“So what is this place even called?” I ask from the middle seat in Alex’s truck. They picked me up early; too early if you ask me, 5a.m is just not a good time for people to get up. Looking at both of them they are ready to go, I on the other hand look like I just crawled out from under a rock I’d been living under for 10 years. The sky is just beginning to show signs of the sun, it is causing a nice pink and light purple line to come up over the hill. “Also, Is Mila meeting us there? Or what? Cause I mean I thought you said she was helping, as much as I don’t want her to.”
Alex takes his eyes off the road and looks over and me then back at the road and says, “Well it is called F.O.N.H.”
“And what the hell does that stand for?”
Evan bursts out into laughter, “These idiots couldn’t even come up with something cool or even scary. They had to go and call themselves “The Freaks Of Nature Hunters”. I mean it is pretty stupid hey?” He looks at me and I can tell he is nervous, but his laughter is infectious.
“Are you kidding?” I look at him and I know he isn’t kidding. “This should be a piece of cake then.”
Alex clears his throat, “So Mila is going to meet us at one of the older houses near their facility. She said it is easy to get to.”
I roll my eyes and say, “Yeah if you can fly... Oh yeah, I can fly. Do we have a plan once we get there? I mean, I don’t think we can just walk on in and demand your parents Alex.”
“I think we should try to change into something they don’t notice. Not anything completely vulnerable like a bug, but I don’t know, maybe a mouse or a rat. Those things get looked past pretty easy sometimes.”
“Nothing more vulnerable than a mouse. I don’t think they will go unnoticed. The place is probably very clean, and there is nothing to hide under. I mean if they are running tests, don’t you think it will be pretty clean? White walls, silver exam tables, you know that kind of thing?”
“White mice?” Alex suggests raising his shoulders. I just roll my eyes.
“Maybe we should have thought about this before now…”
“You think? Leave it to a bunch of boys to go into things fists swinging.” I laugh at my little joke, they don’t laugh though.
Looking around I notice Mila standing outside a car. Just great I think to myself. She couldn’t bail and just not show up.
“Aww, look who it is, little miss shape shifter herself. I thought you would have been a wimp and backed out.” Mila says with a winy tone in her voice, then looks at Evan with big eyes and blinks more than any normal person does. “Hey Evan, want to go see a movie or something later?”
Evan looks a bit uncomfortable then nods his head in agreement. Looking away, I accidentally look right at Alex, who sees the red and dark green in my eyes. Even embarrassed by him seeing me mad and jealous of the other two I look away. In my head I hear Alex say, “Don’t worry Riley, I don’t think he likes her. Remember what I said before? About pixies being needy. She’s one of them.” Looking back at him he has a smile. I say to him in his head, “I don’t care!” But we both know that is far from the truth.
Evan and Mila are still in conversation so I clear my throat loudly and say, “So let’s get this over with. What’s the plan? Fly in, then change into something not very noticeable, get Alex’s parents. What if they are drugged so they can’t change? We can’t just walk out holding them on our backs.”
“That’s the thing with these guys; they don’t drug anyone while they run the tests, especially not the shape shifters. They want to see if they can put you in so much pain that you shift. I saw Alex’s parents last time, so I know where they are.”
“Why don’t they drug them?” Thinking for a moment to myself, I figure out the answer to my question, “It is so they can capture whatever essence that is in our body that makes us change.”
“Good job shifter girl. I always knew you were stupid, but this stupid.” She finishes with a laugh. In my head I hear Alex and Evan at the both time telling me not to call her Tinkerbell, and that we need her help.
With a deep sigh, I shake my head and start to relax. I decide it is best to change into a blue jay at that moment as if to say “let’s go” hoping they all take my lead. I fly to sit on her car and decide I will do what birds do best. The look on her face was priceless. “Really ,Riley? You had to poop on her car? At least you didn’t call her Tinkerbell.” Alex laughs in my head. I try not to be too proud of that moment, especially since I am only a bird. Watching Mila change into a pixie was nothing short of breathless. As her wings started to pull away from her shoulders, she got smaller. Smaller than even I thought. I distantly wonder how those people managed to capture one. Once she starts flying though, I think it must have been awfully hard to catch since she is faster than a humming bird. I start to wonder if watching her change into a pixie is the most beautiful thing Evan was telling me about. Alex and Evan both change into blue jays.
“So how do we talk to her when we are like this?” I ask both of them in their heads.
“We don’t,” Evan says.
Getting there was easy enough, it didn’t take very long. “Land on the roof,” Alex says to both Evan and I in our heads.
“What about Mila?” I hear Evan ask.
“Don’t you think she will just follow us? Or maybe you should have told her a plan before you changed, instead of making plans for a date.” I’m not sure but I think that last part was said to them. I hope not, I only meant to think it.
“Riley get a grip.” Alex says in my head.
Turning my bird head to him, “I didn’t mean to say it to you guys, I only meant to think it.” I say in his head.
Once we land on the roof we change into mice, little white mice. Distantly I think we are the three blind mice from the old nursery rhyme, if I was human I’d be laughing at my joke right now, but I let out a little squeak anyways. Mila lands on the roof in the middle of us. She flies over to one of the vents on the roof. There are six vents scattered on the roof, I hope she knows where she is going.
In a very high pitched voice she says, “This one leads to one of the floors they keep test subjects on. I’m positive this is the floor your parents are on Alex. You guys might want to change into something other than mice, it is quite a drop. Humming birds or a bumblebee. Something that is small and can hover in spot.”
“Can you do that Riley?” Evans voice fills my head. I watch them change into bumblebees, but I change into a humming bird.
“Close enough,” Alex says with laughter in my head.
“Good, now we need to go down a few levels,” Mila squeaks, “Once we reach the bottom, you can change into something small, maybe a cat? As long as you promise not to eat me. Then we are going left. There are vents for all the rooms; we just need to find the right one.”
If only I could eat her, or even take a swat at her with my claws. “Riley!” Evan yells in my head.
“I swear I am only thinking that, I wasn’t trying to say it, and I wasn’t going to hurt her or anything. Back off!” I yell back hoping I give him a headache from him yelling at me which was not necessary.
I don’t know how many levels we went down and it was hard to see. I had no idea I was near the bottom because I slammed right into it.
Alex asks me, “Are you okay?” I can tell he is concerned just from how his voice sounds in my head. At least someone cares.
After I change into a black cat, I reply, “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” At least cats have good night vision. I will admit, I don’t know what he is asking if I am okay about. Evan yelling at me or me hitting the bottom of the vent. It would have been nice to know which left Mila meant, because depending on the way you landed, left could mean a completely different thing for someone who landed the other direction.
“This way you stupid cat.” Mila whispers in my direction. All I wish I could do was tell her to shove it up her Tinkerbell a... “Riley, come on.” Evan yells at me. My headache is at an all time high right now, I’m not sure if it is from him or maybe shifting so many times without having a ton of practice. Especially since we didn’t practice shifting from one thing to another to a whole other animal. This has got to get easier I tell myself. As we silently walk down the vent we start to hear more and more voices from the branching vents.
“We have to find her.” One voice in particular says. Something about that voice sounds familiar.
“We will sir. I think I found her at the school nearby, although I am not 100% sure. If you give me more time, I will make sure it is her.”
The other voice sounds angry, “No. Even if you don’t know if it is her or not, you will bring her to me. The next chance you get. Do you understand me?”
The other man meekly replies “But...”
“Do not disagree with an order or else someone else will be put in your spot very quickly.”
“Yes sir.” He sounds military, but I doubt he is, maybe more so just afraid of whoever he is talking to. As we near the vent I recognize the one guy instantly. He is a teacher at school, Mr. Lewis.
“Did you find anything else about the school? Are there more of them?” The man with the red hair asks. I swear I’ve heard him before, I just can’t remember from where.
“Yes sir. Actually most of the class I teach is something.” He tells the red haired man who at this news gets a creepy smile on his face. What? That cannot be true. Oliver isn’t anything. He must be lying to cover his mistakes.
“Perfect. You will bring them all here. Find a way at least by the holidays. If you mess up again, you are done here. You may leave now.”
“Yes sir. Good-bye sir.” He gives a bow, not a perfect one, but one that shows respect or cowardliness. Who bows nowadays anyways? No wonder this guy was so sketchy teaching us.
In my head to Evan and Alex “Did you see this? That guy is talking to our teacher!”
“What are you talking about Riley? You were supposed to be right behind us. We wasted time coming back and looking for you.” Evan sounds angry as he talks to me.
Alex comes in my head and says, “Hurry up, my parents are down here.” As I run after them, I can’t shake the feeling of déjà vu.