Fiction Friday: Beyond Dinocalypse – Chapters 29-30

Beyond Dinocalypse

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Chapter Twenty-Nine

She awoke.

Ground beneath her hips.

Jet-wing lying nearby.

Sally looked at two feet planted on the tarpaper roof.

A gloved hand reached down, helped her up.

“Jet,” she said.

“Hey, Sally.”

“I…”

“You fell.”

She felt two blushing roses bloom on her cheeks. “Oh.”

Nearby, Steve the psychosaur stood, poking a stick into a half-collapsed pigeon coop.

“I caught you,” Jet said.

“I feel so…” Her one hand formed into a frustrated fist. “I feel so stupid. You had gone off the radar and—”

“—I figured I’d try a longer flight, just to see—”

“—and then I went after you to—”

“—to save me. You wanted to save me.”

She hesitated. “I thought you were in danger.”

“I wasn’t. I’m okay. But thank you.”

“I guess you don’t need me saving you anymore.”

“I thought I did.” He took a step back. “But I can save myself.”

That one step seemed magnified, somehow. An extra foot of physical space seemed like an emotional mile. All the more confusing was that old feelings stirred up and she wanted to kiss him. But that wouldn’t be the strong thing to do.

And she wasn’t sure he even wanted that from her, anymore.

“I guess we should get back,” she said.

He nodded. “I guess so.”


They landed to applause. And handshakes. And triumphant whistles.

Jet didn’t bother mentioning that Sally had fallen and that he had saved her. Even though everyone probably assumed it was the other way around.

He thought her experience up there would have taught her something about using one of the jet-wings, but she put that thought quickly out of his head as she announced:

“The jet-wing test was successful!” More applause and hoots. “That means tomorrow morning, we suit up and go to war. Eat and drink well tonight, for soon we take back our city—” Here the applause reached what Jet thought was its crescendo, but then she added: “And then, our world.”

Massive applause. Thunderous for the small group present. Magnified by the echo of the stone walls around them.


“Steve,” Jet asked, “can you project your… mental field? Around us?”

They stood with the others—Amelia, Khan, Benjamin—in the workshop next to the remaining jet-wings. Steve gave a quizzical look.

“Steven,” Khan clarified, “can you protect us from others like you?”

“Okay!” the psychosaur chirped, and his opaque eye-membranes closed for just a moment, then opened again. Again he said: “Okay!”

“Will that work?” Amelia asked. “Are we protected from… him?”

By “him,” they all knew who she meant.

Jared Brain. The Walking Mind.

“I guess we’ll find out,” Jet said, then dove right in: “I saw Mack.”

They goggled at him.

Khan laughed, a bellowing gorilla ho ho ho. “He’s alive?”

“Alive and has a plane. I told him we’re all in and that we had an idea where to go. All we need to do is meet him tomorrow for the pickup.”

“That’s great,” Amelia said, sharing a rare smile. “Where do we meet?”

“Since the plane’s a Clipper it can land in water—we agreed on the Central Park reservoir, which is only about a mile north of here.”

“We can take Steven,” Khan said.

“No,” Jet said, fast and firm. “He stays. They’ll need him for whatever is to come. I don’t want to rob them of any weapons they can use.”

“What about us?” Benjamin asked. “Serious question. We are weapons they can use.”

“We’re not weapons. We’re heroes. And that’s why we have to leave. I hope they win the city back and then the world, but I don’t know that we’re the ones to fight this fight. We have a bigger battle ahead of us. We have to fight for the world we lost, not for the world we made.”

A hard decision, but there it was. He still wasn’t sure about it, but he knew he didn’t want to stay. Maybe part of it was just that he missed the world as it was. Nostalgia had its claws in him—though it wasn’t that long ago for him, it felt suddenly like forever. He missed that world. That life. That Sally.

Some parts of this world were irreparable.

Sally was one such component.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

“Tomorrow,” they agreed.

Perhaps an odd sentiment for a group of heroes looking to travel back in time, but there it was.


Chapter Thirty

That night, as Mary Elise slept in her bunk, Benjamin crept in and sat at the edge of the bed. She stirred. Her hand found his.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hi there.”

“Come lay down?”

“I can’t now. I want to talk.”

She kissed his hand. “So talk.”

“I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“But you’ll come back. I believe in you. I believe that with you by their side that victory will be in your hearts—if you’ll excuse the poetics, gosh, that sounds so corny, but—”

“Mary, that’s not what I mean. I mean I’m… going somewhere. I’m not going to war tomorrow. At least, not for this world.”

She sat up.

“I don’t understand.”

“I come from a different time—”

“I do too.”

“But this isn’t my world.”

“It is your world. And it’s my world. It’s what we have.”

“This world doesn’t have a place for me. Its mysteries are meaningless. In this world, I’ll never again wander the streets of Hong Kong looking for a… lost idol. I’ll never trudge through a mountain cave looking for the Merovingian Gospel of the Unmade King. I’ll never solve an inexplicable murder and give peace to the family and to myself. This place has no peace for me. It has no mystery.”

“It has me.”

“And that’s why I want you to come with me.”

“Where?” She seemed agitated, now. Confused. How could she not be? “I don’t understand. Where are you going?”

“Not where. But when. We’re going back in time. To the start of it all. To prevent the psychosaurs from ever entering the world of man. And that means I’ll never be able to come back. Either I’ll die and we won’t be successful or… we’ll succeed and this timeline will be forever cut off.”

“I love you.”

He bit his tongue but it was too late. “I love you too.” His heart felt hot. Was it hot in here? Was he having a heart attack? Or was this just love?

“But I can’t go.”

The heat in his heart, crushed beneath an avalanche of grief.

“I understand if this isn’t your world,” she said. “But it is mine. I want to go back to that time when I had poetry and a… a cat and a job and all of that. But I have a memory of what those monsters did to me. And I want them gone from this world. Not from some… earlier time, but from the here and now.”

“Oh. I… of course, I understand.”

“I can’t go with you. And I’m sorry you have to go.”

“Me too.”

She kissed him.

Then pulled away and spoke quietly in his ear:

“If you make it back to your time, look me up. I won’t remember you. I won’t even know you. But I’ll be there. And I think that version of me will still come to love this version of you.”

He kissed her again.

“I will,” he said, and left.


Amelia opened Sally Slick’s office door.

Sally looked up from her desk, from a bottle of whiskey. She must’ve just taken a sip, the way she hissed an intake of breath through her teeth.

“Stone,” Sally said.

“Slick,” Amelia greeted in response.

“You ready for tomorrow?”

Amelia didn’t answer that question.

Instead, she said: “I don’t like you.”

A flicker of something at the corner of Sally’s eye. Irritation? Regret? “You don’t have to like me. You just have to respect me.”

“I don’t respect you.”

Thunk. Sally set the bottle down and straightened in her chair.

“Go on,” Sally said. “You seem like you have something on your mind.”

She did. If she was going to leave this world in the hands of this woman, she had something to say, all right.

“I don’t like bullies,” Amelia began. “And you’re a bully. I can already see the protest in your face—you’re going to tell me how this is a hard world and you’ve had to become hard in response to it. You’re going to say how this is what the world made of you and you’re tough but fair. That’s how a lot of bad people justify themselves. We like to think the villains we fight are evil just because they want to be evil but that’s not it. They never think they’re evil. They think they’re the heroes in their own stories, just like you think you’re the hero of this one. They have their reasons. Revenge they call justice. Selfishness they call equity. Malevolence they call righteousness. It’s a tired old story, Sally, and you wrote yourself right into it.”

Sally was visibly trembling, now.

“You’re calling me a villain.”

“I might be, at that.”

Sally stood suddenly, the chair knocking back behind her. She came like a storm around the side of the desk, fists up, teeth bared—

Amelia held up a hand.

“You better cool your jets, Miss Slick, because tomorrow you go to war, and I don’t think you want to fight that battle with your one good eye swollen shut.”

Sally pressed her nose to Amelia’s. “You seem to assume I’ll lose.”

“No, I assume I’ll give as good as I get.”

The two of them stood face to face like that for what felt like an eternity.

Finally, Sally offered a laugh that contained no mirth, only bitterness.

“Fine. You don’t like me. You don’t think I’m a hero anymore.” Sally turned and walked back to the other side of the desk and picked up the fungal whiskey. “I’ll prove you wrong tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Miss Slick.”

“Uh-huh.”

And with that, Amelia turned and left.


The clock fell past the tipping point, falling on the far side of midnight, and Jet tried to sleep but failed. Instead, he wandered the halls of the Century Club chapter house—if it could be called that—and saw the troops readying themselves for the war tomorrow. Some of them played cards. Others practiced fighting in bunk rooms and the mess hall and even in the hallways.

Didn’t look like anybody was really sleeping.

Colin and Tara drank “coffee”—really a brutal black root brew that had stimulating properties—and told stories. Tomorrow she’d go up in the sky and he’d stay on the ground. Jet wondered if they had a thing for each other. Realized or unrealized or perhaps just unfulfilled. (And he thought of Sally: not this world’s Sally but of the Sally he left behind. The Sally he planned to see again, one day.)

Lily-Belle the ghost zipped in and out of the earthen walls, her noncorporeal form both a gift and a curse. She saw Jet and she laughed and waved.

The Great Carlini donned his black cape and his red mask and was practicing throwing his razor-honed playing cards at a dummy against the far wall—each card either stuck in the dummy’s heart or head, or shaved bits off. Stuffing drifted down after each throw.

He thought to go and say goodbye to Sally.

But he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.


Atok sharpened a spear.

A hand landed on his shoulder.

“Stone,” he said.

“Atok,” Amelia answered.

He liked this woman. Liked that part of her name—her “last” name, whatever that meant—was Stone. It suited her. He liked stones.

“You helped me,” she said.

“You helped me,” he answered.

“Do you want to go home?”

He turned toward her, felt his brow darken. “Home to Hollow Earth?”

“No,” she said. “Home. Back in time. First we have to fix some things in the distant past, but… we’re going to change all of this.”

“Atok good here,” he said.

She gave him a quizzical look. “You like it here?”

He tried to explain it as best as he could that his people didn’t believe in the past—and while they believed in the future, it wasn’t nearly as important as the now. You never really left the past or entered the future because all of life balanced on the single moment in which you lived. And it was that moment—and the world of that moment—that truly counted.

Of course, that’s not what he said. Because he couldn’t communicate with her the way he could with his own people.

Seeing her look of confusion deepen, all he said was:

“Cannot retreat. Will not surrender.”

Amelia nodded. That, she seemed to understand fine.

“Fight well tomorrow,” she said.

He nodded, then went back to sharpening his spear.


It was nearly time.

Khan soon had to meet the others in the tunnel—they’d climb up through one of the boltholes Colin had dug throughout the park.

The Professor had one more thing to do.

He went to the captive ape-lord.

“You,” the Conqueror sneered.

The Professor laid a package of food—some hardtack biscuits, a few fruits, some dried jerky—just within reach of the cage.

And on top of that, a hammer.

He’d stolen it from the workshop the day he fought with Sally in her office. That day he was angry enough he expected to bash open the cage then and there, but… he wasn’t sure if it was good judgment or cowardice or some combination that prevented him. But now it was time.

“That’s a hammer,” the Conqueror said.

“It is.”

“What good will it do me? The lock is crumpled.”

“A hammer will help you open it.”

“I’m weak.”

“You’re strong enough.”

The Conqueror chuffed. “Give it here.”

“You’ll have to stretch to reach it. Which you will in due time. And you’ll escape. And the Walking Mind will probably stop your escape but—I know you’re capable and resourceful, even weakened. It’s not much of a chance but it’s a chance, don’t you think?”

“Why now?”

“Because I’m leaving.”

“Where?”

“To go back in time.”

“There are no more time-gates.”

“We believe there’s one. Methuselah’s Arctic gate.”

The Conqueror chuckled. “Of course. I should’ve thought about that one. I’ve been there, you know.”

“I wondered as much.”

“But you never asked.”

“I feared what you might ask of me in return.”

The Conqueror eyed him up. “A fair caution. I’ll tell you now—the Magiya Islands.”

“Yes. The old Hyperborean capital?”

“Indeed. A caution: the fog is thick. And Methuselah had… protections. Automatons. Traps. And when you’re flying in you’ll see—there’s a way to know when you’re almost on top of it. There’s a way the sea smoke shimmers. A ribbon of it. That’s how you know. Because you’ll not see the island from the sky.”

“Thank you. But why? Why give me that information now?”

“Perhaps because of the hammer and the food. But we both know that’s not the reason. You’re smart enough to see that I’m dying.”

“You will outlive yourself.”

“I’m sick. I have a… cough. I feel my heart. Weak. Paltry. A sick thing sputtering in my chest. I barely hear the jungle drums anymore. I’m dying. So I might as well impart something to my son before I go.”

My son.

“I—”

“You’re going to see me again.”

“I know.”

“If you’re going back far enough to stop it all, we will meet anew. And you will have to fight me to stop me.”

“Yes.” The erudite ape shifted uncomfortably. “Yes.”

“I’ll give no quarter. The drums in your heart, listen to them. But be smart, too. I was not. I was blind to Methuselah’s manipulations. You’ll find your way.”

“Thank you.” Professor Khan offered his hand. “Father.”

The withered ape reached out and shook it.

“Go,” the ape-lord said. “Time waits for no ape.”


“Time,” Methuselah said. “Time will never wait for me. Not this iteration. Not this body, this mind.”

The brain-in-a-jar stood there on its platform.

YOU ARE CERTAIN? YOU DO NOT WISH TO COME?

“No,” Methuselah said. “What’s the point? I’m old. My magic is just out of reach. I can see it. But I cannot affect it. This world has been ruined for me. But out there is another version of me. A more vital version. That is who I serve. I serve myself of another time, another place.”

THEN THE TIME HAS COME.

“It has.”

WILL THIS WORLD FOLD IN ON ITSELF? AN ORIGAMI CRANE COLLAPSING IN A HEAVY RAIN?

“I do not think so. I think it will remain. Cut off from the temporal roots but present just the same. Then again: who can say? I’ve been wrong before.”

GOODBYE, DOCTOR.

“Goodbye, Jared.”

Then, the bell-jar with the brain lifted out of its mooring, floating there by the power of Jared’s mind. The fluid within—which Methuselah believed was some kind of amniotic fluid—sloshed and bubbled.

The jar drifted out of the door, over the dead bodies of the two guards—Jameson and Smythe, their heads twisted at off-angles.


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