The first thing Tony noticed when he regained consciousness was the pain. His whole body ached and his shoulder felt like someone stabbed him there with a knife. He felt lightheaded and his thoughts were clouded as if he was on some kind of drugs. Even without opening his eyes, Tony knew he was in a hospital. The smell of disinfectant and hospital made him always uneasy. He took a deep breath and tried to pry his eyes open.
There were two other men in the hospital room with him: The first one was 5’6” tall with short curly hair and blue eyes. He sat next to the bed while the other was leaned against the opposite wall, arms folded over his chest. He was with 6’1” slightly taller, had straight brown hair and blue eyes. Tony knew he should know them, they looked so familiar. He searched in his memory for the two men and finally blinked a few times. He couldn’t believe that the Alpha Prime Pair of North America was in his room. Maybe the painkillers they gave him here made him imagine things. In the end, he cleared his throat. “Um. Hi”
“Good morning sleepy head. How are you feeling? Do you need more painkillers? I can feel your pain, man.” the curly haired man said.
“Not to be rude, but what are you doing here? I mean, you are Dr. Blair Sandburg, the freaking Alpha Prime Guide of the US. Don’t you have better things to do than watching me sleep? And thank you, but no. Painkillers make me loopy and I think I’ll need my mind as clear as possible for this conversation.”
The man sitting next to him laughed a little. “Please call me Blair. Do you remember what happened?”
Tony tried to remember what had happened that would’ve caused the Alpha Primes to come to DC, but he couldn't make sense of it. “Tony and I'm guessing you don't mean the fight I had. I can’t remember anything after that. I’m sorry.”
It was Jim who replied. "The fight triggered you to come online."
Tony sighed unhappily. He didn't know how to react to this message. He knew he was a latent Guide, but when his bout with the plague couldn't bring him online, he had accepted that he would never come online. Why now? It wasn’t his first fight, it wasn’t even the first time he almost died. Then something else occurred to him. “But that doesn’t explain why you’re here with me. I’m pretty sure a lot of Sentinels and Guides come online on a daily basis. You can’t possible visit every single one of them. So the question remains: Why me?”
Blair smiled reassuring at him. “Alpha Guide Rabb from the DC center called us after you came online. Your awakening was extreme traumatic and caused quite an empathetic event. Your distress could be felt by Guides hundreds of miles away. I can’t say for sure until you’ve been tested, but I’d guess you’re at least a level nine or ten Guide, maybe even a ten plus Guide like me.”
“You think I’m a Shaman?”, Tony asked in disbelieve. He couldn't even get used to the idea of being online, let alone being one of the most powerful Guides in the US. Shamans or ten plus Guides have always been very rare and very powerful. So far, Alpha Prime Guide Sandburg has been the online Shaman in North America. Tony normally adapts easily to changes, but this was huge, like mega huge. How could he possible adapt to something like that? He tried to calm himself down and took a few deep breaths. “Okay. What now?”
“When Dr. Pitt clears you for a transfer, you’ll be moved to the D.C. S&G center, where you’ll get the appropriate medical care for a newly online Guide and we’ll verify your levels as soon as you’re physical fit enough for the test. If the test confirms my assumption, I’ll teach you how to be a Shaman, should you be a regular high-level Guide, we’ll discuss with Rabb who would be the best choice to train you and how to organize your training. Then after we set you up in the center and gave you time to settle in, the FBI and your people from NCIS will want to talk to you about what happened at your partners apartment.”
“What did exactly happen? How did I get out of there alive? The last thing I remember is fighting with Rivkin. I think we fell on some kind of glass table, then suddenly I had this huge pressure in my head and everything went black. There might have been a roar like a tiger or lion or something like that, but I’m not sure. That could have been just my imagination, because of the sudden headache.”
That made Blair laugh. “The roar was probably your spirit animal, not an imagination – a beautiful white tiger. He was in your bed when we arrived and didn’t let anyone near you besides Dr. Pitt and us. He vanished after we occupied your room. As for what happened, you might have lost consciousness, but you managed somehow to fire up the synapses in your opponents head with your gifts.”
“I killed him? I killed him with my head? I killed him although I was already unconsciousness? ” That didn’t just shock Tony, it outright frightened him. “No wonder the FBI and NCIS want to talk to me. That’s-, that’s-, that’s terrible. I mean-”
“Hey!” Jim's angry voice interrupted his panicked stutter. “Yes, you killed him, but it was self-defense. It’s the same as using your weapon or a knife to defend yourself. You used what you had to safe your life.”
“No buts. The FBI already classified it as self-defense, the interview is just a technicality. I don’t know what your colleagues will have to say, but you won’t be alone for the interviews.”
Somehow it was utterly comforting that he didn’t have to go through all this alone. And yes, Jim was right, it was self-defense and he would probably be dead by now, if it wasn’t for his gifts. But the fact that he killed someone while unconsciousness was still frightening, self-defense or not. How could he live with something like that. How could he learn to control stuff like this. Hopefully Blair could help him with that before he killed some innocent bystander. He was almost panicking by now. As if on cue, the Alpha Prime Guide cleared his throat.
“We’ll come back to that later, promise. But for now I’d like to do an empathetic scan before we move you to the center, just a surface scan to determine the status of your shields. If your shields aren’t steady enough I’ll have to buffer you or we’ll risk a second empathetic event.”
Tony didn’t like the idea of someone rooting around in his head. Even an surface scan could give the scanner a look at your emotional state and health. That was kind of intrusive, but in this case necessary. The safety of the people around him was more important than the privacy of his emotions. He sighed, but nodded. “Go for it, doc.”
Blair rubbed his hands together. “I’m going to rest my hands on your forearm, it’ll be easier if I’m in physical contact with you. You just relax and try not to fight me, please.”
The moment Blair touched Tony’s arms an over-sized, white tiger appears on the bed. Tony almost jumped out of the bed, scared shitless for just a second. The animal placed his head in Tony’s lap as soon as his human calmed down and glared at the Shaman. At that moment both men started laughing and even Ellison's lips curved to a small smile. “Whoa there tiger, what has your tail in a knot, hm? That’s our Alpha Prime, silly. He won’t hurt me. Com’ on let the nice doc make his scan and if you can behave yourself, I’ll even think of a name for you. Do you want a name?” Tony smiled, when the tiger chuffed in response. “Thought so. Now behave.” After that, he turned smiling back to Blair. “I think you can do your thing now.”
The scan didn’t feel as bad as Tony had feared. He was aware of Blairs presence in his mind, but it didn’t feel intrusive, quite the contrary. It felt oddly soothing and gently, kind of like a balm for the soul and in the end, Tony was almost disappointed that it didn’t last longer.
“So, what’s the verdict, doc?”
Blair gave him a small smile. “Your shields are really impressive, rock solid, nothing to worry about. But you’re clearly in pain and exhausted, man. You should rest or you won’t be fit for the transfer. I’m going to call for Dr. Pitt. I’m sure he’ll want to check your health-status. Afterwards you’re going to take some painkillers and sleep.”
“Are you always so bossy?”
That comment made Jim laugh. “Yes. I’m going to get Dr. Pitt. I need to move my legs for a little bit anyway.”
Jim left the room and Tony focused once again on his spirit animal. “Well big guy, what should I call you? How about Diego - like the saber-toothed tiger in the Ice Age movies?” The tiger chuffed in approval. “Yeah, I think Diego is fitting. He was so loyal to those whom he saw as part of his streak, no matter what, he was brave enough to leave his old life behind and even fight his own kind when needed, but he was also proud, funny and sometimes even cuddly.” With that, Tony buried his face in the tiger’s fur and cuddled the enormous spirit. At that point even Blair had to agree the name was indeed fitting.
By the time Jim got back into the room with Dr. Pitt right behind him, Tony was almost asleep again snuggled up to Diego. “Hey Buckeye, I thought you weren’t sleeping anymore.” Dr. Pitt greeted.
The man in question raised his head tiredly. “Not asleep, Wolverine. Just exhausted.”
“Good, but we’ve got to stop meeting like this. You have several bruised ribs, a dislocated shoulder and a mild concussion – again. Next time just call if you want to see me, is healthier. Now let me check your injuries and your vitals, then you can have some painkillers and rest.”
“painkillers make me loopy, you know that.”
“Tony, you need to rest peacefully to heal and the guide-approved drugs shouldn’t make you loopy, just a little lightheaded and sleepy.” said Dr. Pitt while first checking Tony’s vitals then his injuries. “Everything looks fine so far. We will still have to do a few tests after your nap, but if nothing has deteriorated, you can be relocated tonight.” Tony took the drugs with a sip of water and yawned. “Thanks Brad.”
As soon as the doctor left the room, Tony snuggled back up to Diego who had watched the whole exchange closely, muttered “G’night Alphas” and was instantly fast asleep.