Swap Meet

“For some reason, I was expecting a T-Rex.”

Janice lifted the dart cannon, pointing it at the stegosaurus lumbering down West Main. An alarm klaxon blared as its spiked tail swung past a parked Porsche Carrera. The street was supposed to be blocked off and deserted today, but apparently the owner thought he was exempt from the “No Parking” notice.

“Of course you did. Cultural conditioning at work. Any time you’ve seen a dinosaur in a movie or TV show, it’s probably been a T-Rex.” Clark shouldered the heat gun, firing a blast that melted the windows in a nearby office building. They’d have to get that cleaned up and fixed by tomorrow, but that was Omega Team’s job. The heat blast did at least encourage the creature to amble a bit more towards the river. He continued his lecture to the new girl.

“Think about it, though. Apex predators are always vastly outnumbered by their prey. For every Tyrannosaurus roaming around our temporal vector, there are probably dozens of trikes and stegs.”

A strobe of flashing green and yellow light from just under the 9th Street exit ramp told them Delta Team had arrived. About time, too. Clark had been worried they were going to have to force the thing into the river. While buoyancy might help getting it onto a barge, he’d had too many of the big ones get stuck in the deep river mud. Nothing like trying to winch a five-ton unconscious steggie out of what amounted to a mostly-organic tar pit.

Janice had shot it three times by now. Of course, the thing was so dumb, it took a while for it to realize it should be unconscious. It stumbled and staggered a bit, threatening to tumble over into the first floor of the Frazier Museum. In the end, it simply slumped to the ground.

Janice blew out a sigh of relief. As much as she’d been looking forward to this job with the Department of Corrections Paleo Division, she’d been understandably scared by the real possibility of facing an enormous, disoriented carnivore.

Now, the beast would be carted off to a nearby barge, to be shipped down the Ohio and then the Mississippi, and then across the ocean, eventually deposited on a remote island near the tropics. All their “transfers” were sent there, partly to be studied for their scientific interest, but mostly to keep them from trampling or eating people.

She shuddered as she remembered the faces staring out from the bus which had previously occupied the stegosaurus’ mass in this time period.

The Department of Corrections had to obey the law of the land. Nowadays, that meant even the most incorrigible and dangerous criminals couldn’t be executed. The bus had contained people far more monstrous than the lump of prehistoric reptile snoring on the asphalt of West Main.

Thanks to the D.O.C.’s temporal shift device, a firm grasp of semantics, and the law of conservation of matter, those prisoners could now be “transferred indefinitely” to a time when they couldn’t hurt anyone or substantially alter history and risk a temporal paradox. The D.O.C. had even managed to figure out how to obtain something of scientific interest and value in exchange for them. It was a win-win.

“Looks like we were closer to your T-Rex than we thought.” Clark’s voice carried over the beast, while Delta Team prepared to load it up onto the rig.

“What do you mean?” Janice briefly considered climbing over the tail, but after a glance at the spikes, decided it would be better to just walk the extra distance. She gave the still-twitching tail a wide berth.

Clark was standing next to a deep gash in the steggie’s side. In fact, three deep gashes in parallel. Fresh claw marks, too big to be from a velociraptor or anything smaller than the beast she’d been expecting in this one’s place.

“Looks like our counterweight had a warm welcome waiting.”

~*~

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