The World of Titanic Beasts
The creature let out a loud huff of breath but did little else at Edwin's movements. It's bright yellow eyes sliding closed once more, relaxed. Uncaring.
It did not see Edwin as a threat, and really in all honesty he wasn't. He wasn't nearly armed well enough to take on such a beast, yet it did not know that. It's lack of interest was baffling, except if one considered the place it had made its den. Carcasses, picked clean of flesh with the bones cracked open for their marrow, were strewn about the tree shadowed depression. Some of the bones were still wet and red, and the creature's jaws held the gory remnants of its meals. The beast was full, content to digest it's food. And a small creature like Edwin would be no threat.
Taking several pictures Edwin remained where he was in the brush, barely ten feet from the head of the massive Albertosaurus. It's jaws alone were nearly as long as his leg from hip to heel, the whole beast nearly ten meters in length. This was a big specimen, a bit thicker around the belly then most. He did not seem to have trouble finding a meal.
"Fascinating." Edwin murmured as he took several more photograph of the creature, which lay curled up on it's side against a rocky outcrop. Once he was satisfied with the photographs, Edwin slowly began to back away where he had come. And crept back through the dense foliage of the jungle.
Edwin spotted several other specimens of creature unfamiliar to him, though not too dissimilar from creatures back home. Serpentine shapes with long frills around the head and bright yellow eyes, venomous snakes that seemed to think humans like him were beneath their attention. A scaly backed herbivore, barely the size of a large dog, snuffled through the foliage. Tearing off chunks of low hanging shrubbery and munching noisily.
All fascinating subjects, really, but Edwin was far more interested in the Dinosaurids that inhabited this strange place. He reached the basecamp, waving to one of the sentries as he approached. Busily inspecting the photographs he had taken as he walked.
"Wasn't very far, was he?" The sentry asked and Edwin shook his head, chuckling.
"Not far at all, and big guy was all tuckered out." He said examining his data-tablet, pausing to chat with the woman.
"Well he did just gorge himself on about a dozen of those pig things according to the cams." The sentry said, chuckling. "Not a surprise the poor guy is a bit tired."
"He'll probably sleep long after we're gone. Early warning find anything exciting?" Edwin asked, but the sentry only shook her head.
"No. Seems the only thing even vaguely interesting was an Apatosaur that defecated on one of the sensors. It's in the shop now and McKinnick is not happy about having to clean it."
Edwin laughed, nodding. He understood how McKinnick would be unhappy. Considering their leafy diet, and their inability to digest all of their food left their feces smelling… particularly fresh.
"I don't envy him." Edwin said, turning to show the sentry one of the pictures of the Albertosaurus, it's head taking up much of the photograph. A single yellow eye staring into the camera.
The sentry emitted a low whistle as she eyed the picture.
"I don't know how you can get that close, Edwin. Even knowing one is nearby gives me the creeps." She said, shivering for emphasis. "Even knowing I can just be redownloaded to a new body, still bugs me."
Edwin chuckled. "Just have to know when to get close. A fat and happy predator is one that likely won't think you look tasty." Edwin said, sliding the tablet into a thigh holster. Glancing from the synthetic woman towards the jungle.
"When's liftoff?" He asked.
"Four hours still, we'll be heading north this time. Observation indicated there might be some Tyrannosaurs up north."
"Oh joy, more Tyrannosaurids. Rexes?" The nod the sentry gave him was all he needed. "Wonderful! We know enough about the big boys, why bother going after them anymore?"
"They're popular." The sentry shrugged and smiled at Edwin. "Everyone likes the big bad T. Rex. King of the lizards." Edwin rolled his eyes.
"Yeah… yeah they do." He sighed before patting the thigh holster of his tablet. "I'm going to go upload these vids and photos."
"I'll be here, as ever." The sentry said and Edwin nodded waving as he headed into the camp itself.
The camp was little more than half a dozen prefabricated structures situated in a clearing in the middle of the jungle. The structures were huddle together in a vaguely uniform way, the larger buildings near the middle with smaller near the outside. The largest was the command center, a tall prefab with a single large satellite dish pointed straight up into the sky.
Dozens of other researchers bustled about from structure to structure. Some with tablets, inspecting data, and others with legitimate specimens taken from the surroundings. A staked off and fenced in area held a small collection of the scaly backed herbivores crunching on feed in a low trough provided.
More of the synthetic sentries marched about toting weapons. Large hybrid rifles slung in their arms, toted with surprising ease considering the weapons weight. The sentries were there to do the fighting if anything got out of hand, while the rest of them would be expected to find cover and wait for pickup.
Edwin made his way to the central camp structure, nodding as he passed another of the synthetics, who smiled at him as he past but made no other motions. Edwin felt such security measures were a bit… unnecessary but his complaints had gone unnoted.
Once inside the command center Edwin found his way towards one of the open communication terminals with a tablet jack and laid the data tool on it. Immediately it burst into life, icons indicating a direct connection with the server blinking expectantly.
The terminal beside the pad went through a series of automatic commands and then posited a question. "Do you want to upload latest unsynchronized data?" It asked with a simple yes or no choice. Edwin tapped the yes and waited as a progress bar appeared on the screen, and the tablet as well. Filling in a matter of seconds as terabytes of holographic and high resolution images were uploaded to the main servers.
The terminal made a noise to indicate completion and then spoke in a well articulated male voice. Text of the same speech appearing in infographic form on the terminal.
"Congratulations Edwin J. Thomson. You have uploaded 3,529 new images of twelve new species of Fauna. This transaction has been marked for excellent documentation of the new species in question. A bonus will be included on your weekly stipend."
Edwin grunted and hit the confirmation button when that appeared on the screen. The screen continued to the next, but the same voice made an annoyed sound.
"Don't act like you can't hear me, Edwin." It said and Edwin laughed.
"Hey, I thought you liked not having to talk to me." He said.
"I like when you don't ramble on about what I just watched in entirety in several milliseconds."
"You always seem to miss the relevance in some details." Edwin said with a nonchalant shrug, grinning a bit. The AI had no way of articulating it's annoyance, beyond changing the tone of voice to a more stern sounding one.
"I do not miss anything, Edwin. I have several different programs examining the images at once, I am specifically designed for this kind of recognition software. I do not miss any details. I simply do not connect the superficial and non-relevant details." The AI corrected, and Edwin started to laugh. Removing his tablet from the jack-in connector.
"Yeah, yeah. So what was this about more Tyrannosaurs? Why am I being assigned to take more pictures of Rexes?" Edwin asked as he holstered the tablet.
"I can't tell you." The terminal AI said and Edwin frowned.
"Why not, S.I.L.?" He asked, surprised by the denial. Usually S.I.L. would be the one to inform him of these reasons.
"Because that is the man behind you's job." The AI said cheerily and Edwin blinked then turned to look over his shoulder. Indeed there was a man there, dressed in sterile white looking lab coat and trousers with a black and red suit peaking out from beneath. Dark hair and cool steely gray eyes, it almost made Edwin laughed to see the man. He looked like some villain.
"Ben!" Edwin laughed as he spun moving to embrace the man who laughed and returned the hug.
"Edwin!" The man, Ben, said in return. Laughing as he slapped Edwin on the back good naturedly. "It's been a while!"
"It's been ages! What are you doing here?" Edwin demanded, pulling himself apart from the man but keeping a hold of their shoulders. Wanting to ensure he wasn't just deluding himself.
"Coming to talk to you, mostly." Ben said with a grin.
"When'd you get in?"
"Oh about two hours ago, transport dropped me with some extra supplies. I'll be leaving with everyone else when the pickup happens. I meant to see you first thing but you were-"
"Elbow deep in Sauropod droppings likely." Edwin said chuckling and Ben frowned, glancing down at the hands on his shoulders.
"Oh don't worry, I wore gloves and cleaned afterwards. Was checking to see the shape and size of gastroliths in the excrement. Starting to wonder if sauropods just don't swallow stones here, we haven't found any in the feces." Edwin explained, although Ben still looked nonplussed and he had gotten the glassy eyed stare of someone who did not actually care to hear those details.
"Fascinating," Ben said in a voice that indicated it was anything but, "however i've got something a bit more exciting for you." He said and Edwin arched an eyebrow.
"Something relating to taking pictures of more T. rex and passing it off as research?" He prompted and Ben smiled.
"Better, come on." The man said, gesturing for Ben to follow him. Which he did with only a small bit of skeptical curiosity. He could hope it would be better than a Rex, right?
Ben lead Edwin to a meeting room in the command center that was currently unoccupied. Closing the door behind them to create a seal that would not allow anyone beyond to hear them. Not that the command center was that occupied as it was. There had only been two or three researchers communicating with their terminal. Possibly contacting other scientists on the research station in orbit to discuss their findings. Any others were probably too busy to be wandering about the command center.
Edwin took a seat in one of the unoccupied chairs at the long meeting table the room had. Spinning the chair to look up at Ben, who was smiling enthusiastically.
Ben was a scientist much like Edwin. Unlike Edwin however field work was not his forte, lab work was. Edwin was a Xeno-Zoologist. He had studied and examined all kinds of extraterrestrial life over the last decade of his career and gotten up close and personal with some of the most fascinating subjects. None of which were as fascinating as the dinosaur copycats of this world. They lived in an atmosphere humans could breath for starters.
Whereas Edwin worked on the ground, studying the animals up close and researching their habits, Ben did the opposite. Ben was a Physiologist. He reviewed the data provided to him from the field, or had specimens collected for him to study in a lab. Dead creatures that had remained unmolested by scavengers would be taken to orbit for dissection and inspection by
Physiologists like Ben are the ones who confirmed the data that Zoologists like Edwin could have told them outright was the common joke. Not that Edwin felt any ill will about that. Anything he discovered a Physiologist would need to confirm simply so everyone could find the how not just the what in a discovery.
"So…?" Edwin prompted, frowning up at Ben who had remained silent for so long. The man looked thoughtful, as if he was trying to find the correct order to say the words in.
"So the Tyrannosaurs… they are the official research subject of your next trip." Ben said and Edwin nodded.
"Obviously." Edwin said, slightly annoyed by his friend pointing out the blatantly obvious. Ben had never been good at getting directly to the point.
"Though there are a lot of pictures and research already done on the Tyrannosaurs." Ben pointed out, and once more Edwin confirmed this with a long suffering nod.
"However… what if you were there to actually research something… bigger?"
"What a new breed of sauropod?" Edwin asked, suddenly excited.
"Bigger." Ben said, grinning wide now at Edwin's excitement.
"Bigger? What bigger then a Argento? Please." Edwin said as he leaned back in his chair and crossing his arms. Suddenly skeptical of all this, nothing could be bigger.
"From what we can tell, yes." Ben said and Edwin rolled his eyes, he had come to the conclusion his friend was pulling his leg. Ben didn't give him a chance to voice this however.
"We've found the bodies of Tyrannosaurs and Sauropods alike, bones broken up and crunched with meat picked clean, where the bone itself wasn't missing."
"Pack of rex's? Maybe a pack of Giganotosaurus encroaching on rex territory?" Edwin offered but Ben shook his head as he pulled out his own tablet. Swiping through the screen as he seemed to search for something.
"A bunch of us on the station thought that too. Teams on the ground though, sent these." He laid the tablet on the table and slid it towards Edwin, who took it skeptically and studied the image on the screen. It looked like a woman standing in a small hole in the ground. A depression in the ground maybe a couple meters across and three meters long.
It took a moment for the tell-tale definitions of a footprint to make itself visible to Edwin and his eyes went wide as he swiped to the next image. An aerial photograph of the same footprint, as well as the partial of another. They were huge, immense. And there were other footprints as well, trialing through the jungle.
Edwin was surprised he didn't see more of a path behind whatever had made the prints, and the footprints themselves trailed off beneath foliage. It had probably simply stepped through a particularly soft patch of soil. Still however the size of the print itself was dizzying. Easily dwarfing some of the largest sauropod prints by several feet.
"How… what?" Edwin murmured, swiping through images as Ben continued.
"The creature, as you can guess, is humongous. To make a print like that we imagine it must weigh in excess of 100 tonnes at least."
"Quadrupedal?" Edwin demanded and Ben nodded.
"More than likely, even with the reduced gravity something so massive couldn't stand on two legs. At least not on legs this large." Ben explained as Edwin continued through the pictures.
"There's evidence of tail damage in it's path." Edwin pointed out and Ben nodded.
"We think it may have a similar body type to a Dimetrodon. Crawling on all fours low to the ground, but we've never seen one that size so it can't be a Dime." Edwin was nodding already at Ben's words.
"And it's eating Theropods and Sauropods alike?" Ben nodded and Edwin bit his lip, considering that.
Fast as well as strong and large? That's ridiculous. At that size it should be about the same speed as a Sauropod, and how would footsteps from something so large disappear? Even in the foliage? Edwin considered it more and more and yet he could not find an answer.
That was the absolute best part.
"I'll take it!" Edwin all but shouted, leaping to his feet with a massive grin. He took Ben off guard with a sudden hug and a laugh.
"You… wha?" Ben stammered, surprised by the sudden excitement before laughing himself as Edwin pulled away.
"I was afraid I was going to be doing more rex photoshoots, but this?! Oh this is sooo much better." Edwin laughed again and again he was hugging Ben, who could only chuckle awkwardly and pat him on the back.
"Yes well… we don't want the research getting out. If we make everyone aware of the thing too soon we might have a hundred other researchers flocking to find it. My team wants to provide a full dossier on the beast alone. With the data you'll be able to gather, and any sample footage or tissue we can collect from that, we hope to wow the high ups by the end of the month. To have such a massive creature evade notice for so long? It must be astoundingly intelligent."
"I wonder what color it might be… do you think it has a natural camouflage?" Edwin asked, but he didn't wait for Ben's response as he let his friend go. Biting his lip as he lost himself to speculation. Just how big was it? How much did it need to eat just to survive? Something that massive would require tonnes of meat.
"When do I leave?" Edwin asked nearly breathless with excitement.
"We'll drop you off tomorrow morning up where it's been sighted, until then you are going to put up with me." Ben said, grinning wryly and Edwin narrowed his eyes. Suddenly suspicious.
"What's this gonna cost me?" He asked hesitantly and Ben began to laugh.
"Dinner for certain. We'll have to decide afterwards if that's enough." Ben said, grinning wickedly but Edwin just shook his head and laughed. That sounded like a good trade to Edwin.