Here There Be Dragons
by Lasha Lee

I'm not very good at this.

Being patient, I mean. It's just not my thing. I see things going wrong, I want to help fix them. I see people behaving like dopes, and I want to be able to give them a good smack on the head. And I can't do any of that.

"You will." The others here tell me, and they give me these smiles that I absolutely cannot stand. Patient, knowing, condescending. "You'll have your chance. You just need to wait."

But it isn't easy, keeping an eye on people like them!

She doesn't exasperate me as much. She has some common sense about her, even if she doesn't always use it. I've watched her for a long, long time now. I was watching her when she was a baby. Him too. I watched them learn to walk, learn to talk. It was fun. I knew that they would be okay because they were small enough to lock up if they started to get any funny ideas.

But they were easier to keep an eye on when they were stars apart. It was when they got together that I smelled trouble. Which is ironic. One would think that I would have danced for joy on the day they finally met. And I'll admit it was, on a personal level, very reassuring. Believe me, I have a very vested interested in those two getting along.

But if they were trouble-makers apart, they were even worse when they hooked up. I blame him for most of it. Oh, not that she can't get some wild ideas, but you know that little voice that says "NO! DON'T!"? Well, she does listen to hers on occasion. He tells his to leave a message at the "take a hike."

I can say a lot of it is because of Duo. Not all of it, though. People think that they're a lot of alike, and they are, but not exactly alike. I wonder how many other people can see the differences. Jazz has seen the dragons. He's stood toe to toe with them, and smelled the rancid breath, and stared them in the eye, but it was Duo who was swallowed by them. He came out the other side, as wretched as that sounds, and the taint was never completely washed away. Jazz is just now starting to understand that; the cocoon that Duo wove around him is unraveling, and he's feeling the cold air for the first time. And he doesn't like it. He'd like nothing more than to hunker down in the warm little shell and let life go on it's merry way but once shattered, the walls can never be reestablished.

For better or for worse, the cocoon has hatched. And the creature crawling out is testing his damp wings.

And no, he couldn't test them somewhere safe. Not Jazz Maxwell, son of the legendary Shinigami. He had to break free surrounded by a lot of people who want to see him mounted and stuffed. And of course, she's right next to him encouraging this.

And Duo and Heero are headed this way ready to vent some fury on the Wronith. And I think that if Jazz knew this, he would be a lot more afraid of his parents getting his hands on him than the enemy. Duo is madder than I've ever seen him. Not screaming, yelling mad. The calm kind of mad. The kind that might lead a man to coldly proclaim "I have no son."

Well, now I'm being overdramatic. I'm not sure that Jazz deliberately extinguishing the sun and destroying all of known creation could make Duo mad enough to disown him. But you get my point. The kid is dead.

When the alarms started going off, Jazz suggested that they run. I supported that. I thought they should run right back up the ladder, into the plane, and fly back to Seta as fast as they could.

But not them. Of course not. If I had a heart, they'd have given me a heart attack long before now. No, those morons run toward the Wronith like they're in some demented spaghetti western, chasing down the James brothers. (Hey, I've got a lot of time to kill here. I've developed a taste for old movies. And there are worse things to be addicted to than John Wayne.)

Let me try and describe the Wronith ship so that you get an idea of what it looks like. It round, and four levels tall. It's open in the middle, kind of like a donut. The bottom of the first level is where the planes land. The other three levels form rings around the center opening.

Wroni is a long, long way from Dera and Seta. So long that trips back and forth still take years, even with new technology. So the ship has become sort of a planet in itself. People grow old here; children are born and they attend classes on the third level. All of these are children born of captive Setan women. Each woman is kept alive long enough to produce three offspring. After that, she is put to death. Too many children of the same parent, you see, increases the chance of children possibly mating with siblings. And if a captive woman is no longer needed to bear children, then there is no need to keep her alive. At least, as far as the Wronith are concerned.

Charming, aren't they?

None of the previous captives are still alive. Six were terminated over a year ago, one died in childbirth, and another was killed when it was discovered that she was sterile. I won't go into details on how she was killed; she was defiant to the very end, and they hated her. They were happy for a chance to end her life. Just before she died, she reared back and spit in the face of the one closest to her.

She would like nothing better than to see this place blown to smithereens, but not if the children would die. "Those kids, a lot of them, have family on Seta. Families who have been grieving a long time now for the daughters they lost. Sure, some of those families would turn away from them, refuse to acknowledge them, hate them for even existing. But others would accept them with open arms. That's my goal. I can rest then, when that happens. When the children of Seta get to go home again." She doesn't say much about the adult Wronith; many of them are the result of abductions as well. I think she understand that their conditioning is too great to be overcome; that they would only bring more heartache and grief if they ever tried to find their mother's relatives. The oldest of the current batch of kids is nine. The youngest is five. There are eleven of them. None of them know the truth. They will not know until they are old enough to view the Setans with the contempt their fathers do. Until the human part of them is so diluted and weak that they will themselves take their Setan cousins prisoner with no remorse.

I should also mention that only the boys remain on this ship. Women are still such a rarity on Wroni that no chances are taken with them. The girls are immediately transported back to the planet. Wronith women live only to give birth to more Wronith; they are taught that this is their sacred duty, and they live lives of luxury and splendor. Few complain about the way things are; unlike Setan women they are not put to death after bearing their third child. The Wronith do not kill their own.

Jazz and Linra know only about the recently abducted Setan girls; they have no idea that the children of the last harvest are still here. I certainly have no way of telling them. And even if I did, they have other things on their mind. Like staying alive.

The Wronith weren't expecting visitors. That didn't mean they were completely off guard. Seeing Jazz and Linra burst out of the tunnels had them scrambling for weapons.

Now I should mention a few more things.

The Wronith have some pretty nifty hand-held weapons. Stuff that can tear through a hull wall in a heartbeat. Which is exactly why they weren't using them. They were bright enough to know not to play ball in the house, so to speak.

The second reason was the fact that although Linra was wearing a mask, she was definitely a girl. And girls were a hot commodity here. They weren't going to blast a hole in her if they didn't have to.

That left them with weapons that could stun. Similar to the Deran/Setan neuralizers.

Jazz and Linra ran along the curved wall, dodging and exchanging fire as they moved. I kept expecting them to fall at any minute, but they weren't former hoverboard masters for nothing. They knew how to move quickly, although clueless as to where they were going.

Then Linra pulled Jazz into another tunnel and they ran down it like crazy, the Wronith remaining upright hot on their heels.

At the moment, they've managed to lose them. They're standing in a tiny, unused storage area, masks off, breathing hard, and they're both grinning. Then Jazz leans down and kisses Linra and she returns it.

No, I am not going to watch this. And this is hardly the time or place!

Maniacs. Both of them.

I'm doomed.

Between the perfect world and the bottom line
Keeping love alive in these troubles times
It's a miracle in itself
And we know too well what that's about
Still we made it through, only God knows how
We must've had a little help

"Are we going to die?" Linra asked, staring into Jazz's eyes. If so, that was the last thing she wanted to see. Those incredible eyes. The eyes she wanted so badly to see on her own children.

"Of course not." Jazz laughed quietly. "We've got good guardians, remember?"

They heard footsteps run past the storage space and glanced at each other, putting the helmets back on. "Come on. Let's go."

Wild Angels, Wild Angels
Watching over you and me
Wild Angels, Wild Angels
Baby what else could it be

They raced down the corridor, not knowing where they were going, but knowing they'd know it when they found it. As they rounded a corner, the were spotted by a group of startled Wronith, and the fighting began again. Holding tightly to Linra's hand, firing back over his shoulder, Jazz ran down another hallway, and toward a ladder leading upward.

Well it must've been hard, it must've been tough
Keeping up with crazy fools like us
'Cause it's so easy to fall apart
And we still break each other's heart sometimes
Spend some nights on the jagged side
Somehow we wake up in each other's arms

They climbed to the top of the ladder, gasping for air. "Now where?" Linra asked.

Jazz was looking around the room. "This computer controls some of the alarms. If we disable it maybe we can get past some of the guards."

Linra glanced at the machine. "Okay, how do we do that?"

Jazz gave her an evil smile. "We have a saying where I'm from. Kill two birds with one stone."

He faced the computer and Linra's jaw dropped to see him unzipping the front of the suit.


He positioned himself. "Hey, when you gotta go..."

Linra blushed and turned away. A second later there was a sound of electronic crackling, and a noise that sounded like a computer crying.

Linra turned around again after she heard the zipper close, struggling not to fall over laughing. "Maxwell, you are insane!"

"And you love it." He smirked. "Come on, babe. Let's see if it worked."

Wild Angels, Wild Angels
Watching over you and me
Wild Angels, Wild Angels
Baby what else could it be

"I cannot believe he did that." Hilde was covering her eyes, laughing hysterically.

"Come on. They're close to where the girls are."

"It would be easier if we could just show them."

"True, but you know how much energy that takes. Only when we don't have a choice."

"I know, I know."

"Duo and Heero just landed. And Duo is muttering about boarding schools in Siberia."

"Come on." Sheld urged. "They might need us. The Wronith aren't just going to let them walk away with those girls."

"Not just the girls." Hilde reminded her. "The kids..."

"Definitely." Sheld's eyes narrowed in anger. "No matter what, we have to let them know about the kids."

On to part twenty-six. Back to part twenty-four.