|The Transformation Story Archive||The Silver Dawn|
March 22, 1997 Baltimore, Maryland
Jennifer Stafford stared at the slip of paper in her hand and made her way slowly out of the office. The other person sitting in the waiting room looked at her and then the floor, knowing now what was waiting for him inside. She looked at him and tried to say something but finally just turned to the door and left.
She felt the stares as she entered the elevator and felt the few people in it move away to give her more space. In the main lobby none of the receptionists who had greeted her every morning for years looked at her but she heard their whispers when she had passed. She was careful passing through the big revolving door and knowing she was not about to catch a cab turned to walk home. Everywhere she felt the stares and heard the whispers.
There was a tug on her sleeve. She looked down and saw a little boy, no more than six years old looking at her wide-eyed.
"Are you Splinter?"
She smiled. "No, my name is Jennifer."
There was a commotion and a woman ran up and snatched the child, pulling him quickly away. Jennifer's shoulders slumped and she walked away slowly.
"What do you mean he won't...not even visiting... I know what the judge said...but Jerry...fine. Thanks for nothing." Jennifer threw the cellular phone against a wall and collapsed onto the floor, crying. She went to rub her eyes and stared at the light brown hair that covered her arm, the sharp black clawlike nails that tipped her fingers and the odd fleshy pads on her palm. She wanted to die.
The celphone buzzed. She tried to ignore it but finally crawled over to the phone and picked it up, undamaged except some chips out of the plastic case. Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling she touched the function key. "Hello?"
"What do you want, you son of a bitch?"
"I just called to see how you're doing."
"Like fuck you did."
"Jennifer, it wasn't my fault the judge gave me full custody. I just called to see if there was anything of Tina's left."
"Your thugs to it all. Now fuck off." She threw the phone again and this time it flew into fragments. She hoped the noise shattered his eardrum. The sorrow and anger had been replaced by a numbness
She stood and walked to the desk. The locked box was in the bottom right drawer and she placed it on the desk. The tiny combination lock spun easily. She lifted out the chromed .45 automatic and ran her fingers over the artistically engraved text on the left side of of the slide.
TO MASTER SERGEANT WILLIAM STAFFORD ON HIS RETIREMENT, 3 OCTOBER 1986
He'd given it to her when she told him she was going to the academy. Even on the bed, hooked to the monitors and head bare from the chemotherapy he'd been strong. It was for the next generation of cops, he'd said.
The motions were automatic and had the precision of long practice. Remove the magazine, check the cylinder, press the slide release, pull off the barrel and slide. Each piece was placed carefully on the cloth spread on the desk in precisely the same position. She stared at the portrait of her father on the wall while she carefully cleaned the weapon and then reassembled it.
The seven silver-tipped rounds were arrayed in a neat row along one edge of the box. She pushed one into the magazine and slid the clip home. One swift pull chambered the round and cocked the hammer. The weapon was heavy in her hand and a single tear splashed off the engraving.
She looked once more at the portrait.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," she whispered.
---------------------------------------------------------- Burbank, California
"No, I am not going to make a television appearence...I don't care, Dean...I said no!" Linda Vanato slammed the phone down. For the last month her agent had been trying to get her on one of the late night shows despite her protests. She was thinking about firing him but there wasn't a chance anyone would else would sign her up.
The Emmy on the mantle glinted in the early morning light. She looked at it wistfully. It had taken her fifteen years to earn that statuette. It was all she had ever wanted since she was ten. The endless teen beauty pageants, the acting lessons, the bit parts on low rated television programs, the politics and the propositions. All for that one role. It was a quirky little show and had not been expected to last the season but it was her show. And it had earned her recognition and respect. Linda Vanato had become a player in Hollywood.
She picked up the award and held it against her breast. If she ever appeared on film again it would be as a guest monster on "Hercules". Although the special effects guys would love her. She'd save them a fortune.
"Hello, Linda." Her personal physician, Doctor Linneus, was standing in the doorway with another man at his heels.
Linneus turned to the other man. "This is Doctor Enriquez. He's the specialist I told you about."
Enriquez walked over and stood a respectful distance away. "I have to...um...examine you, Miss Vanato."
"Go ahead, Doc. It's not like I've not been poked and proded already."
She stood still as Enriquez carefully examined her auburn flanks. He jotted down notes every few moments and conversed with Linneus.
"What's her internal organ arrangement?"
"Most of the major internal organs are in the lower body. There's a secondary heart where her original used to be. Most of her upper torso is muscle."
"Miss Vanato, how much do you eat in a day?"
She blushed. "Um, about twice as much as I did before...this."
"I'd expect that with a bigger body. Have you arranged to get shoed?"
"You need shoes, ma'am." He pointed to one of her hooves. "You see the cracks starting to develope? It'll get painful if you don't get some shoes to protect your hooves."
She could see the headlines already. Already there had been rumors of stories taking advantage of what happened. All she needed was a picture of her in a ferrier's shop being fitted with horseshoes. God save her if someone found out she had been visited by a vet.
---------------------------------------------------------- Oroville, Washington
John Weston dug his claws into the frozen crust of the snow and accelerated, snapping off thick branches with his powerful arms as he plunged deeeper into the forest. The sounds of the hunting party grew more distant and finally he allowed himself to slow. They would call off the chase as the wind picked up and the first flakes of what promised to be a mean storm were beginning to fall.
He had to get to shelter soon. The lupine body he had was more suited to the weather than his old human one but if the temperature dropped too much all the fur in the world would not protect him from frostbite. He launched himself toward the isolated cabin he had selected for shelter.
The wind was driving the snow horizontally when he broke into the clearing and loped across the short stress of open ground. The windows of the log cabin revealed a slight glow and he was relieved when he saw it.
Allison looked up from her position in front of the fireplace, relief across her features. Her own bushy tail wagged unconsciously. Unlike her husband's fierce appearence her own muzzle was narrower and more delicate, her mane of white and gray fur fuller.
"You're late." Her voice was a low growl, the words distorted by the lessened flexibility of her lips.
"I ran into some more hunters." Weston laid down next to her in the warmth of the firelight and pressed up close. "They went home before it got too cold."
"They're going to find us."
"Not if I can help it."
"John, I'm tired of running. I just want us to be left alone. Why won't they leave us alone?"
"People love chasing the monsters," Weston sighed. He laid one powerful hand on Allison's thigh and felt the powerful muscles hidden beneath the fur. "As long as we know we're not the monsters it'll be all right. When the storm breaks we'll head north. I heard things aren't so bad for people like us up in Canada."
They fell asleep to the crackling of the fire and howling wind.
---------------------------------------------------------- Baltimore, Maryland
Sam Rosen stopped when he heard the dull crack. The sound of gunfire was too common in the city but he was sure it came from upstairs. He considered calling the police for a moment and then turned to the stairs. He had seen Jen Stafford come in and saw her depression. He hoped she had not done it. It was bad enough that louse of an ex-husband had taken her daughter.
The apartment was locked. He pounded on the door.
"Miss Stafford? Jennifer?" Not hearing anything he fumbled with his keyring and found the master. He smelled the slight acrid odor of a gun and gathered himself before he turned the corner to the living room.
The chrome-plated .45 was on the floor. She was in a chair shivering slightly. The television screen across the room was lying in pieces and a small wisp of smoke rose from the empty tube. Rosen carefully picked up the pistol and saw the slide was back and the chamber empty. He laid it on the couch and kneeled in front of Jennifer.
"Go away!" She broke down again. Not knowing what he should do, Rosen reached out and took one of her hands into his. The sensation provided by the soft leathery palm and the fur-covered back was unusual but he squeezed it gently.
"Do you want to talk?" -------------------------------
"I don't really know what to get you to drink," Rosen said in obvious embarassment. "I mean, what can you drink now...uh...I mean..."
"Coffee," Jennifer said tiredly. Rosen had coaxed her into the kitchen and she sat slumped in a chair, staring blankly at the polished wood.
"So, um, I guess things aren't great."
"I lost my daughter, I lost my job, I can't even kill myself right and I'm a five and a half foot tall goddamn rat. No, things are not great."
Rosen slid a coaster in front of her and set down a cup of coffee. She sipped on it and sighed, then squirmed. Rosen saw her long pink tail twist into sight and tried not to stare.
"I can never sit comfortably," she said.
Rosen took the chair opposite her. "You know, I'm not exactly qualified for this sort of thing. Maybe you should see, you know, a professional or something."
"It doesn't matter. Look at me! Would you hire me for anything? Would you trust a child with me?"
Rosen stared into his coffee. "Look, Miss Stafford, I can't understand what's happened to you so I guess I can't understand what sort of things you have to deal with but I'll tell you something. I saw on TV where other people have been changed like you and some of them a lot worse than you think you are and they're not giving up."
He stood up. "I'm just the super so maybe I don't know as much as I should but you are one of the toughest people I ever met. I never pegged you as someone who'd run away from a problem and I still don't think you are."
Jennifer saw nothing but sincerity and for the first time in a month started to feel a little better.
To those who knew the legal community of the United States the name of Dmitrios Antapholous was just slightly less known than the big guns like Kunstler, Shapiro and Abromson. While he did not share the spotlight like his more telegenetic fellows he had, over twenty years, earned a reputation as one of the most brilliant lawyers in America.
His office in Georgetown was constantly being visited, called and faxed by those desperate for his assistance but he was as famous for his selectivity as his legal brilliance. He might take the case of a rich woman accused of murdering her husband one day and the next work pro bono for a homeless man harrassed by a store owner.
Jennifer stood outside his office and pulled the hood of her coat forward as much as she could. Its size successfully his her large ears and shaded the short muzzle of her face so she could walk down the street with some chance of anonymity. The hardest part was to disguise her tail, the makeshift sling holding it up along her back painful but necessary. Steeling herself she pushed open the door and walked in.
The secretary ushered her into Antapholous's office immediately. The silver-haired attorney was at his desk, looking at her carefully.
"Miss Stafford, please sit down. And please feel free to take off the coat."
"I'd rather not."
"As you wish. I must admit I was intrigued when I recieved your message. Suing the police for wrongful dismissal due to discrimination."
"So you'll take the case?"
Jennifer sat stunned.
"Please understand, Miss Stafford, it's not that I don't want to help. I understand that your position is terrible but the fact is there are other considerations."
Jennifer stood. "Fine," she said angrily. She spun around and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind her. On the street she pulled off the hood and reached inside her coat to snap the string that held up her tail. Sam had been right. It was about time she stopped feeling sorry for herself.
------------------------------------------------------ March 23, 1997 Washington/British Columbia Border
John and Allison crouched in the brush one hundred yards from the cleared line that slashed through the forest. The World's Longest Undefended Border was normally easy to cross in the middle of nowhere but they preferred not to take chances. Already they had seen three helicopters and had heard several others, apparently patrolling.
Weston's ears twitched. Somewhere there was the dull throb of a chopper. Animals scampered through the woods but there was no other human noise.
They broke cover and sprinted across the narrow path, diving into a thick patch of fir on the Canadian side. There was no sign of pursuit.
"So now what do we do?"
"You ever been to Canada?"
"I suppose we should find a road then, because I have no idea where we are."
Collateral Damage copyright 1998 by Keith Morrison.
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