After Winterhawk went to his room the suite seemed very quiet, so Sean headed out to look around again. He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but somehow he gravitated to the gym. The place was small but very beautiful, with one full wall constructed of angled glass that looked out on a nighttime view of the mountains even more spectacular than the one in their room.
This time of night the place was empty except for a solitary figure over by the window, going through a series of katas in silence. Sean recognized Ocelot and wondered if something had drawn him here—he hadn’t realized it consciously, but Ocelot was exactly the person he wanted to see right now. He sat down on one of the benches and watched him for awhile, musing once again over the turns his life had taken in the past few days. Only two days ago, he had thought this man was his father, and he had accepted it nearly without question. It had made sense: there was a slight resemblance between the two of them (although after he saw Kestrel in person he realized that he resembled her much more than he did Ocelot), they liked the same sorts of things, they were both gifted athletically, both were risk-takers and daredevils—he’d had an easier time believing that this former shadowrunner was his father than he could have possibly believed, given that he’d spent most of his eighteen years thinking he was the son of a kindly but conventional mid-level corporate couple who didn’t quite understand why their son was always restless, always testing himself. Ocelot understood. It had been a profound relief to Sean that someone did.
At that moment Ocelot turned and noticed Sean sitting there. “Been there long?” he asked between breaths. His face was slicked with a thin sheen of sweat, and his sleeveless T-shirt stuck to his chest and back. Apparently he’d been there for awhile himself.
“No...just a couple of minutes.”
Ocelot nodded, picking up his towel and swiping it across his forehead. “Thought you’d be asleep. That was dumb of me, wasn’t it?”
Sean shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep. Didn’t really try, I guess. After I got back I wasn’t tired.”
“Where you been?”
“Talking to Winterhawk for awhile. He’s up in the suite.”
Ocelot tossed the towel back on the bench. “Didn’t mean to desert you or anything. Thought you’d be with Gabriel.”
“No, he’s still out at his meeting. Kes—Mom’s with him too—Winterhawk said she couldn’t sleep either so she went looking for him. I think they’re talking about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Ocelot nodded. “For a place that’s supposed to be full of dragons, this place sure is deserted.”
Sean realized he was right. He had seen a few individuals when they arrived, but he was more and more convinced that they had been spirits, not dragons. “Maybe they’re not getting here until tomorrow.”
“Yeah, maybe. I guess dragons aren’t a very communal bunch—makes sense they’d arrive as late as possible.”
Sean nodded. He indicated the mat by the window where Ocelot had been doing his katas. “Don’t let me interrupt you. I’m just kind of wandering around.”
“No problem. You can join in if you want. They’ve got workout clothes in the locker room.”
Sean hesitated. “I don’t think I could keep up with you.” He looked out the window a moment, then back at Ocelot. “I was meaning to ask you, back in San Francisco—what style do you do? I didn’t recognize it in your class.”
Ocelot grinned. “Style? I guess you could say I kind of make my own. A little bit of everything. That way, your opponent doesn’t know what to expect. Predictability can get you killed.”
Sean knew that all too well. “Yeah, I guess I do that too, when I get into real fights. Not in class, though. Sensei Watanabe would kill me.” He dropped his gaze as suddenly he was hit with a wave of homesickness. He hadn’t had much time to think about it, but he missed Sensei and Althea and Nicky and all his other friends from Bainbridge. He wondered if he’d ever get to see them again—and if he did, if anything would ever be the same again. He already knew he wasn’t the same person who’d set out in search of his father.
“You okay, kid?” Ocelot was asking.
Sean nodded. “I’m okay. Just thinking about home—well, what used to be home, anyway.”
Ocelot slung his towel around his neck. “Once this is all over there’s no reason you can’t go back, you know.”
“Yeah there is.” He began pacing around in front of the window. “I mean, if a miracle happens and I get out of this alive, Gabriel said he’d give me back my powers as a—dragon-kin. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think I’m gonna want to go back to Bainbridge and get a job and a house in the suburbs.”
“Is that what you wanted before?” Ocelot asked.
Sean’s gaze came up quickly. “No, I guess it isn’t. I think that’s what the Hunters wanted me to do. They worried about me. I think they were afraid I’d get in some kind of trouble.”
Ocelot smiled. “They were probably right to worry, yeah?”
Sean shrugged, then he too smiled. “Well, I didn’t exactly stay home nights and do my homework.”
Ocelot looked like that didn’t surprise him at all. “I’ll tell you one thing, though—whatever you do, you should keep up your martial arts. You’re damn good. You surprised me how good you were—especially that trick you have for anticipating the other guy’s moves. That’s rare. If you’re this good as a normal human, think of what you’ll be able to do when you get whatever powers you’ve got.”
Sean hadn’t thought about that. “You think they’ll have anything to do with that?”
“How should I know? Even Gabriel doesn’t know exactly what you’ll be able to do. But it’s damn sure whatever you’ll end up with, it can’t hurt.”
Sean smiled. “You still owe me a week of instruction, you know. I paid my hundred nuyen in advance.”
“Yeah, you did, didn’t you?” Ocelot shook his head, grinning. “They don’t get much past you, kid.” After a pause, he said, “So, you given any thought to what you do want to do?”
Sean sighed and perched himself on the edge of one of the benches. “I was talking to Winterhawk before. He thinks I should change my college plans.”
“Yeah. I’m scheduled to start at Georgetown next month. He thinks I should consider a transfer to Dunkelzahn University.”
“It’s a good school, especially for magic stuff.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I didn’t apply before. But now—” He shrugged. “He said his son was starting there too. You ever meet him?”
“Ian? Yeah, once or twice.”
Now it was Ocelot’s turn to shrug. “Nice kid. Smart. Year or so younger than you. Good mage. A lot like his dad, though he’d run himself through before he’d admit it.”
“They don’t get along?”
“No, that’s not it. They don’t see much of each other, from what I understand. But Ian’s one of those—rebellious types.” He grinned. “You’ll probably like him.” Again he paused. “‘Hawk tell you your dad’s on Dunk U’s board?”
Sean’s eyes widened. “No.”
“Yeah. He’s kind of a silent partner, but he put up a pile of money when the place was first being built fifteen years or so ago. Not anything like Dunkelzahn’s estate, of course, but a big enough chunk that they let him join the party.”
Sean nodded slowly. “Then that’s why Winterhawk said he thought Dad should be able to pull some strings and get me in if I decided I wanted to go.” He sighed and slumped, resting his elbows on his knees, suddenly dejected. “But what’s this all matter anyway? Tomorrow I’m gonna have to stand up in front of every Great Dragon in the world and I’ll probably be dead before any of this means anything.”
Ocelot was there next to him immediately. His eyes were hard. “Listen to me, kid,” he growled. “I don’t want to hear any more talk like that. I mean it. Yeah, maybe things aren’t that great right now. I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it because I’d be insultin’ you if I did. But I’m not gonna let you give up. You’re gonna fight this just like Gabriel is. Just like all of us are.”
Sean sighed. “Yeah, I’m gonna fight. But come on—let’s be realistic here. Gabriel said the dragons hate dragonkin. Making them is a big enough deal that they banish anybody who does it. And from the sound of things, that threat has been enough to keep anybody from doing it for thousands of years. Do you honestly think they’re gonna let us off the hook because of our charm and good looks?” His tone was growing bitter and he didn’t stop it.
“What I think is that Gabriel wasn’t kidding when he said he had friends. Powerful friends.” He grabbed the towel from around his neck and wadded it up in his fists. “Look—I don’t know much about how dragons do things. I’ve been actively avoiding knowing much about dragons. It’s a lot safer that way. But I do know this much: the kid’s not one to just roll over and give up. If there’s a way to do this, he’ll figure it out. You just have to trust him.”
“Do you?” Sean stood, meeting Ocelot’s eyes.
“Trust him?” Ocelot paused a moment, then nodded. “Yeah. I do. It took me a long time, mainly ‘cause I’ve been paranoid all my life and I thought for quite awhile that he must have something up his sleeve, but after knowing him this long—yeah, I trust him. And you should too. I know this much for sure: if he’s on your side, he’ll do just about anything for you.”
Sean nodded slowly. He was trying to concentrate, but to his surprise he realized that the heavy feeling that had been creeping into his brain when he wasn’t looking was fatigue. He sighed. “I sure hope you’re right,” he said quietly. “I think we’d better talk later, though—I didn’t think I’d ever be tired again, but I think I’m getting there now.”
“Go get some sleep, then. Might be your last chance for awhile.”
He nodded again. “Yeah, you might be right.” He turned and started toward the gym’s exit, then stopped and turned back. He started to say something, didn’t, and turned away again. “G’night...and thanks,” was all he said as he left.
On his way back to the suite he met Gabriel and Kestrel coming in from another hallway. “I was hoping to find you before you went to sleep,” Gabriel told him. “The council meeting starts tomorrow morning. We’re to be in the hall at eleven.”
Sean took a deep breath. So few hours. In less than half a day a bunch of dragons would meet and determine his fate. “Okay,” was all he said. “I won’t be late.”
“Are you all right, Sean?” Kestrel asked. “I know this is all pretty overwhelming—”
“Yeah, you could say that.” Again it was difficult for Sean to keep a little bitterness out of his voice. “But it’ll be okay. I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
A brief look of sadness crossed Gabriel’s face, but then it was gone. He said nothing.
“Are they here already?” Sean asked.
“Who?” Gabriel tilted his head in question.
“The other dragons. I was just talking to Winterhawk and Ocelot a little bit ago, and I realized I’ve hardly seen anybody around here.”
“They’ll—be arriving in the morning,” Gabriel said.
Sean nodded, wondering if his theory about their not wanting to be together longer than necessary was right. “So—this is the first time in years that they’ve all gotten together?”
“For the Council, yes. Many of them gathered for a ritual following the death of Dunkelzahn, and fewer but still many for—other death rituals.” His voice took on a slight odd tone here.
“So they only get together when somebody’s died or somebody’s in trouble?”
Gabriel dropped his gaze. “It would seem so, in this age,” he said. Sean didn’t miss the sadness in this voice. “In the days of the last Awakening there was more contact—but then, in many ways our world was smaller then. There were fewer things to occupy our interest, so therefore our interests intersected more often. In these times there are a myriad of pursuits open to both metahumans and dragons, and more of the world available to pursue them. Not to mention the fact that many more dragons are becoming involved in metahuman affairs than ever occurred in the previous Age.” He paused. “It is best, though, that we don’t get together too often, given the level of intelligence and ego involved. Too-frequent meetings could be—difficult.”
“You mean you’d all get together and squabble like a bunch of old biddies?” Kestrel asked, grinning.
“Well—yes, if you want to put it that way.” Gabriel couldn’t help smiling despite the gravity of the situation. “If you’ve ever watched a group of intelligent but contentious people try to put up with each other long enough to get anything done—multiply both the intelligence and contentiousness by several orders of magnitude and you’ve seen a dragon meeting.”
“So you’ve been to these?” Sean asked. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
“I have—but only as an observer. Remember, I was a child in those days. True I was the son of one of the leaders and therefore was given a few more privileges than others were, but I was still treated as a child. I had no input into the decisions.”
“So you sat back and watched and vowed that you’d never be like that when you grew up,” Kestrel said with a sly smile.
He chuckled. “You know me too well, Juliana.”
“And now that you have grown up?” Sean asked. The moment of good humor was infectious.
“I haven’t, really,” Gabriel reminded him. “In dragon reckoning, I’m still considered very young. Younger than you are, certainly.”
That surprised Sean. “Really?”
Gabriel nodded. “I’m considered an adult, but just barely.” He tilted his head as Sean started to laugh softly. “What?”
He looked at Gabriel, still grinning. “So I’m the son of an unwed teenage dragon.”
That made Kestrel laugh too, and even Gabriel couldn’t help smiling. “That’s about it,” Kestrel said. “I corrupted him, you see. At least I didn’t contribute to the delinquency of a minor—but just barely.”
Gabriel affected an offended look, but the twinkle in his eyes belied it. “If you two are going to insult me, I think I’ll go to bed,” he said with mock stiffness.
Kestrel reached out and ruffled his hair. “You love it and you know it.”
He didn’t answer that except to smile fondly at her, but then his expression turned serious. “You really should try to get some sleep, Sean—and you too, Juliana. If I know anything of how these things progress, it will be a long day tomorrow.”
Sean nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He doubted he was going to be able to sleep at all, but at least he could give it a try. For a few moments joking with the two of them, he’d almost let himself forget about what was going to happen the next day. Am I even going to be alive tomorrow night? He didn’t voice his fear because he didn’t want to upset his parents, but judging by the way Gabriel was looking at him, he suspected that the dragon knew exactly what was on his mind.
Copyright ©2001-2003 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of Wizkids.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.