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Something inside me felt like it was clogging my veins and reacted badly to the lead, making me dizzy at first, but I found that the dragon’s blood in my body quickly thinned all of the normal blood from Chance to my ordinary levels.
But Chance’s face paled. He immediately cringed, nearly falling over from weakness; he had not yet adjusted to the consistency of his now diluting blood. He leaned back against the wall and slid down. He was breathing heavily and clutching his side. I could see the way his muscles relaxed in pain as the thick blood changed.
I sighed; the lead was still draining my energy. Chance sighed loudly and shook his head. He still looked sick and breathed weakly, but he was regaining his control. “You walk around every day like this?” he gasped.
“You’ll be alright,” I told him. “It took me two weeks to adjust, but it was probably just because I was starving and had double pneumonia. I have some bread left from dinner. You should eat that.”
He stumbled to reach the bread and ate it slowly and carefully. Very quickly his color returned, and his breathing slowed to normal. He stood up a bit shakily, but he nodded. “Alright. How do I transform?”
I shifted uncomfortably against my bonds. This was going to be difficult for me, as I transform by instinct, and it only takes me a couple of seconds, but when starting, one needs to take the transformation in steps. “Okay, now, we’re going to do this nice and slowly… Imagine yourself with a forked tongue.”
He thought about it, closing his eyes for only a moment, and shook his head, but when he opened his eyes, they were reptilian, with red irises. “I don’t think it worked… Sssshould ssssomething have hap- Oh.”
“Yeah, that’s right!” I encouraged him. “Step by step. The rest of your face, now. Imagine sharp teeth. See your face as a sort of snout. Then go for the rest of the head. Think dragon.”
He chuckled ashamedly and turned away, as if he felt that this was silly. But when he looked back, I was amazed at his success.
“Perfect! This is the hardest part: you’re body’s going to have to grow, but at the same time, your neck has to grow longer, your hands and feet have to turn into claws, and you have to release your tail. Don’t think too much about it, just imagine.”
Chance realized that he was getting the hang of this. He began somewhat slowly, but with increasing speed he grew and grew to just the right size, with his claws coming in at the exactly correct moment, the tail long and winding behind him.
He chuckled deeply in joy, but he knew that a few things were missing. “But you had scales, didn’t you?”
“I did,” I told him. “Your scales are however you see yourself. Color, shape, texture. It’s all perspective for now, but choose carefully, because you don’t get to choose again. If ever you revert to a dragon again, you will revert to exactly the same dragon as you are the first time. The only reason I am bronze as a dragon instead of black is that I was forced to become a dragon the first time, so I did not get to choose.”
Chance closed his eyes, lost in imagination. Then the pointed, mirrorlike silver scales began to push through his skin and cover him in a tight armor.
“You’re almost there,” I told him. “There’s two things left that you have to do. The first is your wings. This one is tricky, so just think of them coming from behind your shoulder blades. You’ve got this!”
I watched him struggle with this one, but he figured it out. His wings unfurled behind him, great and red. I smiled. “You’re a natural! The only thing you need left is to breathe fire. You have to light a fire in your chest. Come on, you can do it!”
Chance took no time at all figuring it out. “Yessss… Yessss, I feel it!” he rasped.
I looked up to behold the great silver monster before me, the red eyes holding a mystical light behind them. “Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!”
He picked up his claw and quickly snapped the ring around my neck. The moment he touched it, he was forced back into human form, but the ring still broke and fell to the ground.
His hair was now pure white.
As the lead collar clanked against the floor, Chance swooned. “That lead… it’s really powerful… I…” He shook himself off. “Oh, that was bad. I think it’s worn off, though…” His face twisted, and he began to transform again, much faster this time. He snapped the handcuffs and freed me.
I stretched a bit; the now broken bonds had left me very stiff. Then I decided to join him as a dragon. Releasing the tension in my mouth, I let my tongue transform, then my head, then my body, then my wings, the process ever so familiar.
In my full form, with my bronze scales and ice-blue eyes, I was slightly larger than he was. That made sense; female dragons were usually bigger. Then I grabbed the bars with my claws and snapped them away.
I silently slipped out of the cell and walked across to the animals’ cages. I destroyed the locks on the two containing our familiar partners. Slipping to human form, I rescued Darwin and cradled him in my arms, who knew not to make a sound, but probably should have been howling in pain.
Fuzzball was not so lucky. He was severely injured, and I began to regret not bandaging him when I did so to Darwin. Nevertheless, Chance, also returning to human form, still put Fuzzball in his pocket.
Now I realized that I didn’t have any of my tools, nor did I know where they were. Then I remembered the closet when we first entered the base. It contained all sorts of miscellaneous equipment. Maybe, just maybe… it was used for confiscation?
It was now that I was glad that I had kept my mask and my glove. Also, because they hadn’t taken my laser skates and socks, I had a short dagger, not large enough to cause much damage, but just enough to persuade someone if necessary.
It was time to escape. Scanning the area, I noticed a large vent in the ceiling of the cell. It would be just large enough to squeeze through and find the main hallway without setting off any alarms. Setting Darwin on the floor, I transformed back into a dragon and used my claws to slice open the vent and peel down the layer of metal. I poked my claws into it a few times to create footholds, then transformed back, retrieved Darwin, and climbed up into the vent like a ladder.
I kicked out the grate at the end, where it began to narrow even more. I dropped through the hole I had just created in the ceiling, still carrying the wounded Darwin, who did not stir.
I saw an agent walking in front of us; he hadn’t noticed us drop down into the hallway. Sneaking up silently behind him, I uttered a sho command. “Inte-mear! Where are our belongings?“
The agent stopped dead in his tracks, unconscious. He began walking like a zombie to a door with the words “inspection room” written on it. He unlocked the door with his keycard and stood with a blank expression on his face.
I knew that command had made me run low on sho, so I reached over and touched Chance. The Marnolian light markings lit up our foreheads, and I could feel the energy between us increasing. “Yu-fal!“
The man, upon hearing the words, fell unconscious and fainted on the floor. The small, darkened room had just enough light for us to find our equipment. I picked up my sword, saber and bag. My handheld activated immediately when I scanned my fingerprint, but I didn’t want a transmission to be intercepted or detected, so I did not send one. Chance took my bandages and quickly wrapped up Fuzzball. I gently and cautiously placed Darwin in my bag; he made a very quiet hooting sound as if to wince in pain. I set Fuzzball beside him. Darwin seemed oblivious to the presence of the squirrel.
When we were ready to move, we swung the door open. I brandished my saber and sheathed my sword, and Chance kept his hand on his longsword’s hilt. Stepping lightly, we crept down the hallway.
Without warning, every alert in the building went off. Prisoner escape. Kill on sight. Prisoner escape. Kill on sight. Prisoner escape…
Oh, no. They had noticed. Whether we had been caught on camera, or our cell found empty, I could not guess.
I shivered, sheathing the saber as well. “Okay, Chance, do what I do exactly when I do it, or this’ll be a short trip!”
Chance was ready. “Right behind you!”
I transformed quickly, and Chance followed seconds later. Then I shielded my pack and the injured Darwin with my wing and charged forward, breathing fire and filling the corridor.
Now, along with the prisoner alarms, another alert rung out loudly. We had set off the fire alarms.
We finally came to the glued doors, still being pried open by the Southwind agents, but they ducked under our flames as we melted the obstruction away and flew past them faster than they could realize what was happening.
Finally we reached the exit, which was open as scores of agents escaped the fire. We maneuvered up through the hatch and far above the treeline, and that was all. We had escaped.
The next day we returned to the Delta auxiliary base. They had received a cryptogram from an anonymous source, but the filename was For_M_C_deGrave_only.txt.crypt. The decoder ran flawlessly, and the message read:
Y0u e5cap3d th1s tim3.
You w3re 1ucky this t1me.
B3 ther3 a n3xt t1me, and 1t w1ll b3 th3 3nd of y0u, R3V3N4NT.
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