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July 16, 2011 / milesandhisfavorites

Prehistoric Universe: Dead Of Winter

The Time Institute was under attack.  Set up in a small Arizona town, under the guise of a paleontology museum, the Institute was really a government operation, designed to test and research time travel.  Unfortunately, they had a rival, who had just as much technology as they did: the Sigma Institute, led by the villainous Nigel Malum, whose goal was to rip apart the time-space continuum and end mankind.  But they weren’t the ones doing the attacking.  In fact, the attacker wasn’t even human.

It had been months since a prehistoric creature escaped their time period under the Time Institute’s watch, and they had been unprepared.  Luckily, the researchers owned a large arsenal of automatic weaponry.  There had been a perimeter breach in the time portal room itself, and three top agents-Clarissa Venbare, Frederick Clystine, and their leader, Howard Lee, had been sent to investigate.  After three retina scans, they finally entered the portal room, which was shaped like a massive steel silo (actually, it WAS disguised as a grain silo), only it had a glassed-in monitoring area and a large blue circle that was actually the time portal.  Except the monitoring area was now completely decimated, due to a large creature having stampeded there just minutes earlier.  The creature in question, a very angry Kritosaurus, was currently running around by the portal, knocking scientists aside like rag dolls in a hurricane.

Kritosaurus was your basic hadrosaur: it looked like a long-legged lizard, with a duck-like head.  It was about the size of a hippo, with goldenrod skin that was speckled with light green.  And it was really mad.  Snorting, it noticed the three agents, who were armed with loaded M16s.  It took off running at high speeds, causing the agents to open fire.  It stumbled to the ceramic tiled floor, dead.  Just as they were reloading their weapons, a voice came over the intercom.

“Howard Lee to Special Command.  Howard Lee to Special Command.”

Howard ran out of the sliding doors and down a corridor into Special Command, which looked like something out of NASA Mission Control.  About twenty or so scientists were hunched over computers, each one displayed on a massive screen at the front of the room.  James Strombull, the government representative of the Time Institute, was standing in front of the display screen, talking to a man in a lab coat.  James firmly shook Howard’s hand, and welcomed him.

“Ah, Dr. Lee, it is an honor.  We have a bit of a problem.”

Howard grinned, and knew just how to reply.

“You talking about the Kritosaurus in the portal room?”

“No, though I did hear about that just moments ago.  Yes, rumor has it the Sigma Institute was working on a new project to control the tyrannosaur migrations in the Late Cretaceous.  Apparently we intercepted their time signal.  Be lucky it was just an angry hadrosaur, and not something bigger and carnivorous.  Anyway, we have a new situation.  Check out this weather map.”

A satellite image of Arizona appeared on the display screen.  The town where the Time Institute was located was marked with a red star, and five inches (or according to the map key, fifteen miles) away from the star was a black star.  Between the two of them was a wavy blue line-a cold front.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that a cold front is approaching the near center of Arizona, in the middle of July, near a Sigma Institute field station?”

There was no time for wisecracks.  Howard knew what to ask.

“What time period?”

“We’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities: Cretaceous Antarctica, or the last Ice Age.  We suspect the latter.  You will be given the necessary team of five, along with basic equipment and weaponry.”

Howard didn’t hesitate; he walked out of the room and down the corridor to the wrecked portal area.  There his team, along with a Snowcat loaded with rations, necessary clothing, and enough weaponry to bring down a pack of Spinosaurus, was waiting for him, ready to enter the Ice Age.  They climbed aboard the vehicle, and took off into a tunnel of neon light, unlike anything on Earth.  Then, there was a blinding flash of light, and they were in the frozen wasteland of the last Ice Age.  It was a seemingly endless plain of snow and rock, with the occasional lichen plant dotting the terrain.  And in front of the Snowcat was a group of Cave Lions.  They were about the size of a snow leopard, but resembled lionesses with gray and white fur.  The clear leader of the pride, a badly scarred male with one eye that was clawed so much, you could barely see it, lunged.

Fortunately, the Snowcat’s windshield was made of inch-thick fiberglass.  The only affect it had on Howard was that he winced.  The Cave Lion just slammed against the window and slid down into a snowbank.  It was comical in a way.  The pride wandered off.  But the worst was yet to come.  Seconds after the Cave Lion pride left the scene, the left side of the Snowcat was bashed in by something unseen.  The vehicle tipped onto its side, and another loud banging noise seemed to reverberate throughout the chassis.  A massive brown paw shredded the rest of the vehicle into scrap metal, and the threat was revealed: a one-ton monster the size of a rhinoceros-a cave bear.  Looking for prey.  Howard’s reaction was immediate.

“Weapons!”

Each agent grabbed a machine gun and fired directly at the enormous bear’s heart, but the beast managed to dodge it.  A second round of bullets met with similar results.  That was when Dr. Lee got an idea.  Among the many supplies tossed everywhere by the cave bear was a portable gunpowder magazine the size of a flat-screen TV.  Next to it was a crate of incendiary bullets.  Perfect.  Howard managed to shoot the bear in the arm, causing it to stampede directly at him.  That was when the agent grabbed the crate, along with a single bullet, and loaded the ammo into his weapon.  The magazine, made out of oxhide, wasn’t very good against a bullet.  Budget cuts, Lee thought.  Once the cave bear was right in front of the portable magazine, Howard fired.  Only he was aiming downward, at the monster’s feet.  The gunpowder.  Sure enough, the moment the bullet hit, the case-and the bear-exploded.

In the midst of the flames, which were mixed with icy slush that dulled the heat, a blue circle appeared.  There were only two possible sources for a time portal, and one was about four hundred yards back.  The Sigma Institute field station.  After pointing it out, Dr. Lee led the team through it, expecting the worst-twenty armed Sigma mercenaries, already prepared to fire.  To the entire group’s surprise, however, the field station, made up of a few tents and a makeshift portal station, was a wasteland.  Some tents had been trampled to the ground, and some of the computers were smashed.  Something-a group of somethings-had come through here.  A BIG herd of somethings.

Luckily, a Jeep Wrangler had been spared, so the team drove the fifteen miles back to town, which was already covered by about an inch of snow.  But nobody was outside, playing around.  Cars were overturned, setting off their alarms.  Trees and sidewalks were crushed.  If a herd of somethings came in here, they made quite an impression.  The two-way radio that one of the team members had brought with her crackled to life.  Out of it came the voice of James Strombull.

“IA Team, do you read?  We have a bit of a problem.  Actually, a MAMMOTH problem.  Literally.”

A trumpeting, like that of an elephant’s, came from downtown.  The Jeep burned rubber.  Stampeding down Main Street were about seven creatures, each one massive, larger than an elephant.  It took a second for Howard to realize what they were.  Shaggy brownish-red fur, giant curved tusks… woolly mammoths.  The radio came on again.

“Our hacking into the traffic cameras has revealed that you have stolen a Jeep Wrangler from the Sigma Institute field station-nice work, by the way-and are currently chasing our little herd of mammoths down Main Street.  Now, there is a large group of civilians who have taken shelter in the West Side Cinema.  The mammoths are headed in that direction, and if we don’t corral them into a time portal which we have conveniently linked up on the corner of Flora and Capricorn, my job will be at extreme risk.  There are two other teams of jeeps coming from Griffin Street and Erlanger Drive.  The three of you should be able to chase the herd back to the Ice Age, if we’ve played our cards right.  Just keep chasing them.”

The Jeep screeched towards a baby mammoth, causing it to squeal and run up to its mother, who trumpeted and stopped abruptly, using one of her massive, plodding feet to knock the vehicle and send it spinning into a chocolate shop.  Howard leaned out of the Jeep, and tossed a notepad full of waivers at the shop’s customers, who were gaping in awe.

“You saw nothing, I hope I can trust you on that.”

The Jeep then skidded away from the store, chasing the mammoths towards a police barricade that had been set up near the First National Bank.  What the herd didn’t know was that the barricade was electrified, so the moment the matriarch tried to step over it, she was hit with seven hundred volts of electricity, which drove her back-and, logically, the rest of the mammoths-onto Flagstone Boulevard, where they were promptly stopped by a pair of Hummers, each one having a machine gun turret on top.  Howard could see the time portal just down the street.  That was when the unthinkable happened-one of the herd’s bulls bravely smashed the fence, causing him to convulse and topple to the pavement.  The herd stampeded down Anderson Street, knocking cars out of the way and completely ruining the pavement.  James’ voice came over the walkie-talkie.

“You have got to be kidding me… they jumped the fence?!  And now we have a three-ton woolly mammoth carcass to clean up!  Who am I, Superman?  Open another portal!”

Another blue portal appeared just in front of the mammoth herd, causing them to skid to a halt.  The herd’s matriarch tapped the portal with her trunk, suspicious of what it was and whether or not it was edible.  To her surprise, the single “finger’ passed directly through into the Ice Age.  Curious, one of the babies bounded through, prompting the entire herd to follow.  Just as the last furry tail swished into the distant past, the portal closed.  Remarkably, there were no fatalities, though almost everybody in town had witnessed it.  The local authorities dismissed it as a controlled publicity stunt for the museum.  The Jeep was just heading back to the Time Institute when the walkie-talkie exploded into a mix of cheers and curses.  James was talking.

“Hey, Howard?  You didn’t happen to run across any Cave Lions out there in the Ice Age, did you?  We have a bit of trouble in the Copper State Shopping Mall.”

Dr. Howard Lee just smiled and turned back to his team.

“We have some spare weapons, right?”

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