Su-Su and the Flang-Chong Dragon
A Story by Lea Sheryn
Beyond the cracked sidewalk, the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass, there stood a ten-foot high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
Rejoice! The red-lettered word blared out for all to see. What an unsuitable word, nineteen-year-old Go-Mang thought to herself as she stared at it from across the windswept street. Only the Moor-Mons could be responsible for leaving such a glorious word in a dreary place. Occasionally they would find their way into the forbidden little city of Dung-Lo. They would never stay long; their type wasn’t wanted there.
Ever since the Emperor Lo-So took over the throne, after the brutal assassination of his elder brother Lo-Fun, the atmosphere on Planet Zon became as bleak as inside the stomach of the mighty Flang-Chong Dragon that roamed the wastelands of Yaanek. As Go-Mang looked along the cracked sidewalk and the dusty road, the only colors to be seen were the ones of the rainbow-colored flyers attached to the slightly bent telephone pole. Even the painted concrete block wall of the prison across the street had faded to a slight resemblance of the original colors.
There was not one resident of the village of Dung-Lo who didn’t fear the prison. Even the remotest suspicion of treason against the Emperor Lo-So could trigger orders for arrest. In the dead of night, the Imperial Guard could enter a dwelling and hustle off all the inhabitants of the house. Once a person disappeared behind the concrete block wall, he or she was never seen again.
Go-Mang sighed as she turned her back on the wall and contemplated the broken glass window of the pawnshop behind her. It hadn’t always been this way. The Planet Zon had once been a pleasant place to live. That was when Lo-Fun was the Supreme Ruler. For one thing, the glass windows had all been intact and the telephone poles had connected to telephones. People had actually spoken to each other and had enjoyed themselves by going to the movies or walking in the parks. Once Lo-So had taken over, he had outlawed any kind of fun.
The Americans had first established Planet Zon as a settlement in the year 2325. At first, it had only been a remote outpost to conduct experiments in living conditions in Deep Space. Finding themselves unable to use current technology, the early pioneers had resorted to the old ways, hence the telephone poles. Once the experiments had been completed, the planet was given over for development to alleviate the overpopulation of Planet Earth. In the first few years, only Americans had taken advantage of the situation. They soon outgrew the place and moved on to a more fertile planet.
Zon had been sold to the Chinese in the year 2412. Almost at once, the population began to boom. The first Emperor Lo-Bong had established the government and voting for cabinet members by the ballot process. The planet had prospered, and its citizens lived happy and plentiful lives. Lo-Fun had continued the rules laid out by his father and predecessor; life continued to be good.
Ever jealous of his elder brother, it wasn’t long before Lo-So had begun to plot his treacherous plans to overtake the Imperial throne. Lo-Fun was assassinated, in the dead of night, while he slept comfortably and securely within the palace. No one dared publicly speculate on how it happened but there were plenty of whispers going on behind closed doors.
Wishing she had been able to see her face in the reflection of the shop window, Go-Mang reluctantly turned back to view the deserted street. Young Su-Su was kneeling at the shrine. With her head bent in sorrow, her deft little fingers attempted to rearrange the dried-out flowers that fell to dust with her touch. The soggy teddy bears didn’t appear much better, they slumped forward in the posture of a small child saying his prayers. Resting her head in the little girl’s lap was the kid.
Clutching her hands into tight fists then releasing them to stretch out her palms, Go-Mang repeated the gesture several times. How she wished Su-Su would finish her task and disappear from the street before the Imperial Guards noticed her. It wasn’t so much the little girl that worried Go-Mang. It was the kid that was the problem. The little white goat was a forbidden pet. Su-Su knew better than to be seen with it on the street. “Hurry, hurry,” the elder girl whispered as she clenched her fists once again.
Just as Go-Mang made up her mind to hustle Su-Su off the street, the Moor-Mons, Jeremiah and Daniel, appeared from another doorway. Crossing the street, they knelt beside the twelve-year-old girl as though they were going to say a prayer with the child. In a nearly imperceptible movement, the kid was concealed within Daniel’s long brown hooded cloak while Jeremiah gently assisted Su-Su to her feet. Silently they brought the girl back with them and entered the building they had recently exited. There was not a moment to spare since the Imperial Guards appeared at the top of the street to make their rounds of inspection.
Very few people knew where Su-Su came from. Appearing suddenly on the streets of Dung-Lo, she was an orphan with no known parentage. Old Din-Wa had taken her in as a companion of her old age until the elderly woman had been accused of witchcraft and dragged off to the prison. With love and respect, the little girl had set up the shrine and tended it faithfully--day in and day out--outside the prison wall.
With only the little goat as a companion, Su-Su was an orphan once again. Continuing to live in the cottage of her adoptive mother, the child went about her business with the white kid following her wherever she went. If things continued the way they were, it wouldn’t be long before she came to the attention of the Imperial Guard.
As a member of the Zon Resistance Party, it was Go-Mang’s business to keep track of Su-Su’s whereabouts. Stepping into the building the Moor-Mons had led the child into, she quickly surveyed the interior. No one was in sight. “Where could they have disappeared to?” she wondered. Surely the two men in brown hooded cloaks couldn’t have disappeared with the child so quickly.
A reconnaissance of the room showed an unevenness in the floorboards. Kneeling, Go-Mang revealed a secret door and silently slipped through it. Finding herself in a dark passage, she felt her way along it until a steel door blocked her way. Thumping loudly on it, she hoped for a response. It wasn’t worth her life to lose track of Su-Su. The Resistance was counting on her. Finally, Daniel opened the door and Go-Mang stepped down into a cavernous space.
A huge armored transport vehicle filled the large garage. With its engine idling, it was obvious it was prepared to leave at any moment. “Where are you taking Su-Su?” Go-Mang demanded as she pulled her weapon of choice, a laser pistol, from her belt. Jeremiah turned to her with a warm smile and exclaimed, “We are assigned to bring the Princess Sung-Su across the wastelands of Yaanek to our compound for sanctuary. You are encouraged to join us, Lt. Go-Mang.”
It wasn’t a hard decision to make. Go-Mang’s assignment prompted her to accept the invitation. Just as the small group prepared to enter the vehicle, a loud tramping of feet was heard advancing along the dark passage. Without hesitation, Daniel swept Su-Su and the kid into his arms and climbed aboard the transport. Jeremiah and Go-Mang were quick to follow. The roar of the engine filled the space as the large steel door was breached, allowing the Imperial Guard to enter.
A large garage-type door swung open in the rear of the cellar. With a revving of engines, the vehicle lumbered into the Wastelands of Yaanek, leaving the guards to fire their weapons uselessly behind the path of the escapees. The small village of Dung-Lo disappeared behind the first hill. Their first stop would be the Dragon’s Den, a way station in the midst of the wasteland operated by the ancient sorceress, Rainbow.
Making good time over the Yaanekian Desert, the Dragon’s Den appeared as a small spot on the horizon. Inching ever closer, Jeremiah lifted the sleeping Su-Su into his arms and, cuddling her close, planted a small kiss on her forehead before settling her into a soft sling. The kid climbed in beside the child to secure a place of comfort. Gently, he settled her down with a caution to remain as silent as possible. A gaping opening in the wall of the Dragon’s Den proved to be a garage that welcomed the entrance of the armored vehicle. Relieved that the journey was near completion, Su-Su patiently waited in her sling for the next move.
When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves, a light rose motif that played ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.
The pizza kid! He was as much a legend as the sorceress, Rainbow. Said to be a forgotten child of the American colonists of Planet Zon, he was found wandering the wastelands by Rainbow herself. Taking him in, she cast a spell on the boy causing him to remain a ten-year-old child. With flaming red hair and a pale complexion accompanied by multiple layers of freckles, he was best known for his love of pizza. It was all he ate; therefore, it was all he had to offer the weary travelers.
It was his constant chanting that called forth the presence of Rainbow. Swooping into the den with her multi-colored cape flowing behind her, she was as spectacular as legend claimed. Go-Mang stood in awe of the ageless woman who was much spoken of but rarely seen. “What brings you to the Dragon’s Den?” she demanded as she stood magnificently before them. “State your business or be vanquished to the Wastelands of Yaanek.”
Bravely Daniel stepped forward and stood before the dreaded sorceress. “We bring the Princess Sung-Su who has barely escaped the grasp of the Imperial Guard,” he stated with slow deliberation. “We take her to the Moor-Mon compound for sanctuary while we await the American forces to free Planet Zon from the treacherous Emperor Lo-So. We ask your protection and your blessing, O Mighty Rainbow.” Jeremiah brought young Su-Su forward for inspection.
With her eyes focused above the heads of the visitors, Rainbow bluntly stated, “This is no battle of mine. Be gone!” As abruptly as she appeared, the great witch turned her back on the group and deliberately marched toward a door in the back of the cavernous room. The pizza kid trotted behind her to catch up. Grasping her hand in his, he reached up on tiptoes to whisper into her ear.
After grappling back and forth, the flame-headed youngster finally came back to the small group. “The Mighty Rainbow has granted permission for you to stay long enough to rest and eat but you must be on your way immediately,” the pizza kid relayed the order. As the sorceress disappeared in a puff of smoke, the child rushed into the kitchen to return with a stack of pizza boxes balanced on his upraised palm. The hungry group sat comfortably on the floor to enjoy the feast.
With stomachs full to the brim, Su-Su and her pet kid curled up together in the soft sling to nap while the Moor-Mons huddled together to read from a volume they referred to as The Good Book. Go-Mang took the opportunity to reconnaissance the area. Aiming her laser pistol toward the floor and using stealthy footsteps, she walked the perimeter of the garage. The temptation to invade Rainbow’s domain struck her as she passed the closed door the Sorceress had retreated through.
Just as Go-Mang made up her mind to enter, a feeling of unrest overtook her. Before she could fully react, the pizza kid rushed back into the garage to exclaim: “The Imperial Guard is in the wastelands.” Her training as a Lieutenant of the Resistance kicking in, Go-Mang prepared to face the enemy in battle. Knowing the Moor-Mons, being a peace-loving group, were unwilling to obey orders, the only option was to beg Rainbow for assistance.
Raising her fist to pound on the door to the Sorceress’s chambers, Go-Mang had to quickly sidestep as it was flung opened to allow Rainbow to enter. “The enemy is upon us!” roared the ancient witch as her arms raised her multicolored cape to its full glory. “The Flang-Chong Dragon has been released upon the Wastelands of Yaanek.” As she spoke, the sound of the winds picked up and began to swirl the needle-sharp yellow sands of the Zonian desert.
Side-by-side, Go-Mang and Su-Su stood in the slit of a window in the garage door to watch the action. As the four-legged snake-like Flang-Chong Dragon chased its tail in the midst of the wasteland, a thick swirl of yellow sand began to form. As the wind continued to twist around upon itself, it grew into a menacing cloud that reached up and up into the sky. Larger and larger it grew until it began to pick up the Imperial vehicles as though they were nothing but toy trucks before they were propelled into the sky. As soon as the enemy was flung away, the dragon began to reverse his circle until the tornado disappeared.
With the desert relieved of the presence of the enemy, Rainbow appeared to call back the mighty Flang-Chong dragon. Go-Mang, eager to discover the relationship between the sorceress and the dragon, stepped outside to get a closer view. As she edged around the corner of the waystation, she was surprised to find Rainbow and the red-headed pizza kid in deep consultation. 'Where had the dragon gone,' Go-Mang wondered as she contemplated the situation. “Was it possible the witch had cast a spell on the boy causing him to become the Flang-Chong?” Quickly the girl dismissed the idea as impossible.
Re-entering the Dragon’s Den, Go-Mang found Daniel and Jeremiah preparing to depart. The engine of the armored vehicle roared into life as they beckoned her to join them. “We have to reach the sanctuary of our compound before the Imperial Guard regroup,” Jeremiah explained as his eyes scanned the garage for Su-Su and the kid. “If we leave now, we should be out of the wasteland by morning.”
Although the journey was uneventful, the tension among the group was strong enough to cut with a knife. Scrunched into a tight corner, Su-Su kept her arms around her pet goat for protection. While Go-Mang kept guard on the rear flank, Daniel drove their transport through the desert with the precision of a trained soldier. After the night journey, the outer wall of the Moor-Mon sanctuary came into sight. The entire group crammed around the driver to get the first view of the compound.
Designed to resemble the Alhambra of Spain on the planet Earth, the Moor-Mon’s refuge sprawled elaborately beyond the boundary of the wastelands. Built of brick made of the desert sands, its Moorish style caught Go-Mang and Su-Su’s breath. After the dreary landscape surrounding the village of Dung-Lo, neither of them had ever seen anything so wonderous. It was like stepping out of stark reality into one of the fairy stories Lo-So had banned the populace from reading.
Without making a formal introduction, the Moor-Mon leader, Tiras, announced, “The American Military Force from Planet Libertas has set up a rendezvous in two days’ time.” A tall, domineering figure dressed in the usual brown robe of his tribe was obviously a man in complete control of the situation. “Although our group will not participate in the action against the Emperor Lo-So, we do offer the Princess Sung-Su a place of sanctuary. My wife and daughters will see to your needs.”
A middle-aged woman followed by two teen-aged girls stepped forward from the throng that had assembled to peer at the newcomers. “I am Sarah, wife of the Elder Tiras. These are my daughters, Priscilla and Helah. We will take you to a place where you can clean yourselves and rest.” Leading the way through the immense compound, Su-Su and Go-Mang were shown a large apartment furnished with beautifully woven Oriental rugs surrounded by multicolored cushions for reclining.
Left alone, the two young women explored the rooms allotted to them. At first they couldn’t believe the extent of the technology they encountered. Everything was run by touchscreen, something that was completely unheard of in the village of Dung-Lo where the telephone poles left behind by the first primitive inhabitants still connected the houses and businesses. Squealing with delight, the girls played with everything they could get their hands on until they fell amongst the cushions, fast asleep.
Awaking to find Priscilla and Helah entering with armloads of new clothes, Go-Mang could only stare in astonishment. A beautiful blue silk dress with silver trim was presented to her in grand style. Grasping the garment, the Resistance Lieutenant had never seen anything like it. The usual attire of the residents of Dung-Lo was a pair of baggy grey calf-length canvas pants with a matching button-fronted blouse. Up until now, a dress of such magnificence had been only a forbidden dream. Brimming with pride, she allowed herself to be dressed by the Moor-Mon girls then twirled before a mirror to look at herself at full length for the first time.
Looking as regal as a princess, Su-Su appeared moments later to show off an equally fine garment of red silk trimmed in gold. Grasping hands with Go-Mang, the two young people squealed with delight. Their merriment reached a new height when the pet kid pranced into sight with a big ribbon of red and gold around its neck. With a jingle of small bells, the goat launched herself at her mistress who took hold of her front legs and danced her around the room. Watching them, Go-Mang realized she had encountered a joy she had never known up until now.
It was Daniel who announced, two nights later, that the American fleet of Freedom Fighters had appeared upon the horizon. Running to the highest point of the Moor-Mon compound, Go-Mang and Su-Su were amongst the first to see the approach of the flying armada of combat spacecraft silhouetted against the dual moons of Zon. Standing beside them, Tiras explained, “Su-Su will remain in sanctuary as long as the battle continues. Go-Mang may join the fleet if it is her wish. The Moor-Mons will remain neutral; such is the teaching of our exalted leader, Brig-Smith.”
Suited up in desert fatigues, Lt. Go-Mang joined the first of the Freedom Fighters to land on the airfield beyond the Moor-Mon compound. As much as she enjoyed playing dress-up for a few days, she knew her place as a member of the Resistance was on the field of battle. Her training prepared her to fight and that was exactly what she intended to do. The briefing led by First Commander Stark was direct and to the point. Joining up with Major Petra Stargazer and her Martian husband of equal rank, KevTran, Go-Mang was one of the first to take control of an Interstellar Flying Device.
Thousands of InterFlings hovered above the airspace between the Moor-Mon compound and the village of Dung-Lo as the Imperial Guard rolled out onto the Wasteland of Yaanek. Firing the first shot into the air, Lo-So’s army took out the first InterFling. All at once, the bombing began. In the melee, it was hard to tell how the fight was progressing. Go-Mang didn’t attempt to keep track as orders kept coming to advance across the desert.
In an instant, a sudden calm descended upon both armies. All eyes were riveted upon the figure of Rainbow standing atop the Dragon’s Den. Her voice filled the air as she called forth the Flang-Chong dragon. In a flash, the red four-legged serpent appeared and began chasing its tail. This time, a mighty fireball formed in the sand to devastate the enemy. As soon as the Imperial Guard was destroyed, the Flang-Chong spread its wings and disappeared into the sky.
Leaping into awaiting Hover Vehicles, Go-Mang, Petra Stargazer and KevTran took off in hot pursuit of the Flang-Chong. In the distance, the tall watch towers of the Imperial City appeared. As they drew closer, the Emperor’s Army emerged with heavy bazookas on their shoulders. Fireballs screeched into the air to begin the melee. Releasing their Interfling Devices to combat the Imperials, Go-Mang and her team maneuvered to the left and right in quick succession to avoid being scorched by the enemy’s powerful weapons.
One by one, the Interstellar Flying Devices fell from the sky. Go-Mang and her team could barely hold out much longer. Feeling the agony of defeat, they hovered higher into the sky to avoid total annihilation. “Where are the reinforcements?” Go-Mang shouted into the mic of her InterLobe Hearing Device. All she received from Petra Stargazer was static. Taking the deep breaths her training demanded, she couldn’t stop her head from screaming in capital red letters: DEFEATED DEFEATED DEFEATED.
Shaking her head to clear it of the negative exclamations echoing across her brain, Go-Mang started to calculate a new course of action. Surely First Commander Stark had sent the reinforcements. Where could they be? Scanning the regulation hieroglyphic chart of Planet Zon equipped in her Hover Craft, it worried her to find no movement detected. Not only was there no sign of the reinforcements but Petra Stargazer and KevTran also had disappeared.
As she maneuvered her Hover Craft still higher, Go-Mang felt a jolt as an Imperial Fireball passed close to her left flank. Knowing it wouldn’t be long before she was shot from the sky also, the Resistance Lieutenant held her position as she considered her options. Drip-Drop, a splatter of water splashed on her windshield. Followed by another and another. Suddenly the sky opened to let loose a deluge. “Rain?” questioned Go-Mang. Strange, the girl thought, it rarely rains on Zon.
Out of the sky, along with the rain, the Flang-Chong dragon descended onto the roof of the Imperial Palace. Without much ado, Go-Mang watched, spellbound, as the mighty dragon stretched his elongated torso over the edge of the tiled roof and slithered into the Emperor’s Lodgings. Moments later, he emerged with the Emperor Lo-So grasped between his sharp teeth. As soon as the capture had been made, the deluge stopped to allow the sun to shine through the clouds. The bright rays illuminated the Flang-Chong making him sparkle in red and gold delight.
Go-Mang revved her Hover Craft before letting the throttle lose at full power. Looping up into the air, she jubilantly filled the air with red and gold smoke to celebrate the defeat of the Emperor Lo-So. As she made her revolutions of joy, the air filled with the sudden arrival of the reinforcements. Loud and clear, the voice of First Commander Stark spoke out in Congratulations.
When all the units landed in front of the Imperial Palace, Go-Mang was relieved to find Petra Stargazer and KevTran already on the ground. Sadly, Daniel had been lost in the fight; they all gathered in remembrance of his bravery and declared him a good man for all he did to bring the Princess Su-Sung to sanctuary. Shortly afterwards, Su-Su arrived with First Commander Stark. However, there was no time to speak to her since she was hustled directly into the palace.
Several hours later, as the dual moons of Zon appeared on the horizon, the Princess Su-Sung was crowned on the steps of the Imperial Palace. First Commander Stark took charge of the ceremony. As the grand ball began, the Sorceress Rainbow materialized in a puff of smoke with the pizza kid beside her. Lifting her multi-colored cape, she cast a spell upon her companion turning him into the Flang-Chong dragon, then into a tall handsome youth of fifteen. Turning to Su-Su, he leaned forward to kiss her cheek.