“Shit,” I groaned as I pushed my exhausted legs into a sprint. I was at the ladder a second later, and I used it to climb up to the edge of our fort wall.
The majority of raptors were still at the base of our wall, and they hissed at me when they saw my head pop over. I ignored them and turned my eyes toward where Trel pointed.
A woman with long pink hair stumbled forward out of the blue teleporter glow some two-hundred yards from our fort. As soon as she exited the beam, the light shut off like someone snapped their fingers. A final clap of thunder echoed out into the clearing, and the woman jumped in fright.
The woman looked human. She was wearing what looked like tight blue jeans and a white silk blouse. My eyes shot to her feet when she tried to take a step, and I saw that she was wearing six-inch platform heels. She was dressed like a rich socialite who’d been plucked from a Catalina wine mixer, and I was struck by how beautiful her face was. Her neon-pink hair was a color I’d often seen on women from Earth, and I wondered if she was actually from my world.
My eyes strayed from her brightly colored hair, and I saw the pair of green feathered raptors racing toward her.
“Hey!” I screamed to get her attention, and the raptors on the wall below me hissed as they clawed at the wall.
“Hey! You!” Trel screamed along with me, and I saw Sheela grapple to the top of the wall beside me.
“Hey!” the three of us screamed together, and the pink-haired woman finally turned toward us.
“Run! Run! They are coming for you!” I shouted as I pointed at the two raptors racing toward her. They were about halfway there now, and I guessed that the woman had only a few dozen seconds to try and escape.
I doubted she’d be able to make it.
“Damn it! Run, you idiot!” Trel screamed as she waved her arms along with Sheela and me.
The distant woman seemed to come out of her confused haze, and I saw her head turn toward the raptors.
Then she screamed, stepped backward, and fell on her ass.
“Fuck!” I hissed as I tried to figure out a way to help her. I knew Hope was faster than these raptors, but there was no way I could get out of the door when there were twenty down below. They’d rip us to pieces in an instant.
The poor woman was about to get eaten.
“Fuck, fuck fuck,” I sighed as the green raptors raced closer to the woman. “We can’t help her.” I thought about what her life might have been like before she got here. I wondered what she was doing before the aliens grabbed her. I prayed that her end would be swift and painless.
But I remembered the men on the beach when I first arrived, and I knew that this poor woman would probably not have a clean and painless death. She was going to die screaming as the raptors tore her limbs off her torso.
“There is nothing we can do,” Sheela said as if she read my mind. “It is unfortunate, but--”
A blast of light came from the direction of the woman and raptors, and I felt my jaw drop. A bright pulse of pure laser-like energy had left one of the beautiful woman’s hands and streaked toward a raptor. Three quarters of the feathered dinosaur’s body was now made of burnt smoke, and the bottom half of its body tumbled through the ferns.
“Holy--” I started to shout with surprise, but the woman raised her other hand toward the single approaching raptor, and a second beam of energy shot from her palm. It was too bright to tell what color it was, but the other raptor instantly vaporized as if it had been hit by some sort of futuristic weapon. There hadn’t even been a sound. Just the flash of light and a half-disintegrated dinosaur.
“--Shit!” I finished as the pink-haired woman collapsed on the grass. She was on all fours and I could see her back move with dramatic breaths. It looked like her hand-laser-beam-cannons had taken a lot out of her, but I couldn’t argue with the results.
“Run!” Trel screamed at the woman, and I saw her try to get up from all fours. It looked like she was exhausted, but she managed to stand on wobbly legs.
Then she fell down again.
Fuck it all. She looked really tired. Could she blast another set of raptors? Could she get up and run? I had no idea what her real powers were, but the way she was bent over made me think someone had just kicked her in the stomach.
“I need to go out there,” I said as I glanced down at the raptors on the other side of the wall. None of the horde had decided to run toward the woman, but a few of them were glancing toward where the flash of light had come from.
The raptors seemed really distracted by our screams, and they were throwing themselves against the wall with insane fervor.
“What? Go out there? You are crazy!” Trel grabbed my arm with her long bone-fingers so that she could get my attention.
“You saw what she can do!” I said. “We need her. It’s just two-hundred yards. I’ll take Hope and--”
“Victor, no,” Trel interrupted me. “We did it. This is our home now. We’re safe. You can’t go out with that mob of beasts running around.”
“I agree with Trel,” Sheela said as she stabbed her spear down into a raptor that had jumped halfway up the wall. The monster screamed when her weapon hit it, and it fell down.
“Look at her ability!” I argued. “She killed the two raptors with some sort of power. She could help defend and protect all of us, and she’s right over there. It isn’t far for Hope to run.”
“They will eat you and Hope as soon as you get out the door!” Trel argued, and it looked like her black eyes were on fire.
“Look! They are all stuck right here because we are screaming!” I gestured down at the twenty-something dinos. “If you make a lot of noise to distract the raptors, Hope and I can slip out, and then we’ll be back in a flash with one more person who can help us survive.”
“Victor, this is the stupidest thing you’ve--”
“Trel, just fucking do it!” I shouted at her as I jumped down the ladder and ran toward Hope.
I thought about Heracula as I ran across our small camp. I wished the shark-man had made it off that beach with me. He had seemed like a good dude, and he would have been a huge asset to our construction team and an even bigger part of our defense. This woman killed two raptors without even touching them. If I could bring her back to the camp, our little tribe would have a better chance of surviving.
“Victor, I agree with Trel and Sheela,” Galmine said as I ran past her. “This isn’t safe. Please stay here.”
“Please untie the ropes on the gate when I’m ready,” I said as I stepped to Hope’s side. The flock of orange birds almost seemed happy as they clucked away by our cave, but the claw-happy raptors provided a terrible undercurrent of chirps and scratching right outside our wooden barricade.
My stomach dropped when I thought again about what I was about to do. Maybe it was idiotic, but the woman was so close to our camp, and I didn’t want to risk losing someone who could blast the living fuck out of dinosaurs.
Especially when we were stuck on a world filled with dinosaurs.
I could do this. I could save one more person and make our little tribe stronger.
“Listen to us!” Trel was suddenly at my side, and her long fingers closed around my bicep. “You are going to get killed out there! Stop being an idiot male. We know you are strong, you don’t need to prove anything!”
“Get back on the wall and distract the raptors!” I shouted at Trel as I climbed onto Hope’s back. Sheela was following my orders and shouting at the raptors from her spot on the wall, but I could see her stealing glances at me, and I could read her body language well enough to know she wasn’t happy with my decision.
“No!” Trel growled as she grabbed onto my thigh. “You can’t go out there. I don’t care if she has the power to kill them. It isn’t worth risking you.”
“Trel,” I replied. “There’s no more time, we need her.”
“You’ve been so nice to me these past days! No one has been that nice to me in my entire life! I joked with you about being a dumb male, but I can’t deny my own feelings. I’ve tried to tell you since that day you held me in your arms, but my expression of love only involves procreation--”
“I’m not dying--” I growled, but she raised a hand to stop me.
“Argh! Please let me finish. This is the first time I’ve ever done this.” Trel’s eyebrows were furrowed, and her voice trembled. “I have learned from Galmine and Sheela that love can be expressed in ways I never imagined. If you stay with us, I will love you and be loved by you without any conditions. I only want to be yours. Please don’t go. Let her die, we don’t need her. I can’t risk losing you. I love you. Please stay here with me.” Trel looked up with tears in her stormy black eyes.
“I, uh, don’t know what to say.” As I spoke the words, my Eye-Q flashed a message that I almost ignored, though I took a quick peek to see if it was super important. I expertly flipped to the flashing Assets tab to find all the numbers blinking.
I clicked the 2 after women and discovered: Woman added: Trel-Idil-Iria.
“Say you’ll stay and not go out,” Trel pleaded.
“Holy shit,” I blurted. “You--” I started to share the Eye-Q’s report, but I held my tongue. The computer somehow understood Trel’s words as worthy of adding her to my inventory of women, but if I shared that knowledge with her, she might use that as proof I shouldn’t ever go.
And I might be tempted to let her stop me.
“You are amazing, Trel,” I said while in the saddle she’d made for me, “but I have to save her. We need her powers, and we need help surviving. You need to help me by distracting the raptors.”
“Fine,” she spat. “Idiot!” Her spider legs drummed on the ground in an obvious temper tantrum.
“Don’t be like that. Will you keep this safe for me?” I took off my outback hat and offered it to her. Her black eyes opened wide, and she snatched it from my hands before I could set it on her head.
“I want you! Not your damn hat!” Her shoulders slumped, and tears poured down her cheeks.
But then she put the hat on her head.
“Sheela! Let’s get their attention!” the spider-woman barked, and then she ran over toward my other friend’s spot on the wall. Trel made a single leap on her spider legs, stuck to the wall, and then climbed across the vertical surface with ease. She started screaming at the raptors when she made it to the top, and then she moved so that the group would go further away from the gate.
“Hey you ugly idiots, over here!” Trel screamed.
“Here! Here! Here!” Sheela shouted as she grabbed the top of the wall and climbed across the points so that she could follow Trel.
“Galmine, untie the gate,” I ordered as I turned Hope toward the door.
“I don’t want you to go. Not one bit.” The silver-haired beauty walked between Hope and the gate.
“That woman needs my help, and we need hers,” I said as I gestured for her to get started.
“I understand,” Galmine replied with a teary smile. “I will never approve of sending you into danger, but that’s all there is on this planet. You would risk your life to save her, even if she didn’t have powers. That is the kind of wonderful man you are.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said as I thought about the pink-haired woman’s power. Yeah, I’d like to say that I would go out there to help anyone, and maybe I would have, but I was safe in here with three beautiful women who liked me, and out there was a bunch of hungry raptors. I was risking my life so that I could save someone that would turn the tide in Dinosaurland.
Besides, it wasn’t like it was that dangerous. She could just blast any of the raptors that came after us.
“You do have honor. It is why I love you so much. Come back safe, my dear Victor.” Galmine untied the last of the rope, but she paused so that we could wait for the other two women to give us the signal when they had the raptors on the far side of the fort.
“How’s it look--” I started to yell over to them, but Trel was already waving at me, and Sheela was standing on the ladder and leaning over the top of the wall to tempt the raptors.
“They are all over here! Go! Go! Go! Go!” Trel ordered.
I turned to Galmine and nodded at her to release the last knot.
“When we return, be careful of those things coming in after us!” I shouted to my friends.
“Be safe, I love you.” Galmine stepped out of the way of the door and blew me a kiss.
“Come on, Hope! Giddyup!” I shouted as I pushed my dinosaur through the door and out into the field.
No raptors were waiting for us in front of the gate, but I saw a bunch of tails to our left as they ran toward where Sheela and Trel were screaming.
“Go!” I said when we were clear of the gate.
Hope broke into a run across the open ground of the grove. I glanced over my shoulder when we reached the nearest big sequoia to make sure the raptors weren’t getting inside the fort.
I was relieved to see the gate was already shut.
But then my balls shriveled when I saw a few raptors peel off from the barricade so they could give chase to Hope.
“You’ll be happy to know they’re coming for us,” I shouted to Hope with a sarcastic laugh. I’d gotten us both into some serious shit.
I guided her around another massive redwood tree and then turned so that we aimed back parallel to the clearing. I nudged Hope to run faster and hoped the trailing raptors couldn’t see our path through the dense forest. My plan was to lose them in the forest and then come out the side of the clearing before angling back to the pink-haired woman. I hoped that I’d lose the chasing raptors in the redwoods, but at the least, I didn’t want to lead them straight to the woman.
For one glorious moment I enjoyed the sunshine and wind blowing on my face from the top of my dinosaur steed. I listened to the air pump in and out of her lungs with a deep bass sound a lot like a horse. She ran faster than I’d ever seen, and I got the sense she fed off my adrenaline.
“Go. Go. Go,” I urged her mentally. I was afraid to push her too hard, or I’d wear her down before we could get back home, but for the moment she was going fast enough that I didn’t think the raptors could catch up.
But then we found some of the green-feathered assholes. I didn’t know where they came from, but I suspected they were running toward the light that had dropped the pink-haired woman.
I saw the first raptor slinking through the ferns near one of the redwoods like it was sneaking up on a victim. My biggest advantage over those little hunters was that I wasn’t slowing down.
But they were chasing me now.
“Shit. Don’t stop, Hope,” I breathlessly relayed to my friend.
The green-feathered runners sped up to match our pace, but as one raptor got close, I adjusted Hope’s path so we drifted away from a collision. One monster made a biting lunge at Hope’s side, but it was too slow and ended up snapping at her tail instead.
I glanced back to see it chasing us, along with three others, and my heart almost ejected out of my mouth.
I ordered Hope to give me all she had, and she blasted forward like a rocket ship. The raptors seemed startled by her speed, and they let out an angry squawk as we lost them.
I turned to the right again and focused my attention on the clearing approaching in front of us. I pulled out my spear and kept Hope running along a curving route toward the woman. I wanted to come at the new arrival from the side while keeping away from the main pack of predators until the last second.
Hope galloped through the forest at what must have been thirty miles per hour. I almost couldn’t see because of the wind in my eyes. I turned back and saw that she’d lost all of the green-feathered monsters.
I felt as if I was jockeying a Triple Crown racehorse, and I urged Hope to sprint even faster.
The parasaur ran on her rear feet but kept her head low to the ground. Her long tail stuck out straight behind her and probably acted as a counterweight to that crested head. The faster she went, the smoother the ride became as she and I reached a finely tuned balance of motion together.
Hope crashed through some small evergreens, and we emerged in a clearing at full gallop. “There!” I burst out as I directed Hope toward the woman.
She was still on her knees and her pink hair fell around her face, but she seemed to sense I was riding toward her and turned her face up to me with surprise.
I hated to give up the speed, but I slowed Hope a little so I wouldn’t plow into the woman.
My heart rate and adrenaline revved dangerously as we crossed the open ground. I turned to my right and saw the group of raptors still at the wall of our fort. I then twisted my head over my shoulder and didn’t see any chasing behind us. It looked like we were in the clear, but I couldn’t shake the feeling we were going to arrive a second too late to save her. I squeezed the neck rope in my sweaty hands and swiveled back and forth to look for our pursuers.
“Get ready to jump up!” I shouted when I was fifty feet away.
“What is this place? I’m not going--” she started to reply
I watched her jaw drop as she got a look at what was coming out of the woods behind me. I didn’t even need to glance back. It was now or never for her.
“Whoa, girl!” I yelled to Hope as I yanked on the neck rope in my best effort to put on the brakes.
The woman’s eyes bulged as we bore down on her.
Hope’s feet dug into the loose topsoil and skidded like we were on ice. We slid up right next to the young lady. I reached out my hand, intending to help her up so she could sit behind me, but she kept her bulging eyes on the raptors.
“More are coming!” she screamed.
“Get up here, damn it!” I ordered.
I held my hand over the side as a clear sign of what she needed to do.
She looked up at me and opened her mouth to say something.
“You can do it,” I said in a reassuring voice. “Hurry!”
Hope was jittery as she sucked in mountains of air, and it reminded me we’d have to run all the way back with an extra load on her shoulders. We needed every second.
“You need to give me your hand right now, or you need to blast them with your power again,” I said as I glanced over my shoulder. There were four raptors coming out of the woods, and we only had like fifteen seconds.
“I only have two hands!” she screamed. “I can’t do anymore!”
“Then get on now or you’re going to fucking die,” I said in my ordering-animals tone of voice.
That got her full attention. She reached out her hand, and I yanked her up across my lap.
Then I turned and saw a group of raptors running toward us from the fort. We couldn’t ride straight back home. We were going to have to go around through the trees.
So much for a quick and easy rescue.
“Fucking go! Go! Go!” I yelled to Hope while also prodding her neck with my legs.
Hope bolted forward, and the woman in my lap screamed.
I had no time to put her behind me where she belonged. I wrestled with the rope while holding the beautiful woman by the ass to keep her from tumbling off. I kept the spear under my armpit, but it was one more thing to juggle. Hope wasn’t up to speed, and the parasaur’s movements were bouncy and unpredictable, like a lost raft at the wave pool. It was all made worse because I couldn’t focus on any one task, like telling my mount where to run.
Hope crashed through some tall saplings, and one of the branches nearly clothes-lined me right off her shoulders. She headed for a denser patch of trees. It was the perfect place for losing our pursuit if I could get my shit together.
I got back into position just in time to see a raptor overtake us on our right side, and then lunge for the woman’s long dangling legs. I flinched to the left, which put pressure on Hope’s right side. She must have read it as my desire to turn to the right because that’s where she went.
“No!” I screamed because it wasn’t where I wanted to go.
The raptor was in the air when Hope shifted course, and instead of taking a bite of the woman it smashed into the parasaur’s rigid neck. Hope let out a pained honk and veered to the side while the raptor ricocheted off, and the woman balanced on my lap let out a surprised screech.
“Hold on!” I shouted as I grabbed her tight ass. She probably had no idea how close she’d come to losing a leg from the raptor, or that she’d almost bounced off Hope’s back twenty times in the last thirty seconds.
The course change, along with my inconsistent commands and the unfamiliar woods, meant Hope wasn’t able to run at peak efficiency. If I’d just let her go with her instincts, she might have just gotten us the hell out of there, but my taming skill was playing against us at that moment.
We had to work together to survive.
Another raptor slammed into Hope’s side, and the woman screamed like a banshee. “It’s stuck to us!”
The saddle jiggled as if someone was tugging the attachment ropes. Hope immediately became less responsive, like the air had been let out of her tires, and I leaned to my right so I could see what the woman was talking about.
A fucking raptor was hanging on to the saddle by its wing, and Hope was now carrying the weight of three.
“You have to hold on,” I yelled to the woman. There was no manual on riding dinosaurs, but if there were, I’d probably be doing everything just the opposite of what it said. My pretty passenger held onto my left pant leg with a fingernail death grip while I yanked my spear from under my arm. When I write the book on riding a dinosaur, I am going to have a whole chapter on riding while distracted.
I used my thighs to hold myself onto Hope’s neck while the woman and I bounced along in the primitive saddle. At the same time, I got the spear into my right hand and aimed for the raptor hanging from the saddle rope on Hope’s flank.
The first strike missed by a mile, and the raptor let out what sounded like a mocking chuckle as it tried to free its wing from the straps.
The green-feathered monster was holding on with great determination, but I could almost see it think through how easy it would be to slash into Hope’s meaty flesh.
“Get off, you fucker!” I shouted.
I poked again and landed a strike on the inside of its mouth just as it howled at me. It didn’t draw blood, but the raptor recoiled at the foreign object, slid its wing out from the strap, and tumbled to the ground behind us. Sheela would say that was good enough to call a victory.
There was no time to celebrate. I slid the spear back under my arm and focused myself on actually getting Hope where she needed to be. We danced in and out of the thicker clumps of trees and ferns as I searched for a clearing.
The squawks of the raptors followed us. They actually sounded closer.
“Go faster!” I commanded Hope as we reached the edge of the familiar redwood trees.
Hope broke from a trot up to a run, but I knew right away she wasn’t going as fast as she had before. She still ran pretty fast as we moved through the open spaces of the redwood grove, but I wasn’t feeling the lighter-than-air sensation I felt when she was in top form. She must have been getting tired, and it made sense. She had been running a long time at max speed.
“Oh, no! There’s more of those things,” the woman shouted. “I want to sit up!”
I didn’t blame her, but there was no time to shuffle in our seats.
“Just stay still! We’re almost home,” I replied as I pulled my hand off of her ass. Almost as soon as I let my hand off, Hope leapt over a log, and I had to smack the woman’s butt cheek to keep her down on my lap.
“Home? We’re going back to Candraria?” she asked with a gasp.
“What? No. I meant we’re almost back at the fort. Now hang on!”
I lost the advantage of being somewhat concealed among the little evergreens and bushes back where we’d picked up the woman. The redwoods were more open, and now the whole pack of raptors knew where we were. A handful of the original chasers trailed behind us, but others were closing in from many other directions.
There were a lot of these fuckers.
I tried to pick the place toward home with the fewest little shits and then aimed Hope in that direction. It was a particularly ancient redwood with a large number of ferns growing around its base.
“Right there,” I said to myself as I guided Hope to the right side of the tree.
Some of the raptors hung back like they were also running out of steam, but there were plenty of them still nipping at our ass. I brought Hope alongside the tree and then tried to kick her into overdrive as we made the left turn, just as we did with the carno. She gave me her best, and for a few seconds, I felt that magical sensation of flying while riding her back, but we didn’t get far enough away before the main field of raptors rounded the tree behind us. I glanced back even as Hope was slowing down. She’d given us a little space, but there wasn’t enough time.
We weren’t going to make it.
“Come on, girl. You can do this,” I said with an empathetic voice.
“Don’t slow down. They are right behind us!” The woman was able to look backward easier than me because she was lying across my lap.
“Can you use your powers again?” I shouted as her fingers dug into my thighs like nails.
“Are you dumb? I only have two hands!”
“What does that mean?” I shouted in reply. “I know you have two hands!”
“Then why are you asking me to use my Lance again?” she asked.
“Never-fucking-mind!” I shouted down. I didn’t have time to figure out how her ability worked. We had to get back to the fort.
We came around another redwood tree, and I immediately recognized how close we were to the wall. If Hope was at full speed we’d be back in under a minute, but, she was still slowing. I needed a plan, or we were going to be swarmed, and then killed, and then eaten.
So I slowed her even more.
“What are you doing?” the woman screamed in a panicked voice.
I was making a gamer’s decision on the battlefield. Hope wasn’t going to make it if I tried to run her the whole way. We weren’t that far, but it was all open ground.
“This is where it gets tough,” I said. “I have to beat off the ones at the front, or they will take us down. You sure you can’t use your Lance thingy?”
“No! Why do you keep asking?” she turned to look up at me, but then her eyes widened when she saw our pursuers.
Hope now ran at a decent trot, but it was far under the pace needed to escape all the green feathered fuckers around us. I guided her toward a sequoia I recognized; it was the one just across the open field behind the fort.
More green raptors appeared in one’s and two’s on both our sides. Some almost seemed to hesitate when they saw Hope bounding by with apparent lack of concern for predators. But that pause didn’t last for long.
Another raptor ran up from behind and sprang onto Hope’s left side. The parasaur turned left and right to try to shake the stowaway, but the raptor held fast to her scales as well as the over-the-back rope harness.
“Come on, you little fucker!” I yelled at it. It was crazy hard to turn myself enough that I could wield my spear, but I managed to get just far enough I could point it in the direction of the feathery bastard now standing on Hope’s back.
I caught a glimpse of another raptor that ran at us from the side, but I could only deal with one at a time.
And there were a dozen more approaching.
I did one fast swing with my spear and then shot a glance toward our front. I made one little correction to Hope’s path, fought against my terror, and then gave the raptor my full attention.
The raptor shifted a bit as Hope adjusted her path, but didn’t tumble over the side. Instead, it chose that moment to lunge at me.
I braced the spear under my right arm and pointed it at the leaping lizard. I didn’t think I could thrust with one hand while doing all my other shit, so I planned to use my spear differently.
The raptor advanced along the ridge of Hope’s back with its mouth leading the charge. I countered by wedging the spear under the raptor’s tiny wing, then I used the pole to shove the beast aside, and momentum knocked the flapping creature over the edge. I felt the fallen attacker bounce off my foot as it tumbled into the dirt below.
We approached the final tree on our route, and I shifted our path toward home one last time. I managed to keep Hope to the slower trotting pace as we neared the tree, but I sped her up as we made the turn. The fort appeared only a few dozen yards ahead of us, and I felt a bit of relief flood my stomach.
“There it is!” I shouted to my dinosaur.
I asked her for a run, and she gave it to me, but Hope’s once-majestic breathing was now ragged and wet.
“Come on, Hope. You can make it,” I yelled.
I couldn’t accept that we’d die within sight of our home.
We had to make one last push.
“Galmine! We’re coming in!” I screamed as I directed Hope toward the gate. I could almost hear the raptors panting behind us, and the woman in my lap started begging me to go faster.
Hope hit her stride for a few precious seconds as we cruised across the first half of the open ground, but too soon she shifted back down to a tired trot. I spun around to see the raptors coming around the tree and slinking out of the ferns on both sides of the trunk. We’d been going much too slow to fool them with direction changes.
They knew exactly where we were heading.
Trel and Sheela were still doing their jobs as distractions. A big bunch of dinos stood below Trel as she hung on the side of the wall, making it look as if she was teaching some kind of class. Sheela was on top of the wall beside the spider-woman, and she was making quick stabs at raptors that tried to jump up the wall.
There were no raptors at the gate and my vision tunneled on the door.
“Victor, I’m ready!” Galmine yelled from inside the fort.
“I’m coming!” I shouted, but Hope was definitely dragging ass as we crossed those final yards of the clearing.
She was dragging lots of ass.
I now heard the raptors’ breaths from behind me like a chorus of angry steam engines. It sounded like they were running out of gas, but Hope’s tank was pretty much empty.
“We’re going to die,” the pink-haired woman said in despair as she gazed behind. It felt like we’d come to a complete stop, especially in comparison to just a few seconds ago.
I turned around to see what she was looking at but instantly regretted the choice. The forest was alive with green-feathered monsters. If I’d known there were going to be this many raptors, I probably would have just stayed in the fort.
Too late now, and I wanted to live.
“The fuck we are!” I yelled back. “Come on, Hope. One last push! Come on girl! We aren’t going to die today!”
My mount wheezed horribly, but her feet started to pump again, and she bent forward to give it her last push of energy. The walls of our new fort grew closer, and it looked like we were going to make it.
Then I heard a chomp behind us and turned to see the one-eyed raptor. He’d closed the distance and was trying to take a bite out of Hope’s tail.
An instant before we hit the gate, Sheela pushed it open and stepped out while screaming. She shot off to my right side and ran along the base of the barricade, going away from the entryway.
“Sheela?” I cried out.
While Hope navigated into the swinging door, I got a last look at Sheela running for her life around the bend in the wall. She dragged her spear against each log to make a loud distraction, and I realized she was still playing the part of decoy.
The raptors screeched loudly as a group and I thought they’d finally catch us, but instead of ganging up to take down the giant slowpoke, the raptors peeled off and went for the easier target they saw in Sheela.
Hope came off her back legs onto all fours and practically crawled through the swinging door. I had to crouch down toward the new girl on my lap while we went under the hinge. I kept it from falling on my head with one arm until it dropped onto Hope’s scaly back.
As the door shut behind us, I nudged Hope around because I wanted her to sit in front of the gate again. A greasy bundle of green feathers slithered through the side of the unlocked door, and the raptor charged into our fort and hopped onto our log pile like it was claiming the place.
All I could see at that moment was Galmine standing with nothing but the locking ropes in her hands.
And the one-eyed raptor moving toward her.
“Oh, fuck! Galmine!” I shouted as I pushed the pink-haired woman off my lap, dropped off Hope’s neck, and sprinted the little ways toward the rock woman standing at the gate. The monster turned its one eye away from Galmine as I stood in front of her, and the thing let out an angry hiss that sounded like a boiling tea kettle.
Yeah, fuck you, too, asshole.
I mentally commanded Hope to sit in front of the door, and I prayed that none of the other green feathered assholes would push through before I could lock it again.
“Raptor inside the fort!” I yelled as I thrust my spear at the Great Dane sized monster.
“I’m pulling Sheela up from the other side!” I heard Trel yell, but I was too busy with the raptor to look at them.
The green-feathered dino ducked back against my thrust, hissed at me again and then lunged forward to snap at me. This guy seemed bigger than the others, and I guessed he probably weighed as much as me. My spear gave me a bit of an edge against him in combat and I was able to step away from his snapping jaws and then jab him in the chest.
I made a few more thrusts at the one-eyed asshole to get him away from Galmine and back toward the woodpile. The little raptor hissed in a sound I’d not heard before, and he crouched low.
The stance reminded me of the rattlesnake I’d captured at Lacey’s house.
“Galmine, move back,” I whispered. “He’s going to pounce.”
I planted my feet in a fighting crouch as Sheela taught me, and then I braced my spear. The raptor sprung forward just as Ernie had done, and time seemed to stand still. My life froze as if I was taking a picture and studying it. The woman with the pink hair had her mouth opened in a scream. Galmine was trying to run to my left. Sheela and Trel were sprinting toward me, and the one-eyed raptor hung in mid-air with his maw opened. His jaws were aimed at my throat, but his small wings were back, and his chest was bearing down on me.
That gave me the perfect opportunity to aim right for where i thought his heart would be.
The raptor let out a nasty screech as he arrived, but my spear sang a sweeter song as it sank into the rogue dinosaur’s ribs. I was forced to take a step back, but then I tried to fling him to my right so he would stay away from Hope and Galmine. His head tilted in my direction as we did the deadly dance, and the son of a bitch whipped his tail right across my shins before he wiggled free of my weapon.
I winced in pain but ignored it.
I was left holding my bloody spear as the animal scrambled in the dust near the base of the sequoia.
The little shit got to its feet and howled at me. Blood poured down from his chest, and I was sure I’d taken out one of its lungs, but the bastard didn’t seem to be slowing down.
“Fucking die already!” I yelled at it. I got back into a crouch, again putting myself between that killing machine and my friends. The burning abrasion on my legs wasn’t going to prevent me from getting this done.
It took a few steps toward me, but before it could do its jump of death thing, a spear ripped through the air from over my shoulder and tore through the upper part of the raptor’s chest.
The javelin caused the dinosaur to fall backward and exhale with a hiss, but the little thing somehow stayed on its feet, which was my cue to go in for the kill. I gripped my spear, took a deep breath, and lunged toward him.
“Fuck you!” I screamed as I stabbed.
I aimed for where I’d already done some damage and hit it perfectly. Once I made contact, I pushed with every muscle in my body to drive that spear right through its feathery body.
“Die,” I growled when I let go of the weapon. My enemy fell over on its side with both spears in its body and began twitching like a chicken with its head cut off.
Then it was over.
“Victor, are you okay?” Galmine asked as she laid her hand on my shoulder. “It hit you with its tail.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said as I limped the two steps between us and wrapped my arms around her waist. The pain in my legs wasn’t going to ruin me. It was comparable to a full-on running kick in the shins from back in my soccer playing days. I panted like crazy and struggled to catch my breath while Galmine’s lips came up to mine. We kissed, and my body numbed with pleasure, but I kept my eye on the dying raptor the whole time just in case the fucker somehow got up to his feet.
“I’m so happy you are alive,” Galmine whispered when our lips parted.
“Yeah, me too,” I laughed, and then saw the raptor make one last spasm before lying still.
“I’m so fucking glad to see you,” I said as Trel wrapped her arms around me.
“I had no doubt you would be fine,” Trel said with a laugh. “You could have been a bit faster, though.”
I laughed at her joke, relieved to be alive.
“Here’s your hat.” Trel’s spider leg lifted it from her head and then maneuvered it onto mine so that her human arms didn’t have to unwrap from their embrace.
“Thanks,” I said as I stared into her black eyes.
“And here is a kiss,” she whispered, and our lips came together passionately.
Her mouth was hot like a fire, and she growled softly while our tongues battled for dominance. I don’t know how long I spent kissing the beautiful spider-woman, but I never wanted to stop.
“Ahem,” Sheela cleared her throat, and Trel and I parted our lips and tongues with a sigh. “I tied off the ropes, Victor,” the cat-woman continued as she pointed to the door.
“Ugh, can’t you see we were busy?” Trel groaned. “We know you locked the door!”
“It’s okay,” I chuckled as I gently pushed Trel out of our passionate embrace.
“Are you alright?” I asked Sheela giving her a good up and down to ensure she wasn’t hurt.
“I am,” she said with a nod. “We all are, thanks to you.” Her eyes glowed their amber color.
“Then come give me a hug,” I said as I opened my arms to the blonde woman.
She came to me instantly, and while we didn’t kiss, I could feel Sheela vibrate in my embrace. It was almost like she was purring, but I didn’t hear a sound.
“Aww, looks so sappy,” Trel said, but I could tell she was trying to fight against her tears.
“Get in here. This is a group hug,” I said to Trel and Galmine.
Soon we were all in a tight embrace though each of us still breathed heavily from our adventures.
“We are safe,” I whispered to the three women. “We made it. We are going to live. You all did a great job.”
“It was you, Victor,” Sheela whispered as her head lay against my shoulder.
“We are a team,” I corrected. “As long as we work--”
“What is this place? Who are you people? Why do those women look so strange? What are those creatures?” Why--” the pink-haired woman poured question after question, as if the faucet of her speech had been left wide open.
“What’s your name?” I interrupted her.
The pink-haired woman stood next to Hope, and I was suddenly impressed that she’d managed to climb down without any help. I tried not to judge her by appearances, but she didn’t look like she could last a day in the forest, especially in those high heels.
“My name is Kacerie Chandanowin,” she said at a much slower speed.
“Nice to meet you, Kacerie. This is Sheela, Galmine, and Trel,” I said as I nodded my head to each of them in turn. “I’m Victor. That beautiful creature behind you is Hope.”
“What is--” she started to say.
“Would you like to join us?” My words were meant literally for our hug, but I also meant them in the broader sense that she was welcome to join our family.
“Uhhh, I think I’ll pass,” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“These are good people, Kacerie. You are safe.” My three friends hugged me tighter after I said the words, but then they also reached out to the frightened newcomer.
“No, I need some fucking answers,” she said, but then Hope let out a short melodic note, and the woman stepped away from the parasaur. The woman’s stiletto heel got caught on a bunch of pine needles, and she almost tripped. “Ugh! Shoes!”
“You should take those off,” I replied.
“Fine.” She hesitated for a moment but seemed to work out that her big city stiletto heels had no place here. She reached down to unlatch each ankle strap, which gave me a moment to admire her figure as she bent at the waist. Rather than dwell too much on her breasts, the smooth curve of her ass, or even her crazy pink hair, I took note of her surprising dexterity as she undid the latches of each strap.
My gamer’s mind was already trying to guess her stats. Low strength was a no-brainer if her thin arms were any indication, but stamina would be a mystery until I could see her work and run. But, damn, watching her bend over with ease suggested she had high dexterity for sure, and I wondered why she kept telling me she only had two hands to use her power.
“Now tell me what’s going on,” she said as she dangled her shoes from her pointer finger.
I opened my mouth to reply, but a shudder ran through me. I wanted to talk to Kacerie. I wanted to tell her what was going on. I wanted to know about her history and world. I wanted to learn her special ability and start planning our next steps.
But I’d been up for almost two-weeks straight and just performed a drive-by dino rescue. My body, brain, and soul couldn’t take anymore.
“They will tell you,” I said as I tried to wiggle out of my friends’ embrace. “I need to sleep.”
“Wait,” Kacerie said as if to catch me. “I need to know about this place. How do we go home? How--”
“I will explain it to her,” Sheela said as if she was in charge of orientation.
“Thank you, Sheela,” I nearly slurred. Adrenaline was the glue that had been holding me up the past few hours, and now it was fading fast.
The women let me leave their hug, and I stumbled into the hut. Once inside, I tossed a log on the low fire and picked one of the leaf beds Galmine had created for us. It wasn’t as fancy as the one I’d planned so long ago, but here, simple was almost always better.
I took some gulps from the water jug and then fell heavily into the bed. I was sure the raptors were still circling our home like sharks, but the wall was stout enough to hold them. I let go of my fears and put my trust in the hard work and solid construction that got us here. That’s how I would finally get to sleep.
An instant or an hour later, Jinx pecked lightly at the side of my face. I opened my heavy eyes and returned his inquisitive expression as he stood there watching me.
“What is it? More dinosaurs? More birds?” I mumbled as I rolled over.
“No, Victor. Just me.”
I found Galmine standing in front of me. She’d pulled Trel’s curtain across the door to the hut, so we had some privacy.
The rock-skinned woman released the silver locks from her ponytail, and it fell around her shoulders as she shook it free with her hands. Her emerald eyes were deep wells of beauty in the low light of the fire. The illusion of clothing was gone completely, and her perfume was a heavenly reminder of our sexually charged chase over the last few weeks. Galmine put all her weight to one side and placed her hand on her hip as if impatiently waiting for me to do something.
“Well?” she pouted.
“Well, what?” I replied with a growing smile.
“You’ve tamed me, Victor,” Galmine said with a sultry voice. “And now I’m going to collect on all those times we had to put this off. Your body is mine for tonight, and it’s the only thing that can control the waves of hot magma inside me. So are you going to get out of those clothes, or do I have to rip them off?”
I laid there savoring the moment, knowing exactly what was going to happen next. I got thrown into this world and found myself without a hope of salvation until I met these incredible women. I spent a little over four weeks proving I could make good on my promise to take care of them.
I had delivered, and now one of them wanted to pay me back.
Who was I to say no?
“Well, I am pretty tired,” I said with a smirk. “I don’t know if I have enough energy to take off my clothes.”
“Then I will take them off, and do all the work,” she answered as she slowly stepped toward me. “I will serve your desires for every night we are together. I will be yours, just as our other friends, this camp, and Hope are. Maybe you will grow stronger, and you will find more women and dinosaurs to tame? Maybe you will be a king on this savage world?”
“Ha,” I chuckled as she knelt beside me. “That just sounds like a lot of work. I’m happy we are alive, and I’m happy that you are here right now with me.”
“I am too, I love you. Now, let me show you how much.” Her hand reached for my shirt and slowly began to unbutton the front.
“Damn, it’s good to be the king,” I whispered before Galmine kissed me.
End of book 1