One Tech's Nightmare
Summary:In which it is seen that a dragon is far too big for Headquarters.
Timeline:December, 2010; just after "The Girl and Her Dragon."
Published:March 30, 2011.
Rating:PG/K+ - Make sure to lock your RC door when you're just wearing a towel.
Co-writer:Delta Juliette.

There is no subtle way to drop a dragon into a room. Tables flipped over, half-finished projects flew everywhere, and the lab that had moments earlier been something resembling organized devolved instantly into chaos. Techs who could see the dragon reached for whatever was nearby and weapon-shaped, and techs further away poked their heads around corners to see what had happened.

Perhaps slightly more practically than most, Agent Dann reached for a fire extinguisher.

The blue dragon turned warily in a circle, growling at the various implement-wielding techs. Bits of destroyed furniture and delicate, perhaps irreplaceable thingummies crackled beneath his feet. Beside him, a tough-looking young woman in a Viking helmet and armor held a sizable mace in front of her, menacing anyone who looked at her the wrong way.

"Easy does it!" Dann yelled. "It's a Monstrous Nightmare—they're . . . ." He trailed off as he noticed the agent who dove through the portal after the dragon and Viking. A kender. Also known as trouble. "You," he said.

Before the portal closed, the agent tossed his remote activator back to the other side with a shout of "See ya!" to his partner. Then he turned to Dann. "Hello! Have we met? I'm Earwig Slugthrower, and these are my friends! She's Gall, and that's Fellrazer. We're gonna shrink him," he announced proudly.

" . . . Shrink him," Dann said, momentarily reduced to repetition. "Shrink a dragon. Right."

Moments later, he recalled that he was, hypothetically, in charge.

"Put 'em down and back away," he told his techs. "They're friendly . . . ish." The techs backed off, improvised implements quietly finding their way to the floor as Dann continued. "How small do you want him?"

"Small point of order," Gall broke in while Earwig was busy contemplating all the possibilities. "I never agreed to this shrinking business. If you'll all excuse us, we'll be going now." She vaulted onto Fellrazer's neck and looked around for a likely escape route. There really weren't any, so she was forced to choose an unlikely route. With a shout, she urged the dragon into flight, and he shot off down the largest available hallway, demolishing low-hanging lights and high-rising projects in his path. "So long, suckers!"

This was rapidly turning into a far more exciting day than Dann had planned for. Contingency plans for this sort of thing really didn't exist—who expects a dragon to come visiting?

"Grab anything important and get under cover," he ordered the techs. "Open the blast doors, in case they come back through. Jones, grab a phaser, set for stun, and meet me in the hangar."

Techs scrambled for breakables and cover as Dann grabbed Earwig and started to chase the dragon.

"This one's your problem," he said as he ran. "You've got until Jones gets here to solve it."

"Yes, I can certainly see your point," Earwig said. "I'm sure they don't mean to be any trouble, though. I'll just explain that there was a misunderstanding and everything will be fine. Er, it would be much easier if you would let go, though."

Dann dropped Earwig's hand and kept running, bounding from clear space to clear space in the wake of the dragon. Something crunched underfoot and he winced as he ran—why hadn't they cut off inbound portal access to the lab, again?

The white emptiness of the hangar really had no clue how to handle a dragon. Tractor beam projectors tried to lock on, blue beams swiveling and jerking back and forth like searchlights, trying to follow Fellrazer's fast swoops and sudden dives. The walls of the hangar, which would stretch to conveniently fit any ship parked within, flickered back and forth between keeping out of the snarling dragon's way and herding him back to a smaller space towards the entrance.

Dann slapped the emergency override, and the tractor beams powered down as the walls sprang back to open up a cavern large enough to park a capital starship in. He turned and looked back at the entrance for Earwig. The kender caught up and pushed in front of Dann in time to see a blue streak as Fellrazer banked through the now-stable space and came screaming back toward them.

A normal person would have been frightened out of his wits, but kender are not normal people.

"Hey, Gall!" Earwig cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, stepping forward. "I think there's been a misunderstanding! Why don't you land, and we can talk about it over a nice cup of aaargh!"

Dann, a slightly more normal person, tackled Earwig and slid across the floor, getting both of them out from between the hangar door and the rapidly approaching Fellrazer. He looked towards the door and cringed at the scene.

Technician Jones stood squarely in the middle of the hangar exit, phaser in hand. He took aim, double-checked that it was on stun, took aim again . . . and underestimated the airspeed of an effectively unladen dragon. He went one way, the phaser went another, and it was only thanks to his personal forcefield generator (issued to him by Medical after one too many incidents had gone after him like missiles) that he bounced off the wall instead of crashing against it.

Fellrazer never even slowed down, only grunted irritably at the impact and kept right on. The techs who had optimistically if perhaps naively begun setting things back in order in the main lab scattered and dove for cover for a second time as he came through. This time, however, the main doors were open and Gall steered toward them, and in a rush of wingbeats, they shot out into the corridor. The drama of this was sharply diminished when Fellrazer smacked snout-first into the opposing wall, but he recovered quickly and bore his rider dizzily away into the complex of Headquarters.

"Are you nuts?" Dann asked Earwig, picking himself up off the floor. "No, never mind, you are nuts. That is a dragon, why on Earth, Krynn, or the lands beyond did you bring it to HQ?"

Earwig thought about it for a moment, not terribly bothered by what had just happened or that the dragon had whooshed over his head in the self-same moment. "Well," he decided, "I think it may have had something to do with the fact that we all wanted to leave and it seemed like the fastest way, or maybe that I know from personal, second-hand experience that losing your dragon isn't fun. Or maybe it was just something I ate. Anyway, we should really go after them, so would you please get off me?"

After making sure that Jones was still breathing, Dann and Earwig dashed out of the lab and into HQ.

Somewhere else and several minutes further down the timeline, Agent Derik scowled down at his remote activator. He could have sworn the settings were unchanged from the last time it had been used, but he must have jostled something when he fielded Earwig's pitch through his portal to DoSAT, and the thing had deposited him who-knew-where. Or perhaps that had been the kender's plan. Shaking his head, he settled his sledgehammer on his shoulder and set off in search of his partner. Unfortunately, he had a pretty good idea of where Earwig was, and therefore needed a distraction.

The dragon and his rider, conveniently headed precisely who-knew-where, fit the bill nicely.

They rounded a corner and drew up sharply when Gall recognized the tall man—or rather, since he had dropped his beard and Viking regalia upon reentering HQ, his sledgehammer—and shouted for Fellrazer to stop. Unlike the unfortunate Jones, they had a healthy respect for what the scarred man could do with his weapon, and he looked pissed. Fellrazer backwinged fiercely, Derik threw himself to the floor, and they all avoided broken bones and nasty cuts as the dragon overshot and landed ungracefully in the corridor beyond, scoring deep weals in the Generic Floor.

Recovering quickly, Derik leaped to his feet and turned to confront the pair. He came face to face with the equally agile Gall, who had her mace in her hands and a no-nonsense look on her face.

"Well?" she said. "I don't want to have a problem with you, one-eye, but if you're going to try anything with my Fellrazer, that's exactly what I'll have. A big, ugly problem." Behind her, Fellrazer growled in emphasis.

"The way I see it, you've already got one." With a lightly raised eyebrow, Derik inclined his head ever so slightly toward the dragon. Gall bristled. "I thought you were going to shrink him."

"Change of plans," the girl bit out. "We ran away fair and square, so too bad. If you don't like it, then just tell us how to get out of here and you'll never see us again. . . . What? What's that face for?"

Derik sighed. "There is no 'out', woman. I tried to tell you. This is it." He gestured up and down the corridor. "It's all like this. Nowhere to go except missions, and no home but your response center. Look!" Abruptly, he stepped to the nearest door and wrenched it open, startling a small woman with close-cropped red hair who had apparently just taken a shower, going by the towel. "This is what the quarters are like," Derik continued, ignoring her furious protests. Grudgingly, Gall leaned in to scope it out.

It was a fairly basic response center, dominated on one side by the console with just enough space leftover to sleep two people and house their belongings and a mini or two. In this case, it was most prominently decorated by a Slytherin house banner on one wall, and a mini-Aragog hissed at them from the back.

At that point, the occupant had enough. She pulled a wand out of the robes laid out on her bed and, with a flurry of sparks, the door slammed shut and audibly locked. Clearly, if it had been locked earlier, it had acted out of a sense of self-preservation to forget that fact in the face of a determined Derik.

"Of course, if you insist, I suppose you could try living in one of those with Fellrazer as he is," he said.

Gall gave him a baleful look. "I get what this is about."

"Oh, is that so?"

"Yeah. They didn't let you keep your dragon when you got recruited, did they? So now you're just bitter."

Gall knew immediately that she had said the wrong thing. Even the agent inside the response center felt her skin prickle at the glacial force of the silence that rolled though the conversation.

Derik's voice was calm, even mellifluous when he spoke. "My dragon was killed defending my friends from a Mary Sue. You don't know me, and you don't know this place. You're a child, thinking only of yourself. Why don't you think about him?" He pointed at Fellrazer, huddled awkwardly behind his rider.

Not to be so easily shamed, the Viking drew herself up and placed her mace at a jaunty angle against her shoulder. "Well, why don't you tell me this: would you have let your dragon get turned into a little lapdog just because some stranger with half a face and serious, serious mental issues said so?"

Derik was unfazed—she was five-foot-four at best, and not doing so well at appearing tall as she thought. "My options at the time were to come here or face the possibility of ceasing to exist. If it would have kept him alive and happy, yes. Unequivocally, yes."

The new silence was less oppressive, more laced with emotions on the brink of spilling over, which would have given the custodians a heck of a time. Fortunately, it didn't last that long.

"There they are!"

Having followed the trail of scattered agents, claw marks, and one very traumatized petunia, Earwig came jogging up the corridor. He held aloft a flyswatter picked up along the way, waving it around like a flag. Finally catching up to the group, Agent Dann came behind him. Derik cinched up his expression and stepped aside.

"End of the line, varmints!" Earwig called. "Now put up your weapons and come quietly! A guard said that to me once," he informed them. For his trouble, all he got was a couple of flat, unimpressed stares. "Also, hi, Derik! You were able to finish the mission all right without me, weren't you?"

"Hello, Earwig. We will be speaking about that later," the man said. "Right now, I believe we have a dragon to shrink."

"Hey, I still didn't say I'd do it!" Gall interjected.

"It doesn't have to be permanent," Dann said. "We can set it up so you can change his size whenever you feel like it—smaller for fitting into HQ, or bigger for riding, Sue-eating, and the like."

Gall tilted her head. "You can do that?"

"It's just a question of applying the right technology."

"Tek-nah-luh . . . that's a weird word for magic." She glanced back at Fellrazer, who seemed to agree.

"It's like magic," Dann agreed, "but with more swearing. And slightly higher risk of burning yourself."

"Oh." She let her mace drop to rest on the floor and seemed to deflate in exasperation. "Well, why didn't anybody say so in the first place? That's cool!" She brightened again, grinning frighteningly at Dann. "I like you. So, what do we have to do?"

Derik smiled quietly. Earwig turned a crestfallen look on Gall. "You mean we don't have to clap you in irons and haul you off in chains?"

"No," said everyone else.

"Aw. But I was wondering where I was going to get the chains at this hour."

"Why don't you think about that on the way back to the lab?" Dann asked, seizing the opportunity for distraction. "Speaking of which, that's where we're headed."

Derik gestured for the tech to lead the way, and the rest fell in. The dragon lumbered along behind them.

"So, uh," Gall began, moving up to fall in step with Dann, "sorry about the lab or whatever. Heat of the moment, you know? No hard feelings?"

"No worries," Dann said, glancing back at the dragon. "It was looking too clean, anyways."

The Makes-Things Memorial Blast Doors ground open once again, making appropriate large-door noises despite their state-of-the-art bearings and joints. Techs looked up from projects, except for Jones, who was still thoroughly dizzy from bouncing around inside his PFG. Gall silently mouthed an apology at him, though he didn't seem to take notice.

"We're just here for a shrink ray," Dann announced, in an attempt to reassure the techs, as he walked to the lab’s tiny armory. Unlike some of the other arms lockers, the chest labeled "Ray Guns, Assorted" was horribly unorganized. Dann reached in and started pulling out various chrome-plated weapons. Behind him, Derik took a firm grip on Earwig's collar.

"Death ray . . . heat ray . . . death ray . . . freeze ray . . . manta ray?" The plastic fish landed on the rest of the weapons with a squeak. "Here we are! Shrink ray!"

Hacking together gadgets is something that the techs of DoSAT are very good at, as the agents, agent recruit, and dragon observed. It wasn't long at all before what had been a ray gun became a wristwatch and a small box on a dragon-sized collar.

"I don't suppose you could get this around his neck?" Dann asked Gall.

The Viking woman shrugged. "Sure." She futzed with the clasp for a minute before working it out, then slipped it around Fellrazer's neck just below his head. The dragon eyed her skeptically, but didn't budge until she was done. Once she stepped back, he shook himself out.

Dann took the watch and gave the ring around it a good twist counter-clockwise, and with a flash of blue light, Fellrazer shrunk noticeably. The formerly massive dragon was still big, but only the size of a large dog. He blinked in surprise and swung his head from side to side with a growl, then slunk closer to his suddenly larger handler. He sniffed her suspiciously, as though it was she who had changed.

"Whoa, cool!" Earwig shouted, slipping Derik's grip in order to examine the resized dragon and his collar.

"Looks like it works," Dann said, showing Gall the watch. "You twist here, this way for smaller, and that way for bigger. You'll feel it click into place when he's at his regular size."

"Guess it'll take some getting used to," she said ambiguously, patting the nervous Nightmare, who looked to be debating whether to set Earwig on fire or not. "Weird." She slipped on the watch and, subconsciously mimicking her dragon, shook out her wrist. Then she laughed. "So, is this what you call normal around here? Crazy size-changing bracelets and stuff?"

"Plus or minus," Dann said, nodding. "We keep the whole place running, one problem at a time."

"Tek-nah-luh-jee, huh?" She gave the watch a flick of her fingernail and looked up at the tech. "So hey, I get one of those blue travel doors, too, right? And the flashy-thingy? When do I get a flashy-thingy?"

"Probably after your training, but that's not really my department . . . ."

"Don't worry, we'll take care of everything!" Earwig said. "Right, Derik?"

"Yes, it would be irresponsible to leave them in the lurch, wouldn't it?" he answered pointedly.

"And that's why I'll take them to the Department of Personnel myself!"

Derik snorted. "I'll come along, if you don't mind. From now on, I'm keeping a closer eye on you." Gall said something devastatingly witty about Derik having nothing left to see with, but he ignored it. "Which reminds me: you'd better empty your pockets before we leave. I'm sure you have something in there you 'picked up for safekeeping' while you were here and then forgot about."

"I dunno, Derik, we were pretty busy chasing Fellrazer and Gall, but if it will make you happy . . . ." A few minutes later, an improbably large pile of stuff lay on the floor, including the flyswatter, a handful of buttons, a black Sharpie, the plastic manta ray, and a good-sized knife.

"Now that's just dangerous," Dann said, picking up the Sharpie. "Wonder who left that lying around?"

He reached into the pile of gadgets on a table and pulled out an odd-looking metallic sphere, with seams running around it in seemingly random directions. As he idly spun slices of it, various other parts changed color, without any apparent rhyme or reason.

"Trade?" Dann asked Earwig, offering the thingie.

Earwig reached out for it, eyes rapidly approaching the size of dinner plates. "What is it?"

"It's like one of those cube puzzles. But worse. Much worse. You win if you can get it all the same color."

"A puzzle, huh? Okay! Thanks!" He sat down and eagerly manipulated the bits of the sphere, lost to the world.

Derik grinned. "That other thing didn't look like much," he observed. "Are you sure it's a fair trade?"

"Positive," Dann said, tucking the Sharpie into a pocket over his heart. "The puzzle only does one thing. With a pen . . . anything is possible."

Suddenly struck with the notion of Earwig writing fanfiction, Derik nodded seriously. "I think I see what you mean." He offered his hand to the tech. "You've done me a good turn, at any rate, and the others as well. Thank you."

"It's what we're here for," Dann replied, shaking Derik's hand firmly. "Dealing with new problems is so much more fun than the usual grind, too."

Gall smirked at being described as an unusual problem. "Hey, if you ever want the place trashed again, just let us know. We're good at destruction."

Derik gently nudged Earwig with the toe of his boot. "Come on, we're going now. You were personally escorting our recruit to the Marquis de Sod, remember?"

"Oh, right!" Earwig hastily scooped up the contents of his pockets and pouches, stuffing them back in at random. The puzzle-sphere, however, he kept out, certain that he could get it done on the way. He was destined to be proved wrong, but he was also destined to be thoroughly distracted for hours, which made everyone happy. "Bye!"

The massive doors ground closed once again, returning the lab to its usual disorganization. Dann turned and walked to one of the things he could do, re-packing the box of ray guns. He traced the path of destruction backwards through the lab, cleaning things up at least to the point where they had been a few hours earlier.

Towards the back of the lab, tucked into a corner, there was a desk. It had been there for years, but unlike all the other flat surfaces in the lab, it was clean and neat. The few pieces of paper—schematics, blueprints, some faded to the point that only the word "Duplicator" was visible on their upper edge—were arranged neatly. A nameplate proudly carried the text "Makes-Things," and in smaller letters, "Head Technician, Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology." Dann extracted the Sharpie from his pocket and placed it back where it belonged, next to the sonic screwdriver in the tiny upended rocket motor that served as a pen holder.

"What a day," Dann said, shaking his head slowly. "You never mentioned that chasing dragons was in my job description, boss . . . ."

Neshomeh's Notes

Here it is, the thrilling conclusion to the events set in motion by Derik and Earwig's last mission! My thanks to Delta Juliette, who co-wrote with me for this. We both had fun with it. Chronologically, this takes place shortly before Christmas, 2010, but since that didn't really come into play and we didn't finish it until the end of March 2011, we decided on the current title instead of a play on a certain popular Tim Burton film. Points if you already know the one I mean.

Thanks also to Phobos, who eyeballed this for us before we decided to post. Extra points if you recognize the unnamed agent Derik so rudely intruded upon.