This one is in the same universe as Dredges No. 1, but the stories are different. And yes, I know that the character’s motivation is really lame. I might finish the story-line at some point, but perhaps not.
I ran as fast as I could through the trees, heart pounding and breath hitching in my throat. I could hear the dogs barking behind me, determined to reach the owner of the scent trail that they had been following for some time now, long enough for the sky to go from light to dark.
I slipped on some pine needles and skidded, clutching the vial to my chest to protect it. I slid down an embankment and slammed into a tree. I knew the hounds were gaining, and their human counterparts not far behind, but at least dogs couldn’t climb.
I gripped the vial gently between my teeth, and found a handhold. I scrambled up, overexerted legs straining, until I reached the highest branch that could hold me. I could hear the dogs snuffling at the base of the tree, trying to find a way up.
After a few moments I could hear the heavier, steadier steps of some of the handlers, thankfully they were waiting for the people paying them to tell them what to do, so I was free from the need for action at that exact moment.
Eventually I heard the sound of another person walking up, clearly one of the scientists. And a voice came ringing up, directed at me, “You can come down, it’s ok. We’ll ensure that you are never bothered and get plenty of compensation. Just give us the vial back and we promise to let you go.”
I would have sworn at whomever was talking if it wouldn’t have taken breath that I still didn’t have, “Yeah, no.” I finally managed to rasp out.
The scientist was responding, sounding a bit more irritated now, “Really, it would be in your best interest to give it back. We would let you go on your way and would ensure that you were left alone, as well as plenty of payment. All you would need to do was give us the vial.”
“And really, it would be in your best interest to shut the hell up and stop trying to convince me.” I was uncorking the bottle now, hoping that I would have enough time to close it and set it down safely before I shifted. At least I hoped that I would shift, still in a bit of the experimental phases.
I heard the scientist say to one of the handlers to go up and get me. Not on my watch. I took a sip, hoping that it didn’t need to be injected to work. I corked the bottle, set it down in the little split of two branches, and thought of ospreys. Although perhaps not the first choice of many, they were strong, and I had vivid memories of watching them as a child.
It worked, but it was not fun. My human sized bones had to shift to those of a medium sized bird, as well as everything else, skin, sinew, muscles. Just when I was sure that something had gone very wrong and I was going to be a bloody whimpering mess, my human cry turned to the screeching one of a bird’s.
How long had that taken? The handler must almost be to where I was at this point. I snatched up the vial in my talons and leapt off the branch just as the handler scrambled up. I had just enough time to see his look of surprise and then I was falling.
Some new instinct told me to ease out my wings, catching the wind beneath them, followed by flapping and finding warmer banks of air to raise me higher and help me glide. For just a moment all my worries and tiredness disappeared, replaced by pure exaltation; I was flying, not in the belly of some great craft, but with my own wings.
I shook my head, and got back on track, heading towards the city. My claws easily held the vial steady, keeping it from dropping to an un-ceremonious end.
I had been a book-keeper at the lab, simply a menial desk job to pay my way through college. I suppose the scientists must have assumed that a silly college student would be too sleep deprived, as well as overloaded with work and life, to really pay attention to what they were doing. Idiots.
I of course, trying to have an interest in what I did, noticed something a bit odd about the records and profits I was typing into my computer for a few hours each day. They were getting funded for almost no work; sure they had a few helpful products, but not enough to explain their average revenue.
So I took a few shifts for the person manning and entering what they bought for their research, and it contained, once again, oddness. They were buying only the materials for the things that they were selling, but for far more for each than they used to make them, as well as the question on how they were still making a profit.
I had considered ways to get information on what they were doing. And had found out that there was a group of people that had noticed the same things. I worked to ensure that they were genuine, or as genuine as I could tell, and they added up.
I ended up joining them, and had been doing a scouting mission of the lab when I had found the vials. I reported what the notes that I had read had said, as well as the pictures. Those bloody scientists had created a shape-shifting drug.
We planned that I would go in, try to snag a vial of the stuff, and if I could, destroy the other drugs. Then high-tail it to a virtually unknown spot in the city where our former scientist (he had left because he hated the treatment of the testing animals) would be ready to analyze what was in it and how to make it.
We might not have interfered if the scientists’ notes if they hadn’t been speculating on how to keep it from the public, as well as possibly using it for warfare. It would not stand. It had been decided that something so amazing should not be kept from the populace.
I spiraled down to the decided upon location, swooping back through a window (thankfully open) and skittering down on the desk that Thane was scratching notes at.
He looked at me with surprise for a moment, then realized what must have happened. He grinned, taking the vial. I pecked at his hand, a firm indication of ‘Oy give me that.’ He frowned, “Sorry Sules. I really am, but I actually agree with the scientists. They needed help managing to catch whoever was working against them. If you had just given them back the vial they would have let you go, honestly, but you didn’t. And they couldn’t simply take in anyone for trying to sabotage them with no evidence besides simple meetings that could have amounted to nothing. But they can now jail the entire group. Fools, the lot of you.”
I swore at him then, but sadly it just sounded like “Skraw, skrik, scree skrik screck craw.” I just said it really angrily.
First things first, I had to get back to human. I leapt forward, taking a chunk out of the hand holding the vial. He dropped it, allowing me to catch it and fly to a high ledge where I had a few seconds to uncork it with my beak, and manage to get a bit of the liquid.
I then thought of myself, and my human body. It was much the same as the first time, simply in reverse. Thankfully I somehow still had my cloths, not even sure how that worked.
Although I did run into the problem that my weight on the rather flimsy shelf caused it to break away from its spot on the wall, falling down and taking me with it. I had managed to grab the vial and cork, keeping them from the shelf’s fate.
I corked the vial and stood, making for the exit. It would have been foolish to fight, I was grossly out matched in weight and strength, so running was my best chance. I would have made it, if the stupid guards who must have been sent with Thane in case I was difficult (what else would I be, happy) didn’t tackle me, and have chloroform.
I managed to utter out a little comment before I passed out, “Bastard.”
I woke up zip-tied to a chair. Seriously, zip ties. I think I have used those things once in my life, to fix a shelf. Zip ties are nice, they just kind of sit there, looking inconspicuous. Their apparent chair-tying potential well hidden. Stupid zip ties.
My impromptu thought-rant about zip ties made me pretty sure that my head was still a bit muzzy from the chloroform.
I heard footsteps, making me think to look around at where I was. I was in a chair in one of those perfectly white rooms that you see in scfi and medical dramas. They are quite painful on the eyes.
The source of the noise walked in, a tall woman, fairly good looking. Although the tray of vials and syringes decreased her attractiveness by a large amount.
She regarded me, “Miss Redatha I assume.”
“Seriously, zip ties. Have you heard of five-fifty cord?”
She looked a bit confused. Clearly I was going with the tactic of “confuse the hell out of them.”
“Zip ties have been proven to work well as restraints.”
“Wait, people actually put time and effort into figuring out what restraints work the best? Who was paying them, Mad Scientists Inc.?”
And my tactic was apparently turning into “annoy the hell out of them.” Smart.
“Thanks to your lovely job of stealing our newest test material. You have both gotten us jurisdiction to arrest at least one group of people who oppose us, and made sure that the drug doesn’t kill humans. Lovely work. Now since you are written off in the record books as dead from a fiery car crash you get to help us keep testing.”
“What the hell? I’m legally dead? I think faking someone’s death and using them as a dammed lab rat is a worse crime than stealing something.”
She shrugged, “That’s why we work hard to keep people from escaping. Now, you get to benefit scientific research.”
She pulled out one of the empty needles, tied off my arm, and swabbed the vein (facing upwards for your illegal scientific testing convenience). She stuck the needle in and drew a bit of blood.
She set that aside and pulled out one filled with liquid, “Now to see if this is a working solution to keep someone from shape shifting from the drug.”
“Damn. Damn you. Hell-dammit-no.” I get so very literate when angry.
She ignored my deep thoughts on the matter of being a human test subject and stuck the needle in my arm anyway. She then drew my blood again, took out another needle, this one with a recognizable blue substance in it, injected it into my arm, and cut the zip ties on my wrists and ankles.
“You are clearly not skilled in situations when you’re trying to keep people from attacking are you?”
She simply inclined her head towards the two heavily armored security standing in the doorway, both with guns trained on me, then raised an eyebrow.
“I suggest that you attempt to shift into something, quickly. The effects of the energy of the drug, unused, can be quite catastrophic. We were cleaning rat off the ceiling for months.”
I tried to avoid the mental image, and when that didn’t work, envisioned tigers. Big toothy tigers, with sharp claws.
It felt like before, but the whole “I’m on fire from the inside” thing didn’t stop so quickly, and while the rational side of my brain was reassuring me that I was fine, the pain sensing part of my brain was letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that everything was not fine and you should really not feel like this.
The pain sensing part of my brain won and I blacked out.