He lowered his great head to observe the dragons assembled around him. All of them were older than old – all from the beginnings of the world itself. Earth, it was called today, but they knew this world by another name, the name of its birth, Erwyth. The name didn’t apply anymore … not since the coming of the apes. If they had known when they first saw the changes… how the apes were evolving, would the situation be different? Would they have done any differently? He sighed, his wings beating a slow steady rhythm in the air. Massacred by beings millennia younger than they… they had survived since the beginning of time, through the time of dinosaurs and ages of ice only to be slaughtered by an upstart race that was less than 10 000 years old.
They were being hunted by creatures less intelligent than them, less cunning but many times more ruthless and determined. And those creatures wouldn’t stop until they had eliminated the non-existent threat they perceived in the dragons… meaning of course that their days were numbered. Indeed, standing before him were the last four dragons… five including himself but he was a special case… the first dragon and quite possibly, if this desperate plan failed, the last.
His eyes closed absently, knowing full well that it was a miracle that there were even these four left to undertake this last wretched attempt to preserve their race. He had waited too long… the fate of long-lived beings battling a species with a life-span shorter than the blink of an eye. It was all perspective of course… dragon’s thoughts ran as slowly as the earth’s magma core which gradually shifted the giant plates of the planet’s crust over millennia… time had not seemed an issue until the wildfires of human thought began.
With that thought, he raised his head again and opened his eyes. This had to happen because of the humans, of course. The humans’ evolution and natural distrust had created a race that had easily overcome the dragon’s archaic society and quickly sworn to destroy it. But who could blame them… unable to communicate with the ancient dragons… not that they wanted to, considering the dragon’s enormous bulk… He thought that, if he were human, he too would think the dragons were monsters to be destroyed. But they weren’t … not by a long shot and that of course was where their trouble began …. With a gut-wrenching rumble he pulled away from his thoughts … even for a dragon he was taking a long time to begin … but he was eldest, first and possibly last … and with a gigantic roar he began his speech.
“Long ago, when Earth was still young, the world was a very different place. In the very beginning the earth had another name, Erwyth. The world was new, brilliant and deadly. Not only was the land alive… known to swallow unprotected beings whole – never to be seen again – but the plants and animals which inhabited its surface were deadly as well. In this time before time, strange things unexplainable by science occurred for the laws of physics had not yet fossilized. Water defied gravity in water-climbs, flowing up the highest spires of rock, thousands of kilometers high. These misty summits surged….” My grandmother’s voice trailed off as she drifted off to sleep, her mouth hanging open slightly.
I groaned and looked over at Rachel and Sarah. They too had disappointed looks plastered across their faces. I grimaced and shrugged. “I don’t dare wake her up,” I said, “Last time I tried she almost had my head. We’ll just have to wait and see if she wakes up.”
I glanced at Rachel curled up in her favorite chair in the corner of the room. Her shoulder-length black hair curled loosely around her face, framing it. The chair she sat on was blue for the moment but burst into multi-coloured swirls as I watched her before changing to a deep burgundy red. Its cushions were suspended a foot or two above the floor on a pillow of air. She caught my gaze with her green eyes for a second and darted a meaningful look at Sarah. I knew what she meant almost immediately. Being friends since before preschool had allowed us to become experts in our own silent language. I glanced at Sarah sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of our grandmother to confirm what Rachel’s look had told me.
She hadn’t shifted her position at all so I couldn’t see anything but her profile from where I stood, but I could see tears trickling down her face as she stared at our grandmother’s wizened face. Sarah was my cousin but this was the first time she’d met our grandmother. Something I could barely comprehend after living in the same dome as grandma my entire life. I had grown up with her fantastic tales, her antics, her kind words of encouragement… Sarah hadn’t. Seeing those tears made me think I’d made a huge mistake and I started toward my cousin to comfort her.
“Sarah,” I whispered and she turned to look at me, those damned tears streaming down her face, “We can always come back later to hear more… You don’t need to worry, she just has trouble staying awake now. She’s old… over a hundred , it can only be expected.”
“I-I’m sorry,” she hiccupped, throwing her arms around me. Her platinum blonde hair swirled around my face and I held her tightly. “I’m just sad that I can’t possibly—” She broke off abruptly as the door burst open and my older brother stormed into the house.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he snapped, blue eyes blazing and light golden hair falling into his face. He pushed it back angrily. “You’re not allowed to be here!”
“I—” I began but he cut through my explanation.
“Mom, Dad and Aunt Akira strictly forbade either of you from coming here before they left,” he snarled, “I promised I would make sure you didn’t.” He didn’t notice Rachel in the corner until she shifted uncomfortably in her chair and stood up.
“I should go,” she said softly. Kylar, my brother, nodded, essentially ignoring her. My dark-haired best friend tossed meaningful looks back to me over her shoulder as she left, telling me I had to update her later on the situation. I tossed a look back, asking her why she didn’t just stay. She shrugged, waved, and left anyway. I sighed… we were in so much trouble.
“The only reason you two were allowed to stay here was under the condition that I didn’t let you come here. At all. And they only agreed to that because I had to work,” Kylar continued grabbing our arms and shoving Sarah and I out the door. Sarah was crying even harder now. I felt like I was about to cry myself. Not see Grandma for over a month? Did he really expect me to survive that? He knew how I felt about Grandma – he felt the same way. It was going to kill us all. He glanced both directions up the street and then pulled us into an alley.
Once he had us hidden from the sight of prying eyes in the street, he placed a finger to his lips and then reached down to turn off his wrist band. I fumbled with mine at the same time as he reached for Sarah’s. When all three were off, he motioned for us to follow him again. We did, disappearing into a series of tidy alleys and back streets. Finally, he stopped and rounded on us again.
He glared at us for a moment before he started to speak. “Ally,” he said, looking at me with a hard glint in his eyes, “I told you to stay away from Gram’s for at least a few days. Aunt Akira came this close to discovering you two had gone to Gram’s.” His hand swept across my vision, coming to a stop a couple centimetres from my eyes. I had to cross my eyes to focus on his thumb and forefinger held a hairsbreadth apart. “She called to check up on you two and it took some serious wheedling to convince her not to check your armband GPS signals to see where you were.”
I rolled my eyes at my older brother and shoved his hand away from me forcefully. “Aunt Akira thinks the sun rises and sets in your eyes,” I snapped, “If you said we weren’t at Gram’s then obviously we wouldn’t be because you said so.”
“Not my point, Ally,” he said angrily, “If I hadn’t been at the house for lunch she would have checked to see where you two were. Do you want to be on the next shuttle to the Mars colony?”
Sarah and I shook our heads simultaneously. “I didn’t think so.”
I sighed and kicked at a pebble resting by my foot. It had been a fight to stay when Mom and Dad decided to join Aunt Akira to visit relatives on Mars but I had figured the promise to stay away from Gram was a minor one. I had been wrong apparently. Beside me, Sarah hiccupped, her tears were starting to dry in salty tracks on her cheeks. Sarah and I shuffled our feet for a moment avoiding Kylar’s glare. He cleared his throat and we both looked up. His glare had softened but was nowhere near friendly yet.
“If you must visit her, make sure you disable your armbands before you go,” he said. He shoved a hand into his jean pocket and fished around for a moment before pulling out something that was bunched up in his fist. “Here, take these.” His fingers opened to reveal two small silver-grey rings. They were kind of dull and boring.
“A ring?” I scoffed.
He shook his head. “Transceivers,” he said, “They’ll mimic your armbands when you activate them so it doesn’t look like you dropped off the grid, ok? Put them in the tree house in the back and turn them on before you leave for Gram’s next time.”
I nodded gratefully. “Thanks, Ky,” I said.
He nodded curtly. “You two can find your own way back right?” he said, “I have to get back to work. Don’t visit Gram again today – wait until tomorrow at least – and call Aunt Akira as soon as you’re back home. I won’t be home until tomorrow evening.”
“Right, graveyard shift, plus morning hoverball practice,” I quipped, knowing full well he was spending the night at his girlfriend’s place.
He laughed and ruffled my hair before turning and heading back the way we’d come. I heard his armband click as he turned it on again. I waited until he’d turned the corner before I grabbed Sarah’s limp hand and pulled her back to the street and turned our armbands back on as well.
As we walked through the streets to my parent’s house, I watched Sarah anxiously. She was still out of it. Her tears had mostly stopped but she still snuffled every few minutes and had bright red rings around her eyes. I sighed. “Sorry Sarah,” I whispered quietly, “I didn’t think…”
Sarah stopped and hugged me tightly. “No,” she said, “Thank you. I wanted to meet her.” I smiled at my cousin fondly, grateful that she didn’t blame me for Kylar’s outburst.
We were both 12 but had only met a couple of times. Part of the reason was because she and Aunt Akira lived so far away in the New York Dome but mostly it was because Aunt Akira had fallen out with Gram so many years ago and refused to visit us in Ipswich. Our combined parents’ trip to the Mars Colony was going to provide us with our first chance at really getting to know each other and I was really looking forward to it.
Ipswich was a small dome and there weren’t very many kids around. Most were sent off to boarding school in the London Dome a full hour away. The few families that scorned London used the small public school in Ipswich but that meant the classes were small. For example, my Year Class had only six students and Rachel was the only other girl and thus my only girlfriend. We got along with the boys in our class most of the time but it wasn’t the same as having girlfriends… Guys just liked different things sometimes.
I blinked as Sarah poked me. “Hey daydreamer,” she laughed, “What were you thinking about?”
I grinned at her. “Oh just about how happy I am that you got to visit,” I replied.
She smiled back at me. “I’m happy too.”
I sighed and glanced up the street at my house. “I guess we’d better go call Aunt Akira,” I grimaced. Sarah slumped and nodded her head. I grabbed her hand and we walked the rest of the way up the street to the house.
We stopped in front of the square living block. Like the rest of the houses on the street. It was a red two storey square building with a flat roof. Because of the energy costs of maintaining the domes, space was limited and as a result, all available space was used to its maximum potential. So, all buildings had green roofs which were used for growing essential vegetables and foods. Solar panels lined the edges of the roofs and any space not used for gardening. The roads themselves were modified solar panels and it was illegal to park on the road or above ground. If you had a vehicle you had to park in designated underground parking areas. Because Ipswich was so small, most people didn’t have cars but there were still some service vehicles and some communities pooled together for a communal vehicle.
Sarah squeezed my hand and we walked up the narrow path through the front garden to the front door. I held my wristband up to the scanner and there was a soft click as the door unlocked. We stepped cautiously into the front foyer. As I closed the door, I heard the telltale blip of the Com in the living room, indicating that there was a message waiting. I dropped Sarah’s hand and shed my shoes and coat before proceeding to the Com. Sarah followed me carefully and sat down in a chair by the door. I glanced at her, noting the red rings around her eyes again.
“You need to wash your face,” I said, “Or Aunt Akira is going to know we weren’t where we were supposed to be.” Sarah started and her violet eyes widened as she realized what her tears had done to her appearance.
“Crap,” she said, jumping up and running from the room. I heard the sound of running water a moment later and imagined her scrubbing her face. I turned back to my task and glanced down at the blinking red light on the Com.
The screen display read 5 new messages. I groaned and thumbed through the menu to look at the caller history. Sure enough, three of the calls had Aunt Akira’s id attached to them. Mom’s id was attached to the fourth and Rachel’s to the fifth. Seeing Rachel’s id, I smiled and shook my head. She couldn’t even wait until I got home to call and badger me, I thought. The smile faded as I pressed the replay button to hear the other messages from Aunt Akira and Mom.
The hologram platform in the middle of the room flicked into life as the replay started. A tall willowy woman with vivid purple eyes – the same shade of purple as Sarah’s – appeared on the circular platform and peered around the room. Her hair was straight and blonde and she had a long pointed nose that twitched like she was tracking something. “Sarah? Alazne?” she called. I groaned. I hated it when people called me by my full name and Aunt Akira knew that. “Oh well…” she said after there was obviously no response, “I guess I’ll try again later.” The light flickered out as the message ended.
The next message started, “Alazne, I just spoke to you brother… He said the two of you were out in the back yard. Please call me when you get in.” Aunt Akira’s voice was sharper than in the last message but she didn’t sound suspicious yet, at least.
I glance at the door as the third message started and saw Sarah walk in. “Uh-oh,” she winced, seeing her mother’s expression. “That’s not good.” I glanced back at the hologram and winced as well. Aunt Akira looked frustrated as well as irritated now. “Girls, I expect you to call me as soon as you get in. If you intend to spend so much time in that treehouse you’re going to have to install a Com out there so I can get a hold of you when I want to.”
The message cut out and my mother’s message came on. I felt a pang as I missed her all over again. Her brown eyes searched the room carefully and she sighed, sweeping a stray tendril of straight brown hair out of her face. “Ally, Sarah. Look, I know you’ve disabled the Com in the treehouse. I told Aunt Akira there was one in there. She’s not amused. Please call as soon as you get in.” 628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡQf0KHaI2dr
I frowned. We didn't have a Com in the treehouse. My heart plummeted into my stomach as I realized she must have checked our GPS signals and found us at Gram's... This was her subtle way of letting us know that we'd been found out.
I sighed. “She knows where we were,” I said. Sarah's face went white. 628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡaBJrDs3hxA
"How?" she whispered.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPiaOj35nRR
"It's mom... She always knows. I don't think she told Aunt Akira though," I said. Sarah looked relieved then stricken again.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhYuQgjDObA
"Will she tell though?" she asked fearfully. 628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡXtDZWlFScx
I shook my head. "No... She wouldn't do that. I mean, she knows I usually visit Gram every day and it was a long shot that I'd actually keep my promise about staying away... We'll probably get in trouble and she'll tell Ky that we aren't allowed to visit Gram for a week or something and then tell us not to get caught again." I sighed. “Well…” I said, “I guess we’d better call them…”ns 220.127.116.11da2