Fiction Friday: Dinocalypse Forever – Chapters 31 & 32

Dinocalypse Forever

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CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

“I am very displeased,” declared Gerald Spears, looking down at his suit coat. “This smudge will never come out.”

YOU CAN WALK IF YOU LIKE, SPEARS.

The urbane adventurer frowned at the brain in a jar. Then the lumbering Tyrannosaurus beneath them lurched to one side, nearly tossing them both overboard despite the hastily constructed harness they’d installed on its back.

“I have half a mind to,” said Spears. “I daresay this is one of the least pleasant modes of transportation I have ever undertaken.”

WE WILL ARRIVE AT THE PORTAL SITE IN MINUTES. THAT IS WORTH THE INCONVENIENCE.

“Inconvenience?” muttered Spears. “Your dinosaur tried to wash me like a recalcitrant kitten. I have Tyrannosaurus slobber on my jacket. I consider that much more than an inconvenience.”

ENOUGH. WE DRAW CLOSE TO THE STAGING GROUNDS.

The two villains watched breathlessly as they approached the cliff base where they had placed the portal. According to Spears’ calculations, the location served as a hub to ley lines of mystical power running beneath the ground like rivers. The power source would keep the portal open for five minutes at the most, and it must open at the exact moment when the sun hit the horizon. When the barrier between the realms was thinnest.

“Enough!” called Spears, holding up a hand. “Stop this creature before it damages the portal!”

HALT!

The dinosaur came to a ponderous stop, head swinging from side to side in an endless search for prey. It had tried to feed Jared a small creature that looked vaguely like an antelope. Its innards still smeared the glass, adding to the collection of filth there.

He couldn’t wait to get back to the modern world. Civilization. It would all be worth the inconvenience at the end, of course, but barely.

Gerald Spears didn’t waste any time in clamoring off the back of the creature, brushing irritably at his jacket. “Everything else had better be in order, Jared,” he said. “I am feeling quite put out.”

IT WILL ALL PROCEED SMOOTHLY. OUR POD OF PSYCHO­SAURS WILL HATCH UNDER THE DOMAIN OF MY WILL. THEY WILL THEN BRING THE OTHERS TO US.

“Exponential recruitment,” said Spears, nodding. “Simple, yet effective. So all we do is wait?”

YES. I WILL BEGIN TO OPEN THE EGGS NOW.

“Splendid.”

Spears looked for a place to sit, but none presented itself. He eventually settled himself against the broad haunch of the vigilant Tyrannosaurus. The dilettante adventurer frowned. Muttered to himself.

“If I’d known there would be all this waiting, I would have brought a chair. And some tea. Perhaps a deck of cards. How tedious this is.”

He could feel a wave of annoyance from the Walking Mind, so he subsided then, satisfied that his dissatisfaction had been registered. And really, it would all be worthwhile in the end.

One of the eggs quivered. Cracked. Began to hatch.

Gerald Spears leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and watched as his future was born.

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

The Professor looked at his Pterosaur with a skeptical furrow to his brow. The Atlanteans, bolstered by their success with the psychosaurs, had gone on another egg run and brought back a few Pterosaurs. The dinosaur was one of the largest of its kind, but his primate bulk dwarfed the thin, newly hatched creature. There was no way this thing was going to carry him. It was not physically possible, and even if it were, he was of the firm opinion that gorillas were not meant to fly.

He was, in short, afraid.

He tried to fight the fear with a firm application of logic. It sometimes worked, like when he’d talked himself through his impersonation of Jochi. But every time he successfully quelled the rapid beating of his heart, he’d glance at the spindly wings of the Pterosaur and grow nervous once again.

“Are you quite sure about this, Jet?” he rumbled. “No offense meant, old chap, but I’m just not sure this flimsy beast can carry my weight.”

“It’ll be fine, Professor.” Jet patted him on the shoulder. “Honest. These Pterosaurs are stronger than they look. They’ll take us right to the portal. Otherwise, we’d have to fight our way through your father’s—ahem—I mean, Gorilla Khan’s troops. And all of their dinosaurs. It’s much safer this way.”

The logic was sound, but the erudite ape wasn’t convinced. “I understand the reasoning, but I outweigh this creature by…quite a bit. And I am entirely certain that the beast does not like me.” He gave the winged creature a side-eyed glance as it flapped its wings, shifting restlessly.

“It just wants to get off the ground, that’s all. He’s eager to fly. Aren’t you, boy?” Jet cooed, reaching out to scratch the raptor on the underside of its beak like it was a household pet.

The Professor barely restrained himself from snatching Jet’s hand away before it could get bitten off. He did not share Jet’s confidence. At all.

“But are you certain they are under control?” he asked.

“Absolutely. Our psychosaurs are bonded with the Atlanteans. In turn, they’ve tamed some of the Pterosaurs for us. It’s all perfectly safe. Honest.”

“But the psychosaurs will be busy freeing the city from its moors…”

Jet threw up his hands, his patience finally running out. “I’m not sure what else I can tell you, Professor. Your choices are pretty simple. You could ride with the Pterosaur, or you could risk getting intercepted on the ground and be stuck here in prehistory forever. There’s risk in both options. That’s how life is. But some things are worth the risk.”

The Professor hung his shaggy head. The young aviator’s words shamed him, and he felt his face flushing in embarrassment.

“Of course you’re right,” he said. “And I thank you for the reminder, Jet. Perhaps…perhaps I will swing through the trees in a simple flanking maneuver, similar to that used by Genghis Khan. That way if there is any resistance from my father, I will be able to provide support to those of you in the air and help you escape so that we do not miss our opportunity to reach the portal. Is that acceptable?”

Jet considered this for a moment and then nodded. “Of course. It’s up to you. But we’ve got to move now. The time for chit-chat is over.”

The Professor nodded. “Of course. Sally and Mack are waiting. I for one cannot wait to be reunited with them.”

“Join the club.”

The two Centurions turned to where Amelia and Benjamin were carefully crafting harnesses and holsters for the Atlantean shock sticks gifted to them by Marelon. Amelia tested the strap crisscrossing her torso, giving her a bit of a Wild West gunslinger vibe. “Just a bit tighter, please.”

“Are you sure you’ll be able to breathe?” murmured Benjamin, but he did as she requested.

“Much better,” said she.

“Are we ready?” Jet inquired, scanning the group. “Time’s a-wastin’.”

“As ready as we’re going to be,” said Amelia.

Jet gave a brief nod, turned, and almost ran smack into Aeron and Koa. The two Atlanteans were dressed in breeches and tunics and carried a variety of Atlantean weaponry slung about their persons. They reminded Jet of snakes, beautiful yet deadly in their beauty.

“We’re coming with you,” declared Koa.

Jet blinked, all the wind going right out of his proverbial sails. “What?” he asked lamely.

“We’re coming with you, to your home time,” she said. “We are ready to depart at any moment.”

“But…” Jet looked around helplessly.

Benjamin slid smoothly into the breach. “Are Zebulon and Marelon okay with this? And your families?”

Aeron shrugged uncomfortably. “They’re not thrilled, but they understand.”

“This is Aeron’s destiny,” Koa said, her voice filled with confidence. “Despite all of his talents and all of his skills, he has always questioned his place in Atlantis. But with all of you, he fits in a way that he never has before. I’ve seen the changes in him, and they are good ones. So we will accompany you to your home time, and there we will be married.”

Aeron nodded. “With your permission, of course. I thought we might attempt to make contact with the Atlantis of your time, Benjamin. Perhaps you might be interested in undertaking that venture with us?”

Benjamin’s eyes lit up like a child in a penny candy store. “Absolutely!” he said.

“Then we are decided,” said Aeron. “Is it time to leave yet?”

All eyes went to Benjamin, who consulted the Atlantean chronometer he now wore on his wrist. The delicate machine was synched with that worn by Zebulon to ensure that the plan would move forward smoothly.

He nodded.

“Let’s move.”

* * *

The portal was easy to find. Mostly because there were streams of dinosaurs making their way toward it, etching lines in the long jungle grasses that could be seen from a great distance. The Professor swung from vines and branches or loped along the ground, easily keeping up with the airborne Centurions. They were not accosted or attacked. Either they had managed to accomplish the impossible and remained unseen, or their enemies assumed there was nothing they could do to interfere.

Certainly, the numbers were still quite daunting. They had liberated about a hundred psychosaurs, but that number was tiny compared to the number still under Khan’s control. They’d taken a lot of fungus, but there were still a variety of dinosaurs wearing fungal collars. The hulking form of an honest-to-goodness Tyrannosaurus rex stood near the portal itself. And there were also the simian troops to contend with.

The Professor felt his stomach sink to his toes. They’d managed to find a way to save Atlantis—he hoped—but he still worried that his home was doomed.

He kept those worries to himself, though.

Jet signaled a landing quite close to the portal, which glimmered through the trees with a familiar flickering light. It was already open. The invasion had begun. They had to get as close as possible, which meant dropping straight into occupied territory.

Before it was too late.

Down went the Pterosaurs, and the Professor followed with a swing of his powerful arms. The Centurions dropped out of the sky, right into a phalanx of ape warriors.

They dispatched their enemies with rapid efficiency.

Wham! Jet slammed feet first into a chimp.

Pow! Amelia’s fist connected with the jaw of a charging gorilla.

Zap! Aeron’s shock stick swept the feet out from under a gibbon, moments before it grabbed Koa.

A pair of apes stalked toward Benjamin, but he wielded his shock stick with saber-like precision, knocking one flat. Then the Professor snuck up behind the second and clonked it on the head, knocking it out cold.

“This way!” ordered Jet, jerking a thumb toward the humming presence of the portal.

They rushed toward their objective, heedless of the continued attacks by the ape warriors. Driven by determination, they tossed attacker after attacker into the trees and kept on running. A trio of psychosaurs reared up before them, their psychic assault already commencing despite the Atlanteans’ attempt to counter it.

The creatures’ voices boomed in the heads of the Centurions.

STOP. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

The Professor watched as his friends slowly halted where they stood. Their faces went slack and lifeless. It was a terrifying change, especially since he was already afraid. He’d had enough of this wild life. Once all of this was over, he was going home to his library and his favorite tea shop, and he was never again going to subject himself to adventuring. He was dirty and uncomfortable and hungry and sore. It was quite too much to bear.

Then Captain Chirrang stepped out in front of him, his wide mouth grinning in triumph.

“I told you we’d find the impostor here. Seize him,” he ordered.

A handful of ape guards grabbed his wrists in vice-like grips while the psychosaurs leered at him.

“This will be a pretty gift for the Mighty Khan,” said Chirrang, looking awfully proud of himself. “Although I might not agree to give it to him. I’m tired of being taken for granted, and if he won’t value me as he should, then I will have to find a new master to work for.”

The Professor fumbled for words for a moment and then said, “I’m sure he’ll realize what he was missing.”

Chirrang blinked in surprise, and for a moment it seemed like he might relent and let them all go. But that was too much to hope for.

“We’ll see about that,” he said. “Let’s go. Bring the prisoners,” he ordered the psychosaurs.

It all seemed helpless until the Professor glanced at Benjamin Hu. The mystical detective winked and then went back to his stone-faced demeanor. The erudite ape almost laughed out loud. Everything was fine. He wasn’t alone.

And when Benjamin Hu swung out his shock stick with a graceful flick of the wrist, he was ready. Benjamin leapt to attack Chirrang, who met him with a snarl. But the Professor had no time to watch that battle. He roared his defiance right in the faces of the psychosaurs. Made them shake in fear. Crawl to their bellies before him.

“Release my friends!” he yelled. “I command it!”

The other Centurions blinked, slowly coming back to awareness of themselves. Joined Benjamin in fighting off their attackers in a blur of fists and fury. Psychosaurs and simians alike fell before them or fled into the trees, searching for easier prey. Chirrang, abandoned by his troops, retreated with a snarl of frustration.

They came out victorious—

Turned to see the portal within their grasp—

And Gerald Spears and the Walking Mind waiting for them beside it.

The Centurions lined up, shoulder to shoulder, and began to advance. Their faces were set. Determination shone from every set of eyes and clenched every jaw. Even Aeron and Koa, who didn’t know who they were dealing with, seemed to realize that this was the final obstacle to their success. That this meeting would determine their future.

“Oh, look how cute they all are,” said Spears, clenching his hands in mock adoration. “It’s almost too much to bear.”

ADORABLE.

Jared Brain sounded less than enthused.

“Well, as much as I’d love to pinch your wittle cheeks and hear all about your astonishing adventures, I have a city to subjugate. I really must run.” With that, Spears turned away, straightening his almost immaculate jacket. He snapped his fingers, and a phalanx of psychosaurs ran to his side. Escorted him toward the shimmering portal.

“Oh,” he said, almost as an afterthought. “Have your pet eat them, Jared.”

MY PLEASURE.

The brain in a jar didn’t move. It didn’t need to. Its mental call needed no eye contact, no action, no movement to support its power. The call was undeniable.

ONE EYE. KILL THEM.

Branches crackled. Tall jungle trees bent in two. A giant reptilian head loomed down toward them, one eye covered in an eye patch. Mouth opened, gaping hungrily.

The Tyrannosaurus let out a roar of unsatisfied hunger and attacked.

The Centurions scattered as if on command, fleeing the maw of the ravenous dinosaur. One Eye’s bulk worked against it—it couldn’t match their rapid changes in direction and merely kept stomping about in circles, roaring and lashing its tail. That was dangerous enough. The Centurions successfully avoided getting crushed beneath the dinosaur’s massive feet, but otherwise they weren’t getting anywhere.

Still, in all the chaos, Jet kept his head. He saw Spears continue toward the portal, flanked by his reptilian guards. Yelled, “Someone stop him!”

But no one was close enough to do so. No one except for Gorilla Khan, who emerged from the jungle on an interception course, his ape warriors at his heels.

“Spears!” the Conqueror Ape bellowed. “No one betrays me and lives!”

The urbane adventurer in his incongruous linen suit paused, looking over his shoulder with an expression of exaggerated surprise.

“Betrayal? Who said I was betraying you?” he asked mildly.

“Save your breath,” said the ape. “I will not listen.” Then he flicked his fingers, urging his troops forward. “Get him.”

As soon as the apes rushed toward Spears and the Walking Mind, One Eye the dinosaur broke off its attack on the Centurions. Bellowing, it ran toward the disembodied brain.

ENOUGH! I AM FINE; I DO NOT REQUIRE SAVING.

But the Tyrannosaurus, awash in maternal instincts, did not listen. It swept up the mottled jar in one swift snap of its teeth, holding it in its mouth. The giant creature continued running, desperate to get its beloved Jared to safety. Still, the Walking Mind’s protests were quite audible.

PUT ME DOWN! I COMMAND YOU! I MUST GET BACK TO MODERN DAY; YOU MUST LET ME GOOOOOOOO!

But the dinosaur did not stop, determined to protect what it thought of as its precious progeny.

There was a moment of shocked silence in the wake of Jared’s abrupt departure.

“Too bad,” said Spears, and he turned to leap through the portal.

“Nooo!” yelled Gorilla Khan, springing toward his creator.

But he was too late. Spears was already held within the strands of time, his face strangely elated as he spun away through the portal, accompanied by his psychosaurs.

Then Gorilla Khan’s momentum carried him right into one of the pillars that supported the portal. It was an ornate stack of stone, placed just so, and the impact of the ape’s sturdy body against it shifted the structure by a mere half inch.

It was enough.

The shifting strands of time, once smooth and orderly, flared into chaos. Spears and his guards, off in the distance, were suddenly buffeted by the wild energy of timefields gone out of control.

“What have you done, you fool?” demanded Spears, his voice distorted by the time flux.

The portal began emitting flashes of erratic light. Hisses. The roaring of a far away storm.

Gerald Spears screamed. Once. Awfully.

And then the portal imploded.

The Centurions clung to each other against the sucking wind of the portal, strong enough to pull them from their feet. Ducked their heads against its grasping pull. An unfortunate ape was sucked into the vortex. And then—

It closed.

They let out a momentary sigh of relief. Looked around for continued resistance. Found none. The clearing was empty of both apes and dinosaur troops.

“Was that…my sire? Who went in at the end?” asked the Professor, hesitantly.

But no one seemed to know. Gorilla Khan was gone, but no one had seen enough to know for certain.

“We’re stuck here now, aren’t we?” asked Jet, his voice flat with despair. “Without the portal, we have no way home, do we?”

No one had an answer for that either.


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