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The air at midday is hot and humid. Above our heads, colossal trees, larger than any man could ever dream, shield us from the sun with their mighty shade, but do nothing to alleviate the weather's sultriness. From a nearby lake, a thick mist has risen, enveloping the jungle in its sweltering embrace. We sweat, toiling under the oppressive tropical weather and the monstrous mosquitoes that try to bite us.

A fetid odor is the first thing we notice as we approach the dragon's den, the buzzing of a thousand flies following soon after. It is an acrid, rotting smell, the perfume of a kill dragged from elsewhere in the woods. It does not take us long to find the source of the odor: a half-eaten carcass, its bones shattered, and its flesh savagely rent, lies in the farthest corner of the basin, swarmed by carrion bugs and larvae: the dragon's latest victim.

The knight pays no heed to the corpse, instead searching for something on the ground. The dragon's hoard, perhaps? There! He has found the spot: semi-buried by dark, fertile earth and dung, lies a cluster of the most precious stones we have ever seen. Ovum-shaped and warm to the touch, their pale, milky surface contrasts with the shadowy substance in which they rest, moonlight against a starless night. This is the true treasure of our quest: the dragon's progeny, yet to be born into this world.

However, a question circles the party's minds, a question that grows ever more worrying as the knight continues to check the eggs: where is the dragon?

Our question is answered when a mighty roar echoes through the forest, scaring off whatever creatures nested on the nearby trees. A terrible sound of wood splintering and shattering under a pair of powerful legs announces the beast's arrival like a trumpet heralding the end times, and we cower in fear as the trees in front of us give way to the creature whose home we have invaded.

The dragon stands at nearly six meters in height, a specimen massive even for its kind. Its dark, olive scales, striped at the spine with shades of black, glisten under the jungle's heat, the moisture on them suggesting it has just returned from drinking at the lake. Mighty muscles tense on its hind legs, on its short neck, on the long, heavy tail that trails behind it and on its powerful, three-clawed arms. From beneath a pair of short, reddish triangular horns, yellow eyes shine with rage, its pupils changing to let us know we are dead meat. Within its mouth, dozens of sharp, curved teeth as long as my middle finger drip with saliva, which splatters all around us as the beast cocks its head backwards and roars a deafening war cry.

Tension grows thick as we wait for the beast to make its move. It remains cautious, patient… until its eyes reach the knight, who is still crouched next to the nest.

The ground seems to shake as the dragon roars again, this time a sound of worry and unbridled anger, and charges headfirst into our party, its maw wide open and its teeth ready to rend and crush. Screams of panic fill the air as we make haste to escape its path, its terrible charge towards the crouching knight.

Then, it happens: the reason why the knight's name is known through the entire world.

Calmly, without a single cry or sign of fear, the knight gets back on his feet and unsheathes his weapon, his mighty tool for dragon-slaying. He points it towards the charging beast and, almost without looking, fires a powerful bolt, which strikes the beast right between the eyes.

With a furious cry of hatred and confusion, the dragon stops its charge and rocks its skull backwards, teeth trying to rend the very sky above us. The beast's heavy form loses strength, its legs collapsing under its great weight, until it comes crashing down next to the triumphant knight. A muffled cry exits its mouth as its eyes close, and the slaying is completed.

The knight sheathes his weapon and approaches its fallen quarry. Carefully, he places a hand on its snout, caressing the scales of the creature's skull. A smile forms on his face as he does it, almost as if he felt sympathy for the felled dragon.

"Now, that's a good girl, ain't she? Sleep tight, baby girl. I'll have you up and running in no time… as soon as I check on your babies."

While the knight continues caressing his prey, the rest of us have began our task of checking the eggs for their health. One of us takes out a scroll and begins penning our observations: "Species: Allosaurus fragilis. Specimen number: 1993-SS-JP. Sex: Female. Subject matter: Reproduction."

"Let's see," says the knight, approaching us. "Eight eggs, all laid within the month… health… well, they all seem healthy, don't they? I didn't find any defects upon scanning…"

"Sure thing, Doctor Summerlee," says one of the younger team members. "They should all hatch normally within two weeks. You collected a specimen already, did you not?"

"Got it right here, Stevens," Doctor Summerlee says, patting the special container he carries under his arm. He smiles through the odor-concealing mud that covers his rugged face. "I'll take this one for some additional tests, then bring it back to its mom. Should only take me a couple of days. After all, Burns will be right there to help me, won't she?"

I'm startled at the mention of my name, and I hesitate before answering.

"S-sure, Doctor Summerlee," I stammer as I hurry to approach them. Summerlee hands me the container and pats me on the back, a fatherly gesture I have grown accustomed to.

"Awesome. Great work, everyone!" the doctor says as he glances around at his men and women. "Could not have asked for a better crew. First round's on me, guys and gals! Now let's get out of here before Ally wakes up and has our asses for breakfast."

Cheers and whistling are heard through the basin as we pack our things and ready our departure. We have a long day ahead of us.

The doctor pats Ally some more and kisses her snout. Being Panspermia's lead theropod specialist, Summerlee views all of her kind as his children. In many ways, they are his: half of the currently discovered theropod species, from the Coelophysis Bauri to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, have been resurrected under Doctor Summerlee's watch, and he has no plans to retire any time soon.

We leave the basin behind, double-checking that the allosaur remains sedated until we are far enough from her to breathe normally. Being charged at by a prehistoric super predator was not something listed on my job description.

After an hour of walking under the trees, we reach a clearing baked under the Jurassic's powerful artificial sun. We ready our micro-tech implants, hidden well under our arm's skin, and prepare for scanning.

A bright red beam phases through each of us before allowing us to enter the clearing: the forcefield becomes intangible for a few seconds as we each enter it and decontamination begins. Though we are all immunized against prehistoric diseases, management just won't take the chance of us taking any pathogens out of their respective time periods.

"You did it again, didn't you?" comes a voice from behind me. I turn and stare at Michael Horst, the team's paleobotanist.

"Huh?" I ask, still dazed by the heat and the experience.

"Your fantasy. The one with Summerlee as the dragon-slaying knight?"

"Oh, that…" I try hiding my embarrassment even as my face reddens at Michael's accusation. "No, I just…"

"You should really stop doing that, Sarah," he says. "Summerlee is our superior, but you shouldn't idolize him. Sure, he's sort of a modern Indiana Jones type and all that, but he's not infallible. Don't just trust him to do everything for us: your daydreaming might get you or someone else hurt."

I nod, trying not to reminisce back at Summerlee's sedating of the allosaur. Admittedly, it's kind of hard not to picture him in shining armor when he is able to tranquilize an adult theropod with a single shot of his gun.

"And besides," Michael quips as he enters the forcefield, "dragons are sapient beings… and your fellow citizens. I really don't think they like stories about them having their heads chopped off for their hoard."

Doctor Summerlee makes sure that everyone is accounted for and smiles once more. This is one of his favorite parts of the job: after we have gathered at the center of the clearing, a platform rises from the ground, sprouting seats and tables as a strange, transparent mechanism envelops us, shielding us from the elements. In a matter of seconds, we are locked in a crystal cage, our mission successful.

"Buckle up, everyone!" calls Summerlee from the front. "Computer, take us home."

A series of beeps are heard as the transparent ship begins rising from the ground, its anti-grav tech ready and its camouflage engaged. For the rest of the world, we are invisible; for us, it's about to get magical.

The vimana-class ship elevates swiftly, leaving the clearing behind. Cool air begins flowing through the cabin, a change I am thankful for; the Jurassic's suffocating rainy season has long overstayed its welcome. It is not, however, the air conditioning that I am most thankful for: it's the view that keeps us going.

We soar through the skies of the Jurassic period, flocks of Pterosauria swooping nearby. Our ship has a special sonic instrument to keep them from crashing against us, so they just fly magnificently near our invisible vessel, their membranous wings inflated with the powerful winds of the east. They are so close I almost feel like I could touch them.

Through our ship's transparent floor, we gaze at the landscape beneath us: the lush coniferous forests give way to large, flat plains, their yellow, semi-arid surface coursed by silvery rivers that flow unimpeded towards the sea. Hordes of prehistoric creatures roam the land in search of food or rest, the midday sun slowly leaving its zenith.

Scattered through the plains, immense rock formations and plateaus serve as nesting grounds for a variety of flying reptiles and small mammals. At their shadow lie great lakes whose waters hide colossal crocodilians and amphibians, ready to feast on unsuspecting creatures.

To my left, a herd of diplodocus heads to the forest's frontier, ready to mow down trees in their everlasting hunger. Among them are many young specimens, probably in their first migration. I wave them goodbye as the ship moves on.

At a nearby waterfall, a pair of brachiosaurus engage in a mating ritual, their long necks caressing each other with a warmth that reminds me of elephants and mammoths. Hopefully, I'll get to check on their eggs once they have been laid.

Next to a jagged rock formation, a group of ornitholestes scatter away from a fresh carcass as a ceratosaurus and a saurophaganax emerge from the woods. Undoubtedly, they'll be back as soon as the alpha carnivores have sated their hunger.

As we move further away, I gaze at the multitude of stegosaurus, camptosaurus and camarasaurus that wander through the landscape. They graze and drink and procreate under our watch, magnificent beasts ignorant of their existence's anachronism.

I am forced to avert my sight as the dinosaurs begin to shrink before my eyes, their forms growing ever more diffuse as the ship finally reaches its destination and rises vertically towards the sky. A hidden panel opens on the installation's massive ceiling and, with an entranced sigh, we leave the Jurassic behind.

Time to return home.

My eyes open suddenly, my mind expelled from the pleasant memory of my first tour with Summerlee. Ten Earth years have passed, and I am no longer Sarah Burns, the doctor's assistant. I am now Doctor Sarah Burns, Panspermia's lead necrozoologist and animal medium. Time does march on, I think, staring into my office's window to the beyond.

The depths of space are cold, dark and empty. In the infinite blackness, peppered by countless stars, one would be lucky to find any trace of life. Save for a few space-dwelling species, the void is utterly deprived of living beings, of flora and fauna. Thus, it is incredible how we, a cluster of once planet-bound civilizations, have managed to not only thrive amongst the stars, but to create life out here in the darkness.

I reflect upon this idea as my eyes drift through my office's window, out into the blackness, my mind still lingering on the pleasant memory I just revisited. This is also quite the sight. The Imperial Space Station Panspermia floats calmly in the Cosmos' dark mantle, a peaceful giant orbiting the yellow star known to us humans as Darwin, a name the Empire agreed on after millenia of calling it XL-6841. It drifts, not aimlessly or randomly, but like a boat impulsed by soft winds, slowly but surely reaching its destination. Sure, this boat is larger than Jupiter, but my analogy still stands.

From my office at the station's main hub, I can see its many modules and artificial habitats. There, under the careful watch of the best scientific minds in the Immortal Empire, dwell millions upon millions of species from across the Universe, the flora and fauna of a trillion worlds, all once rendered extinct by either nature's designs or the irresponsibility of sapient beings. Now, after eons of being but fossils and naturalist descriptions, they have been resurrected, brought back into existence to once again grace the Cosmos with their very life.

When I first signed on to be a part of Panspermia's crew, I was but a young necromancer, freshly graduated from ICSUT. Here, on this space station, I saw my chance of being part of something bigger than myself, part of a crew of magicians and scientists, of paleontologists and cloning experts, all dedicated to the task of resurrecting the plants and creatures of the past for the benefit of both the present and the future. I signed on to work in deep space for five full years, and I have never looked back.

Things have changed in the last few years. Field work has been replaced with desk jobs, tranquilizing theropods supplanted by writing essays. The pay is good and the prestige even better, but still I miss the times I accompanied Doctor Summerlee on his adventures, the time when I was not shackled to my responsabilities as a senior officer. Watching him hatch spinosaurus eggs is far more engaging than burning through paperwork.

Maybe I'll get to work on something exciting once again, I think, trying not to dwell on the thought that it has been a rather long time since I've done anything practical but train new animal mediums at the station. Maybe.

Outside, the stars still twinkle, the station drowsily drifting through their mantle. I bid the sight goodbye, and get back to work.

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