As it wrapped around my thigh, the limb felt warm and smooth, almost like plastic, but then it changed, becoming hot, painfully hot. It began to burn. I screamed, and blacked out.
And okay, that was the best thing that could have happened. “Hurt” doesn’t hold a candle to what I felt. I felt like I was nothing but pain. I felt like it was burning through the skin and into my leg.
It felt like that because that’s exactly what it was doing.
I woke to the smell of charcoal. I didn’t want to, but I opened my eyes.
I lay on the concrete floor. The best thing I could say about my leg was that it hadn’t been burned completely through, but that’s not saying much. If all I could have seen of my leg were the burned part, I might have confused it with the remains of a campfire.
Worse, I could see the skin around it. The thing must have burned two inches in.
On the bright side, if you call it a bright side, I could feel myself healing. For me, it wasn’t much of a bright side. Healed nerves could feel how badly I’d been burned.
Less than ten feet away from me, Rod fought the glowing guy, and it wasn’t going well.
His clothes were on fire in spots, and a long, red streak ran down his forearm. An uglier burn covered his right cheek. Blistered, it dripped blood.
Rod punched and missed, finding his arm wrapped in burning tentacles. Screaming, he pulled back, yanking the glowing man forward. The tentacles let go, stopping the man from falling to the floor.
Not that Rod would have been able to take advantage of it. He’d backed up, and was staring down at his forearm.
I couldn’t see it well, but looked like it had been left on the grill too long.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure what he would have been able to do even if he’d gone on the attack. If he’d hit the guy, he’d just get burned again.
I needed to help him. This was my plan. My fault that it hadn’t worked, and it looked like this guy might be able to kill Rod.
And let’s be honest, maybe me too.
While I was being honest, I had to ask myself what I thought I was going to do? Hit it with my staff? Yeah, that would help a lot. I wished for maybe the hundredth time that my sword were with me.
Trying to move my leg, I felt a twinge of pain, but it moved.
I looked at my leg again, and it was better. Not normal, but I could see new, pink skin through cracks in the charring, and the damaged part of my thigh was just as thick as the rest.
Something hit the floor behind me. I pushed myself up, discovering that the Nine’s men were following the glowing guy—not closely because they might get their faces burned off, but following.
The guy who’d whistled at me stood in front of them, fumbling for his gun.
“Hey ugly,” I said, and swung an electrified end of my staff into his crotch.
He flailed around for a second and fell on his face.
I turned around before he even hit the ground, and ran toward Rod. With a click on the button that shrank the staff, I dove, and rolled past the glowing tentacles, and came to my feet near Rod.
“Door,” I shouted at him.
A tentacle swung at me, but, I ducked and it hit the wall.
I jumped, landing in front of the door as Rod turned, crossing the same distance in a step.
Problem was, two burning tentacles hit him in the back, going through his shirt to burn his skin.
Rod bellowed in pain, and it felt like my eardrums were going to pop. Even the glowing guy took a step back—whatever a step is when you’ve got a dozen glowing legs.
Rod stumbled into the wall next to the door, hitting the ceiling with his head, and chunks of concrete fell to the floor.
Roaring, he turned back around and punched the glowing man’s body, knocking the man backwards into the Nine’s men, tentacles flying in every direction, some of them burning deeply into their bodies.
Meanwhile Rod’s roar had turned into a scream of pain.
The glowing man pulled himself up, and Rod backed away, following me back into the room.
I caught a glimpse of his hand. The first two knuckles had turned black with char, but he could still move the fingers. Well, a little.
Trolls. Scary tough.
Not tough enough though. Most of his body had burns. He went down to one knee on the floor of the lab, and changed back to normal—just a masked man in a long coat.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “You can’t do anything now.”
“Did you see me get fucking burned again and again?” He held himself up by hanging on to a desk.
So maybe he’d been hurt worse than I thought. Could Sam do something for him? If I had a second, I could have asked her.
Except I didn’t. The glowing man stepped through the door.
“This will be your only chance to surrender. Do it, or I’ll kill you where you stand.”
In my mind, a voice said, “AHEM.”