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Semisaurs: The Chosen Generation (The Foundation Arc: Book One)

By Sutirtho Roy All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Fantasy

Prologue: The Extinction

Saron's guide to some of Saurius terms used in this chapter:-

1) Ceratopsidan: marginocephalian (horned dinosaurs/ ceratopsians and boneheads/pachycephalosaurs)

2) Sauromorph: sauropodomorph (long-necked dinosaurs - sauropods and prosauropods)

3) Thyreros: thyrerophora (armored dinosaurs - ankylosaurs and stegosaurs)

4) Therosaur: theropoda (carnivorous dinosaurs)

5) Nithopoda: ornithopoda (duck-billed dinosaurs, iguanodontids and hypsilophodontids)

6) Pteravius: pterosaur (flying reptiles, contemporary of dinosaurs)

7) Marius: marine reptiles, contemporary of dinosaurs (egs, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs,)

8) Dinoracle: Saurius version of 'Oracle' (soothsayer)

9) Dinomaton: Saurius version of 'automaton'

10) Saurius: Saurius term for 'dinosaurs'

11) spikelength: Saurius unit of length measurement, about the size of a Stegosaurus' tail-spike

12) servilsaur: Saurius term for servant

13) furbeast: Mammals which lived during dinosaur times

14) Hellsaur: the Saurius term for 'hell'

15) hatchmates: another term for 'siblings'

16) egg-cycles: Saurius term for 'years'

17) clawmate: partner

65 Million years BCE:-

The first time Saron remembered being afraid had been some fourteen egg-cycles ago. He had been a mere hatchling, and his nest had been attacked by Therosaur bandits. He had stared the black-hooded Deinonychus in the eye.

At that time, he hadn't actually known then that he was afraid, because he didn't know what fear meant back then. But there had been a strange sensation inside him, something different from 'hungry' or 'happy' or 'sad'. He also didn't know any big words back then, like 'death' and by pain, he only understood the occasional 'ouch' while wrestling with his hatchmates. And a sword seemed no different from an over sized Cycad-Cutter.

But his hands had shook, and knees clanked together like an eighty egg-cycle old Saurius. He had felt something climbing up his spine with cold feet. His chest was thumping, like it did when he was excited. And for some reason, his older siblings had yelled at him to run away.

The bandit had moved along the room with glittering eyes full of cold fury. Fury was something Saron understood, he had often seen the expression on his father's face when he was naughty. But he didn't remember doing anything naughty recently.

The Deinonychus had lifted the sword for a strike, and Saron had stared up with wide eyes. He would probably have had allowed the blow to descend on him, but then the tip of the sword had torn into Saron's 'Super-Saurs' poster on the ceiling, the one Saron liked to look at before going to sleep.

Mistake number one.

And then Saron had felt angry, so angry that he had kicked the Therosaur in the face, in spite of knowing it wasn't okay to kick.

A stupid decision, as his siblings had taken care to specify later. {You could have been killed}, they had said.

Incidentally, that same 'stupid decision' had saved the lives of all the siblings, since the surprised bandit had taken an unfortunate tumble out the window. That day, his mother had looked into his eyes proudly, and said -

{That was very brave of you, but you mustn't risk your life like that. You are destined for far greater things.}

Back then, 'destiny' had just been another big word he did not understand. But what he did understand was that everybody was being extra good to him that day, his sibling Seron had let him have the window roost that night, even though it wasn't his turn, and they had horsetails for dinner, not the swamp variety, but the succulent ones which grew by the pond, Saron's favorite. Plus, he had got two new 'Super-Saurs' poster. He would happily do it again, if he had to.

So he had hugged his mother with wide eyes and obediently said. {Okay, I will do what you say, mother.} That had made her dissolve into tears and hug wrap him even fiercely, for some reason he had not been able to understand back then.

Kind of ironic, because he seemed to hear his mother's voice in his head now, when he knew the meaning of the word 'death' a little too well. And the sounds of steel and horns clashing, and wings tearing all around him, the stench of blood, the feel of dry bones crumbling under his feet, just seemed to make it sure that he wouldn't forget the meaning of the word anytime soon, or ever in his life.

As long as it would be anyway.

{You mustn't risk your life like that. You are destined for far greater things.}

Great, the same words too, echoing in his head. Only this time, he doubted whether any stupid decision would save him.

Neither were the words his own feeling of nostalgia as he had first thought. Whirling around quickly, he saw his younger sister, Prena standing determinedly on the rock beside him.

{What are you doing here?} He tried to direct his telepathy with annoyance, in spite of his amusement at seeing the little Prenocephale trying to hoist a sword almost twice her size.

The stubborn set of his sister's jaw reminded Saron of his younger self. {I won't go away. You must save the Saurius Empire, and I will be there beside you. I shall always be there to shield you from any blow.}

Any other time, Saron would have laughed and patted her dome-head, and teased her for echoing her elders. But this time, for some unknown reason, the words sent an ominous chill along his spine.

The battle was getting to him.

He bent till he was eye-to-eye with his sister. The noise of the battle seemed faded into the background, and for the moment, it seemed there were only the two of them, like it had been at their secret hideout back at the palace.

Saron tried to go along the general line of conversation, which was not very easy considering the place and time. Assuming the general scornful voice required for that purpose, he said with a raised forehead, {Oh really? How can you do that? You still can't sleep without wetting your ferns.}

Prena gripped the sword firmly. {I will still be with you. Mother told me.}

Mother said no such thing, Saron thought grimly. Gently taking the sword Prena was trying to lift, he placed it on the ground.

{I want that!} Prena protested.

{It's too small a sword for as brave a warrior for you.} Saron replied. At that, Prena didn't argue, but grudgingly nodded.

{Well, can I take a bigger one from the next Saurius I slay?}

{Sure thing.} Saron smiled and she beamed in return. His heart went out to his little sister, standing there, still thinking it was a play, oblivious of the fate approaching them. Her red cloak billowed around her, threatening to trip, and with a painful jolt in his chest, Saron remembered how he and his older siblings had used to tease her for wearing clothes three sizes too big.

{Prince Saron!} The sound boomed, loud and powerful, breaking into the din of battle and Saron's reverie.

The Prince shook his head. Enough time for reminiscences later, he thought and a second later, chuckled at the irony.

There wouldn't be a 'later'.

He turned, shielding his eyes from the sun. Even through the perennial dust haze of the Rath Desert, the two figures that stood near the barely-concealed cave were unmistakable.

Saron raised himself. For a moment, he considered giving the two-clawed salute, in the way of the Saurius noble folk, but then decided against it.

Too late for formalities, eh? he thought with a sardonic smile, and settled for an old-fashioned wave. Turning around, he sheathed his sword, grabbed Prena's claws, and almost dragged his protesting sister across the rocky landscape. More than once, an enemy warrior tried to attack them, but swiftly -fired arrows put an end to that effort.

Skidding to a halt near the entrance, he saw Pterus, the leader, and the last of the archers nocking another arrow. His amber eyes reflected the final sunshine they would probably ever see. Refusing to even acknowledge the smile Saron threw in his direction, the Pterodactyl nodded, {You need to get in as soon as possible, the Rebels are almost upon us.}

Saron winced, not because of the news, but because of Pterus' flat voice. The voice so snarky and mischievous, characteristic of Pterus, had long been destroyed by the wars and turmoils. He remembered how exasperated he and the rest of their gang used to be due to Pterus' uncanny ability of making a joke out of even the solemnest of situations.

Now there was no smile on his face. The omnipresent smirk that used to quirk his beak was no more. Saron's best friend was gone, leaving in its wake a stolid, responsible warrior dedicated to the cause and devoid of emotions. Saron sighed, looking at Pterus from the corner of his eye.

Beside Pterus was Saltan, the Captain of the royal guard, who acknowledged Saron's presence with a barely imperceptible nod. The Saltasaurus' arms were folded, his long neck rigid, as he stood with an expressionless face, his gaze fixed ahead. But the anguish in his eyes was unmistakable; Saron could still see he was grieving for his son's gruesome murder at the claws of the Rebels two days ago.

It was Salton who had called. Meeting Saron's gaze, he motioned towards the cave. {Your Majesty, Prime Minister Veloc is leading the rest of the survivors inside.}

Survivors? Saron winced at the casual use of the words, and then immediately wished he hadn't, as a jolt of pain shot through his side. Days of hunger and war had finally taken their toll on him.

But he had more important things to worry about now.

{All of them?} Saron asked.

The Sauromorph hesitated. {Most of them.}

Saron was about to ask the whereabouts of the others, when he heard Pterus' warning screech,

{Behind you, Prince Saron!}

Saron barely had time to dodge, as a broadsword cut a slicing arc above his head. He turned to see two Saurius, a Diceratops and a Torvosaurus advancing on him, with cold, unblinking eyes, their swords ready to taste royal blood. Gleeful smiles lit up their features. Their tunic was black with the insignia of the Rebels.

Traitors to the Empire.

With a roar of fury, Saron unsheathed his sword and leaped at the advancing duo. The Diceratops had barely time to realize what was happening, before the royal blade of shining steel cleaved off the head from his shoulders.

Spittle flying from his mouth, he turned towards the other Saurius. And soon realized that he had made a fatal error.

Even as he was turning, the sword whistled through the air towards him, and struck, the cry ringing out in the open air.

Only the cry had not escaped through his lips.

Prena arched as the blow which had been meant Saron struck her tiny body. Her mouth contorted in a wordless scream, and slowly, she slid off the blade. Saron watched horrified. The Torvosaurus blinked once, and then flicked the blood contemptuously from the blade, as if hurting a five egg-cycle old Saurius had been an insult to his warrior skills.

And that gesture was enough to snap Saron out of his trance.

With all thoughts of honorable combat gone, he leaped upon the Torvosaurus with his claws and sword and dome head. His vision turned red, as he battered and hacked at the hapless Saurius with all his might. He was yelling something, though he didn't remember the words.

If there were words, to begin with. Somehow, Saron knew that they were wordless screams of anguish.

Saron was much smaller in size than the other dinosaur, both by age and species. His dome-shaped head barely reached up to the Torvosaurus' waist, but pure fury gave him an edge.

Only when Saltan and Pterus dragged him away did he see what he had done to the Therosaur. Only it wasn't recognizable as a Therosaur anymore. It resembled more like the carcass of a furbeast after a Therosaur's meal.

It wasn't pretty.

But Saron did not feel any sort of remorse. rather, he stared down at the corpse, wishing a gazillion more things that he could have done, to exact his full rage and frustration on the creature that had lowered himself to hurting barely a five egg-cycle old Saurius, for hurting Prena........


Turning, he ran over to where Prena lay on a small hillock, her limbs flayed. Saltan and Pterus were already there.

Reaching her, he saw that the wound was worse than he had thought. A deep gash ran across her shoulder to her waist, where the sword had struck her. Foolish girl, Saron chided her sternly. Always jumping into things you don't understand; you are in for a spanking once you get well, little Saurius. And no ginkgo tonight.

Prena's eyelids fluttered and she smiled weakly at her big brother. {Hey, I fulfilled my promise. I shielded you from the blow.}

With a jolt, Saron remembered Prena's words. Those sentences, spoken with such childish innocence, seemed neither innocent nor childish now. A slideshow of memories flashed through his mind, of him and Prena playing in the nest, him taking care of Prena when she had been ill for many days, Prena crying over her favorite treat......

Strong hands steadied him, and he realized that he had lost his balance. He grappled for a firmer foothold before turning to Saltan.

{Is she okay?} Saron snapped, and then winced. The sound had come out harsher than intended.

But Saltan hadn't seemed to notice and chuckled grimly. {Okay? Not quite. But she is alive.}

{Will she.....} Saron began, stopping himself from saying {survive}. None of them would survive; everybody would die, some sooner, others lat......... a little less sooner.

Saron was determined that Prena fit into the second category.

{Quick, Your Majesty, you need to get into the tunnel.} said Pterus, his quick eyes darting towards the edge of the hillock, where more black-hooded Rebels, now elevated to the status of warriors, approached them. Even as he watched, Pterus calmly fired another arrow, taking one of them down.

Saltan picked up Prena's injured figure, and raced towards the cave entrance, followed closely by Saron, with his sword unsheathed. Pterus flapped after them, his swiftly-fired arrows taking down any Saurius daring to approach them.

When they reached the cave, most of the other survivors were already far inside. Saron allowed a quick peek over his shoulder, and his heart sank at what he saw.

{There's too many.} Saltan voiced his thoughts, dismayed.

{You need to get in.} Pterus said. {I will hold them off.}

{Now don't get all heroic, we are........} Saron began, but Pterus snapped, {Just do it, there's no time to dawdle. They are almost upon us.}

Saron was taken aback at the panic in the normally calm Pteravius' tone. His voice trembled, {Just... you know...}

Pterus shook his head, regaining his earlier cool and indifferent composure.

{Don't worry, there are a few more loyalists here. The three of you get in. We are going to hold them till you complete your mission}

Complete your mission. Saron shuddered at the statement; they would all die after the mission.

If they were lived long enough to complete it.

Pterus nodded at him again, as he fired arrow after arrow, taking down enemies with calculating precision. His posture seemed relaxed. But his eyes conveyed otherwise. Saron knew they had to hurry, Pterus and his comrades could only buy them so much time.

Saron met the archer's gaze, and realized that he couldn't be swayed. He felt a lump rising in his throat.

Turning, he barked at Saltan to follow him, and raced into the cave. The last thing he saw before the darkness swallowed him was Pterus taking his stand determinedly in front of the cave entrance.

{Back off!}

The desperate cry of a dying warrior rang out in the darkness behind, bouncing from wall to wall, making it seem that one, nor two, but all the fallen of the seven kingdoms of Pangaea and Panthalassa were crying out in anguish at their utter helplessness to save their beloved Saurius Empire. The echo stopped a few minutes later, but it's essence lingered in the hearts of Prince Saron and his followers, who felt their insides tear apart with sorrow; realizing, with a feeling of finality, that indeed it was happening; that none of them would survive any longer than two days, that the magnificent Saurius Empire which had stood the tests of time was indeed on the verge of collapse.

Saron smiled wryly. He had always been told that dramatic flair had been his weakness.

{Don't take another step!} The voice warned, but this time, it came out feebler, like it knew that he was making his last stand; one which would inevitably fail, but buy his comrades some more time.

And he was prepared to sacrifice himself for just that reason. But Saron wasn't going to let him die, not if he could help it. No matter what his duties, destiny and other big words asked of him.

{Trust your instincts}, his father had once said when he had been younger. {And follow the Commandments, no matter what. It may be difficult sometimes, but it's what helps us to stick up for what's right. And that's the most important thing you should focus on as ruler.}

Saron didn't know what he was going to have to do once he was ruler of his kingdom, but from the corner of his eye, he had seen his sister, Siron assigning roles for 'The Prince and the Pamparaptor' and he would forfeit his chance of being the 'Prince' if he was too late.

So he had wriggled out of his father's lap, and said, {Okay, Father. I will do as you say.} And his father had gazed down at him, a touch of sadness misting over his proud eyes, and smiled sadly.

As if he had known that this day would come.

Saron had never been the most attentive student in class, but he had learnt all the Ten Commandments by heart. The first of which was 'Never abandon a comrade in battle.'

Saron turned around abruptly, drawing his sword, ready to race off and help his comrade like he was supposed to, paying no heed to his companions' telepathic protests of {It's dangerous.}

What wasn't?

He had almost reached the exit, sword glinting in the half-light, when suddenly there was another cry. But this time, it was a shrill screech of fury, followed by the wrenching sound of wings tearing, slashing, cutting, roaring. As if the one on the other end of the tunnel was putting up a fight with whatever strength he had left, not accepting defeat. Like a true Saurius warrior.

The band of sixteen warriors stood in the cave, waiting. After what seemed like days, their eyes sparkled with hope. It seemed that their comrade might yet win, that he might yet get away, and join them, and they would soon be seventeen......


The resounding noise of breaking bone reverberated through the cave, followed by a shriek of pain, and then hoarse laughter of the victors, as they mangled the body of their their foe. There was a ripping sound, and then the sick sound of lips smacking, as if they were feasting of the flesh of the brave Saurius warrior. Who might have won, if it had been a fair fight. If his enemies had all not leaped upon him with bestial hunger. If his enemies had an ounce of honor that he possessed.

Sword clattering to the floor, Saron looked at the entrance of the tunnel, listlessly. The Saurius out there might have had a decent life, a future, an egg-partner, children, if he hadn't been killed.

If Saron hadn't abandoned him to die.

What was the point anyway? They were all going to die, so why did he have to go ahead and sacrifice himself like that? But if he hadn't, they wouldn't even have the chance to complete their mission.

But, would it really have mattered? Even if they completed their task, the Prophesied Asteroid would seal their fate. They would all die. So what was the use of completing the mission? What was the purpose of preserving their legacy if none of them weren't around to witness it anymore?

Any other time, he would have chided himself for being pessimistic, but this time he did not see any need. They had neither time nor energy for self-motivation.

Saron felt a tear roll down his grime - streaked cheeks, and felt the light touch of a claw on his shoulder. He turned slowly.

A three-clawed hand clasped his shoulder. Saron turned to see Veloc, his oldest friend and most trusted adviser awaiting his orders. The Velociraptor's normally alert, perked up posture was weary and his shoulders sagged. For the first time, he really seemed as old as he was. Even the feathers around his tail had lost their vibrant hue, and were now the dull grey of any other fifty-five egg-cycle old Saurius.

But none of the strength of his bygone days had faded, and his eyes still sparkled brightly. He gripped Saron's shoulders tightly.

{Veloc}, he said, lowering his head so that his friend couldn't see the tears welling up in his eyes. {Why me? Why not anyone else? Why not Prena or Pterus? Why did they have to.........}

{Your Majesty}, Veloc told him firmly. {Saron}, he added gently. {Have faith in yourself. We have to succeed, you have to succeed. You are the destined Ceratopsidan. You are the only ones who can make sure that the legacy of the Saurius Empire lives on.}

What if I don't want to? But Saron knew that he couldn't afford to act this way; the others were looking up to him.

Even though he was barely seventeen egg-cycles old. Saron lifted his head. {Who was that?}

Veloc sighed, knowing whom Saron was referring to. {Pterus.}

Saron clenched his fist; he had guessed as much. Pterus had been the last surviving member of the royal Pteravius family. Not just that, they had been childhood friends. When the war had cut their teenage lives short.

Pterus' face with his snarky grin suddenly flashed in front of Saron's eyes, as he remembered fighting over the last horsetail with Pterus at the age of two egg-cycles. The two of them shirking classes to play in the garden, when a little older. Pterus taking blame for a prank Saron had caused unknowingly and then locked in his nest without fish. The duo practising archery as clawmates under the stern eyes of their master, and Saron's stray arrows getting stuck in the elderly Ankylosaurus' tail.

He smiled at the memories, then cried silently when he thought that he wouldn't see Pterus anymore. Then he smiled on realizing that he too would die soon, and perhaps join his friend. Then he cried some more.

Suddenly, he realized that the Pteravius family, along with the Thyreros and the Marius families had been entirely wiped out. What did the scientists call it,........... extinct.

Well, they were just the first, he thought grimly. The other families cannot exactly boast of longevity, can they?

Looking around, he saw the ragtag group of warriors grimly watching him, awaiting his orders. The sight of his little sister, Prena, lying unconscious in Saltan's arms was enough to make his blood boil. First his mate Domena, then Prena, then Pterus. All of his near-and-dear ones killed or injured.

He felt anger replacing his sorrow. They had to complete the mission.

This battle was personal now.

Quickly turning his head, he tried to muster a commanding tone. {We have to move quickly! Come on.}

Leaving Veloc to gather his forces in a Club-Cycad formation, he turned and left.

{I cannot travel anymore.}

The wail echoed in Saron's ears, as yet another saurian, this time one of the servilsaurs accompanying them collapsed. Turning, he nodded imperceptibly at Veloc, who returned the nod and turned towards Salton, barking a command. Salton saluted, which made Saron smile grimly.

Here they were, a bunch of refugees, possibly the last of the Saurius race, facing life-and-death, and Salton was saluting, with all his military carriage, as if they were still waging the war, and possibly had a chance to win.

But maybe that's the only thing he had to let him forward.

{He's dead}, the Saltasaurus barked. Saron nodded.

{Okay, lets' go.}

He turned to leave, but was stopped by Topsy. The young Triceratops started hesitatingly, {But shouldn't we bury...}

{There's no time!} Saron snapped, brushing past him. The death of Prena five days ago, had transformed him into an empty husk like a Dinomaton, with a single goal in his life. He trembled, trying not to remember the moment, but unable to stop the events from flashing before his eyes.

Prena's had looked up at him with eyes as blue as the sky, wanting to see {Mom and Dad}. Saron had burst into tears, and promised that she would soon see them. Prena had laughed feebly at him with that high-pitched childish voice at him, teasing him for being a big baby.

Saron had moved away, not being able to watch. He had heard the other Saurius crying and Prena laughing feebly and calling them {big babies}. That had caused the Saurius to cry even harder, Prena with her childish logic and charming nature had been loved by all........

Saron had returned once Prena had taken her final breath. Prena's eyes gazing blissfully at the ceiling had made him want to cry, he had tried to break down into a sobbing wreck, but even his tears seemed to have been exhausted.

{Your Majesty!}

Saron turned with lips curling into a snarl, {I said...}

{No, it's not that.}

It was the blind Dinoracle, Delphi. The Dilophosaurus was standing with her arms spread wide, and she looked as though in a trance.

There was a long silence in the cave after that, broken only by the rhythmic breathing of the Saurius, and the faint rumbling of the earth caused by the meteor shower which heralded the approach of the Prophesied Asteroid, destined to doom them all. Yet nobody hurried, none dared interrupt Delphi when she was in a trance, and 'doing her thing' as some called it.

Finally, Delphi turned her head towards her prince. {I feel it is near.}

Saron's heart stopped. {} he asked, knowing the answer, but not willing to hope in the fear that it might not be true.

The blind Dilophosaurus smiled, a rarity. {The one which we had travelled so far to find. The Sentiencer.}

{What?} Saron exclaimed, a spark of his old thrill returning. He could believe his ears. {Where?}

The hope of finding the Sentiencer had almost become a dream now. They had traveled through the mountain so far, but now that it was near...

{Your Majesty!}

Saron turned and saw Orixx running towards him. The Othnelia scout had blushed a violent shade of red, like he did when he was excited.

{Yes, what is it?} Veloc asked.

{I was scouting ahead, and I sa...}, the young Nithpoda looked quite out of breath, but his eyes were sparkling.

Veloc interrupted, fixing the nestling with a stern glare.{Were you supposed to go ahead alone?} .

The Othnelia looked unabashed. {No, but you might want to hear this.}

Saron bent until he was eye-to-eye with Orixx. {Hear what?}

{The Sentiencer! I have found it.}

The remnants of the Saurius race stared up in wonder at the huge figure of the Sentiencer. The Dinomaton was shaped like a Therosaur, with the long neck of a Sauromorph curving up gracefully. Stone wings the size of a Dinomaton folded, unfurled from the back, and glittering even in the pale light. Armour, like that of a Thyreros covered it's breast, back and torso. Curving horns like a Ceratopsidan grew rose up from the head. The statue pulsed rhythmically with different colours, like that of the members of the Nithpoda royal family. Stone flippers lay folded in front of it, holding an iron sphere.

The Sentiencer combined attributes of all the noble races on Saurius. And it was the last hope for all the races too.

Saron stepped forward, mesmerized by the sight of the Sentiencer. The crystal eyes sparkled benevolently at him.

{The Sentiencer.} He mumbled, gazing up in reverence. {Finally!}

{Your Majesty, you need to activate the statue.} Veloc whispered behind him.

{I know}, Saron whispered. {Give me the syringe.}

Veloc put a hand inside his tunic, and brought out a crystal syringe. Saron put out his arm, and the Velociraptor piereced his skin with the metal point. There was a faint pain, like the one he would have wet his ferns over a few egg-cycles ago........

{Hurry up}, Delphi warned as the earth shook more violently. {The asteroid will strike in a few seconds.}

The urgency of her tone struck Saron. As Veloc administered the method used to transform Saurius DNA into fluid, he turned his gaze to his subjects, transformed into his equals, his comrades, Saltan, Delphi, Topsy, Orixx and the rest. Prena and Pterus should have been here as well, he thought with a pang of sadness.

The inevitability of death was written on everyone's faces; the understanding that they were going to die; that the only way for their legacy to live on was to sacrifice a part of their DNA, and hope it merged with the DNA of the sentient species that would arise after the Saurius went extinct. And yet they looked totally unafraid.

A strange feeling surged through him; something akin to parental pride. And now it was time for him to make the final move.

Another rumbling, even deeper than the last, brought him back from his reverie. As he blinked foolishly, he became aware of Veloc shaking him by the arm.

{Quick, Your Majesty}, the normally calm and level-headed Therosaur's voice was laced with panic. {You need to activate the Sentiencer! You are the only one who can!}

Saron nodded. He knew that. The Sentiencer needed the DNA of a noble Saurius to activate, to guide all the various Saurius DNA stored all around Pangaea and Panthalassa, which were connected to the Dinomaton, and help the DNA merge with that of the chosen sentient species, millions of years later.

And then one day, the first Sage would guide the chosen generation to the safe haven as planned..............

His claws trembled, and he took a step forward, before the earth shook violently once more. He pitched forward and the syringe clattered onto the floor. Saron cursed, knowing what had happened, even as Topsy's voice of {Look out!} rang out behind him.

Turning, he saw a deep crack split the floors of the palace, and widen before his very eyes. The crack spread like a gigantic spiderweb, spreading slowly across the floor and the walls. With a Saron watched horrified as Topsy teetered over the edge.

{Help!} the terrified Ceratopsidan cried, his eyes wide with horror, as he lost his balance. Arms flailing, he managed to grab the edge, but Saron could see that his sheer weight was making it crumble faster.

Suddenly, Veloc rushed past him with the legendary speed characteristic of Therosaurs.

{Hold on}, he yelled and grabbed Topsy's front claws. But Veloc, though more than adept in battle, was no match for Topsy when sheer weight was involved. Slowly, the struggling Velociraptor was drawn near the edge, as he scrabbled vainly on the rocky surface for a clawhold.

Saron looked around him desperately, to find a way to save his friends. Though he knew that they were all going to die, he did not want it to happen just yet, before he activated the Sentiencer.

His heart sank when he saw that most of his friends were too far from Topsy and Veloc, and separated by at least five-spikelength wide cracks. There would be no way to save them. They were indeed and truly doomed.

But Salton proved otherwise. Uttering a mighty bellow, the Sauromorph leaped over a Stegosaurus-sized crack as easily as if it was a Compsognathus nest. With surprising agility, he threw up his limbs, rolling over, reached out with his long neck and grabbed the two falling Saurius with his teeth. The muscles in his neck tensed, as, lifting them up with inSaurius strength, the giant Saltasaurus threw them on the floor. They were safe, or at least, for now.

But Salton wasn't yet. All the Saurius watched, horrified as the ground cracked beneath him. Before he realized what was happening, the cave floor gave way under his weight. The huge Sauromorph fell, roaring furiously, his awesome strength useless against the inevitable force of gravity.

{Saltan!}Topsy yelled, sobbing, and was about to rush towards the gaping chasm, when he was pulled back by Veloc.

{Stop.} The Therosaur hissed. {Do you want his sacrifice to be in vain?}

Saron winced at the choice of words. Salton's sacrifice would be in vain. They would all die here, sooner or later.

The next one to go was Delphi. The blind Dinoracle, in a haste to get away, yet not knowing where to go, stepped into a gaping crack. When she realized what was happening, it was already too late. The Dilophosaurus fell through the gaping crack, arms flailing uselessly, her mouth stretched in a silent scream of terror.

Noooooooooo! Saron's scream died on his lips. Not like this, not like this....... He had known they would all die, but not like this......

He wanted to be out there, helping his friends. In his heart, he felt that they needed him, and he, in turn wanted to join his friends, struggle with them, die with them.....

But the rational part of his mind bade otherwise. He needed to complete his task first. Otherwise all his efforts, all their efforts would be in vain. Speaking of which,........ there!

He lunged at the Syringe, grabbing it in his claws. Heaving a sigh of satisfaction, he placed an arm on the pedestal of the Sentiencer, ready to climb up to the slot for the Syringe, when he was tugged brutally down.

As he landed on his feet, he whirled around and saw Khaan, the Khaan standing behind him. Saron narrowed his eyes. Didn't Khaan know how important it was for him to activate the Sentiencer? His claws twitched impatiently and he felt a twinge of annoyance at the Therosaur, for tugging him down. Surely whatever he wanted to say, it wasn't more important than preserving the legacy of the Saurius Empire, was it?

He thought about rebuking Khaan, but decided against it. The Therosaur had always been a little difficult, and arguing with him would merely be a waste of precious time.

He was just turning to renew his ascent, when suddenly, Therosaur smiled, and kicked Saron in the chest, making him land on the floor with an ooooooof .

{What are you.....} He started, positively annoyed this time, but stopped on seeing the mad gleam in his eyes. A cold feeling descended in his stomach.

{Your Majesty}, Khaan said with a sneer. {Looks like you won't be the one to contribute your DNA. The honor will be mine.}

Saron stared at him aghast. {What in the Hellsaur do you mean?}

Khaan smiled, his eyes gleaming madly, his claws gripping Saron's throat. He choked, feeling his windpipe being crushed.......... {Like I said. I will contribute my DNA. Millions of years later, I will be remembered a hero by the next sentient race, once it is discovered.}

Khaan had always been different from the rest of his followe.., no, the word 'friends' would be more appropriate. The Khaan had always chosen to stay aloof, disagreeing with everybody, bullying younger Saurius, but he had agreed to accompany them on this mission.

But this was madness. And Saron knew from experience that the most dangerous Saurius were the ones who had lost their minds.

{B...But}, Saron sputtered, as a crack spread a thin appendage under his body. the rumbling noise had intensified, so he lifted his voice and said, {You are not a member of a noble family.}

{True}, Khaan replied thoughtfully. {But I will be the one to do it anyway.}

He's mad! Saron thought not for the first time, as he struggled under the grinning Therosaur. He knew that in a fair fight, Khaan would never have been able to beat him, but physically, the latter was stronger, and brought his beak closer to Saron's ear.

{No use trying to escape.} Khaan snarled.{Everybody always excepts you to do all the amazing, wonderful things. I will show everybody that I am as good as you, if not better.}

The rumbling sounds of the cave collapsing, and the terrified shrieks of the Saurius around him seemed to fade into the background, as, heaving his knife above him, Khaan smiled cruelly. {Now say goodbye!}

It was Saron's turn to sneer. {Go ahead and kill me. It won't make any difference. We are all fated to die here today, anyway.}

Khaan grinned maliciously. {Yes, but what about your DNA sample? Maybe, I can destroy it instead.}

Saron's heart went cold. Everything they had worked for until now, everything they had sacrificed couldn't be in vain. The future of the entire Saurius race couldn't go up in flames, just because of a treacherous power-hungry bully's whim.

{You wou...wouldn't.} the Prenocephale finally sputtered, though he knew otherwise.

Khaan's beak twisted with a sneer. {Try me.}

Pointing his sword at Saron's face, Khaan reached out with his tail. Curling it around the syringe containing the DNA, he pretended to scrutinize it thoughtfully.

{Hmm.} Khaan pondered. {Just a glass tube containing some greenish fluid. And yet, it contains the future of the entire Saurius Empire, you say.} Turning to smile coldly at Saron'r horrified face, he added {I wonder what's going to happen, if I crush it?}

{And I wonder what's going to happen to you if I crush the piece of Sauriushit on your neck, you like to call a head?} came a voice behind him.

Almost immediately, a tail as thick as a cycad trunk slammed into Khaan's midrib, and threw him fifteen feet away into the air.

Saron scrambled up and saw Veloc, Orixx, Topsy and a Plateosaurus named Palatia standing near. There was no sign of anyone else, which made Saron's insides twist painfully, and reminded him that he too, had a few minutes to live.

It was Topsy who had knocked Khaan away.

{Traitor!} The Ceratopsidan yelled, and was about to charge after him, when Veloc placed a claw on his shoulder.

{Let him go. He is not worth it.} The Velociraptor's voice was shaking with anger. With a jolt, Saron remembered that Khaan was his half-brother.

Palatia turned towards him. {Your Majesty.}

Saron nodded. It was time.

Taking a step back, he made a flying leap onto Topsy's shoulder, who bunched his biceps, and threw him up at the Sentiencer.

Saron flew up through the air, and grabbed the edge of the Syringe slot. But before he could insert the Syringe containing his DNA into it, a scream diverted his attention.

Orixx was hanging at the edge of a newly made crack. Palatia reached out to grab him, and pulled him up by his claws. Orixx landed on the stone floor with a huff, and they embraced, momentarily relieved at having escaped death.

Or so they had thought.

{Look out!} Topsy yelled, even as they broke off and realized what was happening. But by then, it was too late.

The crack through which Orixx had narrowly avoided falling had widened. More fractures were now cracking the floor around them, and between their feet, and crisscrossing over to the sides. Orixx and Palatia looked at Saron, meeting his gaze, even as the floor gave way, and they fell, claws locked in an eternal embrace. Their mouths were open in a scream, but Saron couldn't hear what they were saying over the rumbling and cracking.

Or maybe those were just wordless expressions of horror.

Turning his attention back to the task in hand, he wiped away a tear with the back of his hand, and hoisted himself up and inserted the Syringe. Even as he did, the rumbling intensified, and for a moment, seemed to be coming from the Dinomaton itself. With a grating noise, the Syringe sank into the slot.


He turned as Veloc reached forward to grab Topsy, in spite of knowing that they he was going to die anyway, sooner or a little later.

But then again, it was hope that had brought them this far and enabled Saron to complete his mission.

His claws missed, and Topsy disappeared through the chasm, leaving the two of them alone in the cave.

Their eyes met, and Veloc's sorrowful gaze brightened on seeing his triumphant smile.

But only for a moment.

{Goodbye!} the Velociraptor called, as the ground rumbled beneath the him. Saron waved a hand at him, tears blurring his vision, as the ground caved in under Veloc's feet. A few moments later, he was gone. Saron noticed that not just the floor and walls but the roof was developing cracks now as well.

Suddenly, the rumbling intensified, and with a resounding crack, the roof of the cave split. Saron waited for his imminent death, when suddenly, a movement caught his eye.

Running across the floor was one of the tiny furbeasts considered a Therosaur delicacy. Suddenly, a strange idea struck him.

Maybe the descendants of these creatures will become the next sentient species. He smiled at his own strange idea, even as the roof caved in on him, making his vision go dark.

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