This rough-draft piece is from my forthcoming "Destruction," sequel to "Endgame." It takes place during a (failed) mission where heroine June Vereeth and cohorts are looking for a crashed ship atop fogged-in, 3000-ft. rock towers on Zycarsus. The rock creates an extremely strong localized magnetic field which renders all electronics (like beam weapons and tracking devices) useless. The scene also pits Vereeth against something far too large for her to handle--symbolic of the war she finds herself in. Enjoy!
The wings sounded elsewhere, and we turned. There was a click combined with a rush of movement, somewhere above. I tried to find it, but all my scope caught was an immense, fast-moving shadow. The fog seemed even thicker above us.
“What the hell is it?” Hulk asked.
I shook my head, watching, sweating.
The only sound seemed to be the man hustling down the line. He was whimpering.
Suddenly, a dark shape of impossible size curled out of the fog. Curled because it had wings. The thing dropped down into the nest. It had come out of a dream, or nightmare—but it was right here.
'Oh Satok! What do we do?'
Its serpentine head was turned away from us. Moisture glistened on its rough skin, which seemed to be gray with greenish stripes. The animal’s slender trunk was four legs across, tapering toward an angular skull. Two pairs of wings were folded up, settling into place on its back. The leathery material made me think of a rain guard in the wind.
A pulsing sensation in the air must’ve been from the creature’s beating heart. It was larger than the whales on P-75. Larger by far.
Miraculously, nobody fired. Nobody breathed.
I glanced down at my own weapon. The barrel let out a finger-width projectile of metal. I didn’t even know if my bullets would get through the monster’s skin.
'I can’t do anything to that.'
As we watched—compelled to, prohibited from knowing anything else in the galaxy existed—the creature lifted its head with a chunk of prey in its mouth. The blurred movement became a parachute trailing from its snout.
The dragon had just nabbed a Mitasterite soldier out of the air near us.
The whole rock column behind me was tilting—slowly, malevolently—to pitch me off. 'This world is going to have its way with us.' At least, that’s how it felt. I pivoted my feet inside their boots, feeling for secure and less-secure footing, while my aim shifted between the being’s spine and bent head. The whole notion, based on the flimsy width of my rifle barrel, became instantly ridiculous. I nearly laughed, a moment of pure absurdity.
The creature used a clawed arm to pull part of its meal away. There was a ripping sound and liquid flew.
Steady movement in my periphery, off to the left. Something descending. Two rifle cracks were followed by a third. Another Mittie.
The dragon creature lifted its head, as if to swallow. Then it turned and looked at us. My breath caught. Zycarsus tilted even more.
If the wildlife on P-75 had a mostly benign appearance—certainly the whales, crattles and seals had—then this thing would fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. Spikes curved up from the sides of its face and down from its chin. Dark gray with green striping. An angular snout. It gave me the impression this creature was accustomed to battling with its head. The spikes would serve to rend and rip an adversary. There was nothing here that signaled any quality short of wicked malice. Yellow reptilian eyes found us, found me.
'Can I get one right in the eye? Satok!'
On scope, it was too close. Off scope, I kept my arms fluid, in a steady bounce to match anticipated movements.
'The target’s too big! Will putting a bullet in its eye even do anything? I can’t get through its skull, not a chance!'
The dragon reared up and lifted its head skyward. Mouth parted, it let out a shrieking bark, followed by a second one.
'Was that a signal for others to come? To attack?'
With two steps on stubby legs, the animal bounced forward. Its wings flashed out to full width. This happened with amazing speed. Incredibly, the dragon soared away between two rock columns and was lost from sight.
Nobody breathed as the wind passing under its wings died down. Like a vast train leaving a station, the thing was suddenly gone from our world.
For the time being.
“Flick!” somebody said.
“What now?” Hulk asked me.
I was staring in disbelief at the now-patched area of swirling fog. No words worth saying came to mind.