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Dinopocalypse
Chapter One
2nd revision Marcus gunned the engine of his mothers minivan, and pulled up the hill into the cemetery across from the Cromaine Library. He automatically checked all of the windows to see if they had been spotted before he reached behind the passengers seat for the shotgun. He glanced into the rear view mirror, where he could see concern look on his six-year-old daughters face. Please be careful, Daddy, Tracey urged, her fingers already working at the latches on her carseat. I will honey, Marcus said. Im going to look around for a little bit, and then Ill let you know when its safe to come out, okay? Okay. Marcus gripped the door handle, and pulled out to release the door. They had visited his wifes grave inside the Hartland Township Cemetery every month for nearly six months, and had only been attacked once. But, for Marcus, once was enough. He angled away from the van as he walked, scanning his surroundings with his shotgun as he moved. He checked the backs of the widest gravestones, inside the shrubs that lined the front of the fence that surrounded the cemetery, and both ends of Wright Avenue, which ran through the center of the Hartland Village. He had gone as far as he dared, but could still see Tracey watching him from the backseat of the van. There seemed to be nothing around them that would hurt them. Marcus hurried back to the van, and slid the side door open. Okay, lets go talk to Mommy. Tracey stepped down from the van, and reached up towards Marcus, a signal that she wanted him to hold her hand. He offered his hand, and she gripped it, the claws on her fingers pressing into his skin only slightly. I dont know if Ive ever been as scared as she looks, Marcus thought to himself. But, then again, I didnt grow up in a world quite like this. They walked together across the driveway, then into a patch of grass that lead down a slope into the newest part of the cemetery. Marcus noted the graves which were still fresh, and still a few more that had been added since last months visit. Despite all that had happened, people were still following their traditions when a loved one died. Marcus remembered back to his wifes burial, and wondered quietly if that would be the last thing that he would do that felt normal.

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Tina Armstrongs grave marker sat towards the edge of the new section of the cemetery, along the row that was closest to the tree line. At the time, Marcus had picked that spot both because it was available and it seemed pretty with the pine trees as a backdrop. But, after almost a year of surviving in a new world populated by dinos, this location seemed unbearably inconvenient. Marcus stopped in front of the gravestone, and kneeled down. Tracey let go of his hand, and walked gingerly around the grave like her father had taught her, then wrapped her arms as far around the grave marker as she could. He could see a tear roll down her cheek. We miss you mommy, she whispered. I love you. Then, she let out a whimper, and shot a look towards her father. Whats wrong, honey? He asked. I...I left the flower in the van, she said. I was going to put it on Mommys grave. Im sorry, Marcus said, pausing to wipe a tear from his cheek. We cant take the time to get it, and then bring it back. Next time? Tracey asked. Yes. But, daddy? Yes? Next time, can I bring two flowers? Yes, that would be fine. Sobbing a little, Tracey half walked, half crawled across the ground and embraced Marcus twice as tightly as she had held the gravestone. Marcus hugged her back, trying to enjoy the moment instead of focussing on the fact that her tail had slipped out of her jacket. Okay, he whispered. We can stay in the cemetery for only a few more minutes, then we have other errands to run. Okay. I wanted to talk to mommy. You can, sweetheart, he said. Im just going to walk a little ways away. Okay. Marcus scooped up the rifle and stood up. Tracey turned on the spot, and stared intently at her mothers gravestone. Tina Loraine Armstrong, it read. Dearly beloved wife and mother. And natural catastrophe. The thought drifted through Marcus head so suddenly that it shocked him. He shook his head in order to clear it, then looked down at Tracey who was still talking into the gravestone. Whatever curse had brought the reptilian virus to the United States had also made Tracey possible. Despite all that Marcus had lost, he always tried to remember that, and see his daughter as a blessing.

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Okay, daddy, Im ready to go, Tracey said, running a hand under her nose. Marcus noticed spots on her face where the makeup had smeared. Well, back to the drawing board. The bottle had even said that it was water proof. He grabbed Traceys hand, and lead her back up the hill and across the driveway towards their emerald colored van. They simulataneously opened the doors, climbed in, then shut the doors and settled into their seats with a sigh of relief. Marcus knew that the van wasnt much protection against the dinos, but they could always out run them. He started the engine, then drove down the rest of the driveway towards the cemeterys southern exit. He pulled out onto the side street next to the cemetery, then turned back towards the main road. At the corner, he glanced both ways, then checked the grassy lot across the street from them for possible attackers. Ten years ago, the space was the site of the building he had attended Kindergarten in, but since the epidemic it had been turned into a nesting ground for dinos. The thought of nests reminded Marcus of Tinas pregnancy with Tracey. She was two months along when the government finally admitted that the virus which had turned twenty-nine percent of the population into dinosaur-human hybrids had not been fully contained. The cramps had started late in her second trimester, and midway through her third trimester she had begun acting strange. The pregnancy books called it a Nesting Phase, but Marcus couldnt help by worry when Tina moved the bed out of their bedroom and ransacked the house for every blanket and pillow she could find. Not even her cramps had kept her home from work, but once she had assembled her nest she refused to leave, and began to repeatedly call in sick. With the virus going around, her bosses offered her a lot of leeway, but by her thirtieth week they had let her go. At week thirty-five, she laid her first egg. There were, of course, times when Marcus hated having to live with the fear of being attacked by the human dinosaurs. Then, there were other times when he spent time with his hybrid daughter and felt guilty for hating people like her. But, of course Tracey had been born a hybrid, and raised as a human, unlike those who had mutated as adults or grown up in the wild. For Tina, the changes had started before Tracey was conceived. On the outside, her mother had appeared human, and even her pregnancy had started out very humanlike. On the inside, she was changing into a dinosaur more and more each day. Marcus also suspected that the doctors hadnt been entirely honest with them, such as the way that the ultrasound screen had experienced technical issues during their appointment, yet the doctor was able to show Tina perfectly developed ultrasound images during her monthly checkup. Or, the way that the hospital knew exactly how to handle the six eggs which had gradually popped out of Tinas body. It was Tinas idea for them to pack their things and leave the area with as many eggs as they could. With everything that had happened to them, Marcus couldnt refuse his wife this request: when she talked, he could tell from her expression that she was feeling something stronger than a hunch or womens intuition. It was closer to instincts.

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They couldnt get the eggs back, but they were able to rescue the first dinosaur baby that had hatched, Tracey, and leave the county. Their plan was to stay with Marcus parents near Hartland until they thought of a better solution. Daddy, why is the library open? Traceys voice interrupted Marcus thoughts. He looked to his left towards the brown three story building which was the library. One of the rear doors was slightly ajar, as if it had been forced open. I dont know, Marcus said, easing the van out into the road. He strategically turned right, away from the library, then pulled down one of the roads which were adjacent to it so that he could observe a little more. He pulled off the road, and switched off the engine. Why are we here? Tracey asked. Marcus shot a glance at the library, then peered back at Tracey. I know that its still the weekend, honey, but were going visit the library, Marcus explained. The clock on the dash had said that it was only fifteen minutes before three. He had wanted to devote some time to getting groceries from the business side of town, but he still wanted to investigate the damage to the librarys door. Things had gone from worse in Livingston County while Marcus, Tina, and Tracey were living with his parents. First his dad had contracted the disease, then his mom. Marcus had been able to work from home for most of the time, but as the economy collapsed the startup where he worked shut down. They both found themselves unemployed during the biggest health crisis the world had seen. Just by chance, a position opened up at the local library. They were able to save up a little bit of money before the countrys infrastructure completely shut down. There werent very many businesses which were staying open and not many customers to serve, but Marcus had committed himself to the task of keeping the library open at least part of the time, in case someone needed information or shelter. But, only on the weekdays when it was open. His biggest concern as he crouched behind the awning of the building next door to the library was that a dinosaur had broken into the library. It was just as likely that one of the residents had broken in for some reason. The librarys resources were free to use, of course, but only to borrow or use within the building. Those who might not understand this, or even care, could see the items in the library as a source of profit. Marcus lead Tracey towards the playground that was to the right of Hartlands Community Center building. If they stood towards the back of the playground between the two buildings, Marcus would be able to see through most of the librarys windows. Traceys eyes lit up when she saw the kid-sized playground equipment Slides! And swings! No, sorry, Marcus said firmly. We cant stop to play today, honey. Awww. When they were behind the community building, Marcus was able to see through the windows on the second story of the library. He couldnt tell if there was movement. Holding his rifle at the ready, he stepped into the patch of trees that ran alongside the library, and eased his way down a slope. As he reached level ground, he saw the station wagon which was parked in parallel

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with the front door. And, the front door had also been opened. Probably forced, Marcus thought to himself. He motioned to Tracey, and the two of them approached the entrance to the library. He stopped to study the vehicle which had been parked in front of the library. The car sat at an angle away from the library as if it had been parked in a hurry. The keys were still in the ignition. There were two child-sized pillows in the rear passenger seat, and the very back was stuffed with luggage and other belongings. Marcus even thought he saw an old-styled TV. Its a family with a girl! Tracey exclaimed. How do you know that? Marcus asked. It had taken a while, but he had come to expect his daughters keen observations, probably due to her heightened sense of smell. Daddy, she hissed, point towards the backseat. The pillow says Disney princesses. Marcus glanced at the pillow, and then forced himself not to slap himself in the forehead. Perhaps his daughter relied on her human senses more than he thought. Despite the situation, Tracey stared back at her father and giggled. Shhh! Marcus urged. He stepped towards the door, pulled it open, and then waved Tracey inside. The first floor seemed undisturbed, but Marcus couldnt be sure without running a complete check of the adults section in the very back. Anything could be lurking behind the bookshelves. Marcus lifted the half-door that separated the patrons section from the staff area, and swept through the main workspace. When he realized that Tracey was trying to follow him, he waved her away. Wait at the counter, he whispered. He pulled his ring of keys out, unlocked one of the offices, and slipped inside, careful to leave the door open so that he could keep Tracey within his sight. He crouched down and pulled the bottom most drawer on the closest filing cabinet open. He reached in and grabbed two flashlights. They both lit up brightly when he switched them on. He had been worried that time had not been kind to their batteries. He rolled the flashlight across the counter when he reached the main work area again. Tracey grabbed it, but didnt turn it on. Doublchecking that the office was secured, Marcus finished his check of the staff area, then exited through another half door at the other end. The ambient light from the nearby windows had helped while he was towards the front of the library, but now that they were closer to the rear where there werent as many windows it was getting darker. Plus, it was getting later. Twoards the back of the library, there was an elevator and the stairs leading to the second floor. Tracey reached for the Up button for the elevator. No, Marcus warned. He pointed towards the stairs. The worse place they could be during an attack--from a human or dinosaur hybrid-was an elevator.

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Marcus switched on the flashlight and followed Tracey up the stairs. He climbed the steps twice as fast as she did, and soon he was far enough up the staircase that he could peer between the banisters to see the second floor in either direction. There was the kids section to his left, and store rooms to his right. A burglar would head into the collections area of the library, where there was the most gear, but a dinosaur could hide almost anywhere. Daddy, can we check out a book? Tracey asked excitedly. Well see, Marcus said. Just stay close, and try not to talk much. Sorry. They finished their ascension up the stairs. At the last the minute, Marcus decided to head into the childrens area. A thought occurred to him, and he stopped. He crouched down low so that Tracey could hear him. I want you to stay calm, because what Im going to tell you is very important, he began. Okay. I know that Ive told you before not to use your claws or teeth to hurt someone, he said. But, in this case Im making an exception. I dont know who is here, but if you feel you should, I want you to defend yourself in anyway that you can. Do you understand? Yes, Tracey squeaked. She instinctively pushed up her sleeves, and he could see her tail jerk left and right. They ventured forward. All of the bookshelves were towards the back, and the offices were along the side near the entrance to the childrens area. Marcus leaned against the wall outside the former directors office, and peeked inside. There was enough light to see that it was empty. The next office, and the server room also appeared empty, although he couldnt be sure. Towards the back of the floor space there was another office which was twice the size of the directors. Marcus swallowed hard. The doors were wide open. He looked down at Tracey. Wait here. Crouching low again, Marcus slowly entered the room. He could see that the monitor at the far side of the office was on, and he could barely make out the silhouette of someone sitting at the desk. Hoping that the light was low enough to conceal him, he eased forward in the hopes of seeing more of whoever had entered the library illegally. Tracey had drifted to one of the cushion-chairs that sat in front of the blue magazine racks along the front wall of the library. From here, she watched her father disappear into the shadows of the office space. She couldnt remember the last time she had been scared, but at the same time took comfort in the fact that the cushion she was hiding behind was her favorite thing in the library, other than the books. She wanted to call out to her dad, just to make sure that he was alright, but wasnt sure if that was safe. They had been in enough close calls before that she had quickly learned that sometimes silence made the difference between survival and something worse.

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Her eyes drifted from the double doors that her father had passed through to the landing outside of the childrens area. Even though he hadnt mentioned it, she knew that her father would have wanted her to keep an eye out for any dangers that might creep up on them from the otherside of the library. As she turned her head to glance back at the double doors, she caught a glimpse of something that had a shape which was different than the bookshelves or racks that sat all around the library. It had been lean, and the very top of it had been no taller than she was. Traceys lips quivered as she realized that it had definitely been there, and then disappeared. As if it had moved on its own. Tracey thought about what her dad had said about defending herself. Her claws were sharp enough that she could use them to snatch live fish out of her great-grandfathers lake, and her incisors were three times as sharp. She had never bitten a human, and did not intend to anytime soon, but she knew how much her father wanted her to stay alive. Without out me, she told herself, there wouldnt be anybody to take care of him. She stood up suddenly. The same form had appeared right in front of one of the windows, and then disappeared. She was sure now that she was not imagining it. We are not alone, she thought. The six year old was conflicted. Should she investigate the shape that was zig zagging back and forth between the bookshelves, or should she stay with her father? Perhaps it was safer for her to stay where she was, but she also didnt want to risk doing nothing and allowing someone-or something--to sneak up on them. Tracey moved, step by step, down the aisle between the row of windows and the bookshelf end caps. As she stepped between each row of shelves, she paused to check for something that might be hiding from her. By the third row, she could see the reference librarians desk. By the fourth row, she could see another section of the bookshelves that lined the front of the childrens area. She finally reached the last row of books. Pausing, she glanced back at the office space where her father had remained all of this time. This was the farthest that she had been from him today, perhaps farther than when he was scouting around the van in the cemetery, and she had stayed inside to watch him. She knew right then that he would be furious if he saw how far she had wandered, but at the same time she felt like she was contributing to their safety by checking out the mysterious that was moving between the bookshelves. She raised the flashlight, her only possible weapon other than her claws and her incisors, up high over her head so it could be ready to strike, then stepped over to the other side of the bookshelf. There was nothing she could have done to prepare herself for what waited for her on the other side of that last bookshelf. There, standing just a few feet away and looking just as startled as Tracey felt stood another girl, with blonde hair. But Tracey had convinced herself that whatever was in the library with them would be dangerous, and was already lunging forward as the other girl spoke. Hello, she started, My name is Cassandra.

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Her body already in motion, and her arm already on a down swing, Tracey plunged forward and swing close to the girls head. But, the girl ducked just in time, throwing Tracey off balance. The flashlight struck the metal bookshelf. Tracey could hear the casing crack. The girl stood up again. Now she looked shocked. Why did you do that? Tracey had collapsed onto the floor. I thought..you were an...intruder. We saw that the door was open. We didnt realize the library was closed until we were on the second floor and saw that all of the lights were off, Cassandra said. What are you doing her? She asked, looking suspiciously at Tracey. How do I know that youre not the intruder? Because my dad works for the library, Tracey said. Hes in that office, checking it out. Wait... Cassandra was suddenly sounding upset as she started towards the office area. My moms in there.. Your mom? Tracey hurried until she was in front of Cassie, and stepped in front of her. Hold on, you didnt tell me why youre here. I need to warn my mom. Youre not going anywhere. Incisors, thought Tracey. Whos going to stop me? Cassie shot. Me. Cassie pressed forward, but Tracey shoved her back. As Cassie toppled backwards, she grabbed Tracey. The two girls fell to the floor together. Tracey rolled off, and attempted to get away, but Cassie rolled on top of her. Tracey felt pain in her right arm, looked over and saw that Cassie was pressing a claw into her skin. It dawned on her that she had finally met someone who was her own kind. Wait..Youre a... Tracey reached up instinctively and stopped Cassies right arm before her claw could touch her face. Cassie struggled free, then turned toward the other end of the floor, where the offices were. Tracey stood back up, but before she could react there were sounds of a woman sounding, then the sound of a man shouting back, including the threat of shooting someone. Tracey recognized the third mans voice as soon as she heard it. It was her fathers. Benjamin, Cassie exclaimed, then began to run across the library. Tracey followed, close on her heels. They both burst through the office doors to find a woman, another man, and Marcus standing in a circle between desks. The man who Cassie had referred to as Benjamin was holding a rifle and pointing it at Marcus. Tracey felt sick to her stomach as she realized that Benjamin was holding her fathers rifle, and perhaps they were now in trouble because she had not been there to stop him.

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