Friday, June 24, 2011

Claws of the Dragon

I told Jack to stay out of sight in the hospital room while I went to check out the gunshots and screams down the hall, but he ignored me and followed me out. He did at least have the good sense to stay behind my semi-scaly, partially bullet-proof body.

Good thing because I walked out into the hallway and took a shotgun blast full in the belly. It was a lot like getting kicked by a mule. I know. I’m a farm kid.

I whoofed my breath out and fell backward onto Jack, who managed to catch me and only stumble back a step or two. I looked down at my belly surprised. No blood. A hole had been torn through the silly hospital gown and the bandages. A shimmering expanse of silver scales with not a scratch in them showed though the ragged black-edged hole. “Whoah!  My abs are armored!”

“Not the time, Dee,” Jack reminded me. He pointed with his chin, “Bad guy with shotgun in a hospital.” 

“Right.” Jack set me on my feet, and I leapt forward to tackle the big bruiser in leather with the shotgun who was about to blow my cheery nurse’s head off. She crouched on the floor, holding up her clipboard like it might ward off a shotgun blast.

Scythe was the nut with the shotgun, and he looked pissed off. He screamed, “Where is she? Where’s the bitch with the claws?”

I’d intended to leap forward and body tackle him, but my legs were still a bit rubbery and the hospital had a nasty tendency to spin periodically. The IV I’d forgotten about got yanked out of my arm when I jumped. I sort of stumbled into the guy, and grabbed for the gun.

He was faster, and probably far less fuzzy-headed, than me.  He yanked the gun to the side and kicked me in the chest, which made less of an impession than the shotgun blast. He pumped the shotgun, and pointed it at my face, “What did you do to her?”

I was pretty confused about what he was asking, but completely clear-headed about not wanting to be looking up the barrel of a shotgun. I grabbed the thing with my left hand and shoved it hard to one side, holding tight to it so he couldn’t shove it back in my face, or anyone else’s.  I felt something give, and looked at my scaly hand holding the shotgun barrel. The barrel was crushed and bent nearly ninety degrees.

“Did I do that?”

“What the hell are you?” Scythe asked.

“I'm an EMT,” I said without thinking, then punched him with my right hand, from an awkward angle.

He threw up both arms to block, so I hit muscular forearms instead of jaw. It didn’t slow the punch at all, even though I hadn’t been able to put much force behind it. Scythe knocked a laptop off one of those little roll around metal desks, hit the opposite wall, and left a muscle-man sized dent in the seafoam green-painted drywall.

I thought the fight might be over, which was good because the fluorescent lights were way too bright, kept strobing, and were making this really annoying buzzing noise. I struggled to my feet, using the wall to help get me vertical.

Scythe shoved the rolling desk into me just as I got standing.

That just was not cool.

I fell in a tangle of limbs and metal desk that made horrific clanging sounds as it went down. I thought my head might explode, and I seriously considered puking on the clean white tile. That probably wouldn’t make my nurse, who was on the floor next to me, happy.

I picked the desk up with one hand and flung it at Scythe.

He did a cool dive roll thing up the corridor toward Jack. The desk went past him and embedded itself in the wall like abstract art.

“Hold still, dammit,” I murmured, struggled back to my feet and went after him. I grabbed an IV stand as I went, mine, possibly.

Scythe grabbed Jack by the hair with one hand and pressed a handgun against his temple with the other. “Tell me what you did to Death or I’ll blow his head off.”

My first instinct was all protective and horrified, but I looked at Jack’s face and suppressed an urge to giggle. Scythe was very focused on me as the threat. He hadn’t restrained Jack’s arms in any way, and wasn’t paying him much attention. He’d assumed ordinary little Jack was harmless. Heh.

I did my best to keep Scythe’s attention on me. “I didn’t do anything to Miss I-can-kick-your-ass-in-stiletto-heels. She put that brass spider thing on me, and I’ve been out for days. That’s why I’m in the hospital, dumbass.”

“Don’t mess with me, bitch, or I’ll blow a hole in him. Death has been out cold for three days since you scratched her. How do I bring her out of it?”

“Uh …” I said brilliantly. I popped the silver claws out of my new hand and looked at them. The tips, if you looked real close, were hollow, like injection needles. “No way!”

Scythe growled, and pointed his gun at my head. “Tell me how to fix her, now!”

Jack shoved his shoulder into Scythe, knocking his aim off my nose, then shoved a taser in the big bruiser’s ribs.

Scythe yelled, “YEE AAGH!” or something like that and dropped his gun. He stumbled back from Jack, body jerking, but still managing to roll away.

Jack and I both went after him.

Scythe drew another gun from his boot, and started to point it at Jack.

I whacked his arm with the IV stand. Another gun went flying. 

Scythe did a backward roll, and came up with two more guns in his hands. Where the heck did the guy keep all those guns? He couldn’t retreat any further, he’d reached the end of the corridor. The big picture window behind him had a nice view of the park across the street through the sheets of blinding white light.

I stepped in front of Jack and threw the IV stand at Scythe.  He dropped, it flew over him, and he rolled back to his feet, right on the edge of the now shattered window.

Scythe fired both guns simultaneously, one at the window, shattering a larger section of glass, the other at me.
I turned sideways and threw up my left arm, like I always did when something nasty was headed my way.

Three bullets pinged off my shoulder, leg, and chest. They stung a bit, but not nearly as much as I expected.  They all hit scales. Even where there weren’t any scales last time I looked.

Scythe dropped the guns and jumped out the window.

That seemed like a really bad idea. I could tell by the angle of the view of the park. We were at least on the fourth floor.

I leaned out the window, holding the frame so I wouldn’t topple over, and squinting and shielding my eyes with my other hand so I could see. I saw Scythe flip neatly from one ledge to another, then drop to the next with ease.  I suddenly had a lot more sympathy for the cops who continuously failed to catch the Death Dealers despite the fact that neither one seemed to have any superpowers.

But I did.

I jumped out the window.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I knew a four story fall wouldn’t give me too much trouble, I can jump two stories straight up from a standstill.  I dropped onto the grassy lawn, and tumbled to take some momentum. Well, that’s what I told Jack later, anyway.

Truth is, I landed like a ton of uncoordinated bricks and rolled ass over teakettle. My body felt all weird, heavy in places where I thought I was light, light in places I thought I was heavy, and my muscles didn’t respond like normal. It didn’t help that my head was still swimming and the light was so bright I felt like someone was holding a spotlight in my face.

I looked for Scythe once I straightened myself out, but he was long gone.

Good thing for him that he left, or I would have puked on his shoes. Not that I had much to throw up, but my stomach made a valiant effort.

Jack brought me a wheelchair a little while later. We went back into the nice hospital, and I laid down on a bed until it stopped rotating.

The cheery nurse brought me a tray with three steaks, four chicken quarters, two pork chops, and a tuna salad. She also brought me an extra pillow, a fluffy pre-warmed blanket, a new, clean hospital gown, and a tall glass of ice water. She told me at least four times that if there was anything else I needed, I just had to ask.

When she finally left, I ate everything but the tuna salad. It had pickles and celery in it. I felt slightly more like myself after that.

“All right, I think it’s time for me to see the full extent of it,” I said.

Jack didn’t even pretend not to understand. He closed the door.

There was a full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. I stood in front of it, tossed the useless hospital gown aside, and let Jack do his thing with the scissors and the bandages.

He cut the left side free of bandages and it made my breath catch. Scales. My entire left side, from collar bone all the way to my clawed toes was covered in scales. Purple was the main color, with heavier silver on my shoulder, elbow, breast, knee and belly.  Emerald stripes like a tiger's accented the deep purple.

Jack kept going, cutting bandages until I was completely naked in front of the mirror. It was odd. No other man had ever seen me naked, but my father when I was a kid.

The thing is, I’d never seen me naked before either, not like this, so we were both pretty much seeing me for the first time. My right side was still skin, like a human’s, in some places: my right leg below the knee and part of my right thigh, right arm and shoulder, and my head. I turned and twisted around to look at my back.
Silver heavy scales almost like plates ran down my spine, and my back and butt were completely covered in purple scales with green stripes.

My wings felt strange, I unfolded them part way, not enough room to stretch them out completely. They were thicker, heavier, and the joints at the wrist and elbow felt different. I’d have to go somewhere with more space to see what had changed about them.

“There’s hardly any me left,” I said softly.

Jack set the scissors aside and put his hand on my left arm. He stroked down the scales the way he used to, and it felt just as wonderful as ever. “It’s you, Dee. Just a few years older.”

I choked a laugh. “A few.” I looked at the shimmering new scales on a body that should have been familiar, and I felt a little dizzy again.

Jack’s hand held onto my arm and steadied me. “It’s all right. I’m here.”

I touched his face with my one human hand. “I thought it was awful, happening so slow, maybe one new scale a month. Fafnir said that was so I had time to adapt and learn as I matured.” My hand shook as I touched his face, human skin to human skin, a sensation I might one day lose forever. “What’s going to happen to me now?”

Jack didn’t have any answers, but he held me, and that helped.

Dee Dragon

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