"Not much happening today, Hector," said Moreau to his scout. "Still, let us keep a bright lookout; one never knows with carnotaurs." "Yes," replied Hector. "Although it is rather early, predators have a habit of showing up all the sudden."
So the pair began another trip around the grounds, watching every now and then for straying young dinosaurs. They almost didn't notice the young female iguanodon approaching. She called out to them.
"Hello! I'm looking for Joey! Can you tell me where I can find him?"
As the lady drew closer, Moreau answered back, "Joey is a corporal of
our Guard, but he doesn't report for duty until later this morning. May
I ask your name?"
She came closer and the pair could tell she was very young, almost breeding age. Obviously she is Joey's intended mate, thought Moreau. Pretty thing, with her blue-green coloring, lithe figure, and large golden eyes. Very polite and delicate. She smiled at the unspoken compliment then introduced herself.
"My name is Mica, and I have a message for Joey from his mother."
Moreau smiled, answering, "Well, then if the message is that urgent we can take you to Joey. Our shift is about over, so you can accompany us to the other side of the meadow. He should be there with the rest of the Herd."
Not far from the spot where the Herd gathers to graze, a group of renegade dinosaurs congregated around a pond. An odd assortment of iguanodons, hadrosaurs, and ceratopsians. These animals, according to the Herd, were vagabonds, not exactly part of the regular Herd. They traveled around from place to place and seldom mixed with the main Herd. Among these was a circle of females – hadrosaur sisters Merci and Fraci, and Carmen, a vivacious iguanodon with mottled dark gray skin and arresting blue eyes.
The girls were talking about love when the distant blast of a parasaurolopus summoned the change of the Guard. To this Carmen said to her friends, "Ooh, they are changing guardian shifts. I hear there is a new young buck on patrol for the first time."
She narrowed her blue eyes, adding, "I feel like an adventure. Come on!"
"Joey, your mother is not feeling well; she wonders if you will come see her when your shift is over."
"Thanks for the message, Mica."
"And, Joey, she had hoped that we would be paired before we head to the Nesting Grounds. She hopes..."
"That she would live to see her grandchildren being born. Not to worry, Mica. You know I love you, and spending the rest of my life with you is the most important thing..."
Along the lakeside, Joey and Mica strolled and talked of their future
plans. It was out of duty to himself, and his sick mother, that Joey finally
decided to settle down with Mica. Besides, he had a brilliant, promising
career in the elite Herd Guard. Who knows? Perhaps he will eventually be
the Herd's next leader. That is what Bruton, another young iguanodon with
a bright future, said to Joey just a few days ago. Joey and Bruton were
opposites in personality – Joey was more laid back and sentimental while
Bruton had more "old soldier" qualities: a brave heart, a deep conviction
in doing the right thing, and an unflinching sense of duty.
There was however, in Joey, as Bruton warned, "An uncertain weakness. I can't tell exactly what it is, but it may be your downfall. Work on that, Joey, if you want to insure your future with the Herd..."
Joey, who merely brushed off Bruton's comments as nonsense, should've taken the wiser dinosaur's advice.
In the clearing of the meadow, several of the vagabonds gathered to
the disdain of the regular Herd members. Most of the Herd looked down on
Carmen and her friends as nonconformist and dangerous. There is something
unsettling about this one, many Herd members often said.
One of the Herd, a middle aged styracosaur named Eema, had misgivings about the outsiders, who, according to her, spelled certain doom. "There's something not right about these girls, especially that one, that Carmen. She's trouble."
And Eema was right.
Joey and his immediate superior Captain Zuno took their place on patrol. Part of the patrol route passed through the clearing, and the iguanodons could not help but notice the gathering of vagabonds. To Joey, Zuno, asked, "What do you know of these outsiders, corporal?"
"Not sure, sir," replied Joey. "They keep pretty much to themselves. I seldom cross paths with them. The one girl there," he said nodding to Carmen, "is rather arresting-looking, even though she's far from my type."
With that the pair laughed and resumed their patrol but paused a bit to listen to Carmen and her friends' conversation. The girls continued to talk of love, with Carmen taking the lead in her argument that "Love obeys no law." As Carmen continued, many young males, thoroughly smitten by her beauty and vivaciousness, gathered around her. All paid her rapt attention – except Joey – as she continued in her deep seductive voice.
"Love is like a bird. It flits from place to place, never staying for long. It's like a wayward child who has yet to learn to obey."
Her eyes fell on Joey, who still paid her no attention. She was intrigued and drew closer to him. Carmen plucked a single flower that grew along the lake and carried it over to him. She laid it at his feet as she resumed her song. Her eyes bored through him as she spoke, "When I love someone it's never forever. If you love me, watch out! It may the end of you!"
And with that, she slyly winked at Joey then returned to her company. Joey merely shrugged and resumed his patrol. Sure, he found her pretty and alluring but Carmen would never match up to Mica, the one female he truly loved.
It wasn't long into the afternoon patrol – Joey and Zuno made another
round of the meadow perimeter – when pandemonium struck. Angry, raised
voices could be heard in the distance as Eema hurried to the two guards.
"Joey! Zuno! Something's happened over by the pond. Those girls, those vagabonds got into a fight. It was Carmen and some other girl. Looks like the girl got hurt pretty bad."
Joey and Zuno hurried to the scene not knowing what to expect. Sure enough, there was Carmen, surrounded by her friends, followed by Lulu, another iguanodon female whose head and arm were bleeding badly. The females chattered on and on, each giving conflicting accounts as to what really happened. At once, they gathered around Joey and Zuno, screaming insults and accusations. Captain Zuno tried to calm the ladies, telling them, "One at a time, ladies, please. What happened?"
The chorus of voices grew louder and louder. Joey couldn't take it anymore, so he let out a resounding roar to quiet the ladies. Even Zuno was startled by his young corporal's boldness, but the blast served its purpose.
"Now," said Joey as he examined Lulu, the injured iguanodon female, "can someone tell us exactly what happened?"
It was one of Lulu's friends who spoke first. "We were minding our own
business when that one," nodding at Carmen, "started needling us. She always
does that, you know."
She continued, "All I remember was Carmen and Lulu hurling insults at each other. Then Carmen struck down Lulu, just like that. Lulu's not a good fighter, sir, so you can see that Carmen's gotten the best of her."
Nodding towards Carmen, Captain Zuno asked, "Is this true, Carmen? Did you inflict these injuries on Lulu?"
Carmen, with a defiant glint in her eye, said nothing other than, "What if I did?"
But the evidence – Lulu's bloody wounds and the eyewitness account – was there.
"Hmm," said Zuno, "so you won't talk, eh? Perhaps a bit of time alone, under guard, will soften your temper."
He summoned Joey and Moreau to, "Take the prisoner to the far side of the meadow, near the forest clearing. There she will remain until she's learned her lesson."
Eema and the other older females helped Lulu to the lake, tending to her wounds with healing balm and cool water. Joey, not really wanting to baby-sit a defiant this wayward vagabond, agreed to watch over her during her "time out". He had better things to do, like spending time with Mica after his shift, but he obeyed Zuno's orders to stand guard over Carmen.
In the forest clearing, Joey and Carmen reached the appointed site. He sternly told her, "You sit under that tree, where I can keep watch over you. And don't move or talk unless I tell you to. Understand?"
Carmen glared hard at this young bossy upstart, but she did as ordered and settled herself beneath a shady tree. Joey settled himself a few feet away where he could watch her carefully. His mind wandered to Mica, to his sick mother. Oh how much he'd rather take a stroll with his beloved or spend time with his mother, not guard this unruly girl. As far as he was concerned, Carmen could wander the deep forest all she wanted. Perhaps she'd fall into a predator's trap. Good riddance!
Carmen, bored out of her skull with the dead silence, began humming to herself. Then she began to sing: "Near the high trees of the forest, there is a pond, which belongs to my friend, Lillia Pastia. There we dance and sing and drink all night long."
She eyed Joey, who tried to shush her. She muttered, "Is it a crime to sing to myself?"
With a defiant snort she continued, "It's boring being without my love. He left me so long ago. What's a little fun without someone to love? You could come with me, and have fun tonight."
She seductively eyed Joey and sang some more. "I now have a new love. He's an officer in the Herd Guard. Not a captain, but a mere corporal. But he is handsome and loves me. He will come with me, tonight!"
Joey, his mind swirling, gazed upon Carmen with new curiosity. Did she mean that? Does she really love him? But he's promised to Mica! No way will this brazen female trap him. But he couldn't help himself. He had to listen and look more closely.
Carmen giggled and swayed rhythmically towards him as she continued her song. "Love is a wild bird that never stays in one place..."
Then, to Joey, "I know you love me. Help me escape, and we can go to Lillia's pond. We'll dance and drink and...make love under the full moon."
Just as Bruton warned, that weakness in Joey began to kick in, clouding his better judgment. Totally mesmerized with Carmen's alluring beauty and manner, he agreed to let her go. "But make it look like a struggle. We thought we heard predators approaching. You took advantage of the situation, overpowered me, then escaped."
He nodded to the deep forest. "Take the path that leads from the forest to the other side of the meadow. It's safer – no predators there. From there you can make it to Lillia's pond. And soon I will join you..."
Not five minutes passed when Joey's bellows could be heard all over
the grounds. When he found Captain Zuno, he breathlessly said, "Thought
we heard carnotaurs...It was nothing...Carmen struck me down in the confusion...She's
escaped! Carmen's has escaped!"
GO TO ACTE II!
Copyright©2003 by PRP ("Sarama")