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Authors: Dean Murray

Trapped (9 page)

BOOK: Trapped
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"So
what does a high school dropout on the run from a South American
were-cat do with the rest of her life?"

Ash
didn't seem to want to look at me. It felt like a bad sign.

"You've
got a lot of options. There isn't anything we can do
immediately, but I can have fake IDs made up for you. With enough
time we can construct a full-blown alternate identity complete with a
real history behind it. It won't ever be perfect. You wouldn't
want to use it to try and get a job with the FBI or anything, but it
would serve for most things. We could find you a new place to live
and I could set you up with an income stream—probably some sort of
trust fund."

It
was the kind of thing most people would have jumped at. He hadn't
explicitly said I'd be rich, but he was still more or less
telling me that he'd make all of my problems go away. It was a
fairytale kind of solution, but it wasn't me. I'd worked
extremely hard to make it on my own. All of that had just gone out
the door, but I still wanted to be able to look back in five years
and feel like everything hadn't just been handed to me.
Besides, call me crazy, but I wasn't willing to let him just
vanish on me like that. His world scared the crap out of me, but I
was pretty sure that being with him would offset some of that.

"Wow,
that's really generous of you, but you don't owe me
anything like that. You wouldn't have been through any of this
if you hadn't saved my life. I guess if I had the ability to
choose, I'd like an option that didn't exile me completely
from you…your life. Knowing that there was so much going on
beneath the surface of things but never being in the know on what was
really happening would kill me if I tried to go back to something
like a normal life."

For
a second it seemed like I hadn't covered my slipup well enough,
but finally Ash nodded.

"So
a solution that lets you still be part of this world, but one that
doesn't put you in as much danger as you've faced the
last few days."

"Yeah.
I mean if that's possible."

"You're
sure about this?"

I
suddenly wanted to back out. Ash wasn't the kind to take a job
lightly. If he was committed to giving me a chance to survive in his
world, he was going to do everything short of killing me to get me
there. Only my desire to remain around Ash was sufficient to make me
nod.

"OK.
Get yourself some breakfast. You're going to need it."

**

Ash
hadn't been kidding. We started with flexibility and strength
training. He would have picked endurance training first, but I didn't
have proper shoes for a leisurely jog through the mountains.

Once
I was too sweaty and exhausted to continue he sat me down and started
in on the non-physical aspects of my training. I learned the moving
parts of a firearm, how to disassemble and clean one, and then we
started in on how to set up and maintain a safe house in urbanized
environments.

By
the time the sun set my body was exhausted and my mind felt like all
of the knowledge he'd been trying to pour into it was just
sloshing around rather than sticking. The only thing that had kept me
going all day had been a desire to keep his respect, and the hope
that I'd get time to really talk to him once he released me for
the day.

Instead
I shoveled food into my mouth and then nearly fell asleep before he
could help me back into the guest bedroom. I had a brief moment
before I nodded off to hope that tomorrow would be better.

The
next day was both better and worse. I was already sore and not at all
happy to hear his prediction that I'd feel even worse the next
day. Still, he didn't push me physically and when we stopped
for lunch I was actually still with it enough to start getting in
some of my questions.

"So
I've seen the living room, the armory, the weight room and the
computer room. I think I've been in pretty much every room in
your house, but I still haven't seen your bedroom. Do you have
it hidden behind a secret passageway somewhere?"

Ash
rolled his eyes at me which made me grin.

"No,
actually you're sleeping in it. The futon in the study serves
perfectly well for the couple of hours I need each night."

I
opened my mouth to apologize for kicking him out of his own bed, but
he shook his head.

"Kristin,
it's not a big deal. Really. You need more sleep than I do, so
it made the most sense to put you back there where you have half a
chance of getting a decent night's sleep. This means that once
I'm awake I can log on and get to work without disturbing you."

"We
at least need to work out a shower schedule. Even if you are a
superhero you'll still need the occasional shower."

His
smile and nod was all the agreement I needed, but I noted it only
with half my attention. I'd already started wondering how to
ask him the logical question without touching a nerve.

"So
you don't need much sleep. Is that a shape shifter thing or do
you just go in for sleep deprivation?"

"Nope,
it's a shape shifter thing. None of us need more than two or
three hours' worth of sleep per night. We also seem to be able
to function for longer blocks of time without sleep than normal
humans. Still, there are limits and operating in an impaired state is
a good way to get yourself killed."

"Which is why you stopped at a motel that first night. You needed sleep."

"Yes.
I am sorry by the way for taping you up. It was the only way I could
think of to keep you from calling the cops."

I
shrugged. "It was a bit psycho at the time, but you were right.
I was lying. I would have made a break for it the first chance I
got."

"I
know. When you can hear someone's heartbeat and smell their
body temperature rising it's pretty easy to tell when they are
lying."

That
was the opening I needed.

"So
what else should I know about you shape shifters to survive in your
crazy world?"

"That's
kind of a broad question. You already know quite a bit. Stay out of
South America. It's a beautiful place with millions of really
nice people and some amazing food, but you're much more likely
to run into a real piece of work like Anton there than you are
anywhere else."

I
shook my head at the food reference, and Ash smiled and continued
preparing lunch, which was looking decidedly Mexican.

"Physically
you're going to be outclassed at every turn. With random
muggers and the like it's pretty easy for me to give you the
tools you need to come out on top, even with your bare hands. With
the…unusual threats out there, you'll always be
outclassed to some extent or another."

The
tortillas that Ash pulled out of the freezer weren't homemade,
but I could already feel my mouth starting to water.

"With
shape shifters in some ways you've got a leg up. We're
faster and stronger than you are before we shift, but that really
gets amplified when we change forms. Since we're completely
outclassed by another shape shifter who's changed forms if we
haven't, most of us shift instinctively."

I
could feel a thread starting to develop there.

"So
if I'm fast I could take a shape shifter down before they
shift, or as they shift."

"Exactly.
It's a tricky proposition because you aren't always going
to know what you're up against and you don't want to go
around shooting people at the slightest provocation, but if you know
what you're up against and they don't, you stand a
chance."

The
rice was already in the rice cooker and Ash had moved onto cutting up
vegetables. He was fast, but I suspected it had more to do with a
closet love of cooking than with his super human abilities.

"The
other thing to remember with wolves at least is that the most
powerful ones, the hybrids, sometimes manifest other abilities, and
that can make them even more dangerous."

"What
kind of abilities?"

"Short-term
compulsion, healing so fast you can almost see the wounds disappear,
the ability to enter someone's dreams. There really isn't
any kind of rulebook there other than that the abilities tend to only
bend the laws of physics a little rather than shattering them."

"So
no laser beams from their eyes?"

"Correct,
but spontaneous combustion from twenty or thirty feet away isn't
outside of the realm of possibility."

I
suppressed a shiver. "This isn't the kind of thing
designed to give you a peaceful night's sleep."

Ash
shrugged. "If you dwell too much on the bad things that could
happen you'll go crazy either way. Shape shifters and vampires
don't fundamentally change that equation. You just do what you
can to make sure you're a lower-profile target, prepare as much
as you can, and then hope for a bit of luck."

"OK,
what about vampires? What should I know about them?"

"Shape
shifters are dangerous, but it's a bit like anyone else. There
are good ones and bad ones, and the good ones don't have any
reason to hurt you. Vampires on the other hand were designed to be
the top of the food chain. They feed on humans, so good, bad, either
way you're still at risk from them."

"So
pretty much just faster and stronger than normal humans, plus a
permanent case of the blood munchies?"

I
got a brief smile for my effort as Ash started cooking the
vegetables.

"Pretty
much, but you have to also add in the fact that they seem to develop
abilities as they age, and nobody's ever been able to really
pin down how long they live for."

"What,
like they are immortal?"

I
got another shrug.

"Personally
I doubt it. Organic organisms aren't really designed to last
forever. On the other hand, shape shifters have a life expectancy
three to four times as long as your average human. It's not
impossible that vampires could live for hundreds or even thousands of
years. There does seem to be evidence though that the abilities
vampires develop tend to become stronger with age."

"What
kind of abilities?"

"Telekinesis,
telepathy and pyrokinesis. For the most part they are of limited use,
but I do have the occasional worry that I'll run up against a
thousand-year-old vampire elder, if such a thing exists."

I
felt my stomach knot up. It really wasn't the kind of thing
that I should be dwelling on right now.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

I
hadn't been kidding when I'd called Ash's gun room
an armory. Not that I was an expert or anything, but he had weapons
back there I'd never even heard of. To be honest I hadn't
realized there were so many different kinds of guns in the world.
Even crazier was that it seemed like there were almost as many
different kinds of bullets as there were firearms.

Ash
showed me bullets that were nearly six inches long and bigger around
than my thumb. Others were so small in comparison that it was almost
hard to believe they were capable of actually killing someone.

The
guns ranged from small ones meant to be concealed in unlikely places
to long rifles that I could barely pick up. Ash picked up a couple of
the handguns and then handed me two boxes of ammunition and a couple
of cylinders.

As
we left the house I realized it was the first time that I'd
been outside since arriving.

"Where
are we going?"

"There's
a ravine a little ways over that I use as my range."

"Doesn't
shooting kind of announce the presence of your secret hideout?"

I
got a serious eye-roll from him.

"You're
holding nearly two thousand dollars' worth of sound suppressor
there. It doesn't make the sound go away, but it reduces it
substantially and also tends to make it into something people don't
recognize as gunfire. I wouldn't do sustained practice with
rifles out here, but we shouldn't have any problems when it
comes to a couple of pistols."

The
range turned out to only be ten minutes away. Ash efficiently put a
number of paper plates up on various natural-looking stands and then
ran me through gun safety one more time. Five minutes later the
silencer had been screwed onto the end of the smaller gun and I was
squeezing the trigger for the first time since I'd shot at
Anton.

It
was actually fun. I quickly got into the groove of things—firing off
ten rounds and then pausing to let Ash critique my form. Apparently I
was a natural. At least I thought I was until I managed to convince
him to take a turn. He fired ten shots off so quickly they sounded
like a machine gun and drilled a many-lobed hole in the center of one
of the paper plates.

"Wow,
you're really good!"

"I've
been doing this for years. You're already doing really well for
a beginner, and you'll get better as time goes on. Just
remember that if you're actually in a position where you need
to shoot someone you'll want to get the shots off quickly, but
don't rush them so much that you miss altogether."

I
nodded, and apparently had passed some test because Ash screwed the
silencer onto the second gun.

"This
is a nine millimeter. It's a little bigger and heavier of a
bullet so you'll notice it has a bit more recoil, but it's
nothing to be scared of. There's lots of debate out there
around how big of a bullet you need to stop a person. Ultimately if
you're packing with the intent of stopping someone like Anton
you're going to want to carry something at least this heavy."

He
was right, it did kick more than the other gun, but it was still
doable and this time I focused on getting the shots off more quickly,
squeezing the trigger each time the sights lined back up with the
plate but not taking the time to try and hit the exact center.

I
still wasn't anywhere near Ash's league, but I could tell
I was getting better, and for the first time since Anton had pulled
me out of the TacoHut I actually felt like I had a chance of
protecting myself.

BOOK: Trapped
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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