Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scene #4
I’ll be posting a new deleted scene or excerpt from The Lunar Chronicles every Friday through January 27, spanning the releases of The Lunar Chronicles Coloring Book on December 6 and Wires and Nerve, vol. 1 on January 31.
SPOILERS WARNING: Even though this scene was ultimately deleted (or heavily altered), it still contains information and references to things that did make it into the book. I strongly encourage readers to enjoy the published books before proceeding!
Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scene #4
From: Scarlet, 1st draft
Featuring: Scarlet and Wolf
Helpful set-up: Some important clarification notes on this one…
– The Travel Ban: In this early draft, Scarlet’s grandmother was being kept in Los Angeles, not Paris. However, due to the widespread plague, America had instated a travel ban preventing anyone from coming or going across its borders. Wolf and Scarlet got into America by flying her ship into Canada and hiring a trucker to smuggle them across the border.
– As you might recall from the previous deleted scene, Wolf has amnesia in this draft and remembers nothing at all about his life prior to arriving in France.
– The wolf soldiers in the early drafts were closer to traditional werewolves in that they went through a physical transformation to become predators. (I don’t remember now if the transformation was caused by the full moon, or if Levana was able to “trigger” it at will.)
* * *
The bridge that spanned the river into Portland was ancient, unused since hovers had replaced the old vehicle technology and new hoverpaths had been constructed for them. Scarlet couldn’t help but be a little afraid of the giant steel structure, rusting and crumbling over the immense river, so long abandoned for anything other than a tourist attraction.
But surely if it had stood for this long…
Plus, it was pretty, as the sun rose to the east, highlighting the bridge in gold and pink and stretching its shadowed fingers out toward the ocean.
If Wolf had any trepidation about it too, he didn’t show it, his pace not even slowing as he led over its grated threshold. Holding her hand. He hadn’t stopped holding her hand all morning, as if the privilege of touching her might be ripped away if he didn’t take full advantage of it every minute they were together.
She found that she didn’t really mind. If his presence had been comforting before, the feel of his always-warm, strong hand wrapped around hers made her feel like she had her own personal body guard.
And maybe, in a way, that’s precisely what he was.
The city of Portland met them on the other side of the bridge, filled with the ancient bridges, but now alive also with hoverpaths and noise. The skyline glowed in the dawn, a mirage looming in the distance.
But they would not have to go into the heart of the city on foot. Restaurants and motels for weary travelers dotted the roads, and with them, computer-driven hovers lined the parking lots.
They stopped for breakfast at a small diner, not much nicer than Al’s, and avoided looking at anyone but the waitress, wondering if any of the other trucker customers could possibly be acquainted with their previous guide.
A newsscreen on the wall was droning on about the day’s weather—bright and sunny but cold, cold, cold, no cloud cover to keep in the heat. Scarlet fixed her eyes on it as the screen switched and the A.R. president was shown on a platform, talking about the duty of his citizens to assist the other nations in their fight against the plague—to send food and supplies, for their top medical researchers to help in the search for an antidote. And then he talked more about the travel ban, apologized to citizens with loved ones overseas, but explained how it was the best thing for the country at this time.
Scarlet looked around the room. It hadn’t been at all difficult for her and Wolf to get into the country. She wondered how long it would be before anger flared between the Republic and the Canadian province for the smuggling—surely they were not the first, and would not be the last, to take that route into the country.
Looking at the screen again, she saw the image of a girl she did not recognize—a young girl, a teenager, with brown almond-shaped eyes and straight brown hair. She looked sweet, and scared, dressed in a bright white prison uniform.
A band of text ran along the bottom of the screen: Lunar cyborg escapes from New Beijing prison. Convicted for attempted assassination against King Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth.
Scarlet raised both eyebrows as the shot panned out, revealing a metal appendage at the end of the girl’s long white sleeve. “Huh,” she said, half to herself. “That goes to show you can’t always trust a person’s appearance.”
Wolf glanced over his shoulder at the screen, and Scarlet found her eyes training on him while his attention was stolen.
What mysteries were still lurking beneath his exterior façade?
There was one mystery of Wolf’s that she was quite sure of. Despite his attempts to hide it, his eyes were still filled with pain, the muscles of his face drawn into a permanent, agonized scowl.
She was convinced it was more than just a headache.
* * *
“I was hoping we would be there by nightfall,” Scarlet said, looking out the computer-operated hover windows as the glowing orange sun slowly sunk toward the Pacific Ocean. “We can’t be far.”
Wolf moaned something incoherent in response.
Scarlet glanced over to see him rubbing at his temples, eyes shut.
She sighed. “Wolf, really, are you okay?”
“My head,” he mumbled.
Though she knew it was cruel, Scarlet couldn’t help the smile that flickered over her face. “About time you started complaining.”
When he only groaned, the smile fell from Scarlet’s face and she pushed herself off the hover’s bench and came to kneel before him. She gently pulled his hands away from his face and watched as he sucked in a painful breath, but he did not open his eyes.
“That bad, huh?” she said, caressing his temples with her fingertips. “Maybe we should stop and get some dinner. You might just be hungry… or dehydrated.”
He gritted his teeth together and lifted the lid of one eye—it seemed, if possible, even brighter than usual. But also bleary, tired, filled with pain.
Scarlet felt her insides gripped with panic. She didn’t doubt that anything but the most excruciating of pains could incapacitate Wolf like that.
“Wolf, how long have you been feeling like this?” Scarlet said, running her fingers through his hair.
He seemed to melt beneath her touch, nuzzling his head against his hand, though she had no idea if he realized that he was doing it.
“Just since this morning,” he muttered, so quietly that she had to strain to make out his words. “It wasn’t bad. It’s much worse now.”
Scarlet chewed on her lip, a thousand possibilities coursing through her thoughts.
Maybe he really did have a concussion and the symptoms were just now beginning to show themselves? Or maybe he was supposed to be on some medication that they didn’t know about and he’d gone too long without it?
What if she had to take him to a hospital? They would ask so many questions. They would check her ID chip. They would know.
Guilt washed over her and she pulled herself onto the bench beside Wolf, and then tugged him downward, laying his head in her lap. Like a child, he submitted without argument, grasping his temples while Scarlet continued to drag her nails through his hair.
Travel ban or not, she needed to take him to the hospital. Without question. Without remorse.
“It’s okay, Wolf,” she whispered. “Just rest. I’ll take care of you for once, okay?”
He said nothing. His breathing had gone ragged.
“Hover, take us to the nearest hospital.”
“No,” Wolf groaned.
“Changing course,” said the hover, ignoring him. “Navigating to the San Joaquin General Hospital.”
“Scarlet, no. They will know that I… that we…”
“Wolf, we don’t know what’s wrong with you. You could have some fatal medical condition that we’re completely unaware of. What if you’re supposed to be on some prescription? What if this is more than just a headache?”
He moaned and clasped his hands firmly over his head again, in an attempt to block out sound or light or pain, or maybe everything.
“Look, we’ll get you admitted, and yes, they will probably deport you. But they’ll wait until you’re all better first. And then you go to Paris, and I will go get my grandmother and meet you back there. It’ll all be okay.”
Slowly, he turned his head to look up at her, his eyes haunted and unfocused. Scarlet gulped and gripped his hand, then bent her head and placed a kiss to his palm. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Struggling for breath, Wolf pulled his hand from her grip and wrapped it around a lock of her hair, tightening his fist around it and pulling her, not harshly, down toward him.
She gladly offered the kiss, feeling steaming tears slipping from her lashes, all the while wondering where this desperation had come from. This need for his touch, his presence, his existence in her life.
Something sharp pricked her lower lip.
Gasping, she pulled away.
“Wolf,” she whispered, tasting blood. She looked down at his trembling mouth. Awed, she caressed his face, and gently pulled back his lips to reveal prominent white canines, sharpened near to razors. Her jaw fell. “Wolf… your teeth.”
If he heard her, he did not respond, just stared at her with the same frightened, dazed expression.
“What’s happening to you?” she murmured, rubbing her fingers tenderly through his hair.
“Arriving at the San Joaquin General Hospital. Please pay before exiting.”
She felt the hover slow to a crawl and then stop. Reaching for her purse, she pulled out enough bills to cover the amount blinking on the small panel beside the door. “Hover, wait here,” she said, inserting the payment, and then cupping Wolf’s hands in her face. He looked ready to drop into unconsciousness.
“Can you walk?” she asked him.
“Okay, hold still.” She carefully slid out from beneath him, cradling his head and laying it back down on the bench. The hover’s doors whooshed open.
“No, Scar… don’t leave.”
“I need to get a medic. They’ll bring a stretcher for you.”
“I can walk.”
“I can walk.”
Anger sizzled within her at his stubbornness. “Fine, then walk,” she said, stooping to pull one of his arms around her shoulder. But then she paused as her hand rubbed across his. Her heart jolted at the fine layer of hair that had sprouted up on the back of his hand. She gulped, looked down his fingers and saw that his nails had grown and sharpened into claw-like tines.
Shaking, she forced herself to ignore the instinctual fear brimming inside of her and pulled Wolf off the bench, taking the brunt of his weight onto her shoulders.
“Come on, Wolf, you’ve got to help me out here,” she grunted, climbing out of the hover. He stumbled along beside her. His breathing was rough and ragged.
She heard a male voice say, “Oh dear, looks like we have another one.” And then a medical android was with them, helping Scarlet support Wolf’s weight.
“He’s been having headaches,” she told the android.
“Yes, he is not the first.”
“What do you mean?” she asked as a human female doctor showed up with a stretcher and Wolf was coaxed onto it.
The android didn’t respond and Scarlet followed them through the doors of the hospital, blood pounding in her head.
And then Wolf let out a strangled cry, his entire body jerking as if struck by lightning.
She cried out his name and then, slowly, felt her feet stall beneath her when she realized that Wolf was not the only one crying out in pain. She looked around the hospital and saw three more men laid out on the stretchers, covering their heads and screaming in pain, and another man sitting in a chair in the waiting area, hunched over and pulling at his unkempt hair. As Scarlet watched, the man tumbled from his chair and began twitching on the floor as claws erupted from his fingertips.
She tore her gaze away from the man and rushed to Wolf, grabbing his hand, but looking at the female doctor. “What’s wrong with them?”
“We don’t know,” the woman said, and the terror and panic was a hundred times more upsetting on the face of a professional doctor. “I’ve never seen this before. And there’s been half a dozen of them today.”
She looked down at Wolf. His face gleaned with sweat. His muscles were straining against his skin. His hair seemed longer. His ears almost pointed.
“I’m here, Wolf,” she said. “I’m right here.”
He forced his eyes open.
She sucked in a breath and stumbled back a step, but his iron grip on her hand kept her close.
His eyes, once emerald green, were gold now. Glowing amber gold, with big dark pupils, wild, angry… afraid.
“You need to get out of here, Scarlet,” he said in a guttural, husky voice. “You need to run.”
“I’m not going to leave you.”
His grip tightened and she cried out in pain as she was jerked toward him. His free hand came up and gripped her long hair, pulling her toward his face.
“Listen to me. You are in danger. You need to run.”
He pushed her away, sending her flying against the hospital’s reception desk. She crumpled to the floor, but was too shocked to feel the pain, her eyes glued to Wolf as his body began to twitch with another seizure.
His face was morphing. His jaw, growing. The very bones contorting and morphing into… into…
Sudden screams burst into her thoughts. She turned toward them and saw nurses and doctors and patients running. And there, in their midst—another man, another beastly wolf creature, looming, snarling. The beast crouched for a moment, and then sprang, latching his fierce jaw onto the leg of a man who had fallen in his rush to get away.
The man cried out in pain, scrabbling for purchase on the hospital’s tiled floor.
Scarlet turned away, only to look back at Wolf.
But not Wolf.
The pain, it seemed, was gone. He had gotten to his feet and now crouched on the stretcher, his big hairy hands digging into its edge. His golden eyes staring at Scarlet. Hungrily.
She grasped for the counter above her, slowly pulling herself to her feet.
Wolf ran a tongue, a dog’s tongue, along his canine teeth. Scarlet shivered.
His intentions could not have been more clear.
And yet, she thought, she hoped, that there was a battle raging behind those golden eyes. And he had not yet sprung.
“Wolf,” she mouthed at him, unable to find her voice.
There was a growl and Scarlet felt herself being pushed over. She screamed as another one of the beasts landed on top of her. Sharp claws dug into her shoulder. Jaws snapped before her face.
But then the werewolf was ripped away from her and, stunned, she watched as Wolf threw the other beast to the wall with a sickening crunch. A framed painting crashed to the floor. Glass shards scattered along the tiles.
Holding her shoulder, Scarlet scrambled to her feet as Wolf clamped his jaw around the other beast’s neck and they tumbled into a brawl, red blood slicking the floor beneath them.
Shuddering, panting, she ran.
One of the other werewolves had made it to the parking lot and was bounding from hover to hover on his powerful legs. As Scarlet watched, the beast landed on the hood of an emergency hover that had just come in, reached a hand through the glass windshield—the glass that was supposed to be unbreakable—and wrapped his clawed fingers around the neck of the terrified driver.
She looked away. All around her was screaming and shattering glass.
The hovercab was still there—ignorant and naïve. She dove into it, already screaming, “Close door, close door!” and almost had her foot taken off as the doors whooshed shut behind her. “Go, go, go!”
“What is your destination?”
“Anywhere!” she screamed.
“Please be more specific. What is your—”
“Los Angeles. Go!”
“Setting course for Los Angeles city center,” the hover’s automated voice said calmly back to her, and the burning, crushing relief surged through her to feel the hover lifting itself from the hard ground and moving away from the hospital.
Watery tears pooled out of her eyes as she pressed her hands to the glass and watched the doors of the hospital as more doctors and patients came screaming and running from the building, all lit up by the huge glowing moon above.
The full moon. Brighter than she had ever seen it.
She waited for Wolf—not Wolf—to come chasing after them, but there was no sign of him.
When the hospital was out of sight, she collapsed, sobbing and wailing and trembling, to the floor of the hover.