Chapter 3 - A Great First Day

Edwin was there waiting when the first Sentries arrived. Deployed from a heavy drop ship that closed in on the planned landing zone, a flat prairie that stood out starkly with the jungle that surrounded on all sides.

The Sentries greeted Edwin politely, and advised he moved back a minimal safe distance for the deployment of the campsite, and he followed a pair of the Sentries who broke off to come with him.

What few animals had been in the prairie moved off quickly as several of the sentries worked to scorch the ground with controlled flame. Burning out a nearly hundred and fifty foot square of tall grass for use with flamethrowers before the campsite arrived.

The first piece of equipment to be deployed from the positive flotilla of dropships that followed was the command center. The dropship drifted to the ground, with sentries below guiding it through radio contact, to a precise landing. It then detached and the ship lifted away and made for space again as another came in.

The whole process took about thirty minutes, and another ten after it was complete and the sentries had finished installing and had activated the first module. Shortly thereafter the research team arrived in a standard human transport. Men and women in field gear that was, barely, different from their lab gear. Armed with crates upon crates of materials which they were more than happy to allow the Sentries to take off their hands and carry for them.

Edwin didn't really wait for the others to start getting the camp ready for use. He was already making his way towards the command center. On the way he passed a Sentry who was busily carrying a crate, it's rifle slung over it's shoulder.

"Hey," Edwin said by way of greeting, drawing the synthetic's attention, "make sure raptor repellent is distributed. I ran into a pack of Troodon on my way here." He said and the Sentry's mouth made an 'o' of surprise before she nodded. The data would have already been shared amongst the other sentries and they would be notifying researchers right now.

Obviously his "urgent message" hadn't seemed as urgent as he thought when the message had sent it. Or it had just never reached the station. Prehistorica did strange things to wireless signals sometimes. Ninety-nine percent of the time everything worked perfectly. However when something did fail, it usually failed spectacularly.

There were protocols for that, however, and as Edwin made his way into the command center he was already filing a brief preliminary report on his pad. He tapped finished and placed it in the cradle on the upload console. It spoke in the same soft tones as ever at him.

"Hello, Edwin J. Thompson. You have uploaded 0 new photos and 1 urgent report on fauna in your local region. Your request for Raptor Deterrent Supplies will be considered and responded to within the next twenty-four hours." There was a pause as the computer system sent off the message.

"That's a nasty surprise." The computerized voice said, sounding non-plussed. "I am not showing any records of raptor species in the area."

"Yeah." Edwin said. "I never read any in the report. I think carnivores are migrating to this area, but I need more evidence."

"Do I have your permission to include that in the report?" The AI asked and Edwin hesitated before he nodded.

"Yeah, go ahead. Make sure Ben receives a copy of it, okay? I'm not going anywhere without those deterrents." Edwin said.

"Doctor Thompson would like to live, understood." The AI reported and buzzed a confirmation tone.

"Your report has been delivered, raptor deterrent supplies have been routed for delivery within the hour." The AI intoned, and it sounded surprised.

"That was fast." Edwin remarked as he furrowed his brow at the terminal screen.

"It was indeed. Someone is paying close attention, Doctor Thompson." There was a pause and the AI continued again. "Do you need anything else today?"

"No." Edwin said as he removed the tablet from the dock. "Thank you, S.I.L." He then made his way from the command center and wandered back to the landing zone to wait.

It was the third cargo dropship that arrived with raptor deterrent. Not just for Edwin but for the entire camp. Yet that was still the least of what the craft dropped off.

Out of the large bellied spaceship came another two dozen Sentries. Each having been all but crammed shoulder to shoulder in the droship's passenger bay. They all helped unload the raptor deterrent, as well as heavier machinery.

At first Edwin thought the rest was just more lab equipment, then he recognized a heavy plasma weapon.

"Woah! What's that for?" Edwin asked the nearest Sentry. Who looked from him, to the barrel of a Mark 38 plasma cannon, then back.

"Security equipment for the camp." The Sentry said, stone faced. Edwin felt his own jaw drop.

"Security equi- that is not security equipment! That is a goddamned cannon!" Edwin exclaimed, pointing. He noticed his shouting was starting to draw some attention from the researchers, and other Sentries nearby.

Frankly Edwin did not care.

"Who authorized the deployment of heavy weapons at a research facility?" He demanded.

The Sentry paused a moment, as if she was confirming some information, before she answered.

"Doctor Benjamin A. Jorganson, He recommended the use of heavy weapons in the cause of large theropod or sauropod aggression." The Sentry reported with a nod, and Edwin stared at it. Mouth agape.

"He what!?" Edwin shouted and when the Sentry repeated herself he threw up his hands and growled in frustration then stalked off to find somewhere to comm the station. A half hour later he stalked from the communication center of the fresh encampment, cursing. A sentry seemed alarmed by his anger and stepped up to ask what the matter was, but Edwin just waved her off and searched for the barracks.

He had not gotten through to Ben. None of his communications had reached him, and when he'd contacted the local operator head they had put him on hold then "subtly" disconnected his comm channel. The only thing that could possibly mean was the little bastard was avoiding him.

Edwin was going to try again when another sentry approached him. At the same time a low pitched alarm began to drone somewhere nearby.

"Doctor, we recommend you seek shelter." The Stentry declared as she approached and Edwin eyed her curiously.

"What for? Why is the alarm sounding?" He demanded and the Sentry ushered him away from the barracks even as she spoke.

"According to satellites and thermal detection software there has been a large thermal spike of predators in the area. According to imaging a very large quadruped has been detected and it seems to be the source of the alarm."

Even before the Sentry had finished, Edwin had already started running. It was not hard for the Sentry to keep up though and once it realized Edwin was not moving towards the shelter of the communications center, it raised it's voice in warning.

"Doctor, please retreat to safety. The Sentries are in the process of activating camp defenses in case the creatures -"

"Where is the stampede?" Edwin demanded and the Sentry hesitated.

"Doctor, I must advise-" Edwin cut her off, his voice growing sharp with impatience.

"Directive override!" He snapped without looking to see if the command had taken root in the Sentry before he repeated his question. "Where is the source of the disturbance?"

"To the North and East of the camp. In the direction of the steppe region that breaks the jungle up from north and south. Range is five-point-three-three kilometers." The sentry answered, and Edwin changed his course. Sprinting between prefabricated structures, the sentry's long strides allowing her to keep up.

By the time the two of them reached the edge of the campsite, weaponry was already being powered up by the Sentries there and shouts rose up as several Sentries moved to intercept Edwin.

Edwin knew what he was doing was quite spectacularly stupid, but right now he did not care.

Something was causing some of the largest dinosaurids on all of Prehistorica to stampede. That meant something big, and something that had not been seen before. Even with the high carnivore population in this region, particularly of Tyrannosaurs, there was still a significantly greater sauropod population according to all reports.

Mamenchisaurus and Argentinosaurus inhabited the steppes and jungles that surrounded them to the north in vast mixed herds of interbred dinosaurids. It allowed Tyrannosaurs an ample supply of food, and the leftovers is what drew countless other scavengers and smaller predators.

Edwin had seen enough standoffs between gigantic sauropods and theropods to know that sauropods did not flee when even small packs of Tyrannosaur were challenging them. All because one was a massive plant eater it did not make it a coward, and several dozen of them was always more than a match for any apex predators in the area.

As Edwin slowed to a stop near the outer ring there was a distant noise, just barely audible over the alarms and the din of sentries calling for him to halt. A deep undulating sound that seemed to shake the ground as much as it filled the air. Low and bass, Edwin could feel the sound in his chest as much as hear it.

That first sound was met by a chorus of others that drifted through the jungle canopies, and birds broke from their cover and fled into the low hanging clouds. The break in the rain that Edwin had hardly even noticed from within his suit ended then in a low rumble that seemed to echo the distant calls of the gigantic sauropods.

Big fat wet drops splattered against the ground, and the prefabricated buildings and the sentries renewed their warnings for him to find shelter.

The warnings, however, fell on deaf ears as Edwin glanced from the sky, to the trees, then back again. He had a very, very, bad feeling about this.

"Doctor!" The sentry that had followed Edwin insistantly grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him about. Blue synthetic eyes burrowing into his own. Her too smooth of features seemed tense with concern, and frustration. "For you're on safety we are allowed to forcefully relocate you to some place safe."

"You want to move me someplace safe?" Edwin repeated and the sentries that surrounded him looked almost exasperated. Only the one answered however in a single resolute affirmation.

"Then why the hell do you want to take me back there?" He almost snapped as he thumbed his finger over his shoulder at the camp behind him.

The sentries probably said something more, in fact he was certain they did. Only whatever they had been intending to say was drowned out by a sudden, and significantly louder, cry from the woods. The sound so loud that Edwin's environmental suit could not filter all the noise out. Low and resonate as it was, and closer as it was, it caused Edwin's very bones to shake and the sentries spun on high alert.

The jungle came alive around them at the same time as the rain began in earnest. Shapes moved amidst the jungle event as a wind seemed to drive down out of the north and set the trees into motion.

More sounds reached Edwin other than just the thunderous call that shook his bones inside his skin. Small noises like chirps, and squeals, and screams reached him. The sources became plain to see a pack of Troodon belted out of the trees and made straight for the camp. Their large heads twisting on thin necks to look behind them.

At first Edwin wondered if the little creatures were genuinely charging the camp. The same thought the Sentries all seemed to share as they forgot about Edwin and charged towards the creatures themselves. Several drawing collapsable shock batons from sheathes at their hips while others took aim with their rifles.

The Troodon, however, did not so much as slow at the sight of the sentries and their weapons. Although they did skirt wide of them as a maximum speed, trying to get around this new obstacle while still on a mad flight of their own.

Before Edwin could shout a halt, however, he watched the Sentries with rifles open fire. Blue-white bolts of plasma sizzled through the air and with incredible precision, the small pack of Troodon went down with smoking holes across their delicate frames.

"No! Goddammit! STOP!" Edwin shrieked as he rushed up towards the sentries, and made a grab for one's rifle. He wrapped his fingers around the wrist of one of the sentries and tried to pull with all his might, only for the synthetic to turn and regard him with a stern blue-eyed glare.

"Doctor, we recommend you retreat to a safe distance. It is not safe here, there are predat-"

"Don't shoot them god dammit!" Edwin shouted at the synthetic as he pointed towards more of the creatures that seemed to be avoiding going too far into the clearing the base had claimed as its territory. They had seen what happened to the others and could smell the scorched flesh of their kin.

"We are protecting the camp from-" The Sentry began but Edwin had no patience to listen to her cold logic.

"They are not a threat they are fleeing!" He shouted at the synthetic. He was certain raising his voice made no difference, but at the moment he could not figure out precisely how to explain it to the synthetics just what this meant. The Troodon weren't even trying to be sneaky in how they fled.

If the Sentry had a response, Edwin did not hear it as that deafening call caused his environment suit's sound filters to distort and digitize as they tried to comprehend the volume of noise they dealt with. The sound felt like a punch to the chest and Edwin turned to face the sources as they burst into the clearing.

A dozen massive ornithopods crashed through the brush of the jungle. Knocking over the smallest of trees as they vocalized in genuine terror and tromped anything unfortunate enough to be underfoot with their massive legs.

Almost as soon as the creatures cleared the trees the Sentries resumed their overzealous defense of the outpost.

Not only did the feminine synthetics on foot open up, but the twin high powered plasma cannons that had already been installed on this side of the camp had begun to belch blue-white fire into the creatures as they ventured into the clearing.

The rifles did little but annoy the massive creatures, although it did slow them down and cause them to rear up in pain. The sight of the cannons however would haunt Edwin's dreams for the rest of his life.

He watched a round from one of the Mark 38's take one of the ornithopod, a humongous red crested Magnapaulia, square in the center of its rib cage. The resulting impact opened a crater in the creature's chest that caused it's high pitched keening to immediately cut off as it tripped and crashed into the ground before the others that stampeded right behind it.

Edwin realized he was screaming when one of the sentries physically scooped him up with one arm and lifted him over her shoulder as she ran away from the others and towards one of the prefabricated structure. Unfortunately her grip was so secure, it allowed Edwin to continue to watch the carnage that the plasma weapons brought on what had to have been twenty Ornithopods who had tried to cross the clearing.

The sentry did not so much as slow when Edwin tried to struggle against her grip, and if she was speaking Edwin could not hear her over the thunderous report of gunfire and the sound of screaming and dying Dinosaurids.

"No!" Edwin screamed as he slammed a envirosuit protected fist against the Sentry's back. "Stop dammit!" The sentry did not care as she carried him off towards a prefab storage structure and seemed about to seal him inside when the sound of metal squealing drew both Edwin and the Sentry's attention.

The two watched in surprise as a huge dinosaur with a long nasal crust threw itself against one of the plasma cannons even as the weapon discharged in it's chest. Even dying the beast's weight crashed into the cannon with the force of a freight train. The weapon barrel was broken off it's mounting and the exterior structure of the turret crumpled at the raw weight of the dead beast.

Edwin watched as more of the creatures charged the Sentries that fired on them, and the other Mark 38. While others still simply took the openings they found and charged through the gaps and into the camp. Some sliding and nearly collapsing in the grass that rapidly turned to mud beneath the multi-ton beasts.

In their mad dash to escape whatever had worked up the terror that had taken root in them, the creatures barely seemed to notice the buildings of the camp. Some only narrowly avoiding them, others not even bothering.

One such creatures slammed it's bulk against the reinforced ceramic exterior of one such structure and crashed through as if the structure had been made of paper. The prefab buildings were designed to weather elements, not trauma. They did little to slow the massive creatures who gradually found these obstacles as extra paths instead of things to avoid.

A particularly large ornithopod trumpeted nearby, and Edwin barely had time to cry out in surprise when the creature bulled through the storage unit the Sentry had intended him to shelter in.

In the explosion of shattered prefab ceramic, and an unrecognizable landslide of debris that followed, Edwin found himself and the Sentry wheeling through the air as the creature's massive forelimb clipped the sentry.

Edwin found himself rolling in the mud, the sound of impossible heavy footfalls all about him. He cried out in a mixture of pain and fear, an incoherent noise as he tried to regain his feet as he looked up. One of the massive creatures barreled right towards him and he threw himself to the side, desperately trying to avoid the crushing feet as he splashed down into the mud again.

The creature passed by harmlessly trumpeting as it went, and Edwin struggled in the mud to regain his feet. The auto-cleaning surface of his environment suit's faceplate removed the mud and water that occluded his vision, but did little to help him see amidst the chaos.

He almost didn't see the relatively diminutive Edmontosaurus barreling out of the rain. Not until it was right in front of him, and by then it was too late to move out of the way. The creature ducked it's flat head at the last possible moment and Edwin felt the impact in his stomach lift him off his feet.

There was a sickening sense of flight as the world spun around Edwin as he felt himself flipping through the air. There was no controlling himself, not trying to land safely. In the confusion he wasn't even sure where the ground was, much less how to land.

The sound that filled Edwin's ears was his own screams he realized as he fell back down to the ground towards the ruins of one of the prefabricated buildings just as another creature tore through it. He threw up his arms to try and protect his head as he spun one last time.

He impacted hard on his back and for one brief moment there was a single bolt of lightning that ran from his head to his toes, and electrical surge of pain that would have made him scream. If not for the fact it rendered him unconscious instead, and the chaos all faded to silence and darkness.

The earsplitting crackle of thunder caused Edwin to shudder awake. His eyes snapping wide and greeting him with pain and delirium. The world was dark, and seemed to spin around him. Only occasional spots of brightness filling the darkness. Mostly in the form of muted or silent bolts of lightning that danced through the clouds, followed shortly by thunderous blasts that left Edwin's ears ringing.

Pain lanced up Edwin's body when he tried to move and he immediately abandoned the attempt with an involuntary gasp of agony.

Another low rumble of thunder reached Edwin, but it sounded closer. The rumble was so deep he could almost swear he felt it.

With a groan Edwin opened his eyes again, and tried to make sense of the world beyond the viewplate of his environment suit. He tried to read the suits internal heads up display, to try and get a sense of how much time had passed, but found he couldn't. The words and numbers didn't quite make sense in his head, and he found he could not focus on them anyway. There was something about the world beyond… something about the darkness that seemed to draw his eyes away from the HUD.

Edwin raised his eyes out towards the world, and groaned as he tried to look around. Trying to remember what had happened.

He found himself amongst the ruins of a prefabricated structure. Sections of ceramic walls, reinforced with rebars of steel, lay all about him. He realized after a moment the reason he found he could not move was due to being half buried in the rubble itself. Twisted sections of rebar and shattered fragments of ceramic compound coated him nearly up to the neck, making it nearly impossible to move.

There was another flash of lightning and a deafening rumble, followed by a lesser more bass rumble. Edwin winced against the brightness, but in the momentary illumination his eyes caught something and he opened them again to strain against the darkness. Struggling to see what it was that had caught his attention.

It was there a moment later. Backlight by a cascade of nearly silent lightning amongst the clouds above. Followed shortly by a low rumble that was almost certainly not thunder.

Something peered down into the debris at Edwin. Something very large, and something that Edwin suspected was no Ornithopod.

Another flash of lightning provided the illumination necessary to confirm Edwin's suspicions. In the brief flash of light he saw the tall, yet narrow, skull of a tyrannosaur. Boney ridges over largely forward facing yellow eyes that stared down at Edwin. The predator's jaw hung slack and revealed teeth as long, if not longer, then his hand.

There was another low rumble, and this time Edwin was certain that it was the tyrannosaur that had made the noise. Bass and deep it almost seemed to be waiting for something as it watched him.

A spasm of pain filled Edwin, and it was all he could do to keep himself from crying out as the muscles in his back clenched tight. He winced and felt himself shift, ever so slightly, amongst the rubble and watched as the beast moved.

The old Sol stories of ancient dinosaurs of Earth, like the Tyrannosaur, only seeing you if you moved were total bullshit. Edwin knew that. So why had this creature been waiting for him to move before it did anything? Just how long had it been staring at him as he lay here in the rubble before it chose to eat him?

Had it… wanted to make sure he was alive before it killed him?

Edwin watched as the creature lifted its head and opened its maw. Another flash of lightning allowed him to pick out each individual tooth in it's massive set of jaws. Most of which were already wet and red with blood from past, likely recent, meals.

The tyrannosaur growled with excitement and prepared to lunge down, and Edwin closed his eyes. Only hoping that when the thing's jaws closed they closed on his skull with enough force to kill him before he felt the pain.

There was a crunching sound and a loud vocalization that sounded like a scream that was cut off all too soon, and Edwin thought for a moment that it was done. When he realized however that had thought he had died Edwin's eyes sprang back open in alarm. He still felt the painful cramp in his back, and he still felt trapped beneath piles of rubble.

When he opened his eyes Edwin found the tyrannosaurs jaws a scant few feet from his head. They snapped shut and then opened again, almost soundlessly. Saliva mixing with the rain, alongside blood Edwin noted.

Then suddenly there was a rush of air, like something extremely large moving fast, and the head was gone. Several seconds passed and Edwin felt as much as heard a distant thud and the snapping of tree limbs. As if something extremely large had struck a tree and snapped it.

Another flash of lightning illuminated the world once more, and amongst the rain Edwin saw something he had trouble understanding. An enormous creature peered out towards the trees. It's huge head similar to that of the tyrannosaur it had just killed, only grander. With a broader forehead and larger jaw.

The new creature opened its jaws as the darkness returned and Edwin heard a roar so deep and so loud it sounded more akin to a volcanic eruption than an actual roar. Which he found an apt description when suddenly the darkness was illuminated by a column of flame that emitted from the creature's open maw.

Edwin watched in delirious fascination as this column of orange and red fire descended from this creature's head and enveloped the first few rows of trees in the direction it had been looking. The fire stuck and then spread amidst the trees in an expanding wave of destruction. The simple force of it snapping trees thirty meters tall and several meters around as if they were twigs. Incinerating them on contact and causing them to crumple and disappear amidst the flames.

Heat, even from this distance, struck Edwin through his environmental suit. Alarms sounding in his ears as the onboard computer indicated dangerous temperatures.

Edwin ignored them all however as his eyes went from the flames, to the gigantic maw that had spewed forth from. The flame stopped and the creature's jaws closed ponderously once before it gave another eruptive world-breaking roar that Edwin felt shake him physically as much as mentally.

The creature was still there, staring at the flames it had wrought, when Edwin's eyes lost focus and the world once more darkened and he fell into blissful unconsciousness.