ARC HalloweenDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine, but belong to their appropriate owners.
“Hey, people, you know what? Let’s go to a Halloween party!” Connor Temple announced in a grand tone, completely out of the blue. As such things tend to develop – at least when Connor is involved – his co-workers exchanged looks of varying degrees between themselves, and not one drop of Connor’s enthusiasm.
“Connor, uh,” Sarah said finally, “we’re really flattered at your suggestion, but, uh, we live in England, and Halloween is an American holiday, so there isn’t any trick-or-treating involved, and besides, aren’t we too, uh-“ she hesitated saying old, because, well, she didn’t feel old, although-
“I’m not talking about that,” Connor said indignantly, “I’m suggesting that we go to a party that a bunch of my mates from the university are throwing in honour of Halloween-“
“Connor, we understand, and we’re flattered, but really not interested,” Danny said, somewhat apologetically, but not too much. “Somehow I don’t think that Sarah and I would fit in too well with a bunch of people of your age.”
“And besides, didn’t you tell me that one of the parties that you went to ended with you in jail?” Abby added, not very helpfully.
“Yeah, but this time you will be with me-“
“And what does that mean, Connor?”
As Abby glared at Connor, and the young man sweated, the sound of the anomaly detector’s alarm resonated through the Center.***
The night was almost as black as pitch and probably as cold as an Arctic night. The rain, falling down none-too-gently, didn’t help visibility either, and Jenny was really happy that she, for once, had not followed her rules and didn’t wear any high heel shoes – for tonight, they would’ve been disastrous...
Oh, but whom was she kidding? She hadn’t worn high heels in months, not since the prehistoric panzercroc incident when they had met Sarah Page for the first time, and Nick was still alive! Without Nick around, Jenny’s old life has somehow vanished, or, more precisely, her old reasons for living the ARC life. True, there had been Danny, but somehow or other... he wasn’t Nick, and Jenny didn’t intend to be his Claudia or anyone else for that matter. Let Sarah Page do it, for all she cared!..
Well, actually she did – about Nick. She missed him, for all that it was worth, and so tonight she came to the cemetery to pay him some respect. For some reason she didn’t really expect to run into Abby, Connor, or the others here tonight: Abby and Connor were never big on the cemeteries since Stephen died, and Danny and others never knew Nick long enough to care – oh, and Lester probably didn’t care at all, period.
As a consequence, when Jenny entered the cemetery and saw a small candle glowing in the darkness, she was very surprised and carefully – as carefully as she could – made her way in that direction, hoping that wasn’t some sort of a glowing beast from the future or a dinosaur from the past, but just some grave robbers or something...
The way Jenny’s luck went, actually, it was neither.
It was actually Helen Cutter.* * *
The time anomaly was actually not too far from the ARC, but the weather conditions and the time of day, or rather night, made the situation rather uncomfortable and unpredictable for the field team to deal with it.
“Well, so far nothing seems to be coming out from it, so maybe it’ll be not a problem,” Sarah was saying with hope in her voice. “That is to say, it’s a false alarm-“
“Sarah,” Connor said wearily, “no time anomaly has ever been a false alarm. ‘Course, it’s a big difference if a diictodon comes out on one hand, and a G-Rex on the other, but something always comes out-“
It was at this moment that a large, grey tomcat with amber-yellow eyes burst from the time anomaly and ran through Connor’s legs, with both the tail and fur on its’ back raised high. “What the-“ Connor began, but never finished, as a person of indeterminable gender (in the gloomy night) burst from the same time anomaly, clearly intent on chasing the cat, to the point where he or she just knocked Connor down and continued after the rapidly vanishing cat.
Still lying on his back, Connor looked up to Abby, who reached out to get him back on the feet. “Okay, that was totally unexpected,” he began, when a glowing sphere of sickly green phosphorescence, less than half a meter in a diameter flew from the still open time anomaly and slammed directly into Abby, causing the latter to stiffen from pain!
As Abby collapsed into Connor’s arms and the others raced to her assistance, the time anomaly closed, leaving nothing but darkness and silence in its’ wake.* * *
“Hello, Jenny,” Helen spoke when Jenny became totally sure that she was sneaking up on the other woman without the latter being aware of it. “You’re here because of Nick, I presume?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Jenny confessed, all fight leaking out of her now that Helen had half-turned to her and looked straight in the face. “That I did. Why are you here?”
“Stephen,” Helen replied curtly, turning away from Jenny and towards the grave. “Today’s the third day of the Anthesteria; I decided to use it to my advantage...”
“The third day of what?”
“The ancient Greek version of... Halloween, I suppose,” Helen shrugged.
“You never were in ancient Greece!”
“Actually, it was the Roman empire of the Flavian times, I think,” Helen shrugged. “I’m not a history fan, you know? Still, that time has its’ perks.”
“Danny and others claim that you’re dead, you know,” Jenny pressed on.
“Well, maybe I am, and you’re speaking to a ghost or a crazy clone,” Helen shrugged. “What’s it to you? Why aren’t you at the ARC, to begin with?”
“I don’t know,” Jenny shook her head. “Without Nick... I have no place there, I just can’t feel it, you know? Is it the same thing with you and Stephen?” she added.
“I guess,” Helen’s whole posture just began to droop somehow. “You’re staying here, or going back over to Nick’s?”
Jenny squinted hard at the other woman through the darkness. Somehow, Helen currently didn’t seem as formidable or forbidding as she usually did – right now, she just seemed to be nothing more than a tired, aged woman at the grave of a loved one, something that Jenny could relate. “I’ll, uh, stay here if you promise to come over to Nick’s later with me,” she said quietly, hoping that she didn’t sound too macabre instead.
“We’ll,” Helen began but suddenly stiffened and whirled around. “Who’s there?”
A pair of rather bedraggled-looking figures emerged from the deepening night-time fog.* * *
“People, people, what’s the emergency?” James Lester emerged from his car – he didn’t really stay on overnight watches as a rule – “what has happened?”
“Something has come out of a time anomaly and took over Abby!” Connor cried out.
“What?” Lester took a second look at the unconscious blonde. There clearly was something wrong with her, especially her face and hands: they seemed to be somehow different... “What has happened to her?”
“Some sort of a glowing fireball came out of the time anomaly and took over her!” Connor exclaimed. As Lester just stared incredulously at the younger man, Becker stepped in:
“It’s true, sir. Some sort of a glowing light sphere came out of time anomaly and hit her – and now she glows in the dark herself, and appears to be unresponsive to our attempts to snap her out of it.”
“Glows in the dark,” Lester practically fell onto a nearby chair. “Why is it that since I started the ARC my life is never normal?”* * *
Jenny stared. Of all the things that she had met during her working period at the ARC, a young woman of about Abby’s age dressed in some strange get-up and a large, grey tomcat with amber eyes were two of the more unusual ones. “Um, hello there,” she began, but paused, when the girl half-bowed in return instead.
Helen, however, Jenny nodded from the corner of her eye, didn’t seem too surprised, but more like resigned. “Ah,” she said, even as she pulled some sort of an oval-shaped device from her pocket. “It’s you two again. What has happened this time?”
“Well, uh, this time we were running away from this strange flying light,” the girl began and paused. “Oh, but where are my manners? Gaijin-sama, my name is Ino Yamanaka-“
“Ahem,” Helen said flatly, “while me and Jenny here are glad to have met you, Ino, but, ah, why aren’t you back in your time and place?”
“Oh!” the girl looked embarrassed. “Me and Tora-san, we sort of were looking for you, you know, because of-“
“Sounds to me that your cat has decided to go AWOL again, and took you along for the ride,” Helen said wryly, looking at that cat, rather than the girl. “You didn’t run into more gangsters, did you?”
“No, this time it were glowing sphere of light – really small spheres with really faint light, kind of like swampfire,” the girl trailed away. “What?”
“It didn’t hit you or come into contact with you or anything?” Helen said slowly, at which moment the cat yowled loudly, startling the three humans.
“I think,” the girl – Ino – said slowly, “that someone else got hit instead.”
“Of course,” Helen groaned. “With you two around if it isn’t Christine’s former goons turned gangsters, then it’s something worse. Jenny, you want to come with us or do you want to stay?”
“I’m coming,” Jenny said curtly. “Lead on!”* * *
The medical wing of the ARC had seen many emergencies over the years, but this case was one definitely of the weirder ones.
“So, what’s wrong with Abby?” Connor cried out plaintively as Sarah got briefed by a nurse.
"They’re... they’re not sure,” Sarah said grimly. “They say... Abby is mutating.”
“Mutating. For some reason her genetic make-up is beginning to change from human to something else, and nobody there has any idea how to stop it, or halt it, or why is it happening to begin with,” Sarah helplessly said, seeing how Connor was about to go into a mental melt-down. “The good news, so to speak, is that it doesn’t appear to be life-threatening yet, so she’ll live, probably.”
Connor opened his mouth to answer in terms that would probably be more fit in the barracks of the army or the marines, when suddenly there was a crash in the corridor adjacent to the one in which he and Sarah were talking, the doors, opened wide, and in strode three women, each one bizarre in her own way.
The one in the middle was Helen Cutter, and she was bizarre because, well, she was supposed to be dead. Still, somehow or other, she was obviously alive, even if she looked somewhat worse for wear than usual.
The one on the right was Jenny Lewis, and while she looked about as confused as Connor felt, her appearance here was bizarre still, because, frankly, she had dropped off the ARC radar since the futuristic fungus incident – a mistake, Connor belatedly realized, that should’ve been fixed by him or Abby, rather than by Lester.
The one on the left was a much younger woman, probably around Abby and his age, with a big cat in her arms. Her appearance was bizarre because, well, she was a complete stranger, and ever since starting to work at the ARC, Connor didn’t run into too many strangers, especially ones with pets of their own. Strange, perhaps, but also quite true.
Sarah, meanwhile, wasn’t as stunned by the oddness of the situation as Connor was. “What are you doing here? Where’s Becker?” she snapped.
“Out cold,” Helen said flatly. “Where’s Abby Maitland?”
“In there – but you can’t see her! She’s mutating!” Connor shouted out before Sarah could react. “Some glowing green thing came out of a time anomaly, and now she’s mutating-“
“Of course,” Helen growled. “It’s never easy with them or
with you, is it? Jenny, you and our friend please stay here – is there anybody with her right now?”
“No-“ Connor began, but Helen was already moving inside.* * *
Helen didn’t know exactly why she was helping Abby Maitland – the younger woman had been one of those who actively thought to bring her down, and thus Helen didn’t feel that she owed her any particular debt, karmic or any other, in regards to reverting her to normal. Still, here she was, looking over the mutating body of the blonde, surveying the damage.
The observations, however, weren’t too good. Abby’s skull structure had already been altered and expanded to house much bigger eyes and ears, and fingers on her hands too had stretched out, with skin forming something like primitive suction cups on them and on her palms. In other words, Abby was becoming something else than a human – and Helen didn’t like it. However, there was only one thing that she could do: carefully, the older woman slit the skin on one of her own palms and pressed it to Abby’s skin - if the smell and sense of blood won’t cause a reaction, then nothing would.
Moreover, for a few moments there seemed to be no reaction – and then Abby’s whole body flared up with a sickly-greenish light. It surged up into Helen’s own body, and then, with an electric-sounding crackle, it vanished.* * *
The silence was awkward, to say the least. “Becker’s out cold?” Sarah said slowly. “Since when is Helen that good?”
“That was her and her cat, actually,” Jenny said, feeling somewhat guilty. “The girl is some sort of a ninja, I think, and a willowy blonde – Becker didn’t have that much of a chance.”
Sarah’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “When you said that Becker got knocked out, do you mean it physically-like, or from a hormonal overload?”
“Um,” Jenny began, but at that moment Abby’s very loud cry for Connor had cut her off.
Immediately, Connor was on his feet, running into the room, followed closely by the others. Abby was there, very much conscious, awake and normal, and Helen... Helen was leaning at one of the corners, looking tired to the bone for a change. “It’s over;” she muttered crossly, “the girl’s fixed.”
“What, what has happened to her? What was that thing?” Jenny asked quietly.
“One of the varieties of something or other,” Helen muttered crossly. “There may be as many as eight or nine kinds in total. They may be animals from a really far-off future, or some sort of nanotechnology, or even side effects from the whole time anomaly manifestation process – I don’t really know, make your own viable theory.” She stood away from the wall, and Jenny could see the sudden bags under her eyes, the weariness on her face. “Now all is left is to send Alice over there and her white rabbit of a cat home.”
“And then?” Jenny asked eagerly.
“Nothing,” Jenny said quietly. Obviously, whatever feelings of camaraderie had influenced Helen in the cemetery to ask Jenny to come along had vanished by now. “Um, how are you going to send them-“ she spoke even as Helen made her way across to the foreign girl and her cat, who looked about as relieved about Abby’s well-being as everyone else.
“Ahem,” Helen glared at the willowy blonde, who immediately jumped up and pulled out a small, bluish, rectangular device out of the pocket of her pants. Immediately, albeit with an eye-roll, Helen pressed down a sequence of buttons on the device, and right away a time anomaly manifested. At once, the cat took off, followed closely by the girl who managed to grasp her time anomaly manifestation device and jump after her cat into the closing time anomaly in a blink of an eye.
“Well, that is that,” Helen said wearily, even as she pulled a practically identical device out of her pocket. “Jenny Lewis, you want to come along? I think I still owe you an evening of some sort, eh?”
“Sure, where to?” Jenny said, rather eagerly. Anything was better than loneliness, after all, especially on such a night.
“Oh, you’ll see,” Helen said slyly, and the two of them vanished in another time anomaly, just as Becker stumbled into the room, his nose seriously bloodied.
“What has happened here?” he indignantly asked.
“I’m not sure,” Sarah admitted, “but at least Connor and Abby seem to be happy.”