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March 22, 2012 / milesandhisfavorites

Prehistoric Universe: Dreadnought

Sylvia Montanage briskly walked through the automatic doors of the Time Museum.  She was a coldly pretty woman, with long blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and red lipstick.  But she wasn’t at the museum to marvel at the huge sauropod bones, or the dazzlingly accurate statue of a Carnotaurus.  She was there to speak with the curator-Dr. Howard Lee, professional paleontologist and secret government time traveler.

While pretending to read a bronze plaque in front of a Minmi skeleton, Sylvia grabbed a broom handle that was sitting in a janitor’s cart, and a second later, she was standing in a large office.  In one corner was the fossilized cast of a baby plesiosaur, and the desk, which sat behind a diploma-riddled wall, was dotted with ammonite and trilobite imprints.  Sitting at the desk was Howard Lee.  He stuck out his hand.  “Sylvia,” he said welcomingly, with the false cheeriness of a tour guide.  “It’s been too long!”

“It’s been never, Howard.  You know why I’m here.”

“Yes, I do.  DOMA wants us working around in other areas of the government.  You’re here from… what was that?”

“Tunguska.  Project Dreadnought.  We study advanced evolution.  And we were on the verge of an important breakthrough in vertebrae studies before the Chairman called me here.  I won’t be here long, just need to look around your facilities.”

“Of course!  Right this way.”

Howard stood up and walked over to the office door, hesitating before opening it.  Outside was a hospital-clean hallway, with numerous doors on either end.  While walking through, Sylvia noticed signs on the doors: EMBRYONIC STORAGE 8, LIVE SPECIES CONTAINMENT CHAMBER 4, AVIARY 2.  Sylvia couldn’t begin to guess what was inside, though she heard a lot of squawking inside Aviary 2.  Finally, they stopped at a door marked PORTAL CHAMBER-AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.  They had arrived at where the action was-the time portal.

Sylvia reached for the push bar to open the door, but Howard grabbed her wrist.  “DNA reading,” he said matter-of-factly.  “Had you touched that, we would have  to hose you off the floor.  Standard stuff.”  Sylvia nodded, and Howard opened the door.  The portal room was at least the size of a football field, with dozens of lab coat-clad scientists scurrying around.  In the center was a giant metal platform, raised two feet above the ground.  And on the platform was the portal: a spiraling blue circle with extremely blurry images sometimes appearing through it: a dense swamp, a plain of volcanoes, a sprawling coral reef.  Howard grinned, as if he was looking at a child’s artwork.

“This is the key to prehistory.  Granted, a seven hundred billion-dollar key, but it’s the greatest scientific achievement in the history of mankind.  With this, the sky’s the limit.”

Suddenly, one of the portal technicians came running up to Howard.  “Dr. Lee,” he said, exasperated.  “Some of the portalic membrane’s coming apart!”  Howard’s eyes widened, and he ran to the wall, unlocking what looked like a fuse box and flipping a series of complex switches.  A blaring alarm rang throughout the room, and the scientists began to quickly exit.  Sylvia looked at Howard nervously.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re evacuating.  Sometimes we get interference, normally from a major satellite, and we begin to lose control of the portal.  It’s no huge crisis, though if we stay here much longer, we’ll be sucked into who knows when.  So move!”

The two began to head towards the exit, but before they could, the portal seemed to explode.  The circle widened so that instead of being the size of a small building, the blue light filled the entire room.  Howard ducked under a table, and waited until the light dimmed.  When he crawled out, Sylvia was missing.  There was only one possible answer-she hadn’t found cover in time.  Sylvia Montanage, head of the fourth most important DOMA project, had been forcibly sent into the past.

Howard ran over to the main control panel, and checked the last known programmed time: 214 million years ago-the Triassic period.  He ran over to the adjacent supplies hangar and signed out a camouflage Land Rover Defender, along with an AK-47 and an ammo belt of grenades.  Then, he drove the rover through the portal and into what could easily have been mistaken for modern-day New Mexico.  Appropriate, considering that he was currently in the exact center of the Ghost Ranch Formation, famous for its numerous Coelophysis bones.  This place was crawling with them, and the Time Institute had discovered a related species that were more like piranhas than dinosaurs.

Howard drove at a slow pace for about an hour, looking for any sign of Sylvia, but he didn’t find her until nightfall.  He was still keeping up the search, when she ran in front of his headlights.  Howard stopped the rover, and Sylvia fast walked over to the passenger side, climbing in.  “They’re after me,” she said.  “Whatever they are.”  Howard noticed a few bite marks on Sylvia’s arms.  They were beginning to clot, but blood still trickled down to her wrist.  Howard recognized them immediately.  “Well,” he said.  “Seems as if you’ve been hit by a pack of Tawas.  Those guys are vicious, but well-coordinated.  You were lucky to get away alive.”  Sylvia grimaced.  “How am I lucky in this scenario?”  Howard chuckled to himself.

“Trust me, there are things out there that could crush this rover like a bug.  Fortunately for us, most of them don’t hunt at night.”

Something suddenly slammed into the side of the rover, nearly tipping it over.  Something enormous.  Howard cursed.  “Postosuchus,” he said, gritting his teeth.  “Normally they don’t hunt at night, but this is the Coelophysis breeding season.  No point competing with fifty other of their own kind.”  Sylvia looked out the window, and immediately regretted it.  Standing not three meters away from the rover was a vast shape, at least fifteen feet long.  She grabbed a pair of night vision goggles from the overhead compartment and looked closer.  The hulking beast was a lot clearer in the greenish haze.  The Postosuchus was as long as a Nile crocodile, and looked similar, only it had longer legs, a thicker body, and it was even more terrifying.

Howard kicked open the sunroof, grabbed the AK-47, and stood in the backseat.  He began to shoot at the Postosuchus, but it barely fazed the prehistoric predator.  Instead of running away, it just charged again.  Howard ducked down.  “Brace yourself!”  A millisecond later, the Postosuchus collided with the rover, tossing it into the air.  The rover skidded to the edge of a deep arroyo, at least ten meters deep.  If they went over, they were dead meat.  Sylvia, whose vision was little more than a blurred image, managed to grab her trademark purse and pulled out a small leather backpack.  She grabbed Howard’s arm and pulled him over.  His forehead was slashed open, and sticky blood coated the seats.  Luckily, she managed to patch his wound up with some gauze she found in the glove compartment.  Then, she kicked open the door, putting one of Howard’s arms in one of the backpack loops, and hers through the other.  Finally, she pulled herself and Howard out of the rover, running to the edge of the arroyo and jumping.  Almost immediately, she pulled a ripcord, and the backpack flew open.  The pack was, in fact, a parachute.

The two hit the bottom of the arroyo with a painful jolt.  Sylvia’s ankle twisted, but she had once been stranded in the Siberian wilderness for three days.  This was nothing by comparison.  Howard, on the other hand, was woken up by the impact.  He instantly stood up, then moaned and stumbled.  Obviously, his head wound wasn’t doing him any favors.  All of a sudden, Howard completely woke up.  Sylvia pressed her hand against his head.  Her sapphire ring emitted an odd glow, and a robotic voice responded, “Minor concussion.  Do not allow subject to drive or use complex machinery for several hours.”

Sylvia, supporting Howard, ran over to the other side of the arroyo.  Meanwhile, the Postosuchus was sniffing around the Land Rover.  Luckily, the rover still smelled like Howard’s blood.  The Postosuchus charged the rover, and both the reptile and the vehicle went toppling over the side of the arroyo, crashing.  Even with thick armor, no Postosuchus could possibly survive that fall.  Sylvia and Howard hiked through the dry riverbed, until they reached a point where the riverbank and the riverbed were almost equal.  They climbed out, and, using a compass-like device that Sylvia had taken from Howard’s pocket, began to make their way back to the portal.

Using the rover, Howard found Sylvia in an hour.  But on foot, it took at least twice that time.  Finally, they were back at the hovering blue circle.  Howard got up, having regained enough strength to walk again.  The two ran through the portal.  Waiting were about half a dozen soldiers and medical personnel.  Sylvia handed Howard over to the medics, insisting on letting the Tawa bites and twisted ankle heal on their own.  Within seconds, the portal to the Triassic had closed, and another crazy Time Institute adventure was over.

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