“Again. If you had done your job, then you wouldn’t be stressed out like this.”
Abdul was getting tired of watching Jamoy pace around the basement. While he was being honest, he was also very tired of hiding in the damp and decrepit hole as well. Unlike the Felids that were being picked off at random, he and Jamoy were actually being targeted. He wasn’t entirely surprised, but, again, he was tired. Not to mention, hiding out was boring.
“How many times has our Job description changed since we arrived here? First, we had to find the ‘threat’,” Jamoy put the word in air quotes as he complained, “Whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean, then it turned into killing the hunters. Now it’s killing Marissa and her plaything. Why exactly were we really sent here?”
Abdul merely shrugged his shoulders from his seat, uninterested as he fiddled with a piece of lint he pulled from his shirt.
“Look, eventually, they’re going to send someone else out here to finish this, and us, if we don’t get it over with. We can’t leave until it’s done. So, just off her and let’s get out of here,” Abdul suggested which caused Jamoy to immediately stop in his tracks.
He stared at him from across the room, suddenly feeling a surge of wariness.
“You know, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” he said. Abdul didn’t look at him or respond to his words. “You disappeared for a while after she moved home. Where’d you go?”
“I went back to the clan. Does it matter?” He still didn’t meet Jamoy’s eyes.
“You weren’t the same when you came back.” He looked over to where Salima was fast asleep. “Then you both show up together. Why is your sister even here?”
Again, Abdul shrugged. “She came here because she wanted to be with you, her mate. As for being the same, I don’t know what you’re talking–”
“You were there when the mansion was attacked. Why didn’t you do anything?”
Abdul paused and placed the string down. “I was watching. Isn’t that obvious? Did you want me to save her?”
“You tried to kill that one hunter and then you killed one of her bodyguards.”
He met Jamoy’s gaze, at last, eyes narrowed. “What exactly are getting at?” He noticed that Jamoy said “tried” as well. Does that mean the man lived? Shit. I made a mistake.
“If it was as simple as killing her, you could have easily let her die twice already. Why are you interfering?”
Abdul tilted his head, feigning confusion. He then lifted his hand and waved off Jamoy’s suspicion. “I’m not interfering. It’s our job, not theirs. Also, at the time, I thought Marissa was normal.” He said, convinced of his own lie.
Jamoy didn’t buy it though. He walked over to where Abdul sat. He pissed, but Abdul was unfazed.
“What exactly are you up to?”
“Instead of focusing on me. What about you? Aren’t you interfering as well?” He stood up to meet Jamoy’s stance, though he was a few inches shorter than him. “You fell in love with her and now you can’t do what you’re supposed to, yet you’re acting as though I’m the problem here.”
Jamoy growled in response, but he couldn’t find the words to combat what was said. It was true. He also had opportunities to kill her, but rather than do so he just watched her from afar like the stalker he was turning into.
“Let’s not also forget that you’re here on a condition. It won’t look good for you to betray your clan twice,” Jamoy flinched then and Abdul smiled. “What? Did you forget you were exiled for murdering Queen Sophia?”
Sehjada was still trying to put together what happened inside the prison. While she did find Kaleb attractive, she knew she would never throw herself at him. She certainly wouldn’t normally consider releasing him. From what she knew of Felids, compulsion was not one of their abilities. Or was it?
She was sitting in the library of the Town Council headquarters–an elegant room paneled in oak with carvings of appropriate emblems and allegorical figures–browsing through books from both the public and classified sections. So far, she was drawing a blank. There was nothing on shifters being able to manipulate people the way Kaleb did.
Frustrated, she closed the hardcover books and placed them back in their rightful place, then took a walk through the building.
The architect of the Council Building drew upon the classical Roman temple form. Reached by a great flight of broad steps, the portico of tall Corinthian columns gave the building a monumental entrance and lower wings flanked the central temple. The design of the building achieved a balance between classical grandeur and quiet dignity, appropriate for the town’s most significant monument. The building was a steel frame structure faced with white marble. The facade was about 300 feet wide with a central temple-like pavilion fronted by a monumental portico of 16 Corinthian columns supporting an elaborate entablature. The commanding central section was flanked by lower wings in the Ionic order. The chamber floors are laid with black and white marble tiles, and lanterns in the fireproof cast-steel ceiling admit natural light into the halls.
The building housed dozens of rooms and compartments, though it’s intricate design held many secrets. On a normal day, it was bustling inside with tours for visitors and employees at work. The past months it was even more hectic, but the public was shut out and only hunters remained inside. Currently, they were working on getting the town back to normalcy.
After announcing Kaleb’s public execution, they also resumed most forms of communication. The joy of being a small town was that it was easy to sweep major issues under the rug. Add the element of fear and uncertainty, and the people kept quiet. Buildings and sidewalks were being pressure washed and repaired. Destroyed vehicles were towed away. Bodies were removed and cremated. But that didn’t mean that the battle was over. It was just to bide time while other plans were put into motion.
She recalled her parents speaking to her eight-year-old self. They’d told her of these shifters and how they spelled doom for humans. How the battle between the two was centuries old, but hidden through history to keep the public from panic. In fact, the stories had become nothing more than fairy tales.
Despite having many clans, their populations were thin, which is why they hid. Even with their strength and absurd recovery, Felids were nothing more than humans that became large animals at will. Along with their pride and discrimination against their own kind, it was impossible for them to grow to problematic numbers. Regardless, they were still threats.
Every now and again Hunters across the world would be dispatched to handle Felid clans. The fights would appear in the news as the military handling rogue terrorists groups and colonies. She’d lost her parents to one of those battles and hated Felids since.
The issue at hand was what happens next? Fearing retaliation after exterminating the group here, the Council began to move. Talks of beginning the war had begun. They reached out to Hunter Councils near and far, singing the same song that it was best to exterminate them now while they thought they were safe. Complete annihilation was their goal.
She didn’t understand it though. Why were they moving so fast? While she hated the monsters themselves for taking her family, she was content with the current structure. Live normally while killing the ones that came out of hiding. It was simple. This? This would just cause a lot of unnecessary deaths.
She found herself staring at what looked like a dead end, then pushed her way through what was actually large double doors. As they slammed shut behind her, she traveled down several flights of stairs, passing the entrance to the prison and going even further below to the lab.
“You seem disappointed.”
Eesac tapped his pen on his desk, agitated, while his “wife” spoke to him. This was precisely why he told the damn boy not to leave. The stubborn fool still decided to go and now he was about to join the many other Felids in death.
Had he stayed like he told him to, he wouldn’t have been chained uncomfortably in a cell and beaten for fun.
But that wasn’t what irritated Eesac. He was pissed because he had to follow protocol in the lab and it made experimenting difficult. He had more freedom to tinker with the boy in his home.
“I’m annoyed, not disappointed. I would have made a breakthrough by now if I could work on my terms,” He explained while chewing on the bottom of the pen.
His wife, Esmerelda, tilted her head; deadpan grey eyes showing no emotion. “Do you want me to take him?”
Eesac shook his head. If it were so simple really he would have had her done it when Kaleb left. After he was captured, he told her to cease. It would only draw more problems if they caught her as well.
“We’ll just wait it out. I have a feeling that things will work out soon enough.”
He glanced over at her, noticing she grabbed a scalpel from the table and she became defensive. Shortly after, Sehjada appeared from around one of the shelves in the laboratory.
He waved his wands, telling the dark, raven-haired woman to relax as he swiveled in his chair to face the markswoman.
“What brings you all the way down here?”
“I figured if I wanted to answers I should speak with the madman in the building.” She answered honestly.
This section of the lab was empty for a reason. While there were several other scientists inside, most of them gave Eesac Mikhailov a wide berth. He was the brainchild of their most effective weapons against the shifters, but he wasn’t…right. Esmerelda, his emotionally dead but lethal wife, was also suspicious. The dark skin woman had pin straight hair with a swooping bang that always covered her right eye.
Rumor had it, he dabbled in forbidden science. They weren’t sure if he was entirely human either. His creepy ways aside, he was the resident historian as well, being versed in all things supernatural.
He gave her his patented eerie smile and then pointed to the chair near him. “What would you like to know?”
She took the seat, never taking her eyes away from Esmerelda who was on guard for whatever reason.
“Compulsion. Have you ever heard of Felids being able to do that?”
He placed his hand under his jaw as he pondered her question for a moment.
“Never. That isn’t a shifter skill. Rapid regeneration, shape-shifting, and abnormal strength as the key qualities of a shifter. Felids, Canids and Ursids follow the same structure.”
She blinked then.
“I’m sorry who?”
“Canids, Ursids, what are those?”
He laughed then, which annoyed her thoroughly.
“You thought that there were only cats? Canids, Dogs. Ursids, Bears, to put it simply. Those are the three groups.”
She was baffled. She was certain that it was only the felines that existed. But then, when she thought about, the books never specifically said it was only them. They were generalized as just “shifters.”
He shook his head. “No birds. No fish. No Amphibians. No Reptiles. No insects.”
Even with this new information, she felt unsettled. What the hell was up with Kaleb then.
“I was…controlled, I guess you can say, by one of the felids we’re holding captive.”
“Kaleb you mean,” he said.
She must have worn her surprise on her face as he laughed again.
“Kaleb is indeed not like the others. But you should have noticed that when you failed to kill him. Even if you missed on purpose,” she flinched then, “that shot should have killed him. Especially considering that it was made with our reginam veneno.”
Reginam veneno was what they were calling the poison their weapons were laced with. It affected humans as well, but mildly and there was an antidote in the event of a mishap–if used quickly. It was lethal period for shifters, and because it slowed their ability to heal swiftly, it also made it easier for them to die by normal means like bleeding to death.
“So why didn’t it? What’s different about him?” She asked.
“Because he’s a half-breed silly. He’s only part Felid.”
That didn’t make any damn sense to her.
“What kind of bullshit is that?” She yelled. “Humans are also affected by the poison and humans can’t work compulsion either so–”
“But who ever said he was human?”