Therianthropy: After Burdened

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A Mission: Ben

“Next time, how about waiting around for someone to help you, maybe then you won’t get nasty scratches like this. I mean, who actually enjoys doctor visits” I grinned down at the kid as I smoothed out the bandage on his palm.

The little boy just grinned some more and declared “I do! Dennis is always really nice, and now you’re really nice! Are you going to stay here and keep being nice?”

I was saved from answering a question I really did need an answer to by a voice behind me calling “hey, Ben, there you are. Guess I should have known I’d find you in here.”

Looking up and around I found Dakota watching me curiously and I grinned back as I said “sure, what better way to spend my free time?” I demanded rhetorically.

Dakota gave the kid an easy grin and said “well, I still need to borrow you for a moment, or more the High Alpha does. Mind if I steal away your nurse?” He addressed the boy, whose name he’d never even shared. He’d simply marched in here, showed off his cut and demanded to know where Dennis was.

Now that I’d taken care of his problem, he grinned and nodded, saying “yes sir Mr. Hope.” Then he hopped down off of the stool, waved one more time at me, and scampered out the door.

Still smiling slightly, I put away the cotton balls while asking “so, you know what this is about?”

“Nope.” He replied calmly “In fact, I was just told to keep an eye out for you, I wasn’t even invited.”

“Huh” I muttered, turning back around and wiping my palms against my pants with nerves. Glenna was probably going to ask me the same question that kid had, with a much less nicer tone.

Dakota was still standing there, watching me with a funny look across his face. Finally I decided it had to be curiosity, mingled with the disgust that came out in his tone as he asked “do you really like being down here? I mean, it bores the shit out of me to have to listen to my sisters, yet you spend all day around these munchkins. I mean, even the grosser stuff, how do you stand dealing with the things that aren’t just little paper cuts. I’m surprised Dennis even lets you help, he’s usually pretty strict about the people who are down here.”

I chuckled then, smiling wistfully at the door and half wishing I could just hide out here, instead of forcing my feet to drag me out. “Since I’m only volunteering and not getting paid, I get cut a lot of slack with Dennis, which I’m grateful for, because I love being down here, I find it very cathartic.”

“Even the little kids who whine about their boo boo’s, when they can just put a band aid on themselves.” He demanded, easily keeping pace with me as I headed towards the elevators that would take me to the main floors.

“It’s not the act of putting the band aid on, it’s about comforting them while you do” I gently explained.

Dakota just rolled his eyes, clearly I hadn’t gotten through to him, but his interest in the subject was clearly overdone as he waved towards the stairs instead of waiting and said “yeah well, you enjoy, whatever.”

I watched him go with a sense of doom as he made for the stairwell. Dakota and I had never really been friends, but I’d been here when he’d first arrived with his sisters and mother. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if I was ever going to see him again, or that little boy, or...

When the loud ding did appeared, I nearly flinched out of my skin in shock at the noise, then glanced shamefully around the hall to make sure I was alone and no one had seen that. Then the door slid open, and I did a double take who was inside.

I saw surprise flicker across her face for a moment before she said “oh hey, I was sent to come find you.” Like most everything she said, there was a hint of sarcasm lacing her every syllable as she slumped back against the smooth reflective wall.

Grumbling under my breath I went in beside her and began tapping my fingers against my hip with nerves at the uncomfortable silence.

Since the moment she’d mysteriously appeared here three weeks ago and claimed her position as a Recruiter, Tawny Hurst had made it her business to let everyone in her area know exactly how she felt, which was utter contempt.

Coming just up to my chest in height with choppy light brown hair and a surly attitude, she didn’t seem like much at first, and her limping gait didn’t help with that. Yet the High Alpha must know something about her the rest of us didn’t, because she’d also somehow turned into our leader’s personal errand runner whenever she was here, which hadn’t been often. This was in fact only the third time I’d seen her since she appeared in the clinic that day, but being on good terms with Dakota who always knew who was coming and going, I had it on good authority she came and went of her own free will. No one seemed to have any real idea what she was up to though, and our majesty was keeping it quiet.

Maybe it had something to do with her strangest feature, that no one could sense her. Unlike every other shapeshifter I’d ever come across, I got no vibe from her whatsoever, no sense of what animal she was or even which type. For all intents, she seemed mysteriously human, which I knew to be false because I’d seen her change form.

I’d personally never gotten up the gall to ask her if she knew why that was, and the one guy who I knew had landed in Dennis’ care for almost a month.

“Do you know why she wants to see us” I asked, trying to keep things polite, though I knew she wasn’t going to return the favor.

“Nope” she grumbled, and that was all the conversation we shared as the elevator dinged again and we exited and made the rest of our trip to the chamber. Her awkward gait made it so I could have easily outstripped her, but I was too busy worrying myself and dragging my own feet to want to.

Now that I didn’t have anything to distract me, my walk was beginning to feel more like a death march. What if she decided my usefulness was done and kicked me out, returning me back to my on again, off again stay’s here. Did I want that? What if she banned me for good, did she know I’d registered?

By the time we’d made it, my knock sounded more like a timid tap, but the summons to enter was still the same.

Inside was the usual sight, Glenna pristine in her high backed chair, but now she was surveying three more new people.

There were two boys and a girl. The eldest boy was someone I knew at once was the kind of guy I was going to want to punch in the face before he opened his mouth. His shaggy brown hair flopped down into hazel eyes, and the Cheshire grin accompanying his wiry frame gave the great air of ‘pompous ass’.

The girl was one I didn’t recognize, but she was very pretty, and she knew it. She held her head high, reemphasizing the chin that jutted out, and making the thick curly hair on the top of her head look like it was standing up all the more. Her dark skin looked a little tight around the edges though, the only sign that she was showing strain just standing there. Yet as she smiled in greeting, I could see crinkling lines around her chocolate brown eyes, implying she did at least smile enough for them to be present when she wasn’t.

The last boy I only recognized by sight as one of the three that had blown up that tree yesterday, bronze skinned with shaggy dark black hair and watching everyone around him curiously, and also the one who exchanged a smile with Tawny upon our entrance. Guess their little disaster yesterday hadn’t messed up a blooming friendship. Personally I was just impressed anyone could smile at that girl, but I was probably being biased.

I only noticed out of the corner of my eye Tawny flash a grin back at him, but the expression didn’t last when the High Alpha turned to her and said “have you finished the files on all of our newest members?”

“No” she responded at once with an indifferent shrug “since two of them haven’t come out of their room since they’d arrived. Kind of in that grieving process thing I’m sure. Those three haven’t been here long enough for me to keep them pinned down.”

If the High Alpha had frowned at me in that disappointed way, I would have backed against the wall and cried I’d get it done as soon as possible. Instead she hardly twitched when our leader sighed and gave her a disapproving look, stating “well I want it done before this time next week please, I’ve some important matters I need to discuss with them. Where are the other two I asked for?”

She shrugged and said “I ran into them on my way looking for him” she didn’t pause while gesturing at me “said they’d be right down. Apparently they’ve been locked up in their rooms since they’ve gotten here, grieving parents will tend to do that I heard.”

“I requested their presence” she snapped, frowning over at the pair of us and tapping one of her long fingernails on her leg “I gave them the same courtesy I would any of our kind and granted them sanctuary, the least they could do is attend when I-”

Al and Shara made their appearance from the ‘official’ lobby doors, glancing about the room with rather dark and suspicious looks, though that may have been given to it didn’t look like they’d slept since they’d been here. I’d noticed it on Shara yesterday, but was hoping when they’d started getting out more it would help.

“Ah good, thank you for joining us” Glenna beamed, uncrossing her legs and leaning more comfortably into her chair. Then she gave one last look at Tawny and said “that will be all.”

Tawny turned on the spot and made her ungainly way back out the door without a backward glance.

Glenna turned her attention back on the rest of us, and began addressing the other guy I didn’t know. “Chase, you have requested my permission to go and seek revenge upon the place that captured you and your group. I agree and grant this.”

She paused and the guy grinned at her, taking a step forward and saying “thank you, I-” but she cut him off with a wave of her hand, and he fell silent as if struck dumb, rocking back on his feet as he clearly realized he’d cut her off.

She continued on in the same stern tone as before, now eyeing him critically “however, I insist upon a few measures to be taken. I have called you all here today for this same reason. You’ve all requested the same thing, a sanctuary here which I gladly give, but sadly I’m forced to point out you are not the only ones to have done so. No, I’m afraid our numbers have been swelling in the recent months, the Hunters have been attacking and even setting up ambushes for our kind to try and drive them out of their government sanctioned homes. Now, normally I don’t condone Shapeshifters taking from the human government, yes I have been known to deny sanctuary from those that take it, but due to recent events and tragedies I’ve been willing to change my ways.”

She paused here to smile at the six of us, as if we were all her special favorite children, before continuing on in a slightly more brittle tone “But, that does not change the fact that what has been going on should not just be tolerated and swept under the rug. I’ve been saying for years how sick I am of being treated like bugger monsters to those humans, and I think I’ve come up with a solution, and I’d like your help.”

There was a pronounced silence after this little speech, until finally Chase was the one to clear his throat and say “I, don’t understand. What exactly are you giving me, err, us, permission to do?”

Glenna leaned forward in her seat, her brown eyes widening along with the smile gracing her lips. “I would like to create a new, ah, division in our ranks. While our Recruiters have been doing marvelous work ensuring our kind makes it safely to our haven, I detest the fact that we get there too late, that the damage has been done already.”

She paused there and gave a pained look at Al and Shara, both of whom had flinched as if she’d thrown burning coals in their direction, before continuing in a tone that somehow managed to be both caring, and predatory all in one. “So I’d like to set up something, new. I would like the six of you to go out there, and ah, keep tabs on the Hunters. Along the way, if you come across any Shifters that are in need, you will give them the message we are no longer tolerating the abuse. Invite them to join us, openly state how I and our kind are willing to change our policies. When you come across any such facilities" she spoke that as if saying the deepest form of cuss word “you have my permission to do as you will to make sure our people are out of there, and never to enter again.”

She leaned back in her chair then, glancing around at us and clearly expecting a reply this time. Chase quickly spoke up again “err your majesty, I thank you for this opportunity, and gladly accept.” He paused to glance at the two who were closest to him, and when they both nodded he continued “all three of us do, I only voice that Fiona has been instructed by one of your doctors not to be doing anything too strenuous for at least another week or two.”

She nodded in understanding and said “I’m aware of this, and your expedition will be put off until she makes a full recovery. Continue treating this as your home until then.”

There was a heavy silence for a moment, I was still just registering the fact that I was being involved in this at all, when Al spoke up pretty much what I was thinking “Ms. Glenna, I’m not sure I understand. Neither Shara or I requested any such thing as going back out there, why did you wish to include us in this.”

She looked genuinely surprised as she focused her gaze on them and said “I apologize, I would have thought you would wish to seek revenge for your wrongs. If you don’t, there are others who would be more than willing-”

“No, no” Shara said quickly, exchanging a covert look with her husband, who only hesitated for a moment before nodding and let her keep going without protest “we’re honored and more then pleased to help.”

She nodded and then everyone in the room seemed to turn their attention to me at once. I slapped my palms against my hips for a moment before asking “and me, mam? I didn’t show any interest in this, nor do I have a, vendetta if you will.” Shara and Al made plenty of sense, and just from what I’d heard it was easy to guess the other three. The human population had never done me a real wrong though, on the contrary honestly, I had a deep respect for a lot of things they did. Why did she think I’d want to go out there and hurt them?

Glenna chuckled lightly, shaking her head indulgently for a moment and letting her styled curls bounce into her face before brushing them aside and saying “you will be my liaison. I recognize this group can’t report every little thing they do directly to me, so that will be your job. I will have someone contact you regularly and give you known whereabouts of Shifters so that you can make contact with them, and along the way make sure no harm is coming to them. Everyone here knows you Benjamin, and you are well known for your comings and goings. I was under the impression you were wishing to leave here soon again anyways?”

I blushed furiously, both rather weirded out she knew that when I hadn’t really said that to anyone, and also relived. After all, she was right. This did sound like exactly the kind of thing I could get behind, coming and going here as I pleased, plus I wasn’t fool enough to think that this lot could really pull off half the stunts I was already thinking we’d need to do to make this work and not get some kind of injured. I’d turned all this over quickly enough and nodded my agreement.

“Good” she beamed, taking to her feet and brushing nonexistent dust from her skirt. “As soon as Tawny has collected all files on you five, which should be ah, by this time in two weeks. I will make sure you are passed along your first assignment, and you are free to leave. That should give you all enough time to get to know each other,” and with that she gave us one last smile and asked “any questions?”

It was the youngest kid who voiced something I probably should have thought of “um, I have a few questions regarding how this is going to be funded? How we’re supposed to get around, since I’m not really that fast in either form. Plus, ah, truancy issues” he trailed off sheepishly, and I couldn’t help but agree with at least that last one, he looked barely fifteen after all.

Glenna laughed aloud before smiling indulgently at him and explaining “not to worry, I will provide Benjamin with any monetary issues you may run into, and he has his own car I’m sure he’d have no problems using.” It wasn’t really a question, but even if it was, I wasn’t going to be the one to say otherwise. “As for your situation in particular, if you ever run into any trouble, I’ll provide you with a phone number that will smooth out any issues you may have with the human’s system.”

He hesitated for another second, I could see he had another question on the tip of his tongue, but he held it back and nodded. Glenna gave us all one last sweeping look before nodding and saying “yes, well, if there’s nothing else, I have other matters to attend to. Carry on with your day,” and strutted out of the back door leaving an echoing bang behind her.

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