Screaming was not the most ideal reaction to a cockatrice. It was the natural reaction. I dropped my new Booster and ran. I had to. The others followed after, but Tom and Jackie paused after we were down the stairs and looked up. They had pulled out their needlers and were looking for the cockatrice. It launched up and into the air flying right over us. We ran up across the plaza and into the church. Fortunately, the great bronze door was open. Unfortunately, it was not possible to close it.
The cockatrice slammed against the doors and wedged its head in. It hissed and pulled back out. Tom and Jackie were a little too slow with their needlers, so they didn't fire at the breast. And it was a big beast, for a cockatrice. It was probably has big as it could get, being about four meters long and a wingspan twice that. It was a huge monster and our needlers would only tickle it at best.
So silly 6th graders, thanks for the tickle, now hold still while I eat you.
I didn't say cockatrices were smart. Just big and scary.
What jefflife needed was for people to be here for a most of a decent millennium. Then they'd realize people and Earthlife in general were not good eats. In fact, we were poisonous. However, they were not so smart. Yet. Though the idea of a SMART cockatrice did not seem so appealing either.
We were puffing and huffing behind a giant column when a stain glass window shattered inward. The cockatrice had figured glass was breakable and we were still edible. Right on one count at least. My inner wannabe architect cried out over the shattered window, but my outer me wanted to run like the wind. So, we hustled into a side room and then looked for some way out. There was. And it was going to shatter my heart like glass.
It was another window.
Tom started to make a pun. I gave him a look that made it plain if he did, I was going to throw him through the window. He gave me a rather insolent smirk.
Now? Really? Gah!
The cockatrice started trying to get through the door behind us. We then did something really stupid: we jumped right through the window. Fortunately, our leathers were pretty thick. Unfortunately, Veena was actually cut even so and we would have to deal with that later though. We ran as fast as we could.
Across the plaza.
Through one of the cardinal directions toward the gate we came in through. And we started seeing loogers! Wonderful! Not only were we being chased by an angry cockatrice, now we had Jefflife not-frogs to spit on us with toxic goo.
Great! Just great!
None of us got actually spat on. Fortunately. Unfortunately, we forgot something really important about cockatrices.
Cockatrices are the boys.
Basilisks are the girls.
I think I had better explain what that means.
When Americans first set foot on Jefferson, they made note of all the critters on the planet. They needed to in order to make sure people could actually live there. Yes, they lost some of the first explorers to taxitos. By and large, they made note of most things large and small with the help of their robotic partners.
One of the animals they noticed was a snake like fish-thing that lived in the water. They observed it and called it the 'hydra.' (and if you say 'hail hydra, I will punch you in the mouth! There's only so many times a movie should be made and remade and had a sequel, Mouse!)
They also noted the rare flying feathered serpent-like animal we now call the cockatrice. It was big, mean and pretty rare. It seemed to like to live near the water though but hunted on land.
They also noted a large water monster, generally 9 meters in length, that seemed to vaguely be like our crocodiles. It would suction eat a lot of swimming animals and fish, but loved to grab animals from the shoreline and eat them. They called these 'basilisks.'
Finally, also noted out in the sea where what they thought were whale equivalents. They called them the leviathans.
What they didn't realize was they were all the same creature at different stages of its life cycle. Over a seven year period, the hydra would transform from small snake like eels to the cockatrices. Their front fins would transform into wings and the rear fins into legs.
Then, on the strike of 12, no. nonono.
I can't believe you actually started to fall for that.
No, really, they do metamorphose. But rather a clock? Really?
It is every seven years though. As the hydras grow bigger, they moved into deeper water until they are almost out to sea. Then when the seven year itch strikes, they crawl from the water, dry out and go on a mating flight. Several boys chase a girl cockatrice until one finally catches her. The rest is too embarrassing to talk about. Still twelve here! Most of the boys are not so lucky. They slowly die out over the course of the next seven years. But they often tear up the land, eating many large and moderate size animals in the area. Some, those that survive and mate with the female, survive to all seven years. They follow the female to a lake or deeper water, where she will take the plunge and she will transform again into the crocodile critter and lay eggs for the next seven years. If she finds a river, she will slowly make her way down into the sea. Once she is there, she will finish her transformation into a leviathan. Why the leviathan stage exists, no one has figured out. One Dr. Jonah Jackson was trying to find out.
Dr Jackson was the one that figured out the giant cockatrices were really males of the same species as the basilisk and both were the breeding form of the hydra. he had surmised the leviathans were the grandmother form of the same animal and taken a small boat out to study them. I think he thought they must be docile big whales, since that's the nearest thing on Earth. Oh, the irony of his name and his fate.
So, back to the brute-species chasing us. The male cockatrice will help protect the female even when she is in the water and transformed. He'll try to fight off a new female and her entourage. However, half the time, he gets eaten by the swarm of smaller cockatrices. Not pretty. However, he does have another use for her. He will often chase prey to the basilisk so she can have a balanced diet while laying their eggs.
We ran along the causeway and were half way across when the water erupted. Out flopped behind us (!!!) a basilisk. We ran even faster. The basilisk was HUGE, one of the biggest I'd ever heard of and wiggle waddled after us as fast as it could. It was slightly faster than we were and it as closing on us, slowly and inexorably. It would get to us. it would kill us. We would die and then it would die.
Stupid, stupid basilisk!
It was still a good twenty feet behind when we reached the hill. I turned and pulled out my needler. I set it to banglers and began firing at its eyes. It kept coming. Tom and Jackie stopped to help. I screamed at them to grab Veena and Rosa and run.
bang! bang! bang! bang!
It flinched at least.
I finally got a good shot into an eye and it stopped and howled.
Ha! take that, you stupid!
I dropped onto my back just in time to avoid being snatched by the cockatrice. The howl apparently called it to its mate and here I was! Like a present! Joy!
bang! bang! bang! bang!
I fired away at the cockatrice's fluffy belly. It squawked! it actually squawked!
Score two for team Earthlife! Ha!
I quickly repointed my needler at the basilisk and fired more.
bang! bang! bang! bang!
It steam train hissed at me and stopped advancing for a moment. It was trying to decide if I was worth it. If it did decide I was, it would charge. I had better not be where I was. I turned - which triggered her charge! - and ran. Up the hill and behind some trees. From there I started firing more.
bang! bang! bang! bang!
The basilisk charged and the cockatrice swooped. I didn't see my friends, but I felt somewhat safe. I had plenty of ammo and the critters were not getting me tonight! Ha! Score again for Team Earthlife! Woo!
The awesome part was I did this without permanently harming either critter. It stung, but didn't kill.
Then, of course, everything went wrong.
From out of nowhere, a small missile arced up and exploded (!!) against the cockatrice. I swear had it been a critter that people could eat, they just got burger versions, ground up and even cooked in one shot. It might even have qualified as cockatrice sauce, like apple sauce, but made from jefflife meat. bleh.
Then a form jumped from above me and landed down on the ground tackling the basilisk. The individual in powered armor actually grappled with the 9 meter long monster and then grabbed it by the tail. He swung the basilisk around and threw it back into the water.
Then he turned to me.
And my heart sunk. On his helmet was the same tricolor and chakra on the very same helmet I had stumbled over when this all began.