Gulp…..I've had this idea rolling around in my head for weeks and decided to put it to paper for my first story…..it may not be pretty but let's face it….nothing's easy until you've figured out how to do it well. Though this is a Becker/Jess story (pre-relationship) it involves most of the team. There aren't any prehistoric fish…..it's a reference to being a "fish out of water" and being put in roles out of ones comfort zone…and also an apology for the "tech speak" here….wish I was more computer savvy to make it more realistic…..sorry this first chapter is lots of talking…action later…..
Jess Parker's hands whipped quickly over the keyboard calling up the written reports from the anomaly that opened in a park in Derry, several hours away from the ARC yesterday. Her eyes darted quickly over the field report displayed on the screen and narrowed as she noticed several important pieces of the report still left blank. The anomaly itself had been rather benign, but had several unusual aspects that needed to be documented on the report that the author had edited but not finished. She swiveled in her seat just in time to see the author of the report walk quietly into the hub and pick up a tablet to check training schedules for the next day.
"Becker," she asked with a note of exasperation in her voice, "Is it possible you could complete your field reports with ALL sections filled out before you download it as complete? That way I could spend more time actually coordinating than correcting errors and sending them back to team members before presenting it to Lester…." Though she meant to sound something like a stern teacher lecturing a misbehaving student, the minute she locked eyes with him, a soft smile on her part ruined the effect.
For his part, Hilary Becker sighed with a repentant expression on his face. Jess noticed the circles under his eyes and knew he had worked several shifts without much sleep in between and began to feel a bit guilty for haranguing him about the report. A lock of dark hair fell softly over his forehead and she resisted the urge to push it back into place.
"Sorry, Jess….These multiple anomalies are really taking a toll on my ability to get the men trained to deal with them and then deal with the anomalies themselves, let alone write the reports to detail what's happening." Becker moved closer to Jess' chair as he looked over her shoulder at the missing parts of the report. Today she smelled like jasmine. Her auburn hair brushed her shoulders as well as the hand he had over the top of her chair. He wondered what would happen if he twirled one of the strands between his fingers…What was he thinking? He didn't have time to take so much as a 30 minute rest period and here he was daydreaming about Jess…on the job…..a job that needed his full attention. He quickly straightened and pulled his hand back from her chair.
"I should have completed this report last night instead of leaving it till later," he stated flatly and you should be reading me the riot act for not having those done, Jess, instead of letting me push my work off on you. If I let my own men get away with that I wouldn't be much a leader….certainly not one they would follow…." He smiled at her. "But I would guess that you wouldn't be first choice to lead my men and I certainly would be a fish out of water trying to coordinate our teams in the field." He picked up the tablet and walked across the hub to the elevator that would take him down to the armory. Jess smirked as she called across the room, "I already tell your men what to do and where to go when I'm working here so I'm obviously much better at multi-tasking than you. As the doors to the elevator slid shut he remarked "I can operate every hi-tech weapon in the armory so how hard could your ADD be to operate?" giving her an equally unrepentant smirk..
Jess sighed loudly as she swiveled her chair back to face forward as she heard a soft laugh from the corridor entry door that led down to the menagerie. Abby Maitland walked into the hub and while viewing the ADD from behind Jess, she leaned down as she whispered.
"Well you two are just adorable aren't you?"
Jess' blush would be obvious across the room.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Abby. Becker and I are coworkers and that's it. Besides, let's just suppose I had an…ahem…"interest" in Captain Becker, unless my first name was Smith and last name was Wesson, I'm sure that feeling wouldn't be reciprocated so let's just put that supposition to rest, shall we?"
Abby's sideways grin begged to differ.
"Listen, Jess, I've worked with animals my entire life. People may not whine and bark at each other like animals do, well maybe Lester barks a bit, but they give the same signals and I'm telling you he's definitely interested….maybe more than interested….the question is what and when is he going to do something about it."
Jess rolled her eyes and continued typing the report trying to think of a subject, any subject, that would distract Abby from analyzing her and Becker's relationship, or lack of it, any further.
"Okay, Miss animal behaviorist, since we're on the subject, my parents are having an awful time with their dog, Micah. He's follows commands from my mother immediately but pays no attention to anything my dad wants him to do. He tried using dog treats but once those are gone, Micah complete ignores him…..any suggestions?"
Abby gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling.
"Well, my first guess is that your mother is using body language that shows the dog that she is "alpha" . You know, standing tall, shoulders back, commanding posture….body language that is telling the dog she's boss. Your dad should do that too. He should express himself confidently with words and body language."
Jess smiled….Success. Target distracted.
"Thanks, Abby. I'll pass that on to my parents. Now I need to get down to the armory to get Becker's signature on this report."
Connor Temple opened his laptop to download the program Matt needed for the software updates on the EMD's. The ARC computers were having difficulty reading and processing the software upgrades and it took several hours of intense research to pinpoint that the compatibility problem was triggered by a rather new virus that found its way into the system. As Matt entered the room, Connor pulled the drive out of its slot and handed it smoothly to him. Matt picked up the nearest weapon and handed it to Connor to examine.
"These really have seen intensive use lately. Should we be breaking them down to check the internal hardware?" he observed as Matt looked up in surprise.
"Well how about I worry about the weaponry and you stick to research, Connor? He replied smiling. "Last time I conducted your weapons certification you almost took out one of the mainframe computers…."
Connor smiled amicably.
"I've got skills, Matt. They just don't present themselves in an obvious firefight situation."
"Well thanks for finding this tech info. We needed to have these upgraded with all the anomalies we've been dealing with lately."
They walked out of the science lab toward the elevator.
Jess hurried out of the hub and into the elevator that led down to the armory. She let herself think again of the things Abby had mentioned and for one moment imagined what had made Abby think that Becker would be interested in her. Those hazel eyes made her weak in the knees just thinking about what a date with Becker might involve. She shook herself mentally, chiding herself for what she was sure was an unreciprocated girlish crush.
Stepping out of the elevator, Jess scanned her wristband and entered the long, narrow hallway that led to the armory. The door was midway down the long hall which led eventually to a large auditorium with multiple entrances from the outside hallways. Materials were often stored there until needed at the ARC. Just as she arrived at the armory door, a young soldier approached her. Lieutenant McKittrick was a fairly new and ambitious recruit. He was quite tall with broad shoulders that moved smoothly as he walked up to her. Abby often joked that McKittrick always looked like he was "carrying suitcases" even when he wasn't since he never missed an opportunity to display his muscular torso.
"This is a restricted area, Miss….?" He stated a bit more loudly than necessary.
Jess sighed. She had already introduced herself to him on his first day but it seemed he'd completely forgotten….probably all that muscle made little room for gray matter.
"Lt. McKittrick, I'm Jess Parker, the Field Coordinator. I have clearance."
"I'll need to check that with Captain Becker, Ma'am …Please wait here."
Jess began to feel very annoyed. This was taking too much time when there was a large stack of work waiting for her in the hub.
"Lt. McKittrick, I'm in a bit of a hurry so if you could…"
"Procedure ma'am….Please follow orders and wait…
"You are dismissed, McKittrick. This is Jess Parker, the FCO, which you should be aware of. Look over the personnel files and get familiar with the staff…immediately…" boomed a deep voice from the door of the armory. Becker stood in the doorway of the armory, his hands behind his back.
McKittrick stepped back and blinked.
"Yes, sir, sorry, sir,…..I just didn't realize…." He stuttered. He suddenly stood up straighter and exited the corridor.
"Sorry about that, Jess. He's a good man. He just has trouble following instructions from the non-military personnel. What brings you down …."
He looked expectantly into her large, blue eyes and immediately forgot the rest of the sentence.
"...here….yes, here…what brings you down here?"
Jess laughed. "I'm not allowed to come down here where you keep all your toys, Becker? I just brought the completed report that needed your signature."
He smiled, glad to have the conversation back on track. He quickly signed the paperwork as Jess waited expectantly.
"There you are Miss Parker and thank you for fixing my mistake. I definitely owe you a favor!"
"Well, next time I need to run a long, boring diagnostic on the computer I'll just give that to you to finish, shall I?" she answered, smiling and started out the door. In the distance, multiple flashes with accompanying booms resounded throughout the building as the alarms began to clang.