We finally arrived in a forest clearing. I decided that we would rest here. Dawn was breaking, and when we looked back, we could see the smoke rising from the ashes of Whitesand.
Darwin perched on a tree branch above my head. Fuzzball returned to Chance, who then cancelled the metal-hand spell. Vao went right to sleep in the center of the clearing.
I leaned back against a tree, my gloved hand in a claw shape and bent inward towards me. Chance leaned back as well and gasped. “What now?”
“I’ve been considering your scenario,” I told him quite honestly. “No one, except the Delta agents, has seen me as a dragon and lived, yet you’ve been a great help.”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.” He bowed his head.
I sighed. “But I know what you can do without having to go back to Plasma or without losing your current mission partner. Or, you know, me having to kill you or anything.”
His eyes widened. He obviously hadn’t thought that such a solution was possible. “Do tell.”
“The Delta Force is always looking for powerful young men like yourself,” I assured. “I’m sure they’d be proud to let an agent like you join, and I’m sure it would be no problem to keep your own partner.”
Fuzzball flew up and landed on the same branch as Darwin, but Darwin moved his head to avoid him, a low growl barely audible.
He chuckled. “I’ll just have to think about it,” he beamed. He offered me his left hand, a Lylani custom for a pact, and I shook it with my own left hand, still gloved.
The moment that we shook, the expression on his face told me he knew something was wrong. He felt the weakness in my left hand. “That’s not good. May I see your hand?”
I nodded, a little apprehensively. I winced as he removed the glove.
My hand was an ugly pallid color. There was a large, black bruise over the veins in my wrist. The hand itself was limp and lifeless.
“Oh, no,” he worried, fingering the wound with his own hand. The skin was cold. “You have to get help.”
I knew now that this was serious. I started to panic. “Okay, um… keep following the path until you see three pine trees in a perfect row. Behind the center one is the base. If they can fix it before you come back, I’ll come for you. Darwin will lead you there. What’s your handheld number?”
He pressed a couple of buttons on his handheld. “341-9A-38-07Q,” he read.
I entered the code into my handheld and sent him my number. I snapped it shut, then gave special instructions to Darwin to lead Chance and Vao to the base. Then, activating my laser skates, I raced away to find the base for myself, rushing between the trees.
I woke up six hours after I had gotten back. The doctors had already performed surgery after I had shown them my hand. I was lying face-up on the bed, hurting badly.
The world was blurry; the doctors had to use heavy anesthetics, because of my strong will, alertness, and thin dragon’s blood. Things came into focus one by one, and Chance and Vao were standing over me. Chance looked immediately at my left hand. “They did a full-on amputation,” he explained. “They gave you a prosthetic for it.”
I did my best to sit up in the bed, which could best be described as uncomfortable. I held up my left arm.
Half of my left forearm had been replaced with a blue, robotic version. My hand was metallic and anatomically accurate. It came as a bit of a shock, but I immediately resolved to accustom myself to it. I flexed the joints somewhat awkwardly at first, and then I began to make the movements more fluid.
Chance later told me that I took the news seemingly well, but probably just because of how drugged I was, and what terrible shape the hand had been in.
“The doctor thinks that you’ll recover quickly, and you should be active again as early as tomorrow.”
Vao stood to his full, proud height. “Revenant, what you and your friend did for me was beyond the call of duty. Know that your sacrifice was not without gain.” He turned and left without another word, returning to Delta’s care.
After the door to the room closed, I noticed something shiny on Chance’s jacket and couldn’t help but smile. “It looks like they’re treating you well, Chance.”
He adjusted the pin, the Delta insignia, the sign of a Delta Force agent. “Yes, ma’am. Delta Agent Chance ‘Phase’ Walker. Sounds regal.”
I nodded. “Suits you well. Did you choose it?”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I thought that it represented my affinity. I’ve always been good with materials, especially metals. It just comes naturally to me.”
He glanced at my hand, then at his. He looked curious. “Do you have a thing like that? Like a sho specialization or something?”
“Yeah, I specialize in defensive magic,” I told him. “You know, stopping projectiles, shattering swords, that kind of thing. I do the attacking with my sword.”
Chance laughed. “I see. Well, I’m going to let you rest for now.” He touched my human hand as a comforting gesture.
Suddenly something changed. There was a flash of light coming from somewhere. When it died down, I saw lines illuminating on his forehead and around his eyes in a strange, decorative pattern.
But just as soon as Chance noticed that it was happening to me too, or at least on what was visible of my forehead with the mask on, he reflexively pulled his hand back, and the light faded. He paced backwards one step. “Oh my…”
“Oh my, what?”
He acted for a moment as if he had been electrocuted, staring only at his hand. Finally he managed to stutter the words, “W-we’re… Marnolians.”