1) This story is set in the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow. Thanks for letting me use it.
2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, then I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, then I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
3) I will accept any legitimate criticism of my work. However, I reserve the right to ignore anyone who says "That's wrong" without showing how it is wrong, and suggesting how it can be made right. Posting negative reviews from an anonymous account is a good way to have said reviews deleted.
Part One: Inception
I was flying, chill air flowing past stretched membranes. Gliding, then flapping again, arm and shoulder muscles aching.
I've never done this before. How do I know how to do it? Instinct?
I hope it gets easier.
Below, buildings slid past. A city. The buildings were old, decrepit. Somehow, I knew that I was flying east. Toward the ocean that beckoned.
Why am I flying? How am I flying? Why are my arms wings now? Why am I flying toward the ocean?
I stopped flapping for a few moments, allowed myself to glide once more. The wind drummed over the expanse of red-gold membrane that made up my wings, stretched between what had once been my fingers, my arms. Covered in fine scales, of the same colour as my wings, that winked back pinpoints of light in the weak January sunlight.
I didn't know. I wasn't sure of much. I had only been flying for a few minutes, but where I was flying from was less certain than where I was flying to.
Even who I was was uncertain. My name …
"Who am I?" I tried to ask out loud. My jaws opened; I got the impression of a muzzle, and a croaking screech was all I heard. My tongue tasted the air, then ran over my teeth. Fangs, rather; all sharp, and far more than I'd had before …
How do I know that?
I didn't know how I knew. I knew I was human, despite my current shape. Which I knew little enough of, to be honest. Arms turned into wings, check. Red-gold scales, check. Muzzle, check.
The buildings below were beginning to get uncomfortably close. I summoned up more energy, began flapping once more. A cross-wind buffeted me; I shifted to compensate, using my tail as balance and rudder both – tail?
A glance over my shoulder showed that yes, I had a tail. Looking down and under myself showed legs, folded up beneath me, covered in … something. Something that stank.
I now knew why I was flying toward the ocean.
I needed water.
Lots of water.
The ocean was close, now. This was a good thing. My arms were tired. A joke surfaced in my mind – I just flew in from New York, and boy my arms are tired – and it didn't seem so funny any more.
In the ocean ahead, in the bay – Brockton Bay, I recalled. The city below was named for the bay – was a technological citadel, a home for the Protectorate. I blinked, eyelids moving in odd ways, as memories slotted into place. That long street is called Lord Street. And that's the Boardwalk.
I jolted in midair as the voice called out beside me; so focused had I been on my own emerging thoughts that I hadn't paid attention to my surroundings. My wings lost purchase on the air and I dropped a dozen feet before I corrected that. When I was gliding properly once more, I risked a glance sideways.
There, paralleling me, was a teenage girl; white-clad, wearing a tiara over her blonde hair. She was keeping pace with me fairly easily, almost lounging in the air. Right. For her it's easy.
A name surfaced in my memory. Glory Girl.
Okay, so I can remember everyone else's names. Why not mine?
Forgetting my inability to vocalise, I tried to reply. "Uh, hi?"
What I got was, "Ooo-ah?" In a sort of screechy, velociraptor sort of accent.
She frowned, marring that perfect brow. "Can't talk English?"
Closing my muzzle – not wanting her to think that I was about to try to attack her with my startlingly large collection of needle-sharp teeth – I nodded firmly, then shook my head.
"Yes, no?" She paused. "Can't talk, can understand?"
This time, I nodded vigorously.
" … ah, right. Okay, gotta ask you to land, so I can talk to you, okay?"
Looking down, I saw that we were crossing Lord Street. I angled my wings into a dive.
"Hey!" she shouted, catching up, even as I accelerated. "I'm talking to you, here!"
How do I say, "I know, but I've got to do this?" in dinosaur? It was a conundrum.
The cool waters, twinkling in the morning sunlight, were just ahead, coming up fast. I angled into a steeper dive.
"Hey!" yelled Glory Girl, reaching for me. I twitched my wing out of the way, rolling smoothly to the side. Huh, something I can do.
She tried again; I barrel-rolled over her, and folded my wings back.
"You can't dodge forever -" she began, and then we hit the water.
Cool silence surrounded me. I spread my wings once more, letting myself float in the dimness. The dreadful things that had been clinging to my legs drifted off, floated away, as I kicked. I rolled my eyes upward, the nictitating membranes allowing me to see clearly, even under water. Glory Girl was gathering herself, flying upward, leaving just ripples behind.
I would have to follow soon; although at home in the water, I didn't have gills. So I folded my arms against my sides once more; my legs kicked and my tail waved, and I started toward the surface.
As I moved upward, so did more memories emerge from the darkness.
"Hey, there she is."
"Fuck, I nearly didn't see her."
"Is it just me, or is she even skinnier than before Christmas?"
"Anyone else has a Christmas dinner – Hebert has a Christmas puke."
"She just has to look in the mirror."
I ventured through the halls of Winslow, seeking my locker. I had imagined that they were letting up over November and December, but it must have been a ploy to get my guard down. They certainly weren't letting up now.
"She's so skinny that she has to run around in the shower to get wet."
"Mustn't do it all that much. I can smell her from here."
"Pee-yew! She probably took a puke just before she came in here."
Maybe it was just the power of suggestion, but I could smell something horrible now, too. My cheeks burning from the hurtful words – I never asked to be skinny – I hunched my shoulders and walked past them.
"So how old do you think she'll be before she actually grows breasts?"
"I don't think there's that many years on the calendar."
"Well, it's not like she'll need them – she's too ugly and skinny to ever get a boyfriend."
"I hear that when she goes for a walk in the park, all the perverts button up their raincoats and go home."
"She'd need a boob job just to get the tits of a twelve year old."
"A twelve year old boy."
Trying not to listen, I reached my locker. A rancid smell emanated from it. I knew, with a sinking feeling, that they had done something to it. Something horrible. But, just as it's almost impossible to look away from a train wreck, I couldn't not see what was inside the locker.
Bending over the lock, I entered the combination. Concentrating on ignoring the stink, I didn't look behind me.
That was my mistake.
I emerged from the water feeling much cleaner; my speed put me a good body-length above the water. This gave me the chance to get my wings into operation; spraying salt water in all directions, I rose into the air.
This time, I was less than surprised; Glory Girl hovered there, looking a little more bedraggled than before. Her skirt hung damply, her blonde hair was flat against her head, and she had lost the tiara. She also looked less than impressed.
I gave her my best inquiring look. She pointed toward the beach. "Land. Now."
She could fly faster than me; although I was much better under water, I didn't really want to tangle with her. Angling forward, I glided toward the beach. Fortunately, this being January, it was almost totally unpopulated; I came in for a neat landing on the hard wet sand just above where the tiny waves washed back and forth, and folded my wings. Due to my odd body shape, I had to lean forward a little, large clawed feet gripping the sand and my tail balancing from behind.
Glory Girl alighted beside me and looked at me, folding her arms. Carefully, I straightened up so that we were eye to eye. "Okay," she asked, "so who are you?"
Opening my mouth, I replied with an unintelligible screech.
Closing her eyes as if in pain, she rubbed her forehead. "You can't speak any English at all?"
That was easy; I shook my head.
"Uh … okay. You're human, yeah?"
After a moment of hesitation, I nodded.
"Are you a case fifty-three?"
I paused, blinking. Then I shrugged; with wings that could cover maybe twenty feet of span, and elbows that now almost touched the ground - would touch the ground if I just leaned forward a bit more - I could really shrug.
"Okay, let's make that a maybe. Do you remember who you are?"
I was trapped inside the locker, unable to get out. Taunting laughter from outside, fading away. I couldn't get out. I struggled, screamed. I wasn't good enough to get out. Not strong enough.
"Too skinny and ugly ..."
There was a moment of discontinuity. Things began to change.
I began to change. I had strength now; I had muscle. I pushed at the door, ripped at it with the talons on my feet. It resisted. I opened my mouth, inhaled the noxious fumes.
What came from my mouth was more in the nature of an explosion than mere flame; perhaps I was igniting something in the mess beneath me. In any case, it wrecked the locker, bending the ones on either side to hell and gone. I sprawled on the floor, struggled to my feet. My clothes were gone; I wore a new form. Red-gold scales, arms lengthened into wings, a strong tail behind. I did not fit any more into any reasonable definition of 'human'. I had to get out of here. I had to clean the stink of Winslow from me.
I ran, scuttled, down the hallway. Burst out through the doors. Spread my wings for the very first time.
The ocean was east. I flew that way.
I reached out with a wingtip, and in the hard sand, I wrote, MY NAME IS TAYLOR HEBERT.
As she absorbed that, I added three more words.
PLEASE HELP ME.
End of Part One