Short As Fictober #22: “Ghosts”

Berta Saunders banks her plane hard to the left, swerving around a flock of juvenile dragons who squawk and screech and spit middle finger equivalents of flame in her direction. She checks the mirrors she installed on her craft just in case one of the little bastards decides it wants to show off and give chase. Her hands grip the control, poised to execute evasive maneuvers. When the flocks continues in the other direction, Berta relaxes her grip then tries to coax blood back into her hands. In less than two years, most those juveniles will have reached adulthood, doubling in size and becoming mean enough to match.

The clouds clear, and Berta noses the plane down looking to eyeball the landscape. Only way to navigate now. 

When the big dragons arrived, flying ashore soon after their earlier and smaller cousins, they made quick work of the jets scrambled in defense. The landscape’d been littered with aeronautical pyres. Berta and the other Ghosts–civvie pilots–had thrown together a fleet of working aircrafts and augmented them with firepower. The planes function and can take down smaller dragons, but they’re bare bones. There’s no radar, no radio, no access to control towers. 

Berta spots the burned out McDonald’s on Grafton, and knows downtown with all its sky-grasping highrises is close. She brings her plane back above the cloud cover, and thumbs a button to bring her weapons to life. Her target this afternoon is an unattended nest. Spotters hadn’t seen any parents around in a few days, and though there’s always a chance the dragons could come back, that’s a risk the Ghosts are willing to take. Red lights blink through the clouds. Berta’s always surprised they’re still running. Somehow electricity is still feeding the grids down here. She makes the plane climb past the lights, and she’s through the fog. 

Three skyscrapers rise in front of her, and Berta corrects her course for the one in the middle. The nest should be on the far side, and as Berta approaches the front, she brings the plane a little higher to set up a rollercoaster maneuver. As she comes around the corner, Berta sees the nest, but it’s no longer unattended.

Three full-sized adults cling to the side of the skyscraper tending to the eggs as well as the new hatchlings. Two of them are Green Nightmares, while the third and largest of the trio is a Purple Void. And it’s the Void that notices Berta’s plane first. It falls away from the building, turns, and spreads its wings wide. Three of Berta’s planes would fit in the creature’s wingspan. Berta hard swallows and increases her speed. She has seconds to do any kind of damage, to make this trip, and more than likely her death worth it. The Green Nightmares hover over the nest, their throats already bulging orange with fire. Berta can’t see the Void, figures it must be looking to come up and cook her from below. She lets loose with her guns, and bullets rip through the air toward the dragons and the nest. For the most part, the projectiles thud against the dragons’ hides and fall to the ground, but some find their mark, catching the dragon’s in the eyes, and wing membranes. The two Nightmares screech and send twenty-yard plumes of flame toward Berta’s plane.

Berta pushes the throttle for all it’s worth, then yanks back on the controls, willing the craft to climb above a fiery death. The plane just misses the fireballs, but the Purple Void isn’t so fortunate, as it flies directly in the path of the flames. 

The mishap doesn’t deal much damage to the Void, but it does piss it off. The monstrous dragon rages toward its one-time companions and closes in for an attack. 

Berta doesn’t stick around to see who wins this one. She swings her plane back toward base. She allows herself to be angry about the failure for a moment, before moving on. It’s pretty damn hard to stay mad when you walk away from a dragon scrape with your life. Berta checks her mirror, then fades her plane into the clouds.

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