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"Didn't know I was looking for dinosaurs," Echo protested to Meow Mix's back. "Nobody told me to look for dinosaurs. If I went around making a fuss about every giant robotic theropod I saw on a day-to-day basis, I'd never get anything done." Her response was joking, as per usual, but the cat guy's words made her bite her lip behind her mask. She really hadn't noticed the dude-and-dino-duo, and when the trouble had started, she had just stood there like a inanimate lump while the other heroes did all the heroing. Really making a good showing of yourself there, Escher. Maybe know you can trip over your own feet and knock yourself out. You know, really wow the crowd.

With a sigh, she shook her head and walked over to where the rider had fallen. Maybe Axe Cop here would have something on him that might shed some light on what in all hell was going on. Squatting down beside him in the dust, she paused to wrap time around herself, then her hands and arms were nothing but the barest flicker of motion as she searched through his pockets, patted down his jacket, and admired his awesome gun. Whatever my flaws, nobody rolls unconscious dudes. Then she was standing, rifling through what she had found and tossing the less interesting stuff over her shoulder. "No ID?" she muttered. "Who the hell doesn't carry ID in this day and age? You'd think he'd at least have permit for the dinosaur." She glanced around at the others grimly. "We've stumbled across a secret underground cabal of unlicensed dinosaur riders, people." Turning her attention back to the contents of his pockets, she noticed something. "Lot of old-fashioned-style money here. And a lot of watches. Either he's been robbing a few graves, or he's determined to never again not know what time it is. Or not have a quarter for the payphone." She held a coin up to the light and squinted at it. "Why are none of these stamped later than 1855? This stuff must be worth a solid fortune. Maybe that's how he pays for the maintenance bills on the dinosaur."

She was holding watch to her ear and shaking it when she noticed something else on the rider's hip. "Hello, what's this?" She plucked it up and eyed it cautiously - it was a black saucer-shaped object with two buttons on it. "Here's hoping this isn't a detonator," she said cheerfully, and pressed one. The device emitted a burst of whistling static, and she released the button with a start. "Huh. Some sort of communicator, maybe?"

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The T-Rex grunted and snarled as Geckoman took the reins, forcing Chris to grab on hard just to keep the beast steady. But his steady hand and quick feet kept him on board and within a few minutes he had the creature subdued. Up close, the T-Rex did not look healthy. The metal armor it wore looked actually grafted onto lumpy, lizardy skin (which, come to think of it, looked far more like a movie T-Rex than a product of actual evolution), with painful-looking redness at every spot where iron touched flesh. It smelled just a little off, too, as if somewhere Chris couldn't see flesh had begun to necrotize. This was not, by any measure, a happy cyberization - if you could call iron plates bolted to reptile flesh cyberization. The creature's movement's beneath his thighs were awkward and unhappy; and Chris had the distinct feeling this animal had been abused. 

Under interrogation, their prisoner tried to clam up - but with eventual persuasion, pointed them towards the trail he'd come from, the same that Echo had spotted earlier. It was a mile or two where they were going - but they had nothing but time, here in this strange, misplaced desert! They were clearly following the tracks originally made by the dinosaur, its former driver now strapped to its side. Heading the way they'd been told to go finally revealed a weird, wonderful sight - like something cut from the pages of 21st century fiction but nonetheless all-too-true! 

A Western town was tucked away on the other side of the ridge, built along the banks of a river in what from the nearby road must usually have been a major thoroughfare, or at least a trail. The town had all the amenities one would expect; but the gablefront houses, businesses, and what looked to be a mine built into the nearby cliffface were all completely overshadowed by what crouched next to the town - a shape like a giant human head, larger than any building in that town, with three glowing 'eyes' like windows in the front and long, waving arms rising above it like tentacles. From out of the 'mouth' was walking another T-Rex with another human rider, matching the half-dozen others scattered through the town! 

The human population of the town was hard to make out, but a line of men were going into the mine under the watchful eye of two guarding T-Rexes, and the flash of light and noise of working machinery told the Interceptors that there was something going on both inside the mine and around the rather abrupt bend in the river. To get a closer look, they'd have to get closer. 

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Holding the ten gallon hat to his head with one hand, Jack surveyed the town from beside Geckoman atop the beleaguered cyborg. "Alright, so, alien future dino-people are trying to take over the Wild West. That seems like a thing we should probably put the brakes on. Figure the big head thing's a good place to start looking for Steve?" Leaning over the edge of the bizarre 'saddle' he called down to Echo and Wildcat. "This is fine, I lived with a weird techno-cowboy for a couple of years, it's fine. Listen, we're going to get you guys home but I'm not going anywhere until we find our friend, alright? So all jokes and posturing aside, if you two want to lay low in the meantime, that's cool. I'm serious," he insisted, raising a hand before either of them could object reflexively. "I know what it's like to be the guy who just wants to keep the streets a little safer and then get roped into some bizarre movie set weirdness. Yeah? But if you're up for punching some evil space hombres on robo-rexes in the face then you need to follow my lead. If you can't do that you're going to get somebody dead. Probably Gecks. So?"

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Geckoman looked down, patting the poor dinosaur's flank. "Oh, sweetie, he was mean to you, wasn't he? Don't worry, I'll look after you. Lizard bros." He turned his new friend in the direction of the mine, getting ready to ride off to go investigate and hopefully find Steve.

He leaned over the edge of the saddle down at the two newbies. "Oh ignore him, he's grumpy when it gets weird and out there. Which is annoying, because that's the business. And I'm," he jabbed Erik hard in the side. "Not going to die. One of us can regrow our pancreas here, and it's not you, Swords Hard Guy." Geckoman gestured at him, riding atop a giant cyborg dinosaur with a trenchcoated magical swashbuckler. "Tell you what, guys. Come help us out, and you'll get to fight alien dinosaur robots and also ride this big-ass T Rex. Whaddya say?"

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Echo puffed herself up indignantly. "Law low? The very idea!" She waved expansively at her own blue-and-silver outfit. "Do I look like the type of hero who likes to lay low?" she asked, giving her long white false hair a flip for further emphasis. "I'm not exactly going to blend into the crowd here, so the only way to stay inconspicuous would be to run a hundred miles off thataway and hide in a ditch for the next however-many-hours. Or...I could stick around and ride the robot dinosaur. With the tantalizing possibility of more robot dinosaurs to come. I mean..." she looked around at the other heroes, "that's not even a decision. Not really."

She paused for a moment to take a breath and reflect on what she'd just said. I bet that sounded like posturing.

Edited by R. Bluefish

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"I've heard rumors of such things, Lord, but one has never been taken intact." Shadowy tentacles ran across Steve's bare chest - did the shadow-witch intend for him to shrivel in disgust? But bound and chained or not, he had had far worse than this - in the black pits of Nihilor, and beyond. In places that these people, inhabitants of a time far removed from Earth-Prime's own, must never know. Instead he locked his eyes on the conversation as the woman in gossamer wings of black, in what would have looked like a dark angel's costume to these people's eyes, spoke to her bearded master. "We could learn much about the land beyond shadow from its remains.

"Now now, my shadow queen, you are too cruel! Look, this is a man, a man with the marks of slavery on his body. We are not like those cotton-picking savages back East" Her master, effortlessly at ease, took a seat in a plush chair and sipped the wine a servant had poured them. The red silk and brown wood of the chair stood out as a sharp contrast to the rest of the cool silver lining of the room. "He has but to answer me the simple secret of his origins, and we can undo those troublesome bonds and show him our plans. Surely that is a small favor, my friend Steven?" 

-

Across town, the trio in the cliffs suddenly heard an exclamation. "You! You!" Turning around, they spotted two men in brown leather and blue denim, hands raised as they approached. "You, parlay over there!" The taller of the two, a blond with strikingly handsome features and a short mustache, seemed to be the leader of the bunch. Despite the Old West setting, he had a distinct French accent. "You're not one of those spaceman's goons! How did you get past the flying machines?" 

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Geckoman yanked on the 'reins' of the dinosaur. "Woahoahoah, easy, big guy!" he called down to it. It lumbered to a stop with huge clumping footsteps.

He stood up in the saddle, leaning down to look at the men. "Guess we got lucky," he mused. "I haven't seen no flying machines. Might be something to keep in mind." Geckoman glanced at the team around him, and the giant dinosaur. Well, even if these guys were part of whatever or whoever had brought them here, or had Steve, they were outnumbered and in any case, probably couldn't fight a dinosaur.

"We're looking for a friend of ours. Not from around here, might be a bit... clanky and metally, might not be. You heard of anyone like that?" While he was fine with asking these men, he didn't want to give away too many details. "We figured we'd head to where those other guys've got dinos too. Thought they might be the type to have... come across him."

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Jack was a little distracted by the floating head as Geckoman began probing the pair of new arrivals. It didn't look exactly like the Gorgon but there was more than enough commonality to bring his unconventional sister-in-law to mind. With strange family ties in turned back to the pair of blonds and frowned. "Hey, let's not be impolite," he suggested, stepping toward the front of the dinosaur's saddle to get a better look. "Introductions, yeah? This is Gecko and Echo, fastest guns beneath the sun. You can call me Jack. Might say I'm the Jack."

Playing his hunch, wild though it might have been, he planted a boot on the edge of the saddle and launched himself over, somersaulting through the air to land nimbly in front of the pair. "You're French, yeah? Mercenaries, maybe? You boys like... cards?" He cocked his head slightly and gave them a significant look, his lighter palmed unseen in his left hand just in case.

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"C’est vraiment des conneries!" said the shorter of the two, a redhead with a scarred face and thick handlebar mustache. He went for leather - but his brother put a hand on his arm, fast, before another duel could break out. This was a far more vigorous reaction than House mercenaries under cover usually had! 

"I hardly think the House would send men from space after us, brother. And how would Ruth and Abigail think if they heard you talk that way, hm?" He gave Erik a tight smile - and as he looked at the two men, Erik was struck with a distinct feeling of recognition - he had indeed seen these two men together, with that distinctive facial hair, in an oil painting on a wall somewhere..."My name is Achille Batallie - this is my brother Etienne. I will not trifle with you good sirs, or you good lady," he said with a cordial nod and a tip of his hat to Echo. "If our mother sent you, then you may tell her that we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ rather than the teachings of the House of Cups. If you wish to argue this point, we shall all go see Him together, hm?"

He was still smiling as he looked up at the big dinosaur, and over at the three superheroes arranged to oppose him. 

"Personally, I would far rather speak of the men from space. They landed here two months ago, killed the sheriff and our town militia, and began making those damnable iron lizards - with the help of our fellow townsfolk. The riders we have sent out did not return - our fellow Saints must believe us besieged by hostile Indians. But the reality is worse than that. If your friend is here, and has not been killed by the riders, he is either excellent at hiding...or he is below. The Master of the vessel below, as he calls himself, has been exhibiting certain strange artifacts since his arrival. A man of metal would have been as interesting as a lizard of similar vintage." He looked up at the T-Rex, his dark eyes narrowing unhappily at the sight of the beast. 

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Jack grinned, a bit of a wild edge to the expression. He wasn't sure if running into a couple of House deserters in the middle of nowhere and nowhen counted as lucky but it sure was a hell of a thing. "Hermano, we are copacetic. Anybody with enough sense to leave those chuckleheads behind is alright with me." He folded his arms as Achille explained the situation and where he suspected Steve might be held prisoner. "No worries about getting killed, our friend's a tough customer." He wasn't even going to entertain the idea that they might be too late to save the emancipated omegadrone. "Fortunately we've got some experience dealing with the sort of guys who like to call themselves 'masters' of anything.Where are the townspeople being held?"

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Echo looked from one man to the other, head tilted at a quizzical angle, trying unsuccessfully to follow the exchange. Cards...Jack...Cups...She sensed that there was something she wasn't understanding here. From the way they were talking, it was evident that the House of Cups was more than just a very specific men's sportswear store. She made a mental note to do a little more research on that subject if-and-when she got back home. For the time being, she decided to focus on something she did understand: men from space who were making cyborg dinosaurs and trying to take over the Old West. Sometimes you had to just stick with the basics.

"Please tell me the townsfolk are being held in the giant head," she said. "Or that we need to shut down dino production in the giant head. Or that we need to go through the giant head to save the Tin Man. Or...look, I just want to go in the giant head, okay?" She threw up her hand defensively. "Sue me."

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"Come now, ma petite," said Magritte as she slid her long, manicured fingers over Steve's muscular torso. He didn't shudder - his body was perfectly rigid as he stared balefully at the shadow-witch. "The Master is the most powerful man on Earth. He can be a wonderful friend. And so can I," she added, breathing into his ear. They were alone now in the steel-gray room - the 'Master' had left minutes earlier, and there was nothing but Steve's half-naked body, the woman pressing herself against him, and the chains, far harder than tempered steel, that held him in place. Her touch was as unpleasant as if crawling carrion eaters had been dumped on his skin - worse, because those at least were simply hungry animals. This was a living being choosing to torture another - so when she leaned close for his response, Steve whispered back what seemed like a serious question. 

"Tell me, are all practitioners of obtenebration-" 

She read his tone and stepped back, a snarl on her face as black lighting tore from her fingers and suddenly played along Steve's body, the jolting force burning his nerves and pulling his muscles tight, teeth clenching shut with the force of spasmodically stimulated muscles. But he would not writhe, no, he would give this petty torturer no such satisfaction. Instead he stared, balefully and silently at her, a rock beneath the crashing waves of shadow, even as pain pulled at his muscles and skin like fire crackling along his metal bones. 

-

"No, good lady, the head of the monster is where the head himself stays - the Master and his Four." Achille spat on the ground before continuing. "They tried to call themselves angels and the Master the Son of God returned - as if we are stupid sheep to be led by any man with a glowing cross. I know vassals when I see them - and a false Messiah. We have seen enough of those." He looked at Erik at that, evidently taking his story about being a fellow defector at face value - for now. "Our loved ones are held in the mines below and the shacks outside, including my brother's wives and my own adopted daughter. The so-called Master and his Four, it is they who make the lizards - the bones are dug up, delivered to the vessel, and within a day they exit through the rear there. He has some...twenty of those, I believe." 

"More in yon valley," said Etienne with a nod towards the ample mountains that lay beyond the mine. "And all of them with arms enough to walk into Paris at dawn and eat the Emperor by sunset." 

"Well," said Achille with the smile of a man who smiles to cover his own concerns, "with our new friends, we can make sure that does not happen. We would have rushed the place ourselves, but we are but two and there are some fifty men in the vessel itself - and fifty more holding our loved ones in chains. My brother and I are no ordinary men, but with their repeaters, their numbers would tell every time."  

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Geckoman sighed, and rocked back on his dinosaur. "That's... that's a lot of men." He continued idly rocking back and forth in the saddle. "Eh. We have a dinosaur too. And there are seven of us. Get me a stetson!" He pointed his hand at the sky. "This will be magnificent." The idea of only rescuing Steve and not anyone else didn't seem to have at all crossed his mind. 

He leaned over in the saddle and peered down at their new friends. "Well, you clearly know the terrain better than us, and the odds'll be against us given how massively, hilariously outnumbered we are right now. We're going to either need choke points, or ways to surprise 'em. Y'know, all shock and awe." Chris glanced back at Erik. "Fearless Leader, you normally cover this stuff. Best way to fight hundred dudes plus dinosaurs." He pointed down at the reformed House members. "Terrain experts." He pointed his hand back at Erik. "Go!"

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"Gee, thanks," the swordsman drawled looking in each of the directions the brothers indicated and letting out a long breath from one corner of his mouth. "Alright, here's how we play this. Gecks, take Escher and the brothers and steal every big robot dinosaur you can get your mitts on. See how those banditos keeping everybody locked up in the mine handle a stampede, Spielberg style." If the riders in town were of the same caliber as the man he'd knocked out to procure their current ride he was willing to bet the rank and file thugs didn't have the stones to stand and fight against their own unfair advantage. "See about sabotaging whatever weird science stuff they've got set up, too, if you can but only once you've got everybody out safe." He nodded grimly toward the floating head-shaped craft. "I'll go get our guy back."

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Echo hesitated. "Okay, ordinarily any plan that involved me hijacking robot dinosaurs would have my wholehearted and unconditional support, but are you sure that's a good idea? You going to save the big guy all by yourself? I know you said that if I didn't follow your lead then Gecks would die, which would," she shot Geckoman a comradely look, "totally suck, but if we're going on the assumption that the bad guys have Caradoc, then maybe you shouldn't try to go solo against whoever it is keeping him locked up. I mean, whoever it is must be pretty badass to be keeping him in a cage. What if you just end up getting nabbed too, and then we have to rescue the both of you?" She raised her hands placatingly. "Not trying to challenge you here. Just trying to think of the worst-case scenario. I know we're bit starved for options, but isn't there any way we can do this that's a bit safer for you, and still involves me hijacking robot dinosaurs and stampeding them down the main street?"

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"Ha, you don't know Caradoc," Jack grinned back up at Echo, finding her concerns endearing but probably more humorous than the white haired heroine had been going for. "He's going to be upset enough that even one of us went to help him while there were still innocent folks in trouble. And don't worry, fighting way out of my weight class is my specialty." Inwardly he had to admit that she had a good point; best case scenario he was at least looking at someone capable of keeping an unarmored Steve in one place, either by disabling his cybernetics or just being really ungodly powerful. So that'll be interesting. With luck, though, countermeasures that worked on the former drone wouldn't work quite so well on the very different swordsman. With lots and lots of luck. "Of course, if you don't hear from us by the time you wrap up, y'know, feel free to come looking! Now go on, raise some robosaur hell!" He gave Echo his most confident, reassuring smile and a thumbs up.

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"Fair enough," Echo consented. "I mean, the worst that can happen is that we all die. No point in being overly cautious, right? Good luck, and don't worry. If you get captured, we will come rescue you." She paused, then added, "Unless we're dead." She considered. "You know what, don't get captured."

She turned to the others. "So, the man has instructed us to raise robosaur hell! These are instructions that I can absolutely follow in good conscience." With a whumph, she appeared standing between the Batallie brothers, a friendly arm around each of their shoulders. "You said they have about twenty of the big metal lizards? We only saw maybe seven or eight when we were coming in. Where do they keep the rest, how many goons are guarding them, and where's my cowboy hat, consarn it?"

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"But if you went really fast, would the hat stay on?" mused Geckoman from atop his dinosaur. Then he clapped his hands together. "Right, rough plan. You, Ferrari Girl, when we get there, you get in, you get those pens or whatever you keep a dinosaur in. You get them open. We'll," he gestured at himself, their new allies, and his dinosaur, "We'll get past the goons. Hopefully we all meet in the middle and we can start herding dinosaurs. I do not have a solid plan on how one does that. I'm sure something will arise." Geckoman frowned briefly, then smiled broadly. "Well, I hope so."

He leaned forward in the saddle. "And the other vital component is we all stop plotting my death." He threw his hands in the air. "I am a professional! I have a dinosaur!" He pointed at Erik. "He might die! He's planning some valiant one-man attack!"

Edited by Ecalsneerg

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"Pain?" Steve leaned forward and whispered in Magritte's ear, the taste of his own blackened blood in his mouth. "You think you can make me speak with pain?" His voice was throaty - not from screaming, but from the effects of the shadowy tentacles that had gone down his throat just a few moments earlier, blocking an airflow he still needed. "In the black ghetto of my youth; we longed for something sweet as pain."  

-

The giant head-ship was easy enough to approach, or so it seemed to Jack. A shipment of rocks, the fossils preserved in them visible to his keen eyes, were being loaded into the front of the vessel by mine car, the overburdened people carrying them straining as they pulled their chains to lug the wobbling vehicle towards the irised-open silvery gateway at the head of it. Two more T-Rexes were there, one on each side; and a figure Jack didn't recognize. It looked like a man in traditional white zhiduo, but with an oddly grinning porcelain mask over his face. There didn't seem to be any other security here; perhaps the Master and his Four were simply not worried about this? 

The rest of the cyberized dinosaurs turned out to be in a deep, wide paddock, as large on the inside as a football stadium, a few rises away, the grandeur of the various dinosaurs cut down to size by the dank odor of rotting flesh that rose from the filthy, gore-covered ground. It looked like the T-Rexes, and various smaller creatures of similar bipedal, predatory build had been fed so far on the livestock of the people of Moab, but the sickly-looking cattle and sheep took up hardly any of their smaller sub-paddocks. It looked like the dinosaur army was close to running out of food. The guards were encamped in tents near one entrance to the paddock (all of it with the smooth marks of artificial construction), with no visible barrier between themselves and the dinosaurs. There were two visible ways out of the massive artificial rift; one that would lead out of the area and through the mountains (no doubt their planned exit) and one, curving, twisted path through sharply rising red rock columns, that led back towards the mines. 

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It probably said something about Jack that his first instinct upon seeing the conspicuously costumed man and tasting the waves of the same cosmic energy powering the hovering ship radiating off of him his first thought was that this was someone he ought to try and fight. Still, he squelched that impulse for the time being; his priority was finding and rescuing Steve and he couldn't afford to get tied up with somebody who was apparently formidable enough to be a one-man security force.

 

Instead the swashbuckler silently skirted around the rocky outcroppings and the enslaved townspeople with their heads down, edging closer to the vessel itself. Finding a good sized rock and judging its weight for a moment he popped up long enough to whip it through the air to strike one of the cybernetic faux-dinosaurs on the snout. The beast shook violently, trying in vain to find the source of the projectile and occupying both its own rider and the one on the second T-Rex for a moment. That was all Jack needed to make a break for the floating ramps leading into the head-shaped ship, sprinting inside without being spotted.

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Somewhere in the back of Echo's mind, the more sensible part of her was insisting that letting the dinobots out was the last thing they should be doing. Loose dinobots were to a plan what a shrapnel grenade was to a wedding procession. She fastidiously ignored that annoying little voice, reminding herself that if she didn't stick to the plan, Geckoman would die. Or possibly Jack. And then for the rest of her life, she would be known as the white-haired little idiot who got Geckoman (or possibly Jack) killed because she refused to release a herd of dinobots. Screw that.

 

Lying prostrate on a nearby ridge, she took several moments to scope the situation. Okay, guards there, dinos there, gate there...dead cows...ew...dead cows all over the place.This might take some finesse. The art of remaining undetected in hostile territory was as intricate and precise as a well-played game of chess, requiring one to constantly anticipate the moves of one's opponents, be intimately aware of the environment, and be willing to adapt at a moment's notice.

 

Whumph.

 

She stood before the gate, half-crouched. She shot a glance over her shoulder. There were no cries of alarm, not wailing siren. Success! I am a the undisputed master of espionage. Carefully and slowly, she pulled back the bar that held the gate shut, with an occasional look at the encamped guards to make sure she was still unseen. She then pushed the gate slightly ajar, and with another whumph, was back on the ridge. "Mission accomplished," she announced. "You're lucky you have me along."

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"Well, I dunno about luck, yet," drawled Geckoman, drawing himself up in the saddle. "Alright, boys and girls, we ready to liberate some dinosaurs from their oppressors? Oh, and people too." He urged his mount onwards. "Hyah!"

 

The huge dinosaur surged forward suddenly, footsteps stomping the earth beneath it, Dust surged up, trailing in its wake as it raced forward towards the camp faster and faster, until the individual thumps were blurring into one constant drumline. At the final approach, Chris urged his mount upwards, and it obliged, leaping up on its strong dinosaur legs, sailing the final few feet through the air. It landed with a devastating thump, throwing up dirt and stone, the impact knocking over several of the guard's tents, dust spinning out in a wide spiral.

 

Everything seemed to stop as the dust cloud settled slowly, revealing the mass of muscle, scale and metal behind it. The great beast reared its head upwards, letting out a thunderous roar, audible for miles around, a terrifying noise not heard in eons. It didn't just hurt the eardrums of everyone in earshot, it vibrated their very bodies, rattling their lungs and ribcages with the sheer loudness of it. 

 

Geckoman stood up in the saddle as it lowered its head, turning its great dinosaur maw to snarl and show its teeth to the guards. He pulled out his staff, letting it extend, blue electricity crackling at either end. 

 

"Roar?" he said. The dinosaur let out a second bellowing growl in agreement, showering the ground with its slaver, setting everyone's teeth rattling. 

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Jack of all Blades slipped through silvery-bright corridors that would have looked out of place in 2015, never mind the rugged West of the 1850s! The corridors were surprisingly empty, but on the other hand it made sense that the local thugs working for the Master were confined to wherever it was they were making the cybernetic corridors, didn't get access to the goodies. Peering around, Jack could find some interesting things as he explored the single level of the spaceship. One open sliding door revealed the laboratory where the dinosaurs were being made. Hiding out, Jack could see the bones being lowered (by means of a weirdly out-of-place rope and pulley system that had obviously been brought in by the workers) into a glowing, soupy vat of chemicals that disgorged comatose, wriggling dinosaurs that were then loaded by another vast pulley system through a porthole that clearly led to wherever the cyborging was taking place.

 

But the smooth inner walls of the spaceship didn't offer him much in the way of clues as to Steve's location, or the location of the Master and his 'Four' - at least until a sliding door opened just as he walked past, nearly colliding full-tilt with a woman in black who was just coming out. He caught a quick glimpse of Steve, shirtless and chained to the wall, as the door snapped shut too quickly for him to leap through. 

 

She was long and lean, her Victorian dress the same reflective black as her hair and eyes, and at the sight of Jack she swore in explosive French before demanding, "Where in Satan's name did you come from?", crackling magic beginning to pool around her fingers. 

 

-

 

Meanwhile, there was wild confusion in the dinosaur paddock! Some of the T-Rexes did indeed go stampeding down through the valley, their drivers generally fleeing in terror towards their barracks or hanging on and screaming for dear life as their maddened cyborg rides fled in terror and rage! The Batalie brothers made their move on the tent barracks, a quick rattle of gunfire from over there telling the heroes that they wouldn't have to worry about any rallying from the hired mercenaries in this part of the valley! 

 

Geckoman and Echo had bigger problems, anyway - three giant ones! Three of the riders had managed to scramble aboard their mounts and keep control of them despite the stampede, and now the trio were closing in on Geckoman and Echo, the ground shaking as the massive lizards (oddly featherless given recent paleontological discoveries...) charged. The T-Rexes themselves were all slightly different; the one on the left of Geckoman was missing a forearm, the one directly facing him had nearly bone-white scales under its armor, and the third, closest to Echo, was noticeably larger than the other two. The riders were yelling something on board their T-Rexes, but nothing could be heard over the roaring of dinosaurs and echo of gunfire from the mercenaries camp as the battle began amid a din of noise, the stink of blood and enraged animals, and drifting clouds of smoke and dust! 

 

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Echo threw up her hands in mock disgust. "Look at them making such a big deal out of this. All we wanted to do was borrow their dinobots." It wasn't until she finished speaking that she realized no one could hear her amid the deafening din, and she dropped her hands back to her sides and sighed. Damn, wasted that one. I gotta save the quips for when people can hear me. A dinobot roared. Should also move before I get trampled and wind up a fossilized skeleton. One that will really confuse the hell out of some paleontologists. She made a mental note to make a quip about that later. After dinobots.

 

With a rush of displaced air, she vanished, reappearing sitting directly behind the rider on the back of the largest dinobot. She tapped him on the shoulder and he whipped his head around, startled. "Hey," she said, cheerfully cocking back a fist. "Say 'ow,' will you?" Not giving him time to react or respond, she unleashed a half-dozen hyperaccelerated blows into his face. His head rocked back and forth from the impacts like a speed bag, and his hat went flying off. She made a grab for it, missed, and settled for punching him in the face one more time.

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"Steve!" Jack shouted as the door slammed closed between them and he was left to slide nimbly away from the swearing woman. With a snarl he reached out with his metamagi abilities and yanked at the cold, oily magics the sorceress was calling to he defense, tendrils of darkness pulled from her fingers to his own waiting hand like unraveling thread. "Lady, give it a minute and you can ask him yourself." The darkness solidified into a jagged saber like glassy obsidian, his fingers wrapping around the hilt despite the pinprick icicles it caused behind his eyeballs. Without giving her time to defend herself properly the swashbuckler came in low with an upward slash, the momentum carrying him up and over to deliver a merciless thrusting blow on her opposite side a heartbeat later, the black magic sinking deep and sapping her strength just as he imagined it had as she'd directed it against his friend. "You hurt one of my people; you don't get to make that mistake twice. Not now, not ever!"

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