This week, Holly Lyn Walrath combines dragons and space ships at the dividing line between science fiction and fantasy. ~ Julian & Fran, October 16
By Holly Lyn Walrath
The dragon curled around the spaceship and breathed a heavy sigh that made the hull shiver. Its warm breath fogged the windows and the heat from its belly set off a series of tocsin alarms. The commsole went red with danger alerts.
Captain Trinity listened as her one-woman ship groaned under the weight. Through the reinforced quartz glass of the window, she caught the green flash of an iris before the beast closed its eyes and fell asleep with a look of contented bliss. Limping to the pilot’s chair, she plopped down and laughed until her sides ached.
“Melnik II, your atmosphere readings are off the chart. Telemetry’s wrong too,” a voice crackled through the commcophin from the ansible.
“New Mars, you are not gonna believe this,” Trinity replied, “but there’s a goldarned dragon on my ship.”
The ship’s engines revved up momentarily as it tried to correct for the alteration in course. Grousing and grumbling like an old woman, the ship powered down. Artificial gravity fell away and Trinity floated upward, the ever-present pain of standing on her bad knee disappearing. The ship drifted, slowly spinning under the dragon’s steady breathing.
“Repeat that?” New Mars sounded incredulous and young.
Trinity repeated each word slowly.
“Is it big?” the voice cracked.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Hold your position.” The young man was no doubt going to find a supervisor. She imagined him scrambling up the stairs to the central office, his communication crest clutched in his hands and pinging out reports. Silence followed as New Mars deep space control tried to decide what to do, surely checking their databases for any history of dragons in the 15th Sector, or any sector, for that matter.
There was no use waiting on them to decide. It might take eons. They’d form a committee on extraterrestrial dragon rights before the dragon shut down her ship’s systems and killed her.
Floating closer to the window, Trinity examined the animal. When she’d started traveling as a taxonomist, she’d visited hundreds of planets to identify new species. But the sphere of new discoveries got smaller and smaller as humans spread across the systems. After a Vandrae gorgon had rolled over on her during emergency surgery, cracking her right kneecap, she’d settled down as a vet on New Mars, where she’d mostly treated domestic animals such as the monkey-like creatures the colonists took in as pets. She tried to remember her refresher courses on reptilian anatomy, and counted alien species in her head. In all her years, she’d never come across a life-form like this. How was it alive?
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