TIME SPIKE — snippet 19

 

TIME SPIKE – snippet 19:

 

 

            Jeff Edelman stared at the pictures on the camera phone for a while, and then shut the phone off. “I want the best artist in the prison to copy this onto paper. The same thing for the jewelry our visitor is wearing.” He looked at Hulbert. “The camera phone is a great way to record what’s going on in the field, at least until the batteries wear out.”

            “You’re right,” said Joe Schuler. “We’ll go through all the cars on the lot and through the lockers. We’ll gather up all the picture phones and have them placed in the armory. That way when we send people out for whatever reason, they can take one of the cameras with them. When they get back we can have the pictures transcribed to paper. If Hulbert had one in his car when the Quiver hit, I’m betting we’ll get a couple dozen of the things.”

            Hulbert nodded. “Andy, we might want to do a technology check. See who has what, and if it could be useful put it under lock and key.”

            “No, we don’t want to do that,” Andy said. “We don’t want to confiscate anything. That includes the picture phones. Ask what’s in everyone’s lockers and lunch buckets. Ask if people will donate their stuff, or loan it. But I don’t want anything commandeered.”

            “Nothing?” Edelman asked.

            “Nothing. Now, what can you tell me about Spielberg’s Monsters?”

            Edelman frowned. “The nick-name Jerry Bailey gave these animals is more appropriate than you realize. The two large bird-like creatures doing the attacking are called Utahraptors. They are the jumbo-sized relatives of the velociraptor. While the velociraptor weighs around fifty pounds, their larger cousins will tip the scales at eight hundred to a thousand pounds. An amateur, Bob Gaston, found the first of this species in 1992. This was the same year work was being done on Spielberg’s film, Jurassic Park. Spielberg hadn’t liked the idea of his meanest creature being such a lightweight, so he wanted to cheat and make them larger. The technicians working on the film, of course, did it Spielberg’s way. Bigger was better. Anyway, with the discovery of the Utahraptor, you would think the raptors in the movie would get a name change. It didn’t happen. They left the name of the beasts Velociraptor, but gave them the size of their Utahraptor cousins.”

            Hulbert shrugged. “Hollywood is not here. The animal killed by those things was not happy and neither were we. That was the scariest thing I ever saw in my life.”

            “I bet.” Jeff suppressed a yawn and then sighed. “Sorry, three hours a night, every night, it’s not enough sleep for anyone.” He yawned again, but this time didn’t try to fight it. “You have to look at the whole picture. That stegosaurus that used the prison wall for a scratching post a couple of nights back was from the Jurassic period. The Utahraptors on that picture phone was from one hundred and twenty million years back. The animal the raptors ate, the iguanodon, was from the early Cretaceous period, which was around one hundred and forty-five million years before the modern era. The T-rex in Spielberg’s movie was from the late Cretaceous period, around seventy million years ago.

            “I thought you said the tyrannosaurus was from the Jurassic period,” Jenny said.

            “No, the book and movie was called Jurassic Park because it sounded good. Most of the animals it depicted were actually from the Cretaceous period, the same timeframe we seem to be dealing with. Much of the plant life a few miles out from the prison is also from that time period, but not all of it. Too much of it is unfamiliar to me, and a lot of what I recognize, I can’t name. I can’t remember what it’s called.”

            “I don’t care about the name,” Joe said. “I just want to know what is happening. Are we going to be dealing with the animals from that movie? Velociraptors and Tyrannosaurus Rex?”

            “Well, Jurassic Park depicted a theme park populated with dinosaurs built from found DNA left over from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The plants and animals inside the park were basically from the same period, but that doesn’t mean they coexisted. Very few species last eighty million years, which is the length of time the Cretaceous period lasted. Or even eight million years, for that matter. The only time we know for sure two species coexisted, is when we find them together. All else is guesses. Good guesses based on a lot of facts, but they are still a guess.

            Jeff walked over to the dry erase board and began sketching a time line. “Utahraptor was from approximately one hundred and twenty million years ago. They lasted about a million years, it’s estimated. The iguanodon was from about one hundred and forty million years ago. No one knows how long they were around. But if you looked at the picture closely enough, you’d see a couple of other creatures in the background. There was what I think is an ornithocheirus flying above the trees and near the water’s edge there was something that looked like a crocodile.”

            “Crocodiles lived one hundred and twenty million years ago?” Jenny was surprised.

            “Yes, they did. They’re one of only a handful of creatures with that type of longevity. I didn’t see one in the picture, but turtles are another group that has managed to live that long without a lot of changes.”

            “What’s an ornithocheirus?” Hulbert asked.

            “That was the creature flying above the trees.” He looked at their faces and sighed. “It’s a type of pterosaur. Also called pterodactyls.”

            “So, we’re one hundred and twenty million years in the past?” Andy asked.

            “That would be my guess.” His grin had very little humor in it. “Give or take maybe fifty million years, you understand.

             “Are you telling us we’re going to have to deal with brontosauruses and tyrannosauruses?” Joe Schuler asked.

            Jeff shrugged. “Brontosauruses, as such, no The brontosaurus was a combination mistake and scam. The man who found it, Othniel Charles Marsh, popped a head of a camarasaurus onto the body of an adult apatosaurus and called it a brontosaurus. The men who proved this, James McIntosh from Wesleyan University and David Berman from the Carnegie Museum, figured the wrong head was done on purpose. But they also figured Marsh didn’t know that the body was the adult version of a dinosaur Marsh found earlier. They believed Marsh assumed both skeletons were adults and were of different species. I guess we’ll never know for sure. The mistake and scam took place in 1879, and wasn’t discovered until 1970.”

            “Jeff, we don’t care what the creature is called, or what type of head it has. We just want to know what we have to deal with,” Andy said.

            “Yeah. But it’s important that you know that what you’ve been taught, or saw on television, may not be what you get.” Edelman frowned, looking worried. “We’re used to animals of a certain size, with a certain speed and strength. Predictable abilities. Predictable limitations. The animal we’re talking about, whatever you call it, is unpredictable because we’ve never dealt with it. It wasn’t a meat-eater, but who knows how placid or belligerent it was? And if it was—is—belligerent, then you’re dealing with a creature the length of a northern blue whale. It doesn’t weigh as much. It only weighs thirty tons, where the blue whale weighs about a hundred. But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous, if it develops a peeve at us.

            “As for a tyrannosaurus, it could be here. I just don’t know how likely it is. According to our limited fossil records, they didn’t show up until the end of the Cretaceous period. They could have coexisted with these other plants and animals, or they could have been separated by about sixty million years.”

            He grinned again, every bit as humorlessly. “I guess the one bright spot is that we probably aren’t near any seacoasts. The top marine predator nowadays is likely to be a mosasaur. That’s a giant seagoing lizard that was probably the most dangerous animal that ever swam the seas.”

            “So, you’re telling us Cretaceous Park just became real,” Marie Keehn whispered.

            No one else said anything.

****

            Jenny had gone back to the infirmary, Marie was asleep in the dorm set up for off-duty C.O’s, and Hulbert had taken Bailey and Carmichael to the armory. He wanted something a little more deadly the next trip out. Joe Schuler, Andy Blacklock and Jeff Edelman were alone in the conference room.

            “Okay, Jeff. Spill it. There was something you weren’t saying earlier. Say it now.”

            Edelman laughed. “You know, you say that like you think I should learn to talk up, but we both know you would rather I gave you bad news in private, or as close to it as I can manage.”

            The captain smiled. “Maybe. What is it?”

            “I’ve told you my theory; that somehow, we have been dragged back through time. Well, along the way, I think we picked up other times. So far, everything we’ve seen has been from the same geographical area, just different time frames.”

            Blacklock closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Edelman had explained his theory of time travel to him. And if Edelman was right, then Hulbert was going to be righter than the man could possibly guess. They were going to have problems.

            If they had been dragged back in time to the Cretaceous period, and Edelman was right about others being dragged along, that meant any and all creatures that lived from then till the day the prison disappeared could be outside the walls waiting on them. Including people.

            “Edelman.”

            Andy and Jeff turned to look at Joe Schuler. “Yes, Lieutenant?”

            “If you’re right, we’re in even more trouble than that, aren’t we? That stegosaurus outside the wall three days ago was from the Jurassic period. That was even earlier than the Utahraptor and the Cretaceous Period.

            “Actually,” Jeff Edelman said quietly, “I was holding back. I didn’t want a panic.”

            “Holding back?” Captain Andy Blacklock asked.

            “Yeah. There was another critter, and since no one asked, I didn’t volunteer its origin. It was almost hidden in the trees. It was no more than ten feet long and wouldn’t weigh more than fifty pounds. But it had a mouthful of teeth that could do some real damage. The thing might have been a Coelophysis. And if it was, we are looking at a meat-eater from the Triassic period. That means, if my theory on what is happening is correct, we have the possibility of running into any creature that roamed the earth in the last two hundred and forty-five million years.”

            Hulbert glanced out the window then at his watch. He had less than an hour to shower and eat breakfast. Then it would be time for his meeting with the department heads. He gave a low groan. This meeting was not going to be pleasant.

 

 

About Eric Flint

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