"The Death Star will be in firing range of Slobnovia in twenty minutes," announced a voice.
"Excellent, my EVIL plan is going according to plan!" exclaimed the EVIL Emperor Dumbledore.
The sound of twin hammers being cocked caused Bob to pause in his typing. He looked over the top of the monitor and peered into the deathly black holes of two barrels of Alyx's shotgun. "Step away from that computer and keep your hands where I can see them at all times!"
He lifted his hands slowly and with his bare feet tugged the power cord out of the UPS that powered Alyx's computer, then he backed away from the computer. "You know, if you would just do the disclaimers like I asked we wouldn't have these problems."
"I was doing the disclaimers, I just wanted to add some panache to them," she retorted.
"A story about Draco's amputated weenie is not panache!" he replied hotly.
"Its a poignant story and you're too crude to understand poignant. It takes a woman's touch to understand poignant," she replied, then she motioned for him to move towards the walk in closet.
"Poignant? This coming from a woman who's hobby is landscaping through the use of explosives?"
"Shut up and get into the closet! I can't write quality literature with all these distractions!" she snarled.
Bob smirked and slipped into the closet without comment. Alyx didn't know he had hid the last three naked donut delivery girls in there so she wouldn't find them.
Alyx padlocked the closet shut, then she paused and frowned. She could have sworn she heard someone cooing and giggling. Bob didn't coo or giggle!
Shaking her head she turned back to her computer and started to type.
"We must find you a new Who who snookums!" whined Snape.
Draco nodded and drooled a little bit. He was reading a catalog about prosthetic who whos that could be inflated and deflated at will. With one of those, he might have a who who that could be measured finally! "Yes love bits..."
"Warning, battery low, purging all files to conserve power," announced the super smart UPS built by Bob Industries.
"Noooooo!" wailed Alyx.
"Harry? They are at it again," Chekiath announced.
Harry stood and faced the audience. "Thankfully the authors of this tale do not own Harry Potter or the Dragon riders of Pern," he said, then he turned to his dragon. "Good enough mate?"
"Yes, now we can begin."
A true friend is one soul in two bodies.
Campbeltown Weyr, February 2nd...
"Harry? Harry! You need to wake up," Chekiath said insistently.
He groaned and opened one eye to peer at his clock. "Cheki," he moaned, "it's not even six in the morning."
"It's too early," May mumbled from her position next to him.
Harry glanced over at her and smiled, then he carefully pulled up the blankets, making sure she was fully covered. She sighed in her sleep and snuggled into the blankets. She wore one of his tee shirts as pajamas and he had to admit his shirt never looked that good on him.
"Are you awake yet?" Chekiath asked. "Mosyth says his rider needs to talk to you. He found something out on patrol this morning."
Harry shook his head and tried to process what Cheki was saying. Dominick Shovlin was Mosyth's rider, one of the riders from the last hatching. He was a good, solid and dependable rider who deeply cared about dragons and worked very hard for the Weyr. Harry had an eye on him as a possible Wing Leader or second for the coming hatching.
"Is it truly important?" he asked quietly.
"He thinks it is, Harry. He says you should bring Smelly Dog and Brown Runner," Chekiath said.
Harry swore under his breath and slid out from under the covers. If Dominick was asking for the heads of Weyr security, it had to be important.
"Harry," May said grumpily, "come back to bed."
He smiled at her. This was the second time she had spent the night and he was glad she had.
"Sorry, love. Weyr business, it seems. Go back to sleep," he said, then he slipped on his boxers and started to dress. "Cheki, ask Norendrath to wake Sirius and Katherine."
May snuggled into the blankets and watched him dress with a soft smile. They had made love for the first time only two days ago and now May was more sure than ever that this was the right thing for her. Harry was a considerate and gentle lover and it was exactly what she needed at this point in her life.
"They are already up. Brown Runner was just coming off her rounds when Mosyth asked for them," Chekiath replied.
Harry pulled on his flight suit, then glanced at the open door that lead to the rest of the house. With a gesture, he closed the door. "The door's closed, Cheki. You can open your door now," he said.
"I'll see you outside," Chekiath announced.
May's smile broadened. Closing the door trapped the heat in the room. The dragon doors weren't very fast and while they were open the houses cooled rapidly. Harry closing the door meant she'd stay nice and toasty.
Harry zipped up his flight suit, then he leaned over the bed and kissed her forehead. "I'll see you later," he said, then he left the room.
Harry followed Chekiath out his dragon door. They both watched as the door closed.
"I like May," Chekiath said. "She's good for you. When you cover her I can feel you both very strongly."
Harry paused and looked at Chekiath, then he shrugged. "She's a good, strong rider and a really sweet girl. I care about her very deeply."
Cheki watched him for a moment, then he lifted a leg for him to use to get on his shoulder. Harry shrugged into his jacket and climbed into his spot. It was still dark and bitterly cold, so he immediately reached for his gloves and helmet.
"Things will finally be back to normal when you bring Hermione back to us too," Chekiath announced then he sprang skyward.
"What?" shouted Harry. He wasn't sure if his dragon was kidding or not.
"Mosyth wants us to come to where he is," Chekiath announced with a rumble. He was laughing at his rider and before Harry could reply, his dragon took them Between.
Harry glared at the back of his dragon's head, then he took a look around and frowned. They weren't over the Weyr. For some reason Mosyth had strayed from the patrol pattern. He nudged Cheki and the large dragon banked sharply and lost altitude quickly. He could see the lights from the Weyr from his location. They were at least half a mile away from the Weyr, perhaps more.
It was still very dark with no hint of sunlight in the sky, yet and Norendrath slipped into formation with Chekiath, carrying a worried Sirius and Katherine.
Once Chekiath landed, Harry slid down the side of his dragon and walked over to Dominick Shovlin. "Dominick, what has you so upset?"
Dominick looked at Harry nervously. "I'm sorry for waking you, Weyrleader, but this seemed too important."
Harry frowned and placed a hand on Dominick's shoulder. "Relax and take a few deep breaths, Dom. And call me Harry, please. There's no formality between us riders."
Dominick, like several of the other newer riders, had heard the tales of Harry's first year as Weyrleader and was having trouble relating to him on a casual basis.
Harry glanced over to see a perplexed Katherine and Sirius standing nearby, watching them. He gave the pair a weak smile, then he turned back to Dominick. "Why don't you start at the beginning, Dom?"
The boy nodded. "It was late and to be honest I was having trouble staying awake, so I had Mosyth widen his patrol pattern just to give me something new to look at."
Harry nodded and motioned for him to continue. He couldn't fault his rider for being sleepy. It had happened to him plenty of times too while on patrol.
"Anyway, I was coming up to the point where I would turn onto my northbound leg when one of the army trucks turned and both Mosyth and I saw a flash of light. At first I didn't think anything of it, but then Moysth and I talked it over and decided to check it out. We came in low and heard someone scream. I'm sorry, Weyrleader, but I figured with it being dark, Mosyth didn't need to conceal himself."
Harry frowned and nodded slowly. When Dominick looked at him fearfully and he sighed. "I can understand what your saying Dom, go on with your story."
Dominick nodded. "Well, we landed. We could hear someone crashing through the brush, running away. I started to follow when I tripped over that!" he said, pointing to the two boxes on the ground.
Everyone's eyes followed Dominick's finger and Katherine gasped. She stepped back away from Sirius and Harry and reached for her radio. "This is Major Atkins. Condition Blue, this is not a drill," she said tensely.
Harry looked up from examining the camera and he glanced towards the Weyr. Suddenly floodlights lit up the former base and a siren started to sound.
"Major?" he said in alarm.
"We may have an intruder, Harry," she said tensely. "Our SAS uses cameras similar to that when we want to reconnoiter a target for a while before attacking it."
Sirius watched the Weyr in the distance for a moment, then looked down at the camera, which was pointed skyward from when Dominick tripped over it. "The headlights of one of the army patrol trucks must have reflected off of the lens," he said thoughtfully, "Norendrath, let's get more dragons in the air, if someone is sneaking around, we want to find them quick."
Norendrath glanced over to Harry, who nodded. Normally the dragon would have followed instructions but with Harry present he only took orders from his Weyrleader.
Katherine knelt by the main box and examined the latches. "It looks like a standard Japanese surveillance model without any modifications. The one our people use is a lot more advanced. Maybe this is a commercial model?" she said, then she reached for the latches.
"Wait," Sirius said, grabbing her hand. Something about the box felt off to him, it was an instinctive move on his part and he pulled her away and then he opened the box with his wand. The unit made a snapping noise and there was a smell of burning electronics. Another flick caused the small hatch to open revealing the interior of the unit.
Katherine's was about to scold Sirius for ruining the unit when her eyes widened and she grabbed Sirius, pulling him back. "Get away from it! Now!" she shouted.
Everyone moved about twenty feet away and they turned to look at Katherine in confusion.
She pointed to a rectangular object attached to the inside of the hatch. "That's an explosive charge."
"Then why didn't it explode?" asked Dominick. "You would think it was designed to blow up when it was opened."
"Magic," Harry said, then he shrugged. "Sirius' spell would mess up any nearby active electronics. I would bet this thing no longer works and that includes whatever makes that thing blow up. We would never use magic around active electronics and that thing was active."
Sirius shrugged. "Don't ask me why, but when Katherine went to open it I suddenly felt that it was a bad idea. That's why I opened with with my wand."
"Maybe," Katherine said dubiously, "or maybe it just wasn't armed while someone was working on the unit. In either case, we need expert help to deal with this. Sergeant Nichols might be able to disarm it, but I'd prefer to call in someone from Army Ordnance."
She gave Sirius a loving smile to show she wasn't angry with him. That didn't look like a lot of explosive, but it was certainly enough to blow her hands to pieces, perhaps even kill her.
Harry ran a hand through his hair, then he looked down at the Weyr, which was even now waking up in confusion. No one knew what had caused the alarm, or why everyone was getting up so early.
"This is all we need," he muttered.
"Harry?" Sirius said.
He started and then gave Sirius a rueful smile. "Sorry, just muttering to myself. If we have people sneaking around the Weyr, we need to be more on guard, but we're also gearing up for the next hatching. It's a complication we can do without, you know?"
Sirius nodded and clasped a hand on Harry's shoulder. "We'll handle it. I'll stay here with Dominick. Why don't you take Katherine back to the Weyr so she can send some people here and get a hold of the experts she needs."
Harry nodded and gestured to Katherine. She turned and glared at Sirius, then she sighed. Sirius was right, she did need to get back to her people. "All right, but keep away from that thing. Just because it didn't explode now doesn't mean it won't. No closer than twenty feet. Got it?"
Sirius and Dominick nodded.
"You did well, Dom. Don't worry about being out of pattern. Had you stayed in pattern we never would have found this," Harry said, then he turned and walked over to Chekiath.
Ten minutes later, Harry found himself in his office. He had pulled out a large map of the Weyr and stuck it against a wall using magic. He marked a rough position for where the camera was found he tried to figure out what it could pick up. They already knew that a dragon would not appear on camera unless it wanted to, so he was interested in seeing what else the camera might have seen.
The door opened and May stuck her head in. She was dressed and looked decidedly unhappy about it. The entire Weyr was awake and so far no one had told them a thing. Harry smiled slightly and motioned for her to join him. He couldn't help admiring her form as she made her way to a tray with coffee that Dobby had brought him.
"Harry, what's going on? Everyone is awake and edgy," she said, sitting down across from his desk.
He turned from the wall map he had been examining. "One of the early shift patrol dragons noticed something when he and his rider strayed out of pattern. I'll be explaining it to everyone in just a few minutes," he said, then he pulled down the map and rolled it up.
She paused to listen as Trath told her that the Weyrleader was requesting a meeting of all riders in the kitchen hall right away. "Well, since there's a meeting, I guess I might as well come along," she said with a smile.
He grinned back at her and held out a hand. She looked startled for a moment, then her smile broadened and she took it. She knew he wasn't very demonstrative in public, so this was a big step for him. She made a mental note to thank Susan. Harry was everything she could want in a lover and she was sure Susan had a hand in that somehow.
Ten minutes later, Harry stood in front of the riders. Of the adults, only Remus, Doctor Sheppard and Mildred O'Connor were present. Lord Mills and Sir Robert didn't spend their nights at the Weyr unless something special was happening, so both men were absent, away in their own homes and presumably still asleep.
"A short while ago, one of our early shift patrol riders spotted something on the ground and went to investigate. Someone ran away from him in fear, but left behind a video camera that had been booby trapped with some sort of explosive device. It was only sheer luck that Sirius Black insisted on using magic to open the device. If he hadn't, it could have exploded."
He paused to look around at the serious and surprised faces staring back at him. "This is something I tried to warn people about before we brought the people from Parliament here. Some people will love us, some will hate us.
"I don't know what we're facing for certain. Could it have been a result of someone in Parliament learning about dragons? Possibly. Not all of our guests seemed to be very accepting of us. Could it be someone else? Again, possibly. I have been told that the Chinese government has taken an extreme interest in finding out more about how their agent was caught last year. What I do know for certain is that there was enough explosive in that camera to ruin it and perhaps kill the person opening it. And that says they are a danger to us.
"Effective immediately, we are doubling our airborne patrols and expanding the patrol area. We were just concerned about people breaching our fence line. Now, I want to know if someone gets within a kilometer of the Weyr. Also, with an expected hatching soon, I am instituting a patrol over Disko Island. We will maintain a cover for Disko from the time the dragons arrive to lay their eggs to the time the new riders leave for their Weyr tour. I will confer with the leaders of the other Weyrs to insure that we all provide coverage for Disko."
"Harry," Remus said in alarm. "You can't honestly think someone from Parliament is responsible for this?"
"I'm not sure what to think, Remus. We brought over a thousand people here to the Weyr and revealed the secret of the dragons. Not two weeks later, we find a booby trapped camera spying on us," Harry retorted. "My responsibility is to protect my dragons and my riders. I don't know who's behind it or what they want, and that makes me nervous. Until I know more, I have to assume someone means to harm us."
He walked over to a wall and unrolled his map, then he wandlessly stuck it to the wall. "The large X, here," he said, pointing, "indicates where this camera was found. As you can see, it had a view of all of the hangar fronts and the theater, the kitchen hall and so on."
"That means someone could have seen the Parliament members visiting," Ronan said. "And maybe the dragons."
Harry turned to look at him, then he slowly nodded.
"No, not the dragons," Lee said firmly. "They have to want to be seen by a camera or be so distracted that they are accidentally photographed. It took me and Soranth three days before he'd appear on video. Most of the time you have to tell the dragon he's being filmed or he simply won't be visible. Its like an instinctive thing with them."
"I forgot about that," admitted Ronan.
Harry looked taken aback. "So had I. So they would have only seen us and the members of Parliament, but not the dragons."
Harry looked down for a moment, considering things. "There is little we can do right now except take some precautions. We have a hatching coming up in a couple weeks to worry about so I want everyone to be on your guard. If you're on patrol and you spot someone, I want to know about it."
He looked up and noted Susan standing up. "Yes, Sue?"
"About the hatching. I've been considering the number of riders you spoke about. The simple fact is, we don't have enough room in the Weyr for all the housing we'd need, especially if we continue to use the same kind of housing we've been using. I think we need to rethink our housing needs," she said firmly.
"How so?" asked Ronan.
"Right now we're using old RAF housing," Susan said. "Our houses have a small kitchen, some of us have extra bedrooms we're not using. What I think we need to do is simplify things. A rider needs a bath, bed and room for their dragon. With the exception of the yourself and some other special people in the Weyr, most of us can survive without a kitchen or extra bed rooms that aren't being used.
"On Pern, Weyrs were carved right into the rock. There was a chamber for the dragon and a sleeping chamber for the rider, plus a chamber for private needs. The only variations to this were the Weyrleader's chambers and the Weyrwoman's chambers, both of which had room for two dragons and extra rooms for meetings and such. Since we have a communal kitchen, we can cut that out entirely. More bedrooms would be necessary when we start having children, but the bachelors among us don't need the larger housing."
Harry nodded. "All right, Sue. I can certainly see what you're driving at. Ask among the riders for suggestions and lets see if we can't put together a basic list of requirements. Then we'll talk with Lord Mills about taking it to an engineer to design it."
Sue nodded and sat down again.
"Does anyone have anything else?" Harry asked.
After a moment's silence he nodded. "Wing Leaders, I want to see you in my office at ten to go over a different patrol schedule," he called, then he turned and began to walk from the hall.
He skidded to a halt and smiled at May, who was coming up to him. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked.
"To my office?" he said, suddenly feeling like a kid again.
"Not until you've had some breakfast," she said firmly. "You're no good to us if you get sick and you could stand to put on a few kilos."
He blinked and let her lead him over to where Remus and Mildred were sitting.
#10 Downing Street, London, February 10th...
The door opened and Prime Minister Major nodded in greeting. "Lord Mills, excellent, now we can begin."
James Mills nervously took a seat and nodded to Lord Kennewick and Anthony Blair, but the third gentleman was a mystery to him. "Lord Mills, allow me to introduce you to Sir Basil Rathbone, the head of our MI5."
James leaned across the coffee table and shook Sir Basil's hand, then he leaned back and looked expectantly at his Prime Minister.
"First, let's start off with a piece of good news," Major said. "I received a message from Dumbledore, who is currently in New Delhi. He tells me that the battle at Othonoi resulted in decimating both the Italian and Greek Wizarding Defense Forces. According to the information he received via Jochim Stebbins, the head of the ICW, both forces have been so badly damaged that we're looking at a temporary ceasefire because they have little to nothing left to fight with.
"Dumbledore says he has received commitments from nearly every country he's visited thus far. The notable exceptions are some of the Middle Eastern nations, Russia, Spain and a few others. He feels that imposing an embargo on Italy and Greece should be enough to bring them to the table. As it stands, neither country can survive for long without their import/export income."
"Good news for once," James said with a smile.
"Yes, it's the first break we've had in a while. Now, I've held off having this meeting because I wanted to be sure of our facts first. Anthony, this will be news to you, but please, bear with me," Major said.
"Just over a week ago, a dragon on patrol near the Weyr spotted something unusual and went to investigate. What he found was truly troubling. They found a video recording device aimed directly at the Weyr. And the device was booby trapped with enough explosives to destroy the hardware and injure whoever was playing with it."
John Major looked at Sir Basil. "Sir Basil, I believe you have something to tell us about the device that was found?"
The head of MI5 nodded. "Yes. Our boys in the tech branch took it apart. We were able to recover a good video tape from the unit. There was little of value on the tape, other than watching people come and go. We did notice a number of times when riders would suddenly become visible as if they dropped from the sky, which has my analysts mighty puzzled."
Sir Basil grinned knowingly and Major motioned for him to continue.
"The unit itself is a self contained video recording device. It's primarily used in the private investigation fields for long term surveillance, although a military version of this unit has been purchased by several nations, including us. In this particular case, the unit was made by Toshiba and sold to a front company in Hong Kong, which claims to still have the unit. Station M in Hong Kong is investigating that connection for us.
"This is the first inkling we've had of the PRC having purchased units like this.
"The explosive consisted of four hundred grams of military grade plastic explosive and it matches the chemical composition of a plant in Georgia, one of the former Soviet block nations," Sir Basil said, then he grimaced. "That is the good news. The bad news, I'm afraid, is more disturbing. We had an ongoing effort to keep an eye on two suspected Chinese agents that have set up shop in the city of Campbeltown, and my officers categorically state their targets had nothing to do with the placement of this device."
John Major's eyebrows rose when Georgia was mentioned. "You're telling me the Russians did this?"
"No, sir," Sir Basil said firmly. "I'm telling you that there is conflicting evidence and we can't pin point the exact origin of the device or who put it there. The fact that a dummy corporation received the unit in Hong Kong suggests our Chinese friends, and they have been known to use former Soviet state hardware and supplies from time to time. Unfortunately, there's no definitive proof either way."
"If it is the Chinese, then we have someone sniffing around the Weyr that we don't know about. What else have you got?" asked Major. He was not happy and it showed to everyone present.
Sir Basil consulted his notes. "On the thirty first of January, we noted a massive upswing of signal traffic from the Chinese Embassy. Our signals people had been working on their latest cypher, but they haven't broken it and may never do so. Judging from the raw traffic, a large message was sent from the Embassy on the thirty first. It's been followed up by a series of messages back and forth between the Embassy and Beijing. I would guess that someone is passing considerable information back and forth. We also noted two extra couriers carrying diplomatic bags, one leaving and one arriving, in the last week, which is unusual for the Chinese, who normally keep a strict schedule."
Major grunted in acknowledgment and then he turned to Mills. "What is the Weyrleader's reaction to this?"
"Pragmatic," James replied. "The Weyrleader is naturally worried and he's increased both the number of riders on patrol and the range of their patrols. He wants desperately to believe this is the Chinese or some other group, but he also recognized that we brought over one thousand members of Parliament through the Weyr over the course of a week and some of them were less than thrilled to learn about dragons."
"It doesn't help that they are about to go into another hatching," James said softly in conclusion. "The atmosphere in the Weyr is tense. The idea that someone would booby trap the camera has rattled a number of riders."
"And the Weyrleader?" pressed Major.
James smiled, "He's hoping that I can return to the Weyr today and tell him that this isn't the result of some unhappy member of Parliament sharing his information with someone he shouldn't have shared it with."
"If I may, Prime Minister?" asked Sir Basil.
John Major glanced over at Sir Basil and nodded gratefully. He was not looking forward to trying to explain this.
"Lord Mills, you may return to the Weyr and say with certainty that this is not a case of industrial espionage or something homegrown. The very presence of a surveillance device that should be in Hong Kong and loaded with Semtex from a former Soviet block nation suggests that this isn't a local effort. I will rely on your discretion what you reveal to the Weyrleader, but you can assure him this isn't something we are taking lightly."
"No, it isn't," Lord Kennewick added. "We had plans to increase the guard force, but we are going to advance the time table on that now. I expect we'll double the guard force before the month is out. We're also planning on putting Campbeltown on the national command net, which will allow them to alert us quicker in times of trouble, or for us to alert them. Right now, Major Atkins has to rely on the regular phone system and that can be easily compromised.
"I know it hasn't been said yet, but I can see the writing on the wall. In a different world, the dragons would be considered a national asset. As it stands, perhaps the best way I can put it is that they are akin to one of our closer commonwealth allies and we must act to protect them," Kennewick concluded.
John Major nodded thoughtfully. He looked over to see Tony Blair nodding as well. The dragons represented a major economic change and had they not been intelligent they might have considered them as property.
"Tony? How is Labor taking it?" asked Major.
"Surprisingly well, actually. There are a great many excited people in my party who can see the possibilities," Blair replied. He paused and looked up for a moment. "In fact, I don't know of a single person who came away from meeting the dragons and wasn't excited by what they had learned. We know that you've only shown one possible aspect of these beings, but the economic possibilities are staggering. We're looking at the creation of whole new industries and Britain stands to benefit by that."
Major nodded with a sour look on his face. He wished he could say the same, but there were some truly narrow minded people in his Conservative party, including one MP who had sent him a memo stating that the dragons represented a danger to the spiritual soul of the nation because they were godless beings.
He pushed the domestic issue away. "Basil? What is your read on the Chinese intentions?" he asked.
Sir Basil scowled. He hated being asked to foretell the future! "I think it will be cautious," he said slowly. "But we need to remember who seems to be running their operation here. Colonel Jin Tan Mu is a hatchet man with a reputation for ruthless action. I think that, officially, the Chinese will adopt a wait and see attitude. But I also think that their man on the ground is a loose cannon who may decide to take action on his own if he can muster enough muscle."
Major smiled at his old friend. "Basil, you can't have it both ways. Lay your cards on the table."
Basil sighed. "Fine," he said heavily. "What I think is that their hatchet man may end up going rogue on them. We did a psychological profile on the man and he's borderline manic obsessive about magic. I seriously doubt the Chinese will want to start something with us, but their Colonel Jin Tan Mu is another story. I can only hope he gets recalled before he tries something."
"What can one man do?" asked Mills.
Basil turned and looked at James with a hard eye. "That's just it. He's not one man. He's a man with a team of trained professionals and he can get his hands on explosives, weapons, whatever he needs. I won't say he can wipe out the Weyr, but he can do an awful lot of damage. Imagine what the Weyr's reaction to that would be? Do you want to wake up some morning to find the dragons are burning Beijing to the ground?"
James paled and glanced over to Lord Kennewick, who nodded grimly in agreement to Basil's words. His analysts had taken data from Sir Robert and postulated that even with modern fighters, dragons might still be able to come out on top, thanks to their superior spatial abilities and their ability to go Between.
"The Weyrleader wouldn't want to do that," John Major said, "but I know he'd protect his dragons and he would react to an attack. Gentlemen, our job is to make sure that doesn't become a reality, either by protecting the dragons from an attack or by preventing the attack from happening in the first place."
"Kick the Colonel out," Tony Blair suggested and a number of people turned to look at him. He shrugged. "If the Colonel is the wild card, declare him Persona non grata and be done with it."
"On what charge?" asked Sir Basil, "He's done nothing to deserve it."
Major frowned. "Doing this is going to create a big stink in the press. The Chinese may retaliate by sending our Ambassador home."
"Why not leave this option open for now and concentrate on putting more resources on the ground around the Weyr?" asked Kennewick.
Major nodded slowly. "I agree. It's a good idea Tony, but let's exhaust our other options first."
Tony Blair nodded. He was glad his idea wasn't dismissed out of hand.
"There is a possibility," Major mused softly and everyone turned to him waiting for him to continue. "What if we inform the Chinese? We have been planning on telling everyone anyway, so why not tell them early? Give them something different to think about, while at the same time letting them know we are aware of their activities?"
"I don't need to tell you what I think of that idea," Sir Basil grumbled. He was against the idea of telling anyone about the dragons.
"No," Major said with a smile. He knew his friend had adopted the institutional paranoia that the head of MI5 usually had.
"We'd need to confer with the Weyrleader first," James said softly.
"Of course, but what do you think, James?" pressed Major.
James looked down for a moment then he looked at Major. "I know first hand what Harry would do if someone attacked the Weyr. I saw his response when the Kenyan Weyr was attacked with tanks and we all know of his response when Balmoral was attacked. If revealing the existence of dragons to the Chinese prevents a disaster, then let's do it."
"You really think it would be that bad?" asked Tony Blair in shock.
James turned to look at Blair. "Sir, in Kenya, the Weyrleader melted three Soviet made tanks. What's left of those tanks stands barely four feet high. What remains of their crews are still inside the melted slag heaps. Then he ordered his dragons to capture the Wizards responsible for the death of eight dragons and take them Between."
Tony Blair looked puzzled by that last statement.
"Tony," Major said, trying to ease his confusion, "he ordered the dragons to take the Wizards Between and leave them there. He personally did the same at Balmoral Castle to the witch that was directing the attack."
Tony paled and swallowed uncomfortably. He had met Harry and was surprised to discover he was capable of such ruthless behavior. He had spent five days at the Weyr helping his party leadership come to grips with the new situation and during that time he had spoken with the Weyrleader many times, trying to get his measure. He struck Tony as being firmly committed to his dragons. Otherwise, he was an affable lad who was willing to listen and learn from others. This was another aspect of the Weyrleader that he hadn't known about and it called for further consideration.
"Thank you for clarifying yourself, Lord Mills," he said quietly.
Major turned to Lord Mills. "James, return to the Weyr and explain to the Weyrleader what steps we are taking to ensure the safety of his people. Tell him we have a high degree of confidence that the camera was not in any way related to our plans to announce the dragons to the world and those plans are still in place. Sound him out about talking to the Chinese early and explain our reasoning."
James nodded. "I will. Thank you, sir." He bent and began to gather his papers.
James turned to Tony Blair. "Mr. Blair?"
"Are you a paid employee of the Weyr?"
James smiled. "No, sir. The Weyrleader has offered a salary on several occasions but I turned it down to avoid a conflict of interest. I volunteered to help them because they came to me and my lands first. I suppose I'm enough of a politician to know that my help has earned me a spot in the history books, but it was the right thing to do. Now I help the Weyr because helping them helps Britain."
"I see," replied Tony Blair. "Thank you for your candor." He didn't know the man very well, but he thought he might be worth keeping him on as Weyr liaison if he won the election like he thought he would.
James nodded and left the room.
Harry's Quarters, Campbeltown Weyr, February 15th...
An exhausted Harry climbed into his bed. He tried to hide his smile when May slid under the covers from the other side. Both were very tired from what had been an extremely hectic day. Another forty dragons were now in training from today's hatching.
"Long day," May said, snuggling into Harry's side.
"Too long. That had to be the longest hatching yet. Eight hours for one hundred and twenty eggs to hatch," he replied.
"I'm glad we didn't stay at Disko," she said. "I like it there, but this is home."
He grinned in the dimly lit room. "Well, with all of Condron and Maziang present, plus all of Campbeltown, there wasn't room for everyone. They'll make do. We left them with Wing two, plus ten riders from each of the other Weyrs."
With forty riders from Maziang and another forty from Condron, then the eighty from Campbeltown, plus the candidates and guests, Disko had been stuffed to the gills. It was another area that they would have to address, but Harry wanted to consider other locations for the hatching. The volcano underneath the Weyr was safe for now, thanks to the Goblins, but he knew they would need an alternate location someday.
She nodded, then yawned and snuggled a little closer. "There's over two hundred of us now," she murmured.
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" he replied. "A little over a year ago I was the first rider in millennia."
"Harry, I think it's safe to say that the Pern time line is gone. Even if we were to go to Pern now, it would still be with dragons and riders. That makes you the first rider, ever. The older dragons will remember Sean Connell, but your riders and your dragons will remember Harry Potter, the first Weyrleader."
He shrugged uncomfortably. He didn't really like to make a big deal out of his accomplishments. "So what do you think of the idea of talking to the Chinese? It might make Maziang's life easier," he asked, trying to change the subject.
She propped herself up on one elbow and looked at him. She wore one of his t-shirts and she smiled when she saw his eyes drop to follow the sway of her breasts. She knew he watched her intently but when they talked he always made eye contact. They had been together often enough now for her to become accustomed to being wanted and not feel dirty about it.
He's changing the subject again. Try to tell him that you think he's special and he starts getting uncomfortable, she thought with a small sigh. "I'm not sure. Politics was never something that interested me very much. I think the big question is, do you think you can convince them that dragons aren't a danger to them and to leave Maziang alone?"
He looked up at the ceiling. "Honestly, I'm not sure. Everything I've read about them says they can be a very stubborn people who are motivated almost entirely by self interest. If I tell them about Maziang, they may tear Tibet apart trying to locate it, and you know I won't put up with them harming a dragon or rider. Hell, I won't let them harm any of the villagers of Maziang, either. We owe those people. On the other hand, if I can convince them it would be in their self interest to leave Maziang alone, they could turn out to be as useful as the British."
"I suppose we should be lucky that Maziang is the only Weyr in Chinese territory," May mused.
Harry grunted in acknowledgment. "Yes, the Chinese wizards were hiding so deeply they couldn't maintain a reserve without the communists learning about it. We got lucky that way."
"So what happens if you tell their Ambassador and don't tell him about Maziang, or keep its location secret until we feel they can be trusted?" May asked.
"That is an option but it wouldn't guarantee Maziang's safety. The Chinese wizards know it exists and they have a rough idea of where it is," Harry said.
"Have you spoken to Lobsang about this?" she asked.
"Not yet. I was still kicking the idea around in my head."
"Maybe you should," she said, then she yawned again.
"I think you're right. I'll ask for the Weyrleaders to come to a meeting tomorrow," he answered. "We better get to sleep."
"Hmmm," she replied already drifting off.
"Cheki?" he sent sleepily.
"I'm taking care of it now, Harry. They will be here for an early afternoon meeting. I asked Lobsang to bring White Eyes," Chekiath replied.
He nodded with a slight smile. "G'night then," he sent.
Chekiath opened one eye and looked at the door to Harry's bedroom. "Good night, my rider. Sleep well."
Chinese Embassy London, February 16th...
The knock at the door disturbed Colonel Jin Tan Mu from the plans he had laid out on his desk. "Come!" he snapped.
The door opened and Wei Fong entered, carrying a message sealed in an envelope. "Comrade Colonel, this message arrived just a short while ago via special courier from Beijing," he said, offering the red and white striped envelope.
"This must be the approval notice. The last I heard, the Minister had to present my plan to assault this facility to the Politburo," exclaimed the Colonel.
"Then I shall leave you to your message, Comrade Colonel," replied the station chief.
"Stay," commanded the Colonel. "If this is the approval I sought, then we will need to move quickly."
Wei Fong nodded and stood just inside the door, far enough away from the desk so that he could not see the contents of the message.
Colonel Jin Tan Mu carefully opened the envelope with a knife and withdrew a single sheet of paper. Wei Fong watched his expression tighten slightly.
The Colonel crumpled the message in a single fist that was white with anger, then he stood and took a deep breath. "The Politburo has decided that Campbeltown bears additional watching, but I have been ordered to station five in Athens. It seems that while the British may have started using wizards and magic, the Greeks have had a nuclear accident which may have been magically enhanced.
"As to my plan to assault the British facility, the Politburo has taken it under 'advisement'," he said, nearly spitting the last word out.
Wei Fong carefully schooled his features and said nothing. The Colonel's displeasure was obvious, and it was directed towards some very powerful people. Wei Fong considered the matter carefully and decided that this was a matter that should be reported to his superiors most carefully.
"Obtain travel papers so that I may leave by tomorrow," the Colonel said. "I shall return to the Embassy quarters to pack. Send a girl from communications. I might want to encode some dispatches before I leave."
"Of course, Comrade Colonel. It has been an honor to assist you," Wei Fong replied neutrally.
The Colonel glared at the man, but he knew he now had little authority here. With a sigh, he started packing away his plans into his safe. They would remain there until he returned, or until Wei Fong removed them. With luck, he would be back shortly. The message really wasn't a hit on his career. Someone from on high had decided to intervene and if the Greeks were mixing magic and nuclear technology, they would have to be stopped before the British.
Social Hall, Campbeltown Weyr, February 16th...
Harry stood when the door opened and Lobsang guided Master Jangbu into the room. He smiled broadly at the pair. Skip and Kat from Condron were already present, along with Jasper Brady, who was talking quietly with Lord Mills in a corner.
"Lobsang, Master Jangbu, I am grateful you could attend," Harry said.
Master Jangbu waved a hand and said something softly.
"Master Jangbu says that you are The Weyrleader. We would have come at your summons no matter the circumstances," Lobsang translated. "In truth, I had hoped to find a reason to visit your fine Weyr again, Weyrleader. I have an issue which arose that could use the help of your beast mistress."
Harry blinked in surprise. "Beast mistress?" he echoed. He glanced over at Ronan, who shrugged. He was as confused as Harry was.
"My rider means Trandieth's rider, Weyrleader," Jekrith announced.
"Luna? Chekiath would you ask Luna to join us?" Harry said aloud.
Lobsang nodded gratefully and his eyes glazed over. A minute later, two of his riders entered carrying a wicker cage suspended between two poles. Harry blinked and stared at the strange creature.
"We caught this attempting to get into one of our greenhouses, but we don't know what it is," Lobsang offered.
Harry stared at the creature. It was electric blue and had huge flattened feet with half inch claws. The ears suggested some kind of bunny, but the four inch saber teeth said this animal was not a carrot eater.
Luna stepped into the room and skidded to a halt, her eyes centered on the wicker cage. "Where did you find that?" she whispered.
"That? Do you know what it is, Luna?"
She shook her head, "I thought Daddy had made it up, that it wasn't real!"
"Luna," Harry said in exasperation, "what is it?"
"It's a Himalayan Sabertooth Glacier Bunny. It uses its teeth to chip its way through the ice to reach food that's been frozen. Where did you find it?" asked Luna.
"It was trying to break into one of our greenhouses, honored beast mistress," Lobsang replied. "We have never seen it before."
"No," Luna agreed, "you wouldn't normally. The greenhouse must contain something it wants. Daddy said they like cotton candy and cabbages. Even I know cotton candy doesn't grow above five thousand feet, so I thought he was kidding me. Are there cabbages in your greenhouse?"
"Yes, we grow much cabbage," Lobsang replied.
Luna smiled. "Then give this little fellow some cabbage and set him free. If you're lucky, he'll stick around. They're known for bringing good luck to people. They aren't dangerous, but their teeth can be used to defend themselves and they can be irritable during their spring mating season."
Lobsang nodded and spoke to Master Jangbu, who nodded and said something in reply. "Master Jangbu says his great grandfather told him of the sky colored rabbit that brings luck, but even he had never seen it. We will do as you say and give it some food then set it free. Thank you, Beast Mistress," Lobsang said, bowing low to Luna.
Harry was surprised to see Luna blushing heavily and he was unsure if it was because of what he called her or his bowing to her.
Lobsang turned to his riders and issued an order in their language. They picked up the cage and removed it from the room.
"Thank you, Luna," Harry said with a smile. He was pleased that the issue had been resolved and even more pleased that she hadn't asked to keep the rabbit with four inch long teeth. He was certain he would be dreaming of that bunny tonight.
Luna smiled and walked over to where the beverages were, then she glanced around. "Oh, you're having a meeting? Should I leave then?"
"No," Harry said. "You often have insight that's helpful, so grab your drink and have a seat."
She smiled and went for her tea, then took a seat next to Ronan.
Harry waited until Lobsang had seated Master Jangbu and served him with a cup of tea before sitting. Once everyone was ready, they turned their attention to him.
"Almost two weeks ago, we found a video camera that was taping events in the Weyr. It was partially hidden and it contained an explosive charge that would have destroyed the camera as well as possibly killing anyone opening the unit.
"The British Government feels there is good reason to suspect this is part of an effort on the part of the People's Republic of China to find out what is happening here in Campbeltown. Part of the reason for this is that several months ago we exposed a Chinese spy who was working at NASA. The spy was caught here in Campbeltown, obliviated of his knowledge of dragons and of the Weyr and turned over to the Yanks, who brought him up on charges.
Harry turned to look directly at Lobsang. "I have been asked to consider telling the Chinese about dragons earlier than we anticipated. I will not take such a measure without consulting with my fellow Weyrleaders, and in particular, Lobsang, who is the leader of the only Weyr within Chinese territory."
Harry paused and waited. He had spoken slowly and paused often to let Lobsang translate for Jangbu. The man's expression grew pinched as Lobsang spoke.
When Lobsang looked at Harry again, Harry smiled reassuringly. "Lobsang, I will not reveal the existence of Maziang to the Chinese, but you know the Chinese Wizards know of your existence, even if they can't approach the village or the Weyr. I will not ask you to leave land you have known as home for hundreds of years. So, there is my problem. Do I tell the Chinese or not?"
Jangbu listened to Lobsang for a moment, then he spoke rapidly. "Master Jangbu says that now or later, the problem is the same. If the Weyr is to thrive, it must be known to the world. We always knew we would have enemies, but by being known, our enemies and our friends will multiply. The trick is to have more friends than enemies."
Harry nodded slowly. "Yes, revealing dragons will make both our enemies and our friends increase. I will agree to the British suggestion, but I will not reveal Maziang to the Chinese. Let them prove themselves first."
Harry turned to Lobsang. "If the Chinese come against Maziang as enemies, you are to take your dragons and your people and flee to Disko or to Campbeltown. And once our people are safe, we riders will decide how to deal with the Chinese. If they come as friends, we will welcome them as friends."
Lobsang grinned at the reference to 'our people'. It was obvious that Harry considered all of Maziang's people part of the Weyr and not just the riders.
"They would be welcome at Condron," Skip said. Kat nodded eagerly in agreement with her co-leader.
"I know they would be, Skip," Harry replied. "But Maziang, unlike Campbeltown or your Condron, has existed for hundreds of years. The people of Maziang deserve to see what a working Weyr can do for their prosperity. I will not disrupt that unless they're in danger."
Harry glanced over at James, who looked alarmed by what Harry was saying. Jasper Brady looked equally upset.
"Gentlemen, relax. The Chinese will be treated as they treat us. If they welcome us, they'll be welcome. If they don't, then we'll see what our options are. I'm not looking for a fight, I'm looking to preserve Maziang as a Weyr. They are our people and worthy of our concern and care. I won't leave them to deal with this on their own," Harry said.
James relaxed a little. He couldn't really find fault with what Harry was saying.
He turned. "Yes, Luna?"
"Maziang is well warded, but it wouldn't hurt to ask the Ward Master at Shangri La to see if it can be improved upon," she said dreamily.
He stared at her for a long moment, then he turned to Lobsang. "Can you take care of that or should I contact them?"
Master Jangbu spoke rapidly and Lobsang looked at Jangbu, then he nodded rapidly. "Master Jangbu says that the people of Shangri La would not openly welcome a stranger to their midst, even one riding a dragon. He says that he was a child when he watched their Ward Master put the wards in place, but that they would be more willing to listen to the Senior Dragon Handler than they would a Weyrleader."
Lobsang looked fearfully at Harry for a moment, but he relaxed when Harry smiled back at him. Harry walked over to Master Jangbu and he took one of his hands in his own. "Master Jangbu," he said softly. "Your love for dragons shines as brightly as the sun and it is what sets you and your people apart. I would take it as a personal favor if you would speak to the Ward Masters of Shangri La. If they need payment, the Weyr will pay to protect our people and our dragons."
Jangbu looked in Lobsang's direction and the young Weyrleader translated Harry's words for him. As he did his grin broadened and he gripped Harry's hands tightly. He might be old and blind, but there was no sense of frailty in that grip.
"Master Jangbu says you honor him, Weyrleader, and he will prepare for his journey to Shangri La as soon as he returns to Maziang," Lobsang said, then added, "I will personally see he has an easy journey Weyrleader."
"Thank you, Lobsang," Harry said, releasing the old man's hand. He glanced over towards Luna, who was smiling brightly at him and he shot her a grateful look, then he turned to Skip and Kat.
"We didn't get much time to talk yesterday and I know you're probably as tired as I am from the hatching. I won't tell you how to run your Weyr, but I think the lesson here is obvious. There are people out there who are not the friends of dragons. We must guard against them."
"I'll talk to Captain Wilson about it, Harry," Kat said softly.
"Thank you. I'll feel better knowing we're all aware of this and working on it," Harry said with a tired smile.
"James," he said, turning to Lord Mills, "would you ask the Prime Minister to arrange for our meeting with the Chinese Ambassador?"
"I'll call him after we're done here," James replied. "And thank you, Harry. For what it's worth, I think you're making good decisions to protect Maziang and still deal with the Chinese."
After everyone had left, Harry found himself back in his office, staring at a wall calendar in confusion.
"Harry? What troubles you? Is it Maziang?" asked Cheki.
"No, mate," he replied, then he turned to eye his dragon. "Shouldn't some of the males have started their shagging flights by now?"
Chekiath turned to look at Harry and he rumbled slightly. "Why do you ask? I don't like males. Do you?"
Harry blinked. "What? No! I mean it's been over a year, Cheki. Some of the breeds should have started by now, shouldn't they?"
"You would be right, for non-bonded dragons. I waited until the urge was too strong to stop myself. The others know the females will rise in only a few weeks and are trying to wait until then. We know it would be easier for the Weyr if it happened within a short span of time," Chekiath replied, then he continued on more thoughtfully, "It is not an easy thing, waiting, because the urge is great, and you will need to understand this will make the riders edgy like you were."
Harry sat down on his chair and shook his head. "I wondered why you rose late. I didn't know it could be controlled," he blurted.
"We can, but not easily. I mentioned it to you once before, but we were both affected by my waiting. I don't think you understood me then because of how the bond was affecting you," replied Chekiath.
Harry nodded, relieved that he still had time before having to worry about it. He made a note in his book to talk to Sir Robert about the dragons restraining themselves. Sir Robert worried that some might argue that being bound to an instinct was a sign of being an animal and not an intelligent being.
Redefining the word 'people' to cover both humans and dragons was one of the things that Sir Robert was attempting to do with what little spare time he had.
ICW Headquarters, Paris, France, February 18th...
Jochim Stebbins watched from his high perch as the members filed into the room. Despite his best efforts, he had been able to move the meeting forward by only two days. Too many delegates had prior commitments they could not put off.
As usual, the delegates ambled into the room, but there was a tenseness about them as they spoke in hushed whispers. Rumors were rife about the real reason for the meeting, but only those who had allied themselves with the British knew what was happening. And no one but the British knew the scope of the cooperation they had attained through Albus' efforts.
Stebbins glanced upwards and the Hit Wizard in his booth above the chamber signaled his readiness. Stebbins had briefed him personally about what he needed to do today.
The doors were just starting to swing shut on the Chamber of Deliberations when Albus Dumbledore scurried through them. His arms were full of parchments and a young red headed man followed close behind, carrying a case and another armload of parchments. Albus had co-opted Percy Weasley to act as his assistant for this meeting.
The Supreme Mugwump watched as the few late comers hurried to their boxes. When they were all seated, he picked up a large rock and banged it against his desk three times.
"Delegates," he said firmly, "I have called you here because we are faced with a grave crisis. Two members of our organization have brought us to the brink of exposure to the muggle world."
Stebbins signaled to the Hit Wizard and a pair of yellow bubbles enveloped the Italian and Greek Delegate boxes. Both sets of delegates stood in alarm, but their protests went unheard. They were now isolated, unable to be heard, but able to hear everything.
"I will now turn over the floor to the delegate from Britain, who first alerted me to the crisis that now confronts us," Stebbins said.
Albus stood and with a slight smirk, he bowed towards the Russian delegation. "In order to see protocol served, my companion is Percy Weasley, a fine upstanding wizard and my assistant for this meeting of the ICW."
Albus looked around and his expression turned grim. "Not too long ago I was invited to a meeting at the Muggle Prime Minister's office where the subject of the conversation concerned the war between Italy and Greece. The battle on the Greek island of Othonoi was seen by muggle machines and of course it was impossible to hide the more than ten thousand muggle dead.
"My Prime Minister was rightly incensed by this. Both Greece and Italy are economic and military partners with the United Kingdom, and they know that both countries are not in control of their governments. The muggles know that wizards control those countries."
Dumbledore turned to glare at the delegations from both countries. The men inside the bubbles were turning red with anger. He looked away and his gaze swept the delegates. "Delegates, my Prime Minister ordered me here today to tell you this is unacceptable. My Prime Minister has instructed me to tell you that control of the Italian and Greek governments must be returned to the muggles and he has told me to inform you that if another attack occurs that injures muggles, he will call for a meeting of the NATO council and reveal the presence of the wizarding world to the muggles. And while NATO prepares a response to rescue their conquered allies, he call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations."
Albus paused and several delegation members shot to their feet shouting insults at Dumbledore. Percy watched the old man and couldn't help admire how he could stand there with so many yelling at him as if he hadn't a care in the world.
"Silence!" bellowed Stebbins.
Stebbins gestured and the hit wizard overhead started placing silencing bubbles over any delegation that was shouting. Dumbledore smiled benignly and watched the process. He had initiated it more than a few times himself, but it struck him as odd seeing it from the delegation floor.
He waited until the delegates had settled down and Stebbins had signaled him before continuing. "Delegates, I know you are upset, but please, listen instead of shouting. My Prime Minister is reacting to the actions of the Greek and Italians and he is not alone. I have met with delegates from the United States, Canada, South Africa, India, Japan, and Australia to name just a few, and all of them have had to deal with similar problems.
"There are far too many muggles to obliviate, and some, like my Prime Minister, are guarded by both wizard and muggle security forces," Albus said firmly, then he reached behind him and Percy scrambled to find a parchment which he thrust into Dumbledore's hand. "I have here a list of forty nations who have agreed to cease all import and export from Greece and Italy until such time as they cease hostilities and begin to negotiate a peace. These nations recognize the danger to themselves and to our world.
"I would hope that we insist the proper governments be restored in those two countries, but right now our greatest danger is this war of theirs. It must cease before it destroys us all."
Albus looked around and smiled grimly. "I would ask that those nations who have agreed that the Italian/Greek war must be stopped now be heard. Stand up here, and make your country's decision known."
Albus folded his arms and waited as more and more delegates stood. Soon it was apparent that a majority had already been achieved and both delegates from Italy and Greek paled with the realization that they were outnumbered and had no hope of putting an end to this interference.
Dumbledore carefully noted the apparent indifference of the Spanish delegates, who seemed unconcerned about the affair. Croaker had told him that they had indications that Spain might be behind some of the problems causing Italy and Greece to wage war on each other. Either the Spanish delegate was unaware of that, or he was a consummate actor.
Stebbins pounded his rock against his desk and he nodded to Dumbledore. "Thank you, Mr. Dumbledore. Delegates, before we began session, and at the command of my own minister, I drafted a proposal to impose an economic and travel embargo on Italy and Greece. Said embargo would remain in place until such time as the two warring parties have signed a peace treaty and have agreed to allow control of their muggle governments to pass back to the muggles where it belongs."
Albus looked up sharply at Stebbins in surprise, then he nodded to the man in gratitude. He was hoping someone would make that part of the package deal. He hadn't wanted it to seem like Britain was setting all of the terms.
"We strive to keep our world secret. Surely controlling the muggles is a certain way of being discovered. I offer this proposal up for debate, but before I drop the silencing barriers on our Italian and Greek delegates I would remind those gentlemen that they are to act in a civilized manner, or I will raise the barrier again."
Stebbins glared at the two delegate boxes until the occupants nodded unhappily. He gestured and the Hit Wizard above the chamber dropped the barriers. Both delegates shot to their feet.
"Does the delegate from Italy wish to address the delegates," asked Stebbins mildly.
The Italian delegate scowled at his Greek counterpart and nodded rapidly. "The Italian nation objects strongly to this unwarranted and unconscionable interference in our affairs. We have the right to defend ourselves from the vicious attacks by those Greek Bandits!"
"Bandits! You scum!" shouted the Greek delegate.
Instantly the silencing barriers snapped into position without any signal from the Mugwump. Stebbins looked up and nodded in appreciation to the hit wizard for anticipating his needs.
He glanced back to the delegates and noted someone new standing. It was Yoshi Masabe, the ICW delegate from Japan and one of the few mages in the membership. "I note the Japanese delegate wishes to speak," he said softly.
Yoshi Masabe bowed once to the Mugwump, then he looked around. "Honored delegates, my government is most unhappy with any conflict that spills over into the normal world. My minister was told by our Prime Minister that such an occurrence was unacceptable and his Majesty, the Emperor, was appalled that we would allow such a thing to take place. He had ordered twenty million dollars of his own money be spent on relief aid for the stricken muggles. But beyond that, we have allowed our race to be brought to the very brink of extinction."
He turned to Milton Brockton, the delegate from the United States. "Am I not correct in this Mr. Brockton?"
The American stood uneasily and nodded. "It it true. For a short time after the series of explosions destroyed part of the Greek island of Othonoi, the muggle military of the United States poised for a nuclear war. In that short span of a few hours, the world stood on the brink of extinction. We know now that the Russians, Chinese, British and Israelis also went to high alert."
Brockton sat. He was a new member, replacing Jasper Brady, and not used to addressing the ICW yet.
Masabe nodded in gratitude. "My friends, you ask who cares about the muggles, but I can speak from experience. I lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima on that fateful day in August 1945 when the Americans destroyed my city with a single bomb. I wept with my country for the children burned beyond recognition. I used my magic until I dropped from exhaustion and still could not heal everyone. Sixty thousand Japanese died in a matter of seconds. I would have died but I lived far enough away. As it was, my parents and family died in that terrible explosion. Wizards killed by muggles, just another set of unidentified bodies to be buried. Think of the power needed to kill so many and then understand that the muggles have such power.
"A single weapon did that, and now they have thousands of those weapons. We cannot allow any conflict to spread to the point that they become involved. We must make sure that our arguments remain among ourselves. Think of it, my friends. We have finally rivaled the muggles in their ability to kill by the thousands. Honestly, I do not think this is something we can be proud of."
"The nation of Japan and his Imperial Majesty support Dumbledore-san's efforts and we urge a speedy passing of Mugwump Stebbins' bill of embargo. I second the bill and call for a vote," Yoshi said, then he nodded to the Mugwump and sat.
Cries of "vote!" where shouted from all sides of the chamber and the Mugwump raised his hand, calling for silence.
"Delegates, if you are in favor of an economic and travel embargo against Greece and Italy, show your favor in the usual manner," Stebbins said.
Around the room, the trim of each box turned either blue or red depending upon the vote. Stebbins waited and silently counted as the boxes lit up. It was obvious there was much more blue than red.
"The bill carries," Stebbins said softly and yet it still carried to every corner of the large chamber. "Delegates, we will adjourn so that you may confer with your ministries. We will meet again in two days time to discuss the particulars and any future punitive measures we may have to resort to in order to force Greece and Italy into compliance."
Both the Greek and Italian delegates paled and shook with fury behind their silencing barriers, but there was little they could do. The world had spoken - make peace and give control back to the muggles or pay the price of being strangled economically.
Hogsmeade School, Hogsmeade, Scotland, February 19th...
Mrs. Early glanced out the window and smiled, seeing the carriages from Hogwarts coming around the bend in the road. At first, she had been skeptical of the idea of carriages, but since bringing in buses and keeping them working around so much magic was impractical, this was the best solution. The Hogwarts students were turning out to be a joy to teach. Having been limited to only magic for so long, they seemed eager to learn new things that they wouldn't have learned ordinarily.
The small school library was hard pressed to keep enough material on hand for the students and she had made several appeals to the Ministry for more books. Young children and young adult stories like the Chronicles of Narnia and Nancy Drew were heavily borrowed.
She was turning back to her desk when a strange roar alerted her to the danger.
The carriages where just pulling up to unload when four men appeared in the treeline. The dragons on the roof exploded into action, putting themselves between the carriages and the trees.
The men expected to come boiling out of the trees, cast a few curses and then portkey away.
Shocked to see dragons, Mrs. Early grabbed a hand bell she had been told would summon help and rang it as she ran out of the office towards the front of the building.
Neville and Hannah were helping some of the first year students from the carriages when the dragons appeared. Neville grabbed Hannah and pushed her back into the carriage as curses started to fly. "Get them out the other side," he ordered, then he pulled his wand and ran into a gap created by two of the dragons.
The dragons had forced the wizards to take cover and they were shooting spells, which splashed harmlessly against the dragons. He knelt next to one dragon, partially concealed by its large leg and he waved his wand for a moment while muttering under his breath. When he released his spell, the oak tree his target was hiding behind bent over and grabbed the man in its branches, entangling and imprisoning him.
"Nice magic," said the dragon.
Neville blinked and grinned back at the large creature.
By the time Mrs. Early had reached the doors, the younger students were streaming into the building and several of the older students had turned to help Neville and the dragons. Aurors started apparating in just as Wing one arrived overhead, summoned by the guard dragons.
That was the signal for the attackers to escape, but only three could reach their portkey. The man in the tree had been fully immobilized.
Harry landed Chekiath and he looked around. The area in front of the school was eerily silent, but he could hear numerous frightened students inside the school. "Cheki, tell the other guard dragons to be on alert," he said, then he slid down to the ground. He knew that both Wings three and four were now assembled and waiting to respond to a call for help.
Mrs. Early rushed up to Harry when she spotted him. "Weyrleader," she gasped.
He held up a hand and turned to one of the dragons. "Emlith, report please," he said tersely.
"Weyrleader, the students were just exiting the carts when men appeared and tried to harm them. We moved to keep them away and were fighting with them until you arrived," Elmith replied.
Harry nodded. "Anyone hurt?"
"Siath had her wing pierced, but I don't think any students were hurt. Green Thumb captured one by making a tree grab him," Elmith said.
Harry winced and turned to Chekiath. "Cheki we have a dragon with a damaged wing sail," he said, then he turned and shot a grateful glance to Neville, who stood nearby looking embarrassed by the dragon's comments.
"Good job, Neville," he said with a grin.
He turned back to Mrs. Early just as Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped up to the woman. "Mrs. Early, Mr. Potter," he said, glancing around. "I guess we got here too late to catch these..."
He stopped and stared at Harry, who was chuckling.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Longbottom did manage to capture one. The others used a portkey as soon as my wing arrived."
Shacklebolt looked at Neville, who sheepishly pointed to a man struggling in the tree. He was tightly wrapped and trying to free up a hand so he could reach for his portkey.
Shacklebolt immediately stunned the man, then he nodded in gratitude to Neville. "Thank you, Mr Longbottom. Excellent spellwork. I didn't know Hogwarts taught that."
Neville's blush deepened. "They don't. It's a sculpting spell to make a tree or bush take a specific form. I just used it for something else."
Shacklebolt chuckled and shook his head. "That you did."
Harry turned away from the pair and went over to Mrs. Early, who looked very uncomfortable with the situation. "Mrs. Early?"
She squeaked in fright, then settled down. "Oh, I'm sorry, Weyrleader. It's just that, had it not been for your dragons, this could have been very bad."
"Mrs. Early," he said gently, "with your permission, I'd like to increase the number of dragons watching the school for a few days."
She nodded eagerly. "I confess, I wasn't thrilled when they first showed up, but they protected the students just like you promised they would. I would feel safer knowing they are here." she replied. "What.. what will happen to the injured dragon?"
Harry pointed to the area where May and Alice Wagner were busy working on Siath. "We'll take good care of her, Mrs Early. When the Weyrhealer says so, we'll bring her home to rest and get better."
She nodded and followed as he walked over to where May was working on Siath. "May? How is she?" he asked.
May looked up with a slight frown. "Something shot right through the wing sail. It's between the second and third patagium. We can patch it enough that it won't interfere with her flight home, but she's grounded for at least a month."
"I wish you wouldn't do that," Siath said softly.
May blinked and looked over the wing to where Siath was watching her. "What, patch your wing?"
"No, refer to our parts with bat names," replied the dragon.
May blinked and looked at the dragon carefully. "Siath, your wing and wing attachments resemble bat wings. How else are we to distinguish the various sections of your wing sails?"
"Make up names if you must, but we are not flying rats," Siath said with a quiet dignity.
Harry burst out laughing and May whipped around to glare at him. She had been working very hard to develop an anatomy she could teach to other Weyrhealers and didn't appreciate his laughter.
"Easy, May," Harry said, still chuckling. "I know what you're trying to do."
He turned to look at the dragon, "Siath, the Weyrhealer is still trying to develop information that she can pass on to other Weyrhealers. She means no insult. I'm sure that at some point she'll develop better names."
"Very well, but we are not flying rats," Siath replied firmly.
Shacklebolt walked over to where Harry stood. "We sent our prisoner back for a purging regime before we question him, but I don't think we'll get a lot from him. I've seen his type before - pure muscle and probably doesn't know who's signing his paycheck."
Harry nodded sourly. "At least none of the children were hurt this time," he replied. At that moment, eight more dragons appeared overhead and circled in for a landing on top of the school. "I am increasing the security here and elsewhere for now."
Shacklebolt gestured towards the injured dragon. "Is it bad?"
Harry shook his head. "The wound isn't bad. The problem is taking her Between with an open wound. May will pack it well and hopefully that will be good enough to get her home, where she can rest and recover. It's too far to fly straight through and the trip Between, even as brief as it is, can exacerbate an injury."
Shacklebolt nodded and looked up to the roof where the eight dragons were settling in. "Thank you for that. I don't have enough people to watch every school."
Harry's expression darkened. "I promised no more children would be hurt if I could help it. The dragons want to help protect them."
Shacklebolt nodded and stepped away. His people were transporting their prisoner and he had to go get things ready to deal with him. Hopefully they would get some information from him. Despite having an inside man who could tip him off about attacks, he was ignorant of what support Bunniford was getting, either in terms of people, or money and from who.
Harry walked back over to where Elmith stood. "You and your team did very well, Elmith. The children were saved and one of the attackers was captured."
"It would have been easier to flame them, Weyrleader. I do not like holding back like that when children are in danger," the dragon rumbled.
Harry frowned. "No, nor do I. Hopefully, they'll either learn to attack elsewhere or the aurors will learn enough to arrest some."
He turned and saw Alejandro Croaker standing nearby. "Is there a problem?" Croaker asked.
Harry shook his head. "Not really, Mr. Croaker. Elmith didn't like holding back when fighting off the attack. I'm afraid I have to agree with him. It doesn't take much effort to fire a killing curse and have it hit a student. I do worry that someone might die because we didn't fight as hard as we could."
Croaker grunted in agreement. "It's a risk we have to take. We know of a small group of people, but there's a lot more out there than what we know about. Hopefully the man they picked up today has some information we can use. In the meantime, all we can do is hope our best is good enough."
Harry nodded. "Yeah. I understand. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."
Croaker shot him a grin. "I better run. I want to sit in on the first round of questioning. Thank your dragons for us please."
Harry nodded and walked over to Chekiath. With practiced ease he was up and in his place. "How much longer before Siath can be moved?"
"May says another ten minutes. She wants the bandage paste to set some more before going Between," Chekiath replied.
"Very well, let's get the wing aloft. We'll do a sweep of the forest just in case there's someone else hiding out until we leave."
"Yes, Harry," Chekiath replied, then he bugled once and reared up on his hind legs while the Wing one riders scrambled back onto their dragons. Less than thirty seconds later, the wing was airborne and flying just over the tree tops.
#10 Downing Street, London, February 21st...
Dumbledore, Croaker and Sir William O'Hearny filed into the room. Albus absently noted that Lord Kennewick and Tony Blair were talking quietly in one corner.
John Major looked up and smiled at the new comers. "Just the men we wanted to see. Albus! How was your trip?" he called, waving them to the settee for drinks before settling in.
Dumbledore smiled. He liked this muggle who controlled so much of the nation. "Very productive, Mr. Prime Minister."
"Excellent. Help yourselves to a drink and let's get started, shall we?"
Lord Kennewick and Tony Blair took seats facing the long couch now occupied by the two Wizards and the Deputy Minister of Magic.
"Cyril, why don't you start. We'll get to Albus' report in a bit," Major said after consulting a notepad.
Lord Kennewick nodded. "Sir Basil asked me to report that his department has noted the departure of that Chinese hatchet man. He departed Heathrow on the seventeenth, bound for Athens. The photo we managed to obtain of him boarding an Olympic airline jet bound for Athens showed him looking rather unhappy. Sir Basil suspects that he may have received orders that he didn't care for.
"Meanwhile, MI5 continues to monitor the Chinese nationals who've set up shop in the city of Campbeltown. Efforts continue to attempt to locate that third agent that was spotted by the camera, but as Sir Basil points out, he may have fled the region entirely. MI5 is checking outgoing passenger manifests for any names of interest, but so far they haven't picked up on anything."
Major made a mark on his pad and looked up. "So, Sir Basil feels there is a lessening of the tension with the Chinese for the moment?"
Kennewick frowned. "He believes that, officially, that will be the case, but he warns that their profile suggests this Colonel of theirs is likely to go rogue in order to deal with what he thinks is a threat to his nation."
Major nodded. "So noted. Tell Sir Basil to put up an extra tight watch. I want to know if their man reenters the country."
"Yes, sir," Kennewick replied.
"Yes, one more thing actually and this surprisingly doesn't come from MI5 or MI6, but instead it comes from our commerce department in the foreign office," Kennewick said. "Some of the contracts we've signed recently with General Electric and other multinational companies have attracted the attention of the Russians and well as the Saudis. Thus far, it's been in the form of mild questions at an informal level, but when you couple that with the recent Russian satellite activity, it's ominous."
Major nodded and wrote something down. He glanced over to Tony Blair, who was also taking notes and smiled grimly. "One problem moves off stage only to be replaced by two others," he murmured.
Blair looked up from his notes and nodded. He was getting a ant's eye view of how the office operated and was surprised to find just how much stuff was out of anyone's control.
Major shook himself from his dark mood and turned to the wizards. "Well, gentlemen? What about the attack on the Hogsmeade school?"
"The good news is that the attack was thwarted with no injuries to the children. One dragon was wounded, but not seriously. The dragons played a pivotal role in defending the school, which has the wizarding public somewhat confused. I fear the adult wizards, for the most part, still have some trouble wrapping their mind around the idea of friendly dragons. The children, on the other hand, are another matter," Sir William said, then he smiled.
"They hadn't been aware of the dragons guarding the school until they appeared to fight off the attackers. Now that they are aware, they often want to spend some time with them. It's not unusual to see a dragon in the school yard at lunch with a score of children conversing with it."
Major smiled at the picture that conjured.
"The Weyrleader is looking forward to the day he can bring the Weyr back to Happy Smiles to meet with the children," Albus offered.
Tony gasped and stared at Dumbledore. As a politician, he recognized what a powerful image that would portray and not for the first time he lamented the fact that the dragons seemed to be especially apolitical, showing deference only to the Queen and the office of the Prime Minister.
Major glanced over at him and smiled knowingly. He knew exactly what Tony was thinking. He had thought it enough himself. "It would make a great campaign image, eh, Tony? Well, shame is we can't use it like that," he said. "So, the attack was stopped and I understand we captured someone."
Sir William nodded unhappily. "Yes, but there I'm afraid our luck ran out at Hogsmeade. The one thing that became abundantly clear from our prisoner is that what appeared to be an uncoordinated anti-ministry group has rapidly reorganized into a bona-fide revolutionary movement with isolated cells. We have spotted a suspected Spanish agent several times in Diagon Alley. It's possible that he's responsible for this new organization. In fact, it's very likely."
"One piece of good news," Croaker said softly. "We have someone on the inside. At the time, we thought he was close to the person leading this group, but now we're not so sure. On the other hand, our insider has provided accurate warnings that we've been unable to take advantage of due to lack of manpower. I'm not so arrogant as to think we stopped that attack on the school. Dragons did that because the Weyrleader doesn't want any children hurt."
Major nodded unhappily. The simple fact that absorbing the Ministry of Magic had severely strained the government in terms of people and material. They had spared as many people as they could and were busy trying to train up new people, but that took time.
"I'll speak to Sir Basil about what he can do to help, Sir William," Major offered.
Sir William glanced over to Croaker, who nodded, and then he smiled in relief. They had been busy rebuilding a police force and simply didn't have what it took to also set up a counter terrorism force as well.
Major turned to Dumbledore. "Albus, tell us about your productive meetings," he said with a hint of a plea in his voice.
Dumbledore smiled. "Two days ago, the ICW declared an economic and travel embargo on the nations of Greece and Italy until such time as they sign a peace treaty. Attached to the proposal was also a demand that both wizarding ministries return control to the normal population. Forty five out of sixty three countries voted for the measure."
Major stared at the man in utter shock and Albus chuckled. "I know you didn't insist on that condition, but I knew it would be a sore point between wizards and normal people. Some of the most powerful countries sided with us, thanks in part to the speech given by the Japanese delegate."
"What does this mean?" asked Major.
"It means that Italy and Greece lost all of their external income just when they needed it the most," Croaker said with a broad smile. "That little battle of theirs cost them far more than just one third of an island. It's estimated that each side lost more than half of their forces and without the products being exported, they're going to be hard pressed to finance rebuilding their forces."
"In the meantime," Albus continued, "both nations will suffer until such time as they agree to a cease fire and come to a peace conference. The restrictions are phased and none can be fully lifted without them reaching agreements with ICW mediators."
"Sounds like a good start," Lord Kennewick commented.
Albus nodded. "Unlike your UN, we are able to curse the nations that find themselves in conflict, forcing their cooperation. Although we haven't done that in hundreds of years, the option remains." He shook his head, then he looked at John Major, "How fares things at the Weyr? Did you attend this last impression?"
John Major shook his head. "No, I asked Mr. Blair to go in my stead. Tony?"
Caught unaware, Tony Blair blinked for a moment, then he smiled. "It was amazing! I had never understood the power they represent until I watched all three Weyrs flying overhead. We have another forty riders for our Weyr and the Weyrleader and I had a long discussion about his plans for turning the old reserve on Shetland island into a real Weyr in a couple of years."
"I thought that land was part of a national park preserve," Sir William exclaimed.
"It is," Tony Blair agreed, "but he's looking into relocating those dragons to somewhere else. He doesn't know where yet, but he figures in a few years time, Campbeltown will be able to buy land somewhere on mainland Scotland or perhaps the big island itself and set up a new Weyr."
Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "Harry has grown up so well. I never would have imagined how far he'd go. If only his parents could have seen it, they would have been so proud of him."
"I think we all got blessed, thanks to that tournament of yours," replied Major. "The Weyrleader is quickly becoming an asset to the nation and the world."
Major looked around. "Thank you for coming today. Mr. Dumbledore, Mr. Croaker, your country appreciates the efforts you've made. Lord Kennewick, please remain behind."
The others filed from the room, while Kennewick waited expectantly. Once the door closed Major turned to him. "Well? I know you were holding back."
"John, you know my analysts tend to look at worst case scenarios. My people came up with a threat evaluation for dragons and I have to tell you, it's a chilling thing to read," Kennewick said. "I personally do not believe we'll ever be in conflict with the Weyr, but I pity anyone who is. My people don't know about their time traveling abilities and I'm not about to tell them, but when you couple their sense of spatial positioning and their ability to go Between, you have a formidable force that could defeat modern weapons. What good is a super sonic fighter when the dragon can intercept it by going Between. Hell, the Weyr could decide that fighting is useless, jump back in time twenty years and take over the country they were fighting."
Major looked thoughtful. "Yes and I bet you'd love to get a few squadrons of dragon riders under your command, but I'm afraid that is one thing the Weyr won't do. I think it would take an invasion by a hostile power before the Weyrleader would allow the Weyr to be drawn in militarily. It might frustrate you, Cyril, but I think the Weyrleader's position on this is the correct one."
Major stretched and sat silent for a moment. "I know I can't order your people to stop looking at worst case situations, but let's not worry about something that will probably never happen. The Weyrleader may still be young, but his responsibilities weigh heavily on him and he does everything he can to prevent harming his dragons and riders."
Kennewick smiled. "As you say, John. I think you're right. I just found it a disturbing read."
Major chuckled. "Well, then, I'll rely on you to keep it to your ministry until such time as it looks like we have problems with the Weyr." He glanced at his watch. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have the Chinese Ambassador coming here in twenty minutes."
Lord Kennewick stood and waved to his friend before exiting the office.
Hangar Two, Campbeltown Weyr, February 24th...
Harry stood by himself, watching the lone helicopter as it made a straight in approach to land on the large painted square on the tarmac. He glanced around and noted that, with the exception of Major Atkins and several of her people, his riders and dragons were conspicuously absent from view. There were several dragons he could see on the roof of the Hangar, and he spotted the dragons that made up the airborne patrol.
The Weyr was in lock down mode, with all of the elves and the dragons either in their Weyrs or masking themselves. Only he could see them all.
"You are worried," Cheki said softly. Harry knew he was speaking privately.
"I am very worried. So much can go wrong and endanger Maziang," he sent back.
"It'll be fine, Harry. We know you'll do your best. Believe in yourself like I believe in you," Chekiath replied. "If it helps, think of May when she's undressing. You seem to really enjoy that."
Harry flushed. May was a beautiful girl who thought it amusing to tease him when she noted he liked watching her dress. His days would be haunted with such images, and images of someone else, and that bothered him just enough to unsettle him.
The helicopter slowed and gently touched down. From his vantage he could see the pilot throwing switches, shutting the machine down.
Harry nervously brushed some imaginary lint from his jacket arms. He wore his dress uniform today at the request of the Prime Minister.
At some signal from the pilot, the door of the helicopter opened and four men stepped out. He only recognized the Prime Minister and Lord Mills, both of whom had been instrumental in arranging this meeting.
James had informed Harry that the Chinese Ambassador would be bringing an aide to assist in translation, and that Prime Minister Major would personally brief the Ambassador on the topic of the hot rocks. It fell to Harry to explain the source of the hot rocks.
Harry looked at the two oriental looking gentlemen and immediately assumed the older man was probably the Ambassador.
James sized up Harry and gave him an approving grin, which Harry appreciated. Their relationship was interesting. Harry relied on him to explain the workings of the government and James seemed to treat him like a favorite nephew who occasionally needed guidance.
Prime Minister Major led the group over to where Harry stood. The two Chinese men eyed Harry with an intense curiosity. His uniform looked distinctly military, but it lacked any national identification like most British military uniforms.
"Gentlemen, for all intents and purposes, the land upon which we now stand is not part of Scotland. This land was ceded to the Weyrleader and his people last year and they have a limited form of autonomy. Ambassador, may I present to you Weyrleader Harry Potter. Weyrleader, this is Jiang Enzhu of the People's Republic of China and Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and this is Wei Fong, press attache and translator for the Ambassador," John Major said.
The Ambassador raised an eyebrow and accepted Harry's offered hand. Harry smiled at the man's confusion. "Ambassador, I know right now you're confused, but I promise you it will all be clear in a bit."
Harry looked at the others and smiled. "If you would follow me please?"
Harry led the group into hangar two, where the only activity was some classes going on in some of the smaller rooms. "It's quiet in here now. Most of the riders are still in class," he said softly, then he led them into the large central meeting room with the open rear area.
"Ambassador, you've been told about our hot rocks and no doubt you can see the potential of having such rocks," Harry asked.
"Yes. Are you saying that such rocks exist in my country?"
Harry shook his head. "No, sir. The rocks are made from an natural source, much like oil is taken from the ground. The reason you are here is because your country can have access to such a resource."
The Ambassador looked at Harry and his eyes narrowed. "And this is the part where we begin to bargain? You are dancing around something and are very obvious in your reluctance."
Harry smiled tightly. "Perhaps I am. You are from an ancient culture, sir, one worthy of respect for its rich diversity and even richer mythology. What if I were to tell you that part of your mythology was, in fact, a reality?"
The Ambassador crossed his arms in front of him, becoming annoyed. "What are you trying to say?" he demanded.
Harry's expression dropped for a brief moment. "Nearly every culture has myths of dragons. sir. European, South American, African, even Chinese. Dragons, sir, are not a myth. They are real and they are thinking creatures like you and I," he said. "Think about it for a moment, please, Mr. Ambassador. You are here at the personal invitation from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Why would he invite you if he were not serious? Why would we be given this land if this were some kind of trick?"
"Dragons perhaps, but thinking? I think not!" sputtered the Ambassador.
"Why not? Just because I walk on four legs and can fly, I can think as well as you can, Mr. Ambassador," Chekiath said solemnly.
The Ambassador and his aide looked around wildly for the source of the voice.
"Mr Ambassador, allow me to introduce you to my partner, Chekiath. Chekiath, would you allow yourself to be seen please?" Harry said.
Chekiath shimmered into view and the Ambassador took a step back and gasped. His aide took one long look and he dropped like a stone.
"I am pleased to meet you, sir," Chekiath said. "Welcome to Campbeltown Weyr."
The Ambassador stared long and hard at Chekiath. He was silent for many minutes and Cheki warned Harry he was thinking very deeply, so Harry didn't disturb him.
Finally the Ambassador turned to Harry. "Why? Why would you reveal this to me?"
"Two reasons, sir," Harry replied. "First, the dragons will soon be public knowledge world wide. Chekiath is just one of many thousands of dragons around the world. Secondly, there is a small group of dragons that live within your territory. And since you mentioned bargaining, the price of being able to purchase nearly unlimited energy is a promise to let those dragons live in peace. If I can't get that promise from your government, I will order my dragons to move from a home they have lived in for centuries and you will not get that energy."
The Ambassador turned to Prime Minister Major. "You let this child set terms? What madness is this?"
Chekiath reared up on his hind legs and bellowed angrily. "Child? This is The Weyrleader! He commands all the dragons on Earth. He is no child!"
Harry raised a hand and Chekiath settled back down. "Mr. Ambassador, I'm not trying to order your great nation around. I'm simply stating a fact. The Weyr that exists on Chinese soil will continue to do so, free from any interference on your part. In return, we will provide you with a renewable, inexpensive energy source far cheaper than the oil you are currently buying from the middle east."
"He isn't setting terms, Mr. Ambassador," John Major said. "As he says, what he's telling you is fact. I know he could up and relocate the one Weyr faster than you can mobilize the PLA to look for them. Now, why don't we sit down and talk about this? I'm sure we can come to an understanding that you'll be able to present to your Premier."
Harry motioned to a table that had been setup for this purpose, then he sent a silent command to Cheki to have some of the riders bring in refreshments. It was going to be a long day from the looks of it.
Hours later, Harry walked into his quarters, mentally exhausted. The Ambassador had finally came around to understanding what they were offering. It had taken all of the skill he had managed to accumulate, as well as the help of the Prime Minister to bring the man around. At one point it had gotten so bad he was ready to order Maziang evacuated.
During one of the numerous breaks, John Major explained this was nothing new for the Chinese. They invariably fought every proposal offered before settling on one that was pretty much identical to what was initially offered. The principle difference was that now the offer seemed to come from the Chinese, graciously allowing the Weyr to continue in their home and sell hot rocks to the People's Republic.
And Harry knew this was merely the first step. The Ambassador still had to present the case to his Premier. The Weyr had supplied him technical data and even a sample of a low heat emission rock. The Ambassador had the information, he had his sample hot rock and he had photographs of himself seated behind Harry on Chekiath's back.
"Harry?" he looked up from his chair and waved Sirius into the room.
"So, how did it go?" Sirius asked as he sat across from Harry and stretched out his long legs comfortably.
"I have a headache the size of Wales right now. I just spent five and a half hours dickering with a man and when you look at what we agreed upon, it was the same thing I told him five minutes after meeting him. The only difference is that it was worded so that it didn't look like I was setting the terms. No, instead the Chinese were granting me a favor. I swear, Siri, if it had gone on for another ten minutes, I would have thrown up my hands and ordered the evacuation of Maziang."
Sirius grinned and pulled out a small flask and offered it to Harry. "My own special recipe. An energy restoring potion mixed with some fire whiskey."
Harry foolishly reached for the flask thinking it couldn't make his headache any worse. He was wrong. He had been warned by Dumbledore and Remus that he should avoid strong drinks or at best use them in very cautiously. Sirius, it seemed, either didn't know or didn't care that mages shouldn't risk getting drunk.
At the same time that Harry was reaching for Sirius Black's version of enhanced moonshine with extra kick, Prime Minister Major turned in his seat so that he could face the Chinese Ambassador. He spoke over the headset microphone.
"Mr. Ambassador, Her Majesty's government thanks you for your time today. I hope you won't consider it a waste of effort," he said.
Ambassador Enzhu laughed. "No, it was quite enlightening. I was very impressed with this Weyrleader of yours. I pushed him to the very limits of his patience and he never even blinked. I will present his proposal to my Premier in as good a light as possible. My country, I am sure, will jump at the chance for a cheaper fuel source, even if it means letting intelligent dragons live in our country."
The Ambassador paused and shook his head. "Dragons," he murmured. They were an important part of the Chinese culture. To know that they are real and as intelligent as people was astounding to the man.
John Major nodded. He thought the Ambassador was testing Harry very hard. On more than one occasion he had been certain Harry would crack and break off the talks when he seemed to rally and get a second wind. He didn't know for certain, but he suspected his dragon had helped keep him centered and focused for the meeting. It would make for an interesting report to Her Majesty.
The Weyrleader's first formal negotiations had been a success and if he were the grade the lad he would have given him a good solid B plus for effort and results.
Author's Notes and Mockeries:
- I'm going to start this off with two very specific rants then we'll turn to the usual business.
* To all you Hermione lovers and those that hate seeing teen angst and stupidity. Here's a clue, Hermione is a teen and if book six & seven is anything to go by, she can be very stupid. An awful lot is going on in the relationship and it's going to take time and some very painful moments before they can come to grips with it.
The situation surrounding Harry/May/Hermione is complex and is going to take time to develop and iron out the kinks. This is heading into a three way relationship that isn't based on just sex and instant attraction. AND NO, this is more like real life in that the girls ARE NOT bisexual. Live with it. What is happening is what I envision a true three way might go like, based on real communication and understanding. No magic, no soul bonding, no altering of girls so that they are instantly bisexual etc, just six people, three human and three draconic trying to make something very difficult work for them.
What you're going to see is a lot of soul searching and conversation until things settle out, and they will settle out eventually. So hang in there, smoother times are coming, but first we have to weather the storm.
* Rant Two. Please do not send me a private message asking for me to read your story if you are copying original canon. I don't care that you made Harry friends with Draco from day one. If the major plot points are unchanged from the canon, then you have failed to do anything new and if I am asked to read your story, I'll leave a highly critical review that will probably not make you happy. I am singularly unimpressed with redo stories that follow the original time line. You've been warned.
- A lot of people are concerned about the Chinese. Seriously, for all their communist dogma, the Chinese are a most pragmatic people. The Chinese are a nuclear power, so are the British. China is not going to risk a raid on another country when so many things can go wrong and it can be traced back to them. There is a threat here, but I'll leave it up to you to figure out who it comes from.
- Genericrandom thinks my comments about story boarding was a vague reference to so many fan fiction authors that just start typing instead of planning their stories. And that probably accounts for at least a third of the abandoned stories on this site. Would I do something that vague? Nah.
- Wagstaff wonders if any of the royal family will impress? No. I do not want that complication in this tale. I'll leave that to someone else to deal with.
- Sparrownightmare wants to know what happened to the Weasleys. Honestly they aren't important to this story. They will be seen from time to time in minor scenes. I am trying very hard not to make this into a Weasley bash fest that it could have been. Ron's behavior at the point where Harry left the school was at it's lowest point in the entire series and Harry would have been justified in hating Ron for it. Instead he doesn't hate Ron, but he has more important matters to worry about. The Weasleys are effectively out of this story except for small bit cameos.
- As of this point in the story it is 1996 and Harry is fifteen years old. This is what would have been Harry's fifth year. According to Wikipedia, Prime Minister John Major lost the general election to Anthony Blair in 1997. Some people wanted to know where we are, so there are two frames of reference for you along with the reason why I brought Blair into the storyline earlier than expected. There were a series of scandals that smeared the Major government and likely lost him the election, I'm taking poetic license with that however and presenting a different reason for Blair winning.
And finally, my story recommendation. People have asked by what criteria do I recommend a story. Its really simple. I have to like the story, it has to be finished, and it has to have a small number of reviews, far fewer than I think it deserves.
Such is the case with;
Harrison Potter Stephens by Fyreheart
A one chapter, 18k word crossover with Bewitched. It's an excellent read with far fewer reviews than it should have. Take a look and let the author know if you enjoyed it.
Now I realize that Clell is also working on a Bewitched crossover that has all the signs of being an excellent piece, but as a one shot, this is a gem that shouldn't be passed up while we wait for other stories to be completed. And Clell, this isn't a dig at you honestly. If I wanted to dig at someone I'd say something like "My it's been a long while since Genkaifan has updated!" But I've learned my lesson. No digs at anyone, honest!