The Crimson Call

It was at dawn when the sickening cries pierced the silence of the desert. Mueller, a simple farmer who had come to Jericho only two years prior, knew the sound came from a dragon. The thought of a wild dragon attacking his mammoth boar herd would normally have him grabbing his rifle and telling his wife, Nora to call the local MP's for help. The Dragoon, who were the foremost experts on dragons on the planet, had already provided Mueller with a dragon of his own. A stout little thing he called "Deb" because the dragon reminded him of his older sister, may she rest in peace.

Deb usually was good at deterring wild dragons apart from the more surly ones looking for a fight. However when Mueller stepped out of his prefab house and into the morning light and heard the shrieking cries of the other dragon he paused. It was no sound like any he had ever heard a dragon make. And a part of him swore it sounded... pained...

The fact that Deb was reacting to the sounds with a concerned head tilt, instead of the typical chirps she used to alert Mueller of nearby threats only made the sense of unease worse. Unhitching the straps that kept Deb from flying off and clambering into her back, Mueller clicked his tongue and got her airborne. From there, he scanned the skies for the dragon, listening for the cries which continued to send chills down his spine.

He scanned the skies and saw no sign of a dragon. Yet he could still hear the cries. It wasn't until he noticed that Deb was looking down near a patch of rocky outcroppings that he saw the beast. It was just standing there, letting out those pained cries.

Something was wrong. Mueller knew that much, so he decided to land Deb a couple yards from the dragon and hopped off to get a better look. As he drew closer he could tell it was a Copperhead, a common dragon type that many on Jericho used. Shit, Deb was one as well. A black and brown scaled dragon with a prominent crown of scales that were copperish in color, hence the name.

Mueller noticed it had a harness on it, it belonged to someone.

"You lost out here, fella?" Mueller said in as calm a tone he could whilst trying to speak above the creature's vocalizations. It was obviously in distress. Not only that, but something was wrong with it that Mueller couldn't quite make out from his position. The thing was on a piece of rock jutting out of the sand like a massive tooth. It continued to cry out.

"It's okay, pal. I'm a friend. Can't ya smell my friend? Yer probably cousins." Mueller said.

Deb suddenly let out a sharp grunt that made Mueller pause. She'd caught wind of something. And just in time too because the dragon suddenly leaped from the rock and came crashing down into the sand just a few feet from Mueller. He let out a scream, not in fear of the dragon attacking but at finally realizing what was wrong with the poor thing.

Its wings had been cut off.

Not only that, but there was something on its back between the bloody stumps where its wings had once been. The dragon went limp and groaned as it continued to stare up at Mueller with a look that showed just how much agony it was going through.

Quickly reaching for his radio he called up his wife. "Nora!!! Send a wave to the Dragoon! I've got a big problem here!"

"You alright, babe???" Nora replied, anxious.

"I'm good, now hurry! We need the Dragoon in here NOW!"

---

One hour later...

It had only been a week since the fever broke. Anna still felt a little weak but the doc said she was cleared for active duty. She still couldn't keep most solid food down but that didn't seem to matter. Flying on the back of her dragon, Dastan, and getting some fresh air seemed to be helping. The bonding ritual had been rough on her. "One of the nastiest reactions I've ever seen" the doc had told her. Still, she'd lived. That was something.

Since starting her new life as a Dragoon, Anna had managed to capture some low-level punks trying to smuggle some water from a shipment that came in from the collection ships gathering ice from the asteroid belt. It was honest work, and probably the sort of shit she needed to keep focusing on before getting onto a big case, but Anna was already growing weary of the small fry. She wanted in on a big case.

And when the call came in for all available Dragoon to head to a spot some kilometers out from Old Man Mueller's mammoth boar farm, she got a sense that something big was going down there.

When she arrived at the scene, five other Dragoon agents and an investigative crew from Jericho's Landing had already arrived and locked down the area. When Anna landed she guided Dastan to where the other Dragoon had grounded their dragons and clambered off of him.

"Be good." Anna warned Dastan before heading off to the site. Dastan grunted nonchalantly and regarded the other dragons with a snort before proceeding to chew at an itch on his wing.

Anna was met by a Dragoon agent she didn't recognize, she hadn't met everyone at The Eyrie yet. Yet the agent seemed to know who she was.

"Braga? Right? New kid? I'm Perry." The Dragoon agent said. He was a skinny man with dark skin and a shaved head. He had a tattoo of a dragon on his scalp.

"Yes. I heard the call. What's going on?" Anna asked.

"Fucking sick shit." Perry said. "I hope you didn't have a big lunch..." Perry led her to the scene where she saw a horrifying sight.

A copperhead dragon lay sedated on the ground as a pair of Dragoon worked to get something off of its back. The poor thing had its wings severed and it let out small whines as the Dragoon worked to remove whatever it was that was on its back. It took her a few moments, but soon Anna realized that what they were removing from its back was the body of a man.

"The fuckers nailed him to its back." Perry explained.

Anna was at a loss for words. The man the Dragoon had removed looked like he'd been mauled by a dragon. Bits of flesh hung from the corpse, the face was nothing but a bloodied skull. And suddenly Anna was glad she hadn't been able to keep anything solid down as the smell of death finally reached her. She still dry heaved though.

"Who the fuck did this?" Anna asked.

"Dunno. Old Man Mueller found the dragon like this. He didn't see anything." Perry explained.

"Who was the guy...?" Anna asked.

"We found a Dragoon IFF tag on the dragon. He's one of ours." Perry said coldly. "This... this is a declaration of war."

"But with who?" Anna asked.

"Dunno, but whoever it is. They're gonna wish they didn't fuck with us." Perry said. It was plain to tell blood was boiling among the Dragoon. Even Anna felt a fire begin to burn in her stomach.

A low hum slowly grew louder as a distant speck grew into the shape of a man on a jet bike on the horizon. Anna had turned just in time to see the man stop his bike near the investigative team's VTOL and hop off. He was a massive man with long dark hair and a beard. A scar ran down one eyebrow and his brown eyes pierced the scene as he took in the sight.

"Who's that?" Anna asked Perry.

Perry turned and snorted. "That's Jhonen Cross. Dragoon Peacekeeper and the most feared man on Jericho."

Anna frowned. "Where's his dragon?" She wondered aloud. However she didn't get an answer as Jhonen made his way to where the other Dragoon were laying the body of their comrade in a sterilized plasteel container to be flown to the labs at Jericho's Landing for analysis.

The other dragoon stepped back as he approached and he nodded to them, which seemed to put them at ease as they continued their work. Jhonen merely watched as they loaded the corpse into the container, then put that container onto the VTOL. Then he looked to the dragon which seemed to be a little uneasy with his presence as he drew closer to it.

It relaxed when he put his hand on the dragon's head. Its breathing was ragged yet it managed to let out a small coo, almost in thanks for Jhonen's reassurance. Then he said something, so low that Anna couldn't hear before a loud gunshot shattered the quiet and calm. It made Anna jump.

The poor dragon was now at peace, no doubt going to meet its rider in the hereafter.

Jhonen holstered his pistol and walked away from the dragon. Anna watched him as he approached Perry.

"I take it you know who we're hunting?" Perry asked. "You didn't just come out here to end that poor animal's suffering."

Jhonen nodded and regarded Anna with a short glance and a nod in greeting before looking back to Perry. "It's The Queen."

"Why'd she do this?" Perry asked.

"My take? This Dragoon got too close. She made an example of him." Jhonen said.

"Now every Dragoon is going to want her head on a pike." Perry said.

"No doubt that's what she wants. To rile us up. She's making some sort of play, I just don't know what yet." Jhonen warned. "I'd suggest treading carefully. Let the others know."

"They won't listen to you, J." Perry said.

"Make them." Jhonen hopped back onto his bike and was soon disappearing beyond the horizon.

Anna looked to Perry as the other Dragoon slowly began to return to their dragons and the investigation's VTOL took off. "Who is The Queen?"

Perry sighed. "The Crimson Queen. A real nasty piece of work we've been struggling to take down for some time. She runs a crime syndicate known as The Crimson Kingdom. It's the largest crime empire on the planet. Jhonen's been trying to bring her down for quite some time now."

"What should we do?" Anna asked.

"You can return to The Eyrie." Perry told her. "The others will be gathering there too to discuss what to do next. Me and some others are going to comb the area for anymore evidence."

Anna nodded. "Fine. See you back at The Eyrie."

Perry nodded. "Safe flying, rookie." At that he smirked. Anna figured she'd be taking hell from the others for being the greenhorn for a while.

Anna returned to Dastan, whom she found sleeping on a boulder away from the other dragons--he always preferred solitude--and coaxed him down so she could climb onto him. She took off, heading back to The Eyrie.

---
Later - The Eyrie

The Eyrie was the Dragoon's headquarters. It was a large aviary situated in the Sanada Mountains several hundred kilometers northwest of Jericho's Landing, high up in the mountains where the dragons preferred to linger. Most of the facility had been built into the mountain with various nooks and outcroppings left for the dragons to relax and mingle at their leisure.

At the moment the air in the Eyrie was electric with the news of the dead Dragoon and maimed dragon. It was the highest offense that could've been made to a Dragoon. Murder their friend and butcher the dragon, it was no surprise that everyone there was already eager to set out to burn whoever this Crimson Queen was out of whatever hole she was hiding in.

Anna found a small corner in the main hall where most of the Dragoon had gathered to discuss what had happened.

Next > : Singing