Friday, December 7, 2012

Original Fic Friday: Hunter's Tales Volume One: Billy Price

A/N: Vampires, snark, meta, all manner of good things lie within. Want to start at the beginning? Click here. Want to read it all at once? It's .99 at Amazon.

Chapter 2.

Did I mention I hate high school? I do. There is nothing less appealing than being stuck in a prison-like building, forced to listen to drivel for eight hours a day.

For me, it’s even more fun. "Officially," I’m an eighteen-year-old in search of a few final credits to wrap up high school. The schools hate dealing with me because technically, I’m an adult, so I never have any parents around. Administrators loathe kids with their own power.

Full-on slouch mode.
I walk up to the office in full-on slouch mode. It takes seven minutes for the lady behind the desk to deign to offer me assistance.

“Can I help you?” No greeting or smile, her voice is bored.

“Can you?” Yeah, I’m a jerk when I’m in teen mode. But anyone who makes someone wait for seven minutes while she does paperwork deserves no better.

She rolls her eyes and sighs. “Which teacher sent you here?”

“None of them. I’m Helen Grace. Today’s my first day. I need to get registered.”

“Where are your parents?” See, she doesn’t want to deal with me. Kids are annoying to her, not worthy of even basic politeness.

“I’m over 18 and live by myself.”

“Oh.” She looks startled by that. “Let me find your file.”

“Thanks.” Interestingly enough, if we practice at it, vamps can produce a sort of anti-glamour; I’ve honed it into a razor-edged sarcasm that makes humans want to cry. I used it when I said thanks and noticed the receptionist’s mood crumble into misery. I smile to myself.

After five minutes of hunting around, she finds the manila folder with my name on it. It always boggles my mind how many of these little Midwest schools haven’t moved on to computers. And how many of the ones that have use systems almost as old as I am. Both work to my advantage. Old systems are easier to hack, so when they do have computers, I can insert myself into the system over the course of a night or two. A little breaking and entering, a bit of programming, and I’m a new student. As for paper, hell, it had taken less than ten minutes two nights ago to become a transfer student here.

Five minutes after that, I am in a tiny cubbyhole of an office with my guidance counselor. Guidance counselors come in two main flavors: bloody twits incapable of effectively organizing their own lives or power-mad bastards that get off on controlling helpless kids. Mine is part of the first camp. Lucky him. I don’t kill humans all that often, but one out of three high schools I go to ends up looking for a new guidance counselor shortly after I visit.

What can I say? My tolerance for assholes is minimal. Hannibal Lecter and I would have gotten along.

He finishes up my paperwork while asking about my goals.

I cut that short. I’ve got one goal here. Find the vamp and eat him. I’ll be gone as soon as that happens. I glamour him, get him to put me in every art class they offer, the advanced computer science class, AP US History, AP English, and, so I have a chance to practice, their highest level of French.

One of the things I do like about being a vamp is the chance to learn so much. Granted, I’d rather be at the library (which is why I’ve got a ton of study halls, all of which will be spent there), but it’s still great to have the time to really learn and hone my skills. That’s why I take art classes. If I had lived out my normal life, I’d have never developed more than a pretty hand for bookkeeping. But because I’ve had my normal life and about six others, I’m a skilled artist. There’s even some of my stuff in a few museums these days. And the computer revolution… Well, let me say, I like pixels as much as, if not more than, I did film, and I loved film more than paint, and I loved acrylic more than oil, and…

You get the idea. For me, it’s about the ability to create the end product, not the medium I do the creating with.

I shake those thoughts off and let my guidance counselor know we’re done. It is a bit before lunchtime and he offers to walk me to the cafeteria.


The first day in school is all about getting the lay of the land. My job is to learn faces, watch how and when people eat, figure out who is in which group, and listen in well enough to find out where the teens hang out when they aren’t at school.

And do all that without being seen doing it.

I go through the lunch line and get a Diet Pepsi, a salad, and a soft pretzel. First rule of acting human: eat! Unless, like a few female vamps I’ve met, you intend to use the eating disorder ploy, you have to eat.

We can eat. We just have to chew really well because we don’t digest. What goes in comes out exactly the same. And no, I don’t know precisely how that works. Not like I can turn on Discovery and watch a documentary on it. We eat blood, and we stay strong and healthy. Several hours later, nothing happens. We eat food and a few hours later, food comes out. So, unless we’re around humans or really have a taste for something, we usually don’t bother with it.

I settle down at a sparsely filled table. Geeks: I guess from the clothing and body odor. Geeks have a certain scent all their own, especially the computer geeks. I think it’s a combination of too much Mountain Dew, cigarettes, and not enough showers. From there, I watch the cafeteria for people who aren’t eating. About half to a third of high school vamps don’t bother with eating.

High school vamps like to look a little off. Human enough to pass, but off enough to add to the air of romance. The kind of girl who falls all over herself for a vamp will also notice little details, like he doesn’t eat. He wants her to notice that sort of thing and develop the inkling that there’s something mysterious about him.
In a word: Yuck!

I find five options before lunch is done. All of them boys. None of them eating. Two are playing with food, picking it up, touching it, but not actually putting it in their mouths. One has a lunch bag in front of him, but he hasn’t opened it. The other two have no lunch.

I like to stick to small high schools. If there’s fewer than five hundred students, I can scan the room and find the potentials in a few days. Huge schools like they have on the coasts are fun for occasional long hunts. I spent a year in NYC back in ‘07. That was a blast, but it took a full three weeks to even figure out who all the potentials were.

Of my potentials, two of them looked up at me as soon as I walked into the room. One keeps glancing back at me. That gets him booted to the top of the list. Instant awareness of the new girl and not eating: that’s often a vamp.

The other one came over at the end of lunch to offer to show me where my class was. At less than two feet away, I can smell the blood on him. Not one of us. As I look more closely, I notice the large band-aids on his arm and leg.

“What happened to you?”

“Gym class. We were playing football, and I got tackled into the bleachers.”



“So, where are you from?”

“Kansas City.”

“Oh. Never been there.” Which is why I picked it. Lots of these Nebraska kids have never been much of anywhere. KC’s big enough that being art girl works, but close enough that me being here isn’t ridiculous. Sometimes I let it slip I’m on my own, so being somewhere nearish where I started makes sense.

“And here we are.” He points me into the classroom that will be my jail for the next forty-five minutes. US History. I enjoyed history classes when I started going to school. It was funny to see how bad they were. Now… Now I understand why people decry modern education.

The teacher is a middle-aged man with a brushy mustache and thinning brown hair. He looks at the paper I hand him and then gestures to a chair at the back of the room. A minute later, he tosses a textbook onto my desk. Obviously, he’s going for the Mr. Charm approach. The textbook is battered; pages are falling out. Flipping through it does nothing to make me think this is going to be any better than any other history class I’ve attended in the last ten years.

A few seconds after the bell stops ringing, he tells the class, “We have a new student…” Yes, draw even more attention to me. Not like they wouldn’t have noticed me in the back if you didn’t mentioned it. “Would you like to introduce yourself?”

“No.” That got a laugh. “But I will. Helen Grace.” Not my real name. Constance Pruitt, my real name, more or less screams 1640, the year I was born. I haven’t used it since the mid-1800s. “I just moved here from KC. I’m wrapping up my senior year.”

“Thank you, Helen. We’re starting on the American Revolution.”

“Wonderful.” I smile grimly at him. I’d been there. Well, for some of it. I was born in Boston and got out of there shortly after I was turned. Providence was close, and no one knew me. Unfortunately, it was tiny. I spent just long enough there to figure out I needed a real city to survive. In 1662, my options for cities big enough not to notice someone like me were limited. Boston, where people knew I was supposed to be dead. New Amsterdam was still under Dutch control. Philadelphia was British and more tolerant than NA. The Virginia Colony wasn’t known for cities in those days. I didn’t speak Spanish then and wasn’t interested in learning, so anything south of that was out.

I headed to Philadelphia and stayed there for more than a century, until it became clear that was where all the traitors were. I moved to NYC and waved a Union Jack when our soldiers captured it.

Obviously, back then I was a Tory. But the Colonials won, and I was stuck. I didn’t have the desire to liquidate my holdings and head to Britain, so I, like many other Tories, became a reluctant American.

No, I didn't know Washington, though I did entertain Cornwallis on more than one occasion. Met Franklin once, too. I liked him. Everyone liked him. It was a pity he changed sides. What, you didn’t know Franklin was a loyal servant of the crown until 1773 or so? Yeah, they gloss over that these days.

While the teacher drones on about taxation and John Adams, I catch sight of someone watching me. He is in a different classroom. There’s a courtyard outside of our room, and the windows look onto it. His classroom is one floor up on the other side of the courtyard.

Bald. That is interesting. Bald teenager is usually a vamp hint. I make sure not to let him see me notice him. I keep doodling in my notebook, taking exceedingly fast glances at him.

He seems to be breathing and blinking. He’s also awfully pale and thin. So, chemo or vamp? Remember what I said about cutting hair? Well, for girls, especially girls from the West, it’s not too big of an issue. Most of us had hair we could work easily with as the styles changed. The guys, not always. Lots of men shaved their heads when wigs were popular. More than a few tonsured monks were turned; just about all of them have shaved heads now. As a rule of thumb: cue ball bald Asians who look too young for male pattern baldness, they’re vamps. You wouldn’t believe some of the styles that were popular back in the Shogun era and before, let alone the more obscure tribal looks.

The other side of the coin is that some vamps shave their heads and pretend to have cancer. Back in the day, they pretended to have TB. Something about a pale, dying man drives a certain kind of girl (idiot gluttons for pain) absolutely wild. They’ll all but trip over themselves to fall in love with a dying boy. Plus, most vamps don’t actually like high school, and cancer gives you an excuse to show up as little or as much as you like.

Quick thing to check, kids who really have cancer have a certain scent to them: bitter and chemical. They also, often, have some sort of IV port and/or scabs from IV’s and needles. If you’ve got a “cancer” patient who smells like nothing and never, ever shows off his arms, it’s time to take his pulse.

Baldy catches my eye and winks at me. I don't remember seeing him at lunch. I'll have to get close enough to smell him to make sure, but he just became the top suspect. 

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