Chapter 8: Failure
Chapter 8: Failure
"When you have lost hope, then you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope." - Pittacus Lore
One day earlier, in the pack's territory:
"Ah, Spotter! I hope you bring us good news!"
The pack was quick to gather around the homecoming flyer after hearing their leader's voice. They all were expecting to hear about the successful journey of their newest packmate and friend, and Petrie was more than happy to relay exactly that.
"Yes, indeed! Specter make it into valley unharmed and they even allow him to stay for few days. Fastrunners are fine as well now."
"Why 'now'? Was my family not fine before?" Ruby asked with a lot of surprise and concern alike. The last time she had heard from them, they had no problems whatsoever.
Petrie's response came immediately, although his voice lost most of the happiness it carried before.
"There be complications..."
The sharpteeth were all ears now. Even though it had been pretty likely that Specter would have eventually ran into trouble on his way, they obviously never hoped he would. Besides, how much trouble could a single fastbiter have caused?
"What sort of 'complications'?" Littlefoot carefully inquired.
"Well... Apparently, he meet bad two-footer around Hanging Rock... and two-footer meet his end there."
The short silence after that was broken by a shattering laugh.
"Ha! I knew I could train even grown-up ankle-biters! He was a pain in the rump with his constant desire to do things his way... but it looks like he did learn! I think he owes me a nice meal once he returns!"
Chomper's boisterous words made everyone laugh or at least smile again. Everyone except the sharptooth flyer himself, whose face took on a sad expression. Not only did he know that Chomper's training sessions had not helped Specter at all in his fight, but now there also was a far more pressing point to mention.
"That... be second complication..."
The surprised and asking looks of the pack didn't need any interpretation. Petrie turned towards Ruby, thought about Specter's words for a moment, and raised his voice again.
"Me not really understand what he mean but... he tell me to speak to you about that, Ponder. He say he be danger to his 'old kind' and that... he won't come back to us."
Ruby's face fell. She had hoped it would never come to this, but that was exactly what happened. Now it would be up to her to explain this to the rest of the pack, she thought to herself.
However, Littlefoot spared her from that burden for now.
"Ah, don't think too much of it. He's confused, and that's just normal. Give him some time to sort his new life out. I'm sure everything will be fine once he gets to talk to the rainbowfaces, you will see!"
Petrie nodded at that but he still had his doubts. Specter's words had been way too serious and determined to be the utterings of a 'confused' fastbiter.
"But rainbowfaces not in valley right now! Mr. Threehorn say they will return tomorrow or day after."
"Then you could check for him the day after that." Littlefoot offered with a friendly smile.
"Me guess so..."
The present, in the Great Valley:
"Thank you... for saving my mom, Mr. Fastbiter!"
Specter could only smile at the little longneck's words. He was noticeably bigger than most of the other longneck children Specter had seen so far in the valley, but still small enough to be extremely afraid of the fastbiter in front of him. He seemed to try his best not to show it, but his scents were something he couldn't hide. Also, his words made Specter feel a tiny little bit insulted.
'Mr. Fastbiter'...? Do I look like an old geezer to him or what?
His thoughts were quite sarcastic but they just as well brought up horrible emotions with them. There had been not enough knowledge about the lifespan of dinosaurs in his time, but Specter suspected that he most likely wouldn't get as old as a human would. For all he knew, he could have died of natural reasons in as little as 10, 15 or 20 years, if not even before that out of 'environmental' ones. And while he wasn't afraid of death, it was the uncertainty in it now that plagued him.
Still, as always, he didn't want to share his feelings with the creatures surrounding him. He had a hunch that a melancholic fastbiter would have been the last thing Doc or any of the other leaf-eaters needed on this day.
"Don't mention it. I made a promise to help with whatever I can while I'm here, and I always keep my promises."
The little longneck gave him an unsure nod, but he still wanted to ask one final question.
"You are not like other sharpteeth but... we... will be enemies out there... won't we?"
As much as Specter wanted to deny both, he couldn't. Doc would have told his son the harsh truth sooner or later anyway, if he didn't already know it himself.
"Not enemies. Adversaries."
For just a few seconds, he could see Doc looking extremely surprised at him. He decided not to comment on Specter's words, however. Instead, he offered him a short bow of his head. Specter figured this was the highest praise he could get from someone like him, so he answered with the same gesture.
He still carried a smile on his face as he watched the longneck family depart again. Only Bron stayed with him for now.
"A fastbiter, healing leaf-eaters... Would you believe that?" He spoke up in jest after a while.
"I sure wouldn't..." Specter responded, but in an honest fashion.
"So, now that that's over... I hear you are friends with Littlefoot and his pack?"
"That's a long story... But if you have the time, I would be happy to tell it to you."
"Would you mind telling the rest of the adults and children, too?"
"Of course not! I wanted to speak to some of them anyway... Lead the way."
As Specter was following Bron by his side, he was very much looking forward to another bit of storytelling. It would also give him a chance to apologize for his rudeness earlier on this day, especially to Ducky's and Spike's mother, Ura. For now, he was expecting the rainbowfaces to return by dusk, so he didn't mind passing some time by living the life of a Great Valley leaf-eater for a day. A peaceful life, free of the constant hardships of sharpteeth.
Still, it involved killing for him. He would have to hunt for fish again, sooner or later. While their flesh tasted acceptably good, it was nowhere near as filling as the tasty meat of a longneck or a swimmer. He immediately decided not to indulge in memories of his previous hunting habits though, for obvious reasons.
Acknowledged. Establishing Uplink.
The image of an insect-like species hovered once again inside the dark caverns. This time, however, it wasn't a recording anymore. The creature seemed to widen most of its six eyes at the sight that greeted it. It didn't take the communicator much longer to translate the excited warbles into the leaf-eater language.
"Logos! Chronos! My goodness! It's been what? In your planet's time... Five years? How are you two doing?"
Logos had to smile for a moment, as she and Chronos bowed their heads, but her joy soon disappeared from her face again.
"Six, to be exact. Themis... I'm..."
"Oh don't even start, Logos!" The metallic, female voice of the communicator cut her off. "You two have done so much for Planet Earth and the Consortium... We all know that you're officially... 'exiled', so of course you have to keep communication at a minimum. No need to apologize for that. Now, what is it you need?"
Logos gave her a short nod before getting to the point of this conversation.
"Take a look at this..." She used her forelimbs to make a few gestures, interacting with the hovering interface before her.
A few minutes of silence followed. She could see the facial features of her longtime friend Themis going through multiple changes. Her face froze at an expression of what Logos could only interpret as overwhelming surprise and horror.
"Themis..." She started again with a calm voice. "Have there been any incidents since back then?"
The implications of that were clear to everyone. Eight years ago, Themis sent Logos a recording of Galek's trial and execution. And while it had given both Chronos and Logos much ease, it brought just as much uncertainty with it. They knew someone like Galek wouldn't just die like that. Since that day, the recording has been a reminder that it would truly be over at some point, that both of them could finally live on in peace. Only that this point has never been reached, apparently. Not yet.
"No Stone in our possession is active anymore. We have tracked down each and every single one of them..."
Audible signs of relief could be heard coming from the rainbowfaces, both thinking that the danger had been stopped in its roots. However, Themis was not finished.
"...but four years ago, several of our offensive capabilities went missing. We thought it wouldn't be much of a big deal, at first. We quickly found and neutralized them all... Except one. Investigations were closed for quite some time after that. Then, not even three years ago... our border patrol found an abandoned ship... less than a lightyear away from your system. And now... you show me this..."
Chronos and Logos briefly exchanged worried looks. After a while, Chronos raised his voice.
"So, what you're saying is that... someone has fired a Geocide at us?!"
"No, that's impossible." Themis firmly made clear. Her voice had calmed down noticeably and she was now speaking in a more matter-of-factly fashion. "There is no way something like that could have eluded our scanners. Not after what that certain someone tried to pull off on your planet. If it were to be a tactical strike, however..." She took another contemplative pause before finishing her speech. "Chronos? Logos? I advise you to seek shelter, wherever you are right now. I will arrange an in-depth scan around Sol at once. I just hope this recording means nothing... We'll be in touch."
"We will. Thank you, Themis." Logos concluded.
Everyone did their respective gesture of a parting. And then the communication link was broken.
"Logos, we have to return to the valley. Just to be sure! Maybe they will have to evacuate and if they won't listen to us, then we need to get at least Axiom and Datum out of there!"
"Agreed. Let's hurry!"
Logos quickly picked up the communicator again and grasped it firmly in her hand. Moments later, both rainbowfaces were moving back to the valley in full speed.
Several hours later, in the Great Valley:
It has been a very good day for Specter so far. The conversation between him, the adults and their children had lasted hours but he enjoyed himself so much that he completely forgot the time. He had been more than happy to relay the good news of the pack's wellbeing, and telling them that he had somewhat 'saved' Littlefoot and Ruby on his first hunt earned him some plus points as well. Obviously, mentioning that he had ripped the longneck to shreds made Bron, Utu, Sauria and Shorty noticeably grimace, while mentioning the death of the threehorn did the same to Topps, Tria, Tricia and Charger, but he had already figured that he couldn't avoid telling them about that as well. It was just part of his nature, and it would have been foolish to try and cover it up in front of multiple adults, who all had their personal experience with sharpteeth, he deduced.
Nevertheless, Specter once again felt free and at peace with the world and himself. He almost felt sad at the upcoming events, as he would most likely never see the valley and its residents again. If anything, not under nonviolent conditions.
Speaking of some violence... He thought to himself while slowly trotting towards the nearest river.
He had hoped for a peaceful meal in silence now but the amount of eyes staring at him in multiple emotions made it hard for Specter to enjoy his catch.
To think that even in this time, they manage to make a freak show out of something like this...
Nevertheless, it didn't annoy him as much as he thought it would, so he just continued ripping apart the plentiful fish. He had left his spear in the caverns after dealing with Dara's injury, and now children and adults alike were as much curiously as fearfully watching the tall fastbiter doing his gory work with his clawed forelimbs and razor-sharp teeth. Some of the older or braver children even worked up the courage to inspect him in more detail. They were taking particular interest in his massive sickle claws, although even the slightest movements from those deadly weapons made most of them jump a few steps back several times.
I guess they can't help it, can they? Most of them have probably never seen a carnivore yet... or ever will again. This place is too safe for their own good...
He quickly glanced at the setting sun, which was about to disappear behind the mountains, and decided to head back to his cave soon. The rainbowfaces would probably return tomorrow now, he thought to himself, and he wanted to use the remaining time he had until then to sort out his mind for the many questions he would need to ask them.
That was when he picked up a new scent. The scent of this creature he had never smelled before in the valley, it was quite close to what he would describe as 'unique', so he knew exactly who it must have been. Of the many strange dinosaurs the gang had met in their past and told him about, this one truly topped it all. He turned his head slightly and fixated the teal glider, who perched on a tree branch quite a bit above, with one of his eyes.
"Huh... I never thought I'd see someone else like me in here."
Some children gasped in shock and ran back to their parents, thinking that another fastbiter was in the valley. However, they soon relaxed again when the glider hesitantly jumped off his branch and landed next to the black fastbiter.
"Wh... What do you mean...? 'Someone like you'?" He asked.
"Oh come on. You're basically a tiny version of myself. Except that you can fly." Specter responded with a smile.
"What?! But... I... I'm not a fastbiter!" The glider made clear with quite a bit of insult in his unsure voice.
"True, true. But... let's see. You have feathers... uhm, these things..." He rose one of his forelimbs and presented the feathering on it. "... and I have them. We're both hunters... well, you hunt ground crawlers and I hunt the... 'big stuff'... but we're quite alike in that regard, still."
The Microraptor didn't know what to respond anymore and by now Specter noticed that his clarification of the glider's nature probably made him only feel bad, so he decided to not go much further.
"Ah, don't think too much of it. It's just funny because... Well, I am a 'fastbiter' and where I come from, we call your kind... uhm... 'fastgliders'... or something like that."
The glider looked at him with wide eyes. He had his full interest now.
"You mean... there are others like me?"
"Why, of course!" Specter started again, laughing slightly. "You may be different from everyone here, but you're never alone in this world."
Both raptors were slightly smiling now.
"Anyway, it's nice to meet you! You must be Guido, right? What's it been...?" Specter cut himself off as he caught sight of two little rainbowfaces charging into the direction of the entrance.
What are those two up to? Wait a second...
He sniffed the air a few times. It didn't take him long to filter out the two scents he was searching for, and they confirmed his speculation. A smirk appeared on his face.
"Excuse me. Maybe we can talk later."
Not wasting any more time, Specter jumped across the river in front of him and engaged as well in a full-speed sprint, leaving the confused form of Guido in its dust. He did not head to the entrance just yet, however.
Better safe than sorry...
"Mommy! Daddy! You're back!" Both little rainbowfaces exclaimed in unison before jumping into their parents' arms.
Chronos and Logos happily embraced their children, not mentioning a word of the possible danger from the sky. They didn't want panic to break out, so while on their way they had already decided to wait for Themis' call.
Little did they know that their children were not the only dinosaurs eagerly awaiting their arrival.
"You won't believe it, mommy! Someone came all the way to the valley to talk to both of you!"
"Yeah! He even saved Malka from two sharpteeth... and he speaks our language!" Datum joined his sister in her excitement.
Chronos and Logos looked at each other shortly before switching their attention back to their children.
"What do you mean by that, Datum? 'He even speaks our language'?" Chronos inquired. He didn't like this at all, but he had to know for certain.
"Well... he's a fastbiter. But he's nice!"
Both adults looked at each other again. They were growing more and more uneasy as the seconds passed. They just wanted to ask for more details when a new voice spoke up from behind them.
"Chronos and Logos... We meet at last."
They jumped around to the sight of a fastbiter standing just a few meters away from them, wielding a massive spear in his claws.
Specter wore a smile on his face and had his weapon lowered, but still presented a cautious stance. He knew how to deal with most creatures from this time by now, but the two adult rainbowfaces were something he could not predict. For all he knew, those 'star people' could have carried advanced weaponry with them right now.
"Who are you? And what do you want from us?" Logos demanded. She still had Galek's last words ringing inside her head. 'Earth shall burn'. 'Cold fire'. And now a fastbiter stood before her, his feathers black as the night, speaking the leaf-eater language and a weapon in his claws he wasn't supposed to even know of.
"I am called Specter." He responded while bowing his head shortly. "I would like to talk about a few things with you... in private, if that's ok."
Chronos gave his mate an asking look, which she retorted with an expressionless face. Logos needed some more time to make up her mind.
"Fine... Come with us. Axiom? Datum? Why don't you play a little more with your friends until we have solved this?" She then concluded.
The little rainbowfaces knew that this was more of an order than a suggestion. They noticed their mother's deep concern of course but still trusted her decision, so they went off to find their friends again.
"... and now I'm here. I understand that this is hard to believe but... Please, you have to help me get back where I belong! To my time!" Specter was talking in sharptooth again. Hearing Axiom and Datum speak it had only led him to the conclusion that the adult rainbowfaces could speak it as well and it would make it much easier for him to explain himself, as he did not quite yet grasp every word in the leaf-eater language he needed to use in this conversation. Even the smallest of details were extremely important here.
"Wait, wait, wait..." Logos spoke up. "One thing after another. You said you were something else before you 'changed', so what were you? What 'stone' did you touch? And what's with this talk about being from another time? You know it's impossible to time travel, right?"
Specter took a deep breath. Only now he noticed his nervousness, but he didn't understand where it came from. He had no problems telling the pack about this topic so why he made a mess out of it when he was talking to the supposedly smartest creatures in this time, he wondered.
"Yeah, but... Ok. Ok, let's start from the beginning. See, I was a human once. You know, the creatures that have an upright posture, walk on two legs, have five fingers on each hand, use tools, are omnivorous, incredibly smart, drive cars, fly planes, landed on the moon several times and..." He noticed the asking looks of both rainbowfaces so he cut his sentence short right there. "Never seen one or heard of them?"
They shook their heads, although Chronos frowned slightly and decided to make a comment.
"Sounds like a highly advanced species of primates... none of which are living on this planet, though."
"Not yet." Specter made clear. Then, another thought crossed his mind. Although it would be highly unlikely that it would be the case, he wanted to be sure. "Well, since time travel is apparently not possible... This is Planet Earth, isn't it? Eight planets in this solar system. Sun, or Sol by its name, being the only star and Earth being the only planet where life exists?"
"How... do you know all this?!" Logos sputtered out.
"It's common knowledge, really..." Specter responded. He let out a sigh before continuing. "So this still is my home... But I'm not lying! If dinosaurs exist here and this is Earth, then I am more than 60 million years too early to be alive! 65 million years, actually."
Chronos needed some time so sort out his mind, too. After a while, he raised his voice again.
"Alright, let's just assume it's true what you're saying, for now. Tell us about that 'stone'. Every single detail."
"Yeah... Ok. So, it was late at night. I was outside to smoke a cigarette... and then there was this blue glow in the sky. Before I could even react, it crashed down right next to my house... without any noise... I wanted to call for help but my cellphone stopped working..." Specter ignored the surprised looks of the rainbowfaces and firmly continued. "...so I went to investigate it. It definitely was a stone, like a small asteroid, and it was very brightly glowing blue. I thought it was nothing special so I went ahead and touched it and..."
"And...?" Both rainbowfaces impatiently asked in unison.
"And that's all I can remember... I think I spoke some words to it but that memory seems so... blurred. It... felt like it forced me to speak those words... I woke up in a forest, quite some distance away from here, and looked like I do now. It took me a while to get used to this body, as well. I was just lucky Seeker found me and took me in. I would've been dead by now, otherwise."
They put their heads together and briefly muttered some words to each other before Logos raised her voice again.
"So you're telling us that he took you in like that? He told you about us, and it took you only three weeks to learn an entire language?"
"Well, I've always been quick with learning languages... And yes, Seeker took me in just like that. Those were even his own words! I don't know why he did it, but he saved my life!"
Chronos shook his head, letting out a slightly mocking laugh.
"Of course he did. So let's just assume you really did touch a 'blue glowing stone'... it isn't supposed to do anything, unless you explicitly wish for it. However, you said yourself that you don't even remember what you wished upon it. And it certainly doesn't land without any noise, nor does it somehow 'force' you to wish something, nor does it let you travel back in time! That's preposterous! So, who sent you and what do you want?" He tried his best not to show the aggressiveness in his voice but he had a hard time doing it. He carefully reached behind himself and grabbed into the darkness, pulling something closer to his prone body.
Specter's eyes switched between the two rainbowfaces in rapid succession, multiple times. His heart started beating in a higher frequency.
"What are you talking about?! Nobody 'sent' me! Please! You have to believe me! I... I don't know how to explain it any better. All I know is that I touched a blue glowing stone and..."
"Enough!" Chronos interrupted him. "There is only a single way to obtain a form such as yours, only one reason for presence here. I think I've heard enough..."
Having said that, he suddenly jumped up and raised the object he had reached out for earlier.
Despite his desperation, however, Specter had never dropped his guard during this conversation. He jumped up along with Chronos and raised his own weapon from behind.
Both of them were now staring at each other with murderous intent, the sharp tip of a spear touching each of their throats. Nobody moved a muscle.
That was when multiple high-pitched beeps filled the dead silent cave. It was the communicator, which Logos was holding in her hand. She was in shock at the two males suddenly willing to kill each other, so she didn't react to it just yet.
"Answer it." Specter firmly demanded. For all he knew, the black marble was nothing more than a high-tech cellphone. And he felt like it was an important call.
Logos looked at him and then at Chronos, who only shook his head twice.
"I said answer it!" Specter almost yelled in rage. He applied some more pressure on his spear, its tip now slightly denting Chronos' throat.
Logos didn't hesitate this time. She quickly put the communicator on the ground and stepped back from it.
"Don't mind us. Just act like we're not here. I'm highly interested to hear what you think is worth killing me for, when I didn't do you any harm!"
Logos wanted to talk reason into the males, but that idea got cut short at the communicator emitting a flash of light. This was not a secured uplink, so the device ignored the presence of the two other dinosaurs in the room. The holographic image of Themis could be seen hovering before her once again.
And Themis didn't waste any time getting to the point.
"Logos? I fear I have good, but also bad and very bad news..."
"What... are the good ones?" Logos asked in leaf-eater. The communicator was obviously never calibrated for sharptooth.
"I've found out that our lost asset has been taken care of long ago. The military command wanted to cover it up to absolve themselves. It was all a misunderstanding." And just as Logos wanted to relax a little, Themis continued. "However, the bad news are that scans show there is indeed something on its way to you... The very bad news are... It's close."
Logos gulped audibly.
"How big is it? And where will it hit?"
"I can't say for certain but the diameter seems to be around 50 meters..."
If what she's talking about is what I think she's talking about... That is more than enough to wipe out a major city! Specter quickly noted in his mind.
"... but that's not even the worst part. Logos, the estimated area of impact is within 20 kilometers of your position. We can't narrow it down any further but... it will make contact in around two hours and it will be fiery in that valley of yours, that's for sure..."
Logos nearly fainted. There was only one place where such an object could hit to make it 'fiery', as Themis put it in her dark humor, and she knew they wouldn't have the time to get out of the blast radius.
"You mean... it's going to hit the volcano?!"
"Most likely, yes."
"Isn't there anything you could do?" Logos almost begged.
"Your system is off-limits to our forces after what happened last time. Earth almost had its biosphere destroyed! I already talked to Admiral Ares... I tried to push him to do something... but his hands are tied. Rules are rules. There is nothing we can do. I'm so sorry, Logos... Please just get yourself to safety."
"I won't leave everyone behind. This is my home! I can't... I'm sorry. Farewell, Themis. Thanks for everything."
Both creatures could see the respective other having tears in their eyes for a few more seconds. After that, there was darkness. The communication link was cut once again. Forever, this time.
The awful silence following that was only broken when Specter started to laugh.
"And you think... I'm responsible for this?! For an asteroid?! Even if that was the case, don't you think it would be a little bit stupid to come here and stay inside the area of effect?"
Chronos lowered his spear after hearing that and so did Specter at Chronos' reaction. Both were still eyeing each other with massive distrust, but at least they didn't intend to kill each other anymore.
"I'm sorry... I didn't know... I thought you were..." Chronos offered.
Specter just waved him off, raising his own voice again.
"Forget it. I don't even want to know what you thought I was. So, any idea how to prevent a shockwave and a pyroclastic flow that will scorch everything around here?"
There was quite a bit of sarcasm in his question. If he had learned one thing in his life, then it was that certain doom is best faced with a smile on one's face.
The rainbowfaces looked at him for another few seconds. They still didn't trust him at all but right now, the fastbiter was their best bet to save hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives.
"I wouldn't know how..." Logos responded in a sad tone. "We don't have a weapon capable of destroying the object anymore, and evacuating the valley would accomplish nothing. There is too little time..."
Specter's mind was on overdrive but he couldn't think of anything himself. That was when his eyes caught onto the black marble, still resting on the ground.
"What about that thing?"
"That's a communicator. It's not a weapon." Chronos made clear.
"Yes, I know, I have two functioning eyes and a brain... But... it's still somewhat a cellphone, isn't it?"
"A 'cellphone'? Not even our ancestors used..." The slap from Logos' tail made Chronos shut up again and adjust his sentence. "How do you know about that?"
Specter let out an annoyed sigh.
"How many times do I have to tell you? I don't belong... Ah, forget it! Anyway, this thing can't be running on air, now, can it?"
"Of course not! It's a highly sophisticated device that uses..."
"Spare me the details, please." Specter cut him off. "So, it does have a battery. Well, you know what happens when you suddenly expose a battery to oxygen, don't you?"
The rainbowfaces' eyes widened. After all, they had used the exact same method on their Repressor to blow up half of the Hidden Canyon. Only that the Repressor had lost most of its energy before, back then. The communicator, however, still had years' worth of energy left. The explosion would dissolve the whole volcano. Together with anyone even close to that area.
And there was another problem.
"Yes, but you can't remote control the explosion..." Logos stated.
"Yeah... I've heard about your 'Pain Rock'... Anyway, we can talk about that later. Right now, we need to get there. Fast." Specter concluded.
Chronos and Logos could only nod at that. What the fastbiter proposed was a suicide mission, but they had no other choice. They just hoped their children would understand this decision in time.
As the three unusual companions were making their way up onto the huge volcano, one of them has been plagued by the same question since an hour now. The topic has put pressure on him for weeks, but that one sentence he heard coming from what he assumed was one of the rainbowfaces' friends had changed it all. He was forced to ask this one particular question, but it was not a trivial question. It was a question whose answer defined the existence of billions of lives.
With great trepidation, Specter took a few deep breaths and raised his voice.
"Earlier, when you two were talking via the communicator... What did she mean by that?"
Logos turned her head and looked up at Specter, who was walking by her side.
"That this system is 'off-limits' after 'what happened last time'? What about earth's biosphere?"
"Oh dear..." Logos started. She knew she technically wasn't allowed to tell Specter about that but she had a feeling he deserved to know. "See, we had a... 'superior' once... And eight years ago, he wanted to eradicate us, together with this whole planet. In simple terms, let's say it had to do with your friends making a wish on the Stone that landed in the valley..."
"What?! That's horrible! What kind of messed up asshole would do that?!" Specter exclaimed. "But... how exactly do you destroy a whole planet like this? I mean, in my time we had thermonuclear bombs and everything, horrible weapons of mass destruction, but nothing could have blown up a whole planet in one hit."
"That's not what would have happened, had he succeeded. His plan was so much simpler. He wanted to guide a so called Geocide, a huge asteroid, several kilometers in size, at earth. I've heard of something like that being used in the past... It would have destroyed not only through its force but also through the changes in climate and so on. Volcanos, earth quakes... The whole planet would have been a mess. It would have killed almost everyone alive on this planet, without leaving any evidence of an attack. It would have been a mass extinction unlike any other. Luckily, we stopped him from doing exactly that!"
Specter stopped his movement at once and looked at the ground. Deep down inside his mind, a thought was forming. It was more a realization, really. And it was becoming more clearly by the second.
The rainbowfaces stopped as well to look at him in concern now.
"Is... something wrong?" Chronos carefully asked.
"Mass extinction... A big asteroid... That... had to be... the... the... Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event... No... No, it can't be... This just isn't possible... Everything we knew about dinosaur extinction. How was I even alive before...?" Specter muttered to himself. He wanted to push aside these horrible thoughts but the evidence was clear to him by now. He started to shake.
His ear-piercing shriek cut through the air like a razor-sharp claw, louder and more violent than any outburst he might have had earlier.
The cry he let out into the sky made Chronos and Logos flinch. Never before did they hear a predator mourn like this. It was a horrible sound and ironically so heartbreaking at the same time, coming from a being that was designed by nature to kill others. And Specter's cry communicated not only loss. It also communicated failure. Total failure of the only goal he had set himself. To protect the existence of mankind and thus, his very own existence. Now, it seemed like everything was lost. His sole purpose to exist had just vanished.
No... Not like this. Not... like this! I won't go down like that!
His face took on a determined expression. This grim resolve, desperately trying to make himself useful, desperately begging for acknowledgement, was all that he could think of right now.
"Hand me that thing and head back. I can handle the rest..."
"No way! Whatever you're planning, you're not going to kill yourself!" Logos spoke with a lot of commitment in her own voice. She would not let the fastbiter sacrifice himself in the very same fashion Mr. Thicknose had done all these years back.
"I will never see my kind again. Neither my parents, nor my friends. I will never experience love. I will never hear the sound of music again. I will never be able to watch my children grow up. I am already dead... Everyone I used to know is dead..."
"What are you talking about?! Yes, maybe you're stuck here and yes, maybe you will never see your loved ones again, but you're still young. It's not too late to start over. Chronos and I did it as well, so why can't you?"
"Spare me the consolation. I'm all alone here! Nobody here is even remotely like me! And if what you said is true, if there really are no 'Stones' anymore, then you were right. I didn't want to wish anything! It just happened! So it really is obvious that I was sent here... Look at me! I'm a walking weapon! And someone is playing his dirty little game with me, which I refuse to play any longer!"
Logos was out of words, so it was up to Chronos to speak.
"Nobody can ask this of you..."
"And nobody can deny me this, either. Please, just let me do this."
Chronos just nodded and gestured for Logos to hand Specter the communicator. Hesitantly, she opened her hand and reached the fastbiter the device. The last link to her own past. With the communicator gone, something died inside her as well.
Specter looked down at his claws. The black marble in one hand and his spear in the other. He grasped both objects firmly as he looked up again.
"Thanks. Now go!"
The rainbowfaces both bowed their heads deeply in utmost respect before turning around and charging back down the path.
Specter smiled for a few seconds but his face soon took on a grave expression. He turned around as well and sprinted the rocky path upwards to the top of the gargantuan volcano.
He didn't even feel the rising heat under his feet anymore. Right now, he felt nothing. He was an empty shell. A shadow. A ghost. A specter.
How fitting... He thought to himself.
It was quite ironic that he took the tiniest bits of satisfaction in these last moments of his life, but he didn't pay that too much heed.
After a few more minutes, he finally arrived at the top of the volcano. 'Smoking Mountain', as everyone called it. It was the biggest around and ironically the closest to the Great Valley. From up there, Specter could oversee the majestic nighttime landscape down below. Would the situation not have been so dire, he might have admired the sight from on top of this sleeping giant, watching over the valley. So calm, so peaceful, and yet so terrifying nonetheless.
Specter, however, didn't care anymore. Right now, all his mind could come up with was brutal efficiency. He sat down and laid both objects in his hands on the ground in front of him. His spear still had a few pieces of burnt vines on it, he had used earlier to attach the heated stone to. They would serve him well for this final purpose, he deduced.
Having attached the black marble to his spear now, he took one final look at the stars. The sight was beyond beautiful. In his time, all the light emitted from the big cities had shrouded the sky at night. Never had he seen the pure night sky before in his life, not even in the past three weeks he had spent in this time. There had been far more pressing things to attend to than gazing at the stars.
He just stood there in silence for what seemed to be like an hour, hypnotized by what was above him. After another while, he found a point of interest among the thousands of glowing dots in the sky. He took particular interest in one star. One star, shining brighter than any other.
North Star... Polaris...? No, you changed your position long ago... Not even you are what's left. Not even you remain... Not even you are how I remember... But whatever you are, North Star, whatever name you carry... Care to guide me one last time?
As if the distant star, hundreds of lightyears away from him, had heard his thoughts, the distant booming sound Specter had already encountered before his change reached his ears once more. Were his emotions not in utter chaos, he would have found this amusing in the most dastardly twisted way. The same sound that had started all this would finally end his life as well.
Slowly, he rose to his feet again, calmly observing the object in the sky, embraced by blazing hot red fire, coming directly at him and closer with every second. He could almost feel his feathers catching fire, caused by the insane heat the rock was radiating even from hundreds of kilometers away. It felt like the air was being sucked out of his lungs, a thunderstorm of fire stealing his last breaths from him.
He raised his spear. Once in his life would he make everything right, having no fear, no regrets and doing no mistakes anymore. Free, at last.
Mother... Father... I hope you're proud of me. I've failed so often... so long I was useless... I thought I could change something and I ruined everything! Even in this time! Even here! Just like always! Wherever you are, forgive me for this... I've failed again... I've failed everyone... I just couldn't do it...
"Are you sure we did the right thing? We don't even know if it will hit..."
Logos' sentence got cut short at the massive asteroid racing high above her head with an ear-shattering bluster. The two rainbowfaces were standing just outside the valley and looked in incomprehensible horror at the stone which was about to crash right into the biggest volcano in this area.
However, it would not come to that.
A blinding flash of light, so bright that it would have taken their eyesight, had they not immediately turned away from it. When they opened their eyes again, there was dead silence. At least until the shockwave reached them, together with the sound of this cataclysm. It knocked both of them clean off their feet and threw the two grown up dinosaurs around like petty leaves. The deafening bang of the antimatter explosion only added the last bit of spice to the sheer power of the destructive force which had been unleashed.
It took them a few minutes until Chronos and Logos were able to groggily rise on their feet again. Their mouths fell agape when they looked at the ground zero. The whole volcano had been sliced in half and leaked rivers of lava and superheated dust, both of which into the opposite direction of the valley. The danger had been averted.
It was over.
One day later:
Me close now... Can't wait to see if he alright again! Specter did bring fresh wind into pack. Even Taunt will be glad to have him back!
It was early in the day, the Bright Circle had yet to reach its highest point in the sky, and Petrie was more than happy to finally meet a 're-hatched' fastbiter. The rainbowfaces have always remained a mystery to him, but what he was certain of was that they knew an uncountable amount of things and always had a solution for every possible problem. Surely, they would have been able to get even someone like Specter back on the straight and narrow.
That was when he could see something in the distance. His eyes went wide in an instant.
Oh no! That Smoking Mountain?! What happened?!
He quickly dived down and doubled his speed.
After a few more minutes of flight, Petrie arrived at the massive bluffs which marked the borders of the Great Valley. Still having one of his eyes rested on the completely destroyed Smoking Mountain, he wondered why nobody of the other flyers was in the air to intercept his course. He lowered his altitude once again and scanned the ground below him. Everything seemed fine with the residents, even though he carried a strange feeling in his guts by now. He tried to make out anything special, something that did not fit.
And it didn't take him much longer to find exactly that.
What they all doing at Fastbiter Rock? Oh! There be rainbowfaces! Surely they know.
Following that, he dived down and landed in front of both of them. They didn't even recoil from his sudden appearance. It was almost like they were expecting him, he thought to himself, but he didn't expect anything bad to have happened.
"Sorry me come here without telling you first. Uhm... Something wrong with Smoking Mountain?"
"Yes... A flying rock almost caused it to destroy the valley." Chronos responded.
Petrie could only gasp after hearing that.
"That horrible! Someone hurt?"
"Who be it?"
"Your packmate who came here..."
Petrie's eyes already widened again in shock at that, but Chronos' continuation made his heart break apart.
End of Act I