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Draconic - Chapter 17
I stumble backwards as the egg cracks apart. It is not silent – the noise is in fact rather significant, somewhat resembling the sound made by breaking ice blocks. The formerly quite smooth surface of the egg breaks into dozens of pieces above and just behind her head, opening the way for the peculiar, blood-red goop held within, all in a matter of seconds. This was definitely not anywhere within my range of plans.
Oddly uncomfortable with coming in contact with the egg-sludge, I find myself backing away. My eyes watch -half in surprise, half in morbid fascination- as it flows down, covering the human’s burning face and muffling her screams. Her limbs trash around, but her attempts are uncoordinated and thus have very little effect. What it does do is disturb the egg enough to widen the hole, transforming its release from a small flow into a rapid torrent. The rest of its contents rapidly begin to flow out, covering the human’s form within a matter of seconds.
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Draconic - Chapter 16
With nothing else to do, I can only wait. Second after second passes, fraying my already-strained nerves more and more with every moment. Tension fills the air, almost tangible in its intensity… only to lessen abruptly as the woman’s voice once more reaches my ears. Though I fail to catch her exact words, owing to my own tenseness at the moment, the underlying meaning gets through. She seems to have found the can of rotten fish. I just heard her picking it up, and it is clear by now that she took the entire thing out of this little wooden container. There is nothing else in here that smells quite like that.
“I think I’ve… found the source”, the female says, clearly less-than-happy about the thing’s presence. Nonetheless, although I have no doubt that her own nose is really complaining right now, she manages to spit out another sentence, one with a tone that seems more puzzled than anything. “Looks like someone went at it with a sma
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Draconic - Chapter 15
For a few moments, I am simply surprised. I stare at the sizeable egg, not entirely sure what to think. Following that, however, questions begin to appear in my mind. Why is it here? How long has it been sitting there? Where did it come from?
What do I do with it?
I really do not know how to react to this. It is not something I had expected. I thought… I believed myself to be the last of my kind, but here is another egg. All hope is not lost. My species… might still recover. For how long, I could not say, but if there is a second egg, there could be more. That said, even if there are no others, two is still better than one. Now that Carrie is gone, I feel that things may become terribly lonely without company. Assuming my draconic side has any social instincts worth mentioning, that is. For all I know, loneliness might just not be a thing for my race.
Still, I do not want to just leave it here. I cannot take it with me, of course. I am but a mere hatchling, and that egg loo
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Draconic - Chapter 14
I am a loose cannon. I did not even mean to do it. The human triggered the alarm, sound was suddenly everywhere, and I just sort of... reacted. Before I even knew it, my kill count was abruptly one corpse larger. The one I was when I hatched would have been horrified at what I am doing. The strangest thing is, I do not even feel bad for it. That man was not threatening me, not really, yet I still killed him in cold blood. The alarm may have been a threat, but it was already activated, and remains so even now. Killing the human could just as well have been avoided. It is beyond suspicion at this point – Marcie never would have felt like this. I grow less and less human for every day that passes. Not that I actually am human at all in the physical sense, but mentally, Marcie is still there. It is a strange thing, being Marcie and yet not being Marcie at the same time, but with every action, the latter part seems to grow just that much bigger, taking me that much further away from m
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Draconic - Chapter 13
Slowly, almost terribly so, I begin to wake up. What happened? I think I... have a cold. I feel sick, and thirsty too. My entire body feels sore. My ear hurts. My tail hurts. My leg hurts something fierce. Just what did I do last night?
Slowly, I open my eyes, only to immediately realize that something is very wrong. This is not the forest! Where am I?
I look around. Wherever I am, it is definitely man-made. That alone sets off alarm bells in my mind. More specifically, the place appears to be some sort of narrow, roughly rectangular... tube of some sort. It is hard to make out, as the entire thing is shrouded in darkness, and gives no clues as to my more general location.
The smell of blood reaches my nostrils. I pause in surprise. Did I eat recently? My stomach doesn't feel empty – the blood is probably just left from whatever I ate. Nothing to worry ab...
Pain suddenly reveals itself to me, showing its true power. The sensation strikes me like a sledgehammer as t
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Draconic - Chapter 12
The space outside is a corridor. Fairly straight, its walls and ceiling are painted in a kind of muted, muddy orange color. The flooring, on the other hand, shows to be fairly dark grey akin to that you see on battleships. It is a full-coverage rubber carpet of some sort, mixing well with the walls’ paint. It is all a very stark contrast to the clean brightness of the room I came from, though the lights themselves seem no dimmer here than there. It is not at all similar to the place I just emerged from. If you ask me, it is also much uglier. Who designed this? Bleh. Way too much orange. Gold would have looked much better.
The floor is also, as I discover, fitted with a pressure plate. At least, that seems like the most sensible explanation, for as soon as I set my foot down outside, an alarm suddenly goes off. Alarm bells ring loudly in my ears, the noise bouncing around inside my skull like a pinball ball. Instinctively, my ears flatten against my skull, taking the edge off the
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Draconic - Chapter 11
The next few days pass without incident. In general, the whole area is a lot wetter, a lot muddier and more slippery than usual, but I manage, even if it is not all that pleasant. On the plus side, it inhibits everything else too, so in a way, my odds of success do not really change. I am somewhat surprised at how much the landscape actually softened with the fall of rain, but it is what it is.
My fear of watery depths does not soften, but as I find, bathing is actually quite pleasant as long as the water is not too high, and over the course of the days, I find myself spending quite a lot of time within the shallow pools that I find, letting the water cleanse the dirt from my scales. I consider moving back into my cave, but with the knowledge that its lighting is somewhat lacking, the fear of falling into something deeper wins out, and thus I find myself spending the nights outside, resting within the branches of an old-looking, solid oaken tree some two hundred meters from my cave.
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Draconic - Interlude: Carrie
It was roughly mid-day, perhaps a bit earlier. Carrie sat in the middle of her worn, somewhat sagged brown-leather sofa, even as the rain poured down outside like a never-ending flood. It was Saturday today, and considering that the weather was not exactly conductive for much in the way of activities, she was spending the day at home. Opposite to her own position, a somewhat outdated television set cut through the gloom of the room with the light and noise that made up some sort of bad romance movie –the name of which she could not seem to recall– but she did not really see it, occupied in thought as she was.
The solitary light that would usually illuminate her living room, the walls of which were covered with a green-striped wall, had broken somewhere along the course of last night’s lack of events, and as of yet she had not bothered to replace it. Combine this with a near-complete lack of windows, save for a single small one situated to her left which was currently
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Draconic - Chapter 10
For the duration of my journey back to my little cave that I have come to recognise as my home, my foul mood never lifts. With the slow pace that I keep, hours drag on, and I see neither their beginning nor their end. I am disappointed in myself, feeling a worry for Carrie's current state, and above all, my mind seems completely unable to make a decision in regards to what I should actually do. What do I really want? What path should I take? Do I really want Carrie to return? Well yes, I do wish that she would come back to me, and that everything would be fine, but... what if I hurt her again? I do not want to take that risk, yet without her, things could get lonely, and besides, having someone to rely on in my time of need is something that really does appeal to me.
I really do not know. My knowledge feels woefully inadequate. I do not know if Carrie will return, I do not know if I can keep my instincts in check if she does, and I even lack an idea of what it was that set my instincts
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Draconic - Chapter 9
Golden-amber eyes meet dark, deep green ones as our gazes connect. Time seems frozen as I stare into the eyes of my friend, her eyes widening as they are filled with a multitude of emotions. Confusion. Uncertainty. Surprise. Curiosity. Fear. Those and many more blend into her expression like a strange cocktail which doesn't really appear all that certain on what direction to go. She could just as well run as she could come closer. I simply do not know. Simultaneously, my own mind is in chaos, a jumble of thoughts flickering by in a chaotic, disorganized mess that makes them nigh-impossible to separate. My brain works on overdrive as it runs through every scenario, every possibility my imagination can get its hands on, only to throw away all the new data right at the moment when it realizes that I am in no fit state to receive it. Like a deer in headlights, I simply stare, neither of us taking action as our respective brains process each other's presence and attention, all the wh
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Draconic - Chapter 8
Getting up onto the wooden chair’s cushion proves harder than I had anticipated. It is not exactly hard to move the lightweight construction, and with my method, the chair topples rather than choosing to remain standing. What’s worse, now that it is lying down, I can’t seem to get it back up. The angle and reach needed is simply not available to me, not to mention that, were I to simply press down on the “front” legs to try and get it upright, I would probably just break it. With the chair out, however, I will need to position myself elsewhere – up onto the table it is, I suppose.
I crouch down, preparing a leap in the exact same manner as pretty much every other time that I wish to get into the air for one reason or another. My well-practiced movement quickly sends me where I wish to go, my claws digging into the polished wood of the table, leaving it… less than perfect-looking. It creaks ominously under my weight, but seems to be able to supp
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Draconic - Chapter 7
The next few moments are nothing but one big blur. I let go of my conscious mind, feeling it vanish almost like a physical part into the recesses of my brain. Pure, raw instinct, uninhibited by things such as ‘reason’ or ‘morals’, or even thought itself, takes its place, grasping my physical form with strength and single-minded determination the might of which I could not hope to overcome. Though I know, subconsciously, that it is still me controlling my body, the whole situation imposes upon me a feeling like I am a… spectator, almost. I have no more knowledge of what I am about to do than anyone else. Neither do I know the reasoning behind my actions, if there ever was any to begin with – I just move, automatically, instinctually, with no complex emotion nor consideration for anything but the moment.
My body leaps forward. The child squeals in terror, but it only lasts a moment, for then I am upon it. My claws tear into the fabric of the jacket, sh
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Draconic - Chapter 6
I eventually fall asleep. Though I am certain of my ability to remain awake throughout the night (having slept once already earlier the same day), I do not want to walk through the next day like a zombie, and besides, it allows me to forget about my burnt-out throat which quite frankly won’t stop pestering me, making its presence clear with every breath. I am surprised by how easily I manage to summon forth sleep, though, as I find that even concentrating on wanting to fall asleep is enough to summon forth a grudging tiredness which actually does the job surprisingly well. Before I know it, I wake to the return of daylight, watching it illuminating the entrance and, through said entrance, letting in a dim glow which significantly weakens the shadows within my cave. Feeling remarkably well-rested, I make my way back out of the cave, feeling the sun’s light as it illuminates my right-side scales. I have made it away from immediate danger (or so I hope, at least), which
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Draconic - Chapter 5
I do not stay in my restful position for long. Though it is undoubtably comfortable, it is still a bit too close to the humans for me to really feel completely safe. I can see them quite clearly from here – sooner or later, one of them are going to end up doing the same to me. I have been one. I know how dangerous they can be when they percieve a threat. Now fair enough, they wouldn't try to eat me, but they might be really scary even without that. Thus, I rise from my now heated pile of small, gray rocks, setting my course further away from the collection of houses and roads behind me.
Of course, it does not take very long for me to realize the fact that I do not actually know where I am going. I could go back to my hatchplace, but... no, I would never find it again. The fact that I even got in there once was sheer luck. Getting in there twice, that just wouldn't happen. Going back into the town for shelter, that is just plain stupid, something that would hold true if I w
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Draconic - Chapter 4
Huh? What’s…?
Someone banging on the door? Just five more minutes...
“Come on, Marcie. I know you’re in there.”
Carrie? Go away; I’m trying to sleep here.
Wait, Carrie?? What is she doing here?!
I bolt awake, my head ramming into the underside of the bed above me. I wince, looking around in an attempt to figure out where I am. As it would seem, I am under my bed – I suppose it is not really all that odd that I managed to get in under it, knowing that I used to be able to do that even as a human, if barely. It’s one of those models with relatively long legs. Judging by the light shining in through the window, it is past morning; say mid-day or so. Still, if I am under my bed, then I’m in my house... My memory centre suddenly decides to wake up, informing me of the events thus far. I’m home... and the large living room window is broken. Great. Carrie is so go
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Draconic - Chapter 3
Unfortunately, I quickly discover another problem. To be blunt about it, I must have exited in the wrong place; there is no road in sight, nor do I recognise where I am. The conclusion I draw is quite simple – I am on the wrong side of the field of bushes. I was probably turned the wrong way back at the cave, and now I am facing the consequences. Where I am standing, the ground is slightly sloped, mostly blocking the long-distance view to my right, but it is not at a very noticeable angle, and so I hadn't really paid much attention to it. My eyes sweep across the landscape once more, neither recognising any particular objects or the place in general as anything I have seen before. The smells are rather mundane, mostly being that of dirt and grass with the occasional piece of wood and stone; nothing of note there either. My ears report merely a bit of noise from the leaves rustling in the soft flow of wind around me, as well as a few chirping crickets, the sound of a car driving o
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FwiffoForce's Profile Picture
For those of you who wonder, I am a sapient lifeform who inhabits the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, the Sol system. A male human inhabiting Sweden, to be more specific.
Writing is my focus here on DeviantArt. I create stories, then release them here for all to view. In essence, that is pretty much it.
Yes, I do take them. However, all requests are also limited to single-chapter unless I specifically make an exception, and just to be on the safe side, I reserve the right to refuse concepts which I believe to be unfitting for my own writing style. Also, if you make a request I'd expect more than a character description for it...


I stumble backwards as the egg cracks apart. It is not silent – the noise is in fact rather significant, somewhat resembling the sound made by breaking ice blocks. The formerly quite smooth surface of the egg breaks into dozens of pieces above and just behind her head, opening the way for the peculiar, blood-red goop held within, all in a matter of seconds. This was definitely not anywhere within my range of plans.

Oddly uncomfortable with coming in contact with the egg-sludge, I find myself backing away. My eyes watch -half in surprise, half in morbid fascination- as it flows down, covering the human’s burning face and muffling her screams. Her limbs trash around, but her attempts are uncoordinated and thus have very little effect. What it does do is disturb the egg enough to widen the hole, transforming its release from a small flow into a rapid torrent. The rest of its contents rapidly begin to flow out, covering the human’s form within a matter of seconds. For a few more moments, she continues to thrash, blindly trying to escape the goop, but then she just… stops moving. It is almost scary how quickly she goes limp.

For a while, I just… watch her. Short of a few minor twitches, nothing really seems to be happening, but despite that I feel strangely fascinated by what just happened. I probably would have continued to watch her for a while more, were it not for the sudden appearance of a falling, burning plank falling practically straight in front of my face. It reminds me that the room is, in fact, on fire right now, and that I should probably attempt to vacate the area posthaste. I look around. The fire, previously quite manageable, seems to have grown out of proportion. It is all over the place, burning all that it can reach. Almost a third of the box-corridor must be on fire as it is, and the fire’s spread still seems to be quite swift. Its smoke is everywhere. Thankfully, smoke rises upwards and I am not exactly tall, so that is not really an issue right now. Still, the boxes are starting to fall apart, and sticking around only to be trapped under burning debris is not something I would aim for if given a choice. Fair enough, I would probably be able to escape from one or two planks, seeing as they seem rather thin, but if they start to pile up I’d probably get stuck rather quickly.

I wonder if I am going to get a sibling. I can’t really remember much from my own hatching. There was fire, pain, and I think the egg was broken open somewhere along the line, but the smaller details elude me. Was this what happened to me? Are there going to be two dragons in the world? Am I getting a sibling? Well, not sibling in the traditional sense… I rather doubt the eggs came from the same parent, but in the spiritual sense, I mean. On the other hand, if this was not how it happened for me… did I just break what may possibly have been the last egg of my species? Did I just kill an unborn child?

The thought is, strangely, not nearly as revolting as I would have expected. Despite the fact that this may have been the first being of my own species, it does not really… bother me, to be truthful. I may have killed someone, but it wouldn’t be the first time, and it is not my fault that its mother left it lying around like this in the first place. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Had this been my egg, I am sure I would have been beyond horrified by now… but it is not my egg. It is not my offspring that may have just been killed. It’s still unfortunate, of course. Maybe it is just the remnants of my human side talking, but it would have been… nice, almost, to have the company of another of my species. Less lonely, in a way. Not that I can disregard the possibility quite yet. For all I know, this is how my kind is supposed to hatch.

Now wouldn’t that be something novel? I really doubt it is actually like that. My hatching was more a case of luck – a fluke. How could it be anything else? It is not like every dragon in history was once a human. That would be ridiculous… right? To be fair, I do not know that much about it. I was never all that big on fairytales, even as a human, and as I am now I would probably end up breaking any book I would try to read. My species is clearly not constrained to those tales – I am here, after all. History would have told us about its existence if there had been any individuals around in the last few centuries, though anything before that could very well have become a fairytale by now. Probably hugely exaggerated by this point, too. I suppose there is no real way to know, is there? Not that it really matters. The past is gone; it has happened already and cannot be changed. Whether I know it or not makes little difference in the grand scale of things, so why bother thinking about it?

I wonder if she is still alive beneath all that egg-goop. Probably only one way to find out. I move closer, observing the seemingly unmoving shape on the floor in front of the broken egg. It seems still enough. Its form is rather odd. I do not really know what to compare it to. Aside from the fact that it is shaped like itself, which really is of no help whatsoever, it mostly resembles some sort of lumpy, yet oddly smooth… pile. Listening intently, I focus my attention on the peculiarly shaped shape, eyes moving to watch for any life-signs. I am not really sure whether I expected any or not, but amidst the myriad of sounds, there is something that draws my attention. Muted gasps of pain, though barely indiscernible between the crackling sound of the fire and the many other sounds around me, do seem to be coming from the shape. It could just be imagination, but it sounds like she is alive in there. In a fair amount of pain and suffering, yes, but there is life nonetheless.

The front of another box, this one at floor-level and rather small, detaches under the strain of the fire. As it does, the box’s contents are revealed: some sort of white, cylindrical and metallic object. It looks vaguely similar to those metallic canisters used to store gas, although it is quite a lot wider than your average gas canister. The bottom of the box is already on fire, the flames licking the outside of the mysterious canister even as they eagerly devour the wood of the box itself.

For a moment, terror overtakes me. For a moment, I am convinced, completely and utterly, that the canister is about to explode, taking both me and half the room with it. With my luck, it is how these things usually go. Fortunately for me -and the encased human beside me, a small part of my brain adds- it does not. I remain tense, but as second after second passes by uneventfully, I feel myself relaxing, the more immediate worry replaced by a distinct lack of explosions. Of course, it might still explode, but for all I know it could be empty; no point in worrying about it. I will keep it in mind, but worrying will not help me regardless of whether it decides to do something dangerous or not.

I am still struggling to believe that I actually won that battle back there. I was so certain that discovery meant death, but then they split up and the only one who actually managed to shoot at me had a puny gun. I got a lot of cracked scales to show for it, but little else. It injured my vanity more than anything. I just hope my scales heal well – that they heal at all, actually. Damaged scales is a first for me. Before I came to this… place, the worst they got was a few scratches here and there, but then humans showed up with their traps and their weapons. Even if I escape, I am not sure if I would be able to survive in the wilds in my current state. Having an injured leg may make a lot of difference – I was barely getting by as it was. I have to have something in my stomach when I leave or I will probably just starve to death, but the only thing around here is humans.

There is nothing for it. I almost did it before, and though I realize now that it is not something that I will do happily -even if it is no longer technically cannibalism- I really have no choice in the matter. Better them than me. I have to eat humans, if only because in here, there is nothing else to eat. Unless you count that rotten fish. I wonder where it went. I can still smell it, but thankfully the smoke of the fire muffles the smell somewhat. It is nothing more than a minor annoyance by now. Still, I would rather avoid that particular edible, simply because ‘edible’ will probably only fit very loosely with that thing. Maybe I could go hunting for some sort of mess hall or something along those lines, but I am in no shape to do that right now. The humans are dangerous enough without me deliberately trying to find them.

Carrie would have hated me for what I am about to do… but I am going to do it nonetheless. The alternative is starvation, and I value my life higher than my morals. Approaching the nearest human (not counting the one covered in egg-goop), I begin to gently tear open his clothing – wouldn’t want to make a mess by being in too much of a hurry. I am going to have to clean myself off as it is, but there is no point in making anything worse. After a few seconds, I have a small hole, and it is one that I quickly widen into sufficient size. With the clothes out of the way, I bend my neck, and then I take the first bite of my first deliberate meal of human flesh. As it goes down, I cannot help but relish the taste of the blood and the sensation of my stomach being filled – I did not know I was this hungry.

My instincts are very much of one opinion on the matter: Eat! Feed! Consume! My conscious mind is somewhat more reluctant – just a few moments ago, I did not even know that I was going to do this in the first place. Nonetheless, my pace quickens, my instincts gaining the upper hand even as a small part of my mind notes that I must look like some starved animal voraciously consuming whatever it can get its paws on. Even those thoughts soon get lost in the flow of instinct, sacrificed as I work to satisfy my surprisingly big appetite. For obvious reasons, I cannot eat the whole human, seeing as I am nowhere near big enough, but by the time that I start to regain control I have nonetheless had a notable effect on the corpse. My stomach feels considerably fuller and the taste of blood still lingers in my mouth; despite the nature of the meal I have just consumed, I feel surprisingly content in that one moment. It is almost as if all my worries have disappeared along with my hunger, and some part of me wishes that I could just remain in the moment, where worries are distant and nobody is trying to kill me.

Alas, I cannot. My awareness gradually returns to the rest of the world, although unlike what I had expected, I do not feel the slightest bit horrified. I feel rather normal, actually. As if that meal was no big deal. In part, it is probably due to my satisfaction acting as a counter-balance, but my experiences up until now certainly play no small part in it as well. I do not let the fact bother me. I may feel quite content right now, but I cannot forget where I am. There are still many dangers around, not to mention the fact that the room I am in is still very much on fire, more so than before. I am surprised that there seems to be no fire alarm. None that I can hear, at any rate. Then again, maybe it is silent or something, sending a signal to some computer somewhere. There is also the worry of those people who went off to search in other directions. They might very well have heard the battle… though I suppose they would have been here by now if they did. Maybe fear got the better of them and they pretended not to hear? I doubt I could be that lucky, but it is a possibility. The one who ran for reinforcements might be a worry though, if that means more humans will be coming here. Hopefully it will not happen yet but- actually, I think I hear footsteps.

I raise my ears slightly and turn my head towards the door, my attention now firmly focused on what may prove to be another threat. The sound of the fires throughout the room does a fairly good job of overshadowing many of the lesser sounds before they reach my ears – I cannot quite be certain whether the sound is what I suspect it is. Either there are multiple people approaching, for if that is the sound of footsteps there are definitely many of them, but it could just as well be my imagination playing tricks on me. Nonetheless, it is better to be safe than sorry; probably best if I take cover, just in ca-

My thoughts are cut off as an explosion takes place to my left. I am thrown off my feet, my grip insufficient to anchor me against the blast of fire and heated air that hits my side, quickly followed by a spray of wooden fragments glancing harmlessly off my scales. I slide across the floor, my scales failing to generate any great friction against it, and a moment later my folded-up right wing collides with a wooden surface behind me. My back, being right behind the wing, is soon there to absorb the rest of my momentum, my body stopping against the boxes behind me. For a moment, I just look dumbly into the floor, feeling quite stunned even as my ears ring loudly in my head, but after that I start to recover. I shake my head, trying to re-orientate myself; what happened?

I look around, trying to get back on my feet – at least that goes well enough. Whatever happened, at least I think that it did not cause any real damage. The worst I’ll have to show for it is probably a bruised and stiff wing; it did get somewhat mashed. Resisting the impulse to stretch my wing out -this room is somewhat too tight for that to really be an option- I find my eyes drifting to the white canister. Or where the canister was, rather. All that is there now is a hole, one which is very much on fire; the weakened wood must have given way under the force of the explosion. It is a rather large hole, although judging by the state of the surrounding stuff there will probably be a bunch of debris blocking the opening soon enough. And to think, I almost forgot about that thing.

As I continue to look, however, it starts to grow increasingly obvious that the explosion was not as harmless as my lack of brand-new injuries would suggest. Bits of metallic shrapnel are embedded everywhere; the floor, the nearby boxes, there’s even one in the dead human that could very well have gone straight into my head had I not raised it. Most of the pieces are larger bits, which does limit their count somewhat; probably not that strange that they missed me, although I was still very lucky to only be hit by pieces of wood instead of any metal. I just hope my luck lasts. I’ve been using an awful lot of it lately.

One of the boxes at the back of the notably large new hole collapses in on itself, the entire clump of wood falling forwards not long afterwards. As it falls over, the wall behind it is revealed, and down at floor level, a vent-covering becomes visible. With the fire and everything, I cannot really see if it is attached to anything, or if it is just some loose spare part, but it might be another exit. That being said, the path there does not exactly seem safe, and I would give it a fifty-fifty chance of actually being a valid option in the first place, but if the door somehow ends up as a non-option, at least that gives me some sort of backup plan.

Speaking of which, my ears aren’t ringing so much anymore. I wonder if those footsteps are still around. Listening for several seconds even as the ringing in my ears finally stops completely, it starts to seem increasingly likely that it was just my imagination; I cannot hear them anymore. I gue- there it is again! One, then another, then… more of them, and now it sounds like they are running. Whoever ‘they’ are. Humans, probably. I may be dealing with more than ghosts of the mind after all. I should probably get out of here, just in case. That being said, with them there the door might not be the best choice. That vent-covering might be a better target, if it is indeed attached to a vent in the first place. Otherwise that path will just paint me into a corner, and that would probably get me killed. On the other hand, if I run out the door and come across a bunch of humans… that would probably get me killed, too. On the other hand, I know for certain that there are vents out there… both options are valid.

I consider my options for a moment, but since not choosing would be a choice all by itself (and a worse one than either of the others, at that) I try to be quick about it. My eyes wander to the only living(?) human in the room; the one encased in that egg substance. Do I want to try and take her with me? I mean, I may be looking at the future only other member of my species, but then again it may all just come to nothing. Not to mention, I do not know how tough that… stuff encasing her is, and since the only real way I have of holding onto something whilst walking is to use my mouth, I may very well end up causing a not-insignificant amount of harm if I try to move her. My teeth are fully capable of slicing up meat without much issue, and who’s to say that this would be any different?

Definitely starting to sound like footsteps, and lots of them at that. I need to make a decision right now, and if I linger even a moment longer, trying to take the female with me is going to become a non-option. Leaving her behind will possibly get her shot, but I’ll stop before harming her that much, and if I take her along I can always leave her later if the situation demands it. That being said, there was a burning box in the direction of the door, and there is no way I am going to be able to carry her over that in my current state. That decides it – a gamble for the possible escape route in the explosively-created hole it is.

The encased woman -whatever her name is- does not appear to be where I left her. She is pretty closed, but although the boxes between her and the canister seems to have dampened the explosion’s effect somewhat, it still moved her a meter or so. At least she does not appear to have been hit by any shrapnel.

I limp close to her, watching for any injuries. The footsteps are still approaching, audible again now that my ears have stopped ringing, so I cannot delay for long. A cursory examination reveals no visible injuries, although the muffled pain-noises seem a fair bit higher now, almost as if she is trying to scream. As I do not exactly have time to be more thorough, the quick look ends up being the extent of my observations; I have no time to waste. Better start moving her immediately. Now, how am I going to do this?
The most obvious idea is the one that I try first. Getting even closer, I move my head roughly to where her left shoulder would be, open my mouth, and then I bite into the reddish surface. I feel my teeth sink down into the material, but my bite does not reach any true depths. In fact, the surface feels surprisingly tough and leathery, possessing a quality almost resembling that of fine leather shoes. It will probably break if I try to bite into it repeatedly, but it might actually hold if I just bite down and pull without letting go.

That is exactly what I do. Pain fills my knee as I stupidly use my injured leg, stalling my efforts before they have even really begun, but before long that mistake is rectified, and despite the bad start I actually start to make some progress. The woman’s weight seems greater than I expected, but though the fact slows me down, what it does not do is stop me entirely. Pulling her along, I slowly back into the explosively-made cavity amidst the boxes, which has already started to fill up somewhat with smaller debris. I just hope nothing big and heavy falls down on me or what I am dragging. A side-effect of this approach is that I cannot really see what is behind me. My tail would not work very well to check for any obstacles – I would not want to stick it into a fire or something, so I just let it drag on the floor beside me. The consequence of this is that without it there to check for obstacles, and with my head obviously busy elsewhere, it is not until my rear physically collides with the back wall that I notice that I have actually gotten all the way through.

Already hearing voices over in the direction of the door, I am quick to release my human in favor of turning to look for the opening behind the vent-cover. Which is not there. There is just flat wall behind it, and the vent-covering itself. In retrospect, it might have been wiser to check for an opening before I started to drag the female over here. My time is limited – I can already hear the distinct sound of a fire-extinguisher, which means that whoever is using it will probably get over here before long.

Starting to feel quite cornered, I almost desperately start to search for another way out. Last time I fought the humans, I was lucky, but this time the fortunes may very well flow differently. They might have bigger guns, or aim better, or do any manner of other things which would end in my death. Obviously, this is not a fate I desire for myself; I move closer, turning to look into the narrow space between the innermost boxes and the walls. To the left there is not much of anything; to the right, there… is something, actually. Looks like a vent. Could be another fake, but it seems to be attached to the actual wall; probably a valid option, that one. However, the passage between the boxes and the wall is tight. I might be able to squeeze in there, if I work on it, but getting the human with me could be next to impossible.

Maybe I could punch through the wall? If I just hit it like this- ow. Hard wall. Bad idea. That plan is not a good option; I will hurt myself more than I hurt the wall. I wonder why they do not make the vents or their covers with this stuff? It’s certainly a lot harder… although it could just be a case of thickness. Made thin enough, any material will break under pressure.

What does it matter? Things are how they are, and knowing the ‘why’ will not help me get out of here. I need to try something. Whether this means trying to squeeze through between the walls and the boxes to escape myself, or if it means trying to get the incapacitated human with me, is a question up for debate. If I had my fire, I suppose I could just try to burn away the boxes… though to be honest, this place is still very much on fire already, so all that would do would be to accelerate the process. Besides, I do not have any fire left. I already used it, and even with some food in my stomach, it takes a while for my body to really get any fire made.

I need more options. This is not where I will die. My position may be terrible – I mean, think about it. Humans around the corner, surroundings that might collapse at any moment, no fire, a bunch of injuries, no obvious escape route… the entire situation is bad. It is most likely only a matter of time before I am discovered, and to be totally honest, I do not think that there is much fight left in me. I feel exhausted. Surrendering is starting to feel more and more tempting. At least that way, I might survive another day. I know they might kill me regardless -that’s what I would do if I was hunting them, after all- but a small chance is better than none at all. Better to sacrifice my chance of escape and live another day than to end up dead.

I move over to the female which I painstakingly dragged with me; maybe if I move her slightly, I can get a little while longer to come up with any other ideas before someone spots us. As I come closer to her, I grow aware of the fact that she is, in fact, still making some manner of noise. At least that means she’s not dead. It is still groans of pain and other, similar sounds, but it seems to have lessened a bit since before. Of course, between the sound of the fire and the muffling of her sounds, I doubt anyone else hears her either way.

Wary of the increasingly ominous creaking coming from the half-broken boxes around me, I move to grab a hold of her with my mouth much in the same way I did previously. Although the creaking keeps getting louder, enough so that it starts to worry me, I still start to move her somewhat… at least until a particularly loud-sounding noise causes me to let go and look up. There is a fair bit of broken wood up there, most of it seemingly held up there only by leaning on the other stuff. It does not look stable in any meaning of the word. I just hope it remains in one piece; that’s a fair bit of wood, and I would rather not be buried in it.

I turn my head back down. Better get through before the whole place collapses. I move to grab a hold again, but at that point, the wood rapidly grows louder and louder. I turn my head back up just as the mass above me gives out a terribly ominous-sounding groan, loud enough to briefly drown out the various other noises around me. Then the whole thing comes crashing down. It breaks apart, smaller fragments raining down even as a big clump of it follows behind. There is no time to react, no time to move as it falls towards me, much crashing to the ground around me even as some part of it falls directly towards me. Smaller pieces glance harmlessly off my scales, whereas larger ones hit my back, knocking me down and sending bursts of pain through my body. One falls towards my head, crashing heavily into the space between my ears with enough power send my skull crashing into the floor.

After that, everything goes black.
Draconic - Chapter 17
So, another chapter. In all honesty, I didn't expect to be finished with this until after the impending tests, but a few bus rides with nothing else to do can apparently make quite the difference in writing progress. Going to have to be a week at minimum (that is to say, until the tests are over) before I can even get started on the next chapter.

First chapter here.
Previous chapter here.
With nothing else to do, I can only wait. Second after second passes, fraying my already-strained nerves more and more with every moment. Tension fills the air, almost tangible in its intensity… only to lessen abruptly as the woman’s voice once more reaches my ears. Though I fail to catch her exact words, owing to my own tenseness at the moment, the underlying meaning gets through. She seems to have found the can of rotten fish. I just heard her picking it up, and it is clear by now that she took the entire thing out of this little wooden container. There is nothing else in here that smells quite like that.

“I think I’ve… found the source”, the female says, clearly less-than-happy about the thing’s presence. Nonetheless, although I have no doubt that her own nose is really complaining right now, she manages to spit out another sentence, one with a tone that seems more puzzled than anything. “Looks like someone went at it with a small pickaxe…”
The words have been in the air for less than a second when another human speaks, clearly in response to the earlier statement. The new voice is considerably deeper, seeming older and possessing a certain roughness. The dragon in me really only consider it to be another human’s voice, but my more human half immediately recognize it as male. His accent rather reminds me of southern Europe, though I cannot place it in any more specifically than that. The words read: “The target’s been here. Stay alert, weapons drawn; this isn’t over yet.” Following that, he begins to dish out orders.

“You and you, secure the corridor, left. You, right. You, cover her. Johnson, spread the word. You two, search the room. See anything suspicious, tell me, pronto.” In the following seconds, my ears catch a good number of footsteps as people head out, as well as a few phrases of the affirmative kind. If my math knowledge is not completely wrong, the man sent five people away on various tasks, and judging by the other orders, that leaves three -presumably armed- humans in here. Not great odds, but considerably better than before. Of course, they sent someone to tell the higher-ups, so more people may be showing up in the immediate future. Not to mention that the people on corridor-duty will probably hear if shots start to be fired, and at that point I will probably get overrun. Hopefully I can just… be quiet about this. Keep everything a little hush-hush, if that is how you say it.

Admittedly, if I do end up in a fight, keeping it quiet will probably be far from my mind. I can plan all day, but when instinct takes hold, actually adhering to the plan I have made becomes a wholly different question. I have gotten better, admittedly. I am more in control than I once was. Despite that, my instincts remain far from easily managed. I suppose I should be thankful that I have as much of a handle on them as I do.

Now, I should probably think of a plan, even if it might not last. Remaining where I am is tempting, but common sense is quick to point out that they will eventually find me once they start searching for me. If this is to work, I need the element of surprise. That is not to say that I should go for some sort of ‘heroic charge’. That sort of stupid behavior is nothing more than a one-way ticket to the grave. Or the dissection table, if the humans are so inclined. Definitely something worth avoiding, in either case. No, I need a more… stealthy approach. A little sneakiness may go a long way to ensuring my survival. Before I do anything, however, I need a better overview of the situation. With my sense of smell more or less useless right now, and given the inaccuracy of muffled hearing, the best option would be to peek out to actually get some eyes on the situation. Risky, perhaps, but I am sick of building my plans on guesswork.

My decision made, I nudge a bit of the fabric to the side, push my head through… and thus promptly derail whatever plans may have been brewing in the back of my mind. As for why, coming face to face with a sour-looking woman would pretty much do the job. Dressed in a heavy-looking, dark-grey vest and matching pants, on the latter of which I catch a glimpse of a small gun-holster, the woman’s dirty-blonde hair is tied neatly into a ponytail behind her head… or so I would assume. It is sort of hard to see from here, but it seems to be something along those lines. Her boots look sturdy, thick and heavy; hiking stuff. Her clothes do not match those of the people I originally ran into. Who knows why? Different squads or something? Maybe a response team, if one assumes the orange jumpsuits were local security? It does not really matter. What matters is, she seems to be just as surprised as I feel, and though her weapon-holster is clearly visible, she quite frankly looks too stunned to pull a weapon on me right this instant. I would bet my life on that particular state not lasting very long, however. With no time to think, I just do whatever first comes to mind.

I open my mouth, feeling my inner flames igniting, and then I let them out. It is an instinctual reaction to the sudden fear inherent to coming face to face with danger, though it still surprises me somewhat in its own right. More surprising, however, is the dark, dirty smoke that follows the fire out. It scatters through the air, its scent filling my nostrils and nearly making me cough even as it clouds my vision. The woman stumbles away, batting at the flames that now cover her shoulder, disappearing behind the dark smoke-screen a moment later even as she starts to cough. Its presence puzzles me. Why is there so much smoke in my fire, all of a sudden? It could not be a reflection of the darker path my thoughts have been taking lately. I doubt it, at least. Have I eaten something bad or…?

Ooooh, of course. The coal. Does that not burn in a rather dirty way? I chewed some down, a while back, so could it perhaps have… mixed into my fire? I cannot really think of any other explanation, even if the one that I just thought up seems just somewhat far-fetched. Not that I really have the time to think of these things at all right now. Still, it gives me a much-needed advantage in my time of need, so why complain?
With my brief surprise at the sudden appearance of the dark smoke, the woman targeted by my initial attack is able to somewhat regain her bearings. Her hands reach for the firearm on her left hip, pulling out a rather basic-looking, steel-gray pistol from the lightly brown holster there. She attempts to point the weapon in my direction, but at that point my instincts kick in for real, sweeping my errant thoughts away like leaves in the wind as I feel my body start to accelerate. Countless muscles move beneath my scales, working in perfect unison towards a single, primal goal: survival. My acceleration is far faster than that of any human; my foe aims her weapon towards me, but before she can pull the trigger, I have jumped and a clawed foot reaches her hand. The weapon falls to the ground, her hand mutilated quite nastily by my own weapons, though she has no time to reflect on this fact. My body slams into hers, knocking her down as gravity drags both of us back towards the floor. Of course, with my injured leg, it all hurts like hell, but with a willpower that I doubt I will ever have, my instincts trudge heedlessly through the pain. Somewhere, someone shouts out a name, a short one along the lines of ‘Emmy’ or ‘Emilie’ or something like that. Uncaring of the voice, I do not hesitate for even a moment as I go for her throat.

Just centimeters away from my intended target, my attack is interrupted as something strikes my side. Forceful, but thankfully without any real penetrating power, the kick nonetheless sends me crashing to the side. My claws dig into the thick vest that the woman wears, burying through the synthetic material and drawing blood. The wounds are clearly superficial, but that does not change the fact that she lets out a groan as they are formed, the tone half-pained, half-surprised. Small flames continue to lick her clothing in a deceptively gentle act, not entirely extinguished by the scuffle.

Losing sight of my original target, my focus transitions to the unknown attacker. My head whips around, looking, searching for the threat. I soon find it, as another kick strikes me, smashing into my rib-cage with force enough to send pain blooming straight through my scales. As sturdy as my scales are, brute force is still brute force, and there is little that they can do to absorb the raw kinetic energy of the strike. The attacker’s feet probably hurt too, but that is only a small consolation.

With a burst of panic, I realize that I am upside-down. Instinctively aware of my underbelly’s relative vulnerability, I do my best to try and put my feet back on the ground. With my wings folded, they are of little help, and grip for my feet is not exactly plentiful, which leaves my tail as the most usable body-part for fixing the immediate predicament. It reaches out, grabbing the first thing within reach. My injured tailfin protests at the somewhat rough treatment, but once again, the pain is blatantly ignored. Admittedly, I could have tired rolling, but in combat that takes precious time that one may not have.

Of course, as it happens, the first thing within reach is my attacker’s leg. My tail wraps around it, trying to use it to right myself, but all I accomplish is to move the leg itself. Caught off-guard, the human lets out a decidedly un-manly scream (although it is quite clear by the sound of it that it still came from a man’s throat) as he falls to the ground. A second or so later, I am more or less aligned in the right direction, my eyes taking in the form of my newest attacker as the man struggles to get back up. He seems to be dressed roughly the same as the woman I just tangled with, although I cannot discern much more from my current position. With him already halfway back onto his feet, I am at a disadvantage. However, his speed is not as admirable as my own. I launch into combat as fast as my tired body will allow, charging towards my vulnerable foe.

The sound of a gun echoes through the room, a bullet ricocheting off the floor just a few centimeters from my right foot. More follow, although the shooter is clearly not the best at what they are currently doing. One shot misses, then another, a third glances off my lower back’s scales right between my folded-up wings… and then I barrel straight into my foe, robbing him of what little balance he’d managed to acquire. Despite their abilities, humans are surprisingly easy to topple. The shots stop, no doubt because of the risk of friendly fire, even as I pin down my foe. Despite the general pain and discomfort throughout my body; despite my instincts’ heavy hold on body and mind alike, I am still coherent enough to realize this. I could kill one of the humans right now. There is nothing stopping me, morally or physically. Not anymore. Marcie would have hated what I have become… but I am no longer Marcie, am I, really? I may have gone under that name once, but me and Marcie are no longer the same person.

He is all too vulnerable, his shoulders pinned by my own feet… but if I did kill him, where would that leave me? Staring down a gun-barrel, most likely. The weapon did not seem all that powerful, but that does not mean that my scales would necessarily withstand a direct hit. Bullets are nasty enough as they are. Running straight into them is just asking for trouble. There has to be another way. Surrendering, yes, but at this point they are as likely to shoot me as to put me in a cage with a shock-collar around my neck. Not really an option. There has to be some other way. There has to…

Another shot rings through the air. The bullet strikes me right in the rib cage; I can practically feel that one moment when a few of my scales crack… but the weapon is of a small caliber. The bullet ricochets away, failing to penetrate my weakened armor. I snarl, the illusion of safety now broken. My heart thuds rapidly in my chest, an expression of the fear that courses through me even now, but I am a predator at heart. My fear translates into ferociousness, not inability. It is without much thought that one of my feet reach out, a claw neatly slicing the throat of the man beneath me.

There is nothing satisfying with the kill; no elation as I slay my foe. There is only my fear, and a crushing need for survival that drowns out everything else. The fire inside me is comforting, but right now, it is of little help. Somewhat disorientated, my senses nonetheless focus on the gunman. I turn, wild eyes searching for the danger even though I have little idea where, more precisely, I am in the room.

I spot him on the other side of the crate which I once hid in, just a few meters away. He is young, little more than a kid if I am to be perfectly honest, but any mercy I might have had was lost when he pulled that trigger. His dull-brown eyes meet my own, and for a moment, his youthful features and short, black hair almost makes him look like a child. The illusion is somewhat broken by the clothing he wears, which is very much the same as that of the other two humans in here, and which would definitely not fit on your average child. The gun in his hand has a bland, steel-grey look over it, and I must admit… that is a very small gun. It is certainly smaller than anything I have seen in here previously. Against humans, yes, it might work, but I believe myself to be somewhat more resilient than that.

For a moment, he begins to tremble, but then his jaw locks, his entire face adopting a look of steely determination before he opens fire. I return fire of my own, and yes, I do mean that literally. Heat pushes through my throat, streaming out through my mouth like a miniature fountain of hell even as a generous helping of the odd, thickly black smoke follows along with it. I hear the boy curse, but I know not what is happening, for I can see very little through the dark haze my fire has left behind. Thankfully, as I feel myself begin to move forwards, that little issue is soon rectified. The scene before me re-attains clarity, my body outrunning the smoke which in turn allows me to view the events before me.

Nearly barreling into the box (which appears to have caught fire; the flames lick the wood and consume the cloth in some strange imitation of a miniature bonfire) that stands between me and my current foe, I leap forwards, reaching the top of the box surprisingly easily. My leg complains, but I do not really feel it. There is too much adrenaline in my body; pain simply does not register. Most likely, I will feel quite dreadful once all this is over… but that is not a present concern. I will deal with that particular obstacle when I get to it.

The young man once more appears within my sight. Batting at the flames that now cover half his shoulder, he seems to be stupidly disregarding my approaching form. I pick up speed; that mistake will be the last one he will ever make. He notices me, of course, but by that point it is too late. His gun moves, not far enough to shoot me where I am, but enough to potentially hit me if I leap at him in a bid to knock him down. Robbed of my preferred strategy, I instead sprint even closer, opening my mouth only to bite down on his left leg a moment later. He screams, a torn, pained sound that grates on the ears, but I give him no time to contemplate his new injury. I move sideways, teeth tearing at his flesh even as my torso hits his other leg. It is enough to steal his balance away from him, and after that, gravity does the rest.

The fall itself goes mostly according to plan. The direction could use some work, though. I do my best to get out of the way, but it is nonetheless a very close thing that I manage to avoid being crushed by his weight as he falls. Tough my scales may be, but they can do little against raw force, and getting out from under him would not have been any fun whatsoever.

As I turn, I find that he is already getting back up. Though clearly not the best at shooting, the human is surprisingly agile. Quickly gaining some new momentum, I advance in an attempt to finish him off before he is able to try shooting me again. The gun’s small caliber may make it relatively harmless, but if it hits something which is unprotected, or a point where the scales are weak, the bullets it fires might still cause serious damage. However, as I launch myself forward with what energy my tired body can supply, he merely rolls to the side, only for him to roll back again and jab an elbow into the side of my neck.

I stumble. The attack catches me off-guard; humans had always been so easy to kill once I had them on the ground. Through a mixture of surprise and fear, most people were posed to do very little to stop me once they had lost their footing. Either this guy just handles it better than everyone else I have run across, or I am starting to underestimate the threat of a downed human. Probably a bit of both. The fact that my attack was not an ambush may have had something to do with it as well.

Fortunately, my neck is long and flexible enough to bear the hit without much issue. I am left coughing and hissing, but without any real injury having been caused, and so it does not take long for me to recover. By the time I do, however, my foe has re-acquired his gun, even if he is still lying down. Still very much under the sway of my own instincts, my automatic response as he points the weapon towards me is attack, not retreat. Had he been bigger physically, perhaps I would have reacted differently, but for a grown human he is quite small and my instincts by themselves hold no real fear of firearms. Those weapons have been around only for a few hundred years, hardly enough time for any sort of instinctual fear to be developed. My mind can compensate, but only to a certain degree; firearms are dangerous, and even in this incoherent state I can tell myself that much, but that does not give me much control over my instincts as a whole.

He fires, pulling the trigger, and then again a moment later. The first shot zooms right between my legs, shooting past my main body only to hit the middle of my tail on its underside. Pain jolts up my spine; my tail’s scales are some of the smaller on my body, as it requires a fair bit of mobility to work properly, and so they would naturally be less effective at the art of defense. I cannot really see what is happening back there, but I think it broke a few scales and I may be bleeding somewhat. On the more fortunate side of things, at least I think the bullet did not lodge itself in there. If I were to guess, the bullet probably hit the tail, bouncing off but causing a few to splinter, and one of the splinters must have cut through the skin beneath.

The second shot barely misses, shooting past scarily close above my head. Had it gone just a few centimeters further down, it would have hit my skull. I would probably have ended up without any truly serious injury, but there is always a risk, and a hit there could very well have turned the entire battle around in an instant. He is going to regret shooting at me, even if the gun was basically a toy. I can promise myself as much.

Vaguely, I am aware that the fire I started earlier is spreading at an alarming rate. I can smell the smoke, see the light and feel the heat as it burns in the background. Since I turned around after getting my foe down to the floor, the flames are in full view; already, they have spread to the nearby boxes, and by the look of things, they are just getting started. Since I am currently in the middle of a fight, however, I could not care less. It is just background static, nothing more.

A clawed foot shoots out, striking his gun-arm and consequently sending my foe’s third shot straight into the ceiling. I try another leap, aiming to get on top of him. My injured leg protests strongly, but the others add a few smaller complaints to the pile too now. I am starting to get tired. Despite this, my jump is more or less successful; I get into the air for just a moment before gravity pulls me back down, my body crashing onto his as I try to finish him off. My head moves forward, attempting to get in a killing bite, only to be stopped dead in its tracks as my target’s left hand grabs me by the throat. I try to claw his face, but it is too far away, just barely out of my reach. My limbs feel heavy, their energy reserves dangerously low after the strenuous activity that I have been -and still am- undertaking.

He attempts to point the gun back in my direction, but on that front I am the one with the advantage. I push his arm down, my own weight aiding my tiring limbs as they endeavor to neutralize his combative efforts. My mind races, but there are no thoughts within my skull. The entirety of my focus is aimed towards my own survival; thoughts tend to distract me, and right now a distraction could very well prove to be the death of me. I simply cannot afford to think, not now, not in the middle of battle. This is a situation which my instincts will handle infinitely better, unhemmed as they are by things like ‘morals’ or ‘compassion’. The battle continues, but it is with neither thought nor reason, plans or tactics.

I am halfway into the process of swallowing a chunk of meat when I realize that the battle is over. I have no idea how it really happened, nor do I really care to find out. What does worry me is the fact that I have a piece of human in my mouth; I stumble backwards, coughing and spitting. I nearly ate a </i>human</i>. Just a few… well, I have no idea how long it has been, but it has been a while. Just a few however long it has been ago, I was a human, and now I am eating them? What would Carrie think? She’d be horrified, and I don’t want to lose the only friend that I have. That I had, rather. Right. She is dead. For a moment, I almost forgot. Still, this is no way to honor Carrie’s memory. I can’t just go around eating her kin.

…Now that I think about it, though, Carrie is dead. She won’t notice if I just take a little bite. My stomach feels empty and that human smells good. I don’t think he will notice anything either. It is probably rather hard to notice anything at all when you are dead. At least I think he is dead. Mortally wounded, at the very least. He might still be feeling it as I- actually, that is rather gross now that I think about it. I would hate to be in his position right now. Still, just one bite wouldn’t do any harm, would it? Not that a little bit of harm more or less will make much of a difference by this point. I lower my head, my neck bending in what I believe to be a rather graceful way as I move to take just a little bite of my defeated foe. After all I have been through, I deserve something little to eat.

An odd sound reaches my ears. I stop, feeling brief annoyance at the interruption. My neck, still practically uninjured despite all that I have been through, is quick to move. Lacking much choice in the matter, my head follows, letting my gaze turn towards the disturbance. Unfortunately, all I see is a big fire. The little fire I started earlier has clearly taken advantage of the time it has been given, spreading to not only set the entire mid-passage box alight, but a good portion of the boxes serving as makeshift walls beside it. Thick smoke, both dark and dense, gathers by the ceiling. If I were up there, I doubt I would be able to see much of anything. Still, from what it seems, whole fire is not that bad just yet. If I were to guess, it is only a matter of minutes before the entire room is set aflame, which I would still call plenty of time to get out of here. I do not know how much fire and heat I can really take, and it is not something I would like to find out anytime soon.

The sound of the fire was not what I heard, though. It was a different noise. One more alive, more… human. Not at all the same as the crackling of the flames. It was a note of pain, a… gasp, the humans call it? I think so. I’m not really sure; my head feels a bit fuzzy right now. It feels like I am thinking in slow-motion, like my thoughts are crawling through a thick sludge of some sort. It might take a little while to… recover, knowing that I relinquished my control as much as I did.

Another noise shoots through the air. It is a bit more distinguishable this time; definitely a little gasp of pain. Someone is making the noise, that much is obvious. It cannot be the guy beneath me, for the noise did not come from that direction. The human whose throat I slit would probably not be able to gasp very well no matter how much pain he is in. Can’t be that one either, then. As for myself, I doubt my throat could even make that kind of sound to begin with. My entire body hurts, some parts more than others, but I would be much more prone to growling or hissing than gasping. It is rather tempting, actually, but this is really not a good time to make noise of any sort.  That only really leaves one option: the female that I ran into ‘straight out of the box’, as it was. I suppose I did not slay that one.

Do I really need to? I have killed several humans already, so adding one more to my kill tally would not really make that much of a difference. That being said, this is the first one where I am not really under much pressure; the first one where I can afford to really think through my decision. I could just walk out the door and, in all likelihood, doing so will allow me to escape back into the vents. The vent means safety. It means not getting shot at. It means survival.

That still leaves the fact that the entire room is on fire. Even if I were to just walk out, that human would probably just end up being roasted alive. She sounds injured, not to mention humans aren’t exactly fireproof. She could not escape this growing inferno. In failing to do so, she would be given a slow and torturous death. The fire would start small, roasting her piece by piece, leaving her last moments filled with terrible pain as she is slowly consumed by the flames. If I am to be frank with myself, I really think she deserves better. The least I can do is roast her quickly. It would mean another jump over the box, through fire to boot, but she deserves it. Injured though I may be, my body can handle granting that little token of my respect.

Dredging up what energy reserves I still possess, I force myself to start moving again. I step off the corpse of my fallen foe without so much as a single bite of meat in my stomach (as far as I know), setting my mind to the little task ahead of me. She may still be armed, and despite my good intentions she may remain very inclined to use her weapons against me. It is very possible that she won’t appreciate my efforts to give her a quick death. I understand her. I would not want to be mercy-killed either. If given the choice, I think I would keep trying until the very end. Still, this will save her a lot of suffering no matter what her opinion of it may be. I am going through with it, end of discussion.

My tail slides smoothly across the surface beneath me. The sound of my claws as they leave faint scratches in the floor is just one of many that surround me. The local environment is anything but peaceful… yet I cannot help but be tempted by the prospect of rest. With the battle having passed and the remaining adrenaline in my body slowly dissipating, physical needs are once more starting to really make themselves heard.

The jump to get over the burning crate does not really go all that well. The initial stages work as they usually do, but I do not put enough force into the jump itself. Most of me clears the edge of the box, but not all of me. My hind legs catch the edge. Were it not for my already-present injuries, it would not have been that bad. With the gunshot wound in my knee, however, it hurts. A lot. In that singular moment, a plethora of very colorful and surprisingly imaginative swears and curses shoot through my mind. The only thing that stops me from voicing them is the simple fact that I cannot speak at all, forcing me to settle with a simple, pained hiss. The fire that I am now practically standing in does not help matters. In most places, it is a very small bother. My scales withstand the flames with ease, and deal with the heat almost as easily. My injuries are not as fortunate. Where the scales are cracked, broken or otherwise unable to perform their duties, the fire has no issue getting through. Needless to say, the flesh beneath is definitely not fireproof.

Hurrying out of the fire -and making a mental note to avoid it if possible as long as I remain injured- I quickly observe the area before me, searching for the injured human. It does not take long for me to find her. No longer lying down on the floor, she is leaning back against one of the open path’s sides; I don’t care to identify whatever the grey thing at her back is. Her shoulder is no longer on fire, but where the flames once were, scorched fabric remains. Burnt flesh peeks through here and there, the clothing clearly having failed to fully protect the woman’s skin as some parts of the clothes-piece’s shoulder have been burned away completely. The hand of hers, which I injured quite severely with my claws, she cradles against her stomach. It is still bleeding notably; the blood has already created a fairly large stain as it seeps into her clothing, and without interference it will probably take a while longer to really stop bleeding. Her other hand rests limply against the floor, reflecting the posture currently held by most of her body. Despite this, she is clearly alive, as evidenced by the slow yet steady rise and fall of her chest. The fact that her head turns and her eyes focus on me when I, following a somewhat careless attempt to get down from the box, let out another hiss of pain -albeit a hiss which is not quite as loud as the previous one- is a clear giveaway.

Quickly recovering, I begin to advance on her vulnerable form. She makes an attempt to get back up, her hands grasping for a weapon. Even as her uninjured hand finds naught but air, the heat of the moment apparently has her temporarily forgetting about the injury that the other one has suffered. Unfortunately for her -if not so much for me- she is soon reminded quite harshly of this fact. With a small gasp of pain probably caused by her hand’s attempts to move, she falls back, her breaths growing labored as she starts another attempt, this time with obvious care not to use her injured hand, as well as whatever else may have been injured during our earlier scuffle. Her uninjured hand goes to a spot on the left side of her torso; I would guess that her wounded hand isn’t the only injury she has.

I approach, her own attempts growing more hurried as I do so. She seems determined, stubbornly seeking survival with a determination to rival my own, but it is hard not to notice the primal fear that has taken root in her eyes. She probably knows what is about to happen, although she is clearly refusing to acknowledge the fact. My steps carry me closer and closer; she attempts a kick to ward me off, but her angle is terrible and I see the desperate attack coming from half a mile away. Metaphorically, of course. This room is nowhere near large enough for anything else.

“Don’t…”; her voice reaches my ears, low and pleading. It is a desperate attempt, one that she clearly does not believe will work. A last option when all else has failed… yet for a moment, I pause. My eyes widen just a fraction; I stop and observe her. She actually attempted to talk to me. Except for Carrie, that’s… a first, actually. She looks equally surprised, though I do not doubt that her surprise is more because it worked than that it was done in the first place.

I shake my head, if only very slightly. It does not matter. Even if she did speak to me, there is no way she will get past the growing inferno at my back short of me carrying her through, and even if I was perfectly healthy I doubt I could manage something like that. Her pleas make no difference. She may not like it, but right now, a quick death is her best option.

I take a step forward, only to be caught mid-step by the woman’s foot as she delivers another kick. This one strikes true, although it is rather low; my two front feet are knocked out from under me, sending me crashing forwards with no way to maintain my balance. My lower jaw hits the floor quite harshly, sending a spike of pain travelling straight to my brain; any compassion I may have had for my foe is instantly gone. Getting back up, I move my jaw around somewhat to dispel the odd feeling that the collision left behind, her attack having done relatively little in the grand scale of things. She attempts to kick me again, but this time I am prepared, allowing me to dodge the attack with ease.

Angry at being attacked like that, angry at the fact that she would try to plead with me only to take advantage of it to try and attack me (even if I was going to disregard her pleas), I launch myself forward. Gathering up what little remains of my fire, I rush up to the now clearly afraid woman, push her up against the surface at her back, and release every bit of inferno I can manage straight into her face. It is only after I have done so, once her head is already lit up like a torch, once the surface behind her starts to crack… that I realize just what she was leaning against.

Right then and there, the egg at her back breaks open.
Draconic - Chapter 16
Two things of note this chapter: Firstly, as the title of the chapter may tell you, I am changing the name of the whole story from 'Draconic TF' to just 'Draconic'. I think it sounds better, not to mention that it saves some confusion for people who do not know what TF stands for.
Secondly, as school will soon be coming at me with another round of tests, chapter 17 might be a while off...

First chapter here.
Previous chapter here.
Next chapter here.
For a few moments, I am simply surprised. I stare at the sizeable egg, not entirely sure what to think. Following that, however, questions begin to appear in my mind. Why is it here? How long has it been sitting there? Where did it come from?

What do I do with it?

I really do not know how to react to this. It is not something I had expected. I thought… I believed myself to be the last of my kind, but here is another egg. All hope is not lost. My species… might still recover. For how long, I could not say, but if there is a second egg, there could be more. That said, even if there are no others, two is still better than one. Now that Carrie is gone, I feel that things may become terribly lonely without company. Assuming my draconic side has any social instincts worth mentioning, that is. For all I know, loneliness might just not be a thing for my race.

Still, I do not want to just leave it here. I cannot take it with me, of course. I am but a mere hatchling, and that egg looks heavy. Besides, how would I carry it? No, it would not work. Nonetheless, leaving it in the hands of these… humans is not something that sits entirely well with me, either. I do not want to leave what is potentially the last chance of my species in their hands. Who knows what they would do with it? Probably something stupid. Then again, it is pretty dusty… and certainly, it has been here a while. It will probably remain in the same place for a while longer, and as long as the lock remains broken, getting back would not be too difficult. At least, it would be no harder than anything else in this dangerous place, and if nothing else, getting myself out must still be my top priority.

What is in that fallen box in the pathway, anyways? The question is an abrupt change in topic, and I’m not entirely sure where it came from. Still, I am curious, and it could not hurt to find out. The box is already on the floor, and the lid looks cracked, so removing it should not be difficult. Now… it might be fun to try and guess what is in there, like some of those games that humans make. It could be anything, truly, because what I have seen so far doesn’t really hint towards any regularity in these storages. There’s probably a very sensible system behind it all, but I simply cannot see it. To me it just looks like they put the stuff wherever there happens to be empty space. In either case, I will guess for a… fish. It is a rather odd guess, I admit, and I cannot really smell any of those in here, but if I want to guess that there is a fish then I can do so. It is my guess; I can do what I want with it.

I move back towards the fallen box in a matter of moments. Prying the lid loose is not a difficult task. At least, if splitting the lid in half counts as prying it loose. It was a bit more fragile than I thought. Half of it is open, but that is enough, and as I remove the loose piece, the contents are revealed. The prize goes… to someone else, because that is some sort of white fabric, not a fish. I begin to pull it out, curious as to just how large it is. As it turns out, it is quite large. Even as I bury my claws in the fabric and pull, there seems to be more of it, not to mention several other objects which are mixed in with the fabric in question. I climb up on the surprisingly large pile of cloth, feeling myself sinking down into it even as I look over the various things my excavation has uncovered. There is a silver fork, a broken wristwatch, a yellow can about as large as my foot, a pack of cigarettes, some more forks, and an old phone which looks like it belongs on a museum. It must be well over a hundred years old.

The can catches my interest. I move myself a bit closer, trying to read the small, red letters amidst the sea of yellow on the front of the can. It reads ‘Surströmming’. I do not have the slightest idea what that word means, but curious I remain. Nothing for it, then. I shall simply have to open it. Doing so should not be too hard. The metal looks thin and my claws are sharp, although I must admit that the rather clear bulging of the metal worries me somewhat.

I crawl further into the box, reaching for the metallic can before pressing down on it with the closest claw, only to find the specific claw to be rather blunt after my earlier interactions with the vent’s fans. Grumbling in annoyance, I swap for another one, puncturing the metal and- by all that is holy, what is that smell?!

Gagging, I stumble away. The smell is just terrible. I feel sick. It is quite literally the worst smell I have ever felt. My nose starts to shut down, refusing to smell a thing since everything just smells so horrible. Who in their right mind would leave something like this around? It smells rotten, like it has been decomposing in a swamp for weeks. I’m not one to feed on carrion, and even if I were, even if I were part of a species which eats nothing but carrion, I think this is something I would have left well alone. I can’t breathe. Air. I need air, I… I have to get out of here.

I back away further, feeling the smell pushing on me like some physical thing. The need to escape it is all-consuming, swallowing my fear and my caution without the slightest bit of effort. Why, oh why do I have to have such a sensitive nose? This terrible stench is just awful.

The horrid scent rapidly fills the room, drenching everything else in a blanket of absolute stench. All that is left in its wake is a powerful need, a need to breathe free of its rancid reach. Perhaps it would not have been so bad had I still been human, but I am a dragon and by the stars does this smell bad. It could very well be poisonous. Already, it has redefined what a really bad smell is. Plain and simple, it is this. I could not define it any better than that.

What remains of my earlier meal is coming back up. I can feel it. I am already doing my best to prevent it, but I simply… cannot. I feel it coming up my throat… and then I puke. Thankfully, the meat pretty much seems to be digested by this point, but I am still surprised by how much there actually is in my stomach. My rather yellowish stomach juices splatter onto the ground, leaving me gasping for air, something which soon proves to be a big mistake as another wave of fluids comes streaming out. I am not so sure that opening that can was such a good idea. Next time I will make sure to leave the mysterious bulging can within the dangerous unknown facility alone.

I back away another step, still feeling sick. That was disgusting. The smell still is. Lesson learned: keep out of mysterious bulging cans. At least I learned one thing: I’m no carcass-eater. I suppose that bird which was my first raw meal –not something which you forget in the first place– must still have been relatively fresh. I clearly do not deal well with stuff that has gone bad.

Hold on, I hear footsteps. Many footsteps. Maybe half a dozen? It is hard to say for sure. Still, fate has a terrible sense of timing. I’m not feeling so well right now, and people suddenly show up? Terrible. Sense. Of. Timing. What do I do, what do I do? I look around, my sense of smell blocked by a mind running on overdrive. I think, trying to figure out what to do. How did they find me? Did they somehow track me from that little incident in the place where I checked the map? No, if that was the case, they would have found me sooner.

The old idea of there being a tracker in me resurfaces, and it does make terribly much sense. If there actually was a tracker, it would be odd that I have not been caught yet, but I suppose they cannot really hunt me down in the vents, and they probably figured that I would not come out of there were actually armed humans within sight. As far as I know, they haven’t operated on me or anything, but it could have been in the food. Finding the trap would have been hard without some sort of tracker, I’m sure, at least if one is a human. Then again, if that was the case, it might have come up just now. Or maybe I am just unlucky, and a patrol happened to come by right now.
I must hide, that much is clear. However, the only open box save for the one with the egg, wherein I cannot fit, is the stench-box. The one with the egg does not count, for I would not be comfortable with risking its safety like that, and who would have time to open a new box in a situation like this?

My time is limited. With little in the way of options, I am forced to let my sense of smell take the hit as I dive into the foul-smelling box. The stench is terrible, but my fear is greater still. The white fabric gets in the way somewhat, but not so much so that I cannot get into the box (even if it is a tight fit), and as the seconds go by, the smell gradually gets less terrible. My nose must be getting used to it and filtering away the bad stuff. At least I was lucky enough for the crates in here to be abnormally large. It is a close thing that I manage to get myself in, but I think it works for cursory checks, at least.

Hopefully they will not try to follow the smell. I am pretty much right on top of the source. Not only would it lead them to me, but I am certain that Marcie, at least, would have found the situation embarrassing. As for myself, I am not so sure. It is not like it matters all that much to me what impression the humans get right now. They are threats, first and foremost. I cannot let some misguided compassion for their kin pollute my judgement. There are plenty of humans, but only one of me. I know where my priorities lie.

I can hear them outside. They are talking, discussing the next course of action. Wondering about the smell. Trying to figure out how to approach. They seem hesitant. Some even sound a bit... afraid. Others are angry, eager for battle. I suppose killing several of their kind would do that. I can see where they are coming from... but that does not mean that I regret it. Their fault for attacking me in the first place.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that there are maybe seven or eight people out there, judging by the number of voices. Too many for me to fight directly, especially if one takes my already-extant wounds (which still hurt quite a lot, if less than they used to) into consideration. Their numbers alone are enough to pose a danger, and if they have firearms, a head-to-head confrontation would be a terrible idea. The thought is not exactly comforting, though its presence is still a great help. Were I not a former human myself, I have no doubt that my lack of knowledge would have led me to my death. As it is, however, I know enough to get by, although I am clearly no expert. I may have to become one out of sheer necessity, though. Should have listened to my more rational side before I started setting everything on fire. Who knows where I would have been now?

It is useless to ponder the prospect by this point. I need to figure out some way to get out of this situation. At least my instincts are not too pressing right now. True enough, I can still feel them... that urge to fight, to defend my life, to give in to the call of instinct... but is it really the best solution? Perhaps I could try something different? Surrender, perhaps? I do have white cloth, maybe I could try a white flag? That means surrender, does it not? Then again, how would I hold it? Jumping up on the box looking like some ghost on halloween is bound to end in disaster, and I have no hands, so tying it to my tail is out of the question. Biting off a more manageable piece should not be too hard, but I doubt I could use it. As flexible as my tail is, I am no snake. I could not simply curl my tail around a piece of cloth and hold it that way. Drape it over my fins, perhaps, but the bullet-wound still hurts and to be truthful, risking my already injured tailfins like that is not something I am willing to do. I think the injury will have trouble enough trying to heal as it is, without the limb being used as some... flagpole.

The humans still seem to be disagreeing on the best method of approach. They are discussing it, some expressing the belief that it's probably something entirely different that smells (well, they got that right, at least), but the group consensus seems to have already pointed itself firmly towards 'investigate'. Of course, they are discussing plans of approach. Within earshot. I can hear you, you know.

Heh. Morons. If this is the average level of intelligence within this place, I am starting to see how I have not been cornered until now. Are humans usually this stupid? I know there are some less... gifted ones for sure. That guy who sat next to me during my third school-year is living proof of that. He was such an annoying person. I do not think that all humans are quite that stupid, though. There have been plenty of smart ones over the years, and I am sure I was never as stupid as those people out in the corridor. I was not that stupid, was I? Honestly I doubt it. Though I suppose stupidity was what got me into this whole situation. I suppose everyone can be stupid at times, though to be frank, I do not really like the fact. It means, logically, that I too am stupid at times which, whilst true, is not something I particularly enjoy knowing.

Maybe they do not know that I can understand them in the first place? That could probably explain their apparent stupidity. Everybody makes mistakes; I suppose it should even out a bit with my own failings. Still, I have been pushing my luck lately, what with everything that has already happened, and I would rather not see it run out. I would hate to get this far only to fail because I got sloppy. Surrendering, as I considered earlier, would also put me back on square one. It must be a last resort only. I admit my situation right now looks rather dire, but maybe not quite bad enough for me to be willing to sacrifice all that I have already undergone.

What else can I do, then? Fighting them may be a possibility, but against this many humans, escaping without injuries is out of the question. I may even end up getting killed. Their firearms are too dangerous, too much of a hazard. The only reason I have survived this far is because of the element of surprise. If they get the drop on me, all they have to do is aim and pull the trigger. My senses may be better than theirs, but they are not infallible. Sooner or later, the humans will shoot first, and when they shoot they will eventually hit. Needless to say, I do not want that to happen. I have been shot at enough as it is.

Maybe I could convince them to leave me alone? No, that would never work. My mouth’s is no human’s, and writing out a message could take too long. At best, it could make them hesitate a bit, but it would also teach them that I can understand their words, and I cannot afford to squander what few advantages I have.

I should have paid more attention to the conversation. The people seem to be approaching, and I have no idea what they actually decided on in the way of plans. Of course, there is also the slight issue that I do not have a plan of my own. The last thing I want is to get shot, and without a plan, I have a feeling that I will just end up rushing straight into a hail of bullets. My instincts are as they are, and in this case, they would lead me to my doom. Brute force is not the answer here. Given the element of surprise, I could possibly kill a few, but if they are all armed, the others would make short work of me.

Perhaps I could just... hide here... and hope that they do not notice me. The idea is oddly tempting. It surrenders the initiative to the enemy, true enough, but it might just work. I certainly do not have any better ideas lying around.

It is decided then. I must hide. Simply sitting here and hoping that they will not go around the box is an awful idea, that much is certain. Thankfully, I have that white fabric. Whatever it was intended to be, the things I have in mind are certainly not amongst them, but if I cover myself with it, I may be able to escape notice from a less scrutinizing gaze. Regretfully, I will have little idea of what goes on outside the box. My sense of smell is still blocked by the... thing I opened earlier, and if the cloth is to be at all effective, I will not see much that way either. Listen, perhaps, but the sounds may be muffled a bit. Good thing my hearing is so good.

It is really tempting to remove the opened can before I start to work on hiding myself, but I cannot, for two reasons. Firstly, I do not have the time. The humans are too close, and I could very well end up unable to get the cloth up in time if I focus on removing the can. Secondly, I am not human, and so have no hands to pick it up with. I could grasp it between two feet, but that would leave me with nothing to stand on, and using my mouth is flatly out of the question. As much as I dislike the prospect, the can will have to stay where it is.

Already quite short on time, I begin work on pulling the large clump of fabric into a more serviceable position. It is some sort of sailcloth, thick and sturdy, albeit not as enormous as one would expect a real sail to be. Using mostly my mouth due to my unwillingness to put any more weight than necessary on my injured leg, I begin to drag the cloth over myself. My pace is slower than I would have liked, but at least I am getting something done. Regretfully, the end result is a bit of a haphazard one, as the humans end up sounding far too close for me to be willing to risk making any noise. Hopefully it is not too obvious. Having no choice but to simply wait, I pull in the last few bits of me which are still not under the shelter of the sailcloth, and lie really, really still.

Well, bodily, at least. My mind is stubbornly refusing to stay still. It remains frantically active, emotions and thoughts racing everywhere in a chaotic mess. Part of it is worry, worry of being discovered, blending with the fear associated with the same prospect. Did I conceal myself properly? Am I lying still enough? Will the humans bother removing the cloth to check? Was this a terribly bad idea? What do I do if I am discovered? They are going to discover me, I know it. This was a terrible idea. I should just have stayed in the vents, where there are no dangerous, armed groups of humans wandering about with instant death in their pockets. Any second now, they are going to take out their guns, shooting both me and the box around me full of holes.
Aaaany second now...

Huh. I guess not. Maybe this idea was better than I thought. Tentatively, some hope begins to leak through, seeping into the maelstrom within my skull. Things may not be quite as bad as I previously believed. The fact remains that I am in an unknown facility somewhere in the world, full of humans who seem quite intent on trying to kill me... but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I might just make it out of this in one piece after all. Well, more or less. There is little I can do about my already-present injuries.

My injured ear has started to itch. It annoys me, and I almost move to absent-mindedly scratch it with one of my claws – a bad idea for more than one reason. Not only am I presently hiding, but though the wound may be little more than a scratch compared to that which my knee suffered, I should not risk opening it up. My claws are sharp, after all, and who knows how the injury may react if I scratch on it. Of course, though I know all this, that does not help the fact that the itch is there, and it is starting to become really annoying. Nobody would notice if I just scratched my ear for a second, would they? My injury would be fine, I will avoid scratching at the wound itself, just… a little scratch would feel good. My neck is long enough for me to be able to reach my ear without much trouble, anyways, and… I am rationalizing away the danger here, aren’t I? For all I know, they could be looking right at me, and in that case I would definitely be noticed. No other options exist. I have to wait. I have to sit here, doing nothing for heavens knows how long.

Having come to a conclusion, I do my best to ignore the increasingly annoying itch. With no way of measuring time save for counting the seconds manually, I am left with nothing more than a rough estimate of how much time has passed, but nonetheless, it is better than nothing. My guess on what goes on around me is equally rough. The fabric concealing me is surprisingly good at dampening noise. I catch bits and pieces, words here and there, but most sentences are muffled beyond clear comprehension. My grasp on the spoken language of humanity may not be as good as it used to; the real meaning of the muffled sentences is unclear at best. Then again, not every sentence is as unclear as others, and with that in mind, it is perhaps not too surprising that my listening soon turns up something more usable…

“Seriously, what is that smell?”, a female voice asks, sounding rather displeased with the scent’s presence. Quite severely so, I would say. It almost sounds like she’s holding her nose. Perhaps the smell is affecting them as much as it affects me? My nose is generally more sensitive than theirs, but I think I read somewhere that the human nose was especially sensitive to some smells… Hmm, it does not matter. I suppose, if they are all holding their noses, that would explain why their sentences are so hard to decipher.

Another voice, also female, speaks; “Smells worse over here.” A critical fact registers in my mind. The voice was close. Too close. Practically right above me. My body and mind both freeze in abject fear, the threat of discovery looming over me. Barely daring to breathe, and with my muscles staying as still as they can possibly be, I listen intently for any sign of what is happening. I hear something moving above me, and a moment later, something brushes against the cloth covering my folded left wing.

I nearly jump, my tense nerves magnifying the occurrence beyond reason. The keyword, however, is nearly. It is by a terribly small margin that I manage to stop myself from reacting physically to the unexpected touch. With only a little less in the way of control, I probably would have moved, and after that, a fight would have been inevitable. As it is now, however, I manage to remain unmoving (albeit barely), my senses remaining on high alert and my muscles tensing up further in preparation for the battle that may or may not be imminent.

As luck would have it, however, the female seemingly remains unaware of my presence. Or as fate would have it, or the universe maybe. Whatever fits best. Who knows, maybe this is all some book and there’s an evil author making my life generally miserable? If so, I am filing a formal complaint. Regardless of that errant train of thought, however, I am in quite the predicament right now, and it would really help if my heart would stop feeling as loud as your average monster truck. I am scared. This is literally a life-or-death situation. The fact that my heart seems to be trying to escape on its own is not helping matters. Quietly, a part of me wonders if the little blood-pumping muscle perhaps has the right idea. They are so close. So dreadfully, terribly close. All it would take is one peak, one slip-up, and I would be in a battle that I could not feasibly win.

Given no other options, all that I can do is wait.
Draconic - Chapter 15
Chapter 15, at last. This took forever, and I apologise for the long wait. I know this chapter is not all that big, but that isn't because I have been a completely useless writer. Rather, the chapter ended up being over ten thousand words long, which is a wee bit too much for a single chapter. Thus, I have split it in two. This brings with it the pleasant fact that I can pretty much guarantee that chapter 16 will show up next week, bringing the other 6000+ words with it. Hope to see you then.

Another thing of note: If you didn't read the updated author's note in the previous chapter, the "Security Alert" interlude has been removed. It placed unnecessary constraints on the story, and from the time of deletion I no longer consider it canon. Of course, that doesn't mean that the things presented in it could not become canon again in the future, just that they are not necessarily true anymore.

First chapter here.
Previous chapter here.
Next chapter here.
I am a loose cannon. I did not even mean to do it. The human triggered the alarm, sound was suddenly everywhere, and I just sort of... reacted. Before I even knew it, my kill count was abruptly one corpse larger. The one I was when I hatched would have been horrified at what I am doing. The strangest thing is, I do not even feel bad for it. That man was not threatening me, not really, yet I still killed him in cold blood. The alarm may have been a threat, but it was already activated, and remains so even now. Killing the human could just as well have been avoided. It is beyond suspicion at this point – Marcie never would have felt like this. I grow less and less human for every day that passes. Not that I actually am human at all in the physical sense, but mentally, Marcie is still there. It is a strange thing, being Marcie and yet not being Marcie at the same time, but with every action, the latter part seems to grow just that much bigger, taking me that much further away from my human self. The fact that I know myself to be larger than when I hatched may have something to do with it, but the truth is, I am not even certain if losing my human side would be a good or a bad thing.

I can hear someone banging on the door. On the positive side, that means that one of those buttons I accidentally pressed when trying to get back up here into the vent actually did something useful. On the other claw, that also means that humans will soon be directly below me, and I am not stupid enough to stick around and potentially get shot at. Thus, it is with the utmost sense of quiet urgency that I hurry away from the scene, headed away from my latest mess in my search for an exit. At least this time, I have a fair guess which direction to go for.

Once I feel that I am a safe distance away, I quickly stop, aiming to check that I am still in one piece. I look over my body in a rather hurried manner, knowing that the humans could be hunting for me this very moment. For the most part, I seem to be no worse for wear. My main body, the neck in particular, has grown a bit since I first got a real look at my form back in Marcie's house, though my other limbs seem to be relatively similar to how they were. I am still a bit larger than I was all-over, though admittedly I have not really paid my own growth any serious attention. The difference is not all that striking. My leg hurts more than it did, too. I really should stop jumping so much.

Making a conscious decision to not jump anywhere again unless it becomes absolutely necessary, at least until the limb has healed more properly, I head onwards. Now that I at least have a rough idea of the place's layout, I feel a lot more confident that I am not simply running in circles, even if I did not really register all the map's details. I thought I did, but it is already starting to seem a pretty certain thing that I did not. Memories are somewhat fickle, elusive things.

I wish I had some way of knowing for certain whether I am going the right way. The look at the map may have been better than nothing, but unlike the human I once was, I could not take it with me. Well, to be truthful, Marcie could not have taken the computer terminal with her either, but that is beside the point. She could have written it down or something. Except she would not have had the time for that either...

Oh, what is the use? Being human would have been no better. No claws, no fire, no hard scales and no wings. Not as though the latter feature is much of an asset in here, but still, how humankind survived before they got their technology is beyond me. If Marcie had been dropped in the middle of the forest, she certainly would not have survived. I, on the other hand, managed it well enough. I am still alive, after all. To face it, I am probably better off than Marcie ever were. In a fight, I know she would have been dreadfully vulnerable. Just look at Carrie. Poor girl never stood a chance.

Now there is an action I do regret. Truly, I do, and not only because having a human as one's ally could prove very useful. Not useful for her physical aspects, but because unlike me, she could use human technology properly, which could indeed be very useful. She also had much easier access to food. I really do think I will miss her for the psychological aspects too. If only I had better control, it may never have happened.

I suddenly stumble, caught off-guard by a powerful gust of wind from the side. As I return my focus to my eyes, however, I find the cause to be... less than easily discernible. More worryingly, however, I find that my nose is less than a claw's length from the wall. The path splits like a T-junction, leaving me with the options of going left or right, and I nearly continued forwards. Not that a small collision with the wall would kill me. The new tunnel is somewhat bigger than the other one, and the air also seems to move a lot faster in it, streaming down from the right and continuing down the left with force enough to topple the unaware. I may have come across some sort of main shaft.

Going left would be easier. The wind ensures as much. However, if memory serves me right, outside is in a somewhat more right...ish direction. The real question is this: is it better to take the path of least resistance, or aim for as short a path as possible? I do not think that the wind will be a serious issue. One cannot really fly in the air without being at least fairly aerodynamic. However, that is not to say that striding against it will not require more effort.

To be honest, going deeper into the place when I am trying to get away seems awfully stupid. Right it is. My body may still be hurting, but it will not do to be lazy and lose all the progress I have already made. My decision set, I rise back up from the position which my stumble left me in, turn, and head off into the wind.

The actual movement is not really all that difficult. Less so than I expected, in any case. Though the wind caught me off-guard when it hit my side, my body's inherent aerodynamic features are really shaped in such a way as to interact with air approaching from the front. Most of it just passes harmlessly by, though I feel my transparent eyelids cover my eyes within a matter of moments. Or, as it turns out, mostly transparent eyelids. There is a very slight, barely noticeable yellow tint to them, one which I only just noticed. Maybe the tint works like sunglasses or something? Maybe it is just my body's inability to achieve true transparency? Who knows? Even if this body is my own, I am no expert in all its intricacies.

There is noise, now. Of course, the tunnels were never actually silent. There was always a slight electrical hum, the soft whooshing of air currents, the sound of my footsteps and of the place's other inhabitants. This, however, is... louder. Stronger. More substantial. It is like the whispers of the wind, except the wind is no longer whispering. It is like the wind has had a tad bit too much to drink, and is now stumbling around, shouting at whoever happens to pass it by. Perhaps that is a bad comparison, but there must be a reason for the fact that the noise only seems to grow louder the further I progress. The source of the airflow, perhaps. This is a human place, and the vents are theirs. Presumably, they have something that makes the air move. A... what is the word for it? Bellows...? Well, that is an object which moves air, I think. It does not feel like the correct word, however. They do not put bellows in vents. Air-blower? That is what I would name it, but I doubt the humans would agree. It is a... oh, I do not know. A thing which blows air around. Stupid humans with their stupid words.

The noise just gets louder the further I go. Whatever the thing is, I am getting closer to it with every limping step, that much is certain. I could probably turn away into one of the many smaller paths that dot the sides, ceiling and even floor of the big shaft, but I am curious. Besides, I like the relative spaciousness in here.

I turn a corner, and there it is. The source of the wind is a bunch of whirling blades. A number of… fans! That was the word! Hah. Take that, humans! I can remember your words!

So… how do I get past it? There is no off-switch here, from what I can see. There is not even any sort of covering that would keep me from touching the fans themselves. They seem metallic, so I cannot simply light them on fire. They would never burn, and even if they would, the smoke would end up all over the place. The option exists to simply run for it and hope that my scales can handle a hit or two from metallic blades spinning clockwise at those speeds, but do I really want to take that risk?

Honestly? No, I do not. It could end up killing me if I am really unlucky, and even if it does not, the best I could hope for would be a number of serious bruises. I do not even know how sharp those blades are. Perhaps I could check with a claw. I just have to do this, and I should-!

A loud metallic clang rings out as my entire right-frontal foot suddenly rams into the wall, a small bit of claw clanging down behind the fan and disappearing down the depths of a downward-facing shaft. That… that fan just cut one of my claws in half! No, no, no, I am never… I am not going near that thing again. That claw, right there, could have been all of me. Chopped into little bits. Thank the heavens I still have some sense left in my skull. I am not going near those fans ever again. If a small touch by a claw is enough to chop it in half and send the entire paw attached to it careening into the wall hard enough to bruise, I dread to consider what would happen if all of me went in there. No survivors, that much is certain. Mincemeat, probably. Well, unless it got stuck on my bones, jamming in my gut or something and leaving me to slowly bleed out. Grinding my innards and- eww. That is gross. I shudder just thinking about it. Definitely giving fans a wide berth from now on. My imagination is being far too active for my liking.

I back away, still shaken from the sudden loss of half my claw. The entire tip is gone. To be fair, I have more of them, and it will probably grow back eventually, but still. My claws are some of the toughest things my body have. They burrow through wood and dirt with ease, and even push through stone with enough effort, yet that fan cut through it like it was nothing. Most of Marcie’s memories are less than clear at this point, but I really do not think that fans are supposed to be that sharp. Then again, said fan is also moving too fast for even my eyes to properly track. That might have something to do with it.

I really need to get out of here before this place cuts off any more important pieces. In a way, it is almost getting repetitive. I tell myself again and again, I must escape. Does it really need to be said? I cannot very well stay here, so therefore, running is the only option.

Backing away a few more steps, I turn away and escape through the first side-passage I find. A spike of pain travels up my tail as the injured fin briefly catches the airflow, but a moment later I am gone, leaving the larger shaft behind me. For a little while, the path is rather dark, a fact which is only remedied once the vent begins to catch up with another corridor. I am at roughly… waist-height, I would guess, compared to the corridor’s floor. The corridor itself pretty much looks like all the other corridors in this place. A little more variety would be nice, so that at least I would know that I am not walking in circles. Each time that I throw a look out into the corridor, it looks the same. Perhaps the vent is differently placed in comparison to the corridor outside, but the look tends to yield the same results each time. The fact is fairly monotonous. I suppose there is at least one upside to my injuries. Without them, I would be terribly bored by this point.

Hold on, I hear footsteps. Wary of discovery, I immediately stop. Sounds like several pairs. Three or more humans, I think. I could risk a look. It would probably not be too dangerous. The closest vent-cover is only a few steps away.

I move closer, stopping in a position which I hope is sufficiently concealing, yet still allows me to look out into the corridor beyond. The footsteps draw closer, someone rushes by and- hold on.

I close my eyes and shake my head. When I open them again, the sight is gone. The corridor is empty and silent. Did I just see what I think I saw? There were people, and they were pulling a stretcher. That much makes sense. I thought I saw Carrie on the stretcher, though. She was wearing one of those medical breather masks. She might have been connected to some sort of device as well – I am not entirely certain. It does not make sense. Carrie died, by my own teeth no less. It was not a hallucination… I think. The noise felt real enough. The footsteps were there. It could not have been Carrie on the stretcher, though. She is gone. What I saw is just… wishful thinking. Another woman which, at a glimpse, looks like Carrie. It must be. I just hope that I will not have to see her in every accursed woman I run across. If my brain starts to think that every human female I encounter is Carrie I… I think it would be too much. I feel bad enough as it is without my own mind working to guilt-trip me.

It is all her fault. If she had not come here, if she had not been there, if she had just stayed alive, I would not be feeling like this. If she had just stayed out of the way, or if she had not opened that door. If she had not been so terribly fragile. All of it is her fault. She surprised me as much as I surprised her. All I did was follow my instincts. There is nothing wrong about that. Can as much be said for her? Opening doors is not a part of human instinct. Nor is dying. She was shaped by the world around her, but the shape she attained was not strong enough to survive. Certainly, I too am shaped by my surroundings. My shape turned out tougher, though. It has claws and teeth, not to mention nice, shiny scales. I admit, most of all that probably has to do with the genetics of our bodies, but I am sure that the environment had something to do with it as well.

I begin to move again. No point in sitting here like some lazy… thing. The sooner I get out of here, the better. Maybe some fresh surroundings will help to get Carrie out of my mind. If nothing else, I am sick of indoor air. A fresh wind will be nice.

Once I am out, I think I shall head for the closest forest I can find. Hopefully it will not be too distant, seeing as I will probably have to walk there. My confidence in a proper flight with that hole in my tailfin is not particularly large, to say the least. Not like I would be able to go extreme distances in either case. I am no airplane – my wings do tire with use. With the bullet-wounds, however, I’d rather not risk anything more than a glide, and even then I think I shall keep close enough for a fall to be practically harmless. I will get out into the forest, find some place to stay, and then hopefully, I shall be back to a more normal life. However, I am getting ahead of myself here. I am far from out, and any number of things could still go wrong. That is no excuse to give up though, so onwards it is.

Will these things ever end? Everywhere I turn, there is another corridor, or another room, and no matter how many I stride past, there always seems to be more. Room after room after room, mixed with corridors in this strange trap of civilisation. I am not even certain that I am going the right way. I have no idea whether I turned left or right back at the big, deadly fan, and by this point it is too late to go back and check. I would just end up making a wrong turn somewhere, and then I would be even more lost than I am now. I could follow the sound, I suppose, but to be truthful, it feels like wasted effort to go back and look. If I did that every time I was unsure, I would never get anywhere.

I think I might stop to check out another room soon. Right now, the corridor I am in has a series of doors lining up in regular intervals on the side opposite to me. They all seem to have some sort of digital locks. Not the same kind that I wrecked when I first showed up here, but that flashy type with a touch screen. Might be a scanner of some kind. One of those fingerprint-things from spy movies. Then again, I might just be overthinking this. I think usually, I would just stride right past, but the fact that they bothered to lock the seemingly quite solid, ashen-grey doors with locks such as these is something that will naturally arouse one’s curiosity at least a little bit. They all look rather similar, with their dull-grey plastic frames, softly orange-lit screens and complete lack of decoration save for an odd little symbol on the top.

One of the many stand out from the rest. There is a small, yellowish piece of paper attached to one of the screens further down the corridor. It hangs morosely from the more distant of the screen’s two top corners, precariously suspended there and looking ready to fall off at any moment. Naturally, it is sufficiently out of place in the otherwise rather barebones corridors to be readily visible even at a fairly casual glance. It is rather obvious that I would choose to take a closer look. I am headed that-a-way in either case, the corridor looks empty enough and getting back in here will, for once, not involve any jumping. The openings are practically at floor-level.

A gentle push from one of my claws is all it takes for the closest vent-grating to detach. It clatters to the floor a bit more noisily than I would have liked, but when a few seconds’ wait seems to fail in procuring any response to the noise, I gather enough courage to head out. The corridor is, thankfully, as empty as I had hoped. It is very quiet, and judging by a cursory look, it seems to be devoid of life. However, I know that there is no guarantee that things will remain that way. Therefore, I move swiftly, drawing closer for a better look at the note.

It reads ‘out of order’. Disappointing. It is not as though I can order anything. I doubt I would be able to just walk in and claim the money that stood in Marcie’s name. The fact that they are unable to order any more of these panels is really the least useful thing that the piece of paper could have told me.

Hold on. That is not right. Did I really just take it literally? Out of order means that it is broken. Where did I even get the idea that it meant that it could not be bought? Odd. At least I realized my misunderstanding before I walked away in disappointment, though. If it is broken, that might help me. I doubt I could get the electronic lock open, but if this is broken, the temporary solution may be a lot simpler to overcome. Hopefully the door is not permanently locked until the device is fixed.

The door seems sturdy enough. As far as I can see, there are no half-measured locks there to keep it closed. I push lightly against the door, testing its strength… and it just glides open.

Immediately, I am suspicious. Truly, it could not be that easy. This place has shot me and cut me. People have died in here. I nearly died in here. Yet this door… it just glides open. Smells like a trap, definitely. Though that would mean that a trap smells like dried wood, dust and well over a dozen other smells, one of which is… strangely familiar. I have smelt it before, but where? It is… unusual. It stands out. I know this smell. I know I have scented this one before. It is odd, though. I cannot recall its presence anywhere else. It might be from my early days. My memory is good, certainly clearer than during my pre-hatching days, but Marcie’s memories are already somewhat foggy, so who is to say that I would not forget some memories from just after my hatching too? There is bound to be limited space in my skull.

This scent, though… I would not forget it. It is too unique. It feels special in some way. Too special to be left unexplored. It means something. All I want to know is what.

Before I know it, I have already stepped inside. Once I realize what I have done, I spook, backing away only to realize that if someone was in there to ambush me, they just had plenty of opportunity to do so. Even as I consider this fact, I find myself slowly heading back in, guided by my nose into the deep but not very wide room beyond the door-opening. It is another storage room. Though smaller than the one I visited before, the room is stuffed nearly to the brim with boxes. Small ones, large ones, even a broken one clogging up the path halfway through.

The smell weaves through the air. It is everywhere – no doubt, the special-smelling object has been here for a while. The fact makes its location harder to pinpoint, given the lack of a direct trace. I suppose the smell’s widespread attribute can be blamed a bit on the seeming absence of ventilation in here as well.  Hunting around almost as though I was tracing prey, I follow the one specific smell amongst so many others. Sometimes, it is drowned out, but when it gets stronger, I know I am on the right track.
Unfortunately, this so-called ‘right track’ leads me to the box blocking the path. More specifically, it seems to lead beyond it. Getting past it would involve more jumping. I promised myself that, short of a dire emergency, I would not to jump until my leg is better. This smell is sorely tempting me to break my own promise, though. I make a small noise part indecision and part annoyance. I should not jump… but I must know what this smell is. Maybe I could burn my way through the box, but that may very well set fire to everything else in here as well. What if the odd thing is flammable? I should not jump, but I must get past the box.

There is nothing for it. Jumping it is. I mentally ready myself, knowing very well that every jump hurts with that injury around, and then I leap. It goes well enough. Being rather short, it does not take all that much in the way of effort. It hurts, but not much.

Once past the crate, I eagerly get back to my search. The smell is stronger here, and easier to track. Eventually I find its source, or so I think, at least. It emerges from one of the larger boxes maybe three meters from the fallen box; its contents yet unknown to me.

‘Not for long’, I think to myself, already planning the box’s demise. Unwilling to use my fire even though –or precisely because– the boxes in here are all wooden, tooth and claw become my tools. I assault the wood, boring through it with my sharp, natural weapons. It is not a violent assault, per se. If anything, it is rather slow, careful not to make too much noise lest someone hears it. Before long, there is a hole in the box’s corner, and I do not wait to exploit it. My head moves forwards, letting my jaws close around the wood as I, with a show of effort, use the strength of my muscles to wrest the not-too-thick wooden side of the box away. The nails holding it in place groan and complain, coming loose one by one. Then, without warning, it gives way, sending me falling to the side with the sudden absence of resistance.

I hurry to rise back up, turning my head… and when I lay eyes upon what I have found, my movements stop. It is an object I recognise. One similar to a thing which once determined the path of my life. Smooth and rather oval-shaped, though a bit less so on the bottom, the fairly sizeable object stands silently within the confines of the box. Its rock-grey surface is covered with dust, but other than that, it looks to be in perfect shape. One of those objects is the reason that I am what I am, for that… is another egg.
Draconic - Chapter 14
Here it is, another chapter. There are two things I would like to you know.
One: I am heading off on vacation for well over a week, starting a few hours short of twenty-four hours after this chapter's release date. As such, it is fully possible that releasing the next chapter may take longer than usual.
Two: I am considering removing the Security Alert interlude, as I have the feeling that the things it reveals may be better left for the main story to unveil at its own pace.
Other than that, there is nothing else I wish to bring to your attention at this time.
EDIT: The Security Alert interlude has been removed. I will state something along these lines in the next chapter's notes as well, I believe, but for your information, the things within the Security Alert interlude are no longer necessarily canon. Of course, I am not saying that they are not canon, either, just that I will treat the interlude in regards to the story as though the interlude in question never existed.

First chapter here.
Previous chapter here.
Next chapter here.
Slowly, almost terribly so, I begin to wake up. What happened? I think I... have a cold. I feel sick, and thirsty too. My entire body feels sore. My ear hurts. My tail hurts. My leg hurts something fierce. Just what did I do last night?

Slowly, I open my eyes, only to immediately realize that something is very wrong. This is not the forest! Where am I?

I look around. Wherever I am, it is definitely man-made. That alone sets off alarm bells in my mind. More specifically, the place appears to be some sort of narrow, roughly rectangular... tube of some sort. It is hard to make out, as the entire thing is shrouded in darkness, and gives no clues as to my more general location.

The smell of blood reaches my nostrils. I pause in surprise. Did I eat recently? My stomach doesn't feel empty – the blood is probably just left from whatever I ate. Nothing to worry ab...

Pain suddenly reveals itself to me, showing its true power. The sensation strikes me like a sledgehammer as the previous aches in my body are suddenly dwarfed. It pulses forth from several places at once, most markedly my knee; I feel myself taking in air in a shocked gasp, my body reeling in surprise as my injuries suddenly become clear to me. What in the world happened to me?

I have no idea, but whatever it was, is certainly was not good. I try to move my injured leg, mostly to see how bad it is, and- ooow. Okay, lesson learned, do not put weight on it. That hurt. At least my memory seems to be returning, though. Probably just need to wake up.

I am in… some sort of facility because I… oh, the trap. I really am stupid. Must have been my stomach getting to me. I ended up in some room which was almost too easy to escape from. Later on, I was in the vent, and hurt, but why…

Carrie. Oh no. No, no, that did not happen. That… no, it didn’t… I didn’t… No, no, no, I must have dreamt it. I did not… I could not have… no. Not Carrie.

The rest of my escapades up until this point filter in as the moments go by, but I do not see how they even matters. The guilt of my actions is like a fourth wound, paining me as much as any physical damage – if I cannot even prevent myself from attacking my best friend, what control do I have? Am I becoming a monster? Have I already become one?

No. ‘Monsters’ do not feel regret for their actions. In the eyes of some, I might be, but I do not think I am. Not truly. Sure, I kill on a regular basis, but how else am I going to survive? I feel no guilt for the death of my prey. Have I ever? Consume, or be consumed. Predators kill and consume their prey. It is the way of things, and I cannot change the natural order of the world. Even if I were not a hatchling, such things are simply beyond my influence. The difference is that Carrie… she wasn’t prey. Knowing my history, eating a human would feel… odd, and besides, Carrie was different. I knew her. We were together for well over a decade, and this is not how I wanted it to end. Humans are not prey, Carrie especially. She was my human. Mine. Hurting her was not even close to my desires, and yet… I did it regardless. Am I nothing more than a slave to my instincts?

I suppose, in a way, all creatures are. Some try to fight it, mostly humans from what I know, and I suppose I still have some of that left in me. My instincts are strong, though. Stronger than the human ones, without a doubt. More pronounced, too. Thankfully, they leave me alone most of the time, though I have no idea if they are doing things in the background at those points, but when they decide to meddle in my actions directly… it is not easy to resist them. More often than not, I just let them go. I suppose I know the risks of letting my instincts guide me now. They help me most of the time, but every moon has a dark side. I have to be better. Leaving my instincts behind, that would never be possible. They are as much a part of me as my own mind is, and besides, they can be really useful at times. My life would never have lasted this long without them. I could try to control them better, though. Keep them from running rampant whenever they are handed the reins of my body. I may not be able to undo what has been done, but at least I can honor Carrie enough to keep myself from doing it again.

On the positive side, my wounds are no longer bleeding. Sure, they still hurt something terrible, and my entire body feels awfully drained, but at least I am no longer leaking like… something that leaks an awful lot. I shall have to take care not to open my injuries up again. Hopefully, my damaged scales will heal with the passage of time.

Since sitting here moping about the past will not help me, I somewhat reluctantly put in the mental effort to get back up as much as my injuries will allow. The ever-present flow of air within the vents flows past me harmlessly, nigh-unnoticeable against my scaled form, though the small hole in my damaged fin itches slightly as the tendrils of the air flows through it. I would rather not risk interrupting its healing if at all possible, so it is an annoyance I will simply have to accept. Doing my best to ignore the itch, which is already starting to slowly drive me crazy despite my body’s various aches, I head forwards. The air is strangely silent, save for the slight hum of ventilation-fans somewhere in the vent-network. On my left, vent covers are situated in regular intervals, revealing the ventilation-shaft’s position as it runs next to a corridor’s floor. I could leave the vents, of course, but it feels safer in here, where the humans do not fit and where surveillance is, at the most, sparse.

Must not chew on my tailfin. Must leave the itch alone. It itches, and I can feel my entire body… itching to do something about it. It is… aargh, stop itching! Can it get worse than this? Stupid itch.

A particularly strong gust of air answers that question for me. It blows over me, further worsening the itch. My tail is already halfway to my mouth by the time I catch myself, pulling it back behind me with an almost embarrassed expression. Chewing on it will only make it worse. I know this. I know it very well, from personal experience during my human self’s younger years. Yet… it would feel so good to scratch the itch, just a little bit.

My legs seem to have stopped moving. I discover this with the detached air of someone who is not really paying attention to the fact. It is justified, too. I am staring at my tailfin, indecisive, but in the end, just a liiittle scratch could not hurt, could it? I move it closer, pulling it into my mouth and caressing the wound with my tongue in a fairly gentle way. The relief is quick and powerful. My tongue gently touches the injury, easing the itch in a blessedly pleasurable way, moving closer and- ow. I just bit my own tail. That hurt even through the scales! I knew my teeth were sharp, but not that they were quite that sharp. Ouch. I am not doing that again. I suspect I know how my prey feels by this point. Not really sure if I am better off with the knowledge than without it, though.

Pulling the tail away in an almost embarrassed movement, I find myself looking around in case anyone saw. The latter action is quite truthfully a rather stupid one. It is not like it would matter whether I had just bit my tail when someone discovered me – the result would probably be much the same. I do not know if my kind is even a social species (though honestly I doubt it), or if it was a piece of my human self, but whichever the case, the action was not really necessary. Thus, I do my best to shrug off the incident, picking up my pace as the pain of my bite gradually fades into anonymity amongst the aches throughout my body. Honestly, even though I just woke up, I still think that having a rest would be a nice break for my aching form. Yet at the same time, I cannot simply stop in the middle of the vent. The pause I have already taken was risky enough, and that one was not even voluntary.

The corridor outside turns away, as I discover with a quick look thrown through a vent-cover, though the vent itself continues forward, darkening significantly as the light of the corridor grows ever more distant. It has another opening in the darkening parts, on the left side just like the corridor, through which I expect I could move out into the room neatly situated where the corridor would have been, had it not turned away like it did.

I look through the vent in question. The room on the other side is stuffed with boxes. Lots of boxes, more than I can count, mostly because I cannot see the whole room from my current position. It seems to be no larger than that white room where I woke up, though it is a bit hard to know for sure, as lighting within the room is limited to what slips through beneath the doorway. I can still see most of the room, thanks to my better-than-human eyesight, but the far reaches (or what I can see of them, given the stuff in the way) are somewhat murky even for me. It is hard to make out anything more than indistinct shapes. On the floor just by the door, there are large, white letters painted on, reading ‘SA06’. Not that I have any idea what those letters are supposed to stand for.

The whole room smells somewhat funny. There is a strange smell in there which… I am not actually sure what it is, but whatever it is, it alights my curiosity. The room is smock-full enough for me to feel confident in my ability to hide should anyone show up, and besides, who knows what I might find in there?

The vent is removed stupidly easily, as usual. The design flaws of these vents is the only reason I am still here. Needless to say, I am glad that they are made in the way that they are. As for the room itself, it appears to be devoid of human life. Boxes are everywhere, and along with them, countless smells which permeate the air, blending with each other until the point where it all turns into an impossible-to-describe mixture of aerial flavor. I head out into what I believe to be roughly the center of the room, after which I then spend a few moments wandering aimlessly. One of the scents catch my attention, and without much consideration as to the potential consequences, I follow it. The smell is emerging from the back of the place, but my nose is capable, and as I limp in amongst boxes stacked on top of more boxes, the scent grows steadily stronger.

I locate the general area swiftly enough. Finding the specific box that contains the interesting smell is not quite as easy, however. Some things smell more strongly than others, and I have to rummage around in the smells for well over a minute before I find the offending, hollow square of wood through which the correct one faintly leaks. Briefly, I consider simply setting fire to the box in order to get it open, but common sense soon points out that not only may that very well end up igniting the rest of the room, but for all I know the contents could be turned into a pile of ash as a result. Instead, I simply stab a claw through the dry wood marked ‘BQRARS’ that makes up the lid, followed by several more, granting me the grip required for me to simply tear it off wholesale. It clatters to the ground with a rather noisy rendition of that telltale, wooden rattling that only really seems to appear when wood clatters against stuff.
Coal. That is what the box is filled with. Not fancy gadgets, or some sort of chemical, or even something I have not seen before. Just the twelfth substance in the periodic table. Coal. Not charcoal, for I have sensed the smell of burnt wood before and it does not smell like this, but the mined stuff. Raw, pure coal.

Experimentally, I nibble on the night-black substance. Contrary to my expectations, it does not taste like burnt dust. The piece of carbon that my teeth detach from the closest available lump is somewhat crunchy, yet it feels like it creaks against my teeth as I thoughtfully nibble on the lump in question. The taste is rather… indescribable. I do not really know how to put words on it, as it truly does not resemble anything I can recall ever eating before. Not enough for any one of the relevant words to really work as a description, at least. To start, there is the taste of coal. Much like what you associate with your average barbecue. That part really is to be expected. Another part sort of reminds me of stale bread. Not bread that has gotten so old so that it is inedible, but more like bread which is sort of dry, tasteless and generally lacking in the way of any flavor whatsoever. Like cardboard, almost. Yet, another part reminds me of fast food. A taste that is okay, certainly good enough for you to know that you could eat it, but you can sort of just feel that it is not going to be healthy to live on only this stuff. Like it would be unhealthy to have as my primary source of sustenance. Another part of the taste, inexplicably, reminds me of cookie crumbles with too little sugar. The texture is much how you expect coal to be, though I quite honestly do not know the word for it. I am not a dictionary.

I chew off a few more pieces, though I eventually feel myself growing sick of the taste. Bleh. I might be able to live on it in an emergency (or that is what it felt like, though I doubt it would support me for any longer duration), but coal is nothing against real, fresh meat. It also feels rather heavy in my stomach. I doubt this is anything my gut will process swiftly.

I take a moment to just stop. My ears listen for any sound, my movements cease and my brain relaxes. All seems silent. It is quite… peaceful. Honestly, I was half-expecting somebody to walk in here at any moment. It seems to be the pattern in this place. I go into a room, and moments later, the humans show up. It is almost like they know where I… am…

…There is a tracking device in me, isn’t there? I really hope not, but it would certainly explain the fact that they seem to keep finding me. That, or security cameras. Or bad luck. I might just be paranoid. If there is a tracking device of some sort in me, however, I have no idea how I would get it out of me, or even locate it, for that matter. I suppose there really is nothing that I can do except hope that it does not exist, or wait for it to run out of power. Batteries do not last forever. That, at least, is a fact I feel that I can rely on.

My wings feel stiff, but there is not enough space in here for me to be able to unfold them properly. They will simply have to stay stiff – I have bigger problems than wings wanting to stretch. There may not be anyone here right now, but I still think it would be a better idea to get back into the vents. Being alone is no guarantee for remaining alone, and if someone comes in here, I would rather not be left in the room. I am sure that there are many interesting things in here, but there is also the question of personal safety to take into consideration.

One more box could not hurt. That one on the left side of the door looks interesting. I might as well open it, if for no other reason than that I can. Limping over there is swift enough. Removing the lid (marked ‘BQRARS’ just like the other one) is simple enough, and thus it does not take long for me to access the wooden container’s interior. Its contents are simple enough: tin cans. Unmarked and with a well-polished metallic exterior, they are the epitome of the anonymous tin can. I have no idea what, exactly, these cans contain. Normally, checking such a thing would require a can opener. Not for me, though. I have claws, and intend to use them.

I try to lift out a can. It is difficult. Even if I had not been wounded in several areas, my feet are not grippers in the way that human hands are. It is one of the few situations where I actually miss my old body. I know it would have been easier to get a can out if I had just kept my hands. Then again, I would not be able to open the cans if I had, so it all evens out, I suppose. Besides, getting the can out is difficult, not impossible. I manage to remove it from its box, though not without difficulty, and proceed to stab a claw through the top of the can itself. Some sort of juice immediately begins to flow out of the opening, only pouring out faster when I proceed to bend away the rest of the top’s metal. It actually smells very nice, whatever it is, and before long, I find myself lowering my head to get some in my mouth. It appears to be filled with some kind of soup. Pieces of both meat and vegetables float around in the brownish water, and whilst I couldn’t care less about the greenery, the rest is something I would happily consume. I drink down the contents, trying to avoid the plant-produce as much as… well, not humanly possible. Dragonly possible, perhaps. Hatchlingly possible? Human languages were, quite obviously, never really made for non-humans.

The can’s contents soon run out, leaving a small pile of soggy vegetables on the bottom. I think a few pieces may have slipped through, but I doubt there were enough of them to give me any serious digestion issues. Briefly, I consider staying and emptying another can, but my stomach is feeling rather full by this point, what with the meat, the coal and the soup all piling up in there. Truthfully, I do not want another portion. Not right now. I have eaten enough as it is. With a self-satisfied expression, I lazily make my way back towards the open vent-hole, conveniently placed so that it is simply a matter of crawling right in. The fit is tighter than I remember. Probably courtesy of my full stomach. The vent is, of course, still a lot larger than what common sense would dictate your average vent to be, but it is still awfully tight. My scales scrape against it now and then, and the metal has a tendency to groan whenever I increase my pace from a slow limp, but at least there is no human traffic in here.

I wonder what I will come across next. These vents seem to lead all around the place, and I have been turning corners more or less at random, so I really have no idea where I am. Not that an attempt to navigate would help me. I have no idea how this place looks when it comes to the general layout, either. Maybe if I could find some sort of computer terminal, like that one down there, I could-

Hold on. I pause, reversing my steps until I can look down through the vent-grill I just passed over. It is mounted in the ceiling of a room. A fairly small room, from the looks of things. The walls are white, much like the room I originally woke up in, but that is where the similarities end. Instead of the various, odd objects of that room, this room contains only a few, simple things. Namely, an electrical, fluorescent light mounted in the ceiling, a chocolate-brown desk on which there stands a computer with all the associated bits and bobs (including a red button which I should probably avoid), a chair in front of said desk, and a human which is currently sitting on said chair. ‘Sitting’ would be a bit of a loose word, though. It looks like the fairly old, brown-haired, rather skinny human is asleep. He is vulnerable. I may be injured, but this is one human that would not be able to fight back. Yet, at the same time, a corpse would be a dead giveaway, terribly lame pun not intended. Instead, it might be worth it to try something a bit less… violent. Maybe I could just sneak in, check what I need to check, and get out with the human being none the wiser.

I have to remove the vent-cover, obviously, but I need a way to do it without having it noisily clatter into something down below. It is an issue that I ponder for a moment, before eventually deciding to just go for it. I push a claw through on the cover’s side, and then, before gravity gets a chance to properly react, both of my frontal feet are moving through the hole and grabbing a hold of the spinning object. They clamp down on it, holding the cover between them, leaving it hanging precariously in the air. My grip is not perfect, however, and though I manage to pull the object up into the vent itself, it is a very close thing. Mentally, I let out a small sigh of relief, though my physical body does not reflect it. I am already looking down again, checking that the human is still asleep whilst simultaneously wondering how to get myself down there, now that the path is clear. Perhaps I could try to grip on with my front-feet and sort of climb down, but the entire vent may very well give way if I do that. Quite honestly, the only sensible option seems to be jumping. At least I can try to land on a good spot that way.

I begin to prepare myself. Landing on the human is out, for obvious reasons, and the desk might break if I hit it. The floor, then. As long as I can avoid landing on my injuries, I will be fine. At least, so I hope. Getting ready, I lean forwards… and then I jump.
I fall down, barely missing the uniform-clad human and slamming down against the floor with a soft thump. My angle is near-perfect, keeping my injured limb from having to be a part of stopping my fall at all, but it is nonetheless with a sense of alarm that I look up towards the lone human. To my great fortune, his breaths remain slow and even. Still asleep. Thank the heavens.

Knowing that I remain undiscovered, I begin to move once again. After just a few, careful steps, I am close enough to the table for me to jump up on it without too much difficulty, and thus I soon find myself looking on the computer-screen with a sort of stubborn determination that few things manage to summon. Thankfully, the human beside me is still logged in, but a new issue lies within the fact that this time, I do not know where to look. Still, my experiences in Marcie’s house serve me well – I am no longer a total novice. I exit the camera-views with a simple press of the escape-button, though I might have used a bit too much force since it suddenly seems to decide that popping off would be a good idea. Two seconds in, and I am already breaking buttons.

Lovely. At least I do not think I will need it again. Now, there might be something on the desktop…

Well, there certainly is something. The human has a shortcut to the map on his desktop. I mean really, what are the odds? A hundred to one? Maybe not quite that high, but still, the chances are not exactly the most favorable. Nonetheless, you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Just eat it instead. I navigate to it with the arrow keys, trying to press a little more carefully on them this time, and then use the enter button to open it up. It is rather simple, and though that costs it some detail, it is easy to understand. Of course, the map does not show the vent-system, but that does not make it less useful. I look it over, trying to commit the maze-like arrangement to memory. People always said that dragons have good memory. Not that I can really notice it. Maybe it comes later.

After getting a good look, the only real thing left to do is get back into the vent. I turn around and- ‘smack’. Involuntarily, I give out a small groan of pain as my injured tailfin slams into the human’s cheek. I had forgotten he was there! That hurt.

Feeling the beginnings of a panic set in, I turn around, just in time to see the human open his eyes, move his hand more or less on reflex, and press the red button, all with a very stunned, half-awake expression etched on his face.

Once again, the alarm blares to life.
Draconic - Chapter 13
So, this chapter finished faster than the previous one. Then again, it is of more average length. To be truthful, the actual writing was made during the last few days - I spent some time gathering ideas and generally being distracted by the reality of life. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy(ed) this chapter. Most likely, the next piece will be another interlude.

First chapter here.
Previous chapter here.
Next chapter here.


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YouGotBloodOnMySuit Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2016  Student Writer
Have you gotten my note?