Chapter One: Extinction Event
Katie skidded to a halt in her low top sneakers. Gasping in exhaustion and shock, she surveyed a traffic jam of hastily abandoned cars. She caught her breath and found no persons living or dead amid the destruction her eyes beheld.
The girl reshoulderd her messenger bag, talking to herself as she began to run again. “Thank God it’s slow and people are getting away on foot!”
With a jump, the fifteen-year-old in pink leggings slid across the hood of the crashed taxi blocking the sidewalk. The vehicle had fared better than the ones crushed in the street. Stomped flat, many still squawked out alarms to form a cacophonous chorus.
She dashed under a toppled streetlight, then felt a tremble before a mixture of distant screams and collapsing masonry echoed through the avenue. With a gulp, Katie weaved between demolished cars to cross the street, and a plume of grey dust rose above the buildings ahead of her.
She lifted her smartphone and yelled. “Max— I mean— Phantom! I mean— Oh crud, what the heck should I call you now any—”
“Um… Yes?” he replied over the noise.
Navigating between shattered cars, she took a breath and lowered the phone. “Okay Katie, get a grip,” she whispered to herself. “We’ll sort the —new relationship stuff— out later. Right now, we’ve gotta stop this thing!”
Phantom spoke from the phone at her hip. “Katie? Did the call drop again?”
She put the smartphone to her ear as she came upon a motorcycle flattened in a craterous footprint. “Max, it’s headed for the Memorial Bridge!”
“It can sure move for being enormous and sixty-five million years old!”
Katie skirted around the pulverized bike. “It’s rush hour! All those people on the bridge are gonna be trapped! It’ll be a massacre!”
“I’ll be there in a sec’,” he replied before the sonic blast from his Banshee Gun topped out her phone’s volume.
Pulling the phone away, she cringed before the noise faded and she could put it to her ear again. “Did you get the last one?”
“Next to last. I can’t find the fourth. Maybe you should get started with the magic girl stuff without me?”
She rounded past a crushed utility van. “I’ve gotta get closer before I invoke the spell! It only lasts seven minutes before—”
The sensor pod of an alien robot faced her with sudden, insectine precision.
Unable to stop her run without crashing into it, Katie’s phone clattered onto the pavement. She dropped and slid under the four legs of the arthropod machine. Its bladed forelimbs slammed down as Katie screamed, but missed by inches before her dive left her lying face-up behind the wardrone.
She scrambled to her feet as the Kitzillaki robot spun around, then jumped back as a lateral swipe of drone’s claw nearly eviscerated her. Instead, the slash sliced through her bag. Its contents spilled onto the street.
Katie ducked a second swipe, and being forced backwards she avoided impalement with a nimble dodge. Then her heel hit the unseen curb behind her and she fell onto her rear.
Sitting stunned on the sidewalk, she watched the alien machine raise its bladed appendages. But before it could strike, there was the sudden foosh of extradimensional gas. The barrel of the Banshee Gun emerged from a purple cloud behind the robot, and its hyper-sonic wail parted the fumes to reveal The Phantom after his teleportation.
The gun blasted the Kitzillaki wardrone square in the back, focused acoustic resonance paralyzing the robot instantly. Katie plugged her ears to protect them from the intense noise, and watched the robot vibrate and spark until it smoked and toppled over.
Phantom stepped forward as the gun powered down. “Are you okay?”
She nodded on the curbside. “Thanks. Guess I found the last little one for you.”
The lean fifteen-year-old returned her nod, clad in his purple utility jumpsuit and the cowl that concealed most of his face. Looking to the devastation around them, he lifted his weapon. “Too bad it’s useless against the big one. Do you really think you can take that thing down?”
“We have to stop it, Max” Katie said leaning down to search through her spilled possessions. “There’s stuff you don’t know yet.”
He hung the Banshee Gun by its strap on his shoulder and started to adjust dials on his green teleportation harness. “There’s more to it than ancient alien robots are bad?”
“It has to do with my power.”
Phantom stopped what he was doing and looked to her.
She picked up sliced halves of her iPad. “You know about the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, right?”
“The Kitzillaki dropped it. And if that worker drone reaches the science center to get a signal out… they’ll do it again.”
Phantom blinked behind his green domino mask. “Why would they kill off the dinosaurs? I thought you said their goal was to destroy all sapient life?”
Katie tossed the iPad halves away and kept searching the ground. “The dinos weren’t the target. There was an intelligent saurian civilization, the Koa, and the Kitzillaki annihilated them.”
The young man became somber. “W-what?”
She pushed aside a torn sketchbook and a powder compact. “The Koa didn’t have technology like we do, but they knew magic. They made the Oricana I have to fight off the Kitzillaki. But it didn’t save them.”
He reached down and collected Katie’s phone off the pavement. “How do you know all this?”
“Dreams. Since I found the Oricana, I keep having dreams of their destruction. Of their sorceress queen trying to tell me things, but I can’t understand—”
She stopped mid-sentence and gasped looking at the ground. “Oh God! No!”
Phantom jogged over, and standing over Katie followed her near tearful gaze to a wishbone-shaped object on the blacktop. The size of a hand mirror and made of a pale golden metal, its forked points above the handle had been sheered off at uneven angles.
Katie reached under the collar of her shirt and unhooked a smooth amber ellipse that hung from her necklace. Wiping her eyes, she placed it between the broken forks of the Oricana and tried to hold them together.
“Urruatta,” she said.
The sigil scribed at the heart of the amber glowed faintly, then faded.
She covered tears with her hands. “Oh God! It’s broken… now there’s nothing I can do!”
Phantom sank down on his haunches, eyes framed by his mask and studying the magical artifact. His gloved finger traced out its shape. Then he scrutinized the flowing lines of the sigil within the gemstone between the severed forks.
Katie fought back a sob. “Got anything in your utility belt that can fix this?”
“I’ve got some duct tape, but I don’t think it’ll help.”
She shook her head. “Everybody’s going to die because of me! Who was I kidding? I’m no superhero!”
“That’s not true.”
“I’m just Katie Kizawa! I’m just some girl that found a magic trinket set by accident, Max! I’m not… a boy wonder, crime-fighter like you!”
He unshouldered the Banshee Gun and started to examine it. There was a click as Max opened the weapon like a breech-loaded shotgun. “I’m just a kid that stole my dad’s gadgets, trying to make up for all the wrongs he did with them.”
“Yeah,” she sniffed, “but that still makes you a real hero.”
He disconnected several wires. “Neither of us have to play hero, you know. So what if you just found a gift by accident and with no strings attached. You’re the one that chose to put yourself in danger and use it to help others. I think most people would’ve used it only for themselves, or not at all.”
Katie dried her eyes and nodded, then picked-up the broken handle. “Okay, maybe you’re right… but without my Oricana I still don’t have any powers.”
Focused on disassembling the gun, he unscrewed a component.
She scrunched her face. “What are you doing?”
“Is there a thumb sized depression on the grip of your Oricana?” he asked without looking up from his work.
Katie turned it in her fingers and displayed it to him. “Yeah, I thought it was for the sigil stone at first, but it floats between the forks instead.”
He pulled an object out of the gun that looked like a thick tuning fork of pale golden metal. He offered it to Katie, and her eyes widened at the sight of an amber ellipse wired into its hilt. A Saurian sigil pulsed within it.
“I think this is rightfully yours,” Phantom said. “Maybe we’re more alike than we thought.”
“Your gun’s an Oricana?!”
He shrugged. “Maybe sorta? My grandfather found three gems like yours on a dig when my mom was our age. It took him a decade, but he engineered a way to make them work with the gun and harness. I noticed the similarity between your Oricana and the design of the induction cores he built… I bet the metal is the same too.”
She plucked her own amber stone from the ground. “The sigil’s almost the same as mine.” Katie took the induction core from Phantom, then placed the gemstone between its narrow forks. There was a spark, and her fingers let go to leave it floating.
Katie turned back to him. “Max, you’re a genius!”
He smiled as they stood.
She handed him the shards of her Oricana and the personal items from the street she didn’t want left behind. “Can you stuff these in your pockets?”
Phantom obliged, then slung the disabled Banshee Gun over his back. “Let’s catch up to that thing so you can clobber it! I’ll give you a lift.”
“You can do that?”
He glanced at the counter on his wrist. “I’ve got nineteen percent power left. I’ll still have some juice when we reach the bridge.”
“So how do we do—”
His arm was around her waist before she could finish. “Just hold on.”
His grip evoked a blush on her cheeks, and she locked her arms around him to conceal that fact. “H-holding…”
“I need line-of-sight,” he said with a glance to the top of the highest building before them. “I hope you’re not afraid of heights.”
Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.
Chapter two of Cretaceous Queen, Urruatta, will be released next Saturday! Stay tuned, true believers!