“And keep your eyes open for a dragon on a Harley Davidson.”
Constable Willet stopped in his tracks.
The desk sergeant looked up from his computer.
“You heard me.”
Outside the station, the young policeman looked down at his partner. Badger cocked an ear.
“What’s your problem?”
“Dragons can’t ride motorcycles.”
The canine cop stopped in his tracks.
“You may have a point.”
“See, I’m not completely stupid.”
He wasn’t to know what Badger thought of that because the distinctive note of a Harley Davidson engine split the air. The motorcycle careered around the corner, rearing up onto one wheel and mounting the pavement before hurtling down the road bouncing off street furniture as it went.
Badger sat back on his haunches.
“That proves your point. Dragons really can’t ride motorbikes.”
Willet grasped Badger’s harness in one hand as he unfurled his wings.
“Operation intercept,” he said happily as they took to the air.
It didn’t take long to overhaul the motorcycle, as the riding became more and more eccentric with the Harley yawing from side to side and scraping its footrests at every movement. When they caught up, it had just made a sharp left onto a mercifully deserted football pitch. Willet made a long arm and pulled out the kill switch. The engine died and the bike slewed to a halt before slowly toppling over onto its side. The stubby golden dragon just managed to slip from the saddle in time to avoid being trapped by the fallen machine.
Badger gave the rider a very stern look.
“What’s on here, my laddo,” he said firmly.
“Steady down Badger. It’s only a hatchling. And I don’t think it’s a laddo.”
And then the sky was full of panicky dragons bugling their alarm and distress. A good dozen circled Willet, Badger and the hatchling making agitated noises.
“Thief, thief,” the biggest one cried in a strangely high-pitched voice. “Thieves and kidnappers. Where are the rest of our little ones?”
Willet knew that dragons broadcasting distress could easily spark a riot, so he stepped forward.
“Calm down and stop being silly. Nobody kidnapped anybody, although it does seem that those charged with the care of your hatchlings have failed in their duties.”
The lead dragon turned an unfriendly eye on him.
“How does a human dare to so address a dragon?”
Badger laughed sardonically.
“Hush now,” Willet admonished, “and stand back, I’m going to have to make the change before this lot get right out of hand.”
Badger backed off and Willet flowed into his true form.
The dragons quieted appreciably as a huge winged centaur stood facing them with condemnation writ large on his classically handsome features.
“Are dragons too proud to converse with a centaur?” he asked coolly.
The big blue female dipped her head.
“We are not.”
The dragonet meanwhile was watching the happenings with multi-faceted jewel-bright eyes.
“Mama. Where Mama?” The voice was hesitant but definitely female.
“Mama will be here soon,” Willet assured her. “Now tell me where your friends are.”
The dragonet shook her head.
“Mustn’t tell,” she whispered.
Willet concentrated briefly then smiled.
“N’a’mma tell Willet,” he cajoled.
The centaur laughed, then turned to the hovering dragons above.
“I have seen this little one’s thoughts. The hatchlings found a portal, and while their nursemaid slept they all sneaked through.”
There was a rustle of agitated leathery wings and voices were raised in condemnation of a nursemaid who slept on duty.
“Quiet,” Willet commanded. “Instead of flapping about like chickens, you should be asking yourselves some searching questions.”
One of the smaller blue dragons seemed a bit quicker on the uptake than her sisters.
“Questions like why was there only one nursemaid. Questions like who opened the portal in the first place. Questions like who knew enough to send us here.”
“Yes. Questions like those. But the first question is where are the other dragonets?”
The blue dragon changed her wing shape and landed neatly beside the bemused N’a’mma.
“Where friends? Must tell…”
The dragonet wrinkled her brow.
“Auntie say must not tell.”
N’a’mma closed her mouth and looked mulish.
“Where’s her Mama?”
“We need her. Can any of you bespeak A’a’shanto?”
The little blue pointed to the big female with the squeaky voice.
“She can. But she probably won’t do it.”
“She will.” Then he raised his voice. “Dragon. Will you bespeak my friend A’a’shanto, or would you have me do it?”
The big female looked about as offended as a dragon can.
“I will bespeak our master.” Then she looked at the centaur in some puzzlement. “What must I say?”
“Tell your master that there is an unregistered portal that the hatchlings found and escaped through. That we need this little one’s Mama in order that we can find out what she knows…”
“Oh. Very well.”
Badger flattened his ears and Willet looked at him with some sympathy.
“Bloody loud isn’t she?”
The subliminal buzzing stopped, to be followed by the snap of leathery wings. Two more dragons appeared and landed with minimal fuss. One was the black-skinned master, the other a truly spectacular golden queen. As soon as they set claw to the ground, the atmosphere seemed to thicken, and the mating instinct hit Willet like a mailed fist. He only just managed not to swear. The queen was in season, and they would be lucky if they managed to prevent a city-wide orgy. He ruthlessly squashed the heaviness in the pit of his own stomach and looked briefly at Badger who was already communicating with headquarters.
Willet pulled himself together and faced the dragons, at least one of whom was hugely amused by the situation. Willet bowed respectfully.
A’a’shanto stopped smirking and inclined his head.
Before anyone else could speak or react the dragonet waddled over to the queen as fast as she could go.
Her mother looked down a long draconic snout at the rotund form of her hatchling. She smiled a maternal smile.
“N’a’mma. What have you been up to now?”
The dragonet shuffled her feet.
“Tell Mama, and stop fibbing.”
“We finds portal. Auntie shows us. And we comes through.”
“Where are your friends?”
“Me don’t know. Me plays with hrrrdudu…”
“And where did you get the hrrdudu?”
“Man talking to Auntie has. N’a’mma borrows.”
Willet looked at Badger.
“Can you backtrack it?”
Willet called up two beat rats to guard the motorcycle, before Badger sniffed the tyres of the Harley, then the now giggling dragonet. He scented the air for a moment, then he put his nose to the ground and headed off in the direction from which the motorbike had come.
“Got you, you bastards,” Willet murmured and followed the upraised tail.
“And keep your eyes open for a dragon on a Harley Davidson.”