Chapter Sixteen: Mal
Up, Up and Away!
They arrived at the Hanger ten minutes later. Mal had to stop the bike and show his credentials. He also had to get a visitors pass for Kaden, which wasn't easy at this time of night. Mal had some fast talking to do. Thankfully Jerry was on duty and knew Mal well. He issued Kaden the pass, and they rode through.
The first stop was Mal's apartments. Mal parked his bike in his assigned spot, grabbed Kaden by the hand and practically dragged him through the base to his rooms. Mal didn't waste time; he grabbed all the ammo and weapons he could feasibly take with him, packed some more clothes, and shrugged into his thickest jacket, gloves, and hat. He also grabbed his riding goggles as they would be travelling long distances and he didn't want his eyes to dry out in the wind.
"Here," he said as he handed Kaden his spare hat and goggles. The man was already bundled up ready for their journey but never having been on a dragon before he didn't own any goggles.
"Thanks." Kaden took them from Mal and pulled the tight fitting hat on over his head.
A knock at his door interrupted Mal as he was shoving the last of his clothes in his small bag.
Mal wasn't worried that it was anyone suspicious. This place was like Fort Knox. There was no way anyone was getting on base that shouldn't be here.
"Mal, open the fucking door, I know you're in there."
Mal had to smile when the gruff voice of his team leader sounded on the other side of his front door, quickly followed by more banging.
"Yeah, yeah, hold your damn horses for crying out loud," he yelled at the door as he made his way through the apartment. He opened the door and smiled at his friend. It was good to see him again.
"I heard you were back." Hank grinned as he stepped forward and wrapped Mal in his embrace, pounding him on the back.
"Not for long," Mal said as he pulled back to look at his friend.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Hank's expression changed to that of confusion when he glanced passed Mal and noticed Kaden standing in the lounge room with the bags held in his hands.
"Who's that?" Hank asked.
"This is Kaden, a friend of mine." Mal hoped that when all was said and done he and Kaden might actually be more than friends. But for right now, that's what they were.
"What's he doing here?"
Mal took a deep breath, placed his hands on Hanks' shoulders and looked his friend in the eyes. "I need you to do something for me."
"Anything, you know that we're practically brothers. The team will do anything for you."
"No questions asked," Mal continued. Hank's expression became weary now.
"I know I'm asking a lot, but I found some things while looking into Anya's death. They're not good, Hank, and they affect us all. I need to go and take care of this."
"Where, for how long?" Hank asked him.
"Switzerland, Zurich more precisely. I don't know how long for, though. Hopefully no more than a few weeks, a month tops." Mal took a deep breath and plunged on. "I need to take Nidhogg."
"Jesus, fuck. How do you propose to do that?" Hank pulled back and started pacing.
"I know, this is where I need your help, if I just take him, it'll be logged as a theft, and I'll be tracked down and hunted as going rogue. I can't have that. I need to get there as fast as I can. Please." Mal begged his friend and team leader. "Can you add this to the books. Make my trip legit or something. Write it down as the Swiss needing help training their Divers or something. I don't know. I just can't be tracked across the globe only to be dragged back here." Mal strode forward and took Hank's hand in his. "You know I would never ask something like this if I didn't believe it was of the utmost importance. Please, Hank."
Hank stared at him for so long Mal thought his friend was going to turn him down. Eventually, Hank nodded.
"I take it you'll be leaving right away?" Hank asked him.
"Yeah, we need to take to the skies. I'm already running behind."
"Then I had better disappear and go add you to the books. And for fucks sake, stay safe and check in every once in awhile, let us know you're still alive and kicking."
Mal grinned at his friend. "You bet."
Hank nodded at Kaden. "Nice to meet you, maybe next time we'll actually be able to converse."
Kaden chuckled behind him. "That would be nice. Thanks for your help."
Hank smiled then left. Mal let out a heavy sigh; he hadn't actually been sure Hank would be willing to help him. He should have know better, as Hank said, they were practically family.
"Right, We got everything?" Kaden asked as he stepped up and handed Mal his duffle bag.
"I think so, let’s go introduce you to my dragon."
Kaden looked scared shitless, but he nodded his agreement.
Mal took Kaden's hand and squeezed it gently. He turned off all the lights in his apartment, locked the front door and led Kaden towards the nests.
Things were quiet at this time of night as they walked through the massive corridors lined with pods and stalls on either side. The loud sounds of dragons in slumber the only noise to disturb the peace.
Kaden looked around him with wide eyes. Mal tried to remember that Kaden had never seen anything like this before.
Mal had spoken with the night attendant and informed him of his orders to take Nidhogg, and to confirm them with his team leader if he had any issues. The last thing Mal needed was an alarm being raised in the morning when everyone woke to find a dragon missing. Mitchell nodded and picked up the phone.
He left Kaden in front of the stall door to the Divers nest and disappeared to get Nidhogg's saddle and reins.
Mal came back pushing them on a trolley; they were far too large and heavy to be carried by just one person.
When he returned to Kaden, Mitchell was also there, the night attendant slid open the massive door and flicked on one of the light switches.
Mal breathed a sigh of relief. Nidhogg's head came up when the lights over his pad came on. He stared at them, his expression grumpy. Mal had to smile; it had been too long since he'd seen his friend.
Kaden hung back as Mal walked forward and rubbed his hand up and down over Nidhogg's big snout, crooning to his dragon.
Nidhogg huffed at Mal, and immediately engulfed him in a warm breath of air. He trusted Nidhogg, had been with him since he was a baby. He doubted the massive dragon would ever do anything to hurt him.
"We've got to take a trip boy, you ready for a long flight?" Nidhogg huffed again, and Mal chuckled quietly, "Yeah, that's what I thought too."
Mitchell pushed forward the trolley with his gear on it, and he and Mal set to getting Nidhogg ready to fly. Mal secured his and Kaden's bags to the saddle, making sure they wouldn't impede Nidhogg's ability in any way.
When they were ready, Mal grabbed the reins and slowly lead Nidhogg through the nest to the large doors that would take them outside. Some of the other divers glanced their way as they passed, others continued to slumber on.
When they were outside, Mitchell closed the door behind them, wished them a safe journey and disappeared back to his post.
"Come up here," Mal said as he turned to Kaden and motioned him forward.
Kaden took tentative steps forward.
"Kaden, I would like you to meet my very best friend, Nidhogg. Nidhogg, this is Kaden, a friend of mine who will be accompanying us on this journey, so you have to be nice to him."
Kaden stepped closer.
"It's okay, you can touch him, there's no need to be scared, Nidhogg won’t hurt you."
Mal rubbed his hand up and down Nidhogg's neck. Kaden tentatively reached out a hand and placed it on Nidhogg's scales, just under Mal's.
"Oh wow," Kaden said, his eyes going wide. He stepped closer and moved his hand up and down in soothing strokes. "He feels incredible."
"I know. Now, let's get out of here."
"Oh right, sorry," Kaden said as he stepped back.
"Nothing to be sorry about.
Mal made sure his jacket was done up tight; his hat was on, and his gloves felt comfortable. He climbed into the saddle like it was second nature to him and settled into the seat. He held his hand out for Kaden.
"Just step where I did, swing your leg over to the other side and settle in behind me."
Kaden nodded, bit his bottom lip and did as he was told.
Mal felt the warm of Kaden at his back almost immediately.
"Don't forget your glasses," Mal said. He felt Kaden move behind him; Mal settled his own on his face. He reached down and strapped their legs to the saddle; it was something they only usually used for long-distance flying. Usually, a Ranger needed to be able to move on a dime, but the last thing Mal wanted was for either he or Kaden to fall off if they got tired. Happy they were secure he glanced behind him, "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be," Kaden smiled timidly at him.
"Hold on then." Mal nodded, leaned down murmured to Nidhogg, patted his friend on his neck, then hitched his heels slightly into Nidhogg's side and flicked the reins. The power under him as Nidhogg tensed, unfurled his wings and took off into the air was a rush like none other. Kaden screamed behind him; Mal could only laugh, God he loved flying.