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beth writing 30 days without

FIC: Primeval - A Harmless Shimmer of Light

Title: A Harmless Shimmer of Light
Author: maddie_amber
Artist: clea2011
Rating: PG - Gen
Word count: 4300
Written for the Art Challenge: Organized by lsellersfic . Thank you so much for all your hard work organizing this challenge!
Summary: When is an anomaly an anomaly – and what might pass through it?
AN: I really enjoyed the challenge of incorporating various elements of the artwork into the story. I hope the artist is pleased with the result


Becker slowly worked his right arm, trying not to wince as tight muscles and tendons pulled, and complained. He grunted softly, aware that at this hour of the night no one was in hearing range. He had been relegated to “light” duty after dislocating his shoulder, and the walls of the ARC were beginning to close around him like a vice, but he would still rather be here than staring at the walls of his flat. Here, at least, he was kept abreast of what his security teams were doing, even if he was not permitted to participate himself. He was, most probably, driving his work mates crazy, judging from the avoidance tactics they had all begun to employ. After all, he could only insist that weapons be cleaned so many times. And one more surprise inspection would probably have his men literally up in arms. Connor was locked in his lab, Abby in her menagerie and Matt was, completely off the grid.

So, he had taken to spending his off hours, and his on hours, in the gym, or at the infirmary, pushing the Physical Therapy Techs to give him just one more exercise to hasten the rehab of his arm and get him back to active duty as quickly as possible. They stubbornly told him “it would take time and could not be rushed” and he, with equal stubbornness, insisted that time was all he had, and he would rush if he damn well pleased. But he knew they were correct and he did do as instructed, even when he chafed at the cautious slowness of the pace. This had to be done correctly, or he would risk a weakened joint and possible a second, or third, dislocation.

So he was somewhat surprised when he received a summons from Lester to report to his office. He had to admit his curiosity was piqued.

“Yes, sir,” he said briskly as he entered Lester’s office bright and early the next morning and stood before his desk. He was relaxed but attentive, hands behind his back, his weight balanced as though ready to spring. His enforced inactivity had left him well rested, energized and ready to return to action, though he knew that was not the reason Lester had requested his presence.

Lester nodded. “The physical therapists tell me you are progressing admirably and well ahead of their projected schedule for your recovery.”

“Yes,” Becker said again. Certainly Lester had not asked him here simply to assess his fitness.

“Good. Then I would like you to speak with Connor at your earliest convenience. He’s been working on a special assignment and has need of someone in the field to assess his findings.”

“That sounds like an assignment more suited to one of our science personnel,” Becker commented.

“Really,” Lester said acerbically, “I thought you might be quite anxious for an assignment outside the ARC.”

Am I that obvious? Becker thought. “Certainly,” he responded putting more enthusiasm in his voice than he actually felt. Being Connor’s field crew was not what he had in mind. “Might I ask the nature of the project?”

“Connor will fill you in on the details, but briefly, we have been picking up low level readings on some of our equipment that hint at being anomalies, but never emerge as such. Connor is looking into the possibility of mini anomalies. He has localized one such area on the Isle of Henry which has demonstrated these properties on more than one occasion. He needs someone to discretely deploy and operate sensor equipment from that location while he monitors the results here.”

“Yes, Sir,”

“While this is not necessarily a covert operation it will be a civilian assignment. No uniforms and you will carry a minimum number of weapons. Connor will fill you in on the details of the project.”

Becker’s face must have fallen noticeably.

“Come now, Captain, think of it as a relaxing day in the country,” Lester said, the hint of a sardonic smile on his face.

Becker nodded resigning himself to the assignment. “Is there anything else, sir?”

“As a matter of fact, there is one more thing.”

Becker waited half afraid of what the ‘one more thing’ would be.

“Miss Parker will be accompanying you on this assignment,” Lester said briskly. His tone implied that he would brook no argument. Becker protested any way.

“Sir, are you sure that is wise. She has no field experience.”

“This is the perfect assignment for her to gain some field experience with a minimum of risk. She has been quite helpful in doing background research on the area in question tracking down any local references that might indicate abnormal occurrences. I think she should have the opportunity to follow through with the actual on site investigation. And she seems quite eager to participate in a more active role.”

Becker gritted his teeth and stifled the sigh of resignation he felt building in his chest. He was understandably cautious about inexperienced civilians in the field, but felt particularly protective of Jess, given her startling naiveté about the more violent aspects of life at the ARC. He nodded curtly. “If I can make one request, sir?”

“Yes,” Lester replied, raising one eyebrow quizzically.

“Would you please ask Abby to speak to Jess about appropriate dress for field activities. Specifically, could she tell her to wear sensible shoes?”

+ + +

It would appear his definition of ‘sensible’ differed quite dramatically from Jess’s. Oh well, he thought as he eyed her choice of footwear, they were certainly more field worthy than her normal heels. On her feet Jess sported a high topped pair of trainers in screaming florescent orange. Flat with no heels. I won’t lose her in a crowd as long as I can keep an eye on her feet. Won’t lose her in the weeds either for that matter.

Jess had literally bubbled out of her hotel room, cheeks flushed and face lit by an infectious smile. Over her shoulder she had slung a bag almost as enormous as her smile, filled with what, he could only guess. Becker did have to admit, if only to himself, that he found her buoyant enthusiasm contagious and endearing. Her attitude would at least alleviate what would most likely be a boringly mundane assignment.

After leaving Lester’s office the day before, Becker had met with Connor to be briefed on the details of their upcoming venture. It wasn’t terribly complicated. Connor had detected several areas of unusual readings that barely registered on his equipment, much less defined themselves as anomalies. But the irregularities were consistent with the range of energy readings that normally characterized an anomaly and they had been occurring at predictably regular intervals. Something an anomaly did not. Connor theorized that analysis of these irregularities might have some bearing on the anomalies themselves. Might, Connor had announced with some excitement, even allow them to predict anomalies – a capability that would make all their lives much simpler. Of the localities he had studied the most promising site had been on the Isle of Henry in the general vicinity of the Callanish Standing stones.

Becker was forced to admit that his knowledge of megalithic stone structures was shaky at best, and he was unfamiliar with any but the most well-known such as Stonehenge, and he confessed as much.

“Talk to Jess,” had been Connor’s response. “She’s been doing the background study of local history and legend.”

Talk to Jess, should have been ‘listen’ to Jess, because once she started talking her knowledge of the area, its culture, history and legend was encyclopedic. Becker unconsciously tuned out her soliloquy, and while he normally found her fountain of miscellaneous information amusing, he simple wanted to complete this assignment as quickly as possible.

“My mother brought me here when I was a child.” Jess had continued to talk as they made their way from their hotel to the site itself. Picking up where she had left off the evening before. “My mother was intrigued by archeology and anthropology.”

It was a gloomy, overcast morning, and a brisk breeze was scudding in from the ocean giving the air a sharp chill. With any luck it would also keep away any tourists other than themselves. Becker had considered masquerading as a researcher, here to study the mystery behind the meaning of the standing stones. A believable enough ruse. Their equipment would certainly support that claim to the mildly curious. But he doubted he could effectively carry off the role of an antiquities scholar. So he hoped to be able to unobtrusively place the necessary sensors with minimal tourist or local contact.

“There are several legends concerning the stones that involve the appearance of a white figure,” Jess was saying. “One talks about a white fairy cow that came out of the sea during a year of harsh famine. The cow made its way to the stones and allowed itself to be milked by the people of the village. They were each allowed one pail of milk. A local witch came to the cow and tried to get two pails, she was refused and returned with a sieve and proceeded to milk the cow dry.”

Becker felt an eyebrow raise. “Fairy cows?”

“The key, I think, is that she was white. Another folk tale claims that the stones are visited by a spectral figure on the dawn of the Midsummer Solstice - a ‘shining’ figure that is said to walk down the Northern Avenue. It may just be a folk memory of astronomical alignments or seasonal rituals at the site. But what if these shining white visitors are actually small anomalies.”

Suddenly Becker turned to her with renewed interest. “Shining, you say.”
Jess nodded enthusiastically. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide and sparkling with excitement. Her hair had begun to come loose from under her cap, blowing about her face in the wind, creating an impish image Becker found suddenly quite irresistible. You’re on assignment, he reminded himself, clamping down on the sudden impulsive urge grin at the delightful portrait she presented. He did allow himself a small smile and a nod.

“You may be on to something,” he acknowledged. “Did you mention your theory to Connor?”

Jess nodded again, so vigorously she almost lost her cap. “He thinks, that maybe, these are very low energy ‘mini-anomalies’. And that they may just be tiny passageways. Instead of being bridges between centuries, they may just bridge days, or weeks or perhaps a few years. The energy signatures we have been picking up at the ARC appear at predictable regular intervals around 36 and 48 hours. We may be dealing with two different anomalies of different time ranges.”

“And the next one is expected to appear…” Becker began.

“…shortly after sunset this evening.” Jess finished his sentence for him.
Becker could almost guess where this was leading. If they did prove to be mini anomalies, then anything that passed through one should re-appear in a relatively short period of time. “Well, in that case the sooner we get these sensors into place the sooner Connor will have his answer.”

As Becker had hoped, the site was deserted, the howling wind and blowing mist keeping tourists at bay for at least a short while. It did not take them long to place the sensors on the stones Connor had suggested, following the map he had provided. Jess was all business as she activated the system, checked that all the sensors were transmitting and sent a quick text to Connor to verify he was receiving the transmissions as expected.

“Now we wait,” she announced when she was done.

“Here?” He asked, noticing that she had begun to shiver in the biting wind.

“I think we should be here to observe any possible anomalies.” Jess replied through chattering teeth.

“Agreed. But neither one of us will be of much good if we’re hypothermic.” Becker replied. “We may as well go back to the hotel, get warm, rest and eat. Its several hours before sunset. We can return then. “

Jess nodded in agreement, no longer speaking as she gave in to the shivers that shook her body.

And we need to get you a better coat, Becker thought.

+ + +

Several hours later, fed, warm and rested they returned to the site. The wind had begun to abate, and there were breaks in the overcast sky. Fortunately, there were still no tourists in the vicinity, so there were no curious eyes to avoid. A quick check showed that their equipment was still in place and functioning. Jess was now bundled in an oversized coat, a warm woolen cap pulled down over her ears. Her eyes glowed with excited anticipation. “What if it truly is a small anomaly?” she asked, “and what if something comes through.”

“There aren’t too many small dinosaurs we need to worry about,” he countered.

“Well there is Hesperonychus elizabethae a carnivorous mini-dinosaur half the size of a domestic cat,” she continued, undaunted, the taxonomic name rolling effortlessly off her tongue as though Latin were her native language. “They are potentially dangerous despite being no larger than a chicken.”

Becker envisioned the tiny beast nibbling at his toes, then patted the EMD- strapped firmly to his side under his own coat. Lester had not forbidden him to bring weapons, he had just told him to limit the number. He was confident he had the firepower to handle any small thing that might pass through any anomaly, assuming they actually discovered one. “I think we need to have an anomaly first.”

Sitting in the front seat of their rented car, Jess had her laptop open, fingers flying over the keyboard as she fine-tuned the program that would analyze the raw data streaming in from their sensors. Connor, Becker knew, would be doing the same at the other end of the data stream back at the ARC. Becker settled in for a potentially long, and probably boring evening, not unlike many other surveillance operations. He had poured them each a steaming mug of coffee from the thermos Jess had borrowed from the hotel, set hers in the cup holder near her side and cupped his own in his hands. They did not run the engine, so the interior of the car was going to start to get cool, but they were prepared for the long haul. Settling back into the seat, his eyes moved constantly across the landscape watching for anything out of the ordinary, even as Jess monitored the sensors they had placed.

The skies were rapidly growing darker as evening approached and the cloud cover broke along the horizon as the sun began to set, perfectly aligned between two of the tallest upright stones in the formation. The ruddy glow bathed the stones and the avenue that led from them in an eerie blood red light.

“It’s easy to understand why our ancestors were so in awe of sites like this,” Jess said in a whisper, as though afraid to speak for fear of destroying the mystery of the moment. Her fingers had momentarily stopped moving, and she had laid one hand on his forearm.

Becker glanced at her face in the light of the setting sun, eyes wide with amazement, skin colored with its rosy glow. They watched the setting sun in silence and as the last peaks of light faded, the clouds closed again and the site was eerily dark. With no ambient light from stars or moon the monoliths became darker shadows in the darkness of the night. About forty-five minutes after sunset, Jess’s hand went to her earpiece and she listened intently for a moment. “Connor said he’s detected very low level transmissions similar to the wavelengths characteristic of anomalies. So far he can’t be sure they’re not simple background noise, but he wants us to be ‘particularly observant’.”

“I am always ‘particularly observant’,” Becker said dryly.

Jess rolled her eyes and giggled in return.

She must be enjoying this, Becker thought. “You know,” he said quite seriously, “a lot of the field work we do can be quite routine. That doesn’t lessen the potential for danger. “

Jess nodded somewhat absently, as she turned back to her laptop. “There is definitely a change in the readings. I think we need to look…” she had raised her hand to point to a location outside the car, just as Becker sat bolt upright.

“There.” He finished what she was about to say. “Along the Northern Avenue.”

“A shimmer of light,” Jess said.

A shimmer, or a flutter, like a curtain caught in the wind – brief and undefined, but definitely there. Hardly enough time for anything to pass through if it were an anomaly unless it was moving very fast.

“It just happened again.” Becker and Jess spoke simultaneously, he with his eyes on the stone monoliths in front of them and she with her eyes glued to her laptop.

Becker had reached for the door of the car, and was stepping out when her hand gripped his arm again, more firmly this time.

“Do you think you should get close?” she asked, a hint of alarm in her voice.

“Didn’t you just say there was very little that could come through an anomaly that small?”

“No. You said that.”

“It’s okay,” he told her reassuringly.

“I’m coming.”

Before he could protest, she was out the door on her side of the car and several paces ahead of him, so that he had to hurry to keep up.

“One of the hallmarks of good field work is appropriate caution,” he said in a whisper, drawing the EMD from inside his coat and automatically going into protective mode.

“I am being cautious,” she said. “I brought you didn’t I?” Her hand went to her earpiece again. “Connor said the next build-up of energy is about fifteen feet west of the Northern Avenue.” She changed her course as she spoke zeroing in on the area in question.

Becker bit back a sigh of exasperation. Jess was going to get a firm lecture about how rash impulsiveness was not a desirable trait on a field team. In simultaneous movements he reached out to grab her elbow with one hand and powered up the EMD with the other. When Jess turned to protest he motioned for her to be silent and stand still. To his amazement she did both, though her lips were drawn into a stubborn line. Stepping in front of her he proceeded with the appropriate caution, and was half way to his goal when there was a second shimmer of light precisely where Connor had predicted it would be, only this time, something emerged from the light. The figure was as black as the night and barely dicernable against the darkness of the stones. Becker saw it more as a movement than a distinct physical creature. And it was fast, and silent as it bolted into the night.

He turned to Jess.

“I saw it.” she mouthed the words without speaking. She remained perfectly still.

Maybe it’s her cat-sized carnivore, Becker thought. Whatever it was it had not been present prior to the glimmer of light they had observed. Becker raised the EMD and as he did he heard a soft gasp from Jess.

“You‘re not going to shoot it?’ she asked in a barely audible whisper.
“Stun. And only if it nibbles on my toes,” he answered tersely, knowing the answer would be cryptic to her.

Circling to the left of where they had seen the brief flicker of light, Becker strained to catch movement of any sort in the darkness. There was none. Nor was there a sound except the wind which had begun to increase with the coming of darkness. It was too dark to even catch a glimmer of reflected light from the creature’s eyes. He stopped moving, straining every sense to catch even the hint of another presence. He was about to write off the invader as nothing more than a figment of his overactive imagination when a sudden commotion to his right shattered the silence of the night. Becker swung the EMD in that direction, thumbed off the weapon’s safety and in the same movement flipped on the torch he had mounted to the side of the gun. Golden eyes met his and a shriek of animal rage split the night as the eyes launched in his direction.

Becker fired, but the energy burst from the EMD careened into the night sky as a weight struck him from the left, knocking the weapon from his hand and throwing him off balance. He landed hard, on his half-healed shoulder, and grunted in pain. He tried to get to his feet, cursing under his breath as his legs tangled in those of his attacker. Jess, he thought. She must be incapacitated or totally unaware of this new threat because she never made a sound of warning. Sudden fear for her safety gave him extra strength and he pushed with his legs, rolling himself and his attacker over until he was on top and pinning the person to the ground.

“Jess?” he called out, breaking his silence.

There was a muffled grunt from under him.

“Jess?” he called out again. “Grab my EMD. It should be near the torch.”

“Get off me and I’ll get it.” The half audible reply came from underneath him.

“What?” Becker asked in surprised confusion.

“Get off me.” Jess said again, pushing him away with all her strength.
“I’ll get it if you promise not to shoot Rupert.”

“Rupert?” Becker was now totally bewildered. “Jess what the hell are you talking about?” He had gotten to his feet, and was pulling Jess up off the ground. ”And why did you tackle me. I had a clear shot.”

“In the dark?” she replied, her voice both incredulous and annoyed. “You couldn’t see what you were shooting at any more than I could.”

“Eye shine, Jess. I located our creature when I flipped on the torch.”

“I saw it too.” Jess’s tone changed from defiant to sheepish. “And I couldn’t let you shoot Rupert.”

“For God’s sake, Jess, who or what is Rupert.” Becker forced himself to keep his voice flat and unemotional. He wasn’t going to be angry with her, at least not until he had the whole story from her.

“Just a minute.”

Before Becker could stop her she had trotted into the darkness. He heard her make a strange clucking soothing noise, then a few minutes later she was standing next to his side, and from her arms he could hear the distinct sound of very, exuberant purring. In them she held a jet black cat.

“A cat?” Becker asked.

‘Not just a cat,” Jess continued. “A cat I lost almost twelve years ago.”

“A ghost cat?”

“No.” Jess sounded a bit miffed and there was a low growl from the feline in her arms. Then Jess sighed heavily. “Let’s walk back to the car please. I’m cold, and I’m afraid, a bit bruised.”

Becker recovered the still lit torch from where it had fallen, picked up his EMD, only slightly muddy, and followed her back to their vehicle.

“Okay,” he began. “Where does Rupert fit in to all this?” he asked as they once again settled into the front seat of the car, Rupert curling into Jess’s lap, purring once again in a very loud manner.

“He proves Connor’s theory.”

Becker waited for her to continue.

“Do you remember how I told you I had come here as a child with my mother?”

Becker nodded though she wasn’t really waiting for him to answer.

“Well, Rupert lived at the inn in we stayed in. He wasn’t supposed to leave the grounds, but I was tired of looking at stones with my mother and one day I snuck Rupert out of the Inn in my pack. I thought we would play while my mother made notes and sketches. Only, there was this funny wavy shift in the tall grass. Rupert walked into the grass. And never came out.”

“Until this evening.”

Jess nodded vigorously. “My mother made me explain to the innkeeper how lost his cat. Except I couldn’t because, I didn’t know what had happened. But I do now. ”

“You still can’t really explain to the innkeeper what happened to his cat you know.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a different innkeeper.” Jess smiled - a great joyous smile of relief and vindication. “But I know what happened now. Those flickers of energy are mini anomalies. At least this one was apparently a very short term event. Only twelve years or so.“

So this time round the Callanish spirit was nothing more than the innkeeper’s cat. Becker sighed and rested his head against the back of the seat, his eyes closed. He wasn’t sure he would ever be comfortable with Jess being anywhere except manning her station at the ADD, safe and secure in the ARC. She was going to get a serious debriefing about proper field operations when they got back to headquarters. But in the meantime, he was just glad to see her smiling.

There was just one point he needed to emphasize before they got back to the ARC.

“Do me a favor, Jess,” he said as sat up and started the car’s motor. “When we report about Rupert’s sudden and miraculous re-appearance to Matt and Connor we don’t have to tell them all the details about his capture.” I have the feeling the teasing about my gun happy nature would be endless if they found out I almost shot an innocent cat, he added only to himself.


The End

Comments

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Very nice job on this fic :)
Thank! Glad you enjoyed it!
Terrific match of fic and artwork
Thank you! I figured the important part of the challenge was to really make the fic fit the art. Glad it worked.

Very atmospheric fic with Becker and Jess so in-character. LOL at Talk to Jess, should have been ‘listen’ to Jess.


Yay for Rupert being back!
Yeah. I could see Jess, excited about a field assignment, a field assignment with Becker no less, and a fountain of information in her head just wanting to spill out.

Lovely story :)

It's a really nice idea and the mini anomalies are very clever.

And naturally I was very pleased by Rupert's homecoming. Becker being restrained from shooting a cat is great. *g*
I have a feeling Becker would have been made to feel pretty bad if he had actually stunned Rupert.

Glad you enjoyed the story.
Lovely fic and yay for Rupert coming home. Hee, Becker will be teased if Matt or Connor finds out ;)
Of course, while Jess is explaining just how she came to have a cat (he did come through the anomaly, so she has to report it as part of the research) I suppose it might just slip out that Becker almost stunned him.

Aww, that's a really nice take on the art :-) I like the idea of the mini anomalies, and the creepy eyes turning out to be Rupert (of course Becker would want to shoot *anything* that came through an anomaly if Abby isn't around to stop him!) and that the cat found his way home even if it was a little late. Presumably Jess will have to keep him now. I did laugh at their differing ideas of what constituted sensible shoes. Lovely job.

(LJ is working okay for me - would you like me to cross post the art and fic to Becker_Jess together as a single post?)
I am so glad you liked it. My original idea was to do a darker story, but Rupert had other ideas. I immediately decided they were cat's eyes when I saw the art (which is lovely and a real pleasure to write about).

Please do post the story to Becker-Jess along with your art as one post.
Hee! That was wonderful. And yay for the return of Rupert. You did a lovely job of describing the setting, really lovely. Becker was his usual funny self, it was a great read! Thank you :D
And thank you for your generous comments. I'm glad you liked it. Rupert's alter ego (he has the same golden eyes) is Angus.
This worked so well and was a lovely accompaniment to the artwork. :D
Thank you! It was a fun project. There was so much inspiring artwork for this challenge.
Lovely story! The mini-anomalies are an excellent idea, and Rupert's home-coming is wonderful!!
Thanks! I thought Rupert coming home would be a good way to prove that these little anomalies only cover a very short period of time.
Clever and heart-warming.
This is really lovely :)
That was a great story! I loved Becker's reactions to Jess being her usual charming yet slightly wacky self. The whole idea was very clever and there was a great sense of place, plus it turning out to be a cat (named Rupert! that Becker had to be restrained from shooting!) was fabulous. Of course Jess will keep Rupert now, yes? And Becker will come to visit him? :D
Aww! Rupert!
Very much enjoyed this story - I love it when Jess gets to leave the ARC, and I particularly loved the Jecker-esque feel to it.

Lovely! :)
Really lovely :)
Awww, that was a lovely fic. I really don't think Becker and Jess are ever going to see eye to eye on the subject of appropriate clothing and behaviour on field ops, but at least he knew better than to give Jess a lecture about it.

And quite apart from almost shooting a cat, I don't think he will be too keen for the others to know that Jess managed to tackle him to the ground either!
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