Taking a risk, but not much of one, I switched the view from sonar to computer enhanced night vision. That gave Haley and me an excellent view of the dragon running down a street in between big suburban houses, unknowingly tearing up flowerbeds, and smashing a Volkswagen Beetle.
As Artaxus smashed a silvery, reflecting ball on a pillar, the air in front of him began to shimmer.
In the next moment, the shimmering had spread across the road, and solidified into a half circle. The dragon blocked much of the view, but I could see a grassy field and a castle wall towering over it.
It was day there, and the grass seemed somehow greener or more lush than anything I’d seen in the real world.
A few lawn gnomes that must have been real gnomes ran for the opening and stepped through, one of them pausing to give the finger to the house he’d been standing in front of.
If I remembered correctly, that house had a dog.
Then Artaxus turned and shouted words in a language I didn’t know—Dragon, maybe? Whatever it was, winds blew and faerie creatures began appearing on the ground near him. Most of them were hurt—broken arms, legs, and bloody gashes. A few were sleeping or somehow unconscious. Their eyes widened as they appeared. A few stumbled.
Trolls, goblins, elves, and unrecognizable fae, they ran for the castle after reorienting themselves.
When they’d all crossed, the dragon followed. The opening shimmered, shrunk, and finally disappeared.
I don’t know how many it was, but it seemed like a lot, possibly hundreds. I didn’t count.
Haley put down her rifle. “I can’t believe it’s over.”
She stared down the street. Nothing remained of the gateway, and so she turned back to me. “Can you fly? We need to get you to a healer. Me too, but you’re doing worse.”
“Yeah, I guess.” I still couldn’t move my fingers while Haley’s broken arm was still in the bandage Samita made.
Thinking about it more, I said, “I wonder if maybe someone could come here? It hurts around my wrist, but I can’t feel my hand and fingers at all.”
Haley gave my hand a long look. “Maybe we should talk to Amy. She said that whatever she can do would work better on her, but even if it worked a little on you now, it might help. I don’t want to scare you, but your hand smells cooked. I don’t know how the different kinds of healing work, but part of your hand has to be dead. I don’t know what they’d do about that.”
I pressed the button that opened the hatch, letting it open all the way this time. The spots that had blackened and burned in the face of the dragon’s fire had already repaired themselves. A glance toward the cliff as I stepped out showed the missing leg on one of the mech’s screens. It was moving slowly toward the mech, getting ready to reattach itself.
I could only wish my hand worked as well.
Not completely paying attention, I stumbled on the lip of the hatch and nearly fell. I tried to grab the mech to steady myself, but missed. Haley grabbed my arm, so I didn’t fall.
“Are you alright?” She asked as I finished steadying myself.
“I think so. It was just a mistake. I don’t feel like I’m confused or anything.”
“Good.” She followed me out. “Could you maybe take off your helmet? I’m still worried about shock.”
I almost said no because I didn’t feel that bad, but taking off the helmet sounded good. A few taps later, the helmet melted into the suit.
It felt good. The night was cool, but not cold, and the slight breeze felt better than a helmet no matter how well the suit’s life support systems worked.
Haley’s hand touched my cheek. “Your skin feels normal. That’s good. Um… I’m going to call people.”
She pulled out her League phone.
Glad that she had the presence of mind to do that, I wondered if maybe I was little off.
Amy and Lee turned toward us. The red veins in Amy’s armor glowed red in the night. She’d taken her helmet off too. Lee looked me over, his eyes stopping on my hand.
Amy met my eyes. “Your hand is in terrible shape. I wish I could help, but that’s beyond me.”
Lee, still appearing as Gunther, shrugged, “It will work out. Whatever happens, it’ll work out.”
Haley put her phone back into her pocket. “It will. Daniel woke Alex up, and he’s sending him down.”
Not much after she said it, Alex floated down the side of the cliff. He wasn’t under his own power. Daniel stood at the edge of the cliff, watching, and telepathically told me, Sorry, I’d come down except that Samita and I are tag teaming everybody’s wake up right now.
It was okay, and I told him so.
Alex touched down as I did. Tall with sun bleached hair, Alex generally exuded a relaxed surfer attitude, but not right now. He stared at my gauntleted hand. “Holy shit, Nick. It’s mostly dead, and I can’t raise the dead.”
I didn’t have words at first, but I managed to say, “So, you can’t do anything? We… amputate?”
“I didn’t say that. Could you hold your hand out?”
I did, and he took my arm. “Your armor looks perfect. You’d never know you’d been in a fight. Was it off when this happened?”
“No. The armor fixes itself.”
Alex nodded. “Well, let’s see if we can convince your hand to do the same thing. I’m going to reconstruct it.”