Fiction Friday: Dinocalypse Forever – Chapters 9 & 10

Dinocalypse Forever

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CHAPTER NINE

Sally Slick was finding it hard to concentrate. Normally, she had the opposite problem—put her in a workshop with a wrench in her hand, and a bomb could go off without her noticing. Mack always gave her a hard time about it.

But now? She’d have given her right hand to have that problem.

Because the pressure was on.

She’d built the portal that had sent her friends hurtling through time and space to lord only knew where, and it was up to her to rebuild it. Improve upon it. Find a way to make the thing latch onto them without knowing when or where they were and bring them back to the 1930s where they belonged.

She spared a moment. Glanced at the corner, where an overturned milk crate waited for Jet Black. He deserved a comfier chair, but he’d been sitting on milk crates in the corner of her workshop ever since they were kids. It was tradition.

The empty space haunted her.

And with every moment that passed, the likelihood of her bringing them back to where they belonged grew smaller and smaller.

She felt like crying over a stupid milk crate. If she could have, she’d have slugged herself on the chin for being such a sap. Her best friend could be getting eaten by a psychosaur at this very moment, razor sharp teeth going chompety chomp on his delicate flesh. He could be getting blasted by lasers from a flying saucer. Beaned by cavemen. Enslaved by robots. The possibilities were endless, and they kept running on a loop through her head.

In the past hour, she’d managed to envision twenty-four scenarios that ended in Jet’s death. She’d also tightened one screw.

“So how’s it going, sweet cheeks?” asked a jaunty voice from behind her.

Mack.

The last person she wanted to face right now, not with Jet’s empty corner haunting her.

“How do you think it’s going?” she snapped.

“Don’t be like that.” His arms twined around her waist from behind. Chin rested on her shoulder.

Sally wanted very badly to elbow him in the ribs, but how could she do that when he’d stumped in on a crutch? When his leg was mangled so badly it would never be the same? When he had to make do with rotgut whisky as a makeshift painkiller because getting to the hospital was impossible—if the hospital even still stood?

Ever since the Atlanteans had zapped them back home, they’d been stuck in this dank, abandoned bomb shelter underneath Honolulu, pretending it was a Century Club chapter house. Pretending they had a chance to defeat the psychosaurs but hiding from them nonetheless.

Because there was no way they could hope to stand against the unending numbers of their enemies.

So she stood there, frowning, and let him snuggle up against her. Hating herself and him and just about everything else. Especially the jet pack that sat unused under the table. And then she hated herself a little extra for blaming Jet of all people, who had never done anything but try to help her.

Mack planted a kiss on her cheek. “So I was thinkin’ that we should try to get to the airfield,” he said. “Those dino-chumps don’t have a need for planes, so they’re probably just sitting there, waiting for us. Lucy might be gone, but that doesn’t mean we’re grounded, Sally. We can still bring the fight to those scaly bastards, and we can win!”

Sally pulled away. “Don’t be ridiculous, flyboy. You wouldn’t even make it down the street. Not with that bum leg of yours. The chances of you making it to the airfield without getting caught are even lower than the odds of you strapping on Jet’s pack and doing loop-de-loops while wearing a spangly dress.”

“If you ask me nicely, I might give it a try.” He grinned, breathing boozy breath into her ear.

This time she did elbow him. Not too hard, but an elbow nonetheless.

“Oof!” he said, rubbing his ribs. But if anything, the blow seemed to cheer him. “You’re a harsh mistress, Sally Slick.”

“Did you come in here for a reason?” she asked. “I’m trying to work here.”

“Oh, yes, and I’ve heard a lot of hammering and clanking in here too,” he said knowingly. “At this rate, that portal will be done in about sixty years.” She opened her mouth to let him have it, but he patted her on the shoulder before she could let loose. “It’s not an attack, Sal. It’s just an observation. You’ve been in here for days without much to show for it except a frown stuck to that pretty face of yours. Some fresh air will do you good. Come to the airfield with me, or at least help me scout it out. We have a couple of new Centurions in from the streets, too. You should meet ‘em. You’ll like Shepersky. She’s all fire and spark. Reminds me a lot of you.”

“Then go flirt with her,” said Sally. “I’m busy.”

“Yeah?” Mack’s face flared into inebriated anger. “And a bang up job you’re doing of it, too, Slick. They’re gone, kid. He’s gone, and the sooner you stop moping over it, the sooner we can get to work defeating those lizard bastards who destroyed our home. If you want to sit down here and stare at the wall, fine, but I’m not doing any such thing. I’m taking the battle to them, with or without you.”

Before she could reply, he spun away from her, nearly toppling over on his unsteady leg. The splint was the best she could manufacture out of the junky medical supplies left in the shelter, but it still wasn’t her best work. And her best work had doomed her friends, so what did that say?

There was only one option. Redemption. Sally would bring Jet back. She would bring them all back. Show Mack that he was wrong. She had to.

With a new expression of determination, Sally Slick picked up her wrench.

CHAPTER TEN

I wish the others were here to see this, thought Jet.

The crack in the side of the egg widened. A sharp beak darted from the opening, lancing through the thick shell like it was tissue paper. It occurred to him that maybe lollygagging about while a predator emerged from the shell—hungry for certain—might not be the best idea. But he stood there anyway, goofy awed grin plastered to his face.

Imaginary Mack laughed at him, rolled his eyes, slapped his knee. Kid, you always were a sap, he said.

But Sally would have understood the strange kinship he felt, watching this creature of the sky about to take its first breath. The Professor would have been fascinated by the process. He and Benjamin would have known what to expect of this birth. What to do.

A new wave of loneliness washed over him. He’d never been alone before. Never worked alone. So far, he didn’t like it one bit.

The top of the shell cracked loose. Teetered. Toppled to the ground and rolled. A wet, scaled head poked out, eyes still glued shut, mouth testing the air. The baby Pterosaur let out a weak croak. Stabbed again at its imprisoning shell. It was tired and hungry and weak; in a flash of insight, Jet could almost feel its frustration. He couldn’t stand by while it struggled. Enemy or not, it was a creature in need, and Jet Black always stood for those who couldn’t stand for themselves.

Dream Sally smiled at him. Encouraging. Go on, she said. You wouldn’t be the Jet I know and love if you didn’t hare off doing stupid things like this.

Although he knew it was a hallucination born of hunger, exhaustion, stress, and maybe a little time travel discombobulation, Dream Sally’s words still made him feel better. Made the world feel a little more right.

He leapt to work, breaking down the thick shell with the haft of his makeshift spear, trying to stay out of reach of the baby’s sharp, searching beak. But the dinosaur seemed to realize that he was a friend, or at least that he wasn’t a threat. It grew still, tilted its head as if listening. Then: it let out a low trill deep in its throat.

Jet paused. Cautious. Worried. Ready to defend himself if necessary. Then he realized—

It was purring.

Or something like it anyway. Good enough for him.

He went back to work.

Within moments, the bottom of the shell broke away, and the baby went toppling over onto one side. Before he had a chance to contemplate what a very bad idea it was, he’d already reached down to help the wobbly, uncertain creature. Its massive wings flopped once. Twice. Then he hauled it back to standing, steadied it. Heedless of the sharp, hooked claws that protruded from its feet. The long spearlike beak that could end him quite easily.

But this Pterosaur wouldn’t do that. Somehow, he knew.

“Come on, baby,” he coaxed. “I’ll help you.”

It opened its eyes and looked into his face.

Purred again.

Leaned its head down and nuzzled him.

He felt something touch his mind. Not a psychic assault like the psychosaurs. Not speech like Jared Brain. Just a presence, a sense of no longer being alone. Of family.

And just like that, it happened. Jet wasn’t sure if the baby thought he was its mother, or a brother, or if it just recognized him as someone more at home in the sky than on the ground. Whatever it was, he knew the baby Pterosaur would never hurt him, and would in fact fight to the death to protect him.

“I can’t keep calling you baby, can I, boy?” he asked, scratching the flat reptilian head behind the ears…or where he thought they were, anyway. “That’s not good.”

It made a low noise in its throat that sounded like disapproval. Jet’s stomach replied with a boing, and the baby recoiled like he’d threatened it. He rubbed his tummy with an apologetic shrug.

“Sorry, pal,” he said. “I’m starving.”

Slowly, the creature inched back toward him. He was still puzzling over a name as it stretched out its wings to their full length for the first time. Fanned them. Tested their strength. Leapt unsteadily off the ground, flapping madly, until it found the sweet point that allowed it to hover there before him, lower limbs curled up beneath it.

“Nice job!” Jet exclaimed, unable to suppress a stab of envy. If only he had his jetpack. They could go flying together. Soar through the skies of prehistory. Breathe the sweet, unspoiled air.

The huge baby dinosaur darted forward, lightning quick, and grabbed him by the shoulders. His jacket ripped—dropping him abruptly—before its claws found a more firm purchase, pricking him slightly with the tips of the talons. But the discomfort was quickly forgotten. They soared into the air. Higher and higher. Attempted a turn. Wobbled. Began to fall.

Five feet…

Ten…

The ground loomed beneath them, growing…

Jet tilted his body instinctively, trying to steer the Pterosaur as he would his jet wing. Urging the minute shifts of weight that would turn their plummet into a swoop just above the ground. The baby reacted as if he’d spoken to it, the only language they both understood—

It snapped its wings out, tilted just in time.

They skimmed along the ground, so close that Jet could feel the tall grasses tickle his belly. Lash his face. Then up they went again in a dizzying arc, faster than he’d ever gone before. The Pterosaur let out a hungry, warbling call. He followed it up with a whoop of exhilaration as the creature of the sky began to fly toward the scent of water. A jungle lake, perhaps? He could feel the cool breeze, the moisture on the air. Smell the sharp tang of fish.

It let out another shrill cry.

“Yes, Comet!” he exclaimed, grinning ear to ear. This was exactly what he’d needed: to fly. He felt more like himself than he had since he’d landed in this forsaken place. “Let’s go hunting!”

Jet and his Pterosaur went in search of food, unaware of the eyes on the ground. Eyes that tracked their movement…and followed.


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