Dragons are another fascination in fantasy that has taken many forms. There are the intelligent dragons (D&D, Dragonheart and others) and the mostly beast dragons (Dragonslayer and my own dragons in Refuge). Intelligent dragons may be able to speak, indeed they may have the command of several tongues. They can be of just below normal to genius intelligence depending on their type. They might be of many colors depending upon the fantasy world, the colors denoting their powers and alignment or not. Or they can all be one color, and all either be evil or good. Not all have breath weapons, but those that do are considered much more dangerous than those that don’t. Breath weapons include fire (the most common), cold, electricity, acid and even poison gas. And some of the intelligent dragons can even use magic; casting spells like a human mage. One thing they all have in common is flight. I guess a dragon that couldn’t fly and had no breath weapon would be called a dinosaur. But some are configured with only hind legs and wings sprouting from where their arms would be, while others have arms and legs, and wings sprouting from their backs. The latter have the advantage of front claws, and the ability for limited climbing. Some live long lives of centuries, and some live for thousands of years. Some grow to a certain size and stop, while others keep on growing through the centuries until they achieve almost Japanese monster sizes (almost. Let’s not get carried away here).
I use dragons a lot in my Refuge series. Dragons of different colors and breath weapons. Some can use magic, at least in an innate form. Most are as intelligent as a very smart dog, while the brighter ones have the intelligence of a Chimpanzee. Not what you would call genius, but neither are they dumb animals. They can be contacted through the telepathy that many intelligent creatures on the planet use for some forms of communication. I don’t really make the dragons good or evil, but some of them, the reds and blues and some others, have very volatile and angry temperaments, and are the dragons of choice for evil and destructive people. Other beasts, the golds and silvers, have placid temperaments and are best for the good characters.
It would seem that dragons would be the ultimate flying weapon, but I tend to look at them as not quite as good as our fighting machines. They are not as fast as jet fighters, or even attack helicopters. Their breath weapon, though powerful, is in most cases only about twice as fast as the dragon themselves, and have no ability to track a moving target. While the missiles fired by aerial combat machines are very fast and very accurate, and can track a target trying to avoid them. And the guns of fighting machines have much greater range and velocity. Now Refuge answers the question, at least in my mind, of who would win in a battle of dragon and M1A2 Abrams tank or Comanche attack helicopter? You’ll just have to read the book to find out, but the excerpt below may provide a hint.
Warrant Officer One Jessica Stuart banked her Comanche gunship over the virgin forest, wondering again where she was. She didn’t recognize the terrain below. There were none of the endless villages of the German countryside, no autobahns, no urban centers. What there were was a collection of small farming villages with buildings of an unfamiliar design. They sort of looked like what she thought medieval European farming villages would have looked like. There were no vehicles but those pulled by horses, and the people were either on foot, in wagons or riding those equines. Castles adorned a few of the hills, looking very similar to castles she had seen in Germany, but with enough differences that she knew they were not German.
She saw some lines of mounted men wearing shining armor, which was a clear indication that she was not in Twenty-first Century Deutschland. A few had fired arrows at her chopper, that had fallen back to earth well clear of her ship. And once someone had thrown what looked like a ball of light at her that had streaked past her cockpit in a near miss. She had pulled away from those people and stayed well above the ground from then on.
“What the fuck is going on?” asked her copilot/electronics warfare officer, Second Lieutenant Burkes. “Where in the hell are we?”
“I don’t know, Frankie,” said Jessica, looking down on a field in which a couple of Leopard tanks and four Marder APCs were parked. She waggled the helicopter at the waving men in field gray uniforms. “We’re not alone, though. Wonder what division those Krauts are from.”
She pitched the helicopter over another ridge and looked down into the valley below. There were a bunch of people in civilian garb gathered by the stream in the middle of the valley. They motioned at the helicopter. She dropped lower and she could see people waving at her. A couple of Mercedes Jeeps came rolling down to the river and some German soldiers got out as people ran over to them.
“We’re definitely not alone,” she repeated. “Wherever we are.”
“I’ve got someone from division on the radio,” said Burkes. “They’re asking where we are.”
“Don’t know what to tell them,” said the Warrant Officer. “Unless they want to triangulate on our position.”
She thought back for a moment on the total terror of less than an hour ago. Her flight of gunships had been taking off from the aviation field of the U S 1st Armored Division moments after the alert had come through. She had just reached two thousand feet and was heading toward Poland when the weapon targeting the airfield went off with a bright flash.
Her ship was shielded from EMP, so except for a few sparks there were no system malfunctions. But the ship was tossed in the blast wave as the cockpit heated up from the nuclear fire. She started to scream and she knew that death had found her. And then the heat was gone and she was looking out on a pristine scene of snowcapped mountains in the distance.
Her ship was in good condition, not completely torn up from being so close to a blast. She had to wrestle it out of a spin for a few moments and then she was fine. One of the ships was not so lucky. It had spun close to the ground and smacked down, its rotor blade hitting the ground and shattering. At least the two crew climbed out. And the other two birds had sustained some superficial damage and set down next to the crash. Captain Jerkovich, the flight leader, had ordered her on a recon, while he saw to the repairs to the two mostly intact Comanche’s.
So here she was, on who knew what world, flashing through the sky. Looking over the landscape and the people and all the interesting sights.
“What the hell is that?” called out the officer.
She flashed a glance to the right and saw a quartet of objects low in the sky. She couldn’t tell how big they were, having no scale to compare them, but thought that they were probably big. One was much larger than the others, its wings flapping heavily through the air. And they were turning above something like a flock of vultures. As she watched a gout of flame came from the front end of one of the flying monsters, followed by bright flares from the other three.
“There be dragons here,” she said while she turned the chopper toward the far off creatures.
“Are you out of your mind?” asked Burkes, his voice cracking over the com. “You’re not going to get close to those things?”
“They have to be attacking something,” answered Jessica as she pushed the throttle forward. “And there are a lot of German civilians and military about. And maybe some Americans as well. We have to go see what they’re attacking and help out if it’s someone we need to care about.”
“OK,” said the officer in a firm voice. “I agree. But I have to admit it scares the hell out of me to go hunting dragons in the air.”
“Me too, sir,” said the Warrant Officer, cutting a little to the side as she headed toward the creatures. “But I didn’t train on this thing to hold back in fear when the shit hit the fan. Plus, what are we worrying about. We survived a damned nuke for Christ’s sake. What’s a bit of dragon fire?”
“Which target you going after first?” asked the Lieutenant, working the targeting systems. “My dad always told me to go after the biggest bastard first.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Stuart, pulling the chopper up a bit so she could get a look into the valley. “Let’s make sure these things are going after people first though. They might be making an attack on a herd of sheep, just to satisfy their hunger.”
“I doubt it,” said the officer, looking at the scene on the camera on high mag. “That looks like civilians trying to get away. Along with a couple of burning cars.”
“Crap,” said the Warrant Officer, turning her attention from the valley ahead to the flying monsters. They were much closer now, and she got a sense of scale as one of the smaller ones dipped into the valley and let loose a ball of flame. The minivan it targeted went up in a blast, and she estimated that the creature must have weighed at least fifteen tons. About the size of a medium dinosaur. Which made the big one it was now twisting around weigh between thirty and forty tons.
“How could something that big fly?” she asked, disbelief in her voice.
“Painting it with the laser,” said Burkes. “You’re clear to fire.”
One of the dragons started drifting their way as she lined up the copter on the largest one. They must have noticed us, she thought, and she wondered what they made of her. She could see that the beasts were of a deep red hue, with large horns sprouting from their long snouted heads. And she could make out the figures of riders on the backs of a couple of the beasts.
“They’re under intelligent control,” she yelled into the intercom as she hit the firing button, rippling off a pair of Hellfire missiles that sped unerringly toward the largest monster. The missiles were fire and forget, following the laser beam reflecting from the scales of the giant. But she still had to allow her copilot to keep the beam on the target, so she maneuvered out of reach to allow him to keep the target painted.
The Warrant Officer cursed under her breath as the missiles closed on the target. The giant beast coughed up a ball of fire that struck one of the missiles dead center. The weapon exploded in the hellish flames, scattering pieces across the sky. A few bits of shrapnel might have hit the chest of the beast, but they didn’t penetrate the thick scales if they did.
The second missile struck the monster, in a manner. The missile drove through the leathery membrane of the right wing, putting a sixty centimeter diameter hole into the wing that didn’t affect the monster in any noticeable manner. The beast continued to flap on, and it belched another fireball, this one aimed at the helicopter. Stuart hit the throttle and banked the Comanche, easily avoiding the, to her perception, slow moving ball of heat.
“Well,” she said over the intercom as she brought the copter back onto a level and headed toward one of the smaller beasts that was flying away from her, putting her ship on a parallel course. “I know better than to take them head on, at least.”
“What if this is just some kind of crazy hallucination?” asked Burkes as he checked his status board. “I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me. Multiton dragons flying through the air and breathing fire.”
“I’m sure the nuclear blast was real,” said Jessica, banking her copter and arming her chain gun. The smaller red, rider on its back peering down, was lining up to make another attack on the ground. She could make out several burning cars and a flaming bus down there, with a scattering of burning bodies around them. “This might be a hallucination. But it’s affecting both of us if it is. Or it might be Hell, and then we’re really in trouble. But I seem to have a multi-million dollar gunship under me. And I’m capable of fighting it. So I’m just going to do what the Army trained me to do and fight these fucking things that are threatening people I’m supposed to protect. Anything else that you would suggest, sir?”
“Not a thing,” said Burkes, as she juked the copter into line with the beast that was heading straight for a line of cars stuck in the field.
Did only people in vehicles come here?, she thought. There were a lot of cars in the open area. That didn’t mean that pedestrians weren’t carried here as well, but she couldn’t prove it.
Making sure the sighting pip on her helmet was centered on the man on the dragon’s back, she triggered the thirty millimeter cannon and sent a line of tracers into the beast. As she pulled the helicopter around the beast she kept the pip on it, allowing the gun to move in the nose turret. The man exploded on the back of the creature when the first rounds struck. The beast let out a tremendous roar as the high explosive armor piercing rounds stitched from the saddle to the shoulder and up its neck. The roar cut off as rounds hit the back of its skull in a flurry of small bright explosions. The wings folded up and the animal dropped heavily from the air like a sack of flesh and bones. It hit in the midst of a group of ancient oaks in the forest bordering the clearing, cracking branches and bones on impact.
Refuge: The Arrival: Books 1 & 2 are out on Amazon as Ebooks, and also as paperbacks. I will be doing a promotion on Book 1 from 11/16/2012 to 11/20/2012, when you can get it for free. I am hoping enough will to buy Book 2.