Amra sidled through the crowd with the agility of a highly proficient warrior. When the crowd became too tight for that, he tossed aside his agility and switched to simply pushing his way through. He returned dirty looks with fierce scowls of determination. He finally made it to the source of the crowd, where four burly sailors stood by the big steel hatch leading out of the space ship.

"Open the hatch," Amra ordered.

"We're waiting for the captain," said the burliest sailor. "She needs to give each passenger a customs pre-check."

"You mean the captain wants to collect a bribe from each of us," Amra grumbled. The other passengers nodded in agree.

"Now now," the burliest sailor admonished. "That's not how things are done here. You can't say 'bribe' so obviously. The term we prefer is an 'undocumented exit fee'."

"Open that hatch or..." Amra began.

"Or what?" said the burliest sailor, drawing himself to full height and lifting a belaying pin. The three other sailors also drew themselves up, but we're quite as tall or intimidating. "You want to take that back?"

"Why should I?" Amra said. He put his hand on the hilt of his sword. The sword began to whisper dreadful things. And not in quiet library voice either. No, these were whispers that most people would call shouting. Compounding the volume of the whispering sword was that it was inside a steel corridor filled with scores of other people.

After ten seconds of the whispering Amra took his hand off his sword. "Are you going to open the hatch now or do I need to do that again?" he asked the burliest sailor, who had been trying to scream over the whispering.

"No no, mighty Amra," the burliest sailor said. He gestured with his belaying pin at the other sailors."You heard the man, open the hatch!"

The other sailors scrambled to comply. In moments they had turned the wheel on the hatch and flung it open. The fresh air of Venus rushed into the ship.

On another planet that fresh air would have been wonderful, but Venus was a swamp and jungle world. It was fetid and humid, dank with the smell of rotting vegetation with a hint of methane. The passengers shrank back from the hatch.

Not Amra. No, he strode down the gang plank as if he were king of the world. When he reached the ground he strode up to the little customs booth and happily tossed the customs officers a few gold credits to bypass any sticky paperwork issues. Then he strode past other space ships and to the exit gate of the space port.

Amra went through the gate, crossed the the canal, and was in Aphrodite City. The buildings were made of a hodgepodge of salvaged material, most of them losing a battle with the native tangle of vines crawling up their walls. He walked down streets covered with oddly sticky puddles. The bridges across canals were rickety and needed work, and gangs of youths eyed him at every corner. It was smelly, dangerous, and not a good fit for any healthy family.

Amra felt right at home.

Like a man with a destiny, he made his way with purpose to a particular spot in Aphrodite City. This is why he had come. For no other place in the Solar System could give him what he wanted. It was a run down tin roof shack with a wall knocked out and replaced with a counter. Behind it a grimy looking old man leered at passing youth gang members, his grimace so foul they hurried past him. He tended a brazier in which a small fire of stinkwood burned. "What do you want?" he asked as Amra walked up.

"One lizard on a stick with three year old swamp sauce," Amra said.

The old man made a squelching sound with his lips. He reached down behind the counter and pulled out a plate of lizards already stuck onto sticks. He put one on the brazier of burning stinkwood. As it began to sizzle, he basted it with swamp sauce. When the lizard was cooked, he handed the stick to Amra. "One gold credit," he said.

It was an exorbitant price for something so cheaply made but Amra didn't care. He flipped the man the gold credit and eagerly took his favorite food in hand. For a moment he admired it with his eyes, ears, nose, touch, and even licked it so he could taste it. "Perfection," Amra said with a deep sigh.

Suddenly, without warning, the air in the street wrinkled and twisted. It ripped open with a burst of blinding light. After Amra blinked away the stars from his eyes he saw standing before him a dinosaur.

A tyrannosaurus rex to be precise.

It wasn't one of those cheap dino copies either, which were oversized lizards bred to resemble the thunder lizards before time began. Instead, it had a lovely frock of feathers and moved with a curious alien grace, a mix of giant lizard and big cat. It wore a harness made of leather that held tools and gadgets.

"What year is it? Where am I?" asked the tyrannosaurus rex in a voice full of wonder. Except that being as large as it was, its voice was a bit on the roaring side.

"Um... you're in the year 2018 and you just arrived in Aphrodite City on the planet Venus," Amra said.

Behind Amra, the old man had already closed shop. To be more honest, he had run away, a wise precaution when dealing with predatory speaking dinosaurs who appear out of thin air.

"My time machine works!" the dinosaur shouted. The ramshackle buildings on the street shook with his voice. "I've traveled back in time!"

"You're from the future?" Amra said. "But I thought dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago."

"Well, let me explain what happened," the dinosaur said as he adjusted a pair of spectacles on his snout. He cleared his throat, took a lecturing style posture, and peered down at Amra. "You see, around the time of the... the... the..."

"The what?" Amra asked as he took another bite of his lizard on a stick with three year old swamp sauce.

"You're a cannibal," the tyrannosaurus rex said. "A savage cannibal."

"No I'm not," Amra said. "Even if this were a monkey, I still wouldn't be a cannibal."

"Don't you argue semantics with me!" roared the tyrannosaurus rex with such volume that Amra was flung across the counter and into the lizard vendor's shack. "You're eating people!"

Last Updated: 9/6/2018, 3:00:20 AM