“Any day now, Trainee Lee, we’ve been out here for 15 minutes already.”
Sonya Lee looked over her shoulder at her teacher Master Abdul. The harsh sunlight reflecting off the yellow moon rock of the canyon wall threw his broad smile into stark relief. She let out a shaky breath, the fog blooming against the visor of her helmet. “I don’t think I can do it, sir.”
“And why not?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m afraid of heights, sir,” she whispered.
Master Abdul let out a belly laugh. “You want to fly in space but you’re afraid of heights?”
Sonya shrugged, her skin tight space suit creaking against the movement. “There’s no gravity in space, sir. No falling down.”
He continued to laugh. “I can see why you failed to Bond with a Flyer.” He struggled to contain his mirth for a few moments then cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “Nonetheless, you still have to do it. The Jin-saw won’t be complete until you do.”
Sonya nodded and turned to face the canyon once more. The ledge they stood on was narrow and sat dozens of meters below the top of the wall. The shuttle that had dropped her and Master Abdul here was long gone. The only way off was to jump.
She tried to tell her self that the gravity on this moon was less than that on Terra, her home planet, but it didn’t help. Taking deep breathes, she looked up into the ether and counted the stars, willing her heartbeat to slow.
As she counted, a vague sense of worry pulsated in the back of her mind. The worry was not her own and she sensed that it came from somewhere below her. She tried to concentrate on the feeling but it slipped away like oil on water.
“Just do it, Trainee Lee,” Master Abdul said. “You will continue to be alone here,” he tapped the side of his helmet with a gloved finger, “until you make that jump. So just throw your self out there.”
Sonya nodded and took a few long strides backwards. Heart pounding, she closed her eyes and ran. She meant to keep her eyes closed, but when she felt her feet leave the solid rock her eyes popped open and she screamed.
Even with her helmet on, she could hear the air rushing past her. The jagged rocks below grew larger. Flailing her arms and legs in a vain attempt to slow her fall, she drew in a breath for another scream when she noticed a dark shape launch off the canyon wall.
The scream died in her throat as Sonya watched her Moon dragon dive beside her. He was small, for a hatchling, but still large enough to carry two humans on his back. His smooth hide looked like the star filled sky above; black with hundreds of white specks that covered him from head to tail and across his wings.
For a moment, Sonya and the dragon were even in the air and she could see into his large, completely silver eyes. A wave of love and reassurance radiated from them and for the first time Sonya noticed black flecks in their depths.
Keeping his wings tight against his body, the dragon shot past her. It was then that Sonya noticed the saddle strapped to the base of his neck. Knowing what was supposed to happen next, Sonya spread her arms and legs out. The dragon snapped tail flaps that went the entire length of his tail, and wings wide and maneuvered him self below her.
Sonya hit the saddle with a bone jarring thud. She grasped the handholds and pulled herself into a sitting potion. Once there she was able to reach all the straps that would hold her onto the saddle. As soon as she was secure, she leaned forward across the dragon’s neck and hit a small yellow button on the saddle. The shield, a clear bubble of silicate enforced glass, surrounded her and hissed as it pressurized and oxygen filled the space. She closed her eyes, heart pounding against her rib cage as tears pooled beneath her chin inside her helmet.
Are you alright? The voice in her head was that of a little boy.
Sonya gasped and opened her eyes. With the shield protecting her, she hadn’t noticed that they were flying forward. The canyon walls flew by as the dragon made long sweeps with his wings. She looked forward and saw the Moon dragon looking back at her with one eye. The sense of worry in her mind was still there but was being combined with more reassurance and an overwhelming sense of joy.
“Yes, I’m fine now,” she said aloud.
Good. He turned his head forward and the worry dissipated from Sonya’s mind. The dragon spread a frill studded with short horns that circled three fourths of his head. Thin veins glowed a dim orange between the white specks. My name is Hey-song. Can we do some real flying now?
“This isn’t real flying?” Sonya asked with a grin as she removed her helmet, setting it down between her legs and breathed in the air that was pumping inside the shield.
I want to be up there. Hey-song jerked his head towards space. I don’t like how the gravity drags me down here on the surface.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” she asked.
You’re within the shield and the atmosphere here on Yeogsa is thin enough that the shield will protect you as we get into space.
Sonya gnawed on the inside of her cheek trying to think.
The com piece in her ear crackled with Master Abdul’s voice, “Okay, Trainee, time to bring him in.”
“We should go,” Sonya said.
Like hell, Hey-song opened his jaws and let out a roar that Sonya could feel as much as hear. He pitched up and pushed his wings hard. Sonya clutched the hand holds and yelled for him to stop but he ignored her. Master Abdul’s voice yelled in her ear for them to come back, but they were soon out of range.
As they neared the edge of the atmosphere the shield began to glow orange with the heat. Sonya hunkered down against the saddle and prayed to the Mother Dragon. The moment they broke through into space she began to float up against the restraints, her back butting up against the top of the shield. She pulled her self down and clamped her thighs around the sides of the saddle.
Muscles aching from the strain, Sonya looked over her shoulder to the tank of oxygen that sat on the back of the saddle and provided her breathable air. We shouldn’t stay out here too long. Sonya pushed the thought toward Hey-song as Master Abdul had taught her. This tank will only last an hour.
Ack! You don’t need to shout, Hey-song grumbled.
Sorry. Sonya said, mentally pulling back. Master Abdul is going to be so pissed about this.
We’ll just fly around for a few minutes and then head back, okay?
Alright, she said. Sonya was going to ask a question but her mind froze as they came around the side of the moon and her home planet came into view. It looked so much larger from space than it did on the moon’s surface. A green and blue ball streaked with lines and swirls of white. An orb of life filled with both humans and dragons, coexisting in peace for the past two hundred years.
She stared at it for a long time. She had seen the planet from space before, but it felt so much closer and real with nothing but the thin shield separating her from it. This is what she had dreamed of ever since she had entered Dragon Academy eight years ago and here she was, riding a Moon dragon in space. Sonya giggled.
Every trainee dreamed of creating a Jin-saw with a Moon dragon, but that privilege was reserved for those with the strongest psychic ability. The fact that Sonya had managed to attract Hey-song and then successfully Bond with him would be considered dumb luck by some and a miracle by others. She couldn’t wait to get back to Yeogsa’s base and see the look on her classmates faces when they saw her riding Hey-song.
Agitation flared in the corner of her mind that was now always connected to Hey-song; disturbing her thoughts. Turning her eyes from the planet and back towards the moon, Sonya saw another dragon hatchling flying towards them. She was riderless, and for the first time, Sonya realized how very small Hey-song was compared to other hatchlings.
The female dragon circled Hey-song. Sonya couldn’t hear what the female was saying, but she could feel the tension in Hey-songs body and hear his angry responses.
Fly off, tolai!
Sonya winced against the words bouncing around in her head. What’s going on?
Hey-song snapped at the dragon when she flew too close. She’s taunting me. She’s trying to get me to race her.
Suddenly, the female dove down and snapped her jaws right over Sonya’s head. Sonya couldn’t hold back a small shriek despite the shield protecting her.
That’s it, tongsal nom! You want a race, you got one. Through the Ancient’s Canyon, first one to the Rock Falls wins.
“Hey-song,” Sonya shouted. “Can’t you take me back to base first?”
No time, he said as he began his descent back into the moon’s atmosphere. This hapung ends now.
The dragons headed back towards the Canyon that ran like a scar around the entire belly of the moon. They were on its dark side now and Sonya wondered where Master Abdul was. When she looked down to try to get her bearings everything tilted and she gasped, squeezing her eyes shut. Sweat popped up all over her body and she suddenly wished she had settled for Bonding with an Earth dragon.
When she opened her eyes again, Hey-song and the female were hovering in an updraft above the Ancient’s Canyon waiting for her to be ready. Knowing there was no way to change his mind, Sonya readjusted her grip, said a prayer to the Mother Dragon and made a mental note to talk to Hey-song about his foul language. As soon as she was settled, the dragons launched forward.
Hey-song’s wings made long hard sweeps through the air, but the female’s wingspan was larger and each wing beat propelled her further ahead. He let out a foul curse and Sonya could feel his body rumbling as pouches beneath his wings filled with a special chemical concoction. Once the pouches were full, a pair of moon crystals within the pouches struck each other and caused a spark. The ensuing explosion launched them forward as if a rocket was strapped to his back.
Hey-song folded his wings, tail flaps and neck frills against his body and shot ahead of the female, leaving twin trails of vapor behind. Sonya looked over her shoulder, the female seemed to pause for a moment and then she too launched forward as her pouches filled and ignited. She began to gain on them, her pouches being larger than Hey-song’s allowing her to sustain a longer burn.
The female was less than a tail length behind when she seemed to slow and fall back. She had burned off all the fuel in her pouches. She opened her wings again and flapped furiously as she waited for her pouches to refill.
Sonya could still feel the rumble between her legs. Hey-song was still burning his fuel and gaining speed. How are you doing that?
Doing what? Hey-song asked.
How are you still burning your fuel? Haven’t you run out yet?
Run out? Hey-song sounded appalled. I never run out. There’s always a continuous flow into my pouches. Do others run out?
Yes. Sonya turned her gaze forward and risked letting go of the hand grips so she could put her helmet back on and lower the sun visor. They had come around the other side of the moon where the sun blazed bright and hot. It’s a safety precaution, she continued. Your body stops filling the pouch when it’s full so that you don’t run out of energy. It takes a lot for your body to make that stuff. Didn’t you know that?
Hey-song shrugged his shoulders. No one ever told me. I thought all Moon dragons flew like this.
Well most dragons have to wait for a while for their pouches to refill.
Huh. Well, sucks for them. He turned his head and gave her a toothy grin.
As they continued down the Canyon, Hey-song shut off the flow to his pouches and spread his wings, frills and tail flaps wide to catch the winds. Tiny veins glowed orange between the white specks as he absorbed the sun’s radiation.
Sonya looked back again to see the female dragon way behind with no chance of catching up. I’m pretty sure you won.
Of course I did.
Sonya laughed as they continued to sail through the Canyon. Now that they had slowed down, she took the opportunity to get a look at her surroundings. Yeogsa was the smallest of the three moons orbiting Terra and housed the Moon dragon’s history. Here in the Ancient’s Canyon the Moon dragons recorded their stories through huge carvings that took up the canyon walls from top to bottom. Only half of the canyon had been used so far and, unfortunately, some of the older history had been lost over time due to erosion.
They turned a corner in the winding canyon and there was the Rock Falls. A section of the Canyon where the walls had crumbled in on them selves and the result gave the illusion of a waterfall made of stone. Hey-song began to turn lazy circles in an updraft.
We better get back soon, Sonya said. I’m going to be in enough trouble as it is.
Let’s wait for the amkay to show up. I want to see the defeat in her eyes.
Hey-song, you really need to watch your language, it’s rude. Hey-song snorted in reply and Sonya continued. And besides, do you really need to rub it in that you won?
Yes I do. I’ve been getting crap from dragons like her ever since I hatched, just because I’m smaller than everyone else. I’m tired of it. I want them to respect me.
And beating them in races will do that?
Yes. Hey-song said as he turned to watch the female finish the last leg of the race. That wasn’t even my fastest. He called to her. I was taking it slow so as to not upset my human here.
Sonya couldn’t hear the female dragon’s response but she did see the rude manner in which the female flipped her tail at Hey-song. He laughed as he turned and flew between the Rock Falls, continuing on their original course.
The pictures in this part of the Canyon were faded and crumbling. Sonya could make out the shape of a dragon here and there and once she saw a clearer picture of the night sky. Deep grooves made by dragon claws playing connect the dots between the stars to form the constellations.
I’ve never been in this part of the Canyon before. Sonya said.
Me either, Hey-song replied. He glided on a strong wind current, his head swiveling back and forth, looking at all the carvings. He stopped suddenly, his wings flapping backwards to stop his forward momentum, jostling Sonya.
What is it? She asked.
Look. Hey-song jerked his head to the right. Carved into the wall beside them was a picture that Sonya thought was a human at first. It stood on two legs, had two arms and the rough drawing of the face was very human. But something was wrong and it took Sonya a moment to figure out what it was.
“It’s too long,” she said aloud.
Sonya shook her head. It’s not human. The body and the features are too long. Like someone took a human and stretched it. And look at the ears, how tall and pointy they are.
Could just be a bad carving.
No… Sonya drew the word out, thinking. This part of the Canyon is ancient history, long before humans came to space.
Hey-song shrugged, My mother never told me any stories this old. Most of the stories I was told while in the nest are recorded after the Rock Fall.
Sonya was about to say something when a huge shadow fell across them and an angry voice cracked in her ear.
“Trainee Lee, what the hell do you think you are doing?” Master Abdul asked.
Sonya cringed and looked up at the adult Moon dragon that hovered above them. This female dragon was at least ten times bigger than Hey-song. Her silver eyes glowed and judging by the way Hey-song’s head drooped, she was giving him a lecture.
“Fly up here so I can see you.” Master Abdul said. Sonya didn’t even have to tell Hey-song, he was already maneuvering around the side of the adult female so that they were even with her back.
Strapped to her back, at the base of the neck, was a pod made of dull back metal. Inside, Sonya knew, was a small cockpit in which Master Abdul sat. She couldn’t see him clearly through the windshield but she could imagine the rage on his face.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“We’ll talk about this when we get back to the base,” was his terse reply. “Come on.”
Master Abdul’s dragon flew out of the Canyon leaving Sonya and Hey-song to follow after, heads hanging.
Thanks for reading!