Author Topic: Chapter 3  (Read 9567 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 3
« on: August 25, 2022, 04:41:13 AM »
Chapter 3

"Ok, you have to stop letting crazy things happen to you," Sanders said exasperatedly, and Gil let out a grunt of agreement. He was down in an alley, out of sight of the office building.

"Tell me about it. I'm still not sure what to do about all this."

"Do? You go back to your life in Lisbon; that's what you do, Gil! You dodged a proverbial bullet here. Just go back and pretend none of this ever happened. Whatever reason these people had for kidnapping you, they're probably just as capable of lying to you. Especially about this 'Black Claw' group that might be after you."

"I'm not sure they're lying, Sanders. That guy who attacked me in Lisbon wasn't... normal."

"You mean aside from the whole 'trying to bite people' thing?"

He paused, and shook his head. How could he explain this to her? "Look, I've had some time to think about it, and I'm pretty sure he was after me, personally. When Martim and I got there, there wasn't anyone next to either of the victims. That's pretty rare, because usually people cluster all around the victims either to get a look or to help. Neither of those two was in any condition to make the call, which means it was our attacker who made it! He wanted us there, and after he killed Martim, he went for me. Whether he's with this group or not, the people who brought me here know who he was. I need them."

Sanders let out a sigh over the phone. "I hope you're wrong about this, Gil, but I get it. I'm curious, too. Just keep me in the loop, ok?"

"I promise," he said, trying not to think about how he'd been unable to keep his promise, the last time he'd said he would keep her updated.

After hanging up, Gil sat down in the alley and opened up the backpack. It contained not just the items on him when they'd grabbed him, but also various things from his place in Lisbon. One item in particular was there: a gift Sanders had sent him years ago. It was something he kept with him always, for reasons he couldn't even explain to himself. It wasn't labeled, so most people wouldn't be able to identify it from sight. He was just lucky his captors, whoever they were, had packed it in with all the rest.

On the way back to the office building, Gil rehearsed what he was going to say. It had been barely an hour now, but he didn't care if he looked desperate. These people were most likely spies, with global or at least national concerns on their minds. He probably wasn't safe with them, but if more... animal things attacked him, he was much safer than he would be going home.

He opened the service door in the back of the building, and came to an immediate stop. Tyler was there, waiting for him. He must have seen Gil walking down the street. He stepped to the side and gestured into the building. "Welcome back."

Trying to hide his irritation, Gil stepped inside. He went no further, though. "There's something you need to do first, or I walk right back out that door." He reached into the pack and pulled out the item he'd kept with him all these years. "It'll be a bit awkward, but it's my one condition for staying and hearing you out."

Tyler nodded. "Let me guess. That's a rapid DNA test kit, and you want me to submit a sample so you can see if you and I are related."

Gil gaped at him, before remembering to close his mouth. "How... how did you know?"

"Because I had similar suspicions, the moment I laid eyes on you. I performed my own DNA test with your blood sample while you were out. The results came back while you were on your little walkabout. We’re definitely related. Most likely, you're my nephew."

Still goggling, Gil was only faintly aware of Tyler removing one of the swabs from the kit's supply. He swiped it on the inside of his cheek, sealed it up in a plastic baggie, and put it back in Gil's hands. "Better get that started. Even the fastest DNA tests take a few hours."

Again feeling like he was an automatic mode or something, Gil sampled his own cheek and then started the comparison. "I'm your nephew?"

"I'm about ninety percent sure of that. My test said we share about a quarter of our DNA, and you look very much like your mother- my sister Maria. Still, it would help if you could tell me about the circumstances of your adoption by the Hartkins family."

Gil blinked a few times. "You don't already know? I thought you were a super spy or something."

Tyler chuckled. "Meera wanted to run a deep background check on you, but I told her I'd handle it myself. I'd rather hear the details from you personally, if you don't mind. After all, this is a family reunion of sorts."

Could it be true? After years of searching and coming up empty, even with Sanders' considerable help, had he just stumbled onto a family member? Or maybe it hadn’t been by accident. He’d been tracking that woman, and apparently so had these people. Tyler certainly seemed to think it was the case, but Gil was still suspicious. He had to focus, though. "Uh, I was a foundling. I was maybe two days old, found in the back of a transit city bus, in downtown Des Moines. There was an investigation and everything. A woman carrying me, my mother I presume, was spotted on the bus internal camera. She took a ride for a few blocks, during which she went all the way to the back of the bus, deposited me, and left. The cameras never got a good look at her face, and the bus driver couldn't give a good description either. She just... left me."

His despair must have translated into his voice, because Tyler reached out with a firm grip on his shoulder. "She didn't want to, I'm sure. Maria had to give you up, and she had to do it in secret, or your life would have been in danger."

"Where is she?" Gil asked suddenly. "I want to see her."

Tyler shook his head. "I'm sorry, Gil. Maria was killed, shortly before you were found and put into the foster care system. Your father is dead too, murdered by the same people. Your parents were able to keep you alive though, and I'm so grateful for that."

Gil had hit so many dead ends on his search, and a few of them had been grifters looking for money, or creepy people trying to pass themselves off as his relatives. He instinctively guarded himself against the possibility, but it was still a possibility.

There was a lot more he needed to know first, though.

-.-

“They call themselves wesen,” Tyler said conversationally as they entered the elevator and started going down. “We just call them shifters, which is short for shapeshifters. It’s possible you saw it happen for yourself, in Lisbon.”

Not trusting himself to answer that truthfully, Gil tried to change the course of this conversation. “So there’s more than one?”

“Millions, we estimate, in every country in the world. There’s really know way to know for sure, but one of our goals is to identify every shifter in America. Then, we’ll do what others have done and start working outwards.”

Millions of them? Gil thought, his heart beating a little faster. He’d had a hard enough time even conceiving of one! Faintly, he tried to continue. “So, there are werewolves basically everywhere? But they have to be able to change at will and not just at the full moon, or the word would have gotten out by now, right?” He tried to think back to the waterfront crime scene. It hadn’t been the full moon then either, he thought.

Tyler laughed loudly, leaning down as he did. The elevator stopped its descent into whatever basement area they were going to, and he held the door open as he recovered. “Heh, so you did see it change, then. Wow, you must be thinking you’re all kinds of crazy right now, huh?”

Mutely, Gil nodded, and Tyler put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll help you through this. Most people who’ve seen what you have, don’t have a support system to help them. You do.” He flipped the light switch next to the elevator, and rows of lights flooded across the emptied basement level.

It was clearly a training area. There were sparring weapons on a series of racks to the left, and ranged weapons on the right. At first they looked quite modern, but as Tyler escorted him further down the range, they seemed to get much older. Pistols and rifles were replaced with shotguns, and then an… elephant gun for some reason. After that, it was crossbows of varying sizes and shapes. “As you can see, we’ve got a wide array of weapons to deal with them. But no, they’re not quite what you think.” He turned left after the racks, over to a side room. Inside was a computer on a desk, which he turned on.

“Our ancestors kept meticulous written records of these shifters, but a lot of them were destroyed over the years. Since my father passed this operation on to me, I’ve adopted more modern ways of keeping track of them. We copied every scrap of paper information onto hard drives, and uploaded them to multiple secured servers around the world. After all, this information is priceless. Only an idiot would keep it all in some trailer somewhere, for anyone to find and destroy.”

“If you say so,” Gil said softly, still looking over his shoulder out at the weapons. Could a crossbow really stop one of these… shifter things?

“Ah, here we are,” Tyler went on as the computer booted up. He tapped a few keys and then a series of images sprang up on the screen. “They’re not werewolves, exactly. The werewolf myth was based on them, but they can change whenever they want, as you surmised. The truth is, shifters come in all shapes and sizes. They’re based on hundreds of different animal species. The one you saw in Lisbon was based on a wolf of course. We’ve faced off against boars, hounds, snakes, cats of all different sizes, insects, birds, fish, lizards, and others. There are less aggressive species out there, based on mice, beavers, oxen and the like. And strangest of all, there are some that don’t seem to have any animal equivalent in nature. Things like goblins, witches, ghosts, gods and the like. Those are the most dangerous, we’ve found. In fact, the organization I mentioned earlier, Black Claw, is led by a witch-like shifter, Bonaparte.”

Gil felt like his eyes were popping out of his head. As Tyler had described the various shifters, he’d scrolled through images of them. All of them seemed to have been hand-drawn, most likely by those ancestors he’d mentioned. “How, uh… how is this not public knowledge by now? I mean if there are millions of them worldwide, and your ancestors drew all of these pictures, how could they have kept the secret? I mean this is the biggest story in history!”

Our ancestors, Gil,” Tyler clarified, smiling again. “As you saw with the man Rubel killed in Lisbon, they turn back into their disguise when they die. Most of the time anyway. Tell me, do you recognize any of these drawings here? Do any of them match the thing that you saw?”

Slowly, Gil nodded. With Tyler’s assent, he scrolled down the list, and stopped. “That one. That’s what I saw.”

Tyler nodded. “That particular breed is nastier than most. They call themselves blutbaden, but we just call them wolves. They’re the origin of the Big Bad Wolf children’s story. They have very good senses of smell, and can scent people at great distances, especially other wolves. We haven’t seen very many of them in big cities, at least until Black Claw started recruiting them.”

Trying to get his bearings, mentally at least, Gil turned to him. “Ok, who are these Black Claw people? What do they want? You talk about them like they’re some kind of terrorist group, arranging assassinations and the like.”

“Oh, they are,” Tyler said, his expression sobering a little. “Basically, they’re shifter supremacists. Their goal is to change the whole world, so that they can stop pretending to be humans, and come out of the shadows. They’ve been systematically targeting any government agencies they think could stop them, by either infiltrating the agencies or destroying them. They’ve also been going after us, and everything we stand for, for nearly two years now. They weren’t the first group to try, either.”

“Us? As in you and Meera?”

Tyler shook his head. “Right. Sorry, I’m not used to explaining this. Usually Meera handles intake and briefing newcomers, but I got a bit excited when I saw those DNA test results. You’re different than the others.” Before Gil could even think how to respond, Tyler squared his shoulders. “By ‘us’, I mean Grimms. That’s Grimm with two ‘m’s, mind you. Basically, there’s a genetic trait in some humans that alters our physiology in some very, very important ways. No one knows who the first Grimm was, but he passed that trait on to all of us. The most important thing he could do, and I can do, and Meera, and a few others we’ve met, is that we can see shifters for what they really are. I mean, we’re stronger and faster and have better senses than most other humans too, but the sight thing is by far the most valuable trait.”

As usual, Gil was trying to catch up. “What do you mean, ‘see them for what they really are’? As in, you could see that wolf-man-thing as a wolf even after he died?”

“Not really. Here, let me demonstrate.” He turned towards the door and raised his voice. “Blip, are you down here somewhere?”

There was a scrambling noise off to the left somewhere, and then the sound of someone running over. A moment later, a young man with tawny hair and a wide grin came up the hall. He must have been well beyond the weapon racks, on the far end of the building. “Yes, sir. I’m here,” he said breathlessly. His eyes traced over Gil briefly. “You must be Mr. Hartkins. It’s a pleasure to finally see you up and about. Sorry about the whole kidnapping thing.” He extended a hand.

Cautiously, Gil shook it. “Call me Gil. And don’t worry about it. From what Tyler’s been telling me, I might have been killed if you hadn’t done it.”

Looking vaguely uncomfortable, Tyler spoke up. “Blip here is a shifter. With your permission, I’ll show you what I mean.”

Blip’s smile vanished quickly. “Oh. That’s why you brought him here. I thought he was just one of Black Claw’s targets.”

Tyler nodded and looked over at Gil. “The person you’re seeing right now is just a human form. If he gets riled, or scared or angry, those hormonal changes in the brain will cause him to shift slightly. Not enough for the average human to see, but certainly enough for Grimms. Right now, you’re looking at Stage One. Blip, if you could go into Stage Two for a moment?”

The young man seemed to crane his neck for a moment, and then just kept looking ahead. There was no visible change, not that Gil had known what to expect. For his part, Tyler was looking uncomfortable again, before he turned to his right. His expression immediately shifted to disappointment. “I was afraid of that.”

Gil paused, looking between them. Even Blip seemed dejected. “Afraid of what, exactly?” Gil asked quietly.

Tyler didn’t answer. “Blip, Stage Three please.” For some reason, he followed that request with a slight move behind Gil.

Blip craned his neck again, but this time, black fur sprouted from virtually every surface on his face! “Holy shit!” Gil exclaimed, backing away in shock. He bumped right into Tyler, who held onto him tightly.

“It’s all right, Gil. He’s no threat to you. It’s still Blip, just with a changed appearance. This is what he truly looks like, deep down.” There was a black, glistening nose on his face now, complete with whiskers coming out of eyebrows, and where a mustache would be. It was so freaky!

“He’s right,” Blip said, though his voice had changed, too. It was deeper, and modulated slightly. “It’s still me.”

Now that the shock had faded a little, Gil stepped forward again to get a better look. He barely got a chance though, before Tyler said, “that’s enough.” Again on cue, the black fur vanished back into Blip’s face, as if it had never even been there.

Despite the amazement of all of this, part of Gil realized that Tyler found this whole thing distasteful to watch. As if he’d seen a slug appear on the sidewalk, or some roaches come out of a dumpster. In fact, he’d been acting that way ever since he’d first called for Blip.

Gil couldn’t relate at all. This was fascinating! Whatever genetic markers allowed for this transformation clearly weren’t harming Blip at all. He looked perfectly healthy, and didn’t even seem to be in pain from his changes. Back there in Lisbon, Gil had partially convinced himself that what he’d seen had been some kind of nightmare or dream. Here, in the sturdy light and staring him right in the face, he simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. “Are you ok? Did that… change thing hurt at all?”

Blip’s face split into a relieved smile. “Uh, no. Not really. I don’t do it that often of course, but it did at first, when I was little.” His voice was back to normal, though it was clear he was relieved that Gil wasn’t still scared.

Actually, he was a little, but the implications of this far outweighed his fear. These shifters were real. This wasn’t some kind of elaborate practical joke on him, or some kind of fever dream. Shifters existed, and that meant that he was different too. “So, I’m a Grimm, then?”

Blip looked down, and Tyler shook his head. “Blip, you’re dismissed.”

The young man immediately departed, and Gil wanted to ask if he could stay. He wanted to see the face thing again, but supposed it could wait. Tyler seemed to sense it, though. “Don’t worry, you’ll be training with Blip and Meera later. You’ll have plenty of time to get used to all this. Unfortunately, it seems you’re not a Grimm yet. Still, even without the sight, you could be useful to us if you choose to stay. We’re waging a war here, and we need people with medical training too.”

Bypassing that for a moment, Gil looked back at the computer screen. “What do you mean, I’m not a Grimm? I saw him change! Black fur everywhere, and whiskers. He looked like an otter... if it was shaped like a man.”

“You saw it in Stage Three. Any human can do the same. In fact, some shifters use the shock that comes with Stage Three as a weapon. They can terrify their prey and get the upper hand, even if they’re hunting an armed human. No, Grimms are special because we can see it in Stage Two, when the shifters can’t control it completely. Some Grimms have been known to rattle their targets, such as in a police or military interrogations, and then see them change. Cameras won’t pick it up, so other humans remain in the dark, but Grimms can tell the difference. Here, see for yourself.”

He tapped a few keys on the computer, and brought up video files. He clicked on one, and it sprang into view: an image of Adolf Hitler, in black and white. When Tyler hit ‘play’, the dictator started ranting in German. It sounded like a speech, probably to some of his more fanatic followers of the day. “You can’t see it, but he transforms about halfway through the speech. Hitler was a wolf, just like the thing that attacked you in Lisbon. That was part of Hitler’s whole plan. He wasn’t just building an Aryan world- but a shifter one. Once he’d won the war, his plan was to come out in public, and all other shifters would be able to as well. Ordinary humans would become second class citizens, or slaves. Or corpses, depending on how useful they were to their new shifter supremacist masters.”

He paused the speech before it went on much longer. “Your grandfather was a soldier in the war, but he knew the truth. He was a Grimm, and he fought hounds, and wolves, and cats, and all manner of vermin on the battlefield. He’s the one who copied this video, and gave it to me. His generation stopped the shifters then, and ours has to stop them now. Because Black Claw is trying the very same trick.”

Somewhere in the back of Gil’s mind, he’d been hoping that this was just a temporary situation, but those hopes were fading now. “If I’m not a Grimm, but just an ordinary human… if that gene skipped me, then can’t I just go back to my life? They have no reason to go after me if I can’t see them, right?”

Tyler put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Gil, but it’s too late for that. Just being related to us is enough for them. They were targeting you in Lisbon, and they’ll keep going after you. They want every Grimm, and everyone who could conceivably create a Grimm in the future, dead. They’re trying to wipe us off the face of the earth. Until we destroy Black Claw, none of us are safe.”

-.-

Gil had wanted to stay at the computer, hours later, so he could keep reading up on Grimms, but Tyler had insisted that he get some sleep. He did have to admit, he was pretty wiped out. Not just from the shock of seeing Blip transform like that, but also from the amazing news itself! The entire world had been turned inside out, at least from his perspective. It would take time to get his bearings again.

“You’ll stay with me,” Tyler insisted, and wouldn’t hear any opposition to the idea, even from Meera, who apparently still didn’t trust Gil.

Tyler had a house about three miles from the office building. It was old, but well-maintained. He explained that he’d grown up there, alongside Maria and their mother. Their dad had been away most of the time, first for the War, and later for his work. He wasn’t very clear on exactly what work his dad had done, but it probably had something to do with shifters.

After an excellent supper prepared by an actual housekeeper, Gil was shown to his room. “I have to make a few calls to Tokyo while it’s still business hours there,” Tyler had said. “Jill will get you settled upstairs.”

The room they’d set aside for him upstairs was pretty spartan. Apparently Grimms lived much like the ancient warriors they’d probably descended from. Above the fireplace in Tyler’s room, visible through the open door at the end of the hall, was a large symbol, though.

It looked like an uppercase English ‘G’, but the middle strut was broken up slightly, and there were two more dots below it. The whole thing seemed to have been altered to look like a man’s skull, but drawn in black chalk. Gil had seen it before, or a reconstructed copy of it.

The housekeeper noticed his interest. “Ah, that’s one of the only paintings you’ll find here, you know. For some reason, Mr. Harrington has a soft spot for that one.”

That was about all she knew about it, but to Gil it was pretty clear: ‘G’ stood for Grimm. This was a family crest, going back centuries, or millennia for all he knew. “It’s our family crest,” Gil said softy, still fixated on the shape. “It stands for all of us.”

Jill looked at him with surprise, and then smiled. “So you really are related to Mr. Harrington? How wonderful you’ve found each other. Still, you look practically dead on your feet. You need sleep, and you need it right now.”

Gil couldn’t argue that point. He’d planned on calling Sanders and telling her what little he could share with a civilian, but he never got the chance. Moments after lying down, he was fast asleep.

-.-

He woke up maybe ten hours later. Jill cooked him a light breakfast, and he ate it alone. Apparently ‘Mr. Harrington’ had already gone off to work for the day, and his associate Meera was going to be dropping by later. It was obvious that the housekeeper knew nothing about Grimms or shifters. After checking to see if he needed anything else, she headed out to another house. Gil pulled out his phone and called Sanders. From what he could surmise, she lived about ten hours later than the eastern time zone, so she should be up and about right now.

“Hey,” she answered after a few rings. “Are you all right?”

“Fine. Better than fine, actually. I found my family!”

He heard a choked gasp on the other end, and then she spoke again. “What?? How?!”

“Actually, it’s more like they found me,” he admitted. “My mom and dad are long dead, but I found an uncle, and he can tell me about any others who are still alive.”

“That’s great, Gil! I’m so happy for you- congratulations! So the DNA test I gave you worked?”

“Like a charm. I tested the samples last night, and confirmed them before I went to bed. I’m still in Washington DC, by the way. That’s where my uncle lives, and I’ll be staying at his place for a bit.”

She paused on the other end, and then continued in a more serious tone. “I… don’t mean to be a downer here, but how can you be sure he’s really your family? DNA tests can only prove so much.”

For all the weirdness he’d seen and gone through the past few days, it was a relief to have a question he could answer concretely for a change. “Remember that blanket I was wrapped up in as a baby? I told you about it when we first spoke online. It had a shape sewn into it, right? The letter “G”, but modified? It took a while to figure it out at the time, because it had been pulled out of the blanket, but when you were able to see the figure, you did a search on it. You came up with nothing.”

“Yeah… so?” She sounded intrigued.

“Well, my uncle has the very same symbol in a painting in his room! It’s identical, even down to the eyes and nose thing! It’s our family crest, Sanders; I’m sure of it.”

“Yeah, it’s hard to get more definitive than that,” she said, her voice more confident now. “So who were your parents? Who are you, actually? Did he tell you your birth name?”

Gil shook his head, before remembering she couldn’t see him. “We only had a few hours, and he was busy with some Gr- uh, some work thing. My mom’s name was Maria; I know that much. I’ll ask him more about them, and me, tonight.”

“I’m so glad for you. How are you feeling about this? I mean not having any idea about your birth parents for decades, and then suddenly stumbling onto a family member? Have you told your parents? You said they knew you were looking, and were ok with it.”

“I haven’t, yet. I guess I’m just getting used to this being the new real,” he said truthfully, though the new real was much, much bigger than he could tell her. “I’ll call them once I’ve got more info.” He looked around briefly. There was so much more to learn, so he’d have to figure out where Tyler was, or Meera for that matter. “I should head out, Sanders. I just wanted to update you. How are you doing by the way?”

“Almost as good as you,” she said, and he could hear the triumph in her voice. “I had a big project I’ve been working on for a long time, and it just got a huge break. I can finally make some progress now.”

“And that’s about all you’re willing to tell me,” he added wryly. “Same old Sanders. Well, good luck with it, whatever it is, and sleep well when you do.”

After the phone call, he still couldn’t see anyone around, so he took the opportunity look around the ground floor of the house.

Tyler had his own collection of weapons, on a rack in the living room. There were no kids here, obviously, and no sign of a spouse at any point. Apparently Tyler had chosen to let his ‘destiny’ as a Grimm supersede all that. Gil had no intention of doing the same. He wanted a family someday, weird homicidal shifter cult or not.

Gil flipped through a few channels looking for local news, and listened in, mostly bored. From what he’d read, a lot of the violence that most people had attributed to economic or racial protests recently, had actually been Black Claw agitation. They used the unrest as cover to recruit other shifters into their ranks, intimidate the ones who resisted (Tyler said there hadn’t been many), and assassinate anyone they thought might be a threat to their power.

There was a slight crease forming in the carpet in the living room, and that was Gil’s only warning. Something inside him just seemed to twist in anticipation, and he ducked without knowing why! The moment he did, a figure swept through the air just where his head had been! The intruder overshot slightly after missing him, but didn’t waste any time turning back and charging again.

Whoever it was, their face had changed, just like he’d seen the day before! Black fur bristled out from them, but this person was too short to be Blip. Another shifter?

As the intruder feinted at him, Gil jumped back, around the couch. His heart was racing, but somehow he knew what to do. Kicking a chair at his attacker, he dashed into the hallway. The glass case with the weapons in it was locked, but he knew he didn’t stand a chance against this shifter without some kind of weapon. He could run of course, but there were probably more of them outside. His best bet was to try to incapacitate his attacker somehow, and then run out the back entrance. If he could hide in a neighboring yard, he could call Tyler and hope that help arrived in time.

Killing the intruder never entered into his mind. He’d sworn an oath during his training as an EMT, and he wouldn’t break it. Granted, Hippocrates probably hadn’t known anything about shifters, but they were able to think and feel just like any human, if Blip was any indication. They deserved the same protections.

Grimacing, he brought his elbow down on the glass case while the intruder was running into the hall. It shattered, cutting up his arm in the process. Ignoring the pain, he snatched up a metal-studded club and brandished it at his attacker.

Not that it made any difference. The intruder came at him anyway, and Gil swung wildly at the side, trying to knock his opponent off balance. In another instant, he was on the ground with his attacker on top of him, holding a metal blade to his throat!

His breath came in and out in ragged jolts, but the knife didn’t slice him as he’d anticipated. Come to think of it, the bristles on the intruder’s face weren’t anywhere near as detailed as the ones on Blip’s. It was just a mask. Grunting, the intruder leaned back and removed the mask. It was Meera.

He should have known- he’d been told she’d be dropping by, and the blade was the same one she’d nearly cut him with back in the office building. If she was one of these Grimms, she was probably wound tighter than a snare drum, and prepared for a fight to the death at any instant!

“Not bad,” she complimented, reaching a hand down to him.

He considered being petulant and refusing her help, but his arm still hurt. He’d have to dig the glass out, if it hadn’t gone too deep. Though it was possibly the first nice thing she’d ever said to him, so that was noteworthy. “Thanks, I think. What the hell, though? I thought I was supposed to be safe here, especially from you and Tyler!”

She shrugged. “You have to be ready at all times. I’ve seen people with more training and ability than you die, because they dropped their guard. Shifters may be animals, but they’re not stupid. Black Claw will use any and all weapons they can against us, Grimm or not.”

Gingerly, Gil examined his arm, and then the glass case. He didn’t look too badly cut. “Do you know if Tyler has a first aid kit anywhere? And if he’ll be mad about me trashing his place? You trashing it, actually. I was a model houseguest until you showed up.”

She smirked. “It was his idea. And there’s one in the kitchen, under the sink. Here, let me. I need practice patching people up. Usually I’m on the supply end of that.”

“I never would have guessed,” Gil grumbled as she led the way into the other room. She removed the glass competently enough, disinfected and bound the wounds with the kit, and then put it away. “Not bad,” he said sardonically after she was done. “I take it you’re going to be training me? You know I’m not a Grimm, right? I can’t match your speed or strength, if Tyler was right about your genetic traits.”

“You’re not a Grimm yet,” she clarified. “It hits people at different ages for everyone. Girls notice sooner than boys. I started seeing shifters when I was twelve, but I’ve heard of some male Grimms who couldn’t see them until they were thirty. You might become one of us eventually, but even if you don’t, you still need to know how to defend yourself.”

Gil didn’t know if he found the possibility comforting or disturbing. “Just how many Grimms are there, anyway?”

Meera grimaced. “Not enough, by a long shot. A bunch of different groups have been trying to kill us for centuries now, from daimyos in feudal Japan, to European royal families, to shifter cults living in jungles and deserts. Some have gotten pretty close, but I’m sure Mr. Harrington told you about all that. Black Claw is the most dangerous one so far, but they’re nowhere near the first ones to try. It’s only a matter of time before they wipe us out, if we can’t do it to them first.”

“Try to keep up that positive thinking,” Gil commented casually. Meera’s eyes narrowed in response at first, but then she cracked the slightest of smiles. So she did have a sense of humor after all.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2022, 04:54:52 AM by Daen »