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Desmond and Kyane’s parents sat in plastic booths at the Year of The Zodiac. A small hole in the wall Chinese restaurant. The logo on the outside of the building just had an image of a zodiac wheel. The inside was small, with four booths and two tables for eating, and a counter to order.
Desmond finished up his egg roll in a full bite and crunched away. Crumbs scattered onto his plate and table. They joined his Beef and Broccoli with white rice. There was a reason he didn’t do food dates as his first option. “Sorry I’m such a mess,” he said with a half-stuffed mouth. “I’m starving.”
Damon chuckled. “It’s all good. I played a wide end on my school’s football team. I ate the whole damn cow back in the day.” His eyes sparkled with flashes of his glory days.
Hinotomi let out a pained smile. “So, what other sports do you play, Desmond?”
Desmond pushed his beef around with his fork. “Well baseball, football too, hockey actually, and basketball of course.”
“Hockey?” Damon noted. “Favorite pro team?”
“Penguins, I guess. They’re cute.”
“He knows animals,” Hinotomi said.
“Yeah. Just like you know girls,” Damon said.
“Yeah, Kyane is pretty cool,” Desmond said. Kyane’s parents’ faces contoured in new ways. “I mean pretty,” that didn’t help. “I mean cool,” that worked better.
“Just cool?” Hinotomi jabbed.
“I Ahh, yeah, cool. Like a cucumber or an Ahh fruit. I don’t really like cucumbers so that doesn’t work to compare. I mean cucumbers are alright. But how do they become pickles? And Kyane isn’t a pickle. She’s pretty a’ight. I mean very a’ight. I mean awesome.”
Hinotomi tapped his hand. “We’re just kidding you. I like you.”
“You’re good in my book.”
“You have a book?”
“Yeah,” Damon said. “Right below Jake Gyllenhaal, but above…” he searched for a name but couldn’t find one. “You get the point.”
The check came. Desmond reached for his wallet. “No, no. We have you this time,” Hinotomi said. “You’re good to our girl when you didn’t have to be.” Desmond snuggled back into his seat.
“Yeah. Also, to pay back for making you drive off without her for the date. But you should have come over first.”
“You’re right. But like it didn’t go that way. I can’t thank y’all enough for this. I want to help y’all more with this stuff.”
Damon and Hinotomi looked at each other. They spoke their own language with eyebrow wiggles and eye gazes. Hinotomi turned to Desmond. “That could be arranged. There doesn’t seem to be any big trouble coming soon.”
“Cool!” Desmond said. “I get to wreck it up!” He clapped his hands together too loudly. Everyone in the restaurant turned to him. Hinotomi smiled. Damon tried to hide worry behind a stuffed mouth.
Sctellou reaches his hand out toward the portal along the cave wall. He felt his bones shake and buzz. His scales snap, and teeth jitter. He touched the portal. It felt like a mix of viscera and flowing blood churned together. A bolt of lightning flew out and scorched his hand. He pulled away and held it. It burned for a minute. He scanned the portal. It was normal. It should have had the strength to let him in, yet it kept him at bay, a door with only a lock on the outside. He stepped away to a group of raptors.
“What’s wrong with it?” he said. He kept nursing his hand.
“It might not have enough power,” one of the raptors said. “A total rejection because you exert too much force on it, so it snaps back and stops you from breaking reality.”
“Yes, I know the science. I had it given to me while I gestated. I know how the portal works. But why does it not work for me? Now I question if it will work for my brethren.”
“I can summon Dracorex.”
Sctellou shook his head. “He will not help. He will solve the problem but not help the situation. Not help me learn what I must do.”
“You can sacrifice some men. Our life energy does boost the portal’s energy.” The raptor’s voice was flat. His eyes did not convey the true terror it must entail.
Sctellou shook his head again. “Herreas and his captains were fools who only thought of themselves surviving to win, not the people. Herreas said he was the savior, but clearly only cared for himself to save.” Sctellou froze and his brain clicked with a solution. “Have you tried the humans? Can they boost our portals energy to cross over?”
“That would be a Dracex question, sir.”
“No,” Sctellou paced around the cave. “What difference in human biology are there? I mean we both live. Our energy signatures may be disparate, but we both can cross over. We just use them to make and reinforce the portal. It weakens them while also stopping us from wasting our own power.” He tapped the soldier on the shoulder. “Get men rounded up and go through a portal. Collect a bare number of humans close to the portal and use them to boost it.”
“Yes, sir!” the raptor said.
“Also get me into contact with our person on the other side. I need an attack plan for my invasion.”
The raptor soldiers gathered a full platoon of six men and passed through the portal. Their bodies were used to the flexing and reverberation that enveloped them. They emerged on the other side in an abandoned furniture store. Beds, tables, chairs, nightstands, and davenports decorated the inside. A large going out of business sign hung high above them.
One of the raptors looked out of the large display window and saw a group of guys walking down the street. They were dressed in well-worn jeans, oversized t-shirts, and matching gold chain necklaces. One of the guys looked at the window and double-takes. He patted his friends’ shoulders. They all looked in awe at the life-like model work on display. The raptor blinked his eyes. The men flinch backward. The raptor leaped into the window, showering the men glass. The raptor forced himself on top of one of the guys. The other guys backed away only to see the other five raptors approaching from the other sides.