Fiction Friday: Dinocalypse Now – Chapters 9, 10, and 11

Dinocalypse Now

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Chapter Nine

Outside Oxford University

Amelia thanked her lucky stars that she remembered to bring the sidecar. Her bike, a 1928 Indian Scout Model 101—red as the cherry on a sundae’s top—handily supported a second passenger, but not two additional riders.

Certainly not when one of them was a hulking ape in a professorial jacket and a tartan kilt. At present, that ape sat behind her, his tree-trunk arms damn near crushing the air out of her lungs as the bike bolted forward toward the airfield at Chalgrove. Some gawky student, by her reckoning—it was of some question whether or not the ape counted as a proper Centurion, but she with all confidence could say that human tangle of clothes hangers stuffed in a sleep-shirt wasn’t. Whatever the case, that sidecar was a blessing—even if the kid wasn’t here, she’s not sure she could keep the bike up on two wheels alone with an ape riding behind.

Around them: the British countryside, splayed out. Above, pinhole stars in a black canvas—but looking ahead, she could see those darker shadows headed toward London.

Dinosaurs, she thought. And blimps. Reports were coming in that the same was happening all over the world—including her de facto home, Paris.

Being a member of the Century Club—even a new one who hadn’t yet found her footing—was making for interesting business.

But it gave her a chance to do what she loved best: teach the thugs and bullies of the world that every action had consequences. She was no scientist, but she respected science, and knew that in the tenets of the physical world, truth could be found. That’s why she had Newton’s third law inked on the inside of her left arm:

For every action: an equal and opposite reaction.

You bully? You get bullied. You push? You get pushed back.

The Century Club gave her a chance to put that belief into practice: to make the theory a law, so to speak. The world was home to countless agents of evil and selfishness—sometimes it was smugglers in Paris, other times it was mad scientists with an army of floating brains. Who they were mattered little because their intention was always the same: to exploit the weak for their own gain. Hell with that.

“Miss Stone?” the ape yelled over the growl of the motorcycle.

“What is it, Professor?”

“I’m a bit new at this, as I’m not generally the adventuring type, and being attacked in my own office shook me up more than a little, I’m afraid, so—”

“Get to the question, Professor.”

“Where are we going?”

“Up ahead,” she said, “is Chalgrove airfield. Isn’t much to look at but we’ve got a plane chartered and—”

She stopped talking. Her eyes squinted against the chill wind.

An orange glow on the horizon. It couldn’t be sunrise already.

No. That glow. In the direction of Chalgrove.

It was then she saw the stars above swallowed by bands of black smoke.

Merde.

The airfield was burning.

“Change of plans,” she said, seeing an opportunity to turn and taking it suddenly, stones popping and grinding beneath the sliding back tire of the Indian Scout. “I hope you have your sea legs, Professor.”

The bike headed west, toward the Bristol channel.


Chapter Ten

Hong Kong

It all adds up, Benjamin thought, staring at the handprint-shaped receptacle in front of him, a receptacle that looked sculpted out of hematite—dark, smooth, almost mirrored. I just wish I knew to what.

The sum of the pieces—the culmination of the mystical equation—was something he’d been tracking for months, now. Snatching pieces of the mystery, snippets of the secret, catching them where he could and trying to piece them together.

The thefts from museums, all artifacts of lost civilizations stolen from the deepest of storerooms and antechambers.

The disruption of the ley lines: a stutter in the mystical geomantic power grid.

The disappearance of certain dinosaur fossils: not stolen, no, but quite literally gone as if they never existed.

And then the whispers of the spirits—ghosts and daemons and incubi, all hiding and running scared and saying the same troublingly vague thing: The end is coming.

Now, their warning seemed to prove true: dirigibles in the sky, lizard-faced “men” on the ground, dinosaurs stalking the streets and terrorizing people. It happened in the blink of an eye, as if they had come out of nowhere. Or everywhere.

It didn’t make sense. And that bothered Benjamin—like a hangnail you cannot stop picking, or a splinter that evades extraction.

This was what Benjamin Hu did. Not just for the Century Club—but for himself, for his missing parents, for the world around. Whenever he got his hands around a mystical mystery, he would not let go until it gave up its answers. Some called him obsessed.

He liked to think of it as “dedicated.”

Here he finally tracked down one of the missing artifacts, an idol that looked not unlike the horn of the mythic unicorn—petrified wood with a wide base that tapered to a tip, the whole thing surrounded by a helical edge, like a screw.

He’d found the thief here in Hong Kong. An ape, one of Gorilla Khan’s thick-skulled thugs, absconding with the key and heading toward Kei Ling Ha Hoi: Three Fathoms Cove. The ape was easy enough to subdue, given that Khan’s “warriors” so frequently had the grace and elegance of a tumbling boulder. In fact, the ape gave up the key easy and fled.

The coward.

Benjamin was a dog with a bone: he could not let it go. And so he continued in the ape’s footsteps, this (at the time) puzzling artifact in his hand—cold, and yet it vibrated as if with clandestine power. Hu descended down the cliff’s edge along a walkway barely wide enough for one foot, much less two.

And there at the bottom he found a pedestal, and in that pedestal, a hole.

This enigma did not trouble him for long—a circle hole deserved a circle peg, after all. Besides, the inside of the hole was grooved. As if to fit an object with a helical edge.

Benjamin inserted the artifact into the hole.

It was, indeed a key.

But where was the door?

It didn’t take long to answer that question. The ground rumbled and he heard the sound of stone gears grinding. Little stones bounded down the cliff’s edge and rained upon his head—and then, right before him, cracks formed in the stone wall and the pieces began pulling back into the cliff, as if extracted piece by piece…

…revealing a passageway.

The chamber was not a deep one. Inside, Benjamin found a map carved into a flat rock wall, a map of the Earth before it belonged to man—the continents were shifted, as if the pieces moved by a child’s hand and smashed into one another.

Carved lines connected the continents—lines which Hu recognized as the same ley lines that marked the world now. The land shifted, yes. But the lines never did.

Beneath the map sat another pedestal like the one outside, except on this stone pillar the keyhole was not so simple.

It was a handprint. Of hematite, as noted.

“Nothing ventured,” Benjamin said, his voice echoing, “nothing gained.”

He flexed his fingers, popped his knuckles, and eased his hand into the print. His right hand, for that was what the shape demanded.

It was cold. And smooth as glass.

And utterly inert, as nothing happened.

“I am the face of disappointment,” he said with a sigh, and moved to retract his hand.

But it did not allow him that luxury. It happened fast—the hematite seemed to turn almost liquid, and his fingers sank into it as if sinking into mud. It formed over his digits and once more hardened. He pulled on his arm, but the pillar would not relinquish its grip.

An imperfect time, then, to host guests.

Behind him, two grunted chuckles.

Benjamin pivoted his body and met two trespassers: two more gorillas in long coats. One of them thinner and with bigger teeth and, as it turned out, also more familiar since Hu had only a half-hour before sent him scrambling away. The other was bigger, meaner, more silver in comparison to the other’s merely gray.

“Greetings, gorillas,” Hu said with a strained smile.

The larger gorilla dropped his knuckles to the ground and leaned forward, baring teeth. “If it isn’t Detective Hu. Always sticking his finger in the nearest rat-trap.”

The gray gorilla clapped his hands, hopping up and down.

“He looks to be trapped,” the thinner ape said, ooking in delight. “Excellent, excellent.”

“Perhaps,” Benjamin began, “we can discuss our mutual discoveries like gentlemen?”

The silverback licked his chompers as the other drew a short-bladed dagger, its jewel-forged blade of familiar origin to Benjamin.

Both of them advanced on Benjamin as he tried again to wrench his hand free from its trap. “I suppose not.”

They attacked.


Chapter Eleven

New York City

Jet ran.

He ran wishing he had his jetpack. He ran wishing he had a pair of pistols tucked into his forearm holsters. He ran wishing that his two friends and cohorts—or, at least, people he thought were friends and cohorts—hadn’t just hopped in a plane and taken off for destinations unknown.

Most of all, he wished he wasn’t afraid of water.

Because he was pretty sure that his hydrophobia had just cooked his goose.

River on his left, city on his right, he pounded pavement. In the distance he heard the screams of New Yorkers and dinosaurs alike. Other noises rose and fell: a bell clanging, the siren from a police car’s running board, the thrum of dirigible engines as they anchored atop skyscrapers. And behind him came the sounds of footsteps.

The creepy thing: those footsteps weren’t running. Not like he was. But they were chasing him just the same. Eerie human-faced saurians, a dozen of them, walking in stock step with one another—

It hit him. The feeling. The radiating pulse of warmth and greenhouse dampness and that voice echoing in his mind: WHY RUN? JUST LET GO.

The tension withdrew from his legs like snake venom sucked from a wound—they turned floppy and felt out of touch like he didn’t have legs down there at all but just a pair of pin-wheeling fettuccine noodles.

That’s when he saw the object in the sky.

At first he thought—it’s one of those flying dinosaurs come to swoop down and scoop me up in its lizard beak and carry me away to its nest somewhere—but then the hum of the engines and the sparkling glint of the setting sun on whirring propellers became clear.

Lucy dropped back down out of the sky, flying over the Hudson and straight toward Jet.

The psychic waves washed over him like a tide, a tide with a mean undertow, and for a moment he couldn’t even see Lucy at all. Couldn’t see the plane, couldn’t see the city, and instead he saw flashes of raindrops dangling from oversized leaves, saw iron bars thick as a baby’s arm, saw a muddy footprint in soggy earth that was certainly not human…

But then he heard a sound: POOMP.

Followed by a: CLANG.

Everything snapped back to focus as he caught sight of Sally standing in the open doorway on the left side of the plane, a doorway that wasn’t in the original Boeing design but that afforded her…

…well, a chance to do exactly what she just did.

She fired a grappling hook from a hand-made launcher. A bonafide Sally Slick special (though these days, weren’t they all?).

She didn’t fire at Jet directly. Rather, she blasted the gleaming steel tri-pronged hook at about ten yards in front of him. It clanged against the ground and, with the momentum of the plane, fast dragged along the macadam next to the river.

It whipped toward Jet lickety-split.

He had one chance.

Any normal man or woman might not have had a shot—but he was Jet Black, born at the turn of the century, the spirit of the sky made manifest. He was a Centurion. A hero of the age born with special reflexes and a gift for finding his way into the sky.

So as the grappling hook bounced across the ground toward him like a stone whipping across the surface of a pond, and as the voice continued throttling his mind — GIVE IN LET GO GIVE IN LET GO — Jet gritted his teeth and leapt.

His hands closed on empty air.

Oh no.

He’d missed his shot. His one shot.

But then suddenly, fast as anything, he felt himself yanked forward and drawn suddenly up into the air, passing swiftly over the heads of the saurian cabal—their mirthless razor-maw grins and dead gazes tilting toward him as he whipped past.

Upside-down.

One prong of the hook caught Jet and hooked his belt, the tip pointing down toward his thigh. He was caught in mid-air, wind buffeting his small body as the plane got lift and the island of Manhattan passed by. The booming voice in his mind faded quickly, suggesting that these mysterious malefactors of the mind operated by proximity above all else.

The closer the saurians were, the more dangerous they became.

Good to know.

But Jet wasn’t able to savor this nugget of wisdom, for he was being dragged behind a Yankee Clipper by a grappling hook caught around his belt. A belt whose safety and stability was never tested under this kind of duress.

At least I’m flying, he thought.


The plane soared over the Hudson. Toward the Statue of Liberty.

A Yankee Clipper. Heavily modified, by the looks of it. A Hawaiian hula girl painted along the side, the fading image showing the girl laying on her side, thrusting out her coconut bra, offering the viewer a cartoonish and ever-obvious wink.

Gorilla Khan knew that plane. Rage bubbled up inside him like lava from an earthen fracture. He and his giganotosaurus had crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and were now poised over Battery Park when the plane flew past.

Something appeared to be dangling behind it. A person, perhaps.

The Conquerer Ape did not see a person, however.

He saw bait. A worm dangling on a hook.

Gonga called up from the ground—

“Should I call upon our, ahhh, our pilots? The biplanes are ready to detach, Mighty Khan.” Gonga offered his obsequious smile.

“No,” Khan growled. “I have a much better idea.”

They must not escape, he said.

He told Gonga what to do.


Jet struggled to turn himself the right way, to extract the hook from his belt and hopefully use his arm strength to stay anchored, but the drag was just too strong.

And in facing the opposite way of the plane, he was the first to see.

A trio of flying shapes rising up from the city and falling in behind Lucy.

Not planes. Oh no.

Flying dinosaurs. Pterodactyls.

Impossible that they’d catch up to a plane with propellers, a plane like Lucy who was meant to move along at a good clip—

But perhaps they didn’t have to. Because beneath Jet passed another three pterodactyls.

And he craned his head to see more coming at him from the front of the plane, too. They were all over. As the plane dove suddenly to duck an oncoming pair of the monsters, Jet realized all too late that they didn’t need to catch up—

Because they were everywhere.


Pterodactyls swarmed. Sally manned her home-spun launcher, a launcher primed with a long tow-rope that dead-ended in a grappling hook—and, not coincidentally, a dangling Jet Black.

Flying dinosaurs swooped toward him—she couldn’t hear their beaks snapping on open air over the sound of the props, but she could see. And with every duck and dive and swoop of the beasts they got closer and closer.

It wouldn’t be long before one of them caught his head in their jaws. His helmet was tough stuff, she’d made sure of that, but she didn’t know the bite pressure of those pterodactyls. More than a gator, surely, and that meant they could crush his skull like a grape.

Sally knew she had to do something now. Something crazy. This is who you are. This is what you do.

She marched to the front of the plane. The cockpit wasn’t closed off like in most Clippers—she’d torn all that down and made sure that the only separation between Mack and the rest of the plane was the netting he hung there.

Sally threw open one of the lockers she’d installed there.

Mack called out: “What are you doing?”

“What I have to do,” she said, withdrawing from the locker the prototype for a new jetpack she’d been working on for Jet. Wasn’t just a jetpack. This was what she called a jet-wing: two boosters, yes, but also a pair of proper wings replete with flaps and ailerons like on a real plane. Was meant to give him more control up there in the sky—with a pack like this, he could thread a dang needle.

That was, if it worked properly.

Early tests had…

Well.

She didn’t want to think about that now.

“No no no,” Mack yelled after her. “Don’t you even think about it! I’ll get us out of this. I got skills, honey. You don’t need to—”

But his voice was already lost to her.

Sally pulled a knife from her belt, hugging the jet-wing to her chest.

With a quick slash downward, she cut through the anchor rope on which Jet Black dangled.

Then with a running start, jumped out of the plane.


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