Raymund Eich

Loovy and the Lava (A Portia Oakeshott, Dinosaur Veterinarian Short Story)


As a volcanic eruption devastates the preserve, Portia must care for more than just dinosaurs.




As a young girl, Portia Oakeshott dreamed of becoming a dinosaur veterinarian, caring for the reconstructed Australian dinosaurs roaming the preserve near the south pole of her home planet, New New South Wales.

Now, as a volcanic eruption devastates the preserve, company headquarters orders her to rescue two politicians playing tourist in the path of a lava flow.

She must decide on her own what to do for a Diluvicursor—a loovy—caught on the track of destruction.

Sample of “Loovy and the Lava (A Portia Oakeshott, Dinosaur Veterinarian Short Story)”

A gust of wind threw grit against the south-facing windows of the conference room. Portia Oakeshott rose from her seat at the long table and crossed to the nearest pane. She extended slender fingers toward grains skittering down the glass.

The lawn below the window, between the main building and the hangar, looked green. No accumulation. Yet? Beyond the hangar, the sky seemed overcast. A haze veiled barns and farmhouses normally visible along the ridgeline five klicks to the south.

“How are the particulates?” boomed the voice of Ridley McAdams, field ecologist. The others in the room, company personnel stationed here in Margarettown, echoed the question with crinkled eyebrows and nervous glances out the window.

“Barely a problem.” Portia hugged her arms against her body. “Here.” God knew what damage the eruption would inflict on the preserve. Giant ferns and palm-like cycad trees smothered in ash? Dinosaurs shrieking in pain, unable to escape flows of lava?

She turned away from the window. “Any news?”

McAdams snorted. “Twenty channels, and nineteen of them are journos earbashing without saying anything.” His bulging eyes darted over the wall opposite the windows, where a four by five grid of video windows rose above the chair rail, projected onto their optic nerves by their neuronal interfaces, their neuries.

Portia sat. She rubbed the side of her nose and reached for her cuppa while her gaze roved the wall of video.

One channel cut to a journette in front of a satellite map. Her face had clear skin tighter than nature could manage. Behind her, a crinkly line of white and gray crossed the map horizontally. A call-out box of text identified one crinkle in the middle as Eighty-three. The journette said in a buttery voice, “So named for having an elevation bang-on 8300 meters and for straddling the 83° latitude line. The highest peak in the South Polar Range….”

A dark green box covered most of the map from the mountain range to the top edge. The Blighland Dinosaur Preserve. Just below the top, a small circle around a gridded gray splotch labeled Margarettown.

Portia sipped and grimaced. Her tea had grown cold.

She regarded the map with another grimace. No scale. She knew the preserve’s perimeter lay about four hundred kilometers north of Eighty-three, and Margarettown, about forty klicks north of the perimeter. But without a scale, someone who didn’t know the region might think the volcano erupted right outside the town.

Someone? Mum. She’d call any minute now, wouldn’t she? It isn’t safe out there. And if you transferred full-time to the company headquarters, perhaps you could find a good young man….

“Where’s a live feed?” muttered Ms. Southwark, the office manager, a woman comfortable with her lined face and wisping hair. She pulled the collar of her shirt away from her skin. She fanned her neck with one hand. Thin bracelets jangled while she squinted at the video wall. “There.”

An aerial view from a quadrotor. The camera panned over the jumbled, dark green canopy of the preserve’s Cretaceous forest. Here it covered lumpy foothills of the South Polar Range. The forest bathed in the rays of Stella Australis A, low in the northern sky. The cloud of ash and particulates had to be too high overhead to block the sun. The forest looked normal. Calming.

Until orange-red oozed into view like hot, congealing blood. A steaming, hissing lava flow scoured the hollows between foothills. It had come thousands of meters down Eighty-three’s slopes. Though the lava had cooled since it gouted from the volcano, the flow might have thousands more to go. Heat shimmered the view. Over the buzz of the quaddy’s four rotors, an exterior microphone picked up the groan and pop of trees caught in the flow, snapped off their roots, roaring into flame. The quaddy held station, taking in the hellish view.

The quaddy’s pilot wasn’t the only noteworthy member of the animal kingdom in the vicinity. From the forest below the quaddy sounded a high-pitched chitter, the frantic calls of a herd of loovies, individuals of the emu-sized, grazing Diluvicursor.

Portia rolled her lips together. Her gaze roved the scene. Where were the loovies? But all she saw were the crowns of cycads and ferns, writhing in the wind rushing toward the lava.

A clipped male voice. The quaddy pilot. “Descending for a better squizz.”

The view grew larger. Portia could make out dark red spots riding the lava like trash on a river. Starting to cool. God willing it would solidify soon.

Motion away from the lava caught her eye. There, through the heat shimmer, a brown mass glimpsed between spasming fronds of a cycad. A loovy. It raised its head. Maybe she imagined its eyes wide in alarm and the ruff of stiff, feathery filaments standing up on its nape. It opened its mouth, but she couldn’t hear if it called over the crackle of burning trees and the rush of wind.

The loovy whisked its long tail around and loped away on its two legs.

The view began to shake. The pilot’s voice turned higher and less clipped. “Encountering turbulence above the lava flow.” A breath of calm, then a shake morphed into wild swing. The normal unison whine of the rotors gave way to dissonant pulses as each one fought for the right amount of lift to keep the quaddy airborne.

“Damn, too much rough air.” The rotors roared together. The lava flow shrank and slid from the center of the screen. “Autopilot wouldn’t let me stay. Going up to a thousand meters and two-fifty away from the turbulence column.”


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Raymund Eich


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