The dragon bore an intelligent grin. If he had been fifty feet shorter, it would have been an invitation to punch it.

“In case your first thought was to doubt the bona fides of the Railway, it’s not their fault. This is, in fact, the causative nexus in space and time of the battle against Deep Chaos. It’s just that that battle has been lost. Completely so.”

Jennifer answered with an energy blast from a big projector. More so than any others of the group, she had run out of patience with explanations of all kinds. The dragon merely blinked the beam away.

“How about we just kill you then?” Responded Senhor Capoeira Capybara, who was holding an even heavier energy projector. “Suit yourself,” the dragon said, and let loose with a spreading blast of flame.

They dodged it, but in that enclosed space the temperature rose radically. “It doesn’t have to hit us directly to kill us at this rate,” Dr. Ransom said. “Leave him to us,” said Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone. Without waiting for a reply, he and the Weasel-Bear O Tse advanced on the monster.

“If I may make a suggestion, try to kill him via the brain,” said Grandmère Hutan. “Done,” said O Tse.

The four remaining switched to projectile weapons, and while they didn’t penetrate the dragon’s scales, at least there were no ricochets. The mirror-armored tiger struck deep at where the right leg joined the body and dragged his longsword raggedly through the flash. The dragon leaned to one side heavily, and thrashed his tail, but did not bleed and emitted no cry.

In the meantime O Tse had clambered up behind the shoulder and the long neck, and was soon astride the dragon’s skull. The monster reached both arms up and grabbed him, and O Tse began to bleed profusely as the huge claws dug in. But the Weasel-Bear raised his pike, and the silver feathers at its tip spread into a jagged bunch. Sir Elphinstone slashed his sword deep into the dragon’s shoulder, and O Tse reversed the pike, and brought it down with a lightning-like crackle through the skull.

The dragon toppled. As it hit the ground, a gate appeared in the station wall.

“Humph,” Jeanette said. “I’ve seen this in too many games. We don’t go through that one.”

“Jeanette, please come over here,” Grandmère said. She had clambered up onto the dragon, Jeanette followed her. “Gentlemen, if you will please try to keep the limbs pinned. Thyrsis and Antithyrsis, please come here.” The crows alit on the dragon’s front brow.

“Now, this will be potentially dangerous, but I want you to heal the beast’s brain.”

“WHAT?” shouted Senhor Capoeira. “No, I think I see what she wants,” said Jeanette’s father. “Just--”

“--Be careful. I shall,” said the orangutan. “I will help you with the energy needed,” and she wrapped a long hairy arm around Jeanette’s waist.

Jeanette wasn’t at all sure about this, but she trusted Grandmère Hutan. So she touched the first jewel on the left of her necklace, and then laid her hands on the dragon’s head.

The dragon’s eyes opened, and the tail thrashed hugely if without much force. O Tse was on one forelimb and Silvertyger on the unwounded leg. “Futile...kill you all...stupid midges…” Thyrsis began to say in a raw voice.

“Now.” Grandmère said. “Heal it farther.”

Now Antithyrsis’s modified voice began to come over Jeanette’s bracelets. “No--you can’t--I won’t let you--I will keep my mind--you will not eat into it--do not go gentle into that good night--rage, rage RAGE RAGE RAGE RAGE RAGE”

“More,” said Grandmère.

The dragon’s eye rolled back. “Hello, little Yahoo girl! Are you lost? Are you troubled? Don’t be  afraid. There are those of us here who are fighting that you may be safe. Just go to the door and say ”Please help.” Someone will be there for you right away…”

Jeanette, tears tolling down her face, withdrew her hands.

“Don’t cry,” said the dragon. “Don’t…”

The orangutan released Jeanette, put her white-gloved hand on the creature’s now-mended skull, Leaned and whispered in its long ear. “You’re tired. You can rest now.”

They all dismounted the great scaled body as it stopped breathing.

“I suspect that the third clever part of the trap is that the true door is the one I obliterated with my own stupid paw,” the capybara said with a raw throat.

“But we’re got them beat there. They probably weren’t expecting toons with tools from millions of years in the future,” Terence said. He pulled out his case of chalks. “It has colors I haven’t used before, but there’s enough left that I think I can reconstruct it.”

Her father went to work. Sir Silvertyger Elphinstone came and laid his armored paw on Jeanette’s shoulder. “You seem fated to deprive me of the joy of dragon-killing, Jeanette Ransom. But that is not a bad thing.”

“That reminds me!” Jeanette said. She hurried over to O Tse, whose fur was matted with gleaming blood not yet dried. She pressed one hand in the bloody mess and the other on her necklace. The Weasel-bear made a peculiar sound somewhere between a growl and a purr, which sounded appropriate for a belly-rub. “My,” said O Tse. “That’s nice. Thank you.”

Jeanette stumbled a bit as she went over to her father, who was painstakingly reconstructing the door. “It seems odd that the drawing included fake cast shadows, but I left all my expertise in my other suit.”

In the end, it was done. “Since the dragon asked you to do it, maybe you should, Jeanette,” Grandmère said. So she nodded, walked up to the drawing, and said, “Please help.”

Nothing happened immediately, so she pressed. The door, without losing it’s chalky character, swung inward.

It wasn’t terribly impressive: a long hallway in the same architectural style as the train station, going down a distance before it made a turn. It reminded her of the boarding tunnel at an airport. At the doorway, there was a smashed machine that seemed to be made out of thin panes of glass, and faded splatters of blood.

They walked down the hall and made the turn.

They were in a large room filled with people and machinery. There were more humans--yahoo humans--than anyone else, but there were beings of all descriptions. But everyone was armored, and most of them were in feverish motion. All of them wore white gloves.

A grey-haired Yahoo came towards them. Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone stepped forward and said, “Reporting for duty, sir.”

The man looked them over briefly. “Well, we can certainly use you.”

“The Redoubt has fallen.”


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