Enter the Dragon
Draconis Colony, Draconis Hotel
A proper bed after a long spaceflight seemed to be just what everyone needed. Many were still space-lagged, but they at least felt better. Most students met up in the lobby before embarking on the short walk up the street to the park.
Draconis Colony, Draconis Park
The hill was a little steep, but short, and after a short climb, they arrived at the only park in Draconis. Waiting for them, looking just as intimidating as always, was the biology teacher. True to his word, at 9 a.m. sharp, he began his announcement, barking out instructions like a drill sargeant.
Biology teacher: Glad you made it everyone! Now listen up! You will all be going out into the forest today. Your task is simple. You will use your scanner to catalog as many different plant and animal species as you can find. Your scanner will analyze the DNA structure of anything you point it at. If the organism you scan is not in the database, that means you have found a new species. If it is plant life, you may collect a sample using the tongs and gloves from your field kit. If it is animal life, you are to save your scan and save an image of the specimen if possible. Under no circumstances are you to capture any animal or insect! Once you've collected your specimen, bring it back here for analysis. Your communicator will show you the way. Any questions so far?
Though the biology teacher often asked that question, it was rare that anyone ventured to raise their hand.
Biology teacher: Fine. Now, some ground rules. You'll find, in your field kit, a communicator. If you have any trouble, please use it to contact us here at base, and a shuttle will be dispatched to pick you up right away. Also, your communicator will warn you when you are approaching the proximity boundary. DO NOT CROSS IT! Only trained biologists and staff are allowed outside the grid! We do not know the hazards that lurk outside the grid and we don't need any of you going home in a medical shuttle! Now, if their are no more questions, get your kits, take a scanner, and start walking! All students must be in groups of 3 to 6, so I hope you've already arranged yourselves.
The biology teacher turned abruptly and sat in his chair. The students took it as a definitive signal that he was finished and they all rushed up to take a scanner.
Draconis Colony, Forest
Adell, Mitani, Jaze, Toma, Kaoru, and Muffy all formed a group together and set out into the forest. The forest was quite thin, allowing more than enough light to pass through the trees for a field of lush, tall grass below.
They wandered aimlessly for two hours, checking their communicators every so often to see how far away from base they were. So far, their scanners hadn't picked up anything of interest at all aside from some grass and trees.
Their group was further divided with Adell, Jaze and Toma up front, Kaoru and Muffy in the middle, and Mitani bringing up the rear.
Adell: Neige is smoking again.
Jaze: I'm surprised he was able to keep it a secret from you for so long.
Adell: Breath killers. Body odor neutralizers. He went all out. You could have warned me about that.
Jaze: Hey, it was a surprise to me too.
Toma: What is the purpose of smoking anyway?
Jaze: No idea. But you're better off not knowing anyway. It's smelly and nasty. My brother smokes a lot and he usually smells like some kind of arson victim.
Mitani suddenly came trotting up to them from behind, no longer holding a cigarette. Jaze glanced behind at Kaoru and Muffy, who were engaged in some kind of conversation, about what he didn't know. He didn't want to know. Listening in on anything Muffy was saying made his brain hurt.
Mitani: So I lagged behind this time. Happy now?
Adell: Not really. You still stink.
Mitani: Well, excuse me, Mr. Lord Almighty of All Things Fragrant! I didn't know...
Mitani didn't have a chance to finish his sentence as a high-pitch squeal rent the air.
Mitani leapt up. Whatever he'd just stepped on suddenly moved.
Mitani: What the fuck was that?
Everyone stopped in their tracks as Kaoru and Muffy sprinted closer to find out what happened. There, hovering in front of them flapping its huge wings was a creature that resembled a large, white house cat. It clearly wasn't a house cat though, for besides its wings, it had a mohawk of dark red hair that ran from the top of its head down to the end of its thick, triangular tail.
The creature landed on the ground and put its paws up to its mouth. At that time, everyone swore they heard it gasp. Then, it started prancing around in little circles. Everyone stopped holding their breath, letting the air out with a sigh. Whatever this thing was, it didn't seem especially dangerous, though they kept their guard up just in case.
Adell: I'll bet that isn't in the database.
Jaze held out his scanner and tapped the keypad.
Mitani: Now what? The textbook sure as hell didn't say anything about this.
Kaoru: Get a picture before it...
Before Kaoru finsihed, the creature suddenly leaped into the air and dove towards the ground. They were sure it was going to crash, but instead it disappeared into a hole in the ground. Jaze tentatively took a step fowarded and leaned closer to try and see inside.
Suddenly, the creature emerged from the hole and Jaze jumped backwards. This time, he was carrying a large piece of rolled-up cardboard and a marker. The others watched in puzzled silence as the creature took the cap off the marker and began writing on the cardboard.
Adell: That thing is writing something.
In short order, the creature finished writing and held up the piece of cardboard so that everyone could read it.
Jaze: It says, "May I have your language?"
Everyone looked at each other, unsure of how to respond. Adell looked at the creature and pointed to his mouth. The creature nodded excitedly.
Jaze: It nodded. I guess he knows that means yes? I'll try.
Jaze took one step forward and nodded his head as he pointed to the sign. The creature hopped excitedly around and then strode towards Jaze. Jaze stood perfectly still, though his heart felt like it was going to leap out of his chest. The creature then gave his wings a mighty flap and it rose up to the level of Jaze's eyes. Slowly, it reached out its paw and touched Jaze's head. Jaze flinched, not knowing what to expect. For a moment, his head felt a little warm and then it suddenly went back to normal.
The creature landed back on the ground and spoke to them in a high, squeaky voice.
Creature: Thank you very much!
Everyone gasped in shock.
Adell: You can talk!
Creature: I can now, thanks.
Jaze: So, when you touched my head...
Before Jaze could finish his sentence, the creature sat up and squeaked excitedly.
Creature: Oh! Oh! Are you boy humans or girl humans? No no! Wait! Don't tell me! I know how to check!
The creature suddenly swooped towards Mitani and latched onto his waist.
Mitani: What th... Hey, get off me!
The creature ignored him as it yanked Mitani's pants open and dove in. Everyone else jumped back as they watched the creature fishing around inside Mitani's pants, its tail and wings flailing about excitedly. Mitani grabbed its tail and started yanking on it, but he couldn't pry it loose.
Mitani: Dammit, he's strong! Help me out here!
Nobody came forward to help as Mitani kept yanking on the creature's tail. Suddenly, there was a moment of inactivity and then the creature pulled its head out of Mitani's pants and looked directly at him.
Creature: You're a boy! I always imagined it would be bigger though.
Mitani: GET OUT OF MY PANTS!
Creature: Alright, alright. Sheesh...
The creature flapped hard and sailed up into the air again, facing all of them.
Creature: I'm excited to meet you!
Everyone subconsciously checked their belts to make sure they were cinched up tightly as they warily watched the creature hovering in front of them.
Jaze: I'm Jaze, and this is Toma. We aren't human though. I'm half human, half nekomi, and he's tokki. What's your name?
Creature: I'm a dragon and my name is...
The creature then made a very strange noise that sounded like something between a gurgle and a growl. It was a noise that none of them had any hope of repeating.
Creature: I know you can't say that. Why don't you give me a name?
The creature seemed excited about this idea. Jaze and the others thought carefully.
Jaze: A name, eh?
Mitani: Hey, Kaoru, you can give him a Japanese name.
Kaoru: I don't know any Japanese. I was named after my great great grandfather if that's where you're getting the idea.
Adell: How about Ryuu? I think I read somewhere that it means "dragon."
Jaze: Works for me.
Jaze turned and addressed the creature directly.
Jaze: How about it? Does "Ryuu" sound good to you?
If kittens had wings and could talk, it was easy to imagine that this would be the result. The creature hopped around excitedly as though it were just given a treat.
Ryuu: It's perfect!
Adell: I'm Adell. The guy who's pants you just went down is Mitani.
Mitani scowled as Kaoru stepped forward.
Kaoru: I'm Kaoru and this is Muffy.
Muffy: I'm an astronaut!
With Ryuu's name out of the way, thoughts turned to the many other questions they had.
Adell: So, how did you learn how to write?
Ryuu: Oh! I'll show you!
Once again, Ryuu leapt into the air and disappeared down the same hole as before. This time, when he came out, he was holding several magazines.
Ryuu: You guys throw away the most interesting things! I learned by reading these. It wasn't hard, but I couldn't learn to speak from them.
Ryuu handed one of the magazines to Adell. and he read the cover.
Adell: "Hooters and Cooters."
Kaoru: Give me that!
Kaoru immediately snatched the magazine and started looking at it.
Jaze: So, you learned words just from looking at a magazine?
Ryuu: Yep! That's where I also learned about gender. We dragons don't have gender.
Adell: So, you're not a he or a she?
Ryuu: Nope, but you can call me "he," if you want. That feels best for me.
Jaze decided that he wanted to try again to understand how it was that Ryuu could suddenly speak after touching his head.
Jaze: So, you touched my head and then you could suddenly speak. What happened?
Ryuu: I needed to get your spoken language. You can't do that?
Adell: Not like that, no. We have to learn it by listening and studying.
Ryuu: That explains all the stray images I saw of you studying.
Jaze started feeling more and more distressed as the conversation went on.
Jaze: You were in my mind? You didn't... I mean, you didn't see...
Ryuu: Oh, don't worry! I asked you for your language and that's all I took! It would be very rude to go digging around in your mind without permission!
Jaze: That's a relief, I think.
Adell: Anyway, what are you doing here? I doubt the school would have let us wander around if they knew there was an intelligent species living here.
Ryuu: I don't live here, exactly. We dragons live underground, protected by a shield. With your technology, I'm not surprised you couldn't detect us. I was bored, so I started hanging around here to see what was going on. I dug a hole and started taking things from your trash to learn more about you!
Adell: Well, if you're bored, you can come back to the colony with us. Our biology teacher would be thrilled to meet you.
Adell: Sure. Why not?
Jaze pulled Adell close and spoke softly to him out of Ryuu's earshot.
Jaze: Is that a good idea?
Adell: Are you kidding? How many points do you think we'll get for discovering a sentient being? We'll be the first students ever to get an A in that guy's class!
Jaze: Good point! And he seems happy to go anyway.
Adell turned towards Ryuu and spoke to him directly.
Adell: Ryuu, do you need to get anything before we go?
Ryuu: I'm good! Lead the way!
Jaze glanced at the map on his communicator.
Jaze: The colony's that way. Let's go.
The group sent out for the colony together, except for Kaoru, who was still looking at the magazine, and Mitani, who didn't want to be close to Ryuu. After the others were several yards ahead of them, Mitani smacked Kaoru on the shoulder.
Mitani: Put the magazine down. They already left!
Kaoru stashed the magazine into his field kit and hurried on to join the others. Mitani followed at an unhurried pace. Curiously, as they walked on, he noticed Toma casting several furtive glances back at him. He appeared to be waiting for him to do something, though what it was he didn't know. After awhile, he decided not to waste time thinking about it and he reached into his pocket, pulling out his pack of cigarettes and lighter. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. As he took a second drag, Toma glanced back again and suddenly slowed down, allowing Mitani to catch up with him. Jaze was so busy talking to Ryuu that he didn't notice that Toma was no longer near.
Finally, Mitani caught up to Toma. He looked at him with interest, wondering what he was going to say.
Toma: Can I have one?
Mitani raised his eyebrow in a rare expression of surprise.
Mitani: You want a cigarette?
Mitani: Have you ever smoked before?
Mitani pulled another cigarette out of his pack.
Mitani: I'll have to show you how to do it. First, hold mine while I light this one for you.
All city images from SimCity 4.