"Reaction time," I said as I estimated the amount of time since he called and I heard the sirens, "About 30 minutes. That's about par for Macoupin county police."
I gathered up a few more of the squeakers till the sound of sirens got too close for comfort. I don't think they'd be happy to see a huge battle dragon and my IDs didn't match up with me anymore. I put the bucket near the kitchen door and went to the front pasture. It was the largest amount of open space and I didn't know how strong the wind gusts from my takeoff were going to be. Once I just walked over the fence, I spread my wings, jumped into the air and gave them a mighty flap. I could see the trees across the road move with the amount of wind my takeoff made and a lot of snow that wasn't totally frozen to the ground was kicked up, but I climbed into the air and was at about two hundred feet up in seconds, still climbing too. I could see for miles, even seeing the rapidly approaching police cruises red and blue lights in the night as well as the ones on the ambulance. I didn't want to be insight, not until it was safe. So I climbed to about seven hundred feet in the air and just circled on an updraft that wasn't too far from my house. I could even hear what people wear saying down there if I concentrated hard enough. Not quite clearly, but something was better than nothing.
It was nice flying in the dark and being as big as I was. I could get higher much faster and easier, go longer distances in less time. The same feeling of the wind rushing over and under my wings and down my sides with no drag from my clothes was still just as pleasant, but I still missed being the smaller dragon I was before.
The response team got to my backyard and immediately did what they are trained to do, secure the scene and tend to the injured. The EMTs rushed to the dead dragon, pretty much taking one look at his skull and just walking away, one of them returning to put a blanket over him. The police went into the house and I couldn't hear what they were talking about. It was a lot of mumbles to me.
'Too far away I guess.' I thought.
When they brought them all outside and started talking to them, I knew something wasn't going right or at least the way I'd like it to have gone.
"Where is Ethan Compas." one officer asked, holding my revolver in a plastic evidence bag, "This is his weapon, it's definitely his since the serial number matches with his registration number. It is also the only weapon here that could have done that to that dragon, so where is he?"
"I told you, we don't know." Dad said, "He was here a little while ago and he's not looking like himself right now. You probably scared him off."
"What do you mean he doesn't look like himself?" the officer questioned.
I knew what I had to do. I didn't like it, but I had to go down there and show them, tell them what happened. I should have stayed there in the first place, but I was still pretty shaken from my transformation.
"I bet he's still close." Pez said then he shouted, "Farm! Please come here!"
"Don't you shoot at him." sternly said Mom to the officers, "Keep your weapons off him."
"Ma'am," replied the officer in a very authoritative tone, "If I believe there is a threat, I will deal with it in the manner I deem fit."
I gulped when I heard that, I knew some officers were very jumpy around dragons. There was no doubt that I did look very threatening, so I just decided to take it slow. I glided down into the front pasture as quietly as I could, but as soon as my paws hit the dirt I heard one of the other officers say,
"Jeff, look at the size of these paw prints."
"Woah, we got us a big battle dragon running around." said the first officer, "Better call in the SWAT team. All battle dragons are to be killed on sight."
"No!" shouted Mom, Dad, Pez and Earthy.
"It's what's best for all of you." the officer told them, "Those beasts are too far gone to be helped. Its mercy that we kill them, better that than them living the rest of their lives as animals."
"Well I'm going to tell you that I'm not an animal." I said as I got next to the house along the north side, but not in view yet, "But I guess I am a battle dragon now. Just please don't shoot me."
"Who said that?" asked the officer, "I order you to come out now with your hand or claws up."
I heard the click of a gun being taken off safety, but I had to show myself. I slowly poked my head around the corner and the bright flashing lights stung my eyes. I squinted a bit, but I walked out, still on all fours.
"Holy shit!" shouted the officer and five other troopers all saw me and drew their weapons as well.
"A BATTLE DRAGON!" shouted an Illinois State Trooper, "TAKE IT DOWN!"
The deafening roar of gunfire erupted and I felt their 9mm pistol round pepper my scales. I brought my right foreleg up to shield my eyes when a gun blast that was much louder resounded and followed instantly by a massive pain in my chest. I feel over onto the ground and clutched my chest to find a large chuck of my center chest plate was hit and cracked. There was a hole blown in it and I could feel like the round was now just embedded in my pectoral muscles. I looked back at the officers and saw the first one holding my revolver. He had shot me with my own gun. All the other officers ceased fire as he slowly walked up to me. He cocked the hammer back as he got about twenty feet away and took aim at my head.
"NOOO!" Mom shouted as she broke free of the officer's grip that had been restraining her the whole time and ran over to me.
"Ma'am!" the officer shouted, "That thing will kill you!"
"No he won't!" she shouted back, just pressing her back to the end of my muzzle, "This is my son, this is Ethan James Compas. You wanted to know where he was. Well, here he is."
The officers looked flabbergasted, their eyes went wide, but that one officer didn't lower his weapon or rather my weapon.
"How can that beast be him?" he said, still wary of me, "They don't act like people. I've read the reports on battle dragons, they lose their minds."
"Well he didn't." said Mom angrily, on the verge of growling at the officer, "He asked you not to shoot and you did anyway. He didn't threaten you; you didn't even give him a chance to explain himself. Please, let him talk."
"They don't talk." the officer shot back, "The reports say they don't."
"He does." she replied steadfastly.
I groaned a bit, but I managed to say,
"My name is Ethan James Compas. I live here on this farm. I'm 23 years old. My cat's name is Mini Me. I work at Reid Memorial Library at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. I have an Associate's Degree in Administration of Criminal Justice. I graduated in 07 with high honors and perfect attendance. I play on my Xbox 360 Elite and Gears of War 2 is my current most played game."
The officer just looked at me in shock, his gun arm fell to his side and he said,
"Holy shit, he does talk. He still is himself. How?"
"We don't know." Pez piped up, "Normally what you said happens, but it seems like he wasn't affected the normal way. He's still himself despite his change in looks."
"Patch him up and call in a flat bed semi." the officer ordered, "I want him sent to the hospital for treatment. Call the Feds; I think they'll want to know about this."
"No!" Earthy shouted, "The Fed's will keep him locked up forever! You can't!"
"I have to." said the officer, "I have to follow procedure and in this case I have to call the FBI to investigate this. I'm sure once they have all the answers they need, they'll let him go. If he's still himself, then he's not a threat to public safety and they can't hold him. Relax. It's probably going to be a few questions and maybe a few tests."
Earthy didn't look happy at all, neither did Mom, Dad or Pez. But there wasn't a choice at that point; I had to do as I was told to do. If I had any hope of a normal life, I needed freedom of movement. I couldn't get that while trying to hide.
The EMTs patched me up after pulling the round out of my chest. It wasn't fun with no anesthetic, but I was surprisingly tolerant to the pain. It still stung, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Once I was bandaged up, the flat bed showed up and I was basically herded down to the road.
"Get on." ordered that one talkative officer.
I just sighed and climbed on. I expected to have them just leave me loose to just hold on, but it wasn't second that I laid down flat on the trailer and I felt chains being tossed over me.
"What are you doing?" I asked fearfully as I felt the chains being yanked down on me.
"This is just so you don't get cold feet lizard breath." one of the other officers said and another chain was tossed over the base of my neck at my shoulders, "Now just lay your head down and stay calm."
I just sighed again and laid my head down. Moments later, my head was chained down, as was my wings, body and tail. Large straps were buckled over my feet to hold them in place. I felt like that giant crocodile from Lake Placid, only it was unconscious.
Once I was restrained, the semi was put into gear and we left down the road towards the interstate. It's not fun to be restrained to the back of a semi trailer and carried off into the night. I felt so terrible that I really didn't care what happened to me.
'Maybe this is for the best.' I thought, 'Be some scientist's lab rat for the rest of my life. At least I won't be a burden to my loved ones anymore. How could they even feed me? I'd have to hunt at this size for all my meals. I'd just be sleeping outside all the time too. Sure I'd be there, but my life is over. I can't work on anything like this. I can't even use a computer anymore. All my dreams are gone. Maybe this is what is best for everyone."
After an hour or two, I wasn't really paying attention, we pulled off the highway, drove a ways till I saw in the distance a military base. A sign out front said Scott Air force base.
'Great.' I thought, even in my head I'm sarcastic, 'Nothing like being taken here. Always a good sign.'
The truck rolled to a stop and the driver talked to the guards.
"Yeah, this is a special case dagoe." he said, "I think R&D might want to take a look at this one."
"Let them through." the guard said.
Once we were past the outer fence, they drove me to a large hanger. The loud sound of the doors closing caused me to hiss. With a bang, the doors were closed and the truck came to a stop.
"Okay, get the team up here!" shouted one of the soldiers, "I want this dagoe moved to the holding cell ASAP! Move it people, I ain't got all night!"
The chains and straps were removed just after a rather hateful little private hopped up in front of my head and aimed his G3 assault rifle in my face.
"Not so big and bad now are you beast?" he spat, "Taken down by us lowly little humans. I'm gonna enjoy watching them cut you up into tiny, little, itty bitty pieces. Of course you don't understand a word I'm saying do you? No, you don't because all you understand is orders like go, forward, come and other words that a dog is faster at picking up then you."
"Listen, I surrendered of my own free will and I've never been in a clan." I told him, making his eyes go wide as dinner plates, "My name is Ethan James Compas and I'm sure you know who I am."
He looked confused and disorientated, but he still held that rifle at me.
"Get up!" commanded another soldier, sound like he was just ordering an ox around.
I stood up on all fours and climb off the trailer.
"Follow." said the same guy, I could see him that time and he was rather grizzled looking sergeant. He looked crisp and clean, but his face told a different story. It was all scarred, weather beaten and creased. His dark skin was more like leather then human flesh. There was a guy that had seen a lot of action.
"I can talk you know." I said, just trying to see if I could get a little courtesy.
"You can talk only when spoken to dagoe 27." he snapped back, spinning around to face me, "I hear a peep out of you again and I'll kill you myself right here, right now. Understood?"
Since he said no talking, I nodded.
"Good." he said with a smile, "There's still a brain in that head of yours. You might still be of some use."
I didn't like that last line, but I had no choice but to follow him and his group of fifteen heavily armed soldiers. They didn't have the normal M16 assault rifles, but the heavier G3 assault rifles. They fired the bigger 7.62 NATO round and more than likely these guys had armor piercing rounds loaded into their magazines. I wouldn't survive if I made one wrong step. As we walked to a very large elevator, I saw everything looked like it was miniature to me now. The fighter jets, the forklifts, the trucks and especially the people. Everything looked like toys to me. That alone made me depressed enough as it was. Once I was on the elevator, down we went. My ears popped, so I knew I was deep.
"Follow." said the same sergeant; his tone with me was getting annoying.
I was really getting tired of being treating like an animal, one or two word commands all the time. But I still had to do as he said till we started walking down what looked like a cell block. There was large steel plates with slots on them at the average human eye height and then another on the floor. The doors themselves where huge, they looked made to handle dragons of my size. We got to one with the number 27 painted on it in big white numbers.
"In." he said as soon as he hit the button on the wall next to him, just off to the side of the door itself.
The door slid open pretty quietly for such a big door. Once it was open, the darkness of the room caused me to involuntarily back up one step.
"IN!" he yelled.
A whip sound behind me made me jump and rush into the cell. When I looked back, a soldier had a whip in his hands.
"Good beast." the sergeant said, then he hit the button again and the door closed, leaving me in darkness.
Only light coming in was through the two slots in the door, other than that it was totally dark. I could see fairly well, but I didn't like this one bit. There was a large pile of cloth that I guess was a bed, or more accurately bedding, and a hole in the other corner of the room that was what passed for bathroom accommodations. The walls were made of solid steel and since they didn't reverberate when I tapped them, there was either solid concrete or right on the bedrock just on the other side.
"Great." I said to myself as I laid down on my 'bed', "Well I guess I'll find out what they want with me and then hope like hell they'll let me go."
I sighed and then laid my head down on my paws, trying to see if I could get some sleep that night. After a few hours of trying to fall asleep, exhaustion finally set in and a passed out. All the while I was worried about what the next day would bring.
More nightmares plagued my slumber. Only now in them I was this massive dragon in a wasteland, feeling like I had just come out of a black out and not remembering was happened. All I did know what that I would see the bodies of my friends and family at my feet and my claws soaked in blood. I woke up roaring,
I'll admit that, I did call for Mom. It's just a reaction when you see something like that.
"Wakey, Wakey dagoe 27." said a soldier, that same hateful little private by the sound of his voice. His tone wasn't encouraging, more like he knew this wasn't going to be pleasant for me and was going to enjoy hearing me suffer, "Time for your physical and those fun tests you guys love so much."
He opened my cell door and motioned me to come out. I warily did and I saw he was alone. I wondered why if they thought I was a dangerous battle dragon, why would they send one annoying and insulting guy to get me. When I got out into the lit hallway, I looked myself over. As normal, my dragon healing ability had patched me up good as new with a nice rest. That is still a nice feature, no matter how you look at it.
'Maybe this is a test.' I thought, 'Maybe someone told them who I was and now they are making sure.'
Well, I did what he told me to do as we walked through one giant sterile hallway to the next till we got to a big door labeled Examination Room in big red letters. The door opened and inside was a ton of scientists in lab coats. They all were just going from one table to the next. What galled me about it was on each table was either a dead or unconscious dragon. I could tell the unconscious ones from the fact that their chest was rising and falling. Various sizes, colors and types of dragons were all over the place. As I passed, they had one dead black dragon's skull opened up and were picking at his brain. I was lucky I didn't have anything in my stomach or else I would have puked. They lead me through that horrible room to another, more normal room. It looked like a huge vet's examination room with hydraulic operated lights and what looked like arms.
"Dagoe 27." said a scientist as he walked into the room, sounding very impatient and impartial, "Looks like you just got here and need all the proper examinations and samples taken from you for study. Well, let's get this over with so I can move on. Harry, restrain it."
I looked up to see near the top of the room in a small control office was a guy and looked like he was in some kind of control interface. His arms were incased in some kind of motion control apparatus. When he moved his arms, the huge metal arms moved too. They lunged at me and I tried to dodge backwards. I wasn't fast enough, the metal claws grabbed onto my forelegs, yanked me up along the wall behind me and clamps came up over my hind legs, neck, tail and two long bars pinned my wings to the wall. I struggled to get free, but it was useless.
"That's better." said the small man in the white coat, "First, a scale and a blood sample."
He walked up to the end of my tail, lifted up a scale, grabbed it with a pair of pliers and pulled it out. It was like a pin prick, but I barely felt it. He proceeded to collect blood from the wound. Not by just swabbing it, oh no. He jammed a needle into the open wound. I felt that and let out a hiss.
"Oh, stop pretending that hurt." he snapped at me, "You beasts have such a high tolerance to pain that you probably didn't even feel that."
"I did feel that and it stung." I said to him, my voice had a bit more growl in it than normal.
"Well, well." he said, looking a bit surprised, "Looks like the soldiers were right, this one can talk. Tell me, out of shear curiosity, what was your former human name?"
"My name still is Ethan James Compas." I growled at him, getting tired of having to repeat myself every time.
His face went pale and his eye shot open as wide as they could go. From even as far away as I was, I had said something that he didn't know. He rushed over to the other wall, grabbed a phone and dialed a number that I didn't catch.
"Get me Major General Anthony T. Gibbons." he ordered whoever was on the other end, "I don't care, this is very important."
There was a brief pause before he started talking again.
"General? I called you in regards to a recent capture of a battle dragon. Yes I know sir, shot on sight, I understand but...but, this one surrendered sir. Yes he did and that's not all, its Pop Star sir. Yes he is, he's been turned sir. No, sir. He's still himself. Yes sir, he's calm and cooperative. Still can talk and is reasonable. Yes sir. Yes sir. I'm already getting the samples now. Yes sir, under stood sir."
"What did he say?" I asked warily.
"Harry, let him down." the guy ordered.
The clamps and arms let go and I fell over on the ground. I tried to prevent making a loud thump, but I still shook the place a little. Not very much though, just a tiny bit.
"You are being set free." he told me, "The paperwork came through on the incident and you're story has been confirmed. It didn't get to me in time, luckily I asked your name or I would have sedated you in a bit and then started my full battery of tests and examinations."
"You should really ask first all the time you know." I said as I got back on my four feet.
"Normally dagoes like yourself don't talk." he replied, "More snarls and bites. But you seem to be unaffected for some reason. I wanted to tell that to the General, but he wouldn't hear it. The second I said it was you and you were yourself, he ordered me to let you go. Turns out he was aware of that little incident last night you seemed to have last night and was busy trying to track down where you went when I called. Now, the private here will show you to the runways. You are cleared to fly out of here, just take off when you are ready."
"Thank you." I told him with a slight smile as the private who seemed a bit unhappy with the events started to walk out of the room.
"Don't thank me." he said, glaring at me, "Thank the General. If it were up to me, I'd want to open your skull up and try to figure out why you aren't an animal."
The smile vanished in an instant and a quickly followed the private out of the room. Once past the horrible room and the even worse room, I was glad to be back in the dull hallways.
"You are one lucky SOB." the private said, "First survive being turned into one of those freaks, then getting the world to pretty much think you aren't a threat or public menace, which you are by the way, then get turned into an even bigger beast and still keep your mind and now you get to stroll out of here all because of a General said so. If I had your luck, I'd get every girl I ever asked into bed with me, no problems."
"I wouldn't call myself lucky." I told him, "Remember, I'm a freak. You said so yourself. How lucky could I be if this happened to me twice now?"
"I guess you're right." he said as we walked into the elevator, "You do have a hit and miss luck streak going. When you hit, you hit big. You miss, you miss big."
"Well, I just hope I can find a way to deal with this." I said to him.
"I'm sure you will." he said to me, his tone was still resentful, "Lucky guy like you should find a way pretty quick."
"I hope." I replied.
Once I got to the top of the elevator, we walked out to the runway. The hanger doors opened and the sun hit me in the face. I closed my eyes and just felt the warmth from it. I felt better almost instantly. It's just when I opened my eyes again and saw everything was still small that is all came rushing back. I sighed, walked out of the hanger, spread my wings and took to the sky. I was on my way home.
The flight back home was nice. Everything always looked small when I flew so it wasn't a huge jolt, it's just the scenery flew by much faster. I felt like I was going well over one hundred miles an hour with that way the little houses and fields zipped under me. It was cool to see the Midwestern winter scenery from so high up. It's Brown, dark brown, light brown, pine green with little white bits here and there. The snow wasn't that think and it was melted in a lot of places, so it was more a scenery of rocky road ice cream with mint in it. Still, it was zipping by so fast that it looks like it was a rocky road shake with mint in it. One thing I never checked, how fast I could fly. I didn't really care, speed doesn't really affect anything, it's just a number really. Fast cars I do care about for their speed. They should be fast, but they have speedometers so it's not hard to check top speed on them. The wind blowing through my mane and the sun beating down on my wings and back felt great too, all warm and cozy. Really knocked out that chill from that cold, unfeeling military base. Still, I traded the cold unfeeling military base for the cold, unfeeling world of the outdoors, both with real cold temperatures. Not gaining much, but anything is better than a government research team poking me for the rest of my life. As I flew, I felt my stomach growl.
"Oh man, I haven't eaten in so long." I said to myself, hungry pains started to make themselves very apparent, "What can I find to eat?"
I looked around, passing over Edwardsville and seeing all the fast food and grocery stores below me. I patted my backside or of shear habit, feeling for my wallet. It wasn't there of course; it was back home on my nightstand right where I left it. When my paw hit nothing but my scaly rear end, it dawned on me that I was out without my normal attire, or any attire for that matter.
"Man, this sucks." I said to myself, still frustrated over the whole mess I was in, "I'm hungry, no money, no clothes and I don't think the all you can eat Chinese Buffet will like it if I eat them out of business and just leave an IOU."
I growled a bit and flew on, just trying to see if I could get home and maybe there I could at least hold my hunger off with a few steaks. Really just a wish in a bucket, but it was the best idea I had. It wasn't long after I cleared Edwardsville that I happened across a bean field that had a herd of deer walking through it. I spotted them miles away; it was kinda scary to be able to see them from miles off with just my naked eyes, but I had done that before on the airsoft fields before, just not at that scale. Normally during my flights, I don't pay attention to the ground; I'm just lazily flying along for the heck of it and on a full stomach. I pretty much figured I was in search mode for finding food at that point, so I was more inclined to look at the ground. As soon as I spotted them graving on some farmer's bean crop, my stomach growled again.
"Perfect." I moaned, "This again. Why me? Does fate just like screwing with me for its amusement or is the world just trying to beat the idea of me acting like a dragon into my skull anyway it can? I know I'm a dragon, I get it. But honestly, why does these, finger quotes, normal idea of a dragon have to always be the one hammered into me. It's my idea good enough? Screw it, I'm hungry and I'm just not going to care. At least this'll solve my hunger issue for awhile."
I readied myself on an attack path, just goes to swoop down and snatch the thing up. As I got closer, I started to just glide in. Hard to be silent when you're near 50 feet long and have a wingspan of 84 feet; those deer heard me coming from a good distance off and started running for the wood line. But the downside of those big fields for them, it takes time to get to the trees. I was closing fast, angling my wings in a bit to pick up speed. I was coming up fast and a young buck that was just too slow for his own good. I saw him accidentally trip when his hoof sunk too deep in the mud from the melting snow when he took off. By the time he got up to speed, as was almost on him, all the while I was thinking,
'Please be healthy, please be healthy, please be healthy, please be healthy.'
The lead buck made it into the trees, but junior didn't. I swooped down, clamped my jaws right over the young deer, opened up my wings as far as I could to act as an air brake and landed. It let out a shrill yell before I bit down on it, decapitating it as quickly as I could. I didn't want it to suffer anymore than I already made it. I chomped off its legs to, pretty much the body was the only thing in my mouth and even at that, I didn't like it. I just shut my eyes, chewed it up and swallowed. Once it was done, I couldn't help but stick my tongue out to try and air off the after taste.
"That was revolting." I said, sickened by the taste of deer fur, guts, bone and bodily fluids that still lingered in my mouth, "I need to wash my mouth out."
I took to the sky again, just looking for a clean water source. As I flew, I realized I was still a bit hungry.
"One whole deer and I'm still not full." I groaned, "This sucks."
I just kept my eyes open for what I wanted most, water. Clean water to wash my mouth out with. It wasn't long before I spotted a bunch of geese flying in a V pattern. Once again, my stomach reminded me it wasn't full yet.
"A flock of geese?" I said, mostly just amazed that I was even thinking about it, "A whole flock? How could I eat all of that?"
It was when I looked at myself again that I remembered that I was huge. I could probably fit them half of them in my jaws alone.
"Well, my mouth isn't going to be any less minty fresh." I said, "Sorry about this fellas."
Once I started to close in, they started honking out warnings and picking up pace. But sadly for them, I was much faster. I just came at them and opened my maw as soon as one was close enough. That has to be terrifying, seeing this wide open set of jaws coming at you. It was very breezy, each time I did open my mouth, air would rush down my throat before I felt feathers on my tongue. Once I felt that though, down would come the teeth and lots of honking from inside my muzzle before crunching sounds. It was unsettling to say the very least. I like birds and killing them like that wasn't fun for me. One by one, I'd track them, snatch them and eat them until the last one left was in my sights. It was an aerial massacre is what it was. That last goose flapped with all it had, but I still had plenty more speed then it could even dream of. With a snap of my jaws once I felt a webbed foot on my tongue, it was over. Honks and crunch, an entire flock of 34 geese was now in my stomach, that plus one deer. I felt terrible.
"I need to get a plan, this ain't gonna work." I said to myself, then turned my head and spit out some feathers, "I can't live like this, it's not for me. I need a drink."
I flew on; my stomach now was quiet which I was thankful for. I didn't want to drink from the Mississippi river, I knew a lot of stuff drains into it as well as people dump stuff in it. It is called the muddy river for a reason as well. Lakes and ponds all seemed like bad ideas; then again, I just ate a ton of wild animals that could have been loaded with all kinds of fun diseases.
'What's a little pond water gonna hurt?' I thought to myself, 'I'm already screwed as it is.'
So I flew around till I spotted a large lake. Not just any lake though, it was Beaver Dam State Park.
"Man, I chased those geese all the way past where I wanted to stop." I said aloud, "Oh well, I'll just have to fly back I guess. But after I get a drink."
I glided down to the side of the lake; a few old fishermen were on the dam near the parking lot. When they saw me coming, they ran off shouting. A few more winter campers took to fleeing, dashing into their parked cars or back to their campsites in the woods.
"Don't worry!" I shouted, "I'm not going to hurt anyone, I promise! I'm just here for a drink!"
I don't think many of them heard me, they mostly kept running. I landed on the dam and quickly lowered my head to the water's surface. I just dipped my jaws into the lake, sucked up a mouthful of water, swished it around and spit it back out onto the ground next to me. I don't spit into a lake. It didn't taste horrible, fishy and sort of slimy, but not as bad as I thought it would. I did that two more times before I just took a long drink to wash everything down and I had worked up a thirst from all that flying. One drink I accidentally sucked up a catfish.
"Ewww." I said after I felt it swimming over my tongue, trying to escape, bit down, chewed it up and swallowed it, "That was nasty, raw catfish."
I started to drink closer to the surface after that, I didn't want to suck up anymore fish. As I drank, I caught the sound of voices up the hill. Sounded like someone had run to the park ranger and said I was there. I didn't stick around to try and explain everything to him, I took one last mouthwash and took off. A few shouts from behind me, and one rifle round, but I was too far away for him to do anything other than get a good view on my rear end.
It wasn't long before I was back home, tired and weary. I just laid down in the front pasture as soon as I on the ground. The pokey brown grass and chilly snow on my tired and sore body felt good for some unknown reason. Maybe it was just because I was home. Whatever it was, I was happier to be there than anywhere else. Moments later I heard shouts and then doors opening. Everyone came outside, Mom, Dad, Pez and Earthy. They all came running out to the front yard.
"Oh thank Goodness you're okay!" Mom shouted, "We were worried sick, where have you been?"
"Around." I said to her simply, I was a bit too tired for any creative reply.
"Well, I'm just glad they let you go." said Earthy, "I was making a plan to bust into where ever they were holding you and get you out."
"Really?" I replied, "That's nice of you."
"Thank you." he replied with a smile.
"Well Farm, you must be hungry after all that?" Pez asked, "I think we can find something for you to at least hold you over for a bit."
"Uhh." I said, just trying to find the right words.
"They fed you?" asked Mom, looking at me with concern.
"No." I honestly told her.
"You hunted didn't you?" said Pez, he sounded a bit upset.
"I had to." I replied, just averting my eyes out of sheer shame, "I was so hungry and I didn't have any other choice."
"Once again, you hunted for food!" shouted Mom, then she just took a breath and seemed to calm down, "Well, I can't say I'm happy about it, but given the situation you are in, we can't afford to feed you. Hunting will be the only thing that will put food in you. Just please, promise me you'll not eat anything that looks sickly."
"I will try Ma." I said sadly, not liking the idea that I was now dependant on hunting for my meals.
"And please, don't breathe on anyone." Dad said and he waved his hand in front of his face, "Your breath is horrible."
I just shut my jaws a bit tighter and breathed out of my nose. I knew I couldn't do anything about my bad breath; it would take gallons of mouth wash to get rid of it. I put my head on the ground and aimed my muzzle away from anyone in the yard.
"I'm sorry Farm." said Earthy, his features drooped, "I brought all this on you. I can't say sorry enough."
I just let out a huff, which a little fire shot out of my jaws. There had to be a way to reverse this, I hoped against hope that there was a way to go back to my old body. I just raked my brain for an answer, trying every angle I could think of. Then a light bulb kicked on.
"Pez, I need your help." I said, getting a bit of hope back, "Downstairs in my computer room is my PC. It's a crappy little old IBM and it'll take forever to boot up, but on it is a bunch of files that I lifted from a Hierarchy computer network. Maybe on it is an answer to all this."
"Okay Farm." he said, he looked a bit happier, I guess everyone was when I looked at their faces.
It was a long shot, but it's better than no shot at all. Everyone went inside as I went around to the side of the house so I could hear and talk to them in the basement from one of the small windows. A few minutes later I heard the welcome sound of Windows 2000, then Pez saying
"You're right Farm; this thing does take forever to load."
"Sorry, I've been mostly broke and didn't really need a better machine." I replied, embarrassed because of my horribly outdated hardware.
"Oooh." Earthy said, sounded giddy, "Unreleased work."
"Don't touch that." I growled.
"We won't." Pez told me and by extent, Earthy.
I walked Pez through getting to the folder from memory. I can just remember my file structures even if they are years old. Once he had them up. He went silent. I had named and sorted a lot of them over the time I had them, but I knew the answer wasn't in what I had already looked over. It had to be in the "unknown and unsorted" folder of stuff I had yet to go through. There was a bunch in there, it was a few hours of silence as Pez worked away, trying to find anything that could help.
"I found something!" shouted Pez, footsteps sound a few seconds later as it seemed a lot of people left the room when it got to be too long a wait. I was still glued right where I had been.
"What is it Pez?" I asked, getting my hopes up despite a nagging doubt.
"According to this file here," he said through the dirty glass so I couldn't actually see him, "because the highest ranking dragons feared an accident and losing one of their best dragons or making it a temporary punishment to increase its use, they created a way to reverse the battle dragon procedure. But it also says that it wasn't totally effective. It returned the dragon to its regular size and body type, but the instincts and mind alterations lingered. They have been working on a way to reverse those effects too, but as far as I can tell, they haven't done it yet."
"So they are working on a 'oops' plan?" I asked.
"Looks like it." he replied, "But that antidote they came up with should work on you since you don't have any mind alterations to begin with. You'll have you old dragon body back."
"Thank God." I said, breathing a sigh of relief. There was hope. "Where is it?"
"Well, it seems to say that they work on the reversal method in a bunker of theirs." Pez said, "Shining Rock. Where ever that is?"
"Shining Rock?" I repeated, I had seen that name before. It was on that map I saw, "Pez, a few folders back there should be a folder names 'maps.' There's a big one in there."
Some clicking sounds later and he said,
"Got it. Shining Rock Bunker, R&D. It's located in the Rocky Mountains, along the Montana, Idaho border."
"Long way from here." I said, "Well, if I can get my life back, then I'll do it."
"I'm coming with you Farm." said Pez, after that came the sound of my chair squeaking.
"So am I." I heard Earthly say, "I got you into this mess, I'll help you get out."
"It'll be dangerous. I can't let you guys come with me." I told them.
"You don't have a choice." Pez shot back, "You're too hard to miss. We'll follow you."
I just took a breath and sighed, replying,
"Okay, okay. Fine, you guys can come. Just be careful."
"Why do we need to be careful when we have battle dragon Farm with us?" asked Eathy playfully.
"That's not funny." Pez growled at him.
"Sorry Crescent." he replied, his tone dropping a few notes, "I'm just trying to make everyone feel better."
"I'll only feel better when this is all over and I've my right size again." I shot back, "Let's get this done. For some reason the semester starts this year on a Wednesday, not sure why. That's the 21st, today is the 18th and it's almost over. I have two days to get to the right size or I'll miss the first day of class and work. So I'm in a bit of a time constraint here, so I think we should get some rest, and set out early in the morning. I want to be there by tomorrow at noon, earlier if I can manage it."
"Okay Farm." said both Pez and Earthy.
"Pez, one question." I asked, just curious about one thing that was still unexplained.
"What is it Farm?" he replied.
"Did it say anything that would point to why I retained my mind?" I said to him.
"I didn't find a thing." said Pez sadly, "Sorry Farm, but it would appear you're just a fluke. In every other case the dragon lost his or her mind and was pretty much dumbed down to the level of an animal. I didn't see one instance that a dragon was still the same mentally."
"Well, I guess I can be thankful that I lucked out on that." I said sadly through the window.
"Don't worry Farm, you'll be yourself again in no time." Earthy said, still trying to cheer me up.
"Thanks guys." I said before I turned away from the window.
I went back out to the front pasture, only place for me to sleep given my size. I just curled up like a giant cat, shut my eyes, pretended I was in my bed despite the stiff grass poking me and the snow under me in places that was melting from my body heat and fell asleep about two hours later. It's hard to try and sleep outside for the first time, it just feel weird to have grass and sticks poking you all over your underside and cold snow and water in some spots and the wind blowing on you all while you're trying to sleep.
'I sure hope this idea works. I want to be able to live my life as I want to, not live like an animal for the rest of my life out of sheer necessity. Please let luck be on my side.' I thought as I finally drifted off.
"Well, I must sssay, you look far more vissscousss and imposssing then I would have made you." hissed an all too familiar voice once I was asleep and dreaming. Not a very pleasant dream, but considering the situation I was in, it was consistent, "Not to mention much bigger. You sssure go all in when you go for it."
I opened my eyes to see a 30 foot, red and yellow dragon that I knew all too well. The black spikes down his back, tail tipped with pretty much same spear head spike as me, near same horns as me, but he lacked my markings, fin plates and wing edge gradient. He also didn't look at angular as me. He was on all fours though, same as me.
"I thought we had a deal." I growled back at the unwelcome dragon mind that was once again in my head, "You stay away from my friends, family and most importantly me and in return, you don't spend eternity in a box."
"I know, I know." said the smaller dragon with a lot of glee, I never thought I'd say that about a 30 foot dragon before that point, "But it seemsss like you can't get to your meansss of capturing me. That meansss I can do what I want and you can't ssstop me. I'd sssay the dealsss off, wouldn't you?"
"The second I get my normal body back, you are so busted." I snarled.
"Normal?" he laughed, "There it isss, you really have crossssed the line. You sssee your little, tiny dragon body asss your normal body now. What makesss you think that the one you're currently won't be the new one? You got used to the lassst one, why not thisss one?"
"Because this one can't do the things I want to do." he replied, just glaring at the phantom, "I can't live like this, I won't. I have dreams, things I want to do, places I want to go and a lot of those places require me to go inside buildings. I can't do it at this size. Wait, why am I justifying myself to you? Get lost!"
"You sssure are clingy." he shot back, "Lucked into massssive amountsss of ssstrength and power and you want to tossss all that away jussst to be a working ssstiff like everyone elssse. You ssshould be thanking me really. I left when I could have ssstayed in your head and just hid in there."
"What do you mean?" I growled at him.
"Well, I debated jussst going into your sssubconsssciousss and waiting for another chance at taking over your body." he hissed, "But I didn't, I left for greener passsturesss asss it were. By me doing that, it allowed you to ssstay in control of yourssself, dessspite what'sss been done to your body."
"You mean because you left my head, that's the reason I'm still me?" I asked, now dumbstruck by this revelation.
"I've been around in a few placesss." he smugly told me, "I sssaw what you sssaw that day with that blue dragon they turned, only I sssaw what happened in hisss head too. Hisss dragon insssstinctssss got one hell of a boosssster sssshot and they over wrote the resssst of hissss mind, taking over everything he once wasss. I was curioussss if my ssssecond chance to take your body over had come, but what I sssaw told me otherwissse. Not only isss the human mind extremely altered to the point it's not even remotely the ssssame, not the dragon inssstinctsss as well. That would have twisssted me back to the point where I once wasss, jussst a pile of urgessss and guidessss in your sssskull."
"What do you mean by 'back to'?" I said, wondering what the hell he was getting at.
"You ssstill haven't figured that out?" he laughed, "For sssomeone who isss ssssupposssedly very sssmart, you sssure don't catch on quick. I have a large chunk of you dummy."
"You have what?" I stammered
"You think that I'm sssome kind of ball of dragon only thoughtsss?" he said, still mocking me with every word, "When I firssst entered you head, I didn't know what I wasss, I wasss jussst a collection of inssstinctsss that told you how to run your body. That wasss it, but your mind had to be all defensssive and force me into the back of it with all the other ssstuff you represssss. I really mussst thank you for that though, all those sssexual urgesss you ssshoved down there ssso deep jussst really made my life ssso must fun. I mean that too. I did try to do the whole nightmare thing when I firssst got out, but getting into sssomeone's head and making them have a lucid dream with that arsssenal of erotic thoughtsss and fantasssiesss really made my nightsss ssso much fun. I can't tell you how many thingsss and people I've been and what'sss been done to me. It'sss great."
"You are sick." I snapped back at him, feeling really embarrassed.
"Look who'sss talking." he fired back, "I will admit, after awhile I ssstarted coming up with my own ssstuff, but I ssstill wouldn't have done it if it wasssn't for your near constant repressssion of thossse thoughtsss. Ssstill, once the layersss upon layersss upon layersss of persssonality that your mind put on me, trying to find a way to interface with me, but sssstill keep me ssseparate, I sssoon realized what I was. I realized that I was trapped in your head and I wanted to gain control of a body to call my own. Ssso I took a chance when you were blacked out, that of course backfired on me. I was ssstill learning about myself, I wasss too eager. I ssshould have waited till I was ssstronger and more layersss of persssonality were added that would have given me more optionsss."
"What you are telling me is that I created you?" I asked, still not totally sure what he was getting at, but a picture was forming.
"I wasss just thossse inssstincts." he told me, "Your mind acted jussst like the ressst of your body, like I wasss an invading infection. It isssolated me, but I was ssstill an active part of your mind becaussse I was running your body through your mental interface that your mind made for me. Asss time wore on, your mind ssstarted to layer a persssonality on me, jussst to act as a way to better connect to me and identify me at a ssseparate entity and to improve how it isssolated me. Sssince you are unbelievably black and white, gotta be moral about thisss perssson, I got layered with an evil persssonality due to the fact that your mind sssaw a lot of my inssstinctual resssponsesss asss evil. All your negative personality traitssss got lumped onto me as well, greed, vengeance, hatred, lussst and a totally lack of self restraint, you kept that last one all to yourself. To put it ssstraight, I became a sssecond persssonality."
I fell back onto my haunches. I thought he was in my head the whole time after I changed. I didn't have the slightest clue that all he was is a collection of personality traits my mind put on him, a bunch of my repressed thoughts and feelings. He was, to really just out and out say it, just a dark version of myself, one made up of all of my darkest thoughts and repressed emotions that I shoved into the back of my mind were the draconic instincts seemed to just suck it all up.
"Now you ssseem to underssstand what I really am." he said as he just smirked up at me, "I'm all of your deepessst, darkessst thoughtsss and emotionsss that'sss all rolled into a persssonality with the added bit of draconic inssstinctsss, all made possssible by your mind. You'd be sssurprisssed at how many people like getting pounded by a dragon, I know I wasss. Ssstill, In a dream world, anything is possssible. I'm by no meansss limited to anything. Anyway, I jussst thought I'd come back and add to your misssery. I love to sssee you sssuffer while I'm out there, living out your deepessst and mossst private fantasssiesss."
"You just came here to torment me?" I asked with a snarl in my voice.
"Pretty much." he laughed, "You wanted to know why you're ssstill you and now you know, but sssometimesss the answer isss sssomething you didn't expect and certainly you didn't like thisss one. Look at it thisss way, a lot of women'sss nightsss have been very entertaining becaussse of me and by extensssion, you. Though I'm not letting you take credit for a lot of my work, I wasss doing all the real work ssso that'sss all me."
I just looked down at him, that smug grin on his red, reptilian muzzle just made me so angry. I shot up off my rear end and pounced down on him, snarling right in his face,
"Listen to me you prick! You may have started out life in my head, but you made a choice to leave. That was your choice! As I recall, you were supposed to erase yourself so you didn't hold up your end of the bargain in the first place. What you did from that point on was not my fault. I may have let you go the second time, but that was under a new deal that you leave me, my family and my friends alone, which you are breaking that by being here. As far as I'm concerned, you are a phantom, nothing more than mess of bad thoughts and I want nothing to do with you. If you want to go out and have your fun in the dreams of others and you're not doing them any harm, then I don't care. I don't want to hear about it. What you do is your own deal, don't you dare try to put it back on me! Now get out of my head before I give Pez and Earthy a crash course in ghost busting!"
He seemed to cower under my massive paws as a growled in his face; I guess I was more intimidating to him than I thought. He glowed red for a second or two and then his body seemed to dissolve into nothing but red light, shrinking down into those two glowing red eyes that he normally masquerades as. My paws were on what I guess passed for the ground there and then the world faded into black. The next thing I knew I was seeing the morning sun, beaming it orange rays over the roof of the house.
"I'm getting tired of that guy." I groaned.