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About z-James Walker

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  1. “Ayrhee chorha,” James commanded the raptors. Heel wide. Marshall and Semper Fi took up positions to the left and the right of the three humans. “Adult raptors have been clocked at sixty miles per hour, but the boys are closer to thirty-five right now. They’re going to get faster, as time passes.” James could have left it there, but she couldn’t. “I already gave her a chance. Her actions off the fight of battle are just as telling as her actions on. She hates dinosaurs. How can I trust her to look past that and pull the boys out of combat if necessary? “It doesn't matter that they are dinosaurs.” James set her jaw sharply as the humans jogged along; she was having no trouble speaking at this pace. “I’d expect them to be extracted if they were dogs, and they are much smarter than dogs.” “Oh?” Major Layont asked, interested. “Yeah. They can handle door knobs.” The blonde woman smiled a little as she said, “They understand that a mirror is a reflection, not another raptor. They’re so smart that I’m not going to castrate Marshall, for the same reason I wouldn’t castrate a dolphin.” She jogged with an odd, bouncing gait that she handled gracefully despite one leg being lighter than the other and made of a spring. “But more than her unwillingness to be a professional, Faire has serious issues. No one acts like that without major mental and emotional issues, and someone like that isn’t stable enough to operate in a combat situation. No army on earth would have her as she is right now; freakin’ Blackwater wouldn’t take her, teleporter or not. The fact that CRRD seems to think that she’s battlefield ready scares the shit out of me because I’m working for them, too.” The raptors tightened up, loping closer to the jogging humans. James narrowed her eyes at them, then said, “They’re nervous. They feel like they’re being watched.”
  2. “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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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?”
  5. “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.”
  6. “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.
  7. James woke up to the sensation she was being watched. When her eyes snapped open, she found herself staring at Marshall’s big orange ones. At least he wasn’t on the bed. “What do you want?” she asked him grumpily. He made a coughing noise and rolled a cue ball out of his mouth with his tongue. James stared at the wet 8-ball and the puddle it was leaving on her bedding. “I haven’t had coffee. You don’t get fetch.” The tip of his tail rose eagerly; all he’d heard was fetch. Sighing, James sat up and grabbed her prosthetic. She pulled on a clean sock and liner, then examined the socket for signs of deterioration. She’d just gotten this prosthetic last year -- after dropping her pre-eruption weight -- and she didn’t want to have to buy another one just yet. She stood and tested the fit while Marshall watched her, almost vibrating. “Calm down,” she snarked to the dino as she picked up the ball and opened the back door into their yard. It was more like a racquetball room, with a cinder block walls and chain link fencing over the top. She’d insisted on the latter, to let light and fresh air in. Checking to make sure the far gate was still closed, she threw the cue ball and got the hell out of the way. Marshall shot past her and Semp wasn’t far behind. The bigger sibling was the faster, but Semp jumped on top of him when he stopped at the ball. The two collapsed in a squealing, writhing ball of play fighting. She propped open the door and went to start breakfast. Coffee was first, and it was done brewing by the time she had finished making Oscar’s lunch. She could handle PB&J, an apple, and chips but not anything more complex until she had her caffeine. Only once she had a cup in hand did she realize how late it had gotten. “Damnit,” she muttered, putting the mug on the counter and going back to her nephew’s room. “Oscar, get up. You’re going to be late!” When all she heard from inside was a groan, she opened the door and shook the lump of comforter in the middle of the bed. “‘Ho ‘way,” she heard him mumble. “No, get up.” James pulled back the blanket closest to the head of the bed, and found feet. Dropping the bedding, she tugged on the other end and found her nephew’s blond head. “You’re going to be late for class.” “Aww, I hate school,” he moaned, cracking open green eyes that would someday destroy many a heart. “So did every kid. They still went to school, even me.” James waited until he was sitting up before she added, “Hustle, sailor! You don’t want me to have to drive you.” That got him moving. Oscar was still unsure of the raptors, and easily unnerved by their presence. Since James didn’t leave them alone for long periods of time, he would have to ride in the big truck with their kennels in the back. James went back to the kitchen and finished making breakfast; today, it was leftover chicken breasts and rice from dinner. That was one thing she and Oscar had in common: a lack of desire to eat breakfast foods for breakfast. He was out in the kitchen twenty minutes, slowing when he caught James shooing Marshall off his chair. The raptors watched with hungry jealousy as the ten-year-old ate, and he watched them just as warily. “Checklist,” James said, looking at him as he started to shovel food into his mouth. Oscar sighed but said, “Socks, check. Breakfast, check. Lunch--” He hopped up from his chair and grabbed his lunchbox, putting it next to his backpack. “Check. My homework, check. My tablet, check. My baseball mitt, check.” “Well done, sailor.” James smiled at him and went to her wallet. She pulled out five dollars and handed it to him. “No more than one candy bar this week,” she said, firmly locking eyes with him. “And this is all you get, so use your resources wisely.” “Yes, Aunt Jim!” He grinned cheekily at her, enjoying that he was the only person who got to call her that. “Now, get going,” she told him, rolling her eyes fondly. He popped off a salute, grabbed his gear, and ran for the school. It was a small one but full of kids who were in his exact situation. He doesn’t have a chance, she thought with a touch of sadness. He’ll be in the military; it’s all he’s ever known. Once more, she resolved to never pressure him into one branch or even any at all. He’d lost so much; she’d never take his choice away. “Alright, monsters,” she said, addressing the raptors. “Your turn.” She opened the cans of wet dog food and mixed them with chopped, raw beef and the powdered vitamins CRRD provided. She sat their bowls down and went to change while the boys sucked down their food. By the time they were done, she was dressed in her sweats and her running prosthetic, holding their harnesses and carrying their gear in her backpack. “Aana,” she said in her command voice, and the boys moved to her side, looking up at her. Leaning down, she put their harnesses on them and clipped the leashes. “Ayrhee.” As a pack, they headed for the yard and then out the gate into the woods behind their complex. She avoided the walking path and headed into the trees, Marshall on her right and Semp on her left. She set a good pace, feeling her stride shift as she adjusted running with one leg lighter than the other. The spring in her prosthetic gave her an odd jumping lope. They went a distance into the wilderness behind the base before she called for a stop in a familiar meadow. Both of the raptors had burned off their anxious energy, and she unsnapped the leashes. “Ayrhee,” she reminded them, pulling out the binoculars and sighting in on the dummies in the middle. They were shaped like ornithos, and if someone had done their job right, they would smell like them, too. “Pehlu,” she ordered and the boys bolted away, swinging to the left and right in a pincher move. She ran forward as well, unholstering the paint gun and stopping thirty feet away from the first dummy. The boys closed to the same distance and stopped, waiting. When she rose again and fired, peppering the dummy with blue paint, they attacked the target, quickly tearing it down. “Good! Aana!” She grinned as they bolted back to her for their jerky treats. For the next several hours, they drilled over all the things that she’d taught them to this point. Their last hour was spent working on the holding concept. Raptors attacked by biting and holding with their jaws while kicking with their hind legs. James was currently trying to teach them to grab a target but not kick it. As she was going against their instincts, it was very slow progress. “Okay, okay,” she sighed as the alarm on her phone went off. “Rokna. We’ll try against tomorrow. Time to head home. Ayrhee.” They ran back to base, the boys now too tired to need the reinforcement of the leash to stay close. Without a path to follow, James was more or less estimating where they’d emerge, and she came out too close to the headquarters. Annoyed, she crouched in the woodline, whispering, “Chupana.” The raptors lowered themselves, only the tips of their tails vibrating with excitement for the new hunt. They made their way through the woods back to their yard, entering and locking the gate behind them. Once she removed their harnesses, they dropped to the grass of their yard, rolling and grunting with pleasure as they rubbed away the feel of the restraints. She watched them, grinning, before going inside to make dinner. She’d just finished the mashed potatoes when Oscar came in the front. “Hey,” she said, focused on her meal. “How was school?” She glanced up at him, smiling -- only to lose the smile when she saw the bruise on the side of his face. “What the hell?” “It’s nothing,” he muttered, dropping his eyes. “Okay.” James shut off the oven and cracked the door so that the pork chops wouldn’t burn. “Oscar, that is not nothing. Even if it’s something that you handled, I need to know the details so that I know you’re safe at school.” “It’s just going to make it worse if my aunt shows up defending me,” he growled, staring at his feet. “I’m not going to do anything like that, not without talking with you.” James took his hand and dragged him over to the couch. Marshall and Semp watched curiously from their doggie beds in the corner, but the day’s activities had worn them down too much to do more than enjoy the show. She sat him down and said, “Tell me what’s wrong and we’ll work out a plan of attack -- even if that plan is ‘do nothing’.” Oscar heaved a sigh and stared at the shredded Kong toy she hadn’t thrown away yet. “One of the boys at school was making fun of me.” He rubbed his nose and sniffled in a bid to hide pending tears. “He said my parents were dinosaur poop.” James couldn’t stop her angry inhale, and Marshall’s head rose. A second later, Semper Fi’s head came up too, as he caught his alpha and beta’s sudden tension. “Please don’t do anything,” Oscar begged. “I hit him really hard already! I took care of it!” “Alright.” James swallowed her turbulent emotions with great effort. “So you handled it?” The boy almost sagged with relief. “Yeah, I did,” he said, a hint of pride in his voice. “Oscar, how did you get the lump?” She pointed at the bruise, and his eyes dropped. “He hit back.” James nodded. “Did the fight stop him?” “Sorta. He’s twelve.” Oscar started to fidget with the cuff of his sleeve. “He stopped talking trash!” She wanted to ask if he’d won but she also didn’t want to encourage that behavior. “What are you going to do if he says that again?” “Hit him again!” Oscar’s indignation almost made her laugh but she kept it together. “Well, hitting doesn’t stop him, if he does it again. We need to have plan, in case he does,” she told him. “That’s strategy.” “I want to deal with it myself,” her nephew told her fiercely. “I understand. So let’s figure out what that means.” James walked him through all his options, and he settled on trying to ignore the bully. She wasn’t sure that would work, especially in the heat of the moment, but she was willing to let him deal with this on his own terms. If it persisted, she’d convince him to let her intervene. “Okay, let’s eat.” The potatoes held only a fraction of their warmth, and the meat was warm but too dry. She nuked the side and pulled ketchup and steak sauce out with the salad, and forced herself to have normal conversation when in reality, she wanted to hunt down a twelve year old boy and beat some empathy into him. After, she cleaned up, and Oscar did his homework. Then it was time for a bit of television, while she let the boys out into the yard for a while. They were house trained but not above using waste as a weapon of protest, and it did Oscar good to have some time without them around. When he went to bed, she geared up for the outdoors again and took them on a run. After dark was always best, as it let her jog somewhere besides the woods without scaring anyone or having to deal with the MPs getting called. Tonight, she took them on a long circuit around the nova complex, wearing them out so they wouldn’t get destructive in the middle of the night. As she was jogging back, she caught a sight of a stranger. He was in a uniform, but she didn’t know him, and she pulled the boys deeper into the shadows. “Chupana. Khamosh,” she ordered, watching as the man entered the complex, dragging a suitcase behind him. She’d heard they’d be getting a new nova; that must be him. She waited, forcing the boys to practice patience, too. Once she was it was safe, she rose and finished the run home. She showered and did the other minutia required for bed. She pulled the new Clive Cussler book in with her and pulled off her prosthetic. She read as she massaged her stump; the prosthetics were mostly painless due to good fittings but she was still asking her body to do something it was never designed to do. Sometime after she tucked herself in, she passed out, her novel resting on her chest.
  8. 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.”
  9. Personal Information Identity: James Edith Walker Current Identity: J.E. Walker Internet ID: LadyMarine88 Occupation: former Marine, former construction worker, CRRD contractor Marital Status: Single Living Relatives: Oscar Sylvester Walker (nephew) Allegiance(s): U.S. Government, CRRD, remaining family Rank at discharge: Gunnery Sergeant Physical Traits Weight: 130 lbs Height: 5’6” Apparent age: late twenties Age: 32 Gender: Female Eye Color: Blue Hair Color: Blonde Handedness: Right Appearance and Personality Personality: James has been shaped by her unusual first name, as well as her military family upbringing. Her father, mother, and their siblings are all military, most of them Navy. A number of her cousins went Navy, and it’s a joke in the family that those who couldn’t hack it as sailors went into the Marines instead. James hasn’t found the joke very funny since she went Marine, but she tolerated it with good humor. She has a generally good sense of humor, though grief has blunted it. Losing every member of her family save her ten-year-old nephew has taken much of her contentment away. She still tries to see the good in everything, and is, at heart, an optimist. Even the loss of the lower part of her right leg couldn’t kill that belief, and since erupting, she’s found it easier to deal with that handicap. Philosophy: James believes in the inherent good of people, and the Genesic crisis has only reinforced that for her. She’s seen some awful behavior during the devastation, but she’s seen great heroics, too. She has faith in people and government, even if she doesn’t agree with them every time. Appearance: Blonde and blue-eyed, James is definitely cute. She feels a little self-conscious about her missing foot/lower leg, so she usually wears pants to cover the prosthetic. She exercises a lot so that she doesn’t lose mobility, so she keeps very fit -- probably more fit than when she had all her limbs. History Born to a Navy family, it was a foregone conclusion that James would join the Navy. She was even named for her deceased grandfather, and her mother’s aunt who raised her, both career Navy. In a fit of rebellion, she went Marine. It proved to be a life-changing decision, and not for the normal reasons. After completing basic, she went into the K9 unit and was trained in antiterrorism. James went to Afghanistan with Marshall, her canine partner. They did a full tour in Afghanistan then one in Iraq, then came back to Afghanistan. The two of them were there for the Genesis Cascade. They watched the area turn into a rainforest, even the steep slopes of the mountains. The power structure in the region was destabilized by the climate change and warlords arose when the government faltered. The U.S. started a strategic withdrawal. Her team was one of the last to leave. As they were doing a security sweep of a car when the IED onboard detonated. Marshall was killed and James lost her leg. She returned home and recuperated, then was honorably discharged from her injury. Her skills and injury made getting a job next to impossible. She managed to find a job pushing paper at the VA, filing completed forms with the government. James admits that she became depressed and put on a bit of weight. Then she found the raptors. Her car broke down Halloween night 2014. James tried to stay in her car, but an allosaurus attacked it. While she scrambled away, a pack of raptors attacked it, as they were unwittingly too close to the nest. James hid in the nest itself as the pack was killed by the allosaurus. It feasted on the parents and then went after her. James pulled her firearm out and tried to fight the creature. Her bullets ricocheted and did no damage. She knew she was dead but she kept trying. Her heart and head pounded as it came at her, jaws agape. In defiance, James punched it -- and the allosaurus’s head snapped around sharply. With inhuman speed and force, she drove the already wounded dinosaur off. When she caught her breath, she realized that most of the raptor eggs had been crushed. Two survived, and on impulse James took them. She wasn’t sure what she was doing, and she really wasn’t sure when they hatched the next morning. She could tell they imprinted on her immediately, and something in their huge eyes convinced her to go get some steak from the fridge instead of her .45. She named one Marshall and the other Semper Fi. Without consciously deciding to, she raised them and trained them. They were a pleasant distraction from the strangeness in her life: the sudden weight loss, her increased physical prowess, and even her ability to compensate for her leg. She started running again, with Marshall and Semp tagging along with her. Caring for them required her to stay close to home, so she wasn’t at the fateful family reunion that granted her custody of her nephew. Two T-rexes, working in concert, attacked the park the reunion was in, killing everyone but the boy, who hid in a culvert. With Oscar in her life, James had to come clean. He was put into foster care for a time, until she was able to convince the authorities that Marshall and Semp were loyal to her. There was some adjustment on all sides when Oscar came home but they’ve managed to become something akin to a family. To support her new life, James applied for and received a position with CRRD.
  10. 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.”
  11. 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. James blinked at the odd statement and glanced quickly at Locke to see his reaction.
  12. 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.”
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