Dinosaur Birthday by Wolfenshire ()
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The sounds of machinery and the fall of sparks from welders up on the frame of the RS-40 was a stark contrast to the peaceful silence of the pyramid. A Senior Aeden Gate Keeper scowled as Jack walked across the big steel platform from the Gate. The Gate had been disconnected from the Aeden shipyards for almost eight hours while Jack was on the pyramid world. The Gate Keepers would now have to try to catch up with the backlog of incoming cargo that had been waiting for the Gate to reconnect.
“Eight hours, Mr. Aestar,” shouted the Senior Gate Keeper.
Jack really hated all the Gate Keepers being here, but it was necessary for continuous Gate operations. A Gate Keeper, even a strong one, could only keep a Gate open for 20 minutes, and then would be relieved by the next Gate Keeper. There were 75 Aeden Gate Keepers currently on world controlling the flow of materials coming from the Aeden shipyards.
“I know, I know,” Jack shouted over the chaos of the shipyards. “I’ll come up with a better plan, let me think on it.”
“It’s pretty basic stuff, Mr. Aestar,” replied the Senior Gate Keeper. “You need a schedule of where, when and how long the Gate is to be connected to a location. You would know this if you had completed the Gate Academy instead of becoming a World Walker.”
Jack waved at the man and smiled before exiting down the side stairs from the platform. He wasn’t going to let the grumpy old man get him upset. He wasn’t really worried about letting the Gate Keepers operate the Atan Gate - it wasn’t like they could steal it. You would need two Atan Gates to steal one of them, and even though Jack now knew where three other Atan Gates were for the taking, he wasn’t going to go get them from the long abandoned Atan Colony until all the Aeden Gate Keepers were gone.
Bowan held a hand up and pointed. “Sir?”
Jack looked to where Bowan was pointing. “What the heck?” Sitting on the tarmac were eleven men in prison chains, all connected to each other as if they had just got off the prison bus. Jack shook his head and went to speak with one of the men guarding them. Jack saw the tattoo of a dolphin on the man’s wrist; he was one of Luca’s men. “What’s this all about?”
The man handed Jack a folder. “We got a message you requested miners.”
Jack looked at the folder. “Is this Luca’s idea of a joke?”
Bowan stepped forward and took the folder.
The soldier shrugged. “Luca won’t give you honest hardworking miners for a suicide mission, but you can have these criminals, on one condition – don’t bring them back.”
One of the prisoners came up on his knees. “Hey, we have a deal, if we find what you’re looking for you have to send us to an uninhabited world.”
Jack looked down at the prisoner, then crouched until his face was only inches from the man. “I don’t care who you are, what you did, or what you were promised. Do not confuse my brother’s compassion for something I possess. Your life has no value to me, if you do anything I deem a threat, I will end you.”
The hate in Mr. Banner’s eyes turned to fear, this Aestar brother was cut from a very different cloth than the other. This young man was a killer, it was in his eyes, he had killed before and would again.
Jack stood and turned away from the prisoners. “Bowan, take them to the Provost Marshal, he can house them until we leave, then take my Command Shuttle up to Marsh Lake and get some rest. I’ll use my Survey Ship, I have to see someone.”
Jack put the prisoners out of his mind and headed towards the airfield. He felt Aya stirring in his mind and considered disconnecting. “What is it, Aya?”
“Nothing,” the A.I. replied.
“Spill it or I’m disconnecting.”
“I’m proud of you, that’s all. You’re growing into the Commander you were meant to be.”
Jack looked up at the frame of the new RS-40. It was hard to imagine that such a massive structure was actually going to be a spacecraft. It was equally hard to imagine that they would be finished in only fifteen more years. This was the one area that the Ruk were still more advanced than the Aeden, and the secret was in the anti-matter device he was searching for. He intended to give his grandfather, Lord Aestar, one of the devices as compensation for the enormous expense his grandfather was paying to build the ship. Jack had calculated the final cost at almost twenty-two trillion, but the anti-matter device was worth it. It was even possible the Aeden would be able to fight off the Eroden if they could get the device and start building warships within the year.
Jack had been so deep in thought he was surprised when he found himself in front of the Survey Ship. The ship was locked, but his hand-print let him in. Lieutenant Bret wasn’t in the ship. Jack sat in the co-pilot seat and dialed a number on his phone.
“Hey, I’m at the ship, where are you?” asked Jack.
“Welcome back, I’m in the terminal eating lunch,” replied the Lieutenant.
“Bring something back for me, I’m starved.”
“I’ll order you a burger and fries, be there in a bit.”
Jack hung up and started the pre-flight checklist. He was nearly finished when the Lieutenant entered the flight deck with a box that smelled like a cardboard hamburger.
“I’m supposed to be here when you do that,” scolded the Lieutenant and handed the box to Jack. “Captain Dagas would skin me alive if he saw you messing around in here alone.”
“I didn’t start the engines,” said Jack.
“Where are we going?”
“I’ve already put the coordinates in.”
Lieutenant Bret checked the navigation console. “Eastern Sunth Mountains? That’s a long flight, are we staying over-night?”
“I hope not, I need to be back for Luca’s birthday party this evening.”
“That’s going to be tight, you’ll only have twenty-minutes before we have to be back in the air.”
“That should be enough time. You okay flying alone, I’m going to eat in the back, and take a nap. I’m tired.”
“I’m okay, but you need to hire a proper flight crew, this thing is a beast for one person to take care of.”
“I’ll work on it, I promise.”
Jack only ate half the burger, it tasted as bad as it smelled, and the fries were greasy. He pushed the burger away and picked up the phone.
Luca answered. “Hey, Jack. Are you coming to my birthday party?”
“I’m trying. Hey, I need a crew for the Survey Ship.”
“No you don’t. Uncle Margus has been bugging me to get you to give the Survey Ship back to the Survey Team and transfer to the Command Shuttle. You’re wasting my resources, and I don’t have enough pilots as it is.”
“I want to keep Lieutenant Bret.”
“He can be the co-pilot, but Captain Dodd is the Commander.”
“You’re a pain in my backside, little brother.”
“Do you want to switch places?”
“Sure, then you can come babysit that chain-gang you sent me.”
Luca laughed. “No thanks, they’re all yours, and don’t bring them back.”
“You didn’t read the report, did you? Mr. Banner is the one that caused that boy, William, to lose his arm. Just leave them on an uninhabited world when you’re done. I don’t want them back.”
“I’m okay with that, but dang, little brother is getting some sharp teeth.”
“Uncle Margus said I had to make an example of someone or I would never be taken seriously. Talk to you later, kids are starting to arrive, they’re going to show me how to play fisbie.”
“I think you mean, Frisbee.”
“Really? No wonder everyone is laughing. Okay, gotta go.”
Jack hung up the phone and sat back. He really wanted to keep the Survey Ship, it was his first spaceship, and his home most of the time. He got up and went to his bunk. There was a certain comfort to the gentle vibrations and movement of the ship that he liked.
Lieutenant Bret knocked on the cubicle three hours later and woke him. The engines were still on, but Jack could tell they were on the ground. He slipped out of the bunk and stretched.
“You got twenty-minutes if we’re going to make it back in time,” said the Lieutenant.
The airlock hatch was already opened and Jack jumped down to the ground. The warm scent of mountain pine hung in the summer air, it was a wonderful change from the dry desert heat. Even up at Marsh Lake there was still a scent of the desert in the pine forest. He followed a worn path covered in pine needles down a hill from the landing site. At the bottom of the hill, four tents were set up next to a gurgling creek, and a long worn table with bones arranged on them.
“Can I help you?” asked a girl around Jack’s age as she stepped out from one of the tents.
“Hi, I’m Captain Aestar of the RS-40, I’m looking for Dr. Lanthu.”
“You’re a little young to be a Captain.”
“I’m Captain Dagas’ heir to the Captaincy.”
“You don’t look like a Ruk.”
“Captain Dagas is my adopted Uncle.”
The girl hurried over to the table of bones. “Did you touch anything?”
“Of course not.”
“My father is at the dig site.” The girl pointed at a path along the creek.
“So, you’re his daughter?”
The girl looked up. “Your powers of deductive reasoning are astounding. Have you ever considered becoming an archeologist?”
“Thanks, I’ll find him,” said Jack as he started to walk in the direction the girl had pointed, then stopped and picked a bone up from the table.
The girl’s eyes widened. “Do you mind! This is very complex work.”
Jack held the tiny bone up. “You have this in the wrong place. This is the U5 V2 carpometacarpus. It’s usually only present in modern birds, but some Theropods also had them.” Jack moved the bone next to several others and completed the shape of a bony claw. “You’ve got a juvenile velociraptor here, but I’m sure you already knew that.”
Jack walked away and didn’t look back, but he was fairly certain the girl was properly annoyed. He followed the creek for two hundred feet and found a man kneeling on the ground against the bank of the river brushing at the dirt. There was a piece of canvas laid out on the ground with various fossilized bones laid out on it.
“Hello, Dr. Lanthu, I’m Captai…”
“Grab that brush and make yourself useful,” interrupted the man.
Jack glanced at the spare brush lying on the canvas. “Dr. Lanthu, I’m putting toget…”
The man pointed at a root and interrupted again. “Check there, that’s where I’d be hiding if I was a bone.”
Jack rolled his eyes and knelt down to retrieve the brush, then crawled over to the root. “Here?” asked Jack.
“Gentle now, you don’t want to ruin anything.”
Jack brushed at the dirt. “Dr. Lanthu, I’m Captain Aestar of the RS-40. I’m putting together an off-world expedition to find three anti-matter repulsion devices accidently left behind in the landfills used during the Great Re-Build. There were fou...”
“When do we leave?” interrupted Dr. Lanthu.”
“You agree just like that?” asked Jack.
“I have conditions, but yes, just like that. I’ve studied the Great Re-Build. We were using robots to transfer equipment and realized too late that a lot of very valuable artifacts got mixed up with the trash and were left behind after we were too far away to turn around.”
Jack was about to stop brushing at the dirt, but it looked like something was buried in there. “What are your conditions?”
“I take my own ship, I take my daughter, I get to keep any artifact I find other than the anti-matter devices, and you pay all my fuel, equipment, and food.”
“Agreed, but you need to know we’ll probably be gone for a year.” Jack leaned in close to where he was brushing. “I think I found something.”
Dr. Lanthu shifted over to look. “Gentle now, yes, you’ve got something.”
Jack bit down on his lip as he concentrated on digging out whatever was buried. “What is it?”
“I’m not sure yet, but it is exciting, isn’t it.”
It was almost an hour before Jack uncovered the find. “It’s a fang,” exclaimed Jack.
“Dromaeosaurid Theropod genus Velociraptor” agreed Dr. Lanthu.
“Is the rest of the velociraptor in there somewhere?” asked Jack.
“No, these are just bits and pieces washed down the creek from somewhere up north of here. I was only digging here to narrow down where to dig next.”
Jack held the fang out to the archaeologist.
Dr. Lanthu held a hand up. “You found it, you keep it.”
Jack smiled. “Thanks, that was fun.” Jack looked at his watch. “Oh no, I’m going to be late, I have to go. Can you be at the Gobia Shipyards in four days?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Okay, I’ll have Finance contact you tomorrow to arrange an advance so you can get outfitted. See you in four days. Oh, and turn your phone on, that’s why I had to come in person.”
The girl was still trying to piece all the bones into the right places and looked up as Jack passed the table.
“Hey, how do you know so much about velocirapors?” asked the girl.
Jack tapped the side of his head. “I have an extra brain.”
“Huh?... Oh! You have an A.I., you cheated!”
Jack grinned and waved. Now she was doubly annoyed. The flight back was uneventful until they were twenty minutes from the Gobia Shipyards. Jack didn’t have his headphones on, but the Lieutenant did and heard the distress call.
“Jack, there’s a medical emergency at Grass Canyon. That’s right below us, we’re the closest ship.”
Jack sat up and nodded. “Tell them we’re coming.”
“Grass Canyon, this is Phoenix One responding to your distress call. We are passing over your general position. Can you light a flare to mark a landing zone?”
Jack scanned the ground below looking for the flair. Lieutenant Bret had to circle twice before Jack saw it. “There it is, to our right!”
Lieutenant Bret banked the ship to the right and descended. “I see it.”
Jack jumped out of the co-pilot seat. “I’ll get the ramp.” Jack ran back through the ship to the rear ramp and waited until he felt the ship set down on the ground. He pulled the lever to lower the rear ramp. The sun was already down and the first thing he saw were dozens of flashlights sweeping across the ground. Two men carrying a boy between them approached the ramp.
Jack heard someone shout, “‘I found it, stay back, stay back, we only need to see what kind it is.”
“That’s an Eastern Diamondback, what’s it doing this far west,” someone else shouted.
“Someone go tell the flight crew what kind it was,” shouted another person.
Jack looked at the men as they brought the boy aboard. “Our medical bay is in here,” said Jack. “Put him on the exam bed and buckle him in. It’s a snakebite, right?”
“Yeah, Mike will go to the hospital with him, I’ll stay with the kids and get them back to town,” said one of the men.
The flight to the RS-72 Hospital took twenty minutes. Jack remained at the hospital until the doctor told him the boy wouldn’t be out of critical care for at least two days while they waited to see if the anti-venom was working. It was past midnight when Jack arrived home at Marsh Lake. The lights at the Lodge were off, but then he didn’t expect anyone to be there. The birthday party was long over.
Tan was still awake and sitting in his favorite chair when Jack walked into their cabin. “You missed the party.”
“I know, sorry,” said Jack. “Is Luca already asleep?”
“Hours ago,” said Tan. “I was about to go put the dollar under his pillow.”
“Oh, did his last baby tooth finally come out?” said Jack.
“Yep, knocked out by something called a Fisbie.”
Jack grinned and had a feeling Frisbees would now forever be known as Fisbies. “I’ll come with you,” said Jack.
Tan and Jack crept into Luca’s room; the room was a mess with what Jack assumed were Luca’s birthday presents. One entire wall had the bulk of the presents stacked against it. Mr. Buckles was on the bed with Luca and watched without moving. Tan slipped a hand under Luca’s pillow and retrieved the envelope with the last baby tooth inside. Tan started to put the dollar under the pillow, but Jack held up a hand.
“I have a better idea,” whispered Jack.
Jack took the envelope and shook the baby tooth out. He handed the tooth to Tan. Tan looked on curiously as Jack retrieved the velociraptor tooth from his pocket and put it inside the envelope, then ripped the envelope to make it look like the large fang had ripped the paper.
“He’ll think his tooth turned into a dinosaur tooth, he’ll love it.” Jack slipped the envelope back under the pillow. “Happy birthday, little brother,” whispered Jack.
Image Comments (12)
STEVIEUKWONDER () Online Now! 2:29AM | Tue, 27 July 2021
Classic period scene to an amazing story line
miwi () 12:56PM | Tue, 27 July 2021
As always fantastic chapter,super cover; love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TwiztidKidd () 2:08PM | Tue, 27 July 2021
Exceptional story telling, my friend... not only is it brilliant writing, you have wonderful skills with words, but the length of each story is ideal for my attention span lol
RodS () 10:12PM | Tue, 27 July 2021
LOL! Brilliant! I'd love to see Luca's face when he opens that envelope!