When Grandpa McAllister taught us about the Change, he said, “It’s strange to say, but the war helped me with it. I got used to going deep. I got used to coming out. It’s like the torture drugs. Me and the rest of the unit spent a lot of our time behind enemy lines, so they trained us to handle torture. They tried any drugs they knew the Nazis used on us, and then when we got captured, we were ready.
“The Change is a lot like the drugs. Best thing you can do is get used to it. Go into a forest somewhere, and hunt down a deer, heck, a herd of deer. Do it enough times, and you’ll be able to come out of the deepest parts of the Change at will.”
“I don’t want to kill a deer,” I told him. “They don’t deserve that.”
“Don’t worry about it. There are too many of them. No one’s going to miss ’em.”
I never tried it. It didn’t feel right. But there, as I balanced on Laser Guy’s chest, having ripped apart his only working laser, I almost wished I had. I needed more control. I needed to be able to think. I’d caught him. What could I do to end the fight now before we destroyed anything else?
And not all of me was being helpful. Strong parts of me wanted to rip his throat out.
I tried to remember if Nick put anything in the utility belts that could hold him. Did we have handcuffs? At least, that’s what I tried to think about. Between Laser Guy punching at me, my urge to kill, and trying to pull my head partway out of the change, it was too much. I couldn’t concentrate.
After a few tries, Laser Guy hit me in the shoulder with the arm Cassie electrocuted, gritting his teeth at the pain. I heard the blow coming, but it was too late. He’d put everything into it, and his arm was moving too quickly to dodge.
If my costume weren’t using the same material as Nick’s stealth suit, I might have been seriously hurt. The suit hardened when he hit, saving me from a dislocated shoulder, but it didn’t stop him from knocking me sideways across the lawn.
I reached out, and extended my legs, turning an uncontrolled fall into a cartwheel, and landed on my feet next to the sidewalk.
Laser Guy pulled himself up, jettisoned the remains of his lasers with a click, and ran at me shouting. Words still weren’t making much sense, but I definitely understood, “KILL YOU.”
I jumped over him, putting me back in the middle of the lawn. He shouted something else, turning around to charge me.
He ran at me with his hands out, ready to grab me, and… I didn’t know what, but I didn’t want to find out. I dropped, avoiding his hands, and punched him in the stomach—really hard. He flew backwards through the air toward a neighbor’s house, hitting an old, light brown van that had been parked in the driveway.
The windows shattered with the hit, and his body made a man-shaped dent in its side. Trying not to fall, he stuck his hand through one of the broken windows, grabbing the door, and staying upright.
I didn’t wait. I jumped from the ground to the top of the van, grabbed him by his arms, and threw him backwards over my head, twisting a little so he’d fly toward the street.
He screamed, crashing through tree branches in the air, and hitting the pavement.
And do you know what? He still wasn’t unconscious. I jumped off the van, landing in the driveway, and jumping again to land just a few feet from him.
This time when he saw me land, he didn’t shout. He got up and ran, taking the kind of giant strides that are only possible when you’re capable of lifting tons.
I don’t know where he thought he was going by that point because he wasn’t trying to hide. He was just running down the street.
I could still smell fear, and I could hear his heart hammering away. His fear had turned to terror, and I knew it, but I couldn’t put it into words. All I felt was a deep need to chase and catch.
I ran after him, and then leapt, aiming for his back, and knocking him to the street. Grabbing him with my front claws, I bit into his shoulder, feeling my canines break through his skin, and releasing more poison into him than I’d ever injected into a person.
He struggled, trying to push himself up from the street, and to pull my arms away from his body. At first, I had to fight to keep him on the ground, but then the poison kicked in. His hands shook too much for him to get a good grip. When he gave up trying that, He found that he couldn’t even push away from the street without having his arms collapse under his own weight.
Soon he stopped trying, and lay on the road, arms and legs still except for the occasional spasm.
Police sirens wailed in the distance. Cassie and I had called them before we went in. I came back to myself, suddenly realizing that I’d been so focused on the fight that I hadn’t noticed that practically the whole block was watching from their windows—and even from their porches.
I could hear their heartbeats, smell their fear, and excitement. It was too much. I got up, crawled up a nearby tree, jumped to the roof of a house, and hid.
Cassie could talk to the police.