Original Work End Point Pangaea (Working Title)

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Jeff Brackett, May 1, 2017.


  1. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    So here's my latest. It's about ready to go to the publisher, and as usual, I'll be taking down all but a short sample once it publishes. This one was written as part of a package deal. When I sent them the proposal for the Chucklers series, they said they liked the writing and the story, but that it didn't really fit their "normal" readership. Still, they said they would take it as long as I would also agree to write at least two books in one of their niche sub-genres. Those niches included things like kaiju, sea-monsters, dinosaurs, zombies, and the like. I thought about it, came up with another proposal about prisoners from the future sent back into prehistory, and they went for it. Here is the result...

    NOTE - This one is shorter than most of my writing, coming in at just under 75k words. It's also written in more of a pulp style than I typically write. And as usual, please sound off with whatever mistakes you find.

    Thanks folks. (y)

    __________________________________


    JUNE 17
    2147 AD​







    Chapter 1




    It was a beautiful June afternoon when Sean's world collapsed in on him. It hadn't started that way. As a matter of fact, he was in a great mood as he walked from the drone terminal to the slidewalks. He'd successfully proven his code to his team, and they had selected his project to present to management next week. The resulting feeling of accomplishment made everything seem brighter. The air was cleaner than normal, and beautiful blue skies with nary a cloud in them reflected his mood as he stepped onto the slidewalk entrance track to the faster inner tracks. He barely noticed the accompanying surge of acceleration as he stepped onto each successively faster track until he was walking along the traffic ribbon at a relative speed of more than fifty miles per hour. Having made his way to the fast tracks, he walked leisurely for the few minutes it took him to make it to the northwest quadrant suburb exchange. Wind whipping through his hair, he smiled to himself.

    The warning sign ahead let him know he had two minutes to navigate his way back to the outer slidewalk. He stepped from the 50mph track to the 45mph, weight shifting expertly as he adjusted to the slightly slower speed, still moving across to the 40, the 35, the 30, and so on until he reached solid concrete at the entrance to the northwest exchange.

    His comm chimed as he walked briskly toward the northwest slides and he turned his wrist to see the smiling picture of his daughter on his wrist comp. He smiled. "Accept call."

    As soon as he heard the line click he spoke. "Hi kiddo. What's goin—" The sobbing robbed him of his words, and he stopped where he stood, suddenly oblivious to the foot traffic that bustled around him.

    "Caroline? What's wrong, baby?"

    It took her several tries before she could get the words out around her sobs. "I'm hurt, daddy. They hurt me bad."

    Heart suddenly pounding in his chest, Sean swallowed, trying to get the words out. His earlier elation evaporated with her words. "Who hurt you? What happened? What did they do?"

    "Da—" There was a click and Caroline's picture faded to black as the line went dead.

    "Caroline! Caroline!" People around him stopped and stared as he shouted into his wrist comp. Sean ignored them as he tapped his comp and called up the AI.

    "Waiting," the comp announced.

    "Call police!"

    "Calling."


    ***​


    The police were already outside his apartment building when he arrived ten minutes later. Breathless from running, Sean tapped his comp so it displayed his holo-ID for the investigator posted outside. "I'm Sean Barrow," he panted. "I made the call. Is my daughter all right?"

    The man looked at the holo and tapped his helmet. Sean knew his visor was looking at the holo coding and comparing it to information in various databases. "I'm sorry, Mr. Barrow. I don't know what's going on inside. You can go on in and I'll let the investigator in charge know you're on your way up."

    Sean rushed inside without another word. If the LEO at the door couldn't help him, he needed to find someone who could. He caught his breath in the lift pad as it took him to his floor, where he was greeted by another investigator. She was a woman of slight build, but her demeanor left no doubt that she was all business. "Mr. Barrow?"

    "Yes. Is my daughter all right?"

    "I'm sorry, but before I can discuss any details, I need to see your ID."

    Once more he flicked his holo on. She looked at it and nodded.

    "Now, how is my daughter?"

    The woman hesitated. "I'm sorry, but I need you to answer a few questions."

    "Investigator…" he looked at the badge on her body armor, "…Medeiros?"

    She nodded. "Candace Medeiros."

    "Look, I sent recordings of the call she made when I called you guys. I don't have anything else I can offer. Now I need to see my daughter!"

    "Mr. Barrow, I'm sorry, but I can't let you in there just yet. We're still investigating, and we can't let you contaminate the scene. Once the Medical Examiner gets here and fin—"

    "Medical Examiner?" Sean latched onto the words. He reached out to steady himself on the wall, but he misjudged the distance and staggered. He swallowed convulsively as his throat swelled and his sinuses filled. "Caroline." It was a whisper, but it echoed in his ears with the rushing of his pulse, as his groping hands found the wall. Leaning heavily against it, he slid down to sit on the floor and began crying.



    ***​


    Not again. Please, please, please… I can't go through it again. The words kept spinning about in his head, making impossible to think straight. Present and past became muddled as he recalled the same feelings when his wife had disappeared twelve years earlier. Their apartment was trashed, and there were obvious signs of a struggle, but whoever had broken in left no prints or DNA evidence whatsoever. To be sure, there were other signs that something had happened. There was the broken coffee table and dishes, and the blood stains and spatters on the walls and carpet, but the only DNA had been Connie's.

    The police had been sympathetic, but she had been the seventh such missing person case in his neighborhood in a year's time. They called the mystery abductor "Mr. Clean" for the lack of evidence he left.

    And when he was no longer a mystery, they called him the "Mr. Clean Killer".

    Mr. Clean eventually slipped up when victim number ten's dog bit him as he attacked the woman. The dog's teeth had punctured the protective suit he wore and he'd become enraged at the animal, killing it with a chair. But the damage was done. DNA retrieved from the dog's mouth led the police to the killer, and the man confessed to a total of sixteen abduction murders.

    In exchange for leniency, he showed how he had created a hermetically sealed suit of synthi-skin under his clothes, complete with gloves and a rebreather. The man was a chemist, and had easily gained access to everything he had needed to create the clean suit. Eventually, he led them to a burial site outside of the city, showing where he'd buried each body.

    Since he had confessed, there was no trial. There was a single day when Sean had been asked to testify about Connie's disappearance and that was all he'd heard about it until a week later when he'd received a synopsis from the police.

    By that time, his wife had been gone seven months, and the initial shock of losing her had resolved itself into a twisting ache in his soul that he had learned to live with. He knew it that if he let it, the pain would destroy him, eating him up. So he pushed it down deep within, and elected to spend his time and energy on the more positive goal of raising and protecting Caroline.

    He'd taken that role seriously, and had become much more safety conscious. Part of that entailed installation of a security system in their new apartment. It wasn't top of the line, but it was the best that Sean could afford, and included sonic and visual stunners, gas, and an auto-dial connection to the nearest security station, all activated with the press of a button. But Caroline hadn't had a chance to hit that button.

    The system also had several motion-activated, high-resolution video cams and in his shock, Sean didn't think to tell the police about them. It wasn't until later that night, after the police had put him up in a local hotel that he'd remembered. He opened his wrist comp and accessed the cloud storage where his security feed stored for forty-eight hours. He copied the footage to his wrist unit, sent a copy to Inspector Medeiros, and braced himself before watching the feed.

    There was no sound. He hadn't been able to afford the system upgrade. But video was horrific enough. He watched as four young men in hooded beach shirts shoved their way into the apartment, striking Caroline across the face. He watched as they did unspeakable things to her, leaving her laying naked on the kitchen counter while they rampaged through the house.

    He saw her regain consciousness… activate her wrist comp.

    That was when she called me.

    One of the boys must have heard her speaking. He ran into the room, slammed her arm down on the false granite counter.

    That was when her call got cut off.

    The kid slammed her arm into the stone counter over and over, until pieces of the wrist comp scattered across the smooth surface… all while his daughter screamed in silent agony.

    When the boy stopped, her forearm had an unnatural bend in it, as if she had an extra joint between elbow and wrist. The kid fished around in a drawer and grabbed a knife, waved it in front of Caroline's face. Sean could see him shouting something at her, and her head shook back and forth as she cried. And while there was no sound, it was easy enough to see her mouth as she repeatedly screamed the word "no" at him.

    The other boys came into the room and there was some sort of discussion while Caroline sobbed on the counter, eyes clenched tightly against the physical and emotional torture she endured. But they snapped open as the knife plunged into her chest, and her mouth opened in another scream.

    Four boys.

    Four plunges of the blade.

    The cameras caught it all. Every torturous detail, and Sean forced himself to watch each second. Unable to sleep, he watched the video again.

    And again.

    He watched several times that first night, memorizing the faces of the street thugs who had raped and tortured his baby before killing her.

    The video was clear, crisp, and damning. It had allowed the inspectors to easily identify and apprehend the killers, and Sean watched as they were brought in, comparing the faces in his memory to those of the monsters who exited the police cruisers.

    He continued to watch the video every day for the next five months as the case wound its way through the court system, stoking the fire of his anger in a way he hadn't allowed himself to do when his wife died. This time there was no distraction, no reason to disassociate himself from the case. That reason had died with his daughter, and he looked forward to seeing the resolution of this case. He wanted these delinquents to suffer the way his daughter had suffered.

    It should have been an open and shut case.

    It should have been.

    But politics and nepotism intervened. One of the boys was the nephew of a high-level politician, and the video evidence was suddenly found to be "suspicious". Defense counselors trotted out expert witnesses who testified that the digital coding of the file appeared to have been tampered with. They brought out some of Sean's co-workers who unwittingly damned his case by proclaiming him to be the best programmer in their division.

    By the time the closing arguments were given, the Defense had cast enough doubt on the viability of the evidence that there was no way the jury was going to convict.

    Sean left before the verdict was announced.
     
    Srchdawg-again, bagpiper and rle737ng like this.
  2. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    Chapter 2


    More than two years later, Sean pawed drunkenly at the hooded figure walking out of the bar. "Hey friend, you got any spare cred? Even a few coins'll help."

    The young man shoved him back. "Jet before I get whizzed, you fuggin keg head. Nothing here for you. Not unless you wanna top off your night with a helping of pain."

    Sean held his hand up. "No pain." He backed away into the darkened alley beside the bar, stumbling and falling as he did. Several coins and a wrist comp fell out of his pocket when he hit the ground, and he hurried to gather them up.

    "Hey, what's that?" The voice was right behind him.

    "Nothing. Just my stuff. Not gonna bother you any more, friend."

    "No bother. Just let me help—"

    Sean grabbed the wrist unit and bolted down the alley before the other could finish his words. Pounding footsteps told him his pursuer was close on his heels. He drew to a halt where the alley came to a dead end.

    The voice was only a few feet behind as the other man sneered. "Nowhere to run old man. So how about you give me that comp and…"

    His words trailed off as Sean straightened up, shedding his helpless drunkard persona as he turned to face him. His eyes narrowed briefly when Sean drew the rebreather out of his hood and settled it over his face. Hands already covered with his synthi-skin gloves, Sean drew his blade. He'd trained faithfully for more than two years, working forms and sparring, both empty-handed and with weapons. Until this week though, he'd never used any of his new skills in actual combat.

    Tonight was the fourth, and last time he planned on using them. The skirmish was brief, and the thug dropped, twitching in the filthy slime that coated the back alley into which Sean had lured him.


    ***​



    "I'm here to see Inspector Medeiros."

    "Do you have an appointment?"

    "No sir. But I think she'll want to see me."

    "Uh huh…" The man never even looked up as he tapped keys. "Sorry sir, but Inspector Medeiros is busy. If you'll leave your credentials, I'll see to it that—"

    "Please tell her I'm here to confess to the Mr. Clean copycat murders."

    The man sighed and tapped more keys. A sheet of paper spat out of a slot on the counter. "Please fill out the confession form and sit over there with the others."

    "Others?"

    The man finally looked up from his console and pointed to a table where three other men sat clutching similar sheets. Sean shook his head. "I don't think that will be necessary." He pushed a small box across the counter. He opened the lid and turned it so the bored desk clerk could see the contents. The clerk's eyes widened as he realized what he was looking at. "You'll find that these fingers match the four victims." Sean continued. "I took one from each victim and froze it to keep the evidence as fresh as I could."
     
    Srchdawg-again, bagpiper and rle737ng like this.
  3. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    Chapter 3




    Sean's trial wound its way through the political bureaucracy much quicker than the trial of his daughter's killers had. He'd had no interest in prolonging the inevitable. He fired the public defender the state had sent to argue his case, and had elected to represent himself. Then, during the two days that his trial had taken, he had done nothing other than truthfully answer the prosecutor's questions.

    "Yes, I killed them. No, it was not in self-defense. Yes it was pre-meditated. I planned it for quite some time…"

    When the arbiter finally reviewed the record, he appeared to be confused at first. "Mr. Barrow, in light of the fact that you've waived your right to counsel, confessed to the murder of four individuals, and refuse to allow competency evaluation, this court has very little leeway in how we can rule on this case." He looked up from his notes to peer directly into Sean's eyes. Sean was surprised to see something like compassion in the man's expression.

    "However, I am aware of the extenuating circumstances of this case. And while you have asked for no special consideration in the matter, I have nevertheless decided that little leeway is not the same as none."

    Sean kept his face expressionless, though he had to admit to being curious at the arbiter's words. Sean had known when he started down this path that it was going to end with his death. He'd long ago made his peace with the idea that he would likely soon be rejoined with his wife and daughter. But the arbiter's statement seemed to indicate that he knew that the four men Sean had killed were themselves killers, and that they had killed Caroline. This, despite the fact that Sean had never mentioned it. And he was certain that the prosecuting counsellor wouldn't have mentioned it, as it would have undermined his case against Sean.

    The arbiter straightened up and looked to the court audience. "It is the finding of this court that Sean Barrow is guilty of four counts of murder in the first degree… that he did plan with forethought and malicious intent to track, trap, and kill these four individuals, and carried out these murders with methodical and cold-blooded efficiency." He turned and addressed Sean directly. "You turned yourself in, confessed, and made no excuses. Nor have you shown any remorse over the crimes you committed."

    Sean sat impassively, waiting for the man to get to the point.

    "All in all, this has been one of the shortest, yet most intriguing cases that has ever come before my bench. I admit to being curious." He held up a small binder where Sean could see it. "And when an anonymous folder showed up on my bench with your name on it, I was sorely tempted to break my vow of indifferent justice, and read the material contained within."

    The man laid the folder down, an expression of regret on his face. "But that would have been illegal, and would have jeopardized the sanctity of the case."

    He looked at the prosecuting counsel, "I don't know if that was some sort of ploy on counsel's part," he looked past counsel, into the gallery, "or a misguided attempt from some well-intentioned third party. But I will not allow the court to be influenced by outside evidence."

    He looked directly at Sean again. "Mr. Barrow, what you did was unquestionably illegal, and in the eyes of the law, is unforgiveable. Available sentences for such a crime are limited to mind-wipe, death, or temporal banishment through the Pangaea portal. As such, I sentence the defendant, Sean Barrow, to permanent banishment in accordance with the Temporal Banishment Accord of 2120." He motioned two armed guards forward. "Officers of the court will escort the prisoner to solitary confinement for the night. Tomorrow morning, he is to be moved to Pangaea Transfer, where the court's sentence will be carried out without delay." The arbiter banged his gavel. "This court is adjourned."

    There was a rumble in the courtroom as observers realized what had just occurred. The counsel for the prosecution stood. "Your Honor! This is highly unusual! The Temporal Banishment Accord is typically reserved—"

    "Is Counsel attempting to lecture the court on the law?"

    The prosecutor stopped. "No, Your Honor. I was simply—"

    "Is Counsel trying to tell me that my ruling is illegal?"

    "Of course not, Your Honor. It's just that—"

    "Well then, if the ruling is legal, it stands. If you feel there is some technicality that should be addressed, please do so properly and file an appeal."

    Sean missed any further discussion as the courtroom doors closed behind him and the guards escorted him to the lift pads.


    ***​


    The sound of the cell door sliding open awoke Sean. He had no idea what time it was, since they had long ago taken his wrist comp, and there was no display screen in his cell. All he knew was that he felt groggy, as he did when he sometimes awoke in the wee hours of the morning.

    He swung his feet off his cot, standing up as the inspector walked in. Drawing back in surprise, he cocked his head to the side in confusion. "I have to admit, I never expected to see you here."

    Medeiros shrugged. "And no one else would expect me to come see you, either."

    "And when they review the video logs?"

    She smiled. "It seems the feeds in this section are undergoing an unexpected networking malfunction."

    Sean nodded. "And you're here because…?"

    "I wanted you to know a couple of things." She waved him back to his cot, and he after a moment's hesitation, he sat. Medeiros leaned back against the wall. She regarded him a second before speaking again. "Mr. Barrow, why did you come to me with your confession?"

    "Because you're the one who fought hardest to bring those thugs to justice when my daughter was killed. You're also the only person besides me who seemed to give a damn when they got away with it." He shrugged. "And it's not like I know all that many Inspectors."

    She smiled. "No, I suppose not."

    They watched one another in silence for several seconds before Sean broke. "You sent the case file to the arbiter, didn't you?"

    "Yes."

    "But you were a witness for the prosecution."

    "Yes, I was. I'm an officer of the law. It's my duty to provide testimony to the court whenever requested."

    "But why send the file to the arbiter, then?"

    "Because you refused counsel. If you had retained a defense counselor, I could have sent the information to them and let them use the file to your best advantage. Since you didn't, I had to send it to the arbiter and hope he would read it."

    "But he didn't."

    "Oh, don't you believe that for a minute. He read it." Medeiros laughed. "He'll deny it until the day he dies, but he read it. Otherwise, you'd be looking at a mind-wipe tomorrow, rather than banishment. Although, I'm not sure we've really done you any favors."

    They lapsed into another awkward silence.

    "So what else did you want to tell me?"

    "What else?"

    "Yes. You said there were a couple of things you wanted me to know."

    "Yeah." She pulled a capsule out of her pocket and tossed it to Sean. "The arbiter and I are giving you a little gift, if you decide you want it. It's going to hurt, in more ways than one."

    He looked at the small capsule. "What is it?"

    "Information. Answers. Purpose."

    "Riddles?"

    She grinned. "You know about the Pangaea Project?"

    "Sure. Of course, I do. Fixed time portal back to pre-history."

    "And a dumping ground for some of the worst criminals, criminally insane, and political dissidents to grace the world courts."

    "And as of tomorrow, my home, as well."

    "Yes." She looked genuinely sorry. "I figured you would be better served with that, rather than killed or wiped."

    "I was ready to accept death. I've got no reason left to live."

    "Yes, you do." She pointed to the capsule in his hand. "And that's it. You see, every once in a while, someone like you comes along… someone who's less interested in what's legal or illegal, and more interested in what's right or wrong. Some of us watch for such people, and when an opportunity presents itself, we help."

    "So… what? You're going to break me out of here? Send me someplace where I can live out my days hiding from everyone?"

    "No. I'm sorry, but your sentence has to be carried out. There's no way for us to stop that. But I'm offering you a purpose once you get to Pangaea." She pointed again at the capsule. "Swallow that. It's designed to show on scans as organic matter, but it'll stay in your system for up to three days, or until you pass it."

    "Pass it? How?"

    "The same way your body passes everything else you swallow."

    "Oh." He looked at it speculatively. "And what, exactly, is it?"

    "Names, pictures, knowledge, and information about various contacts and criminals you may encounter at End Point. You will need to pass the capsule, recover it, and open it in boiling water. The hot water will activate the fabric the information is written on, and the contents will expand to a useable size."

    Sean simply stared for a moment. "You want me to recover it? As in, dig it out of my—"

    "Yes. And it's imperative that you do so before the three days is up. The lining of the capsule is only designed to last that long before it dissolves on its own."

    "And that would be bad, I assume?"

    She nodded. "Very. If the fabric were to expand while inside your body, it would clog your intestines. I understand that can lead to peritonitis, tissue death and perforations in the intestine, and sepsis."

    Sean raised an eyebrow. "And this is supposed to make me want to take it? I have to say, your sales pitch needs some work, Inspector."

    "I just want you to understand the risks. If you decide to swallow this, and you don't get it out of your system in time, there likely isn't any hospital or medical facility on the other side that will be able to save you from all the complications of an intestinal blockage, and you will die a very painful death."

    Sean thought about that and shuddered.

    "Then what makes you think I would want to risk that for a list of names and pictures? You expect me to be some kind of cop on the other side?"

    She shrugged. "Not necessarily. Let's just say we want to help you connect with others like yourself, and give you a better chance of survival. And if you happen to right some wrongs that slipped through the system, then that wouldn't break any of our hearts, either. But you have to realize, we'll never know whether you do it or not. Once you go through the portal, we'll never know for sure what happens to you."

    He thought about it, then shook his head. "I'm sorry, Inspector. I don't think I'm interested."

    "Yes, you are. Trust me."

    There was something in the way she said it that caught Sean's curiosity. "You seem awfully sure of yourself."

    "I am."

    "And why is that?"

    "Because one of the names in that packet is someone you're familiar with."

    "Who?"

    "The man who killed your wife. The media called him Mr. Clean. Since you were involved with the actual trial, you know him by his real name."

    "Metcalf?"

    Medeiros nodded. "Jaime Metcalf."

    She was right. Sean was suddenly very interested.


    ***​


    The morning brought Sean three experiences that very few people ever experienced in their lifetimes. First was the humiliating and invasive strip search he was subjected to before breakfast. He understood now, why Medeiros had given him the capsule. Nothing else would have gotten through that embarrassment.

    But he had swallowed the capsule last night, as Medeiros had instructed. And while the search involved poking into various orifices at either end of his digestive tract, they at least did him the courtesy of leaving him the contents of his stomach. He'd read the briefing, though. He knew they weren't taking any chances of anyone smuggling anything in that might stand a chance of surviving from the latter Triassic period into modern times.

    After that was the second "once in a lifetime" event. It was the one he was actually looking forward to. He was going to experience one of the newest modes of transportation. Telepads were a relatively new technology, and were still too costly for all but the larger cities. But if you were able to get to one, they made at least one leg of your journey practically instantaneous. They would teleport a body from one pad to any other in the blink of an eye.

    It was something that only government officials or the very wealthy were usually able to afford. Well, them and criminals who have been convicted of a capital offense and sentenced to banishment to End Point.

    Sean didn't know what to expect. It was exciting. It was a bit frightening.

    And ultimately, it ended up being quite anticlimactic. His guards led him to the telepad, shackles on his hands and feet, instructed him to stand still, and pressed a button. At first, he thought there had been a malfunction of some kind. He'd felt absolutely nothing.

    But the guards were suddenly different. And the morning sun, which had been blindingly bright in his eyes just a few seconds ago, now warmed his shoulders from behind. The new guards stepped forward and checked his shackles, and Sean turned to see the deep orange of a setting sun behind him as they did so.

    Apparently satisfied that he wasn't about to break loose, the guards tugged him off the platform.

    "Watch your step." Sean turned back to look before him as he stumbled slightly over a small lip at the edge of the Telepad. The guards led him into a room where a man in a white lab coat took Sean's hand and squeezed his finger while Sean looked past him through a glass panel. The next room housed all sorts of monitors and indicators, as well as a large metal platform raised about five feet off the ground.

    "Is that it?"

    The man sounded bored as he answered. "The platform is actually a trap door over the portal. The actual portal is about three feet below it." Sean felt a sharp prick as the lab tech pierced his finger tip with a small lancet and squeezed a drop of blood into a pipette. When the tiny glass cylinder was about half full, he inserted it into a handheld scanner.

    A low beep, and the man looked at his scanner, then up at Sean. "DNA registry indicates that you are Sean Barrow. Do you confirm?"

    "Yes."

    "You have been convicted of a capital offence, and sentenced to permanent exile to End Point Pangaea. We are here to carry out your sentence. I can record any last words if you so desire."

    "No thanks. Let's just get on with it."

    The man nodded, then motioned for the guards to take him away. They took Sean by the arms and walked him into the adjoining room where one of them released his arm and drew a pistol while the other removed his shackles.

    The technician's voice sounded through the sound system. "Please step onto the platform."

    And that was the beginning of the third experience that few people ever experienced. Sean climbed the short staircase and stepped onto a transparent floor. It was slippery, like stepping onto frozen water, and he slid a few inches as he stepped onto it. He looked down and saw the portal. He'd read about it, but never expected to see it. It brought to mind a rip in reality—a shimmering pool of energy that was both beautiful and terrifying. It was accompanied by a low hum that he felt as much as heard.

    "I'm about to begin the process. Please stand perfectly still."

    The two halves of the platform beneath his feet began to vibrate. He blinked, looked down at glowing, shifting, light beneath him. He tried to focus on it, but everything seemed to blur, and the hum rose in volume, quickly reaching a painful level. Sean covered his ears with his hands, but even that didn't help. The noise was like an agonizing thing that rose through his feet and shook his very bones. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed, but within seconds was convinced they were about to rupture. Then the floor opened up beneath him.

    Sean screamed.
     
  4. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    LATE TRIASSIC ERA
    201 MILLION YEARS BCE​








    Chapter 4




    A sharp kick to the ribs awoke him. "On your feet, pretty boy!"

    He wheezed in pain, eyes opening to bright sunlight filtering through odd trees. "Wha—?"

    Another kick brought him fully awake. "Come on. You got about three seconds before things get unpleasant."

    And this is supposed to be pleasant? But he kept the thought to himself.

    Another voice called out. "That's enough, Peter."

    But Peter evidently didn't care. He drew his leg back again. Sean watched as the leg came at him, but he was ready this time. Catching the foot, he pulled it past him, forcing the person attached to fall ungracefully to one knee. A follow up punch to the groin produced a satisfying screech of agony, and Sean staggered to his feet, crouched and ready to fight. He froze at the sound of laughter from behind him.

    Turning slowly, he found four more men and a woman watching him, all of them pointing bows or spears in his direction. They wore a mixture of light green cloth and what appeared to be rawhide pants and loose vests. The largest of them had three parallel scars running across his bare chest. He smiled as he pointed his spear at Sean with one hand. "You speak English?"

    "Yes." Sean sighed as he raised his hands. He turned sideways where he could keep an eye on the new speaker, and speaker. He jutted his chin back at the man writhing on the ground clutching his genitals. "I suppose he's with you?"

    The man shrugged. "I'm afraid so." He called past Sean. "Just stay down, Peter."

    But Peter had no intention of staying down. He struggled to his knees and drew a wicked-looking knife. It was a dull, reddish-brown color except for the edge, which shone with a bright polish.

    Sean backed away as the man got to his feet.

    "Put the knife down!" Scar Chest yelled. "I won't tell you again, Peter."

    Peter snarled and lunged toward Sean, as Scar Chest drew his arm back and launched his spear.

    Sean dove to the ground even as his brain registered the trajectory of the projectile. As he hit the dirt, he already knew the spear wasn't aimed at him. A meaty thud was followed by a scream and the man behind him fell to the ground, thrashing as the life left him. Heart pounding, Sean rolled over and watched as Scar Chest stepped past him and kicked the knife out of Peter's reach.

    "You stupid son of a bitch." He sighed and shook his head. Placing a foot on the twitching man's shoulder, Scar Chest pulled his spear from Peter's torso, then wiped the tip on the dead man's vest.

    Wide-eyed, Sean looked from the dead man, to the spear, to Scar Chest.

    "Sorry about that," Scar Chest said. "Peter just came through a month ago. He's been a real tool the whole time, and you're the third person he's gone after. He was warned."

    Sean swallowed.

    Scar Chest called back to the others. "You guys load Peter onto one of the haulers."

    Two of the men handed their weapons over to the others and walked past Sean. One of them was big enough that he looked like he could have easily carried the body on his own, but the two of them grabbed him by hands and feet and walked back through the trees.

    Scar Chest spoke again, pulling Sean's attention from the macabre spectacle. "Lucky for you, this means we got an extra cameloh now. Looks like you get to ride back to town, instead of riding in a cargo wagon. Unless you got someplace else you need to be, that is." He looked up through the forest canopy at the sun. "Of course, nightfall's about four hours away, and you probably don't want to be outside after sunset."

    "Ah, no. I mean, I don't have any place to go. I just got here."

    "I know that."

    "What? How?"

    The man pointed his spear at Sean, and he noted the barbed metallic spearhead was still smeared with blood. "Still wearing your prison cloth."

    Sean looked down at his neon orange jump suit.

    "You'll want to get rid of that as soon as you can."

    "Why?"

    "'Cause it marks you as a noob, and noobs get tested. Mostly tested to death. But more importantly, the carnies can see bright colors real well."

    "Carnies?"

    The man laughed again. "You'll find out. For now, you should probably come with us."

    "Do I have a choice?" Sean eyed the men and their weapons.

    "Course you do. We came here to offer you shelter. Nothing says you have to accept. We just happened to be in the area when you came through. But if you'd rather stay out here alone, no problem." He pointed to the pool of blood on the ground. "I'd recommend you put some distance between yourself and the blood though. Predators are gonna catch wind of it soon enough."

    Sean got the message. "You know, I think coming with you would probably be a really good idea."

    "Thought you'd see it my way." The man smiled broadly. "Come on. Let's get back to town."


    ***​


    "What the hell?"

    Scar Chest and his crew had brought Sean through the forest a short way to where several other men and women sat astride some of the strangest looking creatures he had ever imagined. They looked vaguely like smaller versions of the giant herbivores in some of the entertainment vids he'd watched as a kid. There were various sizes, but most were about ten to twelve feet tall at the shoulder. The smaller ones were roughly the height of a horse, though the long necks and tails made them easily twice as long. However the thing that threw him was the brown, gray, and green pinfeathers that covered them in oddly random patterns. Their mouths sported hard, leathery beaks, and the things looked like the insane lovechild of a roadrunner and long-legged, long-necked lizard. Excepting for their size, anyway. The saddles on their backs indicated that they were supposed to be ridden.

    "Camelohs."

    "They don't look like any camels I ever saw."

    Scar Chest shrugged. "Not camels. Camel-ohs. There's some longer name for them… Cameloh-tee… something. If you're really worried about it, ask Doc when we get to town. Whatever you call them, they're a lot better than walking."

    Sean watched as the others stepped up into the saddles, and he clumsily followed suit. He grabbed the reins, noting with some interest just how long they were, and as the ride progressed he found just how sensitive the animals were to the slightest tug against their lengthy necks. The first time he tried to negotiate around a turn in the path, the others laughed as his steed nearly threw him.

    "Careful, noob. Doesn't take much of a tug on those long necks to spook a cameloh. And they can move a lot faster than you would think."

    Sean was a lot more conservative with his actions after that. As much as he didn't like being called a noob, there was no getting away from the fact that there were simply too many things about this new world that he didn't know. He began looking around, making mental notes on his new home. It was hotter than he was used to, by far. And there was something about the ground.

    It took him a minute to realize that the green on the ground wasn't grass like he was used to. It appeared to be some kind of moss. The trees looked similar to pines, and the underbrush all looked like huge ferns, or short palm trees.

    And there were birds everywhere. He heard chirping, whistling, and other odd sounds as the little birds darted here and there across the ground. He looked into the trees to see what other wildlife he might see, and was surprised to find the limbs mostly bare of birds. Yet they were all over the ground, skittering from plant to plant.

    It wasn't until he saw one of the little creatures pounce on another one that he understood. The little victim shrieked in pain and fear as the larger one ripped into it with razor-sharp teeth. These weren't birds at all. He looked again at the feathered hide of his mount and then remembered reading that the old view of the reptilian, scaly-skinned dinosaur from the entertainment vids had pretty much been disproven over the last hundred years or so. Paleontologists had finally unearthed enough fossil evidence of feathered dinosaurs to convince them that it was the norm, rather than the exception.

    Sean watched as one more of the little lizard-bird things chased another one, and he shuddered. He studied his mount with new eyes.

    I'm riding a dinosaur!

    He'd known it intellectually, but the reality of the situation cemented itself in his brain.

    A damned dinosaur, with feathers!


    ***
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
  5. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    That was a very nice read. I quite enjoyed it.

    You have created a premise that could definitely extend into several sequels

    Two editorial comments:

    There's a typo in the first warehouse scene where "quite" is used instead of "quiet".

    The opening line in Ch. 1 is rather jarring. Not as smooth as the rest of the story.

    It would be better, I think, if Sean got happily on the slidewalk with no foreshadowing, and then hurried home in a panic.after the ominous phone call.

    After he sees the blood (or hears the words Medical Examiner) , you might add something along the lines that in that moment Sean knew the rest of his world had been destroyed.

    Which, of course, ties in his past, and sets him off into his inevitable future.
     
    duane, enloopious and Jeff Brackett like this.
  6. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    Thanks UncleMorgan. One of my beta readers made the same observation about the opening. I'll definitely be changing that. Thanks again. [coo]
     
  7. mysterymet

    mysterymet Monkey+++

    It is quite a good read. It would be interesting seeing him meet up with other info carriers.
     
    Jeff Brackett likes this.
  8. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    He knew that if he let it...

    His...he...him. It's a little convoluted. Perhaps "turned to face his pursuer"?

    Perhaps "turned sideways to keep an eye on the new speaker"

    I know it's grammatically correct but it reads a little redundant. Perhaps weak screams of a little, or little screams of a smaller...

    He tested Sean out on...

    The bigger man helped Sean...

    Pulling out some sort of flexible bag...
    Possibly reword to "pulling out what looked like a flexible bag..."

    And the traders all get their own rooms...

    Smiley was already gone by now unless you mean Paxton rode out to catch up with Smiley.

    He'd never learned or chemical reactions or heard of explosions.

    The fight with Lucas and Hurley...

    Portal?

    Overall very enjoyable. Thank you!
     
    Jeff Brackett likes this.
  9. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    This is the first in a series. I'm pretty confident in saying that something like that just might happen in book two. ;)
     
    oldawg and mysterymet like this.
  10. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    @DarkLight - Thanks so much for all the catches. I really appreciate it. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
    DarkLight likes this.
  11. bagpiper

    bagpiper Heretic

    Jeff,
    Perhaps one of the best reads, and best story premises I've read in quite a while.
    I don't pick nits, unless you ask for it that's what editors and proof readers are for.
    Although I may agree with Uncle Morgan, that is an editorial comment, above my pay grade... :)
    I always advise any author, to wait a day or two, and then read what they write, before they publish.
    There are a few, quite few, spelling and grammar errors, but the writing is very readable, not overly descriptive (which I find distracting), and the character development was adequate for the story line. It makes the reader want to keep reading. That, as they say, is the bottom line...
    With that said, I can only give you a big WOO HOO! Can't wait for MOAR!
     
    techsar and Jeff Brackett like this.
  12. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

  13. PAGE90LX

    PAGE90LX Monkey++

    I enjoyed the story . Thank you!
     
    Jeff Brackett likes this.
  14. enloopious

    enloopious Rocket Surgeon

    Yeah this would be a great movie. We should film it.
     
    Jeff Brackett likes this.
  15. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Very good read. Thank you. Very good chactor development and a wide open slate for a series of stories. admire both your imagination and the hard work you put into your craft.
     
    Jeff Brackett likes this.
  16. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    Thanks again folks. The manuscript is with the publisher, and we've been through the first round of edits. They've also shown me the cover, so that means I'll likely be back to take most of the novel down in the near future so I don't violate TOS with Amazon. I'll let you all know when the publisher releases it into the wild. ;)
     
  17. jukk0u

    jukk0u Monkey++

    lovin' this story!
     
  18. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+++

    Well monkeys, Pangaea Exiles just came out. I didn't get a chance to do a proper cover reveal or make any announcements because the publisher (who has had the manuscript for months) sent me an email asking if I was all right with a release next week. That was Friday. I said sure, but wanted to see final cover and manuscript first. Next thing I know, things have gone from zero to sixty and the thing is suddenly published! LOL

    Working with a publisher is MUCH different than indie pubbing.

    At any rate, new title is "Pangaea Exiles", and it was released yesterday. If you're so inclined, you can get a copy on Amazon. Please use the "Shopping on Amazon?" link at the the top of the page here so Survival Monkey will get a few cents off the purchase.

    And thanks again to all of you who helped catch the bugs. [coo]
     
    DarkLight, techsar and ghrit like this.
survivalmonkey SSL seal        survivalmonkey.com warrant canary
17282WuJHksJ9798f34razfKbPATqTq9E7