towards the car. Jayden was packing away the boxes that contained the locking mechanism and looked up as she approached.
Leaving the packing to his teammates, Jayden wrapped Sofi in a hug as she quietly cried into his shoulder. "You're going to be okay, Sof," he promised. "It's all going to be okay."