My mind was whirling, sadness and thankfulness were present. I had almost missed the boulder 'he' had marked in my mind. I put my silvery paw on the scanner and a voice came over an intercom, that voice began questioning me.
I forgot to answer in thought, so much had happened already. I was dazed and confused so I shifted back to my Human form. I was about 5'2” and had blue eyes. My hair was dark black and I had a very white complexion.
“I am Billy, Stephen,” I trailed off a single solitary tear ran down my cheek. After a long pause I continued, “Stephen sent me.”
The voice yelled back, “Stephens been dead near nineteen years.” As he went on his voice softened, “He died under my command,” he continued as surely he most likely was shedding a tear, “he broke a direct order.”
“He did send me,” I insisted a bit angrily.
Reluctantly the voice told me I was allowed to come in. I heard a whir as the boulder hiding the base lifted up easily. It was held by dual shocks. As the boulder reached its limit four men appeared and jumped me. I was overtaken and blacked out.
The next thing I remember I was tied to a chair in an interrogation style room. Heavy lights blinded my eyes so I couldn't see anything. As I sat there I realized my head hurt. I couldn't rub my head because of having my hands bound behind my back.
A few minutes later a man walked in the room and as he prepared to speak the door opened again, “Can I help you Ms. Passionfire? You realize you are once again interrupting one of my interrogations?”
“Your about to make a big mistake,” she said a bit gravely, “he may be telling the truth.” Her finger pointed at me, it was barely visible as my eyes began to adjust to the light.
“You'd better not be lying Sasha,” he said pausing a moment, “how is this possible?”
Sasha quickly explained that she may have found some encrypted messages. The messages were dually encoded and signed with a certain digital signature that only Stephen used to sign his work. She explained they had not quite cracked the code but remembered that Stephen's old computer had a certain program that could interpret information and break coding patterns. She also explained that breaking the code would take a few hours to a few days.
He sent Sasha out of the room. Her hair was a really bright red from what I could see. I loved it though I had only stole barely a glance before she headed back out and closed the door behind her.
Afterwords I saw the man that I had heard earlier. He was a bit stocky and his hair had grayed with age, obviously. He seemed to be gentle and very well mannered, compared to how he was over the intercom, “What do you want?” I asked a bit harshly.
He understood my anger and kept more of a serious expression, it showed that my anger had not angered him, either that or he was just a good actor, “I need you to tell me your story,” he said surprised at his own words, “we have new information...”
In a way I wanted him to explain in more detail but he was going to do no such thing. I sat a moment wanting to remember every detail, after all the truth would most likely save me here. I was so sure of it. I had to show them my sadness and not let the denial of my friend's death hold me back. I had to make myself believe the truth as well.
I began, “It all started a few months ago...”
- - -
I awoke to the sun shining through my solar window. Our power in the house was directly from the sun. I got myself out of bed and did my usual routine, nothing different or out of the ordinary seemed to happen.
I was almost ready to head out to the bullying fields, also known as School. I was hated and most people made fun of the fact that my parents 'didn't want me,' as they made it blatantly obvious. They tormented me in this manner. I just wanted to be me, to be left alone. I didn't care if it was death or something else that freed me. I barely existed in School, tried to remain hidden and invisible to avoid the harsh comments and the awkward stares. They saw me and judged me instantly, how could I see myself as anything more with all the negativity?
Anyway that week I was getting picked on particularly hard. I couldn't take it. I stood up and began to storm out the door. The teacher asked me in his meanest voice where I was going, so I yelled back, “I hate you all,” and bent over to grab my notepad, an electronic hand-held device that everyone owned these days, “go to hell!”
That night my stepfather was upset that I had skipped half the day. He seemed to go on forever, I began to wonder if he ever hadn't raised his voice. My eyes rolled as a result of his stupid commentating of all the things I had done wrong in the past. I was the one being treated bad, not him. I should be the one yelling, ME! He finally finished his rant off with one sentence, “Our neighbor, Mr. Warnheart heard everything. He said we could send you over there to do some stuff. This, I believe, is a fair punishment.”
I grumbled as I walked across the streets made of a glassy, shiny material to the house on the other side. As I knocked, an older man, hair grayed with age stepped out on the porch answering the door. He held the door open and waved me in, “Welcome to my humble abode.”
I walked inside and noticed his house seemed tidy, it didn't make sense. What was there even to be done? The shoes were nice and orderly. There seemed to be no dust on anything and the kitchen shown like no other. Confused Billy looked at the man wondering if he needed his head examined, possibly he needed a psychiatrist, “What exactly did you need me to do?” I finally asked in my confusion.
“I am lonely,” said the man, “I merely would like to share some stories with you.” He begged me to stay so I did. Plus I wasn't in trouble here and this man seemed to like me for who I was. For the first time I felt truly loved by someone.
After being there awhile that day I cocked my head, “Mr. Warnheart...”
“Please call me Stephen,” he insisted cutting me off before I could ask my question.
“Stephen,” I said kind of slowly pronouncing each syllable separately, “what will you tell my parents?” I was a bit scared because I knew I was in a lot of trouble at home. I didn't think telling them that all I did was listen to stories was such a good idea. I was sure it would only make my stepparents more angry and I would never be able to come back over to Stephen's again, I didn't want that.
“Don't worry, I made you bust your hump with chores remember,” he smiled and winked, “just act especially tired tonight when you get home.” He always seemed to have a good answer for everything. He taught me lies were only good when used for a reason that benefits everyone. I never understood exactly what he meant, I didn't really care.
And so this was how I had met Stephen. I thought of him as a great friend and began looking forward to the time I spent with him. He had so many wonderful stories to tell and he never made me lift a finger, except sometimes if something came up in the middle of a story. Sometimes I helped him with different things, yet when I was with him it never really felt like actual work.
This became part of my normal routine. School, homework and then over to Stephen's house for stories. The stories became more real as he told them, almost as if they were about actual events and I began to question what I really knew about Disaegia and even Bloodvale, the city I called home. He told me of corruption and hate, that paid mercenaries were executing whole races.
One of the persecuted races was the shifting race which I had been taught to fear especially in School. We always heard they were dangerous but from the sound of Stephen's stories, they were gentle and kind. They were normal and just attempting to survive like everyone. They were forced to take up arms to try and preserve themselves from an unknown enemy that had plenty of money for mercenaries to do their dirty work. I was appalled at the idea, but something in me believed it. Not just as if it sounded right, but something told me this was exactly what was going on, I could feel it in my gut.
I began to open up to others and feel better about myself as I learned from the old man. His love of life, no matter how corrupt it might have been, was very catching and I was amazed by it. I wanted to be happy and full of life just like him. He was the only role-model I had ever looked up to. He became more than that however, I saw him as a friend.
After a while Stephen began to get somewhat jumpy. One day in particular his hands were shaking. I asked him what was wrong. At that moment my life changed, he told me I am a shifter. He gave me little other information. He mentioned it was too dangerous to go into everything here and now, that men were eavesdropping in private. He explained to me later that he could explain everything at another time and location.
He went to a bookcase and removed a certain book and the entire bookcase lifted up into the roof. He explained the roof there was only a hologram. The bookcase revealed a long staircase, one of those awkward twisted staircases you would expect to see in a castle tower or something. Stephen began to descend the steps and waited for me to follow.
Once we had reached the bottom, I marveled at all the equipment. He obviously was one known as a collector. A collector was usually a hacker that specialized in new and older out of date technology. They were looked up to for their knowledge and love of computers and other devices, “Ya-you're a collector,” I said a bit dumbfounded. I couldn't believe it, I realized right then Stephen was a powerful ally and would be an asset for black operations.
“That is not important now,” Stephen insisted as he showed me a video file he stole from an encrypted file. I watched as a fellow shifter was cornered with a Steg (Stayg) and whipped. They were obviously torturing this shifter to death, because a Steg was usually used only to capture an adversary normally.
Stegs were very dangerous. They were comparable to a Cat-O-Ninetails but had more smooth knotted endings. When the endings embedded in the skin, the holder had a choice to add a shock to inebriate his victim. Sometimes the first time a victim was shocked the target had a chance that it may not survive. It also in rare cases made the heart work overtime and could explode ones heart.
I spent the next few weeks learning to control my shifting. It literally took a few weeks, Stephen said I was a natural but I believe he was just being nice. By the end of that period I could shift fast and well. He also made sure I didn't tell anyone and let me know that doing so would only put me in more danger.
Soon that day came, I went to Stephen's, as usual, but I couldn't find him. I thought something terrible may have happened to him. He wasn't anywhere in the house, I even checked out the lab in the hidden basement. He wasn't anywhere.
While I continued my search someone grabbed me from behind. I fought trying to hit my captor in the ribs. He whispered in my ear as he held my mouth, “Quiet, they will hear us...” I was relieved to hear Stephen's calming voice. Though at the moment he seemed agitated and scared, “We must get out of here, both of us together. But just in case...” He cut off not explaining, and raised a device to my head and I felt a big shock.
“Ouch,” I yelled a little too loud, “What the hell?”
That had been a mistake. A mercenary entered the home shouting, “They're over here!” He had a Steg in one hand and a K-180 in the other.
“Run and shift!” Stephen said, he didn't have to tell me twice. The cracking and crunching of my bones felt funny as I became my wolf counterpart. My green eyes shown brilliantly in the afternoon light. I felt free and also as if I had limitless energy. My silver fur looked more beautiful than Stephen's brown fur that had smudges of gray beginning to show. He couldn't help it, he was just older.
As we ran I heard a big thud. I knew instantly it had to be Stephen. I turned to see him connected by five prongs of a Steg. He was being tortured so I ran back, I just couldn't leave my only friend. He looked at me in severe pain and thought so only I could hear, 'Go, you know th...' That was as far as he got as two K-180 rounds blasted through his body soaking my muzzle and chest with blood.
I panicked and seemed to become numb for the moment. I turned on my heels using instinct to run from the current danger. I felt the sadness, but it was almost unreal and as if I was actually watching it all happen from some other place, like a third person video game. When I got far enough away and was sure no one had followed I laid down refusing to move. The depression I had felt wanted to come back, at the same time I wanted the happiness I felt with Stephen. All I found were happy memories that pushed me further into my own depression.
As I laid there my head began to ache and a quiver shook my body. A message in the form of thought began to go through me, 'If you are listening to this, I am probably dead,'Stephen's thoughts read as if a recording, 'but all is not lost, I have implanted a secret base location in your mind. Once you arrive you must touch your hand or paw to a secret scanner. I will reveal the location of the scanner when you arrive. Transmission ended.'
Something in me decided to persevere and move on. I saw a literal map, but it was in my mind. I didn't understand how it was possible, or care for that matter. Curiosity was the fueling force and all that remained. I realized I had to press on for Stephen as well, 'I will avenge you,' I thought angrily knowing none were around to actually hear my thoughts, 'I will kill every last one of them!'
I wandered a whole day and a half using this map in my head. Finally I saw this boulder, on the map a arrow stood right above it and a thought guided my paw to the scanner...
- - -
“I just woke up tied right here,” I explained hoping the old man believed me. He just kept staring as if I was always going to be a felon and deserved to be locked in Prison. His hardened eyes seemed to bore into me hoping I would somehow cave. At that moment I realized his stubbornness and that he didn't want me to be right, he didn't want to admit he was wrong. In a way I wanted to beat that hard look off his face.
It happened a few minutes later when he knew for sure I had finished my story. His gaze softened and he shot a look at me, “I think I sorta believe you,” he said, “but as a precaution I am only going to untie your hands. At least till we prove your innocence.”
I was very angry and a bit hurt but I agreed with a nod. I instantly rubbed my head, I found a goose-egg sized knot there. I seriously wanted to hit that man, but I restrained as if I knew he had some control over my future, “I am Billy, Billy Ormond.”
The man hesitated a moment rubbing his chin, “Ormond huh?” He asked as if he had heard the name before and proceeded on, “Well Billy I am Sander Passionfire, Sasha's father.” I froze didn't move a muscle. I was, for the first time, happy I hadn't slapped him.
“Your daughter is pretty, sir,” I said with a smile.
He looked at me his gaze hardening, “Don't be gettin' any ideas boy,” he said as a scowl began to cover his face, “she deserves someone better, not with the likes of you!”
The feeling I had earlier was gone and I once again wished I could slap him in the face. I sat quietly hoping for a distraction soon or I was going to become violent. My impatience was beginning to show as I sat unable to get up. I hated the feeling of being bound and helpless, though even without the restraints, if I was to be honest, I had to admit I truly was helpless.
Suddenly the door burst open. I turned to look and Sasha was standing there, “What is it?” Sander asked her as she stood out of breath. She must have ran all the way down the hall.
“Billy is telling the truth. It was Stephen and the date is just after the explosion.” She always wanted to believe the best of everyone...