Fiction Friday: Dinocalypse Forever – Chapter 19

Dinocalypse Forever

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Professor Khan stomped past the sentries at the entrance to Gorilla Khan’s prehistoric camp, trying to rein in his speed. He wanted to run away from the place and all the uncomfortable feelings it brought out in him. The urges.

But there would be no more of that. He would stay calm, do what needed doing. And in doing so, he would get back to his companions, back to his normal self. Together, they would return to civilization.

Assuming it still existed.

That was a sobering thought that made him wince, and the movement caught the attention of one of the sentries. The howler monkey frowned at him thoughtfully.

“A little out of it, are you?” he asked.

Professor Khan summoned up Jochi’s impassive mien with difficulty. “Excuse me?” he asked coldly.

“You have no weapons nor armor nor escort,” said the howler. “Where do you think you’re going? There are dinosaurs out there, remember?”

“Oh. Right.” The Professor shrugged. “Guess I was too eager to get out there. I’m heading out to the fields.”

It seemed like the best place to begin hunting down his friends. They wouldn’t sit by while innocents were enslaved: freeing the Atlanteans would be one of their top priorities. Funny to think that just a short while ago, he wouldn’t have gone on a mission like that. He probably would have stayed behind. Maybe read a book at the Atlantean library or exchanged information with their scholars.

Useless.

Jochi, on the other hand, would be out there making some use of himself. To be honest, Professor Khan was beginning to agree with Captain Chirrang. Jochi was a bit of a suck up. Even the Professor was a little jealous of his disguise, and that was ridiculous when you thought about it.

The Professor thought a lot about this as he armed himself. Distractedly donned a breastplate. Stalked through the gates. Realized belatedly that he had no idea where he was going. Other than the one field they’d been at before—the one that the Centurions had already hit—he had no idea where anything was located in this godforsaken place.

Well, he would start there, then. Perhaps they’d left a clue as to their whereabouts. A trail he could follow. Perhaps Jet had seen him after all and had realized his predicament and even now they were mounting an effort to aid him in his escape. That wouldn’t have surprised him at all.

He stomped along the twisting, narrow jungle path that led to the fungal fields. Crushed bracken, shoved aside thorny vines. Growled low in his throat, annoyed at where his thoughts were going. What was wrong with him? How could he wish for assistance when there were so many more important things to do? The others couldn’t spare time looking for him when there were slaves to save, an invasion to prohibit, and a portal home to catch.

Wishing for help was the way of the old Professor Khan. But now he’d proven himself in battle time and again. He’d managed to pass as Jochi, held the masquerade in the face of his own sire. That strength and assertiveness had to come from somewhere in the depths of his being.

Very well then. He would find them himself.

He thundered through the underbrush toward the fungal fields. They were right around this turn, the one marked by the giant boulder shaped like a teapot…

There was no boulder at the corner. Odd. Perhaps he’d misremembered. He took the turn anyway. The path should fork in a few steps, and it did, but the left fork led into a thick tangle of brambles and then dropped him down a hill. His feet slid right out from under him; his spear lodged in a tangle of branches and ripped out of his hand. He managed to maintain his footing, but only barely, and fetched up at the bottom of the slope with his back against the trunk of a tree, gasping.

There had been no hill outside the fungal fields. Not that he remembered. So either someone was playing a very elaborate trick on him involving digging a hill in the past few hours and completely seeding it with foliage, or he had taken a wrong turn. He was pretty sure that the latter was true but wasn’t about to discount the former. With Methuselah involved, one couldn’t be too cautious.

He looked around. Everywhere there were leaves and plants and more leaves and thorny bits and it was all so disturbingly jungle-like. And he was pretty much lost, which gave him no chance whatsoever of finding the others, and now there was a commotion off in the trees. Shouting and stomping and hissing of some unknown creature, and—

“Go go go!” shouted a voice. A familiar voice.

Jet’s voice.

“Hold on!” he yelled, launching himself through the leaves and plants and more leaves and thorny bits. Brambles pulled at his fur, and he tore through with a snarl, scratching furrows in his face. He went knuckles to ground, but that wasn’t fast enough. The commotion was quieting, and that meant one of two things. Only one of them was good.

“I’m coming!” he called.

He took to the trees. Swung overhand, vine to vine. Curled and unfurled his muscular body with an instinct that surprised him. But there was no time for wonder now. The Centurions needed him, and he would answer.

There!

A flash of red through the trees. The movement of creatures. He swung higher, found the best vantage point.

Snarled at what he saw—

Familiar lizard men profiles. Smooth scaly skin. Needle sharp teeth—

Psychosaurs!

They surrounded the inert bodies of his companions, who stood frozen and docile, waiting to be herded like animals to the slaughterhouse.

Professor Khan wanted to run. He had faced these creatures before, knew what they were capable of. And they’d been out of their element then! Now, on their home turf, they would likely be more formidable. To confront them would be suicide—

He watched as Jet Black stumbled and fell, bloodying his knees, only to be prodded back into line again by a leathery hand without an ounce of mercy. Amelia’s nose pattered red onto the dirt at her feet while she stared blankly ahead, unable to feel the pain.

If he waited, if he did nothing and stayed in this safe place, what then? The psychosaurs would take them to Gorilla Khan, where breaking them out would be near impossible. If the Conqueror Ape didn’t kill them outright, they’d be surrounded by thousands of primates. Not even his best Jochi impression would get them out then. He would be stuck alone in the wilderness. How could he go back to Sally and Mack and tell them that he’d abandoned their friends to the mercies of a brute like his sire?

The answer was simple—

He couldn’t do it.

But what hope did he have of besting these feral creatures in a fight, outnumbered as he was and having lost his spear in his tumble down the hill?

Not much. But he would try anyway, because his companions needed him.

So what would Jochi do in this situation? He would even the odds, yes? He would avoid taking them all on at once. He would create a plan and execute it with meticulous precision, and he would bow to no one.

He had to try. He could not live with himself otherwise.

So it was that Professor Khan launched himself out of his high tree with a bellow, hurtling toward the ground. It seemed like a terrific idea at first, but the ground rushed up to him so fast, and the vines he intended to use to slow his descent became a blur. He swung and leapt as best he could, but the dirt came rocketing toward him, and he hit it hard. Rolled. Took out a psychosaur, crunching it underneath his bulk.

The creature twitched once and then lay still.

Its companions turned on him as if controlled by a hive mind. Alien eyes glittered, set high on the sides of their lizard-like faces. They hissed. Grinned. Invaded his mind with sickening ease.

YOU WILL PAY FOR THE DEATH OF OUR BROTHER.

KNEEL. KNEEL BEFORE US AND FACE YOUR FATE.

Automatically, Professor Khan found himself obedient. His knees buckled. He lurched to his knees on the hard ground. The voice was unquestionable, like the voice of his sire. He must obey…

Wait, what?

Professor Khan would have rather dressed up in skirts and a bustle and paraded up and down the undergraduate dining hall before he blindly followed Gorilla Khan’s orders. And his sire controlled these creatures, didn’t he? That meant that blindly following their orders was akin to blindly doing Gorilla Khan’s bidding. The Professor had had quite enough of that, thank you. He would be happy not to do Gorilla Khan’s dirty work for him ever again.

He felt the jungle drums within him, but this time, instead of taking him over, instead of driving him to chaos and destruction, they beat a slow and steady tempo. Feral wildness tempered by massive intellect. This time, somehow, he kept a hold of himself while the drums beat.

Dum ba da dum ba da dum!

“No,” he said, lifting his head. “I will not.”

The psychosaur standing nearest to him looked down. Blinked, a long slow slide of double lids over wide set reptilian eyes. Tilted its head as if unsure of what to do. Then the voice came again.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESIST.

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

GIVE UP. GIVE UP AND DIE.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Professor Khan, standing up and brushing off his knees. “Now let them go.”

The psychosaur exchanged glances with its companions. They looked just as confused as it did. No one moved. Professor Khan was getting rather frustrated with the whole thing. Stupid psychic dinosaurs who didn’t know how to follow simple directions. And they’d managed to take down the Century Club? He was surprised they could walk down the street without supervision.

He reached out one long finger and poked one in the chest. “Listen here, you,” he said. “Let them go. Now.”

A deep, distant voice wondered exactly what he thought he was doing. The psychosaurs didn’t know who he was, true, and they might mistake him for Gorilla Khan. They might listen to him. But then what? He had no plan, and he’d seen so many Centurions—good, strong heroes—fall to these foes. Seen them herded like cattle by the psychosaurs. Century Club houses destroyed. How did he—one lone ape—hope to stand against them?

His uncertainty must have shown on his face, because the psychosaur hissed, batting his finger away. The psychic assault began anew, and it was all the Professor could do to resist it. His head bowed under the strain. His pulse pounded in time with the throbbing of his head. It felt like his brain was boiling. He wracked desperate eyes over the faces of his friends, certain that this was the last time he would ever see them.

Amelia’s blood pattered on the ground.

Plink. Plink.

It was horrific, really. That they should be reduced to this. That his father could control these creatures, and he could not. Not even to save his friends. Unacceptable!

“I really hate the jungle!” he bellowed, swinging out a long arm in a wild swoop. As punches go, it was entirely without form. A wild and uncoordinated thing. But it had simian muscle behind it nonetheless, and it connected with the psychosaur’s head with a crunch that sent the creature flying backwards into a bramble bush.

Then Chirrang came vaulting out of the foliage, and there was a tense moment when the Professor wasn’t sure if the Siamang was attacking the psychosaurs or him. But the ape vaulted into one of the lizard men feet first, crushing its chest. It fell, twitching, and then lay still.

“Get them to safety!” ordered Chirrang. “I’ll take care of these overgrown lizards!”

“Right-o!” replied the Professor, relieved that he wouldn’t need to put his combat skills to the test.

Now this was something he could do. He snatched the still form of Amelia under one arm and slung Jet over a shoulder with ease. But there was also that tall Atlantean, and it took some maneuvering to get Amelia draped round his neck so he could pick up the Atlantean and drape him over a shoulder too. The chap was so tall that his hands and feet scraped the ground, doubled up as he was.

The whole process took quite a lot of concentration, and the Professor was working hard to make sure that he didn’t drop anyone. They didn’t resist, but they didn’t help him out at all either. Actually, they didn’t even blink. It was rather creepy.

His attention was all but absorbed by the juggling act when one of the psychosaurs leapt at him and tried to tear Amelia’s unresponsive form from his grasp. The Professor staggered backwards, trying not to drop his precious cargo. He could not even strike back. To do so meant dropping the poor Centurion right onto her noggin. And the Professor had just fallen onto this very same ground; he knew from experience how hard it was.

“Get your hands off her!” he yelled, desperately, but it was no use. The creature tore her inert form from his shoulders. Dragged it through the dirt, ripping her pant leg and scraping her shin painfully on a jagged stone.

A force rose up in the Professor then, too strong to be denied. He’d felt it before and hid from it in fear of what it might change in him. Denied it. Tried to quell it when he could. But now, with his friend’s life on the line, he gave in to it.

Perhaps he could not fight well, untrained as he was. Perhaps he lacked the experience in adventures that would make him a good choice on the field. Perhaps he was conflicted by his relationship with his sire. But he would not give up on a friend, and he would not be dominated.

“Mine!” he snarled, feeling the shout reverberate through his whole body. That psychosaur would listen and heed his words. Professon Khan would make him listen. He flung the word as if it was a weapon, backed it up with a snarl. This was no longer posturing. No longer the presence of Jochi’s bravery. This was the stand of a desperate man who would no longer be ignored.

The psychosaur halted. Twitched…

Dropped Amelia onto the dirt.

She rolled over, face down into a giant fern. Then, miraculously, coughed.

“Why am I eating a plant?” she mumbled.

In the Professor’s arms, the other two heroes began to stir. He hurriedly put them down. Backed away. Attempted to act casual, like he hadn’t just been carting them both bodily around. Like he hadn’t just saved them.

In doing so, he came face to face with the psychosaur. He recoiled from the rows of pointy teeth, the predator’s grin. It leaned forward. Sniffed.

WHAT IS YOUR BIDDING, NOT-MASTER?

Professor Khan tilted his head quizzically. “Beg pardon?” he asked. “Why do you call me that?”

YOU SMELL OF THE MASTER, BUT NOT OF HIM.

YOU ARE THE SAME, YET A DIFFERENT BODY.

MASTER, YET NOT MASTER.

“Ah, yes.” The gorilla clapped his hands together. “Well.”

“Interesting,” said Chirrang, rising from his combat-ready crouch and eyeing the Professor with new consideration. “How did you do that?”

The Professor shrugged, unwilling to admit that he wasn’t entirely certain.

“What’s going on?” asked Jet, groggy.

“We have…” The Professor was about to say that they had a problem. What could they do with the four psychosaurs that Chirrang hadn’t yet pummeled into pulp? But then he reconsidered. The problem wasn’t what to do with them. The problem was what to have them do first.

“We have a new set of guards,” announced Professor Khan. “Nice fellows, if you don’t mind the teeth.”

Amelia Stone rubbed her aching head and rolled to sit up. “You must be kidding,” she said.

“Not at all,” said the Professor. The more he thought about it, the more he grinned. “These fellows are going to protect us from psychic assault.”

“They are?” asked the tall Atlantean. “It looks to me like they’d rather eat us.”

One of the psychosaurs hissed hungrily, as if to prove the point.

“Perhaps,” said Professor Khan, rethinking. “Ah! I’ve got it! I can think of something they’d rather do.”

“What’s that?” asked Jet.

In answer, he turned to the lizard men, who still waited motionless for orders. “My sire enslaved your people,” he said.

It wasn’t a question. He could already picture how it went.

WE CANNOT RESIST. WE FOLLOW OUR MASTER.

“They’re slaves too?” asked the Atlantean, looking shocked.

“Of a sort,” interjected Chirrang from his forgotten spot at their flank. The ape knuckled his way forward. “They usually wander the land in small bands under the direction of the eldest male. They’re pack animals. When we removed them from the pack, we replaced their alpha. These are some of the new hatchlings, I assume.”

“And they need orders…” mused the Professor, tapping his chin thoughtfully.

The reptilian heads swiveled to look at him. Unblinking. Unfeeling. Cold.

He shivered, but quickly stilled. It would not do to show weakness before them, not when it was his will holding them at bay.

“There are many eggs in this area,” he said. “You are probably hungry, are you not?”

This time, the whole group of psychosaurs hissed. It was a feral, liquid noise that threatened to turn the Professor’s spine to jelly. But he nodded. Tried to appear as if he’d expected it. As if he wasn’t shaking in his boots. It reminded him of the first time he’d taught a lecture. You couldn’t show fear at the lectern either.

“Go then. And feed on eggs until your bellies are full. Gorge yourselves, but remain unseen, or your meal might be interrupted. If you see any others of your kind, pass along my orders to them. They must feed. Eat as many eggs as you can find.”

YESSSSSSS. HUNGRY.

“Are you sure this is wise, Professor?” Jet whispered in his ear. “They’d just as soon eat us as help us, I think.”

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend, good man,” said the Professor. “I would not trust them at my back. But to cull their numbers? The more we can recruit the better.”

Jet considered this and nodded. “You’re quite handy to have around in a battle,” he said, clapping the gorilla on a large, hairy shoulder. “We should get you out in the field more often.”

“Heavens no,” said the Professor fervently. “My heart couldn’t stand it. Not one bit.”


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