Authors: Randall Farmer
“The end? When I become like them?” she asked, looking
The smile on her face was ghoulish and hideous, but she
smiled. She wiped the tears from her eyes with her dirty sleeve and licked her
lips. “I’ll be happy. Very very happy.”
Grendel sat in his easy chair in the living room and
read, with a couple of pieces of paper and a pencil by his right hand. Every
few minutes, he wrote something down, looking intently from the book to his
paper. Five days ago Wandering Shade had done something to the Law in him
after he had Juanita. Painful. Afterwards, Grendel was able to read again. Wandering
Shade was happy.
Grendel owed everything to his Master.
He was in a two-legged form right now and so used the
chair. If he had been in his four-legged form he would have curled up on the
floor. Off in the kitchen he heard Cleo banging around trying to fix a
traditional dinner for him. Doing so was impossible without gas or electricity
in the house, but she kept trying. Her struggles were cute. She would do
anything to keep herself out of the basement.
He heard the clank of her shackles and chain again as
she came toward the living room from the kitchen. He waited for the pause. Just
before she entered the living room, the pause, the same as always, a long
moment spent gathering herself to make sure she stayed happy.
“I have dinner for you, sir,” she said, smiling and
happy. He liked the way she called him ‘sir’. She made him feel so
Dinner consisted of a plate of sandwiches, made with
three-day-old bread from a night raid on a grocery store, and sliced raw dog
meat from a dog who had made the mistake of coming too close last night. Fresh
dog was a special treat, even more special to have someone prepare and serve dinner
Life was good.
She didn’t look too bad for a Gal. Oh, she had gotten a
little thin, her clothes were filthy and the shackle around her neck was
raising all sorts of sores, but this was still a lot better than most of his
Gals after even a few days.
She brought the sandwiches over and held the plate for
him as he reached out and downed sandwich after sandwich. He smelled the scent
of fear on her but she held on to her smile.
“Is it going to hurt much when you take my juice?” she
said, finally, in a small voice.
His poor little Gal. He had never had children and Cleo
was old enough to be his mother, but she was his little Gal all the same. He
wanted to lie to her and tell her everything would be all right. He couldn’t
do that to her.
“It’s going to hurt,” he said, and motioned for her to
sit on his lap. The chair was almost at the end of the range of her chain,
about ten feet from the doorjamb, but she could reach if she wanted. He
stroked her hair and rocked her. Back and forth, back and forth.
“Would you tell me about it, please?” she asked. “I’m
starting to have headaches.” Grendel thought she relaxed a bit as he spoke. Truth.
She believed him, and trusted him a bit.
“The headaches will get worse. The last couple of days
are hard.” Hard. He gave her a little bit of truth, but not too much. She
didn’t need to know how hard those last few days would be.
“I’ll be there for you,” he told her. “I’ll be right
beside you when you get close. When you do go over and your juice turns to
élan, I’ll catch you. I’ll be right there the minute it happens and I’ll draw
up the élan as fast as I can. I won’t let it hurt you a minute longer than it
has to. I promise.” Wandering Shade taught him. Each time Grendel did it
She nodded again, a rubbing of her cheek against the top
of his chest. He felt a little shudder, and a funny catch of breath, and
realized she cried. She had kept her tears inside for days, but she couldn’t
hold them anymore. Her arms wrapped around his chest, tight. Cleo sobbed. All
the hurt, all the loneliness, all the terrible grinding fear, all coming out on
his chest in a tiny hurricane of sobs and tears.
Such a lonely little Gal, so alone and so afraid, and
the only one she had was him. He rocked her, and stroked her, and he loved
her, more than he ever loved anyone in his life.
Cleo lay curled in the center of the living room with
her arms wrapped around her head. She shivered miserably. Occasionally when
she breathed out, she made a weird little whimpering noise, a short, high
little noise, as if the hell inside of her was escaping like through the valve
on a pressure cooker.
Grendel figured she had about a half hour to go.
Outside, the sun sent long rays through most of the room.
He moved Cleo into a dark corner, a spot as far removed from the cruel
brightness of the sunlight as her chain would reach. Her whimpering changed to
shudders and achy moans, a terrible noise to hear coming from his special one.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t do anything for her. Monsters were like babies. They
came in their own time and nothing he did would change it.
Grendel sat, with his back against the wall next to her,
and waited. Wandering Shade was off wandering, plotting and likely ranting
about how unjustly male Transforms were treated. Grendel wished his Master were
here to help. Things always worked better when his Master helped.
Today Grendel wore a human enough shape to wear clothes.
He stood tall and broad, a huge muscular man who would tower over any other
man, and his scales were almost invisible. His face was a face again.
He shifted positions restlessly. They didn’t make pants
for someone his size. He had stolen the largest he could find, and gotten them
big around besides, but the pants were still too small. The worst was the
crotch. Grendel looked down into his lap with a glow of pride and knew he was
looking at one of the better things his transformation had done for him. Normal
men had piddly little things. Not him. He was considerably better equipped
than normal men. Grendel never had to worry if he had enough.
When he fucked some woman, she knew she had been fucked.
He looked over at Cleo and realized she didn’t have more
than another five minutes or so left. Time for him to get ready. He shucked
off his clothes and threw them in a pile on the chair. He loomed over the
helpless miserable Gal, naked, huge, layered with muscle and sheer physical
Life was good.
He knelt down and gently scooped her up into his arms. Gently,
because this was Cleo. She would give him everything he wanted from her. She
struggled for a moment in panic, because of the pain, but she remained a
fragile old woman. He held her tight against his chest and waited as her
Then he sensed it. Cleo’s juice shivered once, the sign
of her change into a Monster. A long moment, and then another shiver.
At last, her juice became too much for her, and the
entire internal structure holding the juice into a pattern collapsed into the
raw chaos of the roiling élan. Cleo screamed, a noise of primal horror and
madness, as her humanity left her and she became Monster. Grendel reached into
her and pulled out the élan as she made it, every little bit he could grab. So
much, so beautiful. So necessary to his life. The pleasure and ecstasy of it
went through him, pleasure greater than any other.
Finally, the élan flow slowed and stopped. The remaining
juice settled into a new structure, simple and fragile, with a raw, tender
newness. Flawed as well, flawed by the poison of the élan he hadn’t been able
to take, like termites in the framework of an old house. But he had gotten
more élan than he ever had before. His Gal, his new Monster Cleo looked up at
him with wide eyes. Still human, those eyes. Whatever Monster she had become
still had human eyes.
He had finished the élan draw, but he wanted more from
Cleo. The élan lit him with a hard fire of passion, a passion only Cleo could
quench. He stroked her still human breast and Cleo shivered under his touch. Instead
of pulling away from him, she watched him with her wide eyes. He continued to
stroke her, and when he couldn’t hold back any longer, he rolled on top of her.
Unlike his other Gals, Cleo didn’t fight back. Breathing heavily, she spread
her legs and clenched tight. To his amazement, she was hot and wet and her
bucking and clinging matched his as he pushed himself inside her. He had
forgotten the glories of sex when a woman wanted it too.
Finally, moments later and an infinite time later, he
collapsed in the wonderful fulfilled exhaustion of high juice and spent love,
off to the side a bit so he didn’t crush Cleo. Cleo’s sweaty face smiled. A
real smile. A tired and happy smile. She turned to him, strands of dark hair
stuck to her cheeks.
“I love you,” she said, in a low, hoarse, but still
I love you. How could she possibly speak? She was a
Monster. Monsters couldn’t speak. Élan broke their minds. None of his dozens
of Monsters had ever spoken a word.
Cleo spoke. I love you. For a moment, he hoped, when
he thought he still had his Cleo despite the élan draw, that she hadn’t gone
Monster. Then he looked into her eyes and knew.
The mind behind those eyes had become the mind of a
A hand tapped him on his shoulder and he looked up with
a hiss on his lips. Wandering Shade. “Let me,” his Master said. He did his
trick on Cleo. Grendel knew this trick, as his Master used the same trick on
him, to keep him from going fully Beast. “Oh, this is so much better than
dodging the damned Focuses and their hordes of trained slaves. This is real. I’m
Grendel sensed, again. Cleo’s mind was back. Not as
good as before, but not a vacant Monster mind either. Her juice structure was
different, now. Not like a Monster. Not like a woman Transform. Something
else. Something new. “More,” Cleo said, looking back into Grendel’s eyes. “Want
“I’ll leave you two love birds for a while,” Wandering
Shade said. “You won’t need to keep her in the basement, Grendel, or even
chain her up. She’s yours now. She’ll follow you wherever you go. It’s the
Dr. Josephs tapped his pen on his notepad. “This
Professor Rizzari you mentioned isn’t listed in my Boston College directory.”
He said the last with a sneer. Dr. Joseph’s office surrounded him with chilly
austerity, the only decorations his diplomas and surgery pictures. All with
his face covered. Dr. Zielinski wondered if Josephs sneered during surgery.
“She isn’t?” Dr. Zielinski said. He bit off a choice
expletive and gave his putative boss’s comment some thought. “She’s new this
fall, and she
a Transform. A Focus. You understand the problems a Major
Transform might have.” He ran his hand through his thinning gray hair and
sighed. He was too old for this crap. Cranky, too, because his wife had him
sleeping on the couch.
“Your alibi rests on her,” sniff, “existence, Hank,” Dr.
Josephs said. His jowels wobbled as he spoke, concealing what little neck the
man possessed. The lines on his face fell into frown lines most of the time, especially
so when he dealt with Dr. Zielinski. Dr. Zielinski gave Dr. Josephs a headache.
Dr. Zielinski had scant sympathy. If the man would
occasional look beyond the next budget cycle, his boss might not have so much
trouble with him.
“I don’t like the term ‘alibi’, Steve,” Dr. Zielinski
said, lowering his head slightly and peering at Josephs through his bushy
eyebrows. “That implies a crime, which I haven’t been accused of.” Yet.
This wasn’t the first grilling Dr. Zielinski suffered
through after Hancock’s escape from the St. Louis Detention Center. Not even
the first from Dr. Josephs, the head of the Transform Research department at
Harvard Medical. Dr. Josephs held Dr. Zielinski’s old job, before he had been
bumped back to staff specialist in Transforms. The worst grilling had come
last week, an all-day session with Assistant Director Joe Patrelle of the FBI.
He and Patrelle had clashed before, and this time the FBI agent in charge of
Transform crimes (among other things) was convinced of Dr. Zielinski’s
involvement. Hancock had put Special Agent Patrick McIntyre, head of the FBI’s
Arm Task Force, in the hospital with a knife to the gut – using a knife Hancock
shouldn’t have possessed – and Patrelle was coldly furious. A merc knife,
according to McIntyre, and ‘everybody knew’ Dr. Zielinski had ‘merc contacts’.
It didn’t help Hank his ‘merc contacts’ stories were
cover for his off-and-on work with the Arm Stacy Keaton, the FBI’s number one
“No one’s accusing you of anything save angering the
wrong people,” Dr. Josephs said. “We want to help you.”
On the other hand, unlike his small-minded department
head, the FBI had no difficulty getting in contact with Focus Rizzari, or
believing his ‘alibi’ for Hancock’s escape. They believed their own agent, FBI
Special Agent Tommy Bates, who had been breathing down his neck that night when
he helped an unnamed Crow tame a Chimera menace. Unlike the Focuses, the FBI acknowledged
the existence of Crows and used them, or at least those Crows who were willing
and able to work with the FBI. Dr. Zielinski had only recently figured out this
particular well-hidden secret of the Transform-friendly parts of the FBI.
The FBI’s problem with him came from earlier, when he had
still been at the St. Louis Detention Center.
“I have a phone number for Professor Rizzari’s office, a
phone number for her department secretary and department head,” Dr. Zielinski
said, angling for time. “In addition, I have a glossy Boston College
recruitment brochure in my office with her name and picture in it.” Buried on
the second from last page, all of an inch by three quarters of an inch, right
next to a picture of their one Oriental Professor.
“Let me have it,” Dr. Josephs said, which brought on the
Chinese Fire Drill routine with the unlucky Dr. Green – who had been available,
walking down the hall – and Marion, the department secretary. All because Dr. Josephs
refused to move from his desk, and refused to let Dr. Zielinski out of his
Five minutes later, Dr. Josephs slapped the brochure
shut, defeated but not cowed. “Tokenism at its worst. Does she even teach
anything a grad student couldn’t teach?” From the lofty ivy of Harvard, Boston
College was no better than a Midwest land-grant public college.
“It’s her first year there,” Dr. Zielinski said. He once
shared Dr. Josephs’ opinion, but he had seen enough to respect the quality of Rizzari’s
“We’ll need a
statement from her
regarding your whereabouts on the night of the fifteenth,” Dr. Josephs said. The
night Hancock escaped.
“I can arrange that,” Dr. Zielinski said. If he got
lucky. Focus Rizzari played her cards close to her chest about her security. She
might even claim that a stranger could use samples of her handwriting, an
exquisite cursive worthy of being an expensive typeface, to breach her security
by doing handwriting analysis.
Besides, he still had problems using the telephone to
talk to his Network contacts. He wouldn’t be able to call Focus Rizzari to ask
for her help. The Arm Stacy Keaton had ordered him not to call others on the
phone about Transform business, to keep Hancock’s rescue secret from the
Focuses, because some unknown high-ranking Focus decided Hancock would be
better dead. He didn’t know what the Arm had done to him, but he
call in his standard reports to his Focus Network contacts. They had to be
Or was that just his arrogance talking? For all he
knew, the Network might not even have missed him yet. Or maybe they didn’t
even care. He hadn’t received a call from any of his Network contacts since he
finished up with Focus Rizzari. No contact from Stacy Keaton, either. He had expected
her to call him in to help train Hancock, but he hadn’t received any phone
calls or messages from her. Not a thing. Damn it, didn’t she realize how
useful he would be? He hoped Josephs was done.
“On to the next question,” Dr. Josephs said, and began
to leaf through his notes. “What in the hell were you doing at this
‘Stoneham’s Bar’ place?”
No, they weren’t done today.
Dr. Zielinski awoke to the sound of
nearby footsteps. For a moment, he
where he was
. He sniffed and recognized his Harvard Medical office
desk. To avoid Glory’s wrath, he
Had he heard something?
Before he fully
, someone pushed him to the floor
, and h
fell with a hard crash
. A brief moment later
people grabbed him and twisted him into a fetal position
, sliding a
thick cloth over his mouth
. He smelled antiseptic, and then
someone, a third person, lifted his shirt and bared his back to the cold air.
sharp pain of a spinal injection followed a
antiseptic cold. Dr. Zielinski tried to struggle, but the two
him kept him in place. He tried to scream, but
a muffled yelp
because of the cloth over his mouth
nothing but the rough fabric of
injection seemed to go on for days.
“A bullet to the brain would have been
better, scum, except for the attention,” a flat voice said.
A swab of antiseptic cold on his arm was followed by a
sharp hot pain as the flat voice said “Say hello to Jesus for me.”
hatever they injected him with took
, weakening him
. Dr. Zielinski got a glimpse
as they left
Both wore the
sort of standard issue dark navy suits favored by the FBI.
A tunnel of light, narrowing, narrowing.
Dr. Zielinski awoke, stared up at the underside of his
desk and watched it spin. Why would someone want to kill him?
He thought up far too many reasons.
The attack might be a continuation of the faction fight
in the FBI over the treatment of Transforms, Dr. Zielinski decided woozily. The
Director of the FBI and his faction viewed Transform Sickness and its
byproducts as a law and order problem. Agent McIntyre supposedly belonged to this
faction. He had hammered Zielinski for hours about the nurse, a random nurse,
killed outside a random hospital with no involvement with Transforms. The
killing didn’t make any sense to Dr. Zielinski, either. He couldn’t say,
“Keaton killed the nurse”, because the FBI hadn’t mentioned Keaton. McIntyre
also hammered Zielinski about Keaton’s escapades with the bugs in the Clinic,
but never asked the right questions to put Zielinski in a position to lie to
McIntire about the bugs. FBI and beat cops weren’t people you ever wanted to
baldly lie to, Zielinski knew. Their instincts were honed too keen. Luckily,
McIntyre never directly asked him “Did you reattach the bugs after Keaton
ripped them out of their hiding places?” because Zielinski had.
Special Agent Bates belonged to a small FBI faction who
viewed Transform Sickness as a humanitarian disaster. Several of them had
Transform relatives. Others had attended too many funerals of those killed by
Transform Sickness. Still others remembered the early years, when they had to
clean up when people suspected of being Transforms got themselves lynched. The
humanitarian disaster faction went out of its way to be helpful, especially to
the Focuses and their households. In fact, they were extremely protective of
Focuses, and years ago had been instrumental in the creation of the Transform Network.
Unfortunately, a third faction in the FBI viewed Transform
Sickness as a moral plague. They wanted Transforms shot on sight, or put into
permanent protective custody. They hated Focuses passionately, because the
success of Focuses in keeping Transforms alive gave a moral imprimatur of
acceptance to Transform Sickness. The stridency of this third faction often
took on absurd overtones. To them, Focuses were witches, in the medieval
Christian sense of the word. Zielinski suspected Dr. Fredericks, the FBI
doctor he had met in St. Louis, belonged to this faction.
His vision blurred and a loud roar built in his ears. He
needed to stop woolgathering and start trying to get someone here to help him,
or he would end up being a very dead doctor.
He managed to crawl several feet before he passed out
Dr. Zielinski awoke in agony, drenched
in sweat, his arms itchy. He opened his eyes, then shut them again
Painfully bright colored auras surrounded t
he objects around him. His heart raced. He checked his
through his blurry vision he guessed the time as
about two-thirty in the morning. He tried to stand and fell back
down, his extremities shaking.
He wasn’t dead yet
This was t
. After so many interviews in the past weeks, he
d developed a sort of sixth sense for FBI agents
, though he
d ever met these agents
before. The attack was especially irksome, as he
been officially cleared of suspicion in the Hancock case five days ago.
Someone in the moral plague faction didn’t believe his
story. He guessed
they finally decided to
Dr. Zielinski crawled across his
office to the door of his lab, and managed to get up on his knees enough to
open the door. The motion rocked his stomach, and he heaved, dry and useless.
Eventually, his stomach settled and he pulled himself up
one of his lab chairs. After a short search, he found the
equipment he needed and ran a short test.
He had been injected with juice
as he suspected
. From the effects, probably tainted juice
from some Monster. The juice reading was seventy-two,
reading above zero was impossible. Fundamental juice, supplemental juice, it
t matter. His body wasn’t equipped to cope.
For a normal, juice was a poison.
unless he managed to conjure up a miracle
He had a
the second injection.
had every right to think
was a death sentence. If he hadn’t been so close to death from the
tainted juice injection, he could have laughed at their second measure. That
part of their little game wasn
t going to work. All
the doctors working on Transform Sickness had
their resistance to the Listeria
bacteria. These repeated vaccinations often gave them meningitis
the vaccination wasn
t safe enough to
release to the general public, or technically a vaccination at all. On the
other hand, the
were significantly safer
than Transform Sickness.
His attackers must
trigger a transformation when they
injected him with
the Monster juice and this
Listeria variant, but
they were mistaken