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[Fiction] Jager - There's a Little Jager in Everyone

Doctor Nova Madigan

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"You wanted to see me?" asked Jager, framed in the open doorway.

Anne "Sandcaster" Vincenne looked up from the endless pile of paperwork on her desk and smiled. "When have I not?" she chuckled. "Please, come in. Close the door behind you."

Jager reached for the doorknob and froze. What the--? he thought, perplexed. The image that he beheld was not the one he had been expecting. Slowly his raised his hand and turned it over, peering at it curiously. His hand was slender, small, dark, and unmasculine. It looked like--

He felt a gentle pull on his forearm, and turned to face Sandcaster, who had crossed the office while he'd been gaping at his hand. She'd taken his arm in hers. She reached past him and pulled the door closed. There was something unusual in her eyes--

Wait a moment! Jager thought. Sandcaster doesn't look me in the eye! I'm much taller than she is!

"Kayla, what's the matter?" asked Sandcaster, concerned.

Jager looked around in puzzlement. As he did, he noticed his reflection in the mirror over Anne's credenza, and stopped in shock. From the mirror, Kayla "Stormwarden" Ravenwing stared back at him. With a startled squeak, he sat down heavily into the plush chair which faced Anne's desk. He didn't sink as far into it as he was accustomed.

Anne was by his side instantly. She half-crouched by the chair, one hand on his shoulder, her other hand holding his. "Kayla?" she asked again. "What's the matter?"

Jager squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed at them. He took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. Okay, he told himself. Just figure this out, one step at a time. He opened his eyes, ready to explain his situation to Sandcaster.

Neil Preston's large brown puppy-dog eyes shone at him from across a kitchen table piled with empty breakfast dishes. Tropical sun shone through an open window, and the smells of an elaborate breakfast filled his lungs.

"Oh, aha." Jager startled, taken aback at the abrubt change in location.

Neil smiled. "Still worried about getting into med school?" he asked.

"No, uh, I mean," Jager began, uncertainly. His voice sounded strange to his ears. He caught his mental balance, and scrambled to assemble the facts. If that's Neil Preston, and that's Brazil outside, then I must be in--

"Flicker!" shouted an annoyed girl's voice from an adjacent room. "Are you finished eating yet? Procyon expected me in Chicago ten minutes ago!"

Neil smiled at Jager, then shouted into the other room at Meghan "Girl Made of Titanium" Cutter. "Meghan, be cool, will you? We're almost done in here!" Neil shrugged and winked at Jager, as if to say what can ya do?

Jager winced, and looked at his hands. They flickered in and out of complete transparency in no obvious pattern.

Flicker; Nova Madigan, he thought. No wonder I feel so powerless. How does she survive in a body so weak? Still, she can teleport. That's helpful. Jager concentrated his thoughts on Anne's office in the Windy City Knight's headquarters building and closed his eyes.

When he reopened them, he found himself sitting up in bed, propped against the headboard. Rumpled sheets covered him, and the comforter had been kicked onto the floor. With a quick glance around the room, he recognized that he was back in his own apartment in the WCK's HQ building.

"Not quite what I had in mind," he sighed. Nevertheless, he smiled happily. Jager jumped out of the bed and crossed to the full-length mirror that hung on his closet's door. From the mirror, Jager looked back at him.

"Yes!" he cheered, pumping his fist in the air. "Still," he continued to himself, "I ought to go talk to Anne about this. This is freaky weird." He rummaged around in his bureau for some underwear. Pulling on a pair of boxer shorts, he suddenly froze.

His shower was running.

"Who the--?" he wondered.

The shower stopped, and Jager could hear the rustle of the shower curtain being opened and closed. Jager dropped into a combat crouch and crab-walked toward the bathroom door. He steadied himself and prepared to pounce as the doorknob turned, and the door opened toward him, revealing--

"Crusader?" Jager asked, relaxing from his ready stance.

"And a good morning to you too, Jager!" boomed Sam "The Crusader" Hill in his unnecessarily-loud baritone. Sam whipped a towel though his wet hair, and smiled broadly at Jager, displaying even rows of perfectly-matched teeth. Sam was buck naked, and made no effort at all to cover himself up. Jager focused his entire will into maintaining eye contact with Sam.

"Crusader," Jager began, calling forth words as slowly and cautiously as he could. "You're naked. You're naked and you're in my bathroom. Why are you naked in my bathroom?"

Sam took one colossal stride to Jager's side and wrapped a damp and meaty arm around Jager's shoulders. "Well, brave huntsman," he started, "That's a funny question." He kissed Jager on the cheek. He lowered his voice and actually whispered: "I think it's because we spent last night 'wrestling,' if you know what I mean."

Still wrapped in Sam's embrace, Jager slowly turned his head and looked back at his bed. Oh Jesus God, he thought. Please don't let there be--

A small damp spot marked the center of his bed.

Jager snapped. Screaming like a wildman, he squirmed from Sam's grasp and spun to the middle of his room, and pointed angrily at Sam. "Nobody knows! Nobody will ever know! Or so help me God, I will BURN OUT YOUR BRAIN!"

He bolted from his apartment and sprinted down the corridor in his boxer shorts. He turned the corner at the end of the hallway, toward the elevators, and dodged around a gnarled walnut tree.

What the? Jager thought, skidding to a stop on the loamy soil. He looked around. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of leaves, and the dank scents of the woodlands filled his nostrils.

"Wuth?" he asked, and startled as a squirrel carcass dropped from his mouth. Spitting bits of fur, he turned in a circle, and saw only forest all around him. Puzzled, he bent over and examined the dead squirrel. It had been bitten through, he could see.

He extended his paw to the squirrel to pick it up. His fur was a silvery-grey color.

Oh, no, he thought. No. No. No. No. No. I am not Silvertalon. He put his paws to his head and squeezed his eyes shut in frustration. His tail thrashed in annoyance. Anything would be better than this, he thought.

When he opened his eyes again, he found himself strapped to a gurney. Harsh white light nearly blinded him. His head throbbed, and his ears rang. Jager tried to move, and found that he was bound securely by the wrists, ankles, elbows, and around his chest. From out of his range of vision, he heard someone speaking, as if dictating experimental notes.

"Subject number fifty-eight erupted with the typical pattern and unremarkable abilities," the voice said without emotion, "but unexpected equipment failure prevented me from getting the scans that I had wanted. As usual, I'm keeping its node in check for my own safety without any real effort." Footsteps echoed as the voice paced around the room. "A pity," it continued. "I'd actually had somewhat high hopes for this one."

White Rat walked to the cabinet at the foot of the gurney and picked up a handgun.

"No!" Jager gasped in terror, through the haze of torture and eruption-induced agony.

Without another word, White Rat squeezed the trigger, and Jager's world exploded in a thunderclap.

With a wracking groan, Jager arched violently on the bed, and lurched upright. Gasping, he looked around. Instead of harsh clinical light, he was in subdued darkness. He looked up, and a poster of Jennifer "Slider" Landers looked back down at him.

Jager rolled to a sitting position on the bed and looked around. The bed's comforter was pink and lacy. He looked at his hands. They were smooth and petite, and the blue-grey color of titanium.

Someone knocked on the bedroom's closed door. "Meghan?" asked a woman's voice, "Are you okay in there?"

"I'm fine," Jager answered, startled by how high-pitched his voice sounded.

"Okay," the voice replied. "If you're having the nightmares again, you know you can talk to me or Neil about it, Right?" She sounded concerned.

That's Flicker, Jager quickly realized.

"I'm fine, Flicker," Jager repeated.

"All right," she replied. Flicker's footfalls became faint as she walked away.

Jager jumped to his feet and took in his surroundings. Meghan Cutter's bedroom was sparsely decorated, and her Apple OpBook Pro Titanium caught his eye from its place on her desk.

He opened the laptop and found his way to the OpNet browser, and pointed it at his Windy City Knights mailbox. A message in his inbox caught his eye, as it bore his name in both the "to:" and "from:" fields. Jager clicked on it, and it opened up an audio player.

"Hey, Jager, good to see ya," his own voice said to him from the laptop's speakers. "Listen very closely, okay? You've come unstuck in time and space and reality, and you're randomly hopping around in alternate timelines and realities, but always in the body of some other nova than yourself."

"No kidding," Jager said sourly.

"What you need to do is just calm down and enjoy the ride, okay?" Jager's voice continued. "I've figured out how to stop the process, and from here on, things are good on this end; but you're going to have to finish out all the steps in-between or it'll mess up the continuity, and you'll be back to square one, okay? Don't do anything that seems inappropriate from here on, got it? Don't tell people you're Jager. Just go with whatever happens. Pretend to be whoever. When you find yourself back home--" Jager's disembodied voice laughed, "When you're back home and The Crusader is not in your shower, you'll really be home for the last time, okay buddy?"

Jager sighed. At least it will eventually end, he thought.

"Oh, one more thing," Jager's voice laughed from the tinny laptop speakers. "Say hi to Wakinyan for me. You have a date with him in your future. Over Las Vegas."

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