Can one little green Dragon cause that much disruption on an aircraft carrier?
Franklin was unaware of the disappearance of his brother and his family while performing in Russo-China, until Dane's squad of Dragon Marines rescues one of them from the Voldai.
Explosives, smuggling, kidnapping and security for a meeting of the World's leaders. The USS Requiem's sailors and Dragon Marine squadrons are dealing with all of this while watching out for a small, green Dragon.
Dane and Franklin find themselves in a new family situation. Caring for their niece brings them closer together. But, you can't keep a three-year-old on an aircraft carrier. Can her parents be found?
Aboard the USS Requiem
"Zero Squadron is coming in, sir. They are using the distress signal," Commander Abraham Saws reported. He walked closer to the starboard observation window. Brief flashes of dragon fire could be seen.
It was almost five years since Franklin and Dane had met on the USS Ronald Reagan. Four years since their mating ceremony. They had been stationed on separate ships for the past three plus years. The current assignments had put them on the same ship for the past month.
Many of their leaves had been together, but one or two weeks together was not enough. The first six months of their marriage had been spent together and it had taken quite a while to get used to being on separate ships, leagues apart.
Captain Franklin Delano Drake-Michaels looked up from the main computer console. "Damn. Can you see them, Mr. Saws?"
The commander switched his binoculars to the next zoom level. "Yes, sir. It looks like they are carrying one and another is being surrounded." This formation was used when someone was being guarded or too stubborn to ask for help in flying.
Captain Drake-Michaels reached for the intercom mike. "Prepare the flight deck for incoming patrol. Medical personnel to the flight deck. Medical personnel to the flight deck, immediately."
Within moments, sailors were making sure the flight deck was clear of anything that would interfere with the landing of the Dragon Marines Squadron.
Medical personnel began swarming the covered entrances to the deck. After the landings, they would come rushing out of the protected areas.
"Commander, can you tell which of our Marines is injured?" He tried not to sound as anxious as he felt. Was it Dane, his mate?
"The one they are carrying is Tuft. I can't tell who the other one is, sir. That group is too far back to tell." He lowered the binoculars. "I wonder what happened to the comm links they were testing?"
"They were not working for most of this mission." The captain turned to the communications officer on duty. "Mr. Landers."
"Try the comm links for Squadron Zero again. Find out what happened."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Landers turned back to his control panel.
Franklin grabbed another pair of binoculars and joined his second in command at the starboard glass. They could see a few dark spots against the clouds. The spots weren't close enough to tell who they were to the naked eye or a normal pair of binoculars.
The captain upped the zoom on his glasses and focused on Squadron Zero.
Ten very large flying dragons came into focus. They could see the closer group of two dragons carrying a slightly smaller one. Tuft was still, but his tail was moving.
Franklin focused on the other group of dragons. Six of them hovering around another. As they flew closer, he could see what appeared to be minor wounds on most of them. The mission had lasted for seven days. Longer than the five days it had been expected to take.
Where was Dane? Franklin's heart stuttered as he was able to see the individual dragons. Dane flew in the middle. Franklin couldn't make out any damage. Wait. What the Hell?
"Mr. Saws, does it appear to you that the Dragon in the middle of the swarm is carrying something?" Franklin could not believe his eyes.
The captain could hear the commander swallow. "Sir, I think it looks like a baby. A baby dragon."
That's what he thought too. What has my mate done? Franklin wondered.
"Sir! Major Drake's comm link is partially operative. I'm only getting a word here and there. He does not appear to be receiving my transmissions," Landers reported.
"Damn. Try one more time, Landers. They'll be landing in less than five minutes." Franklin directed.
"Ms. Crawley, sound the clear landing."
The distinct siren filled the air. The landing crew began running out specialized landing pads. Injured dragons would drop onto the helium filled pads, which then deflated to lower them to the deck. The two carrying Tuft would carefully lower him onto one.
The forward half of the deck was left clear for the uninjured dragons. The carrier, USS Requiem, was big enough for twenty dragons to land at once. It was the largest in the fleet, and had four squadrons of Dragon Marines.
"I'm getting more from Major Drake's comm, Sir. He's asking Commander Llewellyn to be on deck for the landing."
"Thank you Mr. Landers." Franklin picked up the intercom mike. "Commander Llewellyn to the landing deck. Commander Llewellyn to the landing deck immediately." Carla Llewellyn was the only female Dragon officer on board. Most female Dragon shifters stayed well protected at their family enclaves.
The squadron was approaching fast. The pair of dragons holding Tuft gently lowered him onto a helium pad. Then they landed and moved towards the covered areas. You could see the light wave as the fighters morphed into their human shapes.
Jacob Chulko was met by his mate, Freddy Bishop. Thompson Rund by his mate, Miracle Mead.
The landing pad holding Tuft deflated. Dr. Nick Pietro was the first to reach him. If needed, the doctor would transform into a dragon, either to move Tuft or to communicate. Sometimes hurt dragons couldn't speak or understand English, as it was their second language.
The second part of the squadron came in to land. Three of the dragons landed, then Dane, holding the baby dragon. The other three dragons flew up into the air again.
The captain and commander watched them. "Looks like they want to make sure they weren't followed." Saws observed. They both looked down at the landing area.
The dragons had transformed into their human forms, wearing the black leather garments of the Dragon Marines. Tuft was in good hands with the medical crew, moving with some help to the elevators leading to sick bay.
Dane was still in dragon form, holding the baby dragon. Commander Llewellyn was slowly approaching them. The baby dragon looked at the approaching Marine with a puzzled look on its face. From the baby's size, it may have only been two or three years old.
"Major Drake is requesting your presence on the landing deck, sir." The communications officer answered.
"Mr. Saws, the helm is yours." Franklin ordered as he left the ship's bridge.
"Aye, Aye, sir!"
As the captain exited the elevator onto the landing deck, he could see Dane holding the baby dragon. As he approached, the baby seemed to burp. Dane quickly pointed the little dragon toward the sky, away from Commander Llewellyn. Flames came out of that small dragon mouth.
Oh, Lord. A fire dragon. Franklin thought as he approached the three dragons.
Llewellyn looked startled then started to laugh. Her personal guard backed to his normal position. "That brings back memories. My niece used to do the same thing when she was that young." Carla held her hand out toward the youngster and spoke in Chumb, their native language. "What's your name, sweetheart? I'm Carla." They waited for an answer.
Lots of strange people and a strange place. Young dragons were usually kept in their clan caves, surrounded by family, until they learned to shift and to fly. Franklin was not even sure she knew English.
The little one looked Carla over, then turned to Dane. He gave a toothy dragon smile and said, "You're among friends here. We only want to take care of you and do what's right." Dane spoke in Chumb, the language all dragons grew up talking.
In dragon form, Dane's voice came out as a rumbling growl. It always sent shivers down Franklin's spine.
"My name Peggy," the little one said. She did know English.
"Peggy? That's a nice name," Carla replied in Chumb. She gently stroked the dragonette's cheek.
The little one leaned against Dane. "Peggy Michaels. I's three."
Michaels? Part of Franklin's family? Franklin could not help wondering. Could she be my brother Bay's child?
The dragonette peeked at Franklin as he stopped next to his mate. The captain stared. "Peggy, do you know your father's name?"
"Daddy," the little one said.
"Of course." Franklin and Carla smiled.
"Peggy, this is Captain Franklin Drake-Michaels," Dane said. "He's my mate. You can trust him." He turned that dragon smile on Franklin. Peggy looked at him again. If she trusted Dane, then she would trust Franklin because he was the dragon's mate. It was that way with most dragon clans.
Franklin smiled back at him, then turned to the dragonette. "Peggy, welcome on board. I hope we can become good friends." He also spoke in Chumb.
Peggy smiled then hid her face in Dane's neck. She was a beautiful dark green, with petite, light green wings. Franklin had never seen a dragon with her coloring.
Most of the dragons in Marine squadrons were shades of blue, gray, dark green and black to blend in with the skyline. The Naval dragons on board were all different colors, but none were totally green. When the ship docked in port, they would fly off in convoys to stretch their wings and do some aerial acrobatics. It was quite a sight to see. Dragons in all the colors of the rainbow flying around in the sunlight or moonlight.
"I don't believe anyone is assigned to Taylor's former room. Do you think Peggy could sleep there?" Dane was looking at Carla, but his mate could tell the question was for everyone. The room he suggested had been outfitted for a fire dragon that served on the ship for the past three years. It was fireproof with special ventilation for smoke clouds.
"You stay." Peggy looked up at Dane with big watchful eyes.
Dane looked at the captain. If he had been in human form, that left eyebrow of his would be lifted in question. "Peggy, if you want, Franklin and I can stay in the same room with you. But the room is small sized and I would have to shift first."
Not the homecoming welcome Franklin had hoped for with his mate. But, needs must. "That would be fine. My mate and I would gladly stay with you." Franklin ran a hand along the little dragon's left shoulder.
Peggy leaned away from Dane and held her paws out to Franklin. He put his hands around her middle and pulled her to his chest. Her wings were pulled in close to her body. He knew they were more easily damaged with younger dragons, and was trying to be careful. Up close, her eyes were the same chocolate brown as Bay's eyes. He knew at that moment, he was looking at his niece.
"Her eyes look like your brother's." Dane had transformed into his human body. The large black and cobalt blue dragon was now a six foot four inch black haired, blue eyed, muscular man. He smiled that slightly crooked smile reserved for the people he cared for. The foursome started toward the elevators under the canopy. Carla's guard followed.
As the doors opened, Peggy stiffened in the captain's arms and hugged his neck. "It's all right, sweetie. This is just like a little cave that moves."
She stared at the metal box. "Moves? Why?"
Carla stepped into the opening. "This is called an elevator. It moves up and down to take us to different levels of the ship."
"Fly. Why go box?" She looked as puzzled as a dragon can.
"Good question. There are no openings to fly into. No caves," Dane explained, going further into the elevator. "So, we use the moving box."
Franklin followed Dane into the elevator. Peggy hid her head in his shoulder and whimpered as the elevator started. "Shh. Everything is fine, sweetie. We'll be out of here very soon."
The doors opened to a plain green hallway. Franklin could feel the tension leave Peggy's small body.
Two ranking Marine officers, the Marine Expeditionary Unit leader and another squadron leader, were waiting for Dane. They looked at the dragonette in surprise.
"Colonel Pennsic. Lieutenant Colonel Hunnicut. May I introduce Peggy Michaels?" Dane made the introduction in Chumb. Both officers turned to Franklin.
"Hello, little one," the colonel said in Chumb.
"A relative, Captain?" Hunnicut inquired in English.
"I know my brother and his mate have a young daughter, I believe this is her. They are, umm," Franklin glanced at the green dragonette in his arms, "performing in one of the nearby countries." He watched as the Marine officers realized he meant the parents were in Russo-China among the enemy.
Pennsic nodded. "I believe we will have the debriefing tomorrow at zero eight hundred." He had switched to English also.
"Thank you Colonel." Dane replied. "That would allow Tuft to join us."
"How badly wou--" The lieutenant colonel looked at the baby dragon. "--hurt was Tuft?"
"Just a little cut. Nothing much," Dane assured them.
Peggy stretched against Franklin and yawned. He was fascinated by the small sharp teeth and long black tongue. Black tongue? Franklin had never seen a dragon with a black tongue. The Dragos he knew had tongues in the red spectrum. All shades, but definitely of a red hue. He looked at the men surrounding him.
"Did I see a black tongue?" Dane also looked very surprised.
Colonel Pennsic noticed the looks on their faces and smiled. "Never saw a black tongue before?"
"No, Sir," Dane replied. "Is she well?" He stepped closer to Franklin and Peggy.
Carla was also concerned. "What does a black tongue mean?" She voiced their concerns.
Both Pennsic and Hunnicut looked around the corridor. It was empty except for the six adults and one dragonette. "It means the child is not a one form shifter. She has the ability to shift into two different shapes." He nodded toward the dragonette. "I wouldn't let this get out."
Dane, Carla and Franklin exchanged worried glances. They looked at the green baby dragon.
"Two forms? At this age?" Dane lowered his voice.
"Not usually at this young stage. When she starts morphing into human form, she'll also begin morphing into the other shape." Hunnicut held up his hand as he saw the others opening their mouths. "No, I don't know what shape. You will have to wait till she is older."
"Thank you, sir. That is something I was unaware of being true. Just thought it was a legend." Dane also looked around the corridor.
Carla shook her head. "I've never heard of it at all. I may have to ask my father what he knows."
"Yes. I'll ask my father, also." Dane looked at the officers. "Thank you for waiting until tomorrow for the debriefing. My men and I appreciate it. All necessary issues are being reported to security as we speak."
"My assistant, Lieutenant Mead is handling it until I return," Carla inserted.
"The information you have is very important, but the safety of the young one is equally important. Good night." The Marine officers headed to their quarters down the corridor.
Dane looked at Franklin. "Are you planning to call your father?"
"In the morning. He's still on leave and it's after midnight on the east coast." Peggy started to wiggle in her sleep.
The five of them turned toward the officer's quarters. Arriving at the specially designed room, Dane opened the door. The room was very stark. The dark gray fireproof coating seemed to drain the light from the room.
"How did Taylor stand this for the voyages?" Franklin wondered. He knew about the special paint, but hadn't realized how bad it really was. He resolved to look into the possibility of another way to do this.
"He spent most of his time on deck or in the mess. Most adult fire dragons don't need this, but you know regulations." Carla looked around. "Vince did have some family photos on the walls. It helped. Some."
Peggy was still dozing on Franklin's shoulder. He turned questioning eyes to Commander Llewellyn. "Will she be safe on the rack?" Franklin almost whispered. "Do we need to block her in?" The sleeping habits of baby dragons were not part of Naval officer training.
"She'll be just fine. Which one of you is going to snuggle with her?" Llewellyn had a mischievous look on her face.
"Snuggle?" Franklin turned puzzled eyes from her to Dane.
"All dragonettes snuggle with someone while they sleep. For protection, warmth and emotional support." The captain's mate explained, "Usually until the little one is three or four years old. From the way she's draped over you, I would say she still needs to be snuggled." He had the sweetest smile on his face. "You're going to be a wonderful father someday."
The captain actually blushed.
Carla Llewellyn grinned. "I think someday may be now. I'll leave the three of you to a nice afternoon's nap." She turned to the hatchway. "Page me on the intercom if you need me." She pulled the hatch shut behind her.
Franklin looked at Dane, who looked right back. "Okay, now what?"
"Kick off your shoes and climb in the rack." Dane was pulling back the blanket. "We won't need this. Peggy will be quite warm enough."
"And you're just like a furnace, yourself. I should be warm between the two of you." The captain was rocking back and forth with the baby in his arms. It felt comfortable. He always saw the women in the family doing the same thing when they held babies. Now he knew why. It felt right. Peaceful. Soothing.
Franklin adjusted Peggy as he sat on the rack, kicked off his shoes and opened his belt. "How do you want to do this, Dane?" He pulled his uniform shirt out of his waistband, one side at a time, as he held Peggy to his chest with the other arm.
"Put her against the wall. Most dragonettes are sheltered deep in the caves with the adult dragons closer to the entrance." Dane leaned over to pull off Franklin's belt and hung it on the footboard. He shrugged off his leather vest and tossed it toward the chair.
Franklin leaned back and placed Peggy on the rack, sliding both of them toward the wall. He made sure her wings did not drag on the covers or mattress.
After Peggy was settled, Franklin took off his shirt and handed it to Dane. He loosened his pants and lay next to the little dragonette.
Dane folded his mate's shirt and placed it next to his vest. He sat down to unlace and take off his boots, then slipped into the bunk next to Franklin. He wrapped his arms around Franklin's waist and pulled his mate into the curves of his body.
It's great to feel his hard body next to mine again. But the baby made it all feel so surreal.
Dane kissed the back of his mate's neck. "I missed you. Six nights away is too long, now we are finally on the same ship again."
Franklin turned his head and caught Dane's lips in a brief kiss. "Not the way I had the night you returned planned. Soon," he promised.
"I'll hold you to that, mate."
The little dragonette stretched, turned to Franklin and rested her head on his shoulder. Dane tightened his arms. "You look beautiful together," he murmured.
"She's beautiful," Franklin agreed.
"Yes. But to me, you are part of the beauty. My mate." Dane was using that dragon grumble that made Franklin think of their love-making.
Franklin turned his head and caught Dane's mouth for another kiss. A warm, soft kiss full of promise. "Sleep, mate. We will have to get up soon enough."