Okay Shepard and anyone else. I am sure I will be posting more weird questions as i write this book through the month. So Basic info:
The large cat ran through the young forest, her body stretching long and lean as she let her muscles work. She leapt over the volcanic rocks with ease and twisted through the small trees as if they were hardly even there. Every breath was a new burst of energy, of passion, as she drunk in the twilight.
The sounds of the coming night were a comforting song and helped to relax her even more, every flutter of wing and cricket chirp was a reminder that the world was always a growing and thriving place. Her tawny coat seemed to gleam from an inner glow as her ears twitched to absorb the hoot of the owl and the slide of the leaves through the air.
The sensitive pads of her feet hit the mossy forest floor with a silent shock through her golden legs. The cougar stopped quietly and let the air move around her. She knew a herd of Elk was close and would be about to bed down for the night. She had been tracking them for hours by their scent and knew the herd was a large one.
Suddenly the sensitive dark ears heard the sound she had been searching for. A quiet crack and rustle as the herd shifted to rest. Slowly the cougar dropped her head and let the camouflaged pack draped around her neck drop to the ground. Then the lean muscled body shifted and turned, four legs turned to a pair of shapely pale legs and two well toned arms and where the cougar had stood a woman remained.
Samantha Jackson took a deep breath to steady her nerves. The calm of the run seemed to have fled along with the tawny body. She had been changing shapes for over fifteen years of her twenty-eight year life and still it left her feeling awkward at times and unsure of herself even with the added strength and heightened senses. Not for the first time she wished someone had been around to guide her through all of this stuff but fate had dealt her a different hand.
She reached into the pack and pulled her hunting clothes from their specially seal bag, grateful she was so careful to scent lock all of her gear before she made a trek into the eastern Cascades outside of Yakima, Washington.
Sam felt her confidence return and grow as she pulled on the familiar clothes and tied her soft handmade elk-skin boots to her feet. She chose everything she used to hunt with extreme care and attention to detail and her clothes were just the start. The boots were soft as butter and let her move just as silently in human form as she had as the cougar. The soft light pants and long sleeved shirt were worn from years of use and hand-me-down age but the camouflaged pattern was perfect for the fall changes surrounding her and helped make the job of tracking the herd easier for her in human form.
Next she pulled her rifle pieces from the pack. The .308 gleamed in the dimming sunlight. Every inch of the dark collapsible stock looked like it had been lovingly caressed. The black steel bull barrel was a gorgeous 18 inches and she quickly assembled the gun to avoid losing her shot.
She removed the scope caps and remembered that she really needed to find a way to pay Jason back for it. Any scopes were hard to find these days. Add that he had managed to find one of such good quality and hardly even used and it made the gift all the more precious. Sam vowed to herself to bring down her elk just to have some meat to share with her cranky partner in crime solving.
She quietly slid her already loaded magazine in place and placed a round in the chamber, careful to muffle the sound as best she could. On nimble feet Samantha crept forward and let her senses take over. She reveled in the feeling of freedom she felt as she stalked her prey.
She had spent countless weeks in the mountains and the forest with her best friend Will through the hard years of their childhood. Every time she felt suffocated by the curious or disapproving looks of the other children at the orphanage or her skin felt prickly and tight from a buildup of magic they would camp out for a while and let their feet take them all over. They had discovered long forgotten lakes and cabins. They had stomped over volcanic crags and ashen waste out of sheer curiosity. Neither had been old enough to see the eruptions of Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens in 2015 that had put all past North American eruptions to shame but the evidence was there to be examined and looked over. Of course both were smart enough to keep their distance. The mountains still made their presence known by sending up smoke and fire occasionally.
As the memories crossed her mind she felt the ground tremble and cursed her luck. A sudden flurry of activity in front of her made her stifle a curse and leap for a nearby rock. Sam shook her head as she realized she had let daydreaming overtake her common sense and she had stumbled almost over the herd.
In front of her a dozen large auburn elk moved and shifted restlessly. The light was almost gone now and they were ready for sleep but the rumble of the earth had made their adrenaline rush and tightened their sense of fear. Sam knew the meat would be a bit gamey now because of the added rush of hormones but knew she and Jason would benefit from the meat and winter was not long off now.
She knelt on her chosen perch and waited with baited breath. Patience was something she knew well. She let the moments fly by even though the light was becoming even less with each breath. One of the perks of being able to shift shapes was a lot of added body strength and her senses were amazingly heightened, so much so that she had learned to ignore them when in the company of other normal people.
Finally the sun fully set and the herd quieted enough that she felt confident in taking her shot. She was close enough that she didn’t even bother with the scope but instead looked through the gun’s original sights beneath the raised scope mount. She found the large bull and quickly guessed him to be easily 800 pounds. He was massive and so beautiful, his hide thick with fall growth. She could already taste the meat. Sam sent a silent thanks to the elk as her way of paying tribute to the life she was taking and then with a light squeeze she pulled the trigger.
The bull dropped before the retort of her gun had even finished its echo. The cows jumped to their feet and scattered in confusion and fear. Even without being in her cougar form Sam could smell their terror and hated that they had been caused such grief. Luckily there were many grand bulls looking for mates for the fall rut and she took comfort in knowing they would not be without a male for long.
Sam broke her gun down and used her keen eyesight to quickly gather two thick long branches and pulled her knife from the pack on her back. She shaved off all the knobs and smaller branches until she had two long thick poles. Then she bound them together at their strongest ends with a thick braided twine she had made last winter. Once that was done she found two more heavy branches and repeated the cleaning and binding until she was left with a large A-shaped frame with double cross pieces.
Pulling a thick treated hide from her pack Sam secured it over the frame so that she was left with a sturdy travois to pull her elk home on. Then she bent to the task of field dressing her bull. The dark was no deterrent due to her keen eyesight and she let her mind wander to the case she and Jason had just solved as her body fell into the very familiar rhythm of skinning and cutting.
The National Investigative Service director, Levi Walsh, had sent them to upper Manitoba where a United North America Army training base was being plagued by a killer. Someone was taking young trainees on night runs and brutally killing them. The weird part had been that all of their blood was missing and these men and women were extremely strong and very well trained. They should have been able to deal with any attacker easily.
Sam and Jason had become used to weird crap. Jason had been with NIS since its birth eighteen years ago and Samantha had been recruited five years ago for her photographic memory and quick mind. Her strength and ability to outshoot most men was a huge bonus.
This case was weirder than any that they had seen. The lack of blood coupled with the extreme brutality of the bodies was a conundrum neither had been quick to understand. It had taken Sam secretly going off in the form of a moose to discover that they were dealing with a 500 year old vampire.
Paranormal stuff was slowly coming out as the years had passed after the End Times and more and more humanity was learning that all the scary things they had written and dreamed of had a basis in fact. This vampire was desperate. She, which explained the predominantly male victims, was nearing the end of her life and was desperate to avoid death and the fiery damnation she thought awaited so she figured bumping off a bunch of prime Army guys might be just the ticket. Their blood had to be the strongest right?
Once Sam had found the what and who it had taken some ghostly help and some maneuvering to get Jason on the same track and then it was hunting time. NIS rules were clear; under the new laws the community leader decided the fate of the offender and death was deemed the sentence in this case. So Sam and Jason had to figure out how to kill a vampire. Neither had ever seen one let alone tried to kill one so it was an interesting couple days of trial and error.
Garlic was useless. Crosses were laughable. Even tracking the chick was difficult and Samantha was an expert their but the thing could fly. Finally they had found it in a cave off of the major river about five miles from the base and Sam had the impulsive idea to set it on fire. They made some torches and cornered the vamp and in a bang and a puff the thing and turned to dust. Sam still wasn’t sure if it was the wood or the fire hitting the vamp that had done the trick but she was far to happy with the outcome to complain.
Being an NIS agent was so different that being a cop used to be. Not only did they solve crime but if the community they were tasked with helping needed aid in the sentencing aspect they did that as well. Courts with jury’s were a thing of the past. Now the community leaders made the choices of guilt and innocence. They pretty much had too. It was either they make the choices or no choices were made. There just wasn’t a big enough population anywhere to support large scale law anymore.
Sam was jerked away from her thoughts about the case and the way life was before her birth by a familiar voice at her shoulder. “Are you done yet?”
“For hell’s sake, Will. What are you doing here?”
William Mark appeared beside her and swept his honey colored hair out of his eyes. You would think he would have figured out how to change his look but being dead hadn’t made cutting his hair easy. He was permanently stuck at eighteen. His thick hair had been in his eyes the day he had smacked into the tree on an impulsive skiing trip and so it remained.
“I’ve been here a while. I like watching you work.”
Sam laughed, “You’re just lucky you can’t be of any physical help.”
He managed to look a bit embarrassed as he sat down on a nearby rock. “I wish I could help. I kind of miss this part of things.”
Sam looked at the elk laid out beside her and the neat packages she had made of meet and other useful bits. “Oh please. You always hated the blood.”
“Well yeah but the stalking was pretty cool.”
She stifled an eye roll. “Okay then, glad we are being honest. Ready to tell me why you’re really here?”
“I was worried about you.”
“Worried?” She knew the surprise was evident on her face, even in the moonlight.
“This last case was a bit out there. I mean vampires existing? Who knew?”
She felt a bit wistful, “I bet my family knew, I bet they knew all about this magical paranormal junk.”
“Samantha we don’t know anything about them except that they didn’t survive the asteroid hit and the volcanic explosions that followed. Hell, you were lucky to be found.”
“I know Will.” Sam looked down at the bundles and made sure she had removed everything she could from the elk that they could use before she left it for the other meat eaters. “I just know I could do my job better if I knew more about this stuff but I have no idea who to ask. It’s not like being paranormal is accepted and liked. People all over are hiding their truth because of the fear and the law allows for execution if the community leaders deem someone a threat. I hide my own truth from pretty much everyone. I get it. I just hate not understanding this stuff.”
He reached out a sympathetic hand and for a brief moment she imagined she could feel the touch on her cheek. “Sam I know not having the answers drives you nuts but you are good at your job and at finding answers. You will figure all of this stuff out.”
“I hope so. I don’t need any more cases like that last one to screw with my head.”
“Well I guess we can hope this next one is a bit more normal?” Will asked, hopefully.
“Normal and NIS cases are a bit of an oxymoron Will. I figure the most I can hope for is less paranormal.”