A/N: The characters Investigator Frost and Captain John Silence are secondary characters in Simon R. Green's wonderful Deathstalker Saga; their associated universe is also his and not my invention. I also, obviously, don't own Dragon Booster. Readers are warned for some violence and language.
The glow of the mystical amulet pulsed purply as Artha turned it over in his hands.
"It's our only hope, Parm," he said to his friend. "If the Dragon Booster can use this to travel to another universe to get help, we can save our world."
Parmon frowned. "Are you aware you are referring to yourself in the third person?"
"Um, I guess not." Artha shrugged. "So, how do I activate this thing?"
"Artha, you have to be careful!" Parm almost yelled. "Don't wave it around like that—" He drew back in shock as a beam of golden light enveloped Artha, emanating from the sky like an angel's touch anointing a chosen one.
"Artha, no!" Parm and Kitt screamed in tandem, but their friend had already disappeared.
They shared a sigh, turning to face each other, already starting to wonder what they would have to do in his absence.
The communications officer looked younger than his twenty-four years, painfully earnest as he studied the readings on the control panel as though they were Holy Writ. "No question about the sensor readings, Captain. Anomalous energy readings have been coming from a localised area on the planet's surface since at least twelve galactic hours ago. Nothing we can get visuals on—either too small to see from this distance or undetectable."
The Investigator, in her customary position next to the Captain, frowned. "Draconis Minor is supposed to be a barren world," she said. "Official word is not even aliens would want it."
John Silence sighed. On the one hand, the Dauntless carried armanents worth a hell of a lot more than his life would be if he failed to deliver them on time; on the other, despite the fact that the mysterious energy seemed to be doing nothing more threatening than sitting on its arse—or whatever it had in place of an arse—it would be a dereliction of his duties not to investigate, and he could tell Frost would never forgive him if he deprived her of a chance at it. "Eldrick—" he addressed the chief navigator, a tall skeleton of a man, an apparently devoted member of the Church with almost equal fanatic devotion to his duties, the latter fact giving the man his few redeeming qualities—"maintain the Dauntless in orbit a safe distance away. Prepare the Aravis for launch."
Frost meaningfully tightened her grip on her sword. "On your orders, Captain." She would lead the mission; as an Investigator, she was the best qualified to deal with aliens, 'deal with' generally meaning 'rip apart as quickly as possible'. What happened to those foolish enough to criticise this particular strategy in front of Investigators was the stuff of quickly muttered barroom legends containing phrases such as 'largest part they ever found of him'.
"Do you recall the exact words of that survey officer, Investigator?" He hadn't, but the comlink was downloading them to him. "Arsehole of the universe—said arsehole belonging to centuries-frozen Grendel prey."
"Can't say I had, Captain," Frost said. "How many are you sending on the expedition?"
"Rolf and Gregson," Silence said—two experienced marines, solid men not likely to panic at a new alien form—"and I'll accompany the team." He was expendable to the Empire, and damned if he was going to let his crew think he was unable to face danger himself.
"If it's an alien, it's a new one—on a planet generally regarded as inhospitable," Frost said, as emotionlessly as usual, though Silence strongly suspected she was feeling what passed for her as keen interest and what passed for others as necessitating a change of underwear.
"What we will investi—examine, Investigator," Silence said, damning the word choice.
"Rip it to pieces and send 'em home to the Empire," Frost said. It would have sounded less creepy, Silence thought, if she had bothered to put on a facial expression.
The oxygen concentration in Draconis Minor's atmosphere was just high enough for human habitation, and the climate somehow managed to be both humid and freezing at the same time. The four of them had foregone hard suits, gaining in mobility what they had lost in comfort, though the Investigator seemed perfectly content with the planet's environment. Bare rock stretched to the horizon on all sides, dark blackish-brown stretching towards a disorientingly close pair of suns. The mineral was called clarionite for its discoverer, and was as obscure as its namesake; it was perhaps the most useless mineral substance in the known universe, too soft and too ugly to be used for anything at all.
"It's been past here," Frost noted, pointing to a slight irregularity in the landscape, what Silence assumed were tracks.
"We approach cautiously, Investigator," Silence ordered. All four of them had portable scanners attached to their belts, though it was impossible to determine the origin of the signals to an exact coordinate. "If necessary we send down a larger team to destroy it."
"Headed north-east, Captain. And it's small."
"Small?" The way the tracks were spaced suggested something Silence considered to be quite large.
"Small compared to the signals we received," Gregson explained. "I'm doing a course in the subject. What should send off magnetic signals like that is a lot—"
"Bigger," Silence said.
"More. Impossibly bigger. A new species, right, Investigator?" She had already walked ahead, and it cost Silence more effort than he wanted to think about in order to catch up with her.
"How long, Investigator? And did the thing leaving those tracks necessarily cause that signal?"
She shrugged minisculey, staring ahead. "It's confirmed the signals came from this area, and our readings seem to confirm that. And--" She pointed to what seemed only a black dot on the horizon to Silence, but on this planet… "There's our boogeyman. Headed straight towards us. Saving us the trouble."
Frost stepped forward, drawing both her sword and disrupter; Silence and the marines quickly followed suit.
He had been stranded for what felt like days, years even; finally, people had come for him. Parm must have exaggerated; here he was in the right dimension without any help at all. The powers of the dragon must have done it for him and Beau again. "Our ticket out of here, boy," he muttered, absently patting Beau's neck. Getting out of here would be a slightly difficult problem—he had been unable to reactivate the purple amulet when he'd started trying after being stranded here for the first few hours—but he was sure he could manage it and bring new people to the Dragon Booster's army. Rebels against an evil space Empire, or something; this planet felt like it was part of an evil space Empire. "Let's go, Beau," he said, urging the dragon towards these new people.
It was reptilian, black with golden markings and what looked like a golden column rising from its back, and galloping towards them at a rapid pace.
"Frost. Can we deal with it?"
"Yes." Bared teeth—Investigators were not generally known to smile—finally appeared in her face as she stood in front of the three others, taking the front guard. "Symbiote," Silence heard her mutter, and realised it was not one but two aliens they were facing, the column taking shape as a humanoid yelling something unintelligible to either him or the comlink.
"Language, Investigator?" he asked. If it was sentient…
"Orders, Captain," Frost reminded him. "Bring the remains back to the xenobiologists and let them sort them out before it has a chance to become a threat."
The alien continued to approach, and Silence readied his disrupter to fire.
They wore uniforms, Artha noticed. Three men and a woman, all with sharpened mag-staffs and cylinder-shaped things resembling flash-sticks in their hands. Probably from the Evil Empire; maybe he'd have to fight them and then get rebels to help him in his quest.
And then the woman was moving, and he tried to direct Beau out of her way but she kept coming, and then he discovered one particular weakness in the Dragon Booster's armour.
The join between head and neck was extremely weak.
Silence hadn't even had a chance to fire, though the marines had attempted to do so just before Frost had finished carving up the alien. She had tucked her own unused disrupter back in her belt and now carried the humanoid's head in that hand while the marines struggled with their own physical sample from the reptiloid. She looked almost pleased with herself.
"The signals showed an off-the-scale magnetism reading from this," Gregson said, struggling with the burden he and Rolf carried between themselves. "I think this is—was—it, Captain."
Silence shook his head. Either this was the simplest mission he had been fortunate enough to experience in the thirty-odd years of his career or there remained some niggling complication that had completely failed to niggle.
Frost walked to his side. He'd seen some evidence that the creature could manipulate energies from what the reptiloid had tried to do to her, but after she'd fired her disrupter into its side and lopped off its neck with her sword the golden flashes had instantly stopped. "Some alien," she grunted. "They don't make them the same these days."
"Do you think there was anything else?" Silence asked her in an undertone as they walked back to the Aravis. The Dauntless officers had confirmed that they'd dealt with the apparent source of the readings, but he wondered still if there was some other part to the tale that would come back to provide them with still more paperwork to sort out.
"Signals were powerful, but we stopped it quickly," Frost said. "I couldn't see anything else."
Too many known alien menaces and Rebel forces out there to wonder about phantoms. He discreetly wiped sweat from his forearms as Frost continued her calm pace beside him.
His comlink crackled into life, distracting him from his ponderings. "Captain, a message from Imperial Command," the communications officer said quickly. "Summed up: get the hell out of there even if it's another Grendel vault, they need the delivery."
"Understood, Fersen. Tell 'em we'll be there."
Meanwhile, in another dimension…
Connor had advised them to have sex.
Well, not quite in those terms. To…what was it again? Recombine the opposing colours of your heritage to create a new Dragon Booster.
Anyway. Kitton Aryzhar Sean-Wann, the third Dragon Booster according to the ancient prophecy (written in surprisingly damp ink) Connor had unearthed, had been accustomed to his Destiny from an early age, bonding quickly with the new golden dragon Connor had rebred from Beau's preserved sperm samples (gold-and-white this time thanks to Chute's assistance, with a vaguely hexagonal mark on his left flank that Connor had informed them was the true and ancient version of the star). Connor had been known to speak of Kitton as "a vital symbol of the movement", and in the constant struggle against Moordryd Paynn's evil daughter Nymue attributed to him were some extraordinarily inventive insults despite his occasional mysterious absences (during which, thankfully, Nymue was also nowhere to be seen).
What can I say? Certain aspects of this fic were very fun to write. Reviews appreciated!