Chapter Five: Overtime
The Kitzillaki drone’s sensor buds twitched and loomed over Cretaceous Queen, and she was oblivious to anything beyond her struggle to breathe. But as her vision darkened and she gagged in vain for air, there was a sudden crack of noise that drew her eyes to the blue sky above.
A hundred feet above her, the Phantom’s familiar plume of gas appeared. But as the robot’s sensor buds joined Queen in glancing up, a huge mass fell from the clouded aperture in spacetime. It waved tiny arms and dropped like a multi-ton boulder, bellowing a roar that was in equal parts pained, terrified and ferocious.
It landed on the drone’s back with a calamitous impact. Theropodian legs and claws squealed across steel, raking long rents down the robot’s back before the machine toppled forward.
The bridge shook from the crash, and the tentacles that bound Queen fell limp and lifeless. She pulled free of her bonds, rearing up on feet that wobbled as she gave a mighty gasp. She shook her giant head, and with vision returned to clarity blinked dumbfounded at the motionless metal behemoth that sparked on the roadway.
Her eyes shifted up, and crouched atop the felled drone was another tyrannosaur.
“That… really does hurt,” his deep voice huffed between cavernous breaths.
“M- M- … Phantom?!” she stammered.
He straightened and nodded. “This is weird.”
She took a step forward, scrutinizing him wide-eyed. He joined her examination and glanced to his hide that was a shade of purple dark enough to be near-black. However, only Queen could see the mottled green stripes that ran down his back and tail.
“There were theories that the males might be flashy colors,” he said.
“You, uh, look good… I think?” Queen said perplexed. “But how’d—”
He lifted his head again and they were almost nose to nose. “Really? I don’t look like Barney or anything, right?”
Queen could now clearly see how the colors along his back became something akin a mottled green, half-skull mask on his face.
“You look badass,” she said. “You have no idea how badass you look right now.”
Phantom looked down upon the drone he still stood on, then gave it a solid stomp. “Alien robots beware! There’s a new dino-amic duo in town!”
A mechanism whined and powered on after the blow. The tyrannosaurs swapped worried looks in the moment they had before the steel tendrils whipped back to life. Then they coiled around Phantom and lifted him up as the rest of the drone began a lumbering rise.
“Oh crap! Oh crap! What do I do?!” he shouted.
Queen charged in. “You’re a T-rex! Bite him!”
Phantom snapped his jaws several times, but the machine had wrapped its hold around his midsection and out of the reach of his teeth.
Jerked and jostled about, he glanced down as Queen’s bites and slashes did little against the bulbous armor of the robot’s torso. “Well, this sucks!”
“Tell me about it! And he hasn’t punched you in the face yet!”
He tried to kick the drone as it began to clamp down with a vice-grip that made Phantom gasp. Landing a blow with his foot on a bundle of tendrils, he started to shove them closer to his mouth. “Maybe if you blast him again he’ll drop me?”
Queen took a step back, arched her tail up, her head down, and unleashed a roar. A sonic beam didn’t accompany it.
“Uh, well?” he wheezed in the robot’s tightening coils.
She shook her head up to him. “I don’t know how I went all super-saurian! I was just really mad!”
“How can you not know?!” he semi-coughed and shouted.
“Well, if you’re so good at it, why haven’t you teleported again?”
The drone’s sensor buds split their attentions between the arguing dinosaurs, analyzing the illogical pause in the action as if it were a trap.
“Okay, my bad,” Phantom half-choked. “But what now?”
She eyed the robot’s bundled tendrils that served as elephantine legs, then lunged for one of them. But the drone swung Phantom at her like some unwieldy bludgeon. It slammed the tyrannosaurs together, knocking Queen backwards to flatten the vacant cars she fell upon.
Phantom was whipped high as she scrambled out of the wreckage. Before Queen could strike again, the drone turned to the side and faced the disabled Mack truck that had rear-ended the bus. It flung Phantom down in a violent body slam that staved a tyrannosaurus shaped wedge into the truck’s trailer and sent debris flying.
Queen dashed in and landed a bite as the robot hefted Phantom and flailed him two more times this way. As she clamped down and sheered a tentacle from a false leg, the machine lifted him from the trailer wreckage again to use the dinosaur as a weapon once more.
“Oh. That’s a pain,” he groaned with his world spinning. “That’s a very big pain.”
The drone flung him down with enough force to break Queen’s back.
Its tentacles now held only purple gas, and they crashed to either side of Cretaceous Queen shattering blacktop. The instantaneous loss of weight and mass threw the titan off balance, and with a tug Queen had it into a one legged totter.
Phantom reappeared just behind the drone, and still being flung by its own momentum, crashed bluntly atop its shoulders. Now completely unbalanced, it careened and stumbled towards the east end of the bridge and the people beside the bus.
“I wish I knew how I did that!” Phantom shouted.
A mouthful of tendrils snapped off in her teeth as the remainder of the leg escaped her grip. With Phantom awkwardly perched and kicking its shoulders, Queen noticed the holes he’d torn in the robots plated back.
She reared with a deep breath. As the cries of the small crowd by the bus rose in panic as the drone stumbled towards them, Queen once again touched and unlocked the power within her. Eyes narrow with determination, a bellowing roar left her with the crack of a sonic boom.
The cone of force struck the drone just under Phantom’s tail. Hit square in the back, its tendrils spasmed as before and it lurched to a paralyzed halt. But this time the vibratory noise resonated through the deep rents Phantom had left in its armor after his initial fall.
He looked down as the robot beneath him shuddered from an internal explosion wrought by the hypersonic oscillation. Others followed in a cascade of failures, and he leapt off his perch between its shoulders as an upper blast rendered it a gaping hole of twisted metal.
Phantom landed on a Prius and flattened it in a shower of car confetti. Peering through the smoke and kicking belly up, he saw the drone’s sensor buds squirm before another internal explosion blew them to smithereens.
Queen ended her roar and the bridge was eerily quiet. The steel tendrils fell limp as Phantom rolled himself to his feet and staggered to her side. Together they gazed at the ruined hulk. Its rear torso blown open and on fire, the robot slacked forward and collapsed into a heap amid a groan of warping steel.
The tyrannosaurs panted and watched the Kitzillaki technology burn. A couple more small explosions occurred within the blaze before their tails relaxed and they looked to each other.
“You did it,” Phantom said between gulped breaths.
Cretaceous Queen nodded, still panting. “I couldn’t have done it without you… Phantom King.”
His toothy head lifted at the new name’s mention. “I like that.”
She stretched out one of her tiny arms. “I feel like we should do, a high-five or something?”
They leaned in and strained, heads side to side. But waving their undersized limbs they were unable to connect with them. After the futile attempt, Queen sighed and pushed a step closer. Unable to embrace, she rested her chin atop the back of King’s neck instead.
They stood there, bleeding, sore and with breath and heartbeats the only sound they could hear for a long moment.
“Is this a hug?” Phantom King asked.
“T-rex version. Get used to it.”
He raised his chin and reciprocated her gesture. Then he saw the bloody lashes along Queen’s back. “We’re really beat-up.”
“We’ll heal changing back. Mostly. I’ll have a few more scars to hide under my swimsuit from this one, I bet.”
She shifted position, rubbing her throat side to side on his pebbly scales before pulling away. “How’d you go dino?”
He lifted the makeshift Oricana he still grasped with an undersized arm. “The same way you did; the harness was shot so I used its induction core. How’s the core looking, by the way? You’re right about not having a good view of these little arms.”
Queen scrutinized it for a second. “It’s pretty… melty.”
“Yeah, that’s what happened with yours too.”
“So, the second stone you used—”
“Was the dud. But it wasn’t a dud. It just needed the magic word.”
A gust of wind dispersed the smoke from the wreckage as she gave him another look up and down. “Well, welcome to the club!”
The sound of sirens and a helicopter’s approach reached them. The dinosaurs peered out as the smoke parted, and found crowds converging on opposite sides of the bridge. King spied Officer Hernandez amongst them, who was the first to cheer from where he stood beside the bus.
Others followed or clapped, and the tyrannosaurs looked with surprise to the growing sea of smartphones that were raised to record every moment.
Queen turned and whispered to Phantom King as best she could. “Oh. My. God. I’m going to change back any second now and be completely naked on everyone’s livestream!”
He blinked. “H- how does that work? We don’t need to do anything with the Oricanas, do we?”
She shook her head. “The spell just kinda, expires and I change back. It’s weird, but painless. Like a couple minutes of, uh… deflation?”
He tried to look at his other tiny arm. “I’ve got a lot more minutes left of this than you do. It feels like I’ve still got the wristband of the harness with the timer on my arm, can you check the countdown?”
Queen leaned in again and squinted to read the upside down numbers.
“Hey, did you ever realize we have two fingers and a thumb?” King said as she tried to read the flashing digits. “That definitely differs from the fossil record!”
“I’m trying to read. Stop moving so much.”
He contained his excitement. “Sorry. If you could tell me how you used your power, maybe I could control mine and teleport us somewhere… out of sight?”
She glanced. “It’s actually easy. You can’t think about it, you just have to feel it.”
Queen returned her eyes to the timer as he pondered her answer. Then she spoke again. “Two minutes and— Wait. Negative two minutes and fifty six seconds?”
“Negative?” King said as news helicopters began to circle overhead.
“I was supposed to change back three minutes ago?!”
He raised his head along with her. “Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t! I mean, it would have squashed you!”
Her eyes scanned the crowd before she hushed her voice again. “This has never happened! Are we stuck like this?”
King threw up his tiny arms in surrender. “Don’t ask me! You’re the magical girl!”
She looked down at herself, trying to whisper in a panic. “I- I can’t be like this, forever! My mom and dad don’t even know! And if they find out they’re gonna kill me!”
He leaned in close and whispered himself. “We don’t know that it’s permanent, maybe there’s just a new trick to it now. Like—”
Queen’s eyes became tearful. “We saved the world, now we should get to have our date and do normal things!”
He moved closer to her as the crowd tightened their circle around them to better hear their conversation. Queen sniffled, and King laid his chin across the back of her neck again.
“Maybe this is a price we have to pay, Queen. Or maybe it’s like controlling the powers now; something we’ll have to learn to do without magic words or buttons.”
“I have friends,” she whispered half sobbing. “And school. And… a math test.”
He rubbed his throat on her. “I don’t know how to fix this, but we’ll figure it out. Maybe you need to dream some more? Maybe now I’ll be dreaming with you?”
She sniffed. “I appreciate the emotional support, a lot. You’re so cool and sweet, but we have to be careful with these… T-rex rub-hugs. I think those spots on us are, zones.”
King stopped. “Am I hurting you?”
“No. But if you keep it up, I’m going to go full Discovery Channel and then we’re both gonna learn a lot more about dinosaur biology than I think we want to right now.”
Queen nudged him. “More later, but what are we going to do now?”
“I think we’ll start with that date.”
“Huh?” Queen murmured glancing up.
Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.