Chapter 1: How It All Began
The Orbit of Saturn, August 15, 2009...
"Ronan, I am getting an emergency recall message from The Weyrleader," Garanoth suddenly announced. "It's not directed to us specifically, but he's ordering all dragons worldwide to return to their Weyrs immediately."
Ronan blinked in surprise, then he looked up at the ceiling. Nearby, Mildred sucked in a shocked breath. "So, he's not calling for us?"
"No, The Weyrleader is calling in all the wings. Right now he's speaking to all the Weyrs, telling them to recall all their members. Nakth is very angry. Campbeltown and the other Weyrs are sending out combat patrols."
Ronan looked worriedly over at Mildred. "Nakth is Alfhild's dragon, from Norway. Something must have happened at Svartvatn Weyr."
Mildred sighed and started shutting down her cameras and making sure the digital files were saved. "I guess it's time to go home."
Ronan grunted sourly at the idea of cutting the mission short hours ahead of schedule, then he glanced out the window again. Maybe someday we can land on one of these alien worlds, he thought to himself. For a split second, an image from Harry's office flashed through his mind.
Distracted by the abrupt end of the mission, he passed the wrong jump image to Garanoth.
Campbeltown's Egg vanished from the orbit of Saturn.
Not the Orbit of Saturn, August 15, 2009...
Ronan looked out the window expecting to see Campbeltown Weyr but instead, he saw … something other …
There were strange bluish-tinged plants. There was a double waterfall and an obvious volcano puffing up faint wisps of smoke leaning to the east in the background. In the image, the sky was darkening and two moons could be seen casting moonlight over the river that flowed from the base of the waterfalls. It looked almost exactly like the picture in Harry's office except this wasn't in Harry's office.
"Mildred, are you seeing what I'm seeing?" asked Ronan shakily.
"If you're seeing an alien landscape I never would have expected on Earth then, yes, I think I may be," replied Mildred in a stunned voice. "What happened?"
"Just before the jump, I was visualizing Lee Jordan's picture hanging in Harry's office. Garanoth must have taken that as the jump coordinates that I meant him to jump to," Ronan said in an awed voice. "I'm just glad the picture was so authentic. No telling what would have happened otherwise! I think we need to make good use of all our recording devices since we're here."
"Garanoth, is there air you can breathe out there?" whispered Ronan.
"Yes, Ronan, it smells interesting," replied Garanoth.
Ronan realized that, if the dragons remembered the location they arrived at, then there were probably people nearby. He didn't think it would be a good idea to make contact with them until Harry had a chance to make a decision about what had happened and what they, as a group, were going to do about it. "I think we had better get a lot higher and see if we can get some kind of bearings. Please take us to 300 miles straight up, or as close as you can get us, Garanoth," whispered Ronan.
Campbeltown's Egg vanished from close to the surface of the alien planet and reappeared, seconds later, at 300 miles AGL (Above Ground Level).
Ronan sat back in the command chair and closed his eyes. "Garanoth, please send us what you can see and look around. I want to get an idea if there is a more suitable place for us to come back to … if we can make it back, and if we decide to try again."
Garanoth, with his superior vision, slowly panned around the much larger visible horizon, starting where he sensed planetary north. They seemed to be fairly near a large ocean to the north and a range of mountains to the south. "Garanoth, please go back down to 10,000 feet and fly to the west, along the mountain range. I want to move further away from that volcano, where I can see better locations in the distance," requested Ronan.
The dragons immediately started moving in the indicated direction, making their best endurance speed. After a little over an hour, they spied a much larger mountain that was at least 12,000 feet high, as the peak was above their current altitude. Further to the west, was the large inland sea that Ronan had spotted when they were at 300 miles AGL. They had come a little over 200 miles from their initial arrival point.
"OK, Garanoth, please set us down as close as possible on the nearest level ground, at the base of this mountain, so you can all rest for a bit before we continue," requested Ronan.
"What do you think, Mildred?" asked Ronan excitedly. "Should we go out and explore just a little?"
"Do you really want to take a chance of transmitting a fatal disease to Earth just because you were too excited to stay put … this time?" retorted Mildred. "If Harry lets us come back, there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now, let me start analyzing the air at least. We want to have as much information as possible to help Harry make up his mind."
"Yeah, I guess," replied Ronan dejectedly. "Harry would be crazy to give up a chance to explore a whole new planet though," he added hopefully. "I guess we'd both better get to work. You know the cameras and I don't. Want me to do the atmospheric analysis?
"That makes sense," replied Mildred.
After a little more than half an hour, the dragons reported they were now well-rested. Ronan had already decided what they needed to do. He again closed his eyes, motioned for Mildred to do the same, and contacted his dragon. "Garanoth, please send us what you see as you fly, and slowly move up the face of the mountain. I'm looking for a likely place where we can create an opening to the interior of this mountain. It doesn't look volcanic, so it should be safe enough for a large Weyr if we decide to come back."
Garanoth happily started flying up the side of the rugged, barren mountain as requested while Ronan and Mildred watched through his eyes. Suddenly, Ronan jumped. "Please stop there, Garanoth, do you see that narrow vertical crevasse?"
"Yes, Ronan," replied the puzzled dragon.
"Please go to the widest part, just a little below where you are now, and start vaporizing the rock to create an opening large enough for you to enter. Use the rest of your crew to help as needed. You can make the entrance wide enough for all three of you but only make it about a dragon-length in-depth for now," requested Ronan.
It didn't take the dragons long to create the requested opening. Once done, they then found a large piece of fallen rock on an adjacent slope and "welded" it into place across the top of the opening. The opening could not be seen from above. Ronan was careful to have the flat surface of the rock slope in such a way that any water falling onto it would flow down the mountain.
"OK," said Ronan, " That's really all we can do for now. Please, all of you, memorize this current location. I'm hoping we can return to it and not have to jump to our first entry point. If there are any colonists around, I don't think we are ready to meet them quite yet."
When the dragons returned to the Egg, Ronan requested, "Now, if you can, please take us directly to Campbeltown, preferably about 20 to 30 minutes after Harry gave the recall. We've been gone quite a while and I don't want to worry anyone unduly. I think we can safely ignore the problems with a timed jump in this case. Also, Harry will probably declare this a Weyr secret, so please, no one, human or dragon, mention anything about this unless Harry clears it first."
Mildred reluctantly agreed and then Garanoth created his own jump imagery and all three dragons acting in concert lifted the Egg.
Campbeltown's Egg vanished from Pern.
Campbeltown Weyr Infirmary, August 15, 2009...
Ronan helped a shaken Mildred down from the Egg. "Harry needs to hear about this as soon as possible, Mildred. Would you like to come with me or go home and try to recover from our 'adventure'?"
"I'm feeling a bit rattled after all that," replied Mildred, shakily. "I will go home to Remus and let you break the news to Harry."
"OK, Mildred. I hope you're feeling better tomorrow," said Ronan. "Garanoth, would you please have your crew take the Egg back to its proper location, and then they can get some rest. Unfortunately, you and I must go talk to Harry. This is too important to wait."
Minutes later, Ronan was astride his dragon and on his way to Svartvatn Weyr.
Svartvatn Weyr, August 15, 2009...
Nineteen dragons had just been killed by Russian surface-to-air, heat-seeking missiles. Most of one dragon's body had been recovered, as well as one complete missile except for its missing warhead. Harry was deeply engaged in trying to determine who was responsible when Ronan and Garanoth arrived.
Garanoth appeared in the darkening sky. Even in the twilight, Harry could see the gray tinge of the large dragon.
"Nakth," Harry sent silently, "Ronan has arrived on Garanoth who is obviously too tired to be flying. Can you put them up for the night?"
"We will be honored, Weyrleader," replied Nakth.
Satisfied, Harry turned back to Alf, who had heard Harry's request via Nakth. Svartvatn would see Ronan and Garanoth well taken care of tonight.
After he had finished talking to Alf, Harry turned to speak with Ronan.
"Go ahead, Ronan," said Harry tiredly. "I need to know why every dragon on Earth lost contact with you for at least several minutes."
Ronan knew this wasn't the time for long-drawn-out explanations, so instead, he said, "Garanoth, would you please show Harry everything that happened after we left the orbit of Saturn?"
After ten minutes of reviewing Garanoth's memories, Harry rejoined Alf who stood alone watching the police inspect and photograph the body of the one recovered dragon. Ronan stepped up beside him. "Harry," he said.
Harry gazed at him exhausted and heartbroken. "Not right now, Ronan, we have enough problems. For the record, you made a badly imaged jump and exhausted three dragons. That is what you'll tell anyone who asks, even your wife. No one is to know what happened on your trip until we have time to sort things out. We have more important matters to worry about right now," he said tensely.
After exchanging several frustrated words with Alf, Harry paused and wiped his face tiredly. "Ronan, have Garanoth tell Neruth you're spending the night here and that you'll be back in the morning. I'm returning to Campbeltown. Alfhild, send an email to every Weyrleader, explain what happened here, and warn them to be extra vigilant."
Alf nodded solemnly and Harry turned and walked to where Chekiath stood waiting. Ronan sighed and shook his head. "When it rains it pours," he muttered.
Alf smiled wanly. "Come on, Ronan, I'll show you to one of our guest cabins."
Campbeltown Weyr, The Weyrleaders Office, August 16, 2009...
Mildred was not happy.
"Harry, this is too important to keep secret!"
"I agree, Mildred," replied Harry tiredly. "But just not right away. I'm afraid that the surge of hope from the rest of our riders will cause needless casualties in our coming confrontation with Russia. Once that is over, I promise you, I will tell our riders and dragons first and then the rest of the world. Then we will need the hope this discovery brings because right now it's nothing more than a deadly distraction."
"Alright, Harry, I understand, but this will be difficult," Mildred reluctantly agreed.
"Tell you what," suggested Harry. "We need to develop your discovery anyway. Why don't I increase your budget to about five million Galleons so you and Ronan can start stockpiling supplies on Pern and Ronan can start creating a Weyr that will hold us all if necessary? If you need more come see me."
Mildred just looked stunned and then nodded her head.
Harry knew he didn't need to add anything else but there was something they needed and Mildred may as well benefit from it as well.
"Another thing we need," continued Harry. "Ronan says the mountain you found is at least 10,000 feet high. That would make an excellent platform for an observatory and we will need to find this 'Red Star' as soon as we possibly can. I will gladly make you the CEO for both the Pern Observatory as well as the one at Minnewanka if you would take the job. I will even allow you to take students back and forth as long as some minor security provisions are adhered to."
Mildred was so shocked at her great fortune that all she could do was shake her head yes.
Gringault, Under Gringotts in London, August 17, 2009...
Chekiath slowly spiraled down to land in the plaza near the palace steps. Ragnok and a token honor guard were already present, as Polenth had informed them he would be arriving with a trade contract. As they touched down, Chekiath reassured Harry, "It will be fine, Harry, the Goblins are our friends now and we have someplace else to go."
"I know, mate, but I feel rushed and don't like it. Too many things could go wrong," responded Harry grimly.
Harry dismounted and approached Ragnok. "Greetings, Lord Ragnok, thank you for allowing this meeting on such short notice."
"No thanks are necessary. There is a certain urgency to most dealings between nations that are assuming a war footing," responded Ragnok.
"Still, I appreciate the speed and graciousness you have shown us. Not that long ago, we were your enemies. Now I find it comforting that you are to be backing us in what I hope to be a very short, very decisive contest," replied Harry. "This is the situation: we find ourselves in dire need of a large area of land, preferably a large mountain, that can be converted to a Weyr capable of housing thousands of dragons and their humans. It must be far from any current national boundaries and totally free of any possible claim by another nation."
Ragnok pondered this strange request for a moment and then, nodding thoughtfully, responded. "The planetary poles are possibly remote enough but not exactly hospitable to life. I would imagine even dragons would prefer a somewhat warmer clime. The only other possible solution would be an island, but all known islands are currently 'claimed' by one nation or another."
"An island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as far from any current shipping or air lanes would be ideal," responded Harry. "Too bad there isn't one hiding somewhere."
Ragnok pondered for a moment before responding, "Don't be too sure. There are many areas in the Pacific Ocean where there is ongoing volcanic activity. If we could find a likely area and 'encourage' it to be a bit more active within a confined area, we could easily create our own island. I say 'our' because I feel our fates are intertwined at this point. I have a feeling that if the dragons fail to thrive, so will the Goblins fail."
"Is there any way we can work together on this, share costs, labor, whatever?" asked Harry. "If our fates are truly joined, that means we should work together."
"I appreciate the thought, but I have a feeling your part will come much later. Let us do what we are best equipped to do. We will create an island for you and do our best to customize it to your requirements. We will, however, make it large enough so that we will be able to move a sizable portion of our population and assets onto the island with you. We have been studying this for some time and know where there is a mid-ocean ridge where two plates are slowly moving apart causing extensive low-level volcanic activity. If we can harness this in a local area, we could create an island that could slowly grow over millennia into a new continent."
"Thank you, Lord Ragnok. I will send one of Ronan's engineers to discuss our general desires with you," said Harry. "Please contact me through Polenth if you have any questions or requirements of your own. I look forward to working together closely with the Goblins as well as many others. I have a feeling our joint survival may depend on how well we do so."
"Agreed. Until next time, then," said Ragnok.
"Until next time," affirmed Harry. He shook Ragnok's hand and turning to Chekiath, he mounted. Chekiath jumped into the air and went Between.
Ragnok stared at the place where Harry and Chekiath had just been and pondered the odd series of events that had turned out to be so beneficial to the Goblin Nation.
Spath's Weyr Pern, September 15, 2009 (Earth reckoning)...
Ronan stood near Garanoth at the entrance to the cavern and watched the unbonded dragons carefully working to enlarge the Weyr chamber. They finally had the inner chamber large enough to cut out 10-ton flat blocks and remove them intact. This was important because they now had a definite need for a lot of large stone blocks and this cavern, when finished, would hopefully supply more than they needed. He was going to have to get more unbonded dragons involved to try to speed things up. Maybe he could get Harry to agree to assign him some bonded dragons and riders as well. It was a little hard to get unbonded dragons to understand the necessity for careful and measured removal of the interior rock.
"Garanoth, I don't understand how you can see anything in here to be able to work like you do!" exclaimed Ronan.
"It is easy enough near the entrance, but soon we will need more light," agreed Ronan's dragon.
"We had better talk to Harry about getting our own Dragon-powered generators installed then, so we can use the power for lighting, as well as all the other things we are going to need," responded Ronan. As it was, with his only-human eyesight, all he could see was a vast darkness filled with flashes of fire and the dim glow of slowly cooling rock. "I think it would also be a good idea to get the Goblins involved at this point.
Spath's Weyr Pern, October 15, 2009...
Ronan stood admiring the new tractor-trailer-sized Hot Rock Power Generator which had been delivered and installed at the inner end of the old tunnel. He was glad he had asked Garanoth to point out "North" to him early in the cavern construction. Now, with the new entrance, the four main access corridors were oriented to the compass points. The new entrance was also created to further help hide the location of the Weyr from the outside, and most of the old tunnel was then sealed off. The outside and inside ends of the tunnel were each now over 2000' long. The tunnel connecting the two was actually 1000' of one of the Ring corridors which allowed for a greater density of inhabitants. Once past the relatively narrow entrance, the tunnel was large enough for even the largest dragons to fly down it comfortably, though they usually preferred to just make a jump directly to the interior. The inner Weyr wall was about a third of a mile from the outside at the point where the tunnel was started, a little over 3000' up the side of the mountain from ground level.
"Well, Garanoth, we can now start bringing in more riders, Goblins, and Elves to help us finish," said Ronan with relief. "Anyone brought into the Weyr directly will never be able to see that they are not on Earth. We should be able to keep this a secret until Harry has decided it's time to reveal it. The bonded dragons can cut the blocks, and the unbonded can take them outside to place them where needed."
"I hope it's soon," said Garanoth. "I don't like keeping secrets."
"I agree, Garanoth. Hopefully, it won't be much longer. Let's go tell Harry we are ready for reinforcements."
Garanoth jumped off the ledge into the air in the Weyr and went Between bound for Earth. After they left, the unbonded dragons continued to cut vast slabs of rock and jump with them Between to deposit them at preselected locations.
Spath's Weyr Pern, October 20, 2009...
The first carrier with Goblin stonemasons had arrived and Ronan stood on the cavern floor with Brusk, the Goblin Master Tunneler. Brusk was looking around with an experienced eye.
"So, why the huge space?" questioned Brusk.
"We want to accommodate a large number of flying dragons at the same time. If you look up on that wall," Ronan said pointing to the cavern entrance, "you will see a large opening. We plan on a finished main cavern that extends 3000' above and below that opening and is 6000' across. That is the first of many actions we hope to accomplish as soon as possible. Once the central cavern is complete, I have drawings of plans for various chambers at different levels leading out from this central space."
"Is there some reason why we can't work on more than one project at a time?" asked Brusk.
"Not really," said Ronan, "it's just that with the main cavern finished we will be able to accommodate more dragons who will be delivering people and supplies in a constant stream to help us finish. We have already finished the upper half of the cavern and rigged lights from our generator. We were hoping you could help finish the rest and then start on the chambers. We have been trying to cut out fairly uniform blocks of stone that are no more than 10 tons, as we feel that is a size that a dragon can easily remove to where they will be used next."
"Ten tons!" exclaimed Brusk, "That should mean the remaining chamber could be finished in a matter of days with enough dragons to help."
"That was our thought as well, Master Brusk," said Ronan. "Please allow me to show you our proposed engineering drawings of what we hope the entire structure will end up looking like. You will find that most corridors are oversized to allow for the passage of dragons and there will be ramps from the ground floor of the cavern leading to the second floor where our hospital will be located.
"Most other connections between floors will be generously large human-sized stairs leading to a series of dragon residential caves with openings into the main cavern. The stairs are for non-dragons and the internal ledges allow the dragons to enter the dragon apartments. Periodically, a larger opening must be created to a large circular corridor, called a Ring Corridor, which will allow some dragons to enter from the central cavern, pass by the inner apartments, and go to additional apartments closer to the outside of the mountain."
Ronan and Brusk walked over to a table, conveniently set up near the Weyr entrance, covered with various paperwork and blueprints.
"I can see from your drawings that you have dimensions penciled in," commented Brusk. "I see twelve dragon apartments in each sector around the inner ring but don't see the exact measurements. What spacing were you expecting between each apartment?"
"The inner ring is a bit iffy," said Ronan cautiously. "I was hoping you could offset alternate apartments so they were further from the central cavern or come up with some way to ensure we have 12 apartments in each sector but still maintain structural integrity."
"How about if we make each inner apartment slightly smaller than normal and you apply a space-enhancing charm to bring it up to the desired size?" suggested Brusk. "The rest of the apartments won't be any problem, as there is more room along rings further from the center. In fact, I would recommend adding as many apartments as will neatly fit into each ring. That will maximize habitable space."
"Sounds like a great idea," said Ronan, happy with the positive feedback. "I will have to check with one of our magical riders to determine the mechanics involved, but don't see any problem at this point."
Brusk had many more pertinent questions which Ronan was able to answer since he was the one who created the drawings. All openings and corridors that dragons were expected to use had been planned so that a dragon even larger than Chekiath could easily and comfortably walk through them, i.e., 50 feet high by 100 to 300 feet wide.
Each apartment, except for Chekiath's, was sized for a medium-sized bonded dragon. If it was too small, then a magical dragon rider would apply a space-enhancing charm to give the dragon inhabitant more than enough room. Every dragon needed to be able to, at the very least, jump up enough, while carrying a rider, to go Between without having to exit their apartment.
Ronan had planned room placement specifically for structural purposes. There was still a lot of heavy rock above their heads that he didn't want to ever come down on their heads! He wanted the caves arranged so that there were at least 12 to a group opening on the main cavern between each spoke tunnel. That would house an entire wing with their wingmates nearby. The rings further out would be able to house two or more wings, as there were two sides to every ring except Ring 1.
Spath's Weyr Pern, November 20, 2009...
Ronan was cautiously pleased with the progress being made on Spath's Weyr. The main cylindrical cavern was completely finished. The garden in the center was marked off so construction on it could start as soon as everything else was finished and they didn't need the floor space for incoming supplies. The huge artificial "sun" which was slated to be installed up near the ceiling was still being designed but almost all the design problems had now been worked out. Almost all the dragon/rider apartments on level 3 were finished, but the first two levels, the hospital, level 2, and the non-rider habitable housing on the first level were only roughed in except for those spaces being used to temporarily house the Goblin workforce.
Thanks to the expertise offered by the Goblins, every "apartment", no matter who was ultimately supposed to inhabit it, was going to be standard cubes, 50 ft on a side with attached cubes, 12 ft on a side, attached to the right side of the larger apartment. Each main apartment had a 1-foot sunken floor to accommodate the Hot Rocks and sand for the dragon's bed with a narrow rock ledge to allow the inhabitant of the smaller apartment to exit to the corridor without walking on the dragon's "bed".
If a larger space was required, then a space-enhancing charm would be applied to the space(s). That meant that a single Dragon/Rider apartment could easily be enlarged to accommodate an entire family, with multiple dragons at a later date if necessary. The entrance for all apartments would be the same but, once inside, there could easily be more than enough room for three or more dragons.
If the cave was not to be occupied by a dragon, a smooth wooden floor was added to seal in the sand and the Hot Rocks were set to emit a lower temperature. Any internal features would be changed once someone moved in, right now, he was only interested in creating the required spaces.
Indoor plumbing was going to be a nightmare, right now, everyone had to take care of their own covered chamber pot but a more permanent solution would have to be worked out. There were just going to be too many intelligent beings housed in here to expect them to be forced to use such primitive facilities for long. Right now, there was a temporary privy pit that the Goblins had created off the top floor of the cavern. It was large enough for dragons to use but everyone's chamber pots were emptied into it as well. He needed to design a more permanent solution.
Harry's office, Campbeltown Weyr, December 9, 2009...
"People are asking questions," Ronan said softly.
"I know, but it doesn't matter. We just need to hold out for a while longer. How go things on your end?" Harry asked.
Ronan sighed and plopped into a chair, "Tense. Karen knows I'm withholding information from her. I'm sure Remus knows something is up also. Are you sure I can't tell Karen?"
"Even Hermione and May don't know," Harry replied tensely. "I don't like keeping this from them any more than you do. But if word leaked out it could change everything and get us into a state where our riders won't give us their best."
Ronan grunted sourly, "Well the Condron foundry is turning out stock steel by the ton. We're getting new shipments every other day. So far we've assembled seven units."
Harry raised an eyebrow, that was better than he thought. "Really? Where are you putting them?"
Ronan grinned, "Do you remember those chambers we hollowed out that the goblins sent their children and old people to?"
Ronan was referring to the chambers made for the goblins to use when the Ministry of Magic attacked the goblin city.
Harry grinned in return. "Ah, excellent, no one thinks about them anymore." He opened his calendar and stared at it for a moment. "I know how hard you and your people have been working, Ronan. If you think you can complete the remaining three units by the twentieth you can tell your people they can take off until the second of next month. Mind you, your riders may be needed for the upcoming conflict."
Ronan smiled broadly. "For time off my people will kill whoever you want," he said jokingly.
Harry stood and walked over to his window that looked out on the Weyr. He had the advantage of having a front office in the building, and because it was a corner office, it had a better view than most. "What we need most of all is time," he said mostly to himself.
"You're not talking about time travel?" exclaimed Ronan.
Harry turned to him and shook his head. "No, we just need time for us to get all the pieces in place. I don't believe we'll have much time past the New Year. Despite the reluctance of our friends in the Prime Minister's office, I've heard from some people in the Foreign office that Russia has been running some exercises that appear to include the Saudis. The Americans asked about it and the Saudis denied it of course. We just need time to finish our preparations."
"They are mostly on track, Harry," Ronan reminded him. "The divisions have been practicing their jumps and looking over images of their targets on Google Earth."
"I know," he said, then he repeated himself softly. "I know, I guess I'm just worried."
"How's Mildred doing?" Harry asked suddenly.
"Initially she was extremely angry when I told her that she couldn't even tell Remus about our trip. But then you sweetened her mood by granting her that budget. I don't think anyone has noticed the ten dragon trips made nearly every day. So far she's moved nearly two hundred thousand tons of material. In fact, she has been struggling to find containers to purchase."
Harry grinned. He had given Mildred one hundred fifty million pounds to spend and set up with a team of unbonded dragons to ferry material for her. She was also anxious to get her observatory on Pern up and running so she could start searching for Earth.
Ronan stood and stretched. "I better check in on Karen. She's been a bit grumpier than usual. I'm certain Neruth told her I'm keeping secrets."
Harry looked up and his eyes narrowed, then he sighed and shook his head. "Ronan, I know this is a burden on you. I want you to be honest with me, if you feel this is hurting your marriage or your family, then you have my permission to tell her."
Ronan looked up in surprise and nodded. He knew Harry didn't expect him to tell Karen unless things were truly bad. Right now they weren't even close.
"I won't abuse the privilege, Harry," he said softly.
"I know you won't. Now go home to your family," Harry replied.
Ronan grinned and walked from the room.
Spath's Weyr Pern, December 20, 2009...
Ronan thought the Goblins were phenomenal! The Weyr was to be set up in levels, the floor of each one separated from the one above or below it by at least 300 feet to provide more than adequate structural integrity. With a height of 6,000 feet, they had 20 levels with at the least 2 rings and at most 4 rings of habitable space. The entire top ring was given over to Dragon Nation Administration.
Harry's office and quarters would be located on level 20, as would offices and quarters for all his staff. His quarters were the only ones with two different office suites, an inner and an outer Executive Office, Admin Assistant office, and 'small' conference rooms that would hold either 40 people (his entire Staff plus a few extra) or fewer people and some dragons. For any larger gathering, the main Weyr Conference Room was readily available. Harry's Quarters would be the only ones with both an actual inside and an outside view.
All the inner dragon apartments had a wide ledge attached that connected them directly to adjoining apartments and to the "Spoke" tunnels connecting the different rings. All the other dragon apartments opened onto one of the ring corridors.
The ground-floor caverns were all carved out. They would house all the non-riders assigned to the Weyr: cooks, maintenance workers, craftspeople, etc. The rooms were the standard cubes, 50 ft on a side with attached cubes, 12 ft on a side, but with doors that would accommodate anyone up to Hagrid's size. Size enhancement charms could easily be applied to create more room, if necessary, depending upon the needs, and species, of the ultimate inhabitant. With that much space, most humans would be able to create a huge three or four-story mansion inside.
There were also two barracks on either side of the tunnel leading to the hatching grounds. The barracks would hold 200 prospective riders each, one for male and one for female candidates. On the opposite side of the hatching grounds were individual caves and sleeping nooks for newly bonded dragons and riders. They were all the standardized cube construction with no extra amenities. They were enough to house the new Dragonriders and their dragons while they learned about being an effective team. Hagrid's Quarters were going to be located nearby, as he was the Weyrlingmaster.
The hatching grounds were not quite as extensive as those on Disko Island but they were more than sufficient to handle roughly 200 eggs per hatching as well as accommodate an appropriate number of guests and observers.
Not all the levels were complete yet but all the Spoke corridors and main access corridors had been marked on the rock, so they had an idea where everything was going to be related to everything else. Otherwise, construction was progressing at a fantastic rate given that they were boring through solid granite and basalt.
"Brusk," called Ronan to the Goblin leading the construction effort in Spath's Weyr. "Do you have a moment for a concern I've just thought of?"
"Of course, Ronan," replied Brusk as he turned from the table where he had been perusing the upcoming work for the day.
"This cavern is huge and, if a non-rider needs to get from one area to another quickly, there is no easy way to do that," explained Ronan. "I was hoping we could discuss possible ideas on how to resolve the problem."
"Well," there are already circular stairs on one side of each of the spoke corridors at an intersection with the first Ring corridor that will allow someone to climb up or down a level. It doesn't help much if they are in a hurry though, or have to get to the other side of the cavern. Perhaps we could add a Goblin trolley like we have under Gringotts?" suggested Brusk.
"That would require either boring new tunnels which would take away from our structural strength or using a part of the existing tunnels and losing that space for foot traffic," mused Ronan. "Let me think about this a while more before we make any definite changes to our plans. I might also ask Harry for suggestions. There might be a magical solution."
Harry's Office, Campbeltown Weyr, January 2, 2010...
The door to the office opened and Harry smiled faintly as several people entered. This was a core group, Ronan and his wife Karen, Mildred Lupin and Remus, Katherine and Sirius, and of course Hermione and May.
Dobby popped in and watched carefully as several elves appeared with extra chairs for everyone. Before the elves vanished a tea and coffee service appeared. Harry nodded his thanks to Dobby and the little elf vanished.
At the heart of the reason Harry had called this group together was a simple fact. Dragons were natural gossips and if they couldn't share a secret, they would happily brag about knowing something no one else knew.
Harry waited until everyone was seated before he began. "I called you here today because Ronan, Mildred, and myself hold a Weyr secret. A secret that even the other Weyrleaders don't know and that secret has started to become an issue outside of our professional lives."
Harry took responsibility for forcing the other two, Ronan and Mildred, to keep a Weyr secret. The rest of their families weren't very happy about it. In the end, after Katherine announced that "Secrets are the lifeblood of any nation" and Harry promised they would be the first to know when the time was right, all but Ronan then filed out of his office.
"Harry, may I get some input from you about our construction project?" requested Ronan.
"Sure, Ronan, what can I help with?" responded Harry.
"The area within the Weyr is going to be huge. While that is not necessarily a problem for Dragonriders, for those that need to walk it could be an insurmountable problem if they must get from one area to another in a hurry," stated Ronan. We already have wide stairs leading up and down between levels but that takes time to traverse and doesn't help cross the 6,000 feet if they need to get to the other side of the cavern."
"Hmm," mused Harry. "How about a magical solution?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, there is this device used in the magical world called a Vanishing Cabinet. When you enter into one and close the door, you end up wherever the other one of the pair is located when you open the door again," said Harry. That doesn't help much if you have more than one place to go, because you would then need a lot of cabinets at each location. Why not talk to Sirius or Remus and see if they can offer a better solution or a modification on the Vanishing Cabinets."
"Thanks, Harry," said Ronan and then he turned and also left Harry's office.
"It will get better, Harry," Chekiath said.
"I know mate, but right now it seems like I'm trying to do eight things at once and I'm not doing them very well."
"It is hard being Weyrleader, but you were right to order our silence. I know I've wanted to tell Comaloth and Trath many times. Secrets are something new to dragons and I'm not sure I like them."
Harry laughed softly. "I don't like them either, but we have to live with them for now. When the time comes, we'll tell them all about it, our friends and family and the whole world."
Chekiath's rumbled in his stall. "I'll let you tell the world. I don't like being on television."
Harry shook his head and turned back to his desk. He still had a ton of paperwork to deal with.
Campbeltown Weyr, January 2, 2010...
"Sirius, may I speak with you in private for a moment?" asked Ronan.
"Sure thing, Ronan, what can I do for you?" responded Sirius Black as he turned and walked toward Ronan.
"I have a project I'm working on that requires something like a Vanishing Cabinet that Muggles could easily operate but it has to have not only simple controls but enable you to not only go up and down like an elevator but sideways across a mile or more of distance," explained Ronan.
"Hmm, that's an interesting-sounding project," responded Sirius. "What's it for?"
"Just something I wanted to try," replied Ronan. "I was watching an old Star Trek movie and thought, 'Wouldn't a Turbolift be useful in a large Weyr!'"
"Turbolift?" responded a puzzled Sirius.
"Come to my quarters and I'll show you and try to explain," said Ronan. "I want to pick up Wayne Hopkins as well. He is a magic user and it would be more beneficial for you to explain it to him, as I have no magic."
"Garanoth, would you contact Lordeth and ask him to have Wayne join us in my quarters?" thought Ronan to his dragon.
"Of course, Ronan," responded Garanoth, his eyes slowly swirling with pale green.
Ronan and Sirius turned towards Ronan's quarters, lost in a discussion of Science Fiction and how increasingly today's fantastic ideas became tomorrow's next great invention.
Spath's Weyr Pern, January 10, 2010...
"Hi, Brusk," called Ronan pleasantly. "How are things going?"
"Quite well, young Rider," replied Brusk. "We have marked where all the spoke tunnel openings will start around the entire cavern and have finished them all the way up to level five. Once we get the Spoke tunnels drilled, we can then start on the Ring corridors."
"That's great," exclaimed Ronan. "Things have really been going much better now that you've been here to help. I think we have finally come up with a magical solution to that distance travel problem I brought up last month, we call it a 'Turbolift'. I also want you to come up with a plan that will use Goblin carts to carry dragon patients or cargo anywhere on Level 2 or the Emergency Room sections of Level 1. Human-sized patients or below are easy enough to move but if an unconscious dragon has to be moved, we need a more robust system."
"OK," responded Brusk noncommittally. "I know how to set up a Goblin Trolley but I'm not sure what you will need for the other."
"We have a plan to use fixed Portkeys which will require a 20-foot cubical room opposite each stairwell on every level with a large, Hagrid sized, solid, smoothly operating door to block it off from the corridor for 'departures'. There should be an open 20-foot area next to the doored room for 'arrivals'. I know that may be a problem in some areas but it would really be for the best if they were all in as exactly similar locations as you can manage. Next to each door on the outside, will be a single 3-inch button on a brass panel which will be used to open the door. On the inside, will be a brass panel with a double column of 10 buttons in each column with the label 'Level' above the buttons. Each button will be numbered from 1 on the bottom left button to 20 on the upper right button. To the right of the column should be 16 buttons in a precise circle. Inside the circle will be the label 'Sector' and the buttons will be numbered from 0 around to the right in increasing order until the last button before 0 which should be 15. Underneath the other buttons will be 4 additional buttons. The left will be labeled 'Open' and the one to its right will be labeled 'Exit', the next one to the right will be labeled 'Hospital', and the one on the far right will be labeled 'Port'. Once you have all the rooms completed, Wayne Hopkins or Susan Bones will go through each one and apply specially constructed runes to all the buttons and the rooms and a magical accumulator will be added in one of the corners of the room. I think if this works well, that you might want to use it under Gringotts!" enthused Ronan.
"How is this supposed to work?" asked Brusk.
"As it was explained to me, it works similar to the way the Ministry of Magic uses phone booths to allow access to their inner offices. The only difference is that we can port an entire room of people at once to the arrival area at their destination. Before anyone uses the system, they need to be warned to leave the arrival area immediately upon the end of the port, as there may be others waiting to use the area," said Ronan.
"Hmm, the rooms and doors will be easy enough to construct. I will want to get more exact specs on the buttons you want installed though. Should they simply be glued to the wall or moveable to give a feeling of moving when pushed?" questioned Brusk.
"I think something spring-loaded so there is a definite movement when the buttons are pressed would be best. We don't want someone accidentally going somewhere they didn't intend to," responded Ronan. "If you could cause the pressed buttons to light up as well, that would be wonderful."
They discussed a few more particulars about Ronan's new rooms, such as labeling for the buttons, the need for some kind of handle and latching mechanism for the doors as a non-magical means of opening the doors. Then they talked about how work was progressing until Ronan had to leave to find Wayne Hopkins, the Dragonrider that Ronan had appointed his assistant in charge of Magical Enhancements.
Harry's Office, Campbeltown Weyr, February 15, 2010...
Harry turned and spotted Ronan standing in the doorway. "Come in, Ronan," he said, waving towards the chairs.
"Garanoth told me what happened," Ronan said, settling into his chair. "I am surprised to see you haven't already left for Svartvatn Weyr."
Harry chuckled, "It did cross my mind, but honestly, Alfhild has things well in hand. I'd just be underfoot there now."
"So we missed an opportunity?" Ronan asked softly.
Harry scowled for a moment. "Perhaps, but it wasn't a total loss. No dragons were lost this time. In the meantime, I wouldn't be surprised if we see another attack within the next day or two."
Harry turned to look at Cheki who was watching the two men converse. It was obvious to the dragon that Harry might be looking at him, but he wasn't seeing him.
"We got lucky, but they'll be back, this was the first salvo," he murmured absently. Harry shook off his mood. "How are things going on your end?"
Ronan grinned. "We have built a small mountain of material. You saw the report from Mildred?"
Harry nodded and shuffled through the papers on his desk for a moment before he pulled out a printout of Mildred's email. "Yes, she makes some good points, but can we spare the people?"
"She's only asking for fifty riders and their dependents to start with, and some elves," Ronan replied.
Harry glanced down at the printout for a long moment, thinking carefully. "Alright, I see the need for it. But I don't want to risk any elves. Talk to Dobby and see if we can get one to volunteer to go with the first group as a test. If the elf doesn't have any problems we'll increase their numbers."
He leaned down and scrawled 'Approved' across the email and initialed it, then he handed it to Ronan.
Ronan nodded and took the printout happily. He started for the door when Harry stopped him.
"Ronan, I know we need to perform a full survey, but I want that observatory site up first," Harry said in warning.
Ronan nodded. "I'll see that the Wingleaders know their priorities."
"Thank you, Ronan." Harry said, "Please let everyone know I really appreciate their help. I don't think we would be anywhere near as far along as we are without their help. See you later." Then he turned back to his paperwork.
Harry's Office, Campbeltown Weyr, February 17, 2010...
Harry decided that Ronan's misplaced jump not only needed to remain a Weyr secret from those not directly involved but that it was actually the solution to the biggest problem that had plagued the Weyrs since the very beginning: Autonomy. He already had a select few riders working on a temporary jump location as well as space for the goblin miners and workers needed to make the new "quarters" livable.
He decided to move as much of their combined resources "on location" as possible while there seemed to be a lull in hostilities. It would take a while for the Russians to realize they weren't going to find their missing ship and he could use that time to pre-position as much of the Weyrs' desperately needed resources as possible. If they were lucky, it would all be gone before anyone really noticed it was missing.
He glanced over at his dragon in his stall, "Cheki, next time our 'Special Team' returns from our 'New Reserve', would you ask them to escort another ten wings of unbonded dragons when they go back? We need to start moving a lot more material as fast as we can. I will quietly ask for volunteers amongst the manned wings to go with them as well. We need to step up our preparations before hostilities resume."
"Yes, Harry," Cheki replied, his eyes twirling a bright blue, happy to help his Rider.
"Dobby," Harry called.
Dobby appeared right next to Harry. "Yes, Harry?"
"Did our house-elf volunteer have any problem with the trip there or back?" asked Harry.
"No, he said it didn't feel quite right but didn't feel bad."
"Fine, then send as many house-elves as possible with our next group of out-bound Dragons. We can't leave any of them behind and I think they will enjoy it there, helping to get things set up."
Weyrleaders' Meeting, Hangar Two, Campbeltown Weyr, February 17, 2010...
Harry decided to ramp up the work on the "Reserve" even more due to the increasing world tensions, especially with Russia and Saudi Arabia. He announced that everyone but for 3 Weyrs will be helping Ronan. If they weren't in one of the three mentioned Weyrs, they need to get with Ronan, get a jump image of their rendezvous point, and start helping build the new Weyr.
"Ronan has located what I like to refer to as our 'Reserve' that will act as a refuge and will keep us all safe from any aggression here. It comes with its own challenges and dangers, but nothing we cannot overcome. With that in mind, I want everything we can possibly move that is not visible to the casual observer to be moved to our Refuge. Ronan will be in charge and I'm assigning all but three of the manned Weyrs and most of the unbonded Dragons to help him with the transfer of materials as well as setting up living and workspace for us to move into. He knows what needs to be done, so please just accept that you don't know everything right now and follow his orders. It will become clear soon enough."
Ronan didn't need to worry too much about the Weyr secret because his group of unbonded dragons and other workers had created a huge 6,000 ft. high by 6,000 ft. diameter cavern inside their mountain. As far as most everyone working on the project was concerned, they were working inside a mountain on Earth. Only the elves that were needed to work on the Observatory would actually see they were not on Earth, and they were scheduled to stay on Pern until after Harry revealed the secret to the rest of the Weyrs.
Gringault, Under Gringotts in London, February 18, 2010...
Harry glanced approvingly at Polenth, the Leader of the Dragon Clan of Gringotts. "Well done. So, all of you now have the imaging for the jump point from Garanoth, Ronan's Dragon, and have made a round trip at least once. I feel you will have an advantage since you don't have to leave the ground to go Between yet can transport our carriers as easily as any of your flying brothers."
"Yes, Harry. We will be ready," said Polenth. "The lord Holder told us over half his combined Clans have volunteered to move to the Reserve to help with construction. We will make sure that the Lord Holder may visit when he wishes."
"Good, then I will let you get on with it. I now have to go visit the rest of the intelligent beings to offer them the same asylum," sighed Harry, "Best of luck to you all!"
New "Reserve" Weyr construction, February 23, 2010...
Ragnok stepped out of the carrier at the new construction site in what was being called 'The Reserve' and quickly moved off to the side so the carrier could be moved for the next incoming shipment. He had no idea how they did it but there was a constant, intricate dance of arriving and departing carriers; some in the air and having to land to discharge passengers or delicate cargo and some arriving directly on the ground at the "landing zone" only to be quickly moved elsewhere for unloading. Somehow the dragons managed to move everything quickly and safely. There had to be some kind of time difference between where the dragons were leaving to here but it didn't seem to affect the constant stream of dragons with containers moving around. He was amazed that there were no collisions between incoming and outgoing traffic. He watched as a group of Gringotts Dragons disappeared with an empty passenger carrier only to be replaced seconds later with another group with cargo. It was like watching the swirling flakes in a snow globe he had once seen a young customer bring into Gringotts.
Ragnok turned slightly as a tall human with only two fingers and a thumb on his right hand approached. "Hi, Ragnok! Glad to see you finally got here for your on-site inspection. I'm Ronan, Garanoth's rider and Harry's second-in-command," said Ronan, extending his hand for a handshake.
"Quite a place you have here, Ronan," said Ragnok, accepting the friendly handshake. "I was told this was all underground to avoid casual detection from the surface but I didn't think it would be quite this huge!"
"Well, as you can see, we needed a lot of room to handle the initial influx of people and supplies. What you are currently looking at is basically a cylinder that is 6,000 feet high and 6,000 feet in diameter. We needed the airspace because we didn't think to use the Gringotts Dragon Clan until we thought to use them to help form the rest of the caverns. Flying dragons require a little more room to maneuver when they arrive," said Ronan. "It's a real pain to keep lighted. Good thing we have more than enough power with our own hot rock generators."
"How did you ever find a cavern big enough to start in?" asked Ragnok.
"We didn't," explained Ronan. "We found a likely mountain and Garanoth used his flame to create an appropriate opening on the side of the mountain up a little over 3,000 feet from the bottom. It's located in a cleft in the mountain with a wide ledge above the opening. If you didn't know exactly where to look, you would never be able to find it from the air or from the ground. What you see as empty space used to be solid granite and basalt formed from old plate tectonic action in the area. Once he got in far enough, he started cutting out small slabs of rock which we could remove through the tunnel mouth. Once enough had been removed, Garanoth or any of the other dragons helping could simply pick up a block and go Between with it."
"That's a lot of rock that was removed!" exclaimed Ragnok. "I know you haven't been working on this for very long. What happened to all the waste rock? It isn't at the base of the mountain, is it? That would be a give-away as to your location."
"No, at first we thought we would just leave it 'Between' but then realized we had a real use for the blocks. They are now being stockpiled in various locations to await a specific future construction project," explained Ronan. "Would you like some refreshment before I start the tour of our construction so far? We have one of our 32 kitchens up and running constantly now, so we can feed all our workers in shifts. Since, as you know, we have Goblin miners helping, I'm sure there will be something there you will enjoy. Brusk should be along shortly to join us on the tour."
"Yes," replied Ragnok. "Let us start the tour there, so I can see how you are taking care of my Goblins."
Ronan immediately turned towards the only currently operating kitchen as Ragnok and his guards followed.
On a vast African-like Veldt...
In several diverse locations, Dragons cleared away topsoil down to a solid base of rock in a circle a mile across. In some cases, they are required to go down over a hundred feet. Once the topsoil is cleared, they start bringing in giant Granite and Basalt blocks, some larger than a school bus.
The rock floor was first smoothed to allow humans to walk on it without tripping, then walls, up to 60 feet high, are built up around the circumference. Roof supports are laid down and a roof of rock is positioned and fused into place. There are four equally spaced, wide, rough-surfaced ramps capable of allowing even a large dragon to pass easily leading to the lower level. A total of four levels are created using magic to help support the massive weight until each level has been fused solidly into place.
When the final floor was above ground level, smaller blocks were brought in and fused to the sides to create a continuous low-grade ramp leading up to the floor. Over all this is positioned a final solid rock canopy, with large openings on all sides and again well supported as it also has a 50-foot gap between its floor and ceiling. The bottom of the ramps dips down below the local water level and back up enough that part of a strategically located river may be diverted to fill the new channel. This creates an artificial, wide, shallow, moving sheet of water all around the new construction. The canopy covers this as well. Finally, two to four final ramps are placed leading up to the top of the canopy so any being wishing to traverse the location may do so in the open air if they wish. The top "floor", under the canopy, is also available for use at any time. Ward Runes separate the type of animal allowed in each area, Intelligent, Herbivore, or Carnivore, and any ramps leading to lower levels are hidden behind illusions of solid rock walls, only available in an emergency to non-magical beings.
Any being, intelligent or not, that needs shelter need only run across the shallow water and into the structure. The outside supports are set up in such a way that they do not block access to the interior for the water or anyone moving horizontally but will effectively block anything falling from above. The running water ensures that anything that blows into the cover from outside will land in water and get swept away with the flow. The water is even deep enough for some of the smaller local fish to easily navigate the center of the channel.
Each lower level has its own Hot Rock generator for heating and lighting. Goblin Magic is used to circulate fresh air, so exhaust and intake ventilation ducts are not required at the surface. There are multiple emergency Weyrs located on the surface of the planet in the southern hemisphere.
Magic was used to ensure that any below-ground levels remained watertight, a real concern since each one is constructed right next to a fairly large, flowing water source. Once any non-magical being arrives in its own appropriate space, it is "encouraged" to hibernate until the danger has passed when it will be encouraged to leave peacefully.
Excerpt from The Weyrs of Pern by Remus John Lupin, published 2045.
Spath's Weyr, February 24, 2010...
Almost a week ago, Ronan started teams of unbonded dragons working with a team of house-elves to level the peak of Spath's mountain to prepare it for the desired observatory. It was now level enough for the construction of the actual observatory to start. The prefabricated metal parts had just arrived from Earth. With luck, the building exteriors should be finished within 20 days.
Ronan had special respirators created for the elves working on the project since the peak was over 12,000 feet AGL. Fortunately, the observatory was scheduled to be remotely operated so, once completed, no one would have to be in or near it except for periodic maintenance. All the computers and wireless transceivers were to be housed in an airtight, pressurized room for ease of maintenance. There would be a closet containing extra breathing masks for any species that worked up there and extra air tanks as well, just in case.
He was also pleased with the progress on the Main Weyr. Fifteen levels as well as the top, the Admin Level, had been completed. There was already room for every bonded dragon/rider pair on Earth as well as a majority of the non-bonded dragons. Each Spoke tunnel, even if it had only been marked, had its location marker prominently displayed next to the opening or proposed opening.
Spath's Weyr, March 19, 2010...
It was finished. It was finally finished! Ronan watched as everyone responsible for the wonderful effort that had produced Spath's Weyr assembled below him in front of the Hospital ledge. Goblins, Humans, and house-elves mingled together indiscriminately with a real feeling of camaraderie. One of the magical riders was standing by to provide him with a Sonorus spell. As the last of the Weyr inhabitants hurried up, Ronan signaled to the wizard, Wayne Hopkins, next to him. He felt a slight tickle in his throat but nothing else. He looked questioningly at the wizard who nodded and indicated he should go ahead.
"Welcome my friends!" exclaimed Ronan. He flinched slightly as his words roared out into the cavern ahead of him. He started again, not quite as loudly this time. "And after all we've accomplished here, I truly feel you are all my friends. Without each and every one of you to help in whatever capacity you handled, we could not have finished this momentous undertaking in anywhere near the time we have. We have a fully functional Weyr that all of us can be proud of. It is safe from the machinations of Earth politics and will be a safe haven for not only Dragonriders but for all the intelligent species we have come to call brother. Human, Goblin, Elf, Centaur, Mer, it matters not your species. All that matters is your intelligence and willingness to work together toward our joint benefit and survival.
"I merely created the plans for this magnificent construct. You, all of you, took my plans and created a thing of beauty that will protect us for centuries to come, if not longer. While Harry assures me that we will maintain contact and commerce with the nations of Earth, I have a feeling that our true home will be here where we are hidden from their prying eyes.
"I hereby declare this day to be a Dragon Nation holiday and wish everyone here to help celebrate it. Our thoughtful friends, the house-elves have volunteered their services to provide food and drink that is pleasing to each of us here. Please make your way to the tables and enjoy your well-earned rest. Unfortunately, for those of you who are Dragonriders, I must request that you do not drink too heavily. Tensions between the Dragon Nation and the nations of Earth are growing ever more unstable and we may be called upon at any moment to assist our Weyrleader in resolving the looming conflict.
"Whatever happens, rest assured that you will be 100% safe as long as our remaining brothers remain inside the Weyr. Now, let us rest and relax after our long labors."
Ronan nodded at Wayne who removed the Sonorus and they both made their way down to the celebration.
A huge, globular Hot Rock, set to glow at a spectrum similar to Earth's sun, was attached to the ceiling in the center of the main cavern. It not only provided light but heat as well. It was contained inside a special heat-resistant container developed for the Hot Rocks power generators. The container had shutters that could be closed in stages to allow anything from full exposure to full coverage. 90% coverage was usually used during Pern's night cycle and full exposure during the working day.
Ventilation for not only the main cavern but every major space inside was provided by Goblin magic.
Excerpt from The Weyrs of Pern by Remus John Lupin, published 2045.
Campbeltown Weyr, Scottish West Coast, March 21, 2010...
An alarm horn sounded across the Weyr and those few riders still present scrambled for their waiting dragons. They had been waiting for at least half the day, their gear long since sent to Disko Island. One dragon and rider with Ronan's RTL (Research and Testing Laboratory) group immediately jumped aloft and went Between to bring all the dragons and riders working on the "Reserve" to rendezvous with those that had stayed behind.
"James, our Weyr in Kenya and some of our dragons over the Barents Sea are being attacked in concert. The Russians and Saudis have declared war on the Dragon Nation and we are on our way to participate in the retaliation. You might want to contact your government," said Harry. He then bolted out the door to mount Chekiath to help oversee the world's largest … and shortest … battle.
Disko Island, Greenland, March 22, 2010...
Harry had finally told everyone in the core group, Ronan's wife Karen, Remus Lupin, Katherine, Sirius, and of course Hermione and May about Pern. Now he was about to announce it to the rest of his riders. Even those who had actually helped to hollow out the mountain to create the Weyr and ferried supplies to Pern didn't realize they were actually going to a different planet. Even now, Ronan was on Pern revealing the Weyr secret to those who thought they were just going somewhere else on Earth to prepare for everyone else's arrival.
"OK, quiet, please! I have a very important announcement concerning the Dragon Nation's future. It's long enough I don't want to have to repeat myself. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them at the end," Harry said into the restless crowd of Dragons and Riders, using a sonorus charm. "I'm sure many of you have noticed that quite a few wings of bonded and unbonded dragons and riders have been missing over the past few months, that they all re-appeared when we needed them for our Dragon War, and that most of them have again disappeared."
Harry tells everyone about Ronan and Mildred's accidental discovery of a safe way to Pern. He goes on to explain about all the preparations that Ronan and Mildred spearheaded in the past months. After answering questions for almost half an hour, he manages to leave the meeting and ask Hagrid if he wants to bring his brother, Grawp, to Pern.
Disko Island, Greenland, March 22, 2010...
Hagrid looked worriedly at his beloved dragon, Selanth. "What 'm I goin' ta do wi' Grawp?" asked Hagrid.
"Let me ask some of the other unbonded dragons if they think they can help," replied Selanth. "Try not to worry too much about it. Your brother is very caring and I'm sure we can find someone to help take care of him."
Hagrid leaned back against Selanth and continued to worry while Selanth started contacting some of the many dragons that Hagrid had helped while the Weyrhealer.
Spath's Weyr, March 22, 2010...
Ronan nodded to Wayne Hopkins, felt the slight tickle in his throat, and turned to his attentive audience. "We have been attacked and in retaliation devastated two countries. I take no pride in the fact but it had to be done or we would never have been safe … on Earth. I am now free to let you all in on a small secret. We are not on Earth!" Ronan paused for the surprised murmur to die down and then continued.
"Back on August 15, 2009, when Mildred Lupin and I were testing out the capabilities of our 'Dragon Egg' to travel through space, we were in orbit around Saturn when the general recall came through. I was surprised and a bit resentful that our successful mission was being cut short. I was also not really thinking about what I was doing but had a brief thought back to the wonderful picture that Lee Jordan did for Harry that hangs in his office. Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, Garanoth took that image as his jump image and we ended up on Pern.
"We did a little exploring and came to this range of mountains. I had the dragons with us create an initial opening high up on the tallest peak and memorize the location so we could jump to it again if Harry decided we should. The result you now see around you. We. Are. Forever. Safe. From. Any. Earth. Nation!" Again Ronan paused while loud cheering erupted from the crowd below him. When it finally died down, he continued.
"This planet is not without its dangers and we have no idea what any of the local problems may be. We do know that periodically this planet is ravaged by what is called 'thread'. It is insidious and voraciously consumes anything biological. This is why we are inside a Weyr instead of outside under the sky. Until we know when thread may start falling again, we must be ever vigilant if we venture outside. We also have no idea if this planet is inhabited or not.
"With those two potential problems in mind, we now need to embark on the next phase of our life here on Pern. We will start by boring a tunnel in a very careful, very specific manner from the hospital entrance to the outside surface. Once there, some of our unbonded dragons will retrieve some of the large blocks of granite cut from the inside of our Weyr and we will install a huge canopy to protect the entrance. When we are finished, it will look like an extension of the mountain with a waterfall from the mountain to a small lake on top of the canopy which will then flow off to join an existing river not far from here. The canopy will be similar to shelters we will be constructing elsewhere on Pern as a safeguard against being caught away from here during threadfall. Think of this as practice for our coming labors. Our dragons will do most of the heavy lifting and fusing of the blocks, it is up to the rest of us to ensure everything else is made ready in case of an emergency.
"All work party leaders and Wingleaders, please meet me at the sector zero kitchen tables in twenty-four hours so I can go over the plans with you. Right now, all the Dragonriders need to get a little rest after their fight on Earth. I don't know about the rest of you, but I need a shower and a good night's sleep!" Ronan nodded to Wayne and smiled at the chuckling and good-natured ribbing he overheard from below.
Campbeltown Weyr, in the middle of the runway, March 23, 2010...
Harry stood on the temporary platform, behind a podium, waiting for the signal to start speaking. It was a little sad to see an empty plain with an old runway bisecting the ground where a vital, active community had been.
It was time. The camera tech gave him the final countdown to live air time … 3 … 2 … 1 … NOW!
And thus began Harry Potter's address to the British Nation and, in fact, the rest of the world, about the discovery of Pern, the first known habitable planet, other than Earth, in the local galaxy.
Spath's Weyr, March 24, 2010...
Ronan looked at the dragons' and elves' efforts with pleasure. Despite the minor interruption of a war on Earth, they had leveled the peak of Spath's Mountain and erected the Observatory building. All that remained was for someone in the future to install the telescope, fixtures, and Wi-Fi-enabled electronics that controlled everything. Once that was done, the Observatory would be complete and ready to start searching for the "Red Star". At Kinny's (construction site Head Elf) suggestion, they had even erected a rough stone wall around the site, camouflaged to look like the rest of the mountain top, that would help to better hide it from the surface and even from a low altitude search.
Disko Island, Greenland, April 2, 2010...
"Hagrid, I have found a dragon who is anxious to help with your brother Grawp," said Selanth.
"Really?" said Hagrid hopefully.
"Yes, Ganeath, a Peruvian Vipertooth from the Arichuwa Weyr in Peru wants to help after all you have done for them as Weyrhealer," said Selanth. "In fact, his entire Weyr said they want to help as well. They only have 30 dragons, but they should be able to protect him from anything Pern has to offer. Shall we meet them at the Forbidden Forest and introduce them to Grawp?"
Hagrid carefully mounted Selanth and they disappeared Between.
The Forbidden Forest, April 2, 2010...
Hagrid, Selanth, and Ganeath all arrived near Hagrid's old shack near the Forbidden Forest at the same time. "How ya doin', Ganeath, hope that scale hasn't bothered you any since I fixed it," said Hagrid.
"I am well, Hagrid. I haven't had any problems since you removed that rock splinter that somehow worked its way under my scale."
"Thas' good," said Hagrid. "Please let me know if yeh have any other problems. We Weyrhealers are here to help our dragon brothers and sisters. Shall we go find Grawp, then?"
The three slowly entered the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid leading the way. After about half an hour they came upon a young giant tethered to a huge tree by a long piece of frayed rope.
"Hey, Grawp, I brung a frien' ta see ya," said Hagrid. His brother looked up expectantly.
"Frien'," said Grawp.
"Hello, Grawp. I'm Ganeath, a friend of Hagrid's."
"Frien'," said Grawp, hopefully.
"Yes, I'm going to be staying with you for a while. Would you like that?" asked Ganeath.
"Frien'!" said Grawp, excitedly.
"Why don't you leave us to get to know each other, Hagrid," said Ganeath. "I'm sure we will get along just fine."
"OK," said Hagrid. "Jus' call Selanth ifn ya need anything." Hagrid and Selanth left and Grawp didn't even realize they had gone, he was so engrossed in someone he could understand that was not his brother.
Spath's Weyr, April 10, 2010...
Ronan looked around with satisfaction. Spath's Weyr was starting to really look and feel like home. The floor of the main cavern was now linked to the outside via a wide tunnel that sloped gently down to the outside ground level. The "canopy" over the outside extended 1,500 feet from the Weyr entrance and 1,500 feet to either side. The rock blocks had been carefully fitted together and fused by dragons before the overflow water from the reservoirs was allowed to flow down onto it. The water collected in a shallow pool before flowing onward through a prepared channel to its rendezvous with the river leading to the ocean. A thick quartz sheet had been placed where the middle of the pool was and, once the pool had been space enhanced to be deeper, would allow anyone under it to see the fish that were to be stocked there. From the air, it looked like a mountain spring-fed lake.
The premier Medical Facility on Pern was ready for any patients that may need help. The 500 Dragon "Stalls" had already been excavated, space enhanced, and filled with hot rock pebbles, gravel, and sand. Instead of being separate dragon apartments, the dragon areas were continuous with each "stall" being separated from the next by an easily removable privacy partition. All they needed were a few final fixtures being researched on Dragon Island back on Earth. There was also a series of patient wards and several private "rooms" for humans and compatible species as well as a start on what was going to become at least a hundred private rooms for species with unique requirements, like Mer.
The Medical Center's two large dragon compatible entrances, as well as most of the patient areas, were painted a soothing shade of green. Inside the entrances, the emergency rooms were painted a soft shade of white. There were ramps on both sides of the Spoke tunnels that led directly up to the Hospital Level from the ground floor. Any dragon that was injured or had an injured Rider could land on the ledge at the 300 foot Level and get immediate help. Each of the four Emergency Rooms were capable of nominally holding 16 injured dragons each, as long as they didn't require their wings to be kept spread.
Keeping in mind the tragedy that had led to Sidraneth coming to Earth millennia ago, there was a heavy steel bar barrier above the hospital's main entrance at the emergency entrance level. It had a magical cushioning charm applied such that anyone, including dragons, that fell on it from above would stop and float just above the bars until the medical personnel could pull them into the emergency room. The barrier was large enough that it could shelter five dragons at once from anyone falling on them from above if necessary. The cushioning runes were powered by magical accumulators that could easily support hundreds of tons of weight for extended periods.
The trees and plants planted in the middle of the main cavern were starting to really flourish after someone mentioned that they should probably start composting to add to the nutrients in the soil. The lake in the center was allowed to overflow at different times of the day to help remove any floating debris. A small ledge had been added on one side that not only allowed any "residents" of the lake some privacy but gave a shallow swimming area for the Weyr's inhabitants. All those who wished to swim in the lake had to first pass a water safety course and exam as well as get an adult to agree to act as lifeguards. Several had already volunteered to help.
All the Spoke Tunnels had their own lighted sector and level number on the main cavern side so they could be easily identified. The Weyr could be really intimidating if you were new and didn't understand how it was laid out. The lights and number system helped everyone to find their way.
Spath's Weyr, May 5, 2010...
Ronan looked up as Brusk and Wayne walked into his Engineering Office on the 20th level. "Greetings, gentlemen, how goes everything?"
"Great on my end. I just finished the space enhancements on the barracks for the single human males in the third Ring corridor, Sector 5, Room 2, and the house-elves were already hard at work getting it set up for its new residents. At this rate, we are going to have to open up a new Weyr just so we have room for the non-riders!" exclaimed Wayne.
"Good on my end as well. All the standard apartments have been excavated on all levels and all the additional fittings have been added for power where required. All that remains is for one of our electricians to hook in the lines from the Hot Rock generators to wherever they need to go," stated Brusk.
"Great work!" exclaimed Ronan. "I'm glad the Weyr will be completed before Harry arrives sometime next month. I think he will be not only surprised by what we've been able to accomplish but extremely pleased. We could never have done it all without the fellowship and cooperation of all the species working together."
"The Centaurs have asked if they can have one of the shelters out on the plain for their own use," stated Ronan. "I'm inclined to give them one, but I think we need to clear it with Harry first. Any thoughts about their request?"
"I think they deserve to have it. They need wide-open spaces more than the rest of us," stated Wayne. "They are used to living in the forest to hide from others. Now that they don't need to hide anymore, they want to feel the wind against their skin as they run free."
"I agree," said Brusk. "I do feel that there is a distinct possibility they may run afoul of some dangerous life form we haven't encountered yet. Perhaps if we allowed it with the stipulation that they allowed some of the unbonded dragons to live with them … purely for safety reasons. After all, except for the area immediately around our construction sites, this planet is still relatively unknown."
"Great!" said Ronan. "I will let Harry know all our feelings and concerns when next I meet with him. I think the idea about having dragons live with them is especially good. It would force them to become less insular. They need to be able to interact with all the rest of us if we are going to be able to rely on each other for help. For now, I will request that they stay nearby until Harry can be informed of their request. After all, none of us would be here if it weren't for him."
Spath's Weyr, May 9, 2010...
"Hey, Ronan!" called Nancy Feltip, Marnith's rider, and the current Earth/Pern courier. "I've got an envelope for you direct from Harry himself!"
"Great, thanks, Nancy," replied Ronan, looking up from his daily reports. "How are things on Earth?"
"They seem to be settling down, now that there are very few dragons within anyone's national boundaries. Arthur Weasley has been working with the other Nations to reveal the Magical world to the Muggles. I understand that some Muggles in Britain 'discovered' Billywigs in the Australian Outback. That, along with the discovery of Augureys flying around in a heavy downpour north-east of Brighton back in August of 2006, make three magical reveals so far. They think the Augureys are a new form of shy vulture. They still haven't found out its quills repel ink! They found out right away that enough Billywig stings make you a lot lighter."
"I can't wait until some Muggle 'discovers' a Unicorn," chortled Ronan. "Thanks for the mail. Why don't you go down to the kitchen and relax for a while? You could even ask for a 'meal-to-go' and eat in the garden."
"I think I'd like that," responded Nancy. "It looked so restful from the air when I came in. See you later!"
"Bye, Nancy!" Ronan replied with a smile. He opened the envelope from Harry and found that he had approved their recommendation about the Centaurs, with stipulations.
"Jeofrey, do you know where the Centaurs are congregating now?" asked Ronan.
"Yes, sir, they usually hang out in the central cavern forest after lunch," said Jeofrey Walker, a recent Muggle immigrant hired to be the local Pern Admin Assistant when Harry realized he needed to keep Janay with him.
"Thanks, Jeofrey, I'll be 'downstairs' then. If someone needs me, find the nearest courier to transfer a message via dragon.
"Will do, sir!" replied Jeofrey with a smile. He really enjoyed his current job. Previously, he had been working for a large corporation on Earth where they never seemed to appreciate his attempts to improve on his job. Here, they let him know what was needed and left it up to him how it was accomplished. When Ronan got back, he was going to suggest that they install a series of signal repeaters inside the Weyr at appropriate locations so their satellite phone system would work inside the mountain. Then he could just 'call' direct.
Ronan waved as he left the office. He was younger than Jeofrey and wished he could break him of the habit of calling him "Sir" but, so far, he hadn't been successful.
Spath's Weyr, Central Gardens, May 9, 2010...
Ronan finally found a group of Centaurs lounging near the lake in the middle of the Central Gardens. "Hi there, Bane," called Ronan as he walked up to the group. "Thanks for being so patient with us. I finally got word back from Harry."
Bane, the Centaur leader, looked up from his contemplation of the lake with a look of hope on his face. "And?" he said.
"Harry understands your need to be out from under this mountain and doesn't wish to cause you any further distress. Now that we have managed to finish three 'Surface Weyrs', he says there is no reason why you shouldn't be allowed to go where you want when you want. He only has two requests," responded Ronan.
"And what would those be," growled Bane thinking the worst.
"First, he wants you to keep some of the unbonded dragons near your herd. There is still a lot we don't know about this planet and he doesn't want anyone to get hurt or be where they cannot summon aid if necessary," explained Ronan.
"That's doable, as long as we don't have to sleep in the same room like you do," grumbled Bane. "The few we've met seem OK so far but some of our younger foals are still twitchy when a dragon is too close."
"That's not a problem," responded Ronan. "The 'Surface Weyrs' have three sub-levels below the ground floor. The unbonded dragons don't mind being underground, especially since they can be in the air over the Weyr in seconds," replied Ronan. "Personally, I hope you are able to learn to trust them more as time goes by, but that will just have to happen as you get to know each other."
"And the second requirement?" queried Bane.
"He wants to make sure that anyone who needs shelter in the Weyr is allowed unrestricted access," said Ronan. "As you know, in case of emergency, the wards will allow the Weyrs to be seen. Any being needing shelter can then use one of the lower levels until the emergency has passed. The Weyrs are large enough that it shouldn't really inconvenience you, especially as they will be in a form of hibernation until the danger passes and will not be truly aware of their surroundings until after they've left."
"As long as we are in no danger, I can allow that. We were promised a safe place to live within the limits placed on us by the planetary configurations. So far, no promises have been broken. We have been treated as equals. As long as that continues, we will honor our side of the bargain. It is too late to gather everyone now in time to make it to the first Weyr before nightfall, so I will let the rest of the herd know and we will be leaving at first light tomorrow. Have your unbonded dragons waiting for us just outside the entrance and they can travel along with us or jump ahead as they wish," replied Bane.
Ronan reached out his hand to Bane and said, "It has been an honor to know you, Bane. I hope that we continue to get to know and help each other. Please don't forget, if you ever need it, help is just a dragon call away. Once we get all the satellites up and install signal repeaters in the Weyrs, you could even call us on the phone Harry gave you … but contacting us by dragon would still be faster."
Bane looking a little shocked to be treated as an equal, even after all that had happened, hesitantly took Ronan's hand in his and finally returned the firm handshake."
Bane watched as Ronan left to go back to his office. "These Dragonriders actually might be almost as honorable as Centaurs," he thought.
Almost all the Centaurs agreed to come to Pern. On Ronan's suggestion, The Weyrleader assigned a division of unbonded dragons to live with them, help them when requested, and help keep an eye on things. Some of the younger Centaurs actually manage to finally make friends with some of the dragons.
Excerpt from The Weyrs of Pern by Remus John Lupin, published 2045.
The planet of Pern in the Rukbat system, June 1, 2010 (Earth Standard)...
Harry and his family finally stepped out of a Weyr passenger module on Pern. It had been a long time coming and Harry swore he would be the last one to actually visit the planet after he had ensured everything on Earth was resolved to the Dragon Nation's benefit. You never knew when you might have to go back and you didn't want to have to sneak back. It was much better and easier on the nerves to be able to go back with fanfare and be welcome.
He had asked the dragons who brought them to take the Dragon Egg outside before they disembarked. He wanted to see what Pern looked like. In the distance, Harry saw thousands of people working, building houses and other buildings using the leftover stone from quarrying out the Weyr. The lumber from the Weyr buildings on Earth would come in handy for internal fixtures, like shelves and furniture. Work was well underway for mankind's first interstellar colony. He just hoped they would be ready before thread fell for the first time since they landed. At least they had two advantages over the original colonists: they knew about Thread and they had the means, through the Goblins, of detecting imminent volcanic eruptions and staving them off until they could safely evacuate the area.
Right now everything was jammed up tight to the original mountain where Ronan had located their first Pern Weyr, called Spath's Weyr. Harry had first thought to rename Campbeltown to Spath's but, when he found out that Pern was accessible, he decided that naming the first Pern Weyr after his early mentor would be a far greater honor. From what he could tell, all the dragons and riders agreed. He might eventually decide to rename Campbeltown after all … if they ever reactivated it.
There was now a huge canopy of stone giving a protected area outside a fairly wide entrance to a tunnel that connected to the outside, through a series of chambers, to the huge inner chamber. Initially, Harry thought everyone would live in the mountain but now, with so many new immigrants, there was a real desire to be able to see the sun and the seasons while still being protected. Fortunately, the Goblins had declared this particular mountain range free of any danger of possible eruption for thousands of years, if ever.
"Hermione," said Harry, as they continued walking towards the ground-level Weyr entrance.
"Yes, Harry?" replied Hermione.
"Once this construction settles down a bit and we have a few free manned wings available, we need to start exploration and mapping trips. We need to know if we have any neighbors and if they are friendly or not. Please, make sure I don't forget," said Harry, knowing that she still felt she had to remind him of things.
"As you wish," replied Hermione.
The soft late-afternoon breeze lifted Hermione's hair as Harry leaned over to kiss her forehead, his arm around her. He pulled May in for a kiss as well. Their quick Between step from Earth to Pern was almost anticlimactic, and yet a huge jump for dragons and their riders.
Chekiath and his two consorts were playing tag in the air above the landing field. It was plain they enjoyed the unpolluted atmosphere and lush scenery below.
Harry peered up at the sky, watching Pern's moons rise above the horizon, and thought about Earth. The bridges to their homeworld were still accessible, unlike the first Pern settlers from far in the future. But here on Pern, they were all safe from Earth's machinations and politics.
Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "We're finally home."
I have no idea where this will be going. If you've read the previous stories, you know that you have now caught up to where they ended. I already have a lot of ideas and even more research but, so far, very little story. I hope to get several chapters finished before I "publish" so I can get some constructive feedback. I'm hoping for at least 30 fairly good-sized chapters. I guess only the future will tell …
This "Book 4" is 32 Chapters and at least 2 supporting documents. I will be getting it out as fast I can and hope that I'm able to figure out the FanFiction setup of posting multiple chapters in the same book.
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