Teen Day was one of the busiest days of the year. Mark had been doing this job for five years now, and all the houses and teenagers shipped onto buses were starting to blend together. Nothing was different. So when his superior gave him a address in a gated community where a chip signal was coming from, he thought it was going to be like all the others. The cowardly teen would be trying to hide behind his rich parents, and Mark would have to drag the kid kicking and screaming to the bus. He might even have to call in reinforcements to restrain the parents, it was sadly not uncommon.
He walked up the marble steps to the front door, rolling his eyes at the decorative patio. He didn't even bother reading the placard next to the door as he raised his fist to bang on the door.
"Village authorities! Open the door or I will have to force my way in and take your teen!"
He continued pounding on the door until it was answered by a disgruntled maid.
"Oh! There's no teen here, sir!"
He pushed past her and into the house. "Our chip trackers say differently. So you can either lead me to him or her now or I'm going to arrest you for noncompliance."
She nervously wrung her hands. Again, Mark had seen many of these maids, trying to protect the Master's child. It was rather pathetic, in his opinion.
"Feel free to check the house, sir, but there aren't any teens here. The master doesn't have children."
He glared at her before stomping all over the house. He found an extensive library, a plethora of electronic gadgets, the master bedroom, the servant's quarters, three little kids that looked to belong to the maid, a butler, a well-stocked kitchen, a pool, a giant backyard neatly trimmed and treeless, a huge bathroom, and three spare bedrooms that looked unused, but no teen. He huffed and stopped in front of a locked door. He looked at the butler who had started following him once he ran across him.
"Unlock this door," he demanded.
The butler spoke evenly, "That is the master's laboratory. He does not allow anyone down there."
So far, the butler had opened every other door, even a walk-in closet, without question. Mark put his hand on his gun, which only contained tranq darts engineered to knock a norm unconscious for five minutes, to show how serious he was.
"I don't care who he allows. Open. The. Door."
The butler sighed. "I cannot. I do not have the key."
Mark scowled. "Fine. Is he in there?"
"He usually is."
Mark pounded on the door. "This is the Village authorities! I demand entrance!"
He heard pounding within before several locks disengaged. A tall black man opened the door only a little to glower at the intrusion.
"What are the Village authorities doing here?" his soft voice demanded.
"Looking for your teen," Mark seethed, tired of this wild-goose chase.
The black man in a white lab coat with goggle marks around his eyes frowned. "There are no teens here."
"I'm beginning to believe that," he held up his indicator, which had a green dot blinking over the satellite image of the house, "but this says otherwise. Let me check the rest of the premises and I will be on my way."
"Did you check the grounds? A runaway could be hiding in the shrubbery."
Mark wanted to lash out at the man, but if he did he'd be put under reprimand for the next year.
"I must check the entire premises, so if you don't let me in now, you'll have to let me in later anyway."
The man made a sound similar to a growl, but not near as animalistic. He stopped, seeming to catch himself.
He slammed the door only to open it wider a second later. He went down the stairs and waved for Mark to follow. Down the stairs he went only to stop at the bottom in awe. He was in a full-fledged laboratory, complete with racks of devious looking instruments, shelves of multi-colored liquids, gurneys, IVs, a wall-sized fridge full of what looked like blood, and several machines Mark couldn't even begin to guess the purpose of.
"Take a good look," the scientist seethed. "Do you see any teens?"
Mark shook off his awe and studied the scene with a critical eye. It was true, none of the clingy parents in the past had gone to such great lengths to hide their children, but the indicator said there was one, and by gosh he was going to find the brat.
He took a step, but the bulky man put his hand on his shoulder. "I think you've invaded my privacy enough. Get out."
He shrugged it off, glaring with his hand at his gun. "I'm doing my job, and I have a warrant to check any building with an indication of a teen. Touch me again and I will shoot."
He marched purposefully across the room and found a steel door in the corner. He gestured to it. "Open this door."
The big black man crossed his arms, showing just how muscular he was. "No."
Mark had had enough of this shit. He pulled out his corresponder and pressed the button. "T284, requesting back up at house 60. Occupants are being uncooperative and are to be arrested and tried for noncompliance."
"Fine!" the man exploded, slamming his hand on the scanner next to the door. The door opened with a click, and Mark opened it, making sure to stay in the doorway so it couldn't be slammed on him. At first, he thought he was only staring at an animal, but as it moved and a head lifted for bright, golden eyes to lock with his, he realized it was a boy. He looked similar enough to the man to pass for his son, but whereas the scientist was thick and seemed healthy, the kid was nearly emaciated, his cheeks hollow and his ribs and spine pushing against the skin of his back.
The room was well-lit, with mirrors covering every wall, so he could see that the boy was naked, his hands chained to the floor in front of him. The kid started laughing hysterically. Mark pivoted to stare in horror at the man, who just scowled with his arms crossed.
"What did you do to your son?"
"My son? That thing is no kin of mine."
The laughter stopped abruptly and the kid went stock still.
Mark gulped. "He's coming with me. Unlock him."
The scientist shook his head. "No. He is my experiment, and under article 68 of the new order, any consenting experiment is property, only able to be removed via transaction."
Mark looked at the kid. "And did you consent."
"He did," the scientist butt in.
"I wasn't asking you!" Mark snapped at him. He took two soft steps towards the kid, who met his gaze unflinchingly. "Did you consent to this treatment?"
His voice came out hoarse, rusty, "I did not."
"Then you will come with me?"
The kid's golden eyes flashed and he made no comment. Mark held out his hand to the scientist. "The key to his cuffs. Now."
The scientist glared at the kid as he ruffled through his pockets.
"You did this on purpose."
The kid growled, his sounding completely animalistic.
"Shut it!" the scientist shouted, and the kid ducked his head and whimpered.
Finally, the scientist tossed Mark a key. He caught it and approached the boy, who now had his head ducked, his face scared yet hopeful. Mark unlocked him and helped him to his feet, but the kid jerked away from his touch with a snarl.
Mark left the room with no problem, but before the kid could the scientist slammed his arm across the entrance, stopping him.
"You will not leave me, pet."
Mark had had more than enough of this shit. He drew his gun and shot the scientist. The man tensed up before falling to his knees and then onto his face. Mark smiled, blew on the gun as if smoke were coming out of the barrel and holstered it.
"Come on, Kid. He'll be up in five minutes or so."
He stared at the scientist for a long moment before he stepped over him. He followed the human out of the scientist's den and up the stairs. Every step away from his cage lifted the burden off his shoulders. He felt his shoulders lift from the release of the burden, and the fear drained away, leaving him where he should be. Once upstairs, the soldier looked to him and had to do a double take. He didn't mind. Let them stare.
He walked past the soldier and past the two humans who stared at him, open-mouthed. He lifted his chin. Yes, this was much better. This is where he belonged. He strode confidently out the front door.
"Wait! Where do you think you're going butt naked!?" the soldier exclaimed.
He slapped him with a pair of shorts. He only knew what they were because he had seen the scientist wear them sometimes. He took them in his hands and held them up, trying to figure out how they worked.
"Don't tell me you don't know how to put pants on," the soldier grumbled.
He shot him a glare. They were obviously meant to cover his crotch. He stepped in them as best he could and pulled them up, wincing when he had to pull them over his penis.
"Good enough," the soldier mumbled as he continued onward, coming to the front door of the house. He threw it open and nearly ran out.
The breeze caressing his body and the sun on his face removed the final remnants of the burden that had held him down. He bared his teeth at the world before him, glad to be out.
Mark rushed after the boy, not wanting to lose track of him. Someone abused to that degree couldn't be trusted not to…
Only in the sunlight did Mark notice the orange streaks in the boy's short, oddly straight hair. And only in the sunlight did he grasp at the massacre that was this boy's back. A thick scar ran down his spine, equally thick scars sticking out horizontally from it every few inches. Then the kid roared.
Only then did Mark understand. This kid wasn't completely human. He was a Shift, one of the few that could shift into an animal at will. That was why the scientist had called him an animal. No sooner had he come to this realization than the boy's skin started to sprout fur, his ears becoming more pointed, his hands flexing as claws shot out and in of his fingertips. An orange and black tail popped out from under his shorts, and he seemed to become overall more bulky. Those golden eyes now lined in black fur pierced through Mark.
"So, where are we going?"
Mark gulped. Well, this was unprecedented. What should he do with a shift? His superior would know. He walked to the busses.
At the busses, he gestured for the kid to join the male line. Instead of going to the back of the line and waiting like a normal person, he went straight to the front and tapped the attendant on the shoulder. The attendant didn't even look up from his tablet. "Go wait in line like the rest, ya impatient rascal."
Mark gulped. While he would have taken the same attitude with a human, this boy was different. He was a Shift, not human. A low growl sounded from within his chest, and the attendant looked up and turned pale.
"Oh, uh-um… where's your chip, sir?"
The tiger teen glared at him. "Somewhere in my large intestine by now. Why does it matter?"
The soldiers simply stared at him.
"In your large intestine?" the attendant questioned timidly.
The kid looked at him like he was an idiot. "Do you not know what a large intestine is?"
"I-I do, but I- I need to scan it!"
"My large intestine?"
"Why?" the kids leathery nose scrunched up.
The poor attendant looked around, but no one was willing to step up and help him.
"It has your name, date of birth, and Identification Number on it?"
The kid stared at him. "Even if it did, I'm not giving something that important to nobody. Now, am I supposed to get in that smelly contraption?"
He pointed at the bus. The attendant nodded, sweating. He turned on his heel and walked into the bus door. Almost everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The supervisor of Teen Acquisitions hurried to Mark's side.
"Soldier, how did you find a shift?"
Mark saluted with a scowl. "He was in that house you sent me to with the chip signal, chained in a room off an underground laboratory. The owner of the house claimed that he was his experiment and they weren't kin, but the two look similar enough to be father and son."
The supervisor took off his hat and ran a hand through his hair. "You are to stay within sight of him at all times until we can get him to the Alpha of Village 13, is that clear?"
This is a shapeshifter story set in a sort of distopian society. It would be a fantasy with a little romance rated T, mostly.