Target(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 3)(2) by Connie Suttle
"They'll come hunting you, Ashe, if they discover you have the talents they want. Misters are extremely rare among their kind. Keep that information secret," William Winkler had warned Ashe and his parents two years earlier. The fertilized egg his parents had gotten from a clinic so paranormal scientists could splice in his mother's and father's DNA had been carefully planted by a race known as the Elemaiya.
At war among themselves, one faction had seeded fertility clinics with donated eggs in an effort to increase their numbers. Their half-Elemaiyan children could turn out almost as talented as the full bloods. The opposing side had learned of it and set about exterminating any children born from those donated eggs. The supernatural community of Cloud Chief had protected Ashe for the past three years, after the first attempt on his life when he was twelve. Now, Ashe sat inside his bedroom, depressed and dejected, a half-packed box of books lying on the floor beside his bed.
"At least we learned where the vampire misters originated," Ashe muttered to himself. If a vampire had the least bit of Elemaiyan blood, he had a very good chance of being able to mist or mindspeak. Ashe could do both, in addition to his shapeshifting ability. Granted he turned into the tiniest mammal in existence—the bumblebee bat—but it had been useful at times. His echolocation skills were the most helpful while he was in bat form.
"Son, the authorities have arrived, so stay inside your room," Aedan poked his head inside Ashe's door. Tall, dark-haired and gray-eyed, Aedan was quite handsome. Ashe had overheard the older girls commenting on it one day after school. Ashe never thought of his parents in those terms—they'd always been his parents. Nothing more. Aedan, as vampire, would always appear young. His mother was still in her prime, but as a shapeshifting falcon, she would age. Shifters normally lived more than two hundred years. Ashe didn't like thinking about a time when his mother wouldn't be alive.
"I will," Ashe told his father, setting a handful of books inside the box.
"This isn't your fault," Aedan sighed. "Keep packing your things. We'll talk later."
"All right." Ashe wanted to be someone else right then. Almost anyone would do. He listened while his father climbed the steps toward the ground floor of their home.
"Nice work," Jasper complimented Aedan and Nathan. The creature's head had been neatly severed, with very few additional wounds. Nathan had distracted the beast, swiping its ribs with lengthy claws while Aedan, moving faster than a blur, had stepped in to remove the head. The body was now stored inside the Evans' garage under a tarp until someone could come and remove it.
"I've never seen anything like this before," Matt shook his head in wonder and confusion. "It's half bear, half bull, with extra horns and long hair."
"We hear they're manipulating their own children to make these things," Aedan muttered in disgust. "I've been informed by important vampires that these are the assassins for the Dark Elemaiyan race. They kill the enemies of their own kind plus anyone else they target."
"Are humans targets?"
"Only if they're in the way," Nathan had shown up as quickly as he could after sunset. Now he was answering questions with Aedan. Marcus DeLuca had come, too, but he wasn't as well versed on the creature as the vampires. He was content to listen.
"And the boy was in the way. How did you know to go after this one?" Matt looked to the two vampires for answers.
"My wife saw the creature first, and then she found the boy, who was a short distance away and right in the beast's path when she flew overhead," Aedan replied. "She swooped down to warn the boy, but he didn't deviate from his path. The result, I believe, of a cruel practical joke gone horribly wrong."
"Yes, I'm fully aware," Matt sighed. "The family is understandably upset."
"As we would be," Marcus said. "How do you intend to explain this child's death?"
"Perhaps a panther, roaming outside a natural habitat," Matt said.
"I'd appreciate it if you'd select another animal," Nathan frowned. His oldest daughter, Cori, set to start her third year of college in the fall, was a shapeshifting panther.
"A bear, then," Matt nodded. Nathan was satisfied with that. After all, half the creature resembled a bear and the community had no bear shapeshifters. "I hope all of you can clear out before we release that information and every person nearby that owns a gun goes out hunting a wild bear."
"We're packing now," Marcus replied. "We have no desire to meet trigger-happy humans." None of them mentioned the real reason they were moving.
"How long do you think you'll need?" Matt asked.
"Give us five days," Marcus said. "I think we can be gone by then."
"I'll hold off on the information—the autopsy could take as long anyway," Matt agreed. "If you need anything from us, get the information to Jasper, here. It'll be our thanks for taking this thing down." Matt toed the creature on the garage floor. "Jasper, call the vampire agents in. They can load this thing up and get it out of here tonight." Jasper was on his cell phone immediately.
"Mom, I really don't feel hungry." Ashe dumped a pile of winter clothing into what seemed like the thousandth box. Adele Evans stood in Ashe's doorway, a concerned expression on her face. He'd been packing all day, fretting over the fact that the community was being forced to move because the Dark Elemaiya had found him again. The rest of the community wasn't aware that they'd found him two years earlier, when the witch's shield had been breached. Only Ashe knew that. He also knew the reason the Elemaiya hadn't found their way back since then. That had changed quickly two nights before. An innocent human had died, too, simply because he was in the way.
"Honey, you need to eat something."
Ashe wished he were six again and could climb into his parents' laps and let them handle his difficulties for a while. He couldn't. He was an adult or nearly so, but this had dealt a blow to him. The community had been forced to move from New Mexico when he was five because information was inadvertently shared with humans regarding their existence. Now, the community was being uprooted again, and it was because he was hunted. If the Elemaiya found him, he'd either be killed or enslaved, depending on which side found him.
"Dude?" Sali peeked over Adele's shoulder. Sali had gotten his growth spurt, standing at five-eleven. Ashe, though, was now six-three and likely to pass his father's six-four in another year.
"I thought you'd be packing," Ashe sighed helplessly.
"Almost done," Sali grinned. "I have to start on what Marco left behind next."
Ashe envied Sali's older brother at times. William Winkler, the Dallas Packmaster, offered to pay Marco's tuition to the University of Texas, in Austin. Now, Marco was a year away from graduation and worked for Winkler during the summer. Much to Marcus DeLuca's chagrin, Marco had become an official member of the Dallas Pack the year before. Cori Anderson still dated Marco, but didn't want to go farther than that until she graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Ashe talked to her occasionally; Cori called him for advice and information now and then.
"Got all the books packed, I see," Sali remarked, surveying the empty shelves. "Dad says the Grand Master called Mr. Winkler. I think they've found a good spot for us," he grinned.
"You're excited about this?" Ashe stared at his friend.
"Yeah, dude. Mom wants a bigger house. Think about it, Ashe. Maybe we'll move somewhere nearer to a city or something."
"How does everybody else feel about this?" Ashe watched Sali's face; his best friend truly was excited about the move.
"Are you kidding? Dori and Wynn are already planning theoretical shopping trips."
Ashe chuckled despite himself. Dori and Wynn still feuded with Sali, but it was turning into a dance of sorts. Ashe never said it, but he wondered which one Sali would end up asking out. Sali stole their pens and they chased him. He jerked books out of their arms and they chased him. He flipped ears and they chased him, throwing pens and pencils at Sali's retreating back while he ducked in an overly dramatic fashion. Principal Billings had Sali sitting inside his office every other week for tormenting Dori and Wynn.
Ashe's relationship with Principal Billings hadn't improved over the years, either. Billings knew Ashe had tapped into his office computer during sixth grade and Billings had never forgiven him. Ashe was viewed with constant suspicion, although he hadn't touched Billings' computer for more than three years. The Principal had almost gotten rid of Ashe at one point, thinking to send him to a human school because he hadn't shifted in Transformational Arts class.
Saved by the bumblebee bat at almost the last moment, Principal Billings hadn't appreciated the image he'd presented to the community, flapping arms wildly to fend off Ashe's alter ego at graduation that year. All of Cloud Chief still chuckled about the incident. Principal Billings growled angrily if anyone brought it up. Nowadays, Ashe worked to stay below the Billings Radar, as he liked to call it.
"What's your mom gonna do about the store?" Sali asked.
"I think Jason and Marcie are coming up to run it while a realtor tries to sell it," Ashe was back to depression. He and Sali had good memories of working at Cordell Feed and Seed.
"You think they'll come before we leave?" Sali looked interested. His Aunt Marcie, much to everyone's surprise, had taken to Jason. They'd gotten married and moved to Denton, Texas, a year and a half after Marcie had come to Cloud Chief. Jason still worked for Winkler, but Winkler was giving him time to help Adele with the store.
"Ask Mom, she talked to him," Ashe said. "Come on; help me get this stuff out of the closet."
"Sali, want a burger?" Adele was back, offering food again. Ashe was dragged upstairs to the kitchen by a ravenous Sali.
"Everything is cleared away," Aedan walked into the kitchen and sat at the table, smiling in amusement as Sali devoured a second hamburger. "Marcus says the final details are being worked out on our next location; the Grand Master has to clear the way with another Packmaster. We won't be in their area, just nearby, I hear," Aedan explained.
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