dragons

Dragons at Christmas

Dragons on Athréa?
Here is one of those posts that will let you peek behind the curtain of the editorial process. It has long been my belief that dragons live in the mountains of West Fvelln. In the primary draft of We Bleed the Same, they appeared in Chapter 38 but it was decided that their presence might confuse things a little. I experimented with replacing them with other giant flying creatures called Donnucks but in the end they went too. That’s why you may have noticed that Chapter 38 is so short.
Anyway, here are two passages. The first is the whole excised section, including the dragons. The second is shorter and shows the part where the Dragons are replaced. It starts straight after the current chapter ending.

Dragons:
‘Happy now, Danny?’

‘Much better, thank you.’

As if to mock him, the radio crackled into life.

‘Shuttle craft vectoring 84-degrees-319. This is an Athréak Defence Patrol. Identify yourself immediately or be fired upon.’

Scottsdale hit the transmit button.

‘Hi ADP. This is Free Federation Orbital Insertion Vehicle Four Nine.’

Danny caught a glimpse of a jet fighter slipping in and out of the peaks not so far away on their right. It bore Simplaerosian markings.

‘Oh, hi Scottsdale. Manifest and destination please.’

‘Two intelligence officers for Rim West. Flight plan has been filed.’

‘Yeah that all checks out. Have a good tr… Hang on my wingman wants me…Proximity alert! Three UFOs cutting in on us. You got any ordnance Scotty?’

‘Four heatseekers and a belly full of chaff and flares.’

‘Okay, I’ll form up on you. Black 2, get up above the peaks and see if you can eyeball what they are. Be ready to fight, both of you.’

Scottsdale pointed at two buttons on the console in front of Danny.

‘That one is chaff. That one is flares. Hit whichever one I shout at you. Clear?’

‘Clear.’

‘Major, you got the tracking console?’

Leda’s voice came through their headphones, ‘I’m on it.’

Danny looked out of the side windows in time to see a vicious looking Simplaerosian fighter jet pull up beside them and then drop back a little to cover them from above and behind. They tensely waited for a few moments and then the wing man’s voice came over the headphones.

‘Woohoo! Stand down guys. They’re biological.’

Scottsdale seemed ruffled for the first time. ‘Danny, you lucky bastard! I’ve been making this run for two years and never seen this but you get it first time out.’

‘Hey, what… ? What you talking about?’

‘Fvelln Dragons!’ said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. ‘Dolphins of the sky…’

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. ‘Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about 230. Our stalling speed is about 180, so can you do, say 190?’

‘No problem.’ Scottsdale began to throttle back.

‘Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about 85 seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.’

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from their wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. ‘It’ll take about 6 minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!’

Leda leapt forward pointing, ‘There!’

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

‘Stay in formation!’

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a shining sea of scales on the belly of another as it rolled away, its wings folded into low drag ‘V’ shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful bat like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

‘Look at that!’

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller dragon there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. Powerful legs could now be seen, the front ones tucked beneath the base of each wing and the rear ones held tight against the root of the tail. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was the eye that held his attention. It was large, black but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned round to look at the other dragon and it was doing the same. He was about to exclaim to Leda but stopped when he saw she had her eyes closed and her head tilted forward. Her lips were moving. She appeared to be at prayer.

Their shuttle jumped and Danny jerked around to see the dragons beating their wings hard to regain speed and altitude before folding them back and diving across the shuttle’s bow. The smaller one turned its head back to look at the shuttle a moment longer and then followed the others down.

The ADP leader’s warning had been prescient as the cliffs were now looming up in front of them. His voice was heard again.

‘Well, that was something, wasn’t it? Safe trip guys, see you later.’

With that the fighters turned away just as the shuttle plunged into another gorge in the towering rock.”

 

And now a shortened bit with Donnucks instead of Dragons:

““Fvelln Donnucks!” said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. “Dolphins of the sky…”

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. “Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about two-thirty. Our stalling speed is about one-eighty, so can you do, say one-ninety?”

“No problem.” Scottsdale began to throttle back.

“Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about eighty five seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.”

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from the lander’s wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. “It’ll take about six minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!”

Leda leapt forward, pointing, “There!”

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

“Stay in formation!”

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down, taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a pock-marked, rubbery hide of another as it rolled away, its wings colourful delta shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful moth-like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

“Look at that!”

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller donnuck there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. A series of powerful legs could now be seen, tucked beneath the base of each wing. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was that which held his attention. It was large, black, multifaceted but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned around to look at the other donnuck and it was doing the same.”

 

So then. Dragons. Do they have a place in space opera?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.