the pieces are coming together... (visitor part 13) (the pack part 3)

well it turns out my cousin larry has managed to completely destroy my life with his visit . i'm not sure how i missed it. larry managed to successful manipulate and fool me into thinking he was my friend. rather than the JERK! he's always been...

larry's accomplished a lot on this trip:

all so he could get me to join some coelurosaur only club, called the pack of the primordial feather. according to larry nearly every bird-related theropod still alive today is a member (all in fact except the one coelurosaur who i care about the most... lillian... so hot!).

the thing is larry not only hasn't told me what this pack is about, but rather he's been deliberately covering up everything about it. up until a few days ago larry had been pretending he was filming a new film with peter jackson (a fair enough cover as he was the t-rexs in king kong).

i need information, and i need it now!

larry has proven he won't give any away though, and would probably try block my efforts if i were to leave him to his own schemes... fortunately i haven't left him on his own. i've come up with a plan.

you see there was one aspect of my new zealand life, even after coming into contact with larry, that isn't put off by his tyrannosaurisms. in fact it thrives off such things. that is of course my workplace the otago museum.

having missed work for the last two weeks due to larry's visit, my boss ms. rhonwyn was nice enough to overlook this absence on the condition that she be allowed some closer contact with my cousin. an offer that couldn't have been more opportunely offered!

so this morning i arranged ms. rhonwyn's face to face with larry. though i think she had it in mind that i'd be sticking around...

"you're leaving?!?" she disbelievingly asked as i started towards the dell in the botanic garden.

"just for a few minutes," i tried to assure her. "i have some quick calls i need make."

naturally my boss wasn't too pleased about being dumped with t-rex sitting. in fact she was clearly nervous. "uh, are you sure it's safe for me to be in such close proximity without a spotter or something," she whispered to me not wanting larry to overhear her.

"don't worry you'll be perfectly fine," i restated. looking up at larry i emphasised. "won't she larry? i'm going to be just over there, and i might change my mind if anything bad happens to her."

larry's eyes fixed on me with both a mix of confusion and suspicion at what must have been a sudden change in my demeanour from yesterday. then i had been totally gun hoe about being a true tyrannosaur. now i was suddenly concerned about humans again...

as for ms. rhonwyn she was started to regret her request for closer contact with a full grown tyrannosaur. under her breath i could make out. "if he ever wants a raise i'll..."

larry was intrigued by a human wanting to spend time with him who didn't want to make money off the encounter somehow... i only hoped the two of them would play nice while i snuck off.

i had to find out what larry was up to, and even more importantly where he'd finding out stuff about me from...

when it came to information there was only one man i could goto for that. mike the librarian. if there was anyone who could find me out some info on this pack of the primordial feather it was him.

getting out my "cell" phone i dialled mike up. hoping this might shed some light on what i should do next.

i forgot that canada being on the other side of the world was in a different time zone... oops... i woke mike up.

"what do you want traumador?" mike grumpily demanded upon hearing it was me on the other end of the call.

i quickly and briefly explained the situation i was in.

well at least i thought i explained it quickly. mike seemed to get very bored and impatient as i went on.

"you didn't need to tell me your whole family lineage," mike grumbled when i'd concluded my tale. okay maybe it wasn't a brief either. i might have gone into a bit too much detail on ALL aspects of the story in fact...

i was just being specific so mike knew what i was talking about. come to think of it people of the innerweb i don't think i've ever told you what a coelurosaur is! oops... well only one way to fix that!

today's palaeo FACT! TM is brought to you by the suborder theropod. theropods are of course meat eating dinosaurs...

of particular interest to us are the coelurosaurs. this is the group, or clade if you want to get real scientific, that i belong to. we are arguably the most "advanced" theropods to have evolved, and are by far the most diverse and unusual.

your typical theropod is built something like this: bipedal (aka stood on one pair of legs), three toed feet and three fingered hands, sharp claws on all our digits (fingers and toes), big triangular head filled with sharp teeth, and long tail to balance out the heavy front end. there is of course a lot of variation and diversity for those features, but your average theropod has 90% of those features.

the exception being coelurosaurs. not to say none of us fit those criteria. fact of the matter the classic theropod image is that of tyrannosaurus. we just differ on the three fingers bit having lost one finger per hand for two (some primitive theropods like the ceratosaurs had four... freaks!). despite tyrannosaurs being fairly typical (at least on the surface) you'll see some coelurosaurs depart the norm when it comes to how a theropod is put together...

welcome to my families overall members, and the likely members of larry's pack. as you can see quite the varied lot. any other theropod clades rogue gallery and you'd be hard pressed to see this much difference between members...

there are a lot of really specific things that make us all the same, and yet different from other theropods. most are pretty scientific and i'm not going to claim to be qualified to tell you about them. just click on this link to read about them though. some members are the only large theropods to have long necks. we also have the only plant eating theropod in our ranks (a matter of some embarrassment to be honest).

our biggest claim to fame is our direct ancestry with birds. birds descended directly from us, and as of such we were the only group of dinosaurs to legitimately surive the extinction 65 million years ago. features we share with birds include hollow bones (though most other theropods have these as well), wish bones (very important for the evolution of flight), and feathers. it is the last two: wish bone and feathers that allowed human palaeontologists to finally recognize our connection to birds (well other than a few bright guys like huxley and ostrom)

so who are they all? here's the quick rooster call:

tyrannosaurids- easily the most famous of the coelurosaurs (and for 'some' reason my favorite). despite being so normal among overall theropods we are among the weirdest of coelurosaurs. this is due to our monstrous size. the majority of coelurosaurs come in under 5 metres where only very early tyrannosaurs are this small (which is of course our ancestry with the others. we too were once small until we started to evolve bigger). due to our large size we became very similar to other large theropods, but with some small but important differences (i'll be sure to cover tyrannosaurids as our own palaeo FACT! soon to cover all these).

dromaeosaurids- the other really famous family of coelurosaurs. more commonly known as "raptor" dinosaurs due to the velociraptors from jurassic park movies. as we will see shortly they have among the most in common with birds. common features on these guys making them different from normal theropods are their second toe having a huge curved claw that was held off the ground (just recent proven by fossil foot prints).

troodontids- were very similar to dromaeosaurs. tons and tons of their features were identical to birds. also the second toe had a big claw (though no where near as big or scary as a raptors) and usually held aloft of the ground (again unlike the raptor not always though). they are also famous for their very large (for a dinosaur) brains.

oviraptorids- are an odd bunch. they have very block like heads, long necks, long arms, and long legs. they are arguably the most closely related to birds of our whole family (the argument comes only from the dromaeosaurs on this though. none of the rest of us can compete).

ornithomimids-look like for all intents like ostriches with arms instead of tiny wings. their unusual theropods due to a lack of teeth, and instead have a true beak like a bird. this gave them an unusual diet as they ate pretty much anything they could get their hands on (which had really nice long grabby fingers i might add!). their long legs also made them the fastest of dinosaurs.

therizinosaurids- were the true freak shows of of the theropod world. not only were they huge (the largest therizinosaur grow to be as large as us t-rexs!) and had a long neck, huge wolverine like claws, fat body builds, but these theropods ate plants!!! to be honest this makes them the black sheep of the coelurosaur clade, but their feathers and other bird like features keeps them in so to speak.

birds- last but not least. you hopefully know what these guys are all about... if not go outside and wait about 30 seconds to see one (unless your in antarctica... go to the shoreline and wait up to a few months for a penguin)!

so how do we all fit together. well this is a simplified coelurosaur family tree. at the bottom we have our primitive nearly "normal" theropod ancestors that evolved into true coelurosaurs sometime in the early the jurassic period (others claim possibly even as far back as the late triassic). as the lineage progressed through time the various families would break off on their own unique evolutionary path. remember this "progression" is just time going by. the evolution itself was random, and not destined to produce birds or t-rexs (in fact the tyrannosaur family is one of the earliest to branch off on its own meaning we're sadly the furthest removed from birds) it just did...

though the birds and dromaeosaurs appear the at the top of this lineage they still evolved fairly early in the overall dinosaur time frame. all this breakup into different families occurred within the jurassic period. the first primitive bird archaeopteryx was already around well before the cretaceous period some 153 million years ago.

speaking of the cretaceous that would be the time period that we coelurosaurs really took off though. the tyrannosaurids began their enlargening here due to the extinction of many of the old guard carnosaurs. in my neck of the woods, western north america, by 90 million years ago the only theropods around were coelurosaurs. man those would have been the days...

wait starting to sound like larry come to think of it...

well that's the coelurosaurs in a nutshell. i'll probably end up talking about them more in detail later. also if you have any questions let me know through an email or comment, and i'll make it a priority for my next palaeo FACT!

okay so come to think of it having told mike all this, and than some it was neither a quick nor brief explanation of the event going on in my life...

right mike! by now he was a little more than irate with me for wasting an hour... and HOUR!!! holy moly! poor mike...

i rushed my story, and asked if he could use his contacts in section 241 try and find me something out about the pack of the primordial feather.

this seemed to pick and wake mike up a bit. "the pack of the what?" he inquired.

"their the coelurosaur group i've been telling you about," i clarified. "i don't know much about them other than larry is a part of it, they have considerable push in the museum world, and are otherwise very secretive and top secret."

"really?" mike was enthralled. he's one for knowing something about everything. to not know is like torture to him. "i'll see what i can dig up for you."

i was confused. "no mike i don't need you to dig up anymore members for them. i'd goto a palaeontologist for that. i just need information on the ones that are out of the ground already," i instructed.

"he wakes me up at what time? and he's the one saying dumb things," mike mumbled. "you dummy. i meant dig up the information."

"oh," i answered. "okay. thanks than!"

with that i let mike get back to sleep. he had a possibly big task ahead of him in the morning (well later in the morning technically).

i still had one more call to make though...

somehow larry had found out i was in new zealand... this despite the fact only three people in canada knew i'd left in secret to new zealand. mike was one of them, and he'd never met larry that alone known anything about the pack. though i'd royally pissed off craig , it was due to larry's arrival in dunedin. craig had spent my whole life trying to keep me away from the pack so it couldn't have been him.

that only left bond... peter bond ... my special talent agent. who had told me a couple months ago that i should expect a visitor... who funny enough arrived, and has wrecked total havoc on everything!

bond better have a good explanation for this!

"traum baby, so glad to hear from you," cheerfully answered his phone. i clearly had caught him in a different time zone as well. only here he was having a nice relaxed evening. so relaxed it was evident in his conversation with me. "i trust things have been interesting over there?"

"something like that," i carefully replied waiting to see what peter would say next.

"now remember i didn't tell you on the record, cause i'm not technically supposed to know about it, but wasn't that offer he made you sweet?" peter mused.

"which offer was that?" i veined ignorance. though it wasn't entirely faked. what did peter know? most important what did he know that i didn't already?!?

peter laughed thinking i was playing into his game of him not having told me. "that's my boy."

i made my voice as serious as i could. "no which offer was it your talking about?"

"i get it. mum's the word," peter happily replied. "your cousin letting you into this ubber dinosaur network of his. the pack of the something or other. sounded like the gig of a lifetime for you my friend. we might just make something of you yet."

"what are 'we' going to be making of me?" i pressed.

"why the game of twenty questions?" peter joked. "well it's like i've been telling you traum baby. we've got to start looking at a bigger future for you than new zealand and that security guard gig."

technically it was peter telling me that i needed to expand. not me.

"so how's this pack going to help me with that?" i hoped peter had done his job in looking out for my needs...

"is larry listening in on this call?" peter realized i was pressing. "cause i didn't tell traumador anything."

"he's not listening peter," i assured my agent. "i need to know some things before i join the pack."

"what?!?" peter exclaimed spitting out some of his beverage. "you haven't joined yet!?!"

"no," i sternly answered. my impatience with all the lies and secrets going on around me from peter to larry to even craig welled up to the surface. "because i'm sick of people not telling me what they have 'in mind for me'. i can make my own choices, and so unless you start telling me something i'm definately not joining this pack!"

"okay okay," peter backpeddled. "calm down my little green friend."

"let's start off with how you even know larry?" i demanded.

"pretty simple. remember i came to negotiate with him on your behalf during the whole vancover storyeum incident," peter reminded me. "well during the talks i gave larry my card thinking nothing of it... networking never hurt an agent. then suddenly a few months ago he calls me up wondering if i knew where you were. he tells me he was a very promising offer for you."

"that's when you called me to ask my address, and you told it to someone else on another phone line. that was larry than?" i was starting to get the picture of how peter got involved.

"yeah that's pretty much how that happened," peter answered.

"what did larry tell you this 'gig' with the pack would be?" i asked.

"he didn't say exactly. just that the pack would ensure you got a position at a museum or theme park more worthy of your status than security guard," peter frankly answered. it didn't help me though. larry had already told me this line.

"that's not all you know though is it?" i probed. "you looked them up more didn't you. that's why you insisted i take their offer? you know more about the pack than you're supposed to."

"there isn't putting anything past you is there traum. are you sure you're brain is as small as you say it is?" peter sounded a little worried. "yes i looked into them a bit."

"so?" i insisted.

"their connected traum," peter told me in a very serious voice. "more connected than any dinosaur should be... in the sense that you guys are extinct for the most part."

peter's voice was quieter as though he were worried about being overheard. "traum they have a member in nearly every museum across the world. if they aren't in a place it's not worth looking at... probably why larry's not too happy about your being at the otago."

my eye ridge raised. how did peter know that larry didn't like my working at the otago?

"the pack has the influence to decide what dinosaur exhibits do and don't go up," peter carried on. "even those ridiculous creationist museums traum. they make those guys pay through the nose for pack members to be on display. they call it a reputation tax. the creationist want to smudge tyrannosaur's reputation than they have to pay for it."

"dinosaurs who aren't members have to be careful not to get in the packs' way traum. if you aren't a member you have to make sure their happy with you or you could be through. only the morrison union and the carnosaur latino pack have any clout against the primordials traum, and you're not going to be given an invite into those groups."

who were the morrison union and the latino pack? how did peter know about them? why hadn't i heard of any of this in the dinosaur community before?!?

than came the line that made my spine sever. "traum after everything larry's done for you during this visit, you have to join or he'll be furious with me," peter pleaded.

it suddenly made sense. larry had been getting information about me he shouldn't have all trip. in particular my rivalry with the germ-man... he'd been getting it all from peter. everytime larry went off for a walk through the garden he'd been calling up bond to get intell.

"are you working for the pack? or do you work for ME?!?" i yelled into the phone. a fury i'd never experienced flowed through me... if peter had been there i would have bite him in the throat!... i felt so betrayed... i felt so... so ... in need of the hunt... was this more of my tyrannosaur nature coming through?!?

"wow i never meant..." peter actually sounded scared. "i was just trying to help."

"how were you trying to help?!?" i found myself growling, driven by an uncontrollable angry deep within me. "how does helping the one dinosaur you know i hate above all others help me?"

"look traum i'm sorry," peter tried to reason. "i admit that i got a little caught up in how helping you get in the pack might help me. let's face it traum you're not exactly making either of us a profit in your current job, but in this pack of larry's we might both just have a chance at the big time."

"so you don't actually work for larry?" i pressed on, but the intense rage was fading, and i was starting to think more rationally. "you're not working for both of us?"

"no traum," peter assured me, but i felt suspicious. why i couldn't tell. was it this primal anger or my intuition. there was just something about peter's next sentence that had me on edge. "i was only trying to facilitate a deal that would benefit you. larry and his pack, well to be frank they have more experienced management representing them, and don't sadly need my services at the moment."

i calmed myself, and decided i'd alienated enough people in my life these last two weeks. "okay. i'm sorry too peter. i don't know what came over me there," i admitted embarrassed.

peter's usual charm kicked back in. or was it really charm, and not something more subversive. something trying to catch me off guard?... "it's okay big guy. you've just had a lot to think about. it's normal to crack under pressure with someone as close to you as me. i get more often than you'd think."

larry had gotten me on edge... that's all... he'd gotten to me to the point i was seeing enemies and tricks where none existed... or was it just in my head? peter had been providing larry with information up until now. could i really trust him?

"let me know how you decide in either case traum," peter started to conclude the call. "i stand by you which ever way you decide." yet i somehow doubted he meant that. he clearly had a preference in which way i picked.

we hung up.

that hadn't answered my questions completely, but it had filled in some gaps. this pack of the primordial feather was trouble. my next step was going to be critical. i had to think of something fast so that larry didn't do something i'd regret.

interrupting my train of thought my "cell" phone went off... weird i never get calls.

"hello," i answered expecting it to be mike with some information for me.

to my surprise. "hi traumador it's ms. rhonwyn," came my bosses voice. oh no! what was larry about to do? no wait what was he doing?!? worse what had he already done to her?!?!?

"that was amazing!" she said thrilled. "thank your cousin for me again!"

my jaw dropped (which considering how large and muscley a tyrannosaur jaw is, is saying something.

"i sadly have just gotten a very urgent call from work," ms. rhonwyn said quite frankly. "i have to leave the country on critical business. there's just one thing traumador." her voice became more earnest.

"yes," i said in anticipation.

"things like your cousin. extreme, bizarre, and potentially dangerous things like your cousin. you've dealt with them a lot?" she asked hopeful of my reply.

"yeah i guess so," i answered.

"are you certain?" she asked fearing my reply to this double checking.

"weird, big, and scary things," i rephrased her criteria. "yeah their pretty routine where i come from."

"excellent," ms. rhonwyn stated. "traumador consider yourself promoted effective immediately to my personal assistant. you will get a pay raise, and the privileges to go with it soon enough."

my heart nearly skipped. what was happening. out of larry's visit something good was happening?

than the catch. "keep your mobile on you at all times, and await possible instructions at any moment. most important of all though truamador... tell no one of this promotion. i mean no one! you are to keep up your security guard duties as though everything is normal. i pray that things don't come to my having to call upon you, but if i do please understand it will be situation of most dire importance to the museum."

"uh okay," i was baffled. was she playing a trick on me? why was she suddenly running out of the country again?!?

another phone call down.

it occurred to me than that if ms. rhonwyn was jet off (literally perhaps) that larry was being left unattended. something i very much could do without!

rushing back out to find him, larry greeted me back. "i entertained your human for you all nice and polite just as you asked. i even granted closer inspection of my teeth and jaws as she requested." i can only wonder at what ms. rhonwyn would want with a very close up of larry's terrifying maw.

"thank you larry," i genuinely told my cousin. my heart sank. i expected this to be the last truly pleasant exchange we were going to have during this visit of his. "about your offer to join the pack..." i trailed off.

larry's head craned with clear anticipation.

"follow me dear cousin, and i'll give you your answer," i told him as my brain raced through what i was going to have to do next...

to be concluded...


The Ridger, FCD said...

Oh, man, Traum! I hope your promotion is a good thing, but ... "extreme, bizarre, and potentially dangerous things like your cousin"? Keep your wits about you!

The Ridger, FCD said...

I forgot to say I enjoyed the Paleofact.

The Flying Trilobite said...

I too enjoyed the Paleofact. Great artwork. Whose is it? Kudos.

(Oh man, I just became one of those people who say 'kudos'. Ugh.)

I wonder what you think of using prehistoric names for children?

"Oh look, here comes little Troodon Jenkins and his sister Struthie. Those poor kids..."

Traumador said...

Sorry Flying Trilobite for the MAJOR delay on replying.

The artwork is courtesy of Prehistoric Insanity Digital. You can see some their stuff on www.prehistoric-insanity.blogspot.com

I'm all for human kids having Dinosaur names! A number of we Dinosaurs have human names. It would help close the culture gap!