A/N: I just made a teeny tiny revision to the flash forward at the beginning of this story to reflect what I wrote in Chapter 3. Hopefully, it's too small to notice. g

"I'll go," said Connor, peering into the hole. It was a crack, actually, a wide, rectangular crack with long skinny fissures shooting off it as far as he could see. But that didn't matter. It was still narrow and dark, smelling like dirt and dead things. He swallowed before he could take the words back.

Danny didn't reply. He was sprawled on his stomach, shining a torch into the dark maw, but all Connor could see were a couple of meters of craggy rock. Then blackness.

Becker jogged up to them. Blood was seeping through the bandage that wound around his upper arm. It had been a very long day. "We should get back through the anomaly. Sarah says the readings are getting wonky."

"Wonky?" asked Connor, with a frown. "What does that mean?"

"I don't know," said Becker impatiently, "but we need to go before that thing closes. I do not want to be stuck in Jurassic Park."

"It's not the Jurassic," began Connor. Then he just shook his head and dropped it. Now wasn't the time to lecture Becker on the difference between the Paleocene period, where they were, and a stupid movie about dinosaurs.

A warbling call shattered the quiet of the jungle. Danny climbed to his feet and brushed dirt off his knees, cursing long and hard. "We were so damn close."

"No," said Connor, grabbing his arm, "we are close. Just lower me into the hole. I'll grab the device and be out in a couple of minutes."

"No way," said Becker. "It's too dangerous, and you're not trained."

Danny patted Connor's hand. "Sorry, mate, but Becker's right. We need to go."

"I could be halfway there while we're standing around here arguing," said Connor desperately. "We can't let Helen win, not again."

Danny spat into the dirt. "Crap."

One Hour Earlier

Connor made it all the way to Abby's mini before he realized he was missing something. "Oh no," he said after patting all his pockets and checking his laptop case. "I have to go back. Left me flashdrive inside."

"Really?" Abby sighed and threw her head back as if looking to the heavens for guidance. "I have a crazy idea, Connor. Why don't you just not work tonight."

"I can't. I've got too much to do, don't I?"

"But you can't do it all at once. It took Cutter a long time to figure things out. Give yourself a night off."

Connor hesitated. It would be nice to have a free evening. He knew he'd been working a lot of hours, and he had that end-of-semester burnt out feeling in his brain that made it hard to remember there was life outside the ARC. Plus, he really missed doing fun things like playing games and watching telly in the evenings. He'd tried once or twice to do that at Lester's place, but Lester disapproved of just about everything Connor liked to do. It was just easier to work.

A brilliant idea popped into his head. "Okay, I won't work on one condition."

"What's that?"

"If you'll hang out with me tonight. I'll come over to the flat. We'll get pizza and beer and play games. What do you say?" He tried to hide the longing from showing through his voice, but he suspected his eyes couldn't lie, so he glanced to the side.

It was hard living away from Abby. He missed her so much sometimes, that he'd almost gone over to the flat and begged her to let him move back in. Three times. Thankfully his pride prevented that from happening. The occasional ride home just made the situation worse, like being able to see the advert for Dr. Who without ever getting to watch the show.

Abby's face fell. "I can't. Jack and I have plans to go out. Some other time, though?"

Connor nodded. At least she looked really disappointed, and not just polite-disappointed. Still, he didn't trust himself to speak, sure that his voice would sound thick and hoarse, so he just ran back to the ARC before Abby could protest again.

When Connor got to his lab, he found the light on, which was odd. He swore he'd turned it off when he'd locked the door.

"Sarah?" he called as he walked inside. A tall, slim woman stood with her back to the door, running her fingers across the artifact. She froze in place but didn't turn around.

"Oi," said Connor, coming around the table, "how'd you get in here? No one's allowed—"

It was Helen. Connor balled his fists as he felt like he was going to explode with hate and fear and sadness all at once.

"Hello, Connor." She slipped her hand into the pocket of her khaki trousers and pulled out a pistol. She pointed it at him.

Connor narrowed his eyes at her. "What're you doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? You have something that belongs to me, and I want it back." She pulled the artifact from its cradle and tucked it into the messenger bag slung across her body. The gun never wavered, but she'd taken her eyes off Connor for just a moment to open the flap.

Connor used that distraction to grab a wrench from his table and hold it down by his side, tucking it behind his forearm. "Security is on the way here right now," he bluffed. "You'll never get out of the ARC before they catch you."

Helen chuckled. "Do you really think I walked in here through the front door? Dear, sweet, naïve Connor. Nick always said you were a bit slow."

Connor frowned. He knew it probably wasn't true, that Helen was playing mind games with him, but the comment stung, nonetheless. Abby had called him thick on occasion, and he knew he wasn't the best at reading people, so it wouldn't be too terribly surprising if Nick had said that. Still, he wanted the professor to only think the best of him in everything, and now it was too late.

Helen approached him from around the lab table, gun held steady in front of her. "You're quite pretty, though, with those big brown, soulful eyes. And that cute little dimple. So innocent. I bet you're still a virgin, aren't you?"

She reached out and stroked the side of his jaw and then traced his lips with her fingertips. Connor jerked his head back, trying not to flush. He wasn't a virgin, but just barely. As he started to step out of her reach, she grabbed his wrist and applied pressure to the inside tendon. Connor's fingers opened, and the wrench slipped to floor with a clang. She stepped out of reach.

As Connor rubbed his wrist, he tried to decide if he could punch her before she shot him. It didn't seem likely. "You don't have to do this, you know," he tried instead. "You have an anomaly opening device, right? Just leave the artifact and get out of here, and I won't tell anyone what happened."

"Now why would I do that?"

"Because it's what Professor Cutter wanted. You were his wife, so you must've loved him once, right?"

Helen smirked. "That was a long time ago, Connor."

"Then think of all the people dying because of the creatures that come through anomalies. What we're doing here is really important. Cutter thought the artifact could help with that. Do you hate the world so much that you'd take away the one thing that can help? Did you hate Cutter that much?"

"Well, I shot him, so that should answer your question."

Connor thrust his jaw forward, nostrils flaring. He'd never hated anyone as much as he did her.

"You know," she said as she backed out the doorway, "now that Stephen's gone, I could see us working together. He was a pretty boy too, but turned cynical and hard. I like your innocence." She smiled and ran her tongue over her lips. "It would be fun helping you grow up."

With that, she slipped out and closed the door behind her. A shot rang out and ricocheted off the door with a loud ping. Connor raced to it and tried the handle. It wouldn't turn. He was stuck.

He looked around, trying to figure out what to do. When he saw his phone, he ran to his desk and punched the buttons to connect his phone to the loud speaker system. "Danny, Becker, anyone," he shouted into the receiver. "Helen's here. She's stolen the artifact, and locked me in me lab. You have to stop her."

He hung up and raced back to the door. Helen had shot the lock, so Connor examined the hinges on the other side of the door. It wouldn't be too hard to take them apart. He grabbed a hammer and screwdriver and set to work.

A couple of minutes later, he removed the last hinge, jammed his screwdriver into the gap, and forced the door open. It didn't open very far, but Connor was slim, and managed to squeeze through. When he got into the hallway, he didn't know where to go, so he took off toward the hub. Halfway there, Danny and Becker ran past him heading in the opposite direction.

"She's in the supply room," shouted Becker as he raced past Connor.

"Anomaly alert," added Danny, breathlessly.

Connor reversed course and followed them down the hall. Along the way, they picked up several soldiers as well as Abby, who was carrying a tranquilizer gun and looking totally badass.

"What's going on?" she asked, running alongside Connor.

"Helen stole the artifact," he panted.

They glanced at each other and exchanged a grim look.

When the group got to the supply room, a flickering light shone out of the doorway. Becker held up a hand and ordered the civilians to stand aside as he and his soldiers prepared to enter the room. With a quick nod, they rolled through the doorway, weapons trained on the possibility that Helen Cutter would still be there, ready to fire on them. Connor wasn't surprised to see Becker's face appear in the doorway a moment later.

"She's not here," he said, shaking his head in disgust. "I think she went through the anomaly."

"Then we have to follow her," said Connor, stepping toward the doorway.

Danny placed a hand on his chest, stopping him. "Hold on, we need to think a moment before we just step through into who knows where. What if Helen is waiting for us on the other side? What if there are creatures ready to eat us?"

"Helen wouldn't go there if she was going to be eaten," shouted Connor. "She took the artifact! Cutter said it was the key to everything. I can't continue his work without it. And who knows what Helen can do with it."

Abby stepped up next to him and pulled Danny's arm away. "I'm with Connor," she said. "You haven't been here since the beginning, but if Helen wants something, it's bad. We need to stop her from getting it."

"They have a good point," added Becker. "With that anomaly-opening gizmo, she can sneak into the ARC whenever she wants and steal things out from under our noses. We need to stop her before she does something worse than just take an artifact."

Danny threw his hands up. "Fine, let's go before common sense makes me change my mind."

Becker nodded. He signaled for his men to follow him through the anomaly and prepare for a hostile reception. After they left, Danny gave Connor and Abby a stern look. "I hope this doesn't get us killed."

"Me too," said Connor, fervently. He glanced at Abby, and before he could stop himself, he placed his hand around the back of her neck and kissed her right on the lips. When Abby sent him a startled look, he decided to quote Star Wars. "For luck," he murmured.

As he prepared to step through, Abby reached over and linked her fingers with his. Connor glanced at their joined hands in surprise.

"For luck," she repeated, squeezing his hand.

Connor squeezed back, and together, they stepped through the anomaly.