When Levi returned that evening from his egg watch, he gave the up-right transport a surprised glance. Then, he looked at me. I had returned to my person form, and still ached all over from my earlier transformation.
Horizon greeted him with a warm welcome, sounding like old times. She showed him inside the transport, which she had worked so hard to clean and make comfortable. It looked to have promise.
He didn’t ask any questions. The glint in his eyes told me that he guessed what had happened, though.
I was tired, but I pushed myself to my feet and readied myself for my walk to the nest. It was my turn to watch over the eggs. The night shift.
“Hey. Why don’t you get some sleep?” Levi caught my arm, sensing my exhaustion. “The eggs were doing just fine earlier. I think they can sit through one night alone. It looks like we’ll be gathering them up soon enough.”
I didn’t even pretend to argue. I was wiped out, and chances are, I’d be no good to anyone if something did happen upon the eggs. Instead, I curled up in a corner of the back of the transport, drifting off to sleep to the sounds of Horizon’s determined cleaning.
I woke to the sensation of everything around me shaking. Startled, I rolled back, bracing myself against the walls of the transport.
Had Bristle returned? Had the Dragons come back, angry that their nests were disturbed? Were we under attack?
I heard Horizon’s shout from the front of the transport. It wasn’t a sound of fear. It was of joy.
I realized the machine itself was moving under me, vibrating and humming with its own life. I found my footing and pulled my way towards the front. There, I discovered Horizon in a strange pod-like structure.
She was seated calmly, peering around as if this was a completely normal thing. Panels of lights and switches and buttons lined the wall. One great circular wheel sat in front of her. The front of the pod was see-through. Later, Horizon told me this was called a cockpit.
“What’s going on?” I spluttered in alarm.
“Some of the sensory systems are offline. We don’t have visuals,” She tapped at one of the flat screens along the panel. “But the transport is running! We can move!”
“Fantastic! I can’t believe you got it to work!” Levi shoved his head into the cockpit, pushing me out. He laughed deeply. It was the first time in a long time that I’d heard him laugh like that. “Well, I mean, I can believe it. But, just wow!”
“Yeah,” I shoved him back, trying to see inside the pod. “Good work, Horizon.”
She glanced over her shoulder at us with a pleased but embarrassed smile. “There were a few times I wasn’t so sure. But I think this should get us where we need to go.”
“All right,” Levi shoved me out of the pod again. “Let’s go get the eggs and get out of here!”
I shoved him back. “Sounds good to me!”
He shoved me again.
This would have continued if the transport hadn’t jolted forward sending us both tumbling back into the carrier area.
“Make sure the side door’s shut!” Horizon shouted back at us.
“Door?” I stared at Levi blankly as he tried to right his balance. We were already in motion.
an Invader… oops.. sorry, I mean Yyth… machine was exhilarating. Kinda like flying around as a Dragon, but also very different. It moved pretty fast, hovering over the ashen ground, and knocking lesser debris out of the way.
Sometimes Horizon had to stop and re-route the vehicle for easier passage. This happened more often the closer we got the the rocky area where the nest was located.
She apologized for this, telling us that the machine had never been set up for the difference in gravitational weights. This, apparently, meant it couldn’t hover as high as it normally would.
When we arrived at the nest, it felt like no time had passed at all. I knew it would take some getting used to the sound and the vibration, but given that I was still recovering from my wounds, I’d take riding in the transport over a long walk right now.
Finally, it was time to load the eggs.
We didn’t really have much to work with when it came to building a nest inside the transporter. There wasn’t any greenery or soft materials, aside from dirt and ash. We did the best we could with what we had, carefully assembling the enclosure of crystals in the storage area.
Then, one by one, we hoisted up the eggs and set them down inside as well. We chose only the eggs that responded to the crystal energies. The ones that had changed colors.
There were some variations between the colors and textures of the eggs. It seemed that there may had been different parents between them.
There was one that stood out in particular. Instead of becoming soft and iridescent like the others, it had grown a tougher shell. Become darker, more solid and shiny.
Levi almost left that one behind, mistaking it for a dormant egg.
“Hey,” I pointed it out. “What about that one?”
“You sure it’s alive? It looks a little rotted.”
I grumbled and walked over to it, placing my hand on the shell. It didn’t respond with light and color like the others. Instead, there came a deep thrumming within it.
“Yeah,” I said, curious and bothered. “There’s something alive in there, all right.”
Levi sensed the concern in my voice. “You don’t think it’s trouble, do you?”
“I don’t know,” I frowned and lifted it up. “But do you think we’d hear the end of it if Horizon knew we left one behind to die?”
He rocked back on his heels, watching me. “Since when has that bothered you?”
“Hush,” I grumbled, placing the egg in with the others. “It bothers you, too.”
He didn’t say anything for a while. Then he responded, “Only because she has a point. Why does it take a girl to tell us the things we should already know?”
I shrugged. “Not all of us were privileged with the genteel upbringing you had.”
“There’s some universal truths we all share.”
“Well, I must have missed that message.” I closed the side door more loudly than I should have, frowning in irritation.
He sensed my frustration and lifted both of his hands. “Hey. Okay. I didn’t mean anything by it. It was just an observation.”
I schooled my annoyance, reminding myself not to take it out on Levi. He just had a big mouth sometimes. He didn’t mean any harm.
I leaned against the side of the transport for a moment. “I know. It’s just… what we’re doing right now? This is crazy.”
“Crazier than anything else we’ve done so far?”
“Yeah,” I looked at him, spreading his hands. “What do we know about Dragon eggs. And beyond that, if they do survive, what do we know about Dragon children?”
“That’s why we’re taking them back with us,” Levi said in his level, self-assured tone. “Some of the people that traveled with me to the Grove were families. Some were parents. They may not know much about Dragons, but there are some who know about children.”
“Are you so sure this is going to be the same?”
“No, I’m not sure about anything at all.” He pursed his lips and lowered his voice. “Do you want me to be absolutely honest with you, Bahamut?”
He had that serious look again. The look that told me I probably wouldn’t like what he had to say, but it was a good idea that I listen anyway.
Levi took a deep breath. “The reality is, there’s nothing we can do to cure the living Dragons. And they probably don’t have a lot of time left given what we’ve seen. These are their children…”
I knew where this was leading. I quickly interrupted. “So it’s my responsibility to take care of them because it was my fault what happened to their parents.”
“I wasn’t going to say it like that.”
“That’s the cold truth of it.” I crossed my arms.
“Yes and no,” Levi shook his head. “It’s complicated.”
I was silent for a moment. Then I asked. “So what happens if these Dragon children find out I’m to blame for their parents’ deaths?”
He didn’t have an answer for that. “Let’s just take this one step at a time.”