Strike a pose...
by Erin Halfelven
-3- Magic of Mars
I felt a surge very like an orgasm travel up my body and out my limbs as Zandro’s banditos fastened all eyes on me. My tail helicoptered above my head. My nipples got hard, I felt juicy in a place I had never had before, I smelled violets and sandalwood, and I felt clean, oh so clean.
What the heck just happened?
I stopped in the light beam, staring down at myself. The dirt, blood, and shit our naked bodies had all been covered in had disappeared, and my coppery skin gleamed in the light. I could feel my matted black curls expanding around my face like a halo of night.
I struck a pose, trying not to giggle. But then looking at the bandits got me angry again.
“Twelve dollars, huh?” I shouted, putting every bit of contempt and outrage I could into it, making it an accusation of crimes against… against what? Beauty, I guess. I’d never in my life known what it was to feel beautiful, but I did right then.
And magic. I had magic.
I’d carefully not been looking toward where I had seen Seejay and Hote sneaking in from what I wanted to call the south corridor before I ran out and did my attention-grabbing stunt. Now I glanced that way and saw them staring at me too.
Their chins were almost on their chests. But they had on clothes and were carrying what looked for all the world like shotguns. This had been what my tail was pointing at. But my little peep show had paralyzed them too!
I rolled my eyes, held my hands over my head and pointed toward the banditos with both index fingers plus my tail. “Shoot them!” I screamed.
Hote shook it off first and took a step forward, but Seejay got off the first shot, a twin-boom that almost deafened everyone in the room. Hote fired too, another double barrel explosion and Trike threw all four of the rocks he had been hoarding.
Seejay dropped his shotgun and pulled a rifle off his back, bringing it up and taking aim as if he practiced such a thing every day. Hote dropped his gun, too and produced a pair of clunky-looking revolvers. Trike stepped forward to surround me with a wall of green muscle. He was laughing and sobbing at the same time, and I realized, so was I.
The banditos ran. The entrance to the north corridor had not been far away, and they disappeared into the dimness there. They left a couple of their men behind, almost cut in two from the shotgun blasts and one more fell with a bullet in his spine from Seejay’s rifle. And another whose brains had been spilled by one of Trike’s rocks.
Zandro and the guy with the American accent, plus the guy who might have been their cleric got away, but none of us were chasing them.
Hote put his pistols back in his belt and ran to check out the casualties. Seejay leaned the rifle against a wall, picked up the shotguns and began reloading them. He looked toward me, grinning. “What the hell was that, girl?” he asked. “Your debut as a stripper?”
What the hell indeed. I stared back at Seejay, feeling warm all over. He had clothes on now, a loose, badly fitting shirt like a guayabera and some tight pants that made me think of old movies about the British Raj. Well, they made me think of other things, they certainly did. Like juicy places inside me that were not only warm but getting hot.
“M-m-magic?” I stammered.
“Looks good on you, all clean and… healthy.” His eyebrows waggled appreciatively as he looked me up and down. “You’ve done something with your hair?” he joked.
I wondered if anyone could see me blush since my skin was already red.
“You guys!” said Trike from more than a yard over my head. “Talk about the cavalry.” He made a hoo-hoo-ha-roo sound like a nine-foot rooster crowing.
Seejay laughed. His short blond hair gleamed in the dark corner. He smiled as wide as an old-time Buick. His quick fingers reloaded four crude-looking shells into two guns. He had a dimple in his chin and a bit of stubble on his upper lip. His eyes were blue and his lashes thick, long and golden.
Stop it, I told myself. Stop it, stop it, stop it! I looked around to make sure I hadn’t said that out loud.
“These guys are dead,” said Hote, moving away from the shotgun victims. He looked grim, not like our usually sunny Hote. “I’ve got, I dunno, I’ve got… skills? Things I can do, I never could before.”
“Huh?” said Trike.
Hote knelt beside the man Seejay had shot in the back. “This one is alive,” he said.
The man sobbed. “I canna feel me legs,” he whimpered. He had a vaguely Scottish accent, and his red hair seemed to confirm that impression.
“Don’t move,” Hote ordered him. Dr. Weston looked up at us. Dr. because that was who Hote had been in real life, though a hospital administrator and not a practicing physician. His face looked bleak and disturbed. “Do I save this one?”
“You can save him?” asked Trike.
“I think so,” said Hote. “Seejay got cut badly by some guys we ran into down the hall and I… I….”
“Doc laid on hands, and I healed right up, like I’d never been sliced,” Seejay supplied.
Hote nodded. “Not a mark on him. And that cut should have needed stitches.”
“This is one of the guys who wanted to buy me for twelve bucks,” I said.
“Yes,” Hote agreed. “That’s why there’s a question.”
“Am I gonna die?” asked the man.
“Shh,” said Hote. “We’re deciding that. But if we do nothing and you live, you’ll be crippled, half a man or less.”
“Better to cut your throat,” Seejay offered. He walked across the room, glancing this way and that at the two corridors. He had one of the long machete-like swords in his hand. I hadn’t seen where he got it from. “I don’t think your friends are coming back for you.”
“Cripes!” exclaimed Trike.
“Ye’re a healer?” asked the wounded man.
“I am. And I think I can help you, but I don’t know how much.”
“Anything, mon, anything!”
“We’re going to need a guide,” said Seejay. He came back to squat beside the man, keeping his blade in plain sight.
The man turned his head away, appealing to Hote. “I’m in pain. Do what you can, for God’s sake.”
“All right,” said Seejay, reaching out for the man’s hair.
The redhead screamed. “Nay, nay! I meant I’ll do what I can for ye if ye save me.”
“What about the leader, the man you were following?”
“Zandro,” I said. I felt ice in my middle.
“Fock Zandro,” said the man. “He’s a chickenshit leader, and I’ve no loyalty to him, at all.”
Seejay scoffed. “That does not do a lot to recommend you to us. In fact, I can’t think what would.” He reached for the man’s hair again.
Hote put a hand on Seejay’s arm. “I want to do this, not just for his sake but to find out just how much I can do.”
Seejay nodded. “All right then.” He stood easily and turned again to examine the dark corners of the room.
I spoke up. “Trike is hurt too. He took a bullet in his leg. And some cuts and bruises.”
Seejay looked our four-armed giant friend over carefully. “You don’t look too badly hurt.”
“Ah’m not,” said Trike. “There’s a lot of meat on my leg, and the slug didn’t hit any bleeders. It can wait.”
I sniffed and from the way Seejay grinned at me, I suspected I must be pouting. I didn’t want Trike to be hurting.
Hote’s voice got louder where he kneeled over the wounded man. He seemed to be praying. I recalled that Dr. Weston had been a deacon and lay preacher in his church.
“We’ll have Hote take a look, then, after he finishes with Red over there.” Seejay grinned at Trike, and the giant smiled back, shyly. That made me feel better, too.
“What have you been doing, girl?” Seejay asked me. “You’re all clean, your hair looks combed, and it smells like you found some perfume?” He sniffed in my direction.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I was trying to make sure they were looking at me and not at you and Hote coming up behind them. I pulled some magic out of somewhere and, uh, poof!” I gestured down at myself.
Seejay laughed, and Trike chuckled.
Yikes, but his laugh almost caused me to fall over backwards with my legs open wide. I wanted to ask myself what had gotten into me but realized it wasn’t a question of what had but what might—or what would.
“More magic,” Seejay commented. “Did you notice that you’re still naked? Maybe you could have magicked up some clothes?”
“I don’t… I didn’t… I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t even know how I did what I did.”
“Mmm,” said Seejay. He took his time looking me up and down. My own gaze traveled to his crotch.
I’d forgotten all about my tail that was suddenly in my face, waving back and forth like a mustache gone rogue. “What is it with you?” I snapped, grabbing the thing by its non-existent throat, whereupon it went completely limp, drooping off each side of my hand.
“A fuzzy chaperone,” said Seejay. “I had a girlfriend who had a cat like that once.”
“What?” I said. It seemed like a non-sequitur.
Red, Hote’s patient, cried out just then and we all looked. He had rolled over and was sitting up. He and his doctor were both smiling, though they also looked tired.
“Magic,” said Trike with wonder in his voice.
Still smiling, Red the bandito got to his feet and stuck out a hand to Hote. “Many thanks, doctor,” he said, shaking Hote’s right hand as he pulled a knife out of somewhere with his left. He stabbed at Hote at the exact same time as Seejay fired the rifle.
The sound of the shot at such close range made my ears ring, and I added a scream to the noise. The bullet took Red under the chin and blew out the back of his head. He toppled over with a vague look of surprise and… disappointment.
His last act, thrusting with his knife at Hote’s unprotected side left the handle of the blade protruding from our healer’s ribs. Hote coughed, made a choking sound and slowly sank to his knees, right hand grasping the hilt to keep the knife from doing more damage, or maybe just to keep it from hurting so much.
“Damn,” he said. A smile flickered around his lips then faded.
I just stood there. Frankly, I was paralyzed with fright. I’m not going to faint, I’m not going to faint, I told myself.
“Can you heal yourself, Hote?” Seejay asked, kneeling beside our friend.
“I don’t know,” said Hote. “I healed you and then this asshole, and we’ve been running around and now I— I….” He coughed, and a look of agony crossed his face.
“Trike!” Seejay snapped. “Watch out those guys don’t come back. I don’t think they will but keep watch. Get some more rocks to throw or find one of these swords you can use.”
“These little things?” said Trike, glancing at the yard-long machetes. “Don’t die, Hote, don’t die,” the big goon muttered as he moved away, gathering rocks.
“Girl, get over here!” Seejay ordered.
I wasn’t Mojo anymore? And sure I was coming but did I have to scamper? Was there anything I could do about the way Seejay giving me orders seem to melt my insides? Well, I could think of one thing but now was not the time.
“Can you do anything? You must have some magic, too?” Seejay asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe magic is class-based, and I’m not a healer?”
“Try,” said Hote. “I’ll pray, maybe that will help.”
“I’ll pray too,” Seejay said.
I nodded. They both knew I was a devout agnostic and didn’t expect me to offer to pray. I felt like ice inside. Looking at the knife sticking out of Hote’s side made me feel sick. “I will pray, but I’m not sure who I should pray to,” I said.
Hote shook his head. “If you don’t mean it, don’t—just try your magic.” He coughed weakly, and I saw a speck of blood appear on his lip. That looked very, very bad.
I put my hands on Hote’s chest and my tail, all on its own, wrapped itself around the hilt of the blade. I blinked to see that but went ahead with what I was doing. I crossed my eyes, put my tongue to the roof of my mouth and wished for healing of Hote’s wounds.
Wish may be the wrong word. What I did was want Hote’s wounds to heal, really hard. I guess there is no good way to say it.
I felt energy go out of me and as I did, my tail drew the knife out of Hote’s side. The wound was knitting itself together, a really strange thing to see, like time-lapse photography or something. But it didn’t complete the job. After ten or fifteen seconds, we realized nothing more was happening. Hote still had a nasty gash in his side, but it was not oozing blood, and he wasn’t coughing either.
On the other hand, I felt weak and dizzy, drained like you get after several hours of hard work. That hadn’t happened when I did the earlier spell. Maybe because I’m not really a healer…? Face it, I have no effing idea.
“It worked,” said Seejay. “You did it, girl!”
Again with the “girl”?
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