It was getting close to 2 o'clock and I was just finishing up
everything I had to do before I cut out for my 2:40 class. I was
refueling my Zippo lighter from the bottle of fuel and generally
making a mess of things. I don't smoke, but I am the kind of science
nut who's into chemical reactions, explosions, bright lights and
high-speed impacts. I always try to have the right tools for the
job and to be prepared for any situation. You never know when
a little flame might be called for. I gave my lighter a test when
suddenly I felt a tingle moving up my hand.
I looked down and to my amazement I saw that my hand was on fire! I batted the flames out on my pants leg, vowing to be more careful as the smell of singed hair wafted up past my nostrils. With nothing better to do I checked my school e-mail account. There were about 9 new messages. That new TSA list I had joined was really active. I usually didn't send list mails to my "official" account, but my others were already clogged with traffic from my myriad other lists. I felt I was on a slippery slope that would soon have this address hopelessly clogged. Anywho I opened up a message and began to read. It was a very long and complex tale. I could barely seem to make out even the words. I can't remember exactly when or where I fell asleep.
When I came to I was off my chair and my big LED clock numbers were 3 inches from my eye. "3:16!" it screamed.
"Oh, shit." I mumbled as I realized I was missing my class. Normally this type of should would have sent me to my feet running around the room as I tried figure out what to do, only now I felt as if I had been stuffed in an ash can and rolled down a hill. I could barely move and my vision was blurry. About the only thing I could see was the 3:17 on the clock. I tried a little harder. Something behind me crashed to the floor. Fuck. The crash startled me and I head something else crash. Fuck! What the fuck was going on? My room was getting trashed, I had missed my class and I generally felt like shit. That's it! I'm getting my ass up, I thought to myself. I moved my arm to grasp the little printer table in order to push myself to a vertical position. It was then I noticed the 4 inch long black claws digging into the wood surface. I managed to torque my head around. My small dorm room had suddenly filled with silver scales, snaky tails and metallic wings.
Do you know that feeling when you drop a brick on your hand and the blood is just starting to flow? You lift it up and its all messed up, but it doesn't hurt at all. All you know is that you can't undo what you see and in about 5 minutes you're going to be in some serious pain. Well that's sorta the reaction I had. A combination of "woah" and "shit" came out of my mouth, if it still was a mouth. Shit. This was not the time to panic. I needed to keep calm and find out exactly what happened and what my situation was. I appeared to have suddenly turned into a silver dragon, but was it permanent or was it even real. I had to find that out.
I guess I had always wanted to be a dragon (with silver topping the list), but it wasn't on my list of top priorities. I wasn't ashamed to be a human. With our minds we had achieved more in reality than the dragons had in myth. Still, it had always been a dream of mine to join their ranks and possibly join human thinking and dragon strength. However, I never in a million years thought it would turn out like this. I had always assumed that if I was going to become a dragon it would be in some forest or some old cave. Maybe by discovering some old artifact the university had put into storage or due to foolish goofing off in the MB&B lab. Who turns into a dragon for no apparent reason in the freakin day? I so did not need this right now. I have better things to do than being wedged in between my bed and chair with a huge body that's covered in all sorts of pointy bits!!
After some more crashing and some minor spillage I got free and lay down on my back as best I could. 20-year old dragons aren't that big, but with my tail and all I was still pretty curled up. I spent some time poking at myself, wiggling things and attempting to look at myself in the mirror. I had turned into what was my ideal creature. Pure silver scales with tasteful black highlights that provided camouflage in snow country. I had deepwater green eyes and tufts of long hair that fell around the base of my horns. I ran my hand along my face and horns. I opened my jaws and felt rows of sharp teeth in my maw. I looked at my hands, noticing I had lost a finger on each, but I could still grasp and hold and each finger was tipped with a pre-sharpened claw. At least this body came with batteries included, I thought to myself. I then began to get a little distressed. My ideal dragon came with various magical abilities, notably the power to shift back to human to prevent this kind of mess, but I had no clue if I had those powers let alone how to use them. I was not looking forward to counting in base 8 for the rest of my life. Man, nobody uses octal anymore.
It was at this point I realized just how fucked I was. How would I eat? How would I use the bathroom? If I so much as left this room events would rapidly progress beyond my control. My room was trashed, the cloths I had had on were rags, my shoes were ruined. The worst part was I was now probably going to miss the showing of Bullitt next week down at the cinema. And they had it in 35mm to boot. The world was trying to spite me. At least I wasn't hungry, I didn't have to piss and I didn't have any insane urge to go out and kill living things for their meat.
The only thing in my room that was still ok was my computer. My TSA folder had several hundred messages in it. I hope they were having a good time, I wasn't. In addition to shredding my bed sheets, my razor sharp claws were fine enough to type with, but it was slow and a major pain in the ass (if I still had an ass). It was getting close to 5pm and I felt it was time for step 3, call a friend and see if I was tripping (you can never be sure what people slip into your food at college) or if I was really a dragon.
Before I called anyone I needed to find out if I could still talk intelligibly. I have always had the hardest talking out load to myself when I don't really have anything to say. Like after a cold when I need to see if my voice had come back yet. I always got an insane feeling of self-consciousness. Well, now I was a dragon with god knows what kind of voice, and sound travels right through these walls. Aah, what the hell.
"Um... Hello... um... Yes, I see... ugh... testing... Ha ha ha, foolish mortal."
Fuck, this was so stupid. I can't believe I just said that. Well at least I now knew that I could talk intelligibly. My voice was slightly deeper and everything had a bit of a growl. No point putting it off, it was time to call someone. I got the phone off the cradle and I was able to carefully push the numbers with my claws. It was sorta like dialing with a pencil. My friend, Lee, lived 2 doors down, so it was kind of a pointless call, but I definitely could not leave my room. I had two options here. I could lie and get him over on some innocuous errand and then deal with him as he opened the door. Or I could be vague and ask him over for some sort of personal trouble. I choose approach B.
"Um, hey. It's Mike. I was wondering if you could come over here? I'm sorta in some trouble here and I could really use your help. Things are a bit messed up, so when I open the door, don't panic."
"Yeah, hey Mike, sure, I'll be right over."
I used this time to get ready to open the door. I was curled about the room in a semi-circle so I just rotated around until my arm bits were able to access the door. I heard the door down the hall slam, then footsteps, then there came a rapping upon my chamber door. I took a breath and opened it.
I watched his eyes grow as large as dinner plates and I swear if he had been wearing a hat it would have flown off his head.
"Dammit, hurry. Get your ass in here. Hurry!"
I sorta pulled him in and the door slammed shut. "Dude, what the fuck happened to you?" He said in a hushed tone.
"I turned into a silver dragon, what does it look like?!" I then went on to explain the situation. Lee wasn't well versed in sci-fi or fantasy so he probably didn't fully appreciate the situation. I left out the part about the TSA list, thinking it would only confuse him. After I was done talking I asked him to get some stuff out for me. I was getting a bit hungry and I could do with a snack. By this point the shock had worn off and Lee was talking. He was mostly going on about how cool this was and all the cool stuff I could do. The funny thing was that he made a good point.
This was pretty cool. I mean I'm a fucking dragon. I've got these wings for flying. I've got these spikes for impaling. I could probably breathe some sort of cold liquid gas and I was only going to get bigger, much bigger. Bullet proof, bomb proof and battering ram resistant. I was looking at a very long lifetime full of witty/sarcastic remarks. I popped open a 2 liter of Cherry Coke and quaffed it in 5 seconds flat. Aside from being quite funny, drinking 2 liters of soda in 5 seconds wasn't very satisfying. I made a note to take my time eating, even though I could fit a whole chicken in my gaping mouth. It was a bit harder to eat chips with my pointy teeth, but I managed. After I was done I topped it off with a dragon-sized burp.
It was now time to plan my next move. The way I saw it I had 3 options.
Option 1: Head north about 100 miles to Hampshire College. That place was full of hippy, role-playing witches who would probably go gaga for a real live dragon. If anybody could teach me to shape shift it would be them. Problem was how to get there. I didn't know how to fly and I didn't fancy getting captured by hunters or local authorities.
Option 2: Get out the blue pages and call some Government agency. They would probably love to get a real dragon working for them and they would be able to meet my needs. The only problem is that I risked getting whisked off to some underground lab, never to emerge again.
Option 3: Seek shelter with the university. Again, the biology department would love to study a real dragon. I could count on humane treatment and I would probably become well known in the academic community to help prevent a sudden 'disappearance'. They had many places where I could live in somewhat seclusion, and by staying on campus I could complete my degree. They might even go and pay my tuition bill.
After consideration I chose option 3. The easiest thing to do was just turn up in a bio lab. The hard part was getting over there without calling out the SWAT team. I had to do it late at night, so I closed the blinds, sent Lee off and popped in a DIVX movie. I had some time to kill.
It was about 1:30 AM when my Kubrick marathon ended (Shining, Eyes Wide Shut and Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Aaaaa-Hooo!)). Lee came back over, it was 'go' time. He helped me pack a few personal items that I would probably need in the next day or so. I gave him the keys to my room so he could get anything else I needed. He had been really nice through all of this and I felt I owed him something.
"Hey, can you get me those pliers I lent you."
I came back and handed them too me. I grasped them, grabbed a hold of one of the smaller scales on my arm and pulled.
Fuck, that hurt! I put a wad of napkins over the wound to stop the little bit of blood that was coming out. I looked at Lee and held out the scale.
"Here, I want to thank you for helping me. Having a real dragon scale is pretty cool. Also, if anything happens to me, this is proof that I existed. Put it in a safe place."
He reached out and took it. I guess he appreciated it about as much as he could. I then had him take out my camera and take a few pictures. I could use all the insurance I could get. We cleared the stuff away from the window and slid it open.
The plan was simple. Since I was still pretty thin I could squeeze sideways through the window and out onto the balcony. From there I would climb up two more levels of balconies and then onto the roof. From there I would make an attempt to fly, but pending non-success I would then covertly make my way to the science center. The science center was always open and there wasn't much security. I was convinced that one of these days someone is going to steal the whole building. I would go there via the observatory because it was the one place they couldn't erect security lights. Meanwhile Lee would be running around making sure the coast was clear.
I got out onto the balcony. The area was completely deserted. After all who would be out at 2 AM on a Tuesday night? I grasped the second-story railing with my claws and easily pulled myself. Because of my length I had to swing up my legs further down the balcony. The claws let me stick to the metal bars like Velcro. I repeated the process to get to the third floor and from there I clawed my way onto the roof.
Well it was time to fly. I spread out my wings for the first time. The air rushed over them and it sent an electric tingle through my body. Moving as softly as I could I ran and took a leap.
I went about 40 feet before landing hand in the snow. Mental Note: Learn to Fly. This was going to require some practice. I tucked my wings in and ducked into the shadows. The first part was easy, there were almost no light near the observatory. I was moving so low that snow was rubbing on my stomach. I didn't mind the cold however. Silver dragons were built for it. It was the most comfortable I had been all day. I went as far as I could and waited for Lee to run ahead and check things out. I had no trouble seeing him. I had the equivalent of low end night vision. Nothing special, I just didn't need as much light to see clearly. I hadn't even noticed it until my eyes had adjusted from the light of my room. Everything was lit up like there was a bright full moon. He waved me on and I moved as fast as I could across the drive, down the slope and into a field. I hit the deck and lay still. It would be pretty hard to see a silver dragon on white snow. I got another wave and ran the length of the rugby field, stopping in a clump of trees.
The next part would be the hardest. I had to cross a well-lit public road. There was even some traffic at this late hour so I had to be careful. Lee was headed into the science centre to open up the large doors to the loading dock. Several cars went by, but then there were no headlights to be seen. I went for it. I was still moving on all fours, quite a new experience for me. So new that when I hit a patch of ice I lost my rhythm and went head over tail onto the sidewalk. Before I could shake myself off I heard the sound of an engine slowing for the 4 way stop at the intersection I had just crossed. It revved and then suddenly applied the brakes on full and skidded to a halt.
I didn't need to look back. I just ran all out. I jumped over the low wall and ran into the loading area. I turned and saw lights heading towards the entrance. Why the fuck do humans have to be so curious? I jumped into the best hiding place available...the dumpster. I curled myself up and kept my head down. The engine sound got closer and then stopped. A door slammed and I heard footsteps walking cautiously around. Man, these people were stupid. Had I been a real dragon I could have killed and eaten them both in seconds. Luckily I still wasn't getting any instincts to kill, maim, destroy. Probably because I knew these hoo-mons didn't pose a threat. Tee hee, I actually said hoo-mons. I crack myself up. Oh, shit, I'd better not crack up. Don't even think about it.
"Shit dude, I saw it! Didn't you see it? Where the fuck did that thing go?"
"Bob, man. I don't like this. I think we sould get the fuck out of here. Now."
"But dude, I saw it. It must be around here."
"Get back in the car. We should get the hell out of here. This isn't right."
I heard another door slam and the engine sound moved away. After a few seconds I peered out and saw nothing but an empty parking area. This was too funny, I started to laugh. The door popped open and Lee came out spying me in the dumpster.
"Hey, did you see that car? Did they see you?"
By this time I was too busy laughing to tell him the story. The sound of my draconic laughs was even more absurd causing me to laugh all the harder. I entered the building and started to calm down. The halls on the lower lever were all quite wide and I had no real trouble moving. I maneuvered through the tunnels and into the Biology building. The rooms were locked, but Lee worked there and had a key. We figured the best place for me was one of the research labs. Odds were I'd be stumbled upon by a professor or post doc, maybe a grad student. Double doors provided easy access to the genetics lab (I love irony, don't you), but because I didn't want to make a mess I couldn't really go very far from the door, just enough to be out of sight from the hall. Lee set up a drop cloth for me to lay on. He gave me my pack of personal stuff and made sure I was ok. I said I was and he left. I had about 6 hours until someone would come poking around. I extended my arms and rested my head on my hands. YAWN! Tomorrow was going to be an exciting day. As I tried to fall asleep I wondered about my dreams, if I snored, if I would thrash about and wreck the lab. One thing was certain, I was going to scare the fuck out of someone tomorrow...
It wasn't the sound that woke me the next morning. It was the smell. The smell of pure fear percolating through my nostrils was enough to rouse me from my slumber. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at a cute girl who had just entered the lab. She was paralyzed in terror, her arms trembling slightly. Now I felt bad, I mean this might cause her some permanent damage. I said the first thing that came to me, "Don't panic."
With that she snapped out of her trance, dropped the stuff she was carrying and, completely disregarding my instructions, promptly began to panic. She let out a window-shattering scream and ran out the door. A few seconds later a head popped into the room followed by an obligatory "Holy shit" then the sound of running footsteps. This happened about 10 times and then was replaced by low conversation down the hall.
"Don't go near the lab... yes a real dragon... I'm not kidding... Public Safety is on their way... Yes I'm sure... with my own two..." You get the drift. Anyway, about 5 minutes later another head popped in the room. It was an older man, probably a professor, and he was holding a broom out in front of him to fend off, well, me. I wanted to de-escalate the situation here (brooms are just a step or two away from M-16s) so I assumed the most relaxed position I could.
"W-w-what are you?"
"I'm a student." I planted my elbows on the floor and rested my head in my hands. "I ran into some trouble yesterday and I was wondering if you could help me. You see..." He had gotten closer to me and the broom was almost in my face and it was pissing me off. I quickly grabbed the broom away from him. "Let me hold this so you don't hurt yourself. Now, where was I?" Now disarmed the man looked ready to bolt, but something made him stay. "Yesterday I was suddenly changed into the dragon you see before you, I figured the Biology department was the best place to go, so can we all take a chill pill and talk things out?"
"Um... I'll be right back," the man mumbled and he slowly left the room. By this time I saw some public safety officers out in the hall. Hope they weren't going to try to pepper spray me into submission. About 10 minutes someone else sheepishly entered the room. She was the department head. I told her who I was, what had happened to me, and people she could contact to confirm my story. She was especially thorough in asking me about if I had been in any contact with the MB&B lab or any one from the department. I then watched her send some people into a locked room to "check on something" . I began to start wondering if they were hiding another dragon somewhere in the building. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised.
It was now about 9:30 and I could plainly hear the mob gathered in the hallway and public safety trying to control them. Luckily it didn't sound like an angry mob. Next to arrive on the scene was the Dean of Students and the Dean of my class. I went through my story again. At this point I made it clear that I wanted to complete my education here and maybe some sort of arrangement could be worked out. Of course I have never heard a negative word so their assurances didn't assure me much. By 10:15 a Vice President had arrived in the room. Of course the old people weren't leaving. They just stood aside to let the lab slowly get stuffed with people. The VP went on and on about how this school was not going to discriminate based on species and they would see me as a valuable asset in their diversity campaign.
See, there are perks in going to a liberal, activist university. I'm sure that if anyone did try to do something to me there'd be students occupying the president's office within the hour. If the government came to haul me off there would probably be students throwing rocks and lying down in the road to block the FBI Suburbans. I was protected by an army of pot-heads.
As the saga unfolded I learned that transformations had occurred across the country and that everyone on campus was excited to have a real live transformee here at the University. In fact excited was an understatement, they were going nuts. It wasn't even time for lunch yet when I was presented with some documents to sign. From this point on my education would be free and they would provide food and shelter to meet my needs. My job, besides acting as a university 'We're better than you' trophy, would be to let various departments research me and to stimulate alumni giving. Then they let the photographers in. I was going to be in everything from the school paper to almost every admissions publication.
It was then that I realized that I was quite hungry. I mentioned that I was starving and rather uncomfortable. I noticed a bit of apprehension when they asked me what I wanted to eat, like maybe I'd say a live pig or something.
"Just get me large quantities of normal food. Meat, fruit, vegetables, I'm pretty sure I can digest anything. Just make sure it's cooked and bring enough for like 10 or 12 people. I'm not some caged lion. Oh, I also want to get out of here, but not somewhere too public. I don't need an army of gawkers watching my every move. Oh, don't forget beverages, I'm partial to cherry coke."
They took me down to the loading dock. It was partly covered and the lot was surrounded by a high retaining wall. A crowd quickly formed along the edges, but they were mostly out of sight/out of mind. A minivan pulled up and they began unloading the food. It was basically what they were serving for lunch that day at the main dining hall. As for the cherry coke, they just brought in those tanks of carbonated water and syrup and filled up about 5 pitchers. I was pleasantly surprised when the gaggle of officials who had been tending to me sat down and dished out their own lunch from the large serving tray things. They were really going out of their way to make me feel at ease and that I was still a part of the community. Given how starved I was, I regret not paying them back in better table manners.
By the end of the day they had cleared out what had been a storage room on the ground floor for me. They had physical plant guys move my stuff over (like I could use any of it) and they set up some mattresses and blankets for me to sleep on. After a few more modifications it was going to be a pretty nice setup. There was only one problem, all that cherry coke needed an outlet.
"Um, excuse me. Where is the, um, I mean where do I go to the bathroom."
The administrators had left, leaving some biology faculty to see that I got settled in. "I was wondering when you were going get around to that," the female professor said. "You see that drain over there with the funnel attachment on the long hose?"
"Surely you're not serious!"
"I am, and don't call me Shirley."
"Hey, don't make me eat you. How the heck am I supposed to use it?"
"You're a smart dragon, you'll figure it out. I'll leave you two alone."
With that she left the room and closed the door. I would have waited until it got late and I could take my business outside, but I had to go now. I didn't have to shit yet. I read that a dragon's digestive tract was 95% efficient. When I finally did need to crap, I guessed it would have the consistency of gravel. Being able to go about 24 hours without having to piss was also pretty nice, but when you have to go you really have to go and I mean now! I looked down my underside and saw nothing but smooth scales. Due to their combative nature dragons have a retractable penis. It was one of the things I checked for after I first transformed. The problem was I had no clue how to open up the hanger doors, so to speak. I figured the easiest way to do this was to try to use the hard-wired connections in my brain. Instead of trying to force things to move I simply moved the funnel up, tried to become as comfortable as possible. After a few second of just letting go I felt something move and a gush of liquid was moving down the tube. I'll bet they were watching me from somewhere and laughing their heads off.
Anyway, I had had a busy first night in my new life. It was 7:35, and having no clothes to put on I was up and ready to go. My stomach was already yelling "FEED ME", and I grabbed a bushel of apples to snack on before breakfast. They doubled as my primary form of dental care until I found a large toothbrush. I felt the need to walk around, maybe meet some people. The time being 7:35 AM could naturally ration my contact with gawking humans. Phys Plant had modified the door for my use. It didn't latch anymore, but could be secured by a simple metal bar that slid in and out. I opened it up and stepped outside. A public safety officer was stationed outside and he asked if I would be all right by myself or if I needed an escort. I said I was fine and informed him that if anyone needed me I'd be wandering around.
As I said before there were not many people up and about at this ungodly hour, but I did have a time dealing with the few who were. My system worked like this. I would notice a person and they would usually be staring at me. I would then say, "What, haven't you seen a dragon before?" and then follow it with a small laugh. This would break the ice, indicate I took no offence and put the human at ease. The human would then make some obvious remark like "Wow, your big/tall/shiny/cool," and I would respond affirmatively. The human would then ask something like "What's it like?" The best answer I could think of was, "It's like driving an SUV. You're bigger, more powerful, you have a better view, the ride is great and you feel safer." The human would then say, "It was nice meeting you," and go about their day. I did run into someone I definitely did not like. After about 40 minutes of meet and greet I wanted to get out of the building. As I went towards the loading dock my forward momentum stopped and a shooting pain shot up my spine. I looked back and saw my tail caught firmly by the double doors that had closed on it. I carefully opened the door and tenderly pulled my throbbing tail out. There wasn't any damage, but it needed a good rub. I was definitely going to have to keep track of that little rascal trailing behind me all the time. If I weren't careful I'd get it chopped off or run over.
I got out into the loading dock/maintenance bay/motor pool area and took a deep breath of cold, early morning air.
"There it is!"
Nothing good has ever followed that statement. News vans screeched up and reporters materialized out of nowhere. What was I going to do? I had only seconds to decide. I would have to deal with these dogs at some point, it might as well be now, but I had a little idea. Before they could reach me I ducked back in the building. I grabbed a cardboard box and a lumber crayon. A minute later I was back on the dock, the reporters buzzing around like ants. They all started talking at once. I reared back to stand on the hind legs and arched myself over the throng.
"Quiet!" I roared.
The silence that followed was palpable. "Hello everybody," I said, now in my nice voice. "I'd love to answer your questions, but I have a pressing problem. You see, I'm worrying about my favorite charity." I set the box down with the writing clearly visible.
The box read: "Save The Dragons Fund"
"Maybe if my fund got some help I'd stop worrying. Please, no checks or credit cards. Cash, jewelry or other material possessions only. Thank you." The crowd was silent, subtly was obviously lost on them. After a few seconds some guy tossed in a couple of bucks. This would not do. I prayed last night's practice had stuck, I showed a bit of teeth and let out a deep growl. That got the point across. Larger bills began to fly into the box. Reporters ran back to the vans to grab more "incentive". After a few minutes the donation rate began to slow down and I felt enough was enough. I spoke up again.
"OK, I'll be happy to answer any question you all might have, but first let me ask two of my own. First,how many of you slept in your van last night?"
About 3/4 of the hands went up. "You people need to get a life. Second do you want me to be a nice dragon or a mean dragon? I don't really know what gets ratings these days."
"Mean?" someone asked.
"Yeah, I growl and yell and maybe tip over one of your vans."
"How about a mix of the two."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll give you a nice Q&A session then I can maybe get mad at a jerk reporter."
There was a uniform murmur of agreement. The questions lasted about 20 minutes. Most were typical, but a few were very interesting. Was I going to change my name? Possibly, I'd have to think of a good one. How was I going to use my new abilities? I said no matter what I did I would also want to help the community in some way. Share my gift with others. At the end we all agreed that some intern named Ted would flash a camera in my face and I would pick him up, say, "Learn some manners," and throw him in a cardboard recycle dumpster. They turned the camera's on, we all played our parts and it all turned out well. The news shows would get their ratings, I would probably gain public opinion points being against jerk reporters, and I would show that I was able to refrain from eating people. Finally I had the reporters agree to leave me alone for a bit and contact to university for further interviews.
It was almost 8:45 and people were arriving for work. I turned back into the building. The dean in charge on my case was waiting for me.
"So, are we finished playing 'meet the press'?"
"Yeah. Hey, look at the money I got. I can start a hoard."
I held up the box full of money. "That's super. Next time please inform me before you hold another media circus."
"Sure, sorry. Hey, I was wondering if you could get ITS to give me another e-mail address. Something like email@example.com."
"I'll see what I can do, but you have more important plans for today."
He walked me back to my room while I went through my box of money. I counted about 600$ in 10's and 20's and a few odd bits of gold chain or a ring. "I'm sorry, I know it stinks, bit you're in for a day of medical tests."
What did I expect? Of course they would need to do this.
"Here is Dr. Winston Smith and his assistant Sarah Morgan. We were able to get him on the research team that will be studying you."
My room now contained a large variety of medical instruments and specimen jars.
"Be sure to cooperate fully, I'll leave you three alone and make sure you aren't disturbed."
He left the room and closed the door.
"So, you must be Michael. It's pretty wild turning into a dragon and all. I'm just going to examine you so we can better meet your dietary and medical needs, should the need arise."
He picked up a pair of pliers off the table.
"I'm just going to..."
"Hey," I asked, "Where did they get you from on such short notice? Where do you usually work?"
It was Sarah who answered. "The North Side Animal Clinic."
"What! You're a vet! I don't even rate a human doctor any more?!"
"Please, keep your voice down. You're booming. I'm sorry, but I do think that I could better suit your needs. I may work on animals, but that doesn't mean I'm any less skilled as a human only doctor."
"Yeah, keep telling yourself tha -- aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrghgh!!!"
Dr. Smith was holding a bloody scale in the pair of pliers. Suddenly, half out of instinct and half out of rage I lashed out with, hitting the Doctor in the gut with the back of my hand. He flew across the room and into my sleeping area. A second later the red haze of rage passed and I was dismayed at what I had done. I moved over to him expecting serious injury, but luckily he was only bruised.
"Oh, shit. I am so so so very sorry. Are you ok?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I need to be more careful when working around wild animals."
"Alright. You win. No more vet jokes." I helped him up and he limped over to pick up the scale.
"I'm going to need a black one too. This time I think I'll numb the area." He took a long needle, pried up a black scale and injected some pain killer around the base. He then took the pair of pliers and artfully pulled out another scale. It felt like someone pulling out a clump of hair. Just without the pain. He sprayed on some clotting agent and took pictures that would be used to study my healing process. My scales were hard and smooth, sorta like Bakelite only stronger. The small ones were only about an inch square while the larger ones, usually on my body, measured about 6 by 3 inches. They fit like shingles and they pointed backward to let me squeeze through things. With some effort they could be bent up to gain access to my tough hide that would then be exposed at their base. Large plates with lots of overlap and not much lifting room covered my belly.
"Ok my brave boy, you can look now."
Alright, I admit it. I looked away. Ripping off parts of my body makes me a bit squeamish.
"Alright dragon, now we need you blood. You wouldn't know where your veins are, would you?"
::scoff:: "You're the 'Doctor'."
It took him a few minutes, but after listening and poking he lifted up another scale and began to draw vial after vial of blood. Instead of red it was much darker, like a maroon or a deep purple. It was hard to tell it from black.
"Jeez, leave a little for me."
"Don't worry, we're almost done. Than I'll need a sample of your hair."
"Watch it. I don't have very much, and I really like having hair."
I winced as he snipped about an inch off of one of my black locks that fell around my horns. Then to even things up he took some from the other side. He then proceeded to take scrapings from my claws, horns and various spikes, being careful not to make a noticeable gouge or to dull a point. My claws were jet black, and on the inside edge just below the tip the claw, had a sharp edge that could slice a piece of paper. If I ever learned how to shape shift I would deal with that hazard, but for now I had the fine Doctor cover them with black gaffer tape. My horns, on the other hand, were pure silver and had horizontally banded ridges. All throughout the exam Dr. Smith was taking detailed photographs with a hi-tech digital camera and his assistant was racing the samples over to the lab for analysis.
"Ok, now we'll need a urine sample. This jug can hold 7 gallons. Just aim into this funnel and let her rip. Don't be embarrassed; it's nothing I haven't seen before, in concept anyway."
After I nearly filled the jug he asked if I could produce a stool sample, but I told him I didn't have to go yet. His next request caught me a bit off guard.
"You want a what?!"
"How would you propose to get it? I'm not going anywhere near my 'guy' with these!" I shoved my pointy claws in his face. "And I don't want you down there either."
"Perish the thought. Sarah, get in here!" he called out, "I believe my assistant can provide you with some erotic manipulation sufficient to obtain a sample."
I knew that I could just say no. I probably should have said no, but I was really curious what it would now feel like and Sarah was rather cute. I lay down and dropped it out.
"Hey, listen. I don't want to find out that you used my sperm to like create some half dragon monster things. If I find out you're doing any shit like that, I'll rip your limbs out and eat them in front of you."
"I fully understand, and you can trust me that it will only be used to gain a better understanding of what you have become. Oh by the way Mike, here's one quick experiment."
He unfolded a large poster of some supermodel lying nude on a beach. My cock sprang to attention faster than a marine.
"Well, at least you're still partly human."
Sarah had no grasped my member and was now working it around. It did not look like she was going to start sucking it or anything like that. I guess I was still just a patient. The giddy glow soon turned into waves of warm pleasure. A rhythmic sound filled the room. It was me, I was purring! Oh wow this felt good! I wanted to cry out, but the purring just got louder until I swear objects on the metal trays were rattling. I then started to emit a whine from the back of my throat. In one final wave of pleasure I peaked, thrusting my hips out and nearly knocking things over. The purr died away. Fuck, that felt good. I felt all hot and damp. Jesus, I was sweating. I didn't know dragons could do that. The Doctor was already wiping up sweat samples. Apparently it was released at the base of scale and would just work its way out to the surface. I looked at the pint jar now filled with my seed. I literally felt drained. Drained, tired and thirsty.
"You've been a very good patient. Let's break for lunch."
Good, I needed it.
Lunch consisted of several trays of chicken legs, several pots of mixed cooked vegetables, miscellaneous fruits and a few Igloo coolers full of some syrup+water fruit drink. As far as I could tell, my digestive system had no problem with non-meats. I was tempted to find out if I could digest grass and leaves, but since it was the middle of January the required greenery was not available. Someone had made a run down to Home Depot and had procured me some utensils. Filling in for the spoon was a garden trowel, the table fork was replaced by a spading fork and for the knife a cheap machete (although I found my claws much more effective). Usually I would just spear the particular food item and then suck it off my claw. The trowel would only make an entrance when I wanted to eat something along the line of peas.
While the dynamic duo was off somewhere performing tests (or getting it on) I was paid a visit by a frowning Dean of Student of Student Affairs.
"A funny thing just happened. I was calmly eating my lunch when my secretary tells me to turn on the noon news. I then see our resident dragon, giving a press conference on our loading dock and throwing a reporter into one of our dumpsters!"
He was shouting now.
"Maybe I'm confused here! Who the fuck gave you permission to hold a press conference? Who the fuck gave you permission to assault a reporter!? I can't wait to hear your explanation."
He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows. "The reporters gave me a box full of money and told me some things I could do to liven up their story." Well, it was basically true.
"The reporters told you!!? Why on earth were you talking to reporters?"
"Well I thought --"
"That's the problem right there! You thought. Listen carefully. I don't want to have tell this to you again. While you are living at this school, you represent this school. Stunts like the one you just pulled not only make you look like a monster, which you just might be, but make this school look bad!" He stopped yelling and went about regaining some of his composure. His face gradually faded from beet-red to more of a lavender. He pulled out a little black book and motioned for me to move my head over. His voice now calm and reasonable, he continued.
"Let's see who's been asking about you, shall we?" Holding the book so I could see he began to point out names.
"The town called, you might be violating zoning regulations and the fire code. The Middletown police called, they can't guarantee your safety and, for some strange reason, they think you constitute a public safety hazard. The Connecticut Board of Health says that you're not sanitary, the ASPCA says that our facilities are not adequate and the folks down at Animal Control think that you should be gelded. Have I made my point clear?"
"Yes!" I replied with an indignant tone.
" I don't think I have. Let's go on to page 2 shall we? Oh, the Connecticut State Police called to inform us they have assembled a 'quick response team' in case It goes out of control. How thoughtful, they even left a call back number in case we required their services."
He was openly mocking me now.
"Ok, the national guard called asking for photographs so that they can better track you by helicopter. Last but certainly not least, the CDC called and said you should be considered infectious and thusly quarantined. Now we were able to put our reputation on the line and use what little influence we had to make your little problems go away, but since you like to 'think' maybe you should handle this alphabet soup. You can use your reputation and your influence. If you enjoy being so independent, you can walk right out that door right now, but as long as you are a part of this University you will follow our guidelines." The mocking had been replaced by deadly seriousness. "This university doesn't like to look bad, or to affiliate itself with monsters." He paused for a second. "CUT THE CRAP!" Then, back in his quiet, nice voice, "Now let me hear you say it."
At first I had felt like tearing him a new one, but his little presentation had completely disarmed me. He was completely right. "Yes," I replied sheepishly.
It takes a big dragon to admit when he's wrong. "Yes, I'll cut the crap and I won't do something so stupid again."
"It's not about being stupid. Just exercise a little better judgment next time. I know you can. I just wanted you to see things from my point of view. Now are we all friends?"
His sugary sweet voice had coated any anger I had left. "Yeah."
"Good, now go on and have a great afternoon. I have to catch a meeting. Don't make me have to come down here again."
As fun as it was, I really needed to restrain myself until things settled down. What might be funny a month from now was liable to get me shot today. I felt like mumbling. "Stupid reporters and their stupid money. Think they can flash a little green and get me... Hey where is my money?" I had completely lost track of it. Something told me to look under my pillows. I lumbered over, brushing aside the pillows to pick up the box. I didn't remember putting it there. I shouldn't leave this lying around; better put it in the closet. My eyes involuntarily glanced down into the box and made contact with Andrew Jackson. It would be a shame not to count it.
Well the first time I counted it I had $647. Pointy claws made counting a little difficult, but I wanted to be extra sure so I counted again and to my horror I only got $646. Where was the rest of my money? It was my money and it was gone. Where was my money! Wait, calm down, maybe I just miscounted. I'll try this again.
Luckily the next three times I counted I got $647 again so I could stop counting and sort the bills into piles. Mine, all mine. I closed my eyes and stuck my snout amongst the piles, inhaling deeply and letting the rich (literally) aroma flow through me. Ahhhhhhhhh. The smell of different denominations jumped into my mind. The two fifties smelled best. Dignified, like rich leather or aged wine. Mmmmm, the newer design bills added a sassy zing to the potpourri. Slowly, luxuriously, I gathered up my wad of cash and slipped it under my sleeping pads to keep it hidden from thieves. It was mine. Mine, mine, mine! And nobody was going to take it from me!
I circled around a couple of times and then lowered myself into a coil of silver death on top of my money. Nobody was going to take my money. Hissssssss.
Wait... this was stupid. I didn't want to spend my time watching over some lame-ass hoard. Money is to be exchanged for goods and services. I casually threw a blanket over the camera and lifted up my pad and carefully took my money out, making sure I had it all. After making sure a third time I opened up a closet and, blocking my actions from view, I stuck the money in a thick book, then stuck the book in a cabinet, then piled boxes of old 3 ring binders in front of the cabinet. There, that was much safer than under my bed. I could go on a spree later. If I could set aside my instinctual greed that is. I'd even try to give all my clubs a little budget increase. Nothing improves public opinion like throwing money around. Tee hee, if I could glean $600 from a 20 minute interview, imagine what glorious wealth an exclusive or a product endorsement could rake in. And then that wealth could buy stocks, bonds, gold, investments...
I'd always wanted to own a nice profitable multi-national... I sank into a little daydream and didn't notice that the vet and his charming intern had returned.
"What are you looking at?"
::sigh:: "My dream car."
"That looks like a wall to me. Maybe after you regain your sanity we can talk."
"Fuh- ney." I retorted. The 'doctor' presented me with this afternoon's lineup. Most of the poking and prodding was over and we were moving to quantitative testing. Things like, "Read the bottom line."
"Can you hear the tone?"
"How about now."
"Yes, but it's faint."
"Congratulations, you've entered a hearing range normally reserved for dogs."
And so on for an hour. I could see adequately in the equivalent of starlight and I could even see a little infrared and ultraviolet. I moved every part of my body as he carefully videotaped it. It was getting rather repetitive - until he got out a propane torch.
"What's that for?"
"I need to check your heat tolerance. Put your arm out."
"My arm has enough missing scales."
"Fine, I'll use your tail. Tell me the moment it starts to hurt. I'm not a sadist, you know."
"I'd call you a dentist, but I don't see any magazines. Fire away."
He brought the torch to bear and started to nicely toast a scale. There was a faint smell of ions, but no feeling of pain. After a second or two it began to feel warm, then hot, then really hot, then owie.
"Stop stop, its hurting." He took the torch away. The pain didn't stop. In fact it got exponentially worse. "Ow ow ow! Shit! Quench it!" I yelled. The sound of boiling water came from behind me and I smelled a mix of steam and burnt hair. I looked back at the damage. The scale wasn't burnt, just sorta melted in the centre where the flame hit it.
"Sorry, I didn't realize your scales would retain so much heat. Guess they really are metal, and not some organic. You'll probably lose that one. Ok, I know my credibility is just about shot, but we have to do the same for cold. Just let me soak a scale in some liquid nitrogen." He held up a bucket.
Well this test I was sure I could pass. I was resistant to cold, at least that's what I read.
Aw, what the heck.
I lifted the bucket away from him and before he could stop me I stuck my finger in. Nothing happened.
In fact it felt kind of nice. I left it there.
A minute passed. A second minute passed.
As far as I was concerned, there was water in the bucket. There weren't even any boiling sounds. As a finale I lifted the bucket to my lips and took a swig.
I mean this is like #3 on the list of stupid things to do.
Drinking liquid nitrogen. Well, I didn't drink it, I just swished it around like mouthwash. This time it did feel cold, and I could tell heat was being transferred by the hissing sound and a buildup of pressure. I guess my soft pink mouth isn't as insulated as my scales. Just like mouthwash, it was getting uncomfortable and starting to burn. It was time to spit and I let loose a big cloud of foggy spray.
The doctor sat there with his mouth a gape.
"That's not possible! Your jaw should have shattered 30 seconds ago. What did that feel like?"
"Like a curiously strong mint. Here, smell my breath." I exhaled on him.
"Nice. It smells fresh and sterile. Now we just need to market your remarkable discovery. Finding repeat customers might be a bit of a challenge though."
"Do you enjoy being so 'funny'?"
"Ok, one last test. I'm going to need to beat you over the head with this surgical 2 by 4 to test your skull strength."
I didn't care anymore. "Fine fine. Just get it over with. This had better not hurt too much." Dr. Smith just looked at me before finally snorting.
"I can't believe you actually believed I was going to hit you over the head with this! You are so gullible. Jeez its not even sterile. The real use for this is -- open wide please -- to prop your mouth open so you won't 'accidentally' bite me in half." With that he stuck the board in my mouth crosswise so that I was unable to bite down all the way. He grabbed a flashlight and some cotton swabs then, showing amazing bravery, he went and stuck his upper body into my mouth.
I guess he was taking throat cultures or something. What a bother this all was. Woah, that tickled. "Aach it."
"Stop moving around, I'm being as careful as I can," he said down my throat. "Hey, you have what looks like some large opening at the back of your throat. Looks like a gland or something. I'll bet if you can breathe something, it comes from that. I even think I can see another one."
"Ool, ut op ickling ee."
"Sorry, but please don't try to talk. Ew! You need to chew better or floss or something." A partially masticated chicken leg was thrown out of my mouth.
I don't know if he was poking or swabbing or what, but it was stimulating something at the back of my throat, like I was going to throw up. That wouldn't be good for anybody.
"Oo, eed oo et out uf air!"
"Stop talking, I'm almost done."
"Et out ow!"
My yell got him out of my mouth just ahead of a rushing cloud of what looked like steam. The stream of steam streaked across the room and engulfed a chair with a loud hissing. POP! CRACK! The chair split apart and shattered.
"Well it looks like we got you breathing fire... or ice as the case may be," the vet tried to exclaim.
I crunched the now frozen 2 by 4 in my mouth and spit out the chunks. "Woo wee! Did you see that? Kaboom! The chair just shattered. I can't believe it. That was just about the coolest thing ever, pun intended Maybe next time you'll to listen to me when I say something's wrong." I looked over and saw the doctor's hand was shaking. "Um, are you feeling ok?"
"I... I... I need to take a break." And with that he left the room. I guess after coming this close to being turned into a hunk of freezer meat, some people just need to walk around. About 10 minutes Kara, one of the physics professors, entered my 'lair' pushing a little cart of stuff. She was the one who used the low temperature lab and did low tempature research. "What happened to Dr. Smith?" I asked.
"He said he needed to calm down and wouldn't be back for the rest of the day. I'm here to collect a sample of whatever's in that ice gland of yours. I'm going to numb the area and insert this collecting tube to draw off a sample."
Again I was given a 2 by 4 to bite down on and I watched her put on gloves, goggles, a face shield, sweatshirt, heavy apron and then a coat. "Ont oo ust ee?"
"I'm just being safe, now say ah."
She sprayed something down my throat and I instantly felt the numbness. I then watched her slide a long metal tube in my mouth and felt it as it probed the back of my throat. There was an odd sensation like something had gone down the wrong pipe and I sucessfully suppressed the urge to hack it up, thanks in part to the topical anesthetic. I then watched as the steel tube was slowly coated in frost and a clear, steaming liquid trickled out into the insulated flask. She kept it in there until the flow tapered off and stopped. She had collected a little over a gallon. My whole neck felt sore, like the opposite of a sinus headache. I really didn't like the idea of being milked.
"Ok, I'll get this back to the lab for analysis. You're going to go down to the athletic field for some more physical testing. Professor Ellis will take you."
*NOTE* What story me doesn't know is the extent the school has mobilized its resources to deal with their new opportunity. With all the transformations that have been sweeping the nation my school found itself in a unique position to be in the forefront of research into this phenomenon. With in 24 hours many departments set aside their current research projects, truckloads of new equipment was brought in, special trailers were set up and new staff was hired. Although only a few people are actually interfacing with dragon me all the samples and data are quickly rushed to an army of PhD's and grad students waiting to run every conceivable test. Being the first one with answers means fame, fortune and maybe better placement on the US New and World Report list of top 10 liberal arts schools. *END OF NOTE*
I was led down the road to the athletic fields by the professor, the camera guys, a few interns, some public safety guys and various taggers on. I crunched out onto the snowbound soccer field and waited for the camera guys to set up their equipment. They then made me lift, pull, run, jog, hop and roll. I could lift almost 800 pounds and I pulled a van across the snow-covered field. After completing some sprints on all fours they asked me to see if I could walk on my two hind legs. I knew I could stand and balance on them, thus freeing my hands to interact, but I hadn't tried walking. I reared back to a semi standing position where I was still mostly hunched over and balancing on my tail. I then gradually extended my legs.
Woah, I was seriously tall here. This wasn't very stable and I was starting to wobble. My head was now something like 3 stories off the ground and I couldn't come close to getting my legs to straighten out all the way. I took a tentative step, and nearly lost it. Just before I fell flat on my snout, I felt my wings extend and instinctually flap to automatically steady me. That was close. I felt like I was learning to walk on stilts. I bent over a bit more and took another step. After some more practice I could move about fairly well this way, but I wasn't nearly as fast or agile as I was on all fours.
When all the scientists needed to run back and crunch their numbers I was given some "free time" to "cut loose" on the fields and give my body a "workout." I did not see the camera guys making any effort to leave. It looked as if I was going to need to keep smiling. I found cutting loose wasn't very fun without other dragons to play with. After trying to make a snow demon on another field (it sucked), I decided to pass the time by rolling up the biggest snowball I could. You know, the kind you make snowdragons out of by rolling them through a field of sticky wet snow that clings to the ball and adds to its mass. Anyway, I packed a core and started rolling it along. After 15 minutes it was about 20 feet wide. This was going to be here for months! The grounds keepers were going to have a fit when they saw this. My random walk was leading near the parking lot, so I turned to roll the massive ball back into the field.
PIFF PIFF PIFF. PIFF!
I turned towards the lot. 3 people looking like students, but they might have been townies, were lined up throwing snowballs at me. PIFF PIFF. They weren't being very effective. PIFF PIFF. Jeez, you'd think they'd be able to hit a 25-foot long dragon with huge folded, billboard-esque wings.
"Yo, idiots. Why don't you try to throw them AT me?"
SMACK! One of them hit me right between me eyes. If I hadn't taken that as challenge enough one of the guys turned around and shook his rear I my direction. PIFF PIFF PIFFPIFF PIFF PIFFPIFFPIFF. The barrage intensified. I scooped up some snow and packed it into the size of a bowling ball. PIFF PIFF. My side was getting covered with impact marks. I launched my missile and quickly scooped up another one.
SPLAT, Pavement. WHAM, van. SPLAT, pavement. GONG, sign. SPLUSH, dumpster. SPLAT, building. DEE DO DEE DO, car. SPLAT, pavement again. I wasn't going my new species any credit here. I just couldn't get any aim crouched over in my natural pose. I packed another few giant balls, stood up full and spread my wings for stability. I let the snowball loose with a solid overhand cast. WHAM! I hit the handicapped parking sign and bent it about 30 degrees from vertical. The 3 snowballers stopped throwing and looked unsure of what to do. Before they could decide I let another fly. This time my missile found its mark and the man was nearly lifted off his feat as was sent backward into a snow pile. His friends dropped their snowballs and raised their hands, indicating I had won, before attending to their friend. I was about to worry if I had hurt him when I made out a weak thumbs up. That had been really fun. As I was wiping the snow off my body I heard someone approaching.
"Now that you're done playing, Michael, we could head back in to the building. But since your test results won't be in for another hour or two. I was wondering if you wanted to try to fly before dinner. You see there's a little pool going on about if you can fly and exactly how you will go about it."
I went back in the field and spread my wings out so the professors could lay down any final bets (or take measurements, I wasn't sure). My wings unfolded to form a span of 68 feet and the wing root was a little thicker than my arm. However even near the ends they could support a grad student hanging off of them. The flying membrane went back almost to my hips. I think they were giving me even odds. Now of course I guess they all wanted me to be able to fly (regardless of how they bet) so I assumed all of their advice was genuine. I started off practicing how to leap into the air. With a small run I could jump 20 to 30 feet. I then tried to coordinate my jump with a downward stroke of my wings. This was a real challenge. I had never had wings before. I couldn't just command them to move. When you move your body, you can't tell specific parts to more. You sorta have to just 'want' a result to happen and through the magic of your brain, it does. Well, it was quite hard to get my wings to move when I needed them to. Most of my attempts resulted in me falling flat on my muzzle and possibly doing a summersault.
After about 10 tries or so I was thinking more about how I could send the tape to David Letterman for some positive PR (scary monsters usually don't make asses of themselves) then about trying to fly. I had just taken my jump when I felt like someone had kicked me in the ass and I found my self sailing through the air in a ballistic curve impacting about 100 feet away. I must have been able to flap at just the right time to get some useful thrust. It was getting dark, but I couldn't stop now. The afternoon's work had made me incredibly hungry so I had an extra large dinner brought to the field. The field lights were turned on to counteract the encroaching darkness and in between attempted flights I could scarf down food and drink. Although my 'look like an ass' rate was still very high, I was getting better. I had the first flap down, and sometimes I could string together 2 or 3. My wings and all my muscles involved in flying were starting to ache, and despite eating dinner, my hunger had only gotten worse.
Then if I ever got 3 good flaps I would just hold my wings out and glide. I was reaching distances of about 500 feet. After one nasty experience of crashing into the branches of a tree I tried to turn while gliding by dipping one wing or the other. This way instead of hitting the trees I would crash into the briar patch. Most of the observers wanted to go home by this point and someone told me when I was gliding, just try flapping my wings a few more times. Well that sounded simple enough. I leapt into the air flapped, flapped again and started my glide. Ok, I just needed to flap from my gliding position. Yes, just flap. Nothing was happening, this shouldn't be hard. I just didn't know how to activate the series of neurons to get me to fly. I had already mastered the takeoff bit, but sustained flying was not one of my skills. It was just then that I noticed I was about 30 feet from those nasty trees. Fawoosh. I was above them. Fawoosh. I was getting higher and moving faster. I was flying!!
After I was able to flap once, it quickly became natural. This was great. Now I just had to turn back and rub my accomplishment into all those ornithologist's faces. I went to turn and for a second I felt like I was plummeting towards the earth. I quickly recovered and gained back my height. Better be more careful. I tried again w/ the same result. I found I could only make the slightest of course adjustments without wiping out. By this time, I had passed the adjacent reform school and was across Long Lane. I remembered an elementary school that should be almost in my current flight line. I could land and make a turnaround. I was really feeling pooped so I decided that I could put off learning to turn a day or two. I saw the school and started a glide. I made a few minor course adjustments without incident and slowed to land. Well, naturally I was coming in too fast, and when my arms hit the ground my momentum carried me head over tail and I found myself on my back. Panting. I looked at myself. I was covered in sweat.
"Ooooofffhh" I was absolutely winded.
I rolled over and tried to get up. The pain coming from my middle was making it hard to breath. It was like the biggest ache in the history of the world. What I wouldn't give for a Frisbee sized Advil. What did I do to deserve this? My flight wasn't more than a mile. I tried to lift my wings to take off, but they wouldn't move. They just sat on the ground and radiated pain. I eventually got them folded up and tucked against my back, but every time I moved them or an air molecule hit them it hurt more. It looked like I was walking.
I moved off the school's playing field and down the drive. Some skateboarding kids took one look at me and then quickly ran in the other direction. I attempted a jog, to get back quicker, but I only made it about 5 steps before I had to stop and pant some more. What the fuck is wrong with me? I'm like supposed to be great and powerful here. Not tired and nauseous. It was about 7:30pm and dark out. I made it to the street and turned right to get to Long Lane. Encountering traffic was inevitable. I assumed that most people watched TV and read newspapers because nobody was panicking. The cars would just slow and the windows would roll down to give the people a better view. I was way too tired to care. At the 4-way-stop intersection with Long Lane, someone rolled his window down and asked, "Hey, are you that dragon from the news?"
"Nah ::pant:: I'm some ::pant: other ::pant:: dragon." Jeez, I was too winded to even make a snide remark. This must be pretty bad. I made a left down Long Lane and scooped some fresh snow from a lawn and ate it. I had burning thirst and I was quite overheated. I was walking on the grass next to the road when I saw a jogger approaching. Just great, another human to send running into the woods screaming his head off, I thought to myself. As he approached I could tell he could see me, but instead of bolting he passed me, turned around and started to jog in place at my side, matching my ever slowing gait.
"Wow, you're that dragon from the news. It looks like you've been working out."
I think I would have preferred screaming. "Yeah ::pant:: sort of."
"What were you doing?"
"Cool, that must be great exercise. Does it give you a whole body workout or just your wings there?"
I was too tired to speak. "Ooooo."
"Are you feeling alright? You look kind of dehydrated there."
I ate some more snow, gave him the best smile I had and fell down. I simply couldn't move any more. I heard the jogger running off.
About 5 minutes later a school owned Astrovan pulled up and a bunch of people popped out. They lifted my head up and poured about 10 gallons of sugary water down my gullet. Somehow I got back to my 'lair'.
It was about 9pm, and I was sitting on sleeping pads scarfing down bulk food items. At that point I would have gladly eaten a 43 gallon drum of flour. The test results had come in and they helped to explain things.
They had concluded that I was still growing. The rate of growth was determined by how much food I ate. As soon as those nutrients hit my bloodstream, they were sucked up to make me bigger. My metabolic rate was through the roof. This explained why I never seemed to be 'full'. So for the near future, my purpose seemed to be eat eat eat, grow grow grow. Normally, they calculated I'd need about 20 thousand calories per day, but with my current condition I might need 50-100 thousand. My nutritional requirements now contained large quantities of several metals. My scales and horns did contain real silver, and I would need to eat about 10 ounces a day. My bones were magnesium based, strong with a light weight. I'd need to eat some of that also. My claws were some sort of carbon fiber coated w/ a thin layer of some tungsten compound. They grew out from the centre in alternating bands. After the hard outer stuff wore away the fibers would quickly follow until I was down to the next hard layer. They had calculated that my body density was less than your typical mammal, but greater than that of a bird. I was able to fly, but only at a great cost of energy. With all my practice out there today, I had simply over exerted myself when I flew the distance. If it hadn't been for that jogger guy, I probably would have passed out and maybe even died. They said that if this rapid growth ever stops it should be much easier to fly, but in the near future I should limit my activities. Finally Kara gave everyone her presentation about my ice breath. The gland in my neck produced a form of liquid air. Basically liquid N2 and O2. However, the resulting stuff was at an energy state that was far lower than normal atoms of N and O.
"It somehow sucks the energy right out of normal atoms, causing changes at the subatomic level. What these changes are, how they are made and potential uses of this phenomenon have yet to be seen, but the effects are obvious."
She dumped a few ounces of the stuff in a 2-liter bottle of water. The water instantly began to freeze and the bottle shattered, but before the any of the liquid water could gush out it had already frozen. This was followed by some loud "Ooooh"s and "Ahhhhh"s. Everyone started to file out, to leave me to my sleep, but that intern Sarah came up to me.
"Here, you'll need to eat this now. They are silver and magnesium fillings. Don't try to chew, just wash it right down."
I took the cup of metal, dumped it in my mouth and chased it with some water. It was like eating gravel. "Hey, what happened to the 'doctor'?"
"He's been at a bar ever since you almost put him on ice this afternoon."
"Well, when you see him, tell him I'm sorry." And on that note I got ready for bed.
::Breath, whistle, breath, whistle breath whistle, poke, breath, poke, poke, SNORT!::
I slowly cracked open my eye to see what looked like a grad student poking me with a stick, Argh, I felt like shit. All my muscles felt like knotted ropes, which were painfully wrapped around my nerves. Dragon needs sleep! "Umph, piss off, I'm sleeping," I muttered through the gray pudding that had been my brain.
"They told me you need to wake up. They said it's important. So come on, I know you're tired, but so is everyone else."
"Piss off." I closed my eyes and quickly went back to sleep, despite the now vigorous stick poking. Mmmm, Dragon's bed is comfy and warm. Yes it is. Ahhhhh. Sleep good. I felt something tickle my muzzle and I unconsciously moved my lips in response.
The next thing I was aware of was a burning pain in my mouth. My head lurched up and banged hard on the ceiling. OUCH! The burning heat got worse. My claws went to my face. I spit on the floor. What the fuck was happening to me?
"Well, that got you up. I'm really sorry, but they told me to use this. It's 10 o'clock, you know. I just used a bit of pepper spray. You can wash it out over at the sink."
I looked over and saw the little jerk holding a small yellow tube in his hand. Suddenly the pain from my mouth began to fade and my mental image of the person changed from "human" to "annoying animal that had to be dealt with". My hand swept around the animal's middle, pinning its arms to its side. I brought it up to within six inches of my tooth filled mouth, now actively salivating to expel the irritant.
"Listen, you annoying sack of meat," I snarled at it. "The only reason I haven't broken you in two pieces and sucked out your tasty insides is because I enjoy the pathetic sounds you make." As I talked the saliva drooled out of my mouth forming a puddle on the concrete floor. I squeezed the little thing hoping it would make some of those whining sounds. I felt something warm on my arm. The animal was loosing bladder control and the smell of human urine filled the air. Stupid animals, they always piss on you when you pick them up. Disgusting creatures, humans are.
It was at that moment my mind began to break through all the draconic instincts triggered by the assault on my mouth. I found myself holding a small, crying, whimpering, soiled human who was just about scared to death. I put him down and, still whimpering, he crawled over to the wall and curled up into a ball. It was at that moment someone else opened up my door and upon seeing a drooling dragon and a quivering human at its mercy, promptly slammed the door and ran off to get the tranquilizer guns.
Aw, fuck. I was going to be in trouble for sure. I tried to comfort the poor grad student, but he just screamed when I moved towards him. The pain-blocking chemicals that had been pumped into my blood were wearing off and my mouth was starting to smolder again. I moved over to the basin and began to squirt out my mouth with the hose provided. There was a knock at the door.
"Michael, its Dr. Smith. Is everything OK in there?"
"Yeah, everything is fine. I'm not killing things, don't worry."
The door slowly opened. There was a small group of people, several with bolt guns and they quickly entered the room to evaluate the situation. The grad student was led out and a mop was summoned to deal with the urine and drool. I explained what had happened hoping that they would not feel the need to chain me up.
"Well, I guess we're partly to blame," explained Dr. Smith. "You've been so fun and easy going about all of this, that most of us forget how much dangerous potential you have. While it's evident that you have kept your human mind, you obviously have gained some dragon instincts that mostly involve killing, eating and fighting. Looking at both this incident and my incident, we really need to learn that you're not just a unique individual, but also a dangerous animal."
I felt hurt by what he had said. He had just called me a monster.
"Anyway, I need to go have a talk with whoever thought it a good idea to wake you up that way and you, unfortunately, have homework to do."
Well, look at what I had done so far. I had almost frozen the good doctor, clobbered that snowball kid and almost eaten a grad student. Until I was able to learn some control over my new body, I was a monster. Wait a second, homework? This was Saturday!
One of the assistant professors from the Comp Sci department walked in. I had basically missed three days of class, and since I was still here to learn I needed to catch up. I had already talked with my advisor about my classes. My two non-Comp classes were changed to Pass/Fail, and I had the option to drop them completely if my needs could not be met. I felt that I could still complete my computer work as I had before the change. I would also be getting 1.5 credits for my work with the research teams studying me.
Anyway the assistant professor gave me materials, notes and outlines,and he then went through what I missed in my two comp classes that week. I was given an extra pad sheet of paper and lumber crayon to do my assignment with, but I found that simple tasks like writing and turning pages with my claws were getting harder. There was just too much in the way.
My room was about 50 feet by 30 feet, and had been a lab under renovation. They had moved everything out, and set up my sleeping area on the left half of the room and everything else I needed on the right. There was a large washbasin sink and hose for my water needs, and the funnel/hose thinggie for my liquid waste in the far right corner, and most of my human possessions were in two closets on the rear wall. When I arrived on Wednesday it had been quite roomy, but now it felt more like a shoebox. How much bigger was I going to get?
Also on the right side of the room was my food supply. I always had a bin or two of snackables (like fruit or bulk snack food) on hand for munching, and hot food was brought in around the three mealtimes. Since I was never full I was usually always unconsciously eating something. During the day there was always someone with me. Usually they were just people setting up some experiment or another. It didn't bother me much because they handled personal requests like "I'm out of apples" or "Can I get a refill on my beverage."
I had just finished my problem set when my body presented me with an entirely new, but strangely familiar signal. "Um, hey. I have to ::pssst pssst ssspt::" I whispered in the attendant's ear.
Apparently I had said the magic word and he ran out of the room yelling. He was only gone a minute, but the pressure was building rapidly. Holy shit, I had to. One of the reasons I had probably been able to last this long was because when I got my new body the system wasn't fully 'charged' so to speak. Well, it had been almost 4 days, and my leeway had run out.
I was thinking about crossing my legs and sitting on my tail, when thankfully whoever he was came back and said they were ready for me. He asked if I could hurry, because he had "11-12 Saturday" in the betting pool and it was already 11:50. I was more than happy to oblige.
I tucked my wings tight and squeezed out the door. As I moved down the hall I felt an odd scraping sound. Looking back I saw 2 gouges in the ceiling tile from my horns. Guess I was outgrowing my new home. I would have contemplated this matter further, but I seriously had to go.
I squeezed out on to the loading dock. "Oh no. You've got to be kidding."
One of the bio Post-Docs spoke up. "You know we need a stool sample and given your size this is the best we could come up with."
The "best they could come up with" amounted to me dangling my rear off the edge of the dock and crapping into a lined container. There was no regard for my privacy.
"There's no way I'm... Is that a camera? Fuck this!"
I felt like flying out of there and going off to shit in the woods, but a new wave of pressure told me I didn't have any other options. I slinked over to the side of the loading platform and slid my tail over the side.
Tough it out, old boy, I thought to myself. After all, it's for science. It's a natural process, there's nothing shameful about this. Everybody here is a professional with advanced degrees. Well, maybe not those guys over there. Are they painters? Aw man, they're looking at me. Being a dragon sucks.
My tail was way too heavy to lift up, so I put my legs on the lip of the dock and rested my tail on the pavement, arching it over the container. After that I just let the good times roll.
Fortunately there weren't any typical 'human' noises to compound my embarrassment. Just the soft sound of the shit hitting the can. I saw the research staff try to look away and not seem interested, but they were completely unsuccessful in their attempt. I thought I even heard a snicker. My dragon side was telling me to slash out with my claws and drink the hot warm blood that gushed forth. My human side just wanted to cry. The result was I just remained as still as a rock and stared at the brown brick wall.
It took about 2 minutes until my system was completely flushed, even then I just kept staring right at that one brick with the crack. It caught my eye because it was split right through the middle. The left face had then eroded away leaving a half-inch depression in the surface of the wall. The inside of the brick was a darker brown than the face. I guess I knew I was done, but I didn't feel like moving.
I felt a pat of my shoulder. "Come on big fella, you're done, we've got to get in there."
Out of a sense of pure curiosity, I turned and looked at my handiwork. It was the first I time had seen an honest to god pile of shit. It had to be at least three feet high, and it looked like the gray clay you scoop out of a local riverbank. It was fairly homogenous, with some bits looking more like gravel and some bits that resembled pebbles. The odd part was that even with my sensitive nose, could barely detect an odor. There had to be about 100 pounds of the stuff.
I was still extremely embarrassed and I wouldn't have been surprised if my silver scales had turned red. Maybe a joke would make me feel better. "Well it looks like you'll need to get the fork-lift to move all this shit. Ha. Ha."
Well that broke the tension and everyone started to laugh and pat me on my back saying what a good sport I was. I said I needed a drink and a can of Bud appeared out of nowhere. I popped it open with my claw and chugged it to a chorus of more laughs. I guess things weren't that bad, well, excluding the beer. Dragons prefer stuff imported from Germany. But I guess constant scrutiny and domestic beer is a small price to pay for being a dragon.
While the "team" was dealing with the shit I was met by Mr. Good News himself, the honourable 'Dr.' Winston Smith.
"There have been some fears about your ability to fit in the building. We think it's best if you stay outside, until we can determine what to do. But first I'm going to need a few measurements."
I lay down on the motor pool pavement, and when you measured between the chalk lines I was 31 feet long with a 12-foot tail. According to their best estimates I had been 15-20 feet long when I had first transformed. Aside from this fact being sort of freaky, I had no clue where I was going to live.
Now I didn't get cold but my food sure could, and as I sat out here amidst the wonder decor of the motor pool, my lasagna was rapidly losing its appeal and my beverage was starting to ice over.
"Hey Mike, is that you?"
I turned around and saw my friend Ian. Ian was a Junior physics major and President of the Society of Physics Students, my favourite club.
"Dude, you look SO cool. We've been trying to see you all week, but Public Safety has the whole area sealed off. They make you wear like ID Badges and stuff. It's a real pain. They only let me in here because I had to talk to the machine shop guys about my NASA project. Well, anyway this is just incredible with you having all the scales and the horns and stuff. Wait, can you fly? I heard you can fly. You were like flying over Long Lane or something."
I was so relieved to finally see someone who would treat me like a friend, and not an experiment that I interrupted him, "Woah, slow down there." I reached around him with my hand and gave him a friendly shake. I felt a hug would have injured him. "I am so glad to see you! They've kept me here surrounded by biologists doing all kinds of shitty experiments on me. I was scared all you guys had dumped me or something. The only reason people come by is to poke me or stick some sort of camera up my butt."
"Aw man, that's what they're doing to you? Rough. Well, as I said we've been trying to see you. Yesterday we got pizza and we all came down for lunch, but they said you were tied up in 'important' matters and couldn't be bothered."
There came that dragon rage again. This situation was definitely going to have to be remedied. Maybe I could rip the roof of their car. That would get their attention. Or maybe I'll just yell at them, or talk, talking is good.
When my rage had almost completely boiled away I noticed I had been flexing my claws.
"Woah, those claws look like they could do some serious damage."
"You'd better believe it, take a look." I unwrapped the tape and let Ian examine my claw in full detail. I then went and put a deep score in an adjacent "No Parking" sign, sending a shower of sparks onto the ground.
"Pretty neat, huh. Hey, are you busy? Maybe you would want to come with me down to the fields and help me with my flying."
"Um, yeah, sure. It's Saturday, I've got nothing to do. Just let me drop this stuff off. Hey, can you just leave like this."
"Yeah, oh sure, I'm not some prisoner. I can come and go as I please." At least I hoped I could, I hadn't tested it yet.
While Ian dropped off his stuff I gathered up what food I could. I had made a mental note to stay fully fueled while airborne. I looked down at what I had. Shit, this must be costing the school a fortune.
With my arms full of food I had to walk on my hind legs. I ambled up to the entrance and simply informed one of the security guys I was going down to the fields. He didn't try to stop me, but started to talk urgently into his radio. So with Ian alongside I began my march down to the athletic fields, only to be stopped by low hanging electric lines.
"Shit, how am I going to get under these?"
"I don't care how you do it, but I'm standing over here."
My silver scales were presenting a very tempting path for millions of electrons to head to ground. I needed to exercise the utmost caution. Stupid humans and their infrastructure.
I found that if I stuck my tail out I could lean way forward and duck under the lines while holding onto my cargo. I finally got under them and turned left on Church St. I then learned that while people might miss an all fours walking dragon with an entourage, they would not miss a lone dragon towering above the street. When I got to the T intersection of Church and Vine, I was met by the sound of screeching and honking horns. Traffic simply stopped and everybody was looking at me as I trundled along. Patrons spilled out of the little package store and the Neon Deli, and stood staring at me with their mouths open like they were attempting to catch flies. There was this one guy who appeared to be trying to make eye contact with me and give me the look of death. I guess life wouldn't be the same without weirdos. I ducked under another power cable, but when I glanced back the man was gone.
We turned off Church Street, leaving a traffic tangle not even a news van could push through. We walked out to the middle of the field and I deposited my load of edibles on the wet, slushy ground. My goal was to successfully perform a turn and improve my landings. Because Ian had designed and built the SPS blimp, I felt he was quite qualified to give me instruction.
"Um, maybe if you brought your wing over like this and flapped here to change your direction," explained Ian as watched him do a little dance with his arms outstretched. I was still picking bits of sod off my spikes after my second failed attempt to perform the desired maneuver. I glanced toward the parking lot and saw that the school camera team had finally gotten through the traffic jam and were setting up their equipment. I also saw the Channel 8 news crew out trying to catch some "On the Lighter Side" footage. I was just feeling rested and fueled enough for another go when I spotted someone trudging through the field.
Since it was only the weekend the only person on campus to yell at me was some Assistant whatever.
"So are you saying I'm a prisoner here?"
"No, but --"
"I can leave when I want?"
"Yes, but --"
"If you keep causing disruptions the town will start to complain, so if you want to leave let us escort you or at least take back roads. You have to think about these things. You'll make everybody's job easier."
Leave it to reality to send me another message saying 'The Normal Rules Don't Apply.' Let's see, buildings are out and trafficked streets are out. Gee, I wonder if they would 'let' me live on the moon.
Thanks to Ian's advice, and my body getting sick of the beating it was taking, my wings finally decided to cooperate and I was able to complete a full turn by my sixth try. Ian was jumping up and down and that telltale ache in my wings informed me that it was time to call it a day. I picked up what little food was left and began to talk back towards the Athletic centre and Church Street.
SPLAT! The food was ruined as it spilled from my grasp and into a puddle of grass. I had a sudden and very strong sense of dread. In the parking lot were three black Chevy Suburbans and pulling up the drive was a 55-foot tractor-trailer. Unless I wanted to give new meaning to the term mobile home I had better turn around and walk the other way. I grabbed Ian and turned him around as I did the same. Maybe we could get in via the back roads. Oh shit!
"Michael Brotzman I presume? Good afternoon I am, um, Mr. Cutter and this is my 'associate'. We represent the government and we would very much like to have a talk with you."
Fucking crafty bastards. They had waited for just the right time to strike. A Saturday when the staff, lawyers and scientists were all cuddled at home and the students in their room working off old hangovers or starting new ones. No court orders. No human chains. Just me alone in a field. Fuck, why did I think I could just go on living? I should have been more careful. Fuck, where did these guys come from? I hadn't smelled them or heard them. How did they sneak up on me in the middle of a bloody field! Fuck!
I spread my wings, bared my sharp teeth and tensed up, ready for the attack that would come. I prepared to launch myself into the air, but I was tired from my practice and wouldn't get very far. Fucking clever bastards.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," I said in my most aggressive voice.
"We're not taking you anywhere, we just want to talk."
"I said I'm not going anywhere with you. Now get out and leave." I wanted to make it verbally clear I wasn't going down without a fight.
"Snap out of it Mr. Brotzman! If we really wanted to kidnap you, you'd be in Nevada already," the 'associate' chimed in. "Now please stop being a paranoid fool and listen to what we actually have to say before jumping to conclusions."
"Cute, I wonder how many times that line has actually worked? Well, if you really have something to say, say it from there and say it in front of my friend." I put my hand on Ian's shoulder.
"Yeah!" he exclaimed, emboldened by my touch.
"Very well," said Mr. Cutter again. "I have no problem with Mr. Gilbreth listening in. By the way Ian, how is your project for NASA coming along? We were asked to find out."
"Um, fine," murmured Ian, still confused as to how they knew his identity.
Mr. Cutter continued, "As you know, at 2 PM our time last Tuesday several hundred Americans, yourself included, were mysteriously transformed. While not all the tests are in, it is reasonable to conclude that the condition is not contagious and does not pose a public health risk. Many government agencies have been working together around the clock to determine what to do about this situation. We have come to the conclusion that you and the other victims currently represent great physical and scientific resources to this country. We have come here today to talk about various partnerships in which all sides might benefit."
"In case you didn't know, I plan to stay here and complete my education, and I'm not going to agree to anything without talking to the school, my parents and a lawyer."
"Please, Mr. Brotzman, calm down. We aren't here you make you sign documents or agree to anything, we just want to present some information. It must be obvious to you that in your current state, you will have problems finding accommodations, food, transport, etc, etc. You must also realize that you can provide a wealth of scientific information. You can go places where humans can't and do things remote units are unable to do. Your skills in search and rescue, fire fighting, law enforcement, military service and covert operation would be unique, to say the least. Like it or not, Mr. Brotzman, you are a very hot item, and the government is going to some lengths to recruit your services. We came to the conclusion that you would be much more valuable as a willing partner than as a laboratory specimen. Our visit today is a demonstration of our willingness to be your friend. If you would follow me over to the trailer, you can see that we have brought more than promotional literature."
He started walking back towards the parking lot, and soon stopped when he realized I wasn't following.
"Mr. Brotzman, I do wish you would trust us just a little bit. Frankly, after reviewing the history in your file, I expected you to be much more cooperative. Anyway, we're not here to make you do anything, so you can stand out here in the wet and the cold." With that he started walking away. Wait, history? File!? What the hell exactly did they have on me? ::Sigh:: I guess if they really did want to stuff me in a trailer and drive me to the desert, they probably would have done it by now. I might as well follow. I noticed that Ian was starting to shiver.
"Hey, how about a lift," I said, lowering my neck for him to get on.
"What man, are you crazy? You want me to ride you?"
"Duh. You're all cold and tired, and it would be harder for them to grab me with you riding on my back."
"How does that benefit me?"
"You can either ride on my neck or down the inside of my neck to my stomach."
"That was a really lame-ass threat man."
"Just get on, I didn't have much material to work with."
"You're a freaking dragon, you don't have any excuse to make a lame threat."
"Please just get on."
Reluctantly he clambered onto my neck, ever careful of the sharp spines located towards the head end. He held on tight as I rose to my feet. Being ridden is a very odd feeling indeed. It's like wearing a backpack, only the backpack is alive, moving and not strapped down. It reminded me of trying to balance a cat or other small pet on my shoulder. I kept worrying my gait would pitch him off, and by the way I felt him trying to find bits of me to grab,I could tell he was feeling the same thing.
"Don't think this means we're engaged," I joked up at him.
"Ha ha, whoa," he replied, almost falling off.
Soon my talons were clicking on the asphalt as I approached the truck. I stopped about 30 feet away from it.
"Ok, I'll stay here while you open it up."
'Mr.' Cutter was to tired to argue, so he had what looked like ordinary deliverymen (except he was wearing dark sunglasses) open up the back of the truck. Greeting me was not a large net or a SWAT team, but rather, stuff. Big stuff.
Mr. Cutter spoke up again. "As I indicated before, we are aware of your current size and mobility problems. Therefore, the government has decided to try to assist you with your special needs. You can consider everything in the truck as free government aid with no strings attached, although we would like you to keep an open mind about helping your government when they need it. Anyway, we're just here to deliver this aid. Those school workers have the keys to the trailer, so you can move the stuff after the university finds you more permanent accommodations. Good bye for now, I'm sure we'll meet again."
And with that the Suburbans and the truck tractor drove away.
I walked up to the still open trailer to see how my tax dollars were working for me. Ian grabbed ahold of my horns, worked his way up onto my head, jumped into the trailer, and began rummaging through the unboxed goods. Most of the trailer was filled with everyday household items, only dragon sized. There was a huge industrial strength blanket, several dragon sized pencils and a 4-foot long toothbrush. Most of the items were rather rough and generic, and they had probably been specially built in some government shop. Our quick inspection also turned up a complete dinner service made of what looked like stainless steel, large canvas backpacks, belts, pouches and webbing, a dragon sized cell phone (prepaid minutes I hoped), and a dragon sized computer keyboard and mouse. Thank god, I'd finally be able to get some real typing done instead of pecking at the keys with my talons.
The camera crew asked if I was going to do some more flying. Upon my answer of "no" they offered to take of my new toys back to the Science Centre, as they wanted to punch out and go home. When we were all done, some guy came by and closed up the trailer.
"Hey Ian, you want another ride back to school?"
"Wait a minute, that odd smell's back and it's stronger than ever. "
"What odd smell?"
"I don't know, I smelled it before when you were flying around. I didn't really give it much thought."
I took a deep whiff. Ian was right, there was a stale rancid smell to the air. It seemed to be coming from Ian. "I think it's coming from you."
Then Ian glanced down at his clothes. "Fuck, what is this shit!"
His pants and jacket were covered with an odd yellow/white paste. "Aw man, this shit's all over my hands too."
He raised a hand to his face and recoiled at the smell. "That smell's coming from the white stuff and I'm fucking covered with it."
He then walked over to me and took a sniff where he had been riding. "No man, its you, the smell's coming from you! You stink man, you need a bath. Seriously. Man, I'm not touching you again. What is this shit."
I looked down at my arm and sniffed it. Nothing, it smelled fine. I scraped a scale with one of my talons and then looked at the waxy white paste that had collected on it. I watched as the paste began to take on a yellow tinge and emit a pungent odor. Smearing it between my fingers just made things worse. "I think it's dried-up sweat. Dragon sweat -- gross!"
"Ew, that stuff's your congealed sweat?" Ian was standing with his arms out and his fingers apart so he wouldn't have to touch himself. "How do I get this shit off me?"
"Why are you asking me? I didn't exactly get the 'How to be a dragon' manual."
"Dude, I just want to get back to the science centre, pick up my stuff, go home and have a bath. Can we go now?"
"Well, I'm going to have to take the long way. I'm a traffic hazard, remember?"
"Well, I just want to get back ASAP, so I'll guess I'll hook up with you tomorrow. After you've taken a bath."
"Ok, fine. I'll walk by myself. I know when I'm not wanted." I tried to give him a 'sad and dejected' look, but broke out laughing. "See you tomorrow."
"Yeah, well, despite getting slimed I guess I had fun today. Take care."
Ian walked off like a robot, still trying to avoid touching anything. For me, the 'back way' involved walking down about 4-5 blocks until I hit an east-west road, then up another block, then back the way I came about 4-5 blocks, all because humans can't keep their eyes on the road. I was alone in the middle of a residential street on a Saturday afternoon. This might not seem very scary to you, but I was spooked. At any minute a car could drive by or someone could walk out of their house. They'd see me and probably start to scream. Worst case they would get a gun and start shooting, but they would probably just call someone to complain and hop on the anti-dragon bandwagon. After all, I was a menace. I was a deadly weapon that came into their neighborhood looking for pets or children to eat. Blah blah blah. Kill it, trap it, put it in a zoo.
I stopped mumbling long enough to realize that I had passed the houses and was now near the little park that was south of the school. It was more of a pond surrounded by woods than any planned park thing, but all I cared about was that it was there. I turned left. As I began to think again, I realized that this was really stupid. Without a human escort I was much more likely to provoke a 'wild animal/monster' response. I was out alone and nobody knew where I was and there was nobody with me who could go for help. This was asking for trouble.
I was almost to where I would turn left again when I spotted the Channel 8 News van down the street to the right. What were they doing parked out in the middle of nowhere, must be a slow news week. I wonder if they would pay me for an exclusive? I'll go over and ask. Maybe they'll pay me in gold. I like gold. It was then I saw vaguely familiar man heading in my direction. Maybe he wanted an autograph or something. I started to say hello.
"Go back to Hell from whence you came, foul demon!" bellowed the man, then before I could react he threw a bucket of liquid in my face. I didn't have to see the colour, the sweet taste in my mouth told me it was blood.
"What the fuck," I spluttered, not making any real attempt to expel the blood. It was like if I threw a fine wine on someone. They'd probably open their mouth for a taste.
"The Lord God commands you to leave this world, Hell-spawn!"
With that, he thrust a crucifix in my face and began to chant some bizarre incantation. At that moment, I was terrified that at any second I was going to loose control and rip the screaming fanatic to shreds right in front of the TV news crew, but even as he continued to rant and rave I felt only calm. I guess dragons live to win, and eating this loud hunk of meat would not put one in my column. A better approach would be to mock his values.
"Don't you have an abortion clinic to protest or something?"
"The Lord God has put me here to banish your evil from this Earth!"
Now I love a good religious debate, but a debate requires someone who will listen. This guy was clearly beyond listening.
"You are Satan's tool and I will not rest until your foul contamination is wiped clean!"
He started another incantation or prayer or whatever, but I was more interested in the point he had just raised. I loved being a dragon, but I didn't want to be the unwitting tool of the devil. If I was possessed by a demon and if this nut job could cast it, out more power too him I say. Demon or not, if this guy could affect me in some way, it would help to answer all kinds of religious and philosophical questions. One of those being: Was I an evil being from Hell? I lowered my head and looked the man in the face.
"Give me your best shot," I said in a voice that was slightly above a whisper.
Be careful what you ask for. No sooner had the words left my mouth when two out-of-state vans pulled up and about 20-30 protesters spilled out to surround me. I tried to make a run for it, but they quickly cut off all means of escape. Sure I could have plowed through them, but with that blasted news crew there I couldn't give the slightest hint of being an aggressor. These religious fundamentalists were better organized than one would think.
When the mob ran out of blood to throw on me they started pitching rotten fruit. Where they got so much rotten fruit in the middle of winter baffled me. Those who did not have a good throwing arm simply waved crosses, prayed or tried to, I guess, 'curse' me or something. However the only time I felt rage was when I looked over at the news crew quietly filming everything that went on. Why weren't they doing anything to stop this!!? Where were the police? I couldn't even hear any sirens. Where they so inhuman that they couldn't even call the police? Fuck, they were going to let this go on until somebody got hurt, or worse. If I got out of this I was definitely going over there for a little chat.
Without outside intervention, the mob was going from mildly annoying to downright violent. They started kicking me and jabbing at me with sticks. I couldn't fly away because as soon as I spread my wings the mob would shred them into bloody tatters. For the sake of those fucking news cameras I had been playing the meek victim, but I now felt I was truly in danger.
"Get the fuck away from me!!" I bellowed in the loudest voice possible. The use of a four-letter word would hopefully force the media to cut my little outburst, and the volume would hopefully draw attention.
The crowd quieted for a moment, but quickly resumed its full fury, completely unafraid. It was then I saw a flash of metal and then the man who had started it all was standing before me with a long sword pointed at my throat. It was his turn to whisper now.
"Ok, demon, how's this for my best shot? Still, I'm going to give you a choice. Right now you can kill me and show the world what a monster you really are, or you can do nothing and let me deliver your death. It's a tough choice, either way you loose, but I am confident you'll make the right one. Time's up."
My mind was racing. He didn't want to kill me in cold blood. He wanted to become a martyr, a martyr for the cause against all the transformed people. Either that or he wanted me to make the first move so he could kill for cause. Oh God, I don't want to die here. I don't want to kill people. Wait, why am I grinning?
It was then I realized I wasn't in control of my body any more. I was now watching the world in slow motion, the dragon part of me had declared me unfit for duty and relieved me of command. I felt my jaw snap open and the familiar tingle at the back of my throat. But instead of a cool rush, what followed tasted foul and burned my mouth. It was almost the exact same feeling I had experienced earlier in the day, only this time it smelled like a combination of melting plastic and acid eating through paint.
I watched the purple stream of goo hit the man square in the neck and splatter out everywhere from the point of impact. As soon as it hit the air it began to sublimate sending up a purple cloud of vapour. It had the effect of the morning's pepper spray, only on steroids. Something akin to concentrated CS gas. Those near the point of impact were forced to their knees, coughing and gagging. Those further out ran around clutching their eyes. The man with the sword was flopping around on the ground not doing much of anything. Now that catastrophe had been averted the dragon within me went back behind the scenes, content to let me deal with the fact that my ears, eyes, muzzle and throat felt like they had been plunged into boiling oil. Thanks a lot, I thought at my subconscious partner. At this rate I was well on my way to building immunity to membrane irritants. Woo hoo.
Now that the mob had parted, I was free to flee the caustic cloud I had created. Those who weren't incapacitated were trying to regroup for another assault on my person. Then a beat-up red pickup truck came speeding up the road on which the news van was parked. It slammed on the brakes and skidded into the intersection in front of me. Four rather large male humans leaped out, one had a crowbar and another had a wooden baseball bat. These guys looked intent on doing some damage, and I began to look for a way to crash through the dense underbrush that surrounded the ice-covered lake. There I would be safe, unless the men had some sort of hovercraft.
Three of the men ran at me. I made a move to jump through the small trees praying I wouldn't get stuck rear end out. The men kept running, past me and right into what was left of the fundamentalist mob. Using a combination of fists, kicks and weapons they persuaded the mob not to come near me and informed them that the police were on their way. With renewed energy the protesters poured back into their vans and drove off. It was over as quickly as it had started.
It had been a fairly windy day and what was left of the purple haze was rapidly disappearing. The fourth guy from the truck ran up to me with a towel.
"Where are you hurt?"
"What?" I was in dazed state of shock. I couldn't believe what had just transpired.
"There's blood all over you. Where are you hurt?"
"Oh, the blood. It's not my blood. They threw it on me. I don't know what is."
"Bastards," he muttered under his breath. "Here, let me clean some of that off."
I lowered my head down and he started wiping away the blood and rotten fruit pulp from my face. Within a minute the towel was completely covered. I tried not to be rude, but I really didn't feel like talking. The three other guys came jogging back.
"They drove off in those vans," one of them said. "We couldn't follow them, but we got the plate numbers. Don't worry, I'm sure the police will catch those creeps that did this to you."
That didn't give me much comfort. Then I saw the news crew moving in for some close-up shots. Fucking animals. I might have horns and spikes and scales, but they were the fucking animals here. I didn't really blame the mob that had attacked me. They were just ignorant, intolerant, impressionable fools. The news crew had fucking set me up. They had set me up for a stupid story. They had sat by and done nothing, in the hopes that someone would get killed. Those animals had so little regard for life that they would trade it for higher ratings. Tears were running down my muzzle, and I could taste the hot salt on my tongue. I didn't know if I was crying because of the purple shit or the shock of what just happened, but it wasn't going to stop me from giving them a piece of my mind.
As I started to walk toward the camera crew, they pointed the camera at me hoping to get my 'reaction'. The woman reporter stuck out the mike and started to open her mouth.
"Why did you let them do this to me?" It came out as a forceful whisper, tears streaming down my muzzle. The crew hesitated, looking confused.
"Why did you let them do this to me?" I stated again, much more plainly. The reporters blinked again and looked away avoiding my gaze.
"Look at me, damnit! Look what they did to me! Why didn't you do something to stop them?"
"We're just reporters, we can't..."
A voice came from behind me. "Did I hear this right? You assholes did nothing to help him?"
"We're just here to cover the story."
"I don't care what you're here for. No matter what he looks like, he's still a living being and you fucks sat here and watched."
"No, you listen. If you don't get the fuck out of here, I'm going to use your fancy camera there for batting practice." The man casually hefted the bat onto his shoulder.
The woman glanced at her cameraman and they walked back to the van.
"Batter up!" The man smashed one of the van's front headlights. This got the news crew moving, and they leaped in and the engine roared to life.
"Going, going gone!" As the man put a large dent in their hood their vehicle leapt into reverse, squealed as it spun around, and then roared away past the police cars converging on me.
The police came and I did my best to recount what happened and answer their questions. When I told them about the purple goo they were forced to seal off the area and call in the Hazmat team to determine if the stuff was toxic. While we all waited I talked to the four guys who had bailed me out. They worked at the cement and stone place down the road. They had heard my angry roar and had driven up to see what was the matter. They told me if there had been any doubt in their minds regarding acceptance of myself and the rest of the transformed humans, the actions of that mob had eliminated it.
Almost all of the purple stuff had sublimated, so there was little for the Hazmat team to de-contaminate. They did some field tests, took samples and spread some foamy shit around. The police had already photo documented my condition, so the Hazmat guys offered to clean me up a bit. Their high-pressure water sprays and foam detox shit worked wonders in getting the dried blood and fruit off. I wouldn't recommend it for a human, though. It would probably take that fragile, soft, pink skin of theirs right off.
I was very surprised that nobody from the University had shown up, but it was a Saturday afternoon. Who in their right mind would want to give up their personal time to babysit a dragon? Most of the staff had been working 20-hour shifts for the past 4 days and one would have needed a gun to force them to stay over. It was almost time for dinner when the police finished with everything. I bid adieu to my blue-collar buddies and began to walk the 5 blocks back "home".
As I walked I once again became heavily lost in thought. I wasn't surprised by the protesters or anything they had done. I knew I would have to deal with it eventually, but I had never expected it would be like this. Well, at least there were some decent people in this world. Just the thought of my rescue by those four guys was giving me hope for the future. I came to a realization. Probably only 10% of people hated my guts, another 20% probably wanted to protect me. However, the silent majority probably just wanted to see my blood spilled all over a city street on live national television.
Once again I had come within a hair of ending up in a pile of shit. I had done some really stupid things over the past week. I guess when one becomes a 30 foot long armoured predator with wings and talons, the little voice that screams, "No, you idiot!" just isn't as loud. I had a feeling that being a dragon had possibly affected my judgment. I'd have to definitely be more careful. Finally I prayed to God and thanked Him that I didn't have to kill anyone during the course of the day's events.
I had always wanted to be the good, benevolent dragon, and how good can you be with out some sort of non-lethal deterrent? It looks like I really had gotten my wish. Whoever had given me this gift, be it God, Gods or Other, I owed them big.
I wondered if I was praying to the same God the mob had prayed to. I wondered if the camera crew prayed to a God at all.
Anyway, I had the perfect ironic revenge planned for my hot and spicy little grad student friend.
As I walked my giant scaled ass back to campus, I ran into the van that was speeding to my aid. They must receive their news via fourth-class mail because they were way too late to help anybody.
"Hey guys, I have an idea. Why don't you drive to this morning when I could have used you."
"Could you can the attitude? Almost everybody is at home enjoying their weekend and was it not you who, even this very morning, were complaining about how you felt like such a prisoner? Maybe next time if you listen to the administrators you won't get into so much trouble. Now are you ok? Do you need any medical attention?"
"Nah, I'd say my pride was injured, but I lost that around Thursday."
"Glad to hear it, now hurry back, your dinner's getting cold."
Dinner? Ah, that was the best news I had heard since brunch! I arrived to find several trays of polish sausage and sauerkraut, as well as a good sized pile of leftovers from brunch. Campus dining was obviously cutting costs by using me as a walking garbage disposal, but I really didn't care because the leftovers included about ten pounds of greasy strip bacon. The smell from the re-heated bacon was causing me to drool and I decided the best course of action was to quickly eliminate its presence. As I licked my talons clean and wondered if Dragons were susceptible to coronary artery disease, I noticed that some kind soul had brought the government-issued utensils up from the trailer and they were awaiting their first use. Just because I could turn chickens into McNuggets with my bare claws was no reason not to act civilized, so I picked them up and moved one step away from "animal."
They were also cutting back on my beverage selection, focusing on sugary juices that were definitely non-carbonated. How did they expect me to practice burping? Anyway, up until now I have been drinking from a black rubber hose, and while it might have been ideal for siphoning gasoline, it definitely came up lacking in the style department. Taking up one of the bottle of concentrated juice syrup (as my beverages were mixed in large Igloo coolers right on the spot) I poured about half into my new government issued stainless steel cup, un-kinked the hose that supplied me with drinking water and mixed up a batch of my patented "go juice". Toasting no one in particular I took a swig.
Woo wee! Damn, that shit was sweet! I'd be able to fly to New Haven on a gallon of that syrup stuff. As I closed my eyes and let my head twitch in reaction to the intense taste I felt something cold and dribbley running down my neck. To my horror, I found that most of my sip had simply run out of the sides of by muzzle and I was now covered in sticky redness... again. The government-designed cup was completely insufficient for my needs, and I cursed their incompetence as I mopped myself clean with a beach towel.
I turned my neck to stare at the student who had approached me in my moment of inattention. My full attention now given, the vaguely familiar student began again by dropping to one knee.
"Excuse me Great Lord, I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time," he said, maintaining eye contact with my feet.
Finally dealing with a human who how to speak to his betters put me on an instant power trip, and I felt myself slip into my expected role. "You may feel free to speak, human."
"Yes, Great Lord, I represent the Strategic Games Club, and they have something for me to ask of you."
This "Strategic" Games Club was our school's small live action role-playing group. I myself had attended a few meetings, but when I found that instead of students, the group mostly populated with 30-year-old guys from the surrounding area, I took off running and didn't look back. "I am ::clears throat:: familiar with your club, what do they ask of me?"
"We were wondering if your Lordship would accept the honour of hosting our next meeting in your lair."
"And why would I waste my time with such petty affairs?"
"My Lord, we would be most grateful and I'm sure we find a way to make it worth your while."
Ha, like this human and his friends could have something that I wanted, well, unless I counted companionship. I looked down and I saw that he was still looking at my feet in a posture of complete submission and I noted how well all his years of role-playing had prepared him for the real thing. Wait a minute, this is real life and this human had sucked me into his little fantasy role-play and I got the distinct feeling that I was being used. I do not like to be used. On the other hand, I couldn't blame him, because if the roles were reversed, meeting a real live dragon would be my dream come true and I would hate to ruin that experience for someone and the best way to ruin it is to acting like well... myself. Grrrr, why should I play a role for this human's entertainment? Ok, besides the fact that I've always wanted to play the snide, sarcastic dragon and I was having a damn good time doing it. How did he get down here anyway?
"My Lord, are you still considering our proposal?"
Oops, I'd caused an awkward pause. ::mental sigh:: I guess my role as one of the world's only real dragons will require me to cater to my fan base, but I really didn't want to define myself by some made up persona. Unlike some people, I enjoy being myself and playing roles that take my personality to the limit. I guess I would have to compromise. "Yes human, I would be glad to host your next meeting. Now that our official business has concluded, would you care to partake of my meal?"
"No thank you My Lord, unless you truly wish it."
Ok, I had to stop this. His last statement had caused my head to grow a few more sizes, and if there was one thing I did not need it was a superior attitude. Imagine if all his friends showed up and started prostrating themselves in front of me, I'd probably never be able to come off it. I figured it was enough game playing for today. "Ok, cut it out, the game's over."
"I said, stop it. I'm just a person, not a fantasy stereotype, so feel free to call me Mike, or dragon, or even hey you. While its fun to play games sometimes, I do not feel like keeping it up 24/7. Now, to shift the topic of conversation, how did you get down here? Public safety's been filtering out my friends all week and where is Dolson (President of the SGC and SPS member)? I would have thought he'd be camped out down here."
"Um, the Public Safety guys left sometime this afternoon, and Dolson's at the Observatory working." He had gotten himself off the ground and trying very hard not to stare at me. I was pleased that I might finally be allowed some human contact and I saw that this human was glad to be getting some dragon contact.
"Go ahead," I said to the young man.
"Go ahead." I shifted my head and eyes in the direction of my flank.
A great weight seemed to lift from his shoulders, he walked over and I watched an electric thrill shoot up his arm as he ran his hand over my smooth metallic scales. I needed to get used to the fact that now, for many people, I was the fulfillment of a previously impossible dream. It actually felt good to have someone treating me with awe and wonder, instead of as a scientific oddity.
"Wow," the student whispered as he pressed his ear flat and listened to my breathing. I lowered my head and he started to examine my horns and tufty hair.
"Hey look. I told you he was here."
A guy and his girlfriend were now walking toward me.
"You're Mike, right?" asked the girl.
I nodded and now I had three humans asking me questions, engaging me in conversation and rubbing my scales. Soon I had five and I was beginning to regret that I did not have an itch as to put their rubbing to good use. By the time there were 15 people I had heard "So, what's it like?" at least as many times half as many requests to demonstrate my 'fire' breath. When there were about 20 people, alcoholic beverages made their first appearance and the people who probably should have been there the most (i.e. geeks and role players), including my new friend, had probably been scared away by all the social interaction. I wouldn't have been there either except for the fact I was 30 feet long and hemmed in by a concrete retaining wall. I soon wasn't able to count the number of people any more, but I estimated that there were about 35 when the keg made its first appearance and someone put on some loud techno music. My wish for greater human interaction had manifested itself in a band of Christian protesters and now a loud keg party.
From my perspective, things were rapidly getting out of hand and it was only 8pm. The same old stupid questions were now getting slurred, and people kept asking to pop open their beer cans on my pointed teeth (or some other convenient spike without asking at all). The last straw when I saw a group of drunken men trying to investigate the area between my legs.
"Yes, it's there, and it's a lot bigger than yours," I informed then in an angry tone. Now, having set the record straight, I went about excusing myself. Moving slowly I was able to part the seas of uselessness, and with little fanfare I got the heck out of Dodge. The party, having achieved a self-sustaining critical mass, continued on perfectly fine without me.
I camped out behind the building in the shadows watching people going to a film series movie I would be forced to miss. I was so tired from all the day's events that I was ready to go to sleep right then and there in the little nook next to the biology greenhouse. Oddly enough, I noted that for the first time I didn't really feel hungry anymore. I briefly wondered if I was finally done growing before my eyes drooped shut and I began to fall into blissful sleep.
"Oh, there you are. You had us all worried again."
It was Sam (at least I think his name was Sam, I'm generally really bad with names), one of the weekend keepers assigned to make sure that nothing bad happened to the University's prize research specimen.
"Come on, you don't have to sleep on the cold ground, we have a new place for you."
"Where, on a roof?"
"Oh, who told you?"
I buried my face in my talons, "Nobody, it was attempted sarcasm."
"Don't worry, it's covered by a big tarp and we moved some of your government goodies up there."
The chem building had a raised ring of ventilation equipment on the roof, creating a pseudo courtyard in the middle. While I had been off gallivanting around, some contractors had come in, cleared out all the snow and slush, put down some padding and then covered about two thirds of the enclosed area with a durable plastic cover. In my fatigued state, I was somewhat pissed that I was expected to fly again, but once I crawled onto the soft foam padding and curled up under the thick government issue blanket, I was in dragon heaven. Sure, I could have easily slept outside, but that doesn't mean I don't like to be nice and toasty.
I woke up with a start feeling refreshed, energized and just a tad hungry, but something was wrong as I untangled the blanket from the spiky bits around my head. It was dark and silent out and a cold breeze tickled my nostrils. A quick look at the clock that had been provided for me indicated that it was only 2:16 AM. Further attempts to fall back asleep failed and I thought that a brief walk (or flight) would alleviate my early AM jitters. As I crawled out of my shelter, the silence and emptiness of the night proved too much for me and I began grabbing things together. I needed to fly!
I mixed up some 'go juice' and with it I threw some carbohydrous snacks into my new backpack. I tightened the straps and stood up on the wall, spreading my silver wings and briefly admiring the glow they gave off in the ambient light. The air that night was near freezing, but the only thing I felt was something akin to a strong mint rather than a deadly cold. I flapped my wings and launched myself into the air.
My destination was an abandoned quarry about two miles away. I was developing an irritating feeling of cruddiness, and figured that a refreshing bath in one of the deep pools of water would serve to wash both dirt and troubles away. My plan was simple. Fly unobserved through the dark morning, land and go for a dip, grab a quick bite to eat, rest my wings and finally get back 'home' before anybody noticed I was gone. As I tried to fly in the most efficient way possible, I sailed over Rt. 17, the Super Stop & Shoppe and Connecticut Rt. 9. As the glow of the city faded behind me, I began to see more and more. Scanning the suburban landscape, I noticed that things were starting acquire the grainy look of image intensifying night vision, with little bright patches of light appearing every so often. It wasn't until I saw one of the bright patches dash across a back yard that I realized that the bright spots were living creatures, their body heat (or maybe even their life force) standing out against the cold night as a bluish glow. I was amazed about how this area was so full of life. As a human I had been no better than blind, but now with my powerful eyesight and night vision I could see all that I had been missing. Rodents, birds, snakes, cats and dogs all plainly stood out and the forest ahead of me seemed to glow with life. I resisted the urge to swoop down on largish, sleeping deer shaped blob and made a beeline for the first quarry pond, but a humming sound and the feint smell of exhaust caused me to quickly change course.
The quarry had had several sections, and when it was abandoned the company was forced to 'restore' some parts. The restoration consisted of smoothing out the deep scars with fill dirt until what was left was a very contoured rock strewn meadow. I flew right above the treetops seeing first the glow of headlights, then the outline of an SUV and finally the fact that it was stuck in a rather large mud puddle. A grin spread across my muzzle, I might be able to start my Sunday off on the right claw by performing a random act of goodness.
I made a near perfect landing about 200 feet away from the stranded off roader. He had probably gone out for a late night ride and gotten stuck in a thinly frozen over mud puddle. I would stand a good distance away and ask if his human needed assistance, and upon receiving a positive response I would extricate his vehicle from the mud.
The human had gotten out to try to put some sticks around his half sunken tires in a futile effort to gain traction. "Hello there! Do you need any help?" I yelled out.
Startled, the human looked around, reached in through the window, grabbed what had to be something like a million candlepower spotlight and shined it at my mysterious voice. I lowered my head and held up my talon to block out the blinding light that had reduced my superior vision to a multi-coloured splotch. I then heard a door open and then slam shut a few seconds later. The realization of who this guy was and what he was doing suddenly dawned upon me. My legs sprang into action and drove my body into an adjacent restored quarry pit just as a loud crack broke the blanket of silence.
I hit the ground and pressed myself up against the slope of the pit to get out of his line of fire, still seeing nothing but glowing dots. This wasn't some hapless off-road enthusiast, but an illegal hunter who was out spotlighting deer. I felt a small stinging coming from the base of my tail and to my horror I saw a small dribble of blood oozing from a bullet wound. I wiggled my tail around and breathed a sign of relief when I found that the bullet hadn't hit anything vital.
Now, Connecticut had a rather significant deer problem, with the vermin spreading disease, destruction and auto accidents all across the state, and so I really didn't have any moral objection to what this guy was doing, but now I had bumbled in and become his next target. Life truly sucks when you realize that your brain is encased in the ultimate wall trophy.
I had to get out of there, and I had to be very careful in doing so. If I made the wrong move, I could end up with a copper coated piece of lead in one of any number of critical locations. I grabbed two 20-pound rocks in my claws and prepared to hurl them in the hunter's general direction. Thus distracted, the hunter would be less able to get a shot off as I ran back down the road like a big silver barn door. I lay on back, launched the rocks with a smooth underhand cast and took off toward the road on all fours.
I had only gone a few paces when I felt something else hit my back and then clatter down to the ground. Turning slightly, I saw an oblong metallic object lying on the ground and after sniffing at it for some reason, I picked it up and found myself holding the human's rifle. I smiled. My impromptu barrage must have unnerved the human into surrender. It was time to re-evaluate my position. "Human! If you wish to live come out where I can see you then lay flat on the ground with your hands behind your back."
A shaky figure made its way to the edge of the slope and got down on the ground. Circling around behind him to preclude trickery I pressed my talon on his back pinning his arms to his back and his body to the ground.
"P-please, p-please don't kill me. I didn't mean to shoot at you, I swear. I just got scared. Oh God, I have a wife and kid. Please don't kill me."
His pathetic cries were angering me. The fool creature wasn't even man enough to face his own death. His extermination would be doing the world a favour, but I had to remain calm and not eat this piece of meat. Just calm down and talk -- talk, don't eat -- talk, don't eat. "Don't worry, human, I will not harm you. Would you mind explaining to me what you were doing in my forest with this rifle?" Tee hee, I've always wanted to have my own forest.
"I -- I've just been having trouble making ends meet what with the economy going south and all. I just wanted to make my food budget go a little farther is all."
"Were you at all successful tonight?"
"I -- I got two turkeys and a deer."
"Well human, it looks like it is your lucky night. Here's the deal. I will let you up, I will forgive you for shooting me, you will give me everything you have bagged tonight, I will push your vehicle out of the mud, I will keep your weapon, you will drive out of here and you will hunt legally from now on. You got that?"
He nodded and I let him up. He went to the back of his SUV and I helped him unload the game he had shot. Before he got back in to his vehicle I felt he could use one more speech. "Listen human, as soon as you drive out of here this matter is forgotten. I'm not going to tell the police (or anybody else for that matter) of this little incident, and if I see you again I don't want you running away in fear of reprisal. Maybe we could even be friends. If you needed some food, I'm sure I could safely hunt some up for you."
The man seemed to agree with me despite the fact he was still visibly shaking. He'd probably mellow out when he found that I had left his rifle in his cargo area. I'm not a big meanie and after all, the university doesn't allow firearms. The human got in his car, started the engine while I placed my talons on the back trying not to scratch the paint too badly. He gunned it and, with my help, the car slid out of the mud like a baby and a minute later all that was left was some slowly settling dust on the access road. I decided to chalk this one up in the 'win' column.
Glancing down at my spoils I figured that it was time I tried some 'real' food. I picked up a turkey, popped it in my mouth, crunched it up and swallowed. All in all, it wasn't that bad. The taste didn't jump at me as anything 'raw' or 'icky', but merely different. It was just like some new seasoning or sauce, and furthermore my tongue was bombarded with all the many wonderful tastes from blood and assorted organs. Well, except for the digestive tract, that part was nasty. After I devoured the second turkey, I started in on the deer carcass. Removing the tape from my claws, slitting it neatly down the middle and lifting out the shit-filled nasty bits, I realized that my human scene of disgust and 'gross' had been replaced by newer dragon software and, accordingly, I felt the best place to dig in was the head.
Firmly grasping the body I slid my jaws over the doe's head and bit down, shaking my head back and forth to get some saw action going. The head popped free into my mouth and I bit down hard. So, how many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll centre of a tootsie pop? I'll tell you... one. I then used my claws to neatly remove each limb, sucked off the meat, and then for a balanced diet, I crunched the bones and hooves. While I was eating I kept getting this urge just to 'breath' the carcass, so when I got down to just the torso I felt like giving into my instincts. I opened my mouth, and my breakfast was enveloped in a rush of super-cold plasma (or "fog" to the untrained observer), after which the frosty torso snapped and cracked as it unevenly expanded. I picked up the now rigid body and took a bite out of the rear. It snapped right off,and as I brought my jaws down it shattered into thousands of pieces. It was like eating a deer flavoured sno-cone, and as the frozen chunks came in contact with my tongue there was an explosion of taste. Now I could enjoy meat in any of three ways, cooked, raw and frozen. I guess immortal creatures just require more dinner options.
I hadn't forgotten about my bath, so I began to run back down the access road at a trot. It was still quite dark out and the utter silence was starting to creep me out. Ok, I realize that I am a multi-tonne, armoured dragon with an impressive array of offensive and defensive weapons, but when it's 3 AM and you're walking down a deserted dirt road in the middle of the woods, miles from anybody or anything and nobody else knows where you are, you start to think and soon your mind is running around in circles.
I kept feeling like someone or something was watching me, following me or was getting ready to jump out and attack me. As body follows mind I felt my strings tightening, and my body preparing for some sort of attack or possibly an all out panic (which is utterly ludicrous considering I was by far the most dangerous thing around). Fortunately, I was spared such an outcome when a wayward doe sprang out of the forest and froze right in front of me. I was on such an edge that I reared up and spread my wings ready to claw, freeze and bite any forest beastie, but the sight of such an utterly cute and helpless creature quickly disarmed me. Completely forgetting that fact that I had just eaten one of her brethren I got down on all fours and tried to look non-threatening. The doe was paralyzed with fright and she was completely at my mercy, unable to even run away, but I quickly put any thought of devouring her out of my mind. First of all I had just filled up, and second I really didn't feel comfortable with taking the life of another living creature... yet.
Making comforting sounds, I approached the doe and gently picked her up. I felt the warmth of her body contrast with the cold of the night even through my hard scales. Now as I walked I comforted the doe, which also served to take my mind off the situation, and I felt the fear in the flighty creature begin to drain away. I realize it was sort of wrong to be using a wild creature like this, but I really needed a furry warm pet right then. As I walked, I could sort of feel a connection developing with the fragile creature in my grasp. It wasn't because I could now like talk with animals or anything, but simply because I wasn't human. At least for the time being, I was part of that natural cycle that humans had opted out of so long ago. I was the predator and she was the prey, but for the time being we had set aside our duties to take a break in the employee lounge. Carefully holding the deer in my arms I scrambled up a steep hill, crossed a field and pushed my way through the brush to my original goal.
I set the doe down, bid her off and turned to the ice-covered pond. Using my elbow spikes and my sheer weight I was able to punch a hole through the ice and then, having nothing to lose I slid into the icy water, tail first. Just like with the liquid nitrogen and the frigid night air, I couldn't really feel the cold like I had known it as a human, but I did notice my heart and breathing rate take a jump. No insulation could be 100% effective, and to keep my body isothermic my metabolism had probably taken a step up. I slid under the surface and tried to touch the bottom, a few seconds later the burning in my lungs told me to abort my attempt. The rate I was burning O2 limited my underwater time to about 30 seconds each, but the freezing cold was so relaxing and I definitely felt cleaner. I wouldn't have been surprised if I had left a slick on the water surface as I performed acrobatics under the pond's mantle of ice. Finally, when the glow of dawn was beginning to fill the sky, I called it quits and pulled myself back onto the rocky shore.
As my head cleared the rim of the pond I found myself staring into the watery eyes of the doe. It looks like I had made a new friend, and although having a deer as a pet would make for some great PR (like a lion raising a baby or something), I really didn't feel like the hassle. "Ok my little friend it was fun, but I have to go now and unfortunately, the next time we have to go back to the normal arrangement. I really would like to get to know you better, but... well you're what I eat. I know that sucks, but we all have our jobs to perform."
Then to translate my speech into deer I bared my teeth, growled and gave the doe a swipe across the bum with my claws. She took off like a rocket into the darkness, hopefully knowing to avoid dragons in the future. I then shook myself dry and walked back through the brush to get to the large open terrace where I could take off. The terrace part was the result of more restoration, and it basically consisted of a large flat field that ended in a steep 40-foot drop down to the rest of the complex. I spread my wings, and after a short running start I plunged over the edge and rose into the air.
Praying that nobody would feel the urge to look up this early in the morning I winged my way back to my new lair. I artfully landed on the raised portion and then slid under the white plastic tarp falling back asleep as soon as my wings were folded.
::sniff sniff:: Mmmm, sausage. ::sniff:: Mmmmm, eggs. Ok you big lazy lizard, get yourself up. ::longish pause:: I said get up, there's food. ::longish pause:: Damnit body, you must obey my commands. Get up!
Slowly my eyes opened to reveal that my rooftop breakfast service had delivered, and that a human (who may or may not have been named Sam) was standing there to talk to me. I lifted my front end up and greeted him. "Hey, what's up?"
"I was just installing your TV."
"Great! Do I get cable up here?"
"You sure do."
"Here, try your new dragon-sized remote."
I turned on the TV and finally settled on one of those Sunday morning political pundit shows. As was to be expected, the topic of conversation centred on the all the recent transformations. The views were all over the spectrum. The Democrats wanted to embrace us and then make sure we didn't pose a danger and, on the other hand, the Republicans wanted to make sure we didn't pose a danger, and then embrace us and then find a way to exploit us. It was another race to the middle and the winner sure wasn't John Q. Voter.
I winced slightly as a stab of pain shot up my spine.
"You are... finally. What's wrong, you seem like your in pain."
"Nah, I'm ok."
"Don't be ridiculous, there is clearly something wrong with your tail, let me have a look."
"No, no, it's ok, really." I said, thinking maybe I should actually look at it myself. "Whoa."
My tail was clearly swollen around the area of the bullet wound and the scales were slightly separated because of it. It looked like a bloody artichoke.
"Mike, what happened here? This looks like some sort of puncture wound."
"I must have gotten it caught on a piece of rebar or a protruding bolt or something. Damn thing has a mind of its own."
"Wait, this looks like a gunshot wound. Somebody shot you!"
Jeez, was this kid a med student or something?
"I need to call Dr. Smith so he can get the bullet out and do something about infection."
"Hey, don't be so hasty. There's no need to involve anybody else. I'm a big tough dragon remember, you can get the object out yourself. Just go get some needle nosed pliers and some rubbing alcohol."
"Are you crazy, we need to call Dr. Smith."
"How about I give you $20 just to keep this between you and me?"
"No! Get off it. I'm calling him."
"Listen you insolent primate. Put down that phone or I'll make sure you die a slow and painful death!"
"Quiet, it's ringing."
I began to mumble something about dragons not getting any respect anymore and how things used to be different back in the day and about half and hour later a very well dressed and rather angry Dr. Smith arrived.
"I just had to leave church early because I received a page that said something to the effect that you had been shot. Is this some sort of sick joke or has your level of irresponsibility reached a new high."
"I wasn't shot, I just caught it on something."
"Swing your tail this way and let me have a look."
I sheepishly moved my tail over towards him.
"Sure looks like a gunshot wound to me."
I was sticking by my story because I promised the poacher guy that nobody else would know about the little mishap. "I just caught it on something."
"Well, it looks like I going to have to get the 'something' out. Sam, hand me my medical bag."
He pulled out what looked like a medical version of needle nose pliers and went about disinfecting the area around the wound.
"Aren't you going to use some sort of pain killer?"
"You don't deserve a pain killer. Maybe this way you'll learn something."
I gritted my teeth and squeezed the padding with my talons as the 'doctor' re- opened the wound to extract the bullet, making a sickening eggshell noise as he worked.
"Ah, here we go. It looks like you got your tail caught on a .30 caliber something." He noted as he dropped the bullet into a specimen jar, injected some mild antibiotics into the area then bandaged and cleaned the wound. "Ok, it's clear that you want to keep this quiet and I'm going to offer you a little deal. I'll keep this little incident to myself if... you let my children meet you and show them a good time."
"How would I show them a good time?"
"Talk to them, have you picture taken with them, give them a ride."
"Or, I could just turn this bullet over to the police."
"Fine, when are they coming over?"
"Now. They are down in the car waiting for me to get done with you."
"Well, I was thinking of spending the day camped out on Foss Hill, meeting people, talking with them and such, anyway. Can you grab that pile of government literature? I can read it after I'm done with your kids."
I jumped down near the parking lot, and immediately a mini-van door slid open and two little kids jumped out and ran at me screaming with excitement. When Smith arrived he told me their names were Anne and Chris, age 12 and 8. I gave them the full tour, wings, scales, horns, tail, etc. Of course they asked to see my fire breath, and I calmly informed that it was rude to assume that all dragons could breath fire and that different kinds of dragons could breath all sorts of different things. Although not very impressive in the middle of January, I was about to demonstrate my little ice blast when Dr. Smith's vigorous head shaking told me I should keep things subdued.
About a roll of film later, I was showing the two rugrats that I did not have a forked tongue. I felt something being thrown over my neck.
"I agreed to a ride, but any type of saddle is most definitely out of the question," I quietly hissed at Dr. Smith.
"Calm thyself, it is just a blanket. I don't want my kids to tear their Sunday best on your scales. Some of us still have to wear clothes you know."
"Yes, and it is a barbaric practice. Just don't push your luck 'Doctor'."
I swallowed my pride (it's a good thing my maw is so big, or maybe that I had already lost my pride on Thursday) and the two kids were placed on my ample neck.
"Giddy up," chided one of them and they both started kicking at my neck.
"Huhuhuhu," I shuddered. What did they think I was, some bloody overgrown horse? This was a dark day for dragons everywhere. I started walking, glancing back and forth hoping that nobody would look over and see me, and the children began to howl in delight. Had I the power to turn invisible I surely would have done it right then and there, but as I walked around the building the young humans' addictive mirth began to wear down my resolve and, against my better judgment, I started having fun.
"Hold on kids." Anne grabbed my horns and Chris grabbed Anne and I took off at a dragon trot.
"Wheeeee!" they yelled in unison.
Dr. Smith was yelling something about slowing down, but I didn't care. When I got to Church St. I didn't even bother to slow down. Rearing back I simply leaped over the road, clearing most of it by 10 feet. I don't think I actually jumped over any cars, but there was definitely traffic nearby. The kids almost lost their grip, but they impressed me and stuck the landing. Dr. Smith was now screaming his head off, but I didn't care and I soon left him in the dust. We bounded across campus and onto the grassy/snowy slope of Foss Hill where I planned to spend the afternoon. When Dr. Smith finally caught up (carrying my heavy stack of government documents by the way), I was demonstrating the strength of my wings by letting Anne and Chris sit out near the wingtips. Smith's face was beet red, and I swear steam was about ready to shoot out of his ears.
"What the fuck do you think you were doing with my kids!?" he stormed, dropping my stuff into the snow.
"Oo, daddy said a bad word."
"Be quiet Chris."
"Daddy, the ride was so fun."
"You be quiet too, Anne, and both of you go over there with your mom. Now!"
They both jumped off my wings and sadly walked away.
"What on earth was going through your mind? You could have killed them!"
"Calm down, they were perfectly safe."
"Safe! You can barely keep yourself out of the hospital and you have the gall to tell me that my kids were safe? Your rampant lack of maturity endangers you and everyone around you."
I stuck my tongue out at him and started to chuckle. No human was going to force me to take things seriously. When it looked like he was about ready to punch me I started laughing even harder. The 'doctor' regained his composure and stormed away.
"Goodbye 'doctor', that's for fixing my tail." He didn't respond.
"Can I get a ride?"
I turned to see a female student looking up at me with hopeful eyes and my cute alarm went off. "Um, sure, but first can you help me by pulling this blanket off and putting all those papers on it before they get wet."
Once my stuff was safe, the cute girl mounted me and I ran her around a bit. Ah, it looks like being a dragon is finally starting to pay off. I got back up the hill and I let her off.
"Hey, are you giving rides?"
Hmmm, it looks like football players. Rejected! "Well, I was, but my neck is starting to hurt. Sorry."
"Um, would you mind if I could um, touch you?"
::sigh:: Here we go again. For the next five hours or so I entertained a small rotating crowd of students asking questions, watching demonstrations and generally touching me. Many of the questions asked about how I was being treated, what I was being fed, how/if I was going to complete my class work, and my general plans for the future. Several people brought up the TSA list and the circumstances surrounding the transformation. I basically I told people that I had no clue how or why this had happened, and that the TSA list was just an e-mail list that was used to share short fiction. When people asked if I had actually wanted this to happen, I would make a reference to my wings or my assumed long life span and then state: "why wouldn't I want this?" The human would then make some lame rationalization as to how they really wouldn't enjoy the ability to fly or to live for hundreds of years.
When I wasn't answering questions I leafed though all the full colour layouts the Feds had left. It was basically filled with all kinds of different job offers. Research on high mountains, research in Alaska, research in the arctic, research underwater, search and rescue, high-risk rescue, riot and crowd control, traveling exhibit, coastal and wetland research, a lecture circuit, wilderness management on Federal lands (building trails and shit), reforestation on Federal lands, the pamphlets were more specific, but that was the general theme of most of the offers, and they usually included free room, board, training and transportation.
One offer that particularly caught my interest regarded using me to thin out deer populations in built up areas. Deer and suburbanites don't usually get along, but the whining suburbanites resist any attempt to bring in hunters to get rid of the problem (they claim safety issues, but it's probably due to some mixed up sense of morals). They would use my to cull the herds, and there would be no safety problem 'cause I wouldn't accidentally kill something that wasn't a deer. They probably wouldn't even have to close the land or put out warning signs. Can you think of a better job than getting paid to eat?
There was one interesting foil covered package that had a post-it note on it.
Dear Mr. Brotzman: The contents of this package are for your eyes only. Showing these documents to anyone else, or making any attempt to duplicate them, would constitute a federal offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail or a $100,000 fine. Be prepared to read the documents quickly because the writing will disappear 30 minutes after the seal is broken. As a result of some upper level decisions, it is our policy to be completely honest with you, and this package is a part of this policy.
This strange package was piquing my interest, and since it was
getting dark out I bid my rotating crowd of on-lookers adieu and
went back to my lair. As I waited for dinner to arrive, I turned
on a newly installed light and broke the package open and began
to quickly read the documents. The cheaply bound document was
entitled "Military Options Regarding Draconian Life Forms." It
looked like Uncle Sam wanted me and it was for much more than
The principle plan was to include me with an elite group of human soldiers handpicked from the four armed services (SEALS, Green Berets, Rangers, Airborne etc.), to form a special unit would be involved in several high-risk fields like counter terrorism, counter insurgency, assassinations, hostage rescue, anti-drug operations, etc. Future developments might include a multi-national force, or an all-morph unit consisting entirely of transformees. The report outlined a timetable for my training and operational lifespan. After a few years of full-time work I would have the option to move to a contract based system, and monetary rewards were very generous, with the ability for me even to keep a percentage of the spoils. The last few pages consisted of some quick designs of weapons that could fit a being of my carriage. A double barrel shotgun made from 105mm howitzers, a light rifle made from twin .50 caliber heavy machineguns, a 20mm Vulcan cannon with a backpack of ammunition, a 7.62mm minigun that could be fired like a pistol and finally a custom built 50mm assault rifle were the weapons that had been proposed so far. The last page had a full-colour spread of me dressed up in a full suit of draconic body armour. The text described the material as being Kevlar interspersed with ceramic and carbon fiber composites. The helmet even had holes for my horns to poke through, and my bright silver scales and wings had been completely covered in camouflage paint. Shit, they were going to turn me into a walking tank. Rockin'!
As the printing faded away into nothingness, I gave some consideration to all my many options. The military proposal was very interesting. I would get to use a lot of fun toys and help out my country secure its place in the world, but just a single slug from a heavy machinegun or a well aimed anti-tank rocket could cut my life short (and in my case that would mean very short). The other options were far less risky, but they lacked that edge that my dragon side was craving. No matter what my choice would be, it would be made after I got my various degrees and after my scientific value had been sufficiently cultivated.
::YAWN:: As I wondered what was keeping dinner, I looked up and noticed that the contractors (yes, on Sunday!) had made my little lair a bit more permanent and most of my stuff had been moved in. One of these days I was going to have to do an inventory to make sure nothing had been lost or stolen. I booted up my computer intent on checking my e-mail. I'll bet there are some pretty interesting stories on TSA-talk. I hope ITS didn't shut down my account due to an exceeded quota. Maybe I could invite some friends over to watch the Simpsons? Ahhh, I'd say life was finally getting good, but I keep having this damn feeling that I've forgotten something...
Oh fuck!! I forgot to call my parents!!