This is NOT MY FAULT. I was roped into it by a bunch of crazy people. You know who you are. Yeah. Not. My. Fault.
And okay, so maybe I totally wanted to see Snake Eyes fight a T-Rex and BeachHead punch a Utahraptor. Still not my fault.
That had been unpleasant.
Duke groaned, considering peeling himself out of the grass…grass? We were just in a damn lab. His body wasn't enthusiastic about this idea, and seeing as there weren't bullets zinging past his ears any longer his brain wasn't all that motivated either.
Duke reluctantly peeled his eyelids open and blinked several times. Dusty's slightly worried face swam into view. "Five more minutes?" He murmured.
"He'll be fine." That voice got Duke moving; that deep, smug, slightly condescending baritone was familiar.
"DESTRO YOU SON OF A BITCH…" Duke lunged to his feet, everything coming back in a flash. The recent firefight in the Scottish scientist's lab, the complicated contraption that all intel had indicated was extremely dangerous shooting out a sudden white light, and then darkness and everything had gone all funny and dark and swirly for about ten seconds.
His feet seemed to have other ideas than supporting him, though, and his stomach rebelled violently against the sudden movement. Duke staggered, retched, and nearly faceplanted into the grass. A large, balaclava-clad form appeared suddenly and helpfully dragged him to his feet again by the back of his shirt.
"You okay, Duke?" Beach was glaring at Destro too. "What the gawddamn hell just happened? Most of the vipers are still out cold. Where the gawddamn hell are we?"
"He's fine." Duke finally managed to focus on Destro, even though the sun reflecting off that silver mask was giving him a headache. "Some individuals are sensitive to timeshifts and experience dizziness, disorientation, and nausea directly following a transition. It will wear off in about fifteen minutes."
Duke glanced around, doing a quick head count on the rest of the strike team he'd been with…Beach, Dusty, Snake, Scarlett, Storm, Roadblock, Outback…all accounted for. Beach and Dusty were both on their feet, apparently fine. Snake Eyes and Scarlett were up too, and Roadblock and Outback were sitting up, looking like Duke felt. Storm was out cold, crumpled in a limp heap right next to the viper he'd been reducing to shark chum roughly thirty seconds ago. The viper's corpse still had a sword jammed through his ribcage. Snake Eyes knelt next to his unconscious friend and clicked his fingers right next to Tommy's ear; the white-clad ninja groaned.
The vipers were slowly staggering to their feet. Violence seemed to have been momentarily set aside by all parties, but both Joes and Cobras were eyeing each other warily.
Duke glared hard at the masked man in front of him. "You'd better damn well be able to explain what the fuck is going on here. And while you're at it, give me one convincing reason that I shouldn't empty a clip into you. Also, where the fuck are we? And what the fuck is that thing?" He pointed to the complex piece of machinery sitting innocently on a crushed shrub, looking totally out of place in the warm, humid temperate forest they'd somehow ended up in. Wherever they were, it sure as hell wasn't a buried lab in the middle of the Australian Outback.
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." Duke heard Scarlett's soft voice somewhere behind him. "Are those cycads? Those are almost extinct. Storm, you okay?"
Another groan, and then the sound of retching. Duke sympathized completely; his own stomach was still considering sending his breakfast back up.
Destro's expression was impossible to read behind that polished silver mask, but his eyes were bright and Duke knew, just knew, that the crazy Scottish motherfucker was grinning. "I did tell you not to touch my machine. But I'm rather glad you did. It would appear that my machine works over even more extreme shifts. And cool your temper, dear enemy. If you kill me now, it is most doubtful that you will ever see your home again." The man looked away from Duke, up at the tall, vaguely palm-like trees above them. "Interesting."
Duke gritted his teeth. "Where. Are. We?"
Destro crouched, picked a small pink flower off the ground, and examined it closely. "Interesting indeed." He tucked the flower into a pocket.
"You son of a bitch…where are we? I don't have time for flower-picking right now." Duke cracked his knuckles. "I can cause some pain without killing you, you know. Or, even better, I can get Snake Eyes to do it."
"If we're torturing the sheep fucker, I've got dibs." Storm Shadow's voice was unsteady, but the tone of bloody murder was unmistakable.
A low chuckle, which sent Duke's blood pressure through the roof. Red tinged the edges of his vision. Destro seemed unperturbed by the jab at his sexual orientation. "It's not where we are, my friends. It's when. Judging from the vegetation, I'd say the late Cretaceous." Another chuckle. "And they said it couldn't be done. Ross swore that you couldn't stabilize a wormhole long enough."
Duke blinked, taken aback. The word "cretaceous" was pulling up his long-ago natural history classes. "Cretaceous? As in sixty-five million years ago?"
"From our own time, yes. For us personally, it is now." Destro chuckled again, the sound edged with sheer glee. "Oh, Scientific American is never going to believe this. I'll need samples. Biological samples. Large biological samples, which have the side benefit of satisfying my sadly narrow-minded employer as well."
Duke closed his eyes. Of course. Of course. Cobra Commander would watch Jurassic Park and consider it a source of inspiration. "Right. So can you get us home, or do I let Beachhead shoot you?"
"I ain't in a good mood, neither." Beach growled. "Can I go break the vipers, Top?"
"I can, and if you start killing my men, I am not going to." Destro folded his arms.
"That would be a no, Beach." Duke sighed. "How long will it take?"
"It requires delicate calibration and the equations involved are complex. Without my lab equipment, I'll have to make do with my emergency tools." Destro tilted his head back. "I'd say two days."
"Two DAYS?" This was a general chorus from all present.
Destro managed to look slightly insulted even through a metal mask. "Given the fact that I can dial it in to a precise second of time, and that it is, after all, a working time machine, I feel that two days is a fairly reasonable calibration period. Unless you'd rather come out two miles under the ocean or inside a mountain." A sigh. "But then, I am speaking with a bunch of Army grunts. I don't suppose you understand."
Beach growled. Duke shot him a warning look.
"Uh, Top?" Dusty sounded nervous. "You ever see 'Jurassic Park', Top? It didn't go well for the humans. Really didn't go well for the humans."
A snort from Destro. "That movie was foolishly unrealistic, and we are armed. The local fauna should be more worried about running afoul of us. We should be fine." A pause. "It will be an interesting reflection on the intelligence of the Commander's peons to see how many Vipers survive. My money is on five percent, at best. Speaking of which…" The weapons dealer turned to eye the wary Vipers. "No shooting our erstwhile enemies. Quite frankly, I feel better having them guarding my back than you."
There was an exclamation of alarm and indignation from several of the vipers. Both the Joes and Destro completely ignored them.
"Okay." Duke massaged a temple. "We won't kill you, you won't try and kill us. UNTIL we get back home. You get working on whatever the hell it is that you need to work at. Outback?"
"Find us a good campsite. Looks like we'll be here for a few days. Food and water would be good too. Preferably the kind that doesn't poison us."
"Sir!" Outback should not, Duke thought as his head twinged, sound so excited about the prospect. But then, wilderness survival in a world where every other mammal on the planet was still doing duty as food for the bigger critters WOULD appeal to the survivalist.
"I would kill for some Tylenol." He muttered to himself.
Shana O'Hara had been through some weird shit in her life. She was engaged to a ninja master, for chrissakes. What disturbed her most about the current situation is that the current situation didn't disturb her more. Time machine? Sure, that made sense. Blasted back to the Cretaceous period by Outback poking the button that looked most likely to shut things down on the ominously glowing contraption in Destro's lab? Okay, sure. Entering into an uneasy truce with Destro and his Vipers long enough to fix the time machine to get home? Hey, it could happen.
Outback had located a protected campsite only a few hundred yards away from the time machine. It was near a spring, and there was plenty of wood for the fire that Outback had started in about thirty seconds using a rock and his knife blade.
The Joes were taking turns standing guard over the machine. Quite frankly, none of them trusted the vipers to do it, and none of them trusted Destro not to take himself home and maroon the lot of them. Right now Beach was on guard duty, though Dusty had just gone to relieve him; Shana herself would take over in a few hours.
Storm was meticulously touching up the edge on one of his many knives; the soft rasp of metal against oiled stone was making the vipers twitchy. Judging by the suspicious little smirk on Storm's face and the fact that the knife was already gleamingly, murderously sharp, this was the ninja's sole goal.
The fact that Snake Eyes was keeping a watchful eye on the Cobra agents wasn't helping either. That impassive, implacable visored gaze was actually making several vipers shift farther away from the warmth of the fire, purely to put a few more yards between themselves and the black-clad, uzi-cradling ninja.
"GAWDDAMN FUCKING BASTARD LIZARDS!" There was the sound of a boot connecting with something meaty, a screech of pain, and the sound of small, skittering feet in the dusk.
"Beach is back." Roadblock observed calmly. The gun-toting chef had managed to make the meager plant based edibles Outback had turned up taste pretty good. Shana was still hungry; there had been a vote started by Tommy to feed a few likely looking berries and other plant parts to a few vipers to text for toxicity, but this had been shot down.
Beach stomped into the circle of firelight, scowling. "Feathery little gawddamned bastards tried to chew on my shins."
Destro looked up keenly. The scientist had abandoned his tinkering with his machine when he'd started to lose the light, and was now making calculations in a small notebook he'd produced along with a pen from one of his pockets. "Small therapods?" A pause. "I'm sorry…two legs or four?"
Beach favored the scientist with a long, withering glare. "You ain't the only one with book learning here. They were trooedon, to be exact. Looked jus' like my textbook pictures. An' they've got sharp little teeth." The Ranger leaned over and pulled something out of the tough leather of his boots. "Left one with me."
"I think they like you." Tommy observed. "They followed you." The ninja nodded at the trees; Shana looked, and saw little glowing amber eyes peering out of the brush.
"Little bastards." Beach scowled. "Got a taste and want more? Ain't as smart as mah natural history book made em' out to be. You'd think after ah sent the first one flyin' they'd get the hint."
"You must be tasty." Tommy was grinning.
"Shuttup, spook." Beach was eyeing one of the curious little therapods hungrily. "Y'know what they look like? Turkeys. Skinny turkeys. Skinny, annoying turkeys. Ah'm hungry." He reached for his sidearm.
"No." That was Tommy; Beach glanced over in annoyance, but the ninja was eyeing the small dinosaurs with the same hungry glint in his eyes. "Save your ammo." He reached for his bow. "I've got this one."
"Storm, no." Scarlett snapped. "Have you ever heard of time paradoxes?"
"Have you ever heard of survival of the fittest?" Tommy calmly strung his bow. "I'm still hungry."
"Actually, time paradox will not be an issue." Destro's deep voice interjected. "I've done extensive experimentation, and it turns out that it is impossible to change our timeline in any measurable way; the actions undertaken by time travelers are already factors. They already happened, you see. However hard you try, when time traveling you are changing nothing."
"Anotherwards," There were several rapidfire twanging sounds, and a frightened screech from the flock of trooedons. Most of the flock vanished into the underbrush, but several keeled over, arrows sticking clear through the slim, feathery bodies. One was pinned to a tree trunk. Tommy sounded smug as he stood and went to retrieve his kills. "I'm not going hungry tonight."
A sigh from Destro as Tommy cleaned the blood from his arrows and Beach and Outback happily started skinning the dinos. "Yes. You can eat them. Simpleminded fools…only concerned with the grossest application of a scientific revelation centuries in the making."
Tommy turned to eye the weapons dealer, a hard glitter in his eyes. "Oh, I understand enough to know that your 'extensive experimentation' probably means that you tried to kill at least a few of us in the cradle, and failed. How many of your vipers and Night Creepers did my father kill, exactly?" A flash of white teeth. "And my grandfather, for that matter. And my great-grandfather. And my great-great grandmother. You'd have to go back a very, very long way in my family to find anyone that the average Cobra agent would have even a ghost of a chance against."
That…was an unsettling thought. Shana winced, trying not to picture Cobra agents closing in on her family and her, just a helpless babe in a crib…she shuddered.
There was a long moment of silence. Tommy's grin widened and he went back to sharpening a green stick to use as a skewer. "A few, hmm? That's what I thought."
"There were…incidents." Destro said at last, grudgingly. "Even for those who don't have annoyingly competent ancestors," (Tommy grinned wolfishly as he tossed a skewer to Snake Eyes and both ninja followed Beach's lead and began toasting dino cutlets) "odd accidents seem to happen when attempts are made to change history. I lost almost three dozen agents before I gave up."
Shana breathed a soft sigh of relief. This wasn't going to turn into a bad Terminator knockoff, then.
Snake Eyes signed in one-handed in the unintelligible half anglicized Japanese finger-spelling and half ASL shorthand that only Tommy seemed to understand. The white-clad ninja laughed. "No bet; you know how fat those boars were. I'd give a lot to remember seeing my father instructing a half-dozen Night Creepers in proper combat techniques, though."
Another flurry of indecipherable signs. Tommy laughed again and replied in Japanese. Scarlett accepted a trooedon leg and a skewer from Snake Eyes and claimed a good bed of coals.
The smell of cooking meat was enticing; her stomach made a loud, insistant sound of anticipation. Several minutes later, she nibbled experimentally at the dinosaur drumstick, burning her tongue in the process.
Not bad. Tasted rather like a cross between alligator and dark meat chicken. It would have been excellent with barbeque sauce.
"Little dry." Roadblock said thoughtfully. "Needs a marinade or a sauce. It's got a good texture, though."
"Dibs on the liver." Dusty said cheerfully.
"Welcome to it." Tommy finished sharpening another stick, stabbed the appropriate organs, and handed the shish-kebabed dinosaur bits over to the desert trooper. "Not a fan of organ meat." He shot a dirty look at Destro. "Particularly not when you take all the most disgusting parts and boil them into an inedible lump."
Destro sniffed. "There is nothing wrong with haggis."
"There is everything wrong with haggis." Tommy wiped the blood off of his hands in the short, dense grass.
Destro seemed to deign the ninja's needling as beneath his notice. Scarlett did, however, notice that their enemy/ally's eyes were fixed on the food. Duke apparently did too, because he wordlessly offered a portion over.
All of the Joes glanced up curiously, waiting for the Scotsman to remove his mask. Destro just retreated back from the light of the fire, however, ruining the chance at appeased curiosity.