The Dragon reared back.
“Bhaag ja!” Dr. Merchant shouted. Or something like that. “Hoosh!”
“Good,” Victor said. “If you can make it go–“
“Drive a mother away from her offspring? Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Offspring?” said Victor.
Three giant metal slugs tumbled away from Dr. Merchant. She followed them, yelling and waving her arms at the Dragon – the mother? – which stretched its neck toward her. But it couldn’t flame her without harming its young, and it couldn’t reach her before the first Dragonlet crawled over the edge of the window and dropped out of the hangar.
“Yes,” she said. “Good. Now, you, help me!” The biologist ducked and skidded toward the other baby Dragons, heading one off as it humped toward the safety of its mother’s side.
Victor shuffled after the other as fast as he dared. The mother Dragon looked up at him and Dr. Merchant took the opportunity to grab her baby and heave it over the edge.
The Dragon turned back to blast her and Victor kicked the last baby, which rolled up like a giant pill bug and plopped out the window.
The mother Dragon screamed across the AM band. It scooted sideways, head dipping, wings rotating back into flight position.
“Go away.” Merchant lowered her arms. “Bhaag ja.”
The adult was much more graceful than the young had been: an elephant seal rather than a giant maggot. Its long, sleek body twisted in the air, coiling around a parachute/jellyfish shape Victor realized must be one of the Dragonlets in flight mode. When mother and child touched, factors moved and the parachute condensed into a little lump on the Dragon’s fuselage. The nosecone moved, questing for the other Dragonlets. The wings flexed and tilted.
“Once she brings the Dragonlets back,” said Dr. Merchant, “she will kill us for what we did to her family.”
Victor turned back to the corpse of the first Dragon, which was already chugging away at fabricating its first human-compatible oxygen canister. Water and food would come next, rendered out of the petroleum these monsters used for blood.
“Well,” he said, “at least we’ll be alive for her to kill us.”