First Flight

A mated pair waited anxiously as the last surviving egg in their clutch started to shake. The rest of their brood had been picked off by a small band of egg eating mammals that seemed to be popping up everywhere. The shrew like Meazostrodons that had raided the nest were the first in a long line of warm-blooded animals that would soon take control of what was undeniably still a cold-blooded reptilian world. Perhaps their ability to remain active in the cool night air while the reptilian guardians and their temperature dependent metabolisms could only watch helplessly was the catalyst that allowed the mammalian take over. But for now a new generation of reptiles would be born.

The parents fidgeted around their hard shelled egg that was hidden in a mossy depression. The oval egg continued to shake. From within the calcium confines could be heard the distinct tapping of the neonate's temporary egg tooth desperately banging against the barrier. It was this hard shell that the tiny dinosaur now struggled to free himself from that had allowed the reptiles the freedom to rule over the land. The jelly like eggs of their amphibian cousins had to be placed in the water or they would dry out and if the land held one egg eater the water held a thousand.

Weaving and bobbing their small heads that perched on long necks the pair kept one eye on the egg and the other on the forest. The Compsognathus were nervous because of their small size, about that of a modern chicken, and the fact that the hatchlings tapping was probably alerting predators of their whereabouts. A Ornithomimus or his cousin Dromiceiominus, both ostrich like reptiles, would have no trouble making a quick meal out of the pair. These were predatory giants as far as the Compsognathus were concerned, although similar to their own form. They walked, or rather ran, on two strong hind legs with long necks for reaching, and a whip like tail to keep balance on sharp banking turns. Being smaller the Compsognathus could elude most captures by dashing into the under brush, but that would mean the hatchling would be lost.

A crashing noise send the new parents into a frenzy. They hopped up and down in indecision. Their small brains were not made for analysis and the flight half of their 'flight or fight' instinct was far stronger. Indecisiveness itself kept the guardians at their post. A lone barrel bodied Scaphonyx came lumbering over the ridge. False alarm. Scaphonyx with his pinched face and toothless, tong like jaws just kept munching on the palms and ferns in his way with his modified toothplates.

A wary eye was kept on the large herbivore until he continued on his way out of sight. The short attention span of the Compsognathus was brought back to the nest by the sharp crack as the baby finally broke through the tough shell. The Compsognathus jumped up and down again, this time in excitement. A new generation! That was all that mattered in the tiny mind of the chicken like reptile: survival of the species. The female, identifiable because her emerald green hide lacked the brilliant blue stripes of the male, reached down and lifted a broken piece of shell off of her young one to gaze upon it for the fist time.

Tragedy! Although it held many similarity to the adults that loomed above it the tiny hatching was an obvious mistake. The body structure was almost identical, however in place of proper scales were elongated plates. These plates made the long neck and breast area look almost mammalianly fuzzy, they stretched out grotesquely long at the arms and formed some kind of flipper. Out of this flipper protruded three clawed fingers, much like the ones his parents possessed. Even his tail was disfigured with the long greenish blue mutated scales.

This was not the generation that they had planed and painstakingly sired! This was a...a, a freak! The male squealed in fury at the innocent. Startled the hatching looked up at what it could only assume was its keeper and chirped hesitantly. The dazzlingly coloured male turned on the female that he had wasted so much of his vital energy on and snapped his toothy jaw at her. This was her fault! Despite being small compared to the giants that roamed the landscape the female Compsognathus was still larger than the male and easily deflected his enraged attack.

Without further thought, if there had been thought in the first place, the male dashed off into the forest of tall ferns and gingko trees. He had no loyalty to a faulty line and would not raise such a monstrosity. The tiny oddity cried out mournfully reminding the female that he existed. Furthermore he was hungry -breaking out of a shell is hard work. The female hesitated to respond to her child's alien wail. Instinct won out over rational thought in the new mother and she snatched a giant Meganeura out of the air as it buzzed by. The four winged insect was to father a line of Dragonflies in the far future, however that task would have to fall on another individual from its species.

The meal was twice the size of the hungry hatchling, but he attacked the half dead insect with vigor. While her baby ate the mother looked around for predators. Something was nagging her reptilian mind, something that told her not to waste her time on a mutation. However she had more hormones than brains by sheer volume and her hormones were telling her to stay and protect. So she kept the freak fed as he grew and taught him how to hide when predators prowled near the nest. The chick grew quickly and although he was hindered on the ground by his distorted scales he evaded the flesh eateries of his primitive world.

Now as big as his mother his plate like scales had fleshed out and looked soft to the touch, they required constant cleaning. Fortunately his tiny teeth were perfect for combing through them and keeping them straight. His mother had done all she could for the new line she had spawned. She would keep this as her territory, hunting here was good enough. If her offspring chose to stay in the area he could. However, something was urging the new dinosaur to move on, something he could not quite understand. All he knew was that it had to do with the trees that loomed above both him and the larger predators in the area.

Taking a step that none of his kind, if Compsognathus could be considered 'his kind', had ever taken he used his three clawed fingers to climb up into the branches of the nearest tree. Perched up in the unstable tree he held out his arms for balance. A strong wind whipped through the upper branches and caught in his flippers made of soft plates. His mother watched in dazzled confusion as her son, Archaeopteryx, took to the air. The first true dinosaur to find a home in the air, and certainly the most successful. Soon he would bring to the world a new line. A dominant and diverse line of fully feathered Birds.