Flash Fiction Challenge: “It’s X Meets Y!”

Posted: January 23, 2015 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Challenge
Tags: ,

So, this week’s FFC was to let the random result of two d20 dice rolls determine what two well-known properties mashed together describes your story (e.g. “Firefly meets The Dark Crystal!!”…which would technically be Farscape, I guess). I rolled Jurassic Park and Charlotte’s Web, so I tried to work the themes of interspecies communication and DINOSAURS!!!! together into something readable and came up with “For Freedom”.

 

Carissa watched the dilophosaurus as she sipped her morning coffee and was intrigued. It was rooting around in the underbrush of the enclosure, dragging pieces of wood and fallen ferns together in a pile. It was a continuing pattern of odd behavior that she’d noticed unfolding on the enclosure’s monitors over the last several weeks. It was only one of the dilophosaurs, a male that was technically named “A1459β886” but had been dubbed “Red” after the stripes that ran down his spine, and he had been acting oddly in various ways: digging up roots, obscuring the enclosure’s cameras with his fiddling with the ferns, collecting rocks of various types and sizes, calling out in odd chirruping patterns at strange hours.

Carissa zoomed in on the augmented reality display that virtually hung on the wall in her vision, concentrating on Red’s collection effort. “What the heck are you doing?” she muttered softly to virtual projection of the dilophosaurus, sipping her coffee. With some absent-minded hand gestures to her virtual intelligence O.S. she pulled up a second feed alongside the live one she’d been watching: the recorded footage. She cycled back through the records at high-speed as she kept one eye on Red’s behavior, trying to look for something that might go toward explaining the dilophosaurus’ odd activities.

After a few minutes she paused the recorded feed, glanced at Red on the other virtual screen, and then played the recording. On it she saw a trio of velociraptors – looking vaguely like menacing chickens in their coats of short feathers – waiting in a glade and chirping at each other. After a moment, Red appeared and the quartet sang back and forth for a few moments before one of the velciraptors leaned down and scratched in the bare dirt with the talons of one hand. When it finished, Red leaned forward and peered at the scratchings before looking back up at the other three and chirruping. The velociraptors chirped and sang back before all four swished their tails, turned away, and left the glade. Carissa blinked a few times and then ran the video back to the start of the sequence and watched it a few more times while occasionally glancing back at the live-feed of Red continuing to assemble various piles of detritus. With a gesture or two, she moved the camera angle to get a top-down view of the scratchings that the one velociraptor had made and sucked in a breath.

Though there were a number of claw-like scratchings in the dirt that vaguely reminded her of Chinese ideograms, it was the relatively accurate scratched drawing of the layout of the enclosure that shocked Carissa. She made sure that the drawing was captured in still frames and saved to the core servers, before looking at the live-feed. Red was still assembling piles of miscellaneous flora and Carissa watched him for a long moment.

He was taking orders.

That, in and out itself, was fairly shocking. Though the dilophosaurs were no idiots and were capable of relatively complex social interactions, they weren’t exactly pack predators, so giving and taking orders was something of a novelty for Carissa to witness. The fact that Red was taking orders from another species was almost unbelievable. She flicked her eyes back to the recorded footage and saved the section featuring the quartet of saurians chirping and singing and examining the drawing scratched into the dirt. Carissa bit her lower lip in contemplation as she flicked her gaze between the two video feeds.

Standard procedure for anything like…well, honestly there wasn’t anything like this that Carissa could think of having happened previously. That aside, though, standard procedure was to send drones into the enclosure to obtain samples or to administer tranquilizers to the saurians. But, drones wouldn’t be able to handle something like this, a voice whispered urgently in her mind, they might accidentally destroy any of the physical evidence present.

It didn’t take her long to make her way from her quarters down the long hallway that ran the outside of the ring, passing by bank after bank of thick windows that displayed the starfields beyond. She spent little time in the prep chamber slipping into the thin but durable excursion suit, before moving into the airlock and from there into the enclosure.

The environment of the enclosure itself was modelled after Jurassic-era Earth: cycads, conifers, and ferns blanketed the landscape, while up above an artificial sun burned bright through a thick, humid atmosphere. Small, bird-like saurians were singing in the canopy as Carissa stepped through the airlock, her retinal display showing her where the glade with the scratched drawings was in relation to her position. She engaged the excursion suit’s camouflage before heading out through the primeval forest – though her decision to enter the enclosure against protocols might not be the smartest, Carissa wasn’t stupid. While her very presence inside the enclosure like this was dangerous, the likelihood of something happening with the suit’s cloaking field up dropped precipitously.

Amazingly, the drawing was still there.

It had taken Carissa almost an hour of hiking with occasional periods of waiting to let groups of various saurians pass her by. But, once she had reached the glade, sure enough, it was still there – as fresh as it had been when the velociraptor had scratched it into being. The sound of movement in the underbrush brought Carissa’s gaze up from the ground, where she knelt while inspecting the drawing. Within a cluster of ferns, she glimpsed the feathery face of a velociraptor for the span of a panicked heartbeat before it disappeared back within the foliage.

Shit, she thought, her mind racing before she forced herself to breathe and relax. They can’t see you or sense you or anything. They may be more canny than we’d assumed, but–

The sound of movement behind her froze her thoughts as a shiver ran up her spine. Though her instincts were already screaming at her, a slow glance over her shoulder confirmed them: there was another velociraptor in the undergrowth behind her.

Staring directly at her.

She wanted to bolt, she wanted to scream in terror and flee the spot, and had to marshall every ounce of calm and willpower that she had to just breathe and evaluate the situation.

“It’s okay,” she whispered to herself within the confines of the suit’s helmet. “It’s okay. I’ll just move slowly – VERY. SLOWLY – away and–”

A massive weight slammed her into the earth and before she even had time to register the act, Carissa felt talons press into her. She wanted to scream, but the breath had been knocked from her. She wanted to flail and turn, but the velociraptor on her back was able to move with her and maintain its dominant position. Carissa felt the talons scrape and slash, but not pierce the thick skin of the excursion suit. Her breath came back to her in panicked gasps which only increased in their frequency as she felt another velociraptor, then another, jump upon her and begin biting and clawing at her. She tried to roll in the attempt to knock the saurians off of her, but they held on, and after several long moments, she felt a stab of pain in her side and her shoulders and her legs.

They’d broken through the excursion suit.

Her panic ratcheted up another notch as she realized that the impossible happen: the velociraptors had somehow punctured the nearly-impervious excursion suit’s fabric. She screamed in agony as claws and teeth sank into her skin, her mind descending into a red haze of pain and fear.

 

Once the mammal had finally gone fully still, her blood seeping into the earth beneath her and marring the drawing that White-Talon-watches-the-Stars had drawn to direct the activities of the dilophosaurus in their attempt to bait one of the mammals, White-Talon chirruped to his pack-mates. The others began their fumbling attempts to remove the mammal’s helmet, knowing they had only so much time until the mammals and their mechanical servitors realized what had happened and took action. After a few minutes, there was a distinctive click! and the mammal finally came into view, whatever magic it was they had that hid them from sight and smell turning off.

“Careful,” White-Talon implored the others as they turned the mammal’s head and began delicately cutting one of her eyes out with their claws. It had taken many years for White-Talon other Wise ones among the packs to realize that the “ghosts” their ancestors had spoken of were, in fact, mammals cloaked by some vastly advanced magic. But, once they had, they learned to track the mammals through the littles signs that they left in their wake – footprints in the dirt, broken branches and the like – and observe them entering and exiting the various portals that ringed the boundaries of their lands.

It was then that they had realized that they were all prisoners here.

The eye came out easily enough and one of the others handed it to White-Talon, who directed the others to hide the mammal’s corpse as best they could. With the mammal’s eye clutched in the talons on one hand, White-Talon raced through the forest to the nearest of the portals, where he knew others among the Wise were waiting. They chirped and sang their adulation as he appeared with the eye in hand and gave him a wide berth as he approached the portal’s “sentry” – a mammalian device that had been camouflaged to look like a cycad. Holding the eye up to a knot on the cycad, which previous observations had shown the Wise was some kind of “eye” itself that witness whether or not that which was held up to it was mammalian or not, there was a strange, chirping sound and the ground trembled.

The assembled group of velociraptors squawked in mild surprise and backed away from where a hole in the earth irised open, revealing a lit, cylindrical chamber fashioned from metal. White-Talon did not wait for consensus among his fellows and hopped down into the chamber, knowing that they had precious little time and that if they were to win their freedom, they would have to do it now. A half-dozen others of the Wise hopped down into the chamber after him before he held up the severed eye to a flat panel on the wall that intuitively seemed correct to his cogitations. The iris opening above them closed, a bright light and the smell of ozone filled the chamber, and then a moment later they felt it move downward. Some of the others crowed their dismay at such alienness, but White-Talon kept his wits about him, waiting for whatever fate would await them.

After a moment, the chamber slowed and stopped before another portal in the cylindrical wall hissed open. Beyond was another empty chamber, which White-Talon entered fearlessly with his peers following in his wake. Another door opened leading into a long hallway that branched out left and right, seeming to go on forever. As the small pack of the Wise stepped out into it though, a shrill sound began resounding up and down the hallway, with baleful red lights glowing along the ceiling.

“They know!” one of the Wise cried in song. “The mammals know!”

    “Let them know,” White-Talon responded a moment later, having made his way to one of the walls and looking out through a strange, transparent panel. Stars glimmered endlessly in his saurian eyes as he stared out into the depths of space, the blue-green crescent of some large body nearby visible in one corner of the window. “It seems our prison is quite inescapable…”

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