When among Dragons... Chapter 5 Changes

When among Dragons... Chapter 5 Changes

by Machara and Chryos Stormwing

Special thanks to
my love Chryos who creates this with me,
Gabe as my editor and friend
as well as Sammi for ideas

Drew awoke in his bedroom, a familiar smell tickling his nose. He saw the ceiling above him and heard strange noises. Then there was a commotion. There were people in the living room below and he heard voices, arguing. He tried to move but only noticed the hard surface. It was not his bed he was in. Then, the bright light of day shone into his eyes, and he heard footsteps coming closer but were still outside the room, interrupted by Garrus voice, maybe a little raspier than it had been before.

“Wake up. That wasn't a dream. We were brought back home apparently. Try to make only slow movements.”

Drew felt so tired, and hurt all over, especially on his right leg. He tried to lift himself up but failed, barely even registering where he was or what was happening.

With a croak, he tried to shout, but "Mom" came out more silent than intended.

He tried to move his neck, and after initial resistance managed to turn it to one side in an attempt to see more around himself.

It was his room, alright, but he was on the floor apparently. Garrus sat beside him, gently holding Drews shoulder now, while he watched him carefully. Below it became silent for a moment but then the arguing started anew.

“Shh… there's law enforcement down there. I don't know if we're in trouble or anything. Something must've …happened. What was that… thing that attacked us?”

Drew grew somewhat calmer as he looked up into Garrus’ eyes.

“Some really large lizard. Scales all over, belly on the ground, four clawed paws, a snout with sharp teeth, and a long split tongue. I think I've seen something like that before…

What's happening? How are you?”

Garrus felt much more tired suddenly and was tempted to go to sleep again. He could barely move, having used so much of his strength to sit up and look after Drew. Each movement hurt, he felt sore, dizzy and nauseous, and had trouble focusing.

“Mmh…. dizzy again. I just awoke a few minutes ago. I tried to listen in on the conversation below but it's been too muffled. I Think I’m gonna lie down for a bit longer.”

He remained right next to Drew on the ground, he kept close to at least feel his presence.

“Mmh… Lizard. Around here? That's almost unheard of, I thought. Oh well…”

He dozed off, once more.

As Garrus woke up again, he still felt drained, but slightly better.

Looking around himself, he saw white walls and a tube leading towards himself. He recognized an infusion. It smelled sterile as he lay on a vaguely comfortable bed. A regular beeping could be heard, it's frequency picking up speed.

Garrus tried to turn his head around a little to make out more details about his surroundings, stopping immediately though as a headache set in. As he tried to lift his arm to his head, that started burning painfully as well, so he instinctively decided to lay still, for now, just taking in the surroundings with what little vision he had.

“Ugh… was… what… where am I?”

After a while, Garrus tried to turn his head again. He still felt a sharp pain as he did so and it was barely manageable. He saw a hospital room and another bed to his right with someone in it. To his left, there was a small cabinet with a bottle of water and a glass on it. Beyond that, there was a window, the sun shining in through partially drawn curtains.

After a little while, he heard the door to his right open, a figure coming in, and then the door closed again. The person approached him and took a look.

“Hi, Garrus. I see you have awoken. How are you?”

Garrus recognized her as Marian in a doctor's uniform.

He tried to turn his head towards her but it was too painful again. He finally closed his eyes tight and moved it in one single motion, gritting his teeth while doing so, as the pain set in again, leaving him with a feeling of vertigo. His vision blurred red as he opened the eyes again, then fading slowly back to almost normal.

“P… Pain. Whenever I try to move. Both… arms and head. What… happened?”

Marian’s lips were pursed together in a straight line as she watched and listened to Garrus.

“As you did not return from your walk after a few hours, we went out searching for you. It was nearing morning when we found you at the viewpoint in the park. Drew had his cell phone in his hand, apparently attempting to dial, but he never managed it. You were both unconscious when we found you, with bite wounds on your lower legs. We drove my minivan in the park to pick you up, but since you're not really allowed to drive there, we got into an argument with the police.

After I managed to get off with a warning since we had to pick you up conscious, I looked after you. It did not seem life-threatening but since I did not know what happened I thought it best to get you to the hospital for a checkup.

Along the ride, Drew awoke for a few moments and told us you were attacked and bitten by some giant lizard. I got scared and was worried about what this might mean, so instead of a normal hospital I got you into mine.

I want to keep this under wraps, so only one of my nurses and I are allowed in your room.

Can you tell me any more about what happened so we know what to check or treat for?”

As she mentioned the attacks to the legs, Garrus felt a tingling sensation down there, not unlike paresthesia but less ticklish, more like tiny needles. He let out a sigh, trying to think of the event for a moment, then responded, a bit croaky.

”I guess… there was something… lurking under that bench. I have no idea if it had been there from the start or crept up on us. It… grabbed me… suddenly. By the leg. Drew quickly got up, tried to kick it away, but it kept lashing out at him Eventually, he managed to drive it off. I have… literally never seen anything like it. Beady little eyes. A head that looked almost like it was made up of two halves, parted only by the wide mouth. A bit like those … axolotl things but … big as one of us? How can that be…?”

“Wait a moment…”

Marian left the room and came back in a minute later with a tablet in one hand, frantically searching for something. Finding it, she showed it to Garrus. On it, he saw a newspaper article.

<Oldest Comodo Dragon escapes during transport from Calgary to Vancouver Zoo


Circumstances of the escape are still under investigation, but human error may not be ruled out. A group of Comodo Dragons and some other Animals were transported from Calgary Zoo after it was partially destroyed during a Superhero brawl.>

After holding it up to Garrus’ head for a few moments, Marian looked him in the eyes and asked.

“Might this be what attacked you?”

“Mmh… not quite. I know Comodo dragons from pictures and that wasn't one. The size might be about right though.”

Garrus seemed to be able to speak easier now, his head also didn't feel quite as dizzy and sore anymore. It was just his arms that he preferred to not move for the moment… along with the whole rest of his body.

“Its head was more … round I guess? Not quite as slender anyway. I’d even say a bit pudgier but… might've been my vision as well, it happened rather quickly and I hit my head on the bench as it tore at me… sorry.”

“Oh. And I had hoped to have solved that mystery.”

Marian actually seemed disappointed now.

“If it was that, we might have known how to treat it. We took blood from both of you yesterday, I'm expecting the results soon. Maybe that will shed some light.

There is no indication that what you got is … life-threatening, but we can't know, of course. You have a rash on the wounds, but it does not look very bad, at least.”

She now looked over to the other bed, examining the person there and looked under the blankets.

“Oh Drew,” Marian sighed, with real worry in her voice “… what have you gotten yourself into?”

Watching her expression turn so worried as she examined Drew, Garrus felt some nervousness creep into him, as well.

”Wh… what happened to him? Is he going to be alright?”

At first, he had been tentatively relaxed after hearing that it might not be life-threatening. But he then felt the adrenaline rushing through his body which at first actually seemed to increase the amount of pain he was feeling. Only after a few moment that subsided, again. Still, Garrus wasn't able to do more than turn his head, this time though without a headache afterward.

“He's in the same condition as you are.” Marian replied.

“I'm just worried since we don't know much yet. The rash seems to be spreading, and I have never seen anything like this before.

To be honest, the reason why I brought you here… even though I should not have… is because I just had this strong feeling that you were manifesting. I've ordered all kinds of blood tests.

Even if you can, please don't leave this room. You are not supposed to be here and I might be in trouble if it gets out. You see, this is the general ward of the BC Women's Hospital… and you are not women. I have some leeway here since I’m the head doctor in this wing.

I'm afraid until we get results back we can only wait. I hope Drew wakes up soon…”

Garrus kept listening to her and finally nodded slowly.

”Women's hospital…. but this place is equipped for emergencies, right? So at least in that regard, it must be okay for us to be here?”

Feeling some deception on her part, either because she might be afraid or wanted to hide something, Garrus decided to keep asking.

”I’m not trying to get you into any trouble… and I promise I won't leave this room… Big surprise, I don't think I’m able to walk, anyway. You've obviously kept quiet about us so… please tell me… what's the deal? And what's… manifesting?”

Marian sighed, moved a chair beside his bed, and sat down.

“Manifesting is what some call it when a normal person with the potential to become a Mutant actually changes and becomes one. Sometimes it is triggered just by time, such as growing up - often through changes during puberty, but sometimes by some external influence as might be in your case.

I am afraid of what will happen to you when others find out you are a Mutant. I'm afraid of the PAX. They are often not as nice as they want the public to believe, and I have witnessed it first-hand that the Vancouver branch is not very tolerant.

And of course, we are equipped to handle emergencies… Though admittedly mostly for emergencies specific to women.”

The door opened and a nurse came in, holding a stack of papers in her hand.

“Marian, we have the results back.”

She handed her the papers, looked around the room, especially Garrus, and then left again.

Marian took the papers and read through them. Soon her face dropped.

“Your immune system is fighting something and is weakened, and you indeed are Manifesting….”

She read on some more fully engrossed, but with a stony face.

“You will need some shots to avoid some possible transmitted diseases, but the results are not very clear and some of them are confusing.”

Not quite sure what to make of this, all that Garrus was left to do, was to wonder about the developments that had taken place.

”I've… heard of the PAX. That they call themselves the Paramilitary Armed Citizens already belies their intents. They've recently been condemned by the European Union, but not outright outlawed. Still, some members of them have been taken into custody after some particularly rough behavior… which I think was in Munich.”

He paused, with a strain on his face.

”Yeah, I remember now. We were almost called out to move in on the scene as well, but in the end, they surrendered their gadgets. Not before a semdee crippled their own power armor though. I wouldn't want to have a run-in with them anyway. Not unarmed. And certainly not…”

As Garrus talked about the PAX, Marian only got the gist of his ramblings, rather focused on the notes and data of the papers. Marian saw some antibodies increased tenfold above the normal maximum, others were gone completely. Also, some form of tissue degeneration seemed to have taken place in parts of Garrus’ body, matching the areas of the rash. It didn't seem to cause any problems for blood flow, nerves, and the actual muscles or bones though… so far.

Garrus stopped in mid-sentence, looking confused and then alarmed.

“Wait… what? Mutant?”

Marian looked up as Garrus raised his voice. Torn from her notes she had an annoyed look on her face, but still turned to Garrus.

“Yes, you are a Mutant, now. Haven’t you heard me before?”

She looked exasperated but then calmed down to answer Garrus.

“The condemning in Europe is new to me… but I guess the PAX want to keep that low and hang onto where they still have power. I wonder what it means for them here… And who takes over… well, what their job was supposed to be. I'm worried about the both of you… both concerning the PAX but also what's happening to you… I'm not an expert but some colleagues have told me stories, and some of them are not pretty. Manifesting can be dangerous. Some have died because of it.

What's a semdee, anyway?”

Garrus responded.

“Ah. It’s a surgical electromagnetic disruptor. It's like the EM blast from an atomic bomb but created by a… well, good question. I’ve never got the training for that piece of equipment but it's used to disable pretty much anything electric and not equipped with shielding for it. Those power armors certainly weren't shielded anyway, unsurprisingly, as that much bulk only makes sense on stuff the size of tanks and upwards. Just from what I’ve heard…”

Marian was amused by Garrus’ focus on Military Agencies and Technical equipment. ‘Must be his training as a police officer…’ she thought. Garrus only then returned to the matter at hand.

“People have died from manifesting? I guess I should feel lucky that we both don't seem to be in mortal danger right now but… when will you be able to tell us more?”

“Unfortunately, I don't know if we can tell you more. I'm specialized in the treatment of women’s issues, I’ve only got the basic course on Mutants… something that's now required for most doctors, anyway. Anything beyond that is for specialists or those particularly interested.”

Marian looked over the papers in her hand again.

“I'll order some shots for you, and tomorrow we’ll draw more blood to see if we can find out more, but… there is only so much I can do… there is a ward for Mutant issues in Vancouver General Hospital, but they need to report to the PAX. And if I request too specialized blood tests it will draw attention. I'll ask around though if I can find a doctor that is more specialized and … friendly.”

Marian sighed.

“I am afraid, either way, we need to wait and see what happens. If you do remember more about what attacked you, that might help. There is still a risk that whatever bit you might have adverse effects… for instance poison, another kind of venom or bacteria…

But it looks like that bite triggered your manifestation since it's rare to manifest at your age on your own. Not only the changes caused by your manifestation can cause health issues, but also later use of potential powers. So please try to be careful…”

Garrus began to feel more tired again. Since Marian did not seem to have any more to say, he decided to go to sleep again.

He was awoken later by the clinking of metal against ceramics. Looking to the side by bending his neck - which was still stiff but did not hurt as much anymore - he saw Hera holding a plate and feeding Drew, who was propped up on two pillows.

Hearing the noise, she looked at Garrus and smiled. She set down the plate and headed over to him, bent down and then hugged him.

I have been so worried about you!

Garrus winced at the pressure and noticed how sore and sensitive his body was. Hera straightened up, first looking at him, then glanced at Drew, and back to him.

“Ah, I'm sorry, Garrus. How do you feel?”

Garrus moaned.

“Um… like if I had fallen off the bike and being sick at the same time.”

With a more cheerful tone, he finished “And… hungry!”

Hera chuckled.

“Ah, well, then it's good it’s lunchtime and I'm here for you… both.”

She pressed the call button for a nurse.

“Before that though, you need to endure a bit more, I'm afraid.”

A nurse came in, the same Garrus had seen earlier. She took another sample of blood.

"Another more detailed set of tests." she explained.

In the meantime, Hera fed the rest of the plate to Drew and as she turned to help Garrus with his meal, Drew watched mother and son.

After a bit of further talk about what has happened, how worried Hera was and an her expressing the frustration and fear she felt, she left again. Since both Mutants were both still rather tired and weak, they drifted off to sleep again after just a few sentences.

On the next day, Marian came back somewhat before noon, explaining that the tests did not show much more details, except that both of their bodies were undergoing changes but it looked like there was no immediate danger. To be sure though, she gave both some shots, one of which proved to be quite painful.

During the next few days, they remained rather tired and slept most of the time.

On the fourth day of their stay, both half-brothers noticed changes. As the rash progressively covered their body, the itching became so bad that they begged for some treatment - in vain. After a day or two, their skin became smoother and they lost all their body hair, except on their heads. It first started where the skin was initially affected by the rash, but slowly the changes swept over their whole body. Another day later the rash cleared following the same manner of progression, starting on their legs where they were bitten. The top layer of their skin shed off in flakes - something both found annoying to clean up after - along with the last traces of the rash, to leave skin with a different quality. It was slicker and had a more polished quality to it, yet still felt somewhat like skin. A further day later, it started becoming fragmented and somewhat scale-like and was changing color, but in a very slow manner - a process which seemed to take the better part of a week to finish. Garrus’ skin changed to a subdued red, while Drew's changed to a deep purple, in a soft way that did not strike the eyes too much, rather the opposite. Both Mutants’ skin had different shades of lightness and intensity depending on the area of the body. The lightest shades were found on the front of their neck, chest, and belly going down to their groin. The undersides of their arms and insides of their legs were only marginally lighter.

While they remained tired and lacked energy, the soreness abated mostly and was replaced by a prickling feeling, at first on the skin, but later on the inside of their bodies.

As time went on, both males were being nursed back to health again. After about three weeks, it seemed to have reached a level where they were still frail but in a stable state. They were able to stand by now, but given how their muscles had deteriorated after such a long time in bed, it was difficult to walk. After only a short time their legs hurt as if they had been on their feet the whole day. On top of it all, to keep it all ‘under wraps’, they couldn't go to any rehabilitation sessions in the clinic and were left to use the confined space of the room for some minor exercises.

It was enough, however, to make good progress, and after only another week, they had regained sufficient strength to be moved back home. In their last two weeks of their stay, some features of their bodies also started to change. It was hardly noticeable at first, but the changes picked up over time. Changes were more distinct on their heads, feet and hands, however, there were other places on their bodies where they noticed changes which they preferred to keep even from each other. The shape of their bodies changed more for Drew than for Garrus.

To keep it all as inconspicuous as possible, they had to move to Marian's car in the evening when she came for her night shift. Both males had to stay in the thankfully roomy minivan until she came back. It was only in the early morning hours that she finally drove them back to their home.

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