Another week of fantastic flash fiction and short stories.  Authors gave us good dragons, bad dragons and dragons that weren't dragons at all.   To read them all go here.  Now, let's get to the results, shall we?

Honorable Mentions:

_ Solimund's staunch naturalist inhabits an interesting place to visit.
Hazzard's birth of a dragon slayer was sparse and gritty and pulled no punches with the speaker's emotion toward the dragons.
MB1k's steampunk train heist and its heavy freight of opportunistic cynicism.
ChuckWJ's speaker's discombobulated, disconcerted nod to Kafka's "Metamorphosis."

The Winner:

_ Strohman's gang initiation was both a clever twist, and an excellent scene-setter with characters that earned instant believability.

The Winning Story:

_“People call them Dragons. The Eighty-Eight Dragons, to be exact.”

Captain Emerson looked out the grimy side window at the group—men in their teens and early twenties—lining the street and staring down vehicles as they passed. Some wore expensive hoodies, jeans, and shoes, while others were adorned with white wife-beaters that showed off expansive and colorful tattoos.
_“You’re saying my boy joined them.” Her inquiry was phrased as more of a statement than a question.

Emerson nodded soberly and placed his hand on hers in an attempt to comfort the grieving woman.

She began to sob, quietly at first but then erupting into an hysterical outpouring of emotion. He let her express her sadness and frustration for several minutes without interruption.

“Why didn’t he tell me? Why would he do this without telling me?”

“I’m sure he didn’t want to hurt you, and, well, obviously he knew you would not approve.”

She frowned but said nothing, staring at the troublesome young men as they laughed and pushed each other playfully like little, deadly pit-bulls. She saw the glint of hand-guns in the waist-bands of at least two of them.

“I understand today is Chinese New Year?” he asked, jarring her from her thoughts.

“Yes, but we are Vietnamese. It is Tet, the Lunar New Year.”

“I am aware. Chuc mung nam moi,” he said softly, trying his best to comfort her.

“Thank you. Happy New Year to you too, Mr. Emerson.”

She laughed humorlessly, adding, “How ironic is it that this is the Year of the Dragon?”

He nodded. “Yes, I thought the same thing.”

She swallowed and began to muster her strength, as if the question she was about to ask was the toughest she’d ever say in her life.

“So what will happen to him?”

“Well,” he replied solemnly, “he’s probably already been partially initiated. Part of that process requires extensive tattoos. He’ll be asked to steal a high-end vehicle. We don’t believe they’ll force him to hurt or kill anyone, but only time will tell.”

She nodded, wiping her eye with a tissue. “I just don’t understand. Why a gang? Why this?”

He remained silent, unable to give her the answer she desired.

“You think he’ll be OK?” she finally asked.

He nodded emphatically. “I’m sure of it. Nguyen is the best young cop on the force right now. If anyone can go so deep undercover, it will be him.”

She turned and looked to the police captain for reassurance as he patted her hand gently. At least, he thought, he wasn’t telling her that she’d lost her son in the line of duty. Yet.

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