Gift: The Rebellion

Rory Stone has a Gift, and the whole world wants to see.

Rory Stone felt that his life was perfectly normal, the days spent with his best friend Towlen even managed to make it vaguely bearable, even interesting, but once he finds he's got a Gift, his world starts tumbling around his shoulders. Tea with the Queen, Shapeshifters missing, children sleeping and never waking up... and Rory is in the middle.

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4. Chapter Three- Division of the Races

Chapter Three- Division of the Races

   It was ten o’clock in the evening, and Chief inspector Gareth O’Donnell along with his team and his Shapeshifter, Orpheus, were preparing to bust a fierce group of thieves and scammers.

    As they crept along to a row of dingy little houses –a little too dingy considering how much stolen money was being harboured- Orpheus weighed up their odds. He had seven officers by his side, including his companion, Gareth.  That made eight of them against supposedly four criminals.

    But who knows? He thought. They might all have Shapeshifters, and we only have one. That would put them at a serious disadvantage, but having a Shapeshifter work with them was a privilege in the force, one that, of the seven of them, only Gareth had attained. Orpheus watched as Gareth murmured his most effective defensive Paton under his breath.

    “Defence, Defence- Defence, Earth.” Orpheus tracked the association of earth to concrete as only the steady companion of Gareth could have done. The image of his defence bloomed in Orpheus’s thoughts, Gareth nodded to himself, content.

    “Forward! Forward!” Gareth’s urgent whispers penetrated the dense silence of the estate. He gestured towards the house and he and his men crept forward, no more than a shadow in this early winter night. Orpheus slunk beside them, the form of a panther.

    They stopped at number thirteen, and the team backed up against a wall that stood around the house. Ridden with dead ivy, it was taller than every one of Gareth’s men and dominated the immediate area, a fact that made Orpheus uncomfortable. He leapt up onto the wall and strolled along it, disturbing the even layer of snow, searching for any sign of a threat, at one with the darkness.

   After a few seconds of resounding silence, he dropped back down, his paws made no sound in the thick snow. Gareth bent down to face Orpheus.

    “All clear?” he asked. Orpheus nodded, his green eyes bearing down on Gareth like weights. Gareth held out his palm to Orpheus, who in turn held up his own paw and touched Gareth’s hand for a second, before lowering it back to the ground- A supposed sign of friendship, of trust. Orpheus counted his blessings that he was not bound by truth like countless other magical species.

    “Sir?” Orpheus’s head snapped to his right, but not to face the nervous policeman who had spoken, but through the gates to a rustling bush. It was a windless night.

    Gareth looked to the young man whose hand was up; he looked both alarmed and anxious.

    “No need to put your hand up Officer Davidson, this isn’t school!” he said, chuckling at his own joke, “what’s the problem?”

    “um-” he lowered his hand, wincing at the sound of its brush on his uniform. “There appears to be something in that bush… Sir.” Gareth sighed, and Orpheus knew that he’d noticed the disturbance, too.

    Shuffling to the edge of the wall near the gate, Gareth pulled out his Glock 26 and aimed it through the rails. The bush rustled ominously and the team tensed. Officer Davidson shook as he reached for his gun.

    “Chief inspector O’Donnel, sir?” This voice was stronger, not Officer Davidson. Gareth turned and narrowed his eyes.

    “Yes, Officer?”

    “I believe that was a rabbit in the bush, sir.”

    “And how did you arrive at that conclusion when I myself failed to do so, Officer?” Gareth asked, spitting through his teeth. He turned back to glare at the bush.

    “Well, I did see it run out…” It was this burly Officer’s turn to be glared at, “and the number on the door says fifteen, sir.”

    “Did you just say-” Gareth drew a furious breath, “number fifteen?” the Officer gulped and nodded. He was of a large build, but cowered under Chief Inspector O’Donnell’s seething voice.

    “A-aren’t we s-supposed to be a-at number th-th-thirteen, sir?” Officer Davidson’s voice trembled both with cold and fierce anxiety. Lewis Davidson wasn’t a particularly imposing figure and had a knack of pointing out the obvious. His skin glowed a sickly white in the harsh fluorescent street lighting. Beneath pale blonde hair, deep blue eyes darted here and there like that of the rabbit that had just dashed away. He was the youngest and newest on the team, with this being his first night in the field. His unease showed in his voice and the knees that wobbled dangerously, threatening to collapse on him. Orpheus huffed in annoyance. The Officer was but a child.

    Orpheus looked at Gareth inquisitively. He hadn’t been told the address and grew angry at the human’s ignorance. If he had been told he would have recognised the error before anyone else. He had always believed his companion to be smarter than most men and so his idiocy appalled Orpheus. How much time had they wasted? Staking out a building that perfectly innocent people dwelled in… a deep, menacing growl rumbled in the pit of his stomach. He stalked to the next house, number thirteen.
 

                                                                    *     *     *

    Royce Lock was a criminal. Not much good at anything but thieving and occasional trickery. He was Darryl Vickers’s puppet, for use on either petty shoplifting or for when Darryl didn’t particularly feel like going to prison that day.

    “Oi! Darryl, look a’ this! Them blokes outside, they’re policemen righ’? Look! Ou’side that Jenny’s ‘ouse. What they doin’ round there, Darryl?” shouted Royce, who was on his lookout shift, and would swap in ten minutes with George.

    “Darryl, you there?” he looked to George, who was lying on the sofa, staring at a smashed television through thickets of sandy hair, picking at the threads on his jumper, “you seen Darryl?” George shrugged.

    “He was… Um.” he looked about him and pointed in the general direction of the door, he hiccupped, “about there-” Hic- “I think. Took off-” Hic- “when you men-” Hic- “mentioned… What you said.” Hic-.

    “You drunk, George?”

    Hic- “No.”

    “Where’d you get it?”

    “Wha-” Hic-.

    “The drink, George,” said Royce, a little more coherently than his usual slang infested voice, as he tended to be when he wanted something.

    George shrugged. “I dunno-” Hic- “do I?” Royce glared at him, George glared back dangerously until, abruptly, his eyes held a strange sort of clarity and his face went slack. A silence permeated the room… until George began to snore. Royce had never seen a person sleep with their eyes open and it revolted him. He had had no idea that George did it, and the sight made him shudder.

    Royce uttered foul words in George’s direction before noticing the movement outside. A quite abnormally large black cat was perched outside the house. The policemen were following it.

    “Darryl? We’ def’nitely got a problem!” he called. The only answer was a gentle creak as the front door was eased open. Royce poked his head out of the window to get a better look. Darryl Vickers was flat on his stomach behind a fence of shrubbery that lined the house, but conveniently left a small man-sized gap between it and the wall. It was odd to see Darryl crouched in the mud when usually he didn’t like getting his hands dirty, in any sense of the word, yet somehow Royce felt that he might not have been able squeeze his gut through that tiny gap that Darryl was able to slip into.

    Darryl was touching his fingers to his marks and was muttering words that Royce wasn’t close enough to hear. Slowly and ever so silently, Royce drew his head back through the window and went downstairs to join Darryl.
 

                                                                    *     *     *

     As Orpheus prowled along the gate, the muttering officers distracted him from the creaking of a door that he otherwise would have heard. He concentrated on his new surroundings and found that he could hear life now, close by. Bewildered, he scrutinised the shabby garden before him, listening.

    Long, shallow breaths, a quickening pulse, Orpheus’s eyes narrowed. There was someone out there- hiding.

    It must be a human, no other animal has quite the same heartbeat, no other animal’s heart would sound so panicked. A Shapeshifter in the form of a human? But that was a criminal offence. Orpheus reminded himself that they were dealing with criminals, it was plausible. Gareth strode towards him and knelt down to talk.

    “Is it safe?” Gareth asked, Orpheus shook his head no, “have we still got the element of surprise?” Another stiff shake to reply, but Gareth’s mind had drifted to other thoughts, probably wondering what would what happen to him if the senior officers discovered what had almost happened tonight, his mistake. Wondering how he would support himself if he was fired or demoted.

    Orpheus nudged him to bring him back to reality. Gareth started, but then stood with a new ferociousness. He was ready.

    “Right then!” he whispered, “Brook, Williams, Acrich. Guard the back door. Davidson, Pierce and I will check for any signs of movement in the front.

    What? The man knows that he has lost the element of surprise, what is he doing? Orpheus thought. It was best to leave to operation for another night.

    “-before advancing slowly to the front door. We’ll keep to that hedge at the side there-”

    The hedge! Orpheus knew where the criminal was hiding. He growled at O’Donnell and pawed at his legs but to no avail. In severe desperation he extended his claws and dug them deep into the flesh of his calf. Gareth screamed shrilly for a second before lowering his voice to a dull cry.

    “Why,” he spat, “did you do that?” Orpheus pointed a claw directly to the bushes next to the door. He sensed the man hiding in them freeze and hold his breath.

    “Yes, Orpheus, that is where we’re going, now get out of my way!” The man in the shrubbery released his breath and sighed with relief. He almost laughed, and Orpheus could hear it all.

    Gareth O’Donnell was in what he liked to call ‘The Zone’. It was an awful place, where no one could get him to change the direction where he was already heading. Orpheus growled as fiercely as he could without disturbing the peace of the estate.

    Brook, Williams and Acrich went around the back. Orpheus considered transforming into animal that would definitely get Gareth’s attention again, but decided against it for the risk of being seen as something more conspicuous. Whilst he was suffering from this inner turmoil, the force had started to advance again and Orpheus was powerless to stop it. Reluctantly, he stalked along the icy path alongside his companion, ready to help if –or when- it all went wrong.

                                                                    *     *     *

    Royce crept down the stairs, dropping to his hands and knees as he reached the foot to avoid the prying eyes of the officers outside. He crawled to the door and eased open the letterbox. Peering out, he could just spot the greasy spikes of Darryl’s gelled hair.

    “What does ‘e fink ‘e’s playin’ at?” Royce muttered under his breath. Shaking his head, he snapped the letter box shut before getting back on to his knees, beneath the view of the windows. Although he didn’t know much Paton, Darryl had taught him enough to cause some serious damage if he had to.

                                                                    *     *     *

    A crack of metal caught Orpheus’ attention; he scanned the garden once more. Yes, more signs of life. If only he could see the criminal. He must be in the hedge, but where?

    The officers had clambered over the gate now, not daring to open it in fear of rusty hinges.

    Not that it matters, they already know we’re here.

    The three remaining men split, Pierce and Davidson went to the left and right of the house, crouching behind dead flowers and bushes. Gareth continued towards the front door in what he must have believed to be a stealthy manner despite his limp. Orpheus followed obediently, if unwillingly at his side.

    “Are you in position?” O’Donnell murmured into his radio.

    “Yes, sir,” came Brooks’ voice, carried in a wave of static.

    “Ready and waiting for instruction, sir,” Acrich said, another wave of static.

    “Positioned at the door, sir. Ready,” came one final wave. Gareth tucked the radio in his pocket.

    “OK boys, we’re going in.” The flowers on Orpheus’s right trembled.

                                                                    *     *     *

    Royce peered through the windows once more, it seemed they were surrounded on all sides, but surely they had an advantage, Darryl was in their midst, and they didn’t even know it.

    Darryl Vickers was not a friendly man, even at first sight he could not be perceived as a person with good intentions. Children crossed to the other side of the road when they saw him. Both men and women hung their heads low to avoid catching his eye. Mothers took their babies out of their prams and cradled them closely, you didn’t need to know Darryl Vickers to know about his reputation.

    He had a long, thin and sallow face, punctuated with deep-set black eyes. His hair was slick on the surface with cheap gel, beneath it was so hard it could probably be snapped -not that anyone would dare try- from of years of not bothering to wash it out.

    Now, he lay flat behind a bush laden with thorns and prickles and the snow was melting through his thin jumper. Anyone else would have complained about the pain of the situation, anyone else would have given themselves up, but not Darryl.

    Royce noticed the Shapeshifters’ eyes searching for him. It knew he was there, and prowled cautiously as three officers went around the back and two more hid uncomfortably close by. Still, the animal searched for him.

    Royce knew that Darryl often wished that he had a Shapeshifter. God knows life would be easier with one. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that they actually were intelligent creatures, none of whom wished to be his companion, nor Royce nor Georges.

    Years ago, Darryl had attempted to steal a Shapeshifter. How horribly wrong that had gone, the tale had been told to Royce once, and Darryl had refused to repeat it. The Shapeshifter had transformed into a lion and slashed Darryl’s chest before shifting into a rat and scampering into a gutter. Darryl was constantly fingering the ugly scars that protruded from his skin and disfigured his chest. There was no chance in him ever trying that again.

    The lead policeman began to walk closer and his Shapeshifter sniffed the air.

    Can he smell me? Royce fretted. He didn’t know the inner workings of their kind, what their senses were like or if they changed according to the animal they were in the form of. Arching his back to lean on his elbow, Darryl Vickers prepared for an attack.

                                                                    *     *     *

    As they approached the door, Gareth turned to Orpheus.

    “How shall we go about this, then?” he asked, as if he would listen to Orpheus’s opinion. “Knock politely or ram the door down?” Orpheus merely stared. Neither. The criminals were not all inside, how he could explain without being able to voice his thoughts? Gareth nodded as if he had replied.

    The beating of a heart became clearer. Deep, long breaths became louder. Orpheus’s fur bristled in anticipation. He could smell the man’s perspiration, and an odd scent that didn’t fit. It was a nasty, horrid smell and it was getting more and more potent with every step closer.

    They came to the door; Orpheus’s fur was on end, as was the hair on the back of Gareth’s neck. Evidently he had opted for the ‘polite knock on the door’ option.
   
    Orpheus’s sensitive ears picked up a gasp, he turned.

    Darryl Vickers stared into the eyes of Orpheus the Shapeshifter. Without any sudden movements, he gently raised his sodden hands out of the snow. He aimed.

    Orpheus released a deafening roar that tore through the air, penetrating windows and walls, disturbing otherwise peaceful sleepers. Gareth turned in surprise, instinctively reaching for his defensive Paton. A flash of blue light burned Orpheus’s eyes as Gareth raised the concrete from beneath the snow amid shudders like that of an earthquake and held it in a wall before him. The force of the bright blue attack was forced upon Gareth’s defensive and he was knocked off his feet. The wall fell to rubble.

    Somewhere behind him, a window smashed. A shock of red light stained the world and suddenly, Orpheus was in more pain than he had ever imagined. His body was tearing, his mind ripping along with it in the blinding pain. He released a terrified, piercing, strangled howl, a roar of disbelief and fury.

    He lay in the snow, a stark contrast of black and white, yelping and wailing in agony. Fire licked at his wounds. Gareth, dumbfounded and afraid. The magic dissolved, the injuries remained.

    “Orpheus.” The word was barely audible, he reached for the creature whom had once been his friend, but Orpheus growled and spat menacingly.

    Orpheus was vaguely aware of a motionless Darryl Vickers lying close by, blasted by his own attack having rebounded from Gareth’s defence. Cautiously, Officer Pierce inspected him as Officer Davidson warily opened the door to search the premises. Orpheus shivered violently, and once again, Gareth attempted to comfort him, but was warned away with a stream of growls and hisses.

     Orpheus’s fur began to glimmer, as if the moon was reflecting on the coat of blood that stained his fur. He was glittering now, and puddles of light were expanding and contracting on him abnormally and emitting streaks of glistening silvery-blue. Patches of transparency pooled in the blue, and Chief Inspector Gareth O’Donnell stared open-mouthed as his Shapeshifter began to disappear.

    When Orpheus’s body had gone, all but glisten hanging in the air and a slick pool of blood remained in the space where he had lain, wounded.

    Orpheus revelled in the incurable discomfort he’d cause in the back of Gareth’s mind as he spoke to his companion for the first time.

    You could have protected me, human. It was an action of ignorance and stupidity that has caused this. It will be paid for.

    Your race will pay.

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