The address Kara had got from the Internet took her to a house in the middle of the countryside. It had been a long journey that she’d spent entirely in fox form, and all she wanted to do was have a hot bath as a human, but that didn’t mean she was going to be stupid. Daniel was an unknown, even though he was Mim’s brother, so she carefully walked toward the house, keeping an eye out for anything unusual. Moments later she found herself trapped in a cage. Blinking, confused by its sudden movement, she looked around in an attempt to find out where it had come from.
“I’ve got one,” a male voice called, making Kara jump.
“Good work,” another male voice replied. A face appeared in front of the cage. “Are you human?”
Kara stared at the man in front of her. If she’d been in human form she’d have raised an eyebrow, but she wasn’t and she had no idea what her fox face was showing. The question wasn’t one she would answer even if she could have. She sat down, waiting to see what would happen next.
“What do you think, Daniel?” the first voice asked. “Is she a shifter?”
Daniel shrugged and Kara knew she was looking at the man who was Mim’s brother. “She seems too calm to be a real fox, but I don’t know. It’s not as though we can force her to become human.”
“I’ll call Miles.”
Smiling, Daniel sat down in front of the cage. “I knew I kept you around for a reason.”
“You keep me around because I own the house, remember?” The other man laughed. “Really it’s me who keeps you around.”
“If you say so.”
Moments later Kara heard someone walk towards them. “You rang,” a third male voice said.
“We caught a fox and I want to know if she’s a shifter or not.”
“There’s only one thing I can tell you – she really doesn’t want to let me in her head. I’m pretty certain she’s human, because I’ve never known an animal to have shields around their mind.”
“Is there any way you can get through the shields?”
“Unless she wants me to know what she’s thinking it isn’t going to happen.”
Daniel nodded. “Who are you?” he asked, staring at her as though she was going to answer the question just because he wanted her to. “If you tell me your name I’ll let you out of the cage.”
Kara looked at Miles. ‘The only way I can tell him my name is if I’m human and I’m not going to change in front of you, because I’ll be naked. If he wants to know anything about me he lets me out of the cage, finds me some clothes, and gives me some privacy to put them on, then I might think about talking to him.’
Miles smiled. “I have a message from the fox. She’s not going to talk to you when she’s naked and trapped in a cage, so get her some clothes and some privacy, and then she might talk to you… if you’re lucky.”
If Kara had been in her human form she would have smiled at the way Daniel was looking at her. With a movement of his hand he sent off the second boy, the one she didn’t yet have a name for, and he went running off towards the house, which she hoped was to get clothes for her. She used the time to study Daniel, not quite able to believe he really was Mim’s brother, but then she had known Mim when they were all children, and Daniel was an adult. Even Mim would look different, but the only thing that made Kara think that he really was her old friend’s brother was the look in his eyes. He had a mind power, that much was obvious, because he had that slight madness that most people with mind powers seemed to have.
‘What’s he like?’ she asked Miles, who, thankfully, didn’t show any sign that she was talking to him.
‘Daniel’s had it hard. His sister disappeared when she was six and no one knows what happened to her, he realised he had powers when he was about the same age as Miriam was when she disappeared, and ever since then he’s been waiting for someone like you to turn up. It wasn’t difficult for him to come to the conclusion that she had been a shifter. His parents shooed an animal out of the house the same day she disappeared, so when he worked out what he could do it made the most sense that she had also had powers. The only reason he stayed with them for as long as he did was because he didn’t have anywhere else to go, but he made the decision to walk away when he was sixteen and he hasn’t been back, as he blames them for Miriam’s disappearance.’
‘Mim did too.’ Kara wished she could sigh. ‘She never forgave her parents for what they did and she felt it was their fault she ended up working with Leonard. I remember the conversation we had just before… but that’s something I should tell Daniel, not you, although you would understand just as well as he will. Having a mind power is never easy.’
‘To begin with I thought I was going mad. I could hear all these voices in my mind and I didn’t know where they were coming from. For the first three days I stayed home, telling Mum I had a migraine, which was something she could understand, while I tried to work out what had happened to me. Even though it took me months to learn to work with my abilities I knew after a day of silence that I was telepathic. The sounds didn’t start again until my parents and sister returned home, although there had been this low rumbling sound in the back of my head that I later realised was the sound of people who were far away speaking.’
‘I’m glad I’m not telepathic. Turning into an animal wasn’t easier, as such, it’s just not as hard to control once you get the hang of things.’
‘I imagine it is.’ Miles was silent. ‘Do you mind if I ask you some questions?’
‘No, of course not. You’ve told me more about your abilities than I would ever have learnt if you’d grown up at the house. We don’t find it easy to talk to each other, because of how we end up at there. Being kicked out of your own home by your parents isn’t easy to deal with, even though I know mentally, and have done since I was young, that there was no way of them knowing it was me.’
‘What’s it like being able to turn into an animal? Is there a learning curve or is it something you get used to quickly? Obviously you had very little choice when it happened, because of your parents’ reaction, but was it hard to walk on four legs?’
‘From the conversations I’ve had I know it’s much easier to turn into a mammal than it is to turn into a bird, because randomly gaining wings does have a rather larger learning curve than having four legs does. There is a balance issue that can affect how you walk to begin with, as it can be difficult to get the hang of using all four legs when you’re used to having two, but the longer you’re in the animal form the easier it is to be able to go where you want to. When I first changed I was walking into things and that’s what woke my parents up. Maybe, if I hadn’t knocked my desk chair over, I might have had the chance to transform back before they found me. It’s unlikely, but I can’t help wondering.’
‘Living with parents who have no idea that you have an unusual ability isn’t easy, Kara. There were plenty of times when I accidentally replied to something my parents were thinking instead of what they were saying, but it was something they eventually seemed to get used to, although that could simply have been them trying to make me feel as comfortable as they could. Do you start to think like an animal?’
‘That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t notice a chance in my thought patterns, but I’ve been a shifter for so long now that I can’t really remember how a normal human thinks. Of course I was a child then, so things would have changed as I aged, and I find it hard to explain to someone who doesn’t change into an animal what it’s like to be one. As you can probably tell I still talk like a human, even when it’s just telepathically, and that leads me to believe that becoming an animal doesn’t change the way you think much at all, although I could be wrong about that. We’re simply humans in another form.’
‘What do you do for food?’
‘Scavenging is relatively simple, Miles. I don’t hunt, but finding food in bins works well for me, and foxes are, fortunately, much faster runners than humans, so if anyone did try to hurt me I would be able to escape.’ Kara looked around. ‘Unless, of course, they trap me.’
‘I am sorry about that. We just didn’t have any other way to do this.’ Their eyes met for a moment, and Kara could see a flash of amusement in his eyes. ‘You’re our first shifter. All the others were foxes, and they really weren’t pleased about finding themselves trapped in a cage. The way you were so calm told me all I needed to know. I’m certain it was the same for Daniel.’
‘You don’t need to apologise. I understand why the decision was made. At the same time I need him to know that I made the decision to come here, in order to tell him about his sister. I’m not going to run the moment I’m let out of this cage. I have a job to do here.’
‘Do you want me to tell him that?’
‘Tell him if you think it would help him to understand. I don’t want him to send someone to watch over me when I change forms again.’
Nodding, Miles turned to Daniel. “She’s here for you. The only thing I can think is that Miriam told her about you.” He glanced at Kara. “It was her decision to come here.”
“Which means something happened to my sister.” Daniel knelt by the cage. “Is she dead?”
Kara stared at him. Telling him face to face was what she’d wanted to do, but she wasn’t going to do it in fox form. He needed to know the whole story, not just part of it, because otherwise he was never going to understand. Maybe he wasn’t going to be able to understand anyway. Unlike the shifters he had no idea what it was like to find yourself out in the world alone. Had she not felt the crystal she knew she would have been alone for a long time, but the crystals were there, and so was Leonard. She looked down at the ground. There was so much they had all been through. Getting away from the house had helped. Staying away wasn’t a possibility, though. Leaving Tristan to deal with people like Lucas was not something she was willing to do.
The sound of someone running towards them was a nice distraction. When Kara looked over at them she was almost sure they were carrying a pile of clothes, which was definitely a good thing. It had been a very long time since she’d worn clothes. Once the runner was close enough he slowed to a walk, looking between her and Daniel, his eyes full of uncertainty. “We got what we could, but the lack of other females here made it difficult.” He shrugged. “I guess she’s not going to complain as long as it is clothing.”
‘He’s right. Thank him for me.’
“She said thank you, and not to worry about what you actually found. If she wants to stay we can sort out something else tomorrow.”
Daniel gave Miles a look. “She is staying.”
“We’re not going to assume anything, Daniel. She might not want to stay. I doubt she will. She probably has somewhere to get back to.”
For a moment Kara studied Miles. Letting him in would make it easier for him to slip through her shields when she least expected it, but hopefully he was trustworthy. She glanced at the pile of clothes, wanting to be out of the cage more than anything, and yet she had no idea how long it would take Daniel to let her out. Was he only going to if she promised to stay? If he wanted that she was going to have to say no. There was no chance of her promising anything to anyone, not even Mim’s brother. She swished her tail, almost like a cat, hoping that would get him to see how she felt, even though it wasn’t normal for a fox to do something like that.
“Getting impatient?” Daniel smiled at her. “I get it. I can’t imagine that cage is particularly comfortable.” There was a moment when he seemed normal, but then that spark of madness came back, and she knew she was going to have to be very careful with him. “Promise me you aren’t going to run the moment I open the door.”
That was an easy promise to make. Kara nodded, and then the door was opened. She padded out, before shaking, trying to get the uncomfortable feeling out of her fur. It didn’t help as much as she would have liked, but then there was a whole group of people she didn’t know staring at her. All she needed to do was glance at Miles, and that seemed to be enough, which was nice.
“Okay, everyone. Let’s give the fox some space. She would like to get dressed in peace. Casper, put the clothes on the top of the cage. We’ll all give her some distance, and turn our backs. She promised she wouldn’t run.”
Another look passed between Daniel and Miles. There was a second when Kara thought Daniel might argue, but then he nodded. “When you’re dressed come to me. We need to talk about my sister.”
Everyone walked away, leaving Kara alone. She’d found Daniel. That was a good thing. It was what she’d been aiming to do, and she’d managed it. Yet she couldn’t help thinking things were not going to be anywhere near as easy as she hoped they would be. He had his own powers, powers that could easily have affected his decision making, and if that was the case… all she could really do was watch, and wait to see what her next steps needed to be. As she turned back into her human form she couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief. After being a fox for so long she couldn’t help worrying she might not be able to switch back again. It wasn’t something she’d tested before, but she could. Once she had clothes on she felt even better. They didn’t fit well. She hadn’t expected them to. For a long time she stood there, thinking, before making the decision she needed to get the conversation over and done with.***The Brotherhood: Kara: Daniel’s Takeover >>>