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In Which Gamma Team’s Day Gets Complicated
In Cat’s professional opinion, things were already going to shit by the time the pteranodon attacked. In theory, the addition of a reptile the same size as a four-year-old child would mean it was time to panic; in reality, it was just another Day at the office.
So when the aforementioned reptile swooped over her head with a soft whomp of displaced air, she immediately drew a bead on it with the Peacekeeper and tapped her ear.
“Darwin, what the hell is that thing?” Cat asked, watching as the creature wheeled over the shallow water of Azalea Pond, giving everyone a view of its pale, wrinkly underside.
“I DON’T KNOW, DARWIN,” Cat hollered back, “IS IT A FUCKING PTERANODON?”
“Commander,” the New Kid called, fumbling for the clip to his sidearm. “Um. I think Captain Renault might be getting ready to charge after all.”
Cat relaxed from her defensive stance and pushed a thumb against one caffeine-deprived temple. “Specs, what the hell is a pteranodon doing in my city?”
The big man in tactical gear standing beside her wiped sweat from his lips and swallowed. “I don’t know, Cat. There’s never been any historical evidence for them this far north.”
Cat eyed the reptile suspiciously as it landed on a low-hanging branch, panting. “Try telling it that.”
“Maybe she’s lost,” Helix offered, looking over the data on her tablet. She tapped her own ear and said, “Darwin, what period do they come from?”
“How the hell should I know?” Darwin’s voice chirped from the open channel. “Where in my job description does it say paleontologist? I guess right below where it says babysitter, and trail guide, and—”
With a tap of her finger, Cat ended the transmission. “Tell your brother that if we survive, he’s fired.”
“Mm-hm,” Helix said, eyes flicking over the screen. “Fired. Got it.”
Turning to the man in gleaming greyscale armor behind her, Cat holstered her weapon and said, “Grunt, I want two Dogs on this thing at all times until we can send it home. Everybody else, get ready to move out.”
“Yes ma’am,” Grunt replied.
“Specs, you’re on point with me,” Cat said, finger-combing her short blonde hair out of her face. “Let’s go talk Captain Renault down before they head north and find Belvedere.”
“Cat—Cat, just wait—”
She spun around. “Wait for what, Specs? There’s a regiment of very confused 18th century Frenchmen holed up in the Ramble, and last time I checked, you’re still the only one here who speaks French.”
“Cat,” he said, holding up his hands, “do you really think they’re going to listen to a black man? Or a woman?”
Cat stared at him, taking in the obvious dark walnut tone of his skin, and then with a mini scream of frustration she drew the Peacekeeper again and fired a single round into a nearby rock. Half of it melted into a glowing puddle that blackened the grass like Cajun fried fish. As the silence lengthened, Cat holstered the gun and drummed her fingers on her leg with a sigh.
“Feel better?” Specs asked, raising both eyebrows.
“You know what, I really do.” Looking back over her shoulder, she barked, “New Kid, with us. We’re going to play a game of Telephone.”
“Telephone?” he asked, following the closest of his team members as though tugged along by the very end of a short rope.
Cat glanced back at him as they trekked towards the rougher high ground of the Ramble, where their new friends were headed. “What, they don’t have sleepovers wherever you’re from? Telephone. I tell Specs, he tells you, you tell Captain Renault. But in French.”
“French? Commander, I—I can’t speak French.”
“Really? You can’t? Oh, well, there goes the whole day. We might as well pack it in now. Specs, tell the twins we’re done here, Beta can come deal with the pteranodon. I’m sure they’ve got a dinosaur expert.”
“What the commander means,” Specs told the scrambling man, “is that she’s going to tell me what to say, I’m going to translate it into French, and then you’re going to repeat it to Captain Renault.”
Cat threw a glance over her shoulder. “I’m not touching this one.”
Snorting softly, Specs said, “From far enough away, you pass.”
“Pass—oh. But wouldn’t—wouldn’t the others be better?” the New Kid asked, looking at the group of Watchdogs fanned out around him.
“Maybe so,” Cat said. “But I want their focus on our surroundings.”
“O-okay.” Swallowing gamely, the New Kid began following Specs better than the bigger man’s own shadow.
Cat didn’t blame the kid a bit. Given the choice between herself and Specs, she would have done the same thing; the historian was twice his commander’s size, and a good deal more pleasant.
They came around a copse of trees and there, huddled around a pool at the base of an anemic waterfall, was a pack of animals that didn’t require Darwin for identification. A three-quarters blind octogenarian wouldn’t have mistaken them.
More dinosaurs. People-sized dinosaurs.
Cat sighed and closed her eyes. “Oh. Fuck. Me.”