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Drakin: The Story of Raiya
‘ “Abomination, freak, monster…” You get used to names like these when you have yellow eyes, horns, and scales, but Raiya could have really cared less.
After being forced into exile because of her appearance, Raiya’s mind has been focused on one goal; hunting down the dragon lord that killed her parents. For over thirty years, humanity has been locked in a struggle for survival against a race of dragons that had fallen from the heavens. They took everything from her and consumed the planet in a fierce war. Humanity’s numbers are quickly dwindling, leaving her few options in the way of allies.
What she doesn’t know is that her journey will strike at the very heart of the Red War and uncover truths about her past that she may not want to know. Can she finish what she started while coming to terms with the truths of her origin? ‘
“Unbelievable… thirty years of this shit… wonder how we’ve been able to keep this up for so long.”
As Jagger pulled his jeep onto what was once Route 9, he reached over to the dash and turned the radio on. A tired-sounding voice appeared over the speaker, “This Matt Lowry, WPR hourly news. Today the Second Battalion, Eastern division, rendezvoused with the Third Battalion outside of New Washington beneath the third parallel in district 5. They were successful at warding off the dragon advance. Casualties were estimated at 30%. However, initial reports estimate that at least six dragons were downed in the fight…”
Jagger sighed. Why do I even bother listening to this? It’s never good news, just a constant reminder that we’re all fucked. Every time those beasts attack, we’re pushed a little closer to extinction.
“In other news, Captain Suen Luli of the Eastern Coalition Air Corps was awarded for…”
Jagger turned the radio off. He knew the typical song and dance of the news source. They’d tell the bad news first and then deliver some good news which would be played up to be more important. He understood why things were done this way. Morale was very important… especially when it was hidden from no one that humanity was losing the war quite badly.
The jeep drove under the remains of an old overpass that had long since collapsed. It maneuvered gently around the piles of debris. Jagger had spent a lot of time rebuilding and refurbishing his truck. He wasn’t about to get it banged up. Once it cleared the debris, he pressed the gas and picked up speed.
A sign on the side read ‘Now Entering Natick.’ Jagger had been told stories about how that whole area used to be lively with stores and restaurants for people to enjoy. He was too young to remember any of this.
The Red War had been going on for years before his birth, and Natick had been laid to waste while he was still a young child. Now all that remained was rubbed and maybe some salvageable equipment buried in the dirt.
The jeep rounded a large piece concrete that, at one time had been the side of a storefront. This was usually Jagger’s marker to find his way back home. As the jeep hit the open road, a loud noise cut through the air. Shreeeee!
Jagger hit the brakes, “Wyverns… shit! One of those days…”
Jagger quickly put the car in park before reaching behind the passenger seat and grabbing a large bolt rifle. A dark shadow passed overhead as he checked the cartridge battery. The indicator light jumped from red to blue, showing a full charge. Good… let’s do this!
Jagger jumped out of the jeep, brushed a few strands of his long, brown hair out of his face and aimed the rifle. The first wyvern he saw was flying low overhead. He ducked down behind the large piece of rubble that he has passed a moment ago. His gray eyes followed the target. He watched and waited… waited until he had lined up a clean shot, and pulled the trigger. Three large, positively-charged bolts flew from the barrel. Two shots hit the large beast, sending it falling from the sky. I’ve gotten too used to taking down drakes. I used to be able to hit with all three shots!
Sparks of blue electricity flashed through its body as it hit the barrel ground. The wyvern’s skin was too thick for the bolts to do any real damage. They only stunned it, but it was enough to give Jagger the advantage.
He quickly ran to the wyvern, pulled a large machete from his belt, and jabbed it into the only vulnerable part of a dragon’s body; the eyes.
The blade destroyed the creature’s left eye and plunged into its brain. The dying wyvern let out a painful cry as it tried to dislodge the blade. It was a gruesome sight that Jagger had grown used to. He’d been trained for a long time to show no mercy.
Every time he had to watch this scene, he remembered back to the first one he’d killed during his training. He remembered that it had made him sick to his stomach. Seeing a creature suffer like that seemed cruel, but every time he was about to look away his drill sergeant would stop him and force him to watch, “They’re lethal to the very end. Turning your back on one now could be the biggest mistake you ever make.”
‘The biggest mistake.’ It was something that he’d never forgotten.
The wounded beast slowly ceased movement as death overtook it. Jagger placed his foot over the beast’s snout and pulled his blade from its head. Greenish-purple blood spewed from the wound as Jagger wiped the blade off.
As Jagger finished cleaning the blade, he turned to head back to his jeep and grab a few supplies. The snout of a second wyvern was in his path. Oh shit…
Somehow the beast had used its partner’s death screams as a cover to hold Jagger’s attention long enough for it to sneak up on him. The beast smiled, “Hope you taste good!”
Jagger frowned, “This is one meal you’re going to have to work for.”
Jagger gripped the blade at his side, knowing he’d never raise it in time. He waited for the wyvern to lunge. This was likely it, “Bring it on… you ugly freak!”
As the wyvern took a step towards him, a black blur appeared in its path. It shrieked in surprise upon realizing that it had become outnumbered.
Jagger blinked as his eyes adjusted to the new player. They were completely clad in black robes from head to toe, making identification impossible. A gray backpack was strapped tightly to their back. Whoever this was, they moved with lightning speed.
The wyvern snapped at the robed figure, only to have the figure dodge out of the way and grab it by the neck. The stranger held the wyvern in a headlock as it struggled to get out. Jagger watched as it hissed and roared, “Damn… this guy is good!”
“Let go, bitch or I’ll tear your heart out!” The wyvern snarled.
Female… okay, well that’s a start. Jagger thought as he quickly moved to grab his bolt gun.
No amount of thrashing could shake this stranger lose. Her hands were locked tightly around the wyvern’s neck. She spoke in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, “No… you won’t…”
To Jagger’s utter shock, she jerked her arms, causing the wyvern’s neck to sharply turn to the side. The sound of a loud snap caused the wyvern to go limp.
The skeletal structure and bone mass of even the youngest dragons were considerably thicker than humans. Their muscle tissue was also incredibly strong. No human being should posess that strength. It was a physical impossibility.
Jagger watched in amazement as she let go of the beast, tossed its head to the side, and turned to confront him. He put on a friendly smile and nodded nervously. Careful Jagger, she looks like she’s ready to kill you. “Thanks.”
He couldn’t see most of her face under the hood, but her yellow eyes almost looked like they were glowing. Her voice was deep and very quiet when she spoke. It was almost a whisper and difficult to hear, “It was stupid of you to leave your car. A jeep can outrun those beasts and they always hunt in pairs, at least.”
Yup… definitely a woman. “It didn’t seem that dangerous. Wyverns can’t breathe fire, so its easier to fight on foot, especially if there’s only one. I didn’t see the second, and I’m usually not caught off guard like that.”
“One stupid move… all it takes.”
“Words of Wisdom.”
“Why did you fight?”
“Instinct I guess.”
The figure stared at him for a moment. To Jagger, it felt like he was in the middle of drill inspection back at WesCon command. Her eyes darted up and down for a moment before she abruptly turned and began walking away.
Jagger called after her, “Wait!”
The figure stopped but did not turn and did not respond. Jagger took a few cautious steps towards it, “I owe you one for helping me. Do you need anything?”
“No… not unless…”
The figure paused for a moment. Jagger waited as she slowly turned around. Her hood was down as though she were looking at her stomach, “I haven’t eaten in a few days… I could use of some supplies. Do you have any?”
Jagger smiled, “No, but my town is nearby. Hop in, I’m heading for New Framingham. There are plenty of shops there.”
“Yeah, you’ll be able to find anything you want there.”
“I… I’m not sure…” The figure replied in a nervous whisper. “I don’t typically do well around large groups of people.”
Jagger looked at her oddly, “Well… It’s the only major hub in this part of old New England after Boston and Worcester were destroyed. The survivors moved out here and established a fortified city in the only nearby area with buildings left standing.”
“Boston and Worcester… they were both destroyed?”
Really? How could she not know about this? “Yeah, for almost ten years now, where have you been?”
The robed woman climbed into the jeep and rested her hands on her lap. She turned to watch as Jagger grabbed a saw out of the back, “Yes… I’ve been wandering the country since my grandparents were killed by an elder dragon. I don’t have access to a radio so…”
Her eyes narrowed as Jagger walked over to one of the fallen wyverns, “Wait… what are you doing?”
Jagger looked down at the saw, “I’m going to get their teeth.”
“Dragon teeth are flame-resistant. They can be melted down and used to make armor, weapons, walls… all kinds of different things. They’re worth a fortune if you can get them.”
He placed the saw on the nearest wyvern’s mouth and began to run the blade across its gums. Blood stained his hands as he struggled to make conversation, “So… you’re a nomad?”
“There a better way to live beyond city walls?”
“Not really…” Jagger chuckled as he removed the upper jaw. “Okay… well let’s see, ten years huh?”
“All right so I can fill you in on the Red War, but what do you know so far?”
The girl shrugged, “Not much… From what my grandparents told me, the dragons first appeared in New York… After decimating Manhattan, they flew east and were seen weeks later heading towards Siberia. The five of them disappeared for about five years. When they reappeared, there were many… many more of them and they continued to multiply.”
She leaned on the roll bar of the old jeep as Jagger threw the teeth into the back. He then quickly wiped his hands and went to work on the second wyvern, “They were immune to conventional weapons and were too fast for nukes to work… not for a lack of trying… obviously.”
Jagger looked around the barren wasteland that used to be Wellesley, Massachusetts and nodded, “Obviously… is that it?”
“No.” The woman replied stoically. “I heard that countries were toppled by the onslaught of the dragons… Even the U.S. Government retreated. I heard the president’s speech, vowing to return and retake the land lost to the dragons… That was three days before he and his chiefs of staff were all killed. The remaining world leaders set aside their differences and formed into two governing bodies; the Eastern and Western Coalitions. They established regional governors, but the cities and settlements themselves are largely self-governed… That’s all I know.”
Jagger nodded as he removed the second wyvern’s jaw, “Sounds like you’ve heard most of it. The problem was that most weapons couldn’t penetrate a dragon’s scales. Missiles didn’t work, bullets didn’t… some armor piercers did, but they’re rare. Eventually we developed electrostatic shock weapons and super-focused lasers that could burn a hole through them, but by then…
Jagger let out a deep sigh as he spoke,”… by then, it was almost too late. Humanity had been reduced to nearly 2 billion people.”
“You’re losing the war…” The woman said in a whisper.
Jagger grabbed a bottle of water from behind his seat and poured some over his hands. The cool water rinsed away the dragon’s blood and soothed his skin, “Don’t you mean we’re losing?”
Jagger got behind the wheel of the jeep and started it up. The engine came to life and caused the entire car to vibrate. He pulled back on the break and allowed the car to wheel forward.
The stranger eyed the dash, “Your car’s engine sounds different. They’re usually louder.”
Jagger smiled, “They’re usually falling apart. I spent years working on this one.”
Jagger kept his eyes on the road, though he occasionally looked up to make sure that the sky was clear, “By the way, I’m Lieutenant Jagger Bishop, WesCon Security.”
“What, you don’t have a name?”
“All right then…”
Jagger couldn’t be certain, but he thought he detect and annoyed sigh before she spoke, “… Raiya if you must know.”
“Raiya, that’s an unusual name.”
“I’m an unusual person.”
Jagger nodded, “Yeah I believe that, just from watching you.”
“Whatever you say.” Raiya said in a disinterested tone.
Jagger released a deep breath as he watched the debris pass, “So… those were some nice moves you pulled back there. You must be pretty jacked to snap the neck of a dragon. That was amazing.”
“It’s not that hard if you know where the joint is.”
“Maybe you could show me?”
“Doubtful, you also have to be really fast…”
“Oh… too bad.”
As the jeep picked up speed, Raiya struggled to keep her hood up. It acted like a sail, catching the wind that blew past her face. As it was pushed back, small flashes of her skin appeared. She grabbed the sides and forced them forward, holding the hood down over her face.
Jagger had his eyes on the road and could only see her out of the corner of his right, but what he saw left him with more questions than answers. Her skin was tanned, but her pigment appeared to have an almost greenish hue to it. The strands of hair he saw looked like it was a dark olive color. Maybe she dyed it somehow? Yeah right, where would she get dye out here? You’re probably just seeing things.
It was a reasonable thought. He never really had great lateral vision. However, as the hood flew back a second time, he quickly glanced over to confirm what he initially saw. His eyes caught sight of the odd complexion of her skin. There was no doubt that something was off with her. Who or what was this girl? Dragon’s Bane? There hasn’t been a confirmed case of it in a few years…
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“I’m fine… why?”
“Your skin… it’s… pale.”
“So what…? It’s just how I look.”
Drakin: The Orphans of Haven
The Red War may be over, but not all wounds have healed. For Sergeant Radley Zall, the nightmares never end. After years of struggling for survival, he finds himself in a dead end job, deporting wayward dragons to the Exclusion Zone. The horrors of his past have left him a broken man, slowing killing himself in a bottle of whiskey. It’s a wearying existence that many former soldiers have been subject to since the war ended, but for Radley, that is all about to change. Throughout his life, Radley’s hatred of dragons has been unmatched until one evening when a small one shows up on his doorstep. The pathetic creature is emaciated and begging for shelter. Her appearance reminds him of his younger self, compelling him to help her. That uncharacteristic decision forces him to confront his past actions— some of which may have contributed to a sinister plot to reignite the Red War and wipe out the few remaining dragons on Earth.
“Let us overcome these obstacles together, in the spirit of what our forefathers, friends, and neighbors fought and died for!”
It was a good speech… too bad that’s all it’ll ever be. I remember the cheers. I remember the savior standing off to the side before she disappeared… It was only ten years ago, but I remember it like I remember my childhood… as a distant memory.
“Radley? Sergeant Radley Zall, are you with me?”
Radley felt a gentle elbow to the midsection, “Sarge, snap out of it!”
He immediately came back to reality and nodded, “Yes, sir. I’m ready, sir!”
A gruff-looking commander eyed him suspiciously, “Are you sure, Sergeant Zall? I mean we can wait. Whatever you’ve got going on is clearly more important than doing your job. No rush, you know? It’s just a dragon after all. It’s not like the men rely on you to back them up.”
Radley felt his face heating up and was sure that it was turning red, “Sorry sir.”
“Are you feeling sick? Do we need to have Sergeant Bosell check you out?”
Radley felt the tension in the back of his neck. When Commander Miles decided to mock someone in his unit, the man would push it as far as he could. The worst part was that it worked. The officers did everything they could to stay on their toes and avoid it.
“No, I’m fine, sir!” Radley replied as he straightened himself out. He could hear a couple of snickers coming from the ten armored men standing with him.
“You sure?” The commander asked.
“Yes, Commander Miles… I’m sure.”
Commander Constantine Miles eyed Radley for a few moments. The younger officer blinked as he waited for the commander to finish. His blue eyes felt dry under his protective goggles. He could feel his brown hair matting to his head under the heavy helmet he wore.
Commander Miles had been his commanding officer since he joined the security division. The man knew him well, too well. He clearly didn’t buy that Radley was all there.
Finally, Commander Miles nodded, “Well… All right, let’s go.”
He flipped on the radio wired into his vest, “Command, this is Security Group Alpha, we’re in position and ready to move in.”
“Copy that, Commander. Proceed with caution. Good hunting.”
The group entered a massive cave that was hidden deep in the Yellowstone Canyon. The cave walls were as black as coal. The stone floor had once been molten rock, flowing outward. This gave the floor an almost organic look.
Radley carefully balanced himself on the terrain that looked like it had been frozen in time and petrified. He planted his legs between to inclines and raised his bolt rifle.
Six of the other officers followed close behind him. One, a younger man jumped up behind Radley “I thought we’d be waiting out here forever. Finally, we can get this over with.”
“You may hope you’d been able to wait even longer, Kevin,” Radley replied as he removed his goggles, revealing the burn over his left eye. “These dragons usually do not want to come willingly. Often they’re protecting a nest.”
“Is it going to attack us?”
“Hard to say. That happens from time to time.”
“Stay close and keep your weapon ready, Rookie. You’ll do fine.”
“Cut the chatter,” Commander Miles called out from the front. “Let’s get in and out as cleanly as possible. We don’t want a repeat of your first time, Sergeant.”
“First time?” Kevin whispered.
“It’s a long story Rookie, and I’m tired of telling it. I’m sure someone will fill you in before too long.”
The group separated into two as they entered the cave. One proceeded left, while the other went right, forming a pincer. Radley led the second group, closely behind Commander Miles’s. Within moments, both groups were cloaked in almost total darkness.
A staticky sound filled his helmet as the groups kept moving. It was quickly replaced by Commander Miles’s voice, “Okay, everyone… lights on, stay sharp, and keep focus! –Command, this is Unit Commander Miles. We have confirmed the location of an illegal dragon roost. We’re moving into position now.”
The sound of the officers’ footprints was quickly replaced by the sound of throaty breathing. The sound resembled the growl of a lion, only deeper. It echoed through the cave like a shockwave rushing to the entrance.
Radley clenched his rifle as they stepped closer to Commander Miles group. He’d seen this situation play out before and it was nothing new. They’d go in, surround the dragon and take him down from either side. If he tried to fly, they’d shock his wings. If he tried to fight, they’d incapacitate him. It had all become perfectly routine.
“Member of the Dragon species, my name is Commander Miles, Western Coalition Internal Security. You are in direct violation of WestCon Provincial Edict 453, stating that no dragon shall roost outside of the designated dragon zones. This is several miles outside of the Exclusion Zone and your designated areas. You are ordered to surrender and submit to processing. Once you have been tagged, you will then be transferred to a designated holding facility for processing. Please understand, we do not wish to harm you and if you surrender peacefully, you’ll be treated with care.”
The low breathing turned into an angry growl, “The Exclusion Zones… you mean the barren wastelands that your people have set aside for us… You mean the lands with minimal food and few ideal places for us to build roosts! Lands that we have to fight cannibalistic humans for. You offer us amnesty and then force us into the worst possible living conditions!”
Miles didn’t appear to be moved, “I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them. We gave you nearly the entire western coast of this hemisphere all the way down to Mexico. Many dragons have found ways to cultivate a living. If you can’t do something with that, it isn’t my problem. Surrender now, and we promise you’ll be treated fairly!”
This isn’t going to end well… Radley thought as he raised his rifle. This dragon is going to escalate!
“Get out of my home!” The dragon roared before a plume of flame shot past the officers, out of the cave.
The cavern walls lit up orange and revealed the large green dragon that was curled up in a small nest. There were no eggs and no sign of a mate, so this was likely a rogue.
Radley’s eyes widened, “Alpha class. Watch it, everyone! This guy is going to be tough!”
Miles dove away from the flame and hit the ground hard as a second plume passed over him, “Light him up! –Command, we’ve got a code 42. Engaging hostiles!”
The orange hue was replaced by momentary white and blue blasts that spread throughout the cavern as the officers let loose with a spray of electrically charged pulses. The loud pops from the guns echoed off the walls creating a deafening cycle
The dragon’s scales glowed as the pulses electrified them. Little beams of blue and white static outlined each scale. The dragon let out an intense scream as it immediately fell to the side. Its body trembled but otherwise did not move.
The moment the dragon’s head hit the ground, the officers gather around it. The sparks slowly died down as the group moved in. Commander Miles stood in front of its snout and turned to the man closest to him, “Get the shackles.”
As the man went back to the tunnel to fetch the large metallic rings, Commander Miles read the dragon the required statement of rights, “Illegal dragon, you are hereby under arrest. The charges are illegal roosting, desecration of human territory, and resisting relocation efforts.”
The dragon looked menacingly at Miles as it was shackled. The stun bolts had done their job as it was unable to even lift its head. Smoke emanated from its mouth as it spoke, “May you burn for this…”
“Not today,” Commander Miles replied as he switched on his shoulder radio, “Command, mission accomplished. The dragon has been subdued. We’re looking at an Alpha class, so you’re going to want to bring in the heavy hauler.”
“Acknowledged,” replied a staticky voice. “We were starting to worry about you for a moment. Good work.”
Commander Miles nodded, “Sergeant Radley, let’s get cleaned up here.”
Radley sighed as he turned to his group, “All right men, we’re done here. Let’s head back to the entrance.”
The rookie officer’s eyes focused on the dragon. He remained still as the others moved towards the exit. He was like a statue, frozen in place as though forever contemplating the universe around him.
Radley stopped in front of him as the rest of the group continued, “Hey Rookie, you okay?”
“It’s… it’s not what I expected at all,” Kevin replied.
“What do you mean?”
Kevin beckoned to the dragon’s eyes, “Look at it… I always thought they were giant killing feral machines, acting on instinct like a shark. Now… they actually…”
“You’ve never been up close to one of them, have you?”
“No, I mean I’ve seen pictures and all, but they always flew overhead or were at a distance.”
Radley nodded that he understood, “Right, that’s how it always is. It’s easy to take them down when they just look like mindless killing machines, but when you see them and see the life and intelligence in their eyes, all that changes. Still… it’ll pass and you’ll see them for what they really are again.”
“Really are? You mean…”
At that moment, the dragon came to life and snapped at them, “Inanimate killing machines? We are living creatures, just like you! We think and we feel things. All we want now is peace!”
Radley ignored the dragon’s words. He turned calmly and gave Kevin a gentle push, “Come on Rookie, let’s get out of here so that the relocation team can get in and do their jobs.”
“You can’t ignore us forever!” The dragon roared. “Someday you will pay for what you’re doing here!”
“We already did,” Radley shot back, “5.5 billion times over.”
Outside, Radley closed his eyes and sucked in a breath of fresh air. For years, the air had been badly polluted from dragon flame and an extreme reduction in plant life. When the war ended, the coalitions put their combined science teams into creating massive air filters that were placed all over the world. They would clean the air until new plant life could take over. Is this what fresh air is like? It doesn’t smell like burnt wood or like something’s being cooked… it’s actually kind of nice.
“Good job in there, Sergeant Zall! For a moment, I thought we’d lost you,” Commander Miles said in a light tone.
“Sorry sir, I just… I was thinking about everything that’s happened since the dragon horde left Earth.”
“You certainly chose an interesting time to become reflective,” The commander chuckled.
“Sorry sir, it won’t happen again.”
“That’s fine. You’ve been at this longer than most, a little backward thinking is normal every now and again. Just try to save it until we’re in a little safer circumstance.”
Commander miles nodded, “Good. –How about you Kevin, you were all excited about getting to see some action, this everything you thought it’d be?”
Kevin frowned, “No sir…”
“No?” The commander asked, surprised.
“I joined the force to help fight canbans and raiders… I didn’t want to be assigned to the dragon core. This was kind dropped on me by command due to a lack of volunteers.”
Commander Miles nodded, “I understand, it’s not the most appealing work. Sometimes I wonder if the danger is even worth it, but it’s work that needs to be done.”
“Does it?” Kevin asked. “Do we really need to hunt down these dragons? Is it really necessary to force them to live in sectors that are cordoned off from the rest of the world? I’ve heard stories…”
Radley scoffed. His lips twisted into a menacing grimace. He’d heard people talk about dragon rights before and it always got him heated, “Have you forgotten the war that literally just ended ten years ago or how many people they wiped out?”
“No, I haven’t,” Kevin replied sternly. “But those dragons are gone. We built ships for them and they left as quickly as possible. It’s been years since then. These dragons didn’t want to fight anymore and requested amnesty, which we granted them.”
Commander Miles nodded, “Yeah and when the new government came to power, they enacted policies to protect dragons and humans. There’s still a lot of bitterness between dragons and humans, and rightly so. This is as much for the dragons’ good as it is our own.”
“You sure about that?” Kevin asked. “I mean…”
Kevin’s eyes darted between Radley and the other men. He quickly shrank back a little, “I’m sorry sir, never mind.”
“Speak your mind, Rookie,” Commander Miles said. “Tomorrow’s too late.”
“Sir, the dragons have done everything we asked them to right up until they were segregated. It was only after we pretty much banished them to the Mojave Wastelands that they began to try to find roosts elsewhere. I’ve heard of what life is like there; it’s hot, nothing grows, and finding food is difficult.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that… maybe we’re part of the problem?”
“You think humans are part of the problem…?” Radley asked in a state of disbelief. “They came here uninvited, attempted to steal our world and wipe out our entire population. After they lost the war, we did what they asked and built them a ship to get back to their own world. We should never have allowed some of them to stay here, but we put aside our differences and allowed the ones that wanted peace. Now they’re hiding outside the designated area. They should have been a lot more grateful than that!”
“But maybe if we didn’t segregate them and allowed them to interact with humans, this wouldn’t be a problem,” Kevin shot back. “We want peace, yet we continuously take rights away from others, breeding hate and resentment! How does that make us any better than them?”
Radley clenched his teeth as he ripped his helmet off and brushed back his brown hair. His cheeks felt like they were on fire as the hair on the back of his neck bristled. He had to hold himself back from striking Kevin across the face, “Watch it, Rookie! You were only old enough to experience the ass end of the war. Watch a dragon torch a shelter for children and mock them as they burned… then we’ll talk!”
Kevin fell silent and lowered his eyes. Commander Miles stepped between them and spoke with a stern voice, “That’s enough, both of you.”
Radley nodded and stepped back, “Yes, sir… Sorry, sir.”
He flashed Kevin an angry look. It was momentary so that Commander Miles wouldn’t see it, but Kevin clearly got the message. The rookie lowered his eyes and bit down on his lower lip. Neither one of them said anything else.
Commander Miles turned and began to walk back to the other group, “Radley, head back to the carrier. The relocation team should be here any minute. It’s just about time for us to go home. You look like you could use some rest. –Kevin, I want you to wait here and go with the extraction team. This will be good practice for you.”
DRAKIN: An Empire of Ashes
So few of us left… No matter where we go, no matter how far we run… death always follows.
The fires of Old London burned brightly in the distance. They engulfed the buildings in a veil of yellow and orange. They were miles away, but their smoke choked out the stars in the night sky. A dim orange hue added a sinister touch. The pungent odor from the decaying corpses added to the dark scene.
Nayeli could hear the crackle of the massive flame like a million pieces of paper being crumpled in the distance. She ignored it and scraped through the rubble, looking for something, anything of value that could be traded for food or supplies. Bodies of dragons, EastCon, and Imperial soldiers littered the ruins. Many of them had been there for years.
You would think that with all these bodies, at least one bolt pistol would have been overlooked!
Nayeli was familiar with the scene, she’d lived in that horror for years in almost every city along the outskirts of the Imperial Territory. This was the fate of those who dared oppose the Eastern Empire.
She kept her head close to the ground as she quickly turned over another body. A relieved sigh escaped her lips as she looked at his belt, “Yes!”
Her eyes flared as they focused on a black holster that had been hidden under the fallen soldier’s hip. Unlike the others she’d seen that day, this holster wasn’t empty.
Nayeli’s hands shook as she quickly unsnapped the flap that was holding the bolt pistol in place. She paused as a light flashed in the corner of her eye. A massive silhouette loomed in the distance, letting off a menacing hum. Her spine stiffened as a feeling of dread overtook her. An Imperial Hunter-killer… Shit, I need to get out of here.
Her left hand wrapped around the pistol and pulled it from its holster. She had no time to check out her prize. The distant hum grew louder as the silhouette approached. She quickly hid the gun under her filthy red cloak and dove behind some rubble as the patrol ship passed overhead. A blue energy beam carefully scanned each piece of rubble.
Nayeli pressed herself against the remains of a concrete wall. Like everything else in the area, it was covered in black soot. Small metal pipes protruded from the sides. Where ever it came from, something powerful must have dislodged it.
As the hunter-killer passed overhead, her hand clenched her own gun as she held her breath. The ground shook, dislodging small pieces of rock and dust, sending them flying. Her lungs began to ache, but she refused to breathe as she waited.
She pressed her back hard against the rough concrete and waited for fate to pass its judgment. If the hunter-killer found her, it was all over. There was no way to escape one of these things. They were fast, maneuverable, and almost completely impervious to ground attack. The curved armor covering the thrusters made shooting it down a difficult task.
The ship cruised overhead as though it was ignoring her completely. The debris had blocked her from its field of vision. She was safe for the moment.
Her lungs felt like they were about to explode when she finally released her breath. She pulled the dead soldier’s pistol from under her cloak. Though filthy, it looked intact. She pressed the safety in and waited to see what happened. Come on… give me something.
The lights on the side flickered off and on a few times. It took a moment for the indicator on the side to come to life. The meter rose out of the red, passed through the yellow bar and stopped with barely a sliver of green illuminated. Yes, plenty of power left!
She carefully inspected the markings, using the little rays light that peeked over the concrete, “Mauser T-21… with half a cartridge left. Not a bad piece…”
Guns had been a valuable commodity for dissidents since the UPW was forced to withdraw from Europe. If anyone had any hopes of survival, they carried one, but that’s not why Nayeli was looking for it.
The right buyer would pay handsomely for a gun. Even a small pistol like the Mauser was worth a small fortune. She quickly returned it to her pocket and focused her situation.
The hunter-killer she’d seen in the distance was now passing over another large piece of debris. The sophisticated trackers could sense even the slightest movement from the ground. Even something as gentle as a heartbeat could give someone away.
The sleek, black, cone-shaped vehicle passed quietly over the rubble. The blue thrusters glowed as they held the craft a few hundred feet off the ground.
Scree! Scree! Scree!
Had she been detected? No, it was too far away for the sensors to have caught her movements. The craft immediately turned and headed towards another pile of rubble where a second hunter-killer was hovering.
At that moment, Nayeli saw what it was going after. A female dragon and two lings had tried to take refuge in a collapsed building. They raised their hands with terrified looks on their faces.
Even at a distance, Nayeli could make out the sheer horror. The eyes of the dragonlings were soaked with tears. The older one trembled with fear while trying to hide it. They were fully aware of the fate that was likely waiting for them, Nayeli was sure of it.
The older one threw her hands in the air, “No, wait, plea…”
The terrible robotic sound of a rapid-fire pulse cannon cut off her screams. Nayeli immediately turned away and closed her eyes. She knew what was happening. The body of the female dragon hit the ground with a loud thud.
A second later, the firing ceased and was replaced by the screams and sobs of the juvenile dragons. Nayeli closed her eyes, waiting for the next shots that would end their lives, but to her surprise, it never came. The pilot had apparently decided to spare the lings, but why?
Their voices were quickly overpowered by an older, far more intense one, “Don’t move or we’ll open fire!”
Nayeli turned back to see that two soldiers had apparently been winched down from the hunter-killer. They were dressed in heavy black armor and brandished massive rifles. Their masks made them look like fearsome monsters.
The children obeyed the commands, likely more out of terror than obedience. Nayeli reached into a second pocket in her cloak and withdrew a larger pistol with a scope and significantly larger muzzle.
The rubble crumbled as she rested her stomach against it and peered into the scope on the pistol. She steadied her grip and slowly moved the crosshairs so that they lined up with one of the primary thrusters on the hunter-killer. It was a narrow slit between the armor and the thruster itself.
She sucked down a deep breath, waiting until she was ready. It was nearly an impossible shot, but she had to try. A scream from one of the dragonlings prompted her into action, “Let’s see how you like this, Imp scum!”
She squeezed the trigger, unleashing three blasts from the pistol. The blue bolts screamed through the air, striking the hunter-killer on the port side primary thruster. The engine sputtered and died out, causing the ship to lose altitude and pull away. Yes, got it! Oh man, Joaquim will never believe that!
The startled soldiers turned their attention to the rubble where the gunshot had come from. One of them raised his rifle, “We’re under attack, take cover!”
Nayeli grabbed something under her cloak. It was a smooth, round, device with red lights on it. She depressed a small button on top. The light changed to blue as it released a high-pitched sound. Here we go!
She quickly stood up and threw it. Her body was only exposed for a moment, but it was all the soldiers needed. One of them took aim and opened fire, hitting her in the shoulder before the small orb exploded in a flash of light.
She yelped and collapsed behind the rubble again, nursing her shoulder. She only had moments to deal with the pain and did her best to ignore it. It’s okay… it’s just pain… just pain… it’s not bad.
Her hand squeezed the wound as she turned and looked back over to see what had happened. Both soldiers had been knocked out by the concussion grenade, while the dragonlings were sobbing a few feet away. They were both shaking, afraid to move from their spot.
Nayeli sucked down a deep breath before moving over to the soldiers. She quickly grabbed their rifles and sidearms and threw them in her pack.
A small flicker of light caught her eye from the side pouch on one of the soldier’s hips. He was carrying four replacement power cells for the guns. She grabbed the cartridges and tucked them away. Jackpot!
Having grabbed everything she could carry, Nayeli turned to leave. The sobbing of the dragonlings stopped her in her path. She looked back at them with an indifferent stare, “You should get out of here. They’ve only been knocked out.”
The two dragonlings curled up together but refused to speak. Nayeli frowned, “Don’t you have someplace to take refuge? A home somewhere?”
One of them shook its head.
“Nowhere?” She demanded.
The dragonling again shook its head, “No.”
Nayeli looked at the dead dragonkin a few feet away, “Was that your mother?”
The tears in the dragonlings’ eyes answered the question for her, “Oh… I see…”
“They came for us in the night… they killed our daddy! He never even…”
The dragonling lowered its eyes, too upset to say anything else. Nayeli clenched her fists as she looked back at the two soldiers she’d knocked out, “I’m sorry…”
This was nothing new. Several dragon refugees at her camp had similar stories to tell. She had slowly become numb to them over time. However, she couldn’t leave these babies where they were.
She reached out her hand to the nearest dragonling, “Come on, I’ll take you somewhere safe.”
The dragonlings looked up at her in fear. They looked at her hand but didn’t take it. The smaller of the two recoiled nervously.
Nayeli sighed, “What’s your name?”
The larger of the two blinked as it timidly looked up at her, “Eutera, and this is Ixen…”
“Eutera, those people are going to come back. If they catch you, they’ll take you somewhere that will not be pleasant. I can’t stick around and make you feel better. I’m really sorry about your mother, but she gave her life to try to save you. I can help take you somewhere safe, but you have to come with me now.”
In the distance, she could hear the smooth engine of a hunter-killer. Ixen sucked down a deep breath and quivered, “They’re… they’re coming back?”
Nayeli looked into out towards the crumbling buildings as a shadow passed by. The damaged ship must have sent out a distress call, “It won’t be long now.”
Nayeli turned back to the dragonlings, “You have to trust me! We don’t have any time, you’ve seen what these people will do! Now, are you coming or not?”
Her eyes flared as she spoke. The dragonlings looked at her oddly for a moment before Ixen grabbed Eutera’s hand and then reached out for Nayeli’s.
She smiled, “Okay, good. Let’s get out of here!”
Two hundred years have passed, and the Red War has become a distant memory for most. Dragons and humans now live together in peace… but one powerful woman who has been deranged by her own history unleashes her vengeance on a helpless population.
Now, the world’s only hope for survival rests with Kaori, a naïve and wayward princess of the Eastern Empire. Having been disillusioned with her mother’s rule, she discovers a dark secret about her family that will change the course of history forever. She soon crosses paths with Nayeli and Joaquim, a pair of rogues living within her borders.
Their fight for survival takes an unexpected turn as a shadow of from the past reveals that the situation is more dangerous than they know. The fate of billions of lives rests on these three unlikely companions putting aside their differences to stand against the world.
I hope everyone is as excited for this one as I am! I can’t wait to introduce you to a new world of dragons!
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Catch you on the flip side!