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Justin OOC

Chapter 2: Heart of Dixie

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Gerald Locke scowled as he hit the alarm next to his bed.   Another day, another 5am.  He got up for his morning run around the barracks, noting that he still drew looks from alot of the personnel.   The first mission with his team had been a success, but it wasn't one to be overly proud of.  Casper, Fiona, and Kiera, all killed, fighting a monster that turned out to not be real.  It was the first case of Free-moving Quantum Construct that had been witnessed, and it took the combined efforts of Five novas to drive away.

Sonja and Abigail had barely made it out of the fight, and regrouped with Locke and Temple.  Knowing they were dealing with a quantum powered enemy, tactics were adjusted, and a trap was set.  

A convoy was sent to the destroyed facility, ostensibly to salvage and rebuild,  and like clockwork, more Raptors and the Rex returned.  This time, Locke had Temple essentially trace the mind of the controller, stealing images of The "Alpha" for the raptor, and controller of the Rex. Revealed to be within the Rex itself.  There were flashes of the past, a life as a young man, who became a monster,  no longer human.   There was no explanation for the other species, the coordination, only that somehow he'd become their Alpha.

Coordinating firepower, and buying time, Temple, Locke and Sonja kept him busy in one place, while hidden from view, Abigail had painted the target.   The Airstrike did the rest, destroying the Rex construct, and killing a number of raptors.  Locke himself had administered the coup de grace, placing his gun to the inhuman nova's head, and ending the nova threat.   What followed was routine cleanup, the extermination of the raptor nest, and the pteranodon nest for good measure.


The Aftermath was rough, but they picked up, and returned to base, bringing their dead home and burying them with honors.  

It had been two weeks, and new novas were being brought in to bring the team back to six.  Director Gaalf had defended Locke, stating that they had dealt with the threat, and considering the losses that the single nova had already inflicted, and how many more it stood to inflict, ending the threat was worth the cost.  Thankfully the higher level discussions had been kept from everyone but Locke, who had to be present, the fact the novas were thought of as expendable assets wouldn't go over well.  


Of greater concern was what had happened to create "Rex" as he was being called.  This wasn't the first time a nova had become a monster, and it was showing to be accompanied with much greater power, at the cost of humanity.  Locke himself had first hand experience, witnessing the effects in another nova, but he tried not to think about it.  Clearly research would need to be done, but he was concerned, If this became a more common occurrence, humanity might consider novas a bigger threat than the beasts that now shared the world with them.  They had all had blood taken from them, samples for testing to see if there was anything to be determined from their exposure.
After his run and shower, he dressed and ate in the mess.   Nine am came around and he waited in the assigned meeting room for his team, Mission details in files set on the table.  The new mission would be taking them to Birmingham, Alabama.  A request had come in through the highest levels for a Nova team to respond and help with several missing person incidents.  Perhaps it was overkill to send the whole team, but a nice relaxed mission would do the team some good and allow the integration of their new members without being in combat.

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Marshall and Semp growled as the door to the kennel clanged shut, but neither of them attacked the structure. Progress, James thought happily, passing a piece of beef jerky through the bars to the boys. They each took their piece, with Marshall watching to make sure Semper Fi ate all of his -- if not, the more aggressive Marshall would steal it. James tended to let them work out their differences between themselves.

She turned to the pale MP assigned to watch the two dinosaurs. “Call me if they start to go after the bars,” she instructed firmly as she let him see the earbud she was inserting into her right ear. “I’ll be listening on channel ten.”

“Channel ten,” he repeated, swallowing hard. “Ma’am? If they do start to get out -- what should I do?”

“Call me.” She smiled at him. “They won’t get out.” Not before I get back here to stop them. After weeks of training on kenneling, she was well aware of exactly how long it would take them to get through the hinges on the door, which they had quickly learned was the weakest point.

The MP looked like he might vomit but he nodded. She hid a sigh. The only way the raptors could prove they were not a threat was to never once to give into their instincts. She knew that was impossible, but she knew she could restrain it. It was more than she was “Mom” and “alpha”; it was that whatever power she had let her relate to them better. It wasn’t control, but it was better anyway in her opinion.

The boys secured, James went to her meeting. She wasn’t looking forward to it. She needed this job, and some part of her was happy to be back on the front lines. She wasn’t as eager to deal with the suspicion she faced on a daily basis now. The boys were great but people were afraid of them. She got it; they were her babies but they were dangerous animals.

She was early enough to be surprised when she saw someone else in the room. Locke. Keeping her worry off her face, she lifted her chin and joined him. “Dr. Locke,” she said in her soft voice, offering her hand. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

Edited by James Walker
Damnit, he's a Doctor, Jim!

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Like a good soldier, Davaian arrived only a few minutes early - not enough to be annoying, but giving himself time for any short interruptions that might pop up on his way to the meeting. It felt good to be out of the labs and back in an assignement, even if it was working with a group of people whose main commonality was that that they were anything but common. He'd read everything he'd been given on the CRRD and his new team; he hoped the civilians would be able to keep up with the rest of them. Certainly after what happened to previous group. There aren't enough novas in the world to lose so many each time we take down a threat.

He entered the room with crisp confidence, nodding politely to the two others already there. He could spot the fellow marine; she may not have been in uniform, but once a marine, always a marine. He was in his service uniform, the greens and khakis contrasting with the muted blue tones of the meeting room. He pulled off his coat and hat, draping them over his arm, and made his way to one of the empty chairs. To occupy his time until the rest of the unit arrive, he flipped open the mission file and reviewed the papers inside.

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Abigail was doing her typical morning PT regimen, 'burpies' at the moment, when she saw Dr. Locke jog by. She smiled and nodded to him as she continued her exercises, but the smile was a bit forced. It had only been two weeks since the team's first mission.. a mission that, though successful in the end, Abigail could not help but feel was a failure. Half of the team was killed fighting that... thing.. and mostly civilians too. Abigail tried to make sure the tame all made it out alive, but against that thing... They had signed on and knew they were risking their lives as part of the team, and Abigail had lost men a couple of times before, but it was a rare occurrence, and one she was not yet accustomed to... and hopefully never would be.

Pushing it from her mind for now, Abigail continued with her PT. She had made the offer to the others to join her, but she doubted what good it would do for somebody like Sonja and Temple.. well.. she was usually not on good terms with her alarm clock. Abigail had spent the last few weeks spending time with the rest of the team, spending as much time as she could with them, bonding and trying to build friendship and camaraderie. Off duty, she was pretty relaxed and sometimes even a bit quiet, but still warm and friendly and certainly liked to laugh. On duty she spent her time trying to help prepare them as much as she could for their next mission. Offering to spar, PT, and put in time at the firing range, giving them all the help and pointers she could as well as offering lessons on basic tactics and survival. They may have lost three already, but she was determined not to lose a fourth.

So Abigail pushed on and finished her PT, then showered and changed before heading to the mess hall for a quick breakfast. Checking the time on her watch her made her way over to the meeting room. She knocked politely at the door before walking in.

Abigail had dark brown hair, pinned back conservatively and wore a camouflaged Army Combat Uniform with her tan beret secured on the shoulder and the name "BOYDE" displayed on the chest. On her arm she carried the rank insignia of an Army Staff Sergeant as well as the Ranger tab. For a nova, she seemed perfectly normal, though obviously (to many) part Eskimo and she possessed a casual grace and a calm, confident demeanor.

"Doctor." she greeted Locke with a nod before turning to the new arrivals.

She walked up to each of them and offered a handshake and introduction with greeting, "Abigail Boyde. Good to meet you and welcome to the team." to each before pulling out a chair and taking a seat.

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Sonja stood at the bathroom sink, looking at herself in the mirror as she dried and brushed her pale, shoulder-length hair after taking a shower. Though she was grateful the CRRD had renovated her quarters for someone of her stature, she still found them rather utilitarian for her tastes and the ceiling low for someone who stood eight feet tall. I'll have to see if I can have a separate cabin constructed so I can stretch out...

But it was an idle thought. Two weeks after her first mission with the CRRD, Sonja was still dealing with the aftermath. She wasn't as mentally prepared to lose teammates as the military-trained members of the team were, but she had lost people she was close to as well, had known for months or years, on the set of Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and her acting skills put her in good stead to show a calm face to the public.

The truth was, she was feeling more sorry and concerned for herself. Not particularly surprising for someone who used to be the preeminent female entertainer in the world, but perhaps not for the reason most people would believe. Finding out the true nature of the Rex had brought back the nightmares she had suffered when she had first been super-sized.

The nightmare that she'd keep growing, taller and bigger and more muscular until she was a distorted monstrosity of a woman the size of King Kong.

In the year and a bit since her... growth spurt, she'd grown another two inches until she stood eight feet even, but what she saw in the mirror no longer disgusted her. Inconveniently tall, true, and if she was more muscular than she had ever intended being, more so than the personal trainer who'd gotten her in shape to play Black Widow even, she could now she see that she wasn't excessively or unattractively so. Hell, she knew there were more than a few fanboys who would have preferred this physique for that part and if she hadn't been contracted to Marvel, everyone would have demanded her to play Wonder Woman.

Especially with these, Sonja smirked, looking down and shrugging. Always considered well-endowed as an actress and super-model, those had blossomed even more as well, though with her heavier build, they still suited her frame instead of looking completely disproportionate. Now, Marvel was in talks with her to re-work things and have Black Widow become She-Hulk in their Cinematic Universe.

Still, even if she didn't really think it would happen, the fear of her nightmare becoming true lingered in the back of her mind, a fear grown slightly larger with the advent of the twisted Nova they had encountered.

Sonja dropped her towel and clothing fogged into existence about her, forming a stylish, knee-length dress seemingly made of obsidian, a matching pair of shoes - flats since heels would be excessive - and a choker of platinum and black diamonds. At least finding clothing and accessories for someone her size had never been a problem for Sonja. Her only real power had been an infinite wardrobe.

Cleaned and dressed, Sonja got around to dealing with some business matters before heading to meeting. Though she had taken Abigail's offer and trained with her, mostly in hand-to-hand combat, armed and unarmed, since it took the most advantage of her incredible strength, and to a lesser extent, in firearms and PT, she'd taken this morning to manage her own affairs. The paycheck she received from the government was quaint compared to what she made for a film or a music tour and her other business interests.

She made some decisions in regards to her clothing factories in Bangladesh and put the initial steps into motion for opening another one, then did a brief look through the scripts her agent determined were worth her time. Did a quick Skype conference with the rest of the members of Choosers of the Slain about working on the new album, then looked through the trade news that only those really involved in the entertainment industry saw.

Her lips quirked in amusement and yes, even some envy, at the new model who was taking the fashion world by storm. Sonja had to admit, this model Sean was way more attractive than she was and certainly looked like she was designed by a teenaged boy. It wasn't even a contest, which pricked the pride of a woman who had been named the sexiest and most beautiful in the world more than once. But after facing dinos in the flesh, even if she was wasn't fully reconciled to her enormous size, Sonja would take the super strength over the super looks.

Well... most of the time.

Sonja stopped by the mess hall to consume a huge breakfast her mass demanded. While the cafeteria food wasn't as horrible as she imagined it would be, it was hardly anything special. I should at least get them a cappuccino maker because the coffee isn't fit to clean an engine with. Sonja made a note in her smartphone as she perused the mission file while finishing her breakfast. If people still stared at the sight of her, at least she'd been on base long enough that they gave her space when she was eating.

Done, she left for her meeting on time, if not early. She had no use for Diva behavior, from herself or others. Which was probably why there were more than a few female musicians and actresses who hated her guts. I'd just love for J.Lo to make some uppity comment to me now. With a wry smirk on her face, Sonja ducked low and hunched her shoulders to squeeze through the door to the meeting room. She wasn't first, but she wasn't expecting to be with the military types around.

"Good morning," Sonja said in a deep, rich voice that most would recognize, giving Abigail a smile and nodding at James and Davian in greeting as she shook their hands and exchanged introductions. She was glad to see there was a chair setup to bear someone of her size and mass - she had several commissioned and shipped to the base - and sat down, crossing fantastically long, strong legs. "A pleasure to meet you both. I commend you both for joining the CRRD." Her lips curved into a self-deprecating grin. "I reconsider what I'm doing here everyday."

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When Dr. Locke had exchanged pleasantries and made it clear -- politely -- that he wasn’t interested in small talk, James took a seat. As always, getting off her feet sent a wave of relief through her right leg, and she resisted the urge to rub it. Instead, she fiddled with her hair and then the radio -- anything to not pick up her phone and lose herself in news or a game. It wasn’t particularly professional to bury your nose in a screen, at least in her mind, so she persisted in quiet boredom.

The Major that entered drew her attention immediately. His uniform took her right back to the service, and she found herself once again missing the Corp. She’d felt like she belonged there; like she was home, and then it had all been taken away. She managed a civil nod; she didn’t want her mixed feelings about the Marines to tarnish the professional relationship they would need.

Boyde didn’t inspire the same irritation but James was beginning to wonder if she and Locke were the only civilians. “James Walker,” she told Boyde as she took the offered handshake. “Glad to be here.”

It was mostly true. She wouldn’t have exposed herself or the boys if not for Oscar. She needed the job -- not just for the money, but to give Social Services the belief that her raptors were working animals and not just pets. Her nephew’s social worker still wasn’t too sure about the situation, but someone in CRRD had spoken up for her. Just for that, James was ready to give them her all.

Still, it was a relief when another civilian entered the room by ducking through the door. That explains the chairs, she thought wryly, remembering wondering what was up with the oversized, heavy seats she’d seen in various places on the base. She’d suspected they were for Sonja Bahaar, but she hadn’t expected to be working with her. In real life, she was a little overwhelming, which James tried to ignore. She wears her pants the same way I do, she thought, reminding herself of her father’s favorite saying about any famous person. Of course, not the same pants, and hers look better on her, but still. That thought allowed her to shake hands and give her name without embarrassing herself, at least.

Quote

“Good morning,” Sonja said in a deep, rich voice that most would recognize, giving Abigail a smile and nodding at James and Davian in greeting as she shook their hands and exchanged introductions. “A pleasure to meet you both. I commend you both for joining the CRRD.” Her lips curved into a self-deprecating grin. “I reconsider what I'm doing here everyday.”

James blinked at the odd statement and glanced quickly at Locke to see his reaction.

Edited by James Walker
Fixing formatting

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Cpl Diaz, a very shapely woman dressed in jungle fatigues, was playing pool with Capt. Sawyer, an Air Force helicopter pilot who had been with Para rescue until an insertion went bad. That had happened about a year ago their flight had been swarmed by pterosaurs of some type (not that she cared) She had gotten everyone out but the capt. he had been impaled by one of the flying lizards, but she at least didn't let him die alone. Diaz had joined the ghosts during the last mission along with six other soldiers. Anyway Diaz and Sawyer were playing pool a couple of other ghosts were there watching and talking smack to the players, even her sister was there. The whole scene was surreal, Temple thought she must be dreaming but she was super aware of everything. The ghosts don't interact, she thought to herself. Ted Copeland turned and looked at her and shook his head.

"Of course we interact what else do we have to do in here?"

Ted was the only ghost in her head who hadn't been killed by a dinosaur. He had been a civil engineering volunteer on the Palo Verde Mission, he had fallen forty feet of a walkway and broken his back and suffered internal injuries. She had been right there ready to step him to the base hospital but they wouldn't let her go until they had stablized him for movement. He died while they were working on him. he blamed her for not just grabbing him and stepping. One way or the other they all blamed her.

Temple just stared at him until her sister spoke.

"Hey stupid, your gonna be late for your support group"


 

Temple opened her eyes and sat up she was sandwiched between two bodies which were very hot and she was sweating. The woman, soft and plump with very large breasts, made some sort of sound somewhere between a moan and a grunt and rolled over away from her. On her right was a thin muscular african-american man, he was naked too and she drew a deep breath remembering the evenings activities. with a sigh she stepped out of the bed and gathered her belongings, then stepped to her quarters on base.

She needed a shower.


 

Dr. Locke looked at the new team they were all here except Temple of course. Ten minutes after Nine. He picked up his phone.

"Excuse me for a minute." he said to the team and he turned his back away from them and hit his speed dial.

"Yeah?"

"Where are you, Temple?"

"In the bathroom."

Locke closed his eyes and drew a deep calming breath.

"We are waiting on you,everyone else is here. On time."

"Ok, be right there."


 

Temple stepped into the Briefing room appearing silently near the front desk. Those new to the team were shocked at the sudden appearance of the young woman. Those who were veterans, while startled, were not surprised.

The young redhead was wearing plaid pajama bottoms and a white wife-beater t-shirt, Her long hair was wet and combed straight back. She was barefoot. A toothbrush in her mouth and a smart phone in her left hand. She dropped the phone into a pocket of the pajama bottom, spit into the garbage can at her feet, then smiled at Dr. Locke.

"Morning Doc, sorry I'm late was... up late."

She paused looking for a place to put the toothbrush before dropping it into the garbage can to join the foamy spit. She looked at the rest of the people in the room nodding to the sarge and the amazon, then sizing up the two new additions to the team. She pulled a crushed pack of camels and a lighter from her waist band and lit a cigarette.

"So, you two must be the new bait."

 

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Locke Scowled at this latest incident.  Much of what had been said was fine, Sonja's comment was abit worrisome, but then again, she could be doing things alot less dangerous.  He would have comment privately, but not before the whole team.  This was a choice she had made, the others, mostly, it was orders.  

 Temple's defiance, her acting out, had begun to grate on both himself and Director Gaalf.   If her abilities weren't so useful, he'd have already put in the paperwork to have her discharged, and sent somewhere she might get real help.   It was a moot point, because no one could force her to stay anywhere,  and short of putting her down, nothing would really stop it.


"You know very well how to work an alarm clock, and that you're to report to these meetings dressed for work, not like you just rolled out of bed.   You may not respect me, the CRRD, but you will at least respect your teammates, the people who are going to have to rely on you.   Now put that cigarette out and sit down so we can get started.  Once we finish, you will go back to your quarters, dress properly for a field mission and meet us on the tarmac.  IS that clear?"   It wasn't that Locke raised his voice, it was the way that he was so even, it was so quiet, as if exerting great control.  It was in the quiet, she heard the ghost of a growl in coming ostensibly from his mind, and could see a brief glimpse of those two glowing red eyes.

The moment passed, and Temple turned slowly to face Dr. Locke, take along drag blow it in his direction , drop the cig in the trashcan, and say "Didn't want to keep y'all waiting besides don't know where we are going so how was i to know how to dress. besides i might need some help to do it properly. maybe you should come over and make sure i do it right' then she will lick her lip turn back to the room and go sit down next to the stiff backed marine... she even scoot her chair closer to him.  Locke motioned for the others to be seated, those who weren't already, and nodded.  "Now, we can begin.  We have been reinforced with two new teammates, Davian Layton, from the Marine Corps, and James Walker, also from the Corps."  He smiled and looked at her.  "Once a Marine, always a Marine  Welcome to you both. I'm sure you've seen the briefing on the previous mission, so there's no need to go into more detail about what happened.  You each have unique abilities that will be invaluable to our success, so it's good to have you aboard.   I admit I have my reservations regarding the "boys" Miss Walker, but enough have vouched for your abilities for this to be green-lit.  Understand that I expect you personally to handle any difficulties that arise."

He tapped on the pad before him, and the wall screen flicked on, revealing a map of Birmingham Alabama, with a half dozen red markers on it.  "We've received a request to aid local law enforcement in a number of missing persons cases that have cropped up in Birmingham.   No bodies have been found, and We did send one of our telepathic agents there a week ago, but she found nothing in four days.  Shortly before she was to return, she went missing as well, without a trace, yesterday morning.    More than that, an entire research team from The university of Alabama's biology department vanished without a trace yesterday afternoon in a green zone, one of the areas east of the city which was somewhat rare, an area with a normal pre-cascade ecosystem.  We are tasked with getting to the bottom of these disappearances, Clearing that green zone if the need arises, and finding our missing agent.  Her name is Serenity Collins, for your reading on the flight over, I've provided you her dossier.  She's a Graduate from Berkley that was working for us.   Her powers are not as Direct as others, but are well suited to scouring a large area quickly.  She is also US Senator Robert Collins' daughter, it's likely that is why a full nova team is being dispatched."

Locke looked at each of them.  "We'll be in both urban and natural environments, so there will be teams for this once again.  Are there any questions?  We will be drawing gear as normal, but we have been asked to pack somwhat lighter than last time, as we may not be dealing solely with the military, if we do at all.   Mostly we will be working with local law enforcement, so plan accordingly."

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5 minutes ago, Justin OOC said:

 

Locke motioned for the others to be seated, those who weren't already, and nodded.  "Now, we can begin.  We have been reinforced with two new teammates, Davian Layton, from the Marine Corps, and James Walker, also from the Corps."  He smiled and looked at her.  "Once a Marine, always a Marine  Welcome to you both. I'm sure you've seen the briefing on the previous mission, so there's no need to go into more detail about what happened.  You each have unique abilities that will be invaluable to our success, so it's good to have you aboard.   I admit I have my reservations regarding the "boys" Miss Walker, but enough have vouched for your abilities for this to be green-lit.  Understand that I expect you personally to handle any difficulties that arise."

 

Temple have sat down next to the handsome marine leans forward and looks past him at the attractive woman sitting beyond. She looks at her for several seconds before leaning back while the Doc droned on, absentmindedly thumbing through the brief until the doc finished. As soon as silence fell onto the room she raised her hand, knowing full well she would pay for this later, but what the hell, she thought, in for a dollar.

Locke look at her and considered ignoring her.

"What Temple?"

Temple leaned forward again and looked at the Walker chick.

"You're name is... James?"  she asked somewhat skeptically.

 

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There was always one. James had suspected that Faire might be the One when she was more than five minutes past due and her arrival confirmed that.

The “One” was something her first Sergeant taught her. There was always one person in any unit or team, no matter how big or small, who didn’t want to be there. They did their best to make sure no one else wanted them there either. James had asked why they didn’t just quit, and Sergeant Casings just stared at her and said, “If they weren’t here, they’d just be alone and miserable. At least here, if they make people miserable, they have company.” It was a simplistic answer, but to a nineteen year old fresh out of basic, it seemed high wisdom indeed.

The real problem with people like Faire was that they liked to pick. They found weak spots on a person and pushed on them to see what happened. Determined to not be picked at, she ignored the woman for now. Still, she hated the idea that she had to depend on this woman for her life, much less Marshall’s and Semp’s. She felt a surge of sympathy for Major Layton when Faire choose a seat next to him, and then obviously moved a little closer to him.

The briefing specifics had her eyebrows going up. None of this sounded good, and she understood exactly why they were bringing her raptors in at this point. Bait indeed, she thought grimly, knowing that the boys would be front and center for whatever was coming. Faire had just been wrong about which who would be cast out on the line.*

In the silence after Locke’s briefing, Faire raised her hand. And here we go, James sighed to herself.

Locke look at her, weighing his response. The look on his face suggested that he was speak against his better judgment. "What, Temple?"

Temple leaned forward and looked right at her. "Your name is... James?"  she asked somewhat skeptically.

“Yes,” James answered coolly before turning back to Locke. “Are the local LEO’s--” She pronounced the ancornum as a single word, Leos, “willingly letting us into the investigation, and do they know about Marshall and, and Semper Fi?” She fought a slight blush at Semp’s name, all-too-aware that the Major might take exception to a raptor named “Always Faithful.”

 

*Just to be clear, this is James’s opinion, as she’s a little paranoid about the way they plan to use the raptors.

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Davian glanced at Temple when she flounced down next to him, his gaze cooly assessing. After her, he checked the trash can to be sure the cigarette had burned out harmlessly and not set anything on fire. Lexi used to do th- He cut the thought off forcefully and focused back on the briefing. He arched a brow at the names, a smile tugging on the edges of his lips. "More to the point," he rumbled in a pleasantly low voice, "will they have been told not to fire on the raptors? They're far too valuable to be lost to a leo's nervous trigger finger."

He thumbed through the file he'd been given again and added, "Also, was Ms. Collins sent into the area alone?" 

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Temple falls back in her chair and crosses her arms a bit annoyed at the new girls abrupt dismissal. She was about to turn snarky when her brain registered the word Raptor. She stopped, looked at the marine while she played back the stuf she hadnt been paying attention too.

2 hours ago, Davian Layton said:

He arched a brow at the names, a smile tugging on the edges of his lips. "More to the point," he rumbled in a pleasantly low voice, "will they have been told not to fire on the raptors? They're far too valuable to be lost to a leo's nervous trigger finger."

He thumbed through the file he'd been given again and added, "Also, was Ms. Collins sent into the area alone?" 

"Wait, why would we not want the cops to shoot raptors?"

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Locke looked at James and nodded.  "LEO's will allow us to join the investigation.  One of the Advantages of the CRRD is that an agent of sufficient backing can take charge of nearly any investigation or operation.  They have not been told about your boys yet, however, there are no known raptor sightings around Birmingham, so they'll stand out.  I plan to have you operating outside the city, hopefully to keep civilian contact with the raptors to a minimum, just in case.  I figure they'll have an easier time in that setting than an urban one.  To be on the safe side, we will send them a briefing on the boys, and even make a few radio broadcasts using the EBS, just to catch everyone."

"Agent Collins was sent in alone because her skill-set was deemed up to the task assigned her.  She is a combat trained agent, though not a soldier by any stretch. Understand initially, this was just a missing person's case the locals asked for help with because it was occurring so rapidly, with no trace.  One operative was all the agency thought needed.  Since that time it has revised this assessment, and that's where we come in."

His gaze finally settled on Temple.  "Yes, James has raised and trained a pair of velociraptors.  They are not to be harmed.   If there is a problem, it will fall to Miss Walker to handle it."

 

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Temple stared at Locke.

"Trained?"

She looked at James unbelieving.

"Raptors?"

She looks back at Locke.

"You have got to be fucking out of your mind. After everything I have told you people about these fucking monsters, After everything they have done to us. And now you have a nova who can talk to them and control them, for christs sake you just put a bullet thru the head of someone who could do the same goddamned thing. And now you want to bring fucking raptors to our fucking party?"

She is visibly shaking with anger, her face turning red. Her eyes are locked on Locke.

"Maybe you need a reminder of just what these fuckers do."

Spoiler

Temple will intiiate a telepathic link to dr.locke. if she penetrates his shield she will communicate the deathes of all her ghosts.

 

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Temple's outburst was expected, her forceful psionic display was not.  Locke got to see a gory montage of all the killings Temple had seen, he could smell and taste the blood, vomit and gore, and everyone could see his eyes change, glowing a brilliant Red.   Those attuned to quantum senses could feel a massive surge of quantum coming from him, and slowly, it backed off. 

"Never. Do. That. Again."   his voice was barely calm, and the red glow faded from his eyes,  as slowly he returned to normal.  Blinking he scowled.  "I am more aware than you what these animals are capable of.   The same was said of wolves, before they became dogs, and many other animals man has domesticated.   We already have learned how best to kill them, so what remains is how to mutually coexist.  I wish it was a species other than Raptors, aside from the Rex, they're the boogeyman species everyone knows.   There are others that are FAR more terrifying.  But what we have are raptors, and you will not harm them.  Am I clear?"

"I realize you all just saw something happen with me, no I am NOT at Liberty to speak about it, and with any luck you won't ever see it again.   I am part of an ongoing study, one that will hopefully save the lives of novas around the world.  Do not ask for more, but once it's declassified, you will be the first I discuss it with."

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She glowers at Locke and his secrets.

"They aren't animals and you know it. I'm going to go get dressed. You might want to tell the rest of them what I do. They might not want me here to see their secrets."

Temple steps away.

 

Spoiler

FYI :Temple in her mind refers to her teleportation as stepping.

 

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James let out a breath, slowly, trying not to let the others see her irritation. She’d been expecting that, so it hadn’t been so much surprise as politeness that didn’t let her correct Faire’s error. When the younger woman Stepped away even as she opened her mouth, James’s temper flared. Her hands knotted into fists as she resisted the urge to chase Faire down and make her listen. Calm your ass down, she ordered, imagining it was her father telling her that. As always, the memory of his composure calmed her.

“I have to clarify something,” James told the room in the stunned/annoyed silence following Temple’s exit. “And it’s something I’ll clarify with Faire later. I don’t control Marshall and Semp. They’re trained from hatching, and she’s right, they’re dangerous. Once I’m assigned to a permanent team, I hope to work with the members to mitigate some of those dangers. But for now, please remember these are trained, semi-wild creatures. They are also juveniles yet, so they are only three feet at the shoulder.

“In fact, I might as well tell you right now,” James took a deep breath, her throat tightening. “If I’m incapacitated, don’t hesitate to shoot Marshall if he acts aggressive toward someone. He’s a little larger and has more green to his scales. Semp is more olive colored and often defers to Marshall. If this seems confusing, don’t worry. It’s my job to handle them, and they’ll be fine so long as I am.” She grinned crookedly. “No pressure to keep me alive or anything.”

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I wonder just how much oversight Faire is going to demand, especially with the raptors around. Inwardly he sighed, he hadn't had to deal with raw recruits in years, and even then, they'd wanted to be there. A petulant nova teen, even if she was older she was acting like a teen, commandeered into the middle of war and now on his team -  that was a scenerio he hadn't ever wanted to deal with. Davian nodded at Walker's words, though he didn't seem pleased at the prospect of having to put down the closest thing they had to tame-ish 'raptors.

He rose and asked, "Would you mind introducing them to me before we head on out the mission? I think it would be best to start the familiarization process with the rest of the team a quickly as we can, to see if getting them acclimating to working with anyone else is even possible." 

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Sonja sighed and rolled her eyes in exasperation at Temple's unprofessional entrance and angry exit. A lifetime in Hollywood exposed her to plenty of eccentric and extreme behavior and she was aware that the nature of Temple's... gifts made her in serious need of a therapist, but that didn't mean Sonja didn't find it irritating.

And whatever she had tried to do to Locke had been far more than merely irritating. Sonja shivered at those balefully glowing red eyes that owed nothing to CGI. Creepy, but she simply nodded when Locked said he'd tell them about it later. NDAs were found everywhere. Maybe even more often in the military than in the entertainment industry, she thought wryly.

The revelation about the Raptors that would be accompany them under the care of the oddly named woman made Sonja shift uncomfortably, which she hid under the pretense of recrossing her legs. Considering what had happened on the tragic set of Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, the huge woman wasn't particularly enthused about finding out she would be working along side some dinos again.

On the other hand, this time, there were only two of them and regardless of the reputation Velociraptors had, they only came up to her thighs. She'd keep an eye on them, but they weren't really dangerous, not to her at any rate. Her indigo eyes shifted between Walker and Locke in curiosity.

"So, the CRRD is trying out a saurian version of a K9 unit?"

Sonja didn't offer to meet the raptors like Layton did, but throughout the meeting, she found her attention wandering back to the Marine with an intense sense of familiarity. Davian Layton, Davian Layton, the name rang a bell, but the image that came with it bore no semblance to the clean cut, upright Marine.

Then she blinked and her mouth dropped open for a moment. The children of the wealthy, famous, and influential tended to travel in the same circles, the same parties. She hadn't precisely been a wild child or a party girl, but her career had just been taking off - she'd just been signed as a Fashion Model and had walked her first catwalk - and the parties were a great opportunity to network and make connections with producers, directors, agents, and photographers, either directly or through their offspring.

Davian Layton and his twin sister had been regulars on the circuit. Her lips closed in a faint frown. She had had her fun - and wouldn't TMZ love to know everything! - had taken advantage of the opportunities and gotten out on her way to fame and fortune. It hadn't ended so sweetly for Davian. She'd heard he'd been packed off to military school or something, but had certainly never expected to see him again when she joined CRRD.

It really was true that Truth was stranger than fiction.

She wouldn't bring up his past of course, since he done so much to put it behind him it seemed, but she certainly intended to speak with him later. If nothing it else, it would be nice to talk with someone who came from a similar background. A background similar to one that had entire team of novas looking for one missing woman.

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Locke looked at James and shook his head.  "Sonja's comment is the most apt, I would equate this to a K-9 unit, though even juvenile raptors are more dangerous than a grown german shepherd.  I too would like to meet them, and hopefully get them somewhat acclimated to us, but we do not have the time.  Since they're already crated, I don't want to get them riled up before we have to put them back in for the flight to Alabama.  Once we're on the ground we'll take some time to handle that, before we get started."

He looked to each of them.  "If there are no further questions, you can draw your gear from the quartermaster, and pack anything you may need, We leave in forty five minutes."  He sent Temple a text with the departure time, and the runway to meet them on.

(you can post what you're doing and getting for gear and then get onto the plane.  my next post will be us getting to the destination.)

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Abigail quietly took in a slow, deep breath and let out a soft sigh and Temple's reaction. She understood where Temple was coming from though, heck, she was too thrilled about the idea of raptors coming along either. 

But Abigail knew the value of working animals, both as a civilian growing up in Alaska, and as a solider. Dogs pulling sleds could go places that quads and snowmachines could not, and a good guard or hunting dodg was always an asset. In the Army she had worked with K9 teams where the dogs could sniff out explosoves, drugs and hidden people. On e in a while, they could even sniff her out when she would go missing.

Even though she rationally understood the value of a working animal, it was still difficult to divorce herself from the emotions the thought of the raptors brought up. Orders weere orders though, so she relied on her training and professionalism to see her through. And what was said was ture. Wolves were once dangerous animals... 

Al that aside, Abigail still felt for Temple. She had lost men before, and knew what that felt like, but she could scarely imagine what it would be like to share the experience with them. Going through that.. Essentially dying each time could not be good for one's psyche.

"I think it best if we all meet them so they can get acclimated and know we are on the same side. I would also suggest some sort of harness or vest or something so that they are more quickly and easily reconized, if they do not have such already." Abigail suggested as she began to form a checklist in her mind.

"And Sonja or I should go talk to Temple. Maybe both." she added.

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She looked at the text, gave Locke the finger through the phone and changed into her field gear. after a few minutes she looked at her weapons, lit a camel, picked three knives, her twin glocks, her Ktek and her ar, packed them into her case with her ammo and other gear. After she finished her camel she put the remaining pack and her lighter in the top drawer, made sure everything that needed turning off was off she picked up her go bag and stepped to the airport.

She was thirty-five minutes early no one else was there except those prepping and loading the plane after showing her id she boarded the plane found a seat at the very back and settled in. Then she dug out her phone and wrote a text then waited for the rest of the circus to arrive.

After all the show must go on.

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“So, the CRRD is trying out a saurian version of a K9 unit?” Bahaar asked neutrally, giving James no real read on her feelings.

“No, I started training them from the egg,” James explained, “and when I applied to the CRRD, I told them what I’d done. It took several demonstrations, but they’re willing to try a Raptor unit. I believe the statement was ‘fight dinos with dinos’.

“That said, I won’t make anyone work directly with them if they don’t want to,” she continued, giving Major Layton a nod. “Raptors operate in a pack structure, and if you really want to work with them, you’d have to be part of that structure. I’ve integrated another person into it before, so I know how to do it.”

When Sgt. Boyde made her suggestions, James nodded. “They have their own gear that they carry for themselves, as well as some things for me. Their harnesses were built for them by CRRD, and they’re very used to wearing them. I’ll meet you all on the tarmac and you can meet the boys in Birmingham.”

She left the room once she was sure that there were no more questions. She drove over to the school first, and asked that Oscar be pulled out of class. His face fell when he saw her expression. “You’re going on a mission, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Yeah.” She held out her arms and he accepted the hug, clinging to her for a moment.

“Are you coming back?” he asked in a choked voice.

James held him tighter, his short hair soft under her fingers. “Yes,” she told him, because there wasn’t another answer she could give him. She would come home to him, no matter what it took. She wouldn’t let him lose any more family.

She hugged him as long as she could, fighting tears. “Sailor, I have to go,” she said, her voice cracking. “Angie said she’d be at the house after school, and she’ll stay with you until I come back.”

When he lifted his head, she saw he’d been crying in complete silence. “Okay,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “Are the raptors going with you?”

“Yeah, you don’t have to take care of them,” she told him with a smile.

“No, I mean, it’s better if you go with them.” His green eyes were hard as he said, “They’ll eat the dinos that try to eat you.”

“They will,” James agreed, giving up on not crying. “They’ll help me come home but knowing you’re here is what will make it happen.”

“Good.” He hugged her one more time, stepped back, and saluted. James snapped off a salute back, and he marched, smudge-faced and straight-backed, into class.

He’d grown up so fast, and James had to take a moment to collect herself. Then she drove home and changed into her CRRD uniform and her running prosthetic. On her way out the door, she grabbed her to-go bag and the boys’ gear. Then she was dashing to the tarmac, relaxing only when she was sure she wouldn’t be late.

Marshall and Semp were already outside the plane, their kennel having been moved once the orders had come down. The pale-faced MP was still watching them, and the relief on his face when he saw her was almost funny given that Semp was curled in a ball, snoring. It was Marshall who shrieked when he saw her, his attitude one of fury that she hadn’t been around when they’d been moved. A piece of jerky made them friends again.

That’s when she found out it wasn’t going to be a cargo plane but a lear jet. “So I’m riding in the cargo bay,” she said, when she saw that’s where they were loading the boys.

“Ma’am, that’s going to be really uncomfortable,” the technician said sincerely.

“We’re all going to be really uncomfortable if they get loose during the flight.” James smiled serenely. “Just tell Dr. Locke where I am.” And we’ll either have to train them to ride up front, or get a different ride. Alone in the cargo hold, she focused on keeping them calm while they waited for takeoff.

Edited by James Walker
She can't read minds.

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Prepping for the mission took less than ten minutes. He'd packed light and only gotten to the base the night before. Mostly he just repacked his toiletries and tightened everything back down. He slung the pack over his shoulder and made his way out to the tarmac. He caught sight of the raptor pair being loaded into the cargo area, and Walker climbing in after them. The technician's expression gave him a good idea of the conversation that had just occurred; he angled over towards them, nodding as the tech hurried past in search of Dr. Locke.

He ducked his head inside the cargo area and smiled at Walker. "Taking coach, huh?"

“Yes, Major.” She gave him a little wave, fighting off a big wave of nostalgia at a dressed Marine and a little surge of attraction. Most Marines had bodies like his, but the face was a little harder to get over. The boys were less impressed, staring at him with hostile orange-yellow eyes. “I figured it was safer if I were back here.”

“Would you like company that can talk back?” he asked with easy camaraderie. His tone wasn’t insulting to the raptors, just offering companionship over boredom for the flight out.

“Are you interested in keeping me company, or learning more about them?” James asked, accepting her reputation as “The Raptor Lady” -- or other, less pleasant terms than lady -- with good grace.

He shrugged and climbed in, securing his pack in netting and wedging himself into a makeshift seat next to her. “Both,” he said with a smile. “All three of you seem interesting and we’re going to be working together for a while.”

Assuming that half of us don’t die on-mission again. She pushed the pessimistic thought away; that was not how her parents or the Corp taught her to think. “Are you interested enough in them to invest time and effort into their training?” she asked point-blank. “It’s going to be an adjustment for them -- not just someone joining us again, but someone joining the ‘pack’ who doesn’t live with us. My nephew Oscar is the only other person they’ve had to accept, and he’s around them all the time.”

He considered thoughtfully for a moment, then said, “If they can prove that we can work with raptors, coexist with them in a positive way, it means much more than just us appropriating raptors as the new dog. It’s a moment for us to realize that not everything about this changed world is bad or combative; that we can adapt and make something good out of the new world. For that, I have all the time in the world.”

Good god, if I’d met this guy before the accident... She let the thought trail off as unimportant, fighting the urge to hide her prosthetic. Nothing could hide the odd curve of the blade runner under her pants, or the bulge where the socket met her leg. If he didn’t know before, he knew now.

But beyond any attraction she might be feeling, this guy was the first one to really back the boys and see beyond their power and danger. She smiled at him, letting her gratitude show. “Great. Why don’t you move to face me, over by the front of their kennel? Then you and I can just talk about calm things until they’ve gotten your scent.”

He adjusted as much as he could in the cramped space, setting himself a bit more where both raptors could see him and catch his scent. “Calm things? Hrm. Why don’t we go with some getting to know you questions, then. I read the CRRD jackets, so I know you were K9 in the Corps. How’d you end up there?”

James laughed and Marshall grumbled softly. Davian was aware that the smaller of the two raptors was sniffing at him through the bars. Ignoring Semp’s curiosity, James told him, “That was easy. I qualified for three positions that were open, and I didn’t want to be a medic or a computer technician. I was pretty young, and the thought of being an MP and a dog handler appealed a lot more than being elbows deep in a person or sitting behind a desk for my whole career. Why did you go intelligence?” she asked, showing he wasn’t the only one who’d read their jackets.

“When I joined the Academy, I was a mostly made up of rage and selfishness.” He held out his hands, “The Navy and Corps taught me to think outside of myself and to be a part of something greater. I discovered I had a knack for analyzation, tactics, and small unit leadership, so my career officer recommended the Ground Intel track.”

His admission of rage and selfishness just made her nod. “I joined the Marines to rebel, too. My family was career Navy, and they had this ‘joke’--” She actually made the air quotes, “that if you couldn’t handle the Navy, you went Marine.” At the look on his face, she held up her hands. “I know! My family’s a little crazy. Was.” It hadn’t been long enough for her to remember to switch tenses all the time. That topic was not terribly close to ‘calming’ so she changed it. “Where have you served?”

He laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed, showing his compassion for the fellow Marine. At her question, he sat back and closed his eyes briefly. “I learned Arabic in the Academy, so they sent me to north Africa and the Middle East. I started out on the Arabian Peninsula, got sent to Egypt and Liberia, and had a brief stint in Tunisia. I served a half-dozen other places, but mostly just a passing through kind of assignment or out on a ship. How about you?”

“Afghanistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan again.” James smiled a little. “I picked up Urdu -- in fact, that’s what I use to give commands to the guys.” She touched the cage and Marshall immediately pressed his nose against the gap under her hand. “Anyway, I picked it up at the recommendation of one of the other K9 officers, who said it got him a raise. All it really did was put me back in Suckistan, since I spoke the language.” She leaned forward and passed Davian a couple of pieces of jerky. Marshall’s head swiveled to follow the food, and she gestured for him to feed it to the raptor. “I eventually got Marshall, the K9 Marshall, and patrolled and did security checks looking for bombs. Then, I got my discharge and came home, and got nova’ed during a midnight encounter with an allosaur. And here I am.”

He blinked and nodded, sounding impressed. He carefully held the first piece where Marshall could get to it without also biting off his fingers, but kept his words pitched towards James. “You did good, even as a nova, to survive that.” He gave her a self-deprecating grin and ran hand through his hair. It was the first social tick she’d seen from him, but he was still smiling when he said, “I don’t know when I went nova. The docs think it might even have been as far back as the Cascade, I just didn’t do anything far enough outside of the bounds of human for anyone to catch it until the storm in the Pacific. That was almost a year ago and I’ve been a pincushion in a lab pretty much since then. This’ll be my first field mission with conscious use of my abilities.”

“I actually hid from the allosaurus and let the boys’ pack fight it at first, then drove it off when it was wounded.” She shrugged. “They say that when you first erupt, you get a huge surge of power before it levels off. They think that’s what saved me. I wish I’d went nova at the Cascade. Things would have gone differently, for a lot of people, not just me. I escaped the pincushion stage, mostly by having something more interesting for the doctors to focus on.” She nodded at the boys. “Or maybe,” she added softly, “they thought I’d been through enough medical bullshit and spared me this round. Or maybe my powers aren’t that interesting. Hey, I have to ask. Doesn’t it feel really weird to say ‘my powers’?”

“Feels like I stepped into a comic book. Powers and dinosaurs,” he gave a low chuckle. “If I were twenty years younger, I’d probably have gone looking for really bad spandex and brightly colored boots.” He looked up at her, one of those penetrating looks that career military seemed to perfect along the way; he was maybe a decade too young for it, but there was a sorrow hiding in his eyes that gave him the same gravitas. “Remember, though, if you’d gone nova earlier, you wouldn’t have Marshall and Semper Fi now. I don’t know if everything happens for a reason. I rather doubt it, actually, but I’ve found that there’s always something to be said for right here and right now, just as it is.”

His statement jarred her out of a contemplation of him in a Superman costume. He’d need longer hair to achieve a spitcurl, but with that coloring and eyes, he looked the part. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to get maudlin about what could have been. There are a lot of things that I wish I didn’t have to deal with that would have been negated by being a nova earlier, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Whether or not this is better than what could have been, it’s the reality I’ve got.” She curled her fingers into the kennel, smiling when Marshall pressed his head to them so she could scratch. “Even if that reality sometimes scares me shitless.”

He laughed, watching her interaction with the raptor. “Only an idiot is fearless, and you’re certainly not that, Gunney.” He carefully held out a second piece of jerky to Marshall, watching James and the raptor both for any sign to stop.

Unexpected warmth filled her when he called her by the short name for her old rank, and she relaxed completely. “I think,” she told him with a soft smile, “that you’re going to fit into the pack just fine.”

A group of nervous looking technicians came around the side of the plane; they huddled nervously together and Davian was reminded of a herd of deer just before they bolted from a field. The one Davian had passed earlier spoke up, “Uh, sir? Ma’am? We need to finish loading the gear. There’s, uh, there’s not room for you both to stay.”

Davian sighed and gave her a rueful grin. “Well, I guess we’ll have to talk more later. You’ll be fine back here?”

“Major, I got blown up,” she told him with a wry grin. “Turns out that not much fazes you after that.” Except maybe being a suddenly mommy to a ten-year-old. “I’ll be fine, and I have a radio if I get stir crazy and need to hear a human voice again.”

He nodded to her and climbed back out the cargo area. “I’ll see you on the other side then, Gunney.” She gave him a wave and settled back, preparing for a long ride -- one that now looked all the more lonely by having lost her company.

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As the others got up to gear up and prepare for their departure, Sonja did the same. Since they were dealing with municipal law enforcement and it didn't seem this was a direct combat mission, Sonja left her modified H&K HK21E GPMG behind. Instead, she contented herself with her modern, tactical-styled tungsten-carbide and titanium alloy sword over her shoulder and a satchel-bag of lead ball bearings the size of baseballs that were devastating when thrown by someone with her sheer strength.

She also changed. She considered the snug bodysuit ensemble that resembled in large part the outfits she wore as Black Widow and Katniss Everdeen that she'd taken to wearing as her CRRD uniform, but settled for something more business-casual instead. Figure hugging slacks, sensible but stylish shoes, a glowingly white blouse and contrasting vest under a minimalist design blazer that somewhat slimmed her strong, shapely figure, it looked like an outfit from any number of TV Police procedurals.

Sonja strode onto the tarmac and towards her Gulfstream private jet she was letting the CRRD use on her behalf. While not military, it had room for eighteen in luxury - though it flew most efficiently with eight - had a state of the art fly-by-wire system and sensor suite, WiFi, and could make it pretty much anywhere in the world on a direct flight.

And while she got a model with as much head room as possible, since she had more than a few friends and colleagues who where models with a penchant for high heels, Sonja still had to duck uncomfortably low to squeeze her bulk into the luxurious passenger cabin, even if she did have a seat redesigned for someone of her size.

Temple and Davian were already there and the technicians in passing had told her James would pass the trip in the cargo hold with her Raptors. Sonja wasn't entirely enthused by the idea, but then again, having mothefucking raptors running rampant on her motherfucking plane would be less than ideal. And she wasn't familiar enough with them to risk them in the passenger cabin, even if she allow a bandmate to take her dogs aboard. Besides, Sonja didn't imagine the Raptors would be kind to the carpets.

"I can't fly commercial and military transport would be overkill and wasteful for a team our size," Sonja explained for Davian's benefit with a wry grin as she make a wave encompassing the cabin. And I'm not willing to travel in a frigid, spartan cargo hold even if James is - though to be fair, that is to keep the raptors calm, for which I'm grateful. "So we get to travel in style. As long as you keep your feet clean, make yourself as home. I'm sorry James feels the need to travel in the cargo hold for her... for the Raptors benefit. And the plane's. Hopefully, better accommodations can be reached when we are all more familiarized with each other."

Sonja glanced at Temple for a moment, setting at the rearmost of the plane, but then her gaze went thoughtfully back to Davian, wondering if he was going to bring up their prior... acquaintance or wanted it to remain private or unspoken.  She was conceited enough to fully believe he remembered her, even in pass and even if it was nearly twenty years ago when her career was just starting to take off.

"I never thought I'd see the day when Raptors - who weren't even basketball players - would be on my plane," Sonja commented with a wry grin to break the silence. "Though I'm sure once I get the know them, they'll be easier to work with than, say J.Lo or Naomi Campbell. They are vicious, self-absorbed, man-eating monsters. The others are just dinosaurs."

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Abigail collected her usual gear, though she made sure her firearms were silenced and suggested the others do the same. This was an urban operation, after all, and she was unsure how the raptors might react to gunfire. She had worked with dogs before and knew that they needed training and exposure to get used to the sounds and smells. Granted, raptors were not canines, but she figured there was a fair amount of overlap.

Abigail suited up, checked and packed her gear and went to Temple's quarters where she knocked, discovering she was not there.

'Well.. she's either on the plane or who knows where.' she thought to herself and made her way to the tarmac.

As she approached the plane, the sight of Davian climbing out of the cargo hold peaked her curiosity. Abigail walked up to plane and looked in the hold where she saw James with the caged raptors.

"That makes sense... I guess. Though it's not going to make for a fun trip." she said to James as she sat down her bag, making sure not to drop it and possibly startle the raptors.

"Do you need anything? A Blanket? Sleeping bag? Music? Snacks?" she asked, offering to get her anything she needed to make the trip easier to endure.

"I am sure we can work out some other travel arrangements if they are going to be a permanent addition to the team." she suggested.

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“No, thank you. I have all I need in my bag.” James reached down and tapped the backpack she was using as a seat. Some more gear had been loaded, and she was starting to get cramped for space. The boys wouldn’t have managed the flight out without losing their calm, and she added, “You’re right; we have to get better accommodations when they’re on a team. This is--” She cut off the curse word she’d started to unleash and instead said, “Untenable going forward. If you’d really like to help me, you can bend Dr. Locke’s ear in-flight a little and advocate for some changes. I’d appreciate that.”

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Once everyone was assembled, and the plain loaded, they got clearance to depart, and the flight was mostly used to review for the mission, the packet included detailed maps and information about the universities and major population centers in Birmingham,  as well as several "tourist" sites, they might go to in their time there.

They wouldn't be staying at a base, instead, they were put up In a rental Home at the edge of town for their stay, which was somewhat odd in and of itself.   They were escort there in police cruisers, and in one case, a police Van for Sonja, James and the raptors.  Their liaison, Captain Johan Gerst, was a jovial family from a known and respected local family, and surprisingly he didn't seem all that put off by the Raptors.  "Not that the fence will hold them or anything, but part of why we put you all out here was the secluded outdoor area.   If your stay ends up being extensive, we can arrange some sort of outdoor pen for them."   

Locke looked at the man, and nodded.  "So how exactly did you get the owner to agree to this, Captain?"  
The officer just smiled "I looked in the mirror and said, "if there's anything that can help find these missing people, I'm willing to give it a try, and any help I can."   He looked at them all.  "My family wants for little, thanks to a large inheritance, but I have always worked, and for the last two decades, i've been on the Police Force.   I see it as my duty to protect the city and people I love."


This statement brought forth a rare smile from Locke, and he shook his hand.  "We'll fnd out what happened, and we'll find them."    For Temple, everything she got from Johan was that this was all the truth, she could see memories of growing up in a large house alone,  of a wedding and three children, all in college now.  He was well off tending several properties around the city when not being a police Captain, and was quite happy with his life.  Johan left them to get settled in, giving them his contact numbers, so they could make arrangements for wherever they'd like to get started.  The Van and one of the unmarked SUV's was left there for their use.

The rooms were all appointed normally within the home, and Locke smiled at the large King size bed.  "I believe this will be best for you, Sonja."   He himself took one of the smaller rooms and quickly unpacked.

Once everyone was unpacked, Locke went to the Van, finding James there of course, the van open and he was glad it was somewhat cool due to being overcast.  "So, James, how do you think it best we house your boys?"   As he drew near, The boys went completely silent, and their mouths closed.   Their heads dropped slightly,and they remained almost motionless.

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The flight over had been cold and uncomfortable. She tried to sleep but between the raptors’ anxiety and the unpleasant chill in the hold, she hadn’t managed. She’d been bored until she remembered to call the base’s switchboard and get Major Layton’s cell phone number. She started to text him, telling him more about the raptors and answering his questions. When the mission review started, Locke called her so that she could join in over speaker.

Despite all the attempts at accommodation, her mood was sour by the time they’d arrived. She was questioning why she was putting the boys through this, if this was how they were treated. In the Marines, the dogs were afforded the same care as the humans when it came to transportation. The longer she thought about it, the angrier she got that the boys had to ride in the cargo while the humans got to be comfortable in the cabin of a Gulfstream.

She didn’t say anything when they were unloaded; this wasn’t the time to start complaining. There would be a time and place for that, but she was determined to operate as a professional member of the team, even if she hadn’t been one for a while. When anyone asked how the ride had been, she gave an honest but terse, “Uncomfortable.” She was polite when Sonja spoke to her in van, exchanging pleasantries. By now, James was sure that the woman didn’t remember meeting her previously. It didn’t bother her; she’d been one of a dozen veterans, still relying on her crutch for balance, and forty pounds heavier.

The boys were getting testy with their imprisonment by the time that Locke approached them but all signs of their irritation faded when he got close. James stared at them, watching their body language with disbelief. That was submission language, and not submission to an alpha. They were begging a larger predator to leave them alone.

“You need to back away.” James stepped between the raptors and Locke, instinctively protecting them. Locke sighed as if expecting this and moved away from the van. James went with him, stopping only when the boys relaxed. “I don’t know what that was about, and it’s none of my business except for how it affects the boys. I need you to stay away from them on the mission, so that their reaction to you doesn’t screw their focus.

“They’re staying in my room,” she continued, moving back to his previous conversation. “Since I have a bed available, they can use my sleeping bag for a bed. And they’re not going to be in the cargo hold on any more flights,” she added hotly. “If you want them at their best, then don’t treat them like the luggage. And if Faire has a problem with it, she can ride in the damned hold.

“So right now, I’m going to take them for a run. They’ve been boxed up too long and it’ll give them a feel for the area. When I get back, we’ll be ready to work.” She paused for the first time and asked, “Anything you want me to be looking for while we’re out there?”

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Temple had been on the plane committing the relevant maps and information about where they were going to memory and had just started on their subject when the others began to board. First came the Marine Major, his mind was on things that really didn't have anything to do with the mission, it was his arrival that made her aware that Walker had arrived and not come into the cabin but instead had stayed with her raptors. Davion was concerned for her back there. Next came Sonja. She was so different than how Temple had imagined her when they had first met, and Temple couldn't think of anyone less suited for this type of job, not due to her abilities or anything concrete, it was just her insistence on hanging on to a past that had no meaning anymore. No one really understood the way things were now that this was a war. Sonja had looked at her when she saw her sitting at the back and then quickly looked over at the Marine. Hmm, she thought, this is going to complicate things I think. Finally the sarge and Locke boarded and the plane took off.

After Locke gave his short brief Abigail made her way back to where Temple was seated.

“Mind if I sit for a minute?” Asked the older woman.

Temple set her tablet aside after powering it down. “Not at all.” She gave her a crooked smile, already knowing what the woman was going to say.

"I know where you are coming from, or at least I try to.” began the ranger searching unnecessarily for the words she wanted to use. “And you have every reason to feel like you do. I think we all get that. But you are here because you decided to put others before yourself, like we all did. And this is the new team. I would suggest you try to see it from James' perspective too, If you can. I think there is a lot of understanding that needs to go around." Temple cocked her head to the side a little a mannerism she had adopted form her most dangerous ghost. She thought of a hundred ways to answer the sarge, but she liked Abigail, so she decided to be honest and to the point.

“I know you all think I'm crazy. I been doing this for four years, I was sixteen when I was sent on my first mission, fifteen when the cascade happened and I lost my family, my little sister died in my arms. There is a lot of shit that isn't in my file, just like there is a lot of shit that isn't in yours or anyone else's on this plane. I don't have a problem with Walker or her pets. I know what they are. They are just dumb animals, but not all animals are dumb. Yeah I volunteered to kill dinosaurs, but really what choice did I have. In the end none of us had a choice, not even Sonja. We are all here because we are novas.” She pauses and pulls a camel offing one to The Sarge who declines. “I have been Psychoanalyzed eleven times since this all started, I have been diagnosed with every mental disorder you can think of and everyone of those doctors recommend my removal form active service. I'm still here, I dare say finding those doctors would be rather difficult today.” She pauses again snubs out the camel without taking a single drag. “I'm Sorry Sarge, I'm just rambling. You know I'm professional in the field, and that I don't miss. How I am back there, that's just smoke. Don't worry I'll do my job.” Temple picks up the tablet and powers it back on and goes back to reading the files. Abigail sits silently looking at the young girl for a moment, still worried, before standing. “Ok,” She squeezes her shoulder, “well, I'll see you on the ground then.” Abigail returns to her seat.

The remainder of the flight was ordinary and once on the ground they began loading them selves onto the vehicles that had been sent for them to take them to their base of operations.

 

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"The best, yes. Thanks, Locke," Sonja said, returning Locke's smile with one of her own, touched by a hint of asperity. Johan had been admirably aplomb welcoming one of the biggest and also the 'biggest' woman in Hollywood into his home and the solid oak of the looked able to support her weight easily. But even laying at an angle, if she stretched out, her feet and half her calves would be hanging over the edge of the mattress. She sighed. She was unfortunately getting used to curling up to sleep in beds not meant for her size, if not ever having someone to share the bed with.

Riding over to the house in the police van, Sonja eyed the raptors askance as she exchanged pleasantries with James. The other woman was polite, but Sonja could detect a sense of sharpness in her tone. She didn't imagine James had enjoyed riding in the meager cargo hold, but she thought it might actually have been on her raptors' accounts rather than her own. Totally understandable, but Sonja didn't particularly like the way the raptors eyed her, not did she have any idea how they would have reacted in the passenger cabin, nor did she think their terrible talons would be kind to the furnishings.

But if James and the raptors were going to be a part of the team, it behooved Sonja to make the effort to work with them. She'd worked with plenty of people in her twenty years in the entertainment industry that had they been on fire and she had a glass of water, she would have drank it. And there were some, now, she wouldn't work with under any circumstances. But James hadn't done anything to rise her ire, had gone out of her way to be accommodating. Sonja wasn't about to apologize to having the raptors ride in the hold, but she would make the effort of familiarizing herself with them as James had suggested back on the base.

Sonja put away her toiletries and her scant luggage - it helped when you can anything clothing at need with a bit of imagination - then squeezed out of the master bedroom and went to find James. Sonja found her by the van, standing between the raptors and Locke. Not able to help but see the raptors as dangerous and wild animals, Sonja approached openly with a deliberate, steady pace, not hostile, but not what she imagined seemed like prey, if they would even see something that outmassed them by several times over as such.

Sonja only caught the last bit of conversation between Locke and James and stopped a step behind and to the side of Locke. "You are going for a jog?" Sonja confirmed, her eyes unconsciously flicking to James' bladerunner prosthetic foot for a second before returning to her face. "Not sure if you want company, but would you mind if I joined you, James? You mentioned that we should spend time getting used to the raptors and letting them get used to us, and this seems as good a time as any." She smiled in wry self-deprecation. "Besides, after just getting off the plane, I don't feel like being cooped up someplace that has ceilings barely higher than eight feet."

 

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James had been looking forward to being alone with the boys, but she was a Marine. You dealt with the team. She’d have time to blow off steam later, when they weren’t on duty. “Anyone’s welcome,” she said, her voice a touch gruff. She returned to the van and opened Semp’s cage. He stepped out as she wrapped an arm around him and put a harness on him. He grumbled a little but accepted it. She didn’t snap on the leashes. They’d just been penned for a while and they needed some freedom.

“How fast are you?” she asked Sonja as she clipped a GoPro camera to Semp’s shoulder strap. He twisted his head around to look at it, just like he always did, while she made sure the rest of the gear was in the bag. Marshall had started to bounce eagerly.

“Olympic athlete fast,” Sonja said, watching warily.

James sighed to herself. She’d have to take the guys out for a real run later. “Better change, then,” she said, opening Marshall’s cage and putting his gear on.

“I will,” Sonja assured her with a secret smile.

That irritated her, so she did something she hadn’t planned on doing to the beautiful actress. “I guess you don’t remember meeting me, do you?” she asked. “Vikings for Veterans? I was the blonde who told you that you need to add a banjo to the group.”

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"I'm sorry?" Sonja blinked at the non-sequitur, her smile fading. Sonja took a step back and looked down at James, her brow furrowing as she studied her anew. It took her a few moments, then her mouth tightened in contrition as she finally made the connection between James Walker and the benefit concert from several years ago.

It was a fact of life that Sonja met a great many people during the course of her career and business interests, she simply could not remember all their names. But she considered that a cop out that too many celebrities employed and was arrogant to boot, so she always made a concerted effort to remember names and faces. Looking more closely, Sonja did realize she recognized James now, though she looked somewhat different now, more fit, more... sure? animated? than she had. She must've been confused by James' typically masculine sounding name, connecting to a man at Vikings for Veterans and not this blond woman.

"Oh! I am sorry," Sonja sincerely apologized. She could have explained why, but it would only be an excuse, however much of a reasonable one. "You're right, I didn't recognize you. You've lost some weight - and are looking good, by the way." Sonja thought it was true, but even if it wasn't, it was an easy platitude that most would accept with pleasure. "And you have one of those high-tech bladerunner prosthetics, now. Please tell me it is new and I'm not being that oblivious?"

Sonja rolled her shoulders, her business casual oufit melting into figure hugging activewear of pink and black accented with the discreet double B of the Bahaar Bazaar clothing line. Her shoes became a pair of cross-trainers with pink laces. She gave James a lopsided grin. "But while I'm as much a fan of bluegrass as the next person, I still assert the Choosers of the Slain don't a banjo. We play Viking and Folk Metal." Sonja made a clearly feigned sniff of snobbery. "Not hick metal. And never shall the two meet. My parents would never understand me leaving my classically trained roots that far behind."

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Temple went through the house mapping it in her head as only she could she had already done so with the immediate grounds. It was very unusual for her to have to operate without the usual base support but then this was turning into a most unusual mission. She still wasn't sure about working with other novas, there was to much conflict lurking under the surface. and she hated having to walk on eggshells with them. With Base line soldiers she didn't have to explain shit, all they needed to know was that she would do her best to get them away to safty if it went south. Sh looked out the window and saw Locke, Walker and Sonja at the place where the "dogs" were being kept. It looked like they were getting ready to go exercise. She saw the Major heading that way too and she shot a thought to the Sarge. <Sarge, looks like the gang is gearing up to go do PT, I'm going to head over and give the noobs the "I read Minds" speech if you want to come along> She ten went outside and jogged over before they took off.

As she approached the raptors caught her scent and turned their attention to her one of them hissed which alerted James.

"Hey Before you guys take off I need to brief you two newbies on something." She knew as she said it that it would irk both of them to be called newbies, but she said it anyways. "I know you guys have read the files on each of us. But i need to get something clear with you two. Both Sarge and Amazon have heard this and know what i do. I'm a telepath and a teleporter. My job, aside from killing dinosaurs, Is to facilitate communications with the team and to rescue you should a bugout be needed. That means I need to be able to get into your heads without a hassle. I'm not interested in your secrets or your fantasies, I'm not going to tell you that i wont read your mind cause that would be a lie. I have to to do MY job." She looks at the Major and Walker. "Is it going to be a problem?"

 

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Abigail sighed at the mental message from Temple and shook her head with a half grin on her face. She had worked with people like Temple before, guys who just liked to poke and prod a bit. They generally didn't mean anything by it and in fact it was often a sign of friendship, but it still did not make things easy at first.

<I can see you are laying on the charm already...>

Abigail stepped outside and walked briskly to catch up with Temple as she drew near the others. She stood beside Temple and nodded when the redhead was done speaking.

"I trust Temple to do as she says and not pry in my mind, and I think Sonja does too, but we have radios too if it is too much of an issue right now. Though without her talents, we would never have gotten word about the trouble they were in and we would have lost even more people on the last op, most likely. Radios have range and terrain limits, she really doesn't." Abigail explained, trying to ease Temple's delivery to the others and encourage their trust.

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Locke did as he was asked backing away, and sighed inwardly.  These two raptors were very intelligent, even for juveniles.   He wondered how exactly they could sense that something was so different about him versus the others, but then with just how Dinosaurs came into the world, he knew there might be some connection there.   

As Temple made her introductions he thought about his own mind, What had happened, and how he simply couldn't allow her within.There was too much risk.  He pulled out his phone and there was a redirected series of messages for him.  He couldn't put his finger on it, but something felt very odd.  There was a notice for three members of the team to report to the university to meet with the Biology department head before they went out to the green zone.  The other asked that the remainder of the team would go into town to start investigating the mission persons.  He would take Temple and Sonja to the university, and have Abigail take Davian and James to begin the investigations.

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Spoiler

If Temple is checking her brain, James’s thoughts match her words.

“Thank you, Sergeant Boyde, for that information,” James said, and it looked like Abigail had succeeded in smoothing things over. James wasn’t done; she turned her angry blue eyes to Temple. “But I have no faith in you, Faire. You come to meetings late, you can’t arrive in proper clothing, and you act more like a teenager than a professional. You mentally assault your commanding officer because you don’t like an order he gives you. So I don’t trust you to use your powers in combat, and I definitely don’t trust you to pull me and my boys out of the fire if it comes to that. Keep out of my head.”

Marshall and Semp were at her side, glaring at all the strangers, reacting to her anger. “C’mon, boys, time to cool down.” Picking up a stick, she threw it as hard as she could, and with her augmented strength, she actually got a good distance on it. With an shriek of delight, Semp took off after it. Marshall looked warily at her until she waved him off with a murmured, “Laanaa.” Fetch.

She wanted to leave on their run, but Major Layton needed to give Temple her answer, too. Being familiar with the Marine mindset, James was pretty sure what it would be. She wouldn’t dare think she spoke for him. Maybe Sonja had something to add, too.

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Davian had needed a moment to digest what Temple had said; James had covered his assessment of Faire pretty well, but he added, "Respect is what earns trust, Ms. Faire. You've shown none to this team or the dangerous nature of our work. Until you show that you are a professional and work well with a team, I will be using the radio and expecting more mundane methods of extraction. Your powers might be useful, but humanity has been making do without them until now."

Abigail knew the use of the civilian honorific wasn't all complimentary, despite any lack of inflection in his tone; it was a soldier's way of reinforcing the not one of us. He nodded to the other two women, then turned and jogged over to where Walker was watching the raptors fetch. "Shall we start the run or wait to see if any of the others intend to join us now?"

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Abigail understood the response from both James and Davian, but she did not care for it, nor the lecture Davian gave to Temple. She had always given Temple more slack as she was a civilian, and therefore did not hold her to the standard that she did other military personnel, but Temple had proven herself to Abigail on their last mission, and that was plenty enough for her.

Abigail instinctively took a step to stand in front of Temple, between her and the soon-to-be joggers and opened her mouth to speak with her cheek muscles tightening in irritation. She caught herself though and selected her words slightly more carefully.

"You are coming into a preexisting team that includes civilians, so you might want to think more about integrating yourself into it than lecturing a civilian who was a part of this team before you even arrived. Both she and Sonja already earned it's respect and trust in the field, where it matters. This is not a military unit like you are used to, Major. The sooner you understand and respect that, the quicker you will be a full part of it." Abigail said in a somewhat terse tone, hopefully reminding James and Davian of the uniqueness of the situation and team.

"Enjoy your PT." she added and turned toward Temple as she began to walk, trying to subtly herd the young woman back toward the house to avoid any further escalation.

Abigail shot a thought to Temple as she rested a hand on the redhead's shoulder,

<Don't worry about them. Right now I would rather have you and Sonja by my side than some guy from Intelligence and a couple of nearly wild animals. That is not to say that will not all change, but they need to remember that they are coming into a team, and one with civilians, who have proven themselves where it matters. Admittedly, I was not thrilled about being on a team of mostly civilians when I first arrived either, but that all changed rather quickly. They, or at least the Major, is still in a fully military mindset. So give them some time.>

 

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Temple who had been about to let loose, relaxed at Abigail's touch , looked her in the eye.

<Thanks, Sarge>

She nods and turns to go with Abigail back into the house.

"You may want to explain things, Doctor Locke, about how this operation works."

 

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