Professor Cutter issued orders to Connor Temple. "I want you to set up a research program into magnetite; its effect on anomalies, how electricity can be used to 'lock' them."
"Cool," the younger man chirped, hurrying off to some sort of workstation in the large central atrium of the building. The others scattered as well – the military men off to do whatever, the blonde girl to her own workstation, and the tall brunette sticking close to the professor.
From above rang out a stern and exasperated voice. "Please tell me you got that bad-tempered reptile back in its box."
"Yep," Cutter confirmed.
"Excellent." The man who joined them looked every inch the long-suffering executive. From his bespoke suit to his Italian leather shoes, his whole appearance told of two things: Money and Power. Addressing Sarah, he identified himself. "James Lester, Home Office."
"This is a government facility?" she asked, surprised.
"What did you think it was, the circus?" 'Snide' appeared to be his usual style. "You're Sarah Page."
"Doctor Page," she shot back, piqued by his attitude.
He opened a file in his hand. "Yes. PhD in Egyptology...promising academic career, veteran of archaeological digs all over the Middle East. Now you're giving lectures to kiddies at the museum. How did that happen?"
"Just not very good at taking orders," Sarah replied with a challenging lift of a brow.
"You should fit right in then," Lester sighed.
"I've got a file?" She asked, amused by needling him.
"Everyone's got a file," he sneered back. "Dr Page, you can't say anything about what you saw today. Do I need to repeat myself? Or should I have you arrested for your own protection?" He turned away, and Cutter went after him.
"Here, you might need that." Sarah turned to find Stephen Hart offering her a beer.
Sarah took a pull and turned to Connor, the one person she felt she might get a straight answer out of. "Is he always like that?" She asked with a thumb towards Lester.
Connor gave her a lopsided smile. "By his standards, that's being pretty nice." He dropped his pen. "Come on, I'll show you around." He led her through some doors and down a hall. "We're set up for lab work on everything that comes through an anomaly. Not only zoological, but geological, atmospheric, botanicals, et cetera, plus microbiology and some forensics. There's a full medical bay, a barracks, offices, and holding areas."
"Holding areas?" Any other day, Sarah might have found it unusual to get a guided tour of a secret headquarters, but she was too busy being impressed by the set up to wonder why everyone seemed so friendly.
"Yeah. Wanna meet Crush?"
"Who's Crush?" Sarah asked warily. With a grin, Connor led her down another hall, and through a pair of doors with a heavy latch. There, Sarah froze, amazed at the sight before her. "Oh, my god."
The huge creature let out a cow-like low as Connor immediately went to a refrigerated bin by the door to pull out a head of lettuce. "Here, Crush!" he called, and the creature swung around to eat the vegetable tossed gently at its feet. "He's a scutasaurus from the Permian era. He's really a pareiasaur, an anapsid. That's a sort of tortoise."
"This is a giant prehistoric turtle?" Sarah gasped.
"Yeah. Great, isn't he?" Connor asked with a grin. His enthusiasm was infectious, and Sarah couldn't help smiling in return. He led her back out into the halls, carefully latching the door to Crush's enclosure behind them.
"So, this is what you do here, is it? You um...You deal with these anomalies
as and when they occur." Sarah said.
"This is what we do." Connor confirmed cheerfully, leading her into a large room, where Cutter and Hart already seemed to be conferring on the day's events before a huge plexiglass covered in obscure markings.
"I can't believe I saw Ammut. Well, what the Egyptians thought was Ammut. A genuine living legend."
"Legends." Cutter's head came up like a dog hearing a bell. "Yes! If anomalies have been appearing in the past – and they have – if Pristichampsus was sunning itself by the Nile three thousand years ago, that's the stuff of legend!"
"Anything that seems out of place, out of time!" Hart jumped in, easily following the professor's thoughts. "Like… Like, er…"
"Like Chimera," Sarah offered.
"The yeti! The hydra…" Stephen added.
"The Kraken!" Connor suggested.
"I've been looking at this all wrong," Cutter murmured as he stared at the markings on the plexiglass. "I've been thinking two-dimensionally." He turned on Sarah, pointing a finger at her. "How much do you know about mythological beasts?" he demanded.
Startled, Sarah answered, "Well, uh.. my thesis on it is in the British Library."
"She stays!" Cutter announced to Lester, whom Sarah finally noticed was lurking in a corner.
"Do I get a say in this?" Sarah cried, feeling like she'd been swept away by some current she never saw.
"Yes, yes, of course." Cutter was nothing if not condescending. "I would like you to join us here at the Anomaly Research Center. I want you working on the source of all the great myths: where they were first spotted, when, by whom, can you find a pattern?" He straightened. "Or you can go back to lecturing schoolkids. Your choice."
Sarah glanced at Connor, leaning casually on a filing cabinet behind Cutter. He gave her a half-smile, half grimace and waved a hand, as if to say the job was both great and horrible. She thought of the terror she'd experienced today, balanced by the awe of watching Connor feed a genuine dinosaur.
Steeling herself, she said "Alright… I'm in."
"Great news, I feel better already," Lester drawled.
"What do we do about the Sun Cage?" Connor asked.
"Well, the anomaly's closed. Might not open for three thousand years - if ever." Lester stated.
"But it's still a risk! It can't be on display any more," Stephen insisted.
"Happily, that's not our decision to make. The Culture Minister tells me the exhibition's moving on." Lester told them, then departed.
"Geez, where is it going next?" Connor asked, looking at Sarah.
"Beijing, I think," she said.
Cutter shook his head in disbelief as Stephen sighed. "More beer," Stephen announced, leaving the room to find more bottles.
"It's not even noon," Sarah pointed out.
"It's noon somewhere," Cutter told her dryly. He followed Stephen.
Conner laughed at her expression. "You'll get used to it. If you're lucky, you won't go into the field. Come on, you should meet Abby properly."
Sarah found the blond punk-ette to be very nice. There was also obviously something between the girl and Connor – their body language telegraphed 'together' to anyone who bothered to notice. Abby specialized in behavioral sciences, and could guess a creature's mood and likely actions from its posture and other clues. Sarah listened, amused, as Abby and Connor told the tale of how the ARC team came together.
She was also warned about Cutter's ex-wife, and Connor promised to provide some images so she would be able to recognize the crazy woman if she ever showed up.
She caught a few glimpses of Captain Becker, whose wry smile reassured her that he'd only been joking with the military 'forced escort'. Sarah supposed that she deserved it, after starting the teasing with the made-up curse joke. She also intercepted a few friendly smiles from Stephen Hart.
"Doctor Page? Allow me to introduce myself properly – Jenny Lewis." The auburn-haired woman shook Sarah's hand. "Welcome to the team."
"Thank you…. I think." Jenny acknowledged Sarah's reservations with a grin.
"It may seem a little crazy around here, but trust me, there is a method to the madness. Now, if you'll accompany me, there's some employment paperwork you'll need to fill out, and we should discuss what reasons you're going to give the Museum to justify your sudden desire to leave their employ."
Sarah snickered. "I can't just say the dinosaurs scared me away?"
Jenny bent a rueful expression on the Egyptologist. "I'm afraid that's right out."
By half past three, Sarah realized she'd not slept the night before, having stayed unconscionably late at the museum, then swept into the misadventures of this merry band of lunatics, and the only sustenance she'd taken was three beers and a bag of crisps.
"Jenny? Do I need to stay?" she asked. She explained her situation, and asked when she'd be expected to start at the ARC.
"Goodness, no, you can go. Ostensibly you'll work regular business hours…"
"But you wouldn't bet on it?" Sarah finished.
"What are we betting on?" Stephen Hart joined the conversation with a smile.
Jenny rolled her eyes and poked him in the shoulder with a pen. "Any more pools, Hart, and I'll be setting you up with a councilor for compulsive gambling!"
Hart laughed off her threats, before turning to Sarah. "Heading out, Doctor Page?"
"Yes. I really need some sleep… and some training if I'm going to live on lager and crisps like the rest of you."
"Need a ride? I'd be happy to drive you."
Sarah smiled at the handsome zoologist. "That would be great, thanks."
As they walked through the central atrium, Captain Becker emerged from a side hallway. His eyes quickly flicked from Sarah to Stephen and back again. As they passed him, Stephen leaned towards the military man.
"Catch you tomorrow, Hilary."
To Sarah's surprise, the Captain froze, and blood rushed to his face. He gave Stephen one horrified look, before turning towards the Anomaly Detection Device. Sarah glanced over to see Connor watching them, looking pale and frightened.
"TEMPLE!" Becker roared. Connor shot to his feet and bolted for a door, Becker tearing after him. Stephen, Abby, even Jenny and Cutter from their viewpoints on the level above, all started laughing. Sarah started to wonder about this place.
to be continued
AN: Maybe fanon, maybe not, but I heard a tale that someone wrote the producers of Primeval and asked what Becker's first name was, and were told it was 'Hilary'. Poor guy. OTOH, I dated a guy named Shannon once…..