"We're screwed!" Duo clutched at the tree to prevent himself from going over the cliff, and tried to hang on to Dana.
Her hand was torn out of his, however, as she was apparently unable to keep her momentum from taking her over the edge. He screamed her name as she tumbled over the 500 ft drop. "DANA!"
Behind him, the dragon roared, and he turned to face his imminent death. :Might as well go down with dignity. Wait for me, Dana - I'll be joining you soon!:
The Dragon loomed over him, and cocked its head to aim. It took a deep breath, so deep the air whistled around him -
Two arms wrapped around his waist from behind and he was abruptly airborne, air thundering around him with each stroke of Dana's wings. :Oh. Right. She can fly. Guess the cliff didn't bother her much.:
"Duo! Hang on!" She screamed, the wind of their passage ripping the words from her mouth so he barely heard her. He clutched at her upper arms like the lifeline they were, as their flight sent them arrowing towards the Dragon.
With a roar, the Dragon let out the breath it had been holding, sending a column of flame shooting towards them. Duo squeezed his eyes shut and prepared to be fried.
There was a jerk and his stomach protested as they suddenly changed direction, and the air around him became unbearably hot. But not, he realized, hot enough to give him more than the equivalent of a minor sunburn. He opened his eyes to find them hundreds of feet above the ground, winging away towards the safe house.
:The flame - she used the updraft from the hot air to get the altitude!: Duo was in awe of her quick thinking.
"Can you contact the others?" She shouted down. "It's going to follow us, and they need to be ready by the time we make the mansion!"
"Aa!" Duo replied, freeing one hand to activate the wrist comm they all always wore. Bringing that hand down near his face, he shouted into it. "Quatre! Heero! We've got a problem!"
"Duo?" Quatre's voice was faint. "I can barely hear you. Is that wind? Where are you?"
"About half a klick in the air," he replied, glancing down to see that the Dragon was indeed following them, bellowing in outrage as its flame fell far short of them. "One of those Dragons is here, and it's not very happy that we managed to get away."
"There's a Dragon HERE?" Wufei's voice sounded distinctly unhappy.
"Yeah, and it's headed towards the mansion. You guys might want to get the Gundams ready to fight!"
"How long?" That was Heero.
"Uh. about five minutes, if we keep traveling at this speed."
"Trowa and I won't make it back in time!"
"Wufei and I will take care of it," Heero replied. "But you'd better get back here anyway - there might be more of them."
"Duo!" Dana's voice was strained. He looked up and realized she was tiring quickly. "I. I can't. keep this up. much longer." she panted, and indeed, they were losing altitude quickly. "The wind's in the wrong direction to glide - I'm not sure I can stay out of range long enough to get to the safehouse!"
"They're on their way," Duo replied, squeezing her arm reassuringly. "Just do your best."
Black feathers swirled all around them as she fought to keep them airborne, falling to be singed to powder in the Dragon's flame. Duo cringed as they came closer and closer to that deadly orange column, Dana's panting breath showing that she was close to the end of her resources.
:We're not gonna make it,: he realized, staring in fascination at the gleaming eye of the Dragon below them. He fancied he could see a gleeful glint in the giant orb as they slowly came within reach. Another column of flame shot towards them, creating another updraft which allowed Dana to gain a few hundred feet.
For a second, he thought they'd been saved - every time they got close, the Dragon flamed them, which sent them higher. Then he looked into that huge eye again - and his stomach sank. The gleam of intelligence was all too obvious, and the Dragon had apparently caught on to their scheme. It held its breath, waiting for them to fall within reach before flaming again.
Dana's wingbeats faltered once, then again. They began to drop more rapidly, as her wings fluttered helplessly around them. Duo swore the Dragon was grinning at them, those three foot long fangs bared and waiting for tender human flesh.
Duo saw the Dragon's chest rise as it drew in breath, saw it prepare to flame - and whooped as a glowing green beam raked along its side, scoring deeply into the tough scales. "Wufei!" He cheered, as ShenLong appeared from their left.
The boom of a beam cannon sounded through the air as Wing fired, knocking the Dragon to one side. Dana banked, aiming to land in a clearing nearby, out of the range of the fight.
Her recently healed wing finally gave out about thirty feet above the ground. They plummeted abruptly, Dana releasing her hold on Duo's waist as they fell and pushing away from him. Duo bent his knees and rolled on impact, bouncing back to his feet with no harm done.
He spun around just in time to see Dana land, also bending her knees but unable to roll with the fall because of the span of her wings. She lurched forward and ended up face first in the dirt, sprawled before him in an ungraceful heap.
"Dana!" He rushed to her side, but she was already sitting up, spitting out a mouthful of dirt.
"Ow." She commented wryly, glancing down at herself. "That hurt - but not as much as the last time I fell with you."
Duo blinked, then blushed as he abruptly realized her shirt was hanging on her in rags. Her wings had forced their way through the back, tearing the fine fabric in several places. "We've gotta get back to the mansion - I wanna get Shinigami out, just in case."
"Hai." She stood and jerked her head to one side. "It's that way, I think." They both started running through the trees.
High above them and off to one side, ShenLong and Wing battled with the Dragon. The beam cannon did nothing but displace the monster, and though ShenLong's staff burned through the scales, it didn't bite deep enough to cause any real damage. They were attacking it from both sides, trying to harass it into rearing up. The ground shook with each step the monster and mechas took, making it somewhat difficult to run.
HeavyArms and SandRock were just emerging from the hanger as they reached the mansion. Duo waved to indicate they were okay, bolting for the door to the hanger as Quatre and Trowa moved towards the fight.
Dana leaned against the hanger wall, catching her breath and stretching the cramping muscles of her tired wings as Duo fired up DeathScythe. The black Gundam charged out of the hanger, headed for the others at top speed.
Briefly, Dana debated flying back out to join them, then decided against it. She would only be in the way, and she was far too tired. But she felt an odd tugging on her soul, as if there were something she needed to be doing.
"The Dragu-Energist!" She gasped, and ran for the mansion. The closer she came to the lab in which the Energist was stored, the stronger the pull became. :It must be reacting to the presence of the Dragon's heart,: she thought.
When she opened the cabinet door, she had to look away momentarily, blinded by the glowing light. The pulsing energy died slightly, and she grabbed the sphere and ran back down the stairs. :Something is going to happen - something really big. And it's important I have the Energist, for whatever reason.:
Over the radio, she could follow the progress of the fight.
"It's fire isn't hurting the Gundams at all," Wufei commented.
"Aa." Was Heero's flat response. "Watch out for that tail, though."
"What are those scales MADE of, anyway?" Quatre wondered aloud. "Gundanium? My scimitars are hardly doing any damage!"
"Trowa, don't waste your ammunition. It's not even noticing it."
"Aa. I kn. QUATRE, WATCH OUT!" Trowa's shout was the loudest sound she'd ever heard from the quiet boy.
"AH!" Quatre screamed and Dana heard crashing through the receiver.
"Where the hell did that one come from?" Duo exclaimed. "Quatre, you okay?"
"Aa. Daijoubu." Quatre's voice was a little shaky, but otherwise calm. "There's never been more than one at a time before, so I wasn't expecting it to come up behind me."
"Duo, Quatre, you two concentrate on the new one. Wufei and I will concentrate on this one. Trowa, you keep an eye on those damn tails."
"Hai!" Four voices echoed agreement.
Dana waited on pins and needles as the fight continued. The Dragon appearances had been getting more frequent, and now there were two appearing in the same place. Whatever barrier had separated Gaia and Earth for thousands of years, appeared to be failing. :Could it be because of Zaibach's attempts to create the Absolute Fortunate Zone? Did Dornkirk's grasp for power break through the protections? But that was nearly twenty years ago - why is it only happening now?:
They stopped wasting breath on conversation, and she couldn't follow the fight anymore. Finally, the explosions and crashes stopped, the two dragons apparently having been teased into exposing their vulnerable undersides. The Gundams were returning as she emerged from the house, the dead Dragons slung over ShenLong's and HeavyArms' shoulders. She spread her wings and let her momentum carry her into the air, circling around the five massive machines. The Energist pulsed and throbbed in her hands, and in the Dragons' chest, an answering pulse glowed.
She landed lightly on DeathScythe's shoulder, wings fluttering nervously as she felt the tension in the air build. Every nerve was tingling, her pulse racing and her breath coming in short gasps.
"Dana?" Quatre's voice echoed from SandRock's speakers. "Are you okay?"
"Something's happening," She answered, her eyes fixed on the glow from the Energist.
"What now?" Wufei sounded distinctly peeved.
"I don't know - but something important is going to happen!"
Before the last word was even finished, the glow from the Energist abruptly expanded, turning into a blazing column of light which encompassed all five of the Gundams, and reached far into the sky. Gravity disappeared, and they began to lift from the ground.