The Floating Islands – V

«What…»

The Captain went near the monitor, staring at it with wonder. Another squeak from the dragon drew his attention and it exchanged his gaze, unfolding its wings with a satisfied look. It was in that moment that he saw the protuberances grown from the little one’s chest, inserted inside the computer’s ports, which radiated an unnatural glow at regular intervals, like they were crossed by electric impulses.

Mayweather had no words. Lightly pulling its body, the dragon detached them, and they became gradually shorter until they disappeared inside it. The monitor turned off and the computer stopped working. The lamps set on the wall grew dim but were still active. The glow reflected on the glass and the strange liquid, giving a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere in return.

The Captain giggled nervously, trying to caress the head of the reptile. It closed its eyes and let itself be petted, reclining its head with a pleased look.

«Er… good boy, I think»

«How did it do that? » shouted Kieran striding toward them.

«Strange things grew out of its belly, while it tinkered with the computer» answered Mayweather. He took the dragon in his hands and lifted it to look at it. It was white and smooth, and left no trace of that sort of limbs with which it had to connect to the fortress’ electric net.

«Anyway, we have to return to the ship. It is not safe here anymore» he cut short pointing with his head at the monster which slept at the center of the laboratory.

«The beast has likely destroyed the stair» said Vince sharply. «We’ll have to climb»

«Pray that there are airships here, and that the hangar is right in this floor» murmured the Captain in response.

While they waited for Maghbel to finish her sleep, or whatever it was, the pirates searched in every room they could get in, Mayweather keeping the little animal in his arms. Obviously, the current had been reactivated in the entire fortress. They went to a shutter that opened itself in the moment they got near it. Whatever it had done, the dragon made sure that at least the base functions of the building were working again.

Beyond the entrance a vast hangar waited for them, inside which there were some shuttles, turned off, but already in position to lift off. The bulkheads to exit from the base had remained open for ages: from their top hanged lianas and vines of several kinds.

They went near a little airship. It had a structure similar to that of a normal vessel from their time, but it had also few, important differences: the prow was pointed and the wings tapered, the helm consisted in a short horizontal bar. The cockpit was open, big enough to host both the pirates and Maghbel.

Mayweather got the dragon near the ship. «It’s your time again!»

The little creature emitted a happy cry and slipped away from the Captain’s hold. It went to the dashboard. The protuberances grew out from its body again and connected to the airship’s control panel. The motor began to vibrate lowly and the ship lifted of a few inches off the floor. The engine began to heat up.

The Captain threw a sigh of relief. «It’s time to return to the Legacy. You two, stay here with the little guy» he said to Vince and Damian. «Kieran, let’s go to take the sleeping beauty»

The two pirates went back to the laboratory. Their mood was calm and relieved, but the hurry to reunite with the rest of the crew was such that they run at all their speed toward the room.

They found her in the same position they had left her, at the center of the pool. Her bark was green and young again, but she seemed to be still sleeping.

«Um… Maghbel?» said lowly the Captain, drawing near the pool. «We’ve to go»

The creature squeezed her eyes and stretched. She pulled out a leg, long more than three feet, and climbed over the border of the pool. The two men raised their gaze to Maghbel’s face, high above them.

«How the hell can you do that…» said the Captain.

Maghbel shrugged. «I just can» she said, while her legs shortened to their natural height. «But it’s very tiring. Because of it I took advantage of the Sap»

The creature pointed at the luminescent liquid.

«The Sap?» repeated Kieran.

Maghbel nodded. «You can find some everywhere in the Islands. But I never saw this much in a single place»

«What does it do, precisely?» asked the Captain.

«To me, it’s the best nutrient substance I can find. I couldn’t have recovered so quickly if it hadn’t been here. But its effects can be different depending on who takes it»

«It’s clear it comes from this fortress»

Mayweather bended toward the liquid. «What if it’s this to make the Islands what they are? The same thing we call Magic?»

«It could have magical properties, but we’ve got no magic expert» answered Kieran.

The Captain took his canteen. «Give me yours, too» he said, while filling it with the liquid. «And anything else that fits»

They took samples of Sap, filling how many containers they could manage to use; luckily, everyone of them brought some vial in the inner pockets of their clothes.

When they had finished, the trio hurried to join the others. In the same moment they passed through the door, the monster recovered from its sleep. Its limbs slammed the floor with such violence that they echoed around them like a marching army.

Mayweather reacted abruptly, taking Maghbel in his arms. «Run!»

The two pirates rushed towards the hangar; Kieran pulled out his gun to protect the Captain, slower for the load he brought and with busy hands.

The former defeat had made the monster more wrathful than ever. It jumped with all its strength to the wall and penetrated inside the hallway, preceded by an avalanche of debris. The fortress trembled again.

Kieran turned around and saw the massive figure crawl swiftly at their back, shortening the distance ever more quickly. Its giant maw was open, ready to plunge and close them in a fatal grip, its tongue swung wildly snapping on its sharp teeth.

The pirate stopped his run and aimed his weapon to the monster’s throat. The shot hit it inside its mouth, giving them time to join the rest of the group. They rushed inside the airship.

The Captain sat on the piloting place. Just at his side, between his and Vince’s seat, the little dragon had found a free space for him and was still connected to the control panel. The engine buzzed low.

The Captain swore. «How do I get this thing to lift off?»

He accidentally pushed the handlebar and suddenly the airship launched itself forward, across the launching pad, generating a force that made the pirates startle, held only by the security belts. The dragon squealed with concern and the cockpit’s glasses closed themselves.

Mayweather managed to gain control of the airship before it was too late and it flew out of the fortress, its passengers safe and sound. They heard the monster’s raging cry while they plunged into the surreal and multicolor sky which encircle the Islands.

The Captain gave a look at the glass and then at the little animal beside him.

«… you’re smart» 

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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