I was soaring through the air, my legs hugging the smooth scales of Ezekian’s armored body. Our minds in sync as we flew between the skyscrapers, his scales warm from the morning sun and the fire that burned inside. His small body, not much bigger than that of a quarter horse, fit easily between the buildings, when his wings weren't out, that is. Now however, Ezekian's sea green wings beat in the autumn air as we flew towards the University, their tips coming close to the windows to either side. The cold wind rushed past, my jacket hugging my lean pear shape and keeping me warm.
“Are you ready for your history test today?” Ezekian mentally asked. Accompanying the question an image of colliding particles appeared along with an image of a modern energy cell with a blank separating the two.
“The particle collisions and discovery of safe ways to capture antimatter made it possible for advanced research,” I said seeing his question without him needing to ask it. “This led to the energy revolution of 2171.” Ezekian turned his head towards me, his copper green scales catching the light.
“Very good Talana.” He said both mentally as well as verbally. The low tenor of his voice was melodic, carrying power even when spoken softly. He smiled up at me, his thoughts were ones of pride, making me blush a little. I wrapped my skinny arms around him, laying my head on his neck. I began to close my eyes when a I heard a sharp, piercing whistle. It sounded like it was coming from behind and just below us. I sat upright and whipped my head around to see what was making the sound. A blur of red past beneath us and I saw a flash of light as something the dragon was wearing caught the sun. I shook my head, blinded by the light for a moment. When I was able to see again, I looked around for the dragon that had passed us, but it was gone.
What in the world, I thought to myself. After a minute of pondering I decided to push my wonder aside and instead tried to relax. I looked down thinking that maybe, by watching the people we passed over, I would be able to forget about the blur of red. Watching them though, I could tell something was off. Instead of seeing the chaotic bunches of people walking from building to building, there was order coming out of some of them. I watched and saw the people begin to form lines. Sloppy ones but they were still lines. An eerie feeling came over me as I watched the chaos of everyday life all of a sudden try to form order.
A few minutes passed in silence, after which we left the city and the people behind us. As the skyscrapers fell away, the land in front of us opened up revealing the ten and a half acre plot that had been set aside for Wixz University.
The building, three stories tall, was shaped like a giant doughnut. At the center of it sat our library in an open air courtyard. Connecting it to the school are four walkways that are protected by plasma shields. The plasma shields had been placed around the walkways to help protect the students from the weather. I thought the shields were really cool because they allow students to pass through them. They did this by retreating when they came in contact with something organic. One feature of the school that made it unique was the six, free fall towers. They stood at regular intervals along the inside of the ring. The towers stood two stories taller than the rest of the building and stuck up like spires, and as we flew closer a thought struck me. I realized that the school could contain lots of symbolism. For example, the school's ring shape could be symbolic of our unity as a school, or that learning is endless like a circle.
While looking at the school I could tell that something was different today. I tried to see if I could spot any of my friends in the landing and grazing field (or LG as everyone informally calls it). I looked and saw the LG filled with more dragons than usual.
Zoltan’s dragon, Aleksi, sat next to Lynnae's dragon, Rocha. Aleksi’s long slim body, around 15 feet in length, was stretched out on the grass. Olive green plates, much like those of an armadillo, stretching from her snout to tail, shifting as she moved closer to Rocha. Soft fur the color of summer squash covered her underside. Rocha’s brick red wing was stretched out and covered Aleksi. Her underside, frill, and spines were accented with navy blue. Muscles rippled beneath her scales as she moved. Rocha and Lynnae were known for their sarcasm and good humor. They are like two peas in a pod. Now though, Rocha’s expression was one of worry, which worried me. Just then a flicker of silver caught my eye. When I saw what it was coming from, the mystery of what was happening, grew.
I looked over and saw the Mithrantium mesh worn by, “police dragons?” I asked aloud at the same time Ezekian asked mentally. The blur of red and flash of light I had seen earlier came to mind and now I realized where it had come from. Five police dragons sat on the lawn of the school, a sixth one just landing. From their build, I could tell they were part of a pursuit team. Each one had two sets of wings, their bodies shaped a lot like Aleksi’s except instead of plates of armor, they had hundreds of slick overlapping scales. Three fins used for making sharp turns. Swept back spines crowned their bright red heads. Them being here meant someone came here to escape them, but who?
Ezekian touched down next to Rocha’s bulk. She looked over at us and the sadness in her eyes shocked me. Quiet crying came from Aleksi. Quickly I dismounted from Ezekian and walked over to her. Struggling to keep my fear out of my voice, I placed my hand on her neck and spoke softly, trying to comfort her.
“His parents,” Aleksi’s voice cracked as she choked back another wave of tears, “they’re gone.” Her voice was soft and gentle but filled with pain. Rage arose in her voice, her internal fire becoming present in her eyes. The amount of anger she displayed was scary for a dragon like her. One that was normally shy and timid. “They did it,” she continued, bobbing her head toward the police dragons, “they shot his parents, our family. Something about them no longer being needed. Now they’re after him. He ran, scared. I saw him used some sort of device and he disappeared. Then I felt him here, so I came to find him.” She sniffed. “They followed me, and when I got here, I lost him,” she struggled to stifle her tears, “every connection I had to him, gone.” She whispered. A moment passed before a roar exploded from her maw. A roar filled with anger, longing, and fear. I stood there stunned unable to move, shocked by what I had heard. Out of the shadow of Rocha’s wing stepped Lynnae.
Lynnae stood a couple inches shorter than my own 5’ 6” with a straight body. Her eyes were red and puffy, her lightly tanned cheeks shimmered with the moisture of tears that had been shed. She approached me, arms outstretched and I embraced her, tears beginning to form in my own eyes. More students started arriving, their laughter and normality enraged me. How could they be so happy when something so tragic had happened? I felt like punching one of them.
“Calm yourself child,” Ezekian said aloud, “do not be angry with the ignorant.”
“They know not what has happened,” Rocha said, her voice a low alto with a mothering feel to it. I began to wonder, what had happened? I thought about what Aleksi had said about losing her connection with Zoltan. Is that even possible, I wondered, to lose every connection? Dragons and their partners are connected mentally in every possible way. To lose that connection could only mean one thing, right? I calmed my anger towards the other students and the tears that had started to form began to fall. The police dragons had formed a barricade, stopping anyone from entering the school. Several minutes past, tears continuing to stream from my eyes. Conversations between other students became whispered as they swapped ideas about what had happened. The police continued to search the school, presumably still looking for his body.
Lynnae's body pressed against my own as we continued to hug, her tears wetting my shoulder. How could something like this happen? Why Zoltan’s family? Why Zoltan? Zoltan was a good kid and an amazing friend. He was always there.
Suddenly, there was a whistle, as a dart landed in the ground right by Rocha’s talon. We all looked at it for a couple of seconds, just staring. I released Lynnae and she took a step back as I squatted to pluck it from the dirt. The dragon's looked around, trying to figure out where it had come from. A small, cylindrical canister was attached to it. The dart, about an inch long, was about the width of the corks we had learned about last year, the ones that were used in the bottles of some beverages. The container was clear crystal and I could see a small, rolled slip of paper inside. I looked up at Lynnae, her face still showed sadness but also displayed a touch of curiosity. I stood up and popped the tube open pulling out the slip. There was a short message that I read aloud. He is safe, He is alive. I stood there staring at the paper for a moment unable to take in what I had just read. With a yelp I dropped the paper as it burst into flames, consuming itself and becoming nothing more than ashes in less than a second.
I looked up at the others. Lynnae had moved and was sitting in between Rocha’s legs. Her long, gold hair rested on her knees as she sat crisscross. Her expression was one you see on a student during an exam they have only kind of studied for and need to do really well on. That expression of worry and deep thought. Rocha’s muzzle was nuzzled up to Lynnae’s neck, trying to comfort her. I flicked my gaze to Aleksi, seeing how she was taking this new information about her rider. I studied Aleksi’s face. While she still showed hints of sadness and anger, the main emotion I saw displayed there, was one of relief.
They are leaving, I heard Ezekian share with me. I turned my body to face the school just in time to see the last of the cops mount up. One by one, with a single flap of their dragons wings, they shot into the air. They flew off, back to the city, though I noticed they were flying slower than pursuit dragons normally do. They appear to be frustrated, Ezekian shared with me. I focused on the cops faces and had to agree with him. They didn’t look too happy. I bet they are, I thought back to him, a little smirk crossing my face as I thought about the paper.
He is safe. He is alive.
Lynnae and I left our dragons and funneled into the building with the other students, our hands together, fingers entwined. I gave her hand a little squeeze, assuring her that we were going to figure out what the hell was going on. I was glad we had our first class together, even though it was 20th to 23rd-century history. We shot up the turbo lift to the second floor and stepped out when I heard our names come on the loudspeaker.
“Talana Melone and Lynnae Winterra please report to Mrs. Dalmear’s office. Talana Melone and Lynnae Winterra to Mrs. Dalmear’s office.”
Lynnae gripped my upper arm tightly as it finished.
“Do you think they are going to question us?” she whispered in my ear (or at least tried to, she doesn’t seem to know how to talk quietly). She sounded scared and worried. Her voice brittle, lacking its normal silvery sound.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back, “let’s go and find out.” I placed my hand over her’s on my arm and we turned around, heading back into the lift. We had to fight masses of students heading to class to get to the office. When we finally got there I let go of her hand on my arm and knocked on the door before opening it slowly.
Mrs. Dalmear was one of the counselors I had never talked with before. Her office was decorated with stunning paintings of nature. A large bookcase took up most of the back wall. Her computer desk was covered with various piles of papers. Beside her desk was a small, wooden, circular table sat, along with four chairs. We entered slowly and left the door open behind us. Mrs. Dalmear was not the only one in the room. There was also a man, who straightened, as he finished whispering something to her. He was about 5’ 10, and muscular, but not overly so, dressed in gray cargo pants and an untucked, loose cinnamon brown polo. Mrs. Dalmear stood up and nodded at the chairs at the table. We stepped forward cautiously but didn’t sit down. She smiled at us and gave us a nod of understanding this time. Her smile was warm and gentle, making her eyes sparkle. Her face was young and angular with high cheekbones. The man in the polo stepped around us and closed the door, then he pulled out a chair on the other side of the table and sat down.
“Good morning girls,” Mrs. Dalmear said, shattering the tense silence. Her tone was serious yet her voice still carried the same warmth that her smile had. “Don’t worry, you’re not here to be questioned.” I felt my jaw fall open a little in shock. It was like she had just read my mind. I looked over at Lynnae and found her looking at me. I saw the same expression I must have had on my face, on hers. We looked back to Mrs. Dalmear as she continued. “With how close you two were to him and what happened this morning, what else could you have thought you were called in for.” I closed my mouth, realizing she made a good point. “Don’t worry, though,” she said stepping around her desk, “Please, take a seat.” She gestured to the two chairs on our side of the table and sat with the man on the other side. Releasing Lynnae's hand I pulled out the chair on the right and sat down, watching Lynnae do the same with the chair on the left. “What you need to understand,” Mrs. Dalmear said softly, folding her hands and placing them on the table in front of her, “is that there is more going on here than you know.” The man sitting next to her nodded. For the first time since we had entered, the man spoke to us.
“The details though cannot be discussed here safely.” He spoke with the same seriousness that she had, but without the warmth. His voice was low and gravelly.
“We sincerely apologize for any,” Mrs. Dalmear said. She paused searching for a tactful way to put it I figured, “inconvenience and trauma it may have caused.” While her apology sounded sincere I couldn't help let out a snort of disgust.
“Inconvenience,” I cried out, standing quickly, my palm flat on the table, “your inconvenience,” I spat my temper beginning to flare, “made us all think he was dead!”
Mrs. Dalmear began to open her mouth to speak when the man put a hand on her shoulder. “It was either he be killed or captured by the police and most likely actually be dead, or for you to think he was dead until we knew he was safe.” Hearing him put it that way made me realize that they didn't have a lot of options. Slowly I sat back down and crossed my arms in front of me.
A minute passed in silence after my little outburst as we absorbed the information. I saw out of the corner of my eye that Lynnae was playing with a bit of her hair, looking down into her lap. Then she spoke.
“That still doesn't explain why they were trying to kill him,” she looked up from her lap and into the eyes of the man, “I mean, Zoltan didn't ever do anything wrong and his parents were good people.”
“Exactly.” The man said, holding up a hand before I could ask what in the hell he meant by that. “They were such good people that once they realized what the government was doing they refused to help or cooperate. They were willing to die instead of doing something they knew was wrong.”
“What do you mean?” Lynnae asked, her tone cautious but curious, regaining some confidence.
Mrs.Dalmear looked over at the man. “Agent Deltran, will you please take them to meet the rest of your group?”
Lynnae and I both looked at each other wide-eyed. Agent we mouthed. I saw the agent nod his head. “Will you please-” he asked and I saw Mrs. Dalmear gave a single nod before he could finish. I watched her walk over to her computer and type in a quick command.
“I have informed your teachers to not expect you for the rest of the week and next week.” She said looking at us.
“That should be enough time to get them up to speed, Thank you.” Agent Deltran said standing. “Ladies,” He said now looking to us, “please come with me if you would.”
“But you still haven’t explained what it was that his parents refused to do,” I said as he walked to and opened the door for us. He turned and looked at us with a smirk.
“Don’t worry I will. First, we need to get you two someplace secure. Then we will talk. But before we talk you need to meet the rest of my team, the rest of the Resistance.”
We followed him out of the office and down the corridors of the school. I had never walked the halls while classes were being taught and the feeling of the quiet and emptiness of it was eerie. Lynnae and I walked just behind him following him to the main entrance.
"Tell your dragons not to follow and to stay put. Let them know that you are going to be okay." He said to us as we walked along the path to the road.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," He paused and turned to face us, "They will lose their link to you where we are going."
I froze. Dragons and riders are paired very close to birth. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to live without it. He must have seen my appalled expression because he gave a reassuring smile.
"Don't worry, the block will only be in place as long as we are in that area. That is," He paused raising an eyebrow, "unless, you are able to learn to control something we have discovered that can protect your connection, then you might be able to maintain your link to your dragon even inside the area." I looked over at Lynnae in confusion. Her face told me that she was just as confused as I. "But for now go, let your dragons know that you are going to be okay." He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.
I turned away from him and jogged over to Ezekian, who appeared to have just gotten back from hunting. I scrunched up my face in a bit of disgust as I saw the charred ground around the ten-point buck he was ripping at. I stopped and stood a little way from him, not wanting to get hit with fresh buck meat.
"Ezekian?" I called to him mentally. I saw him look up and step away from the buck and slowly towards me.
"Yes?" He asked tilting his head a little. I smiled as I watched his tail swish back and forth. I smiled, the motion reminding me of an excited puppy.
"I have to go someplace where you won't be able to communicate with or feel me at all." I saw his eyes go wide in fear. I tried to send him feelings of reassurance. I placed a hand on his nose and scratched beneath his neck calming a little more of the tension and worry I could feel coming from our link. "You trust me, though, right?" I asked staring him in his beautiful gold eye.
"Of course." I heard from him and I saw a small smile on his face.
"Then trust that I am going to be okay," I said hugging him around the neck and placing a quick kiss on his nose.
"Come on you two, we need to get going." I heard the agent call from the sidewalk.
I heard a sniff and saw that Lynnae's eyes were slightly red. I walked over to her and put an arm around her shoulder.
"Don't worry," I said trying to reassure her, "we'll be back. It's only going to be a short time."
"I know, I just....." She started before her voice trailed off. I understood her sadness. After being connected with your dragon for years, having them always there in the back of your mind, the idea of them just disappearing from there was inconceivable. I tried not to think about what it would be like to lose that company, even for a short time. We approached the Agent Deltran and he turned away from us as he began to lead us away from the school and into the city.
We walked for several blocks, and I watched as people went to and from work. Some using hover taxis others walking with steaming cups of coffee in their hands.
"Where are we going?" I heard Lynnae try to whisper in my ear, though not very successfully.
"Some place not so out in the open," Agent Deltran said over his shoulder. "And someplace where we aren't being watched." He continued, this time in a quieter voice as he nodded towards a small black dome attached to a pole across the street.
It took me a moment to realize what it was. It was a camera. Looking around I began to notice them everywhere. Every building had one above its door, even the residential ones. A shiver ran down my spine seeing all of them. Everything we did was watched. It felt intrusive and creepy.
We continued walking until we reached the poorer area of the city. I looked around and saw houses with their windows boarded up. Seeing them, I felt depressed. With the chill of winter soon approaching, I wondered how many of these people would freeze because they could not afford to heat their home.
It was as I was thinking about this that Agent Deltran stopped. He stopped so suddenly that Lynnae and I almost ran right into the back of him. I watched as he looked around, glancing at every building and every passerby. Doing the same I noticed there were a lot less cameras in this part of the city. Finishing his scan of the area he ducked into an ally. I looked at Lynnae and saw that her face said exactly what I was thinking, What the hell. After standing there stunned for a moment we ducked in after him.
"Take these," He whispered, handing us each a large metal capsule. I took it and almost immediately dropped the thing. It was ice cold when, having seen him pull it from his cargo pant, I would have expected it to be at least room temperature. He saw my instant reaction and quickly placed his hands under mine in case I did drop it.
"You got it?" He asked and I could hear the smirk in his voice.
"Yeah, it's just," I replied, "so cold."
As I handled the thing I examined the capsule more closely. It was about the size of a king size poster marker and weighed maybe a pound. I flipped it over in my hand wondering how something so small could weigh so much. As I turned it over in my hand I noticed a small grove on running from top to bottom on what I thought had been a completely smooth surface.
"What are these?" I heard Lynnae ask.
I heard the agent replying to her question but I was too fascinated by the little groove that I had discovered that his voice just sounded like mumbling. Holding each side in one hand I tried to pry the halves apart with my nails. In the process, I felt them twist a little instead. Continuing the motion I twisted the two halves until I heard a click and they formed an X in my hand. Instantly I felt my body begin to stretch out and my feet felt like they were being sucked down a drain. I felt the rest of me being sucked in and suddenly I couldn't breathe, though I continued to grip the device tightly. The last thing I heard or saw was Lynnae's face of terror as I heard her cry my name before. Then I blacked out.