30 Characters – #1: R.E.X.

originally posted on the #30Characters site

****

It was a little shack, tucked up against the side of a cluster of boulders in the desert. Calvin, John, Herman and Zeke rode up on their dinos, stopping the beasts in a semi circle around the entrance.

“Hey!” Zeke called at it, stepping down off his dino and strolling casually forward. Calvin and the others followed suit. The place wasn’t much, just some sheets of metal leaned up against each other and tied to some wood. The entrance was tall and wide and covered with dirty cloth that flapped in the breeze.

“Maybe he ain’t home,” John said, taking a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiping the grime from his face that had built up over the ride.

“Naw, lookit that,” Herman said, gesturing toward the roof of the shack with hat. It was hard to see in the bright sun but there was a small trail of smoke coming from a small stove pipe in the back.

“Who the hell cooks inside in this heat?” Calvin said. He’d grown up in the north and had never gotten used to the desert heat. He often looked back to the time before he started running with a gang and getting himself thrown out of town as the best times of his life, but maybe that’s just because it wasn’t so damn hot then.

“I don’t care,” Zeke said with a sneer, twisting the over-sized ring on his finger as walked up to the entrance. “He’s on our land, and that means he’s got to pay.” Herman and John followed close behind, but Calvin hung back to stand in one of the small spots of shade the rocks provided.

“We know you’re in there,” Zeke yelled, kicking at the wood that framed the entrance. “C’mon out!” Still nothing. Zeke spun his ring again in irritation.

“The hell with this,” he muttered, grabbing the cloth that served as a door and yanking it down. Zeke was big, close to seven feet and as strong a man as Calvin had ever seen, and pulling the cloth so suddenly brought down several piece of wood with it.

The interior of the shack was small, probably not big enough for the four desperadoes to have all stood inside together, much less the figure sitting near the back of the shack wrapped in robe with a hood pulled down over his or her face. There was a small fire in front of him and a pot sat on a cooking rack on top of it, steam rising and escaping out the rudimentary chimney in the ceiling. There was a large roll of blankets in the far corner, taking up nearly half the shack but other than that the place was empty.
“You broke my door,” the figure said in a buzzing, electronic voice. Calvin’s hand dropped down to his repeater instinctively. It didn’t make sense, but the voice sounded similar to the Bots his folks had warned him about when he was a boy. Calvin had only seen them and heard their shrill, buzzing gibberish once but that was enough; he’d been the only one in his gang to get away from their steel claws and burning lasers.

“What the hell is wrong with your voice?” Zeke said, taking a step back. Calvin gripped his repeater harder. He’d been riding with Zeke for almost five years and didn’t think he’d ever seen him take a step back.


“What’s wrong with yours?” the figure said, still not moving. He was just a bundle of robes, but it looked like he (as strange as the voice was it definitely was a man’s) was squatting down on the ground, arms resting on his knees. He could only make out one hand, holding a long metal spoon, but it was wrapped in cloth bandages. Whoever he was he must have been practically roasting in that get-up, especially that close to the fire.

Zeke narrowed his eyes and took a step forward into the shack. “You’re some kind of smart guy, huh? If you’re so smart, then maybe you can answer why you’re camped out on our land.”

“Maybe because I didn’t know it was your land. Didn’t see a sign.”

“Everyone knows that the desert west of White River belongs to the Scorched Earth Gang,” Herman said, taking a step inside next to Zeke.

“I guess I’m not everyone,” the man said.

With a snarl, Herman drew his blaster and fired at the pot on the stove. The beam burned through the beaten metal and spilled the boiling water onto the ground. He fired again and the pot toppled over, spilling the chunks of meat and bits of small dino carcass that had been cookiing in it. The man didn’t move

“So is that what you boys do? Go around shooting up someone’s dinner because they’re camped out in your desert?” he said, dropping the spoon into the dirt.

“No,” Zeke said. “not just their dinner. Now I want you to get up and hand over everything you’ve got, and maybe one of those things won’t be you.”

“So you’re in charge, is that it?” he asked.

“Listen!” Zeke said, taking another step forward and jabbing a finger at the stranger. “Get the hell up or–”

The stranger got up. It took all four of them a moment to process that what they though had been bundles of robes was actually just thin cloth. He was at least a head taller than Zeke and at nearly twice as wide. Zeke still had his arm out, pointing angrily, and before he could do anything the stranger leaned down and Zeke’s arm disappeared into the strangers hood up to his elbow with a sickening crunch of bone.

There was a snap as the stranger turned his head, severing the arm. Zeke dropped to his knees and the stranger tilted his head back, the hood falling away from his head. The stranger wasn’t a man at all, but a dino unlike anything Calvin had ever seen. He had a long snout that he tilted back, and Calvin watched as the rest of Zeke’s arm disappeared down his throat. The rest of the cloak fell away, revealing a chest that was mostly wrapped in the same bandage-like cloth that covered both his arms. Underneath that, Calvin could see shining metal that reached all the way up the the dino-man’s neck. Just under his neck Calvin could make out three letters stamped on the metal: R.E.X. The lower half of the dino-man’s body was bare, wide and squat, with powerful legs and a thick tail.

Herman snapped out of his shock and remembered he was the only one who’d drawn his blaster. He pointed it at the dino-man, but there was a metal scrape and a blade extended from his right arm. The dino-man swung the blade, severing Herman’s arm. Herman stared down the stump, looking back up just as the dino-man took a big step forward and plunged the blade into Herman’s chest.

John drew his repeater and fired, missing the dino-man by a mile. It seemed impossible given how large the target was, but John was probably distracted by the fact that a talking dinosaur man had just killed the leader of his gang and one of his friends. He pulled the hammer back and fired again, but the dino-man positioned Herman in front of him to stop the slug. The dino-man reached over Herman’s shoulder with his other hand and there was a crack as bolts of electricity shot out at John, knocking him back. The cloth strips on the arm that blasted John fell away smouldering, revealing a shining metal arm attached the metal armor on the dino-man’s chest. There was another scrape of metal and Herman fell to the ground, unmoving.

The dino-man stepped forward, pulling the remaining cloth off his arms. Calvin realized he was still gripping his own repeater but hadn’t drawn it. The dino-man looked at him as he walked forward, but stopped at John’s still twitching body. Without taking his small, black eyes off of Calvin, the dino-man reached down and grabbed John by the throat. John’s eyes had been fluttering but now bugged out as he was lifted into the air.

“Who’s in charge?” the dino man asked. Even in his panic, Calvin could now tell that the voice was coming from slits in the metal just under his neck.

Calvin could see John’s face getting redder as he kicked at the empty air, his feet a full two feet off the ground. It took Calvin a second to realize the dino-man was talking to him.

“I said,” he repeated, “who’s in charge here?”

Calvin let go of his repeater, moving his arm slowly away from his side. “Y…you…you are.” He looked at the letters stamped into the metal again. “Rex is.”

“Smart,” Rex said, twisting John’s neck with a snap and dropping his now still body to the ground. Rex turned and walked back to where Herman and Zeke lay on the ground. Herman was completely still but Zeke’s eyes blinked slowly and one of his feet was twitching. Rex leaned down and picked up Herman’s blaster, shaking the severed arm off it. He pulled the holster off of Herman’s body and tossed it over his broad shoulder.

“Always wanted one of these. Plus this thing can take a while to recharge,” he said, waving his arm at Calvin. He walked up to Zeke’s dino, pulling himself into the saddle effortlessly. The big, four-legged beast sagged a bit under the weight of its new rider, but Rex patted it gently on its side and made a series of chirping noises that came from his throat and not his speakers.The dino sat up straighter and turned around.

“Now, let’s go meet my gang and get something to eat.” Rex said. He turned his head and spat. Zeke’s ring flew out, hit one of the rocks and rolled off on the desert floor. “I’m still hungry.”

About The Author

Thacher Cleveland

Thacher E. Cleveland is a contributing writer & columnist for PanelsOnPages.com, co-host of the Super-Fly Comics & Games PodCast, novelist & comic creator. Originally from New Jersey and previously from Yellow Springs, Ohio, he currently lives in Chicago. You can find him on Twitter (@demonweasel), tumblr, his personal website and even on Google+

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11 2011

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