Dalton Quasar
in
The Doom Ship of Time!

A 6-Chapter Adventure of the Future


by D.K. LATTA
About the author

Previously: Boarding a space ship which disappeared 150 years before, Dalton Quasar, Lila Volt, and robot B-780, find the crew missing, the ship over-run with cavemen and a cavepainting of Quasar himself.  Sucked into a spacial anomaly, they are thrown back through time, to an earlier Earth.  Detecting an energy source on the prehistoric Earth's surface, Quasar and Lila fly down to investigate, leaving B-780 onboard the Sir John Franklin.  But then a second Sir John Franklin appears in orbit....Meanwhile, Quasar and Lila encounter a T Rex!


Episode 3: "Men Who are Not Men"



THE EIGHT TONNE TYRANNOSAURUS REX LURCHED forward, the earth shaking beneath its massive feet, talons tearing up great tufts of soil.  It roared, its scream alone no doubt intended to paralyze its prey.

It almost succeeded.

Then Lila threw up her Ray-gun and fired into the prehistoric monstrosity's leathery face. The golden beam stabbed into its snout with a high-pitched whine, then bloomed outward in a golden aura. The T Rex recoiled slightly, as though stung by an insect. Nothing more. Then it lurched forward again.

"Run!" screamed Lila, turning and stumbling through the thick undergrowth.

They couldn't hope to out-race the beast, even in the best of circumstances, thought Dalton Quasar. And the thick flora made this hardly that. Instead, using the abilities that made him unique among humans, he rose into the air under his own power and flew past the T Rex's nose. The great beast lashed out, mighty jaws clacking shut on empty air, just missing the morsel known as Dalton Quasar.

Quasar pointed, and a photonic burst launched from his fingertips, striking the creature just below its left eye. The energy beam was slightly more effective than Lila's Ray-gun. But only slightly.

The T Rex roared, the scream vibrating the very air molecules. Quasar banked and rolled as the beast snapped at him again, and again he blasted it with his solar-charged organic power. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Lila had made it to the safety of the trees.

He decided to buy her a bit more time.

From her relative sanctuary hiding undeneath the fronds of a giant fern, Lila watched as Dalton Quasar arced into the air and flew off in the opposite direction, the T Rex growling and snapping as it followed after, each massive stride sending a shudder through the dirt beneath her.

Lila watched them go, then slowly rose up.

It was repressively hot, streams of sweat streaking down her ebon features. She drew an arm across her brow and pondered. Quasar would be all right, she thought. He could stay out of the creature's reach.

She hoped.

Belatedly she realized that he had saved her life, at the risk of his own.

Then she regarded the dense greenery around her.

Should she await him here, or proceed to the location of the energy source, figuring he would catch up once he had led the dinosaur sufficiently astray?

Something growled in the distance, but not as distant as would have made her comfortable. Fingering her Ray-gun, she decided discretion dictated she proceed on to their original destination. As she pushed past thick ferns and stumbled over massive roots, she became more and more aware of the heat, the way it made her suit cling to her body. Finally, she could take no more.

She stopped and quickly peeled off her outer clothes until she stood dressed only in black panties and a bra, both garments sufficiently brief that they were not really intended for public display. But she would exhaust herself if she tried going much farther in her Solar Security uniform. Buckling her Ray-gun belt around her naked hips, she started forward, discarding pieces of her uniform as she went to mark her trail for Quasar to follow...

* * *

DALTON QUASAR JUDGED THAT HE HAD LED the Tyrannosaurus sufficiently far from Lila that it wouldn't bother retracing its steps. He fired one final photonic burst at it, this time not to hurt it, but to momentarily dazzle it, and he streaked off, leaving the creature to blink as its vision cleared and to wonder where the flying rodent had gone to.

Quasar flew through the soft blue sky, marvelling at the spectacle below him. Though he was conscious of the heat, he was not as adversely affected by it as was Lila. A man who sailed through the vacuum of space is a man who can adjust to extreme environments.

Great rolling tumbles of green spilled over each other, like verdant waves frozen in mid-surge. Creatures extinct for millions of years strode about, snorting and bellowing. Herds of stegosaurs munched amiably on thick grass while two-legged dinosaurs carvorted around them.

He wished he could just lose himself in contemplating the wonder of it. But he had to get back to Lila. And there were still so many questions facing them.

Where had the cavemen come from on board the derelict space ship if they were now long before man had even existed? Was history wrong? Had man co-existed with dinosaurs? Or was the ship, the Sir John Franklin, truly unstuck in time? They had kind of assumed it was repeating the same trip it had made 150 years ago, but what if it wasn't? What if the energy source they were so determined to investigate had had nothing to do with the ship or its predicament?

How would they get home then?

He landed at the edge of the forest where he had last observed Lila. "Lila!" he called. "Are you there?"

There was no answer. His heart seemed to close around itself, thickening the blood in his temples. What if she had been attacked by something else while he distracted the T Rex? "Lila!?!" He started racing through the forest, the branches forming a canopy overhead, plunging him into a verdant-tinted twilight. There was no blood on the ground, he noted. No sign of a struggle.

Then he stopped.

Her jacket dangled from a low branch.

He snatched it up with horror, but noted instantly that there was no blood, no tears. It seemed as if it had been deliberately removed. Continuing on, he found another piece of clothing. Then he realized that he was following a deliberate trail.

Relieved, he took another step forward -- and a grass net exploded from around him, snaring him. The heavy fibres pulled across his limbs, tangling him, and he plunged back onto the grass. He was weak from his battle with the T Rex, his powers not fully restored. He wasn't sure he was up to a fight just yet.

Then he gawked as figures jumped from the trees. They were man-shaped, in primitive loin-clothes and decked in crude jewlery, carrying spears and clubs. They looked every inch the primitive human...except they weren't. Human that is.

The leader of his captors stepped forward, the dim light playing over his scaly skin, his black eyes regarding Quasar impassively. Jade lips split apart revealing sharp teeth, and a forked tongue darted out contemplatively. Then the lizard man signaled to his companions...

* * *

LILA STUMBLED THROUGH THE FOREST, her firm, curvaceous body gleaming with sweat, the muscles in her calves starting to ache. Occasionally she would glance behind her, a look of concern etched into her features. She thought Quasar would have caught up with her by now.

Had something happened in his battle with the T Rex? she wondered. Should she return, try to find him? Even as she considered it, she knew how unlikely it was that she could locate him. No, she realized, she had to trust that he was all right and that he would find her.

Continuing forward, she broke through a web of branches and stumbled out onto a clearing.

Instinctively she put her hand to the Ray-gun holstered at her hip.

Before her sprawled a walled encampment shimmering in the humidity, a crudely erected fortress with ramparts made of plexi-steel and insta-plaster, like you might expect to acquire from any ship's storage, reinforced with mud and wood and stone, so that the whole thing was a weird conglomerate of the modern and the prehistoric.

She leaned up against the bole of a tree so that the shadows from the branches above draped over her, hoping to make herself inconspicuous. She drew her Ray-gun.

Although she knew they had been searching for some sort of artificial energy source, it wasn't until this moment, standing before a clearly sentient-made structure, that it truly struck home. After all, the builders of this place might be the very people who had caused the Sir John Franklin to begin its weird slipping through time and space, she reasoned.

Crouching low, the Security Agent started forward.

* * *

IN THE CONTROL CENTRE OF THE DERELICT space ship, the Sir John Franklin, seated in an old swivel chair that had, presumably, not been sat in for 150 years, B-780 held tightly to his Ray-gun, his glowing eyes darting from the open door to the monitor screen before him. The ship orbited high above the surface of the planet Earth -- but an Earth millions of years before space travel had even been contemplated, much less accomplished.

And the vessel wasn't alone.

B-780 looked once more at the information obediently being displayed for him, the logical ship's computer in no one way gleaning the irrationality of what it reported.

According to the ship, there was another ship, just on the fringes of detection range. And that ship, too, was the Sir John Franklin.

How was that possible? wondered the robot. Some sort of computer malfunction? Or a spacial echo? Or was there really another ship out there identical to this? And if so, was it a duplicate, some sort of doppelganger?

Then B-780 considered. What if the ship he was on was, in fact, the imposter? Not the Sir John Franklin, but a clever facsimile? Had not Lila warned about the possibility of some sort of Trojan Horse? Did that explain why there was no evidence of the crew? Why it was manned by a horde of barbarians, guaranteed to attack and kill any investigators?

Nervously the robot tried the ship-to-shore radio again, but there was no answer. Clearly Lila and Dalton Quasar had left the vicinity of the surface shuttle.

B-780 whirled, Ray-gun leveled at the doorway. He was sure he had heard something just now. "Wh-who's there?" the robot demanded, trying to sound brave but failing miserably. "Co-come out...please."

There was no response. Had he imagined it? B-780 wondered. The ship made strange noises, noises that could adopt all sorts of nefarious import when filtered through analytical algorithms tainted by fear.

Then the robot heard it again.

Something was definitely moving outside in the hall. B-780 looked around, wondering if he should hide, but realized that whatever was out there clearly knew he was here.

A metallic hand clenched more tightly than necessary around the handle of the Ray- gun, B-780 leapt from the chair and ran out into the hall. "Blast you!" the robot shouted, deciding it was better to beard the unknown menace and get it over with. Metal limbs stumbled out into the hall.

There was nothing there.

All was still save for the low hum of the air circulators.

But the robot knew he had not imagined it. There had been something out here. And just as confidently, B-780 knew it wasn't one of the cavemen.

But then...what was it?

Weary, and wary, the robot slunk back into the control room, Ray-gun still clenched tightly in hand. B-780 inched back to the familiar chair, by the familiar console, to resume his familiar wait.

The robot looked once more at the sensor readings, identifying the other ship. There was one other possibility, he knew, and perhaps the most troubling.

What if that was the Sir John Franklin out there, and what if he was also on the Sir John Franklin? The paradox of time travel: both ship's could be equally authentic.

And if so, was that other ship from the past, or the future, and what might he find on board her? What did his future hold?

B-780 glanced back at the doorway. Somewhere, some levels below, were wild- eyed cavemen who wanted to disassemble him. And with him, on this very floor, was something else, something that wished to remain hidden. For now.

But what?

* * *

DALTON QUASAR, STILL ENTANGLED IN THE GRASS NET, was dragged roughly through the underbrush by his weird entourage of reptilian humanoids.

Although initially stunned by their appearance, on reflection he realized it wasn't so impossible. His initial thought was that the creatures must be aliens, or that this wasn't Earth after all, T Rex notwithstanding. But after some thought, he realized that it was entirely possible an entire species of primitive, intelligent dinosaurs could have lived and died out and future paleontologists would never know. There were whole species of dinosaurs that humans were only aware of based on a few fragments of bone.

How easy it would be for entire species, even a civilization, to have come and gone, but the people and their artifacts lost to biodegration and the erosion of time.

For a moment he felt a twinge of regret for these weird people, who were blissfully unaware that they had no future. Then he realized that the age of the dinosaurs extended over millions of years. These people might, in fact, live for untold generations before going extinct -- perhaps longer than human beings would live. Pity was, perhaps, misplaced.

Particularly as they did not seem at all friendly.

He was dropped in the centre of a village of mud and straw huts. The village was deep in the jungle and far from the predatory aggressions of the T Rex, a creature they were ill-equiped to fight off.

The lizard men hissed excitedly amongst themselves, and villagers came out to see the captive. The animated way they talked, tongues darting, hands waving, and spears always poised as though a moment away from lethal use, allowed Quasar to infer he could expect a less-than amicable resolution to their discussions, at least as far as he was concerned.

He was feeling stronger now, his energy at least marginally restored. He concentrated, and sizzling beams flickered subtly from his fingertips, severing his woven cage.

Affecting an unconcerned calm, he stood, the net falling away from him.

The lizards shrieked hysterically on seeing him unencumbered and a couple made as if to launch their spears. He gestured and photonic blasts, light enough only to stun, slammed the two from their scaly feet.

He glanced up. The branches were thick about him, but he decided he had to attempt flight while he still could.

A voice stopped him.

"What manner of creature are you?"

He turned, surprised at hearing a human voice in this village of lizard men. A human voice speaking a familiar language. He was even more surprised when he found himself staring, not at a human, but into the face of a lizard man -- a lizard man speaking perfectly fluent Uni-speak...
 

Next episode ... "The Lost Crew"


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The Doom Ship of Time is copyright D.K. Latta.  It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews.  (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)