Authors: Jay Shaw
Dragonus Chronicles I
Copyright © 2016 by Jay Shaw.
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Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Cover design by: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art:
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Jay Shaw/The Space Colonel’s Woman -- 1st ed.
I am woman, hear me roar
– HELEN REDDY
The interior reeked of stale alcohol, cooking fat, unwashed bodies, and a haze of Bathurian tobacco smoke infiltrated every shadowy alcove. Regardless of these detractors, or perhaps because of them, the
was crammed with a mismatched assortment from Dragonus’ underbelly. The kind of lowlifes you wouldn’t want to meet in daylight, much less a dive like this one.
Daniel Harwood knew what he had to sell would make his fortune; a nest egg he could live in comfort on, for the rest of his days. The right information would always be a precious and expensive commodity. And Daniel had paid plenty to learn the location of this particular buyer.
Despite the ambiguousness of his black clothing, Daniel felt eyes trailing him as he sauntered toward a table in the back. They were waiting for him, the buyer and his henchmen. Daniel’s gut knotted; his bowels churning as he projected an outward appearance of cocky strength, the opposite of his natural persona. He slid into the seat that afforded him the best view of the whole tavern, and a clear run to the door.
The clamor of raised voices, scraping chairs, and crashing dishes was muted here; the click of his blaster arming loud and ominous. Daniel kept his hand on the weapon where it lay strapped to his thigh, and looked into the startling green eyes of the good-looking human. He looked frail between the two Arcadians; his sallow complexion clashing with their mottled terracotta skin and grotesque musculature.
“Did you bring it?” The sleeves of his impeccable white suit wrinkled at the elbow, revealing a heavy gold chain bracelet as he extended a hand.
“Did you?” Daniel shot back, his fake bravado wavering now they’d come to it.
There was a pause during which Daniel distinctly felt his life draining away. With a nod from the human, one of the henchmen lifted a black briefcase; silver rivets scraping a groove along the already scarred table top. Fat ochre fingers flicked the locks and spun the case to face Daniel.
Of its own volition, his hand reached out to touch the neat stacks of Earth’s paper money.
“Not so fast, Lieutenant Harwood.” The buyer warned with a smirk lacking even the merest hint of amusement. “The item. If you please.”
Daniel nodded, reached into the zippered pocket on his sleeve and pulled out an information cache the size of his thumbnail. He held it between his fingers and waggled his eyebrows – a trick he’d learned from his commanding officer, and practiced every morning in the mirror of his quarters.
“It’s all yours. Mission reports, team member profiles. Everything you ever wanted to know about life on Phoenix City, but were afraid to ask.”
Daniel reached for the briefcase in the same movement as he tossed the cache into the air. It landed in the buyer’s palm with a quiet splat, and he closed his fingers over it.
“If you have swindled me, Sir.” He whispered, smile saccharine sweet. “There will be no place in Dragonus you can hide.”
Daniel clipped the case shut and stood; his hand still on his blaster. “Good luck with that.”
He was leaving Dragonus within the next five minutes and never returning to this cesspool of mutants. His stomach began untying itself from his spine as visions of luscious native babes in coconut bras and grass skirts paraded through his mind. Tahiti was Daniel’s Valhalla.
Corey Darvard stood outside the tavern and with slow deliberate movements, lit a Cuban cigar. His cheeks hollowing in a strong suck, drawing air until the tip glowed bright. To anyone not in the business of filming hit shows, it would seem a touch extreme to travel via portal to an alternate reality, and pay traitors obscene amounts of cash for top secret information. But according to Corey, it was worth every cent. Emmy-winning shows did not come cheap.
A great show would live forever in networking, merchandising, fan websites, and reruns of reruns. Dollar signs were scrolling on a loop in his mind when the concussion blast from Lieutenant Harwood’s F490Cobra exploding, washed over him like a warm summer breeze. A cold reptilious sneer spread across Corey Darvard’s face. Loose ends were bad for business.
Corey’s mind turned to a trivial dilemma as he strode back to the stolen Darvac cruiser. What
he call this new space show of his?
Flames of Phoenix?
He groaned. Pathetic.
That was even worse.
As he entered the co-ordinates to the back field of his Arizona ranch into the cruiser’s portal device, Corey Darvard was well-pleased with himself. What luck he had been riding the back field that day several years ago, and been transported to the Dragonus Galaxy. What luck the connection had never been discovered.
had become an industry giant because of these trips into another reality. Now, he had what he needed. On the back of this show, he would rise to new heights of wealth, power, and fame. No one would ever call him a B-grade producer again.
Corey stepped from the portal’s silvery shimmer into sunshine, long grasses, and blue sky.
“Phoenix Rising!” He shouted into the open air and waded to the fence where a white stretch limousine waited. “Brilliant!”
Tonight he would download the mission reports and video footage, and find out what his shareholders’ dividends had bought him. Tomorrow’s task would be finding struggling nobodies to play the lead roles. He wouldn’t even have to change the names of the characters; and if he managed to find actors who matched the stolen identities, it would add a gritty realism to the show that audiences and critics alike would lap up. It was worth three seasons at least, before he’d have to start looking for another next big thing.
would be Corey Darvard’s biggest success yet.
And no one would ever know it was based on the top secret missions of real people, living real lives, in a galaxy of an alternate reality…
Julia Swift landed her chopper on the central oval, and looked out the windshield at the organized chaos. It was their third callout since clocking on. A five car pile-up at the Motorsport Park yielding two red tags; one of which Julia and her team were there to collect.
On-staff fire crews smothered orange flames and billowing smoke with portable extinguishers, and cut drivers from mangled steel so the paramedics could assess any damage.
Jason jumped out the moment the skids sank into the manicured grass, and jogged forward in his red and yellow flight suit to meet the incoming backboard. All five of them ducked low to avoid the slow spin of the idling rotors as they maneuvered the patient through the tail doors.
Chris, advanced paramedic on SR4, took the clipboard and hung an IV while Jason closed the doors before retaking his seat up front and shoving his headphone jack into the console.
“Waikato, as fast as we can, Wings.”
Julia nodded, flicking switches as the rotors whined overhead and SR4 rose like a dragonfly into the morning haze, banking south-west over the racing fans below.
“Northcom, this is SR4 airborne out of Hampton Downs.”
“On route to Waikato with one Status One. Travel time twelve minutes. Request emergency clearance.”
“SR4, you are airspace confirmed, Northcom out.”
Julia loved flying, but to do it while saving lives was the ultimate thrill. A patchwork quilt of farmland spread out beneath her and clear blue skies arched overhead. It was the best job on Earth.
“How we doing back there?”
Chris checked the patient’s vitals and recorded the lifepack’s readouts on a chart for the hospital. “The sooner we get there, the better off he’ll be.”
She grinned, blood singing with adrenalin as she fought on the side of her patient in the race against time.
“Five out.” Jason called in her ear.
“Good morning, Waikato ED, this is SR4, we are inbound in five.”
“Waikato ED, responding SR4. Who’s your cargo?” Chris ran down the patient’s immediate vitals. “We’ll send a team to the roof.”
Julia flew in over Hamilton City, making a bee line for the helipad atop the hospital’s main building. A team of four wearing green scrubs and safety glasses waited with a gurney outside the yellow circle; their hair whipping in the downdraft as SR4 touched down. The team headed for the rear doors at a run, heads bowed as Jason and Chris transferred the patient from the helicopter to their gurney; Chris updating the doctor as they hustled to the lift.
With the rotors cycling down and the immediacy over for the moment, Julia swigged a few mouthfuls of water from her drink bottle and closed her eyes. It would be a quarter hour before her team was back from filling in the transition of care paperwork. Come the end of the shift, she’d be on vacation; soaking up vitamin D from the sun and enjoying the absence of demands on her time.
Jason and Chris appeared in the gap of the sliding doors and were headed toward her, just as the radio scratched to life.
“SR4 receiving.” She answered, already powering up as the rotors whined overhead.
“Call out to the Pinnacles track, will feed more info enroute.”
The moment Chris and Jason were aboard SR4 leaped into the air like a hunting falcon after a pigeon, both she and her pilot eager to assist whoever needed their help.
“Where to now, Wings?” Jason asked, once again connecting his radio after latching his harness.
“It’s pretty up there.”
“I’ve always wanted to go, never seem to find the time.” Chris shrugged, wistful.
“Welcome to flight SR4 to the Pinnacles. Please make sure that your seats and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions. The pilot has turned on the
sign. Thank you for flying with us and we hope you enjoy your flight.”
Julia smiled at her team’s laughter in her ear, a moment of humor before turning serious again.
“Northcom, this is SR4 airborne out of Hamilton City for Pinnacles track. Flight time, twenty-five minutes.”
“Copy, SR4.” The disembodied Andy replied. “Here’s that update, as promised.”
Search and Rescue ground teams had found three missing hikers, but were in need of an air lift to the ambulance waiting at base camp. The woman had sustained a compound fracture to her right leg and possible spinal injuries, which made getting her back down the mountain on foot impossible. It would be up to SR4 to get her to safety in the least amount of time.
“One air taxi to base camp, copy.” Julia said. “What’s their location?”
“Five clicks north of the Pinnacles Hut.”
“Looks like one of us’ll be swinging in the breeze.” Julia laughed over the intercom. “And by one of
, I mean one of you two; someone needs to keep this bird in steady.”
“Yes, Jason?” Julia asked, a knowing smirk dancing at the corner of her lips.
“Just fly her as only you can.”
“Will do.” Julia kept her eyes focused out the windshield as she made an adjustment to their heading.
Chris won the rock-paper-scissors, and Jason rolled his eyes before moving into the back to harness up.
“Northcom, we’re approaching the location. Request ground team for a visual, over.”
Chris assembled and tested the winch while Jason and Julia scanned the abundant forestry below them. The innumerable shades of green that clung to the rocky slopes made it difficult to see anything.
“There!” Jason called over the intercom, scratchy and urgent in Julia’s ear. “Eleven o’clock low.”
Julia looked across the cockpit and out Jason’s half of the windshield, just in time to see the last gasp of an orange smoke flare drifting north. She banked the chopper toward it, while Chris hooked Jason onto the winch cable. SR4 slowed her airspeed and dropped her altitude under Julia’s guiding hand, to hover above the ground team; downdraft bending the trees back like stalks of wheat on a windy day.
“Ready to go, Jase?”
“On winch, Pilot.” He answered over the intercom and signaled with a thumb’s up in confirmation, before letting go of the door and leaning back on the skid as Chris operated the winch’s control box.
“Paramedic on skids.”
“Low winch.” Julia answered, professional and on point.
Jason descended at a steady pace to avoid going into a spin. When his boots touched the ground he unclipped the rescue basket from the carabiner on his harness and spoke into his radio.
“Off winch, I’ll radio when we’re ready.”
“Copy that.” Julia confirmed, catching Jason’s over-the-head wave through the clear floor.
“We’ll just hang around up here, then.” Chris confirmed, gruff tone alerting his team to his edginess. He wasn’t a fan of waiting; waiting meant more chance of things going wrong.
It wasn’t more than five minutes before Jason was radioing again.
“On winch, Pilot. Slow and steady Chris, if you please.”
Chris began winching them skyward as Julia spared a glance for her instruments and watched through the clear floorboard in the co-pilot’s foot bay. Jason balanced the basket with one hand while the other held onto the cable. The wind had picked up in the short time they’d been on site and both paramedic and basket began a slow spin.
Chris eased off on the winch. Better to take a bit longer, than increase the danger level for everyone by rushing.
Jason reached the chopper and rested his boots on the skid rail, ass sitting in mid-air as Chris helped anchor the basket. “Paramedic and patient on skids. Door open.”
“Northcom.” Julia switched from internal to external comms and adjusted her helmet mic to sit closer to her mouth. “We are patient heavy, and base camp inbound. Please advise on best LZ, over.”
“Locals advise the campground is empty and in the open. Should give you enough clearance, ambulance will meet you there.” Andy replied after a moment’s dead air while he communicated with the ground team.
Julia circled around the campground taking note of the ambulance’s flashing lights, the wide tract of open ground next to the cabins, and judging the air space between it and the overhead power cables. The last thing she wanted was to get tangled up in those, and give the gathering crowd an unexpected fireworks show.
SR4 landed on the mown field with the daintiness of a butterfly alighting on a flower, her engine and rotors humming in idle. The onlookers were well-behaved, keeping back as Jason and Chris unloaded the woman into the care of the waiting EMTs; Chris signing on the dotted line before passing over her inflight data. It was a well-practiced system that saw Team SR4 lifting off and headed back to base in under ten minutes. Julia was satisfied on a job well done, but she was eager to reach base before they received another callout.
“Got any big plans tonight, Wings?” Chris asked from the cabin where he’d started the end of shift clean up.
“Yep, I’ve got a hot date with some Chinese takeout, the latest episode of
, early to bed and get up late.”
Jason rolled his eyes and grinned at Chris. “Mate, did ya know, we’re flying with a real live, honest to goodness first degree party animal.”
“Yeah, I know.” Chris barked a laugh over the intercom. “Makes me tired just thinkin’ about it.”
“I’ll think about grander plans tomorrow.” Julia laughed, sparing a glance at her team before returning her gaze to the view out her windshield.
“No, please, I don’t think we could keep up.” Jason mimicked a partygoer on the edge of drunken exhaustion.
“You boys need more stamina.”
Julia landed SR4 on the gray concrete helipad outside the hanger of SR Base and climbed out of the cockpit. She stretched her arms over her head to lengthen her back, before turning to where Jason and Chris were wiping down the rescue basket and restocking the drop bag with replacement bandages, tape, and gloves.
“Go on, get outta here.” Chris gave her a dismissive wave as he hung his helmet on the hook behind the pilot’s seat. “We’ve got it, go ‘n enjoy your vacation.”
She considered protesting, but they had it mostly done, and an extra pair of hands would just get in the way. “Thanks, see you in a couple of weeks.”
The automatic door slid closed behind her, sealing in the air-conditioned comfort of the base’s control room.
“Hey, Wings.” Andy greeted from behind the counter. Headset around his neck as he swigged coffee from a lime green
Chopper Pilot’s Get It Up Faster
Julia released her hair from its clip. It fell in waves over her shoulders and down the back of her flight suit like a waterfall of bourbon silk. She left her signed shift report on the counter then headed to the locker room to change. Twenty minutes later she was showered, dressed in blue bootleg jeans and her black leather jacket with silver angel wings embroidered on the back.
The freeway was crowded, but the traffic kept moving.
Shoot to Thrill
blasted from the stereo and she sang along at the top of her lungs. Fresh air from the open window blew her hair back as she shifted her red Holden V8 into fifth, and put some distance between her and the last of the five-o-clock stragglers.
She pulled into her drive with the aroma of hot steak chop suey, sweet and sour pork, and chicken fried rice, wafting through the car. Her little three bedroom cottage looked welcoming as the headlights shone on its white siding. It had a deck that looked out onto a private reserve with a pond, and it was only five minutes’ walk from the beach. Glad to be home, Julia carried her dinner and backpack inside, locking the door behind her.
Then, with a mixed plate and a glass of Pinot Gris, she snuggled up on the sofa – blanket over her knees – and switched on the DVR to watch the first episode of
, season four.