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October 25, 2011 / milesandhisfavorites

Prehistoric Universe: Venom Killer

“Paging Dr. Lee, Dr. Lee to the chemical lab, please.”

Howard fast-walked down the hall of the Time Institute, into a large laboratory.  This was where samples of prehistoric tissue and plant samples were analyzed, to see if they could help humanity in any way.  But today was different.  Dr. Martha Ingleson, a pretty thirty-something brunette in a crisp white lab coat, walked up to Howard, carrying a test tube halfway filled with a foggy white liquid.  She spoke in a British accent, having just recently come from a six-year stint in London, where she had been doing some top-secret research on parasites.  “We have some trouble, Mr. Lee,” she said, a nervous tone in her voice.  “Within the last forty-eight hours, three people have been admitted to the regional hospital with some unusual symptoms-sickly green skin, convulsions, and bloodshot eyes.  We’ve gotten some blood samples from the victims, and extracted this-” She held up the test tube.

“From the cells.  We’ve reached a conclusion.”

Howard knew what she was about to say, and finished her sentence:

“Sinornithosaurus venom.”

“Exactly.  The only Sinornithosaurus anti-venom that we have is about three years past use.  We need you to visit the Yixian Formation area, during the late Cretaceous, and get us some more, before the victims reach critical condition.  You have about six hours.  Now go.”

Martha didn’t need to tell Howard twice.  The man was out the door before she finished her sentence.  Thirty minutes later, he emerged from the time portal into Cretaceous China.  The Yixian Formation area was known for its vast variety of feathered dinosaurs-the Aviary, the new recruits called it.  Most of the area was sparse forest, with trees that mostly covered the sky.  It was beautiful, even though there were at least a half dozen kinds of carnivores in the area.  Suddenly, the bushes to Howard’s left started rustling.  Howard reached for his handgun.  He was going to need it, because the next second, three greyhound-sized dinosaurs burst from the undergrowth.  They were theropods, lean and covered with gray-blue feathers.  Dilong.

The trio of Dilong attempted to pounce on Howard, but he quickly startled them with a blast of his handgun.  They staggered back, dazed, but Dilong didn’t give up easily.  That was, until a larger pack of at least six dinosaurs leaped out of the bushes and started attacking the Dilong.  They were smaller, only about the size of a chicken, but Howard recognized them easily.  They were what he was looking for.  Sinornithosaurus, the only known venomous dinosaur from Asia.  The creatures looked similar to the Dilong, but they were mottled black and orange, and had sheets of feathers underneath their arms, like wings.  And of course, there were their curved fangs that could administer venom.  Venom that, left unchecked, could kill a human in only three days.

The Dilongs’ instincts told them to retreat.  They ran deep into the forest before any of them were bitten.  But the Sinornithosaurus ran in the opposite direction, for what looked like a watering hole.  Howard quickly followed, but was blocked by a herd of Psittacosaurus.  The dinosaurs were ceratopsians, but looked more like pony-sized lizards, with parrotlike heads and what seemed like a grove of tall grass near the base of the tail.  There were at least two dozen of them, about fifteen adults, with adolescents and babies mixed in.  Howard stepped back, took a running start, and jumped over the herd.  The next thing he knew, he was looking down the barrel of a Walther P99.  A black-haired man with horn-rimmed glasses was smirking at him.

“Well, well, well, look who decided to show up right on schedule.  I notice that you have no backup, and minimal weaponry.  Pathetic.”

It was Nigel Malum, the sinister head of the Sigma Institute, the only other organization in the world to have time travel technology.  His ultimate goal: to tear apart the time-space continuum and destroy the human race.  Given that his team could open time portals anywhere on earth, that was fairly achievable-had Howard Lee and the rest of the Time Institute not existed.

“If you’re wondering why I’m here, it’s because we wanted some chaos from the Yixian Formation, and we didn’t have much to go on.  Any ship in a storm, I always say, and releasing some Sinornithosaurus was a cruise liner.  In fact, I currently have twenty of them running around the county.  Within hours, there will be death, confusion, and inevitable chaos.”

Then, just to rub it in Howard’s face, Nigel pulled out a vial of what was undoubtedly antivenin.  Howard, angered, reached into his pocket and withdrew an odd-looking device called an Edison Converter.  It looked like a steampunk taser, and had the ability to convert most things, including venom, into electrical energy.  Hey, the government had a lot of stuff that most people could only dream of.  Howard stabbed the vial, and Nigel’s body went rigid.  That was a side effect of the Edison Converter-electrical shocks.  Then, Nigel went limp, letting Howard hightail it out of there.  With the antivenin, no less.

He ran through the forest to the time portal.  But in his way was a twelve-foot bipedal dinosaur.  It was covered in snowy white feathers and had long, fencing sword-sized claws.  Beipiaosaurus, one of the few large theropods native to this area.  It was an herbivore, but when disturbed, its claws could kill.  And this guy was definitely disturbed.  The Beipiaosaurus gave a guttural roar, and charged Howard.  He shot a bullet at the dinosaur’s wrist, but it just bounced off the claw.  Hm, he thought.  Beipiaosaurus keratin was bulletproof.  He made a mental note to mention that to the chemical lab.

Howard dived behind a tree, and the Beipiaosaurus just barely missed him.  The dinosaur roared again, circling around the tree and cornering Lee.  This encounter was starting to feel like a bullfight.  Lee aimed for the Beipiaosaurus’s eye, and fired.  It was directly on target.  The Beipiaosaurus roared one last time before crashing to the ground, crushing itself under its own weight.  Just for good measure, Howard walked over and snapped off some of the dinosaur’s claw, just to get a sample of the new bulletproof material.  That was one of the Time Institute’s missions: use knowledge from the past to aid the present.  For all anybody knew, there could be a cure for cancer lying in some Ordovician coral.  Howard walked through the time portal and back into the Time Institute’s main gate chamber.  Martha walked up to him and grabbed the Edison Converter, dipping the tip into a beaker and reverse-activating it, which produced the antivenin.

“Good work, Howard.  I’m sure we can work up a good cover story.  Probably that the victims were looking for a thrill out in the desert, found a new species of snake instead.”

Howard tossed her the Beipiaosaurus keratin.  “Found this.  Turns out that this stuff is bulletproof.  Have the chem lab do some analysis.  And… Malum was there.”

Martha’s eyes went wide for a few seconds, but quickly settled down.  “Nigel has been appearing in the past more and more often,” she said.  “We don’t know why, but we can assume that he has some big project planned.  By the way, I’ve recently received a memo from the DOMA administrators.”  It was Howard’s time to be surprised.  DOMA stood for Department of Miscellaneous Affairs, the branch of the US government that the Time Institute, along with dozens of other projects, belonged to.  “Why didn’t they tell me first?”

“How should I know?  Anyway, they wanted to inform us that we’ll be having a visitor from one of the other areas of study-Dreadnought, I think it was.”

This was bad.  If the DOMA people wanted someone from Project Dreadnought visiting the Time Institute, they obviously thought something was up.  Of course, at the moment, they had better things to do.

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