Chap. 277 Air Show
“Good morning, Raylan!” he said, passing the Science Division Chief.
“And to you, too, K’ndar. What’s on your slate this morning?”
“I was thinking I’d just work in my office this morning. I’ve been putting off finishing copying my field notes to turn into Elene. Unless, of course, you have something in mind? Am I to go somewhere? Transport, some sort of duty?”
Raylan shook his head. “For the moment, there’s nothing, although, I think that the Council is going to recommend another survey, primarily those encompassing Lord Dorn’s Hold and, ugh, Lord Toric’s. The former is, as you know, a very fair man, honest, and is unsure of his borders now. The latter-well, you know Toric.”
“Not personally, sir, and I have no desire to ever meet him face to face. But I bet my boots he’s been encroaching on what are now ‘dragonrider lands’.
“I’ll keep you informed. I don’t know if Lord D’nis will be able to go. Being a councilman keeps him busy. But if they decide they want it done, I’m sure you’d be interested?”
“You bet!! Who’d be in charge?”
“You’ve done, what, at least two, with D’nis as your leader? Can you think of someone who’d be better?”
“Well…” Doubt assailed him. “Honestly, yes.”
“You’ve got to step up to the mounting block one of these days, K’ndar. May as well be this time. The benefit is, of course, you get to pick your team.”
“Oh.” His mind started speeding. There were 6 dragonriders available at Landing, down from 8. T’balt, Northern’s Council dragonrider was just as busy as D’nis. Leana and her green? Well, no. She’s Acquisition Chief. G’aryk, her husband-he wasn’t quite sure what G’aryk did for a living. There’d been two other dragons, the brown dragonrider who’d helped him capture a smanda was gone, and the twit D’arad on his blue, as well. That left Francie. And me, he thought.
I’d love to have D’mitran, but would Lord Dorn release him for six weeks? Maybe more?
We could do it, me and Careth Raventh said.
No doubt. But until I find out more of what is desired, for now it’s merely conjecture.
What is ‘conjecture’?
It means to guess, which means I don’t know until I have more information.
Raylan could see him talking to Raventh. “I can hear you thinking, K’ndar, that’s good. There’s no rush, right now it’s just in the talking stages. I’ll let you know.”
K’ndar nodded, his mind whirling. He entered his office and Siskin flew up to his regular shelf. Okay, what shall I do with myself. What’s this tank doing here?
Oh yes. The dead teeko lizard. I put it in this tank.
It took him a moment to realize the tank was empty. He rummaged around in the leaves he’d put in it. Nope. No lizard.
For a moment he wondered if something had eaten it. No. that’s not possible. The teeko lizard feigned death! And I neglected to put a screen top on the tank. So it’s loose. Here. Or…somewhere else?
He slapped his head in frustration at his stupidity.
Dread filled him. The two teeko lizards that had stowed away in his backpack had turned into at least ten. Are they hatched pregnant? Do they reproduce asexually? Or retain sperm for a lifetime? And now the one I brought in is…In This Building. Where there are hundreds of hiding places, and what happens when someone figures out I brought it in…
“Siskin. The teeko lizard. Hunt? Find it. Find it, lad. It might be in here.”
Siskin chipped and happily began to methodically sweep the office. It didn’t take long. He came up empty.
K’ndar sunk his head in his hands. I am so screwed, he thought.
He began to sweat. I promise, oh, I promise, if I can get out of this, I will NEVER bring in another creature without making sure it can’t escape. But what did I know? I never heard of an animal feigning death. I was negligent, arggh!!
Okay, K’ndar. The right thing to do is to admit you made a mistake, let everyone know it, what to look for, and who to blame. Me.
Resigned, he sat down with his datalink. I’ll have to alert the building that there’s a lizard in it, somewhere. He managed to find the picture he’d taken of it, and added it to the letter. “The lizard is virtually transparent,” he wrote,“with only the head being solid brown in color. It climbs vertical surfaces with ease. It sings, ‘teekoteekoteeko’. And it feigns being dead.”
He hit send.
Then he sat down and forced himself to copy his scribbles into something neat and legible into a new notebook for Elene’s Library. Half of his mind was waiting for a response. Even so, after a while, he’d forgotten, being involved in reproducing his sketches, improving here, reducing there.
He felt his dismay ebb. No one had responded. Maybe, could something have eaten it, after all?
“There. All done,” he said, satisfied. I won’t let it go so long next time. He looked at the time. It was almost the noon hour. Dragon time!
Good. I want to go flying. So does Corvuth. He says he doesn’t get enough flying in.
I do, too. He needs the exercise, I bet. I’ll turn these into the Library, get something to eat and then we’ll put some kilometers on your wings.
He called the lights to go off. Siskin dropped from his perch onto his shoulder, knowing lights out meant quitting time. The door whooshed open and he heard
It was still here! he thought, relief flooding his mind. But where? WHERE IS IT?
“Siskin, find the teeko lizard. It’s in here somewhere!”
The blue fire lizard swirled around the room, without success.
Doesn’t it have a scent? he asked Raventh. After all, that shaffing musk lizard had anointed him to the point where he’d had to discard a shirt.
I haven’t smelled it. Siskin says no.
Siskin might not have been able to smell it, but he had excellent hearing. He dashed to the dung beetle’s tank.
He hears it. It is in the clear box.
Siskin hovered over the tank, chittering.
“GOOD LAD!” he said. Siskin landed on the tabletop next to the tank.
There it was. It was climbing the wall of the tank. This close, he could see something of its innards. A beating heart-and eggs. It was female, and pregnant.
Siskin lunged, headfirst into the side of the plexiglas tank. Hissing, he backed off. The lizard dropped from the side and scuttled underneath the leaves. He noticed something else in the leaf litter. Oh. A carapace and two wing covers were all that remained from the lizards dung beetle dinner.
“Bloody thing! You ate my dung beetle!” he shouted. He snatched up the mesh tank cover and fit it snugly atop the dung beetle’s tank. Despite it not having a lid, the beetle hadn’t bothered to try and escape.
His heart slowed. The dung beetle, by being eaten, had saved him a lot of grief. He sat down with the datalink and typed out ‘false alarm, lizard is secured”.
Was it? Could the lizard get out of the tank, even with a tight fitting lid?
As if hearing his thoughts, his datalink pinged.
“K’ndar here,” he said. Raylan said, “Before you quit for the day, bring that thing here to the Lab. Everyone wants to look at it.”
“Yes, sir, it’s in a tank, I don’t know if it can get through the mesh lid.”
“Don’t worry. If it’s like most reptiles, it’s exothermic. I’ll put it in the refrigerator, that ought to keep it still.”
He stuffed the notebooks into his backpack, picked up the small tank and headed for Raylan’s office.
D’nis and Corvuth were in the dragon meadow. So was every other dragon at Landing. Even Leana had managed to drag herself away from her job as Acquisition Chief.
He gave a respectful nod to T’balt and D’nis. “My lords, good afternoon. What is going on?”
Francie grinned. “We’ve been waiting on you, K’ndar.”
“Have I…have I screwed up again, forgotten something? I read my datalink!”
“We know. We heard about your lizard. Is it somewhere where it can’t escape again?” G’aryk, Leana’s weyrmate, asked. Why am I just a little bit scared of you, G’aryk? From everything I know about you, you’re a good man.
“Yes, sir, it’s in the lab’s refrigerator. It’s pregnant, I was so scared it was going to fill Landing with lizards.”
“Let’s hope not. I remember Kahrain Weyr being inundated with fire lizards,” Francie laughed.
K’ndar grinned. “Lindea thought she’d never live that down.” Then he realized everyone was mounted save for him.
“Why is everyone here, waiting on me?”
D’nis laughed. “What we’re about to do, K’ndar, is fly some drills.”
“Drills? Like in formations? Thread fighting?”
“Aye,” T’balt said, “Both our bronzes are getting cricks in their wings from doing nothing. A good hour or so of solid drills should warm them up.”
“I’m happy to be part of it, sir,” he said, “Where am I in the formation?”
“Typical formation, K’ndar. Browns are usually wingleaders, so you’ll be left wing, Francie behind you, you’ll be behind D’nis. I’ll be right wing, G’aryk is wingleader and Leana behind him. I know, six dragons don’t make a very big formation but…it’s what we’ve got.”
K’ndar grinned. “I finally get promoted!”
I needed that Raventh said.
The green dragons had already landed and made room for the rest. Now he and G’aryk, separated by several wing lengths, were spiraling in. T’balt and D’nis, being bronze riding Weyrleaders, as had been the case for thousands of years, were waiting on high until the entire formation had landed and made room.
K’ndar noticed a small crowd of people standing in the shade of their quarters. Many had cameras. What were they doing?
That was fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve flown that hard for that long. None of us had to think. All of us, we made a great team, everyone knowing what to do. I used to hate flying in formation but when we do without having to fight thread, it’s fun he said.
And no firestone. That made it even better Raventh said. His eyes rolled a happy blue.
They landed with Raventh’s typical grace. He waddled to the left, and G’aryk’s brown to the right, making way for the much larger bronzes. K’ndar dismounted. Siskin chortled. He’d enjoyed it, too.
Their audience began to clap and cheer. What in the world?
“Whoa, that was incredible!”
“When can we see that again?”
“I forgot how impressive a formation of fighting dragons looks!”
K’ndar unharnessed Raventh. The brown dragon immediately headed for the dragon trough. Motanith, Francie’s green was muzzle deep, drinking her fill. Raventh stopped a few lengths behind her, waiting his turn. Finally she raised a dripping muzzle.
“There’s about half a trough left, K’ndar,” Francie called. “Want me to refill it?”
“Thanks, Francie, I can do it,” he called back. She smiled and turned to head for her quarters, right next door. He could see Raylan standing by the green’s bay door, arms crossed, a big smile on his face.
Several people approached but stayed several meters from them. He recognized some of them, but most were strangers.
Some of them are afraid of me
They don’t know dragons, I guess
The brown plunged his head into the trough.
“He’s so big,” one person said, “This is the closest I’ve ever been to a dragon.”
“Actually, he’s considered small, for a brown. But I don’t mind, he’s the best dragon on Pern,” he said, patting Raventh’s neck.
Yup. At the rate Raventh was drinking, the trough would be empty by time it was Corvuth’s turn. The bronze, D’nis still aboard, waited his turn patiently.
He turned on the hydrant, watching the drops splash off Raventh’s hide. The dragon finished, and skirted the trough to approach their quarters. The watchers nervously backed away.
As soon as there was enough water in the trough to allow him to drink, Corvuth began to drink. The hydrant could barely keep up.
Corvuth says ‘thank you.’
Tell him I said, ‘my pleasure’.
K’ndar felt an odd sense of detachment, with all these groundpounders watching. They seemed to regard him as something unusual, almost as if he were not a Pernese at all, but something…different.
D’nis patted his bronze’s neck. “We needed that,” he said.
“That’s what Raventh said. So, for that matter, did I. I’d forgotten how automatic it has all become. I’m HAPPY it was automatic!!”
Once Raventh was out of the way, several people came up. K’ndar noted two wore Hold badges. He didn’t recognize them. So the audience wasn’t all just Landing folk.
“What a beautiful show, Lord D’nis!! You know, I’d forgotten just how amazing it is to see all these dragons, flying as a team. Your dragons, swooping and diving, shooting straight up! Just a whistle from the leaders, you all knew just what to do, as if you were all tied together! Tack right! Stoop left! No one needed to be told what to do, you just did it! What perfection! It’s a talent, right? Like Impression, it just comes to you, like being a born dancer, right?” said one.
“No, it’s the dragon, the dragon knows how, my lord?” said his companion.
K’ndar couldn’t believe it, wondering it they were being condescending. Then he realized, the men were serious. They had no idea.
D’nis looked amazed for a moment, then said, “Not at all. It’s not talent. It’s a year and half of training for both rider and dragon, then using those skills, to survive flaming thread, three or four days at a time, with a three day break. It’s not talent. It’s drilling for months until it becomes instinctive, and it’s hard work.”
“A year and a half! That’s incredible. You make it look so easy. Thank you, my lord, and you, brown rider. Oh, and please pass on my regards to the lasses riding greens. Thank you.”
They were joined by several others as they walked off. One of them made swooping motions with her hands as she relived what she’d witnessed.
K’ndar was gobsmacked. “He was serious.”
“Aye,” D’nis said. “How soon they forget, what?”