Email: [email protected] TOMB HUNTERThe Adventures of Larra Court Episode 5The Quest of the Ludendorff Chapter 7 Back to the Cretaceous “A dinosaur!” shouted Steiner. “What the hell’s a dinosaur?” “An extinct species of animal,” replied Katie, “supposed to have died out several million years ago.” “It looks alive enough to me,” said Amy, “and I don’t think it’s friendly.” “You are right,” chimed in Jia Li. “I think it thinks we are supper!” The monstrous head was attached to an equally monstrous body. It surveyed them almost casually. Perhaps it was a bit perplexed by their strange appearance, or confused by the fact that they had not run away. Very few animals stayed around when a tyrannosaurus rex was in their presence. “Damned thing must weigh more than an elephant,” said Steiner. “Get under the fig tree, its roots will give us some shelter.” Cautiously, the party backed toward the tree, moving slowly so as not to excite the gigantic predator that faced them. They were almost there when the tyrannosaurus charged. All four of the adventurers fired almost simultaneously. At point blank range, they could not miss and they were all excellent marksmen in any case. Their bullets crashed into the skull of the immense creature shattering bone and splattering flesh. The tyrannosaur let out a terrible roaring scream that almost deafened them, and then, streaming blood from its wounds it wheeled about and crashed off through the forest. “Thank God it ran,” said Steiner, “I don’t know if we could have stopped it.” “No,” agreed Katie, “I hope it doesn’t have any friends.” “Let’s get a fire going,” said Amy. “It will help keep away the bugs and might discourage any predators.” “Right,” agreed Katie, “And it might get cool tonight.” They set up camp beneath the roots of the giant fig. There was enough dry wood around to create a huge blaze. Somehow the size of the fire seemed to reassure them. All around them were the sounds of the night forest. Every member of the party noticed that the sounds were unlike anything they had ever heard before in Africa. “Do you have any idea of where we came down?” Steiner asked Katie. “Our last heading put us about a hundred miles northwest of where we found our way to the lost city of the Ullabomba. Other than that I haven’t the faintest idea where we are. It is obvious that the region encompassing the Lost World is much bigger than we previously understood.” “That’s not good,” said Amy. “If the rest of the forest is anything like this region it will be awfully difficult for us to get out of here.” “I don’t think we have much choice,” said Steiner. We have to make our way to the area where your expedition set up last time.” The conversation continued for quite some time while the adventurers discussed their plans for getting back to civilization. Only Jia Li remained silent. The beautiful oriental was not much for participating in conversation, preferring to let her companions work out the details of any plan. She would go along with whatever decision they reached and give it her full support. Not that she lacked leadership qualities; she simply could not see any point in dividing the command. She knew that in the environment she was in Katie and Steiner were probably better suited to make decisions, as was Amy who had grown up in South Africa. If the party had been in China she would have assumed command as best fit to lead. They spent the night under the giant fig. They had decided that in the morning they would head in the direction of the airstrip that they had used on their first journey to the Lost World. They had no illusions about the difficulty of the journey. Although their destination might not be far as the crow flew, it was over extremely difficult terrain, and through dense rainforest and jungle. They would be fighting wild animals, insects, tropical heat and disease, and possibly hostile humans. Their equipment was almost negligible, which would force them to live off the land. Their chances were not good, but they had little choice. It was very unlikely that anyone would search for them, and even if a search party was sent out, the chances of being found were about zero. They got underway early the next morning. All of them were quite famished, but no one complained. They would have to forage as they moved. The rainforest had to be full of wildlife in order to sustain a monster as large as a tyrannosaurus. If they kept their eyes open they should be able to find something. Of course, they would have to be careful not to get eaten themselves. Who knew what sort of strange creatures they might encounter? They trudged steadily southeast. It was not easy going. As they had surmised, trying to walk through the dense forest was almost impossible. They had to make frequent detours around giant trees and dense tangles of vegetation. About an hour into their trek, Amy, who was moving ahead, spotted a not too subtle movement in the foliage ahead of her. Unslinging her rifle, she signaled to the others to follow her with caution. Moving as quietly as possible, they pushed ahead. They soon saw that they needn’t have worried about caution. Directly ahead of them were several huge animals. They were making so much noise that the party of adventurers had no difficulty in approaching them. The animals resembled giant lizards. They stood erect on their haunches, ripping off branches with their smaller forearms and stuffing the vegetation into their mouths. As the party of adventurers approached, the heads of the giants swiveled in their direction. They showed no fear. Probably they had never seen humans before and did not identify them as a threat. “What are these?” asked Steiner. “I’m not sure,” replied Katie, but I think they may be a form of dinosaur called a hadrosaur. They only eat vegetation, but I think they are so big that they don’t consider us a threat.” “Probably right,” said Amy. “But what about the little ones?” She pointed to a smaller ducked-billed dinosaur feeding alongside the giants. Even this specimen was over ten feet long. “I think we could handle that,” said Katie. “I don’t like the idea of shooting an infant, but we have to eat.” “What about the parents,” asked Steiner. “Won’t they object?” “Probably,” replied Katie, “but maybe we can drive them off.” “All right,” said Amy, “get ready.” She raised her rifle and took aim. POW! The small dinosaur gave a leap and then dropped in a heap. Immediately, the other duck-billed leviathans moved toward the fallen infant, forming a sort of defensive circle about it. Amy felt a little guilty about shooting the little duckbill, despite the fact that it probably weighed about ten times as much as she did, but Katie was right. They had to have food and shooting one of the larger duckbills was out of the question. “All right,” she said, “let’s see if we can drive the adults off.” She raised her rifle again. The party fired into the adults. They did not have much hope of killing the huge animals, but the bullets might sting them enough to drive them off. The hadrosaurs roared in anger. They sounded something like giant cows. Instead of retreating, however, the giant herbivores charged toward them. The adventurers scattered in every direction, hoping to confuse the stampeding giants. Their tactic worked. The hadrosaurs milled about in confusion. They lacked the fixedness of purpose that predators had. In a few seconds they gave up the pursuit. Jia Li's flight had taken her quite a distance from the others. As the sound of the rampaging plant eaters diminished, she stopped and looked around her. She was unharmed, but quite alone. I better get back to the rest of the expedition, she thought. Suddenly, she detected a slight movement in the foliage. She turned toward the sound. Then there was another sound behind her. And then another to the side. Something was moving in the forest about her and whatever it was appeared to be closing in. Jia Li readied herself for action. It came soon enough. From the undergrowth about her appeared several dozen dark-skinned men. But they were no ordinary men. Not a single one was over four feet in height and they were rudely dressed in simple cotton robes or animal skins. Their small stature, however, did not mean that they presented no danger. Each of them was armed with a spear longer than he was tall. Sheer strength of numbers made them a severe danger. The diminutive warriors closed in all her from all sides. Jia Li wasted no time. Leveling her rifle she fired several rounds in rapid succession. Each bullet found its mark, dropping a warrior with each shot. One bullet even took out two of the warriors, the bullet passing through the first and striking the man behind him. Her salvo had the desired effect. With cries of alarm the tiny warriors disappeared into the forest as fast as they had shown themselves. Jia Li remained on guard. Had the enemy retreated or merely gone into hiding? Slowly she moved through the forest toward where she had last seen her friends. She expected to see them at any moment. No doubt they had heard the sound of her shots and would be coming to investigate. There was another low rustling in the bush around her. Surely those tiny savages were not coming back? Suddenly, in front of her she saw the movement of several pint-size bodies. She swung her rifle to the ready position. But the attack, when it came, did not originate in front of her. Instead it came from the side and behind. Jia Li detected the assault as it materialized. A spear was thrown from the foliage to her right. With lightning-like reflexes, she swept her arm through the air, deflecting the missile before it struck her. Then another came from behind. She deflected this one as well. Few people could have intercepted these missiles, but Jia Li was highly proficient in Chinese martial arts. Years of training had given her reflexes that were far beyond the ordinary. Missile after missile was directed toward her, but she dodged or blocked each projectile with ease. Fortunately, her adversaries directed only one spear at a time in her direction. Even as she blocked them, Jia Li wondered at this. She also wondered why each spear was thrown so low. Not a single missile was aimed above thigh level. Then it came to her. This was not an assault on her life; the pygmies wanted to take her alive. The spears were meant to disable, not kill her. The missile attack also served another purpose. It prevented her from shooting at her enemies, and they were closing in on her slowly but surely. Eventually they were close enough that she could almost touch them. Then they rushed her all at once. If the tiny aggressors expected to overwhelm her by sheer numbers, they got a horrible shock. In close combat, Jia Li was even more deadly than she was with her rifle. She whirled on her enemies with incredible speed, her arms and legs striking in all directions. Each blow was delivered with precision and force. Her dark-skinned attackers fell around her in heaps. And then the attack ended. She was alone again, except for the bodies of unconscious and moaning warriors. Jia Li moved on. Where were the others? Surely they had heard the commotion, the shots. Then there was a noise behind her again. The little people were back again. Had they not had enough? She turned, her rifle at the ready. From the foliage behind her half a dozen black figures emerged. She shook her head. One thing was certain, these tiny warriors were persistent. Most attackers would have given up by now. This time they did not rush forward, but came at her with caution. Jia Li prepared to shoot. She did not want to kill any more of these brave little people, but they were giving her no choice. She leveled her rifle. And then the net dropped over her. She was caught completely off guard. The entangling folds of the net were drawn about her, pinning her arms. In desperation she fired through the netting, trying to scare off her captors, but her shots went wild. She dropped the rifle and tried to pull the mesh from her body, but she was already too tightly tangled. More than a dozen hands wound the net tightly about her body, ensnaring her so completely that she could not move. Then she was lifted from the ground. Completely helpless, the Chinese heroine was hurried away into the forest.