Ever wonder what it would be like to fire a tranquilizer dart at an angry Tyrannosaurus rex, and then radio collar it while it sleeps? For Chase Armstrong, the wildlife biologist hero of my Dinosaur Wars novels, such matters have become commonplace since dinosaurs returned to Yellowstone Park.
Of course, if one underestimates the dose, then one gets eaten in one bite before the collar is quite in place.
Here’s an excerpt from the book, Dinosaur Wars: Blood On The Moon.
The tyrannosaurus was a big one. It stalked across the brushy grassland of the Montana high plains smoothly on two towering legs that somehow moved gracefully despite their tree-like size. The huge carnivore placed one three-clawed foot on the ground almost gently, followed slowly by the other foot in a stealthy fluid motion. The immense tawny-furred animal blended into the tan colors of the grasslands so well as to be almost unnoticeable despite its size. Keeping its head low and its long tail stretched out behind, it was stalking something it smelled on the warm morning air currents. The brown and tan zebra-striped mane along the crest of its neck stood tall with anticipation of a kill. Its nose came up slightly each time it sniffed the light breeze. Then it would adjust its course a little to follow the scent it was homing in on.
That scent was far too faint for a human nose to detect but was easily traced by the powerful sensory system within the rex’s snout, one that rivaled or surpassed that of a wolf’s nose. After a few more paces into the wind the rex sniffed again, adjusted its direction once more—and caught sight of its quarry. Now the big beast accelerated its pace, tracking visually but still moving fluidly and silently on its well-padded feet. It obviously hoped to reach its prey without causing it to flee.
That prey, Chase Armstrong, adjusted the bill of his green National Park Service ball cap to keep the sun out of his eyes. “He’s seen us,” Chase murmured with just the hint of an edge on his voice. “Here he comes!”
“Oh my God,” Kit Daniels whispered from just behind Chase’s shoulder. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I guess we’ll see,” Chase replied, rising from his exposed driver’s seat to face the oncoming rex. “Hey you!” he shouted at it. “Want some of this?” He waved his arms to be certain the rex was fixated on him. It was.
As the rex accelerated to a full charge with its feet thundering on the ground, Chase turned around, bent over, and slapped a butt cheek provocatively. “Nice and meaty!” he shouted. “Come and get it!”
“Chase!” Kit cried as the rex loomed larger with each stride. “I don’t think you should be doing that!” She peered around Chase from where she sat behind him in the second seat of the Kra walking machine. She had planned to stand up with Chase when this moment came but something about a tyrannosaurus charging in her direction made her too shaky to rise without her knees buckling. After all it had been she, not Chase, who’d escaped the jaws of one of these huge carnivores twice in a single day. And those memories were recent enough that their terror hadn’t entirely faded.
When the rex was within twenty paces it let out a piercing shriek like the battle cry of a titanic eagle.
“Enough is enough, Chase!” Kit cried.
“He’s gotta get closer,” Chase said in a voice that remained calm somehow, though Kit’s heart was racing crazily. Maybe Chase’s years of dealing with angry grizzly bears had prepared him better for this challenge. “Gar says we need to give him a good look at us and make sure he knows it’s humans he’s trying to eat.”
“It’ll be humans he does eat if you don’t do something, quick!”
“Just let him get a bit closer.”
The rex loomed and Kit could see every glistening saliva-draped fang in its gaping mouth, just as she’d seen when the first rex had burst its head through her kitchen window.
“Please Chase,” she squeaked in a voice choked by renewed memories of that awful moment. “He’s getting way too close.”
She wanted desperately to look away but she couldn’t. As the monster rushed through the final paces to them, it opened its mouth wide to take Chase. Kit couldn’t suppress a scream that was drowned out by another deafening eagle screech from the rex. At the last second, Chase sat down in the pilot seat of the fighting machine and flipped the toggle that clamped the quahka’s jet-fighter-like canopy down around them. As the rex closed in and appeared about to try biting through the glass, Chase grabbed his right-hand joystick and swung the machine’s right arm to point its gun-barrel at the fang-lined jaws. Pressing the joystick’s trigger, he unleashed a bolt of blue electricity that crackled over the beast’s jaws and snout.
The rex leaped away as nimbly as a startled cat. It stood off a couple paces, glowering at its human quarry and the two-legged metallic fighter-walker, which Chase had nestled into a thicket of sagebrush to make it less conspicuous and encourage the rex to come after him. Still not fully deterred, it took a step forward again but Chase fired another electric bolt that traced blue-white outlines over the big tongue and toothy jaws. Stunned by the strength of the bolt, the carnivore reared away once more and took several long steps backward. Still unwilling to give up, it dodged low, ducked under Chase’s third shot and began rapidly circling the quahka as if looking for an undefended opening. After several paces it turned and came at them again. Once more, Chase’s bolt lashed out and crackled over the rex’s teeth, tongue and nose, making it reel backward again.
“C’mon, ya big dummy!” Chase laughed. “Get the message! Humans aren’t food.”
Now, another bolt of electricity struck the animal, coming from the weapon arm of a second quahka that was hidden in tall brush beside Chase’s machine.
“That’s it, Gar!” Chase shouted, looking over at his dinosaurian friend piloting the second fighter-walker. “Give him a double dose!”
Gar’s bolt struck the animal’s flank while Chase’s played across its nose. The animal had seemed almost able to resist Chase’s bolt but with two arcs crackling over its hide it reared back in agony and then turned and ran away. As the creature retreated, Chase brought his quahka to a stand, pressed his foot pedal far forward and pursued it. Gar did the same and the two machines fell in on the rear flanks of the rex, easily keeping pace with it and firing their electric arcs along its tail and hindquarters as it fled in a full sprint.
“Hah!” Chase laughed exultantly. “That’s one rex who’ll never attack a human being again without thinking twice about it.”
“I’ll think twice before I ride in this machine with you again!” Kit gasped with a hand to her chest, trying hard to regain her composure and still her pounding heart.
Chase and Gar pursued the big carnivore until they cornered it in a small rocky box canyon. It turned at bay and roared at them, lashing the dark fur tuft at the tip of its tawny tail. It turned sideways to present as large and intimidating a profile as it possibly could. Striped hackles stood high all along its back. That profile was awesome to behold but Chase also could see the rex had lost its nerve to fight. He halted his machine a safe distance from the cornered animal and raised its canopy again, still covering the creature with his weapon arm. Gar did the same, pausing a similar distance from the rex to cut off any escape from the small canyon.
Gar leaned back in his driver’s seat, making the characteristic clucking laugh of a Kra, “Gahk, gahk, gahk!” and bobbing his feathered carnivorous dinosaurian head with glee. “You good bait, Chay-su. You too, Keetah.”
“Not funny,” Kit called. “I don’t want to be anybody’s bait.” Then a hint of a smile came to her face as she watched Gar’s head-bobbing, birdlike expressions of humor. His sides heaved with each clucking laugh. He hadn’t dressed in his war armor this morning, thanks to the peace that prevailed between humans and Kra. His finely feathered, sleek black flanks positively vibrated with mirth. Around his neck, the only piece of adornment on his body was a chain with a pendant of platinum around his neck. On the pendant was the enameled green crossed-sago-palm-leaf emblem that indicated his status as the leader of the Kra Cult of Life, which was dedicated to this sort of mission, one that was meant to assure the continued life of the tyrannosaurus as well as the safety of the local humans and Kra.
Behind Gar in the back seat of his quahka sat Professor David Ogilvey. His corpulent, khaki-shirted sides were also heaving as he laughed his own characteristic, “Hee, hee, heeh!” His eyes, outsized behind thick glasses, squinted back tears of laughter and a long-toothed smile split his gray-bearded face almost from ear to ear. “Chase, my boy!” he called out. “I’d say your T-rex aversion training is working splendidly! Just the way the Kra did it sixty-five million years ago!”
“Gah!” Gar agreed.
Kit kept an eye on the threatening rex as she responded, “You guys just about gave me a heart attack. What are you going to do with it now?”
Ogilvey continued to grin. “That, my dear, is up to Mr. Armstrong. What do you say, Chase?”
“I say yes,” Chase replied. He reached down to grab and then shoulder his 30-06 hunting rifle. The rex presented a perfect target. Standing sideways to them and puffing itself up like an angry rooster, it had exposed its entire flank from its lashing tail to its gaping jaws. Chase sighted the rifle on the optimum target point and slowly squeezed the trigger. The rifle boomed and a Day-Glo orange dart flew quickly to the meatiest part of the rex’s thigh. It sank in with a thwack! Then it hung there, having delivered a massive dose of sedative. “We’ll see what that does,” Chase said, observing the animal as the paralyzing atropine traveled through its bloodstream.
After a few seconds the lashing tail slowed its rhythm and the head lowered from its up-tilted aggressive posture. The animal let out a low threatening rumble from deep in its throat but it stood still. It was becoming confused as the drug drained away its strength. After a few seconds its knees buckled and it sat down heavily onto the boot of its pubic bone, which easily bore the bulk of its eight-ton weight. As its senses continued to fade and it grew dizzy, the rex leaned forward until its wide breast reached the ground and took part of its weight. Growing still groggier, it tucked in its small shaggy-furred forelimbs close to its sides and lowered the point of its jaw to the ground. Finally, it keeled over ponderously onto its side and lay stretched out on the brushy surface, immobilized by the drug.
“That was a whopping dose!” Chase called to the others as he rose and grabbed a kit bag and climbed down the footholds on one leg of his quahka. “I hope it’s not too much.”
“You’ve brought sufficient antidote?” Dr. Ogilvey asked as Chase carefully approached the huge animal.
“Yep.” Chase moved near the animal’s huge head to listen to its breathing, which was regular and deep. “Breathing sounds good. I think I got the dose just about right.”
“Good shoot,” called Gar enthusiastically in his Kra-pidgin English. “You master over all dinosaurs now.”
“Yeah,” Chase agreed, “I guess I am.” He moved near the shoulder of the beast and reached out and rested a hand on the furry hide. It felt much like a wolf’s pelt.
“Hold that pose,” Kit called from the quahka. She held up her cell phone and snapped a picture. She had regained her composure enough to know a great portrait opportunity when she saw one—the wildlife biologist with his field-study subject. She clicked off several shots, including as much of the rex as would fit and framing the tall-dark-and-handsome park ranger and conqueror of dinosaurs in the center of the images.
“Now, who’s going to help me collar this baby?” he asked, smiling and looking meaningfully up at her.
“Oh, no,” she reacted. “I’m close enough already.”
“C’mon, Kit,” Chase urged. “Aren’t you the one who singlehandedly fended off one of these beasts with just a pitchfork?”
“Don’t remind me, please.”
Chase pushed on the animal’s meaty shoulder. The rex was unresponsive. “He’s out cold,” Chase cajoled. “And he will be for another fifteen minutes if I calculated his weight and the dose right.”
“And if you didn’t?”
“C’mon, I need your help.”
“I hope you did your math properly,” Kit said warily as she climbed over the cowling and descended the quahka’s other leg ladder.
You can find Dinosaur Wars: Blood On The Moon versions for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, as well as other formats at my publisher Smashwords website. Some of these may not be available for another week or two, but some are there right now. Stop by this blog and let me know how you like the story, or say hello on my Facebook page.
To start with the first book of the series, go check out Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall, which, by the way, is still FREE for a limited time.