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Precious Artifacts

By IchabodEbenezer

Adventure / Scifi

1

Mal came slowly into focus and smiled.  "Doc, he's back."  Mal had no shirt on, and one of his suspenders dangled, torn in half.

Simon came into view with a concerned look on his face.  "That was a nasty blow to the head."  He too had suffered damage.  His shirt was torn in several places and there was a cut on his left cheek with freshly dried blood.

Wash had no memory of how he got there.  He was in a cave for some reason, and there was a fire burning nearby him.  He looked around to find River attaching sharpened stones to sticks using some sort of vine.  Jayne was standing at the mouth of the cave, looking out.  Kaylee and Zoë were nowhere in sight.

"Where's my wife?" he asked, concerned.

"She's out scouting", the doctor responded calmingly.

"Scouting for what?  What are we doing here?  How did we get here?" he asked, propping himself up on his elbows.

"No time for a recap.  We've got to be ready to move as soon as you're ready to stand", Mal said, moving to stand beside Jayne.

"She's back", Jayne said.

Zoë stepped into the mouth of the cave wearing a fur bikini.  Wash's jaw dropped.  Her skin glistened with sweat in the firelight.  She had brought more spear handles and vines, which she tossed to River.  "Coast should be clear, Captain. And the sun is coming up in a few minutes.  We should get ready to run."

No mention was being made of the bikini, and Wash wasn't going to be the first.  "What's with all the spears?" Wash asked instead, still very confused.

"We need weapons in case we run into anything on the way back to Serenity", Mal responded.

"What's wrong with guns?"

"We didn't bring any."

Jayne looks over his shoulder.  "Except Vera."

"We went on a job and didn't bring any guns?"

"Not so strange", River said, looking up from her work.  "You didn't bring any pants."  She looked back down at the knot she was making, then set the spear aside and picked up another flint blade.

Wash sat up in a panic and looked down at his legs.  He was covered in a fur pelt which he lifted up to see that he was in fact naked from the waist down.

He stood up quickly, holding the pelt around his waist and tucking it in as best he could.

"Relax", said his wife, kissing him on the cheek.  "She's joking."

Jayne turned around again with a wicked smile.  "Actually, they were torn to shreds by the things that call this cave home."

Wash had so many questions to ask that they stumbled over each other trying to get out.  But before he could say anything, Mal came back in.

"Time to go", he said.  "Sky's light enough to see a black swarm heading this way.  I don't wanna meet those things again."

"There's movement down there", called Jayne.  He lifted Vera to his shoulder and looked down the sight.

"Can you see what it is?" Mal asked, hurrying to stand next to him.

"No.  Trees are too thick to see through, but it's big enough to shake them."  He handed the gun over to Mal, who looked down the sight for a few moments before handing it back.

"Okay, Zoë, you're first", Mal said, turning toward the group.  "Chart a path.  Simon, River, Wash, you're next.  Jayne and I will take up the rear."  Mal walked quickly to the fire and threw a satchel over his shoulder.  He picked up a football-sized golden statue and put it in the satchel.

"We may be too late for that", shouted Jayne, shouldering Vera again.  "I'd best be ready to put some lead in whatever's down there."

"You sure about this?" asked Mal, walking back and placing a hand on Jayne's shoulder.

Jayne's look had some fear in it, but showed resolve as well.  He nodded.

"We'll be back with Serenity."  Mal looked with concern toward the black cloud heading straight for them.  "Be ready to move."  Mal turned to Zoë.  "Go."

Zoë picked her way down the slope between the boulders.  They were less than twenty feet up, and she was soon swallowed by the jungle canopy.

Simon, River and Wash were lined up at the mouth of the cave.  River handed Wash a spear, which he looked at nervously then gripped with both hands.  "Go", said Mal behind him.

River dove headlong down the makeshift trail that Zoë had left.  Wash took a deep breath and half-ran, half-slid after her.

The moment he got below the canopy, he was in a different world of diffuse light where everything was tinged green.  He also immediately saw what was causing the trees to move.

Dinosaurs.

They were stampeding, and they were huge.  Most of them he didn't recognize, but they were about the size of a horse and ran on two legs.  Some dinosaurs were smaller, and others larger.  He found himself, in a very surreal moment running alongside a stegosaur as it passed him.  Once again he asked himself, "How the diyu did I get here?"

He found a path along the jungle floor and ran after River.  At first he didn't know if she had any idea where they were going, but then he saw Zoë, far ahead of them as she broke past the tree line into direct sunlight.  He started running a little faster.

Suddenly there was a loud roar and a head the size of an elephant chomped down inches behind his wife.  "No!", he yelled and ran faster still.  He saw Zoë again in a moment of relief -- she had dodged just to the side and was still running.  What he had originally mistaken for tree trunks moved as the t-rex turned to follow her.

Wash lunged for the stegosaur that he had now caught up to again.  He grabbed a bony plate and lifted himself onto its back.  The stegosaur burst out into daylight and immediately veered right to avoid the t-rex.  Wash wedged his spear between two bony plates and pushed with all his might, like an ancient mariner steering his ship by rudder.  The stegosaur bellowed loudly, but it moved back on course to intercept the t-rex.

Zoë looked back over her shoulder, fear in her eyes.  She dove, rolled and jumped back into a run without skipping a beat as the t-rex snapped at her again.  A distant shot rang out, and Wash saw a hole appear on the back of the t-rex immediately starting to leak blood.  Vera was going to be of little good this time.
Wash looked down the length of his spear, then twisted the handle until the edge of the blade bit into the stegosaur's hide.  It bellowed again, but ran faster.  Its spikey tail whipped around to knock him off, but could not reach him.

The stegosaur was now a scant three feet from the t-rex, which seemed entirely focused on Zoë.  "Yah!", Wash yelled, trying to get its attention.  Finally, he stood up on the back of the stegosaur and lifted the spear.  The beast below him immediately followed its own head and veered away from the t-rex.

Wash let out a mighty roar and jumped from the back of the stegosaur with his spear high in the air.  As he brought the spear forward and down with every ounce of muscle he possessed, he let out his battle cry, "I am a leaf on the wind!"

Wash found himself sitting up in bed, breathing heavily.  Zoë turned, still half asleep and put an arm around him.  "You sure are, laogong, but I've got duty at six bells, so please go back to sleep."

Wash looked down at his clenched fists and opened them slowly.  In one hand he held a plastic t-rex, in the other a stegosaur, it's back-plates digging divots into his palm.  He set them on the bedside table and lay back down, pulling Zoë's arm closer around him.  He smiled and closed his eyes.

He opened his eyes back up momentarily and reached out an arm.  He turned the two dinosaurs to face each other.  "Arrrgh", he whispered, and went back to sleep.

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