“The sad news is the Dragoons end up doing missions like this so you all can fight and protect the world. The money has to come from somewhere.” Storm sad, then patted him an the arm.

Chris blinked and sighed. So this was a nerd-sitting gig. Perfect...

After finishing his break he decided to make his way to the loading bay where the science team was preparing all the sensitive equipment they'd need on this expedition. Chris figured he'd make sure the important stuff was properly packed. Food, extra clothes, enough bullets just in case the Pack or a roving band of bandits decided to surprise them. They were going to be near the Serpent Sea, a vast desert of rolling dunes that was home to the Sand Surfers, a group of dragon-riders who protected their territory with the aid of massive dragons that had evolved to "swim" through the sands.

Chris had heard tales of them, and how dangerous they were. He wanted to be ready. Which was why he'd made sure that the team had plenty of dragon's bane rounds for their rifles and mounted guns. On top of a couple rocket launchers of course.

One scientist took notice of him as he checked a crate full of MRE's and smiled at him. She was a cutie. In that bookish sort of way. Chris was more into girls who weren't smart enough to realize he was no good for them. She continued to smile at him.

"Hi." She said, her eye bright and enthusiastic.

"Hello." Chris said with a firm nod. "Can I help you with something, Doctor?"

"What? Me, a doctor?" The girl chuckled. "Oh no I'm just a student at the moment. I'm gonna be one some day though..."

"Impressive." Chris said with a roll of his eyes. Usually cute girls talking to him was a good thing, but he wasn't in a good mood on account that he was going to be spending the next several weeks with these nerds.

"My name is Margot, Margot Astor." She offered her hand to him. He shook it meekly.

"Chris." He said plainly.

Then she got to the reason he was pestering her. "So you're a dragoon?"

"I am, what gave it away?" Chris asked.

"What're dragons like?" She immediately asked.

"You're new to Jericho, aren't you?" Chris deduced.

"It's my first time here!" Margot said, her voice high pitched with excitement. "I always wanted to see a dragon! What kind of dragon do you have?"

"My dragon? Her name is Nessa. She's a coral dragon." Chris said. He didn't mind talking about Nessa.

"Oh, I bet she's beautiful." Margot said. "Will you be riding her on this expedition."

"Wouldn't be much of a dragoon without a dragon, right?"

Margot laughed, a little too loud in fact. "That's cool! Hehe..."

An awkward silence fell between them. Chris wanted to keep working on checking inventory. But she kept staring at him. Expecting him to say something. All he could think was:

"Wanna see her?" Chris asked, wondering why the hell he said that.

Margot looked like her head was about to explode. "Can I???"

Chris sighed and gestured for her to follow him. They went up to the top of Queenslayer Base and onto the makeshift landing pad on the roof where the team had come in. The communications array that had once been used by the ship before it crashed was now a makeshift perch for dragons to sun themselves on. Chris pulled out a small whistle he had around his neck and called for Nessa.

She glided down to them. Margot was visibly scared but excited at the same time. She was in awe of the dragon. "Wow, she's amazing!"

"You can pet her if you want. She's real sweet. Sweetest girl in the whole Eyrie." Chris said as he pat the thick scales on Nessa's shoulder. She chittered happily. Margot was reluctant at first but soon ran her hands down the dragon's scales and immediately went nuts with glee.

"They're so rough! Yet warm!" She exclaimed.

"She likes he area under her wings scratched in particular." Chis said. Margot tried it and got the dragon equivalent of a purr going in Nessa. Margot started laughing giddily.

"This is so cool! Oh I bet she's fun to fly!" She looked at Chris with that same expecting look. That was her way of asking if they could go for a ride.

"Maybe some time I'll take you for a ride." Chris said. Now was not the time however. Margot understood, though she was disappointed. Still, she was happy petting Nessa.

Then Chris's tac-com beeped with an incoming radio signal. "Packard, where the hell are you?" It was the CO for the security detail.

"Dragon perches." Chris said succinctly. "Entertaining one of the geeks."

"Well stop it and get back to your post." The CO said. "And if I catch you sleeping with one of those researchers I will have you on latrine duty for the rest of this expedition."

"Copy that." Chris said nonchalantly. "Guess fun time's over."

"Thank you for showing me your dragon, Chris." Margot said, she was blushing, having heard the radio conversation.

Chris shrugged and the two of them parted ways. Everything was almost settled when it came to preparing for the trip. Soon they'd be on their way to some strange alien ruin out in the desert. With no telling what they'd find. At the very least, Chris would have a friend in Margot on this journey...

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