Within the Secret Caverns that served as a secret pathway between the Great Valley and the Mysterious Beyond, something appeared to be taking place.
Something was glowing deep within the caverns, but there was nobody around to see it. The glow lasted for a few seconds, before finally fading and the caverns returned to their normal, dull, bleak, cavern-like atmosphere.
Then the sound of footsteps could be heard.
The form of a young, orange-coloured Sharptooth with blue eyes appeared from around the corner of where the glowing had taken place. It turned out to be Yoko, the young tyrannosaurus rex from the Ice Age era. His mouth contained a very big smile as he felt proud at being able to come here to the Great Valley, particularly because it meant he could catch up with his human girlfriend, Shelly Blake.
Then, from behind Yoko, more footsteps were heard. It turned out his brother and sister, Egbert and Shelly, had come along with him. But they didn’t seem as excited as their sibling did.
“Yoko, you’re nuts coming all the way out here,” Shelly complained. “Just to see her.”
Yoko looked over his shoulder at her in annoyance. This was the umpteenth time he had heard this, and he was getting annoyed. I knew I should have left her at home, he thought to himself.“Well, you’re not helping with your constant complaining, Shell,” Yoko retorted as he began leading them through the Secret Caverns. “Besides, you don’t get out enough, wanting to stay home instead of going out on an adventure. Adventures are great fun.”
“Yeah,” Egbert muttered nervously. “But what’s Mom going to say when we get back?”
Yoko didn’t have an answer. He hadn’t thought much about what he was going to tell Momma Dino when they got back home. His mind had been set on his human friends, and in his blind thoughts to see them again, he hadn’t thought about anything else.
He simply shrugged, and Egbert and Shelly just glanced at each other, worried about their brother.
A moment later, Yoko finally led them out of the Secret Caverns, and breathed in a lungful of fresh air. Something about being in a whole new world felt amazing even to a young T-rex like him. Yoko could feel the spirit of adventure burning within him, and he couldn’t wait to explore it.
But first things first…there was a friend to find.
“Now,” he muttered, “I’m pretty sure Michael said that the Dinosaur Protection Force was close to here, but which way was it?”
“To the right,” Shelly suggested.
“No, left!” Egbert argued.
But just then, the sound of something emerging from the caverns behind them caught their attention. The three young Sharpteeth turned in surprise, and the moment they heard a strange sound getting closer, they knew there was trouble.
“Hide!” Yoko shouted. Together they dove to the side of the caverns and hid behind a boulder. They watched carefully from around the corner, and suddenly, the form of a familiar-looking demonic Fast-Biter emerged out into the Great Valley as well.
Yoko’s brow narrowed. “Not him again…” he whispered.
Victor Veloci didn’t care how many times he found a way through the Secret Caverns to reach the Great Valley. All that mattered was that he was putting his plan into action. With the trap baited and set for Trinity the Adventurer, he had earlier told Redclaw and Thud to search for their missing companion, Screech, while keeping an eye out for Dr. Tenma at the same time in case he decided to attack or taunt them again.
In the meantime, Veloci would storm the Great Valley himself. He had a suspicion he knew where Tenma had really gone…to meet up with Chomper. After all, he had been responsible for the young Sharptooth’s deadly lightsaber weapons. He would get answers from this, and even if he had to pin down the mad doctor and tear him to shreds for answers, he would do it.
Veloci let out a determined growl, and then set off running in his Fast-Biter form, in the direction where he knew the Dinosaur Protection Force was.
Yoko quietly emerged from hiding with Egbert and Shelly right behind him as he watched Veloci disappearing into the Great Valley. His expression was now filled with concern.
“Looks like there’s gonna be trouble with that biter-brain if we don’t stop him,” Yoko muttered. “We’d better hurry and chase after him.”
“But, Yoko…!” Shelly started to complain again…
But it was pointless, as Yoko was already running after Veloci and didn’t hear a word she said. Beside his sister, Egbert just shook his head, knowing this was hopeless. He just stared at Shelly, and she quietened down. Then they took off after their determined brother.
* * *
Elsewhere in the Great Valley, both Michael and Q-Zone had met up, having tried to compare their information found, but it wasn’t very fruitful. They weren’t much closer to finding Count Starr, but they were hoping at least to find something through one last link they had…
Chomper. He had seen the Count…he was bound to know something.
“I wonder why we didn’t just ask him from the start,” Michael wondered.
Q-Zone snorted. “Hmph…I’m a hunter, not an interrogator. But I’d give anything a go if it means keeping war from breaking out even beyond this Land before Time. I mean, if war starts out over this universe again, there’ll be no more bounties for me.”
Michael didn’t reply to that. Perhaps he didn’t know the whole story behind Q-Zone’s past, but he accepted the fact that Q-Zone was simply helping them out because both he and Arty were doing everything they could for their friend Trinity. The Adventurer didn’t deserve to be locked in the Temporal Asylum…if they could just find the Count and take him into custody, they could clear their friend’s name and get him out of there.
But this wouldn’t be easy…the Count practically had an invisible reputation.
“Well, let’s just head back to the DPF for now and see how the others are getting along,” Michael suggested. He started to jump back into Christine. Q-Zone was just about to follow when he suddenly glanced in the direction to his left. “What’s that?”
Q-Zone pulled up a pair of binoculars and focused. “There’s something happening on the Looking Rock…I can see it even from a mile away. Looks like there’s some kind of fire there.”
Michael glanced over. “You don’t mean…the outpost?”
“Could be,” Q-Zone put down the binoculars. “I’ll go and check it out…I’ll meet back with you guys at the DPF.” And before another word could be said, he fired up his jetpack and took off in the direction of the Looking Rock. Michael nodded and started Christine up, throttling off down the road towards the DPF.
* * *
At the Dinosaur Protection Force, the friends had all gathered around after their search for the Elements around the Great Valley.
“Any luck?” Jane asked the others.
“We found this one,” Littlefoot spoke as Ruby held up the Psychic Element, and placed it on the table in front of him. “We found it in the Hidden Canyon, where those fruits block off an entrance to the Great Valley. But it wasn’t easy since we did have to wear down its power before we could actually claim it. Good thing Ruby already mastered its abilities.”
Ruby nodded in agreement. The training she had gone through with Trinity previously had sharpened her mind, so being the cunning Fast-Runner that she was, she had no trouble managing to defeat the psychokinetic creatures that the Element had summoned as a defense mechanism. It was odd to think that a spherical palm-sized object like this could act on its own if left out of control.
“Any others?” Arty asked.
“We found one too, we did, we did,” Ducky piped in as Shelly put the Light Element upon the table. Ducky’s guess to search in the secret cavern under the Thundering Falls had been a good one. She had already found it once there with Trinity, although a Shadow Demon had beaten them to it. The shadowy influence had caused the element to create a shadowy version of Trinity called Darkwave, which acted much like a mirrored version of him. Although they found they had to face Darkwave again in the same cavern, luckily Shelly had been armed with the Chronos Hammer, a potentially powerful weapon that Darkwave was unable to shield against. Destroying him with it dispelled the dark shield over the cavern, and allowed them to take the Element.
“That’s two so far…five to go,” Jane counted her fingers.
“Five to go, indeed, heh heh,” a different voice suddenly spoke up, making them whirl on the spot. There, standing in a corner of the room, was Dr. Tenma, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “I like scavenger hunts in a way…after all, they bear a similarity to a hunter tracking prey.”
“Tenma?” Josiah stared at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I’m just keeping an eye on you while a friend of mine is making preparations for taking control of the Great Valley,” Tenma grinned.
Everybody glanced at each other.
Then Tenma suddenly seemed to de-materialize, and vanish from where he was standing. “He’s been keeping a step ahead of both you and Veloci,” Tenma’s voice suddenly spoke from the other side of the room, and they turned again to see him just strolling casually up to them. “He takes no chances in letting any distractions bring the plan to a halt.”
“Plan?” Cera growled. “We won’t let you get away with this!” She pawed the ground with the intention to charge. While Littlefoot and the others just stared at her, they made no intention to try and stop her, because once she acted like this, she couldn’t be stopped.
“I’m afraid to disappoint you, little Threehorn,” Tenma smirked. “But we already have. If any of you had really been paying attention while you were out looking for the Elements, perhaps you might have notice that Chomper had been sneaking away?”
The moment he said this, everybody jolted. Yes, it was true! Chomper wasn’t with them!
Tenma just laughed. “Some friends you are to him indeed! Good thing that while you were distracted I took the opportunity to urge him into attacking the outpost on the Looking Rock.”
“Chomper!” Ruby gasped. “Oh no!”
Tenma disappeared again, this time re-appearing standing on the table where the Elements were laid out. “After all, that’s where Michael keeps an eye out for any trouble from the Mysterious Beyond, isn’t it?” He made an impression of sight-seeing by putting a hand over his eyes and staring out in a direction. He laughed. “To put it simply, Chomper is disabling your eyes to the outside of the valley. Just bringing it one step closer to the assault that is to come.”
“What’s in it for you though?” Jane determinedly asked. “You were supposed to specialise in robots, not dinosaurs. Why did this Count guy choose you to be involved in this war?”
“Starr believes I can make Chomper into the ultimate dinosaur ruler of this world,” Tenma laughed. “Which is something very similar to the dream I’ve always fantasized. I was intrigued by his offer, so how could I refuse? Besides, it makes a change from Astro Boy…Darth Chomp will soon rise again, I kid you not.”
Then he de-materialized again, this time appearing just near the door leading out of the room. “Oh, by the way,” he finished. “I’m not going to bother taking those Elements from you, because it wouldn’t be much fun if you don’t get to finish your little hunt first. In the meantime, I’ll just let you get acquainted with another…uh…problem.”
Then he simply walked out the doorway. The gang immediately started charging to get at him, but the moment they opened the door and stared down the hallway, he was already gone, having teleported away the moment he had left their field of vision.
Arty clenched his fist. “I don’t believe this…first they corrupt Chomper, then they trick Trinity into getting locked away, and now they’re exposing us to this war that they fantasize. What are we going to do?” He was particular distressed about it because he didn’t think it was fair that his brother was being treated like this.
If only he could see it through Trinity’s eyes…how the Adventurer had managed to stay cool even through the toughest times. How did he ever do it?
“It’s okay, Arty,” Ruby put her hand upon his shoulder, offering him a bit of comfort. “We’re not going to let war destroy the Great Valley. We’ll stop this from happening.”
“For sure,” Jane agreed. “If we still stick together, we can do it.” The others all agreed.
“Uh…” Ken began to say. “But what did Tenma mean when he said ‘problem’?”
They weren’t sure.
Suddenly, there was an explosion, and the DPF shook. Everybody nearly fell down.
“What was that?” Shelly gasped. “It sounds like something just broke inside!”
“Me not so sure about this,” Petrie began to stammer, and dove straight into Littlefoot’s neck, his teeth chattering in fright. The young Longneck just rolled his eyes.
Everybody braced themselves, unsure whether to leave the room or not, in case they saw something they dreaded to see. Arty quickly ran over to the table and pocketed the two Elements they had found, while the others prepared the Dinosaur Emeralds for use.
There was a moment’s pause…
Then, CRASH! The door came falling in! And a familiar-looking raptor with evil yellow eyes stood glaring at them all.
“Veloci,” Ruby grimaced.
“Where is he, then?” the Fast-Biter snarled. “Where is Tenma? And your little Biter friend? Where are they?”
Everybody took a step back. Despite being armed with some pretty handy equipment, they dared not stand against one of the evillest, most cunning and violent Fast-Biters ever known to exist. It was obvious that this was the ‘problem’ Tenma had casually ‘warned’ them about.
“Are you going to tell me or not?” Veloci hissed, getting impatient.
“Why should we tell you?” Shelly shouted at him. “Even if we did know, we wouldn’t tell you anyway, because you’d just kill Tenma and Chomper.”
Veloci glanced at her. “Dear little Shelly Blake,” he hissed in a teasingly fashion. “You act so much like a heroine even at such a young age. But you’re still so young, and fragile to my claws.”
Then he charged instantly. The instant move made everybody nearly jump out of their skin, and in the confusion, Veloci quickly sprang at Shelly and seized her in his claws. She cried out as he pulled her away from the rest of the group, and dropped her upon the ground in a corner of the room. The others tried to stop Veloci, but the moment he whipped his tail around, nearly hitting Arty and Josiah, they stopped, and backed off the moment he screeched demonically at them.
Then Veloci grinned as he looked back down at the frightened Shelly below him. “And you have a lot to tell me, my dear,” he hissed. “Unless you’d rather see me kill your other friends first. So do tell me, little Shelly, everything that you know, about Tenma, about Chomper…”
Then he ran a cold talon down her cheek, which made Shelly shudder in disgust.
“And you have also to tell me about your special wristband that makes you into a dinosaur,” he purred excitedly. “Such a beautiful humanoid dinosaur…”
Suddenly, a huge door on the side of the room labelled ‘Storage Room’ started to rise open. Everybody immediately turned at the sound, including Veloci, whose face became angry again upon being distracted again.
The huge door rose open to reveal something mechanical, almost robot like, only it looked like a machine accustomed to lifting heavy loads. The lights flickered on inside, and the machine slowly rose to life, taking steady steps towards the crowd, revealing a familiar orange figure piloting the machine from inside.
The young dinosaur Yoko glared at Veloci. “Get away from my human, you son of a carnivore!”