Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"C'mon, Erik, let me help!" The speaker is a dark-haired nineteen-year-old shifter, practically bouncing from excitement and an overabundance of teenage hormones. "I want to be part of your team and hunt down the ghouls, and I know I can help!"

I sigh deeply. "Nina, you can help us best by staying home and protecting your brothers."

A look of annoyance and disdain flashes over her face. "Those lumps of suet? Hell, Erik, any ghoul that eats them is in for a heart attack from all the cholesterol in their roly-poly little carcasses!"


"Look, Nina, you're not making this easy," I point out. "One of the first things you have to learn to be on a team - any team - is to take orders without question, and you can't even take 'no' for an answer?" The bouncing stops, but her eyes are wide with hope and stubbornness. "Our teams are made up of experienced warriors - with a few that are less experienced, sure, so they can get experience in the field. You're - what? - five-foot two or three, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, and you've never used a weapon in your life. We don't have time to babysit you."

Her eyes go to hot slits.

"You think I can't take care of myself, is that it? You think because I'm not a bear or a wolf or a - a tiger or something, that I'm helpless? We'll just see about that - "

And with that, Nina is gone. Her shorts and tee drop to the floor, and a very pissed-off were-squirrel scampers up my pants leg, chittering with rage. Her tiny claws are like miniature pitons and she moves like greased lightning, moving too fast for me to do more than make ineffectual slaps. I feel her approaching my crotch - oh fuck - and then she's there and I hold my breath. She lingers there just a second - just long enough to make a point, I suspect - then her head pops out of the top of my jeans. I make a grab, miss, and now she's scampering up my shirt, leaving tiny scratches all along the way. More slapping, always too late, and then she's chattering in my ear, her claws dug into my throat and those chisel teeth poised at my carotid artery. I feel them just touch my throat... then she drops like a stone, bounces over to her clothes and - poof! - she's a girl again, and the clothes are even in the right places - a little twisted to be sure, but the shirt is on the top and the shorts are on the bottom and that's better than I could do.

She stands with one hip cocked, looking at me levelly. "Still think I'm helpless, big man?"

"Fuck, no!," I say feelingly. "Okay, you can join my team" - she whoops and bounces some more - "but you're on probation. You've proved that you can fight; now prove that you can follow orders. In the meantime, after school, you'll be schooled in weapons training. You want to be one of us, you're going to learn to pull your weight, and we're not going to take it easy on you because you're young or a girl. Got that, rookie?"

She whips out a flawless salute, going to a ramrod-straight attention. "Got it, sir."

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