Voting time! Polls close one week from right now on June 28th at 7:00PM Standard MWC time.

The Shop
5 (38.5%)
4 (30.8%)
The Eye
1 (7.7%)
Deliverance Flight 23
2 (15.4%)
1 (7.7%)

Total Members Voted: 10

Voting closed: June 28, 2009, 01:05:56 PM

Author Topic: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!  (Read 2403 times)

Offline davidleejones13

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Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« on: June 21, 2009, 01:05:56 PM »
Imagine if you will, a group of everyday people with everyday lives sharing a single space in virtual time. This place is a writing network that ties them together through a common bond of talent, creativity and imagination. All the attributes of great writers.

But what happens when that ability is tested and these people are forced to take a casual mind stroll in....THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

...these are the five souls and their resulting journeys in Challenge 51.....

« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 03:58:18 AM by fire-fly »
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Offline davidleejones13

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Re: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2009, 01:07:58 PM »

After my rare extravagance of enjoying lunch out, I chose to walk down an unfamiliar street rather than returning to my empty house.

Buildings along the street were closed and seemed unused for years. Only one was open for business. A little way ahead, it's wooden sign swung in the breeze. SHOP was the only word legible on the sign.

It was only thing on the street besides me moving and it drew me toward it's dusty window. I saw enough to draw me inside, wanting to see more.

The door opened easily on well oiled hinges as if inviting me inside. Despite the dim interior, I realized I had stepped into a warehouse of the past. Surrounding me were items not to be found in any modern store. Things crafted to last a lifetime and beyond.

I headed toward the front window and what had caught my eye from outside. The paint had faded with time, but I saw immediately the horse  was in prime condition.

A stallion, his forelegs racking the air as if ready to take off across a wild canyon, his mane and tail flying in the wind.  The most beautiful carouse horse I had seen in decades.

My hands were caressing the finely crafted animal when a sound from behind drew my attention. Looking around I saw a tiny, grandmotherly woman walking my way.

“May I help you?”

“Oh, I just saw your shop and wanted to look around a little if that okay?”

“Of course dearie, look all you like. If you need me, just call out, I’ll be near by.”

With that she vanished as silently as she had arrived, leaving me on my own. I knew I wouldn’t be buying anything, but the roam stallion with his mane and tail colored as if by moonlight, held my attention.

Looking around to be sure I was alone, I pulled a stool over and gingerly stepped up, settling my aged body into the stallion’s saddle.

Years immediately faded away. I was back in time, enjoying my first ride on a firey steed when a carnival arrived in my hometown.

I was about 6 or 7 years old then. Riding that carouse had been the next best thing to having a horse of my own, for a few minutes anyway.

Minutes hadn’t been enough. I begged and pleaded until Papa finally gave me several tickets, allowing me to ride to my heart’s contend.

Years later, sitting astride the stallion in the dim lighted shop, it had felt just as good, even without going around in circles.

“You know he's magic don’t you?”

Her voice coming so unexpected almost jolted me from my trusty steed.  Gathering my wits, I made my way back to the floor with the help of the stool before answering.

“I know he’s beautiful, but I doubt he’s magic,” I said with a smile.

“I’m serious. If you make a wish, a deep, heart-filled wish while sitting on his back, the wish will come true.”

Thinking she was teasing, I smiled, words on the tip of my tongue to excuse a woman my age climbing up on a wooden horse. But the look in her eyes stopped me. She was serious, she actually believed what she said.

Fearing she might not be as harmless as she appeared, I began edging toward the door, chattering inanities on the way.  I didn’t want to appear rude; and I would have like to look around her shop more, but I felt it best I leave.

Looking over my shoulder to see where she was, I found myself alone once more. Shaking my head in confusion, I turned to the door and saw her standing there, blocking my exit.

“You’re not going yet are you dearie? You haven’t done what you came for.”

“I’ve taken up enough of your time,” I said. “Besides, I should be getting home.”

“You mean that empty house you live in? No one is waiting for you. Not even a cat.”

How could she know that much about me?  No, it had to be just a lucky guess.

“Come along, I have a pot of tea ready,” She said, stepping forward and taking my hand.   

I don’t know why, but I found myself following her into a small, neat room at the back of the shop. The furniture was from a bygone era, but looked new. The china tea cups and saucers she poured the tea into could have graced a Queen’s table. I looked around the room, amazed by the decor that could have been lifted from one of the better Lady’s publications a hundred years ago.

Racking my brain to find the words to get me out of here, I turned and  saw a younger woman near the tea table.

“Excuse me, where did the other lady go,” I asked.

“I’m the only lady here except yourself dearie.”

“But . . . “   Words deserted me. It was the other lady’s voice, but it definitely wasn’t the other’s body.

I plopped down in the nearest chair without thought of grace or dignity.

“But how . . . ?”

“Your confusion is to be expected. There’s no short cut to my story. Here, have some tea. It will help you relax while I explain.”

“You don’t usually walk this street do you dearie? Of course you don’t. This street isn’t a part of your town.” The look in her eyes kept me silent.

“You were chosen, the street materialized, and you were called here.”

“What do you mean, chosen?” I scooted to the edge of the chair, ready to stand, but a wave of her hand seemed to force me back into the chair.

“Just be quiet, I’ll tell you all.”  She went on at some length, spinning the most fantastic tale about a different dimension and people being chosen to fulfill their deepest wishes, if they were worthy. She talked so much; I must have been mesmerized. My mind drifted to thoughts of writing the novel I had started ages ago, the one gathering dust in a bottom drawer.

“Do you choose to live your dream?”

Her question brought me back to the present.

“Yes,” I said before I thought about what I might be agreeing to.

“Come along then.” She headed out of the room and I followed as if in a trance.

She lead me to the flying stallion and told me to climb on, close my eyes and wish. “Wish with all your heart.” She said.

Still in a daze, I did as she commanded. It wasn’t hard to form my wish. I had wished it so often in the past. It was a tangible part of me.

When I opened my eyes I was no longer in the strange shop, the changeable woman wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

I was sitting in a comfortable office chair, a computer in front of me and a printer with plenty of paper to one side. My abandoned manuscript was stacked to the left and  a sign on the desk that said “Just Write.”

Near my right hand was a chine cup resting in its matching saucer, steam drifting above the tea.
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Offline davidleejones13

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Re: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2009, 01:08:35 PM »

“What’s your name, son?” The voice behind the business end of the .38 was firm but reassuring. The trembling hand that held it wasn’t.

“You ought to put that thing down, old man. One of us might get hurt.”

“I asked you a question.” The reassuring voice took a harder edge. I wished I hadn’t left my backup piece in the rented Hummer. “Shackley…Leon Shackley.”

“Well, Leon, why don’t you just turn around and lean into the wall?” He waved the barrel in the direction he wanted me to turn.

“Listen, mister…”

“Turn around.” It was a command. Reluctantly, I followed his direction. A practiced hand lifted the CZ75 from my back holster. “Thirty-two years on the force. I know when one of you punks is packin’ heat. This ain’t no .45. What is this, one of those fancy Italian designer guns?” He pronounced the “I” long with a hint of derision.

“Czech, actually—nine mil.”

“A Commie gun? Are you a Commie, Leon?”

“You’re funny, old man. Nobody’s a Communist anymore. Well, almost nobody.”

“You ought to read the newspapers. They’d tell you. You kids just watch that damn television and let your heads go soft. What are you doing on this block?”

“I thought this was Delmore Street. I’m looking for a man named Walter Peterman. Sometimes he calls himself Peters.” I turned back to face my captor. “Help me out here. You were a cop. I’m a private cop. You know this guy?”

“Shamus, huh?” I nodded. “I don’t know any Petersons around here.”

“Peterman. Walter Peterman. You read the papers. You must remember his murder trial last year. He was that sixty-something insurance guy. Remember him? He faked chest pains in court and escaped from the hospital when his keepers weren’t looking?”

“Don’t sound familiar.” The old man waved the barrel of the gun again. “Let’s take a walk down the alley, shamus.”

“Now wait a minute, pal. I…”


I saw the girl’s legs before I saw the rest of her. I moved a piece of cardboard that partially covered the upper torso. She lay in a puddle of fresh blood with two gaping holes where her chest used to be. Sightless eyes stared at the darkening sky; her dirty blonde hair splayed out like a shampoo ad. I looked at the old man. “Your work?”

“No .38 ever made holes like that. Must’ve been a .45 at close range. Her name is Brenda Butler. She’s my granddaughter. I didn’t want to find her like this.”

“Oh Christ. I’m sorry. Have you called this in?” I pulled my cell from a jacket pocket and got a face full of Smith & Wesson for my effort.

“Drop it. Put it on the ground—now. Right now, junior.”

“Okay, okay, take it easy, old timer. Got no bars here anyway.”

“Bars? You lookin’ for a drink? Back up. Keep your hands where I can see ‘em. This another one of your commie toys?” He dropped my phone into his coat pocket. “Okay, gumshoe. Let’s go. Nothin’ funny.” He motioned me back up the alley.

“You can’t just leave her lying there. You’ve got to report this, pop. She’s your granddaughter, for Cris’sake. You used to be a cop. You know the procedure.”

“The police will find her soon enough. Nobody can do anything for her now. Move. Make a left at the end of the alley.” We walked in silence on the deserted street as rain began to fall. At the end of the block sat a battered white delivery truck. The reassuring voice barked an order. “Get in the passenger side and slide over. You’re driving.”

The keys were in the ignition and the engine roared and sputtered to protest a faulty manifold. “Leon’s taxi, at your service. Where we goin’, old man?”

“We don’t need any of your smart mouth, junior. Left at the end of this block and then your first right. That will put you on the main drag. Make sure you keep your right hand on the wheel.”

I followed his directions through the sparse traffic and turned onto what appeared to be a major thoroughfare. All the while, he kept the back of his left hand on my right arm and the gun in his right hand. Only the pros know those kinds of tricks. “I hope we’re not going too far, old man. You forgot to buy gas.”

“This ain’t my truck. Next time, steal one with a full tank.” I thought there was a smirk but then it was gone. “Keep your eyes on the road and make a left at the light. Why are you looking for this Peterman feller?”

“Two years ago, he killed a seventeen year old prostitute…a runaway. I already told you he escaped during his trial. It’s been more than a year and the police haven’t found him. The girl’s family hired me. I heard he lived on Delmore when he was a kid--thought maybe I'd run him to ground there--but I turned onto the wrong street and that’s when I made your acquaintance.”

“Harrumph. Slow down. Turn left there, by the white sign.”

We turned into the Mt. Olive cemetery, a treeless expanse of markers and monuments and single-lane access roads. I stayed on the road along the perimeter. “Looks like the weather’s improving.” The rain stopped and I turned off the wipers.

“Turn left here and go to the end.” We moved into a section where the markers were smaller and less ornate. “Stop. This will do.”

He got out of the truck before I set the parking brake. I expected his order to follow but it didn’t come. On the seat were my nine millimeter and cell phone. I scooped them both up and hurled myself through the passenger door but the old man was gone. I circled the truck and found nothing.

I moved further down the lane, keeping my gun at the ready. A hundred yards ahead, a man in a trench coat stood over a gravesite. I kept to the grassy areas and approached him silently. At a distance of ten feet, I scuffed my heel against the asphalt. A familiar face turned toward the sound.

“Walter Peterman, you’re under arrest.” He started to bolt, saw the gun and thought better of it. I zip-tied his wrists and read the inscription on the grave he’d been visiting with disbelief.

Brenda Butler
1945 – 1964
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Offline davidleejones13

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Re: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2009, 01:09:20 PM »


It was a good night.... any night that wasnt overun with anxiety was a good night.
Sitting, rocking in his easy chair, puffin a smoke and tossing Mr Crab ( The Great and
All Powerful Loopys best squeaky toy), he glanced over his right shoulder at the wall next to him
and looked at a six string project. It was a special guitar, a 1966 Harmony.. with graphic artwork
that was just pulling him deeper into it, as the sweet smoke started to ease the anxiety into full blown
wonder, a warm place that seemed to balanced the loss of reality with the desire to be free of
the box he had sealed himself in.

It was such a cool thing.. a piece of art, but it was rough,it had  needed new tuning keys, the
tailpiece and bridge were missing, and the electronics.. toast. But now it lay on the wall,
and after the neck surface was redressed, and the intonation set, it would be a working
six string again, ready to have its strings bent, its frets assaulted. The artwork and
care the artist had given the body and neck made it distracting to play, as he thought of the
last time he played it, and hung it up. The damn thing just seemed to draw feelings out of him
that were uncontrollable, emotions he couldnt deal with or face. So rather than complete it,
he just let it lay there, knowing that when it was done, he would return it, politely ask for the parts money,
and surrender the instrument, and with it the strange dreams he had of playing it, of having
taken a poor guitar, one who the artist loved and gave up in trust, and restored it as well
as his skills and love for instruments could provide.

All the rest of his collection, just didnt have the familiarity this one did. They all had their memories
and origin, the songs written on them, the place they were purchased, the time and feelings he
had when he bought them. But this one had a memory of the future, that the song he would compose on it
was already written, and many more too, if he could only remember them. It was like time folded backward
into the future, like he was staring at the end, while dreaming of a beginning, a path out of the
day to day hell he had made of his lonely life. A moment of redemption, of acceptance, of being able to
bend the pains of his life like a three string flat bend, a flat finger twisting strings as hard as his
large hand could bend them, attempt to strangle a sweet sound with a frustrated squeeze.

Loopy gave up on the squeaky, knowing his mood had changed, and he was lost again. She jumped up
curled at his side, and Joey the Cat decided that it was time to ride the rocker too, and took the other side
of the recliner, so they sat, like a stoic trio of lost wanderers just content with each other rocking away to a tune
he could hear, but couldnt remember. As the sleep train started to leave the station, he got up, and
went to bed, and dropped off into a half sleep, the first of many for the night, as insomnia and
anxiety would wrestle with him till the sunlight broke, and he felt safe again.

So he settled in to the covers, gave his thanks for the day, asked for a new one to do better, and
the grace to nice the hell up, to try and go through tomorrow without feeling regrets about how he treated those
around him. No wonder the poor guy couldnt sleep....a balancing act between personal desires
and the acknowledgement of humilty. or some kind of vortex of fear rooted in denial.

The cracking of a Princeton tube amp woke him.. from warm fuzzy to annoyed in instant, not a subtle
nature call that would not slow the entry into the next nap. He thought, as he lay there.. that he had just put in
preamp tubes.. cuz the damn thing sounded like shit at low volumes. Would'nt tank right till the
tubes resonated. And that crackling... gotta fix it. He thought about ordering the power tubes next..
and went through the mental debate of what was more important, the fact being that there was only so many beans
in the fun budget, and they could probably wait. Just as he was slipping off to a hopeful pillow drooling
voyage to dreamscapes past and present, he woke again.. startled by the fact that he hadnt turned the amp
on in months, and it had been unplugged lately to accomodate the electircal need of space on the power strip
for a Blockedog to digital tv antenna boosting project. ( Which to date had been improved on by Joey knocking the antenna off
pile of equipment on the table a placement that brought in three more channels of digital checkerboards...)

He got up.. and as he wandered down the hall did his mental checks to see if he was in a lucid dream, or
was actually awake. " Im not looking for anything.."  Check.   " the dreamscape is not changing as i leave it..
doors are not sealing behind me..rooms are not changing.."  Check.  He wandered into the living room and the
red light of the amp was glowing, and he just decided to sit in the easy chair, and in the dark, the light filtering in
illuminated the wall to his right, with three hanging there, and looked over at the acoustic in the stand,
the one above the lamp on the left wall. An electric shock rippled on his skin, a skipped heartbeat as he noticed the shadows
of two people sitting on the couch next to him, facing the amp at the electronics table. He was just to damn
scared to move his arm to turn on the light switch, way less than arms reach from his right.

" oh defintely not check...shit"  he mused.. People without form, or face, familiar but not recognizable. A thought
with out a face to remember, rather than a face and a lost memory, or name. Then one casually said ..
" You must seem to think that you can glance into the well of humanity man, lower the bucket, and bring up
water for you to drink and share. Its a cool idea man, but why dont you jump in the well, and climb out
with the rope? Get a good rope if you want.."  ( he laughed..), "or does your own thirst scare you?" ( another laugh..
this time from the other person who said)  " Everybody is their own tornado man, The debris field may change,
and the path of personal destruction may change.. but the damn eye is the same, the calm place everyone
really lives in.  Swim in the well, and try to live in the eye, and you will remember those songs you havent written yet"

( the first person said) " You wonder why when you relax and dont think, that sometimes things just materilaize on the neck.
Its like looking at me side ways man, look at me, not directly, out of the corner of your eye. You will see me then." He did
and his face became almost recognizable, but still no form, just a giant smile, a  warm smile.   " You cant share the
water if you are afraid to drink it man.. but if you think now you can taste it cant you?"  He could taste cool water,
then it was gone. ( the second person laughed again and said)  " Do you feel the fear in the funnel man,
 can you feel that wind tearing at your arms and hair.. let it blow through you.. then look up.."    The room was spinning
rapidly around.. faster till he was getting scared sick,  then he looked upwards, and through the ceiling he could see
the full moon glaring down inside the eyewall, the swirling room had become a blur of motion.

Then it ceased, and the room was still. the red lamp on the Princetom amp was off. He reached over and turned on the
lamp beside him and looked around in the living room, disturbed.. but feeling relieved that maybe he was awake now.
As he turned to look at the couch, Loopy and Joey were sitting there.. each one curled at opposite ends of the couch
sleeping soundly. Dawn was breaking.. and the night had passed, so he got up and pured a glass of high powered
unsweet tea, and lit the days first cigarette. As the nicotine and caffeine eased him.. he looked up at his artist friends
six string and noticed that the strings were upside down...pulling the guitar down.. he checked it with his tuner,
and the intonation was perfect, and it damn thing was one step flat. He looked slowly over at the couch.. and
the animals were sitting now, staring at him intently.. waiting for a song to bring in the new day.

Darkside of the Planet -

Offline davidleejones13

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Re: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2009, 01:10:03 PM »

Frank Sharp inadvertently unlocked the door to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind; a dimension resting between fact and fiction, between light and dark. Welcome, to the Twilight Zone.

“I’ll tell you when I get home. I have to go now, the plane is boarding… Yes. Everything went well. Okay… Love you too. Bye.” Frank set the phone back on the receiver and looked at the young lady behind the desk. “Thanks for letting me use your phone.”

“Is she your wife?”

He hesitated, and then smiled. “Yes… I promised I would phone her when my business trip came to an end.”

“Well, I’m glad it went alright, then.”

Frank nodded his head as he turned away. “Indeed, things can only get better from here on.”

Frank gazed at the setting sun as he exited the airport and ascended the ramp into the Boeing 707. Although he kept peering over his shoulder, he couldn’t help but feel satisfied.

The inside of the plane was stacked with passengers from every walk of life. Frank immediately spotted the blue-collar workers, and of course the teens with their rock & roll blue jeans and AM radios. What would be next, men working in the kitchen? Oh, please.

He took his seat in the isle and gazed at the silent world outside the small window. Sweat moistened his palm as he sighed and closed his eyes – soon his Anna would be with him again.

A large, stern looking man squeezed past him and took the seat against the window. “Evening.”

Frank glanced at him, but didn’t pay him a lot of attention. “Good evening.”

The buzz of the anxious crowd eventually settled into a quiet murmur, and Frank dozed off.

He awoke to the smell of fresh flowers nestling by a river bed – his wife’s perfume. Upon opening his eyes, the scent disappeared. His watch showed they had been in the air for almost an hour.

“Frank.” A loud voice called from the back. He turned around and looked at the vast number of unfamiliar faces staring back at him. It must’ve been his imagination.

A whisper came up from behind him, its sarcastic tone acid to his eardrums “Oh, Frank, darling.”

Icy chills crept up the skin of his neck as he recognized the voice. It was his wife’s.

But how was that possible? It couldn’t be. He jumped out of his seat, his eyes frantically searching for his wife.

The man next to him spoke “She knows.”

Frank turned to him, his eyes wide open. “Excuse me?”

“I beg your pardon. I didn’t say anything.”

Frank scratched his nose and looked away. His eyes were blinking uncontrollably. He refused to believe what was going on. In the distance his wife walked across the aisle and disappeared behind the curtain. He jumped up and ran forward, pushing the stewardess out of his way. His heart raced and sweat perused his brow. She was gone. “Dear, God.” he cried.

“Excuse me, sir.” said the stewardess. “You’ll have to sit down.”

“I… uhm.” Frank mumbled incoherently as she led him back to his seat. “It can’t be.”

“Can I get you anything, sir?”

Frank shook his head and pulled on his lower lip as he stared at the floor.

The whisper of his wife’s voice warmed his ear. “How could you?”

Frank jumped up, almost falling over the other passengers. Was he going out of his mind? He fell into his chair and banged his head into fist. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” His lip quivered as a tear rolled over it. A dull ache started in his chest.

“How could you do that to your wife?” said the man next to him.

Frank looked up to see the man smiling. “I couldn’t stop. I’m sorry. She made me do it.”

“How could you cheat on your wife?”

Frank stood up. “How did you know that?”

“She knows!” he shouted upon bursting into laughter.

Frank screamed as he stumbled down the isle, eager hands grabbing at him from every direction. Their faces – they all looked like his wife. He crashed into the bathroom and locked the door while the other passengers banged against it, desperately trying to get in.

He fell onto the toilet seat. “Leave me alone!”

“Now why would I want to do that?” a voice called from beside him.

Frank looked into the mirror and at the foggy image of his wife, Elizabeth.

The pain in his chest increased and his stomach turned. He stared at her, struggling to breathe, unable to think.

“You bastard. First you cheat on me with that Anna, and then you kill me. After all I’ve done for you. Damn you.”

“I’m sor-Aaah…” A sharp pain emanated from his jaw and shot down his arm. He curled into a ball, cold sweat lacing his body.

Frank slumped to the floor as he stared into the eyes of his smiling wife.

The world around him faded from sight, her words carrying him into the afterworld. “I hope she was worth it.”

Frank Sharp’s visit to the Twilight Zone was short lived indeed. He embarked upon a journey into the fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man, and learned his lesson.

Darkside of the Planet -

Offline davidleejones13

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Re: Challenge 51 VOTING OPEN!
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2009, 01:11:00 PM »

The turbines of the Temporal Impellers slowed, their high pitched whine falling blessedly silent as the pilot flicked switch after switch in his usual shutdown routine.
"Right then," Captain Black stood and turned to face his passengers. "You can unstrap yourselves now that we've stopped. Sorry about the turbulence on the trip, but whenever we pass through our own change ripples we do get a bit of a bumpy ride."

"Change ripples?" the short, bespectacled, balding man asked.
"That's right Doctor King," Black nodded and smiled at the palaeontologist. "When we make changes in the past, they ripple forward through time, changing history. And when we travel back, we pass through those ripples that we are going to cause."
"But if we change history," King interrupted, "we'll change the future, and the present we return to!"

"Exactly Doctor," Black looked sternly over all the members of the small safari group. "This is why you were all required to agree to follow the orders of my co-pilot, Bret Taylor, and myself. We are here to hunt the big dinosaurs only, and must not harm anything else. Is that clear?"
At the nods from the other members of the safari, Black turned back to Doctor King. "We can hunt the big dinosaurs because we know they died out and have no impact on our present."
"I came here to hunt the biggest game of all!" Alex Kain bellowed and jumped to his feet. "I've not paid a fortune to go after something that's going to die anyway!"
"Oh, they have plenty of life and fight in them Mr Kain," Black chuckled as he walked towards the flitter bay, "especially if we can find a T-Rex for you."


Black swiftly ran through the checks on the flitter while Taylor finished helping the group with their possessions.
Doctor King wore an impressive camera on a strap around his neck and was checking its telephoto lens by focusing on various areas of the flitter bay and snapping off shots. He looked decidedly odd wearing his khaki safari outfit.
Not surprisingly, Kain wore camouflage-patterned trousers and shirt with a knife-proof-vest. He carried a high-powered maser rifle and was checking over the stocky, matt-black body and his store of additional power packs. His two friends, Mike Fogg and James Stubbs were sporting similar camouflage clothing and vests and carried smaller versions of the maser rifle while grinning like fools and ribbing each other.
Douglas Smyth glanced at the black rifles and snorted through his bushy moustache. He opened his weapon case and withdrew an old style weapon. It had a long burnished-steel barrel and polished wooden shoulder-stock. All he needed was a pith helmet to look like the classic safari hunter.

"What's that then gramps?" Stubbs asked with a snide chuckle.
"This is a gentleman's weapon," Smyth replied tartly. "It requires great skill to use properly, because it uses an explosive to propel a metal projectile to your target. I've made some refinements to the original design, but it's essentially what used to be more commonly called... an Elephant Gun."

"Okay gentlemen, when you're ready?" Black called from the flitter, ready to get on the move.


With sure movements, Black guided the flat, oval flitter platform out of the flitter-bay. When they left the controlled atmosphere of the time ship, the hot, humid air of the prehistoric jungle flowed over them like a sauna, making their skin prickle with sweat.

Black flew the flitter between the trees of the jungle at a sedate pace, not much faster than a brisk walk. The sound of the jungle was muted, like it was preparing for something, when a thunderous bellow sounded in the distance.
"There's our first thunder lizard," Black called over his shoulder.

KaThick KaThick KaThick, sounded abruptly loud in the fresh silence following the roar.
"Marvellous! Simply marvellous!" Doctor King enthused at something he could see through his lens and clicked more rapid shots.

The sizzle of a heavy maser was unmistakable, as was King's shrieked, "No!" and Kain's laugh.
Black stopped the flitter and turned to glower at Kain.
"He shot it!" King hissed through clenched teeth. "A genus I'd never seen before. Possibly one unknown to modern science. And he just killed it!"

Black glanced to where King pointed. Steam rose from the tree branch where the maser had superheated it and on the ground below, was the cooked remains of a lizard that looked remarkably like a large chameleon.
"I don't know Doctor," Black frowned, "maybe a ancestor to some bird species?"

"I never did like birds," Kain laughed. "Not enough sport for my liking."
Black glared at Kain and snarled. "You are here to hunt the big dinosaurs. If you shoot anything I don't authorise first, you'll be out of here faster than you can blink!"
Kain's face grew dark. "Nobody tells me what I can and can't hunt!"
"Yeah!" Fogg and Stubbs chorused, lifting their masers to emphasise the threat.
"My word here is law!" Black stared at Kain, ignoring the threats of his lapdogs. "Without me, nobody goes home, so if I say jump... you jump!"
They glared at each other, unblinking, for a long moment. Like two wolves establishing dominance. Then Kain grinned. "I like you Black, so we'll do things your way... for now."


Black carefully nudged the flitter between the tall trees, edging into the large clearing. Towering in the distance, a Tyrannosaurus-Rex reared on its hind legs and large tail before lunging, tooth filled maw agape, at the back of the Triceratops it was fighting. The smaller Triceratops struggled valiantly, but swiftly perished and the T-Rex ripped gobbets of bloody flesh from the body.

"There you go gentlemen," Black gestured towards the bloody scene. "Who wants first blood?"
Without a word, Kain vaulted over the rail of the flitter to land in a crouch behind the nearest bush-like cover. Moments later, Stubbs and Fogg followed him over the side. With well-practiced movements and co-ordinated actions, the trio advanced on the leviathan as it wolfed down chunks of flesh larger than a man.

Doctor King muttered to himself and took shot after shot of the movements of the carnivore gorging itself.

Kain remained hidden while Stubbs and Fogg moved into the line of sight of the T-Rex, gesticulating wildly. When it finally looked their way, Stubbs and Fogg had moved considerably closer. It roared a challenge and lunged at them.

"Fascinating behaviour," King enthused as he caught every movement with his camera.

Stubbs fired his maser at the beast. There was no reaction and its lumbering movement swiftly became a run towards them. Stubbs and Fogg fired shot after shot before turning and running towards Kain's hiding spot.
When they passed him at a run, Kain stood and aimed his heavy maser between the eyes of the monster. Pulse after pulse he poured into it with no apparent effect.
Ignoring Kain, the T-Rex continued to chase the running Stubbs and Fogg, closing on them rapidly as it built up speed.

Smyth drew a bead with his rifle, right between the eyes of the beast, let out his breath slowly and squeezed the trigger. An almighty "BOOM!" split the air like thunder and the jungle around them went silent in shock. The T-Rex appeared puzzled for a moment as it continued to run and then stumbled over its own feet, tumbling to a stop just short of where Stubbs and Fogg had halted.

Black goggled at Smyth, his ears still ringing from the astounding explosion of noise.

"I guess first blood's mine," Smyth shouted with a grin to make himself heard past the ringing.


After a full day flitting about the jungle in search of prey, everyone was more than happy to return to the time ship, although Kain still moaned about not getting the first kill.
In the flitter bay, Smyth almost reverently placed the still bloody tooth into the foam-lined case he'd brought with him. It was as long as his hand and had taken him ten-minutes of hard work to cut from the T-Rex he'd shot.

With everyone back in their seats, Black and Taylor swiftly ran through the check list and launched into the time stream. They swept forward in time, relying on the Inertial Temporal Guidance system to get them back to the second after they left.
The Temporal Impeller's shrill whine grew louder as the ship paused a moment before settling and the whine fell silent.

"If you'd like to disembark down the flitter bay ramp," Black announced and stood to lead the way, "your things will be taken off by our handlers and you can collect them after decontamination."
He hit the controls to open the bay doors and extend the ramp, expecting to see the waiting workers ready to offload the ship and plug in the power cables. Instead he saw a flat plain of tall grass with a herd of dark shapes running into the distance.
"What the hell is this?" Kain demanded. "Is this some kind of scheme to get even more money from us?"
"Don't be ridiculous..." Black started only to be interrupted.
"You fool!" King yelled at Kain. "You've killed us, all of us... Everyone is gone because of you!" He looked at Black's puzzled frown and added. "That lizard was no ancestral bird..."

Black's eyes grew wide with realisation. "You mean that one lizard ...?"
"Exactly." King nodded solemnly. "The small lizard that Kain killed... was the ancestor to the entire human race."
Darkside of the Planet -