Category Archives: Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 34 – the FINAL chapter! (or is it?)

“You just flew back?  That was it?”

Jason heard Tiffany  grumble the question in their odd dimension-within-a-mirror.  The room looked like the bathroom in his house, but they all knew what it really was; magically created pocket dimension. A dimension that only came to consciousness when the four figures on the other side of the mirror, the side in real time and space, looked at their own reflections.

Petros, Tonare, Procella, and Calor all sat in the actual Hewes upstairs bathroom and positioned themselves in front of the mirror.  As had happened since the spell was cast in the forest those many weeks ago, their reflections came to life and then could converse with the young humans with which they shared a body.  The four teenagers, trapped in a mirror reality, and the four dragons, trapped in human bodies, were finally able to speak face-to-face.

“Well, yeah,” Jason shrugged, “You know, we said stuff here and there.  It was loud from all of the wind and all, and I was tried so it was hard to talk.  Mainly, we just flew.”

Tiffany narrowed here eyes, “You just spent hours with a storm dragon and this Order of the Scale person, and you didn’t say anything, didn’t talk to them or find out more about who they are or where they come from?!?”  Jason looked to Marcus for support, who gave him a ‘you’re on your own’ look.  Jason just shook his head in the negative.  Tiffany rolled her eyes and folded her arms, “You are SUCH a guy!”

It was the morning after the fateful trip into Billings.  Calor and Procella had arrived early the previous day at the farm via the magic portal, and Jason had returned towards dusk.  Nymbus and his rider veered off and bid him a farewell as they approached the county limits, and Jason continued on to the glade of trees where he landed, reverted back to his human form, and then let Petros walk back to the house.  It wasn’t until nearly midnight that Tonare made his entrance into the homestead.  He had gotten lost trying to get out of the city and took until nightfall to make his way back to the Rims, turn back to his dragon form, and let Marcus fly back to Malta.

They paused in their conversation as they heard the porch door fly open and foot falls run toward the staircase.  George flew up the stairs and took in the sight of the four of them crowded in the bathroom, talking to their reflections.  He blurted, “So what happened?!?  Did you find Norm?  Did he fix everything?”

From the other side of the mirrored glass, Jason answered, “George, we’re still talking to ourselves in the mirror.  How do you think it went?”

“Oh,” he paused, “Right…umm…sorry, what happened?”

Procella took the time to recount the events, and George was slack jawed by the end of the story.  He stammered, “It…it was all over the news.  They said it was some kind of gang forming and trying to disrupt the crisis going on downtown, but that everyone was apprehended.  Y…you guys are the gang?”

Tiffany shrugged, “Yep, that’s us.  We’re pretty scary looking, aren’t we?  The beauty queen here looks like she can take out two or three policemen with one high heel, doesn’t she?”

Kinaari folded her arms in anger, “HEY!  That was unnecessary!”

They started to bicker as a chime sounded on George’s phone.  He casually looked at it, and his face immediately sunk.  Petros saw his change in demeanor and asked, “Squire George, what is it?”

George swallowed hard, “Umm, it’s one of my RSS news feeds,” He started to read, “To complicate the matters of the odd and somewhat violent string of events that took place in downtown Billings yesterday, eyewitnesses report seeing what is described as a large, winged creature leaping from the top of the First Interstate Center and fly beyond the city limits, eventually disappearing into the Rimrocks. Officials are not substantiating any of the claims, but one witness said it looked like a prehistoric pterodactyl, while yet another even more outrageously claimed it was a dragon.  No one knows the truth or how this staggering report even relates to the incident that occurred downtown, but investigations will continue and look for anything that may link these two stories together.”

They paused in silence after George finished reading.  Jason finally said, “Oops.”

Everyone turned to scowl at him as George scolded, “ ‘Oops’?!?  That’s the best you have?”

“What do you want me to say, George?  I know why Petros went all dragon in the middle of the city.  It was best choice; get captured, turn into street pizza, or risk being seen.  We went with risk being seen.”

Petros whispered to Tonare, “What is this ‘street pizza’?  It is the second time I have heard it mentioned.”

Tonare shrugged and whispered back, “It must be some sort of dark magic since one transforms into it under adverse circumstances.”

Marcus stepped in, “No sense gettin’ all worked up about it, Georgie.  It’s done, you can’t fix it.  Just deal with it and move on.”

Kinaari added, “You worry way too much, George.  It’s not good for your aura.”

Tiffany rolled her eyes at the last statement and said matter-of-factly, “There’s no way they are going to trace us up here.  Jason disappeared into the Rims and that was it.  We’ll be fine.”

All but George nodded in agreement and sat in their thought for several moments.  Jason broke the silence again, “So, what are we going to do now?”

“Breakfast?” Marcus asked sheepishly.

“No,” Jason chided, “I don’t mean right this second.  I mean, what are we going to do?  We’re stuck this way, we don’t have a Norm or any other mage, you all have to get back home, and we’re being pursued by an ancient order of dragon haters who want nothing but our impending doom.”

“Thanks for that last picker-upper there,” Tiffany grumbled.

“AND school starts in a couple of weeks,” Kinaari added.

Calor picked up her head, “School?  Education?  No one told us about that.  I cannot be confined to a building with hoards of children for hours on end.”

Tiffany glared back at her own face, “You ARE one of those children now, Calor.”

Calor’s shoulders slumped in frustration as Procella spoke, “We do the only thing we can do; adapt.  We have no other choice, do we?”

“Nope,” Jason answered, shaking his head, “We need to face it; this is the new normal.  No mage to turn us back…nothing.  We have to get used to living each other’s lives; work, school, family, everything.”

They were silent for several moments before Petros stated, “Come, three of you have long journeys ahead.  George will still keep us connected, but the elder Hewes will be returning home soon and, as difficult as it may be, we have to maintain the ruse that all is well.  We have a great deal to learn.”

 

 

Dusk was creeping over the wide skies of Montana as the four Draconauts and George stood at the tree line in their now-familiar small glade to the north of the Hewes property.  The high clouds were taking on fiery shades as the sun began to complete its westward descent.  A cool breeze kept the temperatures in the mid sixties, and the five simply stood in silence as their hair flowed and faces cooled with the wind.  The air carried a palpable bite of the soon-arriving autumn, a reflection of the changes that had happened in recent months.

Tonare was the first to step away.  He faced them and stated, “It is time.  My journey is longest and I may have stretched the patience of Marcus’ parents.  They are remarkable for humans, you know.  They have many children, and all are polite, respectful, and behaved.”

Petros smiled and laid his hand on his cousin’s tall shoulder, “Fly well.  Be safe.  We will be in contact.”

Tonare gave a reassuring nod and grasped the scale around his neck.  The familiar burst of light followed and Marcus in his thunder dragon form stood before them.  “Not sure I’ll ever get used to that.  You all gonna be good?  This could get weird, especially with those Wyrmkil lookin’ for us.  Make sure you let me know if anyone needs help, ‘kay?  I can get away from the family pretty easily.”

Petros smiled, “You are valiant, good Marcus; brave of the heart and level of the head.  Please use that to teach young Tonare responsibility.  He needs lessons of life to ground him.”

“And you keep an eye on Jason, got it?”  With that, Marcus deftly took to the air and they watched as he soared into the clouds.

Calor stepped out next, “I believe I should be the next to take my leave.”

“Have you discussed with Tiffany where you will go?” Procella asked.

She nodded, “Yes, be she still swears me to secrecy.”

Petros frowned, “I do not like this, Calor.  You only exacerbate her dysfunction.”

Calor held up her hands, “Petros, you need to trust me.  The fire that burns within her is formidable, but that which fuels the fire is unstable.  I must help her balance her past with her present.”

George shook his head, “I don’t like it.”

“As is true to your nature,” Procella countered, “But I have grown to see the wisdom and experience our heat dragon cousin possesses.  I think we should let her handle the situation as she sees fit.”

Petros gave a resigned look as Calor stepped back and transformed to her dragon form.  Tiffany asked, “Did she explain everything to you?”

“Yes and no.  I have concern for your well being, young one.”

She smiled, “I’m a dragon now, and it probably for the first time in a long time, I’m happy with who I am. Calor will keep me on the straight and narrow, so don’t worry.”  Before anyone could respond, she took to the air and flew off toward the setting sun.

Procella smirked, “Caring for the girl is tempering her nature.  Calor is thinking and acting with thought and purpose; very usual for any fire dragon.”

Petros sighed deeply, “I do not know if that is by chance or design but, yes, I cannot ignore the change I see in her.”

“My time, unfortunately, has come as well.  Kinaari’s family will grow suspicious soon.  They are very protective of her.”

Petros said, “You have been a voice of reason in all of this chaos, Procella.  The deep wisdom of the water dragons lives strongly in you.”

Procella approached Petros and George and gave them each a soft kiss on the cheek.  Petros looked confused, buy George’s eyes went wide and he held his hand over his cheek.  Procella asked, “A human sign of affection is it not?”

George nodded enthusiastically as his face flushed.  Procella transformed to her water dragon body and Kinaari looked oddly at the speechless George, “George, what’s wrong?  You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Petros chuckled, “Far from it, Kinaari.  It would seem George is not accustomed to certain kinds of human interactions.”

“Well, I’m not sure what that means, but I guess you two have it all under control.  I’ve gotta get going; my parents around going to have kittens if I’m not home on time.”

Petros nodded, “Fly well, Kinaari.  Take advantage of the wisdom of your counterpart.”

“I will!” She smiled as she took a running start and leapt into the air.  With a few beats of her wings, she was soaring over the Montana countryside on her way home.

George’s voice cracked as he tried to shout, “Bye, Kinaari!” but he blushed even more deeply at the sound.  “Dang it!  I can’t even talk to a girl when she is in the body of a dragon!”

Petros laughed out loud and he put one arm around George’s shoulder and began to lead him back to the house, “Come, Squire George.  Put aside your embarrassment and teach me about this thing called ‘High School’!  I believe this may indeed be the greatest challenge of my life.”

 

………………………

 

A gurney flanked by four EMT’s was wheeled out of the immense and opulent office at the top of the AlansCo tower.  The shape lying on the wheeled table was encased in a large, black bag zippered closed from one end to the other.  The jackets of the EMT’s bore the logo of AlansCo.

An impeccably dressed woman gracefully shut the office door, as the seven foot tall hooded figure stepped away from the windows at the far end of the room.  The woman wore a form fitting, navy blue business suit, and her raven black hair was done up in a tight and perfect bun.  She took the glasses from top of her head and neatly rested them on the bridge of her nose as she looked down at the tablet computer she cradled on her forearm.

She confidently spoke to the hooded figure, “How should we handle the follow up with Mr. Reigles family?”

The figure walked over to the sea eagle and gently stroked the feathers on the bird’s head.  It lowered its beak and welcomed the affection of its master.  “How would I even need to concern myself with a detail like that, Ms. Moore?”

Veronica Moore nodded, “Very well; the autopsy will reveal a congenital heart defect that was undiagnosed in a man as young and healthy as Mr. Reigles.  Steve Alans will send a personalized letter and make a donation to the family double the amount of his company life insurance policy.”

“Fifty percent.  Do not be so generous.”

She didn’t blink at the correction, “Very well, fifty percent.” She tapped the screen of the tablet as she made the adjustments.

“Are you up to the task of replacing that failure, Ms. Moore?  I will not announce you to the public until I am sure you will not act with the reticence our Mr. Reigles did.”

She looked at him without emotion, “My lord, Mr. Reigles wore his heart on his sleeve.  This is business; you tell me what to do and I do it.  No questions asked.  You have obviously been…governing…far longer than anyone I am aware and therefore that depth of knowledge and experience leaves little unanswered.”

She could see the hood nodding, “A most wise answer.  Tell me where we stand on the location of the artifact.”

“Very well, progress has been made in this area.  We have located the artifact, but extracting it from its resting place is proving most difficult, both from a practical and political point of view.”

“Why do we not just wrest it from where it lays?”

She looked over her glasses at him, “It this another test, my lord?  You know as well as I do the political implications of such as act.  Governments will be set at odds and our entire operation could be compromised.”

A brief chuckle came from beneath the hood, “Very good, Ms. Moore.  How long before the artifact is secure?”

She tapped the tablet a few more times, “I would estimate another month to go through the proper channels, file the appropriate paperwork, and distribute the bribes.  I have already coordinated with our, shall I say, specialists, and they will begin their work as soon as the item is in hand.”

“And what of the wyrm and these children that possess their abilities?”

She gave a non-chalant shrug of her shoulders, “Sadly Mr. Reigles did not research this thoroughly.  I cannot continue work that was not started in the first place.  The answer seems to lie with the mage who, at the present time, remains missing.  Mr. Reigles acted too quickly to secure the wizard and summarily frightened him into hiding.  Our agents are working on the problem now.”

The figure inhaled sharply and rose to his full height, “You know that is an answer that does not please me.”

No emotion showed on her face, “I am sorry you are displeased, my lord, but the truth is the truth.  Would you prefer that I lie to you, only to have you discover the truth at a later time and incur your wrath all the more?”

There was long pause, “Carry on, Ms. Moore.  I will summon you at a later time.”  She nodded in acknowledgement and left the room without a word.  The imposing figure put a finger under the beak of the sea eagle and lifted its head to meet his eyes, “Yes, she will do just fine.”

 

…………………………

 

Nymbus and his rider sat in their subterranean cavern under one of the Bears Paw Mountains.  The rider’s helmet was sitting on a rock as she tied her blond hair on top of her head again, “That helmet makes this impossible.  How am I supposed to be a vanguard for all dragon-kind and manage my split ends at the same time?”

Nymbus shook his massive head, “I fail to understand thy humor.”

She shrugged, “We’ve been at this for a few years now.  You should know me by now.”

“I bore thy predecessor for decades; him I knew well.”

Her mood instantly soured, “Yeah, well, that didn’t work out too well for either of us, did it?”

Nymbus gave a conciliatory bow, “My apologies.”

“It’s nothing,” she said, waving him off.

The water of the connecting lake began to stir and bubble, and Nymbus came to attention as his rider put her helmet back on as she said, “Showtime,”

Two large horns were the first to break the surface, and were quickly followed by the tan scaled, draconic head they were attached to.  The body of a grown heat dragon emerged from the depths and stood on the shore of the grotto.  Nymbus and the rider approached the dragon, as the rider said, “I didn’t think you were going to follow through with this.”

Tiffany answered, “Why not?  I’ve got nowhere else to go.”

“You have a family, right?”

She shrugged her dragon shoulders, “Not really.  Not a real family.”

Nymbus looked over his snout at her, “And thou art prepared to commit to this endeavor?”

She nodded, “One hundred percent.  Teach me how to be part of the Order.”

 

…………………………..

 

Petros laid in Jason’s bed, deep in sleep.  His eyes darted back and forth beneath his eyelids as dreams filled his subconscious.

Images of dragons soaring through the air filled his mind’s eye as breath weapons both powerful and terrible blasted through the skies.  He was witnessing an epic battle as other winged creatures, none of which he could identify, lanced to and fro amidst the battling dragons.  Feathers mixed with flying scales and blood whirled about in the chaos, as Petros strained to make out any meaningful detail.

Soon, nothing but the death cries of dragons could be heard as his kin began to fall from the skies, some torn limb from limb.  But the cries began to fade as a new sound arose.  A deep, sinister laugh began to drown out the cries of dying dragons, and eventually everything.  The laugh echoed through Petros’ head as, in his dream, he began to scream, “Enough!  Enough! ENOUGH!”  From the darkness, a hooded face rushed up and swallowed him whole.

He awoke with a start as sweat dripped down his face and back.  He was breathing deeply and rapidly, and his heart pounded with fear.  He swallowed hard and uttered one word;

 

“Karura”

 

 

The End

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 33

Captain Kevin Weyman of the Billings Police Department stood impatiently inside the barricade of the restricted area of the city.  Officers swarmed around him as they compared city maps and communicated vital information about the unprecedented situation that engulfed such a large portion of their city.  Weyman paced back and forth, his face red and temper fuming as he waited.  Finally, an officer approached him carrying a laptop and set it down on the hood of one of the city cruisers.

“I finally have him.  He insisted on video chat,” the flustered officer said.

Weyman swore under his breath then stepped in front of the laptop.  Tate Reigles image filled the screen as Weyman shouted, “What have you gotten us into here, Reigles?  We said we’d help you with your operation; you said it would be no more than an hour disruption!  Now I’ve got the facades of entire buildings exploding, teenagers throwing our people around like they’re softballs, and kids just disappearing into thin air!”

Reigles face showed no emotion, “Yes, well these events were completely unforeseen.  But, not to worry, everything is under control.”

Weyman could no longer contain himself, “UNDER CONTROL?!?  This is like something right out of a comic book, Reigles!  These kids look like they have…I don’t know…super powers for Pete’s sake!  One of ‘em just said one word…ONE WORD…and threw a dozen of our men AND THEIR VEHICLES around like they were nothing!  And now I have over two dozen men chasing some skinny punk up the stairwell of the First Interstate Center!  What is going on here?!?”

Tate Reigles face finally showed concern, “Yes, well, no one had predicted any of this.”

Weyman was about to chew him out some more when another officer approached, “Sir, I…”

Weymen whirled to the officer, “WHAT IS IT?!?”

The officer swallowed hard, “The youth…he just jumped off the roof…”

……………………..

For a brief moment, Petros was flying again, and he relished the feeling.  There was nothing between him and the earth below, the wind was blowing in his face, the sound of wind was rushing in his ears.  He remembered, even for a fraction of a second, what it was like to be a dragon; it had been a very long time since he had felt that way.

He closed his eyes and his hand went to the scale around his neck, and he gripped it tightly as he focused his will into the object.   Brilliant, white light engulfed his body and grew in size until it faded again and the form of a mighty stone dragon was in its place.  Jason’s eyes were closed as he began to talk, “Okay, what have you gotten un into noOOOOOAHHAAA!”  He opened his eyes and saw he was in mid air and the ground was quickly rushing toward him.  “OHMANOHMANOHMANOHMAN!” he bellowed as his wings opened on instinct and he began flapping madly.  His body continued to plummet to the pavement below as he flapped for all he was worth.  Panic turned to fear as he wondered if even a dragon would die of a fall from this height.  But in his alarm, some instinct he never knew he had began to manifest.  His wings began to work together, coordinated, in rhythm.   To his surprise, they extended simultaneously and caught the air.  His body righted and his fall slowed and finally stopped as Jason began to ride the winds and actually soar away from the tower.  A wide smile came over his face when he realized what was happening.  He beat his wings once, then a second time.  His speed increased, he controlled the direction of his flight.  Tears began to flow from his dragon eyes as he shouted, “I…I’M FLYING.  LOOKIT ME…I’M FLYING!”

Jason quickly realized he was over the downtown area of Billings, and although his didn’t know why, he knew he was exposed and had to get out of town.  He banked hard and began to head for the Rims and hopefully get on the correct vector back to Malta.  He said to himself, “Jeez, Petros, not exactly the best time to give me a do or die lesson in flying.”  He shook his head, “Man, even as a dragon I STILL talk to myself.  At least I’m not walking in circles.  Hey, I’m not walking at all; I’m flying!”

An odd sound behind him brought his head around as he saw over a dozen small, black shapes rising from the city and taking flight behind him.  Some were the black motorcycles of the Wyrmkil riders, their wheels split in two along their circumference and splayed out as they sped through the skies.  The three wheeled vehicles had taken to the air as well; the front wheels having rotated to face downward and the third, rear wheel now facing backwards.  Finally, the treaded ATV’s soared through the skies with their front wheels and rear treads tucked underneath the machines’ frames.  Helmeted, black clad riders piloted each of the flying devices and were in hot pursuit of the dragon.

“What the…” Jason said aloud as he began to beat his wings harder, accelerating and putting more space between him and the mysterious vehicles.  But the motorcycles proved to be the quickest of the three as they darted through the air and rapidly came alongside Jason as he tried to flee.  The riders pointed much larger versions of their tasers at Jason and pulled the trigger, launching a small black cartridge that somehow stuck to his armored hide.  A massive current was released into his body by the cartridges, but to Jason, they felt like a minor skin irritation.  As he tried to shake the devices off of his body, each rider pointed an automatic weapon at him and unleashed a hail of armor-piercing rounds.  The bullets bounced off of his scales, but he grimaced in pain as they impacted the membranes of his wings and passed straight through the more fragile flesh.

“Ooooh, no you don’t,” he growled as he banked to one side and, on the beat of his wing, battered three of the riders with the huge appendage.  Two were thrown off of the vehicles and fell to the earth below and one spun out of control and fell far behind.  With two powerful flaps, he pulled ahead of the two riders on his other side and batted them out of the sky with a brutal swipe of his tail.

Jason smirked and muttered to himself, “It’s kinda cool being a dragon.”  But the smile left his face when he felt a blistering pain above his left flank.  He banked hard to the right as he saw a burst of green energy lance by under his wing.  He turned his head to see the three wheeled vehicles spitting the emerald bursts of power from their headlight area.  His eyes went wide at the unusual attacks and began to zig zag his flight pattern in attempts to dodge this new threat.  Jason was able to avoid many of the green bursts, but several still impacted his armored hide, each sending a pain-filled wave through his entire form.

Jason tried to think of what to do, and quickly formulated a strategy.  All at once, he turned his wings sideways and brought his body to a vertical position.  His wings caught the air and slowed him instantly, catching his pursuers off guard and causing them to rocket by him.  As they passed, Jason deftly grabbed one of them in each of his front claws and violently cast them to either side.  He was surprised that he was actually able to accomplish such a feat, but theorized his dragon reflexes must be much better than those of his human body.  He poured on the speed again and caught up to the rest of the riders.  He balled up one claw into a fist and shattered one vehicle with a brutal punch.  Another went careening out of control with a tail swipe, while the last he actually caught in his jaws and bit cleanly in half.  He watched the rider and the front half of the three-wheeler plummet to the ground as he spat the second half after it.

He was reveling in his handiwork when a brutal force slammed into the side of his head and sent him spinning out of control.  He tumbled head over tail and he fell to towards ground, fighting hard to regain control of his dragon body.  He saw the last of the Rimrocks pass below as he tumbled out of control and finally slammed into the Montana countryside.  As he flipped head over tail, some dragon instinct took over and he push forward with his forelegs and down with his wings and immediately righted himself, digging his talons into the earth as he brought himself skidding to a stop.

He marveled at his agility as he said, “Cool!” and then quickly turned his attention to the rest of the riders chasing him.  Several of the four-wheeled vehicles barreled down at him as one released a burst of red energy, which struck him cleanly in the chest and knocked him off balance with its pure force.  “What the…” Jason muttered as two more of the crimson energy spheres lanced his way.  Now knowing the power they carried, he quickly sidestepped them, and watched as the vehicles pulled back up and began to come around for another run.

Anger began to well up in Jason’s chest; he was getting tired of this fight.  The vehicles completed their final arc before they began another attack, and Jason sneered, “Not this time!”  Some unknown part of his mind told him to dig his claws into the earth, and with his very essence, reach down to the core of the planet for strength.  Bright veins of light flowed up his legs, across his chest, and into his wings where they made the membranes appear to glow.  A look of conviction washed over his face as the felt the power permeate his body.  He turned his attention back to the black riders as they unleashed their powered weapons at him again.  One of the energy bursts hit the ground next to him, leaving a small crater, but a second took a trajectory toward Jason’s chest.  He swept one of his wings at the red force and batted it into the fields around him.  Another was about to hit his head, but he swatted it with his other wing and sent it back toward one of the flying vehicles.  The energy slammed into the machine, shattering it and sending the rider flailing through the Montana sky.

Jason felt invincible.  The power of the earth cascaded through his body and it seemed as if nothing could harm him.  Two more Wyrmkil vehicles streaked toward him, and with a mighty roar, Jason unleashed a torrent of glowing, orange cubes.  His breath weapon fully engulfed the two targets and their momentum carried them past Jason and plunged into the ground,  having been transformed into solid stone.  As he sought out his last targets, his vision began to blur and a buzzing washed into the back of his skull.  His concentration rapidly broke, and the light flowed back from his body and into the soil in which his claws were tightly clenched.  The strength left his body and he felt his legs quiver from the sudden weakness that replaced it    He began to panic at the feeling, and then remembered what had happed to Petros those many weeks ago when he did the same thing; a depleted, weakened dragon that could barely fly.  Three more flying riders remained, and the combined, red bursts from their vehicles sent Jason sprawling.  He was down, and he didn’t know if he had the strength to get up.

Jason craned his neck around and saw the riders landing.  Their wheels and treads slid back out from under the bodies of the ATV’s and took the correct positions at the sides as they touched down in the field.  He could see the three black riders dismount and draw large guns from the backs of their mechanical mounts; each gun fitted with a very wicked looking blade under the barrel.  He feared this was the end; he didn’t know how much more his dragon body could take.  He tried to muster the strength for a burst of his breath weapon, but only ended coughing up random sparks of dull orange.  They took a position on his left flank and aimed their weapons at his head.  He lowered his neck to the ground, closed his eyes and waited for the end.  Jason saw a large shadow pass over him; a portent of his impending doom.

To his surprise, he heard a small thud, as if something landed nearby.  He opened one eye and saw a fourth figure standing behind the three Wyrmkil riders.  It was shorter then them, clad in blue and gray padded armor with lightning bolt accents across the chest.  The figure wore a motorcycle helmet, adorned with a yellow dragon’s head and the visor completely obscured its face.  In the figure’s right hand was a double bladed weapon taller that the armored figure itself, and it spun the blades deftly over its head and cut one of the riders down with a single swipe.  The remaining two black figures turned to face this new arrival, but it crouched and spun on one foot, kicking out with the other and sweeping the legs of a second rider out from under it.  The black figure fell clumsily to the grass, as Nymbus’ agile rider cartwheeled back to its feet and swept its weapon up, cutting off the barrel of the third rider’s weapon.  The member of the Order of the Scale twirled its dual bladed spear above its head again, and with a swift cut, removed the third rider’s head from its shoulders.  Gray ash cascaded from the wounds of the fallen Wyrmkil as both of the fallen riders’ leather uniforms collapsed into emptiness.

The Order warrior wasted no time in turning its attention to the second rider as it began to lumber back to its feet.  An upsweeping cut took the black rider’s legs out from under it, and a final downward stab pinned the figure to the ground; gray ash poured out and blew away on the breeze.  The warrior paused for a moment to survey its surroundings and, confirming it was safe, turned to Jason, “That was a foolish thing to do; tap the power of the earth when you have multiple targets.”

Jason was trying not to be dumbfounded at the arrival of the warrior, but spoke as casually as he could, “I…felt I had no other option.”

The figure yanked it’s dual spear out of the ground, “You don’t need to pretend with me.  I know you’re a kid inside there.  I’ve spoken to Petros before.”

Jason couldn’t hide his surprise, “I…how…?”

“It’s my job to know these things.  Get up slowly; that power channeling thing you do is potent as all get out, but it comes with a cost.  You can’t summon up that much raw energy without weakening yourself afterward.  Even a dragon’s body can’t handle that kind of power for long.”

Jason nodded, “I wish he would have told me that.”

“He who?”

“Petros; I watched him use it when he fought…” His voice trailed off.

“When he fought Nymbus and me.  You can say it; I was there.”

Jason smiled, “How did you know to be here, in Billings, today?  I mean, no one contacted you.”

“Like I said before, it’s my job to know these things.”

“That’s really getting annoying.” Jason grumbled.

“I know,” The figure answered, “But you’re tough; you can take it.”

Jason inhaled deeply and pushed himself to his feet, “You…say that…as if you know me.”

“Sounds that way, doesn’t it?” it replied.

He shook his head, “Look, I get the whole motorcycle helmet mysterious figure thing.  But it isn’t exactly fair that you know all about me and I know nothing about you.”

The warrior was lifting one of the weapons of the fallen Wyrmkil to examine it.  “Well, get used to disappointment.”

Jason furrowed his eye ridges, “Yeah yeah yeah, I saw the Princess Bride too.  You can kick butt, AND you watch cool movies.  Way to make a guy feel inadequate.”

The figure whirled to face him, “Says the teenager in the body of a mythological creature.”

Jason inhaled preparing to give a sharp retort, but instead acknowledged, “Touché.”

He watched the armored figure walk over to the three ATV’s parked on the field.  It examined them closely before gesturing to Jason, “Come check this out.”

Jason wearily stepped over to the vehicles and asked, “What am I looking at?”

“They are linked to their riders, probably more of this technomancy we have been suspecting.  The drones turn to ash, and now look at their rides…”  She pointed to the engine of one ATV.  Jason could see that spots of rust had formed, and were now growing at a visible rate.  Similar corrosions were appearing all over the machine and spreading rapidly.  “They will be nothing but piles of rust in minutes.”

“What do you mean by ‘drones’?” Jason asked.

Without looking away from the decaying vehicles, the warrior responded, “The riders; they aren’t human.  Some sort of automaton.  They walk like humans, move like humans, and have some human weaknesses, but there is nothing alive about them.  That’s why I had no problem slicing them into puppy chow back there.”

“How do you KNOW all of this?” He asked, throwing up his forelegs in frustration, “And don’t tell me ‘It’s your job’!”

The figure shrugged its armored shoulders, “Then I don’t have an answer for you.  As part of the Order of the Scale, I have to know as much as it takes to protect dragon-kind.  The Order made a pact centuries ago with the dragons, and the more I know, the better I can do my part to fulfill the oath.”

A shadow crossed over both of them again as Nymbus swooped down out of the clouds and landed deftly next to his rider.  He looked Jason up and down, “I have not seen thee since our battle all those many a week ago.  It hast been at least a fortnight, has it not?”

Jason shrugged, “Yeah, about that, except…”

Nymbus cut him off, “Except there was a different consciousness in thy mind, was there not?”  Jason nodded and the storm dragon continued, “Thou hast summoned the power of the earth to thine aid again.  Art thou able to fly back to the farm after such an exertion?”

Jason paused, “I would feel embarrassed not to try.”

Nymbus nodded, “A noble response.  We will accompany you and bear thee up should thou falter.”

Nymbus and Jason walked away from the ATVs as the Order warrior watched their final collapse.  Jason took advantage of being alone with Nymbus, “Can I ask you a question?”

The mighty storm dragon nodded, “Aye.”

He gestured back with his head, “Who is he?”

Nymbus looked askance at Jason, “He who?”

“The guy in the armor, your rider, he seems all official and all that, and he can definitely swing that Darth Maul style blade of his.  But he talks like he’s close to my age.  It’s really weird.”

Nymbus paused, “Thou assumes a great many things, draconaut.”

“What, you mean he’s older than he sounds?”

The dragon smirked with another dramatic pause, “Mayhaps.”

“Jeepers, you Oder of the Scale folks must have to take lessons in being all dark and mysterious.  I can’t figure you two out.”

“Alas, it is the way I prefer things, young one.”

“Well, its frustrating,” Jason stated as the rider rejoined them.

“Aww, look at you two bonding and all that.  Gives me warm feelings in my heart,” the rider teased.

Jason looked at Nymbus, “See what I mean.”

Nymbus glowered at his rider, “Yes, well the term ‘frustrating’ oft applies to this one, I must say.”

Jason wished he could see the rider’s reaction, but all it did was climb into the saddle on Nymbus’ back.  “Let’s get to the sky.  There’s nothing left to see here and it will be dark by the time we get near Malta.  Don’t want anyone getting lost on their way back.”  With that, the two dragons took to the skies; Nymbus without any effort, and Jason showing signs of fatigue from the battle with the Wyrmkil.

1 Comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 32 (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Tonare sprinted for all he was worth toward the edge of the barricade.  Ahead, he saw two police officers, their backs to him, standing shoulder to shoulder and listening to the broadcast coming over the radio.  Tonare’s mind went to the worst; the officers were receiving a warning about the confrontations with Petros and himself and, as soon as they turned around, they would see him and stop him dead in his tracks.  He knew he needed to move faster, but was running as fast as his human legs would carry him.  He entertained the thought of converting to his dragon form, but realized that would probably be the worst thing he could do.  Then, a second thought entered his head.

Air dragons are the most agile of the dragons, and also the fastest.  I wonder…

He pressed his scale against his chest and felt a surge of strength in his legs.  He found himself able to run harder and faster, and the world around him actually seemed to slow as his speed increased.  Soon, he was running double and then triple the speed of a typical human, and the distance between him and the police officers was rapidly shrinking.  He was almost upon them as they finally turned, but Tonare was moving too fast for them to react.  He ran directly between them and caught each with one of his shoulders.  The high speed impact did not hurt them, but sent them spinning out of control and slamming into their respective cars, parked to either side.  Without looking back, Tonare ran for several more blocks past the barricades before he realized he was safe and finally slowed down.

 

…………………..

 

Procella had Calor by the arm as she pulled her to her feet and ran across the infield into one of the dugouts at the edge of the baseline.  Inside the bullpen was a door leading to the team locker room and, after making short work of the lock, the two draconauts were inside looking for an escape route.  The walls of the room were lined with wooden partitions labeled with the names and jersey numbers of the members of the Billings Mustangs, and their uniforms and various other pieces of baseball equipment were neatly stored on the shelves and wall pegs in each of the dressing areas.  The only detail that concerned the two girls was the glowing letters of the sign at the opposite end of the large room spelling “Exit”.

They quickly covered the distance to the door, but before they could push through the door, muffled voices were heard on the other side, “Four of you stay here.  It’s an emergency exit, but they could try to get out this way.”  They turned back toward the door to the dugout, but could hear commotion on the other side.

“We are trapped.”  Procella said.

Calor pointed to a small office to the side of the locker room, “There,” she signaled as they ran to the door.  To their good fortune, it was unlocked and they quickly ducked inside, shut the blinds to the windows looking out on the large team room, locked the door, and sat a quietly as they could.

The locker room quickly filled with officers and riders as they searched for Procella and Calor.  They startled as they heard the doorknob to the little office rattle and heard a voice say, “This is locked, but they could be in there.  Go find a key.”

Calor and Procella exchanged nervous glances.  Calor crawled over to the door, placed her hand on her scale, and through puckered lips, exhaled a thin stream of super heated air.  The lock inside the doorknob began to glow and the entire mechanism fused into one solid piece of metal.  She returned to Procella’s side, “That should buy us some time when they locate the key.”

Procella whispered back, “Yes, but now we are trapped in here.”

Calor leaned her head against the wall, “One crisis at a time, cousin, one crisis at a time.”

 

…………………..

 

The First Interstate Center, the tallest building in Montana, also had a smaller, two story annex attached to the larger tower of the bank.  The façade of this smaller, office structure was predominately glass and much of the interior could be seen from the street.  As Petros quickly ran around this portion of the building, he knew none of those rooms would be a viable hiding place for any length of time.  He needed to find a door, force his way inside, and then locate a suitable place where he could not be found for an extended period of time.

Petros finally came across a double door which was, inevitably, locked and trained his breath weapon on the glass.  He turned the entire pane to rock, and with a kick enhanced by his dragon strength, destroyed the sheet of stone and granted himself access to the tower.  He found himself in a large lobby adorned with a massive reception desk that bore the name and logo of the bank in shining, gold letters.  The lobby was deserted, as was every other building in the restricted zone, and Petros vaulted himself over the large desk and headed deeper into the hallways of the opulent banking center.

The interior halls were surprisingly dark to Petros, despite the sunny weather outside and the preponderance of windows on the outer walls of the building.  With all of the lights turned out, the sunlight spilling through the interior windows of the various offices was not sufficient to supply enough illumination to comfortably maneuver through the halls.  Petros was missing the superior vision of his dragon eyes.  But it was only a few minutes before he made out a sign pointing to the elevators leading to the upper floors of the tower.  His goal was to find an abandoned closet or forgotten supply room and simply hide there until they believed he had eluded them and was on the run again.

He thought the plan was a good one until he turned the corner to the elevators and beams of light hit his eyes.  He froze in his tracks and held his hands out in front of him, trying to shield his face from the source of the light.  A voice stated;

“Okay, stop where you are kid.  We saw you coming in here, so we have your way back out blocked.  Just put your hands up and lie down on the floor.  I’ve got eight officers and ten of these AlansCo folks here, so you’re not going anywhere.  Give yourself a break and do what I say.”

For a brief moment, Petros actually considered complying.  The local constabulary would have no idea of what he really was, and wouldn’t let the black riders take him.  Being locked in a holding cell might be the safest place for him.  But he knew he couldn’t do that to Jason or his father; Jason was far too young to have a reputation with the law.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a door labeled ‘Stairs’ next to him.  At first, he feigned a motion to get down on the floor as the officer had suggested, but quickly bolted through the door and turned his breath weapon on the lock as soon as he had pushed it closed, turning the locking mechanisms into one solid piece of rock.  The stairwell climbed up and up the multiple floors that made up the First Interstate Center, but led down several stories into the sub-basements of the building foundation.  Looking down, he saw beams from flashlights waving unsteadily below; somehow, his pursuers had found a lower entrance and were climbing the stairs up to him.  Hearing the police pounding on the other side of the door he’d just come through, he knew it wouldn’t be long before they shattered the stone of the petrified lock.

“Very well, up it is,” he muttered to himself and he began a sprint up the stairs and into the tower.

……………………..

 

Calor looked to Procella, “I do not know how we are going to escape.”

They could hear the police rattling the lock on the other side of the door.  Procella said, “It is hard to believe our adventure will end here.”

“You sound as if you are surrendering.”

“I do not see any other option.  We are trapped in a room to which the authorities will gain access sooner or later. In these close quarters, our breath weapons will be lethal to the humans, and I do not think that is a line we should cross.”

Calor nodded, “Agreed, but with great reluctance.  I do not wish to be captured.”

“You have no argument from me on that point.”  They could hear the one officer scolding the other at being unable to unlock the door and demanding he give the other the key.  As Procella smiled at the confusion they had created, a thought came to her.  She began to fumble at the belt pack as she said, “Do you remember how the mage came to us in the forest when he cast the spell?”

Calor shrugged, “Yes, some form of magic portal.”

She asked, “What color was the light?”

Calor thought for a moment, “It was red; it looked like he just drew it in thin…” Her voice trailed off as a look of comprehension spread over her, “Find the drawing implements, quickly!”

Procella unzipped the pack and withdrew the box of sidewalk chalk.  She opened the tuck lid, and found three large sticks, one blue, one green, and one red.  She held the swimming goggles over her eyes and said, “Yes, they are magical.”

“How do we work them?” Calor asked.

Procella stood up, turned to the wall farthest from the door, and drew the outline of a doorway on the wall with the red chalk.  The red line clung to the wall, but did nothing.

Calor slumped, “Well, we can add defacing property to our list of crimes.”

“I was hopeful that would work.”

Calor agreed, “Perhaps we are unable to use the magic.  Perhaps only the mage could.”

Procella shook her head, “I do not see him as being that thorough.”

“Where were we going to go, had you been able to create a portal?”

“I did not even think of that; I was just looking to escape.”

Calor leveled a glare at her, “How did you expect that to work if you had no destination in mind?”

Procella paused for a moment and stared at the chalk, wondering if it was that simple, “Where would we go?”

“The safest place,” Calor thought, “The barn…Jason’s barn.”

Despite the pounding on the office door and the shouting on the other side, Procella closed her eyes and focused on the chalk in her hand.  She conjured a vivid image of the Hewes barn in her mind, remembering the creaky wooden floor, the scent of the hay bales, the way the dust tickled the inside of her nose and brought her to the verge of a sneeze.  Calor watched her cousin as a warm, crimson light began to emanate from the chalk; Procella opened her eyes and took in the same sight.  She cautiously turned back to the wall and re-traced the red line she had drawn moments ago.  This time, the line glowed as she slowly re-drew the doorway on the wall.  When she had finished, the wall inside the glowing lines began to ripple like the a pond on a breezy day.  The effect grew more intense until another image began to replace that of the wavering wall; the inside of the Hewes family barn.  Within seconds, a clear image of the old structure could be seen through the magic portal, and the smells of baled hay and decades-old wood wafted out to their noses.

The two cautiously stepped to the edge of the portal.  Procella motioned to Calor, “After you.”  The draconaut swallowed hard, and then stepped through the magic doorway and right into the Hewes barn.  She turned to Procella and said, “It is safe.”  Procella followed her through, and for several moments, they simply stood shoulder to shoulder in the Hewes barn.

“I had visions of it being more dramatic than that.” Calor commented.

Procella smiled, but they both whirled around to see the office door caving in as two black riders repeatedly rammed their shoulders into it.

Calor said, “I would assume that as long as the portal is open, they could simply follow us through?”

Procella startled and started rummaging through the belt pack again, “There was some other item in here that he used to close the portal.”

Calor watched the two riders, who almost completely into the office.  Her voice sounded more strained, “I suggest you hurry because they are almost upon us.”

Procella finally retrieved the chalk eraser as one rider finally stepped into the office and began to reach for them through the doorway.  Procella dove forward and swept the eraser in a wide arc along the right side of the glowing rectangle.  There was a small cloud of red dust and the gateway ceased to exist.  The only remaining evidence was the severed hand of the rider that reached for them now lying on the barn floor.  It had been removed halfway up the forearm, but to the surprise of the two girls, there was no blood or any other grisly material coming from the displaced limb.  Instead, they watched the glove slowly collapse as an ashen gray dust poured out of the opening.  Eventually, the ash itself began to dissolve and disappear into the very air, leaving only a flat, empty, black leather glove on the wooden floor.

Calor picked up the glove and examined it carefully as she held it between her thumb and index finger.  She then looked around the barn and walked to the doors.  Procella followed, and they carefully pushed the doors open, taking in the sight that they were indeed back on the Hewes homestead in northeast Montana.  Calor turned to Procella, “Well, that was not as bad as I thought it would be.”

……………….

 

Petros’ legs screamed for relief after seven flights of stairs, but he knew he had to push through the pain and continue his ascent.  The pursuing officers had stopped at the ground floor to try and open the door for the other officers and black riders, but they directed them to keep up the pursuit.  Petros tried to not let his speed falter, but he knew he was getting tired and had to find a way to further distract his pursuers.

At the tenth floor, he summoned his dragon strength through his scale and kicked in the door leading back into the offices of the tower, but then turned and continued his ascent up the stairs.  He slowed his speed and yanked off Jason’s Chuck Taylor shoes so he could climb more silently.  He was at the fourteenth floor when he could tell the group behind him had stopped at the tenth floor to see if Petros had re-entered the building.  When he was sure his ruse had worked, Petros began climbing as quickly as he could once again to further extend his lead, but only made it two more floors when he heard shouting  below, telling him the decoy had not worked and  the police had continued their pursuit.

He continued up the stairway, his legs feeling as if more and more weights were being tied to them with every step he took.  Petros’ stomach sank as he realized the error of his plan; any floor he chose to hide in would inevitably be a trap.  The police and black riders were far too numerous for him to evade, and they were far too clever to fall for any other attempts at subterfuge.  His options faded from few to none as he reached to door leading to the roof.  It was locked, but he quickly bypassed the obstacle with a blow from his magically enhanced strength.  He stepped out onto the windy surface of the tower’s roof and pushed the door shut behind him, leaning against in and looking for a place to hide.  Multiple air conditioning units were interspersed over the surface, and he darted to one and crouched behind it as he tried to slow his breathing.  He chided himself; his plan was foolish and now his options were exhausted.

He thought furiously as the door burst open and a veritable multitude of police and black clad Wyrmkil operatives slowly spread out onto the gravel covered roof.  The police rested their hands on the handles of their holstered weapons, but the riders freely carried their tasers in the open, searching for their target.  One last option, one desperate option flashed into Petros’ mind.  It would only work if he stayed out of range of the tasers.

He shouted, “I am here, and I am unarmed!”

His pursuers all froze.  An officer shouted, “Then show yourself and keep your hands in the air!”

Petros’ legs screamed at him as he slowly pushed himself back to his feet, “I have nothing to harm you with.” He stated with his hands high above his head.  He saw the riders fanning out as they sought to surround him.  “Tell them to stop!” He shouted, “Or…or I will leap to my death!”

The officer’s eyes went wide as he held up a hand signaling everyone to stop their advance, “Kid, look, you’ve been a real pain in a lot of peoples’ butts today, but I don’t want this to end with you turning into street pizza.  Let’s just all dial it down a few notches and talk this out.”

Not knowing what ‘street pizza’ or ‘dialing a few notches’ meant, Petros responded, “We need to allow reason to prevail; I do not wish to jump.”

The officer looked perplexed, but went on, “Come on out from behind there and we’ll go back downstairs, all right?”

Petros shook his head and took a step toward the edge of the roof, “No.  I wish to go free.  You must guarantee me safe passage out of the city.”

“That’s not gonna happen, kid.  We have to take you in custody and call your parents.  You caused a lot of people a lot of trouble, not to mention the damage you and your friends did to several buildings around the city.  For Pete’s sake, kid, you assaulted police officers; that’s a serious crime.”

His stomach sank.  It never crossed his mind before, but he realized the police were innocent in all of this, “I…I am truly sorry.  Is anyone seriously damaged?”

The officer looked confused, “No.  Your concern is noted, but waaaay to late to do any good.  You gotta come with us.”

Petros quickly realized this had all gone too far.  He and the others had acted far too recklessly.  Property damage, innocents injured; none of this was intended.  He knew there was only one way for this to end.

He took two more steps backward.  The officer saw and shouted, “Kid!  No…it’ll all work out.  Come with us!”

“I am truly sorry,” Petros responded and summoned every last ounce of strength remaining in his legs.  He sprinted toward the edge of the roof, and with one final push, hurled himself over the edge.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 31

Calor and Procella sprinted northward up the abandoned 27th Street as they fled from the pursuing authorities and made for the boundary of the restricted zone.  The riders Procella had blasted into the building across from Norm’s shop were not showing any signs of recovery.  However, those that were breaking through the back door of the store had made their way past the file cabinet barricade, out the devastated façade of the establishment, and were calling for reinforcements to begin their pursuit of the now-divided group of Draconauts.

They made it a few blocks before Calor began to huff, “This body is in no shape for this exertion.  I cannot go much further.”

Procella, in the more athletic body of Kinaari, replied, “They will be mounting their vehicles soon; we need to find cover or we will be overtaken.”  Up ahead was a Kentucky Fried Chicken whose doors were closed and windows darkened due to the health scare.  Procella pointed to the restaurant and said, “There, go around the back of the structure.”  They sprinted faster to get off of the street as quickly as they could and bolted behind the white and red building.  A large, metal, windowless door provided a second entrance, and they shook the handle as soon as they were upon it.

Calor sneered, “It is locked.”

Procella looked around, trying to find a way in, “Of course it is locked, it is a place of business.  They do not wish miscreants to loot their wares.”

Calor spat back, “How do you suggest we get in then?  You are a water dragon, you are supposedly the smartest of us all.  Tell me your plan!”

Procella glared at her, “Your sarcasm is unwelcome at the present moment, as is your temper.  Now is the time for level thinking, not brashness.”

“Neither of us have the strength of an earth dragon, so we cannot break the door down.  Perhaps we can reason with it, correct?”

Procella threw her a sideways glare, “No, but we can reason an alternative to strength.”  She took a step back and placed her hand over her scale.  As Procella closed her eyes, she began to concentrate on slowing her heart and focusing the strength she felt building in her chest.  Slowly, she opened her eyes and gracefully knelt down in front of the locked handle.  She moved her face to within six inches of the lock and, ever so gently, whispered an unintelligible word.  A small, focused shock wave impacted the lock, and with a metallic pop, the mechanism broke free from the door and fell to the floor inside the KFC.  Procella grapsed the handle, thumbed the latch, and quietly opened the back door.

“See,” she finally said, “Reason and planning triumph again.”  With that, she entered the building.

Calor smoldered, as she muttered under her breath, “Cursed water dragons…think they are so smart,” She followed Procella and pushed the door closed behind her.

 

…………………..

 

Petros and Tonare set the First Interstate Center, the tallest building in all of Montana, in their sights and ran as fast as they could toward it.  Tonare easily outpaced Petros in Marcus’ tall, muscular body and found himself having to frequently slow down to allow Petros to catch up.  The third time he turned to see how Petros was faring, he saw a small group of police and black riders come around a corner and break out into a run after them.

“What do we do?” Tonare asked.

Petros huffed, “We try to flee.”

“No,” Tonare said defiantly, “They will overtake us and we will be captured.  I do not relish that possibility.”

“Then what do we do?”

Tonare replied, “We fight back.”

“Tonare, I…”

“Petros,  I grow weary of running.  If we show them we are a threat, perhaps they will stop pursuing us.  We have access to our natural abilities; we need to show them that we are not to be trifled with.”

To Tonare’s surprise, Petros began to slow and came to a stop.  He was breathing heavily, but replied to his air dragon cousin, “You are right.  I grow weary of being pursued as well.” He half turned to see their pursuers, “Let them come, and let them know that the Draconauts fight back.”

 

……………….

 

“It smells good in here.”

Calor inhaled the scent of eleven herbs and spices as they tentatively walked through the darkened kitchen of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.   For the most part, the kitchen and its stations were well cleaned, but a few boxes of frozen food had been left on the counters as the early arriving prep staff were forced to evacuate the establishment.

Procella nodded, “I do like the friend chicken.  There is something to be said for some of the food these humans consume.”

“It must be nutritious as well,” Calor added, “Based on the vast amounts of it that are eaten.”

They quietly stole through the kitchen and then ducked low as they came around the counter to the dining area.  The large number of windows threatened to betray their presence if they did not take precautions, so they stayed low to the tiled floor as they tried to observe their pursuers on the streets.

The activity was quickly increasing as police officers ran by and black leather clad riders were seen mounting their unusual vehicles.  Police were chatting through their radios, but the black riders did not appear concerned with coordinating their efforts.  Occasionally, a person wearing khaki’s and an AlansCo emblazoned polo shirt stepped into view and appeared to inspect the feature concealing helmets on the rider’s heads.  These inspectors went to each rider in view and performed the same checks before a slap on the top of the helmet sent the rider functioning independently again.

“What are they doing?” Calor asked.

Procella shook her head concernedly, “Unknown.  These riders are an enigma.”

Calor paused, then looked to her cousin, “Where is that eyewear you found at Norm’s?”

Procella had fastened the belt pack around her waist, and she unzipped the pouch, removed the swim goggles, and handed them to Calor.  Calor pulled them over her eyes and gazed out the window.

“This is alarming; the riders are glowing.”

“What?” Procella replied with surprise in her voice, “The riders are magical?”

Calor shrugged, “Either that or the uniforms they wear are.  It would also appear their vehicles are enchanted as well, based on the brilliant glow I see through these lenses.” She pulled the goggles off with one hand and handed them to Procella, who seized them and quickly put them on.  A few moments after she surveyed the streets outside, she removed them and sat cross-legged on the floor.

“This is growing more and more sinister.  A large, modern organization that is supposedly helping with a local crisis dispatches magically enhanced personnel and equipment to intervene with the problem.  These magical beings wear the logo of a secret society devoted to destroying dragons…”

Calor interrupted, “And they have attacked us at Jason’s home.”

There was a long pause before Procella spoke again, “Secret societies, modern corporations, technomancy; how can this all be related?”

Calor shook her head, “I cannot fathom how.  You are the smart one, remember?” Procella smirked as Calor went on, “We need to get out of this city.  I fear that if the riders somehow knew we were coming here, then this is all a giant ruse designed to capture us. “

Procella processed Calor’s last thought, “That…that is a staggering thought.”

Calor nodded, “We need to get out of here.”

 

…………….

 

The two dragon/boys stood defiantly as they were approached by a group of Billings police officers and riders in black leather.  Petros stood several steps behind Tonare and they both had their hands placed firmly over their dragon scales.  Several officers had their hands resting on the handles of their pistols, hesitant to draw them since the teens appeared unarmed, but each of the riders had their tasers trained on the draconauts.

An officer shouted, “All right you two, I don’t know why you are here or what you did to that store back there, but I want you to put your hands on your heads and kneel down.  I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Neither Petros nor Tonare responded, but Tonare could be seen expanding his chest as if he were inhaling deeply.  The officer said, “Come on, boys.  Let’s just work together and no one will get hurt.”

Tonare opened his mouth and Petros ducked down and covered his ears as tightly as he could.  Tonare mouthed the word ‘no’, but what issued from his mouth was an ear-splitting peal of thunder.  Windows on the building to either side of them shattered at the deafening sound, and the officers all went to their knees, their hands covering their ears as they howled in pain.  The black riders were not effected as the officers were, but even they staggered back and forth at the onslaught of sound.

Petros quickly jumped in front of Tonare as veins of light could be seen flowing from the ground and into his legs.  The riders triggered their tasers, but Tonare’s breath weapon had effected several of them as the charged probes from the weapons were launched in several directions.  Some still stayed true with their aim, but Petros had prepared for that contingency as well.  The small, metallic barbs impacted him, but his skin had been hardened to the strength of stone, causing the electrical weapons to bounce off in random directions.  Petros and Tonare both charged the disoriented riders, and Tonare threw all of his weight into one, hitting it with a sickening crunch.  His momentum carried them both to the ground, but he continued to summon his draconic power through his scale.  Being the most agile of the dragon species, Tonare channeled his agility, somersaulted in the air, and flipped himself back to his feet.  Without breaking stride, he barreled into a second rider and took that one down as well.

Meanwhile, Petros channeled his strength and ran to the rider closest to him, delivering a savage uppercut to the figure’s head.  He heard the plastic of the helmet crack with the impact, and the rider flew fifteen feet backward from the force of the punch.  Petros grabbed the next by the collar of his jacket and tossed him like a baseball across the street and into a parked car, shattering the window of the vehicle and leaving a large dent in the rear door.

All of the riders were down and the police officers were still trying to get their bearings.  Petros and Tonare looked at each other, smiled, and Petros asked, “Now we run?”

Tonare nodded and they began sprinting to the west again.

 

……………..

 

Procella and Calor crouched low as they slowly opened the back door to the restaurant again, peering through the crack until they were confident they were not being observed.  They quickly exited the building and began to work their way north again, this time trying to squeeze behind the rows of buildings on 27th Street in order to stay out of sight instead of directly following the wide street as they previously did.  Unfortunately, the going was slow as they dodged between cars in parking lots, crossed the avenues perpendicular to 27th Street, and even made their way through residential yards.

After fighting their way through a row of hedges, Calor growled, “It will be dark before we reach the border of the restricted zone.  We should have stayed on the main street.”

“And risk being apprehended?” Procella countered, “Taking our time will prove much more beneficial.”

They both paused and heard a faint peal of thunder, but as they looked up, the partly sunny skies betrayed that the sound was not weather related.  “Tonare,” Calor commented.

Procella nodded, “It is not a good omen that he has been forced to use his breath weapon.  We can only hope that they have not been caught.”

Trying to shut the thought from her mind, she pushed Procella forward, “Come, let us continue.”

They eventually crossed 9th Avenue and found themselves in front of the baseball stadium Dehler Park, home of the Billings Mustangs.  They snuck along the perimeter of the building until they could see 27th Street again, and spotted the barricades at the edge of the restricted zone.  It was only two blocks past the stadium, and they felt a glimmer of hope that they were almost in the clear.

Calor, the more saavy and strategic of the two, had taken the lead and turned to her cousin, “I say we sprint for the border.  We just keep on running until we are past.  The constables will not realize we are coming until we are too close to stop, and they will not train their weapons upon us.”

Procella was looking past her, back down 27th Street as she said, “A sound plan…except for that.”  She pointed down the street and saw an officer with two riders.  They had clearly spotted the girls and the officer was speaking into his radio.  “He is summoning reinforcements.”

Calor surveyed their surroundings, looking for options, “Into the coliseum behind us; we need shelter and time to think.”

The area in front of Dehler Park consisted of nine squares of red brick paving leading up to the main gates.  It was very open and welcoming, which was the exact opposite of what Calor and Procella were seeking.  They arrived at the locked gates, and after Calor gave them a rattle, she placed her hand over her scale and began to summon her breath weapon.   Procella looked behind them and saw several more officers had gathered, as well as at least fifteen riders, many of whom were on their black two or three wheeled vehicles.  “Hurry, cousin,” she prompted as Calor trained her breath weapon on one section of the gate.  The metal quickly began to glow red, then yellow, and pieces began to either melt or break away and fall to the pavement.  “Bring the whole thing down; this is no time for subtlety.”  Calor nodded and exhaled harder.  Entire sections of the gate gave way, and the air around it shimmered with the extreme heat.  Soon, an opening was wide enough for a person to pass through, and the draconauts bounded past the glowing metal and sprinted into the stadium.

“Just go straight across!” Procella shouted, “There must be an opening on the other side!”  They broke into a full run and they darted across the expanse of the baseball field, but as they reached second base, and amplified voice shouted, “HALT!”

They froze in their tracks when the voice came again, “TURN AROUND SLOWLY!”  They obeyed and saw seven police officers and twenty riders, six on motorcycles and five on three wheeled cruisers.  They slowly closed the distance between themselves and the girls as the officer holding the bullhorn spoke again, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DID BACK THERE, BUT YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY ARMED.  PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD AND LIE DOWN ON THE GROUND!”

Calor muttered, “Do what you must.”

Procella calmly replied, “Do what he said.  It will protect you.”

Calor nodded and followed the officers directions.  “YOU TOO, GLAMOR GIRL!” he shouted at Procella.  As she slowly began to raise her hands above her head, she shut her eyes and focused on her chest.  She could feel the scale resting against her skin, and concentrated on the feeling.  Why must we press the scale against us?  she thought to herself as she began to feel the magic flow from the scale into her body.  The pressure of her breath weapon began to build inside her as she smiled under the realization of what she had discovered.  Sweat began to collect on her brow as the magical energies built deeper and stronger.  She felt the pain of the mounting power, but reveled at the thought of what she was about to do.

“ON THE GROUND…NOW!”  shouted the officer.

Her eyes opened.  They were glowing a brilliant deep blue. The officer froze in his tracks at the sight.

Procella smirked, opened her mouth, and spoke.

“No.”

All of the energy of her breath weapon was released at the sound of the word.  The turf on the field itself cracked and blew forward under the force of the pressure wave.  The officers and riders had nowhere to run as the invisible force slammed into them and cast them away as easily as the wind blows the dust from the sidewalk.  Even the much bulkier vehicles could not stand against the onslaught as they too were thrown into the bleachers, with the very metal they were comprised of denting and buckling under the pressure.

The shock wave dissipated, and the officers were left on the ground, groaning from the assault.  The black riders were still as Procella smiled at her handiwork.  But then, one by one, the magical riders began to stir and try to stand.  Her eyes widened with surprise as she bent down, grabbed Calor, and shouted, “We must flee!”

 

……………..

 

Petros and Tonare sprinted three more blocks before they could see reinforcements arriving at the scene they left behind.  Vehicles, as well as additional personnel, were gathering at the scene of the fight and preparing to give chase.  A look of concern came over Petros’ face.

“They will overtake us if I continue on with you.  You will make the barrier if you run on your own.”

Tonare whipped his head around to Petros, “There is not any option of leaving you behind.  We flee together; we will fight our way through if we have to.”

“They will overwhelm us with numbers,” Petros responded.  They found themselves next to the First Interstate Center and Petros examined the tall building, “I will find adequate shelter in that building.  I can easily force my way in and bide my time until they move on with their pursuit.”

Tonare shook his head emphatically, almost desperately, “No.  Petros, we need to stay together.  I will not abandon you!”

“Cousin, you must.  Get past the barricade and rendezvous with the others.  I can do this; please do not make an issue of this.”

The struggle was evident on Tonare’s face, but he finally relented.  He pointed his large finger at Petros, “You do everything you must to stay hidden.  I will be exceedingly cross with you if you are captured and tortured.”

Petros smiled, “If I am captured and tortured, I will be the first to admit that you were correct.  Agreed?”

Tonare smiled back, and then turned for the barricade and began running.  Petros quickly sized up the tall building before him, and then ran to the plaza surrounding the structure

Leave a comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 30

Petros was completely stunned.

He stood at the front door, staring at the sign, realizing that in an instant all of their hopes for their restoration were shattered.  One simple poster, one brief declaration of a former shop owner, was enough destroy the aspirations of four of the most magnificent and powerful beings the world had ever known.  For Petros, the future had just ceased to exist.

He came back to reality, finding Tonare pulling at his arm while Calor and Procella were beginning to run down the street.  Tonare was urging, “Come, Petros, we must move!  NOW!”

Petros turned his head to see a police officer and three black clad riders many doors down the street breaking into a run.  Tonare couldn’t wait any longer; he hauled Petros off his feet, slung him over his broad shoulder, and began to sprint after the two girls.  The jostling of the linebacker’s body jarred Petros to his full senses as he shouted, “I can run; put me down!”

Without breaking stride, Tonare lifted him into the air and scolded back, “Then run!”  Petros literally hit the ground running and nearly stumbled, but Tonare supported him as he came up to speed, and in seconds they were right behind Calor and Procella.

Within moments, they were at the end of the street and breathing hard from being pursued.  Calor turned left and the others followed as they continued their attempt to flee from the sinister riders.  They skidded to a stop at the next intersection, but could hear the officer shouting at them from the previous corner.  Calor turned left again and the others followed.  They were on the other side of the city block and the street before them was narrow and long with no shelter in sight.  “Run!” Tonare shouted as, despite their gasping for breath, they all broke into a full sprint once again.

Without warning, Procella shouted, “Wait, stop!” as their feet slapped at the pavement in their deceleration.  “Look,” was all she could manage as she pointed at a plain, gray metal door.  The small placard on it read;

 

Shipping/Receiving

Norm’s Random Stuff

 “It is a back door,” Petros stated as he laid his hand over his scale, raised up his foot, and with a powerful thrust kicked the door open.  They practically fell into the building as Petros slammed the door closed again, but realized he had shattered the lock and latch.  The door couldn’t be secured.

They were in a short dark hallway, and ahead they could see the empty interior of Norm’s abandoned shop.  To their left was another plain door marked “Office”.  They opened the door and found two metal filing cabinets and an old desk.  Without a word, Tonare grabbed one of the filing cabinets and began to drag it into the hallway and barricade the back door.  “Get the other,” he grunted as Procella and Petros responded and managed to man-handle the second piece of office furniture into place next to the first.

The only sounds in the store were their lungs gasping for breath as they recovered from their flight.  All four were using their sleeves to wipe the sweat from their foreheads as Petros finally caught his breath enough to talk, “Do you think we have evaded them?”

Procella swallowed hard and shook her head, “Uncertain,”

There was another pause as they caught their breath.  Calor snarled, “This did NOT go according to plan.”  The other three leveled a glare at her, and then, as if on cue, they all burst into laughter.  It went on for several moments before Petros was able to speak again through his laughs, “It most certainly did not,”

They composed themselves and Tonare slumped down to the floor, “What are we doing to do, cousins?”

Petros replied, “I do not know.  One would think that as creatures hundreds of years old, we would be able to formulate a plan.  However, I am at a complete loss for ideas.”

“We should look around this establishment,” Procella suggested, “Perhaps Norm left behind some evidence as to where he has fled.”

Tonare stood up and they proceeded to spread themselves around the abandoned store.  Calor and Tonare walked to the empty showroom, while Procella entered the office.  Petros began to quietly open the drawers of the file cabinets barricading the back door.  In a matter of minutes, Procella called out, “Petros, come here.”

He quickly entered the office, “You found information?”

“No,” she answered, “But I did find this item.”  She was seated at the old metal desk and had opened one of the large bottom drawers.  In it, she has found a black, nylon belt pack which seemed to be filled with items.  Procella unzipped it and withdrew a pack of sidewalk chalk, a chalk eraser, a pair of swimming goggles, a ball point pen decorated with a pharmaceutical logo, and an Incredible Hulk wristwatch.  She looked at Petros, “What do these items do?  What significance do they possess?”

“I truly have no idea,” he answered, shaking his head.  Petros heard Calor call to him from the showroom, and he quickly left the office as Procella was picking up the goggles and examining them closely.

As he entered the main shopping area, he could see Calor and Tonare looking up toward the ceiling.  Very concerned looks were on both of their faces as he asked, “What have you found.”

Calor gestured at the space on the wall just below the ceiling.  Although Norm has cleared out the vast majority of his stock on the shelves, he had left behind several old posters and wall hangings, those presumably without value.  Old, wooden shields were also left hanging at the tops of the walls, each painted differently with its own unique ‘crest’.  One bore a black castle on a yellow field, and a second displayed a yellow lion chasing a deer on a blue field.  But the third shield, the one with a red bat-like wing surrounded by a circle with a line through it, was the source of their concern.

“The Wyrmkil,” Petros muttered, “Norm has betrayed us.  His intention was never to help us.”

Calor’s face was filled with rage.  Her hand was pressed against the scale on her neck as she sneered, “If I ever find that mage…”  As she spoke, waves of heat issued forth from her mouth.

Tonare put his huge hand on her shoulder, “Calm yourself, cousin, or you will burn this building down around us.”  She reluctantly lowered her hand to her side, and the temperature around them quickly began to cool.

Procella entered the room, holding the belt pack, wearing the swim goggles and looking quite ridiculous.  She quickly looked at the shields and said, “Oh.  Well that answers some questions now, does it not?”

Petros replied, “And yet raises even more questions.  For example, one would be, ‘What in the name of the Great Scale are you wearing?’”

Her head spun around to them as she squinted to focus through the goggles, “Yes, it would seem these items are not just random bric-a-brack.  They are enchanted.”

Calor leveled a disbelieving stare at her, “Enchanted?  That?  You cannot be serious.”

“Oh, I am completely serious,” she replied, “And the glow around your body only proves my point.”

“Glow?” Calor looked at her arms and chest, “I am not glowing.  What folly is this?”

Procella removed the goggles and handed them to her heat dragon cousin, but Tonare intercepted them and quickly put them on his own face. “Zounds!” he exclaimed, “We are all surrounded by a rather brilliant aura!  There are several other faint points of light on many of these bare shelves, but nothing as bright as the four of us.”  He took them off and handed them to an annoyed Calor.  “What do they do?” he asked.

“I am not completely sure,” she began, “But my guess is they reveal if something is enchanted or been put under a spell.  The other items I found with it also glowed when I viewed them through the lenses.”

Calor removed the goggles and handed them to Petros as she asked, “So why do the empty shelves have faint points of light.”

“My guess is that Norm had other items in the shop that may have had minor enchantments on them.  This is most likely why he had the goggles to begin with; so he could identify items he acquired as being magical or not.  I would guess he kept most, but the objects of no use to him were most likely sold.”

Petros nodded in agreement, “And if those objects sat on the shelves, they probably left behind a faint residual charge.  But you are saying the other items in the bag were magical as well?”

She nodded, “Yes, all of them.”

He raked his fingers through his hair, “That is slightly concerning.

Procella continued nodding, “Yes, I have the same concern.”

Tonare and Calor exchanged confused glances.  “What?  What is so concerning?” Tonare asked.

Petros drew in a worried breath, “These lenses, the writing implement, and especially the time keeper; all are fairly modern items and, to this point, I did not think could sustain an enchantment.”

“I do not understand,” Calor said.

Procella responded, “Back in our era, it was rumored among the magic using community that a small faction of mages and wizards were experimenting with putting enchantments on machines, on technology.  However, magic users from many races; humans, elves, dragonkind, and so on, did not believe that objects made up of multiple parts could be made to sustain magical charges.  The interaction of the eldritch energies among so many different moving pieces could not be properly stabilized…or so they thought.  Still, these technomancers continued to operate in secret, despite the greater magical community condemning such practices.  Most of their experiments ended disastrously, but rumors floated about that, every so often, they were successful and machines, both powerful and terrible, were wrought.”

Petros continued, “The very fact that we have three modern, technological items that have a stable and functional enchantment means that the practice of technomancy has not only survived the centuries, but has proven successful in this twenty-first century.”

Calor looked unimpressed, “So Norm has made a magical pen.  Feh, hardly an accomplishment by any mages standards.”

“Perhaps for just a pen,” Petros stated, “But what if there are others; those much more skilled and knowledgeable in this treacherous art of technomancy?  What if one of those flying machines, those helicopters, that you battled in the sky could be enchanted?  Those machines were formidable on their own.  Imagine someone magically enhancing a war machine such as that.  An entirely new era of weaponry and warfare could begin.”

“A new era of death and destruction as well,” added Procella.

“Do you think that is what the Wyrmkil are doing?” Tonare asked, a look of concern on his face.

“Unknown,” Procella replied, “It could be just Norm dabbling in the art, not knowing the ramifications.  After all, he does not seem to operate within any sort of organized magical community.  But still, we cannot be certain.”

They had been brooding over their discovery for several moments when Petros noticed a door leading to a small lavatory behind the store’s counter.  He walked into the room and flipped on the light.  It was a room barely big enough for one, and it appeared to not have seen a mop, spray bottle of bleach, or toilet brush for quite some time.  Petros, however, was only focused on the small mirror above the sink.  His reflection blinked back at him and then took on a life of its own.

Jason asked, “Oh, hey,” he looked around, “Where are you?”

Petros answered soberly, “There is much to tell you…”

 

He spent several minutes updating Jason and answering his questions before Jason finally concluded, “This is really bad.”

“You have a talent for understatement.” Petros replied.

Jason stammered, “You…you gotta get out of there.  If they catch you…”

“ ‘They’ who, Little Knight?  We have a foe here that we know nothing of, with motives we cannot determine, using means and methods we cannot even identify.  I do not know who to run from or in what direction to escape.  They somehow knew of our plans to come here, and they orchestrated a scheme that effected the greater part of an entire city.  How do we combat that?  What are we even battling?”

“Petros… I…don’t know, okay?  I have no idea what is going on.  And I’m trapped in this mirror and can’t do anything to help!”

Before Petros could answer, he heard Calor shout, “You had best rejoin us, Petros, the situation has taken a turn for the worse!”

“Go!” Jason shouted as Petros switched off the light and joined the others.  They looked into the back hallway toward the barricaded door and heard someone shouting from the other side, “Here!  This door is dented.  Looks like someone busted it in!”

Calor sneered, “Finally!  A foe to combat!”

Procella glared at here, “We are in no condition to combat the authorities of this city or the riders in black!”

“I grow weary of running!  We have our breath weapons; let me turn them to ash!”

“You will turn no one to ash, Calor,” Petros countered, “We need to get back to Malta.  It is our only logical choice.”

The file cabinets holding the door shut began to move as the individuals on the other side began to force their way in.  Tonare turned to the front door for escape, but his stomach sank as he saw four of the riders waiting on the sidewalk just outside the front door.  “It would appear we are trapped,” he said as he pointed toward the new development.

Procella’s gaze became steely, “No, we are not.”

Calor countered, “You just said we are in no condition to fight.”

Her hand pressed her scale against her chest as she responded, “That does not mean we cannot escape with a dramatic flair.  Get behind me and cover your ears.”

They followed her directions as Procella focused on her scale and felt a pressure mount in her chest.  The back door began to push open against the cabinets as a black-gloved hand reached in to feel what was blocking their entrance.  She lowered her head and shut her eyes; the power building inside her.  The back door opened more as a black clothed figure began to shove its way through the gap.  Petros saw the development and nervously called, “Procellaaaaa…”

Procella’s head snapped up and her eyes opened.  They glowed with the deep blue of the ocean, and her hand firmly pressed the scale into her skin.  She raised her other hand in a gesture at the front of the store, opened her mouth, and said, “Begone.”  The shock wave of her breath weapon exploded outward, blowing every shelf, display stand and end cap toward the front of the raggedy store.  The wave continued on, as every inch of glass, wood, brick, and mortar that made up the façade of Norm’s Random Stuff blew into the street, throwing the four black riders clearly across the road and half-buried them in the buildings across the street.  The other three ducked behind Procella, and were left untouched despite the ferocity of her breath weapon.

She grabbed Calor and Petros by the arms, kicked Tonare hard in the leg and said, “Come, we must flee!”  Not wasting time, they ran into the street and quickly got their bearings as they searched for an escape route.

Petros spoke rapidly, “There is no time to argue; we must split up and confuse them.  Procella just bought us several moments and we must take advantage.  We know what to do; rendezvous in Malta.  Get there quickly and safely, understood?”  They all nodded in agreement as he went on, “Tonare, you are with me.  We will head west.  Procella, take Calor and flee to the north.  They are behind us and to the east, so these paths will lead us from them.”

“Understood,” Procella acknowledged, “And stay safe.”

Petros smirked, “I have never understood anything more clearly.  Now, run!”

With that, they ran in their separate directions, hoping to find a way out of the city.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 29

They flew under the cover of the early morning hours and chose to rendezvous at the same place in the Rims that Jason and Petros landed in their previous visit to the large city.  Dawn was just creeping over the horizon as Tiffany, the last to arrive, touched down.  She and Petros had rigged the saddle to fit her and he was tightly secured to the ersatz seat.  Petros had not bargained on how weary he would feel waking up at two o’clock in the morning, and by the time Tiffany had landed, he was asleep and slumped over, the rigged bungee cords and leather belts had kept him from falling to his doom.  But the jostling about of Tiffany’s landing roused him back to coherence.

Petros rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and Kinaari commented, “He looked so peaceful asleep like that.,”

Marcus smirked a toothy grin, “See?  Bein’ human isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it?”

Petros smiled, “Your need for daily sleep is an inconvenience, but being human has benefits as well,”  He paused and looked at the thunder and wave dragons, “It is good to see you, my friends.”

Marcus nodded, “You too, buddy,”  He turned to Tiffany, “You holding up okay, Tiff?”

“I’m fine,” she answered, “It’s, umm, good seeing you in person again.  Well, not in person, but, ahhh you know what I mean.”

Kinaari put a claw on Tiffany’s shoulder, “We missed you too.”

Tiffany was glad she could not blush, and quickly changed the topic, “Okay, we’d better get to this.  It’s gonna be a long day.”

 

Three flashes of light later, the four draconauts were hiking their way out of the Rims and into the city, heading for the designated McDonald’s on Grand Avenue to clean-up, eat some breakfast, and lay out their plans to get to Norm’s shop.  The hike to the fast food restaurant took nearly an hour, and they were all perspiring and covered with a fine layer of grime from the dust they kicked up from the journey.  Each took a turn in the rest room to wash off their faces and arms and change into the extra clothes they brought.

Soon, they were seated at a booth, refreshed and eating various McMuffins.  A flat panel television on the wall was tuned to the local news and they were huddled around Jason’s smartphone studying the pre-programmed map of Billings.

“So if we take this mode of conveyance,” Petros pointed out, “It should get us to within a few streets of the mage’s place of business.  It will only be a short walk from there.”

Procella nodded, “Yes, we will only need to deposit one dollar’s worth of coin to ride the coach as well.  It is very economical.”

“I know so very little of the plan,” Calor growled, “I know my agreement with the girl was to let her stay in my dragon form, but now it would seem the cost is my lack of tactical knowledge on this mission.”

“You speak as if we are going to war.” Procella smiled.

“We are confronting the mage again, this time in decidedly more inferior human bodies.  Of course I regard it as war,”

Petros noticed Tonare’s attention was drawn to the television, “Cousin, I think your attention would be more wisely given to the plan before us.”

Tonare shook his head, “I think YOUR attention would be more wisely given to the information being displayed on this television.  This ‘mission’ may be over before it even starts,”

They all turned to face the flat screen where a young, well groomed man in a windbreaker sporting the logo of the news station occupied the center of the picture.  He was holding a large, black microphone also bearing the logo of the television channel, “…I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like this in Billings before.  To bring those of you up to date if you just tuned in; Early this morning, carbon monoxide detectors within a large section of downtown Billings today simultaneously began to sound their alarms.  Oddly enough, the alarms are not resetting properly, so city officials and emergency response personnel are at a loss to explain the phenomena.  Detectors brought into the area by the fire department are also indicating lethal levels of the dangerous gas.  The entire area has been evacuated and cordoned off as a safety precaution.  Needless to say, city personnel are overwhelmed by the situation and are struggling to not only figure out the source of the contamination, but to put a stop to it.  But in a surprising development, the Alans Corporation, recently recognized for state of the art defense equipment, has offered their personnel and advanced detection technologies to the city for no cost.  Their employees and clean-up crews are currently on the scene trying to resolve this extremely bizarre and dangerous situation…”

Calor huffed, “What significance does this bear for us?  These humans are weak and paranoid.  Come, let us proceed with…”

“The significance is,” Procella interrupted as she held up the map on the smartphone, “That Norm’s place of business is in the middle of the restricted area.  We will be prevented from going there.”

Petros raked his fingers through his hair, “There is a second problem as well,”  The three looked at him for an answer as he pointed back to the television.  Behind the cameraman and the barricade blocking the street, a black cargo van was parked next to Transwestern Plaza, where the First Interstate Center was located.  Next to the van were black motorcycles whose riders, clad completely in black, dismounted the non-descript vehicles and entered the van.  Petros asked, “I know I need not inquire, but does anyone recognize those figures?”

Their countenances dropped as they simultaneously sat back in their seats.  Calor said, “There are sinister machinations at work here; more than just our current conundrum.”

Procella added, “This Alans Corporation, the black riders, the Wyrmkil; they are all linked.”

Petros nodded thoughtfully, “And I do not see their presence here on this very same day we chose to enter the city as a coincidence.”

“How could they have been aware?  We have been so careful,” Procella replied.

He shrugged his shoulders, “I do not know.  They know where Jason lives, but as far as any of us can determine, they did not see any of us in dragon form.  The only ones outside of the individuals around this table that know anything are George, Norm the mage, and Nymbus and his mysterious rider.”

Carol sneered, “I knew the mage would betray us,”

“We know nothing of this Order of the Scale,” Procella countered, “Perhaps it is all a ruse.  Nymbus has attacked each and every one of us.  Perhaps that is his true nature.”

Tonare slammed his hand on the table, “Enough!  We can mew on about this until these bodies reach adulthood, but it does not change the fact that we STILL need to get to Norm’s shop.  I say we proceed anyway, and let these dark riders try to stop us.  We have access to our dragon abilities, my cousins; we are not without a means to defend ourselves!  Norm has much to answer for, and it is time for a reckoning.”

They all exchanged glances as Petros smiled at his air dragon cousin, “Then let us be on with it.”

 

They managed to navigate the MET bus schedule and get themselves on the correct route that would have taken them right into the cordoned off area.  However, as expected, the driver took a detour at the barricades and Procella indicated they wanted to be dropped off at a corner just down the street from where traffic was being diverted.

The barricade began just down the street by the Billings Clinic, one of the main medical facilities in the city.  Patients were being diverted to many of the other medical providers in the city, but the system was quickly becoming overtaxed.  The four draconauts watched city officials conferring just beyond the saw horses blocking the streets, scrambling to find a solution to the crisis.

Procella was the first to speak, “The structure is for the sick and infirmed.  Many will not receive healing on this day.”

Calor pursed her lips, “I am sure it is inconvenient for the humans, but it is not a concern of ours.”

Petros turned to Calor, “I find it surprising that after this length of time you have spent AS a human that your compassion for them is so minimal.”

“I am in agreement with her,” Tonare added, “We cannot afford to invest too much compassion into these lesser beings.  Once we have reacquired our true forms, we can debate over those who are worthy of our compassion.”

“Still,” Procella said toward Calor, “I find it disturbing that, for a heat dragon, your heart can be so cold,”

Petros held up the smartphone, “This is a discussion for another time.  The map indicates the mage’s place of business is several blocks ahead.  We must find a way into the restricted zone.”

They proceeded down the street to the boundary.  Two police cars blocked any further progress as one of the officers said, “Keep on moving kids.  I can’t let you through.”

Petros began to sniffle and cough deeply.  Procella picked up on his cue and said to the officers, “But my friend is ill.  We were entering the healing house for find one practiced in medicine.”

Calor and Tonare began to nod emphatically as Tonare added, “Oh, yes…my friend has been ill for quite some time.  We are concerned and alarmed.”

The officers exchanged suspicious looks, “You kids aren’t from around here, are you?”

Calor rolled her eyes, “You have no idea,”

“Look,” the second officer said, “I can’t allow anyone into the building until we figure out where all of the carbon monoxide is coming from.   There is a walk-in several block west; that is the best I can offer.  You want us to arrange for you to get a ride there?”

Procella was about to answer when she saw two of the dark riders come from around the corner of the clinic.  The riders raised their heads, and then began to walk toward them.  She replied, “That is a most generous offer, but we will find our way.  Thank you, good sirs,” The other three spotted the figures in black at the same time, and all began to walk quickly to the west, following the edges of the barricade and trying to put enough buildings, cars, and trees between them and the two riders until they were out of sight.

They walked for nearly forty-five minutes, following the edges of the restricted area west then south until their feet began to ache from the pace they maintained.

“We need to rest,” Calor finally spoke up, “My heart is as vast at the great deserts of the East, but this body is fairly weak.”

Tonare smiled, “I am still capable of maintaining this march.  It is good to be the largest and strongest for once.”

Petros answered, “We stay together.  We will sit and rest.”

The four sat down on a curb and stared at the buildings across from them.  Calor dabbed the sweat on her upper lip with her sleeve, while Petros rubbed his cheek against his shoulder and mopped the beads of perspiration coming from his sideburns.  Tonare turned his head sideways as he looked at the building across the street, “What is a ‘doll museum’?’

Procella glanced at the building sideways, “I have no idea,” She was about to close and rub her eyes when she paused and looked at the building again, “Are the rest of you making the same observation that I am?”

The Legacy Doll Museum sat on an awkward junction where three streets met and on a lot with a few other buildings.  Directly behind the museum was the cordoned off area.  Calor surveyed their position then replied, “If we could get through that building, we would be one step closer to our destination.”

Petros nodded, “Yes, but how do we get in?  All of the places of business are shut down,”

“Come with me,” Calor said as she rose back to her feet.

The draconauts strolled across the street as casually as they could and stopped in front of the doll museum.  It was a quaint building, with white and lavender signs above the windows and doors.  It was friendly for a building, a place that invited young girls and their mothers to see the toys of yesteryear.

Calor positioned herself in front of the door and looked inside.  It was dark, but she could see a myriad of small doll eyes staring back at her.  She commented to herself, “That is unsettling, even for a dragon.  We need to look for a lull in street traffic and pedestrians before I can act.”

They nodded and began to watch the cars and people going by, hoping for a break when they wouldn’t be seen.  It was a few minutes before there was a sufficient gap in both car and foot traffic, but it was enough time for Calor to do her work.  A small poster for a local stage production was taped to the front door, and Calor lifted the poster up, pressed her scale against her chest, puckered her lips and blew a very focused stream of pure heat at the window under the poster.  The glass quickly glowed and melted away, forming a hole she could reach through.  She deftly reached through, unlocked the dead bolt to the doll museum door, and then covered the hole with the poster.  The others checked one last time that they weren’t being watched, and then slipped in to the building.

Shelves of wide-eyed dolls gazed at them as they quietly closed the door and crouched low to the floor, careful not to be seen through the windows.  They could not help but survey the room; the intense lifeless stare of the hundreds of glass eyes made them feel very tentative.  But Petros said, “Come, we must press on.  Hopefully there is a rear entrance and we can get into the restricted zone.”

They shuffled across the floor in their crouched position as they made their way around the counter and into the back room.  Here, the four were able to stand at their full height and quickly found the emergency exit, but paused at the presence of the alarmed crash bar which latched and unlatched  the door, but not without sounding a very loud and very attention-drawing claxon.

“These humans are quite paranoid,” Tonare commented, “They have locks and alarms everywhere.”

Procella commented, “It is not unlike our kind and our penchant for accumulating and guarding treasure.”

“True,” Tonare acknowledged, “Now that I reflect upon it, I find it quite odd that I have not felt the desire for treasure since we awoke in this twenty-first century.”

Petros interrupted, “I have noticed the same, but that is a topic for later discussion.  I believe I can disable the alarm.”  He pressed his scale against his chest and breathed a cone of orange cubes on the crash bar, bathing it in the magic of his breath weapon.  The red and orange decals on the bar quickly drained of its color and then the entire mechanism turned into gray stone.  Petros pressed the scale tighter against his skin and shut his eyes, concentrating on the earth beneath the store.  He felt power flow into his body as he channeled the surge into his free arm.  He slowly raised his fist above his head, allowing the power from the earth to focus in his fist.  All at once, his eyes snapped open and he slammed his fist down onto the petrified crash bar, shattering the stone which now comprised it and reducing it to rubble.

The other three draconauts stepped back in surprise as Procella said, “Impressive!  Is your hand harmed?”

Petros opened and closed his fist several times, examining it.  “No,” he commented, “It would appear the magic that augmented my strength also offered protection from harm.”

“Yes, yes, enough self admiration,” Tonare said impatiently, “We must press on,”

He slowly pushed the emergency exit open just enough so he could peer into the street beyond.  Several doors up was the barricade blocking all traffic and pedestrians from access to their section of the city.  A police car sat behind the large saw horses, and an officer in the driver’s seat was occupied by the cruiser’s laptop.  Tonare crouched low, the others followed suit, and they made a quick dash to a van parked on the street, hiding behind it from the view of the officer.  Looking the opposite direction down the street, they saw several vehicles in the distance, but all too far to present a threat.  The four quickly ran to the building across the street and hid behind it, escaping the view of the police officer.

And so went their duck-and-run tactics for several blocks, often narrowly escaping detection from the local authorities or the black clad representatives of AlansCo.  Along the way, they not only saw many of the unmarked, flat black motorcycles they had seen back in Malta, but two other, more unusual vehicles as well.  The first resembled a four wheel all-terrain vehicle than many used for both sport and utility.  However, the rear wheels had been replaced with a three sided tread, vaguely similar to that of a tank.  These odd ATV’s were flat black as the motorcycles were and had no identifying marks.  But the most curious were the three wheeled vehicles.  Where the rear resembled the back of a motorcycle, the front wheel was replaced by an axle with a tire attached to each end.  Handlebars steered the front two wheels and the rider was protected with an aerodynamic windshield, which was shaped just like that of the black motorcycles.  And like its two and four wheeled cousins, this three wheeled oddity was the same non-descript flat black.

The draconauts stole their way through the deserted city blocks for more than an hour before the smartphone’s GPS indicated they were close to their final destination.  Petros said, “We are close cousins.  Our moment is nearly at hand.”

Procella asked, “What reason do we have to believe that Norm will actually be in his shop?”

“What are you speaking of?” Calor asked.

“I am saying that if this entire section of this city has been evacuated, would not the mage have been cleared out as well?”  They exchanged nervous glances for a few moments before Procella hissed, “Are we saying that no one has thought of this possibility?”

Petros shook his head, “It does not matter.  Even if the mage is not there, we will make our way into his store and wait for him.  With our dragon abilities, this should not be difficult.  Agreed?”

“Agreed,” Calor sneered, angry at the error in the plan, “Our minds are becoming dull; I fear we have been human too long.  We must get back into our own bodies,”

They finally reached the corner that turned down the street of Norm’s Random Stuff.  They paused one last time to confirm they were on the correct course, when they heard a voice from several doors behind them shout, “HEY!  You!  This area is restricted!  What are you doing here?”  They turned to see a local police officer flanked by two black riders coming toward them.

“GO!” Petros  shouted as they sprinted to their final destination.  In a few short heart beats, they experienced a tremendous fear of being caught mixed with an elation of successfully navigating the city and reaching the end of their quest.  They were finally going to have the answers they sought; Why did the spell go wrong?  What exactly had Norm done to them?  And, most importantly, how was he going to reverse it?

They skidded to a stop in front of the store, and in an instant, confusion and dread replaced their earlier feelings.  In the front window of the store, a sign read;

After ten years, I have been forced to close

Norm’s Random Stuff permanently.

Thank you for your years of patronage.

Tonare stammered, “Wha…what does this mean?”

Calor growled, “It means we will never be dragons again.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)

Chapter 28

The hot summer days turned in to hot summer weeks as Jason, Petros and the rest of the draconauts waited for their opportunity to engage in the Norm-finding trek to Billings.  Jason had commented that he couldn’t remember the last time his dad went so long between out-of-town trips required for his job.  There were a select few day trips here and there, but none that would have provided the opportunity for Jason and Tiffany to take wing to the large city to the south and, hopefully, sever their magical link with the dragons.  George expressed concerns that Marcus and Kinaari would be able to get away from their homes when Mr. Hewes finally left town again, but they both assured George it would not be an issue.  The whole scheme was dependent on Jason’s father.

Marcus related during a Skype session, “Hey, man, I’ve got so many brothers and sisters that one of us gone away to a friend’s house for a day or two is no big thing.  In fact, the folks think it’s some kind of vacation when even one of us is out of their hair for an overnight.  Don’t sweat it; I’ll be fine,”

Kinaari concurred, “Right; my parents trust me too.  They know Glendive is kind of small, so they are comfortable with my visiting friends outside of town, especially in the summer.  It shouldn’t be a problem for me to get away,”

Jason, Kinaari, and Marcus were enjoying being able to speak to each other through their laptops and the internet.  It felt almost normal for them to communicate in this fashion, and they found themselves bonding during these Skype sessions; they were becoming genuine friends.  Jason and Marcus learned about Kinaari’s very ‘proper’ upbringing and that her parents were as concerned about her outer appearance as they were her inner character.  Kinaari said she valued the discipline, but often felt very stifled, and was concerned that her little brother would soon feel the same pressure as she did.

Jason and Kinaari learned that Marcus’ family was huge, not just in his home but all over the state.  His father’s grandparents had initially settled in Montana, and two generations later there were Weltons all over the state working in all different kinds of jobs.  From executives in Butte to farmers in Havre to professors in the university system, Marcus’ relatives had become a fixture in Montana, and were proud of it.   They even believed that some of Montana’s fierce independence came directly from them and their loyalty to the state.

Tiffany was the holdout from the Skype sessions.  The excuse she gave was that she didn’t want to risk giving her/Calor away by sneaking up to Jason’s room for the internet chat sessions, but the others suspected there was more.  Tiffany held everyone at a proverbial arm’s length, and the teens suspected whatever secrets she kept about her life were to blame for her self-imposed exclusion.  Still, she had found a confidant in Calor and, per the advice of Marcus, that would do for the time being.

 

The first few days of August flew by before Timothy Hewes announced that he needed to travel to the Badlands of South Dakota for a week.  Petros tried his best to feign the disappointment that Jason often expressed when his father left town, but he was truly filled with a sense of relief that their magically created conundrum was entering its final stages.   As had become their standard lines of communication, Petros passed the message to George, who updated Tonare and Procella via e-mail.  During the weeks they were waiting for Mr. Hewes to leave, all of the dragons, with the exception of Calor, were becoming quite proficient in the using the internet.  Petros and Tonare knew how, without the aid of George’s written instructions, to boot up a computer, log onto the internet, check and reply to e-mail, and even manage a Skype session.  Procella, however, had developed a proficiency that came close to matching her human counterpart, Kinaari.  Unbeknownst to George, Procella established her own e-mail address, developed her own Facebook page, and even created her own separate profile on Kinaari’s laptop, complete with a password.  On several occasions, she had found herself exploring the internet late into the night, and often woke up in the early hours of the morning having fallen asleep on the computer’s keyboard and run the laptop’s battery to zero percent.

Upon receipt of George’s news, e-mails, text messages, and instant chats began flying back and forth between the draconauts as they made plans to rendezvous in the city of Billings and finally confront the contemptible mage, Norm.  It wasn’t long before a day and time were set, a meeting place was indentified, and a rudimentary script was developed for what they were going to say to the wizard.  Petros went out to the barn and updated Tiffany on the situation.  She was in her dragon form and lying on the floor of the barn, looking indifferently at Petros.

Petros was slightly annoyed by her look, “Am I boring you?”

“No,” she rumbled, “But you have forgotten a major problem,”

He eyed her suspiciously, “And that would be…?”

She sighed heavily and pushed herself up to her elbows, “So you’re saying that we will all fly down to Billings in our dragon forms under the cover of darkness and rendezvous in the Rim’s like you did before?”

“Yes,” Petros stated, “That is the plan,”

Tiffany paused, “You really don’t see it, do you?”

He glowered at her, “You are beginning to enrage me, girl.  What am I missing?”

She smirked, “I want to talk to Jason,”

“I do not see why you cannot..” Petros saw the look of determination on her face, and slumped his shoulders, “Very well,”  He stepped back while Tiffany made as much room as she could for a second dragon in the old barn.  A burst of light later, Jason was crouched in the now very crowded space.

“Hey,” he greeted her, “What’s going on?”

“Did they tell you this plan of theirs?”

He nodded, “Yeah, I helped come up with it,”

“Really?” she said, placing her claws on what would have been her hips, “YOU came up with the idea of all of us flying to Billings,”

He turned his head away, now looking at her askance, “Well, yeah.  It’s a good plan; we’ll get there quickly,”

“And did anyone bother to raise the point that you can’t FLY yet, genius?!?”

“I…was gonna practice,” he muttered.

She leveled her stare at him, “You were going to practice,”

His eyes darted back and forth as he searched for an answer, “Yeah, you know, I was gonna get out and get the whole flying thing down before the trip.  It’ll be fiiiiine,”

“Jason, why don’t you just let me fly Petros down to…”

“No,” he interrupted.

She went on, “It’ll be the easiest thing.  That way…”

“NO!”  The strength of his voice made the wall boards vibrate.

There was silence for a moment as they tried to stare each other down.  Tiffany finally asked, “Why are you being so stubborn about this?”

“HA!  That’s the pot calling the kettle black.  Why are YOU trying to make me look like an idiot,”

She wrinkled her snout, “Huh?  I’m not trying to make you look like anything,”

“Oh, now that you’re all big and bad and can fly and use your breath weapon and all, you’re gonna turn out like everyone else; you pick on the weaker ones just to make yourself look better.  If it isn’t bad enough that I’m the only one that can’t fly, now you want to humiliate me more by making Petros ride on YOU and reminding everyone of how Jason Hewes is such a lousy teen…I mean, dragon,”

His slip of the tongue was enough to enlighten Tiffany.  He voice softened, “Jace, I’m not trying to do any of that.  We need to get down to Billings in the easiest and most efficient…”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” he interrupted, turning his head away from her, “Whatever.  I get the message,”

“FINE!” This time her voice shook the walls, “We’re gonna do this your way, you know, the HARD way.  Let’s go!”

His head whipped around, a shocked look on his face, “What?!?  Go where?”

Her look was steely in its determination, “To practice!”

 

Tiffany led as they snuck out of the barn, through the field, past the glade of trees and ending in a large, unpopulated expanse. The Canadian border was the only thing north of their location and a whole lot of nothing was in between.  Here, they would not be seen or heard.

When they assured themselves the coast was clear, Tiffany turned to Jason, “So let’s do this, dragon boy.  Show me how you are going to practice flying,”

Jason stammered, “I…can’t while you’re watching,”

She rolled her eyes, “Oh please, give me a break.  Get a running start and flap your wings.  That’s all there is to it,”

“It’s not that easy,” he growled.

“Sure it is: If two girls like Kinaari and I can learn to fly, they you sure can,”

“Hey, I never said that,”

“But I bet you thought it, didn’t you?”

He was looking nervous, “That’s not fair.  Don’t lay all of that on me…”

Tiffany interrupted, her tone becoming more confrontational, “Well of course you won’t SAY it, Jace.  But you have to be thinking it, right?  You’re telling me that it doesn’t irk you in the least that you’re the only one who hasn’t figured out how to fly OR use his breath weapon,”

“Well, yeah, it bothers me,” Jason felt a burning in his great chest.  His talons dug into the ground.

“ ‘It bothers you’?  Oh come on, Jace, that’s a weenie answer,”

His voice dropped as he snarled, “Don’t call me that,”

Tiffany noticed the change in his voice.  She saw his talons gripping the earth and small veins of light rising into his legs, “Hey, I gotta call it like I see it.  This whole not trying to learn how to be a dragon; it’s kind of a weenie thing,”

“I SAID DON’T CALL ME THAT!”

Tiffany startled at the exclamation and saw Jason raising himself to his full height.  The teenage slump of the shoulders and neck was gone and the proud, majestic stance of a dragon was now present.  She smirked on the inside; her ploy was working, “Why?!?  How does it make you feel?”

“ANGRY!” he bellowed.  His eye slits grew until his irises appeared completely black.  The veins of light were half way up his legs, and he bared his teeth at the heat dragon.  He was looking very alarming, even to Tiffany.

“Oh really?!?” she shouted back at him, “Then what are you going to do about it?!?”

Jason unleashed an ear splitting dragon roar, as his chest rapidly expanded and he pointed his serpentine neck at Tiffany.  She barely jumped out of the way as a torrent of glowing orange cubes burst forth from the gaping maw of the stone dragon.  His wings beat furiously as his breath weapon bathed a wide swath of the earth in its energies.  His front legs rose off the ground as the leathery wings assaulted the air until gravity itself seemed to give way to the rage of the earth dragon.  Jason poured years of repressed frustration into the expulsion of his magical attack as grass, soil, weeds, small trees and any insects or rodents caught in the blast transformed into stone.  The ferocity of the breath weapon finally relented and Jason opened his eyes, having realized they had been shut the entire time.  He raised his neck and unclenched his talons; before him a cone of earth two hundred feet long and fifty feet wide at its base was now transformed into the hardest granite.  His pupils returned to their normal size and the veins of light in his legs faded.

“Whoa,” he exclaimed, wide eyed.

Tiffany quietly stole up next to him, “Thus endeth the lesson,” she said coyly.

 

By the time they returned to the barn, Jason was still trying to figure things out, “Yeah, you all told me that before, that I needed to WANT to use my breath weapon, but at those times I did; I really wanted to see what it would do,”

“No, you’re not getting it,” she replied as she shook her head, “You didn’t want to use it then, like you would for an attack or defense or something.  You were just curious, but there was no need there.  I just wanted to get you angry so you would lash out in frustration; to make you want to break something in a fit of rage.  Haven’t you ever wanted to do that?”

“Well, yeah, but if I break something, I have to fix it.  I don’t like having to fix things,”

“See?!?” she said, frustrated, “That is the other problem.  You’re kind of lazy, Jace, and you give up waaay to easily.  If you want something like this, you have to work at it,”

“I work,” he replied defensively.

She looked over her snout at him, “That isn’t what I mean and you know it,”

“Look, I know how the world works; you try something and end up looking stupid in front of everyone, you never hear the end of it,”

Tiffany furrowed her eye ridges, “Is that what you think of us?”

He rolled his eyes, “No, but…”

“No ‘buts’,” She interrupted,  “Don’t lump the people who really care about you in the same category as this Stan guy.  We want to see you succeed, and I don’t care how many tries it takes, so the self-pity ends here.  Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.  There is way more at stake here then your insecurities, and we have to get past them for this plan to work.  Got it?”

“Got it,” he smiled, “Thanks, Tiff.  Look, it’s almost supper time.  Petros better get back inside,”

 

During the remainder of the days before Mr. Hewes’ departure, the draconauts more firmly solidified and refined their plans.  Getting everyone down to Billings and at precisely the same time and place was going to be something of a feat, since none of the dragons were even remotely familiar with life as a human in a big city.  They had to know about finding their way through the streets, interacting with the citizens, asking for help in a non-suspicious way, and even how to use money.  But in their typical fashion, the dragons caught on quickly.

The day finally arrived for Mr. Hewes’ departure, and Petros walked him out to the pick-up to see him off.  He opened the passenger side door and deposited his leather duffel bag on the worn, vinyl bench seat.  He then turned to Petros, “You sure you’re going to be all right?”

Petros nodded, “Yes, I don’t anticipate anything eventful occurring while you are away,”

Mr. Hewes put his arm around his shoulders and walked him around to the driver’s seat of the truck.  He was smiling and shaking his head, “I don’t know what has gotten into you these past few weeks, son, but you are different.  I can’t put my finger on it, but something has changed,”

Petros searched for an excuse, “I believe I have finally taken the advice to ‘grow up’ a little.  Isn’t that what you wanted?”

Timothy sat in the truck and pulled the door closed.  He spoke through the open window, “Sometimes.  But don’t grow up too fast; you only get to be a kid once,”

“I…will consider that,” he replied.

Mr. Hewes turned to back the truck out of the driveway, but then turned back to Petros, “And don’t think I haven’t noticed that you are struggling with contractions.  Maybe you need a speech therapist or something,”

Petros had no idea what he was talking about, “Perhaps that would be prudent,”

Mr. Hewes smiled at that last statement as he backed the truck onto Highway 2 and motored off to the airport.  Petros breathed a heavy sigh and walked straight to the barn.  He opened the doors and found Tiffany examining the saddle Jason had jury-rigged for his first flight with Petros.

“Do you believe it will still work?” he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders, “It shouldn’t be a problem,”

“I will contact Squire George,” he replied as he took the smart phone out of his pocket.

Tiffany teased, “Awww, look at you making phone calls all by yourself,” She sighed deeply, “My little dragon-boy-guy is growing up,”  She placed her claws over her heart and fluttered her eyelids.

Petros leveled at stare at her, “What is it Jason says?  Oh yes, ‘You are hysterical; you should go on tour’,”  He waited a few moments for George to answer then said into the phone, “Yes, it is me.  We are ready.”

 

The door to the massive and opulent office on the 80th floor swung open for Tate Reigles as he stepped onto the plush, maroon carpet.  The Lammergeiger and the fish owl gazed at him, their intense stare making Mr. Reigles’ stomach sink.  He swallowed hard and looked across the room to the cloaked figure standing before the windows, gazing out over the concrete jungle of Manhattan.  He swore the figure hadn’t moved since his last visit to the office weeks ago.

The figure spoke, “I would assume by your presence here that you now understand my goals in this age and how the wyrm fit into it?”

“I do, sir,” he fought to not let his voice crack.

“My lord,”

He frowned, “I’m sorry, I missed that,”

The hooded head turned slightly toward him, “You will address me as ‘my lord’ or you may find yourself relieved of the need to address anyone ever again,”

Reigles could feel the bitter bile rising in his throat, “I understand, my lord,”

“Very good.  You have news?”

He fought to compose himself, “Yes.  Our listening post says they are about to move,”

There was a pause, “Excellent.  Will the human whelps be with the wyrm?”

“They are working together, so it would be a logical conclusion,”

“The male wyrm are to be slain and the females brought to the designated coordinates.  The children are collateral; what happens to them is of no consequence to me,”

“Understood, my lord,” Reigles was repulsed at the thought.  He was not hired to see children murdered.

The figure went on, “It is time to lay our trap.  Have our clean-up technologies standing by.  We will offer our services with the most haste and free of charge.  No local government will refuse millions of dollars of free services,”

Leave a comment

Filed under Jason and the Draconauts (The Story)