"Where do you think you're going?" Mom asked me in her, 'you know the answer already' voice.
"Ma, I have to do this." I replied, trying to make my point clear, "Those dragons need help and he can't do it on his own."
"It's not your problem." she shot back, "You don't have any part in how they run their lives. And you're still recovering from your injuries. You could go out there and hurt yourself even more."
"I'm well enough to finish this job." I said, my voice was a bit deeper and more authoritative than normal, "I can't let my actions back there affect those people. They need to get out before things get worse for them."
"Ethan, think about what you are doing." Mom told me, pointing a finger at me, "You are charging off in the middle of the night on some suicidal mission to save a bunch of dragons that tried to kill you."
"If they can be convinced to leave," I responded to her, "then they'll be grateful to me. All I really care about is that no harm comes to them."
"Son." Dad said, his features were all droopy and saddened, "I have to say this, you seem dead set on going through with this and no amount of talking will convince you otherwise. You feel responsible for any harm that happens to those dragons because you escaped and upset their little world. So now you're going back to get them out too. It's a suicide mission; there'll be no way to tell who's who in that mess and you get easily get killed. I know you feel a connection at some level to those dragons, even if you yourself don't believe it. Deep down inside you, there's a part of you that wants to be like them, living in the wild, in a group of your own kind. It's a perfectly natural instinct to desire to be around others like you and let's face facts; you're not around others like you here. That little part of you wants to go and be in a clan like them, but you won't let yourself because you're so uptight and restrained that you will not turn loose of your life here with us. For that, we are both grateful. We would miss you a lot and worry about you out there if you ran off like that. But I can see that you are just trying to help them out. Promise me you'll be careful."
"I will Dad and I will be back." I replied wearing a big draconic grin on my face, trying to show him I was confident in myself, "I guess I do have that little part of me that wants to live in a clan of dragons, but I know that's not what I want for my life. Everything I care about, my family, my friends and my dreams are all here and I wouldn't give any of it up for anything."
Mom came over and wrapped her arms around me and said with tears streaming down her face,
"You come back, you hear me. Be careful and watch your back. If things look like they're going downhill fast, you run. Get out and you come back home."
"I will Ma, don't worry." I said, hugging her back.
"He won't have to watch his back," Sam said as she walked around the corner in full combat gear, "I'll watch it for him."
Sam was decked out for a fight. She had on her SWAT black BDUs with a black tactical belt and leg holster holding the .22 revolver that Dad has always had on the property. On her back in a pair of shotgun holsters were her two flintlock pistols, the short, regular one with a bicentennial quarter in one side and her extra long bounty hunter flintlock pistol. The bounty hunter was made in Italy and she loved that thing. Mounted to one of the holsters was her ninja sword, looking like she had cleaned and re-sharpened it from its last battle. Over her shoulders was her custom, self made leather armor. It looked like an accordion made of dark brown leather was pulled over each shoulder and a pair of short braces were clamped on two each of her forearms. On her head sat her black boonie hat and in her hands was the single shot twelve gauge. A bandolier of shotgun shells ran over her chest, fully loaded. Her black combat boots finished off her look; she was ready for a fight.
"I've rigged every piece of gear to hot droppable," she said, her voice had the consistency of sand paper, "If I need to lighten my load, a quick release of a catch and off it comes. Ammo is checked and ready to go. I'll make sure he comes back."
"Sam, you can't be serious." Mom said as she let me go and went to Sam, "You can't go with him. It's dangerous enough for him, but you're not
"Not what?" Sam shouted, cutting her off, "Not capable enough? I was perfectly capable of jumping down the hole and rescuing him before and I more prepared now. I'm not going to let him go off into that hell hole by himself, his only support being that dragon in the backyard. I don't trust that thing and I'm going to do what I think will get us both through this fight in once piece. He needs backup, he's got it."
"Sam," I said, "Thanks, but are you sure about this?"
"I wouldn't have gone to this much effort if I wasn't." she shot back.
"My two kids charging off to danger," Dad said, "it makes me so proud to see the amount of courage you two have. You two never could leave well enough alone. I'd go with you, but that last bout took a lot of me and I'm sure your mother too. But if you guys are willing to go through with this, then good luck and watch your six. Heads down and get in cover, eyes and ears open and above all, stick together."
"Thanks Dad. I'll remember that." I replied with a smirk.
I knew all this was tearing them up inside, but I had to go through with this. Answers needed to be found to questions that still lingered and people were in a position to be harmed as a result of my actions. I went downstairs and got my boxes of ammo. I had two full boxes left, one being already in my pocket. I got out of my night clothes and looked through my closet for an outfit that would help me. That's when I found my old Colosseum woodland camo BDUs. I had bought another jacket for my day to day use and that had left my old uniform to sit on the hanger in the back of my closet. The American Flag and Staff Sergeant patches on the right arm and the Fifth Army and Punisher skull patches on the left. A pair of Military Police pins sat on the collar, each a pair of crossed flintlock pistols made of brass. My black tactical vest was still over the uniform, just waiting to be used again for close-quarters-combat. I ran my claws over the fabric, not having touched it in a long time. The Colosseum had closed about two years before. I missed that place, I still do. That uniform meant so much to me; it was the last reminder of a time that I had so much fun with my friends, where I was happy. I looked and the back of the vest and jacket to find them unaltered. They were still set to fit the old, human me. My face drooped a bit.
"Well, I guess it's a good thing to leave something as a reminder of that time." I mumbled to myself, "What better than my old uniform."
I put on a pair of black denim jeans and a black long shelved shirt. Once I had slipped on my black John Deere hat, pulled on my modified woodland camo jacket, put the boxes of ammo in its front pockets, grabbed my old canteen, strapped on my belt and leg holster, put on and laced up my boots and slipped my revolver into my leg holster, buttoning the strap down over it, I was ready to go. I closed the closet door and went back upstairs.
"You ready?" Sam asked me the second I made it into the kitchen.
"I guess so." I said as I filled up my canteen at the kitchen sink.
"Then let's go." she said walking towards the kitchen door, "We'll be back."
Mom was tearing up, but managed to say,
"You two watch out for each other and you make sure you both make it back."
"Be careful." said Dad, his voice was rock steady.
As I screwed the lid back on my canteen, clipping it to my belt I said to them,
"Don't worry, we will."
"Move it Big Red." snapped Sam as she went out the door.
I walked out the door, following Sam up to Brendan.
"So, you're the one that's going to back us up?" she asked.
"You're the human that fought with a sword during the escape." Brendan replied, sounding shocked, "Why do you wish to come if you hate us so much?"
"I don't hate you or any other dragons that want to just live their lives like normal people." she answered, "I do hate dragons that want to take over the world and cause pain and misery to everyone. Besides, where my brother goes, I go. I'm not about to let him have all the fun tonight."
The demented grin appeared on her face again, which made even a dragon as big and powerful and Brendan recoil slightly.
"This family is just so odd." he replied, "A girl that can slay a dragon with such little effort and yet she sees one as her own flesh and blood."
"It's not that she hates dragons Brendan." I said, trying to fill in the gaps, "She hates people. It wouldn't matter if a person is a human or a dragon in this case, she'd kill them all with just the same amount of detached fury."
"I have no morals." she told him, still with that grin, "Ethan here is my moral guide, he restrains me when it comes to these things."
Brendan just looked at me and then back to her.
"Listen, this could go on for hours, let's just go." I said, "I have class in the morning."
He just shook his head and took off into the sky.
"Question." Sam asked, "How am I supposed to get there."
I hadn't thought about that, but I just had a random, crazy thought.
"Climb on Sam." I said, pointing at my back.
"You can't be serious." she said, shaking her head.
"You wanted to come, here's your ride." I replied with a smirk.
She let out a huff and reached into one of her pockets. She pulled out a piece of rope with a carabiner at each end.
"If I'm going to ride you, I'm strapping myself to you so tight that you can barely breathe." she said as she tossed me one end of the rope, "Tie that around you."
I tied the rope around my chest, under my arms and over my wings forming a nice catch loop that couldn't come off easily. I got down on all fours so Sam could strap herself to me. Sam clipped the carabiner at her end to her belt and looped the remaining rope over her chest and shoulders. With a few test jerks on the ropes to make sure they would hold, put on her Wiley X ballistic goggles, she tapped my shoulder and said is a slightly wary voice,
She clamped her arms around the base of my neck, locking her hands onto her forearms to hold on as tightly as she could as I spread my wings out.
"Hold on." I said.
With a powerful flap of my wings, the two of us shot up into the sky. She let out a scream as she saw the ground suddenly jump away from her. Her arms began to squeeze my neck too tightly.
"Sam." I said, trying to talk with a constricted neck, "You're choking me."
She didn't say anything, but she did loosen her grip a little, just enough for me to be able to breathe. I could feel her head on the back of my neck. She may be a strong willed person, but being up in the air on the back of a dragon for the first time still is a scary thing.
"Come on Sam," I said as I rapidly closed in on Brendan, just spotting him up ahead, "This is a once in a life time view. Enjoy it."
I looked back to see her clamped to my back with her eyes shut. She slowly opened her eyes and looked back at me.
"Whoa." she breathed, "This is what you see when you fly?"
"Yeah," I replied, "It's breath taking the first time, but after a while it just loses its charm for me. Everything up here just starts to blur together. The little things in life just fade into nothing but tiny specks and I like all the little things, they make life worth living. I fly to release frustration sometimes or just to get away from it all for a little bit, but I really can't just fly away from my problems. I like to have dirt under my boots; it makes me feel better, more at home. But flying is a nice way to save on gas and get somewhere faster."
"But you have wings." she asked, "A lot of people would kill to have a pair of wings like yours. Fly everywhere and just see the world like this every day."
"And how would that be different then driving everywhere?" I asked, looking at Brendan for the direction he was going, "The means of travel have an effect on the journey. If I flew everywhere, I would miss all those cool cars I see on the road, all those great little burger places I find and all those nice little things that make driving one of the best things in my life."
"Well, this is a wonderful view." she said, "Thanks for showing it to me."
"I'm just glad that you're so small and light." I said with a smile, "If you were much heavier, I wouldn't be able to pull this off. I already have to flap harder to stay up as it is."
She just slapped my neck a little; she knew I had made fun of her size. It was a nighttime flight to remember, but when Brendan descended down into a forest, I knew it was over. I had a bit of a tricky landing, but I was able to pull it off. And by pull it off I of course mean I tried to land on all fours and misjudged the forward inertia of two people and ended up skidding along the ground on my chest. I opened up my eyes to see a tree at the end of my muzzle.
"That was close." I said, unclipping Sam from my back.
She staggered away from me, trying to get over her dizziness from the flight. I dusted myself off and checked my equipment. All the ammo boxes were fine and the revolver had missed the ground so it was still clean.
"Okay, next time we drive." she said as she finally got her head on straight.
"Shhh!" Brendan hissed, "Quite, we're inside the perimeter."
I pulled my revolver when he said that, followed by the sound of Sam drawing her sword.
"This way." he said as he walked off deeper into the woods.
We stayed quite as we followed him to a large rock face. He reared up and put his full weight on a large boulder, rolling out of the way. He just nodded towards the now exposed tunnel and walked inside. Sam and I just looked at each other and shrugged. We followed in after him, just going down a large tunnel that angled down deeper below ground. Sam stayed next to me as I used my draconic eyesight to see in the darkness. The tunnels had very little in the way of lighting, but torch mounts were in the walls. A light up ahead told me we were probably coming up on a more habited area. Brendan walked out into the lighted chamber and Sam and I followed close behind, still with our weapons drawn. A few dragons were wandering around, looking scared and confused. One of them spotted Sam first and then me.
"There's two of them!" yelled the brown dragon, "Get them!"
"NO!" roared Brendan, "They've come back to help."
"What?" shouted a blue dragon, "What can they help us with?"
"Getting us out." he replied, "We have a chance to leave, return to our lives. If we pass it up, we may never get another chance."
"But they told us the humans will kill us." whimpered a small gold dragon, "That our families will never accept us."
"I'm here with my brother." Sam said, "That proves that there is a chance for all of you."
"But you came here with all those weapons." said the blue dragon, "You look like a dragon slayer. We know that blade has tasted dragon's blood before."
"I only defended myself and my family." she shot back, "You would do the same."
"So, we can leave?" warily asked a frightened red dragon.
"If you wish to go," I told him, "Then go now. Get in that tunnel behind us and fly away. I'm sure not everyone here will be thrilled at you guys leaving."
"Where are the pure dragons?" Brendan asked, sounding a bit demanding.
"One is in the main chamber, marshaling the others to obey them." replied the brown dragon, "Ekote is trying to take command."
Brendan growled and took off down one of the tunnels, Sam and I had to bolt after him to avoid losing him in the maze of tunnels.
"Everyone!" he roared as he ran at full speed, "Get out now! Leave this place and go home!"
Other dragons looked in fear and confusion at the sight of us, but it seemed like they weren't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. They took off behind us and left the caves and tunnels anyway they knew how. We ran into a huge chamber, had to be over hundred and fifty to two hundred feet wide and probably just as tall. It looked like a huge meeting hall, complete with a big stage in the center topped it a loud, annoying prick going on about how great he is.
"My brothers and sisters." shouted a good sized navy blue and green dragon, "With the death of our leader, we now have a power void, one that, with a heavy heart, I will fill. I have sent one our finest to get revenge on the ones that has committed this act of war against us and I assure you that the human responsible for this terrible act upon us will suffer every inch as much as you have and more. I will lead us to a brighter future, one that we dragons rule over the entire world. One that humanity serves us and not where we are forced to hide from them in fear and shame. I ask you; follow me to this better tomorrow, this brighter day. Take your new birthright as dragons and help me tear down humanities iron grip on this planet."
I just smirked and started clapping. The room was dead silent except for the rhythmic beat of my claws slapping together. My guess is dragons don't clap much. I could see that arrogant dragon's head turn as he looked towards the source of the sound. As soon as I saw his eyes widen, I knew what was going through that thick melon of his.
"Very nice speech!" I shouted at him, walk down a path towards the stage, "No, no. I really enjoyed it. I really liked the part with the birthright thing and the iron grip, very nice touches really, adds a bit of oomph to it. But you know, you'll never win. It's a suicide mission he's taking you all on. Humanity will grind you guys up into powder if you go through with what he plans on you guys doing. Time and time again, humanity has dealt with a problem like this and come out on top. Want to know why? It's because let's face it, humanity loves a good fight. Fighting is the one thing humanity has always known how to handle. A lot of the latest technology has been invented from military projects. The internet itself is from computer networks designed for linking bases together. Fight against humanity and you will lose. Simply put, they've had a very long time to get good at killing things that are tough to kill. We have scales, they have armor piercing bullets. We have fire breath; they have man portable rocket launchers. We have wings; they have jet fighters with heat seeking missiles and fifty caliber machine guns. Don't fall for this whole 'dragons are better than humans' BS. Truth is we're not any better than we once were. We are the same. My advice is just goes home, live your lives and just be yourselves."
By the time I finished my speech, I was right next to the stage and that blue dragon was just staring at me in shock. Finally he sputtered out,
I aimed my revolver right between his eyes and told him right to his face,
"I wouldn't advise that or you'll head up just like your precious leader."
"Ekote, listen to him." Brendan shouted, him and Sam were holding the tunnel entrance, "He's telling you the truth."
"You, Grador." he snarled, "I sent you to kill him, not to bring him back here."
"My name is Brendan." he shot back, "And I'm not about to miss my chance to get my life back."
All the dragons in the room looked horribly confused; they didn't know what to do with themselves. I held my revolver aimed at Ekote's head, not letting it sway too far away from his face.
"I want you all to ask yourselves this one question!" I shouted, holding the bulk of my attention on Ekote, "Do I really want this? Answer it and then decide what to do right now."
There was a lot of mumbling, but after a few long minutes, dragons started leaving the room. They filed out the tunnels, on their way to their homes.
"No!" Ekote roared, "It's your destiny to rule this planet, don't toss that away!"
"I just wanted to live my life!" shouted a pink anthro dragoness, "I wanted to be a dancer, but that stone changed all that for me. I don't want to destroy the dreams of others just because mine was destroyed. Maybe if I go back, I can salvage my life and make my dream come true, but I can't do that here. I'm out."
"You all swore your allegiance to us!" he roared, "You don't have a choice!"
"It's America dude." I told him with a smug grin on my muzzle, "They can do whatever they want, free country."
He snarled at I guess the he didn't care if I shot him. He leapt at me with his claws ready to rip me to pieces. I fired at him, but I missed and that was very bad. He tackled me to ground and started to claw at my chest and face. I just let a stream of fire go and his him square in the muzzle. He got off me and staggered backward trying to get to where he could see again. His eyes were watering from the heat of the blast, but he still caught sight of my motion and let a fire ball go at me. I rolled out the way and shot at him, hitting him in the left wing, but only blowing a hole in the membrane. He growled in pain, but charged me again. I lowered my shoulder and rammed into his chest. He breathed a wave of fire down my back, the heat was intense and I could smell cooking leather and feel the searing pain as my wing membranes were being fried. It was all I could do from me to put my revolver in his gut and pull the trigger. The force of the round flew right through him and caused him to fly back and land on the ground with a sickening smack. He felt his stomach only to find a hole right in the upper left of it. On the other side of him, right in the middle of his back was a huge exit wound. His back and been literally blown open. He just looked up at me as I walked over to him. Hate and fear was in his eyes. Hating me for killing him and fear of what was going to be waiting for him on the other side.
"I guess you lost your way." I said to the dying dragon, "It wasn't your fault. The ones that taught you these lies will suffer for what they have done to you and all the others like you. I want you to know this before you die. The world is a big and complicated place. Those who seek to simplify it only lose their way in a maze that they created for themselves."
He took his last breath and just seemed to fall over limp. I walked away, leaving him to lay on the floor.
"Brendan, how many pure dragons are here?" I asked.
"Five." he replied, "The rest will be guarding the nest."
"You mean the chamber with the eggs in it?" I asked.
I was concerned because if he was talking about the four dragons I thought he was talking about, then we had a big problem.
"Yes." he said, "We'll have to be careful."
"No kidding." I said feeling like that was an understatement. I reloaded my revolver to cover my bases, "Lead the way."
We went through the maze of tunnels and chambers till we heard shouting and snarls. A picked up the pace and ran to the chamber to see a group of dragons squaring off with the four pure dragons guarding the egg chamber.
"We want our children." shouted one of the dragons in the crowd.
"These eggs are our future." said the largest one of the bunch or pure dragons, a big silver one, "These pure blooded dragons will be our leaders and represent the finest dragons in the world. They belong to the Hierarchy."
"They belong to us." shout another dragon in the crowd, "We are their parents."
"Leave now!" bellowed the big gold one.
"Not without our eggs!" roared back a black anthro dragon.
The four dragons began to take up a defensive position in front of the entrance. The group of dragons attacked and the lumbering creatures just fought back, sending them flying backwards up against the far wall. We charged into the fray. Brendan just full on tackled the silver one to the ground as I jumped on the green one in the back. Sam got goldie's attention.
"Over here tall, dumb and ugly." she said, waving at him.
"A human!" he roared back at her.
He snarled and charged at her. With a quick sidestep, he missed her and her collided with a wall. He fell over and was struggling to get up as fast as possible, but Sam was on him too fast.
"Nighty night." she taunted him, putting her bounty hunter flintlock pistol right at his eye.
I noticed a flash with a loud bang and then the gold dragon was in his death throes. I had my claws full with the green one. It was like riding a mechanical bull, except this one was alive and really angry. I held on for all I was worth, sinking my claws into his scaly hide to get higher up his neck. After he slammed into the side of the cave wall to try and dislodge me, I figured I was close enough. I drew my revolver and fired at where I guessed his spine should be. He fell limp as soon as I fired; his head still looked like it had life in it though. That didn't last long since the mob of parental dragons mugged his vulnerable head. I recoiled a bit and just left that situation alone. The last one was a black one, but he was lying dead from the mob of dragons and I'm not sure of what happened to him other then he looked split open from between his hind legs and up to the bottom of his jaw. It wasn't a pretty sight, but my guess is sense they couldn't focus on just us or the little army of parental dragons, they were just so confused that they didn't stand a chance. Brendan just walked over and said,
"Never get between a dragon and their hatchling."
"You got that right." I said as they swarmed into the nest area and took their eggs.
Once they had gotten their young and left, I wandered into the area to make sure it was clear. It was and I was happy that they had gotten all of their eggs. After that, we went through the tunnels till we were outside in the moonlight.
"Thank you for all your help." Brendan said, "It would have been very hard all by myself."
"No problem man." I replied wearing a big draconic grin.
"I'll go track down the dragons that are too frightened to return home and get them settled into a new home to try on help them get over their fears." he said, "I'll raid the caves treasury to pay for a new piece of land to call our own. The Hierarchy won't be needing it."
"Good luck man." I told him, "Remember to get in touch with Arnold and set up an agreement with him."
"I will, take care." he said and then jumped into the sky.
"I guess I'll call Mom and Dad to pick us up." Sam said as she reached for her phone, "No way you can fly back home with those barbequed wings."
I looked back to see she was right. My wing membranes were all burned and the scales were blackened. It hurt to move them.
"Yeah, good idea." I replied.
Dad was just happy we had made it out alive and came up to get us. I rode in the bed because I couldn't lean back on my burned wings, but we both made it home. When I walked through the door, Mom gave me a big hug. She hit a burned spot on my wing and I let out a hiss. When she saw the spot she had touched she said,
"Oh I'm so sorry. I hope that didn't hurt too much."
"It hurt a lot, but I'll live." I replied, "Right now I need to get some rest."
"Here, Al, you go downstairs and put some triple antibiotic ointment on those burns so they don't get infected." she told Dad.
We just went downstairs and I got to go another round of Sam and Dad treating my wounds. Sam had a few cuts and scrapes, but she treated them herself. Once I had patches on my burns and bandages on all my cuts, I carefully climbed onto my bed, lying on my less damaged stomach to avoid aggravating my burns. I saw that it was about three in the morning and I had class in about five hours.
"It never ends." I muttered to myself.
My alarm was already set and so I fell asleep, trying to get at least some rest that night. As I drifted off, I felt like I was at the beginning of something huge. Like a whole new world was just opening up and I had a front row seat. I just fell asleep thinking,
'One thing at a time and always do my best because in the end, it's all we can ever really ask of anyone.'