The car was a mess. Pieces of shattered glass and broken metal lay everywhere, while the bulk of what remained of the Chrysler sat emitting huge puffs of smoke. It had taken a bit of dousing to finally put the fire out, but the heap was still too hot to touch. It would take a long time at this rate for it to cool down all the way, especially since the surrounding mountains were very close to the volcano land, or the Mountains That Burn, as they were called.
A slight rumble came from the Fury. If one could understand car language, they might guess it as “Poor guy.” At least, that’s probably what Christine might have been rumbling through her motor as she moved a little closer to inspect Slyder’s remains. The gang supposed it was fortunate that there were no casualties at the present tense. Taking into account that Christine the Plymouth Fury, was unlike any other car known to be ‘alive’, the Chrysler was, in all its glory, still ‘just a car’.
But still, it didn’t hurt for a sentient car to feel a little sorry for one of its best competitors, even if Slyder wasn’t like her and didn’t ‘live’ like she did.
Michael the Dino Ranger came over and patted Christine’s bonnet, reassuring her. In the corner of his eye, he noticed Littlefoot, Cera, Spike and Petrie trying to keep an emotionally-discomforted Ducky from falling into tears. Clearly, she was distraught because she thought that Trinity was gone for good as well. Michael then saw Ruby coming up next to him, while Chomper stood in front of both of them, just staring at the wrecked car, both of them also quite saddened. Michael put his hand on Ruby, trying to make her feel better, and then turned to investigate the tracks nearby.
The towing ship slowly descended down from high above and touched down nearby. A hatch upon it slowly began to drop down and form a ramp in front of Slyder. Inside, Josiah Clover came forward inside a towing vehicle which fired a magnetic feed out to Slyder, and slowly towed it inside the ship. As it entered, automatic sensors triggered the sprinklers and they rained down upon the Chrysler, slowly but surely extinguishing even the smoke.
Then Jane Whitney came up with a few white-suited technicians and fastened the secure bolts to pin Slyder’s broken form in its position inside the ship. The technicians surrounded the car, and when one of them gave clearance, both Jane and Josiah walked out of the ship, and signalled to the pilot. The man waved in response, and then closed the ramp door, securing Slyder inside. Engines fired up, and the ship began to lift off the ground, pointing skywards before taking off at an increasing speed to shoot back through time, its destination set for the T.W.C. where maintenance would be at the ready.
Josiah sighed and glanced at Jane. “It’s a good thing our vehicles are marked with emergency beacons that activate when damaged,” he said.
“Yeah,” Jane agreed. “Handy for when one of us needs a pickup truck.”
They then turned to Michael, who was still looking at the tracks imprinted on the ground that led into the rocky depths of the canyons. His face looked firm; he seemed troubled.
They walked up. “What do you think, Mike?” Josiah asked.
Michael glanced at him. “I’ve seen these tracks before – one time in the Ice Age – and I think Trinity warned me about them when he fought against Rott-Wyler in the Dino Jungle there,” he pointed at the triangular-shaped footprints that vaguely resembled a very small dinosaur.
“What was it?”
Michael hesitated for a moment as he looked out towards where the tracks led into the canyon, practically mimicking the footprints of Trinity’s own shoes which they had followed in pursuit. “Comp-bots,” he replied. “Rott-Wyler’s earlier tracker mechs; they’re like robot duplications of Tiny Sharpteeth. But they’re pretty dumb for tracking, though…they weren’t equipped with identifying scents, or air density scanning. I’d bet a credit that Trinity could have easily thrown them off.”
“Well, we can only hope,” Josiah nodded. “At least we hope maybe Ken and Shelly will find something.” A few minutes earlier, when they had found Trinity’s footprints leading away from Slyder, Ken and Shelly Blake immediately followed the trail to see if they could find what happened to Trinity. They would communicate over the radio if they found anything suspicious…
And just then, the radio crackled. “Hello…hey guys, any of you there?” Ken’s voice asked.
Jane picked it up first. “Jane here…did you find him, Ken?”
“Uh, no…we haven’t found him, but I think you guys might want to take a look at this.”
A little while later, with the trail as guidance to lead them, the Great Valley kids stood alongside their human friends in a cleared spot in the canyon, curious as to why the footprints ended here. The prints from the comp-bots had continued on, but the prints resembling Trinity’s shoes had strangely stopped near the canyon wall, close to where a decent-sized boulder sat against.
It was this boulder that caught the most attention. Moving it carefully to one side, they soon discovered a gap big enough for somebody to fit through. Since Ducky and Petrie were the smallest of the group, they went in to see if they could see anything inside, but when they saw the open hole nearby, they immediately turned back.
“Trinity must have fallen down through that hole, yep, yep, yep!” Ducky claimed.
“Me think Trinity definitely down there,” Petrie agreed.
Josiah thought for a moment. “But not all of us can fit down there…there must be some other way inside. Maybe if one of us goes in with a tracking device, we can probably find another way round.”
“Okay, but who should go?” Ken asked.
Immediately, four pairs of human eyes were fixated upon him.
“Oh, come on!” Ken let out a groan. “Why am I always the bait?”
“It’ll be fun, Ken. An adventure,” Chomper came up to him. “I’ll come with you, because I can find Trinity easily with my sniffer…right, Littlefoot?”
“That’s a great idea, Chomper,” Littlefoot piped up. “What about you, Ducky? You wanna go with Ken and Chomper while the rest of us find a way round?”
Ducky leapt with joy. “Hooray…we will find Trinity. Yep, yep, yep!”
“Good. Then it’s settled,” Jane nodded, clipping a tracker device upon Ken’s shorts.
The Time Kid gulped with uncertainty. “Uuuuhhhhh…some adventure,” he muttered nervously as he started to crawl inside, holding a torch in front of him so he could see where he was going. “Can you guys see me alright?”
Shelly held up a receiver pad and turned it on. There was a moment’s pause, and then a blinking dot appeared on the screen. “Okay Ken, you’re coming in nice and clear,” she shouted to him. “Just don’t freak out, alright? You’ll do fine.”
“Yeah, easy for you to say,” Ken muttered under his breath as he then noticed the hole leading into the tunnel in front of him. “Okay, here goes…” he moved towards it while Chomper and Ducky crawled inside behind him.
“YYYYYAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!” Ken suddenly slipped and went sliding down the tunnel, tumbling down out of sight. He continued to tumble until the narrow tunnel ended and the room opened up around Ken.
He landed with an “OOF!” upon the rocky floor of the caverns. Gravel rained around him as he slowly turned onto his back, before suddenly, another tumbling sound could be heard above him…and then…
WHUMP! A small purple blur landed right on top of his head! Chomper groaned with the fall, and then held up his claws in time as Ducky came tumbling down after him. “Whoa…you okay, Ducky?” he grinned nervously with his teeth.
“Yep, yep, yep, I think so,” Ducky nodded. “Where is Ken?”
A muffled sound from under Chomper’s butt became evident, and both he and Ducky leapt off in astonishment the moment they found they were sitting on his head. Ken coughed, looking discomforted already. “Thanks a lot, you guys,” he grumbled as he spoke into his radio. “The first few minutes and I’m already getting into trouble.”
“Are you okay down there, Ken?” Shelly’s voice asked over the radio, ignoring Ken’s annoyed comment. “You’re not hurt, are you?”
“Not physically,” Ken continued to grumble. “But you never told me that tunnel went straight down.”
“You never asked,” came the reply. “And we never thought about it. What’s it look like down there?”
“I don’t know yet,” Ken tried to turn on his torch. “My torch got a little banged up from that fall…I’m just trying to get it to turn on.”
“Going the way you can see, will let you see the way you’re going, Ken,” a familiar Fast-Runner’s voice spoke over the radio.
“Uh yeah, thanks Ruby,” Ken nodded, and then finally succeeded in getting the bulb to shine again. “Okay, you guys ready?” he asked Ducky and Chomper. “Let’s go.”
They began to walk through the dark caverns, with Ken’s light illuminating the way forward, and Chomper’s sniffer constantly twitching, trying to pick up Trinity’s scent.
Back up at the top, the readout still showed a good signal.
“They’re a good distance down,” Shelly pointed at the screen. “But it looks like the caverns open up to something much roomier.” She pointed to an outline illuminated close to the cavern layout. “Whatever’s there, we might be able to find a way down…” she moved the wire-map up and left a little…
Then confusion filled her face. “Through a Mountain That Burns?”
The others stared at the screen. Sure enough, the overall layout of the geographic scan showed that the only other way through into the caverns was through the top of a volcano, very close to the lava-filled domain. It could very well be dangerous to go through there, but it seemed to be their only option.
“I’ve got an idea,” Michael adjusted the knob on his radio. “Michael to Arty…come in, Arty. You there?”
“Arty here,” the radio crackled. “What’s up, Mike?”
“I think we’ve found a clue to Trinity’s whereabouts,” Michael replied. “Meet us over at the Mountains That Burn, and bring some heat protection too…we don’t know what we’re up against, but we can’t take any chances.”
“Gotcha Mike, I’m on it. Be with you in ten minutes,” the radio confirmed. Thankfully, it had been a good idea to have Trinity’s younger brother, Arty, hang around at the DPF back in the Great Valley, just in case something happened while the search was on.
But it was not going to be just heat problems that the gang would deal with.
For while the gang went back to collect Christine and the time buggies so they could travel lighter and faster, it wasn’t obvious to any of them that they were being watched.
By a figure with one eye an evil red…
And another with a Fast-Biter glare but with a humanoid appearance…
Who quietly and slowly followed behind them, curious to see what they were looking for…