I) The Black Pylon
The huge gray-green creature hungrily tore off the mouthful of
conifer needles from one of the towering ancestors of modern pines,
and began chewing noisily. The creature had short horns above
its eyes, and a column of spines down its tremendous neck. The
beast was a sauropod, part of the family of long-necked herbivorous
dinosaurs, but it was unlike any sauropod Will Marshall had ever
"Hey, Holly, get a load of this!" called Will, still staring through
Will and Holly Marshall had been gathering giant carrots near
Emily Swamp today, while Uncle Jack and Cha-ka stayed back at
the Altrusian temple that had been their home since the earthquake
had destroyed High Bluff. The two kids had ventured further to
the north and east than they had originally planned. As had happened
many times before, Will wanted to take the opportunity to explore.
They were already familiar with most areas of the Land of the
Lost, but not all, and the quake had apparently unleashed strange
mutant reptiles like Lulu and Torchy. Whether these beasts had
emerged from previously unknown regions of the planet, for were
the result of a series of mutations, they weren't really sure.
But with the mutants and the recurrent quakes, it seemed certain,
something was slowly happening to the Land itself. Perhaps the
repeated damage to the pylons was having an overall effect?
"What is it, Will?" Holly cried over her shoulder in Will's direction,
as she struggled to uproot one of the meter long carrots. "Are
the skylons acting up again?"
"No-just come check this out."
With a huff, Holly undid the rope from around her middle, slapped
the dust off her knees, and headed in Will's direction. Her brother
was still peering through them when she got there.
"Will?" Holly persisted. "What is it?"
"It's some kind of dinosaur. Like a brontosaurus, only we've never
seen one like it."
Holly sighed. "There's dinosaurs everywhere around this
place. Just once I d like to see some ordinary people."
Will lowered the binoculars. "Yeah," he sighed heavily. "I
know. But-" He handed Holly the binoculars. "Just take a look."
Holly looked. At first she thought the strange reptile was a young
apatosaur. But then she realized its color was wrong, a darker
shade of gray, fading to greenish-white on the lower extremitities,
unlike the slate-gray hides of the true brontosaurs. And she noticed
the larger eyes, as they swiveled in their sockets as the beast
munched its lunch of conifer needles, and the short horns above
the eyes, and down the great neck.
"Wow," Holly said. "Wonder what it is."
Just then, another of its species, a creature that seemed almost
identical to the first, joined the munching sauropod. The creatures
rubbed necks in what might have been the first stirrings of a
courtship display, and resuming their foraging.
"Will, there's two of them." Holly passed the binoculars to
"Yeah," he said."Hey, d'ya think there might be a whole herd of
Holly shrugged. "Well, maybe. But why haven't we seen them before?"
suddenly, she remembered. "Hey, I know. We're in one of those
places-you know the places the quake opened up. Think maybe that's
got something to do with it?"
think you're right, Holly." Will said. He starred silently in
the direction of the browsing giants. "Hey, know what? I'm going
to have a look at them."
"Oh no, you don't Will Marshall. You're going to help
me finish pulling the rest of our carrots."
"But-" Will started. Then he sighed. "Oh all right."
As the afternoon wore on the two kids, pulled up a good portion
of the prehistoric carrot patch, and loaded them all onto their
make shift cart. The cart, which they'd constructed from logs,
was very like the one they'd had when they'd lived at High Bluff.
Jack and the kids had opted on making this new own rather than
try searching for the old one, and then hauling it over the crevasse.
Anyway, Dopey, the young apatosaur Holly had trained to pull their
cart had long since joined his older siblings in the swamp. He
hadn't been around since Uncle Jack had fallen into the Land of
"Wanna go look for some strawberries?" Will suggested, when they
were both resting on the side of the cart, exhausted.
"Naw," Holly said. "I just want to go back and see how Jack and
Cha-ka are doing." Just then, Holly glanced up. And saw a dark
gleam through the greens and blue-greens of the Mesozoic jungle.
A really dark gleam-as though the sun had reflected off
something composed of sheer blackness.
As though entranced, Holly rose tremblingly to her feet. "W-Will-?"
"Holly, what is it?" Will asked, suddenly alarmed.
"I-" she shook her head confused. "I just thought I saw something,
"Well, what was it?"
"A gleam, over there." Holly pointed. "Through the trees. It's
Will looked and saw nothing. But he knew enough of the Land of
the Lost by now not to dismiss what ever it was. "I'm going to
get a better look."
He started through the tree. "Then I'm coming with," Holly insisted.
"No!" said Will. "You stay here with the cart. It might be dangerous."
Holly was about to give a stinging reply, but then suddenly realized
she wasn't sure she wanted to find out what it was. Altrusia had
given them enough nasty surprises already. Besides, she didn't
some dinosaur snacking on their carrots while they were gone,
and she wasn't in the mood for arguing. "Okay." She said. "Just
be careful Will."
sat back down with a huff on the edge of the cart, as the jungle
swallowed her brother. All at once, Holly was angry with herself.
She would have thought Will would stop treating her like a kid
Will pushed on into the thick tangle of fern-fronds and creepers.
He thoughts he caught a gleam of something too-the sun shining
off something metallic, maybe. But what, a pylon? As Holly had
said, there seemed to be something wrong with the way it shone.
He had the curious sensation that it was reflecting dark rather
than light. Black light? That didn't make sense, but-
A dull roar abruptly sounded to Will's left. He whirled around
and peered through the overhanging fronds into a nearby clearing
where he saw Grumpy, the tyrannosaurus rex, devouring the carcass
of a freshly killed hadrosaur. Will watched the great carnivore
silently as the carnosaur gave another roar to ward off any other
predators in the immediate area, before ripping out another chunk
of scarlet flesh from his kill's flank. His muzzle crimsoned with
hadrosaur blood, the tyrannosaur noisily gulped the meat.
Not caring to disturb Grumpy at mealtime Will shuddered and moved
on, pushing deeper into the jungle. He was still less than six
meters from Grumpy when he found himself in another clearing.This
one was perfectly circular, and in the dead center of it was a
But it was unlike any other pylon Will had ever seen.
For the weird alien metal that composed it ( if indeed it was
some sort of alloy from which the pylons were built), was not
the slightly brassy color of the weather pylons, or those that
controlled the time doorways. It reminded Will somewhat of the
pylon that controlled the power of the sun, or the one that housed
the temporal regulators, which were a dark slate gray in color.
Only this pylon wasn't gray-it was jet black. And it didn't seem
to reflect off the sun in a normal manner the way a glossy black
automobile would. Instead, it seemed to somehow absorb
the light, and give off a weird radiance of its own, as though
casting darkness on the ground and trees around. It almost hurt
Will's eyes to look at it, maybe because human vision was ill-adapted
to whatever "light" the pylon was giving off. Maybe the light
existed in a different spectrum that the Altursian builders were
Will considered leaving, but was drawn by his curiosity. Warily,
the young man approached the strange pylon. Part of him noted
that the sound it was emitting was a bit higher in pitch than
he would have expected from a properly functioning pylon, but
probably that was how it was supposed to sound. Everything about
this pylon seemed strange-so strange in fact that it had him spooked.
At least there was a normal-looking key Will noted. Cautiously,
he reached up and slowly turned it. There was the expected dull
hum as the diamond-shaped doorway appeared. Will stepped back,
almost sighing with relief. Well, what did you expect to
happen, Will chided himself. Still, he hesitated a few
seconds before actually stepping into the pylon.
In the direct center of the darkened interior, the pylon's matrix
table gave off its multicolored light. And yet.something about
the glow from the power crystals was .wrong.
It took Will a few seconds before he realized just what the
wrongness was. The eerie pinkish reddish, bluish glow was different
somehow. The shades weren't quite right. Will approached the table
until his face was bathed with colored radiance. And saw the difference.
The patterns in which the crystals were arranged differed from
those in the pylons he was familiar with. And not only that-some
of the crystals were of different colors entirely. Arranged in
the matrix among the familiar red, green, yellow, and blue, were
violets, oranges and pinks, as well as different shades of the
more familiar colors. These were crystals unlike any they had
seen, at least within the pylons. Now that Will thought of it,
they had seen crystals of similar shade embedded in the tunnel
walls beneath the lost city, and in the even deeper caverns under
Altrusia's main river. As he recalled most of the crystals that
were violet or pink were huge, and did little besides give off
light-at least that was what he'd thought. They had fear experimented
with all off the crystals for fear what some might do-they had
learned not to take chances!
Will almost reached out to touch one of the purple crystals, then
sharply with drew back his hand. He had left Holly back in the
clearing with their carrots. No sense in experimenting with strange
technology right now. Maybe tomorrow they could get Uncle jack
to come with them, and they could all try to find out what this
new pylon was for. Will remembered that he and Holly had ventured
into an unknown region-one that the quake might have opened up.
There was no telling what the black pylon might control. A time
doorway, perhaps? Will hoped so, but at heart he doubted it. It
was completely unlike the Moongiver pylon, or anything else they
had seen so far on Altrusia.
Will stepped out into the afternoon light and twisted the pylon
key. As the door hummed closed, Will drew a sharp breath and headed
back into the jungle. He made sure to move quietly past grumpy,
who was still gorging himself. Will was nearly back to where he
had left Holly and the carrots, when he heard his sister shriek.
"Holly!" Will yelled, and broke into a run. He stopped when he
saw Holly crash through the foliage ahead of him, her arms outflung.
"Torchy!" she cried.
Will gasped as he saw the dimetrodon's ribbed sail over the ridge
of foliage. "Looking for a backyard barbecue!" Will cried. "Come
on!" The fire-breathing beast gave a dull roar as he crashed in
the two kids' direction. Fear raced up Will's spine, as he heard
the expected whoosh! as the pelcosaur discharged his deadly
breath in their direction.
"He's getting closer, Will!" Holly cried.
"Just keep running!" said Will "Make for the pylon!"
"What pylon?" she gasped.
"This way!" Will pulled her arm. "Hurry!"
Already, Holly could feel the incredible heat of the fire-reptile's
breath begin to blister her skin. At any moment he expected them
to be roasted alive.
Then the crashing behind them stopped. "Wait!" Will said. I think
he's stopped chasing us."
Holly, still panting slowed up beside her brother. They slowly
turned and looked back.
Torchy had emerged from the jungle a short distance behind them,
but he appeared to have given up the chase. The huge finback reptile
remained where he was, roaring at them, the yellowish scales of
his immense body gleaming in the afternoon sun, a rainbow of colors
reflecting from his enormous sail. His mouth gaped open revealing
the full array of his spikey, irregular teeth, as he eyed the
two mammals hungerly.
"Why'd he stop?" Holly whispered.
"I don't know," Will said. "maybe-hey,look!"
They watched as Torchy lifted his head, and appeared to sniff
the air. His great nostrils contracted, as ribbons of smoke curled
up form them.
"He must smell something." Will said.
"Ha! All's I can smell is burnt charcoal."
"I know. Sometimes Torchy reminds me of a cookout back home. But
he can probably smell things we can't. Look, he's going away."
Torchy turned toward the northeast, and them plowed his way into
the thick tangle. The dimetrodon roared again, and this time there
was an answering roar from a tyrannosaur.
"It's Grumpy!" Holly cried.
said Will. "I just passed him in a clearing right over there.
I think Torchy's circling around in back of him. Come on, let's
see what happens."
Cautiously, the two kids followed the wake of crushed and blistered
vegetation Torchy had left . They reached the edge of the clearing,
and stepped back, jolted by the sight of the tyrannosaur finishing
the remains of his kill.
Grumpy gave another defensive roar as the finback invader approached.
All the other creatures in the valley lived in terror of the fire-breather-even
Grumpy, whose rule generally went without challenge. But the tyrannosaurus
rex was still not ready to relinquish his kill easily. He lowered
is head defensively and bellowed, snapping his great jaws.
Torchy was not intimidated. The dimetrodon ambled toward the remains
of the hadrosaur carcass, and released another barrage of incandescent
flame. Grumpy backed off, still roaring, then crashed off through
the fern-forest with a final scream of rage.
"Looks like ol' Grumpy finally got some his own medicine." Holly
"Yeah, guess so, " said Will. "Well, I guess neither one of those
characters'll be bother us for a while."
"Yeah, it's easier to steal someone else's lunch then catch your
The dimetrodon breathed slowly over what was left of the hadrosaur,
his fire breath switched to low ebb so that the flesh was lightly
"Well, what do you know", said Will. "Torchy knows how to cook
his meal medium rare. Come on, I'll show you the pylon I found."
Will led her through the jungle until they reached the clearing
of the black pylon.
"So what do you think?" Will asked her.
Holly shrugged. "It sure looks creepy, that's for sure."
"It's not just the outside that's weird. The crystals in the matrix
table are the wrong color."
"You mean you went inside?"
"Yep. Let's take a look." They approached the pylon, and Will
again turned the triangular key.
Just then, they heard the dimetrodon's roar issue from the nearby
"It's Torchy!" Holly cried.
"Yeah, he must have finished with the tyrannosaur kill! Come on!"
They swiftly slipped through the diamond shaped door, into the
weirdly lit pylon interior.
"Hey.you're right." Holly said, as she stared glassy-eyed at the
glowing matrix. "Thse crystals are different. I wonder
what they're for."
Abruptly, Will noticed a strange glowing sphere on the pylon's
wall. It looked like the one on the wall of the Possessor's pylon,
where they thought they saw a vision of one of Enik's people.
This sphere seemed to be filled with weird greenish mist, but
there was no image of any hoary ancient-nor of anything else.
Will couldn't remember seeing the sphere before. Hadn't it been
there? Then he saw something else, bathed in the greenish illumminence.
"Holly, look here." He said in a hoarse whisper.
"It looks like writing of some kind."
"I know. Know what it reminds me of?"
Holly thought a moment, as she examined the eerie glyphs that
were inscribed on a short stone table beneath the vast glowing
orb. "Yeah..I think I do. The letters we found in Builder's Temple."
"Yeah, maybe they're the same language."
Both of them vividly recalled their distrurbing adventure at Builder's
Temple in a newly discovered sector of the Lost City-the eerie
pinkish lights that had appeared over the valley, and glowing
red being that had pursued them. At the time, they had speculated
that the temple might have been built by humans. As impossible
as that seemed, how else could they explain the human handprints
in the wall, one of which fit Holly precisely?
They had always supposed the pylons to be of Altrusian technology-and
on one occasion Enik had even admitted that they appeared to be
so. But on the other hand, they had discovered more than a few
clues that humans like themselves might have had at least something
to do with the creation of the Land. There was William Blandings
for one, the human repairman who had fixed the sun pylon when
the valley was being bombarded with solar flares-or at least he
had appeared to be human. And then there was the curious
fact that Enik had said that pylons did not in his own time. Rick
Marshall had asked him to explain how weather could have have
been controlled in a closed universe without pylons, but the Altrusian
had refused to answer. The obvious, which Will had supplied mentally,
had been at that time, it wasn't a closed universe.
"Do you suppose Enik might be able to tell us what they say?"
Will ventured suddenly.
"It might be worth a try," Holly said. "But they don't really
look like Altrusian letters to me."
Will frowned as he stared at the strange glyphs. "No, me neither.
But maybe they're some kind of instructions for what this pylon
"Think it might open a time doorway? Maybe it can tell us the
way out of the Land of the Lost."
Will shook his head."I don't know Holly. But we've got to find
Holly turned back to the matrix table. "Then I guess we'll have
to find out on our own." She reached for a purple crystal.
"Holly-" Will started. But she had already touched the violet
stone, and drew her hand away sharply.
"Nothing." Frowned Holly "I just got scared 'cuz you yelled at
me is all."
"Well, you shouldn't have touched it."
"Me? You're the one who opened this weird pylon."
Will opened his mouth to reply, then stopped. "Hey," he said.
"what about Torchy?"
"What about him? He was raising a ruckus a moment ago, and-" Holly
stopped. Something had happened. A moment ago they had
heard the dimetrodon bellowing outside. Now he was suddenly quiet.
And not just that. Holly remembered the creature bellowing when
her forefinger had touched the purple crystal, and Will had shouted.
It was as though the dimetrodon's roar had been abruptly cut off,
Will and Holly both looked at each other in a mixture of fear
and awe. Both were think the same thing: Could Holly have done
something to silence the beast? The idea was absurd, of course
The kids crept silently toward the pylon entrance, and slowly
peered. In all logic, the dimetrodon should have been emerging
from the cluster of fronded, scaley-trunked williamsonias on the
opposite side of the clearing, where his roars had issued from
a moment before. Will and Holly drew a colloective breath.
Where Torchy should have been was a creature unlike either of
them had seen before. It had a body that resembled a lizard, and
a basically reptilian head that was also strangley doglike, with
fanglike incisors curving down from the middle of the upper jaw.
But the beast's oddest attribute as that it was covered in a
sleek coat of silvery-gray fur.
"What's that?" Holly asked.
"I don't know." Will said. "I think I remember seeing pictures
of it in dinosaur books at the library back home. But I can't
remember what it's called."
"It looks like a cross between a mammal and a reptile. Will-?"
"Do you think-?"
Will sighed heavily as they both stepped inside the pylon. The
kids looked at each other, each of them thinking exactly the same.
"It sure seems crazy." Will said finally. "but I'm going to find
out." He gestured toward the animal outside. "Keep an eye on him."
Turning back to the matrix table, Will touched the purple crystal.
There was a shrill bark from the cynodont outside, but it was
suddenly cut off.
"Will!" Holly cried out.
Will rushed to the entrance."What is it?"
Holly pointed to the cynodont. A wavering violet illuminence surrounded
the animal, which appeared to be immobilized. A shrill keening
sound filled the air. Then the the light deepened intensely purple,
and then flared searingly bright. Will and Holly shielded their
eyes against the stinging, lavander light. And a second later,
the light had vanished.
Once more the sailback dinosaur crouched at the clearing's edge.
Torchy breathed two gouts of yellow-orange flame in the kids'
direction, before ambling back into the ferns.
"Guess ol'Torchy's had enough for one day."
"Yeah, maybe we should have left him the way he was."
Then a small dinosaur, a comsognathus, ran briskly across the
clearing in pursuit of a flying insect.
"Y'know what, Holly? I'm going to try something."
"But Will-" Holly started.
Will stood before the glowing array of power crystals, but instead
of touching the purple crystal again, he touched one of the orange
ones. These looked similar to the sun crystals in the solar pylon,
though they were not quite the same shade. Holly stuck her head
quickly back out the pylon door. Once again, the a throbbing glare-a
throbbing orange glare, this time- had ensnared a victim.
The little dinosaur stood immobilized by the orange brilliance,
unable to move or cry out. There was an another eye-searing burst
of light. Holly blinked, and saw what the clearing now held. ""Will,
The two kids found themselves starring in awed amazement at a
genuine feathered bird-at least it looked mostly like a bird.
The animal had blue and orange feathers, a blue-scaled reptilian
head, with a primitive beak lined with needle-like teeth, and
hooked, dinosaurian claws on its wings. The reptile-bird hissed
at them shrilly, them flapped off into the trees in a flurry of
its wings. "An archaeopteryx!" Will cried. "one of the dinosaur
ancestors of birds!Know what, Holly?"
"I think so, Will."
"I think we've found out what this pylon controls-it controls
"Maybe it controls the genes of everything living here, -all the
plants and animals!"
Suddenly, an idea hit Will. "Yeah, and if it's malfunctioning,
like the clock pylon did-
Holly's eyes widened as she suddenly grasped the implications
of what Will said. All at once, she found her think of Lulu, the
double-headed marsh beast, and Torchy, the fire-breathing dimetrodon,
not to mention the new sauropods they'd discovered earlier that
And of the fact that this pylon was itself in one of previously
unknown regions of the planet.
"Come on," Will said. "We've got to tell Uncle Jack about this."
Will had already stepped out of the pylon, when Holly's eye caught
something. "Hey, Will, take a look at this!" Will turned and stepped
back into the darkness of the pylon.
"What is it, now?" he asked, slightly irritated. Then he saw.
The sphere on the wall was no longer filled with swirling jade-colored
mists. It now held a picture.
Will stepped toward the sphere, awed, his eyes glued on the scene
the mists had revealed.
"W-Will?" Holly asked in a wavering voice "Isn't that-"
"I know." Answered her brother in a tone of hushed awe. "It's
The image in the sphere was that of the Altrusian civilization
at its hieght and glory.
architecture was undeniably Altrusian, although the place did
not seem to be the Lost City-it was apparently different Altrusian
city in another time and place. The buildings were laid out differently,
and the mountains above were not the same either. Like the Lost
City though, the buildings and plaza appeared to be hewn from
the same chalk-white limestone that composed the towering cliffs
above. There were very many citizens about. Will and Holly Marshall
saw that they were all beings similar to Enik in appearance. Many
stood around in clusters, seemingly engaged in some kind of scholarly
and/or scientific debate. Some were carrying about scrolls made
of shiny metallic substance instead of paper, and some were reading
aloud from these documents. Others sprawled before, an enormous
temple which dominated the west portion of the plaza, as an Altrusian
priest gave an alien sermon, and improbable pink incense billowed
from the censors. The Altrusians varied in height, though all
were smaller than the their barbaric descendants, the Sleestak.
Most were of the same orange-ish tan skin color as Enik, but there
were varying shades, and a few of them were of a dull reddish
color and others were a bright carnation yellow. The sleestak-like
beings wore either tunics like the one Enik wore, or long robes;
both were of the same glistening, unearthly fabric. And the shimmering
garments were of all colors, especially red, blue, red, green,
Is there some connection with the colors of the crystals?
Will wondered absently. But then he noticed something he hadn't
before. Altrusians were not the only beings who filled the plazas
There were humans among them.
Will and Holly could scarcely credit their own eyes. "Will-there's
people there! People like us!"
"Yeah," answered Will. "I can see. But that's impossible.."
"Maybe not." Holly said slowly. "Remember Builder's Temple? How
we thought it could have been built by humans like us? It had
this..feel about it, remember?"
"Yeah, but.how'd they get there? Did they fall through one of
the time doorways, like we did?"
those buildings over there?" Holly pointed. "Beyond the temple.
They have the same kind of feel."
Will examined the strange buildings, and the longer he looked,
the stronger he felt that Holly was right. The high fluted columns,
and towering archways did remind him of Builder's Temple in the
Lost City. But that wasn't all. There was a certain feel
about them that neither he nor Holly could quite place. The architecture
shared a definite similarity to the Altrusian symmetry surrounding
it, which was more angular and blocklike. But it was eerily dissimilar
But the supposition that humans might have been partially responsible
was much less a challenge to the senses then the living proof
before them of humans and Altrusians interacting. The humans in
the city were all garbed in what looked like some kind of futuristic
spacesuits of some shiny material. Some of the humans were gathered
in small groups of their own; others were integrated among their
There were also flying contraptions humming over the sprawling
city. These were of brassy color or silvery white, and looked
to be of some alien alloy. There were red, blue and green crystals
set in regular intervals along the sides of these hover-crafts.
When one hove close enough for the kids to get a good view, Will
and Holly noticed that the pilot and passengers were humans. The
pilot was standing in front of what was likely a control panel
in the form of a matrix table.
And then, all at once, the scene changed
The jade mists, closed over, blotting out the vision from Altrusia's
distant past. The green, pulsating swirls shifted then dissipated
once more to reveal a new time and place.
This one was even weirder than the first.
Again, the vision was of an ancient city. But this new one, though
the architectural style betrayed an Altrusian origin, it seemed
more identifiably human than any of the buildings in the previous
city. It was composed of the same alabaster white stone, yet there
were no gigantic cliffs above from which the city could have been
carved. A wall of the same white stone surrounded this city, and
beyond it was visible a level plain upon which rose a vast Mesozoic
jungle of conifers and williamsonias typical to Altrusia. And
the humans-yes, all the city's inhabitants appeared to be human
this time- had gathered outside the wall. There were men, women
and even children there. All wore one-piece jumpsuit-like garments,
of futuristic design, only these peoples' suits, unlike those
the other city, were not shiny and metallic. Instead, they were
hospital-white trimmed with yellow, blue or red, and looked made
of some thickly woven fabric. And though the people, most of whom
had light, freckled skin, and sandy or blond hair-looked completely
like human beings, there was an undefinably something about them
that suggested otherwise, a certain...unhumaness.
Holly stared closer at the strange gathering of people within
the alien globe. But she could not, for the life of her, pinpoint
what the strangeness was. Something about their manner? Their
looks? She simply couldn't tell. It was all so weird.
"Will.." Holly said,"those people. what are they doing?"
"I-I don't know, Holly. It looks like their waiting for something-or
Then Holly noticed that all of the people she could see wore some
kind of pendant like the one Roni had given her in the lost city.
But as she looked closer, she saw the pendants weren't the same
after all; these were circular devices embedded with crystals,
a large red one in the center, and smaller blue ones around the
edge. It was more like the instrument Blandings had used to confuse
Big Alice and the Sleestak, only it wasn't quite the same as that
And then the attack came. Will and Holly gasped in unison as they
witnessed the reason the people had gathered.
An invading army burst from the distant conifer forest and flooded
over the plain. As the invaders swarmed closer, Will and Holly
could see them more clearly.
"Holly, aren't those-"
"Yeah, they're sleestaks. But-"
The creatures that swarmed over the plain en masse appeaered
to be sleestaks, but not sleestaks as Will and Holly knew them.
They recognized the ruffled necks and gogglig eyes, the scaley
exoskeletons. But their color was wrong. These sleestaks were
scaled in blue of a shade that bordered on indigo, rather than
green. And there was nothing of the slow, shuffling gate common
to the underground sleestaks about these. In fact, their legs
were obviously evolved for speed as they dashed across the plain
towards the waiting humans. And even stranger- they seemed to
have no trouble resisting the bright sunlight, for the scene was
clearly at noonday, and Altrusia's sun was almost directly overhead.
A few of them wore some kind of shiny armor. Their claws looked
like they had evolved beyond the pincer-claws of the sleestak
Will and Holly knew,.and had three grasping digets, similar to
those of the ancient Altrusians. But though they hinted at a higher
intellect, they were still undeniably sleestak. They did not
have crossbows. Instead, all of them carried long slender rods
embedded with crystals.
As the sleestak army neared, hissing and shrilling, the human
assembly held their ground. Holly actually shrieked as as the
first of the strange sleestaks shot a beam of crimson light from
his rod into the center of people. But if the rods were weapons,
this one did not find its mark. The humans had raised their pendants
collectively, as the enemy approached. The first beam reflected
back from an adult woman's pendant, and struck the attacker. The
invader did not fall over, dead or wounded. It simply vanished
in a reddish flicker as though it were obliberated on the molecular
level-or perhaps thrown into some other dimension. Then they
saw the humans' pendants send out beams of their own-beams of
bluish light. These struck the sleestaks, and sent them writhing
and twitching on the ground. The sleestak army sent more beams
from their crystal rods into the humans. Most were reflected with
a similar effect as the first one. Some of the beams found their
mark, obliberating the humans in the same fashion.
Then the mists closed over and the scene was blotted out. And
the crystal itself went dark like a fade-to-black at the end of
Will and Holly left the pylon disconcerted.
On the way back to the carrot patch, Holly was the first to speak.
"Will..what do you think that was that last scene? What were those
"I don't know. They seemed to be using the crystal technology.
But I can't remember anything about any creatures like those in
Altrusia's past-not that we know of anyway."
"Well, that's just it."
"What do you mean?"
Holly stopped and shrugged. "I just have a feeling that we weren't
seeing the past. Not the last scene, anyway. I think we were seeing
"You know, I've got the funniest feeling too-like someone was
trying to tell,us something back there."
"Tell us what?" Holly scrunched up her face in perlextion.
"Well maybe those ...sleestaks we saw will evolve here someday,
but they aren't supposed to. And we're supposed do something about
out of here!" Holly said. But then a thought struck her. That
pylon. If it really controlled the evolution on Altrusia, then
maybe it was malfunctioning somehow, and that was the
cause of the quakes, the weird monsters that were emerging. That
made her think of the sauropods they saw earlier, and she thought
of something more pleasant.
"Hey, do you 'spose we can take a look at those new dinosaurs
tomorrow? We can get Uncle Jack and Cha-ka to go with us. Then
we can show them the pylon."
"Maybe." Will sighed. "It's getting late now. We'd better be getting