Chapter 1 - Departure

Notes/Disclaimer: This fic is based solely on the Dinotopia movie, NOT the series. I apologize for any inconsistancies with the books. I don't apologize for any inconsistancies with the series because it bit. I don't own the movie, or the series, or the books. The first chapter is mostly technical stuff, but bear with me. It gets better, I promise. Thank you.

"I'm not quite sure I got this right," Frank Scott said, confusion evident in his voice. "I thought Karl said you already went through training and then some kind of big test."

David Scott finished putting the last of his possessions in his backpack, preparing for the journey back to Canyon City with Freefall. He was tired. He felt like he had hardly had time to rest since they had gotten back from the World Beneath. He wondered if he had the energy for this journey or for the training that he was about to go through.

Not that it matters. I have to go anyway.

He cinched up the straps and set the pack on his bed, sitting down next to it before replying to his father.

"I did, but this is different. It's like this: When you sign on as a cadet, you first have to go to a sort of boot camp. That's where they teach you how to ride with a Skybacks. When you're done with that there's a ceremony where your Skybacks chooses you."

Frank blinked. "You don't get to choose your dino?"

"Saurian," David corrected automatically, "and no, they choose whether a rider deserves a Skybacks and which one will go to him. I almost didn't get one, actually. They won't approach you if you have any fear at all. They can sense it. I actually failed the first time around. But I went up again later, when I wasn't supposed to, and that's when Freefall chose me." David grinned a bit sheepishly. "I think maybe he felt a bit sorry for me."

Frank Scott grinned and thumped his son on the back. "Nah, you were a born flyer. I can tell, and so could he. Now explain to me, if you already went through this ceremony, why do you have to do it again?"

"It's not the same ceremony," David explained. "After your Skybacks chooses you, you are sent on a series of minor missions. Well, usually minor." David glanced out the window to where Waterfall City was still being reconstructed; the air was filled with human and saurian shouts as wrecked buildings were repaired and new sunstones were issued to the locations where they had failed.

"Our missions were a bit more major," he said softly, remembering some of his fellow comrades who had been killed by the pteranodons, snatched from mid-air right beside him. "They had to be; there was just no way they could spare us.

"Anyway." He shook off the gloomy memories. "You serve your missions in a Cadet Squad, under the Cadet trainer, in this case Oonu. After the Squad has served enough missions that the Cadet trainer deems them ready, the Squad returns to Canyon City. There each of us will be paired off with a member of the White Squad. They're the highest ranking Squad out there, the most elite flyers. We train intensively with our White Squad partner for a week. Then we have to take the placement test."

Frank looked slightly overwhelmed. "This seems like an awful lot of training and testing. Isn't it a little much?"

"Well, Skybacks riders are the most well-trained and disciplined force on Dinotopia," David explained. "This is why. But it doesn't end with the placement test."

Frank put on a theatrically amazed expression. "There's more?"

David smiled and continued. "The placement test determines which senior Squad we will serve with. After we take the test, we're no longer Cadets, we're Junior Flyers. Although usually they're still just referred to as second-year Cadets or third-year Cadets. We serve in that Squad as a Junior Flyer until our third year after pairing with a Skybacks. Then there's a ceremony where we officially become full-fledged Skybacks riders and full members of our Squads."

"So what's the difference between a full member and a Junior Flyer?" Frank asked.

"Not much," David confessed. "Mostly we don't get to go on the more dangerous patrols. Also it's a rank thing."

Frank smiled, patting his son on the back again. "Well, it looks like you're all set. I guess you're leaving then?"

David nodded and stood up, shouldering his pack. "Yeah, I guess. Freefall's waiting for me outside."

Frank also stood. "I guess we'll see you later then. We'll be sure to go to Canyon City to watch you take your placement test." He paused, frowning. "Wasn't your brother going to come and see you off?"

David frowned, bitter memory rearing its ugly head. "No. No, the two of us kind of... had a fight. He won't be coming."

Images flashed through his mind that he wished he could erase. Karl - kissing Marion. His whispered, 'I love you.' And she had said it back! She had replied in kind to him, something which she had never done for David. David sighed, trying to bite back his anger. All he had gotten was 'I'm flattered.' Karl got the 'I love you too.' Wasn't that always the way?

And then the heated argument between the brothers. He cringed as he remembered the hurled accusations.

"You don't really love her!" Karl had yelled. "You're just jealous of me, like you always have been! You hate the fact that I can get anything and anyone you can and more, and you're taking that out by trying to take Marion away from me!"

"You don't love her either!" David had countered. "You don't have the commitment to love anyone. You're such a flake! You'll dump her the second the next pretty girl comes along."

Karl had snarled angrily. "You don't know what you're talking about," he had hissed. "For the first time, I think I'm actually in love with someone. And I'm not going to let you take that away from me."

David shook his head. No, he doubted that Karl would be seeing him off at this rate. He probably wouldn't show up at the placement test either, though their father might make him go in the end.

David smiled slightly ruefully at his father, clasping hands with him. "I'll see you later Dad."

"Have a good time, David. Don't work too hard."

David kept his hand clasped with his father's a moment longer, then finally released it and headed outside to find Freefall.

Next Chapter

Oh God, that was hideous. Take me back.
Oh God, that was hideous. Let me complain to the author.