Fiction Friday: Beyond Dinocalypse – Chapters 12 & 13

Beyond Dinocalypse

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Chapter Twelve

Another memory:

Baalbek. Once known as Heliopolis, the City of the Sun.

Benjamin ran. Not above it—not within the ruins of the Temple of Venus, no. Rather, far beneath it. He hurried through the twisting knot-like catacombs—tunnels once carved by the hands of man. Soon they broke apart, revealing a hole into a far greater, far older labyrinth. This labyrinth was also an unnatural one, but too smooth, too perfect to have been carved by the hands of mortal man. Not, at least, without some help.

On the smooth-sculpted walls, Benjamin saw images of the ones who may have helped shape these twisting channels: glyphs of huge humanoids in bell-helmets with what looked to be antennae rising from their heads.

The Ancient Astronauts. Figures who came from space—or, as Benjamin believed, from another dimension altogether—to deliver wisdom to the human species. To “uplift” them with knowledge and science. A controversial theory, one that suggested that mankind wasn’t responsible for its own advances and was instead handed a gift by powerful beings. (Not far, Benjamin thought, from the notion of gods and goddesses. Why would one reject the idea of Ancient Knowledge-givers but embrace the idea of a Sky Father delivering wisdom?)

It didn’t matter. The old texts and glyphs didn’t show a successful “uplift”—the Astronauts had judged us able, but we proved that we were still a species of warriors, unready for a boost to the next level. Glyphs deeper in chambers like this one ended inevitably the same: with the large helmeted humanoids being cast to the ground and torn asunder, or stabbed with spears, or crushed with rocks.

Benjamin believed that humanity just wasn’t ready.

But we’ve come a long way, he thought, boots echoing on sculpted stone.

Just the same: the Astronauts left behind gifts. Devices. In this case, a powerful occult battery that—if it matched the one beneath the ground at Catal Hayuk—absorbed the energies of the dead and turned them into actual energy.

In this case, electricity.

Just as he thought that, a coruscating ripple of dancing purple lightning flickered down the smooth-bore tunnel, washing over Benjamin. His body seized for a moment and he almost tumbled forward—everything numb, stars behind his eyes, tongues of electricity still licking up the blade of his rapier.

But he found his footing. Kept running. If he was already too late…

Benjamin burst into a wide-open chamber, the walls smooth but for the scalloped furrows starting in the center and running up the walls like ribs.

In the center of the room stood a platform.

On that platform was an object that looked not unlike a small stone fountain—the edges sharper, and inlaid with pearl and copper. What poured forth from the fountain was not water, but rather—


The room strobed with blue light as crackling fingers of electricity came off the fountain, searching the air.

Behind the device stood a man in a metal suit, a massive helmet on his head that looked not unlike one of the Mayan helmets seen on carved figures at Tikal (itself a place where Benjamin believed the Ancient Astronauts visited). But this helmet was made of coiled wire and jagged spires.

Lightning climbed off the fountain and crawled up to the man’s helmet, electricity bridging the two spires rising off his helmet.

“You come too late, Detective!” Der Blitzmann yelled, cackling.

“Friedrich,” Benjamin shouted over the snap-hiss of electricity. “You’re a scientist. Not a scholar of history!” He thought, but did not add, And you’re mad as an oracle, to boot. “You’re messing with forces you could not possibly understand!”

“This is electricity! This is the only force I understand, Detective!”

Blitzmann tilted his head forward and from the twin spires atop his metal helmet fired two searing white bolts of lightning.

The room lit up as they struck the ground only ten feet in front of Benjamin. He smelled ozone. His legs tingled and itched. All the world was washed away in a bright tide of pure white—

When his eyes adjusted again, he saw them.

Two tall figures. Like the Ancient Astronauts.

But made entirely of electricity.

The electric elementals charged forward, hands out, threads of lightning wrapping around Benjamin’s chest and then head. Everything buzzed and the world shrieked and he knew then that all was lost.

It wasn’t all lost, of course.

That was ten years ago. Funny how then everything seemed like a crisis. It was, in a way. But now, with the world fallen to the psychosaurs, all of that turned out to be just a precursor to a much bigger, scarier cataclysm.

Regardless, what mattered now was that Friedrich Blitzmann was here. Here. In the Empire State Building. Working the fungus as a slave to the psychosaurs.

Blitzmann was insane. A formidable threat not necessarily because of his skills with electricity (which were well-practiced and dangerous, indeed), but most certainly because his actions were always unpredictable. Other villains had motivations that made sense: they wanted a great deal of money, or they hoped to control the world, or it was a matter of vengeance, so on and so forth.

Blitzmann—or, rather, Der Blitzmann, his practicing name as one of the world’s deadliest malefactors—only wanted electricity. He loved it like most people loved a spouse: he wore the suit only so he could get close to it. “My lightning embrace!” he would sometimes cry as he called electricity to him. He spoke to it. He claimed it was his friend.

Somehow, in some way, Friedrich Blitzmann was going to help him escape this place. And maybe, just maybe, bring it all to the ground.

The woman cut her hand. That’s what did it. That’s what brought Benjamin roaring out of his body and into the collected hive-mind of all the fungal workers.

As for the woman—

It was as if the pain of her hand freed her. Benjamin watched as her eyes went clear, losing that ignorant cultist shine all of them had, that thousand-yard stare. And she suddenly looked left, looked right, made a cry in the back of her throat like a wounded animal, then took one step—

And vine-like tendrils of pulsing fungus swung down from above, coiling around her arms, her midsection, her legs. She shrieked as they hauled her upward through a gap in the ceiling fringed with finger-like spore-blooms.

Then she was gone.

And that’s it, Benjamin thought. One more piece of the puzzle slotted into place. The electro-culture of the fungus. The presence of the villain known as Der Blitzmann. The freedom brought on by a moment of real pain.

Only one more piece of that puzzle remained, and it too lingered in the deep of Benjamin Hu’s memories.

Chapter Thirteen

Before Amelia even knew what was happening, Atok launched himself forward, running back down through the ruins of his own civilization.

Toward the danger, if she figured it right. Toward the shrieking monsters.

This wasn’t heroics. This wasn’t a man defending his kingdom from intruders no matter the cost. This was personal. Some axe he was grinding in the dark of his mind—he had something to prove and it was going to get him killed.

She understood it, of course. She’d been in his position many times before. Leaping into danger with nothing but your fists because of some principle, some stupid idea lodged in your craw like a piece of meat between your teeth.

Amelia knew it well.

Didn’t make it smart. And she’d always been lucky to have people pull her feet out of the fire just as she was about to get them burned off.

Besides, until she found her friends—if her friends were even here—Atok was her only shot of getting Benjamin back from those monsters.

So, just as Atok ran, she ran after.

He was fast. Faster than she was. He clambered up over earthen rooftops, using ridges of stone and shelves of clay pots as ladders and as springboards—she found herself sticking to the ground only, watching him dart along walls and up rocky outcroppings with the same combination of might and finesse found in Khan the Conqueror or any of his primate-kin.

There came a point when she lost him.

But then she heard his barbaric yawp ahead—

Coupled with a howling saurian roar.

Oh, dammit.

She launched herself forward, legs burning with the extra oomph she gave them—she damn near lost her footing and went tail over teakettle when she tripped on a root popping up out of the cracked ground, but managed to recover and skid down a short slope. Just in time to see Atok thrown from twenty feet away, his body a tumbling boulder that she had to sidestep lest he knock her down, too.

And there, ahead, stood a trio of massive beasts. Amelia didn’t know dinosaurs from door-knockers, but what she did know was that these so-called thunder lizards were big as a city bus with massive spiked sail-fins atop their backs, sails that were as tall as the beasts were long. One of them raised a blunt-nosed head—a head like a damn wrecking ball torn off its chain—and bellowed, revealing a mouthful of yellow teeth.

Teeth big as Amelia’s arm.

“Atok” she growled. “We gotta go—”

But Atok was already gone. He sprang up and was already bolting back toward the three beasts.

I will not retreat, Atok thought.

Then the thunder-beast’s head collided with him like a giant fist and sent him hurtling backward into a stone shelf. Pain ignited in his spine, a torch-bloom of misery. But there, that thought again, clinging to him like a burr.

I will not retreat.

His people were cowards.

Anger and disappointment were two snakes that coiled together in his belly. He set them on fire and jumped back into the action.

One of the sail-fin beasts charged to meet him. But he was faster. More agile. He planted a bare foot on the thing’s nose and launched himself up over its tree-trunk neck and toward its sail-fin.

Upon reaching the fin, he ducked to one side, then pressed his back against the sail-fin…

It was like a sling-shot. The sail-fin, pushed to its limit, catapulted him off the one rampaging lizard and into another: fist first. His coiled fist popped one of the creatures in its scale-ridged eye, and suddenly the creature shuffled backward, shrieking and blinking and shaking its head like a snow-stung wolf.

Atok whooped and pounded his chest.

A half-second later, the third beast’s tail crashed into his legs. He fell, his back hitting the ground, the air blasting free of his lungs. As he gasped and tried to suck air into his chest, he saw the massive maw of one of the lizards open above him—all broken yellow teeth and foamy gray-pink tongue. He kicked out, snapped off a tooth, but the creature was undeterred. It plunged its mouth toward him.

A rock rebounded off its leathery snout.

The lizard’s head recoiled. A low growl rumbled in the back of its throat.

Hands grabbed under Atok’s arms, dragged him backward. Amelia. The human. Good. Yes. She would help him defeat these intruders. She would help him complete what his own weak whelp people could not. Would not.

But then she stepped in front of him, a rock in her hand.

“My turn,” she said.

Then brained him with it, knocking Atok into darkness.

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