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Found 64 results

  1. BigPuppyStuart

    Mistlands D&D homebrew notes

    Mistlands: These are a set of World that are satellite realms off the prime material plane but not quiet in the Feywild or Shadowfell. As a resault, both powerful lifegiving fey magic and the energies of the shadowfell are present in abundance. The Mistlands also seem to shift and change at times, large landmasses and continents will remain stable but suddenly a continent that was years distant by see will suddenly be visible off the coast for a few days. This even leads to strange occurrences like a small empty feild suddenly has a path to miiles and miles of forests that lead to mountains when veiwed from one end but look normal when view from the other. The Nature of these changes are not well understood but they seem to never happen in permanently inhabited areas. This means that permenent borders and maps are a little use less in some parts of the world. Also celestial bodies are different in different lands, one land may have 3 moons, some have one and some have none. Differences from other settings: Since magic is so high in this land Material components are not needed to cast spells that normally need them. Instead Spell components can be used to make Pre-prepared spells that can be used or set by anyone. Example: The Alarm spell usually needs a small bell and fine silver wire to cast. Instead in this setting a wizard can cast it with verbal or ritual means not needing the components. But the wizard can obtain the Silver wire and Bell, cast the spell on it, then sell the per-prepared spell as an item or give it to a non-magic user to use. This means they act like scrolls but can not be transcribed into someone else's spell book. Tablets: Tablets are minor magical artifacts that are similar to a scroll but are reusable. When they are made they hold the instructions to a single spell that can be read or cast from it. The Tablet does not dissapear when used but is depleted for 8 hours. After Using one, a wizard can still transcribe the spell on it into their spell book. These are practically indestructible that makes These are immensely valuable to libraries and schools so can be sold to them for immense sums of money should the spell on it be rare enough. Prayer-book: These are books with Prayers and meditations written in them that don't mention any specific god. These are used Idealist clerics and Paladins to reinforce their focus on their ideals but the text within can be applied to any faith so they are of benefit to any divine class. Mechanically someone can spend their short rest reading from it and once every 8 hours gain a +2 to any roll concerning divine powers. Gods of the Mist-lands: The Wounded king of Heaven. The self Sacrificed, the Stalwart Gaurd: Power Level : Dead or Missing Formerly Greater or Overgod. Alignment: Nuetral good Follower Alignment: Any good Domains: Unknown, good, protection. These are all names of a powerful Deity that sacrificed himself to destroy or lock away a great evil. As such he is seen as the Patron of protectors. Even though he is seen as dead or locked away, his power remains and those that uphold the ideals of defending the weak have a chance of accessing his power. This has led to " The Church of the remnant" a church that does good deeds and fights evil but has no god to ask for guidance. Clerics of this church still have their prayers answered by... something and are granted powers by...something. Despite being considered dead, esteem for this Deity has never dwindled because the ideas he espoused and taught remain valuable. His Clergy declared they would spread his philosophy and his teachings even after they lost their connection to him. They carried on doing good deeds and kind acts even without divine help for 100 years. Then even though they never regained their connection to their god, they began to get divine powers again. They are just not sure from where. Mechanic notes: This means that healing and defensive powers are boosted +2 but any prayers for guidance or divination don't work. Phagogore: Follower Alignment: Any Power Level : Intermediate or Greater Alignment: True Neutral or neutral good Domains: Food, lust, Gluttony, farming, cooking, Curiosity The 5 throated lord of desires. Fat male, has 4 fleshy throats on his back full of teeth. Appears to be a fat humanoid who never wears a shirt and looks mostly normal aside from the flexible throat tentacles. His skin color varies in his depictions because he rumored to disguise himself to look like a native of the land he is traveling. He is more philosophical, his book message basically is " you have desires no matter what, how you deal with them is up to you, here is some advice" It is unclear what class of Deity he is, he may be intermediate or greater. This stems from the fact that any creature that needs to eat or desires to do so can be considered his subject. Phagogore seems to be interested in almost every desire mortals have leading to there being some question of his Alignment. His Worshipers can be any alignment but his churches seem to be neutral or good. Since Lust is one of his Domains he has many children. He is Considered to be a general god of plenty and abundence and his holy book praises those who share their abundance with the poor and deprived, but it also extols the virtue of personal gluttony and self indulgence. These passages have led to 2 denominations of his church, the generous " Priests of plenty" who share food with anyone who needs it and " The Cult of eternal indulgence" which hold feasts and orgies and claims to be about selfish pleasure. Some Members of the "Cult of Eternal indulgence" will secretly share food with the poor in defiance of their sect's dogma. Many but not all of his Clerics are fat or plump but all of them have spells to create food. Many of them go on minor feeding the homeless and poor rampages. As well as physical appetites Phagogore supports mental appetites as well and is hungry for knowledge and eager to share it so often will be seen to support libraries and schools along side gods of knowledge. Phagogore's holy symbol is a smile in a square of 4 dots, a full wineglass ( Cult of eternal indulgence ) or that of a goblet or tankered spilling or pouring ( Priests of Plenty). His holy weapon is a large meat Cleaver. He has also been been rumored to eat foes in combat and that freaks out some people but no one sure if this is just a rumor or something he actually does. Phagogore is known to have a couple half mortal children, all of whom are powerful but many of them do not seek to acquire followers and are not counted as gods. The ones that have obtained godship are Grossomar Venia, Bernard Soulsinger and "The Traveler". The spirit of mindless famine: Power Level :Lesser Alignment: Choatic evil Follower Alignment: Choatic evil Domains: Famine, starvation, suffering, want, cannibalism. While still being concerned with food, this is the polar opposite of Phagogore, this deity is master of want and starvation. While this Deity has little of a mind, it hates Phagogore, a feeling that Phagore reciprocates. Wendigos, ghouls and famine zombies are their work. Their unholy symbol is that of broken teeth wailing. Solarania: The mistress of the sun. Power Level :Greater Alignment: Lawful Good Follower Alignment: LG, CG, NG, LN Domains: Sunlight, radiance , life, order, Justice. Solarania is depicted as a dark skinned woman in golden armor. Her iconography is very similar that that of sun Gods from elsewhere that she may be just an avatar of one of them. She has no celestial mate or consort but is in a sisterly relationship with Dusk, the night goddess. Her symbol is that of the sun. He Holy weapon is a battle axe. Dusk, Mistress of the night. Power Level :Greater Alignment: Nuetral good Follower Alignment: Any Domains: Rest, Darkness, Solace, Refuge, Stealth. Depicted as a pale skinned woman in black clothing and average beauty, she is concerned with giving the creatures that toil in the day time to rest and sheltering those creatures who can not stand the sun. Despite being the opposite of Solarainia in the day night cycle and in appearence they are often called " The Sisters of the Cycle" and often depicted dancing together playfully. While not a battle centered goddess, she does carry a crescent shaped knife that is considered her holy weapon but plenty of Alchemists and herbalists carry the same kind of knife to cut herbs. Blectmira: The creeping dark Power Level :Greater Alignment: Evil Follower Alignment: Choatic Evil Domains: Darkness,terror, Entropy, lifelessness, corruption, Poison, disease. Blectmira takes everything negative about night and darkness and magnifies them. She is the goddess of Vampires and monsters that hate the sun. Blectmira is one of the closest things there is to being a prime evil. Blectmira does not have a form that can be depicted and there is some debate on whether or not it is a deity or something else. Phyrmass'ereth Lehreloth Power Level :Intermediate Alignment: choatic good. Follower Alignment: Any Domains: Knowledge, study, science, poison, Alchemy, chemistry and Medicine. Phyrmass'ereth is depicted as a female Drow. She is usually depicted as a young woman holding a flask. She is the patron of scholars and alchemists who look to turn the properties of the natural world to the benefit of its people. Her dogma though is not only concerned with making medicine, experimentation and knowledge in themseleves are something she preaches because any knowledge can be used fort good or evil but you can only use it for good if it is known. She is shown to have a fondness for spiders and snakes but is not obsessed with them and killing such creatures are not an affront to her. She has taken her godship from an ancient hesslithith deity that left the realm for an unknown reason. Grossomar Venia Power Level : Lesser or maybe Greater. Alignment: Neutral good or Chatic good. ( There is some dispute ) Follower Alignment: Any ( but overtime they shift toward good ) Domains: Redemption, forgiveness, righting wrongs, atonement, Justice driven Conflict. Grossomar Venia is the god of forgiveness and atonement. His Appearance is that of a Portly man with dark hair and pale skin. In physical appearance he Greatly resembles many depictions of Phagogore. This make sense because he is one of Phaogore's sons. Any monster that wants to become good or evil doer that wishes to change their ways might devote themselves to Grossomar Venia. Also anyone turned into a vampire against their will can call out Venia and have their curse modified or mitigated. All Daywalking vampires with free will are granted Venia's mercy, as are many Lycanthropes. One of the odd things about Grossomar Venia is that he seems to attract lots of Warlocks as followers. He Is also able to become the patron for Warlocks and grant them eldritch powers in exchange for Service in his army after the creature's death. Grossomar Venia is forming an army to defend the Celestial realms for a coming war with the hells and the Abyss and service in this army is seen by some as a get out of jail free card for past bad deeds while many more see it as a good duty in its own right and pledge themselves to him. Grossomar Venia is also popular among Tieflings and is sometimes depicted with Horns and red skin because their is a semi common belief that he is half devil but this is considered just speculation. Most of his followers would not care if he was as his entire domain is surrounding forgiveness and turning good that which was once evil. His Holy symbol depicts broken manacles. and his Holy weapons are a Rod and a Rapier Cryoleial Borialin: Lady of winter, Queen of the frosts. Power Level : Greater Alignment: Neutral good ( Formerly true neutral ) Follower Alignment: LG to LE Domains: Winter, Frost, seasonal change. Cryoleial Borialin is an Eladrin or Elvin woman of great icy beauty. She used to be coldly aloof and lonely and very reclusive because all who touched her froze to death and she shut herself away so as to not harm mortals. She built a following with this nature and people preached she was a reflection of the uncaring winter. She then met a man who could touch her and not suffer any effect and they married. She was never actually uncaring and aloof she was just depressed and lonely so her marriage brightened up her demeanor. She how holds winter celebrations and holidays that are full of cheer. She is not completely without morose spells but having a permanent mate means she can get through them more easily. In some of the Older temples or in the more conservative ones, her husband is never mentioned. People have tried to touch her when they see her and this has lead to several deaths. Any character that is attracted to women needs to roll a wisdom saving throw. Anything under 5 will lead the character to attempt to touch her. If she sees this she will bat the character's hand away with her gloved hands but will not be angry about this as she knows that there is a strange compulsion around her. If character successfully touch her skin they will be brought to 1 hit point and slowed or if passing a constitution check be reduced by half of their current hitpoints. The Traveler Power Level : Lesser Alignment: Chaotic or Lawful Neutral ( Depending on his mood ) Follower Alignment: Any Domains: Travel, adventure, wanderlust, seeking out secrets, exploration The Traveler is a hefty Vistani man of good cheer and mysterious ways. His exact features seem to change so it is hard to recognize him if you encounter him. He may even disguise himself as a woman or a child. He is often wandering the multiverse and he has no true church or clergy. Everyone who sets out to see new things is said to be his follower. Whenever he meets someone he may through hints and rumors send them on the path of adventure. His ultimate goals are hard to comprehend if he has any because sometimes he will set people on a path that leads to glory and sometimes to destruction. It is said by most scholars that he doesn't have an end goal and just points out possibilities. He seems to have no moral aims beyond encouraging travel and adventure. He is one of the Children of Phagogore. The Traveler has a twin brother who is also powerful and immortal but not a god. His holy symbol is that of a road stretching off into the horizon. Bernard Soulsinger / Veryamorton Laermeluion Malathalonin / The Bold bear of song. Power Level : Lesser Alignment: Neutral good Domains: Music, joy, art, literature, good natured jokes or trickery and inter-species romances. Bernard is a jolly chubby half elf or Half Eladrin with a ruddy complexion and golden hair. He is one of the sons Phagogore sired in one of his many affairs. In Bernard's case his mother was the Eladrin high queen Fainauriel Malathalonin the immortal who engaged in the affair 500 years after her husband died in battle. This means that Bernard is technically part of the Royal family of the most powerful Elvish kingdom but not in a position to inherit the throne unless his 5 half siblings and their heirs die. This has led to a weird divide among Eladrin in the mistland kingdoms as he is Shunned by some of his half siblings and embraced by others. Whorship or representation of him is banned or frowned upon in some of the royal houses and completely fine iin others. Despite not being a god of war it has been noted that he seems to engage directly in many important large scale conflicts against the forces of evil. Since he is also fond of trickery he will sometimes play jokes on people or do odd things to make people laugh. He once convinced a Human king that his wife had been turned into a cat for a week despite her being present the whole time. This Averted a war with a neighboring Dwarven kingdom because " My husband is convinced i turned into a cat, imagine what other wrong things he has been convinced of." It was later reveal one of his advisers was manipulating the king into a war for evil purposes and this practicle joke gave them time to uncover this. When represented by elves as Veryamorton Laermeluion Malathalonin his symbol is A Raiper and a pair of castanets, When represented by humans Bernard's Holy Symbol is a tipped goblet with a harp on it but he is sometimes represented with a bear playing a lute. This because sometimes he turns into a bear that plays the lute. More to be added. New Spells: These are spells and abilities that are native to the mistlands and are in addition to the spells available in 5thE materials. Suspend hunger: A 3rd level spell that stops all hunger and thirst for 3 days. At the end of 3 days hunger and thirst return and you can not have the spell cast on your for 3 more days. When cast as a ritual the components are some chalk to draw a circle, a seed of any type and 3 drops of water. Spectral dagger: Cantrip Casting time: Bonus action Range:( 60ft ) if Thrown, touch if held. Components: mental Concentration. Duration: Instantaneous, concentration This spell allows you to create a dagger of magical energy in your hand and throw it like a throwing dagger or use it as a Melee weapon. It has the same damage as a mundane dagger 1D4 damage but counts as a magic weapon. At 1st level it does piercing/ force damage at 3rd 5th 7th and 9th level a new damage type can added. This is Retroactive but only happens after a level up. If someone got it at 5th level then leveled up to 6th level then they could pick 2 additional damage types. only one damage type is active at a time. until 10th level when 2 damage types can be applied at a time. Starting at level 5 you can create 2 of these and throw them at the same target or hold them both in your hand each dagger can be a different damage type. at leveled 10 you can create 3 but can only hold as many as you have hands. Shade Evocation Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:5 foot radius Components: V S Duration 1hour unless dismissed This spell creates an area 5 feet in radius in which bright harsh light is dimmed and glare is reduced. If you are trying to hide a shiny paladin or reflective object in a sunlit area this spell lets you do that. It also gives you slight respite from harsh sunlight and heat. It is not dim enough to hinder vision so it can not be used in offensive fashion. It will also not shield creatures harmed by sunlight from taking damage. Should the caster be subjected to light briight enough to blind or daze them, the shade will reduce it to manageable levels. Rafenlos's Ray of Rot Necromancy Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: V S Duration: Instantaneous. Caster fires a ragged beam of black and purple energy at a creature within range. Make a ranged attack against the target. on hit Target takes 1D8 necrotic damage and has a 1 in 4 chance to gain a -4 penalty on attack rolls. Roll a 1D4 and on a 4 the target gets a -4 penalty on the next attack. the damage of this increases at 5th level to 2D8 and at 11th to 4D8 and 17th to 4D8. This can be cast non lethally but must be declared before hand. The Non-lethal spell effect is deep blue and Black and is visually different enough that observes can tell whether or not it is being cast lethally. Pyrathos's Flaming Ray Evocation Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: V S Duration: Instantaneous. Concentration Caster fires a precise beam of fire at at a creature within range. Make a ranged attack against the target. on hit Target takes 1D8 fire damage and has a 1 in 4 chance to gain a 1D4 damage at the start of each turn. Roll a 1D4 and on a 4 the target begins to smolder and take 1D4 fire damage until they pass a constitution saving throw or they suffer 2 rounds of damage. This Spell can be cast continuously but it consumes the caster's attack but they can still move while casting it. Moving force the caster to make a new attack roll with a -2 penalty. The damage of this increases at 5th level to 2D8 and at 11th to 4D8 and 17th to 4D8 and it lasts on additional round of the 1d4 fire damage each time the damage increases from a level up. This can't really be cast non-lethally because it is fire. This spell also has the utility that it can start fires on flammable objects or bring water to a boiled when maintained. Grasping force Conjuration Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:30ft Components: V S Duration: 3rounds or Instantaneous. This creates a shapeless force that can hold up or move 50 pounds or instantly shove up to a medium creature. When used as an attack it deals 1D4 force damage and moves a creature one space on a failed strength check. This can also be used to push or pull a creature without damaging them. It lasts far shorter than mage hand but it can be used to pull someone back from falling or move them out of the way of danger. It can also be used to catch or halt a falling object up to 50 pounds. A falling vase can be brought to a halt before it hits the floor and a thrown oil flask can be batted away. It can also be used to send an object sliding away from you back toward your grasp. Spark Strike Evocation Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: S Duration: Instantaneous. A narrow bolt of lighting shoots from the Caster's fingers and strikes one target. Make a ranged attack against the target. on hit Target takes 1D8 lightning damage and has a 1 in 8 chance drop what ever is in their hand and a 1 in 8 chance to spasm and hit themselves. Roll a 1D8 and if you roll a 7 the target has to make a Dex saving throw or drop their weapon if an 8 is rolled then the target spasms and hits themselves for their weapon damage reduced by half. If the target rolls full damage with their weapon, they take all of it. This Spell can also be cast without speaking so it will still function if the caster is gagged. It is by no means a stealthy spell as it shoots lightning. This can be cast non lethally and just stun or numb the target. Grossomar Venia's Javelin of light/darkness Invocation Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: S Duration: Instantaneous. This spell causes a vaguely javelin shaped projectile launched from the hand. Caster chooses Dark or light when casting it. If light is chosen a radiant javelin flies out and does 1d10 radiant damage. If dark is chosen then a black javelin is hurled that does 1D8 force Damage but on a critical hit ( Natural 20 roll ) causes Disadvantage on perception checks for 3 rounds and disadvantage on the next attack roll for any attacks that require sight. Abilities like misty step that require sight will have the effected roll a Dex Saving throw or they will fall prone. " The evil wizard, his vision blurred tried to escape us, but he misty steeped 2 feet off his mark and fled straight into the wall next to the door and knocked himself cold. The Abbot we had been sent to rescue laughed so hard we had to carry him out." This Spell was created by the god Grossomar Venia for his armies to guard against hellish invasions but proved so useful that knowledge of it was freely distributed to Divine and Arcane casters the world over. Lullaby Level 1 bard spell or Ritual Range 30 feet as ritual or level one spell slot. Cast as a 5th level it can be heard by an entire village. Components:Verbal Duration: up to 4 hours. Roll 1D4. If nat 20 is rolled on performance check it lasts 24 hours. Any creature suffering has their symptoms lessened or reduced but not cured. Anyone who hears it gains the benefit of a short rest without loosing any effects that would be lost after a rest. It also as mentioned reduces suffering, on going damage from disease or poison is halved for duration of the effect. This also gives listeners advantage on saving throws and calms panicked or feared neutral or friendly people. It will also comfort the dying. If any creature, friend or foe is dying what would be a slow painful death, the pain is forgotten and the death becomes a peaceful one. "I was working as a doctor when the plague hit Swamp landing, a moderate trading village that was the only access to the swamps. There were more people than we could treat, the dying filled the streets crying out as the fever wracked their bodies with pain. Then, the whole town was blanketed by a clear sweet voice, the cries of pain fell silent and the nurses and doctors felt a call clarity as they tried to save lives. For once the town was silent except for the song. Passings were gentle and some we thought would never make it took a turn for the better. After 2 hours the music stopped but the calm remained. The mayor sent some guards to where they thought it had come from. it was a hill just outside of town. There they found a boy, a street orphan they thought. He was slumped against a rock overlooking the village square holding a home made guitar. He was skin and bones and covered in the rashes of the plague. He spent his last hours of life singing the suffering to rest, if the gods are not caring for his soul now i will have words for them when my time comes." Force orb Psychic/Telekinetic Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: Mental A hazy transparent orb of distortion flies at a target. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 force damage. The ability creates more than one orb when you reach higher levels: two orbs at 5th level, three beams at 11th level, and four orbs at 17th level. You can direct the orbs at the same target or at different ones. Make a separate attack roll for each orb. On Crit target must make a Dex saving throw or be knocked prone. Chemical Splash ( Modified Acid splash ) Conjuration cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:60ft Components: V S Choose one Target, or choose two creatures that are within 5 feet of each other, within range ( this includes the environment, locks and doors can be eaten through by acid damage.) A target must succeed on a Dexterity save or take 1d6 acid ( or poison depending on caster choice ) damage. Unlike acid splash from Toril, Chemical splash can be modified on the fly when cast. Caster can choose Acid, Poison, or Soporific ( Tranquilizer ) Choosing Soporific will damage the target but damage caused by this effect is non lethal and causes the target to fall asleep or pass out. Target can awaken from this if damaged. This spell's damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th, 11th, and 17th level. Push/pull Psychic Cantrip Casting time: 1 action Range:30ft Components: Mental Up to 1 medium creature target can be pushed 5 ft in any direction. This does no damage. Target does not have to be a creature it can be an object. Target can resist with a strength check. Classes: New Classes or modifications to existing classes Idealist Cleric or Paladin: This is similar to a normal 5thE cleric but they are not driven by the worship of a god, but of an idea. These people came into being During the days when "The Church of the remnant" was still a group of idealists with no divine power. When Divine power began to Manifest in them it stated with the " The Church of the remnant" but anyone who held certain ideals strongly enough began to be granted powers. Mechanic notes: powers that pertain to the ideal are boosted +2 but any prayers for guidance or divination don't work. Example a cleriic devoted to the ideal of healing will get plus 2 on all healing related powers and a Cleric devoted to the ideal of combat will gain +2 on all attack powers. Meta Magician: After gaining enough Arcane knowledge arcane power users with the Meta Magician feat can spend time to study then create a modified version of a spell. This is how Pyranthos and "Rafenlos the Redeemed" Created the spells that bear their names. Psionic/Psychics: People who use the sheer power of their mind. The power on which they draw is like magic in a sense but many things that inhibit magic effect Psychics to a lesser degree. A pyshic will still have their powers in an anti magic field. Spells that do Psychic damage can be learned as powers by this class. Magical mutations: Since magic and psychic energies are so plentiful, mutations occur that can add extra layers to characters. Discuss with the GM what mutations you want to add and they may be allowed. This can be anything from strange eye colors to talking animal characters that cast spells to even people who switch sexes when the moon hits a certain phase. These magical mutations also explain why some monsters have human level intelligence and can be PCs. Gunthor's Frost bomb ( Modified fire balls ) 3rd level evocation Casting time: 1 action Range:150 Components: V S ( VSM when made as a pre-prepared spell item, components are 3 drops of ice cold water and freshly fallen snow ) A bright white streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose within range then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of Frost. Each creature in a 20-foot radius Sphere centered on that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 8d6 frost damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. each targets has its speed is reduced by 10 feet until the start of your next turn. The ice spreads around corners. It freezes any freezable liquids or Objects in the area that aren't being worn or carried. At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd. Races: hesslithith: A serpent race that appears Similar to Yuan-ti but are very different in behavior. They are all incapable of speech so must communicate telepathically. This means they are skilled in stealth but their inns sound depressingly quiet to non-psychics. A hesslithith can transmit thoughts to non telepaths but only to people they intend, you need to be a psychic to eavesdrop on their conversations. They are Amphibious and can live on land and in water so they don't come into conflict with others when it comes to living space as often. They Need warm climates so are at home in sweltering swamps and jungles as well as warm coastal seas. ( Stats will come later ) Vistani: There is a sizable Vistani population in the mistlands. There are infact several Clans of Vistani so players can choose to play as the Vastani variant of human. Djinn-kin: Theonleth/ Theolonrial: This can be considered the Celestial mirror of the arcanaloth. They are Animal people who are well versed in knowledge of all things divine and arcane. They are more a mixture of Fiend and Celestial and can be any alignment but lean toward good. Since Theonleths are such powerful spiritual beings they can't really die like other beings but their physical bodies can be destroyed. They will reform after a time in their Astral home and can make their way back to the physical world. Players who play Theonleths can offer a challenge to the GM. They come in lesser and greater/ Ellder and younger Varieties usually determined by age and power. Players can only play as Lesser/younger to preserve balance. A greater Theonleth/ Theolonrial will have total control over any Lycanthropes they meet while Younger Theonleth/ Theolonrial will be able to repel them once a day.
  2. AzureParagon

    Anthroventures pg1 - Prologue

    From the album: ANTHROVENTURES

    ANTHROVENTURES - Page 1 (Prologue) Finally wanted to get this out of the way, and as officially as I can too. I've wrote it as a text novel, but I wanted to also establish a comic adaption of such said story. So without further ado, enjoy this beginning, and welcome to Armathia! I had to improvise with this one to some extent but more will flesh out, and this Prologue may last multiple pages. After that, it's off to Chapter 1. Comic Page Artwork©RC 2018 / OP 2k18 Anthroventures © 2010 - 2018

    © 2018 (Comic)

  3. WindTide

    Year of the Dog (Gāo)

    From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    (Good luck to this Dog Year) A prize that I won from trivia during the Chinese New Year Stream, hosted by Bad Coyote! He offered chibi sketches for those who won Lobosan's usual trivia, which were themed on the New Year celebrations observed by other cultures in the world. In any case, Gāo was more than happy to show his enthusiasm for the year of the dog (if you count Shishi as Fu Dogs)! Wind Tide © Wind Tide Art © Bad Coyote Find Bad Coyote's other works in these following websites!  Bad Coyote's Twitter

    © Bad Coyote

  4. WindTide

    Character Study - Gavvar

    From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    As part of my character studies, I asked Dai-Studios to assist me in drawing Gavvar with a set of armor that Bad Coyote had designed for me as a separate commission. Finally able to apply the armor design with some colors finally put some context to the piece! I am glad that Dai had the incredible patience to handle the task of detailing the armor with respect to the reference image I provided. All to say I think Gavvar looks fantastic in his armor get up! Gavvar Faas © Wind Tide Armor Design © Bad Coyote Art © Dai-Studios Find Dai-Studios' other works in these following websites!  Dai-Studios' Twitter ↔  Dai's Doodle Twitter ↔   Hodge Podge Comic Tumblr  Dai's Art Tumblr ↔  Dai-Studios' Picarto Channel ↔  Dai-Studios' Telegram Channel

    © Dai-Studios

  5. From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    Ignacio's adventures tested the skills and wits of the Red Mage, so much so that he had built a reptation both of notority and of celebrity (mostly depending who asks). Such fame had attracted the prospect of another wizard of blue robes to approach the bruin to ask for assistance in learning the secrets of the crimson arts, to effortlessly change the flow of conjuration and thaumaturgy while maintaining a presence on the battle field. The tanuki had certainly captured his interest, aside from the break in his usual trips and the promise of pay to compensate for the time taken to train. Ignacio found himself lusting over his apprentice, between the golden locks of hair on top of the ebony colored raccoon dog and the natural charisma that nearly matched his. As such, the ursine had managed to bring his apprentice on over to a secluded spot in the woods, where a shallow cavern existed in the overgrowth of vines and algae. The water fall that once existed had dried up, though the many years of weather had eroded the rock to its present day formation. Onyx, the Black Mage trainning under Ignacio, began to voice his concerns as he raise a protest. "Ignacio, this method of training is nonsensical! Far too risky, and I don't see how this has to do with Dual Casting." Against the rocky outcrop of the terrain, the ursine would let his eyes glimmer with verve, seeing his apprentice's handsome features. "The path of the Red Mage is more than mastering thaumaturgy and conjuration! Swordplay is important to master, and this is what today's outing is about." "But this isn't the swordplay that I thought you meant," mumbled the tanuki. "Besides, there's something of a private matter that I have to warn you about regarding my —" The man didn't get to finish his concern as the bear was already reaching out to grasp on the wizard's robes. "Forget your misgivings Onyx. Besides, would you rather risk my rapier slipping into your gut or play along with something more desirable?" Light hearted as the joke may have been, Ignacio was half serious about changing his mind to make it a real sword fight. He figured in this way they both would get what they wanted. Only a heavy sigh escaped from the tanuki, as he felt his robes being cast away before the bear would fold them neatly to use as a seat for the Black Mage. Onyx laid his staff and straw hat down, seeing there was no point to fuss any further since this was happening with or without him. "Have it your way then, Iggy." Even the raccoon dog would not deny the ursine's wanton advances, for he two felt a mutual attraction that flourished. Ignacio was treated to being undressed with adroit fingers, both men taking meticulous care to keep their garments unsoiled. Still, even as the Tanuki had managed to tug down the pantaloons down and unfurl the scarlet robes off the shoulders, the bear would buck his hips and caused the other man to take a seat on the boulder, while the bear scooted up to take his seat. "Never let down your guard, especially for a surprise attack!" A chuckle came from the bear as the other man groaned from the tawdry undertones. The red mage might have been silver tongued most times, but when it came to marveling at the naked body before him, all such graces were lost in the wind. Already he had a moment to hold onto the black mage's endowment, commenting on the hefty size. "While I thought we were going to prepare for fencing, it seems you brought a greatsword rather than a raiper." Another wince from Onyx was expressed in his face; the bruin enjoyed this too much for his own good. "Alright then my student, perhaps you shall recall the terms of the training I briefed you in previous lessons? After all I don't want you to forget so soon!" "Alright then..." Onyx stared down at their phalluses, regretting that he was going to engage in the innuendos that Ignacio no doubt had set up for this particular lesson. "We lunge forward to strike at the torso. If one of our... swords meet the other's gut, it is a point against them." The grimace of the black mage grew as he felt Ignacio's rod chafe against his flesh in excitement. "Only our hands can balance us, and blocking maneuvers must be performed with our rapiers, as you would have us call them." Meanwhile the Red Mage was abdolutely tickled with the insinuations that the other man made, commending the raccoon dog's commitment to follow through. "Excellent! Now Onyx, En Guarde!" A thrust of the bruin's hips was meet with the tanuki's own buck, causing their flesh to rub intimately against each other. A huff from Ignacio was let out, signaling the wamrth of their carnal pleasures flowing though his body. "Very good job." "Must you always be so gabby Ignacio!?" Onyx snorted in irritation, as he tried to prod the bear with a thrust of his own. But ever alert, the bear poised himself to twitch his hips and prepare for his riposte, deflecting the mage's shaft so he could strike the thaumaturge's navel with a counter attack! "AHA! A point for me; perhaps you should focus less on my words and more my lance." "And here I thought we were calling them swords." "Oh whatever we call them, have at you!" Another lunge from the bear's hip, the Red Mage took the offense, yet the other man rolled back to avoid getting poked this time. Even as the bear retreated, the tanuki had pushed on forward and managed to graze the tip of his dick up against Ignacio's pubic fur, the student scoring a point against the teacher. Even Onyx managed a smirk after his move. "Hmph... your skill with this combat is greater than I anticipated," remarked the bruin. As the two magicians continued to roll together in a thinly-veiled excuse of sexual release, it became more apparent Ignacio was less concerned about the points than Onyx. Sure, he counted each time the glans head would strike the other man, but as their rods pushed up together in their erotic struggle, both men began to pace their breathes in rapid successions. The frotting became more irratic, tossing any lesson plans out the window as the two let their arousals burn with ardor. The final point went to Onyx as he struck Ignacio's abdomen for the fifth time, ceasing their activity while the bear took a moment to breath and revil in the pleasure. "Congratuations! You managed to best me... what shall your prize be for the gentleman's duel?" After all the foreplay and pretense, Onyx just reached out to grab both their staves of flesh and began to ferveishly pump them together. The leather glove gripped the sensitive dicks together, causing the bruin to groan loud. "Just shut up! Enough of this foolish prattle, you're cumming with me right now." Ignacio would have laughed louder, if he wasn't so much on edge now that his loins were achnig for the climax to trigger so soon. "Ngh! I see ... you're letting the flames of lust consume you my Thaumaturge. Why don't you ignite us together then?" "I thought I told you to cease your tongue!" A prod of the tanuki's penis rubbed against the bear's own flesh, the piercing coming to contact as their duel was reaching the peak of much needed release. "You don't know how true you speak Iggy." "Nnnnnggggggggghhhhhhhffffffff...!" Ignacio's head rolled back as his breathing became rapid, closing his eyes shut while an orgasm approached. "Enough! I feel the heat rise along my blade. I'm... going.... to...." A gasp and cry seemed to mix in the air as both the tanuki and bear shared in their pleasurable release, the euphoria sinking in as the climax seemed to erupt. As soon as the Red Mage opened his eyes however, the sight before him was more than he bargained for. "W-what is this!?" Much to the shock and horror of Ignacio, both their phalluses were spruoting flames from the tips, as if Firaga had been cast! It seemed to spread out in a great conflagration, leaving the bear stunned in his seat. "IT'S ON FIRE!" "I tried to warn you about my condition Ignacio, and yet you wouldn't listen. Perhaps next time you should listen to someone's warning trying to get a word in edge wise." Onyx seemed cool and collected about the incident, even indifferent as the flames continued to spurt forth. Still, both men continued to groan out, even as the flames whittled to embers and soon left smoke coming out of their dicks. "Don't worry too much; you'll get used to it." "B-b-b-b-but my cock! IT. WAS. ON. FIRE!" The snarl from the tanuki's orgasm faded into an impish smile, as he thought to comfort the bear with his words. "Look at the bright side. We've mastered the Twin Casting technique left behind from the Mysidians!" Ignacio shot back with a sour face, grumbling as he laid back in the after glow of his encounter. Now he knew exactly what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a terrible joke! BGN 's running gag for the Month of August always sparked my interest to do a piece for "Lighter Dong Awareness Month." So I thought that I would ask Onyx Tanuki to collaborate with me on a piece together, since I had my eyes set out for his guy for a long time. He liked my idea and wrote a story in fact, which I used as the basis of my piece for the submission. Go check out Onyx's Submission if you want to read his version! Ignacio de la Rosa del Marqués © Wind Tide Onyx Wasson and Original Story © Onyx Tanuki Art © BGN Find BGN's other works in these following websites!  BGN Twitter ↔  Red Chair Tumblr ↔  BGN's Picarto Channel  BGN's Deviant Art ↔  Broryx Guy Now Instagram

    © BlueGuyNow

  6. WindTide

    Metalmorphosis (Gāo)

    From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    Concentrate.... concentrate... concentrate! Gāo Rèn struggle to maintain his form of flesh and blood while his palm gripped the xiù qiú in his hand, already feeling the transformation take hold. What was fur became fresh bronze, feeling his body become stiff and lifeless. Only recently did the man find a way to harness his powers of transformation, the only way to freely transform between his living body and a metal statue, but his control was still unrefined. If he didn't master his powers, who knows how many years would be pass before he wakes up... what would the world become in his absence? Gāo was not going to take his chances to wait until the end of his hibernation. There was nothing to his existence if he remained a statue for all of eternity. Donryu had opened up slots for a digital commission spot, and I snagged one for one of my characters having done business with him in person. Now I have the pleasure of demonstrating the artist's digital artistry with Gāo Rèn being the center piece for this illustration. Thank you once again for a lovely illustration man! Gāo Rèn © Wind Tide Art © Donryu Find Donryu's other works in these following websites!  Donryu's Twitter ↔   Donryu's Tumblr ↔  Donryu's Patreon ↔  Donryu's Kofi ↔  Donryu's Picarto Channel

    © Donryu

  7. WindTide

    To Aisenfield! (Gavvar)

    From the album: Wind Tide's Collection

    If a stranger had asked anyone who lived in Aisenfield about the local folk tales, they would surely be told of "Dozen-and-One Knights of Aisen" without fail. Every man, woman, and child in the grass plains has heard of the bravery of the band of champions who paraded Aisenfield in the older days. Of the thirteen knights, perhaps the one that everyone remembered was the hero Gaol, a man of amber eyes accompanied with his compatriot Lini the Moogle Knight. Gavvar Faas of course was familiar with the legends surrounding his homelands. It was these stories that the young Banaa grew up on. Stories of valor, adventure, and romance that captivated his imagination of the wonders Ivalice had to offer. Even in these times of peace the Bangaa had wanted to achieve greatness like the knights of lore... to have his story repeated from generations to generations. That's why he set off to train to become a warrior, so that he could make his own legend for Aisenfield. Every now and then the Dragoon would return to his homeland to recount his stories for the denizens. Heading over to the local pubs there was a chance that someone would recognize the Bangaa warrior. Perhaps if they were lucky the man would tell a story or two over a meal. Even children who recognize the traveler would come to hear of his fantastic adventures in the world of Ivalice. But perhaps the best time to find Gavvar was when he was out training in the Field of the Fallen. Perhaps one day he would live up to the Knights of Aisenfield... even surpass the legendary Gaol. Cyran offered a spot for a practice digital painting, which I am quite pleased to show the fruit of his labors! Gavvar looks fantastic in his armor and with his spear gleaming in the sunlight! Such a pleasant scenery invoked the Final Fantasy imagery of the grass plains, and Gavvar's home region reminded me of such a suitable place for this piece to take part of. Overall I encourage anyone to contact Cyran if you are looking for great artwork! If anything a piece like this highlights his talents, and certainly will not disappoint anyone! Gavvar Faas © Wind Tide Art © Cyran Find Cyran's other works in these following websites!  Cyran's Twitter ↔  Cyran's Tumblr ↔  Cyran's Picarto Channel

    © Cyran

  8. A Sam and Sam Investigation Story Samantha put the book down when she heard the knock on the door. She had been reading a dissertation on the magical working of enchantment for the last two hours. Before that she had gone through her collection of Popular Magic, anything to pass the time. It seemed to be the only things she had been doing all month; the private investigation business was slow these days. "Come in." She said. A man, in a business suit entered. He looked around nervously and kept changing his hold on the portfolio he carried. Samantha knew her office was nothing impressive, a bookcase, some pictures on the wall and the desk, from behind which she was getting up. The man seemed surprised at seeing her, something she expected. The name of the agency was Douglas Investigation. The phrasing was consciously ambiguous, letting the clients think the investigator was a man. She had learned from her first year that people were reluctant to employ a woman investigator, but if she could get them in the office they were usually too afraid of offending her simply to leave. She admitted to herself that it was unfair to use other's discomfort to get work, but she had to pay the bills. He walked to the desk, wiping the sweat off his hand before presenting it. "I'm Brian DuMornay, can you help me?" She placed the dissertation back in the book case. "I'm Samantha Douglas, if you tell me the problem I'll be able to answer you." She said taking out a paper pad and pen. "My wife has been kidnapped." He placed his portfolio on his thighs, holding on to it like he was drowning. "I see, when did it happened?" "Three . . . Three days ago." "The police?" "They're investigating, but I don't know if they're going to really do everything they can." His shoulders slopped down a little. "I didn't get a very good impression of them." She raised an eyebrow in surprise. "What makes you say that." He swallowed hard, hesitating before answering. "She was kidnapped by an Arcane." He continued without giving her a chance to speak. "Please tell me that you'll help. You've got to help, I've seen too many investigators who refused. I don't know what I'll do if you refuse. The last one I saw said that you'd take it. Please tell me that you'll take it." She reassured him with a smile, now understanding his mistrust of the police and his despair over finding help. Very few Mundanes wanted to get involved in Arcane business. "Please calm down, if you tell me more I'll be in a better position to give you an answer. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened, to the best of your recollection." "It happened Monday night I'd just come back from work when I heard loud noises in our bedroom, like things being thrown on the floor. I ran to see what had happened, but when I got there I could only see something big with wings jump out the window carrying my Maria. I . . . I got to the window to see them drop about ten floors before its wings caught in the wind and they flew away." She let him rest a few seconds. When it was obvious that he'd finished she asked: "Do you know of anyone who'd want to hurt you through your wife, or hurt her?" Pale, he shook his head in negative. "Can you give me a better description of the winged creature?" "It seemed to be bipedal, I can't say how high, but he looked big, it wasn't wearing any clothes that I could see." "Did you see its skin color, or if it had an unusual sign?" He shook is head. "No." She took some notes. "Do you have a picture of your wife?" He gave her a 4 X 6 portrait. "Can I keep it?" He nodded weakly. She looked at the portrait. The woman on it was good looking, brown hair with a slight curl, grayish-blue eyes and fair skin with just enough makeup to enhance her looks without looking artificial. Never being able to use makeup herself without ending up looking like she had used paint, Samantha had to admire the gentle effect it had on Ms DuMornay. She put the picture on the desk, beside her notes. "I'll need you to give me her description, what she was wearing, unusual traits and anything you think might help me to find her." "She's five feet six, one twenty pounds. Her hair is dark brown, her eyes blue-gray. She has an astrological star tattooed on her back. She's Mundane, but she loves anything that has to do with the Arcanes. I don't know what else I can say." "What was she wearing when she was kidnapped?" "I don't know for sure. She usually wears a brown, knitted, shirt her mother gave her when she's at home." She finished taking notes and looked through them again. "Provided we can agree on my fee I'm willing to take the case. You understand that because it involves Arcanes I have to charge extra." He shrugged. "Money isn't a problem." She made quick calculation on what she expected to need. "It will be two thousand dollars now, that will be used to buy protection and tools that might be needed. My daily charge is one hundred dollars. If that meets with your approval I can start right now." The man wrote her a check. Seeing that it was for five thousand she gave it back to him. "It's more than I asked for." He looked at it on the desk with an empty expression. "If you find my wife, it'll be worth every penny . . . and if you don't I don't think I'll be needing it anymore." She looked at him understanding the seriousness of his feeling. "All right, I'll consider the extra an advance." She got up and escorted him to the door. "Now the best thing you can do is go get some rest. You'll want to look better for your wife's return." He thanked her as she closed the door behind him. Samantha walked back to her desk, thinking about that poor man, who'd obviously lost everything he held dear. It warmed her heart to see someone who genuinely loved his wife; she'd seen too many couples break up in the name of money. She had almost stopped believing that love was a real emotion and not something people made up to get something from someone else. She copied the address and phone number off the check and picked up the phone. The man's last comments had left her uncomfortable. "I'd like to talk with father Maxwell please." She said when answered. Father Maxwell the most devoted listener she knew. Herself, and others within the congregation, often went to him with their problems. He would offer advice, not as a priest, but as a man with years of experience. "Hello," someone said a few seconds later. "Father Maxwell, this is Samantha Douglas." "Ah Samantha, how are you today?" "I'm fine, thank you for asking. I'm calling about my client. His wife has been kidnapped and he took it pretty hard. I'm afraid of what he might do to himself if she can't be found. I was wondering if you could talk with him." "You sound as if you believe he might kill himself if something goes wrong." "Yes." "Don't you think he'd be better served by seeing a psychologist?" "What he needs is a shoulder to cry on. You're the best person I can think of to help him." "I'll see to it." She gave him Brian's address. "Do you think you will find her?" "I don't know. It mostly depends on what the kidnapper wants from her." She hated to sound pessimistic. "I see. I'll still see you in church on Sunday?" "Of course. Have a good day." She hung up and looked out the window. She knew she couldn't blame all Arcanes for what one of them had done, but at this moment it seem to her like Arcanes were constantly preying on Mundanes for one reason or another. She sighed, magical beings were no more responsible for the pains of normal folks than the Gods were. She had to admit it sometimes felt good to blame someone for all her problems. That done she took out her check book and wrote one for her landlord. "Hello Miss. Douglas." Said a woman as Samantha was locking the door. She turned to her. "Good day Madame Loraine, what's in the cards for us today?" Madame Loraine was a tarot reader. She was good enough to have clients coming from all over the United States for readings. She had the office next to Samantha's. "I'd stay indoors if I were you. According to the cards the next few days will have many things happening." "Hopefully, one of them will be success in this case." Madame Loraine delighted herself in giving advice of all kind. Unfortunately she had a tendency of being as vague as her cards. Smiling, Samantha said goodbye and walked down the stairs. Her occupation required her to be sitting most of the time. She tried to use her legs as much as possible. She put the check in her landlord's mailbox and went to her Jeep. Her one exception to her walking rule was when she had a case. She drove to the police station. There she made her way to a particular desk. She sat down before a man before being noticed. "Hey Rocco! How's it doing." The man lifted his head and smiled. "Hi Sam. They have me doing so much paper work that I'm rarely on the streets anymore." He threw his pen on the desk and stretched. "I can't do this anymore. Do you want a cup of coffee?" "Sure, as long as it's not from inside this station." "Come on, the coffee shop in front has a great cappuccino." The coffee shop had once been a bar, whose windows had been broken so often the owner had them bricked off. When the police station moved in the clients stopped coming. It was forced to close. Over the following years the building saw many businesses trying their luck. From a library to a tattoo parlor, even an arcane shop had given it a try. None of them had survived. Now it was a coffee shop. Samantha hoped it would survive. It had a calm atmosphere, quiet music and diffuse lighting. They took a booth. Just as their order arrived two police officers got up to leave. They stopped. "Hey Arcane, what are you doing away from your desk. You might get in someone's way," one said carefully placing his cap. "Up yours Wallosky," answered Rocco, giving them the finger. They left talking together. Samantha heard a few insults thrown their way. "Why do you keep taking this Rocco?" He looked at his cup. "It's the only way I have of being a cop." "Get even with them once in a while. I don't know, throw them a curse, something minor, but annoying." Rocco was a mage with great powers. Samantha constantly found it amusing considering his unassuming looks and behavior. He looked at her smiling, and then shook his head. "I don't know how. Even if I did it's illegal to hex someone. It'd mean my job." "Then join Security." At that he laughed out loud, spilling some coffee. "Damn. Do you know what Arcane Security of any kind is about?" She looked at him. "No," she said hesitantly. "It's all about posing. About who looks the most powerful. They couldn't even find their ass without some sort of specially made spell. That's not what I want. Anyway, what did you want to see me about?" "I wanted you to check for any reports made on the sighting of a big, winged, bipedal being." "I don't recall anything, offhand." "What about the man who came to see you guys three days ago. He's wife was kidnapped by this being." "If it involves anything arcane, everyone at the station makes doubly sure it doesn't cross my desk. It might take a few days, but I'll see what I can find." "Do you have any ideas on what it could be?" He looked at her, surprised "Don't you?" "Yes, but I'm only someone reading a lot. You actually do magic." "Not these days. OK, how big was it?" "I don't know for sure. From what my client said probably over seven feet tall and muscular." "I doubt that's a shifted mage then." She looked at him not understanding. "When someone is shapeshifted by magic the physical mass can't be changed." "That's right, I remember now. Magic can't create mass, only modify it's shape." He nodded. "If your creature was human at the start, even if he was seven feet tall, there wouldn't be enough mass to create the being you described. He'd have to be over five hundred pounds." "What else could it be?" "Let's see. A demon, but they're very hard to control when they're that big. Could be a gargoyle. If it's that it could be a lot easier to find out; there aren't that many of them in the city . . .. Wait a minute, I just though of something. It might be a mage after all. If he uses a spell of flight and an illusion to cover his shape, it would have work." "That doesn't help me narrow down the possibilities." "Sorry." "OK, who could have access to those ways, and any other ways you can think of?" "It's illegal to summon a demon. So is selling an inscribed summoning, making it an expensive spell. A witch wouldn't touch that kind of spell with a broomstick. A wizard might, but only out of curiosity, not to get after someone. A necromancer is definitely capable and most would be willing; they don't care much about their souls. I don't know about the dark priests, but it's a possibility. "To create a gargoyle would require an Arcane with a passion for sculpting. It's the only way to imbue life in inanimate rock. Without the intervention of magic, it would take about a century for the gargoyle's sentience to emerge. A mage could easily speed this up, even bond the creature to himself. If a gargoyle gains life on its own, it will be free spirited and stay away from humans. "The flight spell and illusion could be bought for a few hundreds dollars each. Although the flight spell might cost more, depending on how much weight it's able to carry. Any arcane shop will carry them." Samantha sat back and let escape a sigh. "Thanks." "I'm sorry if it doesn't make your job easier." "At least now I know what to look for. Tell me, if I have to go against one of those creatures, what should I use?" "Against a demon a blessed bullet would hurt it a lot. A gargoyle is made from rock, so it's affected by magic that affect rocks. The mage is vulnerable to anything a mundane is, unless he has a protection spell cast. Over all I'd say your best bet is magic." "And me a simple Mundane. Thanks anyway." Samantha got up. "I'll look around for more info on the kidnapping." She wrote her client's name on a napkin and gave it to him. Before she could leave he caught her and gave her a kiss on a cheek, making her blush. She spent the rest of the day inquiring around, trying to find out if anyone had bought certain spells. The day wasn't very productive. None of the places she visited sold summoning spells, not even in the back rooms. Very few people had need of both a flight and illusion spell. Those who did turned out to be an actor playing a flying dragon and a birthday gift for a dying child. She went to bed totally drained. She didn't even take the time to undress and turn the lights off. Her cat, Mortimer, curled up besides her accompanying her to sleep with his purring. She woke with a start, shivering. She went to check the heating system and found the system had failed, again. She had it looked at three times in the last month. She hoped the problem would be found before the autumn night became much colder. Now awake she went around the house, turning off the lights. She ran back to the bedroom when she heard Mortimer yell in distress. She got there in time to see, through the now open window, a large winged being taking flight. He fit the description Brian had given her. Like him she couldn't tell the color of it's skin. She closed and locked the window and did another round of the house, making sure all the windows were closed and securely locked. She then took out extra blankets and went back to bed. Mortimer jumped beside her, making sure that she was between him and the window. The next three days were spent going around the darker places. Mainly small, out of the way, arcane bars and making contact with sellers of illegal spells. Nothing came out of it. No one she talked to would touch a summoning spell. The penalty was to high for them. None of them liked the prospect of being transformed into a zombie. Then came Sunday. After mass she seeked out father Maxwell. She found him speaking with the young man who had given the sermon. She gave him time to finish before approaching. "Now," Father Maxwell said once the acolyte had left, "What advise can I give you." Samantha blushed. "Is that the only thing I do when I come to see you?" He smiled. "Not really, but I usually give some anyway, so what is it?" "First, how is Mr. DuMornay doing?" He remained silent for a few seconds, thinking. "As well as can be expected, all things considered. When I talked to him he was withdrawn and depressive. I called his family so that someone's with him at all time. Other than bringing back his wife I don't know what else can be done." "When he hired me he paid me more than I had asked. Since he wouldn't take it back I though I would consider it an advance. Now to continue my search I'm going to have to use some of it. I don't know if I should." "He gave it to you, you should use it." "What about his state of mind when he did it?" "Maybe, but I saw where he lives. He won't miss it, if that's what you're afraid of. If it helps you find his wife I'm sure he'll be happy you used it. You don't have to worry, just do your best." "Thanks." "That's what I'm here for." She stopped by her usual Arcane shop. She looked around for any new books before asking for the items she wanted. The owner, whom she knew, wasn't there so she had to endure an unknown salesman who tried to sell her dozens upon dozens of things she didn't need. Finally, she was able to leave with only what she wanted; a locator, and a charm. She knew she would be counting the pennies for a while. The locator would let her find Mrs. DuMornay. The charm was protection against spells in general. She put the charm in her pocket. She tried it on, but it didn't suit her. She didn't like wearing jewelry, any way. She leaned against her jeep, closed her eyes and brought up the picture of Mrs. DuMornay in her mind. When the image was clear she opened them and looked at the locator. It remained motionless. She knew it didn't mean anything, she did another test. She thought of Mortimer, his face solidifying easily in her mind. The black face with white speckles, the ripped ear he had lost six years ago, his eyes, one gold and the other green. His image made her smile, as usual. The locator needle started to spin, finally pointing in the direction she knew the house was. As She feared Mrs. DuMornay was by magic. She put the locator on the seat. She looked around the deserted street. She was wondering how to bypass the spell that hid Mrs. DuMornay when she noticed a shadow over her. Looking up she saw something large falling towards her. She barely moved away in time when it tried to grab her. She rolled to the ground, grabbing her gun and pointing the creature, but it was already climbing, showing only a black silhouette against the sun. She didn't waste bullets trying to hit it, but went for the locator. She formed in her mind the image, as vague as it was, a large being with wings. The locator spun around and settled on a more or less Northeasternly direction. She tried to see the flying being, but he wasn't visible anymore. She hopped in the jeep and drove off. She made her way in the direction the locator was giving her, driving one hand. She needed to keep physical contact with the locator. She zigzagged her way through the city eventually stopping at the edge of a destroyed area. Before her stood a city wasteland, about a hundred city blocks of unlived, and almost unlivable space. Everything was in shades of gray. The buildings, the few left standing, the debris, even the sky looked gray here. This, she though, was the reason for the mistrust of Arcanes. In the eighties gang wars became more frequent. When Arcane gangs entered the fray it led to the '86 war. An entire year of constant gun fights and magic devastation. Only the surveillance by Mundane police and Arcane security prevented it from spilling into the entire city. By the end of the year no one was left alive. Only those desperate enough dared to come live here. The city said the they would rebuild. They even tried it a few times. There were rumors that this place was haunted. She'd never stop to think about it. Seeing it she could easily believe them. Taking a deep breath she held up the locator. It pointed straight for a church about a hundred yards from where she was. She decided to go on foot. The jeep could probably take the terrain, but she didn't feel like risking its suspension. Pocketing the locator she made her way across the debris. The streets weren't visible anymore under all kind of debris. She made sure to keep the church in her sight constantly. It took her a full hour, sometime having to go around toppled buildings, or through them. Wherever she moved she could hear things scrambling away. She tried not to think about what they could be. She'd read that places where magic battles had happened tended to create new kinds of creatures. She reached the church, a big one, she leaned against a wall. It had survived the battles by the thickness of its walls, or the grace of God. She took the locator and formed the image, It pointed to her left. She walked around the church and did the same thing, this time looking in the distance. It pointed her. She slowly turned, watching the needle. It constantly pointed the same direction, the church. She found the entrance, a large double door in perfect shape. It opened soundlessly. The entry hallway was tall, still and felt majestic, even if it had been stripped of everything but the walls. It made her uncomfortable. She knew it would have horrified father Maxwell, to think that someone could have desecrated a church in such a way. Coming from the nave she heard a woman's cries and moaning of pain. She quickly, but quietly, walked to the entrance of the room. To her left farther down the room, behind pews, she could see the winged back of a blood-red creature, whose lower back was pumping up and down in rhythm with the cries. She took out her gun and aimed carefully, wishing she had something other than ordinary bullets loaded. "FREEZE!" She yelled. A barely human, horned face popped out and looked at her in what seemed to be surprise, remaining still. After a few seconds, during which neither it nor Samantha moved, a slender hand grabbed it by the beard, yanking hard. "Don't stop," said an unseen female voice. The creature went back to its thrusting, to the obvious delight of the woman under him. He casually looked at Samantha. "Whatever you want, you might as well put the gun away and wait until we're finished." Realizing what was going on Samantha left in a hurry, blushing. She waited outside, away from the sound and trying not to think about what they were doing. The girl, barely looking eighteen, came out a good half an hour later dressed like a prostitute, all smile. "He's all yours dearry," she told Samantha, looking at her enviously. Samantha went back into the church. Not seeing him she cried out. He lifted his head from behind the pew and rested it lazily between his crossed arm. "What can I do for you, other than serving as target practice, I'll be happy to be of help." Somehow it wasn't the kind of reaction she expected. "Who are you?" "I'm called Sam." He studied her. "Did I meet you before? Anyway look, you don't look like a priest. If you're here to banish me say it now so I can end this cleanly and quickly." "I'm here regarding a kidnapped woman." Sam shook his head violently and waved his hands before him in denial. "Whatever they told you I'm not involved in this one." He stopped moving. "You're that investigator who's been asking around about summoning spells." She ignored him. "This tells me you are." She took the locator out. "That thing's telling you the she's here?" She didn't like where the conversation was going. "It's telling me that you're the one who took her." He exhaled in one thunderous laugh. "If it's telling you that, then it's obviously broken. You'd better have a talk with the enchanter responsible. Anyway, those things aren't very accurate. You were probably thinking of someone else and got me instead." This is what she'd been dreading. The locator had worked with the information she had provided. Sam obviously fit the look of the kidnaper, but he wasn't necessarily him. She'd hoped he would have panicked and admitted everything. No such luck. "I'll be leaving then." Sam straightened. "Can I do anything to help?" She looked at him dubious. "Why would you want to help?" He shrugged. "Well, for one thing, tonight's entertainment is gone. I'm bored and you're cute." "I'm not making any kinds of deals with you, or anything similar." He chuckled. "Don't worry, I'm not one of those. I'm only looking for something to do." She thought about it. "Well, if I think of anything I'll call." Samantha left the church, trying the locator again. It kept going back to Sam, inside. The locator was giving her the closest being that fit the image. She closed her eye, trying to remember something new about the creature. Nothing came. She suddenly felt lifted off the ground. She yelled, and kept on yelling panicking. She was held by a rocky creature, a gargoyle, a calm part of her mind told her. It kept her close to its chest, preventing her from seeing anything else. She fought to get out of its hold, but she wasn't strong enough. She saw a flash of red in her peripheral vision and the gargoyle dropped her. In alternating sight she saw the ground, getting closer, the gargoyle beating its wings to put out a fire clinging to its body and Sam falling towards her. He caught her while she was pointing to the ground, noting every detail, strangely devoid off fear. Their collision together knocked the breath out of her. The fear came pouring in. She cried, holding on to him until he gently put her on the ground. She moved away from him, drying her tears. "What happened," he asked her. "I heard you cry out and by the time the time I came out the gargoyle was flying off with you." "It grabbed me on the way to my jeep." She turned toward him, and turned away with a gasp. "What's wrong?" "You're naked." "So?" "Could you get dressed?" "I don't have clothes." Samantha took off her vest and gave it to him. "Use this to cover yourself." Sam looked at it on all side. "I won't be able to fit in this, and my wings will rip the back." "Just cover that." She said, pointing his midsection without looking. With an amused smile he studied the situation and tied the sleeves in his back. "I'm done." She turned around wearily, unsure if she could believe what he said. He smiled at her. "I didn't know you'd be so sensitive about that. Most places I hang in don't seem to mind." She blushed, but did not respond. She looked to the sky, while searching for the locator in her pockets. "DAMN!" She said, coming up empty. "I lost the locator." "That thing? I don't see how you can mind. It wasn't very good." "Look, I don't need your sarcasm right now OK? It cost me most of the money I had. Now I wont even be able to find the woman I'm looking for. If you want to be helpful why don't you go after that gargoyle? I'd like to know why it's after me." Sam took off with a nod. Samantha sat down, leaning against something that could have been a car, once. Calming down she realized that if the gargoyle was the one who had kidnapped the woman, it was probably trying to prevent her from finding her. That didn't explain why it had only tried to capture her, rather than kill her, and what it had been doing at her house, unless that was Sam. She'd have to ask him. He landed next to her. "I can't find it anywhere. It's probably hiding in a building somewhere." She looked at him with a resigned look. Quickly she averted her gaze. "Would you please straighten the vest." Sam looked down. The vest had turned around during the flight. "You know, your human sensitivity is charming and all that. If we're to work together you're going to have to get over the sight of me naked. I have no use for clothes." He said adjusting the vest. "Done." She looked at him. "What makes you think that I want to work with you?" "You asked me to go after the gargoyle, didn't you?" She rested her head in her hands. She didn't need this kind of aggravations. Then a though struck her. "If I buy you an Arcane locator would you be willing to help me?" He sat down beside her. "Sure, but why would you want to buy me a locator?" "It's a lot cheaper than a Mundane one, I could afford it." "That's fine, but I won't be able to use it." "Why shouldn't you, you're Arcane." He laughed. "Hardly. I'm Demonic." She looked at him dubious. "I always though Demons were Arcanes. Hell, I though that there were only Mundanes or Arcanes." "Humans come only in those flavors. You also have Demonics and Angelics." "Demons and Angels. I thought that those were also humans." "Most start that way. Once they get on our side they become entirely different." She thought on that a while. "You said that you'd seen me in one of the bars. How come I didn't see you? I would have remembered someone looking like you." "I was slightly out of sight." "Hiding?" He shook his head. "Busy." She looked at him. "Did you follow me home that night?" He looked back, his mouth twisting in a wry expression. "What would make you think that?" "A winged being tried to get in my house during that night. It left when I realized it was there." He let go of a deep chuckle. "If it would have been me you would have known. I would have done whatever I'd gone there to do, and not cared if you were there or not." She got up and dusted herself off. "Come on, lets go back to the jeep. I'll show you what I found when we're at my office." Sam followed her example, and unfolded his wings. "I'll give you a lift to your jeep." "I . . . I don't think it's a good idea." "Come on, I won't bite, or do anything indecent to you. We're working together. I have to do my part." He stretched his hand to her. Hesitantly she placed hers in his. He lifted her in his arms and took off. She held him tightly, afraid of being dropped. Held this close she noticed a few things that didn't register when he saved her. He smelled a little of sulfur, like an after shave. His skin was smooth, without body hair, save for his hair and beard. The same red as his body. Even his horns were red. He landed beside the jeep and got in the back, the only place where his large frame fit comfortably. She drove to her office, self-conscious of the Demon in her jeep. She did get a few strange looks, but she made her way without any difficulties. In her office Sam looked around before sitting on the old sofa beside the door. She gave him her notes to read while she checked her messages. "You don't have much." He told her once finished. "I know, but I have something more now. A friend of mine left a message saying that there had been a few sightings of gargoyles. Some of them carrying victims he reports. It would seem that my client's wife wasn't the only one kidnapped." "I can ask around about that. That is, if you don't mind us working together." He gave her an inquisitive look. "That's fine." "Good. Is there an access to the roof?" "The stairs are at the end of the corridor." The Arcanium was the place where Arcanes who inspired fear, simply by their looks, or by their feeding habit, came to relax. Most of the clients could easily be identified as Arcane. The werewolves, skeletons and ghouls were among the most visible today. Sam made his way to a darken booth and sat down in front of a lich. It looked up from its book, and put it aside. "Hello," it said in a hollow voice. "What owes me the honor of your presence?" "I need some information." The lich waited for the waitress to place a drink in front of Sam, and leave. "What kind?" "A gargoyle as been kidnapping people around the city." Sam took the large cup and breathes some fire on it. The liquid caught in a long yellow flame. He took a deep swallow. "It's not one of mine." "Who else has one?" "What would be the payment for that information?" Sam lifted his shoulders. "What do you want?" "Your name could be useful." "You'll be waiting for a long time for that one. I don't give my name to anyone." The lich thought about it a while. "Then I could probably use your help with a rival." "Would it have to be right now? I'm busy at the moment." "I'm in no hurry, death has taught me patience," the lich wrote the names down before leaving. Sam sat down at the counter. "Have you heard anything about the kidnapping done by a gargoyle?" He ask Jade, the bartender. Jade finished drying a glass. "Might have." Sam waited. It became obvious that Jade was waiting for something more the demon swung his hand in front of Jade's face, catching and unseen object. He opened his hand, and a gold coin sat in his palm. "Is it real?" Jade asked, controlling his impulse to grab it. Sam placed it on the counter. "It is. Straight from a Spanish galleon I sank three or four hundred years ago." Jade looked at the coin, cautious. "My father told me never to believe what a demon said." "Good advice, but it's still real and yours." Sam put his hand over it before Jade could take it. "Once you've told me about the kidnapping gargoyle." Jade squirmed, the gold out of his sight. "I don't know about the gargoyle. I heard enough about the victims." He was trying to see the coin between Sam's fingers. "My hand'll come up when you've told me. So you might as well stop trying to peer through it and talk to me." He picked Jade by the collar. "OK, OK . . . I heard the victims came from all over the city, rich or poor. Doesn't seem to make a difference. They do have a few things in common." He tried to move Sam's hand. Sam shook him. He stopped "All right. The victims were all slender, five six, five eight in height, brown skin, dark brown, curly, hair. That's all I know." Sam let go of him and left. On the flight back to the office he was thinking about what he had learned. The description fit Samantha's, and the gargoyle had tried to take her. This would be fun. He never saw the gargoyle coming. One instant he was flying the next he was plummeting to he ground, rocky arms around his neck. Before he could remove it from his back he collided with the street. The impact left him dazed. "This," said the gargoyle, lifting him up, "is for nearly melting me. I don't get involved in your business. I'd appreciate you staying out of mine." It threw him in an alley. Hitting the building did not help Sam regain his senses; nonetheless he tried to get back to his feet. The gargoyle landed beside him and he made an attempt at striking back. It moved aside and struck him in the back. "I'm not given any choice about what I'm doing. You'd better heed this warning," was the last thing Sam heard before fainting. When Sam woke up there was a crowd at the entrance of the alley. He got up slowly, letting the dizziness pass. His back felt sore, but his wings weren't broken. He took flight, not minding the crowd. He barely remembered to put the vest back on. He even though about not putting it on at all. He decided Samantha wasn't the one responsible for his anger. He sat down on the sofa, wincing as pain traveled through his back. "What happened to you?" Samantha asked upon seeing him. He was covered with scratches. "I had an impromptu meeting with the gargoyle. It didn't appreciate my saving you. I have some new information." "That's good." She got up and gave him a package. "I got this for you." He took a bundle of cloth out of the bag. "What am I suppose to do with that?" He held out a large shirt and pair of pants. "Wear them of course." He opened the pants and looked inside. "Why would I need to?" "To cover that," she said pointing, "unless you want to keep using my vest?" "I'd much rather," he said, getting up, yanking the vest off and throwing it at her, "I don't need to. I'm perfectly comfortable in earthen climates. If you have a problem with it we might as well discuss it right now. I'm not sure I'll be happy working with you if I have to wear this only on your say so." Samantha concentrated on stopping the reflex to look at what had been uncovered. "Look, humans don't go around naked. We wear clothes, it's called decency." "I'm not human, I don't have to play by your rules." "That's fine with me, the door's over there. If you want to work with me you're going to wear them, you're scary enough as it is." He looked at the pants and shirt, frowning, and then at her. "It's final, no clothes no work." "Well," Sam said with a wry smile, "Dad said I'd never get anywhere if I didn't try something different once in a while." He threw the shirt on the sofa and put the pants on, solving the problem of his tail by cutting a hole in the back. He then worked the shirt on. Samantha had bought one specially made for winged persons, but his wings were too big for the slots. Trying to wear the shirt he ripped the back. His horns caught on the collar and ripped it also. Once his arms were in the sleeves he could feel the seems start the break. He couldn't move without ripping it even more and he felt strangled. "This won't work." Samantha told him. "No kidding." He answered trying to get out of it. Finally he simply ripped it off. "Look, I'll wear the pants, but there's no way I'm putting on another shirt. Anyway, I can't think of something that could frighten a human that the shirt would cover, unless you want me to wear a hood with that?" Samantha smiled. "The pants will do fine. Now, what did you find out from your friends?" "From one I got the names of those who have gargoyles, one or many. From the other I learned that all the victims look like you." "What?" "Between five six and five eight, slender, brown skin and dark brown, curly, hair. That fits you pretty well." "Yes. That explains why the gargoyle tried to get me. What about the names?" "They are: one Armand Lajoie, one Amanda Rockford, one Stenford Broak and one Jonathan Maximilien Trojian." He told her from memory, the paper having been lost when the gargoyle attacked him. She wrote them down and then, seeing the time. "At least we have something to go on now. I'll start on them in the morning. You can crash on the sofa if you want to." Sam looked at it. "Who do you take me for? It's not because I'm a Demon that I destroy things simply to pass the time." "Not destroy, crash on, you know? Sleep on?" "Oh, I don't need sleep." "Then I'll see you in the morning." The morning saw Samantha on the phone and Sam reading a book. She had to wash her vest a few times to get the sulfur smell out if it. "I'd like to speak to officer Rocky Trojian please. Rocco! I need you to give me some info. To start with, you never told me your dad had a gargoyle. I see, OK, I'd like you to get me some addresses. Yes they're in the city. Armand Lajoie, Amanda Rockford, Stenford Broak and your dad. I have to talk with them. Thanks" She wrote down the information he gave her. "I'm going to see Rocco's father. I'll be back in a flash." She told Sam in leaving. On the way there she called to let them know she was coming, using Rocky 's name to make sure his father would see her. The estate was enormous. At an hour from the city, the land easily covered twenty acres. The mansion itself could be mistaken for a castle. She was received by aerial servants and escorted to a study on the second floor, where she was told to wait. She took that time to study the room. When a man, in his fifties, entered she was looking out a window at the interior courtyard. "I am Jonathan, I was told you needed to see me." "I'm Samantha Douglas, I'm a friend of your . . . .." "Son, I know. That dubious standing would not have let you past the gate. You also mentioned something about a gargoyle." At those words the door opened by itself and an eight feet tall statue entered. "Geoffrey," Jonathan said as a matter of introduction. Samantha gulped, "Nice to meet you." She didn't get closer. Geoffrey nodded. Jonathan sat behind the large desk. "You are here to ask about my involvement with the kidnappings that have been happening over the city. I will tell you I am not, nor is Geoffrey, involved. I do not know, nor do I care what happens to the Mundanes." She looked him straight in the eyes. "That's comforting though." Jonathan chuckled. "What do you expect? The Mundanes are afraid of me and don't want me around. I moved as far as I could allow myself. I am now returning them the favor. Now, what else do you want to know?" She sat in the chair facing the desk. "Don't you know?" "Yes, but I found that giving Mundanes answer to questions they have not asked yet unnerves them." "I can't see why." She told him with irony. "Rocco, I mean Rocky told me a bit about gargoyle, but I always thought that they were winged creature. Did you have its wings removed?" "No. I had Geoffrey created this way. I needed a bodyguard, not a show piece." "I see. Do you know the other gargoyles' owners, Armand Lajoie, Amanda Rockford and Stenford Broak?" "I do know them, although I did not know Stenford had one. He never looked patient enough to wait for one." "Patient?" "Yes. If one is well prepared and has all the ingredients the creation of the spell to accelerate the awakening of a gargoyle will take at least a few years. Surely my son told you about the time needed for a gargoyle to awaken to sentience. In the case of Geoffrey it took me three years." "What about the other two, what kind of gargoyles do the have?" "Winged, both of them." Jonathan was about to say something more when a crystal ball started to glow. "Geoffrey, there is someone uninvited in the yard, remove him." The gargoyle opened a window and jumped out. Jonathan got up. With a courteous wave of the arm invited Samantha to the open window. "Would you care to see Geoffrey in action?" She looked out, to see Geoffrey and Sam battling it out, in silence. Samantha sighed. "Sam, what are you doing here?" and then yelled the question. "Following you." He said, dodging a punch. "Unless you've forgotten," Dodging another one, "There's still a gargoyle . . . .." He blocked a kick. "That's enough." Sam took off. "As I was saying you still HAAAAV . . . .." Was all he could get out as the gargoyle jumped, caught his legs and dragged him back to the ground. Samantha turned to Jonathan. "Could you call your gargoyle off, I know him." He looked at her, shocked beyond belief and looking a little terrified. "You KNOW him? Sweet lady, what are you DOING involved with a demon? I do hope you had enough sense not to conclude any deals with that creature." "Of all the patronizing . . .," she didn't even have time to finish the though before erupting in anger. "Where do you get off telling me how to live my life? Sam's a colleague and he saved my life. You're the one saying he doesn't get involved in Mundanes' affairs so fuck off." She turned to the window. "Sam! I'm leaving!" "It's about time," he answered to himself, connecting a punch that sent the gargoyle flying through a wall. He flew beside the window. "Your gargoyle needs some beefing up." He landed beside the jeep and waited for Samantha to get there. She slammed the door over what he tried to say. He climbed in the back "You're in a foul mood, what's eating you?" "WHAT IN ALL HEAVEN ARE YOU DOING HERE?" "Protecting you, There's still a gargoyle on the loose" "You're a demon. Why should you care what happens to me?" "We're partners." "Well fine. Then this partnership is over. Get out of my Jeep." "Look we can . . . .." "I SAID GET OUT!" "Fine, if you need me I'll probably be at the church or the Arcanium." She drove off without listening to him. An hour later Sam was slouching on the Arcanium's bar, playing with an empty glass. "Something wrong?" Asked Jade. "I'm bored." "Weren't you working with that detective?" "She threw me out." "Well you can always go back go maiming and raping." Sam chuckled. "I've been doing that for as long as I can remember, It's no fun anymore. That's why I was looking for something different to do this time around." "I see. If you don't want violence anymore then you probably won't be interested in the hiring I heard about." He shrugged, "what's it about?" "From what I heard, collecting things around the city. I only heard that Limely was looking far a few Arcane gangers for a job. If you're interested, its tonight at the old Balters Building." "Gangers hey? You think they'll mind having a demon around?" "Now that you mention it, probably, but that never stopped you before." "Only this time I'm not looking for an easy fight." He looked at his hands. "You know anyone who could whip me up an illusion talisman before tonight?" "Its possible, but it won't come cheap." "You know money's not a problem. I have enough gold, and I know a few rich men I can kill for some quick paper cash if he wont take gold. The illusion has to feel real to those around." "I'll ask around." "I'll be back before sun down." An hour before sun down Sam walked back in. He felt better, still unsure if he wanted to do it. He needed something to do. Was he willing to sacrifice the way he looked to get it? He didn't know. "I have what you wanted" said Jade. "He wants five of your gold doubloons." "That's what he wants? Or what you want? I'll give you one." "Come on, you know that's not enough. He'll never take less than four." "Tell you what. I'll give you two and this." He placed a wallet on the counter. "There's about three thousand dollars in it." Jade took it and counted the money. "What happened to the owner?" "He was lunch." He took the amulet, looked at it dubiously and put it around his neck. He tried to concentrate on a few illusions to test the limits of the amulet, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Jade looked at him. "It isn't working?" Sam didn't answer. Lets start simple, he though. Clothes, he'd need clothes that would let him pass himself off as a ganger. Pants and a jacket, both made of leather appeared. All ganger had symbols on their clothes. Unfortunately Sam didn't know what would be appropriate. Thinking it better than nothing he put a demonic face on the back of the jacket and flames on the pants. Looking at himself in the mirror at the back of the bar he had to admit the clothes were good. Unfortunately he still looked like a demon wearing human's clothes. He worked on his skin color, keeping it as red as he could. He ended up looking sunburnt. It might not be appropriate considering the season. At least he still felt comfortable. The face and wings were the hardest part. In the end he looked human, tall and with a deformed face, but he looked human. He felt miserable, which in turn made him feel angry. This was the worst thing he'd had ever had to do. Made even worst by knowing he had done it willingly. When he left the Arcanium he looked mean. He looked forward to killing someone. The building where the meeting took place was old and ill kept. He entered through a large opening that had once held door. Inside Arcanes of all types moving around, staying in small groups with the same emblems on their clothes. A man climbed on a table an yelled for attention. "I'm happy you could make it." He said once everyone had calmed down. "I need about forty persons for the job, which will amount mostly in creating havoc for the Mundanes." "How much does it pay?" Someone yelled in the crowd. "Why?" Yelled back another. "If you need a reason to disturb the Mundanes you're among the wrong people. As for the money, it will be enough since you can keep anything you get, other than what I need." "Just make sure the Ravens aren't involved," said a werewolf. "Or what?" Answered a black, winged, man behind the werewolf. The werewolf turned and bared his fangs. Several of the Ravens made their ways to their leader. "Stop this. I don't need a fight here." "Fuck off Limely. It's time those Ravens finally learned who's the boss around here." Limely murmured a few words and pointed the Raven leader, who started melting. "There Rake it's done. Now can you pay attention to what I'm saying?" "You Monkey!" Rake prepared to pounce on Limely. Sam caught him by the neck and threw him through a wall. "Will all of you shut up!" Everyone quieted down. "I don't give a shit who I have to kill here. I intend to learn what's this job is. If you're not interested leave before I throw you out." A few left, including the Ravens and werewolves. Sam turned to Limely. "And you. I want to know what's the job is, right now." Limely looked at him, unmoving. "Who are you?" "What d'you care?" "That was impressive, if not stupid. Could you be a Mundane?" A few around chuckled and other looked at Sam with predatory glares. With a quick gesture Sam threw an arrow of flame and pierced Limely's hand. "You fucker." Limely cried out in pain, grabbing it to put the fire out. "That answers your question?" Limely straitened and started on a spell. "Try it. I'd rather do your job, but I'm in a bad mood today and I'll be happy to take you on just to work off some anger." Limely stopped. "Well, maybe you're right. I'll use you for the main work with a few others." Limely bandaged his hand and split the work. The worst of his rage worked off Sam quietly listened as assignments were given. Half the group had to get spell materials. They were either extremely expensive, rare, under guard or, in some case all three. The others were there to create disturbance for the police and security. "You," Limely told Sam and the two others with him, "are going to get the most important ingredient." He took out a picture of Samantha. "Mark will drive you to her house and you get her. She must not be damaged." Sam smiled as the others nodded. After her argument with Sam, Samantha contacted the other gargoyles' owners. Amanda was the only she could meet. The other two were away on business. Amanda turned out to be a charming woman. She loved to impress people. Her gargoyle was built in gothic style and was very ornamental. It mostly stood around and acted as a waiter. When she got home it was already dark. She entered her house only to find it as cold as it was outside. She checked the heating system. It didn't want to start. Calling the repair service didn't get her anywhere They were already closed. That's what she got, trying to save a few pennies. She decided to forgo her usual shower and went to bed fully clothed. If she was lucky the heating would start by itself during the night. Then, if she woke up, she might take the time and luxury of a shower. She woke up slightly when cold air struck her face. She noted that she was too warm under her blankets and took them off. Another wave of cold air went over her, waking her more, enough to notice people talking in low voices over the buzz of the heating system. She couldn't understand what was being said. Now completely awake she didn't want to take any chances. She silently took out the gun she kept in the nightstand, checked to make sure it was loaded and got up. As she took a step toward the door, a giant in leather opened it and walked in. Reasonably certain he wasn't a burglar so she shot him in the knee. He reached her, the wound not bothering him in the least. He knocked the gun away. He threw her on the bed. Holding her down forcefully, he tied her hands in her back with an electric cord. He carried her over his shoulder, unconcerned by her kicks, up to a van where a man, looking like a pimp, turned toward them. "I'll put her to sleep," he gestured a spell and touched her forehead. Samantha tried to move away, but the giant held her firmly. She went limp, the spell making her sleepy. Suddenly it stopped and she found herself awake. letting them think the spell had worked Samantha remained still. She tried to understand what had happened. She remembered the amulet in her vest's pocket. It must have kept her protected. They drove for what seemed like hours while she tried to figure out where they were going. She repressed sneezing. The air in the van was stuffy with the smell of sweat and brimstone. When they stopped the giant picked her up and dropped her on a wooden surface, about a hundred paces further. A finger moved across her cheek. "What do you plan to do with her?" said the giant. "That's none of your business." Answered someone farther away. "Well, she's cute. I think I'll lay her before leaving." He told the other, moving his finger down her body. She concentrated on holding still, hoping she wouldn't panic. "NO!" Yelled the other voice, moving closer. "She mustn't be violated, my boss needs her virgin." The finger left her body. She flinched on hearing this. She froze hopping no one had noticed. They kept talking; she guessed she was safe, for the moment. Virgins were needed for only two things; handling unicorns and sacrifices. She didn't think they needed a handler. "She's for someone else? I can't wait to see what'll be done with her." "You're not going to see anything." "You're kidding right? I plan to be on the front row. Hell, I might even join in, that he wants to or not." "You've got it all wrong. He's not planning anything of the kind. What he does must remain secret, so you can't come." "If she's that important I want to renegotiate my fee," said someone else. "I can't let you come. He won't allow it." "Yeah?" said someone else. "I'm going too. I happen to recognize a few of what's collected here. I won't leave that to you, or him until I've been assured it's safe." "It is safe. I promise you that he has only your best interest in mind," said the man. "That stuff is used to make destructive spells. I'm going to make damn sure I know where it's going before letting you have it." "Fine. Fine. I'll let him deal with you." He said in a resigned voice. Samantha was picked up and carried back to the van. She risked a peek. The giant and two gang members were sitting around her, in the back. Everyone, but one gang member, remained silent during the trip, which lasted a few hours. The loquacious partner kept on talking about one thing and another for the entire trip. She used the time to slowly loosen the cord holding her hands. When they stopped the giant was the last one to exit the van. He dragged her closer to the door. "Let me stretch a bit and I'll bring the girl." "All right, but you better not do anything to her, or I'll make sure you suffer for a long time." "Yeah yeah." She watched behind half closed eye lids. Everyone moved off in what looked like a cavern. The giant did some stretching exercises. She figured she had only one way to escape. She prepared herself and struck the moment he was close enough. Unfortunately he easily caught her foot, before she could connect with his groin. "You know Sami. Next time you want to do something like this, make sure you don't warn the intended target in advance with your posture." Without the posturing and yelling his voice was familiar. She looked at him in surprise. "Sam?" "The same" He placed a hand on her chest and looked inside the van. "I guess I should tie you again," taking the cord. "Can't let you escape." He tied her hand securely. She tried to get out of it. "What are you doing?" "What I'm supposed to do. I can't let you get away, can I?" She sighed. "Look, if you're doing this because of what I said I'm sorry. But between you and that condescending mage I had to blow off some steam. I'm sorry it was at you." He looked at her. "Why would I be doing this because of you? You made it clear you didn't want me around so I found something else to do. I do like the irony though, if not what I have to look like." He took her in his arm. "But . . . But they're going to kill me." She wiggled around, trying to break out of his hold, but he was too strong. "That's my guess too. I have to say that I'm curious to see who's going to be summoned." She stopped moving and gulped, becoming paler. "Summoned?" "Yes. The sacrifice of a virgin is always the most important part in the summoning of a demon or dark God. The rest of the stuff that was stolen is also involved in a summoning." "Is there any way I can convince you to drop me and give me a hand in capturing the guy behind all this? I thought you liked me?" "I do." "Then, let me go." He smiled. In this place it wasn't the most pleasant thing to see. "I think you're confusing me with a human." She slumped in his arms. "All right then. I know you said you're not that kind. What if I make you a deal?" Sam stopped moving. "You untie me, let me down and promise not to deliver me to them and I'll take you on as a partner. Half and half." He looked at her. "Not much of a deal. What am I suppose to get out of it?" "I'm not involving my soul in this." She said vehemently. "I see." He thought a bit. "The only other thing I could want is you virginity." "No way, NO how." "That's what I thought." He moved for the door. She did all she could to remain calm. Panicking wouldn't help her. "Out of curiosity, what are you getting out of this?" "Something to do." "What about after that?" "What do you mean?" "What are you going to do once this is done?" "I don't know. I'll find something else." "If you work with me you'll almost always have something to do. Every time I'd get a job you'd be involved in it." He stopped a few paces from the door. "Tell you what. I'd be willing to take the deal, but I reserve the right to ask for your part of the bargain at a later time." "As long as it's something I find reasonable." "That's convenient. What do we do now?" "They're expecting you to deliver me to them right? I'll play unconscious and we'll see what happens next. Are they armed?" "The gangers have guns. Limely relies on his magic." Samantha checked her pockets. "All right, let's go." He opened the door and was greeted by one of the gangers "'Bout time you got her. Fell asleep?" The doorman smiled devilishly. "Or maybe you had your fun? I can understand. Being as big as you are, you would scare off most of the girls. I can't blame you for taking your pleasure where you can, whatever other might say." Sam stopped him talking by squeezing his throat. "Where to?" The guy massage his throat a few seconds. "That way." They walked a few paces before he started again. "I looked around while waiting for you. There're statues by the door. A dozen of them. I've never seen ones so well made. They look so real. By the way I'm Robert. Everyone calls me Yak. You got a name?" Sam stared at him. "Don't want to talked about it hmm? I can understand," replied Yak, "with all the powers a name can give to a mage. I tried that kind of magic a while back. It's not for me. I'm more in the simpler kind, little things you know? Small illusions. A bit of protection, that kind of things." Sam looked at him. "What's you're full name Robert?" "Uh? What? Oh, it's Robert Brogan." "Well, Robert Brogan I COMMAND you to be silent." Robert looked at him surprised, then smiled. He opened his mouth to say something. No sound came out. "Count yourself lucky that I didn't knock you unconscious to make you silent." Passing the statues Robert had mentioned, Sam examined them with a casual glance. Like he'd said they were life like. They all looked somewhat alike. He guessed those were the kidnapped victims, probably held in stasis by magic. He reached the door handle and received a shock on touching it. "Youch. What kind of sorcerer wards a door against the people who are supposed the get in?" While Sam was holding his hand and working to prevent Samantha from falling Robert got close to the door. Hesitantly he touched lightly the handle. Nothing happened. He placed his hand on it and looked at Sam. "What are you looking at me for?" He was working at controlling his temper. He'd just realized the ward wasn't against intruders, but Demonics. "He probably worked it so that it stopped after the first shock. How should I know. Just get the door open." Inside the two gangers were beside an old man, leaning over a book, their backs to them. The room was a large cavern, converted in a laboratory. There was equipment everywhere, magical and scientific. In one corner the gargoyle was standing. "Put me down and drop him," murmured Samantha. Sam let her legs fall to the ground. With his free arm he knocked Robert back in the wall. Samantha was on him, taking his gun and aiming it at the three turning men. "No body move." Limely looked at them. "You're working with her?" "I am now. She made me a better offer." He let the illusion vanish and stretched his wings to their full length. The old man turned and looked at them eyebrows arched in surprise. "I'm nowhere near ready for him," he said, looking at the things around the book on the table. "You'll have to stop him until I'm ready," he ordered the two besides him, while he gathered what he needed. They looked at each other, unsure of what to do. Sam's demonic form did not inspire confidence. Limely started casting and the other got his gun out. Samantha shot the one with the gun in the leg. Limely's spell, and Sam's flame arrow, activated. The air shimmered around her and the gun started to melt. Samantha dropped the gun, disgusted. The burning arrow hit Limely through the chest and knocked him back into the wizard. "No, no, no. I told you to keep him away," said the wizard, pushing Limely away and casting a glance over his shoulder. The wizard turned and looked annoyed at the scene. "You, stop him," he told the gargoyle. Sam turned in its direction. "Go take care of the sorcerer." He told Samantha. he turned to the gargoyle. "As for you, I've been meaning to thank you for the beating you gave me." The wizard was placing his ingredients, his back to her. She inched her way to the ganger's gun. The ganger had let go to hold his wounded leg. She took it and aimed at the wizard's back. Realizing that she'd never shoot someone in the back, she changed her aim for a bottle containing an amber liquid and shot it instead. The wizard moved away in surprise and looked at her. "Why did you do that?" "Hands up and move away from the table," she replied. He shook his head. "You realize that without the blessed amber I can't cast the spell anymore." "I said, move away from the table." "Don't you see that I'm doing this for you? With this I could have finally lifted the curse that's over all your heads." He took a step toward her. "Don't." "Why are you helping that creature? Its kind is responsible for all our problems." "I suppose that my sacrifice was also to help me?" "One death, yours, could have saved all the others. Don't you think it's a fair exchange?" He shrugged, seeing that Samantha wasn't softening toward him. "I guess that remaining here doesn't serve any purpose anymore." He looked at the gun. "By the way, the safety's on." Unable to stop the reflex she quickly checked, when she looked up the wizard was gone. She turned around and saw Sam reducing the gargoyle to broken rock and sand. He dusted himself off and looked at her. "He vanished before I could reach him. Damn it Sam!" she turned around. Surprised he looked around. San didn't find anything wrong behind him. "Oh. There, you can look." "You know how I feel about that." "It's OK, I'm dressed." Samantha peeked, Sam was wearing a pair of form fitting and suggestive jeans. "Where are they from?" she asked him suspicious. "They're illusionary. That way I'll be modest, and you happy. I won't have to feel like my dick's being squeezed to a pulp ever again." Samantha blushed. "With the sorcerer gone we won't be able to know what he wanted with you, and all the others. I don't think he knows" Sam said pointing the ganger, who was trying to make himself as small as possible in a corner. She shook her ahead and looked behind him. "The gargoyle might have known." "I did a thorough job with it. I don't think there's a mage anywhere who could get a word out of it." "Then all that's left to do is to call the police, get those people out from their spell and get Mrs. DuMornay back to her husband." "Would you mind waiting before contacting the police? I'd like to go through those books." He pointed the bookcase against the wall. "They might give us an idea of what he was trying to accomplish." "I'll start by getting Rocco here. Was there a cellular in the van?" "I think so." He said absentmindedly, taking books off the bookcase. Outside the room she took the time to take a good look the people frozen along the walls. She found Mrs. DuMornay, although she was tanned, unlike on her picture. She snapped her finders in front of her trying to get a reaction. She even pushed her a little, but nothing happened. Hopefully Rocco would know how to get them out of it. In the van there was indeed a phone. She had to call four times, giving the answering machine time to hang up between each call, before she got a half awake Rocco on the line. After telling him what had happened, leaving any mention of Sam out for now, she realized she was unable to tell him where she was. He reassured her. He would divine her location and be there soon. "He'll be here in a while. He has to locate us first." Samantha said when she came back. "Found anything?" "Not much. Most of the books here are what I'd expect to find in a sorcerer's library. He has quite a few on summoning, and this." He held up the book he was reading. "It's about Human legends. It was opened to this one." "What does it say?" "It more or less says that in the beginning of humans everyone was Arcane, until someone tried to take over the Demons. In retaliation they stripped most Arcanes of their connection with magic, making them Mundane. I never heard of this. I think that's what our sorcerer was showing Limely when we got here." Limely was now a burning corpse that Samantha tried to avoid looking at. "Whatever. Once Rocco gets here the job'll almost be finished." "I'll be at the church. Just come join me once you've given the wife back." "You're not staying?" "I'd rather not be around when your friend comes. He's Arcane and police. I think he'd fell obligated to try to arrest or banish me. That could get messy. I wouldn't want to start our first day of partnership by having to kill a friend of yours. It would put strain on our relationship." "All right. How about coming at the office tomorrow instead?" "Which tomorrow?" "What?" "The sun's about to raise. Do you mean the day after today, or the day when work starts." "You lost me with that. Just be there around noon." "Bye." Samantha sat down exhausted and waited for Rocco to show up.
  9. "Here he is Stanley." Boris said as he opened the door. He pushed him toward the counter with enough strength to show the contempt he had for the terrorist. Detective Stanley Lombaire, who's graying hair was du more to stress than age, leaned on the counter looking down at whom was on the floor. "Well, well, well, if it isn't Mike the cat, it's good to see you again this soon," he says a mocking smile on his lips. Mike "The Cat" was a known face to Montreal's police. He had gone to trial for more than one crime, but each time something would happen, evidence would disappear or witness would have an "accident" and they would be forced to release him. "T'as rien sur moé poulet," Mike let out in a deep menacing tone. "Da, da, I know, you have been telling me this all the time we were on the road Drugarica. Now, move it," Boris picked him up and directed him towards the detective's desk, with Stanley in tow. "Sit." He sat. "So Boris, What has Mike done this time?" "He was planning to ransom the Forum, for ten millions dollars." He sat down on the other chair and readjusted his hat. "Wow! That's a lot of money. What do you have to say to that Micky boy?" "Tu . . . Peux . . . Rien . . . Prouver." "I want you to contact the janitor" Mike's voice said, coming from Boris. "He'll let you in, and he won't say anything. When the bombs are in place you're to phone the mayor and tell him I want ten million bucks or I will blow it up." "What about the arsonist, I heard there'd been problems." "Don't worry, I took care of . . . .." Click. Boris stopped the tape. "Traitor!" Mike yield leaping for Boris. Surprise kept Boris from reacting in time and they both went to the floor. Mike kept hitting and savagely clawing at his face, until Boris landed one fist in his chest and sent him flying through a desk. He was unconscious on landing. Boris got up, dusted himself. "You OK? Want me to call a doc?" "Niet, I am fine." Cops were picking Mike up while a man checked to make sure he was still alive. Satisfied they carried him toward the cell block. "What did he mean, traitor?" Boris seated himself and explained how he infiltrated Mike's organization, starting by helping one of its members then slowly climbing, and gaining Mike's thrust. "Damn Boris, one these days you'll get yourself killed with tactics like this. Why do you keep doing it?" "I need to know why they do it." "All right, why did he do it." "To get money . . . Nothing more than money." The last few words trailed off as Boris thought once more of how strange capitalists were. Back in Russia he had known terrorists, but each of them were doing it to bring changes, not only money. He couldn't help admire the reason motivating them, even if he could never agree with the methods. "Hey Boris, you in there?" He snapped out of his reverie. "Da, I am sorry. I was thinking." "You'd better think of what we're going to do with the tape, and with you. I don't want either to disappear like all the proofs on Mike the Cat keeps doing." "Do not worry. I will deliver both to you and the district attorney ten minutes before the trial." "I don't know." He took the tape player from Boris. "With both in the same place won't it be easier for Mike's men to get rid of them?" He took the tape from the tape player. He looked at the tape, as in a trance, and spoke in a contemplative whisper. "I mean, this is what we've been waiting for a long time." He came back to reality. "No, I won't take any chances. I'm keeping the tape and assigning some men to protect you." A cop not far away picked up a phone and dialed a number. Boris listened distractedly while Stanley went on with the need for protection. Boris slowly took the tape recorder. He then quickly lift it up, and seemingly accidently hit Stanley's arm. The tape flew from his hand, bounced once and fell in an open drawer. Boris leaned on the aging desk, He searched through Stanley's tapes, mostly heavy metal, and took one out. He put it in one of the many pockets covering his jacket. All that while Stanley held his arm, stun by surprise more than pain. "I take the tape." He taped the pocket. "I will protect it, and me, without you, or your men's help. Do I make myself clear?" "All right, have it your way." He leaned back in his chair, still rubbing his arm. "Anyway, I don't think they'd want to protect you." "I know. You have my number if anything happens and to tell me when the trial starts." Boris went to the counter. Stanley put his other hand on the drawer looking at its contents as he closed it. He stopped rubbing, smiled and looked towards the counter, where Boris was collecting his bounty. Next he'd be heading to the gym, Stanley knew. Boris left the police department, nearly knocking over a young police officer. He excused himself before going on. The young man stared in his direction even after the door had closed. He went to the counter, looking confused. "That was a bear, wasn't it?" The woman smiled, she had an idea of what was going to be his reaction. "Yes, a polar bear straight from Siberia." The man's confusion turned to anger. "Mutes shouldn't have the right to come and go like that." "And you'd be officer Vincent. First day on the job isn't it?" Still smiling. "Don't worry, you'll get use to him. Just don't let him hear you calling him a Mute." * * * Boris stepped into the gym, waved to Harry, the owner, and crossed it to the far end where the special training equipment was. There was only one man training in the moderately sized gymnasium. On seeing Boris he went to complain to Harry. Boris could easily hear them over the radio, even while they only whispered. Some of the advantages he had kept from the bear stock, like his claws, when they had mutated him. He picked a five hundred pound weight and placed it on the bar. The discussion kept going. Harry was now telling the complainer that if he didn't like the evening ambience he could come back some other time. Harry didn't hate mutants, he didn't like them either, he simply believe in minding his own business. When Boris had come in asking for membership he had been reticent he knew how the other members would react. He'd finally said yes, tripling the normal fee. Boris had paid. He put the other weight on and started doing warm up bench press. The man was now throwing insult at Harry. He didn't pay them any attention, he'd gotten use to them by now. After Boris had started training regularly, members started to complain, threatening to leave if he didn't so something about the mute. At first Harry had simply asked Boris to come in the morning or the evening when the gym was almost empty. People kept complaining, no one wanted to be near a mutant, unless it was their slave. So Harry separated the gym, on the far wall he put some old training equipment, at the time, only for Boris. The rest was for humans. Almost everybody stopped complaining and those who didn't Harry told them to go train somewhere else. Boris took off his jacket and kevlar T-shirt, put an extra thousand pounds and started sweating. Harry glanced at him, only half listening to what the man was saying, something about treason and how mutes were going to contaminate humans. Boris and Harry had slowly become friends, he was one of the few people outside the police who knew that he was a bounty hunter. He'd even help once in a while by letting Boris bring known criminals, like Mike the Cat, from organization he was infiltrating and not calling the cops. Harry had even agreed to make calls to find special equipment and weights for Boris. Now Harry's Gym was open to any mutants who could afford it (same membership fee as human). He still didn't love them, but if they could pay then they were clients, and Harry's policy made the client king, no matter who they were. Suddenly there was silence. Harry quickly came back to reality, following the man's gaze. A battered looking rat has entered the gym. He went to the locker room. The man was frozen in silence. The rat came out wearing a dirty shirt full of holes and jogging pants that could easily be hundreds of years old. "Hi Harry," the rat said. "Hi," Harry responded. The man stared at Harry in dismay, and he demanded, ordered, that the mutes be thrown out. Harry looked at him with contempt, in silence. When the man kept ordering him to get rid of them, he went to the cask register. Counted some money and gave it to him, telling him that now that he had been refunded to train somewhere else. The man left in a storm, pushing aside the one who was entering. He kept his balance with the rail, went down the stair and toward Harry. Harry forced a smile, "What can I do for you?" "I'm . . . looking for someone named Boris." The man said looking around nervously. Harry eyed him with scrutiny. The man was clean, wearing a three piece suit that could cost five hundred dollars. That kind of man rarely went looking for mutants. "He's in the far end of the gym." He pointed the direction, keeping his other hand near the 45 he kept under the counter. The man looked in the direction, then looked back at Harry. "I'm sorry, but I don't see him." Surprise showed in Harry's eyes. "Sure you do, he's over there, doing barbells." The man looked again. "Look, you don't understand, I've been told to go to Harry's Gym and get Boris, not a mutant." "I understand perfectly, and that's Boris." "It's impossible," a tint of despair in the voice. "If you want to argue with someone, why don't you go ask him." The man crossed the gym. He stopped near Boris. "Hi, I'm Jay." Boris kept lifting the weights. "Look . . . are you Boris?" No reply. "I've been asked to . . . Are you at least listening to me?" Still no reply. "Forget it." He turned around and started for the door. "If he calls I'll just say that he didn't want to come" he mumble. "I hate it when this happens." "I cannot say that I like much being sent for by a human myself." The barbell clanged hard on its support. Jay turned around. "And da, my name is Boris." He picked up his thing and headed for the locker room. Jay followed him. "How much weight did you have?" "Two thousands pounds." He entered, unlocked a locker and took shampoo and soap. "You have not told me who wants to see me." He started to undress. "What are you doing?" Boris looked himself over, and then at Jay. "I am going to take a shower. You do not expect me to take it fully clothed, Da?" "Look . . . I'll wait for you outside." "Do as you please." Jay stepped out. Boris went to the showers and turned on the cold water. He hung his towel and walked under the stream of water. He let the water run down his body for a while before soaping himself thoroughly. Each time he took a shower he remembered the one advantage humans had over him, no fur to trap the sweat of hard work. He was nearly done cleaning himself when he heard the locker room door open. "What is he expecting? A war?" He recognized Jay's voice and smiled, having an idea of what he had found. "Niet! Those are for when I get in too much troubles, usually my fists are enough!" Boris yelled to him. "How the hell did you hear me!" "No need to shout, I have very good ears!" Boris finished cleaning, turned off the shower and went back to his locker, drying his head. Jay said something that was muffled by the towel. "Um?" Was the only response he managed while trying not to end up eating towel. "I'm asking you what do you do for living!" Boris could hear anger slipping through. Boris brought the towel to his shoulder, looked at Jay. "Nothing Precise. Why?" Waving the stack of bills that had been his payment for the capture of Mike in front of him he yield angrily. "How the Hell does a Mute make that Kind . . . .. " The sound of Boris' fist going through a locker door hit Jay almost as hard as if he'd been the target. He then tore it of its hinges as he turned back to face Jay. "Do not call me that again, ever! I shall not warn you another time!" The intense anger behind every word forced Jay to cool off, he sat down. Harry came crashing through the door. Jay jumped in surprise and stared at the gun pointed on him. "Move and die." "No Harry, it was only a misunderstanding. No one was hurt. I . . . lost my temper." Harry lowered the gun, looked at the door still hanging from Boris' arm. "Lost your temper, hum?" "I am sorry, I will pay for the door." He put his hat on. "All right, if you think everything's fine." Boris nodded. Harry left, casting a suspicious glance at Jay. Boris dislodged the door, finished towering himself and dressed. Jay still hadn't moved or said anything. "Jay, do wake up, you did say that someone wanted to see me, who was it?" Jay looked at him, "I don't know. Someone named Lombaire, I think." "Stanley?" "Didn't say, maybe." "What did he say." "That I was to get you to the industrial sector." "Then maybe we should be going. You have a car?" "Yes, up front." They left. * * * The radio wasn't playing anything good, so Jay turned it off. "Tell me, what was the door about?" "Lost of temper." "You're kidding right, you don't put a fist through a door just because I called you . . . .. "Don't" "Don't what?" "Don't say it, or you'll end up with a hole in your face." Jay waited a while before responding "Ok, I won't bother you about it anymore." Then straining himself "Wait a minute, that accent of yours, you lost it. It's fake!" "Niet, it is not," "You telling me you didn't lost it just then?" "Da, I did, lost of temper." Jay looked at him with a strange look. Boris couldn't tell what it meant. He seemed to relax a little before asking: "Where're you from?" "Siberia." "Where in Siberia?" "It does not have a name." "It must have been tough, living in Russia." "Da, but it is not so unlike here from what I have seen." "I heard that they put a lot of mutants in gas chambers." "They do, they also use us in experiment, labor mine, or zoos, but they do not ignore our existence, like you Canadians do." "Now, wait a minute." "You ask scientists to build mutants, you use them for work you do not dare do yourself. When you have no more use for them you throw them on the street, where they do not have the simplest idea of how to survive." "We created mutants for hard labor, why do you think you could lift that thousand pounds?" "I was not created for labor," he said without thinking. "If that is why you created us, you should not have given us the intelligence to realize our situation." "I don't know why they did it, geez. I don't even know why we're arguing. I wasn't even born when the discovered how, and started mutating animals." They both spent the rest of the trip in silence. * * * Jay stopped the car at the address. It was a warehouse, one of many they had passed recently. In front of it was another, almost identical. Boris opened the door and got out. He looked around and was turning toward Jay when a loud "bang" echoed. The car window in front of Boris exploded and he fell on the ground. Jay went to the floor, when he lifted his head to look around he heard a familiar clicking noise. He looked up and saw a large tiger holding a Magnum 44 standing in the passenger's doorway. He looked to the ground and then back at Jay. "What d'you know? I'll kill two birds with one stone after all." Seeing the confusion in Jay's eyes he went on, slowly lifting the gun's hammer. "Gauthier'll be happy to learn that the human who has sent his brother to his death has received the same fate." "San Svagda." The tiger quickly turned toward Boris, ready to shoot another bullet in him. He wasn't fast enough. He received a boot in the groin with such a force that he was lifted a few inches. As he fell to his knees Boris' other foot connected sideways with his head, sending him to the ground a few meters from the car. Boris heard bones cracked. He quickly got back into the car. "You're alive?" Jay lifted himself in surprise, saw guns pointing the car from many windows. He went down again. "You sound disappointed." Boris kept himself as low as possible while evaluating the surrounding. "I can see six weapons on my side and four on yours, you will have to cover me as I get inside one of the buildings." Boris heard someone saying something, it was too low for him to understand anything. "What? Are you crazy? How the hell am I going to do that?" "You do not have a weapon?" "No! I wasn't expecting to be on the receiving end of a shoot‑out." Boris heard the same person, it was a feminine voice. It was getting louder, but he wasn't paying attention to it. He looked at Jay, trying to understand him. "Tell me why he wanted to kill you." Jay looked at him in surprise. When Boris kept staring at him he talked. "You remember the series of killing two years ago? I was responsible for the capture of the mutant who had done them. I turned him over to the cops, and next thing I know he's dead and Gauthier wants to kill me. This would make the fourth time he tried." "And you are not armed!" "Eric!" The voice came louder. Boris looked up, trying to find from where it came from. "I told you, I wasn't expecting anything." "Eric! ! !" A shower of bullets fell on the car. All the car's windows fell to pieces. Boris took his gun and handed it to Jay. "Take it and cover me." He slowly pushed himself out of the car. "Wait a minute, what are you going to use?" Boris turned toward him and clasped his fist. "This." He left running toward the closest door. On the way they hit a few times, but he kevlar took most them. He rammed the door. It swung on its hinges and hit the wall, hard. Boris looked around slightly surprised, he'd expected to encounter at least one guard. The door moved back slowly and a moaning sound came from behind it. Boris moved aside and tensed for an attack. As it revealed more of what was behind he saw a rabbit sliding to the floor, immobile. He stepped closer to the body and took the weapon it was clutching. The arms were limp. He took out the clip of ammunition, put it in a pocket and threw the uzzy as far as he could. Then he checked for vital signs, he was still alive. Boris took one of the hand cuff he had and put them on him, hands in the black. From above, he could ear the shooting going on. He climbed the stairs to the first floor. Offices lined the entire walls of the building, from many of them he heard people shooting. He suddenly wondered how Jay was faring, he hadn't thought to give him the second clip he kept, and he was probably out of bullets. He slowly opened a door and looked inside. Someone at the window was shooting. The noise coming from the gun was so loud that he could hardly ear anything else. He slowly got in, walked behind the shooter, prepared himself to knock him out, only to feel the nozzle of a gun on the back of his neck. Boris cursed, he'd forgotten to check behind the door. "Drop the hands and stand still" came the voice behind him. The one in front, skinny looking dog, turned around and pointed his gun at Boris, a wide smile on his lips. The one behind, a feline, walked to the window. Boris chose this moment to act. He kicked the gun sideways and let the motion carry him in full circle. Before the dog could recover Boris' foot connected with his head, sending him into the wall. The feline turned and fired at Boris. Luckily the kevlar took the hit. Boris recovered from the shock quickly enough to see the feline start falling through the open window from the recoil. He managed to leap in time to catch an ankle. Holding him he looked out. The shooting was still going on. The car was barely recognizable. A part of him worried at what could have happened to Jay while another rejoiced at the thought of another human being dead. Under him the feline was getting his baring back. "Bring me up slowly." Boris forced himself out of his thought and looked at the feline. He was pointing a revolver at him. Boris noticed the machine gun on the sidewalk. He stayed motionless. "You are hardly in position to give me orders. You will fall if I am shoot." As if on cue, someone on the other side of the alley shot him. Boris reacted by getting to one side of the window, letting go of the feline. And then, realizing what he had done, he tried to grab him again, only to see him fall to his death. He forced himself down, trying to drown the joy the death made him feel. He knew that he shouldn't enjoy it, but eighteen years of training kept telling him to do it. He looked at his shoulder, the bullet was in his flesh. Each time he moved the arm pain was the response. He got up, as he heard foot steps. The entire building probably knew where he was and they were coming. Boris looked around for an escape. The only visible ones were the door and window, both were bad ideas. Then he realized that the quickest way down was a straight line. It was impossible from outside because of the shooting, but inside. . . . Quickly he dropped to his knee and drove his fist through the floor. As he had hoped the floor was only of wood, occasionally solidified by a metal beam. Once the hole was big enough for him to pass he looked down in it. People were moving in every direction, he wouldn't be able to jump. The foot steps were coming closer. He wouldn't be able to stay here and alive. He looked under the floor. Beams supported the floor, distanced by about a three feet. There was none near him, but he could probably jump to the closest. He didn't have the time to find another solution. So he lowered himself, and using his good hand to hold on to the floor he began to swing back and forth. When he let go, he absently noticed that the door had fallen down, and that many people were running around the room. Boris could only guess how quickly they would find the hole. He had to get away. Unfortunately with only one arm he could use he didn't think he'd go far. He slipped, grabbed the beam with his other hand and managed to hold back a yell of pain has he changed hand to hold on. Fighting to remain conscious he barely heard someone say: "I found it!" Many steps went in the same direction. The pain subsiding Boris had less trouble holding onto the beam. He remained motionless hoping that he would not be seen. "I think he jumped down," someone said. "It must be at least twenty-five feet," said another. "It's the only way he could have gotten out without us seeing him" said the first one. "All right" a voice with authority, "One Eye, take care of Billy. The others, search the building starting with the ground floor. Sean, on the way you lock all the doors, except the one leading to the alley." They all left the room and went down. Boris waited until they had searched the entire ground floor before letting himself fall down. He managed to keep the landing silent. He looked around making sure everyone had left the area. A feminine voice yelled his name from outside. "Come out! Or your friend the detective dies!" Boris took a step toward the door. "He is not your friend." Boris kept going, slowly. Trying to ignore the inner voice. "He is human, it will not matter if he dies." Boris concentrated harder. He had to save Jay. "The back door will be easy to open, and it will not be guarded." NO! Boris stopped, shaking. He had to ignore his programming. I will not let him dye. Everyone deserves to live. "Ha! You are a good liar, what about those you killed?" I have never meant to kill anyone, you made me do it. "I am you, so let him die." NO! He will live! Boris open his eyes, his mind was silent. He had defeated his programming, for now. Relieved he headed for the door. He eventually got close enough to see who was guarding it. It was a large tasmanian devil, a bird of some sort was leaving him. He didn't want to fight him, only knock him out as quickly as possible. He crept to about ten feet from the devil. He prepared to jump and, just as something attracted the guard's attention in the opposite direction, he jumped. As he left the floor he saw the guard turn around and smile. It was too late to stop himself, so he prepared the most powerful punch he could. Then he delivered it. Except that his target managed to dodge it, and then miraculously catched his arm. The devil used Boris momentum, added any he could, and sent him head first into the door. Or rather through it, as it wasn't strong enough to resist the impact. Boris landed a good ten feet from the door and rolled a few times before coming to a stop. As he slowly got up he saw the devil coming faster than he had ever thaught possible. Still on his knee he readied himself to receive him. "Riker, stop it! Now!" The devil stopped. Boris looked behind him. A white cat was looking at him. He got up. She moved closer, the hatred was almost tangible. With a hand she grabbed the neck of his kevlar shirt. "You killed Eric." While pointing at the dead tiger near the car. "He was trying to kill me," was all Boris responded. His ribs were starting to cause him pain. "He was only doing what he was ordered to. You had no right." "I had the right to survive." He looked behind her, at Jay who was leaning on what was left of the car. He seemed all right. "And Eric didn't?" "Da, but he lost it when he shot me." "He wasn't the one who shot you! He only needed to be sure you had what we wanted!" She was nearly hysterical. "Then, I am sorry." "Sorry! SORRY! . . . Riker! Kill HIM!" Before Boris could turn around Riker tackled him to the ground. Feeling the pain from his ribs increase, he turned around, trying to throw his opponent as far as possible. It only resulted in Riker landing a few feet from him. As he got up he snatched one of the machete he had in each boot with his good arm. He swung it twice without aim, blood obscuring his view and pain sapping his strength. Boris remotely heard a gun being shot, but couldn't find the strength to react. On the third swing Riker caught his arm and locked it. Boris could feel the bones on the verge of breaking. He had learned enough to know that, for all his strength, any attempt to undo the lock directly would break his arm. He kept still, and concentrated on ignoring the pain. He watched Riker's eyes, cold and sadistic, just like those of Victor. Anger appeared in him. He kept thinking of him, and anger became hate, hate of what Victor had done to him, at what Riker was doing now. The hate became strong enough to overcome the pain and let him deliver one punch with his injured arm, right in the center of Riker's face. Riker let go of his arm and reflexively stepped away, holding his bleeding nose. He spat a tooth and charged Boris, who could only stand by shear force of will. Riker strucked him and both went down. Well, this is it, Boris thought. Strangely he didn't feel any of the fears he had always associated to death. Riker didn't hit him, he looked around. Boris tried to do the same, but found the pain too great. In the silence he realized that he was hearing the faint sound of sirens. Boris saw Riker yapping to the other, he guessed that he was trying to yell, but barely a whisper came out. That is when he realized that the siren wasn't far, but that he wasn't hearing properly. People ran in every direction around him. He knew that he had heard guns when someone fell on him. He waited some time before trying to move. Cops were moving around as he tried to get up, but his body refused to obey. He had to try three times before managing to move to his side, letting the mutant fall completely on the ground, and pushing himself into a sitting position. He looked up, and stared at the barrel of a gun. Boris shook his head, not wanting to believe it. He understood that they, being human, wouldn't take a chance and capture or kill all the mutants they could. What irony, Mike would get free, cops having killed the only person with the evidence to put him in jail. Oh well that is what you get when you don't tell anybody what you've planned. He was surprised when another shadow fell on him. It was Jay, helped by a lady cop. He said something Boris didn't understand. "Why not?" The cop answered to whatever Jay had said. "It's a mutant, 'been part of the gang who's been terrorizing the city." "No he's not." Boris noticed that there was bloody bullet hole in Jay's leg. "Oh yeah? How d'you know?" "He was with me when we were attacked." The two cops exchanged surprised glance. "Maybe he lured you in a trap," said, on a comforting tone, the lady holding him. "Couldn't." Other cops were joining them. "I'm the one who got him here. Anyway they wanted to kill him . . . and me. I sure it had something to do with Gauthier." "G . . . Gauthier the gang leader?" "Yes, I stopped his brother's killing two years ago." Another cop looked at him, respect in his eyes. "You're the one who killed him?" "No, I just caught him." He looked at Boris. "I don't kill mutants." Boris didn't react. "It doesn't make any real difference," said someone else. "It's still a mutant. I think we should kill him anyway." "Over my dead body." He placed himself between Boris and them. Cops looked at each other, shocked. "All right" one of them said, "have it your way." He looked at the others, "Let's go, we've got them all. I'm sure those two will be fine." They walked away. "Wait, aren't you going to call an ambulance?" The cop turned. "Can't see why. I heard mutants healed fast." "But I'm not a mutant." "You're not? That's odd, you sure talk like one." He got in a car. "Wait!" He yelled as it speed away. "You should stop wasting your breath," Boris said. Jay turned around, and his motion sent him falling on Boris. He caught him and put him down at his side. Jay let himself lay on his back. "When I'm older, I'll laugh at this. When I'm way older." He looked at the darkening sky as the last of police car left. "Are you all right?" "No." Boris shook his head weakly. He then took a deep breath wincing at the pain. "I am better than I would have expected, but not as well as I might have liked." He looked at Jay. "You should have left with them, and left me to deal with my problems." "What?" "You should have left me, I would have found a way to deal with them." "If that's how you thank me for saving your life I think I will leave you with your problems." He tried to get up, but couldn't find the strength. Boris looked around. He used his good arm to get up. He helped Jay as they walked toward a phone booth. Jay leaned on it as Boris picked up the phone, started dialing, put it back, picked it up again. "Is anything wrong," Jay was getting depressed. The way things are going, the phone company had probably cut the phone. "Eh, Boris." He got in the door. "You're listening?" Boris turned around, puzzled. "I think the telephone is broken." Panic taking him he grabbed it and put it to his ear. He sighed with relief as he heard the familiar tone. "It's working fine." "Then you will have to call the taxi." He gave him a piece of paper. Jay dialed the number on it. "Trans-Montreal Taxis." "I'd like a taxi at the corner of (he looked at the beat up sign) St-Laurent Boulevard and Louvain." "All right, one will be there within ten minutes." "Wait, there's one thing, I'm with a mutant." "A mutant? Then . . . I see. Don't worry sir, we know who to send." "Thanks." He hung up. After ten minutes of silence a car rolled toward them in an infernal racket. It was in a bad shape, the taxi it had once been was battered almost beyond recognition. It stopped in front of them after a tight turn. The driver's side window, which, like all the other windows on it, was tinted black, rolled down. The face of a small mexican dog became visible. "Hey, Amigos. You called a taxi, si?" Boris got up and walked to it. Jay stood still. Boris opened the door. "I won't get in." Boris looked at him, incredulous. "There's no way that you'll get me in car driven by a mutant." "It is that or walking; you are in no condition for it." "I'll call another one, with a human driver." "Suit yourself." Boris got in the taxi. "We shall then go our different way, for a human driver will never let me ride with him." "All right, give me a hand." Boris executed himself and they left. When the driver asked for the address, he wrote it on a piece of paper and gave him. "Ye should see a doctor, si? I can take you to a cousin, he can cure everything." Jay looked at him in the mirror. "Shut up." "I also know where yey can find a cheap one. He won't do all my cousin does, but he is really cheap. He could . . . .." "Can it and drive," Boris said forcefully. The rest of the ride was in relative silence. The driver would insult other drivers for the way they drove. Boris stayed as still as he could, groaning occasionally when a bump would be encountered or a sharp turn made. When they came to a final stop they were in the lower district. On the maps it was the "Under developed district." To anyone else it was the Dump, the mutant Dump. Once out Boris gave the driver two hundred dollars. The car left, waking by a mutant sleeping on the sidewalk, the driver had a large smile on his tiny face. Boris went to a door and knocked, hard. Jay was surprise that it held. A small panel slid open and two green eyes looked at Boris. "Yesss, what isss it?" "Open up Maurice." The door opened and a scaly head popped out. "Borisss," it said with a smile, "it'sss been a while." "Da," he pushed the door open and helped Jay in. "A human! You've lead a human to my houssse! I'll have nothing to do with humansss. They ssscare away my clientsss." "They cause most of your clients to come to you. Even then, you are a doctor and he is hurt." "You, I'll take care of, he can go sssee hisss own kind." "That is not possible. He has been linked to me by police officers." "A human? Linked to a mutant? How did that happened?" "He stopped those same police officers from killing me. I . . . owe him." Maurice looked at Jay with a defiant eye, and just as Jay was about to turn away, "All right, sssinccce I owe you." They got in and both sat down. "We should move to my operating room. It'sss cleaner." "I do not think that Jay could take anymore moving. You would do better to help him first, and here." Maurice slithered to a side room and came back with a medical bag. He stopped beside Jay and put his leg on a bench. "Hoow! That hurts. Can't you be careful?" "Good, then you are really hurt and need my help. I am asss careful asss the sssituation requiresss." He drew a scalpel from the bag. Held it between them, looking at it thoughtfully. "Look Doc . . . I didn't mean to insult you. I know. . . .. " Maurice used it to cut jay's pants open. Jay grabbed his hand. "You're crazy. They're worth fifty bucks. You can't go slashing pants, they don't do that in good hospital. Aaaarg!" Maurice stopped pressing on the leg and Jay started gaining back some colors. He then slithered to Boris. "I will not ssstand it any longer. I don't care if he sssaved the world, he'sss jussst like the othersss. He treatsss me like a ssslave." He turned toward Jay. "I know what I'm doing. If you don't like the way I work then get out and don't ever come back." They both held their gaze. Jay didn't move. "Good, then you want me to take care of the leg or not?" "All right." Maurice went back to cutting. When that was done he looked at the wounds. "You're lucky, they're mossstly ssscratchesss, but you have a deep bullet wound. The bullet isss ssstill in. How did it happened?" "I got the bullet trying to kick a mutant. The rest probably crawling on broken glass." Maurice lowered himself to get a better look at the wound. From his slightly opened mouth Jay could see shiny fangs. "Thisss will hurt." "Great." Jay looked away. When all he felt was a weak sting he looked back. He saw two new small holes and some blood on Maurice's lips. "What'd you do? Poison me?" "Maybe I ssshould, but no. I only anesssthesired you. It ssshouldn't take long." Jay felt a warmth climb up his leg, spreading to his whole body. He closed his eyes. "He ssshould be out for a few hoursss. Come, I'll look at that arm of yoursss." "I asked you to take care of Jay first." "Yesss, but I won't do it here, too much chance of infecting the woundsss. Ssso, while we're waiting for sssomeone I called to arrive you'll come with me and I'll sssee what I can do." "No, we will not wait for one of your nurse to come. You will take care of Jay first, I shall help." "All right then move him to the operating room." Boris got up, carefully picked Jay's body in his arm and followed Maurice through a corridor to a white, and clean, room. He put him on the table. "Go sssit down. I'll manage from here." He sat in a nearby chair, relieved to feel the pain lessened. He watched Maurice work on Jay and found himself thinking back on the day's events. First Stanley supposingly hires Jay to get him to a meeting. But Stanley knew both the phone number and the address to Harry's Gym and he would have warned Jay that it was a mutant he would find. If not coming himself. All this could be explained if Gauthier was trying to get rid of both of them while getting back the tape. Then there was the fact of the speed at which Gauthier had learned of Mike's capture and the tape existence. There was a leak in Stanley's department, that much was evident. Anyone, even those under arrest, could have seen and heard what had happened, but none of the crooks could have reached that high in the organization that fast. No, a cop had warned Gauthier, and Boris had a good idea who. "All right, your turn." Boris opened his eyes, surprised. He hadn't even heard Maurice approached. He went to the table, took Jay to the sofa in the living room. He then took off his shirt and pants and stretch on the table. Maurice looked at the wound. Then he bit him in the neck, where the anesthesia would be carried to the rest of the body faster. Boris felt his body relaxing and a fog pass over his mind. He reflexively fought to stay awake, but lost. * * * Upon waking he slowly looked around. Nothing had changed, except that Jay was now sitting in a chair, a cup in hand. The sight made him sit up in a hurry, which sent pain and dizziness. He fell back with a groan. Jay looked up from his cup. He went to the table using crutches. "Hello, I would salute you, but I do not think that I have the strength left." "Dizzy?" "Very." "He said that it'll pass, an after effect of his bite." Slowly he managed to sit. Maurice slithered in. "How are you feeling?" "Better." Boris let himself fall off the table. The landing sent pain in his ribs. He used his good arm to steady himself while fighting for breath. Maurice watched him with a pained look. Then he turned to Jay. "Now asss for your woundsss, your leg ssshould be in a cassst. I don't have what'sss needed to do one. If you can't find sssomeone who will, don't worry, you'll live. Maybe limp the ressst of your life, but you'll live." A warm smile glowed across his face. Jay looked away disgusted. "Borisss, your arm ssshould alssso be in a cassst, or at leassst in a sssling. For your ribsss I recommend minimum of movement for at least one month, but knowing you it will be extraordinary if you can go a week without a fight." "Your ears were clotted with blood. I cleaned them, but I noticed that the eardrums were ruptured; they will heal in time . . . Now, any of you hungry?" "Not anymore." Jay didn't look well. "Da, but I have to leave. Call Jay a taxi. I'll manage by myself." "Very well." Boris dressed and left. Jay was arguing over the phone, trying to convince a company to send one to pick him up. He didn't seem to be having any luck. Once outside Boris realized how much he depended on his hearing. He had been here often, he recognized it, but without the noise it felt unfamiliar. He could still hear, but it was only a fraction of what he was used to. He walked down the street, passing, once in while, a fonctionnal street lamp. He passed a manhole, and stopped. Again the silence disturbed him. He knew that there was a bar under the street. He had gone a few times, looking for criminals. He should be hearing music, talk and probably fighting. Boris cursed; he wouldn't get anywhere thinking like that. He walked on. After a while the light became stronger, the buildings were in better shape and the street seemed to clear itself of mutants, he was out of the dump. The street wasn't empty of mutants, but here, outside the dumps, most kept to dark area. Anywhere outside the dump people looked badly at mutans. Even more one that dressed well and walked with confidence. People moved out of his path. He didn't have to see their face to know of their fear, it was so strong that it could be felt miles around. He didn't like to scare people, but he had learned that there was nothing he could do about it. He finally came to a city parking. At this hour of the night it was mostly deserted. A few cars, a motorcycle and a Chevy were all that occupied the large space. He walked toward the Chevy. It was larger than normal, maybe six feet longer and one higher. It was a custom job. He circled it, there was only two doors; the driver's and on where the sliding door should have been. There was no window except for the windshield and on the driver's door, both tinted black. He bent down and looked under, everything was clean. It had been cleaned thoroughly, and recently. He got up. He slowly lifted the driver's side handle. It was locked. He moved to the other door, slowly turned the knob. So was this one. He looked around him as he took his key, unlocked the door and entered. He switched the light on and sat in the chair, looking at an empty monitor. Boris often wished he could dispense with the security check he did every time he came home. Unfortunatly with the amount of enemies he had it was one habit he couldn't afford to break. He played the only message he had on his answering machine: "Boris, it's Stanley. I missed you at the gym, so I hope you'll hear this. The trail is in four days, on the tenth, two thirty. Be there." Boris replayed the message, hoping to find more information in the background. When he didn't hear anything he became angry. Again he was depending on his lost hearing. He sat back, and relaxed. Stanley had most probably called as soon as he had learned himself. It had probably happened at the department. Since Stanley always left at six, it left someone less than two hours to put the bureaucrats of justice at work. Boris had the uneasy feeling that someone was pulling strings. Gauthier was the only one who came to mind, but it made no sense. He should have wanted to delay things as much as possible to give his operative the time to remove all the evidence. Gauthier would have heard from the one who had informed him that all the evidence was in the same place. He might have decided that it could be taken cared of easily, but that didn't fit in Gauthier's pattern of action. He would still have tried to delay the trial, just to be careful. Boris turned the computer on. Accessed all information he had gathered on Mike. He searched through it, looking for names. Name that could be link to the justice department, or someone else in power, but to no avail. Boris was sure he had everything on him. From his first arrest, when he was eight, he had belong to the same gang. He had slowly, and methodically eliminated those who were in his way and he became leader. Some time after that an unknown person united all the small gangs, except for Mike's. He kept running his gang quite efficiently. That brought the other leader to strike a deal with him. He would place Mike's gang over all other, making Mike the leader of every gang member in Montreal. As an exchange for the danger he now saw possible in his position he asked for the name of his new leader. This is how Gauthier became known, and feared. As for the brother Jay said Gauthier had, Boris had never heard anything on him. Linking his computer with the University of Montreal's library. He went through the newspapers starting four years ago and ending when he arrived, a little over two years ago. He read through the titles, looking for those who seemed to talk about what he wanted. He speed‑read them, changing article as soon as he realized he had the wrong one. When he found one useful the sun was coming up. It had happened six months before his arrival, and the murders had been happening the whole year before that. The article talked about how the police had found the murderer on an anonymous call, and how they killed him when he tried to escape, they mentioned no names. He looked at other newspaper for addition on it, but none mentioned any names. It didn't help Boris. He kept looking, eventually falling asleep on the keyboard. * * * He was awakened after a few hours by the same nightmare he had these days. He ate a little and went back at looking through the library's data. He spent the entire day at it, but nothing informative could be found. The reporters who had written the articles hadn't been on the scene, and no picture had been taken. He spent the other days making calls. He tried whatever precinct who could have been involved but they weren't much help. All officer that had been involved had either moved to an unknown precinct, retired or were otherwise unreachable. Boris' frustration grew as his search proceeded. Every lead led nowhere. He played a little with the idea that someone had, or was covering up the murders and anything linked of it. He thought little of it, he would have thrown it completely away. If it wasn't for one thing. Everyone he had talked to referred to the murderer as he. He was still thinking about it when he reached the court house. He parked his van in an alley locked the doors and went in. Once in the lobby he realized that Stanley hadn't said in which courtroom to go. He looked around for him, but he wasn't there yet. Then, out from the crowd, he could make out a familiar face. He didn't know the name, but he was certain of what to expect of him. He went toward him. "I'm officer Cortez," the man greeted him, without responding to Boris extended hand. "Lieutenant Lombaire asked me to meet you here, and to take you to the meeting place." "What place?" "The one where you'll give it to him." "Give him what?" Cortez nervously looked around. "Would you mind walking while we talk?" "Niet." They left the lobby for a quieter corridor. "I can understand that you're careful, but let me explained what Lieutenant Lombaire wants. I'm to take you to a quiet, out of the way room where we won't be disturbed and you can give him the cassette." "I see." "Good, then you'll follow me." "Of course." Cortez led him down many floors, then they walked through parts of the building that were very old. They stopped in front of a double panel door made of oak. A sign showed this as the record room. "Detective Lombaire is in there. He said that he'd talk to you alone." "Da." Boris put his hand on the door and pushed it opened a little. He closed his eyes to concentrate on the noise he could hear. When he remembered that he wouldn't hear anything he opened them and looked around. From each side of the doors, through the opening near the floor, he could see shadows moving slightly. Well, he thought, if Stanley wants to talk alone I would have better correct this. He pushed with all his strength and the door as heavy as they might have been, went crashing into whoever were hiding behind them. Boris went in, not bothering to check those who had received the doors. Bookshelf were standing everywhere, creating a maze of corridors. Anyone could hide in them, even whoever wanted to pass for Stanley. "Don't move." Boris turned around. Cortez was pointing a gun at him. "I see, then Stanley is not here." "Of course not. You're as stupid as all of them." He looked at both doors. "Well, maybe not that stupid. Anyway, once I have it I'll be promoted and won't have to stand around mutants like you." "I doubt that anything I have will make you go higher in the police department." "Ah! You think I care about that! Hand it over!" "What?" "He wants the tape sladouman." Boris turned to see Riker walking from behind the shelves. "And you'd better give it to him before he puts lead into you." Boris took the tape out of his pocket. "Here. Take it." He through it over his shoulder, somewhere in Cortez's direction. It hit the floor. He turned to watch Cortez pick it up. "Yes! With this I'll save Gauthier's protégé, and once that's been done he'll give me anything I want." "I do not think that it will do much good." "Of course, you can still testify. With Lombaire backing you, a jury might even believe you. A chance I can't take, but it's been taken cared of, and it's fitting, Riker will kill you, an animal killing an animal. I won't even have to dirty my hands with you. Riker, kill him." "Yes, Master." Hatred underlining the word. Cortez left, closing the doors with effort. "You'll never get the tape to him Cortez," Riker said afterward. "I'll kill you before that, but for now, it's your turn. I was unduly interrupted while killing you. I'll correct that now." He bounced at Boris who easily move out of the way, but barely manage to avoid the punch thrown at the same time. Riker stopped and turned around. Boris prepared himself for whatever would come next. They both stood still, watching each other. "The last time I saw you, you were in a police cruiser. How did you escape?" "I killed the two that were driving me to the prison." Boris dodge a few other punches, and tried to hit Riker, but he always managed to evade them. Boris knew that Riker was good, he was using a mix of different fighting techniques, but he kept having the impression that there was something more. He didn't seem to have trained enough to actual dodge any blows effectively. Yet it was almost impossible to hit him. He brutally realized that his thinking had distracted him when Riker came crashing into him and sent both of them in the bookshelves. He quickly reasserted himself and threw Riker in other shelves. Thing became louder as shelves knocked into shelves in a domino effect. Boris got up quickly. He wanted to reach Riker while he was still disoriented, but all those books on the floor made moving difficult. When he reached where Riker had landed he was gone. Boris didn't even try to listen for him. With his hearing deteriorated and the surrounding noise he wouldn't even hear a plane take off in this same room. He moved around the room, trying to find Riker. He checked the door, but he wouldn't have had the time to open them. Slowly the noise came down, shelves and books stopped falling, things scattered all over the place. Boris didn't envy whoever had to take care of the room. He kept looking. Sometime having to go around piles of books that had formed through that disaster. Boris looked for sometime, not finding him. Either Riker had managed to get out unnoticed or he was still hiding. He was probably still in the room, hiding. He wanted to kill him so he wouldn't run away. Even then, it would be a waste of time to look for him, the trail would start soon. He had a hand on the door when someone sneezed. He turned around, for him to have heard it so clearly, it had to have been very loud. He looked around, trying to see Riker. The sneezing was repeated a few times, enough to give him a general idea where it came from. He cautiously walked there. It was a corridor made of bookshelves that hadn't completely fallen. He entered it, looking around carefully. Near the end was a pile of books nearly twice as tall as he was. The only way to go through it was to dig. He threw the books aside, slowly collapsing the pile. So many books were in front of him that he had to bent down to move those at his feet. When he came up a fist flew at him. It came so fast that the only thing Boris could think of doing was to roll with it, moving in the same way minimizing the impact. He let himself fall to the ground, mentally evaluations his injuries. His lips bled and his jaw was sore. "That was for the other day," said Riker in a grave voice. He came out of inside the pile. "I am happy you stayed, it would have been difficult to keep your death quiet outside of this room." "I am still alive." Boris thought quickly, he needed to finish it fast, even if he survived the fight it could still be long enough to make him miss the trial. Mike would still go to jail, but it would be easier if he testified. "I'll correct that." Riker came toward him. Needing to keep him at a distance Boris threw a book at him. He easily dodged it, a slightly surprised look on his face. Boris barely noticed it. He was looking at the shelve the book had hit. He was sure it had moved up a few inches. Looking more closely he realized that both bookshelves were stopping each other from falling. That opened new possibilities. "This time I shall kill you." Boris ran at him, trying to strike him. As he had expected Riker dodge and hit back. He didn't want to avoid it, not even lessen the blow. There was too many chances that he would realize something was amiss. He got hit. The impact forced him backward a few steps, and he moved himself a few more, hoping Riker would think he was responsible for them. His head was spinning and hurting, but he couldn't worry about that, he hoped he'd been able to move far enough. He picked up books and threw them at Riker. Boris aimed most at him, they seemed to amaze him more then hurt him, but some, heavy ones, hit the bookshelf slowly lifting it. Then the one on the back wall fell. Riker, distracted by Boris, didn't react in time and the shelves fell on him. It fell short a few inches of Boris. He jumped the distance to reach Riker, who was already getting up. He didn't wait for him to be ready, he hit him hard and fast, for as long as he was standing. When Riker did fall Boris caught his breath a while and left. At the first bathroom he found, which was empty, he cleaned most of the blood off himself. Then he ran back to the lobby, where Stanley and a woman were waiting. "Boris, where you've been, I was starting to wonder if you'd make it." "I almost did not." "That's Boris? Lombaire, you didn't tell me it . . . he was a mutant. It'll throw the case. They'll never believe a mutant. He . . . It's an animal! You don't let an animal on the stand! It isn't done!" Stanley grabbed her by the shoulder. "Look lady, Boris has worked with my department for over two years. I can give you the name of at least twenty good cops who'll be willing to stand behind him. You want to put then on the stand to establish his credibility, I don't care, but you find a way to put him there. It's because of him the Cat is on trial, and almost certainly on his way to jail." "You could have told me he was a mutant, I'd prepared myself." She looked at both of them. "Anyway, we can't win this case." "What!?" "With that attitude I am sure we will loose." "Listen, Gauthier has always done everything in his power to ensure that his top man stayed free. What make's you think he'll act differently now?" "He has already made his move, twice." Both of them looked at Boris. "He tried to have me killed by officer Cortez and one of his men named Riker." "Cortez's one of my best men, he wouldn't be on the take." "He is, and he took the tape. He wants to use it to climb to a higher position." The woman let herself fall on a bench. "They have the tape? Oh swell, it's all over now, and you said it'd be safe." "Shut up. Where are they?" "Cortez, I do not know. He is probably on his way to deliver the tape. Riker is unconscious in the basement, in the record room. There are two others." "What good will that do, Mike the cat will go free anyway. Gauthier has the tape, he'll probably destroy it." "Unless he likes Heavy Metal." Stanley put a tape in her hand. "Boris will explain, I've got to see to that Riker." Boris caught his arm, "use tranquilizer on him, he is very strong." He then released him. Stanley went running, walkie-talkie to his mouth, ordering his men to meet with him, and placed an A.P.B. on Cortez's car. The woman looked at Boris. "You are holding the real tape of Mile the cat. I had one of those Stanley always keep in his desk." She stood frozen. Boris grabbed her by the shoulder and forced her to stand, she was easily a foot taller. "You have to convince people to let me testify, and to make sure that he goes to prison." She winked slowly twice, as if realizing she was here. "Yes, I know." Boris let her go. She had some difficulty standing. She put her hand on his shoulder to steady herself, and took it off almost immediately, a look of disgust on her face. She started walking, Boris followed her. They entered the courtroom, where people waited for her. She went to her table. Boris took a sit near the middle. The only ones watching were mutants, most belonging to Mike's gang. The judge entered, the lawyers stood, Mike's lawyer had to force him to stand. Boris was surprised that someone could find a human to defend a mutant. Once they had sat again she asked to approach the bench. Both layers went to the judge. They talked, even if Boris could have heard them he wasn't paying attention. Some of the mutants, which occupied completely the last four rows, had recognized him. He didn't look back, knowing that if he did they could try to kill him here. He watched as the judge called a small recess, and left with the two lawyers. A mutant sat beside him. He wasn't imposing and Boris decided to let him be, until he felt a sharp object in his side. He looked at the large knife, and then at the mutant. He was also looking at him, murmuring one word: "Traitor." Boris shook his head with a sad smile, then he put his mouth closer to the mutant's ear, unfortunately pressing a little harder on the knife. "If you do not kill me with the first thrust, I will snap your neck like I did for Riker. You do know Riker?" He looked back at the door, as the mutant left. The lawyers came back and sat. Boris noticed that Mike's lawyer was quite happy, could it be that she hadn't been able to convince them? That thought soon changed as they called him. She was very efficient, asking only what was important. She even managed to hide her disgust and act as if he was human. When she finished Mike's attorney asked only two questions; If Boris was a mutant and if he had ever killed a human. She objected, saying that Boris wasn't the one on trial, but the judge, being human, told her to shut up. Boris had to answer. He found that his own passion for the truth forced the answer out. Yes, he had. The jury gasped. Boris knew that what ever credibility she had managed to build had been shattered. Everything he had said would be dismissed by them. The judge told him that he could leave the bench. Calm, but visibly holding back his anger. Mike smiled. Boris was angry at himself, he should have seen that trick coming. Mike's lawyer was definitively a good one. Now, she was right, they had lost the case. Only a miracle would send Mike in jail. That miracle did happen, in the form of Jay and another man. The mutants started talking all at once. He couldn't understand anything in the cacophony. The judge bang order. It took a while, but they calmed down. That impressed Boris. Jay went to her, he talked with her and gave her an envelope. After reading it, she announced to the judge that she wanted to put a new witness on the stand. Mike's attorney got up and started to object when Jay slammed an envelop in his hand. Cautiously he opened. After reading it he turned to the judge and said that he didn't have any objection. If it was at all possible, Mike looked pale. Boris grew curious. She directed the man to the bench as Jay sat beside Boris. She asked the man to identify himself and tell the court what had happened. He was Bob "TNT" Varn, and he build explosives, for destruction companies or whoever paid him. He had worked for Mike The Cat more than once. That last time they only told him that the explosives had to be powerful enough to blow up a large building. He builded them so. When Mike came to get them he told him that he was going to destroy the forum during a game. He didn't hide the that the bomb would kill people, but there would be children, and he didn't want his creation to hurt children. He argued, and Mike took out a gun. He was shot three times maybe four, he wasn't sure, he then passed out. When he'd awaken, he was in a hospital. After having told his story it was Mike's turn. He told his version of the story, but he was nervous and his story had holes. Then the jury left, they came back a few hours later and declared Mike the Cat guilty of all charges. Hearing that, the mutants became excited. Most of them got up and some were armed. Boris would have tried to stop them, but Jay told him to sit. At the same instant a large amount of cops entered. They located themselves around the room. Jay got up, gave an envelope to Boris and turned to leave. Then as if on second thought, turned back. "You'd better do what they tell you to," was all he said before leaving. Boris watched him leave, wondering what that had been about. He opened the letter and, as he read it, anger filled him. END
  10. Kindar

    Chapter 11

    "Seth!" I yelled at the top of my lungs kicking the door off its hinges. The first thing I saw was the couch so I tenderly placed Walter's body on it, then I fell to my knees and cried. The trek back here took longer than my search because my balls hurt so much I couldn't run. I didn't even consider stopping to relieve the pressure; I deserved the pain for getting Walter killed. After a while the tears stopped enough for me to realize Seth still wasn't there. I cursed under my breath and headed to his lab. I would have loved to stomp there, but my balls wouldn't let me. I found him at his workbench, working on something small. I pulled him of his seat and held him against the wall. "Damn it Seth, didn't you hear me calling you?" Seth's eyes were unfocussed and his fingers were moving before him like he was still working on something. I dropped him and went to the kitchen where I knew he kept more joints. I had to go through half the cupboards, most of which ended up with ripped off doors, before I found a box of them. Seth was back at his workbench when I came back and I had to go through his pockets to find the lighter. The first few puffs were shallow as he kept working, the next ones deepened and he grabbed the second joint out of my hand. After that he was able to light them himself so all I could do was pace while I waited for him to be high enough to notice the world. That took ten excruciating long minutes. He grabbed his stomach and bent over. "Man, I'm famished. How long have I been working?" I didn't give him time to reach for his watch I grabbed him by the collar and lifted him. "I want you to call them." "Huh? Call who?" "The wish catcher guys you used to work for." "What? I don't know how, I don't have anything to do with them anymore." I pulled him close and glared at him. "Don't fuck with me Seth. I know they wouldn't have let you go without giving you a way to contact them, so you're going to go find it and then you're going to call them, do you get that?" "Yeah, yeah, I get it. I'll look for . . . Man, what happened to your arm?" I shook him to get his gaze back to my face. "Focus on what's important Seth. That call is all that matters, not my arm, just that call." My arm was now covered with bleeding scabs as every time I moved it the dried blood broke. It looked pretty bad, and didn't' smell all that great either. I let him go and followed him to his bedroom, where he started looking through a file cabinet. "Why do you want me to call them anyway?" "I need them to lock me up and throw away the key." "Why'd you want them to do that?" "Because I killed Walter." Seth started at me. "You what?" "You heard me. I killed him, D.E.A.D. dead." Seth grabbed the phone and dialed. "This is Seth Burnsteng. I have a wisher here who says he killed someone. No, I don't think he's dangerous, he's turning himself him. Yeah, that's him. Well, that's what he said. Ok, we'll be waiting for you." I'd heard what I wanted to hear so I headed to the living room. I picked up Walter and cradled him in my arms as I sat down to wait, constantly apologizing to him for getting him killed. I could feel Seth on the side, but he wasn't important right now. "I thought you said you killed him," Seth said after a minute of silence. "I might as well. I shouldn't have gotten him mixed up in this and I should have kept on going with him to look for that woman. If I'd done that he would still be alive." "You didn't do this," Seth said with such certainty that I found myself baring my teeth at him and growling. He took a step back and I went back to focusing on Walter. Seth made another call. "It's Seth again. You're going to have to bring more people, the Actress is here. No, not at my place but somewhere in the area, she's the one committed the murder. Yes I'm sure; I still remember the bodies she left in the eighties. Yes, he's been in a fight with her. Yes, I think he'll still want you to take him in." Seth sat on the other end of the couch and wisely kept quiet. * * * * * The cot I was lying on was cold and uncomfortable. My arm was bandaged and numb, my balls were in so much pain that even breathing hurt and my stomach had been screaming at me for the last two days. The cell I was in could have been the same one they put me in before for all I knew. I didn't care; I just wish they would turn on the force field and forget about me. Instead I got a doctor checking on my arm every day. He said that he was sure they would be able to reattach my skin back to my arm. I didn't care about that, as far as I was concerned what they should be doing is ripping every inch of my skin off so I'd feel the pain Walter felt. Someone also brought me food three times a day, but I didn't eat any of it. I didn't want anything to lessen the pain I felt. I hadn't even jerked off since finding Walter; I didn't deserve any kind of relief. I was going through the hundredth way I could have saved Walter when someone stopped in front of my cell. The doctor had already changed the bandages on my arm this morning and it was too early for the lunch tray "Hello Mister Benton." The voice sounded familiar, strong and commanding, but also soothing; like someone's grandfather. I glanced at him and recognized the man who'd questioned us the previous time I was here. I turned on my side, with my back to him; my arm and balls protested. "What do you want?" I asked bitterly. "I wanted to thank you for helping us find the Actress. She disappeared eleven years ago and if not for you she might have gone on killing with impunity." "And how did I help you do that? I don't even remember where that damned cave is." "We found it by backtracking where you had been using the tracker that we implanted in you." The surprise made me sit up and then bend over as my balls really complained. I glared at the older man. "You put a tracker in me?" "Yes, you and your friends, except for Mister Marcozy; we couldn't find a way to pierce his skin." "Wait a minute, if you've known where I was all this time how cone I've been walking free all this time?" "Because at no time were you a prisoner, Mister Benton. You didn't kill anyone in your escape and once outside you kept a low profile so we had no need to retrieve you, or your friends. "And now that the actress is on her way here your arm should be fixed up soon." The mention of my arm made me look at it and brought visions of Walter's corpse. "Is something wrong? I thought the news would lighten your mood, not darken it." "If you really want to do something for me, find a way to bring Walter back." "I'm sorry, but there are things which are beyond us." "That's what I thought." I lied back down and curled up. "Just turn the force field back on and leave me alone." "I won't do that, Mister Benton, you're not a prisoner." "I'm a monster," I said softly blinking as tears fell, "and a murderer. I shouldn't be allowed to be free." "No, you are neither of those things." "What am I then?" "You are a young man who went through a horrible experience, but it's my hope that something good can come from it." "What good could ever come from someone's death?" "You've seen what a Wisher can do now, so maybe you can work with us to stop the others like her, to make sure no one else suffers like you did." I didn't say anything, I didn't know what to think of the offer. "All I ask is that you think about it; your life isn't over and you certainly shouldn't be spending it in this cell." He turned to leave and then stopped. "Oh, and Seth asked me to bring you this," he placed a watch the table by the door and then left. * * * * * The dinner time crowd was thinning when the man entered the diner. He put his hat and overcoat on the rack and tucked his briefcase under the booth's table. The waitress gave him her best smile and admired his muscular frame as she brought him the menu. The man ordered the special and asked for the paper. He read it slowly as he ate. He smiled to the waitress when she refilled his cup and politely turned her down when she started flirting; she was pretty enough, being a petite brunette and close to his age, but she wasn't his style. Time passed, people came and went while he continued to read the paper and ordered the occasional piece of pie. When he finished the paper he folded it and set it aside before looking up for the waitress. The woman who came to his table was older, in her mid fifties and had light brown hair, cut short. "Can I get you a refill, Hun?" "Yes please," the man said with a smile, handing her his cup. "Did your wife kick you out?" She asked him putting his full cup down. "What? No, what makes you think that?" "The cook told me you got his just after dinner time and you've been reading that paper all evening. I'd expect a good looking man like you to have someone he'd be in a hurry to go back to." "Actually, I was waiting for someone." "Who?" "You, Anna. Would you mind sitting down?" She raised an eyebrow before looking around, most tables were empty and the other waitress could deal with the few customers at the counter. "Why are you waiting for me?" she asked as she sat. "Because I need your help." He wrapped his hands around his cup and looked at it for a moment. "I did something horrible - I didn't mean to, but someone is suffering because of it." He looked at her. "I need you to undo my last wish." She frowned. "Wish? I don't understand Hun, how can you making a wish hurt someone? And how could I help?" "Please Anna, don't insult my intelligence, I know exactly what you are. In fact it was so easy to figure it out that I'm amazed no one else has yet." "I'm a woman who's getting to old to be a waitress?" "You're the one who's been granting wishes." Anna started to laugh, but the seriousness with which he was watching her made here put her hand over your mouth to stop. "Oh honey," she said once she got the giggles under control, "if I could grant wishes would I really work here?" "You look exactly like you did when you started working here ten years ago." "I exercise regularly and my hair color has been coming out of a bottle for longer than I've been working here." "Since you started here there's been an increase in unusual things happening in the city. I've also gone through the archives of the people chasing me and they've been able to figure out that everyone who had their wish granted had dealt with people in the service industries a few days before it happened. I'm willing to bet you were at all of those." Her expression softened as his hardened; she wrapped her hands around his. "Oh honey, I don't know what's happened that hurt you so much, but wishes don't come true. Even if they did, I'm sure there'd be some kind of rule that prevents them from just being undone." His eyes tightened. "So you're not going to help me." "I can't help you Hun, If you did something, you need to take responsibility for that and fix it." "Fine." He stood and threw a couple of twenties on the table. He grabbed his coat and hat and stormed out of the diner. He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket once he was across the road. "You should have helped me," he mumbled as he kept walking and dialed a number, "now I'm going to have to show you that we're just too dangerous to have around." The flash of the diner exploding momentarily sharpened his shadow on the ground and the shockwave almost made him loose his balance. "I promise you Anna, I'm not going to stop until you've undone this."
  11. Kindar

    Chapter 10

    "Hey Walt!" I watched as Walter turned and jumped with his eyes wide like saucers. It would have been funny if he hadn't been close to the edge. He caught himself on a larger rock and held on to it for support with a hand while the other went to his chest. "You ok man?" I asked as I went to him, "sorry about that, I didn't mean to startle you." "I am quite well," he replied still watching me, "I simply need a moment to catch my breath." "Ok, so what happened? You didn't come back for dinner last night and you didn't call I was worried sick about you." I wasn't able to keep my anger completely out of my tone. "I do not know what you are talking about, nothing happened." "Come on, this is me. We both know you've been annoyed at me because I preferred staying at the cabin to coming on this treks with you, but maybe you can have the decency of telling me what's wrong instead of letting me squirm or giving me this cool treatment." "I truly apologize for not treating you properly," he said looking me over hungrily, "I do not know what could have come over me to mistreat someone like you such, but I can promise that it will not happen again." "You sure you're ok?" I asked because he was really speaking weird. I still couldn't help puffing up my chest at the look and compliment. "I can assure you that I am quite well." "Good, then how about we take care of my problem and then head back?" "There is something I need to show you before hand," Walter said as he turned and headed up the mountain. I stood there for a moment too surprised to move. What could be more important than taking care of my balls? "Walter, wait up!" I started after him as well as I could on the rock side and with hurting balls. He didn't slow down. I watched him enter an opening in the rock. The crevice wasn't too big; I had to turn sideways in place to fit. I caught up to him at the entrance of a cave lit by fire light. "Go in," he said, "I am certain you will find it wondrous." I eyed him dubiously. I didn't see what could be so wonderful about a cave, but went in anyway. At first glance it wasn't impressive, it was pretty big, but that was about it. "What's supposed to be so wonderful about this?" I asked still looking around. "Go further along the back, you will see it." I rolled my eyes, maybe he was doing that to keep punishing me. Or maybe he had a bed set up in the back? The first thing that caught my eye was a set of chains set in the rock wall. I grabbed one and gave it a tug it was solidly anchored in there. "How long do you think these have been there?" I asked just as I noticed the skeleton on the ground next to them. "Are these things real?" I bent down to pick up one of the bone. "Oh, quite real." I turned to look at Walter just in time to see him swing something large at my head. I went down seeing stars. I tried to stand up with a groan, but he hit me again and things went dark. I remember a lot of flashes of consciousness, always followed by stars and then darkness. The last few also came with pain in my right arm. When I finally woke fully it was with a groan that made my head hurt. Being shot in the head hadn't hurt this badly. "Good, you are finally awake," Walter said, "You must look at this, it is simply wondrous." Getting my eyes to open took more work than I could have guessed; my eyelids felt like they had hundred pounds weights attached to them. And when they did open it didn't help much. Everything was moving around. I closed them before I threw up. Once my stomach settled I tried again, this time they were lighter and the world stood still. I was able to lift my head and Walter was standing in front of me, but there was something wrong with him, there was something orange and black over his right arm. "What happened Walter?" I asked, having trouble stringing the words together. "Is this not simply wondrous?" he asked me, shoving his orange and black covered arm. It moved too quickly and my eyes wouldn't focus on it. "Walter! What the *fuck* happened!" I don't think I'd ever yelled that loud ever. Walter backpedaled while the echo bounced off the walls for a few seconds. I groaned as my head kept on ringing for a few more. "My, my, what powerful lungs you must have to yell like that. Your roar must be magnificent. I cannot wait to find out what it must be like to roar." "You're not making any sense," I said as my head dropped. "I must say that while you certainly are a captive audience," he chuckled lightly, "you are not the most astute one I have had." "So sue me. Just tell me what's going on." "Why would I want to bring in a lawyer into this? They are a despicable breed which I doubt time has improved." I took deep breath in the following silence trying to clear my head. Walter wasn't acting like himself, maybe he'd hit his head or something, although that didn't explain what ever was on his arm. I don't know why it didn't occurred to me before that, but I only then tried to move, to find my arms were chained. I was chained to the wall. I looked at the iron manacle on my left wrist and the solid chain holding me. When I check my right wrist I found that something else was wrong. There was no orange and black fur, and there was, was this dark red masses that wriggled as I pulled on the chain. I've never denied being among the slowest to catch a clue, but as I looked back to Walter I did get it. He was wearing my fur on his right arm. "I see that you are understanding the situation," he said with a smile, "I must say that this is a most wondrous chance, I have never played the Beast before; although I did play Belle in my youth. The actor who played the Beast was quite dreadful, he ruined the show for all of us. He could never be menacing. I will show them all how the role should be played. I will be a monstrous Beast, as he should have been." "Walter, what are you talking about, and what are you doing with my fur." I just wanted to scream at him to start make sense, but I didn't think my head would survive another outburst. Walter stopped moving about and looked at himself. "Ah, yes, I must not get ahead of myself, I am still wearing my previous role." He looked in a darkened corner before walking to me. He pulled out a dirty knife. "I am afraid this will hurt, but please roar with the pain, I wish to know what the proper timbre is for it." I looked at his green eyes and as the wrongness of them hit me he started slicing the fur off my shoulder off. I grated my teeth, who ever that was I didn't want to give him the satisfaction to hear me scream, but I only lasted a couple of seconds of moaning before the pain became too much. "I do wish you had roared instead," the sadist who looked like Walter said, "but you will have many more occasions to do so." Panting I forced myself to look at him. He applied the patch of fur on his shoulder and it melded to the fur that was already there. I noticed that it didn't stick to his skin, instead it floated above it, keeping the shape of my muscles. "I have never had such an easy time putting on a skin before," he said with glee, "I also have never worn one that could heal itself." He ran the knife over his arm, leaving a bloody gash that closed moments later. I had to look away. I didn't feel any of the pain from that, but it still looked like it was my arm getting cut. I saw a human form leaning against the wall in the corner I happen to look in. Even in the bad light I could tell there was something wrong with it. The body was uniformly dark, the light barely reflected on it and it was staring ahead with dead steel grey eyes. "Oh my Gods," I let out quietly. "Ah yes, him," the Walter lookalike said. "I must say that he was not the participating audience that you are. He must have died before I was even halfway done." I stared at him. I couldn't believe how casual he was about this. "You murdered him you son of a bitch!" I pulled on my chains as hard as I could. "I did no such thing," the impostor said offended, "I simply took over his role. Regardless he was a bad actor. I could tell that he was hardly doing anything with his part." "He was a person," I growled with another pull, I thought I felt it give a little. "He was someone I cared about." "He was the Belle to your Beast?" he said with surprise, but then his face turn to disgust. "That is sick. Everyone knows Belle is played by a woman." He turned and walked away. "I will have to find a woman to play my Belle. That could prove to be a challenge, there are not many woman around here. Tell me," he said facing me again, "how were you able to attract your Belle?" He pointed dismissively to Walter's corpse. For a moment I literally saw red but I forced myself to calm down, I'd only have one shot and I had to think clearly to make it count. "Come here and I'll tell you." He didn't even hesitate and as he stood before me I pulled on my chain and broke it from the wall. My fist landed on his shoulder hard enough to crumble him to the ground. I turned and wrapped the other chain around my hand, doing my best to ignore my skinless hand, and gave a hard pull. I tumbled back with the ease with which the anchor gave out. "You need to know your role," he said nursing his fur covered shoulder, "you are the helpless prisoner, not the hero." "I'm rewriting the script," I spat and lounged at him. "Ah!" he stepped out of my way. "Scripts are for hacks. The real actor knows his character through and through. He does not need a piece of paper to tell him what he should be doing." "Fine," I said as I turned to face him, "since you're the monster in this act of yours what do you think's going to happen?" He gave me the most sincere smile I'd seen. "Why, the monster kills the hero of course." He rushed me and punched me in the stomach before I could react. He punched me with his right fist, my right fist, and I flew off the floor to hit the wall. I was as surprised as he was. By the time I was able to pull myself up he was still staring at his fist. I didn't give him time to stop. I tackled him and punched him as hard as I could until he wasn't moving anymore. When I stopped his face wasn't recognizable as Walter anymore. I stood and my anger flared again when I looked at him. I kicked him and he went flying in the darkness. I had to force myself to turn and look at Walter's corpse. I had trouble breathing as walked to it. I fell to my knees before him. "I'm so sorry," I told him as he looked at me accusingly. "I should never have dragged you here. It's all my fault.
  12. Kindar

    Chapter 09

    After three days Seth had a working prototype. The hardware for it filled the entire unused bedroom, I had to stand on a platform, and not move from it, but it worked. It created an image around me that moved as I did. It wasn't what I had expected. Seth said he'd be able to fix the size problem. Seth hadn't said anything when he realized we weren't using the second guest bedroom. When I'd brought our stuff in I put Walter's there, but he wouldn't have anything to do with the idea of sleeping in separate rooms. "No fucking way I'm going to be sneaking around while I'm here," he said. "Be reasonable, we're his guest. We can't go around offending him." "I don't fucking care if he can't deal with it. I'm not going to act like the guy you're trying to hide from your parents." "Alright, alright," I felt he was trying to get a Seth to throw us out or something. It didn't work. Either he was too stoned or busy with the work to notice, or having lived through the free love movement he just didn't care. Walter only brought three suits with him; the alpha wolf, the submissive fox and the playful Dalmatian. That first night he put on the wolf suit and put me in my place. He slept in the suit, holding me tightly and the next morning he took me again. He didn't asked, he just turned me on my stomach and fucked me. He used the wolf suit more than the others. I could tell he was doing it because he was angry at being here, but I couldn't figure out why. He also wouldn't tell me what was wrong, even once it was obvious Seth wasn't trying to string me along. We fell into a routine of sex in the morning, breakfast and then Walter would drive to 'town'. He'd come back for dinner we'd hang out, have sex again and go to sleep. While Walter was out I'd jog around in the woods, or chop firewood for Seth, even cutting down a tree when I ran out. I also toked up a time or two; Seth left me his box of joints. Seth would get up even before us and get right to work. At ten I'd get him to smoke so he could eat, again for dinner and then so he could sleep. When he wasn't stoned he was either in his workroom designing a component or in the bedroom assembling it. His basement was full of parts, it looked like a hardware store on steroid. If he couldn't find what he needed he ordered it. After two weeks he'd managed to shrink it down to half the size of the room. "You know, this isn't exactly how I thought you'd be doing this," I told him over lunch. "I thought you'd whip up something in half a day and be done." "That's not how I worded my wish," he replied, " 'I wish I was able to build stuff and make them better.' That's what I said. So I have to start with building something I'm already able to and then I can take it apart and see how to make it better." "You still remember the wish you made?" I asked, impressed. "You don't forget something that changes your life like that. One day I'm a failed mechanic trying to get drunk at the local bar and wishing I could fix stuff, the next day I'm taking my Boss' car apart and rebuilding it with better struts, better gas millage lower emissions an tons of other improvements. "He sold my designs to car manufacturers and then asked me to keep making more. I didn't know how to stop so I did that for ten years, until the wish catchers found me." "What happened after that?" "They helped me get my wish under control." He lifted the joint he was smoking. "Then I lived for a while before going back to work for them. I was there for a decade or so then I had enough and came here." "They let you go? Just like that?" "Well, they tried to convince me to stay, offered me more money, better labs, but once I made it clear I didn't want any of that they let me go." "Just like that, no threats to you or your family if you didn't work for them, no blackmail no incarceration?" "Course not," Seth said with a chuckle, "just a few exec every few month dropping by with a suitcase filled with money and something they wanted me to build. It took them six years to finally get the message that I was never going to say yes. "I mean really, what am I going to do with more money than I already have?" "Did you ever regret doing it?" "Making the wish?" I nodded. "No," he answered after thinking about it for a moment. "I never really did. I don't think any of us ever does." "You've met other people like us." "I've worked for the organization in charge of stopping us from blowing up the world, so yeah, you're not the first Wisher I've met. Everyone of them liked what they were. Sometime they liked too much." "I don't think I'm liking it all that much." "You're still new at this, give it time and you'll probably find that's what you've always wanted." Two weeks later it was the size of a backpack. "Did you guys know that tourists have been disappearing around here for the last decade?" Walter asked over dinner. He hadn't really warmed up to Seth, but at least he was engaging in conversation and getting the groceries. "Hikers have been over estimating their abilities for a lot more than a decade," Seth said before biting into his burger. I'd gotten tired of the frozen pizza or noodle and sauce mixes that were Seth mainstay so I'd gotten Walter to pickup all we needed for burgers and I set up a grill to cook them. "Maybe but there's be a lot more in the last decade than before, almost a hundred on this side of the mountain alone." "That does sound like a lot," I said between bites and Seth nodded in agreement. "Have you ever helped look for any of them?" "No, I let the Rangers deal with that. I'm sure you've realized by now that I don't really leave this place." Walter was silent for the rest of the meal. Once we were back in our room he put on his fox suit and submitted to me. It was an evening of slow lovemaking. "I think we should help look for her," Walter said as we snuggled afterward. "Look for who?" "A hiker went missing not far from here a few days ago." "I don't think the rescue teams are going to be really happy to see someone like me among them." Even tired and in the afterglow I could still see where he was going. "They're short of man power so they aren't so much teams, more like groups and couples. We don't have to do it with them. We can go just the two of us you can sniff around and maybe we'll get lucky." I started chuckling as the thought of getting lucky in the woods with Walter bounced in my head. "Ok," I said once I calmed down, "I'll check in with Seth in the morning." Walter tensed. "We don't need to run what we do by him." "I have to. He needs me to help him snap out of it so he can eat." Walter didn't acknowledge what I'd said. "Walter," I said softly, "these wishes aren't fairytales. They come with problems. I need sex because of them and Seth's wish came with an obsession to build things. If he's not stoned all he does is build. He won't eat or sleep until he falls unconscious from exhaustion. I have to let him know so we can change the schedule to give us enough time to search." "Ok. Jim, I . . ." "Yes?" "Never mind," he said with a shake of the head, "it isn't important." I kissed the back of his neck even if he probably couldn't feel it though the suit. "Ok, sleep well." * * * * * "Is it lunch time already?" Seth asked after smoking his first join. "No, more like breakfast. Me and Walter are going to go out to help with the search. We're going to be back for dinner." "Are you sure that's wise? If one of the rescue parties sees you it could start a bigfoot hunt." "We'll be careful. I think Walter just wants to do something useful instead of waiting for you to be done." "Then I better keep working while you guys are out." "Are you going to be ok?" "Yeah. I'll eat now, that should keep me going until you get back." "We'll see you tonight then." * * * * * "Ok, this looks right," Walter said as looked around. It had taken most of the morning walking through the woods to reach the path. We could have been there sooner, but we, ahem, took our time getting there. "This is about where she was seen for the last time by another hiker." "So what do we do?" "Well, I was hoping you'd be able to sniff out where she went." "I'm pretty sure I need to know what she smells like," I said with a chuckle. I still sniff the air. I could differentiate between human and animal smells now, but not individual humans, except for me and Walter, and maybe Seth, I might be able to track him if I had to. "I hadn't thought of that," Walter said dejected. "Hey, it doesn't mean we can't look for her," I said giving him a hug, "it just means you can't use me as your own personal bloodhound." That cheered him up. We left the trails for the rangers and other search parties and searched deeper in the woods. Walter was serious about the search, but I was having more fun frolicking around with him and avoiding people. And he didn't protest too much to the Frolicking. We did that for more than a week before I got bored with it. I encouraged Walter to continue since it made him feel like he was doing something useful. "Are you sure you don't want to come?" he asked me the next morning after I made my decision. "Yeah, I'm not exactly having fun doing that anymore." "It isn't about having fun Jim. A woman's missing and we're trying to find her." "And you can still do that, just without me. It's not like I'm all that useful out there. Hell, without me you'll be able to join the official search parties." I could see the disappointment in his eyes, but he did go, and kept going every morning, to return sometime after dinner. Seth continued to make progress, but it was slowing down. The further ahead the technology became the more work it took. On the fourth day after Walter started searching on his own he didn't come back. I didn't worry too much as cleaned the dishes, he could have gotten delayed on his way back, but as the sky turned dark I did worry. Walter would have called if something had happened to prevent him from coming back, he had Seth's number. I spent the night pacing and sleeping on his fits. As soon as Seth got up I shoved a lit joint in his mouth. "Walter didn't come back last night," I said as soon as he was able to focus on me, "I'm going out to look for him." "I'm sure he's ok, he probably searched too late and had to go back to town with the others." "He would have called; something wrong." I went to our room and buried my nose in his wolf suit. I knew I could pick out his smell out of anything by now, but I wanted to make sure it was fresh in my mind. "I'll be back once I find him," I said as I left his cabin. I could already feel the ghost of blue balls starting. Following his trail to the path was easy, his smell was strong since he always took the same route. Once there things became a little more complicated His scent went in all directions. I knew it well enough now that I could make out slight variation in strength so I used that to try to determine which trail was the most recent, I had a few false start, but on the third time I had what I thought was the freshest one. I followed it up the mountain for an hour, the wood thinned out and the ground became rocky. My heart skipped with joy when I saw him standing on the escarpment.
  13. Kindar

    Chapter 08

    Getting to Stampton, Colorado took two weeks. The first week was for preparation. Walter bought a three year old Caravan. He had his mechanic tune it up, remove the middle row so I'd be able to sit down and tint the windows so I wouldn't have to worry about being seen. Yeah, Walter volunteered himself to drive me to Stampton, for which I was grateful. I had no idea how I was going to convince him to do it. Wilma said he just wasn't willing to let me get away. We bought supplies and tried to work out where Seth's house was, unfortunately Stampton wasn't so much a town as a collection of buildings spread over twenty square miles. There were no up to date maps anywhere online, even Google didn't have anything more than the two major roads going through the area. The other week was spent driving, and getting lost. The GPS was no use what so ever since we couldn't put the address in, and even using it to get to the closest town got us turned around more often than not. I'm a public transit kind of guy, I don't even have my license and Walter hadn't driven outside the city before now. When we did get to Stampton itself we discovered why Google didn't have any of the road's names. They didn't have any. When Walter asked for directions he'd get something like 'drive a few miles and then make a left at the old oak tree' or, 'drive past Jensen's cottage and make a right up the hill, you can't miss it'. Or course we missed it. We spent half the day driving around before finally getting to Seth's house. I have to say it wasn't a bad drive, the trees were magnificent. Like I said I'd never been out of the city before and city parks had noting on this. The trees were so dense they formed a wall on each side of the road. I'd never seen so many different kinds of greens and browns. We even saw a few deer and a bear. Seth's place was a log cabin, a large log cabin, built up along the slope of the mountain. Walter stopped the Caravan behind an old Ford at the bottom of the stairs heading up to the cabin. Before the car was turned off a man came out and down the stairs. The only thing I could think of as I watched him was hippy. He had long gray hair with a multicolor headband keeping it out of his thin face. He was wearing a deer skin jacket and pants. "Hey man, you lost or something?" he said as he reach the bottom. "Not anymore," Walter replied, "are you Seth Burnsteng?" "Yeah, That'd be me, why're you asking?" "A friend of mine wants to talk with you." I took a deep breath and stepped out of the car. "Whoa, that's a gnarly look," Seth said, "How'd you get it?" "I made a wish," I answered. The smell of marijuana hung heavily around him. "That's cool, made one too, a long time ago. I try not to make them anymore. Come on up," he said as he started up the stairs, "I got sometime in the oven." Walter cast a glance at me and I shrugged. I hadn't known what to expect, but an invitation to dinner hadn't really been it. Seth's cabin was clean; certainly not what I expected from a pot head. In front of the large bay window was a table with a large variety of plants, tomatoes, strawberries lettuce and I was pretty sure I recognized at two marijuana plants. There was a clean ashtray on a corner of the table, and no spilled dirt anywhere on it or around it. Wood was neatly stacked next to the stone fireplace. A couch and two chairs were arranged around a coffee table which also had a clean ashtray. Seth took a joint from a pocket and lit it. "You guys wanna drag?" "No thanks," I replied. I smoked once in a while, but right now I felt I needed to keep a clear head. "Certainly not," Walter answered. He was rather straight laced when it came to smoking. "You're high, aren't you?" "Hell yeah, only way I can hear myself think." He started chuckling as he headed to the other room. I followed him in the kitchen where he was pulling a baking pan with a dozen mini pizzas on it out of the over. "Help yourself to them," he said as he stacked half of them on a plate and devouring the first one before I moved. "Where's the power coming from?" I asked as I took a pizza. The stove and fridges were electric and I hadn't seen any electrical towers on the way here. "I got a generator in the back. You wanna something to drink?" He opened the fridge. "I have water, water and some more water." "Water sounds good," I said. "You must go through a lot of gas if it's the only source of power you have." "Don't use gas," Seth said as he took three glasses out of a cabinet, "It's nuclear." "Isn't having a nuclear reactor a rather dangerous thing?" Walter asked from the doorway. I'd explained to him that Seth was some sort of super inventor and he must have taken it more seriously then I had because he didn't show any surprise at the news. "Nah, fusion's perfectly safe." Seth filled the glasses and handed one of them to me. "Wait, you have a fusion reactor in the back of your cabin?" "Yeah, I built it, twenty years ago I think." He lit up another joint. "Then why don't we have anything that's run by fusion?" Walter asked. I realized that his lack of surprise might not be because he believed him, but rather because he didn't. "Because whoever I gave the plant to would have a lot of power and I don't trust people to use that power well. That's why I live here. I got tired of being asked to build stuff that gave some form of power or another to people." He looked at me sadly. "You're here to ask me to make you something aren't you?" "Yeah, I need something to hide the way I look." "That's it?" he asked in surprise, "No super weapon to stop wars, no devise to end world hunger? Just a gizmo so you can look normal?" I nodded. "I can do that," Seth said as he extinguished his joint, "I'll start on it once I've sobered up." Walter indicated I should follow him and we went outside. "Are you sure you can trust him?" he asked. "He seems like an ok guy." "That's not what I mean, the guy claims to have a fusion reactor. Do you know what'd do if I could build one of those? I'd sell the rights and retire. I think he's a fake, hell we already know he's a junky." "I was incarcerated behind a force field he built, I believe him about the reactor. We can ask him to show it to us if that'll convince you. As for why he hasn't sold it and made millions. You heard him, he doesn't trust people. Not everyone's driven by money you know." "Ok, but what if he calls the people who are after you, he used to work for them, remember?" I did, and it did worry me a little, but what else could I do? "I don't have a choice. He's the only person who can give me a normal life." I could tell Walter wasn't really satisfied, but he dropped it. I went back inside and found Seth in a workroom on the second floor. He was unrolling paper over a drafting table. The room was as orderly as the kitchen and living room. The tools were in their place, there was no dust anywhere and, I also noticed, no ashtrays. When he noticed me in the doorway Seth handed me a joint. "I appreciate the offer," I told him, "but I really don't think I should be lighting up." "It isn't for you. That's for me. No matter what I'm doing at ten you light it up and get me to smoke it." "Why?" "Because I'm going to work myself to death on your gizmo if I don't force myself to stop once in a while. That's going to cloud my head just enough to I can think about other stuff, like sleep and food." "How long until you start to work?" "It'll probably be a couple of hours until I'm down. There two bedrooms at the end of the hall you can use." "Thanks. While you wait to sober up do you mind showing us your reactor? Walter's curious about it." "Who's Walter?" "My friend. I'm Jim by the way." "I'm Seth," he said presenting his hand, "and yeah I can so it to you." The reactor turned out to be rather unimpressive, at least the five feet we could see. Seth explained that most of it was buried about fifty feet down. What was exposed was a cylinder about ten feet in diameter with readouts and controls on it. It looked high-tech; that's about all I got from it. "I expected a fusion reactor to be bigger," Walter commented. "I don't need that much power," Seth answered with a chuckle before taking a granola bar out of his pocket. "It's got the fusion chamber, the turbine, water circulation and scrubbing system and capacitors. It also has a regulation system so I won't blow up my appliances." "How do you change the fuel rods?" Walter asked. "Man, it's fusion. I'm not going to have to refuel it for another fifty years or so." "Fine, and how are you going to do that when it happens." "Walter," I said as I grabbed his arm, "there's no need to interrogate him." "Actually I think there is, I haven't actually seen anything really special. For all I know he's just a fake." "It's ok man," Seth said as he folded the wrapping of his finished granola bar, "I don't need to convince him of anything. I know what I can do, that's all that matters. And whenever I need to change the core I'll just shut it down, give it a week to cool down and then build something to take it out." "Leave it alone Walter. I'm the one who needs his help, not you. I don't need any convincing that he can help me." "Fine, I'll be at the car," he said. He wasn't happy about it, I could see it in his eyes. "I'm sorry about that," I told Seth once Walter was out of sight, "I don't know why he was so hard." "S'ok man, Dealing with us Wishers isn't easy on those who aren't used to it. Hasn't been long since you made yours, has it?" "Only a few weeks, you?" "I don't know, what year is this?" He took out a pocket watch. "Already? Man it's been over fifty years now." "You lost track of time?" "Yeah, it's easy to do up here living on your own. I'm going to go throw something in the oven, you hungry?" "I'm ok, thanks. I'm going to go look in on Walter and bring some stuff to the rooms." * * * * * Walter was sitting in the car watching me come down the steps. He didn't get out, or even lower the window when I stood next to it. I knocked on it and he took his time lowering it. "You ok?" I asked him. "Course I'm ok," he answered bluntly. "I'm not the most enlightened guy around, but I can tell you're not. What's the problem?" "How can you just trust this guy, we don't know anything about him?" "I don't have much of a choice, he's the only one who can give me a normal life." He looked away from me when I said that. "That's why we shouldn't trust him," he said when he looked at me again. His features were set to neutral, but I knew him well enough to smell the hurt coming from him, but I had no idea what it was about. "You're in a perfect situation to be taken advantage of." "Seth hasn't even asked for anything. He's a nice guy." "No one's that nice," Walter grumbled, "Look you said it yourself, he's worked for the people who are after you. He's probably planning on stringing you along until they get here. I think we should go back home." I studied him for a moment. "Where is *that* coming from?" "I don't know," he answered with a shrug, "I'm just getting a bad feeling about this." I reached through the window and placed my hand on his arm. "Lets give him a few days, if it looks like he's trying to waste out time then we'll leave." "All right," he said with some reluctance.
  14. Kindar

    Chapter 05

    I hesitated in front of the door. It was glossy white, freshly painted like the porch. It was one thing to believe my friends would be ok with the way I looked; it was another one completely to put it to the test. I steeled myself and knocked. There was silence. I prayed that they were home and knocked again. "Hold on to your fucking horses," came a Wilma's voices from somewhere deeper in the house. The door opened. "Ok, what's you want?" Wilma was a small woman at five-four. I never used 'petite' to describe her be cause she had quite the set of curves on her body. Her blond hair was tied back in a pony tail, she didn't have any make up on as usual. She was wearing an old faded t-shirt, pink with an arrow on it pointing up 'my eyes are up there' was written underneath. I'd gotten her the shirt two years ago for her birthday, she always like showing off her breast so I figured it would help her play on that. I'd accidently picked one that was a size too small. She'd never complained about it. Purple sweat pants completed her ensemble, except for the cherry lollipop she was holding in her hand. "It's me, Jim. Can I come in? She looked at me for a moment. "Jim Benton?" I nodded and she moved away from the door with a surprised expression. I quickly stepped in, in case she changed her mind and closed the door on me. I closed it behind me. Wilma and Walter owned the house together. They were brother and sister, twins actually. I'd known them for almost ten years now, not long after I'd discovered he furry community. They had been the first furries I'd come across on the net who turned out to be local to me. Wilma looked me over and her expression slowly turned from surprised to suspicious, but before she could say anything Walter poked his head in the entryway. "Who was that sis?" He asked before even looking in, and then "Whoa, cool fursuit." While these two were twins, they looked nothing alike. Where Wilma was small and full of curves, Walter was a good six inch taller and very angular. Her voice was sweet and his usually sounded like his throat was full of sand paper. He was gay, she wasn't. About the only things they had in common where the blond hair, although his was curly, and steel grey eyes. I looked at Wilma, "I'll explain later," and walked to Walter, throwing him over my shoulder and heading directly to his bedroom. * * * * * I was looking at the ceiling, completely awake. Only two hours of sleep after our marathon session and I was fully rested. Chock another one to my increased healing I guess. I carefully untangled myself from Walter and went to the attached bathroom. He kept on sleeping soundly as I moved from under him. Walter had taken no time to get over the realization I wasn't wearing a fursuit. He had a thing for fursuits, in fact he couldn't have sex if one wasn't involved. I'd hoped that realizing I was the real thing would push his buttons, and I hadn't been disappointed. My need for sex had been dealt with after the first time, but my desire hadn't, which was a good thing because he wasn't going to let me rest until he'd explored every part of my new body. I locked the other door, the one leading to his sister's bedroom, and got in the shower. I went through almost all of his shampoo in the process and had to use a comb to tease the dried cum out of my fur. I had suspected I had more stamina now, as well as a faster recharge, but I'd never known that Walter could cum so often. Those previous times when we'd have sex we'd cum once and we were both done. This time it happened so often that I lost track. I had to clean my fur out of the drain three times during my shower to prevent the water from overflowing the lip. One more thing I'd have to get used to, although since I had a bath/shower at home I could let the water rise until I was done. Drying myself I went through all the towels in their linen closet. I was going to have to invest in some heavy duty blow dryers when I got back home. My chain of thought derailed. *If* I got back home. For a moment I'd forgotten that I was on the run from a secret government agency bent on throwing me in a cell and forgetting about me. As real as I knew it was, I still felt like I was in a bad sci-fi movie. Once I was dry I piled up the towels and got dressed. Walter slept through it, even when I bumped into the dresser and left two inches long skid marks on the wood floor. I rubbed one of them with my foot, barely feeling the scoring in the varnish through my thick pad. I'd deal with that once Walter was awake, maybe offer to pay to get it fixed. I didn't expect him to make a big deal of it, but I was still going to offer. I grabbed the towels and headed to their laundry room in the basement. Wilma wasn't in the living room or kitchen as I came down the stairs. I wondered if she's gone out. I could smell her in the room as well as the nuances in her smell, but I had no idea what those meant. I went down the other set of stairs and caught the sound of her breathing. Half the basement was her training room, which consisted of the floor being covered by mats. I saw her eyes turned in my direction as I reached the floor, but she didn't stop going through the movements. I admired her focus. I don't think I could have kept on doing what I was doing if something as freaky as me walked into the same room. I went to the other side of the room, where the washer was and dumped the towels in it. I started it and looked for the soap while it filled. After that I considered going back up, but I still owed Wilma an explanation. I sat down on the floor and leaned back against the washer as I waited for her to finish. She didn't hurry on my account. It was thirty minutes before she came to a gentle stop. "So I didn't imagine you," she said as she stood still, eyes closed. I shook my head. "No," I then added. "I'm sorry for barging in like that, but I'm in a bit of a bad spot and you were the only ones I could think of who might help." "You mean Walter," her voice was colder than I'd ever heard it, "if I hadn't been surprised I'd have thrown you right out." I nodded and looked at the floor. She was right; as strong as I am she could have sent me flying out that door without much effort. She was a black belt in Tea-Kon-do. My ears heated up in shame and splayed against my skull. "I'm sorry." "It's too late now. It's obvious Walt digs you." "I'm sorry," I said again. "Stop saying you're sorry Jim," She sounded annoyed now. "It's obvious you needed to take care of it, and it's not like I'm your type." I thought I heard her smile at that and looked up. She was wearing her Gi now, loosely tied so that the opening showed the curve of her breasts. She wasn't doing that for me. She probably didn't even realize she was showing herself off like that; or this being Wilma, maybe she did, even if she knew it had no effect on me. "What happened to you?" she asked, looking straight at me. I gave her a quick rundown; the wish, waking up like that, the police, waking up in the cell, escaping. I even mentioned the blue balls. She looked at me without saying anything. "I know," I added, "sounds like the plot to a bad movie." "So that was you this morning," she said instead. "Me where?" "There was something on TV this morning about a group of robber with one of them in a fursuit." I leaned my head back against the washer just as it buzzed and stopped shaking. "So now I'm a thief too." "If they're a secret organization, they can't just come out and say what really happened. Come on, cheer up, you're the only furry I know who's gotten his wish and become a real one. You had to know there was going to be repercussions." "I didn't know it was going to come real," there was only a small amount of anger behind my voice, over all I really did enjoy what I'd become. "If I'd known what would happen I'd have been a bit more careful." She grinned at me. "You an over-sexed furry? Who'd have thunk it." "Very funny," I said dryly. "Come on, it isn't so bad anymore, is it? Walter's going to be happy to help keep you libido down. You're a dream come true for him. After what you two've been up to you must be hungry. Throw the towels in the dryer. I'll be in the kitchen. Oh, are you purely carnivorous now?" "I don't know." My stomach growled loudly and I realized that with everything that had happened, I hadn't eaten anything since getting up in the morning. Even with all the stress, how had I managed to go more than 24 hours without even feeling hungry? "We'll have you try a few things and see how you react to them." After that she went up the stairs.
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 01

    "Wait," Pat said as the waitress put our coffees on the table, "I thought we said only three wishes." Jess looked at him as he reached for the sugar. "That was only three, honey." He raised a finger. "I'd want to be able to turn into a gorgeous woman." A second finger. "As her I'd have a wondrous voice; so that when I spoke everyone would listen." A third finger. "And when I'd sing my voice would be so beautiful it would make men and women alike cry with joy." Jess could already do a pretty good looking woman, he constantly came third or fourth the drag queen competitions, I guess it weighed on him more than he let on. And his woman's voice wasn't that bad either, although it came across more like that old aunt of yours who spent her entire life smoking rather than a diva. "How about that part about having the straight guys fall in love with you?" Pat asked as he poured three of the creamer container in his cup. Pat was a radio tech; he was the one who made the morning crew's show so fun to listen to. He was also a gear head. His basement had more electronic parts than the radio station he worked for had ever owned, and while he never admitted it to anyone, even us, I was pretty sure he was the pirate broadcaster the local stations kept complaining about. Jess smiled at him his sweetest smile, the one that even without makeup made him look more like a woman then a man. "That wasn't a wish dear, just a side effect of the body and the voice." He took a long sip of his coffee while piercing Pat with a gaze. "What are your wishes dear? Lets see if you enjoy having me poking holes through them as much as you seem to liked doing it to me." Pat nodded, "so, nothing like wishing for world peace, right?" "Yep," Answered Mike leaning back in the corner of the booth. He took a quick sip of his coffee; he drank it black, like me. "They have to be completely selfish wishes, only for you." "Ok, I'd want to be rich." Jess raised a thin eyebrow. "That's creative." Pat shrugged, "this isn't a creativity contest, it's just us wishing." "How rich?" Harry asked while Pat and Jess silently stared each other down. "Huh?" was Pat's only response as he broke the staring contest. "How much money is rich?" Harry asked the question slowly, as if he was still trying to formulate it as he asked it. Which might not be too far from the truth; Harry wasn't the smartest person at the table. He couldn't hide that he was a jock. In fact his nickname from the other football player his team in college was 'Harry har har' because they could tell jokes at his expense and be certain he wouldn't get them. Neither one of us really looked like he fitted with the other three, but for completely opposite reasons. Maybe that was why we were both sitting at the end of the table, ready to make a quick escape if our presence became too much for the others to bear. Harry weighed at least forty pounds more than I did, but he was almost pure muscle while I . . . wasn't. "Harry's right," said Mike, "Father Fred would happily argue that just by knowing the four of us you're already richer than anyone. How much money would you need to consider yourself rich?" Pat looked surprised at the question. He thought about it while he finished his coffee. "A hundred million," he then stated. "That doesn't sound like all that much," Jess said, to which Pat simply shrugged. He didn't reply, instead looking at Harry. Harry's face was scrunched in concentration as he tried to figure out how much money that was. Math certainly wasn't his strength, in fact it wasn't even on the list of what his strength was, but he'd get there eventually, and we gave him as much time as he needed to make it. He finally looked at Pat eyes wide in surprise. "Wow, that's a lot of money." Pat smiled, "well, it's enough. Even in this current economy I could get a four percent return on it, so that's four million a year to live off. Yeah, I think that would be enough. Oh, and no hidden clause about the money being stolen or anything like that. It's all legal." Jess looked at Mike, "What do you think, honey, is that a second wish?" Mike shook his head and signaled their waitress for a refill. "Nah, it's a conditional added to the first wish, just like people crying when they hear you sing." Jess nodded, satisfied. "Next wish?" "I'd want to understand machines, be able to know how they work and what's wrong with them with only a look." He stopped and his face lit up. "Scratch that. I want to be able to talk with machines of all kind, talk and have them respond to me and me only and get them to do what ever I want." "Woh there," Mike exclaimed raising a hand. "I'm willing to grand you the revision of your wish, but that's a hell of a lot more than just a conditional. You can either talk to machines of have them obey you. Not both." Yeah, Mike was the lawyer of the group, bar accredited and all that. Pat shrugged, "ok then my second wish is that I talk to machines and they respond, and my third is that they obey me. Your turn." "Easy. I'd be Superman." On top of being pretty smart and a lawyer, Mike was a comic book geek. "no no no, you can't wish that." Jess exclaimed. "Yeah," Pat agreed, "your boyfriend's right. If you didn't let me put talking and controlling in one wish, there's no way you can get everything superman does in one either." "Ok, ok." Mike said with a smile, "Then I'd be invulnerable and super strong." "What's the third one?" Pat asked. "I'd be super handsome." He struck a pose, straightening up, fists on his sides and a wide smile showing his white teeth. It didn't have quite the effect it has on comicbook covers since he was still sitting down. While the rest of us shook our heads and tried not to laugh, even Harry though that was pretty absurd since Mike was already a pretty good looking guy, Jess mimed a ray of light hitting mike's teeth and then said "bling," splaying his finger as if the light was reflecting off it. "Brendan Fraser," I said without even thinking, "As DJ in Loony tunes, back in action." Pat groaned "God that was a bad movie." "It wasn't that bad," I said. "I liked it." Harry Agreed. Pat smiled sweetly at the jock, "you would, it was right at your level." Jess threw Pat a warning glare, which he ignored, while Harry nodded in agreement with Pat. Jess didn't have to bother with it since he knew as well as the rest of us Pat would never intentionally hurt Harry. These two were a pretty serious item for a while. That was actually how the four of them had first met Harry. We'd gone to the football state championship, not really because we'd really cared about it, but because it was held at our school, and the dean made it clear those who didn't go and support our team wouldn't like the consequences. I actually enjoyed the game. It was one of those guilty pleasures I'd normally allow myself when alone, watching a sport game and wondering what my life would have been like if I'd been a jock instead of an overweight geek. Our team did win, so everyone went celebrating, which meant the school grounds were deserted. We used the opportunity to enjoy one of our favorite spot in peace for ones. It was the outdoor eating area just off the lunchroom. We'd meet up there everyday to eat together and talk about what ever we felt like talking. So that's where we were when this almost six foot six jock came walking toward us with a hand behind his back. We'd never been bothered by anyone because we were gay before. We kept mainly to ourselves, not that we were outcast, but we'd never felt a need to force others to socialize with us so we had a small circle of straight friends, but most of the time it was just he four of us. The tension went up the closer he got. It didn't take long for us to recognize him, The star quarterback's face was plastered all over the place, especially after it was revealed that he'd been drafted by a professional team. I have to say that the first thing that popped in my head was that he was here to get some cheap thrill by beating up a bunch of fags to add to his victory. So you can imagine my surprise when he presented Pat a bouquet of flowers. They were field flowers, he'd picked them on his way. He'd been trying to work up the courage to approach Pat for months now and the high from the victory had been what finally gave him the confidence to do it. They were together for almost three years, and then things cooled down and eventually they broke up. Neither ever said why, but we suspected it had a lot to do with Harry being constantly on the road, but after that they were just best friends, with benefits. "What would you wish for Harry?" Jess asked. "I'd wish to be smart," Harry answered immediately, "Really smart. Smarter than the four of you . . . put together." He'd been giving this a lot of thought, a whole lot of thoughts. "Ok, that works, what's your second wish?" Jess asked. That seemed to stump Harry. He'd spent so much time thinking about being smart he hadn't bothered thinking about anything else. "Well?" Jess insisted. "Give him a break," Pat said, "It's not like he has to come up with them this very minutes." "Well, we have to play by the rules." "The rules don't say anything about that," Pat countered "It's implied." "Bullshit," Pat said, you could hear in the way he said that one word he was getting angry. He turned to Mike. "Does he or doesn't he have to give them all right now?" Mike tended to be our arbiter when it came to settling our dispute. His background in law gave him an advantage plus he was also pretty fair. Of course because of that getting into an argument with him was almost impossible. "No, he doesn't. The rules only state that he has to come up with them, no time frame was mentioned with we came up with them." Mike looked at Harry. "So no hurry, when ever you think about them just tell us. Your turn Jim." I didn't answer immediately, instead giving our waitress time to refill my cup. "I'd want a Wolverine level healing ability," I then said "A what now?" Jess asked. "Wolverine is a comic book character," Mike answered. Considering those two lived together I would have thought he would have known about Wolverine. "He heals almost instantaneously; he can't get sick or be poisoned. Is that what you mean?" I nodded. "The next one would be to have an out of control sex drive." Pat rolled his eyes. "Here we go again." "What?" I asked. "You're always complaining about your low sex drive and yet anytime someone lets you, you have your hands in their pants." There were nods of agreement around the table. "That's got nothing to do with being horny, I'm just being playful. The guy can then walk away and it doesn't bother me. I'd love to know what it's like to be really horny all the time." "That sounds pretty disruptive," our waitress commented as she handed Mike his cup back. I hadn't really paid attention to her before now. "What do you mean?" Her tag said her name was Anna. She looked to be about my height with short light brown hair. She looked to be in her early fifties, but my gut was telling me she wasn't older than forty five. "Well, if you're that horny all the time how are you going to do things like go to work?" "Oh," I was a bit crestfallen, I hadn't thought of that. I turned to Pat. "Look, have you ever reached the point where you need to have sex so much it hurts?" Pat looked at Harry before saying, "yes, I have." The tone had been conversational, but I noticed Harry looking away. "Well, that's what I'd like to experience. So, if I don't have sex in," I was going to say a week, but this was just a game so why not make it a little more impressive, "twenty four hours then I'd reach that point." "Count yourself lucky it's only a game, then," Jess said, "that's called having blue balls, and it isn't pleasant." "When did you ever have blue balls?" Mike asked. Jess smiled at him and patted his hand, "that was before you, dear." He looked back at me, "what's the third one?" "Wait," Pat said. "How about jerking off? Would that fix the problem?" I thought about it, it would certainly be an easy out. "No. It would take the edge off, but the only way to reset the clock would be to have the kind of sex that requires two people or more and not just sucking off. I'm talking full contact, name screaming, cock in . . ." "Watch the language Jim," Mike said, "we're in public." He indicated Anna with a nod of the head. She was still standing next to our table, coffee pot in hand. "Don't mind me dears, with the things I've heard, and seen, in my life you can't offend me. And you're the last customers here so you don't have to worry about anyone else either." I looked around to confirm that we were indeed the only ones left. I looked at my watch; it was past three am. Had we really been here for almost two hours? "Still, we get the picture," Jess said. "So what's your third wish?" "I'd be a tiger," I said softly. I had the image in my head. It was an image I'd spent years constructing, more as a dream lover than as a look for myself, but if I was given the choice that's what I'd want. Close to Harry's height and build, but with more defined muscles and a tail; a tiger's head, muzzle, ears, whiskers and all. The whole body would be covered in fur, cropped close to the skin for most except the head and belly. It lead to a thick cock almost nine inches long. It was human looking, except for sensitive barbs under the gland. The hands and feet were also mostly human, but with retractable claws. "What do you mean a tiger?" Pat asked. "You know, a tiger," I said sharply, "I'd walk on two legs but I'd look like a tiger." If I had been more sober I would have found a more innocuous wish, my furry fetish wasn't something that I normally brought up, even among my best friends. We might be drinking coffee now, but there had been a lot of alcohol consumption at the club. "Like those drawings you get off the net?" Mike asked with a hint of disdain in his voice. "Yes, like those," I answered, exasperated. For all the comics Mike read he couldn't conceive of sexualizing them. When he'd accidently found some of the drawings and stories I'd printed out as jerk off material he'd been thoroughly disgusted. What he'd told me then had really hurt and it was almost six month before we talked again. The others also knew about my thing for furries, and they shared similar reactions to Mike, if nowhere near as extreme. "Look. I'm sorry I brought it up, ok. If you want I'll make another wish." "No," Harry said, "it's ok." The four of us looked at him. "I don't get it, but you do, so that makes it ok." Jess placed a hand over one of Harry's. "Wisely said, we all have things that we normally keep to ourselves. That's part of being human." He finished his coffee. "I think we should head out. I, at least, need my beauty sleep if I'm to dazzle the crowd at the show tonight. You'll be coming, right?" "I can't," Harry said sadly, "I have to fly out for training Sunday morning. I have to be rested and sober." The rest of us agreed that we would be there, paid our bill and went our separate ways. Well, I did. Jess and Mike left hand in hand, and Pat and Harry left together. I sighed as I watched the two pairs walk away and thought that I should have wished for a boyfriend instead. I chuckled, not that it would change anything since it was just a silly game. I was the only one riding the very late bus, and the driver eyed me suspiciously until I got off near my apartment building. The building was completely silent as I entered it. The guard barely looked up from his news paper as I crossed the lobby to the elevators. Once in my apartment I made a beeline to the bathroom, and then to the bedroom. Barely moments after getting out of my clothes I was unconscious on the bed, happy that I didn't have to get up for work today.
  16. Kindar

    Chapter 07

    "We're here," Walter said softly. I poked my head up and looked out the window. We were parked across the street from a boarded up office building. I looked around at what had been the city's industrial sector fifteen years ago and saw the devastation that the new rail system brought when they setup their terminal on the other side of the city. Every building I could see was boarded up and in an advanced state of disrepair. I'd known it was abandoned, everyone knew about it, but I hadn't realized just how bad it had become. This felt like a ghost town, but if I looked back the way we came I could see traffic in the distance. How could a place simply die like this while being this close to the city? It was rather depressing. "Where to now?" Walter asked. "The message said to go to the parking lot." I tried to sit up, but Walter's Mini hadn't been built for someone my size. There was a parking lot on each side of the building but I couldn't see any cars. Walter headed for the one ahead of us. It took two and a half week for the advertising "looking to sell five calico kitten" to show up on Craig's list. Strangely enough it didn't really make me feel any better. I went from worrying about the others having been caught to worrying about if this was a trap. Walter spent an hour trying to calm me down and when that didn't work Wilma dragged me downstairs to practice. When she was done with me I was just too exhausted to worry so I finally read the message and deciphered it. I was planning on coming here alone, but Walter asked how I was going to cross the city without attracting any attention. So he volunteered himself to drive me. "Do you think he meant the underground parking?" Walter asked as he pointed to the open garage door. We were at the back of the building and there was still no car in sight. "Could be." I checked the clock on the dash; it was already ten minutes past the meeting time. "Or they are really late. We might as well check it." Walter put the car into gear and entered the building. The first level looked like someone had gone to war. There were multiple burned wrecks that had once been cars, one of them looked like it had been smashed against a pylon. Considering recent events I started wondering if something more than the new rail terminal had happened here. I shoved that thought in a dark corner quickly. I really didn't want to know, I already had enough trouble as it was. It wasn't easy to keep them buried as Walter drove around the on his way to the next ramp down. There was a car smashed sideways against a wall. An explosion had sent it flying there I told myself to keep the paranoia at bay. There was enough debris around as well as scorch marks on the floor ceiling and pylons to make that probable. The second level was nowhere near the disaster zone the first one had been. It made seeing the four guys standing in the middle of it next to two cars easy. "Stop here," I told Walter as we reached the bottom of the ramp. "Why? They are way over there." "Because right now I can't vouch for your safety," I answered as I tried to extricate myself out of the back seat without breaking anything. "I thought they were your friends." Walter got out of the car and went to the passenger side to fold the seat forward. I got out and stretched, making every joint pop. "They are, but after what we've been through I don't know what state of mind they are in. Especially Mike, he was in a really foul mood the last time I saw him and he's strong enough to rip your car in half. So just stay here, ok?" Walter looked at the group and then nodded. I could see the worry on his face. "Don't worry, I'll be fine." I heard him get back in the car as I headed toward my friends. "Who's that?" Mike asked. He was leaning against the Camaro he and his dad had rebuilt when he was a teenager. "He's a friend of mine," I answered. I didn't say anything about the car but I didn't think it was really smart of him to be driving his own car. "He is one of those furries?" he asked with some disdain. "Okay," Jess said as he interposed himself between us, "before you get this old argument started how about we try to work our way out the jam we're in?" "That would be a smart thing to do," Pat said. He was leaning against Harry with an arm wrapped around his. They looked sweet like that, but my feelings were mixed. I was happy for them that they had been able to reconnect through this, but it was also a reminded that I was still alone. "How have you guys been?" I asked. "We've been ok," Jess said, "we're staying with my folks. Mike told them we were renovating the house, that'll give us a month or so before they start figuring out something's wrong." "We've been moving around," Harry said, "staying at different hotels. How about you Jim?" "I'm managing. I've been at my friend's place," I answered thumbing the car over my shoulder, "but I think his sister is getting tired of having me there." "How are you paying for the hotel?" Mike asked before I could. We couldn't touch our bank account without giving away where we were. "I just tell the ATM to give me money," Pat said, "never use the same ATM twice so they can't catch it." "How long are you going to be able to keep that up?" I asked. "No forever," Harry answered, "eventually they are going to wise up to it. And it doesn't solve the rest of our problems, all of us." "Ok, so you have a plan?" Mike asked. "Yeah, I do. I've started building new identities for the four of us. We'll have to move away, but we'll be free. The only thing is we'll have to avoid attracting attention again." "That'd be why you're not bothering with a new identity for me," I stated, "There's no way I can avoid attracting attention." That sucked, I was going to spend the rest of my life in hiding. "Actually, for you I have something better." Harry handed me a folded piece of paper. "What is it?" I asked as I took it. "It's the address of one Seth Burnsteng." "Who is that?" I opened the paper and looked at the address, "And where the hell is Stampton, Colorado?" "Seth is the guy who put the force field in their prison. He's the one who can build anything he can imagine. Stampton is a fair bit south west of Denver in the mountains." "Ok, so what am I suppose to do?" "Go see him and convince him to help you. He can make you a device that will let you look human." I was silent. Looking human would be good, it would let me have a normal life. "How did you find out where he lives?" Mike asked. "I hacked their computers." Harry said. "How the hell did you manage that?" "It's surprisingly easy to do when you have someone who can tell machines what to do," Pat answered. "Are you sure it isn't a trap? Maybe they let you get the information so they could capture Jim." "No," Harry replied with confidence, almost arrogance, "They have no idea that we hacked them. I was extremely careful and with Pat's help we covered up our tracks." We were all silent after that. "Jess, are you ok?" I asked. He'd been unusually quiet. "Is this the only way? I mean do we really have to leave the city and become someone else." "It pretty much is for us," Pat said, "They might not know about you, but they caught us so they know everything about us. We need to disappear if we want a change at a normal life." Jess nodded. "I don't want to seem selfish here, but I still have my family, my parents. I don't know how I feel about abandoning them." "Are you saying you don't want to come with me?" Mike asked. "Oh honey, of course I want to come with you. But if I just disappear my parents are going to freak out. Of all of us I was the only one fortunate enough to be accepted by his parents for who he was, dresses and all. They stood by me, I owe it to them to not just vanish." Mike hugged his boyfriend gently. "He's right," I said, "My mom kicked me out when she caught me and my best friend fooling around. I care about her about as much as she cares about me, but Jess' folks have been good to all of us." "I'll stay then," Mike said kissing jess' forehead "And do what, stay hidden under the stairs? I can't ask you to do that, love." "I'm strong enough to deal with them if they ever show up." "You'd be putting his family in danger if you do that," Harry pointed out. "He's right. I'm going to go with you, but I'll tell my parents. They won't tell anyone." "So this is it, isn't it?" I said after a few moments of uncomfortable silence. "We're going our separate ways forever." "Yeah," Mike said, "I guess this is goodbye." He hugged me. "I'm sorry for giving you a hard time about the furry stuff." "That's ok," I said hugging him back, "you wouldn't be you if you weren't at least a little intolerant." "You know, it's not too late for me to smack you to the other side of town if you want." "Oh, will you two stop it," Jess said pulled Mike away from me and hugging me tightly. "I'm going to miss you Jim," he said crying. "I'm going to miss you to. I wish I'd gotten to get to see one of the new and improved Jessie Star's shows." "Just keep an eye on the TV," he said with a smile, "you're going to see me there." I hugged Harry and Pat. "You two take care of each other, okay?" "You be careful," Harry replied, "I'll keep an eye on Craig's list so if you need help at any point just send a message and I'll do whatever I can." "Hopefully it won't get to that, but thanks." I turned around before I started crying too. "Let's go." I said as I crammed myself in the back of Walter's Mini. "Is everything ok?" "No," I replied as I watched my four friends, "but it's the best I can hope for right now."
  17. Kindar

    Chapter 06

    I looked up as I heard Walter fall out of bed, it sounded painful. He ran to his door, and then back to the bed. A moment later he ran out of his bedroom "Wilma!" he yelled as he started down the stairs. "Wilma, you'll never believe the dream I had. It was so intense it felt real." He skidded to a stop in the kitchen's opening, dressed only in his boxers "Spare me," Wilma replied without looking up from the bacon she was frying, "Your lurid dreams don't interest me." I don't think he heard her. He was too busy staring at me as I looked at him with half a bagel in my mouth, well, muzzle. "You're real, I didn't dream you." I chewed a few times and swallowed. "I'd have thought still feeling what we did earlier would have told you it wasn't a dream." Walter turned beet red. It was interesting to see that his entire body blushed. And I smiled in pride as I noticed the tent forming in his shorts. He noticed where I was looking and smiled back before sitting at the breakfast table. "What are you doing?" he asked waving at all the food on the table. "Well," I stabbed a sunny side up egg with my fork and dragged it in the other half of my bagel. "It started as a test to see what food I could still eat, but Wilma kind of got carried away." Once I was up from the basement Wilma sat me and started preparing food. She didn't just hand me a fruit or a vegetable, she prepared an entire fruit salad. Wilma pretty much only had one vice, I didn't count being able to easily seduce men as a vice, just a talent, she loved to cook. She really, REALLY, loved it. That lollypop she'd been sucking on when I got here? She'd made it herself. She'd made everything on the table too, the Caesar salad, the steaks, the eggs, the orange rosemary chicken, well, that was reheated but she'd still made it. Even the bagel was one of her recipes. She didn't care to eat most of it. She just enjoyed cooking it, and always cooked enough to feed an army. How Walter could manage to only weight two hundred pounds escaped me. Walter scooped some of the fruit salad in a bowl. "How is it coming?" "Well, I haven't had a reaction to anything she's fed me yet so I'm guessing I didn't turn into a complete carnivore." "That's good," he said around a spoonful of fruit, "you already like meat well enough." "Very funny," I said forcing a dry laugh. Walter chuckled once and then got serious. "Seriously 'tho, what's your plan?" I put my fork on my plate I was almost full from eating a bit of everything Wilma had put on the table, and the reminder of the situation I was in took care of the rest. "I don't know. I'm hoping you'll let me stay here while I wait for my friends to contact me." "Of course you can stay," he said earnestly. "Do I get a say in this?" Wilma asked as he put a plate of bacon on the table. It smelled really good, but my stomach rebelled at the thought of eating anymore. "Of course you do," Walter said in a slightly offended tone, "It's your house too. I just hope you aren't planning on kicking Jim out when he's in trouble. And sit down, you've cooked enough for today." Wilma looked at the stove and forced herself to turn away from it. "Of course not," she said once she was sitting, "I just want to make sure you're not thinking with your cock." "I'd never . . . .." Wilma snorted. "Come on Walt, he's a living fursuit. You get a boner just looking at him. I'm amazed you haven't tried to hang him up in your closet with the other suits yet." Walter looked down as he blushed. I couldn't believe he'd actually thought about doing it. "Just try it, and we'll see who ends up hung in the closet." I was spared a reply by Walter's phone ringing. He ran to the other room and picked it up. I listened in just long enough to figure out it was someone who wanted to buy a house. Walter was a real estate agent, and a pretty successful one at that which was how he could afford all the fursuits in his closet. I tuned out the conversation and looked at Wilma who was nibbling on a lettuce leaf. "Ah, is there any way you can teach me some of what you know?" "You're not talking cooking here, are you?" I shook my head. "You know that Tai Chi isn't really used for fighting, right?" I chuckled. "Come on, I've seen you take down guys bigger and stronger than you. You can't tell me that all it's good for is relaxing." She stood and started putting away the food. "Why do you want to learn?" "You know the situation I'm in. I have people after me. As strong as I am, I don't know how to fight. What good am I going to be to anyone if all I'm doing if flailing around?" She looked at me over her shoulder. "Well, I can teach you the basics." "Is there any way we can jump over the basic and go directly to the kick ass stuff?" She turned and folded her arms over her chest. "Look Jim, if all you want to do is fight then just close your fists and swing it at the person you want to hit. Tai Chi isn't something you can learn over night. I was five years old when I started learning and fifteen before I even could think about asking to learn the combat side of the art. "I'm willing to teach you, but you need to accept that this isn't a movie. I can't give you three word of encouragement and turn you into a master martial artist. It's going to take time for you to learn." I nodded. "Time I probably don't have." I got up and helped Wilma put the food in plastic containers while I thought about it. Was it worth starting on something that could take me decades to learn if I didn't know I'd be around for that long? Thinking that way I realized that no one knew they'd be around for even a decade. Even without the wish I could step outside my building tomorrow and be hit by a car. The future was never certain, that didn't stop most people from starting something that would take years to finish. While we put the food away in silence Walter finished his call and went to his room. When he came back he was dressed in a dark blue suit with a blood red tie. "I'll be back in a few hours," he said before kissing his sister on the cheek. "That was quick," she replied. "Yeah, the client already had a list of the houses she wants to look at today so I just had to pull their listing and a few extra ones for comparison." He grabs papers from his office and put them in the suitcase next to the door. "Don't disappear while I'm away," he told me. "Got nowhere to go so I'll be here," I replied. "Good." And he was out the door. I spent the next two hours in their basement with Wilma teaching me posture and a few Tai Chi motions. I felt silly and self conscious. Even when she moved as slowly as she could I couldn't match her. She told me not to worry about it, but my pride still took a beating. It was just moving, I should be able to do it easy. "Dancing's just moving too," she said when I snarled at myself for missing a step, "but not everyone can dance well. Some are naturals and the rest need to practice. You need to practice. So take a few breath to calm yourself and lets get back to it." When she called a stop to it I was tired. Not the tired you got from running until you were out of breath, but the one from having to focus on each and every movement you made. I flopped down on the couch while Wilma busied herself in the kitchen. A few minutes later she offered me a glass of lemonade. She didn't stay, as nice as she was we didn't' have much in common. I was a cat, she was a mouse, one that would throw me across the room if I stepped out of line, but a mouse none the less. It was funny how species division within the community tended to reflect a real difference of interest in the real world. Sure, not all mice were meek and fearful, as Wilma proved, and not all foxes were sluts, but when you checked we didn't often find predator socializing with prey. Walter came back home tired but happy. His client had liked the houses. I gave him a backrub, which proved to be more challenging than before due to my claws. After that Walter wanted to have sex, so he spent twenty minutes deciding which suit he wanted to wear. Walter didn't have a specific specie, he was the specie of whatever suit he happened to wear. Each of them also had a history and personality he adopted while he wore them. I'd asked him once how he'd come up with all of them and his reply was that the suit just told him. I never understood how he could just come up with that from looking at a fursuit. He came out of his closet wearing his wolf suit. Its short fur was ash grey with a lighter mane, almost silver. There was some padding under the fur making Walter look bulkier. The wolf's head covered his head entirely. Dark grey triangular ears with silver tip on top, yellow coloured eyes which I knew from wearing it once before were transparent and a long muzzle make him look completely inhuman. His hands had black claws at the end of the fingers and black pad on the palm. From having asked around I knew a suit like this cost over a thousand dollars, the fur didn't feel synthetic and the proportions weren't exaggerated. It took a lot of work to get a suit that didn't end up looking like a cartoon character or a sport mascot. The only thing breaking the illusion was Walter's erect pink cock and balls against the grey fur. Walter had tried to find a way to get a sheath made to give his cock a look that would match the suit, but no one had managed to make one that both looked right and that he could have sex with so he made do without. When he wore the wolf Walter was in charge. The wolf was the Alpha of the pack, the one who made the decision, the one who dominated. I did stop him from turning the camera on. Walter argued that we'd filmed ourselves during sex before, but I'd always been wearing a suit then. This was me now. I wasn't going to make a spectacle of myself. He took out his disappointment on me. It was a rather fun night.
  18. Kindar

    Chapter 04

    I moaned in pain slightly. Over the last hour my balls had become so tender that the smallest movement felt like they were being crushed. Jess was right, having blue balls sucked. "How are you doing?" Harry asked. "Not good," I replied weakly. "You should jerk off. You said that would take the edge off." "They probably have cameras watching us." "Who gives a fuck if they are watching or not. You're in pain, and jerking off will help so just do it." He was right, if I didn't do anything it would only get worst. I turned on my back, closed my eyes and did it. It didn't take as long as I thought it would, as soon as I started my imagination kicked in. I guess I was really horny. When I was done I lied back and let out a sigh of relief. The worst of the pain had definitely gone away. I wiped my belly fur as best as I could with a hand and licked my hand clean since I wasn't going to wipe it on my pants. I'd still need a shower to clean off the stuff that I couldn't remove by hand. "Feeling better I take it?" Harry asked. "Yeah, but this is only a stop gap. In not too long I'll probably be in as bad a state." "That's ok. I have an idea to help with that." He didn't give me a chance to ask. "I know you guys are watching and listening," he yelled as loud as he could, "so why don't one of you come down here. We have someone who's in pain and he needs help." "Are you nuts?" Mike screamed at him, but Harry didn't listen to him he just kept on yelling at our unseen watchers. Harry was loud, loud enough that I had to cover my ears. He kept on going for over twenty minutes, only stopping once someone walked in. "Listen here." The man said when he was in front of Harry's cell. What I saw of him when he walk by was pretty attractive. He was a few years older than me, blond hair cut short, clean shaven and looking trim under his dark blue suit. He was definitely doable. I closed my eye as I realized where my mind had gone. In the state I was in I'd probably do who ever offered. "I'm not here to see to the needs of some sex depraved deviant, or to listen to you scream your head off. So I'm just here to tell you that I'm turning off the sound. You can scream as loud as you want now." "What he's going through isn't something he can control. It's a side effect of the wishes he made. You know tigers can have sex hundred of times in a day, right? well, he didn't word it as well as he should have and now he's stuck with their libido. If he doesn't get off he's going to be in pain." "So what you expect me to find him a girl or something?" "No. just put me in his cell and I'll help him with it." My ears perked. Had Harry just said he was going to have sex with me? I had hit on him a few times after he and Pat broke up, but he'd never been interested. "You're kidding right? You'd fuck another guy just because he's a friend and he's in pain?" "No, I'm going to have sex with my friend because I happen to like having sex with guys, and it's going to help him out." The man was silent for a moment. "I'm not supposed to put two to a cell." "Come on man, what are we going to do? If we could get out of here we'd have done it already. We're just going to have sex. You can hang around and put me back in my cell after. Considering the state he's in we shouldn't be too long." I sat on the edge of the bench, panting in the silence. I was really hoping the guard would agree to it because now that I'd experienced blue balls I didn't want to ever feel that again. "Fine, I'll put you two together, but don't try anything." "I swear, I won't. All I want to do is help out Jim." There was the sound of foot steps, a pause and more steps, those were Harry leaving his cell. Then there was a gasp of surprise, something hitting the wall and crumbling to the ground. Mike was up and standing at the edge of the cell looking at what was happening excitingly. I got up and went to the force field of mine. "What the fuck?" Harry said. I could now see him studying the wall. The guard was sprawled at his feet, unmoving. "Where's the control panel?" "He put his hand on the wall between the fields," Mike said, "about where you're looking." A moment later there was a light glow against Harry's face. What ever else happened didn't please him. He grabbed he guard's hand and lifted it to the wall. There was that glow again, but this time Harry was please with what ever had happened. He dragged the guard to the other side of my cell and did the same thing on that wall. There was a slight flicker in front of me, like the channel had jumped for a moment and when I tested the space where the force field had been, there was nothing. "I take it we're not having sex." I said as I followed Harry dragging the guard to Mike's cell. He placed the man's hand against the wall. I couldn't see any kind of marks indicating there was something there, but when the hand made contact a square of light appeared around it and Mike's force field flickered off too."No, sorry. I'd rather we take care of that after we've gotten out of here." He moved on to Pat's cell. "Are you going to be ok until then?" "I know how long that's going to take, but hopefully I'll manage." "Good. Can you carry him?" Harry asked after he'd removed the IV needled from Pat's arm. I picked him up, and the lightness of his body reminded me that the muscles I had weren't just for show. I was much stronger than I had been before. "How are we doing this?" Mike asked, "are we sneaking out?" "No, they've probably already seen that we're out of our cells so we need to make a straight line for the outside." Mike rubbed his hands together. "Good, that means I get to smash anything in our way." "Try not to hurt anyone too badly." "No promises." Mike headed directly for the metal door and ripped it off its hinges. We made it down the corridor before encountering a pair of guards. Mike was on them before they had time to take out they guns. He just grabbed them by the collars and slammed them against the wall. They fell to the floor and didn't move. "Elevators are that way," he said, indicating the junction on the left with a nod. "Good," Harry replied, "the stairs should be nearby." "Why bother with the stairs?" Mike asked as we headed in that direction. "You really want to lock yourself in a box that someone else can control?" Harry replied curtly. "What do we care what floor they have us get off? Me and Jim can take care of anyone they throw at us." "Only if you're conscious. I'm willing to bet Jim wouldn't be affected, but I doubt he would be able to handle carrying the three of us and deal with any opposition. You take the elevator if you want. The three of us are sticking with the stairs." Harry speed up. I just shrugged as I walked by Mike, accelerating to avoid being left behind. I heard him grunt and then run to get in front of Harry. "Fine, but stay behind me, you're not bullet proof." As Harry had guessed there was a stairwell not a hundred feet from the elevators. I was surprised that no alarm sounded when Mike pushed it open. The stairs were large, me and Harry could easily fit side by side in them. Painted in the wall by the door in red was 'S3'. "We're going up," Harry said. He didn't get any argument. The ground floor was announced by a large red 'L'. Mike opened the door a little and peeked. "ok, I can't see the main entrance, but all the light's coming from the right, so that's were I'm guessing they are." "Did you see anyone?" Harry asked. "No." "The only people I heard," I added, "were in the distance. I don't think there's anyone near this corridor." "Good, then as soon as we're out the door we go left." Mike gave Harry an incredulous look. "You're kidding right? the door's right there." "Yeah, with a lot of witness to watch us leave. I'd rather go out the back way and avoid making a scene." It looked for a moment like Mike was going to argue, but instead he looked out the door and quickly went left. I followed him with Harry right behind me. I knew Harry was right, but I didn't feel good heading deeper into the building. We made a couple of turns until we ended up in a larger corridor that seemed to cross the entire building. "Which direction?" Mike asked Harry. Harry took a moment to reply so I offered. "I think the back of the building is that way," I pointed to the left. "I can hear something that sounds like cars coming from there," I nodded to the right, "so that's probably the front." "Sounds good to me," Harry said and headed to the left. "Is this place being empty making you guys as nervous as I am?" I asked softly. Except for the two guards we hadn't encountered anyone at all. "It's the middle of the morning so everyone's probably in their offices." Harry offered. "Or they've emptied the place because they know we're out of our cells." Mike countered. "Not exactly helping," Harry said. Mike looked over his shoulder, "maybe not, but which one sounds more plausible to you?" Just as he finished saying that three guards rapidly turned the corner, gun drawn. "Shit," I muttered and turned. Harry was a dozen steps behind me so I lobed Pat at him. "Catch. Stay behind us." I added when he was holding him. I ran next to Mike as the men fired at us. At first I wasn't sure they were actually shooting at us since their guns were completely silent. Even with my enhanced hearing I didn't hear a thing, but I felt them sting. Fortunately they didn't hit anything that slowed me down so that I reach one of the men before he could think of running off. I back handed him and he flew against the wall. I heard a loud crunch when he hit and rushed to him fearful I had killed him. He still had a pulse so I sighed in relief. I hear Mike take care of the other two behind me. When I looked at him he was holding two limp forms by the collar. At his feet were their guns and a pool of crushed metal pellets. Curious I picked up a handful and found one that was almost intact. It was a small bearing not even an eighth of an inch diameter. I wondered what kind of gun fired bearings for a moment before Harry elbows me. "Come on, we need to get out of here before they send more people after us." We made it to the loading docks with only one other confrontation, this time we surprised the guards and they were unconscious before they could draw their guns. Outside we were in a narrow alley, hardly wide enough for two cars. "Were to now?" I asked. "We need to find someplace to hide until we can figure things out." Harry said looking around. "You guys go hide," Mike said, "I need to go find Jess." "We can't split up. We need to stick together through this." "Yeah? According to what rulebook? This isn't a comic book Harry. We aren't four friends who were given powers to fight the good fight. All I want is to make sure my boyfriend's ok." Harry grabs Mike's arms as the man was turning away "Fine, but don't run off right now." Mike looked at him, they both knew that if he decided to there was nothing Harry could do to stop him. "Give me five minutes to at least come up with a way for us to stay in contact. We can't afford to completely lose track of each other." "Fine," Mike said, "but make it quick because they are bound to check here." While Harry thought things over Mike just leaned against the wall while I looked around. All I could see at the end of the alley was another highrise As I looked up I saw part of the logo. "Guys," I said, "I think we're downtown." "You're kidding." I pointed at the building. "Unless you know where IBM owns another highrise I know where we are." "Ok, I know how we can do it." Harry said, "We're going to use Craig's list." Mike looked at him, "how the hell is that going to allow that?" Harry took a moment to calm himself. Even I was starting to get fed up with Mike's attitude. "when ever we need to reach the others just put an add there with the header "looking to sell five calico kitten" then in the body make sure that every sixth word forms the place and time were you want to meet up. Give it a few days in case we might not be able to online every day." "You expect us to manage to make an add using . . ." Harry cut him off. "Stop acting like such an idiot Mike. It doesn't take a genius to arrange words around to make something that will look like an ad even just a little." Mike looked at him for a moment. "Yeah, sure, what ever." He turned and walked away. "You guys have fun," he said with a waving at us. "What the hell is wrong with him?" Harry asked when Mike was a small shape in the distance. "Stress I'm guessing, and he's worried about Jess." "Yeah, I guess so. But I've never seen that turn him in a jerk before." "Different level and kind of stress." I said. "Could be. Anyway, he has the right idea. We should get out of here." He started walking. I stayed where I was. "I think it's best if I head out on my own." Harry turned. "What are you talking about? I meant it when I told Mike we had to stick together." "Look at me Harry. A much as we'd like to, I can't exactly walk out on the street and blend in. You take Pat and you find a safe place. I'll keep an eye out on the net for your message." "Where are you going to go?" "I know a few people who'll take me in even looking like this. I'll use back alleys to make my way to them." "We can go with you. I mean it's not like we have any urgent appointment to keep here." "No, somehow I don't think it'll be easy to sneak three people around the alleys. You find a place to wait out Pat. Once he's awake you two hide and figure out a way to get us all out of this mess." Harry hesitated a moment but then nodded. "Ok, I don't know how long it'll take but we'll find a solution." I nodded and waited. Since he didn't start moving I turned and headed toward the other end of the alley. It took me most of the day to travel maybe one mile. Not to say I had to deal with my blue balls. I had to jerk off every hour or so just so I could keep walking. I had to borrow, well steal, some clothes to cover myself up. Every so often I had to cross an open road and by the time I reached the other side I was shaking like a leaf from the stress. But finally, a bit after supper time, I found myself in front of a small two story house with red brown bricks, a recently rebuilt porch painted light blue and a perfectly manicured lawn.
  19. Kindar

    Chapter 03

    I stared at him mouth open. I couldn't believe Mike had just said we should wish all of this away. "No," Jess said resolutely. Mike looked at him in surprise. "You can't be serious. Not after the way you freaked out this morning." Jess cupped his cheeks. "Honey, I was surprised. Yeah, I never expected this to happen, but it is something I've always wanted. I don't have to settle with being a drag queen anymore; I'm a bonafide female impersonator." "I don't want things to change either," I stated. Mike looked at me and rolled his eyes. "'course not," he muttered. "How about you?" he asked Pat. Pat leaned against the table, looking worn. He looked at the four of us and then at his hands. He looked completely lost for a moment and then he closed his eyes. "I, I don't know," he said, rubbing a hand over his face. "I wi . . . I wish I'd known it was going to come true so I could have put a few more caveats on it works. The way things are though? I just don't know." "The point's moot anyway," Harry said, "we can't change what happened." He was looking at us with a slightly disinterested expression as he took another swig form the juice bottle. "What do you mean?" Mike asked, "you still have one wish." "Yeah, but if you remember the wording, it has to be a selfish wish. I defy you to convince me to want to wish myself back to being an idiot." He put a lot of anger behind the word 'idiot' and stared directly at Mike as he said it, literally daring him to try. "Great, that's just great." Mike grumbled. "I don't see why you have such a problem with this," Harry added. "You've got strength, invulnerability and handsomeness" "Not that you ever needed *that*, dear," Jess commented on the handsomeness. Mike looked at his boyfriend and a small smiled cracked his dour face, widening to an open mouth grin. I swear I saw the light reflect on his teeth as he did that. "Good," Harry said as he rubbed his hands together, "now that's settled, how about we get out of this place. I'm hungry and I can hear books calling my name." That seemed to settle it, we left Harry's condo. Harry and Pat were walking in front of me on the way to the elevators. Harry placed an arm around Pat's shoulders, but the other man shrugged it off. The football player's body tensed for a moment and I caught a smell off him that my brain identified as disappointment. I was surprised that I could identify the smell, as well as Harry's reaction; I would never have guessed that he still carried a torch for his ex. Behind me Jess was still telling Mike how everything was going to be ok. The ride down the elevator was in silence. I distracted myself by identifying the multiple smells contained inside the cage. Someone had brought groceries in recently, and my stomach growled in response. I hadn't eaten anything yet either. I got a few amused glances and I just shrugged as the door opened. We stepped out in the empty lobby and I heard something rip. Jess cursed as I turned around. His shirt had caught on a burr and there was a long rip along his sleeve. I stifled a chuckle as he slowed down his walk to try to fix it. Jess' vanity wasn't quite legendary, but it was impressive. Even Mike shook his head in amusement and kept on walking. Jess would catch up to us once he was happy he looked presentable. We stepped outside the building to an odd sight. Police cars were parked in the street, with officers behind them, holding guns and riffles. The strangest thing was that they were pointing them at us. On the other side of the street, behind a barricade was a crowd of people and standing out in the group of men in blue was a man in a gray suit talking with one of the officer. Mike, Pat, Harry and I looked at each other as we stepped forward, almost more out of curiosity to find out what was going on than anything else I think. I heard a cacophony of guns being cocked. "Do not move," Yelled one of the officers. He didn't have to use a megaphone since there was barely thirty feet separating them from us. "Stay where you are, get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head." "Guns and riffles jam!" Pat yelled in return, at the top of his lungs. Harry took another step. "What seems to be the problem?" his voice carried without him having to yell. "I said; don't move." The same officer repeated. "Just get own on your knees, put your hands behind your head and everything will be okay." "We haven't done anything wrong," Harry said, but he tensed, He'd noticed too that a few of the officers had tried to fire their guns. They were now looking at them and each other, trying to figure out why nothing had happened. "We're just doing our job, son. You and your friends need to come with us." I wasn't paying attention to the officer anymore, the man in the suit was talking on his cell phone and I was trying to make out what he was saying. Unfortunately the noise made by the officers made that impossible. A moment later something stung my back, hard enough to really hurt. With a growl of pain I worked at reaching that spot. When I did I pulled a dart out. I turned toward where it had to come and another one hit me in the chest. I pulled it out too and I roared in anger, trying to see where it was coming from. A few more hit me but I ignored them, obviously what ever they contained didn't affect me. "Pat?" Mike kneeled next to him. He was sprawled on the ground and Mike was shaking him, trying to wake him. I saw that Harry was also on the ground, unconscious. I slowly turned, a growled coming from deep inside me, I looked at the cops and roared. Everyone cowered back, except for the man in the suit. He was still talking on the phone while looking at me. Since of everyone here he was the only one not afraid I figured he was the one in charge. I ran toward him and I saw signs that he was getting nervous. Just as I was about to jump over a police car something hit me in the back so hard that I crashed in the car, smashing the window. I used the car to help me up, not paying attention to the red stuff I could see plastered on the door, I was too intent on the man. I was standing again when another hit sent me in the car again. This time I caught the faint sound of the shot being fired. I never stopped looking at the man as I stood again. He was definitely nervous now. "He's healing, are you hearing me?" he said. I could hear him now since he was almost screaming. "Make it a head shot for God's sake!" I heard the shot almost at the same time as my head was slammed against the hood of the police car and the world went black. * * * * * I have to say I never expected to wake up. When I'd called the healing ability 'Wolverine level' I hadn't really considered the extent of what that meant. Now I remembered reading a comic where he put a claw through his own brain. The reason why he'd done it escaped me, but he'd survived something that should have been fatal. So had I. I opened my eyes and they adjusted automatically to the bright light. I looked around the completely white room. Well, except for the missing wall opposite where I was lying. I did expect to feel pain, just not where it was coming from. My head felt fine, so did my body, there was no indication I'd been shot, not even the telltale sign of pink skin. No, what was hurting were my balls. How long had I been unconscious? I sat up cautiously, my balls were pretty tender. I looked for my cell so I could check the time, but my pockets had been emptied. I hoped I was close to the twenty four hour mark, because this was pretty annoying. I didn't want to think it might be getting more painful. I stood and headed out of this room. Only to hit an invisible wall that gave me quite the electrical shock, sending me reeling back. "Watch it, those thing sting." I recognized Mike's voice and realized that there was another cell in front of mine. Mike was sitting in the bench, watching me. "Thanks for the warning," I grumble. I moved back close to the force field, rubbing my muzzle, which had taken the brunt of the shock and looked around. On each side of Mike were other cells. In the one right next to him I could see Pat on a stretcher. "What's wrong with Pat?" I asked him. "He's been sedated," came the answer, but from the cell on my right, in front of Pat's. It was Harry. "Are you ok Harry?" There was a sigh. "I'm fine. The hangover passed hours ago." I sat down and leaned back. "How did they get you?" I asked Mike. "They rushed me and then gassed me. I think I hurt a few of them," he said remorsefully. "I should have wished for his super breath instead." "I know what you mean," I said as I rested my head against the wall. Mike snorted, "right, like you'd have done it different." "Excuse me?" I said looking at him. "Do you really think this is what I would have wished for if I'd known it was going to come true?" Mike Snorted again. "Of course you would have. Being one of those furry things with an out of control sex drive's always been your dream." I stared at him, momentarily speechless. Was that what he though of me? I walked to the force field. "You really think I'm some sort of freak don't you?" I growled. "You with the perfect life, the perfect job and the prefect boyfriend," I added with derision. "Hey!" Mike snapped, standing too. "What, you think I'm happy with this?" he was yelled, showing me his hands. "I'm afraid of touching Jess 'cause I might break him in half if I'm not careful." "Boo hoo hoo," I mocked loudly, "cry me a river why don't you. At least you're able to go outside without having the cops shooting you." "You've always wanted to be different, well now you've got your wish so stop bitching." "Shut up!" Harry said before I could reply. "Will the two of you just shut the fuck up!" He sighed loudly. "Did one of us wish for you two to become children or what?" "Sorry," I said meekly as I went back to the bench. Mike was still angry at me, I could tell, but he looked at Harry and when he spoke his voice was controlled. "What about you? Have you been able to think of a way out?" "No, I haven't," he answered flatly. "How come? I thought you were a genius now. Shouldn't you be able to think of a way to turn off those force fields; reverse the polarity or something?" "I might be a genius," Harry responded, and I could hear the glare he gave Mike from the tone, "but I'm an uneducated genius. Give me a couple of books on electronics and structural supports and I would have us out of here in a jiffy. Without those we're stuck." "How about using . . ." "I can't." Harry interrupted. "What do you mean? Don't you still . . ." "I just can't ok? Just leave it." Harry was spared Mike's reply because we heard a door open and close. In the following silence came the sounds of footsteps. A few moments later a man in his late sixties came into view. He was a little shorter and heavier set than I used to be, but he wore it much better. Actually with the well cut beige suit and crown of silver hair he looked pretty damn good. He stopped before our cells and held his hands before him. Looking at him standing there silently he looked a grand father, kind and understanding. Of course, since he was on the other side of the force field I was pretty sure the image was false, but it was still there. "I'm guessing you're the guy in charge," Mike said with derision. The man turned around to study him. "No, I am not," he replied after a moment, in a deep voice. "My name is Joel Montgomery, I am here to evaluate you." "So it's Judge, jury and executioner kind of thing?" "Please Mister Marcozy, this is the United States. I am here to talk with all of you, once that is done it is my hope that I will be able to tell my superiors, the actual 'people in charge' as you put it, that you are sound of mind and pose no threat to the general population." "All of us?" Harry asked, "How about Pat?" Joel stepped in front of the cell and looked at him, lying on his cot. "I am afraid that Mister Lennon will have to remain under sedation, at least until we have secured a cell that is not so reliant on technology." He turned back to us. "We saw him command the police's weapons, so we would prefer not to give him the opportunity to let any of you out. I am certain that you are good people, but considering your current circumstance I am doubtful that you were be inclined to remain here if you were given the choice." "You got that right," Mike snarled. "Michael just stay quiet, will you?" Harry said with a sigh of exasperation. "You aren't helping the situation right now. I take it these aren't our new permanent residences then?" "Hardly," the old man answered, "this is merely an evaluation station. I am highly confident that once I am done you and Mister Marcozy will be allowed to leave." "What about me?" I asked. The man moved closer to my cell. The way he looked at me I could tell that even with his age he didn't need glasses. "I fear that you pose a different problem. Your appearance is the issue. Allowing you to move about the population will make it difficult to keep the existence of Wishers hidden." "What's a Wisher?" I asked him. "That would be the four of you. I would hazard a guess that rather recently you made one of more wishes, probably simply as a way to pass the time, without any belief that they would come true." "We're not the first ones, are we?" Harry asked and continues without waiting for an answer. "This place is set up to deal with people who can do things out of the ordinary. You wouldn't have something like this if it hadn't happened before." Joel nodded. "You are correct. In fact the first time we became aware of Wishers was during the Great War. We have come across other Wishers since that time, but I believe that you are the first group we have found so close to when the wishes were granted. When did you realize your wishes had come true?" Mike looked from me to Harry with a definitive shake of the head. "Sometime during the night," Harry answered. Mike glared at him. "Harry. You sure it's wise to tell him?" was all I said. "What do you want to do? We're not really in a position to hold anything back. You and Mike might be able to withstand what ever torture they put us through to get the info, but I'm just a regular guy." "You are hardly normal anymore; Mister Marcozy called you a genius. How smart are you now?" "He's smarter then Einstein," Mike offered sharply. I rolled my eyes at his behavior. I'd never seen Mike act like that. Joel looked at him over his shoulder before focusing back on Harry. "How many wishes did each of you make?" "Two each," Harry said. The old man raised an eyebrow. "Only two?" "Yeah. That was the game we played last night. Two selfish wishes." "And what did you wish for?" There was a moment of silence. "Pat wished to be able to talk to machines, and have them obey what he said. Mike wanted super strength and invulnerability. Jim went for the tiger form and healing." "What bout you?" "I wished to be smarter than my friends put together." "What was the second one?" Harry hesitated again. "I had to use the second one to lower my IQ," he said with definite embarrassment in his tone. Joel cracked a smile. "I see. Where were you when you made the wishes?" "We were at a diner on . . . I, I don't remember where it was." "Are you trying to protect someone there?" Joel asked. "No, I was rather drunk when we got there. Either one of you remember where it was?" he called out. I tried to recall, but I had been pretty drunk myself, and I hadn't really been paying attention, Jess was telling a story about something happening backstage at one of the shows, I couldn't even remember what *that* had been about, and his stories were always memorable. "Not really," Mike said, "I think it was named after the street it was on." "Me neither; I don't remember anything about how we got there, except," I added as a though resurfaced, "something about doing some cleaning. Does that make any sense?" I had no idea where it had come from but I clearly remembered thinking about cleaning my place as we got close. "Broom's Diner," Mike suggested after a moment of silence. "That's right," Harry picked up, "near the corner of Broom and . . . Damn it, I can't remember that either." "That is quite alright, I believe that is enough information so we can start the investigation." I lied down on the bench; my balls were getting more painful by the minute. "This place seems rather high tech," Harry said, "how did you build it?" "As I said, you are not the first Wishers we have come across. In the Twenties it became obvious we needed a way to secure Wishers so we build this facility. In the Forties we found a Wisher who like you gained a higher intellect and he upgraded the facilities. In the early Eighties we found one who could build virtually anything he could imagine." He chuckled and I could hear in his tone that he was reminiscing a little when he started talking again. "Poor Seth was very much out there, like he would say. He added the force field and quite a few other things. Now we use this facility to house Wisher we can't be certain can be contained in other ways." "When you let us out, is there any chance I can meet him?" Harry asked, "I'd love to discuss how he built it." "I am certain that can be arranged, although it might take some time. The last news I heard from him he was taking himself off the grid, somewhere in the mountains I believe." "That's ok, there's no hurry. Once you're done here what happens? You call your boss and tell him to let us go?" "No, I will be making my report in person. You and Mister Marcozy should be released within the next forty eight hours. In spite of his attitude I believe that it will be safe to allow him in the general population; after a course on etiquette, of course. Unless you have other questions for me I shall see to it." "I'm good, how about you two?" Harry asked. Neither Mike nor I replied, so Joel left. I curled up and tried to wish the pain away.
  20. Kindar

    Chapter 02

    Something buzzed loudly. I groaned in complaint, my face buried in my pillow and blindly smacked the side table trying to hit the snooze button. I connected with something and it fell to the floor. The buzzing stopped. I sighed in relief and went back to sleep. The buzzing started again. "For god's sake," I whined as I pulled a pillow over my head to muffle the noise, "stop it already." The buzzing stopped a few second later, but the damage was already done. I was awake. I stayed like that for a moment, head sandwiched between two pillows hoping I'd be able to fall asleep again, but it didn't happen. With a sigh I turned on my side, keeping my eyes closed. I might be awake, but there was no way I was going to acknowledge that fact without protest. Through my eyelids I could tell the sun was up, and that it was bright. Maybe it was late enough that it was worth getting up. I slowly sat at the edge of the bed. I didn't want my head to ring any louder than it had to, and I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't ring at all. It was definitely later than I thought if my hangover was gone. I stretched with a jaw breaking yawn and then rubbed my face. I immediately opened my eyes when my hand touched my face, the shape was all wrong. The room was immensely bright for a moment as I opened my eyes and then it faded to normal level. The first thing I noticed as I pulled my hand away was that there was fur on it. It was orange with small black stripes. It went up my arm to my shoulder, chest . . . I touched my face again, not quite believing what I saw; the shape that had felt wrong was a muzzle. On top of my head, among the hair I had two fan like ears; they twitched under my touch. I slowly looked behind me and a tail lay on the bed; it started twitching as a grin spread on my face. I ran to the bathroom. I had to confirm what I thought I was seeing. In the mirror over the sink a tiger's face looked back at me. The top of its muzzle and forehead were orange with black stripes. It had an uneven white mask around caramel coloured eyes and the fluffy white fur from its belly went up its neck, under its muzzle and up its cheeks. I wriggled *my* cheek and the whiskers moved in response. I guess I should have been stunned, confused and maybe even scared, but only one thought was in my head. "This is the coolest dream ever," I said out loud. My voice had gone down at least an octave. There was no way Jess would tell me I could pass myself off as a woman over the phone anymore. I looked at my hands again, there was no fur on the palm and the underside of my fingers, but the skin was tougher than it had been. I ran a finger across is; I didn't seem to have lost any of the sensitivity there. I flexed my fingers, and claws came out from their tip. They weren't big, maybe half an inch in length, but they were sharp. I ran a hand along my arm. I could feel the muscles under the fur, they felt hard. I tightened the bicep and it got bigger, large enough that I could see some definition through the fur. I was ecstatic; I'd never had anything I could call muscles before. After that I ran my hand down my stomach. I couldn't see them because the fur was longer, but I could feel the six pack there. My eyes moved further down almost of their own accord. I don't know how I had managed to wait this long before looking at it, but my cock was standing proud. It was long and thick. I knew that it would be almost nine inch in length if I measured it since everything else matched the image of my dream lover perfectly. I ran a finger along the short barbs and my entire body shivered at the pleasure I felt. I was able to resist jerking off long enough to look at my legs. They too were muscular. The white belly fur continued down over my balls and on the inside of my legs, although it became shorter and came to a point under my knees. My feet were fully human, except for the fur and claws. Once that was done I came back to my balls. I wrapped a hand around them; they were more than a handful now, and massaging them felt much better than before. The ways I could go about pleasuring myself flashed in my head. I could spend weeks exploring the different ways this body reacted to stimulation, but I realized there was one thing I wanted to try before I had any chance to wake up. I sat down on the floor, hooked my arms under my knees and . . . lets just say that I confirmed that I was very flexible, that doing it myself was fun, but it didn't beat getting someone else to do to me and that it taste much better than it used to. Once I was done and had taken time to catch my breath I figured I should go outside, see what the world looked like through these new eyes. Getting dressed proved to be easy. The nice thing about being over weight is that it's easier to tighten a belt than try to loosen it past its last hole. It did occur to me that since this was a dream I didn't really have to wear anything, but everything felt so real that I decided to just go with it. I did have to forgo shoes. My feet had increased in size like the rest of me so none of those I had fit. I didn't think it would matter much. The sole of my feet was like my palm, but more so; the skin was hard and I couldn't feel all that much when I pressed on it. I wasn't going to test it by walking on broken glass, but I was confident I could do it without hurting myself. I finally checked the time when I unplugged my cell, it was almost eleven and I had a message. "Jim, it's Pat. Something really weird's going on here and Harry's not answering his phone." He sounded really worried. "Can you call me as soon as you get this, please?" I spent the ride down to the ground floor trying to figure out how I was going to hold my cell to my ear and still be able to talk in it. I waved to the guard and ignored his shocked expression; I wasn't going to let other's reactions bother me inside my own dream. I dialed Pat's number and put the phone to my ear, the only solution I'd come up with was to talk louder. "Jim! Thank God you called. Are you ok?" Jim asked, frantic. "Of course I'm fine." There was a moment's hesitation. "Are you sure you're ok. You're voice sounds odd." I swallowed a chuckle. He was in for a surprise when he saw me. "Must be a problem with the phone. What's going on?" I smiled at the people on the sidewalk, amused at their fearful reactions. "Harry's not answering his phone. I'm scared something's happened to him." "Are you sure he hasn't just left already?" "Of course I'm sure," he answered harshly, "his coach called me to find out why he's missed his flight." "Ok, ok, no need to bite my head off. What can I do?" "Can you meet us at Harry's place? Sounds like you're the only one of us that's ok." "Yeah, sure. I'll grab a taxi and head there directly." I hung up and flagged the first taxi I saw. Instead of slowing down he sped up so I flagged another one, who did the same thing. "Fine," I said under my breath, "if that's the game we're going to play." I stepped in front of the next one. It screeched to a halt and before the driver even had time to realize what had happened I was sitting in the back. "I need to go to fifty-eight fifty-three Grand Alley," I told him as I put a fifty through the grill separating us. The driver was staring at me in the mirror, not moving. What I could see of his reflection made him a good looking guy, black curly hair, square clean shaven jaw with a slight tan. If the rest of his body looked like I imagined it, I'd happily do him. I tapped the grill, making the fifty fall on his side. "I'm in a bit of a hurry, how about you start driving instead of staring?" I gave him a smile that exposed my teeth. His head snapped forward and with a strangled 'yes sir' the car sped off. I spent the ride imagining what I could do with the driver. I didn't try to guess what was going on with Pat or Harry, or even where the dream might be going. I'd never had a dream before where I'd realize I was dreaming so I didn't know if there was any kind of rules. Since I wanted this to last as long as possible I was simply going to go along with everything. "How much do I owe you?" I asked once the car stopped in front of Harry's building. "It's ok," the driver answered nervously, "it's all covered." I took out two twenties. "I'm serious, that was just to get you to drive faster." "It's really ok," he said quickly, a pleading look on his face. "Please, I have to go pickup another fare." "Oh, yeah, sure." I stepped out of the taxi and leaned back in. "Any chance I can get your number?" I barely had the time to get my head out of the way as he slammed his foot down on the gas. "I'll take that as a no," I said as I watched the car speed away. I turned and walked toward my friends who were standing near the entrance to the building. The three of them wore a shocked expression on their face, but Mike looked really good with it. I couldn't put my finger in it, but he looked much better than usual, and he usually looked pretty good. "I thought you said you were ok." Pat almost yelled as I got closer. He looked like he'd slept in the clothes he was wearing. I realized he was wearing the same clothes as last night, so he had slept in them. And as I got close enough I could also tell he hadn't showered. "I am ok." Pat looked me up and down. "You call *that* being ok?" "Of course," I replied and then nodded to Mike, "looking good Mike. Hi Jess." "What the hell is wrong with you?" Pat actually yelled this time. I looked at him, trying to understand why he was such a basket case today. "I'm fine," I reassured him, "as long as I don't wake up, I'm just perfect." Pat stared at me in astonishment. "Jim, honey, this isn't a dream." I smiled at Jess. "Of course it is. I don't look like this when I'm awake." Mike rolled his eyes. "You really think you're dreaming?" he asked me in a very annoyed tone. I nodded. "Then this should wake you up." And he slapped me. At least that's what the motion was. When his hand connected with my cheek there was so much force behind it that my head spun away, and the rest of my body followed. I spun in the air and crashed to the ground with a groan. "Ouch," I said as I turned on my back. Saying that also hurt. "Shit Jim, I'm sorry. I forgot, I'm still not used to being so strong." I didn't really pay attention to what he was saying. I was touching my tender jaw; it was crooked. Mike's blow had broken my lower jaw. As I realized that I felt a sharp pain, and it moved back in place. After that there was no pain, even my cheek felt fine. When I paid attention to Mike again Jess was scolding him. "There was no need to do that. I could just as easily pinched him." "Pinching isn't a proof of anything," I said before I could stop myself. Jess glared at me. "Do you want me to tell Mike to hit you again?" "No, that's ok. I believe you. I'm not dreaming." Mike offered his hand and pulled me up. I looked at my hands again. I'd gotten my wish. I was the tiger I'd imagine being, and I had Wolverine's healing ability. Which mean that my other wish had also come true. I looked at where the cab had been parked. I had twenty hours or so to get laid before I got the blue balls I'd wanted to experience. Based on the reaction of everyone I came across today I was going to have them for quite a while. I looked at Jess to get my mind off that thought. "You don't look any different," I said. "That's because I was smart to say I could transform into a woman, unlike a dufus I know who got himself stuck looking like a fur rug." "You should have heard him scream this morning when he changed for the first time." Mike said. Jess glared at him. "Hey, I was surprised. I would have like to seen you react to seeing someone else in the mirror." I kept my mouth shut. "Still," Mike continued, "you shrieked like a girl." "That's because I *was* a girl." Jess retorted. "Are we done with the comedy routine already?" Pat growled angrily. "For all we know Harry's dying and you guys are standing here wasting time." "Calm down, dear," Jess said trying to sooth him, "you have no way of knowing that anything's wrong with him." "We got our wishes, right?" I asked. "He just wanted to be smart, how dangerous can that be? He probably just got lost in some science book he finally understands." "Alright," Pat replied, taking a deep breath, "can we still hurry up and go check in on him?" "Ok," Mike said before turning to me, "you're probably going to want to stay out of view until we're back." I tried to raise an eyebrow, and instead felt an ear tilt sideways. "Look around, it's a little late for that." A crowd had started gathering at a safe distance. "The cat's out of the bag." Jess groaned and Pat rolled his eyes. "You never were in the fucking bag to start with." With that he turned and headed for the door. I smiled at Mike and shrugged as I walked by him to follow Pat. The entrance door required an electronic key to unlock, or to be buzzed in by the guard, but Pat simply said "open" as he put his hand on the handle and the door opened when he pushed it. He did the same thing for the door leading from the lobby to the elevator and then pressed the elevator call button. The three of us stood next to him as he fidgeted and pressed the button again. I looked at the indicators and all six elevators were going up. "Come on," Pat grumbled as he looked at them too. "Hurry up and get down here already." A moment later all the number started moving down, very fast. The elevator to our far right was the first one to ding and open its door. Before we could go to it the one right to our left dinged and then the one in front of us. As we watch the four people in it hold on to the rail for dear life the other three elevators dinged. "Sorry," said Pat as he stepped on. I got on next and the man and three women recoiled at my presence. Before Mike could get on they fled the elevator. With all of us on Pat pressed the button for the forty-third floor. Harry's number was fifty eight, it was a corner unit. I was sometime jealous of his condo, but all I had to do was remember that he paid three times more than I did and I was ok with my tenth floor, middle of the wall apartment. Pat put a hand on the handle and whispered "lock, open." The light on the door lock turned green. "Why are you whispering?" Jess asked, also in a whisper. "My voice carries too far here." He answered at a normal volume, "If I'm not careful every lock that hears it will do what I say. I caused a power failure in my neighborhood this morning. I yelled at all the appliance in my house to shut down because they were too loud, but my window was open and there was a power box right at the corner of my house." He pushed the door, but the chain on the inside prevented it from opening. "Damn him and his locks." He put his shoulder against the door and forced it. "Harry," Pat called as the chain snapped. "Harry!" Pat ran to the body lying on the living room floor. We gathered around the jock. He was on his back, eyes opened and glazed over, drool running down the side of his mouth. Pat shook him before looking up at us. "What the hell's wrong with him? How can becoming smart leave him like that?" I didn't have a clue. It was Jess who offered a possibility. "I think he's too smart." He said softly. "How can he be too smart? Are you saying he should have remained a dumb jock?" "Of course not, but he wished to be smarter than the four of us put together. We're all pretty smart to start with so that give him and IQ of what, four or five hundred? At that level he can probably grasp the entire universe." "What's wrong with understanding the universe?" Jess knelt next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Honey, it doesn't matter how smart he is. I don't think the human mind is capable of holding all the information needed to understand the universe." "So what are we suppose to do with him then? Hook him up to a machine that's going to keep him alive for the rest of his life?" "He still got two wishes." I said. Pat glared at me. "And how much help is that with him in this state? How are you going to get him to say his wish?" "Jim's right," Mike said, "and we don't have to get him to say it. We never used the word 'say' only 'make'. As long as he can make his wish it should come true." "But how can we get him to make it. Is he even still in there?" Pat asked, almost panicking "You're going to have to get through to him." Jess told him. Pat nodded resolutely. "Right, so all I have to do is talk him into wishing he was less smart." "Use a number," Mike said, "using 'less smart' is too vague. You have no way of knowing how Harry or the wish will interpret it." "Ok, what number then?" "Well," Jess said, "I think Einstein IQ was two hundred." Pat looked at him and nodded. "Two fifty then. There's no way I'm going to have Harry be dumber than that guy." Pat lay next to the football player. "Harry, it's Patrick." He spoke softly, but with my keen hearing I had no problem listening in. I folded my ears against my head and went into Harry's bedroom; it was the furthest room, and with the door closed I couldn't hear what Pat was saying. I didn't want to hear it, it too much of a reminder of what they had shared once and thrown away. Of something I'd never even gotten a taste of. Harry's bedroom wasn't the center of vanity you'd expect of a football player on the road to stardom. There was only one football related picture on the wall and it wasn't of Harry. It was a team picture of the college team he'd played on. The other two on the walls were a print of a mountain as one of a cloudy sky. On the night table was a picture of his parents and sister. I'd never met them, but he'd shown me pictures before. Next to it was one with two young boys; nephews I guessed. I'd never been in this room before, and the urge to snoop was pretty strong, but I went to the attached bathroom instead for a glass of water. Drinking with a muzzle took some getting use to. I managed it, but about half the content ended up running down my chin. I was going to have to remember to buy larger glasses for my place or I'd have to start lapping water out of a bowl. I'd just finished toweling the floor dry when I heard Par yell Harry's name, so I rushed back to the living room. Harry was sitting, still looking dazed. Pat grabbed Harry's head and turned it so he would look at him. "Are you ok?" It took Harry a moment a focus on him and when he did he smiled. "I'm fine. Hi guys," he added when he noticed the rest of us. "You too, huh?" He said that looking at me. He stood, a little unsteady. "I take it we're all received out wishes." He walked to the kitchen and took a jug of orange juice from the fridge. He took a swallow before offering it to us. We passed so he finished it. "What happened to you?" Pat asked, he'd been fidgeting, trying to restrain the question while Harry drank. The jock stared in space for a moment before focusing on us again. "I got here after walking you home, closed the door, headed for my bedroom, but before I reached it I had a thought." He paused for a moment before looking at Pat. "And then I heard you whispering to me." "So you don't remember anything?" Jess asked. Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry," Pat told him. "Don't be. I'd rather be here and conscious than stuck in lala land, no matter what I might have known during that time." "What do we do now?" Jess asked as Pat hugged Harry. "That's easy," Mike said, "Harry uses his last wish to undo ours and get things back to normal.
  21. Kindar

    Chapter 05

    Part 5: Resolutions I don't remember anything about the run itself, but when I stopped I was in the school gym. I was too busy fretting over what I was going to do about killing a man to wonder why I'd come here, I mean I'd just damned myself to Hell, how was I going to get out of *that*? "Are you ok Jayson?" I stopped my pacing to look up at Coach Warner standing across the room. My first thought was to run out, but he was blocking the door. "Jayson, what's wrong?" He started walking toward me and I backed up until I was against a weight rack. He wasn't blocking the door anymore. I could run past him and flee, but my legs weren't listening to me. I couldn't stay here, I couldn't let him find out what I'd done and damn him by association. He placed his hands on my shoulders. "Whatever it is Jayson, you can talk to me." His touch was gentle and I could see the worry and caring in his eyes. For a moment I wanted to tell him everything, I even opened my mouth before I regained my senses and pushed him away hard. He backpedalled and by the time he'd regain his balance he was almost back in the door way. "Damn it Jayson, I'm trying to help." "You can't help! I'm damned and there's nothing anybody can do about it!" "You're not damned Jayson. Trust me; I know a thing or two about these things." He took a step in my direction and I screamed. I grabbed a weight plate off the rack and threw it in his direction to force him to stay away. Only after it left my hand did I realize it was a twenty-five pound weight, that I'd thrown it with all my strength and that I'd aimed it directly at him. Time seemed to stretch into infinity as I realized I was about to kill another man. Coach Warner caught the weight in one hand and placed it on the floor. "You need to calm down Jayson." He crossed to room again. The shock of what he'd done kept me frozen in place. He'd caught the plate. That thing should have gone through him and then two or three walls after that with all the strength I'd put in the throw. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. "Tell me what's got you so scared." The way he was holding me against him felt so good, warm and safe. "I killed someone," I said softly. He didn't tense up at the news, he just kept holding me. I started crying. He let me cry for a few minutes. "How did it happen?" I told him everything; the attacks, Maggie and Marvin protecting me and what I did to the man I'd killed. I didn't stop crying while I talked. At some point he let go of me. I don't how long I'd been crying, but the front of his shirt was soaking wet. "I need to go take care of something," he said looking me in the eyes, "I want you to promise me you'll stay here until I get back." I nodded and he left. I kept standing there for a while, unsure of what to do. There were all those weight machines I could use to keep myself busy, but I didn't feel like using them, I was too tired. I sat down in a corner, brought my knees against me, folded my arms over them and rested my head. I was woken up by voices in the corridor, Coach Warner speaking with someone else. "You're the one who got me into this so you're going to help out," the coach said. "I was not given a choice," the other replied in a deep and vibrant voice, "he requested you personally." "You could have said no." "Not quite, I owed him this favor." "I'm not saying you should have said no, I'm actually liking it here, but he needs your help. You know I'm more of a sword and shield kind of guy, that's not what he needs." They entered the room and the coach's friend surprised me, from the voice I'd expected someone tall and broad shouldered like him; instead he was shorter than I was and didn't look muscular at all in dress pants and baggy shirt. "Jayson," Coach Warner said as I stood, "I'd like you to meet Al, he's," there was a moment of hesitation, "a friend of mine." "Thor has told me some of what happened to you," Al said standing straight and commanding. I gulped. "What I need to know from you is why it came to this." I tried to answer, but I found myself staring at the floor instead. "Thor, would you leave us alone please?" "Sure thing, I have to make a few calls anyway. I'll be in my office if you need me." "Jayson, please look at me," Al said a few moments later. I did and found myself gazing into his eyes. They were grey like storm clouds and I could have sworn that just like clouds the colors were shifting. "Now, tell me why someone who has the training to fight let it come to the point where you lost control." "I don't know how to fight," I said weakly. "Thor has told me that you are a trained martial artist." "It's not the same thing. In class it's controlled, my opponent knows the moves I'll make and what to do against them. In the tournaments I do worry about hurting someone, that's why I don't fight as hard as I could, but at least I know that we're all trained. Out there, I don't know what to expect." "So killing that man was an accident?" "No," I said with shame, "I got angry that he hurt Maggie, but once I started punching him my anger became about being pushed around and not able to do anything about it as well as all the other things I can't do so I won't stand out." "That can't, or won't do?" "Same difference; unless you haven't noticed this town isn't exactly tolerant of anyone who's different." "I have just arrived. I have not had the time to observe." "Trust me, in this place if you don't fit within a mold they consider normal you're shit out of luck." Al gave me a small smile and then looked around. His gaze stopped on each machines in the room and I could see him judging them and not being impressed. Finally he went to the Lat workout machine. "Thor has also mentioned that you believe you are damned." "Well yeah. I killed a guy. That's a straight line to Hell." "I was under the impression that your god was a forgiving one." "I can't ask him to forgive that," I said looking at my blood covered hands, "What I did is just too horrible." It hit me that I hadn't even thought about how I was going to face my parents. "Before the thoughts you are currently having depress you so much you cannot do anything productive come help me." Al's commanding tone snapped me out of it and I joined him by the machine. He was crouched down placing the pin in one of the lower plate in the weight stack; he pointed at the bar above my head. "Please grab it and pull." I did and at least three hundred pounds of weight went up. "Pull it until it is as high as it will go." I followed his instructions, and then he kicked me in the stomach. The kick had more strength then someone his size should have and I lost my balance, falling back over the bench and letting go of the bar. I hit my head on the floor and the ringing mixed with the clang of the plates reaching bottom. "What was that for?" The ringing quickly subsided as I stood and the pain was a dull throb. I completely forgot about it when I saw that Al's hand was under the fallen plates. "What did you do?" He pulled his hand out and wriggled his fingers. "I have demonstrated that I am not easily hurt." I looked at his moving fingers and the strength of the kick came back to me. "You're a parahuman." I stated. He seemed to think about it for a moment and then had a knowing smile. "If that term helps understand the situation, then yes, I am one." Something else occurred to me. "Coach Warner is one too!" Al didn't say anything he just looked at me with that smile. "But what does it mean?" "It means that if you let me I am capable of helping you." "How?" "The training you need is in dealing with the unexpected. You are aware of this, but have not looked for help in this regard, presumably because you fear what the people you ask would think due to the mind set in this locale." "So?" "So, I am not from here, nor do I share the local attitude. I have seen to the training of many warriors and I can help you overcome this weakness so that you will not have to fear needlessly hurting someone else again." I looked at him dubiously. "Ok, but why are you even offering to help?" "Because Thor asked me to." "Except he's only here because you sent him." He leveled his gaze on me. "You overheard our discussion." "I have pretty sharp ears," I said with a smile, enjoying the feeling of having put one over him. "An old acquaintance asked for a favor to repay a favor and I agreed, sending Thor here to look over you." "But why?"Al didn't answer me. "The attacks." He nodded. "The coach was supposed to protect me? But he never did anything?" "If Thor had felt you needed more protection than you already had he would have intervened." "Do you know who's behind it?" "No, I was not provided with that information." "Then how about why?" He was silent for a moment, studying me. "I do not know, but I am starting to have suspicions." "Are you going to tell me?" he shook his head. "Arrrg! Why won't anyone tell me anything?" this was infuriating. "Because you are a child and we are the adults." I spun on my heels and glared at him hand closing into fists. I wasn't just some kid he could speak down to, I was sixteen. "You wish to strike me," he stated as if he'd read my mind, "what is stopping you? Why are you not doing it? Do you believe I cannot take it?" The sneer in his tone is what made me lose control, my fist flew at him and he caught it in a hand. Then I was flying over him to land on my back with my arm outstretch and his knee on my throat. "Consider this your first lesson in the unexpected; not everyone you will try to strike will be unable to avoid the blow." He let me go as Coach Warner knocked on the door frame. "Can you guys be disturbed? Jayson's friends are here to see him." "That is quite alright, I am done with Jayson for the moment." "Good." He left and moments later Maggie and Marvin ran in. "Maggie, your arm?" the sling over it was the first thing I saw, then I noticed the cuts and bruises on her face. She looked down at it. "Oh, it's nothing, you know me I was just climbing a building and fell." Climbing a building? Falling? "Hi," she said looking at Al, "I don't know who you are, but do you mind leaving us alone?" "Not at all," he answered, "Jayson, talk with Thor when you are done with your friends, he will let you know when to come see me. Please follow me Thor." Coach Warner rolled his eyes before following Al. Marvin checked that they were out of earshot. "Why did you run off like that?" I looked at my feet. "I couldn't stay there after what I did." "Because you fought him?" Maggie asked. "No, because I killed him." "No you didn't," she said "Of course I did. I beat him to a pulp; no one could have survived that." "They took him out in an ambulance," Marvin said, "I'm pretty sure they don't bother doing that when they're dead." I stared at them. He wasn't dead. I hadn't killed him. I heart flew in relief, and my knees failed. The next think I knew Marvin was keeping me standing. "Don't pass out on us, wouldn't look good for the hero to faint." I hadn't killed him. It took a few moments for my legs to be steady under me. I hadn't killed him. "What happened after I left?" I was eventually able to ask. "I carried Maggie to my car and went to the closest phone booth. I called 911 and waited out of sight to see what the cops were going to do." "What they did," Maggie continued, "was look the scene over, call the Ambulance and then everybody left." "How did you know I was here?" "The coach called me, he said he'd found you here shaken up and bloody. He said that you'd been in a fight and that we should come quickly. Who was that?" Maggie asked. "That's Al, he's a friend of the coach. He said he can help me defend myself." Marvin looked at me. "You don't need any help defending yourself, did you see the number you did on that guy? I don't even understand why Maggie wants us to look out for you." The memory of the fight made my stomach churn and I forced myself to remember that he wasn't dead. "I don't want to ever do that again." "But why? You're a natural at this." I felt like hitting him, but he wouldn't survive it; or maybe he would with that Norse thing of his, but I really didn't want to fight him. "Maggie, why don't you explain things to him? I have to go talk with Coach Warner and then head home. I've missed dinner and my folks are going to worry." The door to the coach's office was open and he was sitting behind his desk. "Where's Al?" I asked after looking around the office and closing the door. "He went home." I sat down in one of the chairs facing him "Why didn't you tell Maggie and Marvin that you know about them?" "Because it isn't something they need to know. Being a hero here requires anonymity, if they realize I know it'll just add one worry over everything they have to think about." "Did you know about them before I told you?" Coach Warner shook his head. "I knew someone was looking out for you, but that was it. It never occurred to me that Margaret would be one to take to the fight." "Marvin?" "The vibs I got off him made me suspect he was a parahuman, but he didn't seem the type to do anything with it." I shrugged; I hadn't known him before he got forced into the part of hero. "Al said you'd know when I should train with him." "He was thinking that you could train with him instead of going to your Karate class." * * * * * "Jayson Mortimer," mom said in a stern tone the moment I opened the door, "where have you been? Dinner was two hours ago." "Sorry mom," I said as meekly as possible, "I met one of Coach Warner's friends and then I found out Maggie got hurt." "Maggie's hurt? What happened? Will she be ok?" "Yeah she'll be fine, she broke her arm," I smiled a little at having diverted her anger. "That's good, I'll keep her in my prayer tonight, but that's no excuse not call us to tell us you'll miss dinner." "I know, I'm sorry mom," I smiled mischievously. "Maybe if I had a cell phone it would be easier for me to let you know that stuff." She looked at me. "I don't think so; you're far too young to get one of those." "Plenty of guys at school have them." "And plenty of *young* people at your school smoke; it doesn't mean I'll let you do that too. Now come on, I'll reheat your dinner and then you can go to your room, you have school tomorrow." I nodded, I hadn't expected her to agree to it, to be honest I wasn't even interested in one but it was something else for my mom to focus on instead of my lateness. "Mom, what would you think if I stopped going to Karate class?" "Stop? Why do you want to stop going? I thought you liked it." "I do, but the coach's friend I met, he knows martial art too, and he could teach me, but I don't really have time to do both, and he wouldn't charge anything." Mom looked at me dubiously. "He's willing to do it for free? Are you sure he doesn't have some ulterior motive?" "Come on mom, he's the coach's friend. Coach Warner would never let him do anything bad." "Maybe, but I think I'll want to meet him before I agree." "Sure mom." I introduced them a few days later and she liked him, on the way home she said that he had an old style charm to him, whatever that meant. Al's training method was weird. Him and me would fight and at random times Coach Warner would throw a box at me. In the box could pretty much anything, a vase, a five pound dumbbell, a beach ball or even eggs. The only way I had to know what was in it was to read the description on the box as it was flying at me while Al was trying to beat the crap out of me. He didn't pull his punches and he was much better than I had imagined. He said it would teach me to pay attention to my surrounding while not losing my focus. I don't know if it did that, all I know is that I broke a lot of their dishes during that first month of training. On the twenty third of February my birthday came and went without too much fanfare; I turned seventeen. Maggie, Eddy, and yes, even Marvin were the only ones I invited. As much as I tried to hate the guy Marvin was very likable, he was funny, pretty intelligent, and good looking; his trenchcoat hid how muscular he was. Most of his jokes were at the expense of the Norse gods and that caused the one moment of discomfort during my birthday. I had to explain to my mom that he wasn't trying to convert anyone; his jokes were just that, jokes. She didn't get entirely comfortable about it, but Marvin did manage to get her to laugh. My parent's gift was a driving course. * * * * * "Hey guys," Maggie said as she sat down next to us, "have you heard?" Me and Marvin looked at her. "About what?" I asked. We didn't see Eddy that often during lunch time anymore. He was spending more and more time with his girlfriend. He'd introduced her to us and for a while she ate with us. She was pretty nice, but definitely from a different social circle. He still did his best t hang out with us, but travelling in the higher class took up a lot of his time, and with March break coming up they were busy planning their trip to Aspen. "There's a lawyer in Denver that's trying to get the Good Samaritan law over turned?" "What's that?" Marvin asked. We both stared at him. "Man," I said in a lowered voice, "if you're going to be in the super hero biz you really should know about that law." "So explain it to me." "The law was setup back in the sixties to prevent villains from suing heroes over damages they received." Maggie explained. "Now it's been extended to also protect the heroes from lawsuit for collateral damages caused from fighting a villain." "So a hero can do anything when fighting a villain and not worry about it?" "Well, not anything, Excessive force can still override the Samaritan law; that would be based on the perceived danger to civilians, but the hero would have to prove his case in court." "What about civilians who get hurt in the fight?" "Unless they can prove negligence on the part of the hero they'll have to rely on their insurance." "So how is that lawyer trying to overturn it?" "He claims that it's unconstitutional; that Mister Terror is entitled for full compensation for not being able to work his normal job because Thunderclap put him in the hospital for 2 month while stopping him from robbing a bank." Marvin looked at me for help, but I shrugged, there was no way I was able to keep all those parahumans straight even if I wanted to. I knew Mister Terror was some sort of second string villain who could make people afraid, but I had no idea who Thunderclap was. "Anyway, I'd be surprised if it'll even make it to court, no judge in their right mind would ever even consider it." Maggie was right; two days later the case was thrown out. March break was marked with Fist and Viking stopping an attempt on Blue Jay's life by Bloodhound. Being a parahuman signer she was Maggie's favorite and the three of us had gone to her concert in Houston; Marvin even let me practice my driving on the way. The concert was uneventful until after the intermission. In the middle of her first song this guy dressed in a leather dog costume jumped down from the rafter and started tearing up the stage. Blue Jay wasn't a hero, she could only create a nimbus of blue light around herself and objects, still she did all she could to keep his attention on her while the musicians ran off the stage. When Bloodhound did manage to get his hand on her he shook her about and then threw her at one of the supports for the lighting gear, only to be caught by Viking. Marvin and Maggie had pulled a quick disappearing act as soon as bloodhound appeared. The fight was quick compared to those you see in the movies, but compared to real parahuman fights it dragged on for ten minutes. In the end Maggie had to throw a grenade and Viking had to amplify the effect with magic just to stun bloodhound; that gave Maggie time to shove a rag soaked in Ether, finally rendering him unconscious. Blue Jay tried to get them to stay on stage while she finished her show, but they declined and disappeared backstage. What surprised me the most through all that was how calm the crowd had been. The people in the first rows moved back, but no one panicked. They were worried and fearful; they knew enough to realize this wasn't part of the show, but even those who left did so calmly. I thought about helping out, but I didn't have any way to hide my identity. Maggie and Marvin missed the two songs Blue Jay performed after they were able to get the stage to working order. They had had a hard time finding a place to change out of their costume since a lot of people used the time as second intermission. I distracted them through most of the third song by apologizing over and over for not helping out. In the motel room where we spent the night Maggie couldn't stop talking about how she'd gotten to meet Blue Jay, even on the drive back the next morning she was still beaming. When we got home we learned that the fight had been recorded and every news show was showing it. One of the news anchor called Viking and the Fist 'misfits' and within a week everyone had adopted it, making it, much to Marvin's concerns, their team's name. A lot of stations tried to track them down for an interview, but they managed to avoid them while continuing their occasional patrol. And while a few reporters hung around longer trying to find them. The news stations moved on to someone else within a few days. * * * * * The mood at school changed after spring break, this was the last stretch before summer vacation; everyone studied a little more and partied a little less. No one wanted to fail their year, even Billy was now leaving me mostly alone since he didn't want to be held back another year. Maggie spent most of her school days studying so she'd have her weekends free to patrol. Marvin didn't seem to be worried about studying at all. I wasn't worries about my grades either; I knew I was going to pass all my exams without having to cram and I didn't have a need to be the best like a lot of the others at the school did. Coach Warner did convince me to practice my running; he challenged me to place second or even first without giving away I was a parahuman. That made me very nervous, I'd spent my time making sure I didn't attract attention, and now I'd be putting myself extremely close to the spotlight, and even in it. I thought about saying no, but he'd been there for me and I didn't want to let him down. I was on the track every afternoon before my training with Al and every other chance I got. I needed to get perfect control over my speed, if I was going to be noticed I couldn't afford any accidental bursts. I placed third in the trials we had in mid April. I was aiming for second place, but I lost my nerves just as I caught up to Melanie. I'd never been faster than her before; wouldn't people start wondering how I'd done it. Maybe there would be a drug test; could parahuman abilities be detected that way? Next thing I knew the race was over. Coach Warner didn't show any signs he was disappointed I hadn't beaten her, but I felt like I'd let him down anyway. So now I was training even harder; that's why I didn't notice I had an audience until I finished my five minute mile. Randall Mitchell was leaning against the doorframe, watching me intently. I ignored him while I cooled down, it wasn't the first time he's been watching me; it was creepy, but he never did anything. He blocked my way when I headed to the lockers. "Good to see you finally pushing yourself Mortimer." "I didn't know you were a fan of Track, Mitchell. Now if you don't mind I need to change and go home," I said as I tried to pass him. "Oh, I do mind," he replied pushing me back. "Didn't Bill warn you about bugging me?" "That bully's an idiot. The only reason I hung around him was because I thought his bullying would be what made you accept what you are." He swung at me. "And what's that?" I asked as I dodged it, "the low man on the totem pole?" I punched him in the stomach. It felt good to finally hit someone back. "Is that all you got," he said wheezing for a few breath. He straightened and took a deep breath. "Ok, lets see what you've got." He rushed me. He swung, I blocked, he swung again and I dodged. He wasn't a good fighter, but he had strength behind his blows. When I saw my opening I struck him in the shoulder. He staggered back and smiled at me. "Is that it?" That blow should have sent him back much farther. We exchanged more blows before I was able to kick him in the face. "That's more like it," he said shaking his head. He gave me a vicious smile as he wiped the blood of his cheek. The cut I'd inflicted closed itself as I watched. Another parahuman? Was this school some sort of parahuman training ground? I started hitting him harder with each strike, but he barely felt them. In contrast his punches had more and more strength behind them. None of them connected, but I could feel it each time I blocked. I gave it everything I had and he barely reacted to it. "What's it like being just like everyone else?" Mitchell asked as he grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as it connected with the brick and more pain as I crumpled to the ground. I sat up to watch Mitchell walk toward me with a satisfied expression on his face. He looked down on me and lifted his fist. "Time to end this; it's been great knowing you loser." Before he could bring it down a hand wrapped around his wrist and held it in place. Mitchell turned to look at Coach Warner as he tried to pull out of the grip. "What do you think you're doing Randall?" "Whatever I want," he answered. He lifted the coach over himself and threw him to the track. Coach Warner landed, rolled and was back on his feet in a crouch. Mitchell took a step toward him but stopped and looked at me. "Don't go anywhere," he said before heading back to the coach. I tried standing while they fought, but the moment I started putting my legs under me my head started spinning. When I gave up Coach Warner walking toward me, dragging Mitchell by a leg; he dropped him a few feet away. "How are you feeling?" "It hurts, al lot." "You have a nasty gash on your forehead." "It hasn't healed yet?" I asked touching it and wincing in pain. "I think Randall's some sort of leech. He stole your parahuman abilities." I thought about it for a moment. "He's going to wake up soon if he heals as fast as I normally do." Coach Warner nodded and went inside, coming back with a roll of duck tape. He taped Mitchell's arms together behind his back and then wrapped them in tape from the wrist to the above the elbow. He also taped his ankles together before calling the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital amidst the police cursing about having another parahuman in town. I ended up with a sling to hold my arm still, stitches for the cut on my forehead and some pain killers. It meant I couldn't run in the next race at school, I couldn't even run just for the fun of it since every time my foot hit the ground my shoulder hurt. Al did decide it was the perfect time to work on avoiding hits. Much to the doctor's surprise my shoulder was fully healed in only two weeks, but it wasn't until mid May that I felt I was back to full strength. Being as close to 'normal' as I could get made me realize that I did cherish my abilities; I hadn't really thought about where they'd come from, no one really knew although they were hundreds of theories out there. Now I realized that they were a God given gift, and I couldn't spend my life ignoring or hiding them. I didn't want to attract attention, but Maggie and Marvin were both heroes and still managed to have a normal life. Still, I needed to get someone's permission before I started on a hero career. "Mom, can I talk to you?" I asked as she walked by my room with the laundry basket. "Of course Honey, is everything alright?" She put the basket on the floor and sat next to me on my bed. "Yes, I just have to tell you something." "Ok, what is it?" "It's about me, and it's pretty big." I had to pause to figure out how to say it. "It's probably going to change how you and dad think about me, but I want you to know that it's still me, I'm still your son and I hope you're still going to love me." She hugged me and kissed my head. "Oh Honey, I already know and I still love you." "You do? How?" "Jayson, I'm your mother," she said with a smile, "mother's have a sense about these things." I just looked at her, she knew? "It doesn't matter to me that you prefer guys over girls, love is love and will always be proud of you for loving someone." Wait, what? "How could you have picked up on that? I've always been careful not to let it show." She chuckles and waved at my room. "You need to work on your subtlety." I looked at the posters of athletes and martial artists I had on my walls. "I don't get it." "Where are the women? The pinup girls that every teenage boy is putting up on their bedroom walls, and then there's Maggie." "What about Maggie? I haven't done anything to her." "Exactly, she's turning until a beautiful young woman and yet you're happy just being her friend. That meant you were either blind, or gay, and I know you're not blind." I had no idea what to think, I was so sure I'd hidden that secret from them. "Does dad know?" "I think he suspects, but he hasn't said anything." "Do you think I should tell him?" "Whenever you're ready to tell him, he'll be ready to listen." I nodded. She moved in front of me and held me by the shoulders. "You don't have to be afraid, you'll always be our son; we will never stop loving you. That it be about the boyfriend you'll eventually find or anything else you decide to do in your life, we will support and encourage you. You are the most precious thing in our life." As she said that I could see tears falling down her cheeks. I hugged her tightly. "Thanks mom." She dried her eyes and picked up the basket, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I had just come out to my mom, and she was ok with it. I had never even though about telling her I was gay, I knew it was something that would come up one day, but I'd figured it was still years away. I smiled as I realized a weight I hadn't noticed until now was lifted off my chest. She was ok with me being gay. And in a roundabout way she'd given me permission to become a hero. * * * * * The school year ended without any other major surprise, I told dad I was gay a few days before graduation and it shocked him, He tried hard not to let it affect how he saw me, but it took him time to come to terms with it. It was no surprise that Maggie graduated at the top of her classes, me and Marvin were somewhere in the middle, and Mitchell didn't. After he attacked me he was transferred to a center for dangerous parahumans. The one small surprise was Bill, somehow he managed to graduate. After the graduation ceremony Marvin, Maggie and me went to the mall to celebrate; we're already worked it out with our parents, this was just for us. We had just left the restaurant when we heard the disturbance at the other end of the hall. "You've got to be kidding," Marvin said, "someone's trashing the place on graduation day?" "Maybe they figure the Misfits are too busy partying to intervene," I said. "Whoever they are, they're about to find out we're never too busy to kick some butts," Maggie said looking around for a place to change. "Are you joining in?" she asked me. I shook my head. "I still don't have a costume, remember?" I'd been trying to find an identity since the talk with mom. Marvin's suggestions had been to put on any old mask, but I wanted something that felt right. "You two go have fun, soon enough I'll be able to help out." With a nod they headed toward the noise while I stayed where I was. The crowd around me split into two, those heading toward the commotion and those heading away from it. At this rate it wouldn't take long for me to end up alone. Something caught my eye over the crowd. It was in the display window of a store. I waded through the crowd until I was close enough to see it was a half mask resting on a shelf; it was a cat's mask, with ears and even whiskers. The holes for the eyes were covered up with holographic lenses of cat's eyes. I walked in what turned out to be a novelty store and put it on; it was made of cheap leather with an elastic to hold it on my head and the visibility was quite good. I looked at myself in a mirror and I couldn't stop myself from smiling; it was definitely a cheap mask, but it looked right on me I added a black wig and I looked like . . . well, not like me that was for sure. I put the two price tags with thirty dollars behind the counter and made my way to the fight. "Stop moving so I can turn you into dog food," someone growled ahead. The crowd got thicker and I had to elbow my way through it. Once people got a look at me they gave me room. I made it to the railing to see the fight was on the level below; Viking and Fist were fighting Bloodhound. I paused for a moment as Bloodhound caught Viking's sword and flicked it away. Viking raised his shield just in time to take the blow that came next, but still went down to one knee. I jumped over the railing, landing in a crouch and catching everyone's attention. I looked at Bloodhound without getting up "here doggy doggy," I said softly before springing toward him. This was going to be fun. * * * * * EPILOQUE The older man entered the younger one's office closing the door behind him. "You wanted to see me sir?" "Yes Albert, I need you to inform the Combine that I won't need their services anymore." "Yes sir, I'll inform them we are terminating the contract." "No, we are severing all ties to them." "They will not be pleased with that." "That's not my problem. Point out to them that after ten month the target's still alive." "Multiple parahumans have been running interferences." "Why should I care? I paid them to take care of the problem, not to make excuses. I'll take care of this problem myself." "Very well sir, anything else?" "No, that's all." Once he was alone the younger man took a folder from a drawer and read through it. In it were the names of many men, and a few women as well as a list of their accomplishments. He took one out before putting the folder away. "I need you to get me in contact with Adrian Price," he said in his intercom. "Sir," the woman on the other end replied after a moment, "Mr. Price is currently in Atlanta." "And?" "In prison, awaiting trial." He took a deep breath to avoid snapping at her. "And that's a problem how?" Five minute later his phone rang. "Adrian, how long until you've solved your current predicament?" "A day or two, sir. Everyone's in place now. As soon as Whip is adequately distracted we'll be done." "Good. Once you're out I need to you locate and retrieve a new employee." "Yes, sir. What is his name?" "Joshua Hunter, you can start your search in Africa."
  22. Kindar

    Chapter 04

    Part 4: The breaking point After the attack all Maggie would talk about was Marvin, on the way to and back from school, during Karate classes, he was even sitting with us in the cafeteria. Did I know Marvin's family was originally from Norway? Did I know his ancestors were Vikings? Did I know Marvin's sword could now slice through metal? Did I know Marvin could do magic? It was Marvin this, Marvin that. It was driving me nuts. The guy was stealing my best friend without even trying. I did what I could to avoid him but it wasn't easy. Maggie enlisted him into protecting me. I let him know in no uncertain terms I didn't need his protection, it didn't stop him. Thanksgiving was the first break I got from Marvin. We drove to Dallas to celebrate it with my father's parents. It was the one time of the year Dad got to see his whole family. Grammy loved having us over, it gave her an excuse to cook. Every year it was a turkey, the stuffing changed each time as she experimented with different herbs. She made her own cranberry sauce as well as the pumpkin and apple pies. The only store bought things Grammy allowed for her thanksgiving dinner was the pop for the kids and wine for the adults. We left an hour early because traffic was always heavy on thanksgiving. We still got there late; Reverb and Boombox had torn down an overpass in another one of their fights so we had to detour through the city. Both had sound based powers, Reverb could generate sounds while Boombox could turn sound he heard into concussive blasts. They had been fighting for years now. She'd beat him into submission and he would escape from whatever prison she put him in then come right back after her. People described it as the rivalry of sounds. Me, I just thought they should get a room and work off the sexual tension there. That way the rest of us could go on with our lives. Because we were late the poker game was already under way. Grammy's tradition was cooking, Grampa's was poker. Grammy hugged and kissed me, she was a plump woman a little shorter than I was. Every time I saw her she was jovial. When I was younger I thought that her super power was to chase the bad things away, as I grew up I realized that bad stuff did affect her, she simply didn't let any of her grandkids see it. After the greeting my folks joined the game. They sat opposite Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty; dad's other sibling, Greg, was seated next to mom. Betty's husband DB, I never got anyone to tell me what the initials stood for, was next to Greg's wife Judith. Grampa and Grammy were seated at each end of the oval table. The fact that Bert's wife Elizabeth and his kids weren't here told me something was up more than the lack of wine glasses on the table. It was a poorly kept secret within the family that Bert had a drinking problem. Uncle Greg told me Bert was in the process of getting divorced and had joined AA in the hopes of getting some custody rights to his kids. The kids had a game going to, but I just watched them play, poker wasn't a game I cared for; I couldn't win at it. "Did you ever find out why you were attacked?" Lizzy asked me. She was fourteen and her name was Elizabeth, but there was already one in the family so everyone called her Lizzy. "No," I answered after remembering everyone knew about the first attack. I didn't feel I was lying, someone kept sending parahuman to kill me, but I didn't know why. "It must have been so cool being saved by a super hero," Benny said. He was eight and Lizzy's brother. His full name was Bernard, but he hated it and got us to call him Benny instead. "Yeah, is was," I lied as I ruffled his ginger hair. At his age he didn't need to be burdened with the reality of the fear and pain associated with the attack. "The Great Fireman came to our school last year," Marc said. Sam, his twin, nodded in agreement. "This year they are saying we're going to have Techknight give the year end speech." "Techknight? From the Justicars?" I asked incredulous. These two might go to an expensive school in Oklahoma City, but I somehow doubted the Justicars would send someone all the way from LA just to speak at a school. "Yes Sarah," Aunt Betty said to my mom, "why don't you tell us what came of it? I'm afraid it didn't make the Dallas news." "Nothing's come of it. The police are still looking for the parahuman who saved Jayson." "Why are they still looking?" she asked, looking at her cards before putting chips in the pot, "Didn't he give his statement?" "He murdered the men who were assaulting my son, so no, he didn't give a statement." Mom still had trouble resolving the gratitude she felt toward the parahuman who had saved me and the atrociousness of the way he had killed them. "That is simply horrible," Betty said, "how ever did Jayson cope?" "Jayson's tough," mom replied. She didn't know about my fear of a patch of sidewalk or how it took Maggie to force me to get over it. "Hopefully the media helped him get over it." "No reporters talked to my son," mom stated. They had waited a few days before knocking at the door and she had unceremoniously slammed it in their face. When one of them sneaked into the backyard and cornered me dad chewed her out so badly that none of them showed up near the house again. He also made sure the school knew about them so no reporters were allowed on the property. That just left them while I ran to school and back to try to interrogate me, but I didn't give them the chance. Even without pushing myself I could leave them in my dust. Once they realized this story was going to take more work than they thought they dropped it. "How could you let such an opportunity pass?" Betty asked, aghast, "Do you realize how much work I have to put into getting Elizabeth to appear on television?" Lizzy rolled her eyes. Ever since she was five years old Betty had her participate in all sort of pageants. She had loved them at first, but now she was doing it just to keep her mom happy. Lizzy had decided to become a scientist Betty didn't care for that idea. She felt there was no future for a woman scientist and gave my mom as an example. Fortunately Lizzy had a better head on her shoulder then her mother and didn't believe her. If Betty bothered asking me I would have told her my mom was a more successful woman than a has been beauty queen like her. The oven beeped and announced the game was over. Everyone went about setting things up and soon we were eating. The rest of the evening was, thankfully, without any discussions of what had happened to me. * * * * * After Randall attacked me in the hall he really started giving me the creeps. It got to the point where I'd even seek out Marvin if I couldn't find another one of my friends. Of course I couldn't always find someone. When he managed to corner me on my own he wouldn't actually hurt me; oh he'd shove in against a locker or a wall, but he wouldn't hit me, he'd just give that same warning. There was a hunger in his eyes when he said that and it freaked me out. A few days after thanksgiving Randall had me cornered again. It was early morning I'd just arrived for my workout and I was putting my bag in a locker when he grabbed my shirt's collar and pulled me back hard. I backpedaled until I tripped on a bench and hit my head on the lockers. "It's just a matter of time now," he said looming over me, "you better prepare yourself." Sometime I wished he'd just get it over with and gave me the beating he so obviously wanted to. "What the hell are you doing here?" Billy said from the doorway. And here I thought my day just couldn't get any worse. "I was just talking with him," Randall said. "Yeah, right," Billy said pulling him away from me, "that's why he's on the floor." I used the opportunity to get up. "I told you before. No one touches the matchstick but me." To make his point Billy punched me in the stomach. "You try to rough him up again and I'm going to pound you to a pulp, you got that?" "Sure Billy, whatever you say," Randall replied. "Good, now come on we got to get going." What do you know, I thought once they'd left, Billy has a special place in his heart for me. The chuckle at my own lame joke didn't last long, it made my stomach hurt. I decided to forget about training and headed directly to the classroom. * * * * * It was the middle of the last period before lunch on that same day when the loudspeaker squawked "May I have your attention please," Principal Pullox's voice came, "Due to . . . unforeseen circumstances classes are ending now for today. Students who normally take busses home are asked to go to the cafeteria, arrangements are being made. Everyone else, please go home to be with your families." We all looked at each other to see if someone knew what was going on, Mister Pullox's tone had been so somber, but it was clear no one did. "All right," Miss Tatia said to get our attention, "you heard what the principal said, classes are over, but that doesn't mean you get to leave here without homework, I want you to read chapter twelve and thirteen, covering the civil war. We'll be discussing it next time." With that most students ran out the class like this was the start of the holiday vacations. "Do you have any idea why we're being sent home?" Maggie asked as I reached my locker, she been was waiting there for me; Marvin, the magical wonder, was with her of course. "No," I answered as I put my books in it, "I don't know any more than you do." I made sure the books I needed for my assignments were in my pack. "How about you? Heard anything from up on high?" I asked Marvin without looking at him. "It doesn't work that way. He only talks to me to tell me what to do. And the less he talks the happier I am." When I turned to leave I had no choice but look at Marvin and I saw some more of the momentary glimmers I'd been noticing on his black trench coat recently. I really wanted to ask him about them, but I had to remind myself I didn't like him. I just tolerated him. "Do you need a ride home?" Marvin asked us as we made our way through the crowd. It didn't look like anyone had listened to principal Pullox, everyone was in the hallways. "No," Maggie answered, "we live just a few miles from here." "Ok, then I'll see you two tomorrow." I was surprised that she refused the offer. I would have expected her to use any excuses to spend more time with her new best friend. I almost asked, but figured it was better if I kept my mouth shut, I might have lost the best friend status, but I didn't want to lose her as a friend completely. The walk home was eerie, everyone was going home and it wasn't even lunch time yet. People were driving like maniac to get there. Some were white as sheets while others were panicked. It didn't tell us anything about what was going on, other than it wasn't just the school that was affected. Dad was home too. The only sound was the television in the living room. "The object," a woman said, "is now passing by Grove Beach, as you can see it has caused the highway to come to a complete stand still as some people are abandoning their cars to either flee or move as close to the water as they can to get a better look." I peeked in the room, my mom and dad were riveted by the image of a crowd of people standing on a beach looking at some sort of disk in the air. "What's going on?" I asked dropping my pack. He didn't say anything, he just pointed to the television. "For those who have just joined us," the announcer said, "Early this morning a saucer shaped object was seen off the coast of Pirate Bay. Words from a fisherman is that it came out of the ocean about 20 miles off the coast. It's been moving south along the coast since then at about thirty miles an hour. "Parahumans have been coming and examining the flying saucer, but none of them have been able to determine the nature of the object." The camera roomed on the disk like object and half a dozen parahumans were flying around it. The only one I recognized was Techno, in his white and silver power suit. The only notable one was someone with a bird like fire around him. The others weren't even in any kind of costume; two guys and two girls. I sat next to mom and she hugged me tightly. I didn't really get why everyone was making such a big deal of it. It was probably going to turn out to be something a parahuman inventor made. Parahumans came and went, the one with the bird like fire aura eventually landed and a reporter asked him for an update. The name Phoenix appeared at the bottom of the screen as he explained that Techno was trying to find a frequency that would let him talk to whoever was inside. He didn't look any older than I was and he was rubbing shoulders with heroes like Techno. I felt a momentary pang of envy but then I reminded myself that I wasn't a hero like they were. One of the woman in civilian clothing said that she was here to try and figure out how the craft flew. She declined to give her name when asked and simply said that she worked for NASA. An hour later the crowd became excited as wall of water became visible in the distance following the shore. The camera zoomed and I could see that the wall of water was the wake from someone flying just over the surface. I could only make out that he or she wore red, but it wasn't long before I saw there was a white maple leaf on the man's chest. "This can't be good," dad said. "Is that?" the reporter said over the image of the man slowing down. The camera zoomed out and we saw Techno flying in his direction. "Yes, it's just been confirmed. It's Maple Leaf, the Leader of the Canadian super team. Ron, do you know what he's doing here? Has the Canadian government made any statement?" I understood my dad's worry. Canadians were nice and friendly, but their army was scary. It had the largest concentration of Parahumans in a military force in the world and while they didn't make a habit of using them, when they did they didn't hold back. There had been that thing with the province of Quebec back in the seventies. They'd tried to split off; there had been bombing and kidnappings. The Canadian army was sent in and the stomped on them so hard the world noticed and it was still part of *our* history books. They never attacked anyone else after that. They promised the world that they would only act as peace keepers, and only go where they were invited. Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan where three countries I remembered who had asked them for help. They were at peace now, but the Canadians had been ruthless in bringing it about. They completely wiped out the opposing forces. The UN tried to restrain them, but it didn't work. The Canadians hadn't committed any kind of war crimes; they had just fought those wars extremely efficiently. With an army like that willing to come in and help a country fight off invaders you'd think there wouldn't be any wars anymore, but it wasn't so. Countries still fought each other and most of the time neither one of them called in help. We were lucky that our war with Iraq was so short; no one had time to call them in. Maple Leaf's uniform was the colors of the Canadian flag; a white maple leaf on his chest and the rest red. He was standing in mid air talking with Techno, by the expression on his face he was more likely shouting. Techno's face was hidden behind his helmet's silver visor so I couldn't tell what he was feeling but he looked relaxed, his jet boots keeping him level with the Canadian parahuman. The camera focused on the reporter. "I've just received word from the studio that Canada is claiming the craft belongs to them. That it's part of an experiment they ran in the eighties and that Maple Leaf is simply there to ensure it is returned unarmed. "Do we have any way to hear what they're saying?" She wasn't talking in her microphone but to the people around her. Someone pointed to an older man sitting on the sand wearing large earphones. He was pointing a parabolic antenna toward the parahumans. "Excuse me, sir" the reporter asked tapping him on the shoulder, "are you able to hear what they are saying?" The man looked at her and blinked before removing one of the earphones. She repeated her question. "Yeah, I can. The guy in red identified himself as Maple Leaf, he said that the saucer's his and he's taking it back to Canada. Techno said it was in US airspace so it was going to remain here until they were done with it. They've been exchanging threats. Oh My. Techno just said that he wasn't getting it without a fight. Maple Leaf said 'gladly'" "The Leaf's strength and invulnerability against Techno's armor," dad said, "it isn't going to be pretty." I nodded. Maple Leaf was suppose to have been the inspiration for the superman character in the comics. The camera turned and caught Maple Leaf just as he threw something behind him. There was a flash of light and five people were standing on a silver disk floating a little higher than the Canadian Parahuman. I didn't recognize any of them, I'd have to ask Maggie later. One of them looked like an Eskimo, with winter gear and everything, one looked like a large bear. There was a thin woman who glowed slightly and one who seemed to be absorbing the light around her. The last one was crouched with his hand spread on the disk. The Parahumans who had been studying the craft flew to join Techno, although two of the civilian ones seemed reluctant to do so. Phoenix's flames burned brighter and larger. The crowd gasped and the camera looked around trying to find what had caused the reaction and eventually zoomed on the craft. There was a small black rectangle on the underside, it hadn't been there the last time the camera had show it to us. As I watched someone jumped out of the rectangle. The camera zoomed close enough I could tell it was woman, she had short dark hair with almost white bangs around her face. She fell of a seconds and then sparks lit up around her. My mom gasped and stood. The sparks became a field of electricity around her and she wasn't falling anymore, she was flying. "It's Electrika," mom said a moment before the reporter, "She's back." Electrika flew next to Techno, and a moment later he and the others left as fast as they could fly, leaving her alone with the Canadian team. Maple Leaf seemed amused. "What are they saying?" the reporter asked off camera. "Dunno," the old man answered, "all I hear now is static." Maple Leaf lost his amusement to rage. Electrika just shrugged and there was a bright flash of light followed by static. "What happened?" dad asked. I had no idea. Had Electrika caused that? I couldn't remember any news story where she did anything like that. The static was replaced by colored bars and 'please standby'. A moment later we were looking at a news room where the news anchor was running toward his desk. "It seems that Lisa is experiencing some technical difficulties. To recap, this morning, around seven pacific time a saucer shaped craft was spotted off the coast of Pirate Cove . . ." I tuned him out and answered the phone. "Did you see?" Maggie almost screamed in my ear, "Electrika's back. I knew she'd get back." "Yeah, I saw." I couldn't quite work up her level of enthusiasm. "Can you believe it, she's back. I hope Claw's back too. Do you think he's in the flying saucer?" "Take a breath Magster." She paused. "don't you find it amazing at all?" "I guess," I said after a moment of hesitation. "You guess? Come on, this is Electrika we're talking about. She's been missing for months now." "Was there ever any doubt she'd be back?" I asked. Maggie was silent. "You said it, she's Electrika, leader of the Justicars. Of course she was going to come back. And of course Claw's with her, probably in the flying saucer." "You could sound a little happier about it." "I know, I'm sorry," I said. I looked in the living room to make sure my parents weren't paying attention to me and lowered my voice. "It's just that after being attacked by parahumans myself the whole thing starts losing some of its appeal. You're having fun playing hero, but I'm just the victim here, over and over." "You don't have to be the victim," Maggie said after a moment, "you can be a hero too." She was right, of course, but. . . "No, I'm not going to fight, ever, I told you before, I don't care what happens, I'm never going to fight. I'm leaving that to you." Mom walked by and I covered the receiver. "What's going on?" I asked her. "Electrika fried all the electronics on the beach when she stunned the Canadian parahumans. The reporter was able to call in the station. Electrika and the flying saucer are heading to Los Angeles, to the Justicars headquarters. They'll be there in a few hours and they'll give a conference. I'm going to make lunch while we wait." "Ok, I'll be there to help you in a minute." "There's no need honey, you keep talking with Margaret." So I did for a while. After that we ate. Around two the flying saucer arrived to LA. And as it flew between the taller buildings I get a better sense of its size. If you took a Boeing 747 and spun it around the middle point you'd have a disk that was pretty much like the one I was watching. The Justicars building was twelve stories tall, just outside the financial district. It looked like nothing more than an office building; no big neon sign, no spotlight on the rooftop, but as the saucer came to a stop a few feet over the roof it seemed to acquire something special I couldn't place. I couldn't help feeling that even after the saucer was gone no one would ever look at the building like it was ordinary. A podium had been setup and hundreds of reporters were seated and standing looking in silent awe as the saucer stopped moving. The underside that was facing the reporters opened up, Electrika, Claw and someone else stepped out. Their companion was tall, almost seven feet tall and very thin, almost gaunt. His bald head was proportional, but looked larger because his features were smaller than usual. A group of people welcomed them with hugs, most, but not all, were parahumans. After that Electrika took to the podium. "Before we start," she said, bending down to the microphone, "I'd like to say that it's very good to be back." "Mirian Bromont, from MSNBC. Where exactly have you been?" "It's more of a when, rather than a where. We don't know how, but while we were sailing on the Pacific we found ourselves in the mid eighteen hundreds." "George Snip, CNN. What did you do while you were there?" "We were taken prisoner by pirates," Electrika said with a chuckle, "we escaped, we lived in the town that used to be where Pirate Cove is now. We investigated ghost stories, which turned out to be an alien, fought it and met Alistair in the process." "Did she say alien?" I asked chocked. "Who's Alistair?" George asked quickly. Electika indicated the tall being who had exited the flying saucer with the. "This is Alistair. It's not his real name, but we never managed to pronounce it so we gave him that one." "Can we talk with him?" an Asian woman asked standing up, "Chen Lee, LA Kanton news." "Do you mind talking with them?" Electrika asked him. He moved to the podium and bent down to the microphone. "Is the space ship yours? And where are you from?" Alistair pointed to the ship, nodded and then indicated he sky. The reporters gasped. "What's going on?" dad asked. "Maybe there's problem with the microphones," mom volunteered. A short man with bleached blond hair stood. "Could you repeat that? seems my studio didn't get it." Alistair nodded and bent down closer to the microphone. The man put a finger on his earpiece. "No, they still can't hear you." Claw moved to the podium. "You're gonna have to 'scuse us. We been working with Alistair for a year, we forgot about that." Claw was around six feet tall. He only wore some tattered pants. He was muscular enough to rival Coach Warner and he was covered twith light brown fur from muzzled head to toe. "What did you forget?" the man asked. "Alistair's race is telepathic. It's the only way they talk. No vocal cords. I'm gonna translate for everyone at home. "The ship's not technically his, it belongs to the exploration guild, of which he's a member." Claw turned to the alien. "You sure 'bout that? You never know, might still be around. "That he was a member of," he said to the reporters, "he doesn't think they're still around anymore. Which I guess means the ships yours now." There were a few chuckles. "As for where he's from, he hasn't been able to figure that out yet, the computer was damaged when it crashed here and his maps were scrap, but he's been able to work out that the trip took 'bout five million years." My jaw dropped. An alien, a real live alien. * * * * * School opened up as usually the day after, but none of the teachers could get anything done. The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was the alien. I wasn't any different. Eddy Maggie, me and even Marvin spent the day trading theories as to where he was from and what he was doing here. Billy even forgot to bully me because of Alistair. The Sunday church service was interesting. The two priests got into an argument over if Alistair was from God or the devil. It might have been funny if the answer hadn't been so obvious. He looked like us, so he had to have been made in God's image. It made me realize just how much of an impact on the Church his arrival had. It hadn't occurred to me to question God because of him. I mean God was everywhere, not just on earth but in the entire universe, so of course it made sense that He had other creations. Ok, if Alistair had had hooves and horns maybe it would have been tougher for me to think that, but the guy pretty much looked human. The Church didn't agree. Within a week there were a dozen groups that splintered off, the most extremist of them declaring that Alistair had to die because he was an affront to God. Didn't we already have enough extremist bigots using God's name to justify their hate? We had a serious discussion about if we were going to Christmas Mass. Dad ended up calling our priest and letting him know in no uncertain terms that if there was any discussions of aliens we would be walking out. Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not some species from far off in the galaxy. We picked up Grandma Doris, my Mom's mom before Mass like we do every year. The congregation that year was smaller than usual. After Mass we headed home to celebrate. It wasn't the party it had been when I was a kid. I was old enough not to need to have gifts anymore, although I was always happy with the pencils Grandma gave me. Just the four of us around the table was special enough. I knew it meant everything to Grandma. We were the only ones spending the holidays with her. Her two other daughters lived out of state and never visited. I hadn't even met them. The reason given every year was that it was too far, but what I'd been able to piece together led me to think that it had to do with a lot of money being lost in the eighties. After the Christmas dinner we went to drive grandma home, only to find a foot of snow on the ground. I couldn't believe it. I had never seen real snow before. Even mom and dad were overcome with wonder. Grandma sat on the porch wrapped in multiple blankets while he had a snow ball fight. The next day she took care of us as we came down with colds. I was the first one to get over it so I helped her. The snow only lasted the day here, but in Dallas it fell for three days, they had six feet of it by the time it was over. The city was completely shutdown, and they had to deal with flash floods when it melted over the next day. My dad's folks were ok. The flood cause some damage to their house, but nothing Grandpa couldn't fix himself. The freak storm sparked a debate about Climate Change. Debate might be the wrong term here, shouting match would be more accurate. Everyone agreed the weather was changing, but no one could agree what was the cause. Scientist pointed their fingers at the carbon emitted by the various industries. Corporations pointed their fingers at weather controlling parahumans. Except for one, parahumans stayed out of the argument. Green Peace hacked the conference's video system to give the Terrorist's opinion on the matter. Science showed Oil using corporation were to blame and since they didn't want to work toward fixing the problem he was going to do it for them. The next day he destroyed an entire oilfield in Iran by petrifying the oil in the wells. * * * * By the middle of January you couldn't really tell anything had happened. The water damage had been repaired, Alistair's ship was parked at the government's parahuman research center in Area fifty-one, the church had put out most of the fires caused by the splinter groups and Billy was bulling me again. Like the previous ones the next attack came out of the blue, I'd almost started to believe they were done and over with. It was the weekend and I was hanging out with Maggie and Marvin. She'd invited him along of course, and he drove us to the old textile factory on the outskirt of town. We were there for two hours chatting about everything and nothing when the guy dropped in front of us. We looked at him mouth opened as he dusted himself off. He'd landed on his feet, cracking the pavement. He was wide shouldered, heavily muscled and chomping a cigar. "I got to go take care of my car," Marvin said, the first of us to find his voice, before running off. "I'll help you," Maggie said as she ran after him. "Nice friends you got there kid," the man said in his gruff voice. It matched the rest of him; ripped jeans, dirty wife beater, unshaven chin and messy black hair. I knew why they had left, I knew that they were going to change and come right back, but I couldn't help feeling abandoned anyway. I pushed that feeling aside and tried to calm myself. All I needed to do was stall him long enough for them to come back. "What are you called?" It sounded like a stupid thing to ask, but that was all I could think of. "Don't have a name yet," he said as he took the cigar out of his mouth, "media hasn't heard of me yet. He spat before putting back in. "But after I'm done with you they're gonna call me the ass raper." I stared at him and he just smiled around his cigar. For once my legs obeyed me; I turned and ran. "That's it, run. 'Just gets my blood going. Don't expect anyone to come to your help this time. I checked the place out and it's just the two of us." Right then I didn't care about help. All I wanted to do was get as far away from him as possible. I wished I'd paid attention while we were walking around because then I might have known how to get out of here. The place wasn't one large building, it was a dozen of smaller ones, although smaller was a relative turn, placed in what felt like random. That created a bunch of maze like path that often became dead ends. It forced me to keep my speed much lower than I'd liked. I was back tracking away from another dead end when he stepped in front of me. I didn't have time to stop so I sped up. I didn't gain that much speed, but I figured it would be enough to shove him aside. Running into him was like running into a wall. I bounced off him and into the brick wall. I then ended up face first on the dirt. "Well that was fun," he said as he pulled me up by the neck and shoved my face against the brick, "just the thing to get me worked up." I saw starts for a moment and then I felt the pain flare up as he scraped my face against the wall. I ignored it. He was pulling my belt off. Please God don't let him rape me, I prayed as I grabbed his arm and tried to get him to let go. Instead he pressed himself against me. "Keep fighting me," he whispered, "you have no idea how much of a turn on that is." He wasn't lying; I could feel how hard he was. I fought harder to get him to let go. "Release him mortal!" boomed behind us. My attacker tensed. "How the fuck did you find us?" I managed to crane my neck just enough to catch a glimpse of the parahuman who had spoken. The media called him the modern day Viking with his winged metal helmet, chainmail shirt, fur lined cape and boots, sword and shield. I was familiar with how he looked, after all Maggie as enlisted me to help Marvin design his costume. "Why the hell do they keep showing up? You their pet or something?" "Unhand him immediately or feel my steel." I winced internally, Marvin had to work on his one liners. My assailant shoved me to the ground. "Don't move. I'm going to take care of the anachronism and be right back." The Viking stood still as the man stomped in his direction. He raised his shield to take the punch and the symbols on it lit up. The man struck it again hard enough that Marvin reeled back even if the magic on the shield was suppose to absorb the impact. Marvin swung his sword over head and the man caught it with one hand. I couldn't understand how he'd done that, I'd seen that sword slice through steel. The man's smirk lasted only until the blue flame erupted from the blade and engulfed his arm. "How do you like the feel of Hearthfire?" Viking said as he watched to other man try to put it out. I winced again. When this was over I was going to tell Marvin not to talk when he was Viking. He sounded way too corny and fake. With a yell the man slammed a fist on Viking's shield and he went down to a knee. "Hey Vicking, scram," the Fist said as he stepped out from between two buildings. The man looked at the new arrival while Viking did what he was told. When the man looked back Viking was several feet away and running. The Fist lobbed two balls at the man's feet. It took me a moment to realize what they were. I covered my ears and looked away just before they exploded. I was going to have to ask Maggie where she'd gotten grenades. The man stood back up. His clothing were in tatters and pieces of shrapnel were imbedded in his skin. He locked eyes on the Fist and ran toward him yelling in rage. When he was close enough the man swung wildly and the Fist dodged. Viking joined in the fight, but he was swatted aside quickly. Seeing Marvin fly back before crashing down shocked me. It finally dawned on me just how dangerous the man was. He'd shrugged off fire and grenades, he'd swatted Marvin without even thinking about it. What was going to happen to Maggie when he finally connected a fist? Thinking about it made it happen. I didn't see the impact, but I heard Maggie's grunt before she flew into the wall. I heard something crack and then she was on the ground, immobile. I looked from her, to Marvin who was trying to get back on his feet, to the man who was smiling with satisfaction and I saw red. I ran at him screaming. He swung at me, but I caught his arm, twisted it hard and punched his shoulder, dislocating it. He was still yelling in pain when I tripped him back and kneeled over him, knees on his shoulders. Then I started punching him in the face, over and over and over again. It felt good to finally hit someone back, to hear bones breaking under my fists. After all the bullying I had taken, after all the times I had held myself back to avoid drawing attention to myself this was one time when someone was going to feel what it was like to be on the receiving end. "Jayson!" My name finally registered and I looked up a Viking. I had the feeling he had been calling it for some time now. He pulled his helmet off and it shimmered, turning into the hood of the shirt he wore under his trench coat. With it off the rest of his costume shimmered back to his normal clothing. "Man, I wish you'd told me you were able to take care of yourself like that." I looked down at where he was indicating and didn't immediately understand what I was looking at. It looked like a rumpled bag in shades of red and pink with a black carpet on top of it. Why did I have a bag between my legs? I looked behind me and for a moment saw only a buck of town clothing before the image readjusted itself into a body. I looked back at the 'bag' and this time I knew it was a face. There were no recognizable features. Where the eyes, cheeks or nose should have been there was only a bloody mess. I jumped off the body and got to all four before throwing up. "Are you ok?" Marvin asked putting a hand on my shoulder. "Don't touch me," I yelled, shoving him back harder than I'd meant to. I ran off, but I couldn't shake the bloody image from my head. I'd killed him. I had killed someone. But worst than that. I had enjoyed it.
  23. Kindar

    Chapter 03

    Part 3: Revelations and Complications The office was large and well furnished. The occupant was obviously wealthy, but his wealth wasn't displayed in gold or silver, it was displayed in age. The desk was over two hundred years old and if the stories were to be believed had been Abraham Lincoln's presidential desk. It was massive and made of mahogany wood; polished to a shine by the care of many previous owners. He had acquired it from the museum where it had been on display for years. The two chairs before the desk had been obtained from Buckingham Palace and were supposed to have been built by Leonardo daVinci. The fabric had been replaced multiple times, but the wood was original. The chairs had been so well built that there wasn't even a crack in them. The settee by the window was from Louis the sixteenth's castle and had to have been liberated from a museum in Paris. The book case taking the entire wall behind the desk was the man's most prized piece in his collection. It had been built in the fifteenth century in a Monastery in Ireland. It had been the most difficult piece to acquire as the monks had been quite reluctant to let go of it. In the end he had had to pay the mercenaries extra because of the trouble the monks had caused them, but it had been worth it. The man was sitting in his only concession to modern time, the presidential chair of Eisenhower. For all his time spent behind his desk he was a well built man. He made sure to go to the gym every day and the gray suit he wore enhanced his form. His black hair was cropped short and it flowed on the side of his square face directly in his beard. "Come in," he said in his deep voice when someone knocked at the door. He was reading a risk to cost assessment on a lumber project in the Amazon. Attached to it was a report on the big cat population in the area. The man who entered was rail thin and much older, with only a crown of gray hair left on his head. "The second attack failed," he reported as he closed the door behind him. "Do we know what happened this time?" He set the report aside and leaned back in his chair. "Sanguine was left tied up, but alive," the man said. He didn't move away from the door. "The Combine liberated him from the police and forwarded us his report. According to it a parahuman intervened and prevented him from terminating the target; some unknown martial artist." "How reliable is Sanguine?" the younger man asked after a moment of silence, "can he have made up the parahuman to cover up his failure?" "That's unlikely, sir. While he's very much at the bottom of the ladder among the Combine's assassins, he has no history of lying with previous failure." "How likely is it for two attacks to be interrupted by two different parahuman?" "Rather unlikely, sir, but still possible." The younger man rubbed his chin for a moment. "How about the people we have studying him, have they reported anything?" "Nothing out of the ordinary; as far as they can tell he's a perfectly normal boy. He's bullied, he's among the better runners the school has and has a small circle of friends, none of whom also seem to be anything special." "Thank you Albert, please remind the Combine that they will not be paid until the boy is dead, and that I will take it very poorly if they decide to renege on the deal. Also, call my wife to confirm she still wants me to pick up the children from school." "Very well, sir." The man waited until his secretary had left before taking an envelope out of the desk. It was yellow, but it wasn't because of age or coloring. His scientists had told him that the paper was made from untreated wood pulp, but they hadn't been able to identify the type of tree it came from. He was surprised that there was a tree left his scientists hadn't catalogued, but the world was large and still kept many secrets from him. From the envelope he took out a Polaroid of a skinny boy. On the back was a name, an address as well as the name of a school. With the picture was a letter written on the same type of paper. The writing was very precise, the mark of someone who had to take great care with his writing. The ink was made from squid ink, but it didn't contain any of the impurities now common in it. "The picture," it read, "is that of a man who will cause you great problems if he is allowed to come of age. You must take every step possible to destroy him regardless of the cost." The letter had arrived over the summer, it had showed up in his personal mail without postage and no one in the mail room could recall seeing it before. Unlike what the letter advised he didn't rush to have to boy killed. He hadn't become a successful businessman by blindly jumping at every warning he was given, but he also wasn't going to ignore something that had seemingly magically appeared in his office. He'd had one of his researchers compile a file on the boy and nothing unusual came up. Still he had contacted the Combine and hired them to remove him, but not at all cost. He wasn't going to put his plans at risk for some unnamed potential ally. "Who are you," he asked the letter, "and what do you have to gain by this boy's death." He folded the letter, put it and the picture back in the envelope. He probably wouldn't find that out, but it didn't matter. With the Combine executing the work the boy would die, it was just a question of time. * * * * * As I'd predicted, after a week of Maggie meeting me after each one of my classes, people started talking. It took me that long to convince her that she didn't have to follow me around in school. No one was going to attack me here, not with a school's worth of witnesses. Of course, by then I had already been branded as the uncaring boyfriend since she was obviously head over heel in love with me and I didn't treat her as anything more than a friend. Those who knew us a little figured it was about time that we got together; we'd been best friend for so long it was the natural next step. Eddy was the only one who knew us well enough to believe us when we said we weren't together. He did question why she was following me everywhere if that was the case. I could tell she wanted to tell him the truth, but instead she told him it was a social experiment. After that she'd meet up with me at my doorstep and then as we left school. She also forced me to get over my aversion of that spot of sidewalk in front of the Pater's house. It was about a week later, we were heading back home. As I started to turn to go to the other side of the road she grabbed my arm and stopped me. We were at the corner of the block. "Okay, this has gone on long enough," she said as she started pulling me along, "you have to deal with this." I dug my feet in and we stopped moving. She was a little shorter than I was but about the same weight so I only had to put a little of my strength in it to keep us where we were. "You can't make me," I stated. "You can't ignore this for your entire life." "I figure that once I've moved out to go to college I won't have to think about it anymore," I replied trying to make light of the situation. She sighed and let go of me. "This isn't healthy. If you don't deal with this it's going to come back to haunt you." "Look, I don't want to deal with this," I said, "not now." Or ever, a voice added in the back of my head. "Well you can't just avoid this like you're trying to avoid fighting. You need to learn to deal with stuff." "What do you want me to do," I said angrily, "just pick a fight with someone and hope I don't break their necks?" "Of course not," she said with a touch of exasperation in her voice. "Obviously fighting isn't something you can just jump in and work on, but this is." She pointed down the length of the sidewalk and I looked in that direction. Like every time before I saw the blood and the body parts. "I can't," I said weakly. "What are you so afraid of? They aren't going to come back." She eyed me for a moment. "Or do you think you should have saved them?" "Of course not," I said forcefully. Don't you? the voice asked, 'thy shall not kill' is one of God's commandment. Shouldn't you have stopped him from killing them? "Then what's the problem?" "I don't know, I just can't." "Let's just try okay? We'll walk together." I looked at her and the earnestness in her eyes made me nod. I looked down at my feet and took a step forward. The second one was shaky. On the third one I happen to look up to see how far I was from the spot and the sight of all that blood froze me. "I can't," I was barely able to say. I wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction, but I couldn't get my body to do anything but stare ahead. "It's okay," Maggie said, "breathe." Only when she said that did I realize I'd been holding my breath. "Close your eyes." I did as she instructed. The inside of my eyelids was blood red. "I want you to imagine that you're jogging on the track at school. You told me once that when you jog you feel like you can leave all your worries behind you so that's what I want you to do now." I did that and the red was replaced by the blacktop of the track. I forced myself to hear the sound of my shoes hitting the ground rhythmically and I felt my breathing calm down. I had to keep my breathing calm when running to maximize the oxygen going to my lungs. "Are you ready?" she asked. I felt her place hand in mine. I nodded as I closed it over hers. "Good, were going to take one step now." There was a flash of red but I focused on the blacktop again. "Another." My breathing sped up. I forced myself to slow it down. I couldn't afford to hyperventilate while running. "Another. "Another. "Another. I froze as a cut up body appeared on the track. The blood pooling around it was vivid red. "Are you okay?" she asked when I didn't move. "Just a minute." There was no body on the track. Coach Timberson was adamant about the track always being clear. There also was no blood. In fact there was nothing red anywhere near the field. The closest to that was the brown brick the school was made out of. The body and blood disappeared from the track and I started jogging again. I took a step, and then another and another. When Maggie had me stop and open my eyes we were on the other corner. I was panting and shaking. I felt as if I had been running around the track instead of imagining it, but I had made it across. "How about we don't do this ever again?" I asked fighting the impulse to look behind me. "How about we do it again tomorrow instead?" Maggie replied with a smile. It took me over a month to be able to walk this block with my eyes open, but it wasn't until after Halloween that I was able to do it without Maggie holding my hand. During that time the Terrorist destroyed an oil refinery in Fort Worth. It made the news because it was the first time he destroyed something in Texas. In the last five years he had destroyed over thirty factories over the world, all of them big polluters. Each time he gave a warning a week ahead of time that he was going to do it. That if the plant was completely shut down by then it would be spared. No one ever did it, even after all this time. Three of the Dallas/Fort Worth parahumans; Smack Down, Whiplash and Reverb, tried to stop him, but by the time the fight was over they were left unconscious and the refinery had been turned to dust. There hadn't been any casualties. He always gave everyone inside his targets time to leave, sometime going as far as throwing them out himself. How he destroyed his targets was something of a mystery. There weren't any explosions or radiations afterward, only a large pile of dust. Some scientists claimed that he had found a way to break the bound between atoms, but even they didn't know exactly how he did that. Some argues that he was obviously a scientific genius; his power armor was ample proof of that, so it had to be a device, while others thought the suit was just to confuse them and it was a parahuman ability that allowed him to do it. Green Peace released another of the Terrorist's message after the destruction stating that until mankind started taking steps by itself to stop polluting the environment he was going to continue protecting it his way. The mayor of New York City went on TV claiming that he was the perfect example of why parahumans needed to be registered. The President also went on TV to say that the United States wouldn't give into terrorism. That if the Terrorist really wanted to protect the environment he should turn himself in and use his obvious intellect to help them come up with a less disruptive solution. Personally I thought the guy had to be plain nuts. * * * * * "What are you guys dressing up as for the Halloween party?" Eddy asked. It was free period and we were sitting in the cafeteria just wasting time. "I haven't decided yet," I said with a shrug, "a ghost maybe." "That's creative," Maggie said, "Maybe you should go as Claw. He's big, strong and can really lay the smack down on the bad guys. You know, what you don't do." The look I gave her told Eddy there was some subtext he was missing, but he didn't comment. "What about you Maggie?" he asked instead. "I'm going as Madam Curie." We both stared at her. "What?" "How come you aren't dressing up as a parahuman again this year?" "Not everything I do has to revolve around parahumans you know," she answered with a distinct lack of conviction. I reached in her bag and pulled out a random note book. On it were half a dozen stickers of Justicar Members. Electrika, Claw, Black Jack, Goliath, Plasma and Phoenix. With a smirk she took the book out of my hand and shoved it back in her bag. "You should dress up as Electrika," I said, "it maybe Reverb." "How about Whip?" Eddy offered. Maggie guffawed. "No way, even if I dared wearing as little as she does I don't have the figure to pull it off." Whip was the most popular parahuman out of Atlanta. All she wore were leather high heel shoes, leather panties, leather bra and a leather mask. I wasn't surprise Eddy had suggested her. She was the subject of a lot of teenager's fantasies. "What are you going as?" she asked him. "I'm going as a Na'vi." "Well you certainly have the height and thinness for it," I commented. "Are they even going to let you in wearing that little?" Maggie asked. "Good luck getting a date being that much of a geek." I said. "I already have a date. Eliza is going with me, also as a Na'vi." "Eliza Munroe?" Maggie asked and Eddy nodded. We both looked at him. Eliza was among the best looking girls in our year, I mean even *I* had noticed how much of a looker she's become. "Err, are you sure she isn't pulling a prank on you?" I asked. "I am, we been going out for a few months now." Now I outright stared at him. "How come this is the first we've heard of it?" Maggie asked. "Because my private life is private," Eddie stated. We were both surprised at that comment. Eddie used to be someone who shared everything about his life with us, even stuff we'd rather not know about at times. "And we won't be the only Na'vi there. There's going to be about a dozen of us. Even Chris Landon is doing it." "Chris Landon?" I asked, "Small and pudgy Chris?" Eddy nodded and I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it just as fast before I said something even I would think was stupid. "I will not judge, I will not judge," I repeated softly to myself instead. "How about we change the subject," Eddie said, "have you decided what to write about for the history essay?" "Yeah," I said, "I'm going to write about how the Church mishandled things during the Second World War." "Aren't you Catholic?" Eddie asked. "Yeah, so?" "That doesn't sound like a very Catholic thing to do, speaking against the Church like that." "We're not blind followers," I said with a shrug, "anyone who bothers reading history books can see that the Church made mistakes at times. What are you going to write about?" "The destruction of the Twin Towers." "Does nineteen-ninety-eight really qualifies has being history?" I asked. "It might not have been that long ago, but there never was destruction on that scale due to parahumans fighting before. That's what launched mayor Guiliani on his quest to get parahumans registered." "There isn't any proof that parahumans were responsible for that," Maggie stated. "What else could it have been, and how about the record the news crew made? The explosions, light and other weird stuff that was visible." "That could have been special effects," Maggie replied, "Tell me this, if it was a fight between two groups of parahumans that brought the Twin Towers down, how come not even one of them has ever been identified?" "That's Guiliani's point," Eddie countered, "If they had been registered he would have known they were in New York and it he would have been able to prevent it from happening." I don't think either one of them noticed when I left the table. I didn't want to be caught in the middle of that argument. Eddie was very much a proof and scientific method kind of guy, and Maggie couldn't tolerate having parahumans painted as bad people as a group. So I sought the quiet of a table on the other side of the cafeteria. I took out my sketchbook and flipped through it until I came to the drawing I'd done of the Fist. I'd drawn my first savior so it seemed appropriate I draw my second one. Since saving me the Fist had made it on the news shows twice. The first time because he saved a woman from a robber, the image was grainy, from a security building on an adjacent building. The woman had been interviewed and described the Fist as being quick, efficient and polite. A few days later the robber was on the same news show going on and on about how the Fist had broken his arm and leg. In that report the robber was treated as an innocent victim of a ruthless parahuman attack. That report got at least twice the airtime of the previous one. Maggie had been pissed about it, but I reminded her that this was Tyberon, reports like that were about the best she could expect. It took her a few days to calm down and put it out of her mind. I flipped to the drawing of my first savior. I still looked at it once in a while to see if I would remember anything else to add. Nothing had come in a few weeks but I still did it. "That's pretty good," someone said behind me. "Thanks," I said as I looked over my shoulder at Coach Warner holding a tray. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked pointing to the seat in front of me. "No Coach." I wasn't going to complain about having him sit in front of me, I didn't often get to look at a well built guy without looking suspicious doing it. "Please, call me Thor," he said as he sat down. He put his tray down on the table. "Can I see it?" he asked as he pushed the tray aside. I handed him my sketchbook, "I'm not really used to calling one of my teacher by anything but their last name." "That's ok, you'll get used to it." He flipped through a few of the other pages but came back to the top one. "You're quite good. That's a very accurate drawing of him." "Thanks," I said blushing slightly. It wasn't often that an adult other than my parents or art teacher complimented me on my drawings. "Wait a minute. You said it's accurate. You've seen him before?" "Yeah," he said with a small chuckle, "I used to hang out with him a long time ago." I looked at him for a moment. It was strange hearing someone who couldn't be more than thirty talk about 'a long time ago.' He must have known him when they were kids. "Can you tell me his name?" "Sure, it's Kindar." "Do you know why he saved me?" "At a guess I'm going to have to say that someone paid him to do it. He's never been keen on the whole hero thing. He didn't mind saving people, but usually there had to be some coins attached to it." His eyes became distant for a moment. And then he was silent. It gave me the time to work up the courage to ask my next question. "Do you know why he killed them?" I asked softly. "He probably thought it was the best way to protect you," he answered as he gave me back my sketchbook. "Did he happen to say if he'd be looking after you for a while?" he asked with a tone of hope. I shook my head. "He said he wasn't coming back." "I guess I shouldn't be surprised," he said with a sad smile. "It's been a while since you saw him?" I asked. "Feels like many lifetimes ago." "I'm sure you'll get to see him again." "I know I will," he replied with a smile, "so long as certain people keep their promises. I saw you met the new parahuman." He pointed at my sketchbook. "Yeah, he stopped someone else from killing me," I said. Coach Warner, I just couldn't get myself to call him Thor, or even Eric, raised an eyebrow. "He said, Kindar I mean, that others would try to kill me." I wasn't sure why I told him that, other than we both knew him I guess. "What are you going to do?" he asked after studying me for a moment. "I don't really know." "Well, if you need any help you know where to find me." I looked at him as he started on his lunch; the cafeteria meatloaf, a coffee and slice of apple pie. He didn't react the way I expected an adult to react. He didn't tell me what do to, who to call and all that. It felt strange having an adult let me do what I thought was best in this situation. I was tempted to ask him about it, but the bell rang. * * * * * "The Magster wants to see you in the science lab," Eddy told me when he walked by me on his way home. I was standing by the school doors waiting for Maggie to arrive. "Why?" "She didn't say, but I'm guessing it's got to do with lifting some heavy equipment." That explained why I was still waiting for her. Normally she would be the one waiting for me. I went back inside the school. It had been a long time since I'd been in the school after hours. I'd forgotten how quiet it got; just going up one flight of stairs and the noise of the few people still leaving completely vanished. I slowed down my running to enjoy it. I never heard him coming. One moment I was listening to the silence, the next my face was being grinded against a locker. My mind went black with fear. One of them was in my school. "You think you can hide it," he whispered in my ear, "but I know what you are. Soon there's going to be a reckoning." He pushed my face against the locker again before letting me go. I spun around, this time I was going to defend myself, and watched Randall Mitchell walk away. I sighed with relief and leaned back into the locker. Randall wasn't out to kill me, he was just one of Billy's cronies. What he said confused me, what did he know, and how had he found out? Did it mean Billy knew too? And why had Randall harassed me on his own, Billy usually didn't let anyone else bully me. I looked around while I caught my breath and noticed that I was alone. With Randall gone there was no witness if someone decided to attack me. I ran all the way to the science lab. I heard Maggie exerting herself in the back of the room. "What are you doing?" I asked. She was bent over a slab of metal. "Good, you're here. Put that in there." She indicated one of the two square buckets against the wall. "Sure." The slab looked to be about a foot by a foot and a half and a few inches thick. It had been cast with handholds on each side. I grabbed one and lifted it, and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket instead. "Fuck, what is this thing made out of?" "Tungsten," she answered as she went to the storage room. "How much does it weigh?" I bent down and grabbed both sides this time. "About four hundred pounds." I believed her. I carefully put it in the bucket. It looked to be homemade. "What are you doing with it?" "I want to see how strong you are." She came out of the closet pushing a cart with more slabs on it as well as a disassembled bench press. "You're kidding, right?" "Nope, completely serious. You're afraid of your own strength. First step to overcoming fear is getting to know it. So we're going to figure out how strong you are and go from there." "Look, I'm not afraid of my strength, I just don't want to fight." "Fine," she said rolling her eyes, "then just think of it as indulging my curiosity. You're the only Parahuman I know. I want to see what you can do." "Okay, but you try to get me to fight and this friendship is over." "Sure," she didn't believe the threat any more than I did. "Now help me assemble this and we can get started." Once it was assembled she put the bar on the top notch. "I don't think so," I told her, placing it on the lowest one. "But I need to know how much you can support." "Doing it that way the moment there's more weight than I can lift the bar falls, breaks my neck and your parahuman best friend is dead." "Oh." "Yeah, oh," I echoed, "this way if I can't lift it, then I just can't lift it and you'll know. Also we're going to put something under those bucket so there's no weight on the bar when it's resting." We built a stand for them out of the notebooks and I put the buckets on them before adding a slab in the empty one. "Are you sure the buckets are going to hold up? There's going to be a lot of weight in them." "Yeah, I had them made by a guy I know who has shop classes." "I hope you're right," I said as I lied down on the bench and grabbed the bar. "Okay, we're starting with four hundred pounds on each side." She hooked the bucket and moved away. I easily lifted the bar a dozen times before putting it back. "That easy?" she asked. "Pretty much." I put another slab in each bucket. "We now have eight hundred pounds in each." Again I did twelve reps, but this time I felt the last three. I added one slab each. "twelve hundred pounds," Maggie said with trepidation. I didn't feel her excitement; in fact I was a little worried. I wished we had smaller weights. I lied down and gripped the bar. I focused my breathing for a moment and then forced it up. And I do mean forced. It took every ounce of strength I had to lift it. I lowered it and went for a second one. I was halfway there when I knew I shouldn't have tried it. Before I could lower it my arms gave out. The buckets slammed on the books and sighed in relief. It didn't last long. The stack of books on my left leaned out, I hadn't worried about it because it seemed solid enough, but now with the weight bouncing off it it moved a little more and then fell apart. I only had time to move the bar over my chest before I felt the full weight. At least I'd saved myself from a broken neck, but I had trouble breathing. Maggie ran off and I heard her break open a cabinet. I grabbed the bar and tried to lift but I couldn't get any leverage. I could barely take some of the weight off my chest so I could breathe. I swung an arm and hit the buckets, but it didn't move. Maggie came back with a large jar and a Bunsen burner. She emptied the jar around the inside of the bucket and then lit the content with the burner. The stuff burned so bright I had to look away for a moment. When I looked again there was a glowing line through the metal around the bucket; then the metal stretched and ripped. As soon as the bottom half fell off I threw the bar off me. To the sound of the slates tumbling out of the bucket I sat and held my chest. "How painful is it?" Maggie asked. "Pretty painful," I answered weakly; breathing was difficult. "Take off your T-shirt, I want to see how bad it is." I tried not to make faces as I took it off, but moving my arms caused the pain to flare up. "That looks pretty bad," she commented. "I know," was all I could say. The line made by the bar was red and the skin had broken in places. The Magster took out her camera. "Do you mind if I take pictures, I want to document how fast you heal." I tried to sigh, but the pain wouldn't let me. "Go ahead." She took her pictures and then we cleaned up. She poured sand on the fire that was still burning and melting more metal. I have no idea why there was sand in the science lab. She didn't want me to help, but I was the only one who could pick up the slates, although I had to be careful doing it. When everything was back in the storage closet the only evidence left were the vicious burn marks on the floor around where the bucket had landed. Maggie was going to have to do some creative thinking to explain that. * * * * * Maggie had to spend the next two weeks helping out her science teacher clean up the lab after school to pay off the damage to the floor and the material we'd used. She didn't mention my involvement, she told him that she had been testing the reactivity of burning magnesium to tungsten, whatever that meant, and that it had gone out of control. I offered to help out, but she wouldn't let me. I still waited for her. Partially to keep her company but mainly because Randall's attack had reminded me I was in danger and I didn't want to take a chance by walking home alone. On the up side, my reputation as a boyfriend got better for it. Mom approved of my making sure Maggie didn't walk home alone. She said it made me a gentlemen. Dad thought it was sweet how I paid attention to her now that she was becoming a woman. I just rolled my eyes; dad had started hinting that I should find a special lady friend since the school year had started. I'd told him I wasn't interested in getting a girlfriend, but I don't think he really heard me. It was Friday when I was attacked again. It was suppose to be Maggie's last day of punishment, but her teacher let her go instead because she'd been so good about doing her sentence. To celebrate we were heading to the mall for a few hours before our Karate class. We were walking through the park when I saw the man come toward us. He was of average height and build he wore jeans and a white t-shirt. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him, but my body froze anyway. "What's wrong?" Maggie asked. She'd taken a few more steps before realizing I'd stopped. I didn't answer, I was too busy looking around for people. If I could find someone who could act as a witness I could convince myself I was panicking for nothing, but there was no one. We were in one of the small clearings that dotted the park and normally there would be people picnicking or just lounging, so where were they? When I looked at the man again he's covered half the distance separating us. He was looking straight at me with determination. I forced my body to take a step back. Maggie looked at the man coming toward us. "Oh shit," she said. I wanted to echo her, but I couldn't get my mouth to work. She looked around quickly. "I'm, I'm going to go get help," she said before running into the woods. I knew what she was going to really do, but I couldn't help feeling like she was abandoning me. "The pretty girl is smart to run," the man said. "Sharp doesn't like hurting pretty girls." He was now within striking distance. I told my hands to close into fist and hit him, but they wouldn't obey. He swung at me and at the last moment I was able to move out of the way. I dodged the next swing and took a few steps back. I closed my hands into fists and felt relief wash over me. I'd be able to fight back this time. Maggie was right. I couldn't spend my life being afraid. I'd take it easy with him at first and hit harder as needed. The pain of his fist hitting my jaw broke my chain of thoughts. Next there was a fist to my stomach and another to the jaw. Then I was on the ground. "Sharp waits for you to get up," he said. "Sharp is patient." Sharp didn't sound like he was the sharpest tool in the shed. "Hey," someone yelled, "get away from him." The Fist had arrived, I thought, but then realized the voice had been wrong. I looked up to some someone in black holding a sword running toward us. "You don't move," Sharp told me, "Sharp fights the black man and comes back to you." Sharp turned and walked toward the new guy. "Get out of here while I keep him busy," the man in the black said just before swinging at Sharp. I wanted to obey him, but again my body wouldn't obey me. He looked vaguely familiar with his black trench coat. What was it with trench coat, did everyone who saved me had to wear one? Even his shoes were black. "You have a sharp thing," Sharp said, "Sharp has sharp things too." His fingers elongated until they were thin, two foot long, skin colored blades. He used them to block the next swing and then swung at the swordsman. The man brought it up to block and the finger blades sliced through it. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," the man said as he looked at the three inches of blade still attached to the hilt. "I just finished making it today!" "Then you shouldn't have attacked Sharp," he said before swinging back and forth at his opponent. The man in black could only back up each time. Maggie came out running of the woods wearing her mask and trench coat. When she was just a few feet behind Sharp she jumped and kicked him. The man in black moved aside as Sharp toppled to the ground. "Get up Sharp," she said in her deepened 'Fist' voice, "I want to show you what happens to parahumans who come to my city causing trouble." "How do you know Sharp's name?" he asked as he stood. "You're joking, right?" Fist answered, "You're saying it every time you open your mouth." Sharp looked at Fist doubtfully before rushing. Fist easily moved out of the way of the swings and threw in a few strikes in the process. Sharp swung wildly to force Fist to move away. I could see the anger in Sharp's eyes now, and so could Fist. He reached inside his trench coat, and when Sharp rushed him again he threw what he was holding at him. Sharp stopped as the cloud of fine dust spread around his face. I closed my eyes as Fist brought the lighter out and even through my eyelids I saw the flash of light as the magnesium dust ignited. When I opened them The Fist was putting his foot back on the ground after kicking Sharp in the face. Sharp spun and stumbled around trying to keep his footing. The flash had pretty much blinded him, I'd been there the first time Maggie had experimented with the magnesium dust; I hadn't seen anything for a good two minutes, so he didn't see the man in black flip his hilt and hit him across the jaw with the pommel, hard enough that the hilt went flying out of his hand afterward. Sharp dropped like a rock. It was over. I couldn't believe I had been attacked again. It had been so long I'd begun thinking I was safe now. And I couldn't believe that someone else had been drawn into this. This hadn't been just a thug sent to hurt me; this had been a real parahuman. Maggie could have been really hurt, or worse. "What the fuck is wrong with you," I yelled at them, "you could have gotten killed!" "You have to excuse him," The Fist said as he handcuffed Sharp, "He gets like that when he's scared. He still doesn't get that this is what us heroes do." "Oh no," the guy in black said backing away, "I'm no hero, this was just a one time . . ." he froze in mid step. Maggie took off her mask as we exchanged a look. The unexpectedness of it chased my anger away. She stepped to him and waved her hand before his eyes. "Marvin, you okay?" she asked. Marvin didn't reply or even move. I couldn't even tell if he was breathing. "You know him?" "Yeah, he made the buckets we used to test your strength." He was in shop class. That's why he seemed familiar, I'd seen him at school. "You okay?" she asked me. "I'm fine, I'm more worried about what could have happened to you. This guy was an actual parahuman, not just a hitman in costume." "It was bound to happen eventually. Even if whoever wants you dead didn't escalate I'm considered a parahuman crime fighter. Someone was going to take a shot at me eventually. That's why I've been working on those gadgets to help me. All I need now is some form of protection and I'll be good." "No! You one eyed son of a bitch! That wasn't part of the deal!" Marvin said fist shaking at the sky. "All I was supposed to do was make a sword. You were supposed to leave me alone after that. I don't fucking care what the fringe benefits are going to be, I am NOT playing your game." Maggie waited a moment after Marvin was quiet. "Marvin, what's going on?" "It's Odin," Marvin replied with a groan still looking at the sky. "The bastard won't leave me alone." He paused and looked at Maggie. "Hey Maggie, when did you get here?" "I've, err, been here for a while." Marvin looked at her, his eyes going to the mask she was holding. "You're kidding. You're the Fist?" "Yeah, I am," she said, "you don't seem too surprised." "It's tough to be surprised anymore when you have an ancestral God meddling in your life. And it explains the experiment you had me helping with. Who's your friend?" "Marvin, this is Jay, Jay this is Marvin." "Pleasure to meet you," I said as I shook his hand, "not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here?" "Odin told me to come here." "You mean here, here?" I asked. "Wait. Are you talking about the Norse God Odin?" "Yes, and yes." He took out a GPS unit. "The coordinates he gave me are just behind the tree line." I kept my mouth shut, the guy was obviously deranged. "Did he tell you to come here to help me?" Maggie asked him. "No, I was here to bless my sword." He looked at the pieces on the ground. "Aww man, now he's going to tell me to make another one." He reached for the hilt and as soon as he touched it, it started glowing. The other pieces glowed as well and then slid on the ground until they were all together. The glow intensified and then disappeared where the pieces touched. When the glow dissipated the sword was in one piece. "Okay," Marvin said with awe, "that is cool." He picked it up and swung it a few times. "How did you do that?" Maggie asked. I would have asked the same thing, but I was too stunned at finding out there was another parahuman in my school. "I don't know," Marvin answered. He was still looking at the sword in awe. "I take it that's one of the fringe benefits to whatever Odin wants you to do." "I guess so." "What does he want you to do?" "He wants me to become a hero." "Cool," Maggie said, "you wanna join my team?"
  24. Kindar

    Chapter 02

    Part 2: The unwanted Bodyguard The clearing was a hundred feet across and lined with trees so wide that thirty men holding hand couldn't wrap around them. Each one had scars to mark the years, decades and centuries they had lived through. They were tall, proud and old; older than any now alive except the being standing in the middle of them. He, for there was no denying that he was male, stood over ten feet tall. He was human in general shape, except that his head had a wide muzzle and triangular ears on top. His arms and legs were thick with muscles that bulged with every movement he made. His entire body was covered with short onyx fur and a thin tail with a tuff of slightly longer fur at the end danced behind him. To anyone who didn't know this being, and there were only a handful left who did know him, the movements he was going through would look like a dance, the fluidity of the motions, the gracefulness of the acrobatics he went through. But they belied the power behind them. When he stuck one of the trees with a closed fist the bark and several inches beneath it exploded due to the force of the impact. If he struck it with an open hand the vicious claws at the end of his fingers would rip out bark and wood out as if it was soft cotton. The being stopped and bared his teeth as he sniffed the air. They were sharp and many of them, more than should fit in a normal mouth. He turned swiftly and roared at the man standing at the edge of the clearing. "He was attacked my Lord," the man said without reacting. He was dressed in a simple robe made from the woven fiber of a local plant, it was very pale green and had a pleasant scent to it. The language the man was speaking wouldn't have been recognized by anyone alive today, or by anyone who had lived in the last four thousand years. It wasn't a language that had ever become commonly used among humans even when more of them might have heard it spoken. Now only a hand full of being still spoke it, and none of them humans. "How did it happen," the large being roared as he slammed a fist in a tree hard enough to make it shake all the way to the top. "No one was supposed to know where he was." "I do not know my Lord. The message simply stated that he had been attacked, but that he was all right." "Good, I have no desire to go through what was required to bring him about a second time. The man who brought you the message, what of him?" "He would not stay, even when I ordered him to. He left through the same portal he arrived in." "Take care with what you say rat," The being said piercing the man with his gaze, "you have no authority over any who are linked to me." "Of, of course my Lord," the man whimpered, "I merely thought that you would want to talk to him." "Yes, you do like to try to do my thinking for me," the being said with a snort before turning and therefore not seeing the hateful looked thrown at him. "It matters not. He would not have stayed even if I had been the one to order so. Considering what I represent to him it was a wonder I was able to make him honor his debt to me." "There will be other attacks on him now that they have found him, my Lord" "I know," the being said studying the damage he'd done to a tree rather than to look at the man. "How can my Lord be so calm about this? Didn't he send the child to the Americas for his protection?" The being's laugh was loud and powerful. "Protection? There is only one place where I could keep him safe, and that is within me. I sent him there so he could learn the way of these new humans. If those who are mine are to survive they will need him." "Surely my Lord is mistaken. You are the most powerful being I have ever known. Those humans are nothing compared to you." The being turned and studied the man carefully. "Even the mother to us all has given up trying to contain them. Within the next hundred of those human's years there will be nothing left of my domain. I may rage against them all I desire, but I will not be able to stop them. They will eventually defeat me, even without your help." The man gasped. "What is my Lord suggesting? I would never?" "Would you not?" the being replied with a sad smile. "Never, I am your loyal servant." "You only serve me because you have not found a way to steal my power. Keep to your schemes, in the end they and you are irrelevant. Now leave me, I have to make arrangements." The man left as instructed, but he was fuming. "Irrelevant?" he grumbled to himself, "I'll show that oaf who is irrelevant." * * * * * The day after the attack I didn't get out of bed. Mom and dad tried to convince me to at least get up, but I wouldn't move. My bed was the only place I felt safe, the only place where no one could get to me. Mom brought me breakfast, which I didn't touch. It was all I could do to look at it and not throw up. My body felt exhausted, but my mind was in over speed. The questions came back as soon as I woke up. When I closed my eyes and tried to chase them away my mind threw me the memory of those two dead men. The man who had saved me had dispatched them efficiently. He had been calm and precise in his strikes. Each time he swung his sword a body part fell. With a groan I pushed the memory away and questions fell in the empty space. What was I going to do when I was attacked again? Would I freeze again? Maybe I could run away this time. At noon she asked me if I wanted to eat something and I just shook my head. My stomach was growling in protest, but I couldn't imagine eating anything. Exhaustion took me again at some point and I woke up to the phone ringing; my dad answered it. I looked at the clock, almost six. I caught the smell of steak, carrot and potatoes and my stomach growled at me. This time it wasn't going to be ignored. Still wearing my PJs I slowly made my way down the stairs. My hands were shaking and I could feel my legs wobbling under me. I felt like I had after running as fast as I could for half an hour. I'd gone to Mam Johansson's field just outside of town to test just how fast I could go. I'd barely been able to make it back home. "Jay," my dad exclaimed as hung up the phone, "I'm happy you decided to get out of bed." Mom looked up from the pot she was stirring. "If I didn't make it down now, my stomach was going to come by itself." I tried to give them a smile, but it didn't come out quite convincingly. Dad pulled out my chair and waited for me. "That was Kenneth on the phone. He wanted to know how you were doing." "How did he know?" I asked as I sat. "Margaret called him." That made sense. Before his dad had been transferred to Houston, me, Maggie and Kenneth had been an inseparable trio. Maggie was the brains of our group, Kenneth was the rogue and I was . . . I have no idea what I was. "She called after school," my mom said as she brought me a bowl of stew, "she wants to come over tonight to see you." I shook my head. "I'll see her at school tomorrow." "Oh, I'm so proud of you," mom said as she hugged me. "Now be careful, don't eat too fast. You don't want to make yourself sick." "I'm proud of you too," my dad said. He reached over and squeezed my shoulder. "It takes courage to go back out after what happened to you." "I don't know about that. I just don't want to fall behind this early in the year." We said Grace and I started on my first bowl. The stew was wonderful; I had to force myself to eat slowly when all I wanted to do was wolf it down. The second one went down just as easily. I would have had a third, but mom wouldn't let me. She was afraid I'd make myself sick if I ate too much. I slept very well that night. * * * * * The next morning I was running down the stairs and eating a hearty breakfast like nothing had happened. I had decided that it was in the past. I was done with it. I wasn't a baby anymore; if I was going to be a man I couldn't let something like that continue to affect me. That's what I told myself, and I think I even managed to believe it a little. I kissed mom on the cheek and waved to my dad before running out the door. My speed didn't falter until I got close to the Patter's house. I slowed and then I stopped. I was standing in front of where I had been beaten. I don't know how long I stood there watching the spot. Someone had cleaned the sidewalk, my eyes couldn't see any of the stains, but my memory showed me where they all were. I could see where each limbs had been, where the pools of blood were. Eventually my stomach turned and I had to look away. I crossed to the other side of the road before continuing to school. When I got there it was too late for me to go to the gym so I dropped my bag in my locker and went to the cafeteria. The place was a hub of activities with at least half the school in it. I couldn't see the Magster, but finding her was easy. All I had to do was look for Eddy, tall and lanky Edward. Eddy was a nerd, plain and simply. Like me he was skinny, but he was taller, over six feet tall, and he had the glasses. He always wore a button up shirt and pleated pants. Throw a lab coat on him and pocket protector and you'd have a stereotypical scientist. His shaggy blond hair was my beacon and a few seconds later I was sitting next to them. "Jay, you're back," Maggie exclaimed, "how are you feeling?" "What are you doing here?" Eddy added, "shouldn't you be at the gym?" "I didn't feel like going this morning," I lied to him and ignored the look he exchanged with Maggie. "I'm good," I told her, "what did I miss yesterday?" "Are you sure?" She asked instead of answering me. "Yeah yeah, I'm perfectly fine." "I mean after what happened to you I'd be a wreck." "I said I'm fine!" They jumped in surprise. I didn't mean to be that harsh. "Sorry, but I really am fine." The look she gave me said she didn't believe me, but Eddy prevented her from saying anything by handing me a stack of paper. "Here, those are my notes from chemistry, you can transcribe them. The Magster here got the notes from history and grabbed yesterday's assignments from your math teacher." She wasn't happy at having been interrupted but she pulled out a sheet. "I was going to bring it to you last night, but things got crazy at home." I looked it over; it was the chapters I needed to read as well as the exercise I needed to hand in at the start of tomorrow's class. The bell rang as I finished reading it and we went to our separate classed. The day was eerie. As it progressed more and more people asked me how I was doing. At first it was mainly people I knew, but by the end of my second class strangers were asking me. Principal Pullox sought me just before lunch to ask me that same questions. The only point of normality in the day was Billy and his cronies. They ran into me in the afternoon. I knew they were coming even if they were behind me, I could smell Billy's horrible aftershave. I never understood why he put on so much of it. The shove came and I flew forward in the lockers. The only thing I did was raise my arms in front of my face to protect it. "I guess you think you're special now," Billy growled. "Can't say that I had," I mumbled to myself as I turned. He grabbed me by my shirt and pushed me back against the lockers. Everyone was giving us a wide berth, but hardly anyone stopped to see what was going on. Billy bullying me was just part of the regular day at this school. "What did you say?" He said pushing his face against mine. The guy needed to use some mouthwash pretty bad. "I said that I don't," I replied looking down. "You got that right Mortimer," he said as he let me go, "You're not special, you're not anything. You're just scum for me to pick on. So don't let the way these idiots treat you go to your head. I'm going to continue beating you up and making your life miserable is that understood? Hell if you could afford to have money for lunch I'd steal that too." He turned and walked away. Well at least he hadn't punched me this time. His newest follower kept watching me for a few moments longer. I didn't like the look he was giving me, it was speculative. He was wondering if Billy would let him get away with what he was thinking of doing to me. He then turned and caught up to his leader and I breathed a sigh of relief. * * * * * "Are you sure you're ok?" Maggie asked me. We were walking home and it was the first time she did since the morning so I controlled my desire to snap at her. Every time we'd run into each other during the day I could tell she could barely stop herself. "Yes, I'm fine. I really wish everyone would stop asking." "We're just worried about you, that's all." "I know, but it gets tiresome when the same person asks me over and over, like she didn't believe the answer I gave her." "Fair enough," she said with a small smile. "Esteban said that you didn't fight back, you just let them beat you up." I wasn't surprise Esteban had said that. He was the son of one of the cops at the stations so he'd have heard about it and he was a really bad gossip. "What did you expect me to do?" I said flatly as I crossed to the other side of the street before reaching the Patter's house. "It was two adults who surprised me and one of them had a gun." I saw the look she gave me as she followed me across the road. "Sensei Ilsy has taught us ways to react to surprise attacks." "It's not the same. In class and even in competitions it's all controlled out here it isn't. I just, I just froze." I looked away. I wished it had been the other reason why I hadn't dared fight back, but I hadn't lied, when the attack at started, my mind had gone completely blank. "Then we need to ask Sensei to give you more training so you won't freeze up next time." "No! Look I appreciate that you're just looking out for me, but I'm not learning Karate to kick other people's b. . . . to beat someone up, ok." "You can't depend on a passing Hero to come and rescue you. This wasn't Billy just pushing you around. You could have gotten seriously hurt. You need to learn how to defend yourself "It's done and over with ok, just leave it alone. I'll deal with the next attack when it happens." I almost stumbled when I realized what I'd let slip. "What do you mean 'next attack'?" "Just leave it alone please." "Like Hell I will," she said getting in front of me and forcing me to stop, "Now tell me exactly what you mean by 'the next attack'." I stopped in my track. She knew I'd be utterly shocked by her use of the 'h' word. I tried to out stare her, but I lost. "The guy who saved me said there was going to be other attacks like that one," I said softly in one breath. "This is insane, why?" She looked around quickly. "I don't know. He didn't tell me that." "Then do you have a death wish or something? You know you're going to be attacked again but you don't want to make sure you can defend yourself?" "Of course I want to, but I'm going to do it on my own." I looked her in the eyes. "I mean it Maggie I don't want you to tell anyone about this, not our teachers, not your dad, or my folks, is that understood?" Maggie hesitated before nodding. "Promise me you won't say anything," I told her firmly. "I swear," she said through grating teeth, "I won't tell anyone that you're a stupid idiot for not wanting any help with this." * * * * * Starting the next day everyone went back to their normal behavior. I was back to being just another guy in the school. I got a curious look here and there but that was it. At first I was relieved at being left alone, but then I realized that without the constant annoyance to keep my mind busy it started thinking again. Were those looks just of curiosity I found myself wondering. After all the creep who had attacked me had spend the day watching me. I didn't know most of those doing it now, maybe my next attacker was hiding among them. It got so bad that by lunch time I was jumping every time someone bumped into, even when Eddy grabbed my arm to pull me out of sight of Billy I pretty much wrenched it out of his hand and backed right into the bully. I got out of that with only a punch to the stomach and my books littering the floor. He must have been busy with something important to just leave it at that. When I told Eddy I was fine after that he didn't believe me. The next day was much the same, I jumped at every noise and worried about the motive of everyone watching me. The only bright note in it was that coach Timberson wasn't on the field when I showed up. Mister Milton was there instead and informed us that the coach had been in a car accident and he'd coach us until the school had found a better replacement. Rumors about the accident ran rampant over the next week. Some said he'd been drunk, that he'd killed a kid, that he'd run off the road to avoid driving over a kitten even that he'd done it to kill himself. * * * * * By the end of the next week I'd managed to convince myself that no one was out to get me, for the moment at least. I still jumped once in a while at loud noises, but I wasn't as obvious about it as before. I found that if I sketched something it made it easier to ignore those feeling so I started drawing in my note books and even in a few of the text books. Most of the sketches revolved around my rescuer so I set about doing a proper drawing of him. The replacement coach arrived in time for my last PE class of the week, and man was he a looker. He was tall and buff. He was wearing track pants and a white t-shirt. It was tight enough that I could make out ever muscles under it. He had dirty blond hair that went down to his shoulders and just a bit of fuzz over his square jaw. "All right everyone, my name's Eric Warner, but you guys can call me Thor," he said casually in his low voice. "I'm going to be your track and field coach for this year. I'm replacing Coach Timberson who was in a car accident." "Man I hope I can get him to use his hammer on me," whispered one of the older girls in the class to her neighbor who nodded in appreciation. I knew what they meant, I wasn't *that* sheltered, I had access to the internet. I didn't want that, but I both hoped for and dreaded that he would shower with the rest of us after class since this was the last class of the day. "Cranford, Mortimer, Jurgen and Kelvin; According to Timberson's notes you four are our best runners. I want you to do a slow mile around the track. Don't push yourself this is just a warm up, a jog will work fine." "What about the rest of us?" someone asked as I headed to the track "Who likes to run?" the coach asked and a few hands came up. "Ok, you can go for a run too." He checked his clipboard. "from what I've read of Timberson's method he expects each of you to excel at everything. That's not the way I do things. We're going to find what you are good at and that's what you will focus on." He kept talking, but I was now to far from him to listen by that point. * * * * * With the start of the next week my paranoia had changed. I wasn't jumping anymore, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched. Multiple times a day I had to fight the desire to look around me to catch whoever it was, but I couldn't stop a few furtive glance here and there, without much success. I wasn't surprise I couldn't find someone spying on me, it was just my mind playing tricks. That lasted the whole week while I was in school. On that Friday I decided to walk to the old mall and back instead of going home for lunch to get a change of air. The mall had been closed for the last few years but security still drove around to prevent bums from taking over. The feeling of being watched followed me there. I had hoped coming here would have given me some peace. I sat on the concrete flower box near the locked up entrance and ate the sandwich mom made me. I was berating myself over having become so paranoid when I was shoved forward. I was so surprised to find myself lying on the pavement that I didn't move. "Come on Kid," a guy said behind me, "get up and show me what you can do." I slowly stood and turned. The first thing that hit me was that he guy was red. He was wearing a one piece jumpsuit that was blood red. His muscled body filled the suit out pretty well. He rushed me and before I could do anything he punched me three times in the chest. I backed up and bent over but managed to remain standing. The guy took a step toward me and I swung at him. I didn't think I just closed my fist and swung, and missed. He punched me in the face and I fell to the ground again. While I was there I had the time to think it was a good thing my fist hadn't connected. I would have hated to see what would have happened to him if it had. "Got to say I expected more out of you," the man said, "they said you killed the guy they sent before me, but I guess he was just a wimp." I looked in the distance and I forced myself on all four. I had to run. If I could get going I'd easily leave him behind. I dug a foot in the ground and tensed. "Oh no you don't." He kicked me in the stomach and I was back on the ground, curled up in a ball. "I got to say this was fun," he said as he knelt next to me, "probably the easiest fifty grand I've ever made." He grabbed my head in his hands. "Just so you don't go to the great beyond wondering, the name of the guy killed you is Sanguine." He turned my head to the left; I could feel him tense his arms. I started to say a prayer, asking for God to look after my parents once I was gone, but the man released me with a curse. I looked up to see him backpedal fast and then someone in a gray trench coat run by. By the time I could sit up they were a dozen feet away from me exchanging blows. The guy's trench coat obscured most of the fight as it flew around him, but what I could see showed that Sanguine knew how to fight but relied mostly on brute force. The other guy's strikes were quick and precise. He hit and moved out of the way before the other guy could strike back. The few times he did get hit he rolled with it and quickly got back on his feet. I saw that he was wearing a black ski mask which left only his eyes exposed. His fighting style felt familiar, but I was too mesmerized to think about it. Trench coat guy did a spin kick to Sanguine's head and he went down one final time. That kick had been more than familiar; I'd seen it practiced three times a week at the dojo. "Are you ok?" he asked as he walked by me to pick up a backpack lying on the ground. 'His' voice was deep, but it sounded forced and the curves I saw didn't belong on a man. I didn't answer, I was too stunned by the realization. She took a rope out of the pack as she went back to Sanguine. I was finally able to get myself to stand and followed her. She knelt and tied the man's legs and arms before pinning a card to his jumpsuit. It was white with the picture of a fist on it. While she was admiring her work I grabbed her mask and pulled it off. "Holy shit," she exclaimed as she stood and faced me. Yeah, now it sounded like her. "What's the big idea? You don't pull off a hero's mask." "What are you doing here Maggie?" I growled. I was angry at her for being here. "What does it look like? I'm saving your sorry ass." "I didn't need your help!" I knew I was lying. "Oh yeah, 'cause you were doing so great when I got here." Het tone went up a notch "I was fine." "So you do have a death wish," she said harshly. "Of course not!" She opened her mouth to say something, but instead grabbed my arm. "We don't want to be here when security drives by," she said as she pulled me along. Once we were far enough under the multi level parking lot she let me go. "What was the big idea not going home for lunch as usual? I was lucky someone saw you head here or I wouldn't have been here in time." "Since when did I have to start checking in with you before doing anything?" See eyed me for several seconds and I started getting nervous under her stare. "Ok, I want to know what the fuck is going on with you," she said in an unusually calm voice. "Nothing's going on," I replied defensively. "Bullshit, you defending yourself." "I told you why, I just froze." "But you don't want to get over that? This isn't like school Jay. There Billy gets bored of pushing you around and moves on to something else. That guy was about to snap your neck. If I'd missed his head with that rock you'd be dead right now. Why do you bother coming to the Dojo if you're not going to use what you learn to defend yourself?" "I don't go there to learn how to fight." "Then why?" "I'm doing it to learn better control." "Control over what? Damn it Jay, You're not making any sense. I'm not saying you have to be some crazed fighter and pick a fight with everyone you meet, but you're good enough that you should be able to take down someone who attacks you." "No," I stated, "I'm not going to fight." "Why?" she pleaded. "Because out here it isn't like at the dojo, things aren't controlled here. If I fight here I don't have the time to think about what I'm doing I'll just react and I might hurt someone." "So WHAT! If someone attacks you, planning on killing you why should it matter if you break a bone of his or two while you're defending yourself." "Arrrg," I grabbed my hair and turned. She didn't understand. I couldn't tell if she didn't want to understand or if this was just beyond her. I looked at the concrete post a few feet from me and I felt my anger rise. She was going to force me to show her what the danger was. With a scream I took the few steps to the post and slammed my fist in it, sending a six inch deep chunk of concrete flying off its corner. I looked at my fist with bits of bloody concrete embedded in the knuckles. I had expected it to hurt more. It had been years since I'd hit anything with all my strength and the pain had been so strong that I hadn't been able to open my hand for an hour. I opened my fist and the bits fell to the ground. The damage to my hand had been worst too. Now she knew I wasn't ordinary. "Oh my god. You're a parahuman." She hugged me. "This is wonderful." "No it isn't." She forced me to turn. "Of course it is, my best friend is a parahuman what could be bad about that?" "Wake up Maggie, ok?" I said with a sigh, "this isn't LA. This is Tyberon, Texas. About the only place more intolerant to Parahuman is New York City." "This place isn't that bad, we have the Shroud after all." "And how much good press has he been getting? The cops are after him, the paper says he's just as bad as the criminals he stops even 'tho he's the only reason we have such a low crime rate." "So? I don't care. I still think it's wonderful that you're a parahuman." I rolled my eyes. "You idolize anyone who's a parahuman. I guess you even Idolize the Terrorist," I said with a teasing smile. "Fuck no. no criminal, parahuman or not, should ever be idolized." "All right," I said raising my hands in surrender, "I'll never bring it up again, and it's wonderful that I'm a parahuman." I lowered my arms and looked at her seriously. "Please don't mention this to anyone. I mean it. This has to remain our secret." "Of course it is," she said as she wrapped her arms around my neck. "Where did you get the trench coat?" I asked once she let go of me. "From the attic, it was my granddad's from when he was in the war. "And what was the card about?" "That was my calling card, every hero needs one." "You're kidding, right?" "No." "You can't play at being a hero Maggie, you don't have any powers." "So, the Shroud doesn't have any powers either." "Of course he does. He can create darkness." "That's just a rumor; it's never been shown that he does that. He just uses his black costume to take advantage of it. That's why he's only active at night. How strong are you?" "I don't know," I said shrugging and happy for the change of subject. It would give me time to think of a way to discourage her to play hero. "I put six hundred pounds on a bar last year, that's all it would take and I was able to lift that a few times without too much trouble." "Anything else I should know?" "I'm pretty fast." "Like SS?" I shook my head. "No, I'm nowhere near as fast as her, I think my maximum speed is about forty miles an hour, and unlike the Scarlet Speedster I accelerate normally." "What else?" "I heal faster, not instantaneous or anything, but by tomorrow night all the bruises from the beating I just got will probably be gone." "And?" "That's it as far as I know." "So strength, speed and healing; not an unusual combination, add to that you know how to fight and you could be a decent hero." "I've already said I'm not fighting. And neither should you, you could get really hurt." "Well, you're not going to stop me. The only way you can keep me safe is to become my side kick." "That's not funny." "Sorry. And just so you know. Until you decide to start defending yourself I'm your personal bodyguard. That means you don't go anywhere without me." "You're joking." "No. I don't plan on losing my best friend just because he's being a scardycat." "You realize that the school is going to notice and start talking, right?" "You realize that a guy your age is expected to have a girlfriend, right?" Only the fact that I knew she wasn't serious stopped me from feeling sick at that thought. Maggie knew how I felt about the subject. "Speaking of school, we should head back before lunch is over. Any chance you can help me redesign my card? I had to make that one from a photo I found on the net." "I'll think about it."
  25. Kindar

    Chapter 01

    Part 1:The day my Childhood ended I was sixteen; it was my first full day as a Junior. It was six AM and I was already running down the stairs. "How many times do I have to tell you not to run in the house Jayson?" my mom said. "Sorry," I replied weakly. I couldn't help it, I ran everywhere I went. I've loved running ever since I could walk; used to drive my parents crazy. I forced myself to walk to the counter and grabbed an apple out of the basket before turning around and heading for the door. "Where do you think you are going young man?" My mom looked up from the stove and pierced me with her steel blue eyes. She was wearing the light green flannel gown dad had given her last Christmas. "To the gym, I want to get some weight lifting in before class." "Not on an empty stomach you're not." "I've got an apple mom." "That's a snack not breakfast." She waved at the table with her spatula. "Now sit down, breakfast's almost ready." I looked at my dad for support. He was reading the newspaper like he did every morning. "Do what your mother says Jay," he said without looking up, "you can spare ten minutes to put some food in you before you exercise." I dropped my backpack by the door and sat down. They were right, but I'd been itching to really workout for the last two weeks, ever since my subscription at the local gym ran out. They only had monthly subscriptions. It took me two weeks to get the money from my job at the fast food joint down the block to pay for one, and it was going to be a waste of money to get a month's worth and only use it for the two weeks left before school. I filled my glass with orange juice from the jug that was already on the table and waited for mom to put the customary scrambled eggs and bacon on our plate. I liked mine sunny side up, but mom and dad liked theirs scrambled, so unless I made them myself scrambled it was. Dad folded his paper and set it aside as mom was sat down. I put my hands together and bowed my head. "We thank you lord," my father said in his deep voice, "for this meal before us, and ask for your blessing as we go through our day. Amen." "Amen," my mom and I repeated. I finished my plate under two minutes. It was rinsed and in the dishwasher before the third was over. I had kissed my mom on the cheek, grabbed my bag, waved to dad and was running out the door in the middle of the fourth. It took me just under ten minutes to run to the school. I could have done it faster, but that would have made me stand out. Before six thirty I was changed in my gym shorts and an old t-shirt and at the bench press. I was the only one there so I threw on a couple hundred pounds of weight and started doing repetitions. I was going for endurance rather than strength so the weights were low. I did three sets of one hundred repetitions. By the time I was done two other guys had arrived, Jud and Billy. They were two years older than I was, but they were Juniors too because of all they grades they had failed. They were bullies and had been picking on me ever since they first noticed me. They noticed me and snorted in my direction. "You'd think he'd have given up by now," Billy whispered to Jud. He said that because even after lifting weights for almost eight years I still looked like a rake. I was five nine and weighted a hundred-thirty pounds on a good day. No matter what I did I just couldn't build muscle, so I'd stopped trying. The two of them have pushed me around and thrown verbal jab at me so much now that I've grown used to them. They were part of what I considered a normal day. Sometime I envied how they looked. Lets face it, they were jocks, plain and simple; bodies built like Hercules and Atlas and the following to prove it. Girls were always following them. The rumours were that by the time school ended last year they had slept with every girl in their grades, including some of the teachers. Maybe that was how they finally managed to graduate because they certainly didn't have much brain upstairs. I went through the machines doing my best to ignore them. They purposely bumped into me twice, making me drop a weight on the second time. More than once I've been tempted to show them how much weight I can actually lift, just to shut them up, maybe scare them into leaving me alone. But that would attract attention so I just did my best to ignore them. I'd gone through all the machines and was going chin ups when Maggie yelled across the room. "Jay! If you don't hurry up you're going to be late for class." I didn't respond to her call and she didn't wait for me. She knew that the reminder was all I needed. Maggie, or Magster as her close friends were allowed to call her, was my best friend. I'd known her for as long as I could remember. She lived across the street and had been sneaking in my house since should could crawl. She was a year younger than I was, but she'd skip ninth grade because she was so smart. Sometime I thought that she was holding herself back just so she could continue looking out for me. She loved science and science fiction. Her bedroom walls were covered with pictures of robots from Japanese cartoon as well as posters of the Justicar team, in its many incarnations. Her favourite of them was Techno, although recently she had started collecting posters of Techknight too. I finished my sets and headed to the locker room. The gym was almost full now and the lockers a frenzy of activity. I quickly showered, and was almost out when someone shouldered me aside. "Fag," he whispered. I looked at him walk away frozen in surprise. I didn't know him, so why had he said that? I watched as he high fived Billy. They had found someone to help them torment me. * * * * * My first class was Biology, it was the only class I had with the Magster. The teacher laid out what he was going to cover over the year. I could already feel the dread forming in my stomach and he hadn't even given us an exam yet. Bio wasn't my thing. Maggie assured me she would help me with it, I could only hope it was going to be enough. "I'll see you at class after school." She said before disappearing in the crowd on her way to her history class. I was heading to the field for Track and Field. Our after school class was Karate, she dragged me to it when she was ten, she'd heard that the Shroud was a master martial artist and decided she was going to become one too. I liked it. It gave me a way to work on my control. Now we both participated in a few tournaments every year. She's won a few trophies while I rarely place higher than fourth. Track and field was run by coach Timberson. He also coached the football team, basketball team, baseball and any other sport taught at the school. The only thing he didn't touch was figure skating, which he left to Mister Milton, the dance teacher. He firmly believed that if you weren't trying to get first place you shouldn't even bother trying. "Not bad Mister Mortimer," he said as I was running in place after the two mile run, "with a time like this you might have a chance at first place, if Miss Cranford and Jurgen were to break their legs." He stared at me with disdain. "You might be happy with third place, but I'm not. I'm not teaching you so you can lose." I sighed with relief when he turned to the rest of the class. "I'm teaching all of you to win. I know the majority of you will never win, and if it was just up to me I wouldn't even bother, but the school says that I have to teach all of you so that's what I'm going to do." Everyone was silent as he looked everyone over. "Now give me two laps around the course." Being talked to like that really made me want to run faster than everyone in class. Place first and shut mister Timberson up. But that would make me stand out. After track and field I had art. On my way there I walked by this creepy older guy. He looked too old for be a student. Maybe he was a new teacher, but the way he kept looking at me made me nervous. I worried that he might follow me, but he just stood there, watching. Only when I turned a corner did I relax. I hoped I wasn't in any of his classes. I wasn't bad at drawing. I wasn't great either, but at least I enjoyed it. There was something about putting lines on paper and transforming them into an image that made sense that felt spiritual, like God was guiding my hand. After that was lunch period. The nice thing about living just over two miles from the school is that I can run home and enjoy a freshly cooked meal instead of whatever passed for food at the cafeteria. "Hi mom, I'm home." "You're just in time sweetie," she replied from the kitchen, "they found it." "What did they find?" I asked as I joined her in the kitchen. "Listen," she said nodding toward the small television set on the counter. She was stirring what smelled like her famous cream of mushroom soup. "Earlier today Randall Salvage pulled into the Pirate Cove marina pulling the Wandering Rose, the boat of the newlywed superhero couple Electrika and Claw. They left on it for their honeymoon a month ago and were expected back two weeks ago." The reporter was silent as the camera panned over the boat. The light was provided by powerful spotlights since the sun wasn't up. "What do you think happened to them?" I asked my mom. "I don't know," she said, studying the screen, "but look at the coral on that hull. It would have taken years for that to build, not one month." My mom might be a house wife, but she wasn't dumb. She mentioned before that she had been considering becoming a scientist before I came along, but that she never regretted her decision to take care of me instead of pursuing her studies. Now she listened and watched science shows throughout the day as she took care of the house. "Tony Randall," the reporter started again when the camera was on him, "an associate of Electrika from the early days of the Justicars has been combing the sea looking for them since they went missing. While Mister Randall declined to comment on his find PCTV was able to contact John Doe, also known as Shape and the only original member of the Justicar still active with the team and he had this to say." The image switched to a picture of a man with brown curly hair. "Patricia and Mark are two of the most capable people I know. Whatever happened to them while they were out at sea I know that they will contact us as soon as they find a way to do so." I studied the photograph as he spoke, trying to see why his image felt so familiar. I'd never seen it up close before. Sure I'd seen him on the news before, but I wasn't the Hero worshiper that the Magster was so I'd never really paid attention before. In the end I couldn't place him and I decided that it was like Maggie had told me before. Shape had build his face from everyone he'd met once his shape shifting ability had stabilized so everyone felt like they knew him. "Where ever they are we send our wished to Electrika and Claw and hope they will return to us safely," the reporter said. Mom turned the television off at that point and served me a bowl of soup with two slice of fresh made bread. My mom's a great cook. I ran back to school as soon as I was done eating. I was hoping to catch Maggie in the cafeteria so I could tell her about the Wandering Rose, it wasn't often I beat her on super hero news. I could hear the banging of metal against metal as I got close to the room where shop class was held. I'd just passed the door when the curse rang. "Holy fucking Gods!" I stopped in my tracks just as I heard something heavy hit the floor. My family had strict rules about swearing. We didn't do it. We didn't speak God's name in vain. But that wasn't why I'd stopped. I'd felt 'something' when I heard it. I took the steps back to the door. It was open and on the far side was a guy with his thumb in his mouth who looked to be my age. He had black hair, was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt. His shoes were also black, as well as the trench coat that was thrown on the back of the chair next to him. He didn't look like a Goth, he didn't have pale skin, makeup or anything, but he certainly looked dark. "Are you ok?" I asked. On the floor was a fairly large sledge hammer and next to him, on the shop's anvil was something long and shiny. "Do I fucking look ok to you?" he snarled before putting his thumb back in his mouth. It looked swelled. "I sorry, I mean . . ." I shut my mouth I was going to ask another stupid question. "I mean is there anything I can do to help?" He glared at me for a moment and then closed his eyes. "No, I'm ok," he said opening his eyes. The anger was gone from them. "It's my own stupid fault for not being careful." He glared at the hammer on the floor. "Where's the teacher?" I looked around among the tools and workbenches. "He isn't here yet. I'm getting an early start on my project." I looked at the guy in black. First day and he already had a project that required him hammering metal? What were they teaching in Shop this year? "You sure you'll be ok?" I asked him. "Yeah yeah, I'll be fine." "Ok then, bye." I headed to the cafeteria to share my news with the Magster. Of course she'd beaten me to it. She'd downloaded they news report on her cell phone. Sometime she's such a techy. I had math after lunch and ran by the creepy guy from the morning again. His hair was brown and cut short, like he was in the army. He was wearing a blue sport jacket with a logo I didn't take the time to look at. He had pleated pants the same color as his jacket and was wearing running shoes. Except for the fact that he made my skin crawl he looked completely normal. Math went well. And then it was history. I was ok at both. I didn't have a third afternoon class to I headed home to start on my studying before karate class. I couldn't believe that on the first day of class they gave us homework. The year was going to suck. I was running by the Patters property when I saw the creepy guy again. He was walking in my direction and I stayed close to the cement wall to give him as much space as possible. I kept my gaze forward, but his eyes never left me as the distance between us closed. I was next to him when his fist came up and hit me in the face. My feet flew out from under me and I was on my back, head ringing louder than the pain in my face. "What a wuss," the man said as I turned on my stomach and tried to stand. His foot connected hard enough that I flew back against the wall. "Enough!" someone else said as I sat up, holding my stomach. I looked up to see who had saved me from this nightmare. Through the tears in my eyes I saw the man had grey hair and wore a beige business suit. The creepy looking one wrenched his arms from the older man's grip and took a step back. "I'm sorry about that," the gray haired man said to me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and when I looked at him again he was pointing a gun at me. "The contract didn't include causing you pain." * * * * * If this had been a comic book I would have pushed the gun away, kicked the guy in the shin, I would have done something. Instead I just stared down the barrel of the gun. I didn't even Pray, I just waited to die. The next thing I knew there was a flash of light in front of me, I was splashed with something and there were screams of pain. When the silence came back there was a man crouching in front of me. "You ok kid?" he asked. I tried to answer him, but my mouth wouldn't work. I was still trying to figure out what had just happen. "You in there?" He snapped his fingers in front of my eyes a few times. "What happened?" I finally said. It wasn't what I wanted to say, but it was the only thing that would come out. My voice was flat, and I couldn't get myself to move. "They tried to kill you, I stopped them." "Why?" I was finally able to move my head so I could look at him. He was wearing a sandy coloured cowboy hat and his hair fell down around his shoulders; it was light copper with darker shades in place. He had deep green eyes. His beard was trimmed short and the colour matched his hair. I wasn't trying to memorize what he looked like but the details were burning themselves in my memory "I owed someone a favor," He replied before getting up. He was wearing a light brown trench coat over a white button up shirt, there was something round and dark under it in the middle of his chest, but I couldn't tell what it was. He had blue jeans on and cowboy boots. I watched him pull a sword out of the creepy man's chest. I also noticed several body parts littering the sidewalk, the hand that was still holding the gun, a leg and a head. I turned away and threw up. Then I started shaking. "Good, you're ok, I was starting to get worried." He wiped the blood off the sword on the beige suit. "What happens now?" I asked, barely able to even hear myself over the sound of my heart beat. "Now you wait for the cops to get here," he cocked his head, "shouldn't be too long now. Tell them what happened don't bother covering anything up, I don't care if they know about me. I'm not going to be back here anytime soon." "You're leaving?" "Yep, my part of the bargain's fulfilled." As he put the sword to his hip the air behind him started shimmering blue. "What if more of them show up?" I couldn't stop myself from looking around. "Oh, more will come for you, but not today. These two worked alone." "What am I suppose to do?" "Not my problem," he said as he stepped through the shimmer and disappeared. I brought my knees to my chest and held them tightly as I heard the police siren in the distance. * * * * * "Jayson?" my mom asked as she pushed police men aside to run to me. "What happened to you?" She hugged me and I held on to her as tears started running down my face. "Your son was attacked and according to the story he told us some cowboy showed up and rescued him." "It isn't a story," I said softly in my mother's shoulders, "he was dressed like a cowboy but he had a sword instead of a gun. Then he vanished in a blue light." "Listen here son, that's pretty unlikely, no one around here can do that." My mom glared at the officer and he took a step back. "My son does *NOT* lie." "Great," the man said after a moment of silence, "another parahuman dumping bodies on the street, just what he need. Like the Shroud wasn't enough." "Can I go home?" I asked my mom. She looked at the officer. "We have his statement and contact information, if we need anything else we'll contact you. The paramedics looked at him and couldn't find anything more than a few bruises, but they'd like him to get checked out at the hospital." "I just want to go home." "Then we'll go home. I called your father and he should be there by then." * * * * * After assuring my dad I was ok I went straight to my bed and curled up under the cover. Why did someone want me dead? I was just a kid. I hadn't done anything to get someone that mad at me. I Prayed to get some sort of answer, but nothing came. At some point I heard my dad talking with Maggie. She wanted to see me, to make sure I was ok, but he wouldn't let her in. he told her that I needed to rest after what I had been through. I didn't think he was right, I didn't think I could rest. The questions wouldn't stop. But eventually I did fall asleep. Thankfully it was a dark sleep without dreams.

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