It was night, a dark and stormy night. The moon was full, but you couldn't see it. Great thunder-head anvil clouds filled the sky, pouring down hail and lightning. Visibility was almost zero, for humans, unluckily for the man running through the dark forest for his life, animals don't only use sight, and what was chasing him had no trouble finding it's prey. the man staggered onwards, never stopping, he wouldn't stop until he was free, or dead. He managed to avoid running directly into trees, but he couldn't stop his clothes being torn, not that he cared, for he was running for his life.

 

He was being chased, pursued by something out of his worst nightmares, and it was all his fault. He should have got away sooner, but he had had to see it through, and when it had all worked, he had tried to stop it, to get away, but now he was almost done for in a forest miles from anywhere. The man was running, he could tell that he was almost out of the dreaded forest, but then lightning flashed, momentarily blinding and disorientating him. He fell, tripping over a tree root. In a moment, the monster that had been gaining all the while was upon him. As he turned around he met a view filled with teeth and claws, and he felt pain upon pain as the claws tore and ripped at his body, and the teeth gripped and shredded. In moments, he was unconscious, a few moments more and he would be dead. The velociraptor continued it's meal.

 

"Excellent," said a voice not so far away, "we have neutralised the threat, and in a most effective manner. Call our experiment back in, and get it to bring what is left of the scientist, I have a use for him yet. He shall not escape me again, even through death."

"At once, sir." said another voice, and he turned back to his screens and computers to order these things done.

 

Some time later, but not so far away, deep in the wood that the scientist had been running through, was a clearing. It was currently occupied by some children. They had bikes with them. They were being watched. "Hey!" called Chris, "look! Quick, before it goes!" he pointed deeper into the forest

"Hell! I see it! What is it?" asked Alex

"How should I know? Looks like some kind of...lizard." said Chris

"I'm guessing at some kind of dinosaur, but that doesn't make any sense." commented Scott

"Let's get it, see what it really is." said Alex

"Dunno, could be dangerous..." reasoned Scott again

"As if there's anything that dangerous around here. Come on!" and he walked up to where the animal was hiding, and stood still and looked at it until it stepped into the clearing,

"How'd you do that?" asked Mark,

"Dunno, just have a knack." he replied. The beast was looking at them with it's head on the side. Suddenly it bolted into the woods, clearly running down the track.

"So much for your 'knack'. Right, I vote we try to follow it." said Dan

"Right, on yer bikes, lets go after it!" said Alex, and they rushed to their bikes, and pedalled off furiously down the muddy track, following the dinosaur that was running, had they stopped to fully think about it, suspiciously slowly. They got about half a mile down the track before they emerged into another clearing. The creature was waiting at the far end.

"Come on, let's get closer." said Alex

"No, wait, this is odd...do any of you remember this clearing here?" asked Dan

"Well I don't, but I haven't been here in a long time. We're pretty far in, not many people go further than the last clearing." said Scott

"I've been down this way quite a few times recently, and this is new." replied Alex

"So what is it doing here? Some secret government missile testing sites?" asked Mark

"No, stupid, those are up the Rec. Don't you know ANYTHING?" said Chris

"Well I'm going nearer." and he did, slowly but surely he inched closer and closer to the animals, the rest of the group reluctantly followed him. The animals hadn't moved by the time that he had got within one foot of the closest. He reached out slowly, and touched it on the nose. The creature tilted it's head and blinked, before stepping forwards.

"Aww, these aren't dangerous!" he said, idly swatting at his neck, "damn flies!" he said, "they seem to get everywhere, don't normally get bitten this much, though, what about you lot?" he asked.

He span around when there was no reply, and found himself suddenly dizzy. He fell to the floor, slowly sinking into unconsciousness as had his friends.

 

"Sir," said the Technician, "the next phase of the experiment is underway. Conversion is estimated to take several months, but they will follow a normal cycle once the drug wears off, if left, for the next three of those months."

"How long before they show signs of the procedure working?" asked the head scientist

"At the three-month mark, they will fall into a coma, their bodies will then grow as the MutoGene takes effect. I estimate a nine-month term of metamorphosis for the whole experiment. Up until the three months, they will appear normal apart from a few physical effects."

"Effects?"

"Yes, sir. Enhanced cardio-vascular performance, perfect vision, overall fitness will increase beyond normal human capabilities. In just a few days, muscles will be at one-hundred percent for their ages, more if they are fit now. We should see them hitting five-hundred percent strength increase and endurance increase of around one-thousand percent relative to their present levels."

"Excellent. See that we have accommodation, ah, fitting to them, yes? Until the coma takes effect, let them go."

"Sir?"

"I said let them go. If we are discovered too soon, this will all be in vain. When they fail to wake they will be put into the hospital, my contacts will see that they are moved to my special wing, and then to here when public interest has died down."

"Very clever sir, that way we take them easily and with no questions asked."

"Of course, Steven, that is the way it should be." the scientist then went to another computer and typed in a few commands, his experiments would be seen to at all times via minute transmitters implanted in their heads, any trouble from external sources, and they would be forced to move in. They would be safe. Very safe. He stood up slowly, grinning in a self-satisfied way, "Dr Alexander Molt signing off. Orders effective from now." He walked from the room. He had not been surprised when the test animals had not administered the MutoGene by biting the children, it was always a flaw to use weaker animals, they remained soft despite their stronger bodies. Man, however, reacted differently.

 

"Hey, you lot alive?" asked Scott

"Oooh, no, go 'way, let me die in peace!" said Dan

"Y'wha'?" asked Mark

"What the bloody hell am I doing here?" asked Chris

"Lying on the ground getting muddy, I think." replied Alex, as he groaned and sat up

"Oh ha ha, chuckle chuckle. Ooh my bloody head." said Dan as he sat bolt upright quickly, "does anybody intelligent know why we are here instead of somewhere else?"

"Well, last thing I remember," said Chris, "was getting bitten by a fly, right after we went into that clearing."

"A clearing full of animals that actually don't exist anymore." said Mark

"Well, that's what they looked like."

"Then what were they?" asked Mark

"You tell me. I didn't call them dinosaurs." said Dan

"except for just then?" asked Alex

"Chuckle chuckle again. Shut it, mister comedian." said Chris

"Sorry for breathing. What's crawled up your butt and died today?"

"Probably tapeworm." said Scott as he got up

"Whatever the hell happened here, I think we should be getting home, see just how long we've been out here, and try to find out who did it..."

"Who did what?" asked Mark

"Well, how many flies from around here do you know that knock people out? And since when has the East of England been the Lost World?"

"Since last Tuesday, I think." said Alex

"They get worse."

"No, seriously, look." Alex bent down and picked up a muddy scrap of paper from the ground. He brushed off the dirt, and turned it around in his hands. It was the envelope of a letter delivered ten days previously. "Rather odd place to send letters to, yes? How many of you remember this being here?"

"Well, I don't for one." said Dan

"Nope, none of us do." said Scott

"Therefore it must have fallen out of a pocket, of somebody else who came out here whilst we were unconscious."

"Yeah right, couldn't find Santa's address, so he left it for us to deliver." said Mark

"Your jokes," said Dan, "are worse than his."

"Ladies, stop bitching. Look, what we have here is a very odd occurrence. We chase extinct animals, sent out on purpose..." said Dan

"What is this? Weird Weekly?" asked Mark derisively

"Just shut it and listen, this is just a theory. You can give your perfectly rational explanation for all of this next." said Scott

"Right, and where was I? Oh yes, animals sent out to lure us here, the nearest you can get to the middle of nowhere this side of the Sahara. We get bitten by flies, that also don't exist, at least not around here, judging by the side effects."

"Where is this leading?" asked Chris, genuinely interested

"Well, everything revolves around one thing. Manipulation of animals, what they look like, what they do, even what they are."

"And?" asked Mark

"Genetics."

"Ooh, great. Throw a party quick."

"Somebody has cracked the coding to DNA, has recreated dinosaurs, if what we chased was real, and can even reproduce poisons that act in a few minutes that stun totally with very few side effects."

"Big, I'll grant you that." said Mark, "but where is this leading to?"

"None of that was enough?" asked Scott

"Well, I can't see what that has to do with us."

"If you can't," said Chris, "you aren't very bright."

"Well, yes I can see what he seems to be leading to, but that is just stupid. Nobody can do that, they're years away from mapping what they already have!"

"Well what if somebody took the Human Genome project, and beat them to it, and has now wanted to try it all out."

"But, what is an operation that size doing here? And just what are they planning to do with us?"

"Alter our genetic structure? Come on it's...silly." said Scott

"Yeah, I know, but...all of this is very weird. I'm afraid he may be right. It looks like somebody has cracked the coding to genetics, and is now seeing what else he can build with his building blocks that aren't in the original plans." said Dan

"WE are to be...guinea pigs? Some sort of test run for a super-animal?" asked Alex

"Well, possibly. We as a species have mind, but we have lost body. If I were to make a perfect soldier, I'd give him brains, and a physique you could bounce rocks off. Looks like what we can be getting may do more than just let us lift weights, though."

"You what?" asked Mark, "you are seriously suggesting we've been given not size ten pecks, but size twelve antlers, as it were?"

"Well...maybe not antlers, but you get the idea."

"Yeah, right, and Davy Crocket liked knitting. I'm out of here. See you guys later." said Mark

"Y'right, time we all went home, see if our kids have all grown up and married someone else." said Scott

"What kids? What have you been smoking..." asked Alex

 

Time flowed on, and after a few weeks, there were definite signs of alteration in their bodies. Dan phoned Scott, "look, whatever you may say, I don't think any of this is just coincidence, I mean how many people do you know who can hold their breath for three minutes?"

"Well...you lot for a start,"

"Besides us, stupid."

"Okay, nobody, but..."

"But nothing. We can all see better, hear better, run faster, longer, lift more, everything. Yesterday I was hoovering under my bed."

"So what?"

"I was holding my bed up in one arm."

"And?"

"Six foot off the floor."

"This is too weird. So we're getting stronger. Still could be down to us, thinking it's going to happen."

"Possibly, but I wouldn't expect this improvement. It's too far."

"So where do you think all of this is headed?"

"You first." said Dan

"It seems we both have reached similar conclusions. I'd say what mine was..."

"But it's all too weird. I know the story. Look, I've got to go. Hang up." there was the sound of a dial tone from the receiver on the other side of the room, where it had lain all through the conversation. It was some time later before Dan could focus enough to put it back. Scott's right, he thought, dinosaurs are just too strange...

 

The next day at school, during break, they held a conference of sorts in the library. "Look, whatever any of you say, it is not possible to become as strong as this, as fit as this, due just to expectations. None of us have been working out more than usual."

"True, but, and here is the important part, what we should all be thinking about is just where this is going. If, of course, we are all agreed that something was done to us back there."

"Something had to have been done to us," said Scott, "I'll admit that now, due to the facts that there have been so many improvements, a lot of which are not possible under normal circumstances."

"Then," asked Mark, "where is it leading?"

"We've been thinking about that, but..."

"It's far too weird." finished Dan, "and besides, if we were becoming saurian, then why make us stronger first?"

"You what? Did I hear you right?" asked Alex, "you think we're becoming...dinosaurs?"

"Well, yes and no. If this is what is happening, and if it works, I don't think we'll be standard dinosaurs. For one, they weren't that intelligent. We are already far beyond their levels, and quite possibly going further. If we are being...designed for a certain purpose..." started Dan

"Which we presume is a perfect fighting machine," said Scott

"Then stupidity is a liability. We'll be super-strong, even for dinosaurs, and probably super-intelligent."

"This is stupid, we're talking nonsense." said Chris

"Yeah, but it's happening." replied Mark, "and the question now is: who the hell did it to us? And what do we do to make sure they don't get what they want?"

"Well, I've been thinking about this one," said Chris, "and I believe I know what organisation has the technology and the resources to attempt something like this."

"Well, go on and tell us!" said Alex

"I was about to," said Chris, "before somebody stopped me." he glared at Alex and then continued, "the company is called GeneTech."

"Never heard of it."

"Of course not, it isn't what you'd call conspicuous. It works for governments, very rich private individuals, people with masses and masses of money, big plans, and no wish to let anybody else know what they're doing. As far as I can find out, they perform miracles. They'll work for anybody with money and no scruples. Occasionally you'll hear about a company from nowhere that's done something big. Backed by GeneTech, they are normally working on something altogether different, and make a mistake, and end up with something marketable."

"Like a cure for diseases, from working to create one?"

"Yep. Bloody dangerous stuff, all of it. They like fooling around with genetics. Note that it is the department involved with us is called GeneTech, you know, not the actual company. I couldn't find out what the whole thing is called. We are, however, a large part in their plans."

"And just how did you find out about this secret company?" asked Alex

"Well, when you have a computer and a modem, you can find out about a lot of things. I didn't say this is correct, but it certainly sounds like it could be. It's no more fantastic than what we are experiencing right now. Rumours about this experiment was on the Net, they led me to information on a lot more things. We are hot news, right now, and the rest of the world should be very worried, very worried indeed, if what I hear is true..."

 

"So, my friend," said Molt, "what news do you have for me today?" After months of work, Molt had decided upon these five children because of their close-knit friendships, and the facts that they were all of above-par intelligence and stamina to begin with

"Their progress is astounding, falling between estimated levels of percentage increase in strength, agility, endurance, perception, everything we boosted before the final stage has increased dramatically. By up to about one thousand percent."

"Excellent. And do they know what has happened?"

"Yes, they do. Transmitters planted in their bodies are still working, although they will not last much longer once the improved white blood cells start circulating. One of them knows too much, he knows all about this division of our company."

"Well, it can't be helped, Andrews, can it? We must simply get them out of there before anything happens, like news crews get involved. Such a pity to kill of an entire town, and destroying the rest of this fine country seems like such a waste. The potential for experimentation is overlooked by almost everybody."

 

Back at Dan's house, the group was getting together plans to escape, as they had all decided that, no matter what exactly happened, they couldn't let GeneTech complete their experiments. They would have to run, as far away as possible, as long as they could, and fight back if they were found.

"One main problem with this is...well, what if they can track us?"

"How? We haven't been tagged, or anything."

"Well," said Dan, "that may not be so true. I think you had better come look at this."

"What?" asked Chris

"Well, I've been messing around with a computer lately, snagging signals from radio. Seeing what I can pick up."

"And?"

"Well, I picked up this..." he turned back to the equipment sitting on his desk, and switched it on. A stream of strange sounds came from the speakers.

"So what is it?" asked Mark

"It sounds almost exactly like my modem, and, this is the important part, though I don't exactly know how, whatever it is is coming from me. A radio bit-stream communication."

"A what?" asked Alex

"And a what?" asked Scott

"Someone has set up, somewhere in my system, a radio-transmitter that is sending information about the condition of my body. It's also sending what I'm hearing."

"A bug? They've gone and bugged us?"

"All of us, I expect. They know what we're going to do. Look." he turned the receiver attached to his computer to a different frequency. A new stream of information could be heard.

"That's not from you, is it?"

"No. I don't know which of us it is, but it's certainly coming from one of us. What I can't do, though, is read the information."

"You don't have the right program, yes?"

"Right. I can interface the signal, read it, but only decode some of it it, mainly the audio."

"Let's have a look..." said Scott, and he sat down at the screen, and began pushing buttons. Suddenly he blinked, and started up a different program. He started typing in code at a rate almost too fast to see. It was pure hexadecimal, machine code. After a few minutes, he stopped and saved the program. Then he ran it. The screen flashed for a few seconds, and then several windows were brought up on screen. Each one had different information in it.

"What the hell is that?" asked Alex

"I...I don't know. My brain suddenly found it could understand the information, and decided to get that information up on screen. You arenít the only one with a computer, just so happens Iíve been fooling around with programming."

"Bloody hell, he has as well!" said Mark, "Look, G.P.S data, with correction codes, means they know where we are exactly, to about a metre, anywhere on the planet. Audio bit-stream, identifier code, heart rate, ECG and EKG meters. Everything they need to know exactly who we are, what we are doing, and where we're doing it. How the hell did they create something like this?"

"More to the point, how the hell did they make it small enough to fit inside our bodies without us noticing?" asked Chris

"This is big, very big. We are in trouble. What the hell are we going to do? They know everything that we've done so far, they know we're going to run for it, they'll know where we're going before we do. There's no way we can get away from them!"

"Well, friend Alex, I think that we may have a chance, a small chance. Look, notice the information contained below the rest?"

"Yeah, 'condition amber: shutdown in twenty-two days, fourteen hours...so many seconds'. So?"

"That means that if we can get far enough away for longer than that time, the devices will shut down and they won't find us, ever. I don't know what radius these things have as a range, either, but if we run fast enough, they won't be able to track us for too long."

"What I don't like," said Chris, "is that our 'status' is amber also, we have four weeks until we become...assorted animals. If this window really is mine, I'm due to become a triceratops. What I really want to do is get to somebody who can undo what's been done to us. Before it's too late."

 

"Sir, they have discovered our devices, this was unforeseen."

"No matter, so we should have known that subject three had equipment like that. It makes no difference. We can track them anywhere where there is one of our booster stations. Let them run for a while, let them relax. Then move in, this may work to our advantage yet. Contact me again if they near a rogue area." Molt walked from the room in a good mood, he loved the thrill of the chase. He was annoyed, however, that his assistant hadn't foreseen such an occurrence. The man was lucky that he had. No matter, it just meant that Andrews was put on the 'special assignment' list quicker. Maybe it had been a mistake to give them greater IQís, but then again he didnít make mistakes.

 

The next morning some thirty miles away, Dan was watching on a television in a shop about how he and Mark had killed or at least injured the other three children, from scenes at his own house where the rooms were covered in blood, with a note that did infact look as though he had written it, in blood. The genetics report said that it was indeed from at least two of the three children. "Itís astounding the sort of things they can make you believe in on TV, isnít it?" asked Chris

"Shouldnít you be in bed with a bad case of dead?" asked Alex

"You lot are too funny for words. What if the police catch us?"

"Donít tell me, GeneTech owns them, too?"

"I expect so. The police wonít touch us yet. Whoever weíre dealing with is clever, very clever." Said Scott

"How so?"

"Well, he knew all about us, I expect, and he let us run believing we could get away from him, before showing us just how easy it is for him to get us back."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Pretty lucky that this one TV was on at the right time for us to see the report, on the right channel, on a Sunday morning."

"You saying this is fake?" asked Alex

"No itís probably real, alright." Said Dan, "I expect too that civilians are being kept away, the Ďpoliceí will turn up if and when they feel like it."

There was the sound of a car pulling up behind them. The children looked around to see a police car with the lights off facing at them. Two men got out of the front, each carrying a heavy-duty machine gun.

"These guys do not look like cops to me." Said Chris, pointing a thumb at himself

"Quiet you!" barked one, "you will step into the car now or you will be shot."

"Arenít you going to read me my rights?" Dan walked towards them slowly, "youíve got to read me my...rights!" at the last word, he ran forward suddenly, and hit the nearest in the stomach at full speed, the man went flying over the bonnet and into a tree some five metres away. The second Ďpolicemaní was dispatched by a kick within half a second of the first. "Sorry guys, too slow. Tell your boss the get lost, or get these things out of us. There is no way you lot are ever gonna stop us before itís too late. Youíd need a tank for just one of us, and thatís if youíre lucky. Hop in, guys." Said Dan, as he got into the drivers seat. Within seconds heíd put it in gear, and was moving off. The roads were clear, an indication that GeneTech did have a lot more presence than anyone had suspected. They had bought or falsified the media and the police and probably a few of the civilians. The main population of Britain would be out of their way until they were captured.

"We need to get out of here and fast." Said Alex

"Cool it," said Chris, "this thing can go faster than we can run, I think, so unless you want to get out, donít worry."

"Yeah," said Scott, "itís not like they can send anything much faster than a police car."

"There is one thing, however, that may cause some concern." Said Mark

"What?"

"Remember what Dan said about the tank?"

"Yeah?"

"Check out the wheels behind us. Whoever weíre dealing with probably knew the fake police wouldnít stop us." Realised Mark

"Donít worry, weíre needed to the people behind this. Itís not like we canít outrun it, and they canít exactly shoot at us." Said Scott

There was a loud detonation behind them, and the road in front suddenly became a smoking crater, Dan managed to dodge the hole, the swore loudly, "I thought you said they couldnít shoot at us!"

"They shouldnít be, they want us alive, at least I thought they did."

There was another explosion behind them, and the car plunged into the seven-foot deep crater. The air bags deployed, saving any of them from being hurt too badly, but it had all been a trap. The air-bags were filled with the knockout gas, and all five of them were asleep within a few minutes.

 

Slowly his mind surfaced, breaking free of the bonds of the drug. He breathed in deeply, and sat up. Opening his eyes he got a shock, Dan and his four friends were apparently sitting in the middle of a field, all lined up. Dan looked up at the sky, it was overcast, becoming slightly stormy. Dan wandered over to Scott and shook him awake, then came Mark, Alex and Chris. They were all astounded as he was to find that they werenít in a lab.

"This is all too strange. They had us, theyíd captured us easily. Now theyíve...let us go?"

"They canít have," said Mark, "it doesnít make any sense. You said yourself, Scott, whoever weíre dealing with is very clever."

"Hey, how do I know youíre you?" asked Alex

"Meaning what?" asked Dan

"What if Iím dreaming, still in the car asleep from the gas?"

"No, weíre not dreaming. Here, catch." Chris picked up a stone and threw it to Alex, who dropped it, "how many times does that happen in one of your dreams? Iíd catch it if it was my dream."

"So, then, what the hell have GeneTech done to us? If weíre all here, and weíre not dreaming, where on Earth are we?"

"If Iím right, technically nowhere."

"Huh? Weird even by your standards."

"No, listen, weíre still on Earth,"

"But...didnít you just say..."

"Shut up and listen. Our bodies are on Earth still, in GeneTechís labs, but our minds are possibly inside a computer. This is all a virtual place, probably a mapped area in Britain. We have nowhere to go, none of this is real."

"This really is too weird. Iím off that way," Alex pointed to where a town could just be seen a few miles away."

"Listen to me! That town isnít real either. Look at the sky, at the horizon! Itís mathematically correct, but how many times has there been no haze as you look further? There is no weather here! No birds, no animals, just plants. And us. Theyíve made it look as real as possible, but no one can do that just yet, not with all the computing power in the world. Theyíve made mistakes, just look around at them all!"

"Okay, okay, so this isnít real. What do you propose we do? Sit and moan?"

"Youíre right, sitting here would be stupid. Lets look around, it may not be real, but how many times have you played on a multi-million-pound computer game?" Chris grinned

"Letís go. While we travel, try to think of a way out of here." Said Scott

 

After travelling for some time, it felt like hours, the team had got somewhat nearer the distant town. They had started to see a few animals and birds, fish in the ponds and lakes that they passed, but it just went to reassuring their belief that none of the things they saw were real. Obviously they had people outside the game looking in on them. Maybe they were panicking, maybe not, but periodically they would try something new. After one hour, they could all feel temperatures, then they could smell the breeze. As they got nearer to the town, one of them saw a road. "We may be getting somewhere with this place now." Said Chris

"How so?" asked Alex

"Think of something you want. Anything."

"Why?"

"Youíll see." As they passed around the bend, they saw an abandoned car.

"Now, what do you suppose thatís doing there?" Chris

"Itís what I wanted!" said Alex

"I know. Iíve seen other things around that interest me, too."

"Are you saying that what we want, we get?"

"Yup, for this isnít any road. Get in the car, I think Iíll drive this time."

The group filed into the car, and Chris pulled away. "Hey, youíre going the wrong way!" said Mark

"No, I donít think I am. Iím checking something out." After driving along that road for some time, they stopped. There were a series of holes in the road.

"Recognize this spot?"

"Hey, itís where we got shot at!"

"And that town back there is where we ended up on Sunday."

"So where is this leading?"

"Where we began may be where the lab is in real life."

"Great, we walked all this way for nothing. How do we get back there?" asked Scott

"Use your...imagin..ooh my head hurts..." Dan fell over, he had gone very pale and was breathing shallow

"Bloody hell, this isnít real life, he canít get sick!"

"Get...back!" Dan managed, "I need...space." talking was becoming difficult, but he had to carry on, "this is...a reflection of my...real body." He gasped in air, "and theyíve accelerated the process. Iím becoming...something else!" he curled up and slowly stopped breathing. For a few seconds there was nothing, then his body began to glow. The skin colour disappeared, and his hair fell out, then his skin fell off. Green and brown scales appeared. His arms grew more muscular, as did his legs which also grew claws. A thick muscular tail grew out of his back, and his head elongated into a toothy snout. Within about five mintues, Dan had been changed into some sort of dinosaur. With a blast of energy that shook the surroundings into a pre-historic scene, Dan started living again.

"Man oh man, did we get off at the wrong stop." Said Alex, looking around, out from the island of modern-day flora and fauna into pre-history

"Youíve been watching too many B-movies." Said Dan, coughing and sitting up

"You all right?"

"Why? Last thing I remember is feeling very very ill...and..."

"Ah, so you can remember it. Look what theyíve done to you." Said Scott

"Iím...Iím a dinosaur, I look like that velociraptor we saw when all this started," Dan got up and looked down at himself, swiping at the air with his claws and tail, "this body is magnificent!"

"Huh? Did I hear you straight? You like what those bastards have done to you?"

"We-ell...look at it this way, theyíve done a good job, havenít they?"

"Youíre sick!" Chris spat on the floor, "this is evil work, and you like it. Traitor!"

"Now look, Iím a realist, what they have done is artful masterful work, and I like the results. But I donít like their methods," Chris looked up, "this should never have happened, all who try this without permission should be shot at dawn. Every fucking one of them!" the last few words were mostly a roar. Dan lashed out at a nearby tree. It splintered, revealing a hollow interior.

"Feel better?" asked Mark

"A bit, I still want to rip their throats out."

"Shh, quiet and come here, look what Iíve found." Alex pointed down, there was what looked like a hole down into the ground, under the only tree from the original scene left. "Here, can you push this down?"

"Donít see why not. Least I can do is whittle it away." After a minute or two of hacking at the Ďtreeí, it was reduced to a pile of chips. Underneath it was a black hole, and that was all. "Put your arm through it." Said Scott to Dan

"Just because Iím a super-strong super-intelligent dinosaur doesnít mean Iíll do what you say."

"You canít get hurt as easily as us."

Dan sighed, "oh okay." He pushed first one figer into and through the hole, then his entire hand and arm. Then he leaned forwards and put his head through. After a few seconds, he withdrew it again, "thereís nothing out there." He said, "just a black nothing. A plane you can see, a sky you can see, but no scenery."

"They havenít programmed it, thatís all. If thatís the way they want it, I think itís time we fought back. I say we stop playing the game by their rules. See how far we can get." Mark turned around, "You may know how to program games, but I can play them." He concentrated, and after a few seconds his body had become winged. He took off from the ground, "come on, havenít you guys ever controlled your dreams?"

 

A few minutes later, and the entire party was coming to terms with trying to fly through a world that, for the moment, they controlled. The group went up, high into the sky, but stopped once they reached outer space for there was an entire universe that they could travel to inside the computer.

"What do we do now? We canít get out of here, this place is without any boundaries!"

"Then we make some." They landed, and Mark concentrated again. A computer appeared. He began working it. It apparently acted as though it was real.

"Come on, out the way." Said Scott, and he started typing in commands. In a few mintues he managed to locate the program that they were in. He set up an exit program, and shut down the game. The scenery dissolved, they woke up to find themselves in a dungeon.

"I think we should have left well enough alone." Chris walked to the doors and looked out through the bars

"This isnít real either, I mean why capture us then put us in here." Scott called back the computer, with complete success. He accessed it again, and realised that it was in a loop. They couldnít quite one program without starting the other.

"Brace yourselves, I donít quite know what this is going to do to us, Iím going to crash the game." He looked back to the computer, and stopped the game. The scene started dissolving, but before it had all gone black he started up first the pastoral scene, then the current dungeon game. They both tried to co-exist within the same framework, but such was the complexity of the computer that it could not. All normal ways of escaping had been shut down, but to do so meant shutting down all security devices. The game broke apart, and the five people trapped in it were flung out into the real world.

 

Dan opened his eyes and looked around. He was in a large laboratory, lying on his side on a pile of straw. Four large eggs were arranged in a circle, a depression in the floor indicated where his had probably been. He stood up, "are they who I think they are?" he called out

"Of course, my dear friend, we accelerated the process with you to see if we could. I was most surprised to find your brain reacting to being released from the egg, as you were still unconscious." Doctor Molt answered

"Then the entire thing was a test, to see what we would do?"

"Indeed, we know what you are expected to do, but we had to see if you matched our expectations. You are the first of a new breed."

"And now Iím awake, what do you expect me to do? Follow your every command? Come down here and see what I do to you, after what you did to me and my friends, I should kill you!"

"Touchy, isnít he?" said the doctor

"When do my friends...wake up?"

"When theyíre ready. It takes time to metamorphose into something else."

Dan breathed in sharply, "how far down the line are we?"

"You have been in my clutches for about half a year. Everybody thinks you are dead. Besides, you and your friend are murderers, your friends dead by your hands. What can you do?"

"Six months? But...it only seemed like a few hours ago you knocked us out!"

"That is because we initiated the next stage early. You were in effective suspended animation for the entire time, until you emerged from your own egg. Your brain has only been active for a few hours, playing my own little game."

"Iíve been asleep for six months? Weíre officially dead?"

"They found the blood and burnt-out vehicle and bodies soon after the crash into the bank that exploded, killing many innocent people."

"You destroyed an entire bank full of people just to hide us?"

"You could have given up to the police. This is what happens if you disobey me. Remember it!" the voice faded away

"Iím alone in a room built out like Frankensteinís Castle with four eggs that used to be my friends taking orders from a madman who I havenít even seen yet. It couldnít get much worse."

"Daniel," came a voice, seemingly in his head, "where...where are you? Where am I? I canít see anything."

"This is going to be hard to explain, but you are in an egg, Scott."

"Huh?"

"Changing into your new form. Iíve...hatched already. Remember the game?"

"I thought that was just a weird dream."

"No, it was real, sort of. You know what I mean. How come Iím talking to you?"

"I seem to be able to talk to you through some sort of telepathy system, I suspect itís a built in radio transmitter, probably a modem too."

"A living machine? Genetically programmed into our new DNA?"

"Thatís what I said, I think it goes further than just straight forward communications though, I can...see through your eyes. This is weird. Youíre saying that inside this egg, Iím metamorphosing into that dinosaur?"

"Erm, yeah. Also, weíre all dead. Officially, I mean. You lot have been in there for six months, they stopped looking. The bugger who did this to us killed about a hundred people to stop anyone from finding us."

"We mean a lot to him, donít we."

"First of a kind, and weíve got to make it the last."

"And boy did we get the equipment!" said Mark

"Youíre awake too?" asked Dan

"Yeah, and I think Iím ready to get out of this damn thing." Mark stretched and there was a loud cracking sound, and a small diplodocus fell out into the room

"Easy now, you havenít moved for half a year," said Dan rushing to his side, "just rest."

Not long after that, the entire group was out of their eggs, and getting used to their new bodies. There was two velociraptors, Dan and Scott, one diplodocus, Mark, a triceratops, Chris, and finally a pterradactyl, Alex.

"As I was saying, weíve not only got some sort of modem, but an entire organic computer system, run by our brains. All built into the new DNA, itís amazing! We can access any computer connected through the phone lines, and most other computers we can get close to through induction circuits." He took a breath, and sat down, "by the way, this needs to be private, what I have to say now defeats Molt in one stroke. Use your radios, he canít read the transmissions, if he canít then no-one can, thatís how he thinks."

"How come you know so much?" asked Chris

"Whilst you were chatting, I was browsing through this placeís computers, Molt may have good security, but we can get through any security block, if not on the spot then remotely, we can copy the contents of the computerís memory into our own internal storage. The thing is though, nobody can access our brains unless we let them, humans donít think like computers, but our brains can interpret and interface if we want to, but not vice-versa. There is one problem, however; if we arenít careful, little commands can get through, into our subconscious. There, they can be used to shut off our conscious brains, meaning somebody else gets to run the show. Now that you know about it though, they canít. You donít want that to happen, and so your brains will protect you."

"Thatís it? We know about...Moltís program, and so it wonít work?"

"Great, huh? See, I found out about his ultimate plan; get into our heads and use us to destroy the parts of the world that donít surrender."

"What do we do now? Asked Alex"

"All we can do is wait, he should be using the code soon."

"Wait, I think Iím getting it." Said Chris

"Careful, activate it and it will affect you. Make as if youíre asleep, all of you." Said Dan, "then see who comes on-line at the other end. If weíre to be controlled, someone needs to do the controlling. Weíll have to kill them, or heíll know somethingís up."

"But...that makes us murderers! And...donít they need to be alive to react to orders?"

"Do to them what they wanted to do to us!" said Alex, "shut off their conscious brains, leave the stem brains alive to keep their bodies going, after we look inside their heads."

"Do we have to? I donít want to kill anyone, not even if they want to kill me." Said Dan, "not this way. Facing me with a gun, maybe, but not sitting at some desk."

"Sorry, itís the only way. Here they come."

 

There were five people connected to Moltís super computers, and through them and a radio-link, into the groupís brains. The link, of course, was two way, and because of their special DNA, they were able to almost travel through the computers and into these peopleís brains, where they caused massive haemorraging with intense bursts of electricity, as the links that Moltís men had were connected directly into the brain, anything else would have been inefficient. The bodies slumped, and at the same time, the group became more alert, "Dr Molt," said Mark, "we are in control, code worked just as planned."

"Excellent," replied the voice, "report on deck seventeen for your new postings."

"Well gang, here we go." Said Mark, via the radio, "weíre getting away from Molt, but we canít get away from what heís done."

"We need time to probe his computers, now he does not need to worry about our loyalty, weíre free to do so. Nothing he has can stand up to us, we can get back in here any time." Said Scott.

 

On deck seventeen, there was nothing but a few controls operating the large double doors. A panel brightened in the wall far above their heads, and a figure appeared, they guessed it was doctor Molt, "I see you had no trouble fitting into your new roles, Iím sorry that I have to inform you that your bodies are ill, and have been disconnected from the network, you are in there until you complete your mission, by which time they would have been healed."

"We...we understand, sir. But one question,"

"Yes?"

"Why not just use that stuff on us in the first place?"

"Adults do not grow much, unlike children; it is easier to use younger bodies with my MutoGene than reprogram old bodies to grow again. Do not worry sergeant, you will be able to return home once this is all finished."

"Yes sir." Said Mark

"Now, get into those shells, despite the fact you could make it to Earth unaided," Molt turned and operated some controls, "I want you able to work at once."

The air was sucked out of the room once the group had got into the five pod-like objects, their systems interfaced directly with them and they found it was like suddenly becoming a spaceship, for the machines were nothing but shells with plating that could survive the heat of reentry into the atmosphere, they changed to fit tightly around their bodies, the group discovered that these machines could go only one way, down. The doors swung open to reveal the fact that they were about six hundred kilometres above their planetís surface. The group moved right to the edge of the station and looked down at the Earth, they were stationed above and just off the North pole, in a geo-stationery orbit, spinning at a rate that meant their view did not change.

"Wow, this is...unbelievable. Does he expect us to jump?" Asked Alex

"Looks like it, itís amazing how far heís pushed the coding for us. If we donít go, heís gonna get suspicious." Said Scott

"I guess youíre right...Geronimo!" Alex took a run up and launched himself into the void.

"What does he mean, Geronimo? Thereís no way Iím jumping out into..." Dan pushed
Mark out, "Shut it and go!" he quickly followed, as did Scott and Chris.

 

Out in space, Mark was getting worried, "I mean, sky diving, maybe, at least thereís air around, but floating through space? Itís...too big!"

"Calm down, turn on your auto pilot and enjoy the ride." Said Dan as he blasted away into the ionosphere. The group all finally set their systems in motion, and once they had got used to it, even Mark started enjoying it. Their flight took them around the planet once, sweeping right over the South pole, before they lined themselves up and came in on approach into the landing site. Their machines landed smoothly, and the five disengaged and looked around them,

"What the hell is this?" asked Scott

"Snow, what else?" replied Dan

"Oh yeah, very funny. Why are we landing in the middle of nowhere?"

"Donít ask me, I donít suppose the co-ordinates were wrong?"

"Nope," replied Mark after checking them, "this is the place, three miles south of the North pole, right on the Meridian Line."

"Yeah, but thereís nothing but snow and polar bears." Replied Scott

"Hang on, Iím getting something...some sort of signal and energy surge. From right below us...donít move, any of you."

The ground just in front of them began to shake, and slowly a large section lifted out of the ice up to a height of ten feet, then a huge door opened up, and what looked like a wall of ice was revealed to be the entrance to a tunnel that led down into the bowels of the Earth.

"Looks like we go that-a-way." Said Alex, pointing into the structure.

"Then you lead the way." Said Mark

"No way, Iím the flying scout, not the going into dark tunnels scout. Use Chris, heís got the defences."