On the Wing
An evil laugh came from the direction of the eyes as I raised my blade. “Really, Sakamota? You would truly face me with that ancient weapon?”
“Who are you?” I asked, trying to ignore the feeling of dread rushing through me.
The red eyes glinted as the figure moved, its massive form writhing in the darkness. It didn't take my mind long to make out the long spiked tail, the giant leathery wings, and the massive claws.
I sucked in my breath. It was a dragon. The dragon. I had found it. Well done, Jimmy.
At that moment, I realized the futility the blue-scaled dragon had implied, the futility of my quest altogether. How could I hope to fight such a colossal creature? The smallest of the dragon's teeth was at least as long as Glint, and doubtlessly sharper.
The dragon smiled at me. The sight of all the dragon's teeth wasn't reassuring in the slightest, though I sincerely doubt that the dragon was trying to calm me down.
“Are you the dragon who kidnapped Princess Sera?” I managed, somehow able to keep a grip on my katana.
“Indeed. What of it?”
Part of me dearly wanted to run away. Okay, most of me wanted to run away. I heard once that dragons emit some kind of fear-inducing aura, but I was almost certain that I had read somewhere that it was just a myth based on some fantasy book. It was hard to refute the claim, however, when every cell in my body screamed at me to run until I got to the Saybaro and take refuge in the facility for a decade or two.
I was suddenly acutely aware of Meryli cowering behind me. If I ran, what would happen to her? What about my friends outside, unaware of the danger? And what of my mission to rescue Princess Sera? I had spent far too long studying the samurai's code of honor to abandon it so readily.
Steeling myself, I said, “As a Specialist of the Wenapaj Royal Guard, a knight of the realm, and a registered Sleeper of the Elsewhere Incorporate, I request that you return her immediately, alive and well.”
The dragon laughed at me, a horrible, grating sound that made my stomach curl. “So you not only fancy yourself a samurai, but a knight and a Dreamer as well? How delightfully pathetic.”
A dented hubcap suddenly flew through the air and bounced off the dragon's face with a rather humorous clank.
I glanced behind me only to see Meryli standing near a pile of dilapidated parts, the UBTs on her arms. She was still shaking slightly, but there was a definite look of defiance on her face.
“Get the hell outta my shop, you overgrown iguana!” She shouted, hefting an old engine block from the pile and tossing it at the dragon as though it were a basketball.
The engine smashed across the right side of the dragon's face, sending scales flying in all direction. With a roar loud enough to make my ears ring, it raised a massive claw to swat us into jelly.
Perhaps it was the urgency of the situation, but I barely had to concentrate a moment before drawing in enough stream energy for a Force Edge. The stream blast flew out from my swing and knocked the dragon's claw away from us and into an old floater, which miraculously shot into motion and slammed into the dragon's face. This seemed to stun the dragon long enough for Meryli and me to reach the exit.
As we rushed out of the station doors, the dragon tore through the roof of the station, fire bellowing into the sky from its gaping tooth-filled maw.
“Start the floater!” I shouted at Casey, quickly throwing the door open. Meryli dove through the door, nearly tackling Terry in the process.
Casey's eyes widened at the sight of the dragon fighting through the steel. “Maker's Grace … it's … it's a real dragon.”
“Incredible!” Mick said. “Look at those wings!”
“Having trouble getting past the teeth.” Arc said, hands clutching the hilt of his massive sword.
I slammed the door shut. When we failed to move, I said, “Casey!”
She blinked and shook her head. “Right … right. Everyone hold on!”
The floater started forward, and not a moment too soon; the dragon spread its massive wings over the ruins of the garage and took to the sky. I was expecting it to go straight for us, but to my surprise, it turned tail and flew in the opposite direction.
“I don't suppose we can just let it go.' Casey said.
I patted her on the shoulder from the back seat. “If we can't stop it, we at least need to see where it's going.”
“I was afraid you'd say that.” She sighed and turned us around to pursue the dragon. The ground fell away as we zoomed after the scale-covered kidnapper. To my surprise, we were gaining on it.
Meryli grabbed my arm. “Whoa there a sec! What're ya plannin' Jimbo? That thing shrugged off an engine block to the face and your … whatever you did. You got something bigger to hit it with?”
“Terry?” I said, turning to Terry, “Think you can hit the dragon from here?”
He smiled back at me. “No problem, sir!”
Terry carefully climbed partially out the driver's side backseat window with his rifle, the Casey, Mick, Arc and I grabbing on to him wherever we could get a hold so he wouldn't get sucked out.
“Set it to full power!” I called out over the rush of wind. “We may only get one shot!”
“Yes sir!” Several capacitors activated along the barrel of the weapon, charging larger amounts of energy. I held onto his greaves tightly in anticipation of the coming kickback.
“Firing!” He shouted over the rush of wind. A burst of light rocketed from his rifle, the force of the blast making the floater twist in the air. Terry started to fall out the window as Casey lost control. Holding on to Terry as best as I could, I shouted, “Hold on! Everyone, just hold on!”
Casey managed to stabilize our flight and point us back at the dragon just in time to see said dragon as it sped toward us. There was a sizeable hole in his right wing that still glowed with heat from Terry's shot.
“Evade! Evade!” I shouted, still tugging on Terry.
Casey shot straight down. Although the sudden descent caught me off-guard, I was able to use the momentary weightlessness to tug Terry back into the vehicle.
As we burst through a cloud and down into a low sweeping plain, I pulled out the One doll, shouting, “One! One, if you're there, we could really use some help!”
The doll came to life almost instantly, a small length of wood appearing in his plush hand. “Ah, Jimmy, I just found …” He glanced around, looking at our faces. “Okay, I can see you're in a bind, so we'll forget the polite crap. What's the problem?”
“Dragon.” I said, pointing at the front windshield.
“What are you talking-” One's little button eyes went wide. “Everyone down!”
The dragon swiftly flew over our floater, taking the opportunity to rake the top of the vehicle with wickedly sharp talons.
Fortunately, we all heeded One's warning and ducked as a group, narrowly avoiding decapitation as our floater was modified into a convertible. As the wind rushed over us, I saw the dragon turn to make another pass.
“Thoughts, One?” I asked, thankfully maintaining my grip on the plush toy.
“Hmm. It's too far for me to poke.” He said, tossing his stick aside. “I could throw you at it, like with the prop dragon.”
“Something that won't get me killed?”
He scratched his little plush head. “Hmm. Let me think on it.”
The floater shot into a narrow canyon, one of several in the mountains near the Saybaro. The floater was able to slip through a narrow opening at the base of the cliffs, forcing the dragon to rise well out of clawing range. The cliffs above were too narrow to allow it to descend from above, and it was too high to reach us with its fiery breath.
“Ha!” Arc shouted as the dragon watched us through the narrow cliffs above us. “What's wrong, you ugly sack of crap? Too much of a fat-ass to-”
One pressed a plush hand on Arc's mouth, vanishing it instantly. “Never laugh at live dragons, you fool!”
To all of our surprise, the dragon turned sharply out of sight. All of us except Casey watched the narrow gap between cliffs for some sign of the beast, but it didn't reappear.
I let out a relieved breath. While I'm sure it wasn't going to just give up, at least we had a moment to collect ourselves.
“Everyone okay?” I asked.
“No.” Casey said, her knuckles white from her tight grip on the steering wheel. “No, I don't think I'm remotely okay. We're alive though, and that's what's important.”
“Indeed.” One smiled at Meryli and gave her a friendly wave. “Hey there. You one of Jimmy's friends?”
“Yeah.” She squinted at him. “Are you supposed to be Narrator Number One or something?”
“Something like that.” he told her, a smirk on his stitched face.
I looked at the others. Terry still seemed a little dazed, but his grip on his plasma rifle seemed firm enough. Arc was handling the situation remarkably well; he only looked a little frightened, and his grip on his sword told me he was ready to take a swing should the dragon get close. Mick seemed completely unphased, and even gave me a smile and a wave when he noticed my inquisitive stare.
Nodding, I said, “All right, everyone; I'm hoping this is one of the canyons that opens up near the Saybaro. With any luck, we-”
I was interrupted as Casey quickly swerved to avoid a cascade of falling rocks. They slammed into the ground, some shattering with the sheer force of their fall.
A burst of wind from above drew our gaze upwards, where the dragon was tearing at the side of the canyon, its massive wings buffeting us with every flap. As it flew away again, Arc said, “Damn. Lizard's clever, huh?”
Another cascade of rocks nearly buried us as the dragon struck the cliffs above. Still, we were nearing the end of the canyon. Through the opening at the base of the cliffs, I caught a glimpse of the Saybaro Mansion. It was distant, but never had I seen a more welcoming sight.
“Bethany!” I said, holding my PIM to my mouth and hoping she could hear me over the rushing wind, “We're coming in fast with a dragon on our tail. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.”
She didn't respond. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to question it; the sides of the nearby mountains pulled away, the cliffs above giving way to an open blue sky which unfortunately also contained a very angry-looking dragon.
Terry took another shot with his plasma rifle, the kickback pushing us forward just a bit faster, but the dragon managed to dodge it. Even a burst of what looked like rivets from Meryli's UBTs didn't seem to do much but piss off the dragon even more.
“We're not gonna make it!” Arc said, and given the dragon's rate of speed, I had to agree.
“Take the wheel, Mick!” Casey shouted. Once the delighted core unit had a hand on the wheel, Casey climbed into the back seat between Meryli and me.
“You have a plan?” I asked.
“Maybe.” She said. “You just charge up another Force Edge. Terry! Get ready to take another shot!”
“But what are you …” I stopped as Casey readied her camera, a fierce light in her eyes. “Right. One Force Edge coming up. Terry?”
He was already aiming his rifle at the dragon. “Ready, sir.”
“On Casey's mark.” I said, nodding at her as I readied Glint.
The dragon was slowly closing the distance between us, growing larger and larger in my view. A glance back showed the Saybaro not far, but not close enough.
“Come on,” Casey coaxed as the dragon drew nearer and nearer. “Just a little closer!”
With the dragon literally only a couple of feet away, Casey brought up her camera and flashed the dragon straight in its scaly face. While the dragon was strangely unresponsive to the searing blast, several of the scales seemed to wilt. Undaunted, it opened his jaws and prepared to bite the car in half.
The next few seconds were complete chaos. I swung as strong a Force Edge as I could muster, knocking the dragon's maw back just as it brought its jaws together with a loud snap. Mick braked slighty, bringing the dragon's head close enough for Meryl to smash one side while Arc brought his massive blade against the other. As it recoiled, Terry opened fire while One did … something: it looked like he grabbed a bit of air and pushed it toward the dragon. The resulting chaos was like a small explosion, after which the dragon was suddenly reeling back, its wings sending gusts over us as it turned away from the floater.
“Pull back around!” I shouted, getting ready to take a leap, “Now's our chance to-”
The end of the dragon's tail caught the edge of the floater, sending us into a wild spin. I saw Casey fly out of her seat, only to be caught by Terry. Arc had no such luck, and went flying; it was sheer chance that his foot caught on the passenger side mirror. The rest of us held on somehow, though we all knew it was only a matter of time before our inevitable landing.
Then, without warning, everything and everyone froze in place, suspended by a mysterious blue light. I waited for a few moments, half-expecting time to resume while the other half waited to see my life play out before my eyes.
Bethany appeared above (or rather, due to the spin of the floater, below) us, a curious expression on her face.
“I'll need to see your license and registration.” She said, a smirk on her translucent face.
“The dragon!” I tried to say, only to discover that I couldn't speak. The stasis field that saved us also held us completely immobile. Fortunately, Bethany's quick nod told me she understood what I was trying to say. She quickly righted the vehicle and set it on the ground before removing the stasis field. I spun around immediately, only to find the dragon a distant speck on the horizon.
“East, northeast.” I said to myself, watching the sweeping movements of the creature's impressive wings.
“I take it you've had an interesting trip home?” Bethany said as we exited the vehicle.
“That's a word for it.” I said, helping Arc down from his precarious perch. After giving me a grateful nod, he fell to his knees by one of the dead bushes outside the mansion and promptly retched.
One patted Arc on the arm. “Oh, come on, Arc! I thought you of all people would love a good adventure! I mean, aren't you Reggie's grandson?”
“I'm pretty sure grandpa didn't fight any dragons.” Arc said weakly. “I mean, seriously, what are we gonna do now?”
“And what just happened?” Casey said, “What was that field anyway?”
Meryli raised her hand. “And what's with the talking doll?”
Pretty soon, everyone was asking questions. Feeling a headache coming on, I said, “Let's take this inside, shall we? This is gonna take a while, and I'm sure we'll all be wanting some lunch.”
The sound of Arc retching again flew through the air.
“Well, eventually, anyway.” I said.