Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

"We can't just leave him behind. What if we don't come back?"

Jazz glanced down at Osmar, who was eagerly wagging his tail, pleading to be included in whatever adventure his new friends were planning. Linra had tied a blue bandana around his neck and he looked too cute to ignore.

"You're right." Jazz thought for a minute. "You want to take him with you? He can be your co-pilot." And he'll have a better chance of staying alive. Jazz did not speak these words outloud, but Linra heard them anyway.

"Sure. I'll take him." She said gently. "Jazz... "

The boy was staring at nothing. "When I was about four I became convinced that there was a vampire hiding under my bed. Not sure where I got the idea, but I was certain that one night it would come out and suck me dry. My father knew that telling me there weren't any vampires wouldn't work, so he told me that a vampire could only hurt me if I looked at it. If I kept my eyes closed, then it was powerless."

He glanced at Linra. "So I'm not going to look at Death. Maybe he can't hurt me if I don't see him. Or talk about him." He reached down and scratched Osmar's silky ears. "Think about this. Soon it will be all over and we'll be home. And in six months or so, my father and Ojisan will let us out of our rooms and start speaking to us again."

"And then hand us over to Wufei who can lecture us for the next six months." Linra said dryly.

"Followed by a year of hard labor in a work camp."

"And matching tattoos of 'this child was BAD' etched into our foreheads."

"Ended with 400 lashes of a wet noodle."

"They really are going to freak, you know."

"Let them." Jazz shrugged. "I'd rather be beaten with a wet noodle than know we gave up our world without a fight."

"Me too. Come on, Osmar. Ugg, no drooling or you can ride with Jazz."

The two teens and the happy dog transported into the hanger, Linra holding tightly to Osmar's bandana. "Behave yourself." She ordered the dog.

He licked her hand.

"You're worse than he is." She muttered, watching her boyfriend glanced around warily, hand on neuralizer.

"Hey, what are you kids doing here?" A guard demanded.

Jazz stood up straight. "As your Tren, I request access to two of your new fighter planes."

The guard chuckled. "Nice try, son. You're not Tren yet, and your parents would have my head on a plate for letting you anywhere near one of those planes."

"What's your name?" Jazz asked.


"Well, sorry Tylier. I don't have time to argue with you." His hand flashed and the guard fell to the floor. "Send me the bill for your head."

"Come on." Linra tugged on his arm.

The three hurried into the hanger, Jazz taking out the remaining two guards with little trouble. Due to his age, they hadn't really expected him to fight back at all, let alone be a crack shot.

"Your own damn faults for underestimating a kid." He admonished them, unknowingly paraphrasing Wufei from so many years before.

Four planes sat side by side in the hanger. "Fortune likes us." The boy commented.

"Jazz, don't you think it's a little odd that they didn't take these planes with them when they flew out?" Linra asked.

Jazz shrugged. "They didn't have enough pilots, that's all. Which one do you want?"

"That one looks decent." Linra nodded, and Jazz mentally chose another one.

"We need handles. We'll use a secure channel but incase anyone intercepts it..."

"Aria." Linra interrupted. "Call me Aria."

Jazz again felt a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Argonaut." he smiled. "I'm the Argonaut."

Tylier awoke from the stun minutes later, blinking. He crawled to his feet and raced into the hanger. His worst fears were confirmed. Two of the planes were missing.

"Stupid kids." He bent to wake up his fellow guards. "We've got problems."

Swerak glanced at the planes and swore loudly.

"They took the grounded ones."

"Huh?" The third guard rubbed his head. "What?"

Tylier was already on his radio. "Jazz, come in. Listen to me. If you can hear me, listen. Those planes were grounded for engine trouble. They're unsteady. You have to bring them back at once! Jazz! Jazz, come in..."

There was no response

Some people are simply born to do certain things.

Heero had always found that idea a bit suspect; he believed that likes and talents were learned, not genetic, but he'd was open-minded enough to accept that every now and then exceptions happened.

Duo had been born to fly.

He couldn't see his mate's face from the cockpit of his own aircraft, but he could picture it. The worry for Denea and the children combined with grim determination combined with an almost childish exhilaration for once doing what he loved. It was personal now; his family was in danger and he was going to thoroughly enjoy teaching those who had placed them there better manners.

It was quite possible that he might still consider his life a fair price to pay for that; Heero wasn't sure. They really hadn't had much to time to discuss the issue in detail. However, Heero felt that being Duo's maclen, at least part of the decision should rest with him, and he found himself most assuredly against the thought of Duo getting himself blown up, captured, incinerated, or in any other way being permanently removed from his partner's home, hearth, heart, and bed.

Therefore, besides destroying the Wronith ships and providing cover for Wufei, Heero also had the added task of making sure Duo didn't do anything rash.

He had read up a bit on beserker fits after experiencing the Zero system the first time. He had been intrigued to learn that they happened mostly in people of Viking heritage. This included the Celts, who had a liberal dose of Viking blood due to constant invasions. In the heat of battle, the soldier would simply lose all sense of himself and become a killing machine. In the mists of these fits, they were liable to do anything.

And Heero had seen Duo become Shinigami before. He had seen that madness in his partner's eyes; that mindlessness. If Duo went beserker on them, and due to his stress it was not unlikely, he probably wouldn't respond to a request to pull back even if it was issued by someone with a great concern for his well-being.

The question, Heero mused, as they approached Deran air-space, was how to keep Duo...well...sane.

"You guys okay?" Heero asked over the intercom.


"Couldn't be better. Got some popcorn, got a slasher movie in the Vid-drive. Think I'll take a bubble bath here in a minute."

"What plane did YOU get?" Wufei asked.

"I just pulled a few strings. I told them that if they didn't give me the Lexus model, I'd have Jazz fire them when he became Tren." Duo quipped.

"Duo..." Heero began.

"Yes, mom. I'll be a good boy and not go crazy."

"I'm serious."

"So am I. I can't afford to lose control; not now. Don't worry, Heero."

The planes cleared the edge of the planet, and the Wronith ships came into view. There were maybe 40 of them.

"Not a whole lot for an invasion." Wufei remarked.

"Hnnn." Heero grunted. "I'll bet you this is just the scouts. Once they get a foothold the rest of the ants will be marching two by two in no time."

"Well then, we'll just have to make sure they faw down an' go boom." Duo's voice said cheerfully.

"They've seen us." Heero snapped. "Get ready." The rest of the Setan pilots lined up behind them.

"Setan fleet." A voice came over their speakers. "You are in Wronith airspace. Leave at once or you will be destroyed."

Duo turned on his own intercom.

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog." He told the Wronith. "He was a mighty good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said. But I helped him drink his wine. And he always had some mighty fine wine."

"Joy to the world." He accelerated toward the Wronith ships, singing the lyrics now. "All the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. Joy to you and me."

The Wronith opened fire.

Heero watched Duo's plane flip over several times, dodging the energy beams as easily as when he had been a boy. One ship came too close for comfort and Heero blasted it, dodging a beam of his own.

Wufei's ship headed for the planet, pursued by two Wronith vessels who had other ideas. An energy beam grazed the side of his ship.

"COCKSUCKER!!!" Wufei yelled into the intercom.

"Hey!" Duo's wounded voice called back. "On behalf of cocksuckers everywhere I demand an apology!"

"Duo!" Heero snapped.

"I didn't hear you complaining the other night!" Duo retorted.

"I do NOT need to be listening to this!" Wufei muttered.

Another beam grazed his other side, followed by an explosion.

"Got them, sir." A young Setan soldier named Macus informed Wufei. "I'll follow you down and provide cover."

"Now that's more like it." Wufei huffed. "Come with me. We need to get my wife and the children, and move them to someplace safe. Then we rejoin the battle."

"Understood, sir."

"This is the place?" Selar asked, stepping out of the ship, his hand on his Engun.

"Yes. The home of Seta's new Tren." his partner confirmed, advancing toward the farmhouse. "Reports say that the only people inside are a blind woman and four children. Two male, two female."

"What are our orders?"

"The woman's blindness is accidental, not genetic. So she can be used. She's older than we'd like, but young enough to produce at least once. The girls are to be taken alive. The boys are to be killed. A personal message to the little Tren to be careful who he chooses to name his enemy."

Shan yawned and opened his eyes, and thought it he was still dreaming.

A young woman was standing over him, smiling. Shan gasped in delight.

Aside from teaching his offspring his religion, Wufei had also stocked up on a large selection of children's books containing stories of Chinese myths and legends. Being that his children were still toddlers, most of the books had pictures, and Shan immediately recognized the woman. Or thought he did.

"Mulan!" He said in delight. He shook his sister awake. "Meishel! Mulan!" He pointed at the girl, who was laughing now.

"Close enough." She shrugged, as Meishel clapped her hands. She watched the other two children stir awake and look at her in amazement.

"Denea. Denea, awaken!" She ordered.

"Huh?" Denea sat up. "What?"

"I'm a friend of Wufei's. You have to get out of here! Take the kids and run. Up the stairs and across the field. Now!"

Footsteps were approaching. "Hurry." The girl urged. "They're here to kill Shan and Luke!"

Luke began to sob.

Denea sprang into action. Scooping up the twins, she let the girl guide her to the outside stairs. Rosie ran behind, holding Luke's hand. He might be a pain in the neck at times, but no one was killing HER little brother!

They raced up the steps and through the door, and Denea felt the air on her face. The twins were crying in fear and she stopped in confusion.

"RUN DENEA!" The girl ordered. "I'll hold them off. GO!"

The woman stumbled once but regained her feet quickly. She traveled by instinct alone, driven by the need to protect her own children and the ones in her care.

She felt another hand take hers. "Keep moving." A male voice ordered. "Run fast. I'll help you."

"Who...are you?"

Meishel could see the pretty man through her tears, and she immediately felt safe. "He's Baba's friend." She told her mother.

"How many friends does... my...maclen have?" She gasped, feeling the grass tickling her legs.

"Hopefully enough." The man said grimly.

The ground shook under them and Luke fell. Rosie yanked him to his feet. "Come on, Luke. You can't stop."

But in his fall the boy had noticed something. "Rosie!" He pointed. "FIRE!"

One of the battle explosions had ignited the edge of the fields. Rosie watched in horror as Jazz's beloved vegetables shot up in flames. Tears of rage made her eyes water, thinking about how hard her foster brother had worked.

"I smell smoke." Denea gasped.

"The fields are burning!" The man yelled over battle noises above them. "RUN! You have to reach the lake before the flames reach you!"

The lake. How far was the lake? It didn't matter.

Denea took another shuddering breath, and began to run faster.

On to part twenty-three. Back to part twenty-one.