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“Congrieve kicked his rudder, turning a hard left, trying to make a run at the beast’s eyes. Pockets of hot gas continued to toggle his wings. Honorati rose to cluster defensively. Rather than trying to shoot them down, Congrieve zigzagged through their gauntlet, knowing their sights and aiming would be as impaired as his own. Even though he was able to cruise past the Honorati protectors, it was still a struggle to get within firing range of the beast’s gigantic eye. As Congrieve approached, the vast pupil dilated. Large as a lake, the pupil exposed its Stygian fathoms, staring at directly at Congrieve, assessing him. He saw himself and his plane reflected in the shimmering pools of the inferno. An orgasm of flame erupted from the gargantuan mouth, and the air around the dragon’s head grew impossibly hot, forcing Congrieve to halt his approach.”
Operations aboard the dragon were extraordinarily well coordinated. It was obviously all rehearsed, endlessly, resulting in people who performed like machines. Wootin sensed a relationship between the movements of the workers and the rolling motions of the dragon’s train. The continual loosening and tightening of cables, the intricate ganglines, the diamond shaped couplings, combined with the rhythm of the beating wings reminded Wootin of something very familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. It lay just beyond his grasp.
Even within the heat of battle, feeding the dragon had been given a high priority. Scrawny workers were farming rats, packing them into carloads of huge squirming bags, and moving them toward the beast’s mouth. Now and then they threw in sickly old cows. Even though the dragon was constantly being fed, it was obviously crazed with starvation.
Hollister Congrieve flew frantically around the catastrophe, dodging the collapsing coils. He was caught in the downdrafts caused by the raining dead weight. It was like being in the center of a solidified cyclone. All of that tonnage in the grip of gravity. Miles of belly were falling atop miles of spine. Loop after loop fell and crashed and collided in midair. The bat-like wings flapped and fluttered uselessly, like ripped and broken standards. All that sheer weight and momentum sucked the oxygen from the air.
Congrieve dodged pier after falling pier. It was like the end of the universe. He flew very close to the falling coils, his wheels rolling over the bumpy surfaces. It was as if he were riding a downward rolling runway. There were brief apertures that promised an avenue of escape, but these would slam shut quickly. He would be crushed if he failed to make it all the way through.
He felt an unexpected torque, a hard shift to his right. He went off the coil he was riding. He was in freefall for a moment, his engine stalled. He hit the windstorm in the middle of the maelstrom.