“There are a couple dozen of them setting up a perimeter around the entrance,” Jake announced as he and Arr hurried back up to us in the cavern. “They’re working up their courage to come in.”
I was standing beside Rudd’ard. “You should jump.” I said. “Get out of here and as far away as possible.”
“We won’t leave you.” Rudd’ard placed his hand on his Great and Graf’tal huffed an affirmation deep in his throat. “They killed your parents because of us. We will see you safely out of here or die trying.”
Graf’tal extended his paw toward Arr. “Give me the Sollen,” he ordered.
Arr handed it over without question.
Graf’tal took it. He placed his claws along its length and dug in. The stone exploded, pulverized into tiny bits.
“It all stops here,” the Great said with conviction.
“Is there another way out for us?” Jake asked. “Another entrance?”
“No.” Rudd’ard shook his head.
“Then we need to set up a crossfire,” Jake ordered. He was in his mercenary mode. “Arr, you jump with Rudd’ard and Graf’tal to that rock outcrop we had to maneuver around in order to get here. That will put you behind them.”
“He can’t jump,” Rudd’ard said in a tone that verged on panic. “He’ll be lost like Tal’on. Have you not been listening to us the past half turn?”
Graf’tal placed his paw on his youngling’s foot. “Quiet,” he said in a soft baritone. “The Henu can picture talk.”
Arr must have proved his point because Rudd’ard did grow calmer and then said, “You are very clear,” to Arr.
Arr smiled. “I have what the humans call a photographic memory. And somehow I can envision what you and Graf’tal see.” He placed his hand on Rudd’ard’s shoulder. “Jake means this outcrop,” he said.
Rudd’ard and Graf’tal both took a deep breath and their eyes closed for a moment as I imagine they all were visualizing the same location. Then Rudd’ard leaped up on the Great’s back. He held a hand down to Arr. Arr grasped it and vaulted up behind the youngling straddling Graf’tal’s shoulders.
“We’ll be in place in a few moments,” Rudd’ard said.
“We’ll keep in touch through the ears.” Jake tapped his ear bud. We took the precaution of wearing them down. "Safe trip,” Jake smiled up at them. “Don’t get lost,” he warned Arr. “I don’t have time to train a new partner or look for an old one.”
Arr gave Jake a lopsided grin.
“Picture it,” Graf’tal advised out loud. “Hold on.”
Arr closed his eyes and the three of them disappeared.
“Damn, that is scary and a half,” I said.
“We’re in place,” Arr announced in our ears.
“That was fast,” Jake said. “Let’s see if we can lure a few in here.”
We both pulled our blasters and headed toward the cave entrance. When we heard some of the Valdare scurrying down the tunnel toward us we took cover in the niches along the wall.
“Anytime now,” Jake whispered to Arr in his mike.
The next thing we heard was a mighty roar and I swear I could feel the heat from Graf’tal’s flames clear back into the bowels of the tunnel. We ran forward firing as we heard screams and return fire outside.
Jake took down two of the Valdare on the way out the entrance. I killed one and injured another. I kicked the equivalent of his blaster out of his reach and continued to follow Jake out.
What we saw when we emerged was pandemonium. Arr and Rudd’ard were still on Graf’tal’s back, but Arr was in the front being held firmly by the youngling on the older dragon’s shoulders as he fired at the Valdare below. As the old saying goes, he was taking them out like ‘shooting flatbills in a barrel.’ What he wasn’t hitting, Graf’tal was burning with his dragon’s fire. It was like something out of a space-adventure-gone-fantasy gaming vid.
Jake took out two more Valdare close to our location, but they were now hurrying to get to their ship and leave what had become a death trap.
As the last of them piled in Graf’tal grabbed the ship with his huge clawed paws and slammed it against the mountainside. He dug in deeper, the metal screaming as it bent or punctured in his grip. He drove it into the mountainside again and again with powerful thrusts of wings and muscled legs. He pulverized the craft. It fell in pieces to the slopes below.
Graf’tal landed on the ledge outside the cave entrance and Arr slipped down from his back.
The Great shook his head as though clearing it of his angry thoughts. “Will you be alright now?”
“We will,” Jake answered for us all. “Thank you.”
“I left one still breathing in the tunnel,” I said.
Graf’tal started to step forward. He intended to finish the Valdare.
I held up my hand. “No, please,” I said. “I need one alive to question. I intend to call a Galactic Official I know, and hopefully get all this straightened out once and for all.”
“Then we will be going,” Rudd’ard said. He leaned over and patted Graf’tal on the shoulder. “We hope you find closure for your parent’s death and we thank you for helping us find the same for Tal’on, Delevy, and all our kin and hers.”
Graf’tal nudged Arr in the chest with his snout. “You are a very special creature. Stay safe, my friend.”
Arr reached up and stroked the old dragon’s muzzle. “You too, Great.”
“Ready?” Graf’tal asked.
“When you are,” Rudd’ard answered and they disappeared before us.
“I wonder if we will ever see them again.” I asked.
“Perhaps in our dreams,” Arr said with a smile.
6 Months Later
Captain Targus had his booted feet up on the edge of the hearth at the pub on Rigal Four. His long legs had his chair pushed clear back into the aisle of traffic from the bar to the seating area, but no one complained. Only an idiot would tell a seven foot, eight inch Walhmite Galactic Forces’ Captain to move. He seemed oblivious of the obstruction he was causing. He yawned and stretched his long arms up only missing another customer by inches.
“Fold in your landing gear, Cap” Coal, his C.E. said, reminding his crew mate of his size.
“Sorry,” Targus mumbled and pulled his hands back down to his lap, picking up the mug of musklot at his elbow.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Targus went on as he focused back on me. “It’s going to be a long process, but the Galactic Forces is bringing the Valdare up on genocide charges for the attempted extermination of the Drakis, or dragons as you call them.”
“The Prime will be charged with giving the order to retrieve the Sollen, but we probably will never know if we got the men that actually killed your parents,” Damion added. He was the medical officer for the three man MT team of #2424. He was also the only human of the team. Damion was a kind soul. I liked all three, but had a special attraction for Damion.
I met Targus, Coal, his Realdat computer expert, and Damion a few years ago. They had become friends even though I only bumped into them on occasion.
I called them when I had the Valdare from the cavern aboard my ship, and Jake and Arr off loaded. Mercenaries often had to work hand-in-hand with the G.O. The universe was just too big for the G.O. to police it all. Mercenaries like Jake and Arr were helpful assets in a verse full of bad guys. But, G.O. and mercenaries didn’t make it a habit of being buddie-buddies. They usually avoided each other when politely possible.
“It is just good to know that justice will eventually come around for everyone,” I said with a sigh. It had been a long time since I felt like taking a deep breath and pushing away from the events that had engulfed my life since my parent’s death.
“The thing you call a dragon is called a Vestrag on my planet,” Coal said. “They were an actual beast, but were killed off years ago.”
“Earth culture has dragons in many of their myths and legends,” Damion added.
“It would help immensely if we could locate the Drakis,” Coal said. “I have done some extensive searches and I can’t find their home planet.”
If Coal couldn’t find them, then no one would. He was the best Computer Expert in the fleet. Daniel might have a try for the fun of it, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to sic him on them. The dragons were gone. A part of numerous planets’ history over the millenniums. They had a right to peace and solitude if they wanted it. I was just so pleased I had the chance to meet one. It would be one of those moments that would stick with me until the day I died.