Canto 71 – In the Belly of the Dragon (the White Thread)
Inside the massive ancient device shaped like a dragon, the students of Ged Aero discovered a long corridor and a number of rooms that looked like the inside of a spaceship, yet not like any spaceship any of them had ever entered.
“It’s something like a Nebulon Space Whale,” said Gyro. “The walls and floors and ceilings are all made of pliable materials that bend and warp as the artificial creature moves, yet I can sense that it is entirely unliving in the same way as something made of stone or rigid metal.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty weird in here,” said little Mai Ling.
“Junior? Are you still in telepathic contact with its artificial mind?” Ged asked.
“Yes, Sensei. But it is complex. It thinks in algorithms faster than I can learn from it.”
“We have to master this wonderful thing,” said Phoenix. “It is the most elegant and brilliant travel machine I have ever seen.”
“Where is the control center… the bridge for the ship?” asked Shu Kwai.
“Directly above us,” answered Junior, straining to keep up with the flood of input from his unique form of telepathy.
“Can you find the way in?” asked Sara.
“I think I can open it.”
Red, blue, and yellow lights flashed in pulsating patterns along the red-brown walls. Then a hidden hatchway opened above their heads. A ladder that was made of some sort of high-tech bone or stone dropped to the floor.
“Permission to lead the way?” asked Billy. “I can use my clairvoyance to see what’s ahead.”
“Yes, Billy-san, lead the way,” said Ged with a satisfied smile.
Billy Iowa climbed like squirrel monkey, zipping up through the hole in the ceiling in almost no time. Then he signaled the others to follow. One by one they all scaled the ladder and entered the large control room of the dragon ship.
It was a room shaped like the top of the dragon’s head in the carved statue of the dragon gate that existed outside and all around the ancient device.
“This will be such a shame to shatter the walls and city gate in order to use this spaceship,” Ged muttered, intending to talk to himself mainly.
“As far as I can tell, we don’t have to destroy the gate or walls to free the dragon from them. It is showing me a schematic that suggests the whole thing teleports from here out into space. The structure of the city walls and gate were built to remain standing when the dragon leaves. It can also return and hide in the same place.” Junior had answered in an almost mechanical way.
“Junior? Do you need to rest your telepathy a bit?” suggested Sara.
“Um, well… let me do two more things first.”
The panels where the dragon’s eyes were located on the outside of the gate suddenly irised open, though nothing could be seen through them. The six holes in the ceiling that then opened up each lowered a helmet attached to a long, glowing filament that tethered it to the computerized brain above.
“What are these for?” asked Hassan.
Junior fell to his knees, practically exhausted to the point of unconsciousness.
“Junior!” Sara took hold of him and cradled him on her lap on the control-room floor.
“We… we are going to have to experiment. So much of this is too complicated for me to understand without a great deal of study.” Junior closed his eyes, and was immediately asleep.
“So, when do we move our stuff from the Palace into this thing?” asked Alec.
“There is no hurry. We need to give Junior time to learn this thing’s complicated operations. And we need to explore the whole of the ship. We cannot simply jump into a thing like this and take off. We don’t even know yet where we must go. Somebody is going to have to study those damned books of prophecy too.” Ged surveyed the faces of his students. Freddy, Rocket, Phoenix, and Billy had started grinning at each other when Ged had mentioned the word, “explore”. Gyro was lost in thought examining a helmet. Hassan was looking about with a bored expression. Jackie, Mai Ling, Taffy, and Sara were all gathered around Junior and tending to him or lending concern. Only Alec was glaring back at Ged.