Don't Quit Your Night Job
Warning: Sorry if the proof-reading isn't up to par. Some foul language.
Chapter Three: Teammates
"God, what a nasty thing," Justin Damien declares, his feet resting on his desk, and his chair tilted back in a leisurely pose. "All hale to the Shaman King, is all I'm saying."
We're all—with the exception of Frankie, Katie, and Joe—crowded into the office, sitting on whatever flat surface we can find. Amber sits on the floor Indian style, Ele is leaning against a file cabinet, I'm perched on top of a crate, the aforementioned Justin is at his desk, and the final member of our team, Fletcher, is standing in a corner, facing us.
"So what happened?" Amber prodded.
"Well, I got the call from Frank on my cell around three thirty in the morning. And he tells me to get my ass down to New Mexico—of course not in those exact words."
Frank has never been one to curse, except in extreme situations. This, though definitely not a good incident, wouldn't evoke more than an under-the-breath 'shit.'
"Anyway," Justin continues, leaning his head back and staring at the ceiling tiles, "I hop in the van, along with Fletch, and we high-tail it down south. We get there around ten AM, and we meet up with everyone else—where was that again, El?—some shack owned by this lady. We all take turns sleeping, but we keep an eye out, because now that this thing is agitated, we don't know what'll happen. And we've never dealt with a poochie—"
"Peuchen," Amber corrects.
"—before," finishes Justin, ignoring Amber's correction. "We wait until ten o'clock before heading back out to the forest. Again, we have no idea what to expect, because this guy probably doesn't even look the same. He could be a tree for all we know. So we're on edge, and Katie's calling out a bunch of sounds, hoping to attract something, and I'm feeling around, and finally we get some irregular movement coming from farther south, closer to the border. So we follow, and sure enough, we find it in the shape of huge snake—actually we were pretty happy that it wasn't in the form of a human or some worse creature—draining a cow, and well, I managed to trap it and then Joe went in with some dagger. Luckily his magic worked out fine, otherwise we would have had to go back to that shack where we think the lady might have had some Mapuche blood in her..." Justin trails off, finishing the story kind of lamely.
The room is silent. Ele is staring at the ground, obviously reliving the moment. Fletcher's staring off at nothing in particular, and I—and I guess Amber—am just trying to wrap my head around the evening...well, two evenings I guess.
It's Saturday morning, and Justin and Fletcher just returned. Frank and the other two are on their way.
I guess now's as good a time as any to introduce the last two team members.
Justin Damien—an ironic name, I know—has been a member of the team the longest. He's thirty four, although he acts like he's my age, which is eighteen by the way. Justin is tall and well-built, although a bit lanky, with a mop of brown hair and large, honest brown eyes, that always seem to be crinkled in jest. He has the ability to find things. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's useful when we're looking for creatures. And it's always handy with easily lost objects. He's big, but harmless, and always good for a laugh.
Oh, and Justin generally spends his time in the office. He arranges everything—makes flight plans, contacts people, listens for beast sightings, plays solitaire...usual office work.
Before I get to Fletcher, I'll re-familiarize you with the rest of our crew.
Ele Eichmann is half Hawaiin, and half German, and may or may not be related to the Adolf Eichmann of Nazi Germany, which would certainly explain her streak of pure, unadulterated evil. Just kidding. She isn't evil, but she's a class-A bitch. I guess I'm exaggerating about that too. Maybe. And she can read minds, remember?
Kate—or Katie—Porter has been with the team the second-longest, having joined right after Justin. She's young, though. She joined when she was thirteen, and she's now only twenty. Katie has no memory of her past, but she's gifted with the ability to converse in any language or dialect—including nonhuman ones—as long as she hears it first. She has memorized fifteen different languages, though.
Joseph Niigata, as I explained before, is Japanese-American, also with little knowledge of his past. But we know he was born human, although his father may have been a Shaman. Came to America at the age of five, lived with cousins, has no knowledge of his birth town, but he has in his possession love-letters between his mother and father, apparently from when they were apart, possibly during World War II. No one besides Joe knows of their contents though. Joe's twenty-four and is a healer with the ability to connect to the spirit world.
Amber Eliot is my best friend, and possible valedictorian of Fairview West High School. She's not particularly gifted in any supernatural way, but she has extremely thorough knowledge of all creatures magical, as well as of places, cultures, and people. She's kind of like our dictionary on feet and often is the brains behind most of our operations. Justin arranges them; Amber figures how to carry them out.
Frank Lloyd is kind of our commander. He and Justin started this team ten years ago. To be honest, I don't know what Frank can do, but with Justin's ability to find, he and Frank set off looking for beasts and magical creatures, which I guess is how this all started. If Justin is big, Frank is a giant, and honestly, I wouldn't put it past him to have some Giantess in his blood. We don't know much about him, other than he was supposedly once married.
Fletcher Brow, finally, is the newest member, besides Amber and me. He doesn't talk much, but he has the most powerful talent of all. Fletch can manipulate time. It's extremely dangerous, and he has had a very introverted life because of it (maybe he was afraid of losing control). But Fletch is pretty antisocial, even though he's a cool guy. He has sandy red hair and dusts of freckles; he's skinny and lanky, but he's nice enough once you get him to open up. Mostly he just spends his time thinking. But he's the reason we can fly to Japan, battle a Kitsune, and make it back to California before school the next morning.
Of course, allowing us a few extra hours of sleep is 'bending the rules,' so needless to say it's only used for travel time. Other than that, it's up to us to finish the jobs quickly.
To be honest, we don't really talk about our powers. See, most of the team had trouble before joining because of what they can do—lives as outcasts, devastating accidents, troublesome occurrences—so we just accept our abilities and use them the best we can without going into too much detail.
"Did you kill it?" I hear Amber ask quietly, and I am brought back to the conversation.
Justin hesitates. Sensitive is a bit of an understatement when it comes to describing Amber and the monster world. In my opinion, if it tries to kill me, I try to kill it back. But to Amber, every living creature, whether magical or non, is some kind of misunderstood puppy dog.
"Well, Amb, we didn't want to..."
"It was causing too much devastation," a voice comes from behind us, recognizably Frank's. He enters the small office with Joe and Katie and swiftly crosses to the desk to start filtering through papers.
Amber bites her lip and flicks her eyes towards the ground, and I can feel her confliction.
Sometimes we merely tag creatures or send them where they can't cause trouble. More often than not we have to fight them, at least to render them unconscious. And sometimes, though we all hate doing it, they have to die.
"Where's that map?" Frank asks with agitation, still throwing papers around on the desk.
"Did you leave it in the car?" Joe offers.
Frank shakes his head and continues searching.
"So," Justin begins, breaking the silence, "did you guys finish all your homework?"
He's talking to Amber and me. Justin never let's go of the fact that we're still in high school, and he loves to continually bring it up, much to my chagrin.
"Of course," Amber nearly spits.
To this, Justin only grins.
"And what about you, Fishy?"
I shoot Justin a glare—strike two, dude.
"Of course Fisher has finished," Amber answers for me.
"I think the tadpole can speak for himself," Justin retorts. "Is Amber right, Fish? No English papers, calc tests, history essays..."
"Um, Amber?" I begin timidly, trying to play it off as if I'm just ignoring Justin. "So—ah—you know that paper for Mr. Thebes on grass-roots movements in the progressive era?"
Justin's grin widens—he's won.
Amber's face turns stony. I guess she's a good friend for caring about my education...but sometimes she definitely cares too much.
"You mean," she says, her voice flat and threatening, "the one that was due yesterday?"
My shock must show on my face, because Amber's dormant threat erupts.
"Fisher, you didn't! I've reminded you about that paper for two weeks!"
"Amber," I soothe, "calm down. I'll—I'll write it tonight and e-mail him, saying I thought I had sent it."
"FISHER! A. That's lying, and B. that paper took me an entire week to write! He's expecting a page-long works cited!"
I cringe. Oops...
"Amber, don't worry. I'll get it done. Seriously. In fact, I'm leaving now."
I shoot a look at Frank, who's still shuffling through documents. Joe, however, catches my eye and nods, a signal to go ahead and leave.
Justin can't contain his amusement.
"I'll be sure to call you if you miss another baller assignment," he snickers as I stand up.
Again, all I can do is glare.
"No, seriously, Fish, if school becomes too much there's always the fast-food option," he continues with a malicious smile, seriously asking for a death-sentence.
I ball my fists, but I know I can't attack him. Even if we weren't in this small room, fighting with team members—at least in the presence of Frank—is prohibited. Someone could lose control.
It's Katie, however, who comes to my rescue, quite unexpectedly.
"Justin, just because you didn't graduate and have no future, doesn't mean you have to throw your jealousy at Fisher."
The room freezes except for Frank, now going through a back door where more files are undoubtedly hidden.
"What?" I ask into the silence.
"You didn't graduate?" Amber adds, absolutely astounded.
Justin's smile has slipped right off his face, which now relays a mixture of shock, embarrassment, and anger.
"I—it wasn't—I didn't need to," he says, trying to play it off. I'm sure I'm not the only one in the room who can feel his absolute discomfort, though.
"Justin that's—that's unacceptable!" Amber cries, and I swear I can almost see a glint of a tear in her eye.
There's passion for education for you.
"Amber..." Justin warns.
We all knew he held contempt for school, but he holds contempt for most government organized things. The fact that he didn't finish high school...
Katie has settled back in her seat—a straight-backed chair that is too rickety to hold anyone besides her—looking smug. Ele looks unamused, Joe shows signs of pity, but also amusement at Katie's victory, and Fletcher is just staring open-mouthed at Justin.
"Look," Justin begins slowly, "I just...I didn't find any need to finish, alright? It's not that I'm—I'm stupid or anything," he faltered over the word stupid, "but I just...never...finished."
He trails off. Amber and I exchange glances. She looks pained, like she does whenever we have to kill monsters.
Justin's chagrin has taken the fun out of teasing him, and even Katie sags a little in her chair
"Justin, we don't...we don't think you're stupid," Amber consoles, although coming from a possible valedictorian the statement's not exactly comforting.
"I mean, that's not the only reason," Justin says, almost defensively.
Amber nods. Then her eyes light up.
"Wait, you can graduate with Fisher and me!"
Again, the room freezes. Ele looks up, Joe's gaze switches from Justin to Amber, Katie cocks an eyebrow, and Fletcher's mouth still hangs open with the surprise of it all.
"Now, Amber, wait—" Joe, cuts in cautiously.
"No, it's perfect! You can graduate, and it's even better for the team, because it'll give me more time with you at school to plan trips accordingly!"
"Amber, you know you can't talk about this stuff at school," Katie warns.
"No, no, I know, but we can create codes or find ways to send messages! Fisher, don't you think it's a good idea? It stinks to be out of the loop for seven hours a day. And Justin, you can get your diploma—"
"Amber..." Ele begins, but Justin finally cuts in, his head absorbing Amber's plan.
"Hold on a fucking second. Who ever said I want to graduate?"
Amber stops short, her excited eyes dimming slightly.
"Amber, thanks," he says none-too-sincerely, "but I don't need a diploma."
"What about college?" she asks, somewhat fearfully, as if anyone could dream of not going to a university.
Justin almost laughs.
"Amber! Not everyone is a fucking valedictorian! I have a bachelors; I don't need to go to Yale or Princeton."
Amber looks taken aback by Justin's brashness.
"You can get a degree without finishing high school?" Katie asks.
Justin rolls his eyes.
"Yes. I'm not stupid, Katie. Now can we just drop it?"
Fletcher finally closes his jaw, Joe settles back in his chair, looking almost worn out from the conversation, and Katie's mouth snaps shut, personally insulted.
And still, I have that history paper to write.
"FOUND IT!" Frank hollers from the other room.
Everyone jumps, startled, and turns toward the door, from which Frank emerges, victoriously clutching a beaten-up, old map.
"I knew I brought it back with me on Thursday. I could have kicked myself for leaving it here, and Natalie moves things around like it's a game—what's wrong?"
He notices our silence and stops short, looking at each of us in turn.
"Uh, nothing," Katie pipes up, though not as perky as her usual self. "Fisher was just leaving to get started on an essay."
Frank's eyes turn to me, and he nods approvingly.
"A good idea," he states. "Education is top priority."
Ele snorts, and Justin kicks her shin.
"Yeah, well, 'bye," I say, deciding to leave before any more conversation breaks out. I have a long weekend...
Monday morning finds my history paper, all seven pages, all on the importance of the lower-class in generating social change. Mr. Thebes accepts my apology with reluctance and grudgingly takes my paper, promising to dock off twenty points for lateness. But it's in, and Amber can suck it.
As I head to my seat, I notice, however, that that particular person is conspicuously absent, another decidedly in her place.
Sitting exactly to the left of me is Justin, looking very miserable, very embarrassed, but also very intrigued by the cheerleading blonde to his right.
"Justin!" I hiss as I sit down in the desk to the left of him.
He turns to face me slowly, his expression torn between a sheepish smile 'hello' and a tortured grimace.
"Hey, Fish," he whispers back.
"What are you doing here!"
Justin takes a long pause, but finally shrugs his head toward the door, and says, "Ask her."
I follow his gesture, and notice my previous seat partner, Amber, grinning triumphantly from her new seat by the door and waving in my direction. Justin is glaring at her with such disgust that I can't find it within myself to wave back, only offer a half-hearted smile, and turn back toward the board.
Whoever said not to mix work and pleasure (not that school can ever be considered pleasure), clearly didn't battle monsters as a career.
A/N: Awwh yeah. Thanks for reading! More action-like shenanigans will ensue next chapter, which will be out much sooner than this one was. Sorry this was kind of filler. Please review and I'll see you again soon!
Thank you so much to all who reviewed! You guys literally keep me going.
Peuchen – A shape-shifting creature that resides in southern Chile. Usually shifts into animal form and is often described as a gigantic flying snake. Similar to the chupacabra, it feeds primarily off of blood, but its shape-shifting, ability to fly, and extreme blood-lust make it much more deadly. The creature can only be killed by a machi (Mapuche witch doctor). Also see chapter two
Mapuche – A group of inhabitants indigenous to south-central Chile and Argentina making up a very small percentage of the population. The "machi"—or shaman—plays a large role in their religious culture. Also see chapter two
Shaman – A highly trained and spiritually selected individual within shamanism. Shamanism itself refers only to the range of beliefs and practices associated with the spirit world and contacting it. Shamans act as healers and mediators between the human and spirit world, communicating with spirits on behalf of the community. Also referred to as a witch doctor in some cultures.
Kitsune – See chapter two