How we think the fight will go
Lessa wakes, cold and disoriented and alone. The trip was longer than she had expected. Foolish to try to come so far, on such a whim, really, no matter what she read in the AIVAS files. She’s not a kid anymore.
She pulls off the air mask made by the Smithcraft Hall. She could never have made the trip without it. Would have been dead halfway here. This was longer between than she has ever been on any of her time jumps and planet leaps. And Ramoth—!
But the golden beast is with her, stirring now. The dragon stretches her wings and lumbers to her feet.
Lessa looks around with blurry eyes. To really see the past! To see their home, that they all came from. Isn’t that worth a little risk?
The smooth black rock beneath her is a street, she knows. She has learned the lingo. A street stuffed with a million houses, all identical, all packed together. A burbclave.
A car screeches past. A minivan, a bimbo box. Some guy leans out the window and yells hey lady, take your VR dragon and scoot your unpronounceable out of here.
She may be in their country but she’s not having that. Come on, Ramoth, she thinks, and the golden dragon crouches and leaps, launching, heading down the road after the car. Belatedly Lessa notices the small orange-and-blue figure dangling behind the minivan like a fish on a line, crouched and rolling down the road after it on some sort of wheeled board.
The driver shrieks as the dragon head blinks one jeweled eye in his window. He veers off into a lamp post, and Lessa laughs, and rises up on Ramoth.
That’s when she feels the long cord wrap around her waist, clink against the steel of her buckles.
She is instantly furious. She tugs at the cord, but it has cinched itself closed. She looks back to find the orange-and-blue figure rolling along behind her. A kid, must be. Only kids do such dumb things; kids are the same everywhere. She never has the patience to teach the new ones with their dragons, and neither she nor Ramoth has the patience for this one. Up, Ramoth, she thinks to her golden dragon, and Ramoth is already responding, angling up and over the houses.
That should take care of it.
But the line is surprisingly long and agile; it lengthens as Lessa rises. And the burbclave is packed with roofs and lamp posts and powerlines—no room for a still-tired dragon to rise far. Below them the girl on the line somehow manages to go straight up a wall, launching herself from one angled roof to the next as Ramoth skims the tightly packed houses of the burbclave.
Fire would scare the kid off. Ramoth would never flame a person, but the girl doesn’t know that. A demonstration of strength would do the trick. But Lessa did not bring any firestone on this supposedly peaceful exploration into their past.
Lessa nudges Ramoth to skid right, snap left, and the girl on the line swings up, around, her rope slack, her wheeled board near Ramoth’s hind claws. That should take care of the kid; she should drop off now. But instead some sort of sticky paper is now glued to Lessa’s flying leathers. It says THANKS FOR THE RIDE, SUCKER.
She is too furious to land and deal with the child reasonably. And the long cord is not meant to wrap around a person. It moved while the girl was slack, and now it is around her shoulders, cutting her skin painfully as it tightens. She must assume this girl from the past means her harm.
Her fears are confirmed when she looks up and sees a black dragon above her—no, not a dragon, a chopper, solid black and nearing them. A red light flashes out of the chopper, toward Lessa’s chest. A laser.
The cord slips off of one shoulder. Lessa desperately sticks her fingers under it as it nears her neck. Her heart is pounding and the girl is still swooping off the roofs, her little smartwheels going tick tick tick up and down the faux-spanish tile.
She should never have come here. Their ancestors were right to leave this hellish place. Lessa tugs at the long cord, trying to free herself, to free her persecutor. Her breath is shorter now, the world flashing black and white as her trapped fingers press into her own neck.
The chopper lowers, forcing Ramoth down, and there is a billboard in front of them, smiling faces, hands holding things. They are going to crash.
Lessa holds an image of Benden Weyr in her mind. Of the Star Stones. Of they day they left, thousands of years in the future.
Take me home, she says to Ramoth.
They go between.
Predicted Winner: Lessa
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Thursday, March 5, 2015, AT 11:59 PM, EST
Editor’s Note: Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and Seriously Wicked, coming May 5th from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many more. Her narrations have appeared in audiobooks and podcasts including Podcastle, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’ The End is Nigh series, and more. She runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. Her latest novel, Silverblind, is on sale now.
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”)