Part 2

11. Kate Charles

“Powers, Derek? Is that even possible?”

“Of course it is, Kate. There are at least four things in the trophy room that can grant super powers, and that’s only on Dad’s side. Mom didn’t talk about her trophies; she said I wasn’t old enough.”

“So you think we should just expose ourselves to one of those dangerous items and hope it gives us abilities instead of killing us?”

“No no, Honey, I’m not an idiot. Now that we both have some free time and enough money to get by for a while, I suggest we take some time to study the items. We’ll only actually use something if we’re sure it’s going to be safe. Well, relatively safe. There’s no guarantees with super powers.”

I chew my lower lip and think. What could I do with super powers? What could Derek do? Probably have a hell of a lot more fun than when I used to drink. And no hangovers. As to devices, one keeps popping into my head.

“Derek, do you think you could check out one of your mother’s …”

“The Shaft? Of course, Honey. I’ve seen the way you look at it. If it doesn’t give you powers maybe I can figure out a way for you to try it without setting it off. Maybe we’ll have to put the rack in the bedroom into service.”

“Oooh! Saucy! Best get working, Dear. The sooner we find out, the sooner the fun starts!”

12. Derek Charles

This could not have gone better with a script. First Kate falls for the “scam” that got us Dad’s old lair, then she starts playing dress-up in Mom’s old clothes. When I asked about powers she all but begged me! I knew Kate was truly the other half of my soul, and this pretty much proves it.

I’ve been spending the afternoon getting a couple of the Plasbots working. Not the big armed guard models, some of the smaller domestic ones. We’re going to need servants to help with the housework, especially if we’re out and about committing crimes. And I have to admit I love tinkering in the lab.

Plasbots Twelve and Seventeen are both nearly ready, but I’ve only been able to scavenge three working leg actuators. I can get one of them fully functional, but the other would be hopping around on one foot, which lacks dignity. It would probably be best to get one of them going then pick up the parts I need. Now, how do I choose which one to finish?

“Plasbot Twelve, are you operational?”

“Affirmative.”

“Plasbot Seventeen, are you operational?”

“Indeed.”

“Okay, both of you. I need domestic robots, and you’ve both been nominated. But I only have enough leg actuators to get one of you fully functional at the moment. Twelve, explain to me why it should be you.”

“I am fully programmed for all domestic duties. I can cook, clean, tend to the laundry, order groceries, and perform any and all menial tasks you might need. I can even take your pet for a walk; if you don’t have a pet I can build one for you, then take it for a walk. I exist only to serve, and I know I can do all of it better than Seventeen.”

“Hmm. Seventeen, your turn. Explain to me why I should make you the first fully operational unit.”

“You shouldn’t, sir. While I am certainly capable of all the same tasks as Twelve, I was constructed to help your father around the lab. Simply put, my talents would be wasted emptying the garbage. In fact, my modified brain is capable enough that I could coordinate all your other household robots and make them a truly integrated domestic staff. And I wouldn’t need legs for that purpose. I believe that units Thirteen and Five can and should also be made fully workable before I am ‘completed’ by the addition of legs.”

“Seventeen you lazy bastard! You just want us to do the housework while you sit around on your molded plastic behind!”

“We each do what we’re best at, Twelve. You happen to be good at sucking up to Master and domestic drudgery. I, on the other hand, am good at keeping naughty little robots like you in line.”

“Stop it! No bickering, and that’s a command level instruction. Twelve, you get the legs. Seventeen, you will – eventually – have the job of coordinating the household robots. But first, you’re getting a root level diagnostic of your loyalty circuit. I don’t need you going rogue and taking over my lair.”

Ten minutes later, Plasbot Twelve is our new housemaid. Seventeen and I get to work figuring out what parts are needed to get Five and Thirteen operational.

13. Kate Charles

One. Two. I’m going to need something to hide my identity; I still want to be able to go out shopping. Three. Four. Not a mask, those just look stupid. Five. Six. A visor would be good. Seven. Eight. Take that, you misogynistic freak!

I’m practicing in the gym and thinking about what I’m going to wear. The practice dummy has a picture of Nathan Abrogast, my old boss, on it. That way I’ll hit it harder. That creep couldn’t see the brilliance of my “baby’s milk and cookies” campaign with the teething biscuits and the busty models. I elbow the dummy in the face for good measure.

“Mistress?”

I jump backwards and hit the weight machine. Some kind of white plastic humanoid has just walked into the exercise room. “What the hell are you?”

“I am Plasbot Twelve, Mistress. Master got me working and I’ve just finished tidying up the main living quarters. I was wondering if you had any specific instructions for me.”

A maid robot? Derek thinks of everything!

“No thanks, Twelve. Wait! Can you get me something to drink? I’m getting a little sweaty here.”

“Of course, Mistress. Something to replace your electrolytes?”

“Yeah, that.” I start my left-right stepping cadence again. “Just announce yourself from the doorway when you get back. I don’t need to be startled again.”

“Actually, Mistress, being startled raised your heart rate significantly, though momentarily. If you incorporate that into your routine it would provide a small but measurable boost in cardiovascular effectiveness.”

“It would also get a certain robot’s plastic head knocked off.”

“Point taken, Mistress. I will announce myself from the doorway.”

Keeping in shape is a burden, but spandex and cellulite don’t mix. I practice some kicks while the robot – Twelve, it called itself – fetches me a drink. When it gets back with my sports drink it emits a discreet electronic cough from near the doorway before coming in.

14. Leandra Moon

I turn in my book report and head to my desk. Sandy Falcone gives me a little wave as I pass her. She’s really filling out nicely; at the beginning of the year she was uber-skinny and a major league nerd. Now she’s a b-cup and the acne has cleared and she’s starting to get a little weight on her in just the right places. And she’s my new best friend, at least in her eyes.

Until just recently she was safe from Jake. Now she’s in his targeting sights and it scares her. I keep tabs on who he’s staring at, just in case he wants to try something. She noticed Jake looking too, and that’s why she came to me. Offered to help me with Math if I would walk her home. She even stays for my music practice. A benefit of that is that she seems to have perfect rhythm – she’d make a great drummer in somebody’s band. Like mine, if I ever get around to forming it.

Sandy’s also the only one in school who knows my secret. Jake thinks I have some kind of kryptonite thing going, and I can hear the gears grinding in his skull. I’m pretty sure he knows I’m super, but he hasn’t got an effing clue what my powers are. I intend to keep it that way.

Ever since I found out about Mom – biological Mom that is – I’ve been thinking about the whole super thing. Mistress O’Payne was a villain, simple as black and white. But do I really want to follow in her footsteps? Nobody’s seen her in like, 15 years; she might even be dead. Do I want to run that risk?

And the world has moved on. Just dressing up like a corset-clad dominatrix isn’t enough now; I mean Bombshell’s costume shows a lot more flesh, and she has enough “wardrobe malfunctions” that people are starting to think it’s deliberate. A girl with boobs that big has got to have heard of tape.

And that gets me thinking about sex again. What does it feel like? Sometimes it’s all I can think about, and I really wish my power worked on myself. One quick whammy and I’d know everything. The Human Mirror might be able to reflect it back on me, but he’s a villain so I won’t even consider it. After all, what’s to stop him just raping me himself? From what Mom says, that’s a common problem for women in the super-biz. It’s probably all the skin-tight costumes.

Eventually Mr. Jenner starts the class. I won’t say he’s old, but I think he has a copy of the Iliad signed by the author. He has a special magic that can take a dusty old piece of literature and add an even thicker layer of dust. I sneak out the copy of The Pearl I found in Mom and Dad’s library. Not the Steinbeck novel, the Victorian era porn magazine. Given all the thoughts I’ve been dealing with lately, I might as well see what the classics have to say about it. If somebody catches me reading it I can just tell them it’s Steinbeck.

15. Peregrine

The Target walks by me and smiles. No, she’s not ‘The Target’, her name’s Leandra. I’ve got her convinced that Jake Howe is watching me, and it did awaken her protective instincts. Take that, Hawk. Getting close to Leandra is my first real mission; now to see if all that practice paid off.

She’s been walking me home from school the last few days, and even stops by my place to study. Last night we were so late that I almost missed reporting in, but it was productive. She ‘outed’ herself to me, talking about her powers and how they kind of scare her. She even gave me a demonstration of her ability, making me feel all girlish and giggly and full of life. I haven’t felt that way since before Hawk took me in. I like it.

My foster family doesn’t like her, of course. ‘Dad’ was actually her prisoner once back in the 90’s and he still gets flashbacks. He described it all to me in detail, which was way Too Much Information, and warned me that I was going to end up getting the same treatment. Some of it would be anatomically impossible because I’m a girl, but I get the drift. If Dad wasn’t so afraid of Hawk I’m pretty sure he’d knife Leandra in the back just to watch her bleed out.

All I know is that for the last couple of days I’ve felt more alive, more like a normal teenager, than I’ve ever felt before. I’m actually starting to understand what normal girls talk about: shoes, makeup, careers, the future. Not pressure points and burglary and planning for some super villain apocalypse. I’m even starting to wonder what it would be like to get away from Hawk.

16. Kate Charles

Derek carefully sets the Sacred Shaft of Kirrac-Nor aside. It’s done its work, or at least part of its work. I feel like I’ve just run a marathon. A very, very pleasant marathon. If it wasn’t for the extreme danger of overusing a source of spiritual power I’d beg him to use it again.

He leans over me. “Do you feel all right, dear?”

“I. Feel. Fantastic! That was the most wonderful sensation of my life! It was like the first time we … only a lot more intense. I could feel the spirit energy moving into me, filling me and flowing through me. In fact I can still feel it flowing inside me, like it’s waiting for something.”

He unshackles me and helps me down off the rack. It was just a safety precaution, like when they strap down a patient who’s having a seizure. Yeah. I am going to have to convince him to put me on there again. Or better yet, to let me strap him in so I can be the one in charge.

“We’ll have to assume it worked. Any idea what you can do? Any funny urges?”

I look him in the eye, but he’s serious. “No. Nothing.”

“Hmm. I hadn’t really anticipated this problem. I wonder how we’re going to figure out what you can do.”

“Didn’t the notes say anything about that?”

“Not really. The last person this thing was used on turned into a calico cat and ran off, never to be seen again.”

“Well, maybe it’s some kind of transformation. Do you think I should try?”

“Of course; we’ll never learn if we don’t try. But make sure you know how to change back.”

I don’t know how to change in the first place, let alone change back. But first of all, I won’t be turning into a cat. I’m not fond of cats. Maybe a dog? No, a wolf. I could try to be a werewolf.

I concentrate on thinking like a werewolf. Nothing happens. I wish I knew what it was like to be a werewolf. Probably spend my days sniffing people’s butts. I close my eyes and concentrate, but Derek smells too good. He’s aroused all right, just like I am. I can smell it.

I can smell it! I open my eyes; he looks a bit pale, but the scent makes up for it. I try to get closer, but I’m a bit unsteady on my feet. Instead he steps forward and takes my shoulders. I fall into his embrace and try to kiss him, but my lips won’t pucker. Instead I lick his face, which just enhances the whole nasal symphony.

He runs his hands through the hair on my back. No, not hair, fur! This is definitely working. I look at my hand. The fingers are still there, but there’s claws on them. And they’re covered with fur. Well, except the palms. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.

Derek smells like prey. No, not quite prey, more like something else. Not so much meat as mate. I put my claws, my wonderful claws, to work tearing away his clothing and lose myself in every sensation that comes after.

When I come back to my senses, Derek and I have only moved as far as the floor. I’m still a wolf-girl, but I can feel the energy flowing within me. I let out a howl to the world so they know that this man is mine. Mine! I smell blood, but it doesn’t trigger hunger. Derek is covered in little scratches, even a few that are going to be embarrassing to explain if anyone but me sees them. I guess that’s the price of having a werewife.

“Wow, Kate, that was wonderful! Any idea how to switch back to human form?”

Actually, I do know how. I show him by doing so. It feels so good I try to howl again, but it comes out as a moan. “That was great! I kind of wish I could talk in wolf-girl form, though.”

“You were able to express what you wanted fairly well, Dear.”

“Yes, but what’s wolfese for ‘give me the money’?”

“I assume you’d just go and take it. Nobody writes about werewolves being great conversationalists.”

“I suppose. Right now my throat’s a little dry. Where’s Twelve?”

A plastic head peeks in the bedroom door. “Do you wish my services, Mistress?”

“Yes, Twelve. Fetch me a mint.” He does and I suck on it gladly. Even in human form my sense of taste is enhanced.

“Well Dear, now we know what your power is. Being a werewolf is pretty impressive, isn’t it?”

That doesn’t feel quite right to me. “I don’t think that’s it, Derek. At least, not all of it. I had to actually want to be a werewolf, to concentrate on it. Do you mind if I try an experiment?”

“If it’s anything like that last experiment, you’re going to have to wait a bit for me to recover.”

“Not that experiment, My Love. This one.”

I concentrate again, and it does feel different this time. For one thing, Derek gets taller. My paws feel different, and look different too. They’re black, and the claws are retractable. And the room light is a little too bright. I get the impression my night vision is incredible. It’s easier to shift back to human, but that’s probably just because I’m doing it for the second time.

“I thought you didn’t like cats very much.”

“I’m developing a new appreciation, dear.”

After that we go to the exercise area and I try a few more forms. I don’t turn into animals, I turn into animal/human hybrid forms. Each of them has its own specialties, and I’m going to have to practice each of them to learn what I can do. Derek stays by me, watching and making smart remarks.

“Feeling a bit mousey, Dear?”

“You know I like a girl with long legs, but a giraffe?”

“Are you on the prowl, my Tigress?”

“Now you really are a deer, Dear.”

“I never thought our relationship had an elephant in the room before.”

That one makes me laugh; more properly, I trumpet. But after seven transformations I’m starting to feel a bit tired. Hopefully practice will improve that, too. And I know I can’t change from animal to animal, I tried. I have to go back to being human in between. Also, I now own a shredded tee and shorts that confirm my clothes don’t change shape with me. I’ll have to be careful about that.

“I think I’d better go lie down.”

“Would you like me to lie down with you, Dear?”

“Lovely as that would be, Derek, all this shape shifting has tired me out. I’m going to take a nap.”

“All right, Beloved. Just howl if you need me.”

I slap him on the nose for that one and head off to bed.

17. Derek Charles

While Kate sleeps I make my final choice. It’s going to be the Gravitation Band. I remember watching Gravitas when I was in the orphanage. All I could think was that he was an idiot. He had power over one of the fundamental forces of the universe, and all he did with it was knock things over. I used to daydream about what I would do if I had that power.

The band fits like it was made for me. That’s one of its features. I look at the other band in the display case. It’s inert, window dressing to make the heroes think you needed the pair of them to work. I’m not going to bother.

According to Dad’s notes, the band is controlled by achieving a mental fugue state with it. Apparently you have to meditate on the band and its power for hours to attune to it. I settle down and let my mind begin to softly focus on the device. I can feel the edge of the psychic interface waiting for me. All I need to do is get the right frame of mind.

“Would you like some tea, sir?”

The voice shocks me right out of my nascent trance. “What? Oh, Twelve. What do you want?”

“I was wondering if you’d like some tea, sir. You seemed to be relaxing, and I know you often like a cup of tea when you relax.”

“I’m not relaxing, Twelve, I’m meditating.”

“Oh. Sorry, sir. No tea then?”

“No, Twelve.”

It takes a couple of minutes to calm myself from the adrenaline spike, but finally I’m ready. I reach down into my mind again. The band is still there, waiting. I start examining the mental contours, trying to find the right state of mind to open it and unlock its power.

“Cushion, sir?”

Again! “Twelve!”

“I thought you might want a cushion, sir. I have a couple of nice ones here for you to choose from, freshly cleaned and fluffed. You wouldn’t want a sore backside to distract you from your meditation, sir.”

“Right now I have a pushy robot distracting me from my meditation! What has gotten into you, Twelve?”

“Well, sir, I’ve completed all the housework, including the laundry and ordering groceries. Mistress is asleep right now, Five and Thirteen aren’t online yet and his high and mighty Seventeen-ness is powered down for recharging. You seem to be the only one conscious at the moment, so I will do my best to help you in your current task.”

“Did you say you ordered groceries? As in for delivery?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Here?” There goes the secret hideout.

“No, sir. I’m following standard procedures and having them delivered to Safe House Four. The robotic couple living there are still operational and the secret tunnel is fine now that I’ve cleared it. There is no danger of us being found out.”

“Well, at least that.” I think for a moment. Safe house four? “How many of these safe houses do we have, Twelve?”

“Nineteen of them, sir, though only two are still operational. Safe House Four is at 117 Parkdale near the grocery store, and Safe House Eighteen is at 330 Burnside.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”

“Seventeen instructed me not to. He said you shouldn’t be bothered with minor details.”

“Hmm. I’m going to have to have a talk with Seventeen. See if there’s anything else that I shouldn’t be bothered with. All right, Twelve. You go and recharge too. Once I get this band figured out, I’m probably going to make quite a mess testing it and you’ll need a full charge to clean up properly. Unless an emergency threatens Kate, me, or the house, please don’t bother me in the next six hours. Can you do that?”

“Of course sir. I shall do my utmost to maintain your privacy.” He walks away, but there’s something just a little different. Even though there’s nothing obvious, I could swear he’s walking smugly.

18. Jake Howe

I see a flicker of light in Spooky Park. At first I think I’m imagining things, but a moment later I see it again. It’s from back among the willows, in a space that has to be as close to pitch black as you can get outside a cave. I start to think of all the stories about this place and people going missing. Nobody actually knows anyone who disappeared, but the rumours are enough. I dive down to investigate.

There’s somebody there. It’s a girl in skin-tight body armour with flared boots and gloves, a short cape and a cowl that looks vaguely like a bird’s head. Peregrine. I’ve heard about her, and Dad even showed me a picture of her once. She’s the Hawk’s apprentice.

As I get close I think I might be mistaken. The Peregrine I’d seen the picture of was a little kid. This girl’s about my age, with nice curves and a compact but definite chest. That outfit was a bit comical in the photo, but in real life it’s quite the turn-on. I push Leandra to the back of my mind, not that she’s going to stay there.

“Peregrine?”

“Who were you expecting, Bombshell?”

“Uh, well …”

“Stuff it, Jake. Are you anywhere near coming out of the closet yet?”

“What? I’m not gay!”

“Not gay, super! Have you thought of a costume to hide your identity from us mere mortals? Have you thought of a name?”

“No! Anyway, Dad would kill me.”

“A nuke wouldn’t kill you! I’ve seen Hawk’s dossier on your powers. A stick of dynamite up your ass would just make a fart that smells of cordite! Sarin gas might make you sneeze! Hawk’s scared of you, Jake, especially if you decide not to play by their rules!”

“Look, I don’t want to be a super hero. I want to use my abilities, but I don’t want to spend my life hiding behind a mask and worrying about … my loved ones.”

“You mean Leandra. I can see it every time you look at her. Hawk hasn’t caught on yet, and neither have any of the Sentinels. I don’t know what the others’ excuses are, but in Hawk’s case it’s because human emotions are a theoretical science to him. Leandra’s got some kind of super sex appeal, and it’s getting stronger as she matures physically.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I want to climb up her skirt every time I see her, and I don’t even know what I’d do if I got there. But I’m telling you that you have to stay back.”

“Now you sound like my Dad.”

“I don’t mean stay away, I mean go slow. She’s only just waking up to boys now, but that’s not the important part. Did your father tell you about Protocol?”

“I’ve heard the name. Isn’t he the guy that tends Justice Sentinel HQ?”

“Yes. He’s also the Sentinels’ executioner.”

“Executioner?”

“Yes. He makes Hawk look stable. I don’t know how they keep him under control, maybe Scooby Snax or something. But he has the power to suppress people’s powers with a touch. He’s the assassin they use to take out villains that won’t play by the rules and heroes that go over the line. And you’re currently number one on his watch list.”

“That’s crazy! Why would someone want to take me out?”

“Because you’re freaking incredible, Jake. Only one person has a power that can hurt you and you’re about one step short of begging her to enslave you. Don’t think people aren’t paying attention to that.”

“Why does this matter to you? Jealous?”

“No, you idiot, I want you to live! First because I know there’s a decent human being lurking somewhere inside that thick skull of yours, and second because there are … a lot of people that are going to need your protection. So, have you thought of a name?”

I had, and I hadn’t been planning to tell her, but she probably knows already. “Well, actually, I kind of like Paragon.”

I can barely see her half-smile in the darkness. “Paragon. It has a good ring to it. Are you going to be ready to live up to it? You don’t have a lot of time. Get a costume, too. Something bright blue, with a cape I think. And indestructible.”

“I’ll think about it.” I wanted more of a navy.

She looks at her wrist. “About 40 seconds left till the bugs go live again. Good luck, Jake.” She leaps into the air and kisses me during her hang time. “And would it kill you to look at Sandy now and then? She’d probably put out if you asked her nice; I know she thinks you’re hot.”

She does a quick backflip and is lost in the darkness before I can respond. I’m not totally sure what that was all about but I think I’ve just been recruited. And propositioned.

19. Kate Charles

It’s good to get out and about in the city, to experience the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I’d forgotten how much I miss having people around, and how much I enjoy the sly glances people take at my body. Jealousy from the women, lust from the men. It turns me on, and Derek is going to know it when I get home.

I stop at the bank to pick up some pocket money. While I’m waiting in line at the ATM (okay, not everything about normal life is a fond memory) four men jog into the bank wearing balaclavas. It takes a special kind of idiot to rob a bank in this city. In just a few seconds some super hero will rush in and take the lot of them out.

I wait. There’s still five people in front of me, so it’ll be a while. Nobody rushes into the bank and no commotion starts. Well, other than the robbery. There’s a bit of shouting, and I hear some weak-willed bimbo sobbing way too loud. I think about the insurance, and how the bank is going to raise its fees to cover the higher premiums. Where is that damned super hero?

Finally I can’t take it. If the heroes are going to fall asleep on the job I’ll have to do something myself. I turn to the man who’s been checking out my ass the last few minutes. “It’s your lucky day, buddy.” I step out of line, rush over and toss my purse in the car. I try to think of some snappy tag-line, but nothing comes. Instead I just transform.

I hear the tearing as my dress comes apart. Things constrict a bit, then let go as the cloth fails; I’m going to have to invest in some breakaway apparel. I can’t wait to get shopping! Everyone at the ATM stares as I barge past, morphing into a seven foot tall tiger woman along the way.

One of the men in masks whirls around. “Company!”

I leap at him, knocking him several feet with a paw swipe. Superhuman strength: yes. His gun skitters away and a bloodstain is forming on his back. Oh, right, I should retract the claws. Nah, his problem for being stupid. I snarl at the others, as if they needed anything else to get their attention. The bystanders have noticed me too.

“Oh my god, it’s a monster!”

“It’s some kind of tiger woman!”

“Freakin’ amazing! She’s naked!”

“Stop staring, Edmund!”

I only half pay attention as I prowl forward and pick my target. The tall one. He’s levelling his handgun at me; I charge him anyway.

I feel a sharp pain in my side. Bullet-proof: no. But the power inside me is already closing the wound. Regeneration: yes! He tries to run but I’m faster; I bear him to the ground with only a little claw action and tear the gun out of his hand. One of his fingers comes with it. The smell of the blood makes me hungry like muffins fresh from the oven. It is so tempting! But there’ll be time for a snack later; right now I have work to do. I leave him to scream and bawl and try to stop the blood flow.

Robber number three is a black guy, heavyset and smelling of nylon. Is he a super? No time to wonder now. He puts two bullets into my chest, which sting like the dickens but otherwise don’t slow me down. He’s not even trying to dodge. A claw-swipe across his chest knocks him into the service counter but draws no blood. Multi-layered fibers in his coat have absorbed the scratches. Of course! He’s no super, he’s wearing body armour. I slash at him a few more times as he wrestles with me and tries to bring the gun up to my face.

Bad idea on his part. His armour only covers his chest. My fangs sink into his arm and I’m almost overcome by the sweet savour of blood and flesh. Who knew power could be so delicious! I crunch down and feel the bone break while my tongue laps at the wound. This is heaven!

He pleads for mercy and I reluctantly grant it. I leap to my next target and bear her to the ground. Her? With some effort bloodlust gives way to focus and I realize she’s a security guard. With another roar I move on.

The fourth man is running. I easily outpace him and land between him and the door. He changes direction and takes off. Again I jump in front of him and he quickly backpedals. I can smell his fear. This is fun! The third time I snag his pant leg with my claws. One quick tug takes him off his feet and I land on his back. He’s soiled himself and is whimpering pathetically.

“Help! Help! Get it off me!”

It? I’m tempted to bat his head off right now. But I don’t. I’ve found I really like his fear, and I want more of it.

“Uh, excuse me Miss Tiger?” It’s the security guard I knocked over. “May I put handcuffs on him?”

“Yes! Yes! Cuff me! Just get me away from her!”

I lean back and let her do her job. The bloodlust is subsiding, but it was never really that bad. Kind of like the way it felt when Derek and I played on that kiddies’ swing set in spring and I had to go over the top. The situation seems to be over, but nearly everyone in the bank is hiding behind their smartphones. There’s a couple of flashes of light. No, they’re not hiding. They’re taking pictures! Of me! Naked!

I resist the sudden urge to get small. They’re not perverts, I’m news. And I’m not really that naked, I have fur. I bask in the glory as my public admires me.

An overweight man with a delicious-looking cut on his forehead comes up to me.

“Thank you, super hero! You saved our bank!”

Wait, what? Super hero? He thinks I’m a super hero? And the others are agreeing with him? Their cheers are disorienting to my tiger senses, but the adulation is like crack cocaine. I could get used to this!

The police show up, way too late as usual. They take statements from the witnesses, and try to take mine. It’s pretty easy to convince them I can’t talk. One of them, a fairly handsome young guy whose name badge says “D. Potter”, tells me to contact him at the station to give my statement. They’ve had this kind of situation before. After 20 more minutes they seem to be done and I can go.

As I’m leaving the bank a trio of oriental girls run up to me. What now?

“Ooh, you are so awesome! What’s your name?”

“She can’t talk, Andrea. How can she tell us her name?”

“She could turn back to her human form!”

“But that would give away her secret identity!”

The third girl looks apologetic as she addresses me. “Sexy Tiger? Can I call you that? I’m Kelly. This is Andrea and Lily. My friends and I think you’re really great. Can we get our pictures taken with you?”

I nod. It’s not like there aren’t thousands of pictures of me on the internet by now. I decide to ham it up (and vamp it up) a little, and these girls will have the story of a lifetime. Sexy Tiger. It’s kind of catchy, but probably not the image I want.

Four blocks from the bank Twelve meets me in an alley with some clothes and the spare car keys. I get back and pick up the car just before the meter expires.

Contents - Part 1 - [ Part 2 ] - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

(c) 2013, Tim Smith. All rights reserved.