Dinocalypse Now: Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

New York City

Mack tuned into the radio on his wrist, dialed to Grey Ghost’s frequency—

And heard only static whispering back: the pops and crackles of dead air.

They thought to follow him, to descend into the sewers to track his radio, but then more of those assassins turned onto the street, all dark suits and black glasses and wide razor mouths. A half-dozen here, another half-dozen marching around the other corner.

The fake-faced killers hadn’t yet spied the Centurions.

Sally pulled them into the lobby of the Empire State Building. Above their heads, the art deco gold leaf relief of the stars and planets in a long line. Beneath them, the cold terrazzo floor.

“They’re coming,” she said.

“They got Ghost?” Jet asked.

“They got Ghost,” Mack said. “What in the name of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is going on? Anybody else feel like those things got in their head?”

“They told me—” Jet began but then decided not to share the whole story. “They told me to go toward the light. I heard it but I didn’t hear it.”

Sally chimed in: “Like they were inside your head.”

Jet nodded. He felt his palms go slick.

“If Flyboy here hadn’t bonked their heads like a pair of island coconuts, those freaks would’ve had me for sure,” Mack said. “Ghost didn’t have a shot.”

“We have to get him back,” Jet said.

“Not yet, kid. We gotta regroup. Get our bearings. See what we’re up against. If they can get in our heads easy as apple pie, then we don’t stand a chance. If this attack really was on us and not on Roosevelt, then it’s time to be extra-cautious.”

Jet felt his face growing red. “Cautious? You? Selfish. That’s what you mean.”

“Hey now! Where’s this coming from, Flyboy?”

“You’re protecting your own hind end, not ours.”

Mack grabbed Jet by his suit. “You’re damn right I am. Somebody has to watch out for A-Number-One. You picking up what I’m laying down?”

“Oh, I’m picking it up,” Jet seethed.

A loud whistle cut through the lobby, echoing. Sally stood there, fingers between her lips. “Everybody listening? Good. Mack’s right, though maybe for the wrong reasons.”

“Hey—” Mack protested, but Sally cut him off with a look.

“We have no defense here. Our only hope is to get to the plane and find our way to another chapter house. Philadelphia, maybe. Regroup. Learn about—”

Outside came screams. Screams of people, yes. But something else, too.

The three of them crept toward the door. Peered out the glass.

Just as a massive winged dinosaur crashed down on a black Buick 41. Denting the car’s hood like it was made of tinfoil.

“That’s a dinosaur,” Mack said.

“It’s not the only one,” Sally said, pointing up. They tilted their heads and glimpsed what little vantage they could—across the sky drifted other winged lizards, darting between massive black dirigibles, blimps lined with strange tribal markings.

“This situation is all wet,” Jet said.

“Not only do we have a bunch of lizard-faced mooks with the ability to get in our heads standing in our way,” Mack said, “but now we got real dinosaurs in our way?”

“And dirigibles of unknown origin,” Jet added.

“Follow me,” Sally said, grabbing the both of them by the crook of their arms and pulling them toward the elevator. She stabbed a button with her wrench.

The elevator dinged.

“My jetpack is long gone,” Jet said, thumbing toward the street. “It’s still out there. We can’t go up. We go up, there’s nowhere else to go.”

“Who said we’re going up?” Sally asked.

She pushed them both inside.

Once in after them, she stabbed the down button.

* * *

Sally explained as she ushered them through the darkened Empire State Building subbasement and toward a locked door marked with a plaque: NO ENTRY.

The Federal government, in all its wisdom and autocracy, decided that it needed a rat’s warren of secret tunnels laced throughout the city’s underground. Hidden evacuation tunnels for government officials, clandestine offices, fake “steam” tunnels and the like.

Using these tunnels, she said, would take them across Manhattan and dump them out at the Hudson—where Lucy sat docked.

The tunnels were twice as dark as night. The air sat still and cold.

“Got it,” Sally said, voice echoing. She fumbled around at the back of her belt, and hanging there she pulled a micro-torch she invented for on-the-go jobs.

Or, of course, to light pitch-black tunnels.

Blue flame erupted in a crackling cone, and as a result, they once again could see.

Mack checked his compass. “We just need to head east.”

Ahead of them, the tunnel was only big enough for one of them—each elbow rubbing along a cement wall. But as they crept along, the space widened and the floor dropped while the ceiling remained the same. It went from being a bog-standard utility tunnel to looking instead like a cathedral that had been buried beneath the earth—the sudden vault of the ceiling and the deco pillars in the wall only helped to complete the illusion.

“How’d you know about these tunnels?” Jet asked.

“Remember the giant rats?” About five years ago, Sally was called to investigate a warren of super-sized rodents beneath the city. She didn’t expect they’d also be super-intelligent. But, so it went—the rats, harmless and actually quite friendly, now had kept to a small island off the coast of Norway. “I had a sandhog show me the way down.”

Mack laughed. “Sandhog.”

“That’s what they’re called.”

“No, no, I know. It’s just—c’mon, doll, that’s funny. Sandhog.”

“I’m not your doll.”

He stiffened. “I know you’re not.”

“The hogs built this city,” Sally asserts through clenched teeth. “Sewers? Subway tunnels? Ever hear of something called the Brooklyn Bridge, smart guy?”

Mack chuffed. “All right, okay, everybody settle down—”

A wretched screech echoed through the tunnels. Stopping the three of them in their tracks. Mack whispered: “Don’t suppose that’s one of your rat pals?”

Sally didn’t answer. She didn’t have to.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake. Streamers of dust fell from the ceiling as the ground rumbled.

Another screech. Closer this time.

And the floor shook harder.

“Do we need to run?” Mack asked.

“We need to run,” Sally confirmed.

Jet was about to throw his own two cents into the cup—but behind them, a massive beast with pale, scaled flesh crashed through the wall. In the uncertain light of Sally’s torch they saw milky eyes, a head shaped like an iron forge, a lashing tail thick as an elephant’s leg.

Nobody needed to say it, this time:

They ran, the beast in swift pursuit.