I paced around the motel room, worms burying through my stomach. Frustration and anxiety were growing inside me, and the fact that I was hungry - well, not so much hungry as I knew I needed to stock up my stomach for tonight - were all making me very irritable. The kids, I think, started to notice it; they'd been asking me when they were going to be picked up, and there's only so many times you can say, "I don't know" before you wish you knew the answer just to shut them up.
I'm never having kids, I decided right then. For the first time in my life, I was glad to be a virgin.
The kids were getting hungry too, and there was only so long they could spend watching television before their emptying stomachs became as insistent as mine. Plus, I had other needs that I had to deal with too - none of which I hoped were shared by any of the kids - including finding out just what the hell it was out in the outskirts of Palmerston North that had tweaked my interests.
Finally, when I'd checked my phone and realized it was likely I'd only get home tonight running cross-country in a nice fur jacket of my own making to protect against the winter cold, there was a knock at the door. I bounded over to the door in a couple of steps, relief washing over me.
Until I opened the door and realized I could have been staring at a gun.
Thankfully, though, that was not the case. Just a rather handsome elderly Maori lady whose features I recognized; even if he may be a prick who'd make my life either short or painful, the person I'd been avoiding had at least good taste in women.
"You're late," I grumbled, before being rudely shoved aside as the kids swarmed to their grandmother.
She gave me a defiant look that told me that maybe it was premature to assume the guy had "good taste", at least if you wanted to ever be right in your relationship. Or maybe it was just the fact she rated me as highly as a strange dog. I shrugged and grabbed my stuff; I didn't have a lot of time before the last bus service, and I still had to run out to the edge of town to satisfy my curiosity. Grandmother started examining the children, which pissed me off a bit, but I was just glad to be getting out of there. I waved goodbye to the kids, who waved back until stern grandmother eyes glared at them and they stopped, and I sighed and left.
Shutting the door behind me, I noticed the grandmother's car. It was probably wrong, but I really, really wished I could lift my leg and piss on the whole thing. After transforming, so it'd be scent-marked, and as I'd be more agile than the average dog I could probably pee into places that'd never get cleaned. Instead I took the cowardly, but rather more prudent, action of walking away, backpack banging against me walking in a general northerly direction.
Then I realized I'd never been paid or anything.
Another horrifying thought struck me.
Not once did I crack a Red Riding Hood-related joke at the grandmother.
Somewhat mortified at my own lack of cleverness, I meandered around Palmerston North for a while. It was a nice afternoon, much warmer and drier than it had been, and so it was nice to get out and walk around without having to worry about kids or gangs.
The things you learn to appreciate in such a short time!
My mood eventually improved enough that I started whistling quietly to myself. No song in particular, just whatever notes popped into my head at the time. I popped into a supermarket not too far from the bus station to grab some beef jerky to gnaw on, which I gobbled up pretty eagerly. I got more than a few weird looks, but hopefully it was more "fat nerd eating too much" than "well, better he eats that than us".
When I felt the tingling again, my good mood buoyed. Something - hopefully, something that someone else had - was putting out some of what Dr. Keenan referred to as "arcane radiation", and either it had gotten stronger, or more likely whoever or whatever it was had moved closer. My pace quickened when I felt the tingling growing stronger, and even though it was probably a bad idea to expend energy on a full stomach this soon before a full moon I moved to a light jog.
My whole body felt awash with electricity, and I quickly realized that whatever it was might be strong enough to cause me certain problems, so I paused, slipping the backpack off my back. Rummaging around, I quickly looked for the one very helpful item I'd brought on the off-chance I stayed too late.
Fundamentals of Number Theory.
I flicked the pages to near the front of the book, looking for a relatively doable problem.
"Evaluate (4655, 12075), and express the result as a linear combination of 4655 and 12075 with coefficients in _ Z."_
Satisfied that I could probably do at least pretend to do this problem in my head for a while, I continued northwards. The buildings slowly became wider, which relieved me; Palmerston North isn't a very big city, but I didn't want to be sniffing around for too long and miss the last bus home tonight.
Well, twelve thousand and seventy five - which I'll call A - is bigger than B, which is four thousand six hundred and fifty five. Now, twelve is about three times four, so A'll probably be about two or three times B; probably two, because A is about twelve thousand and B is about four point five thousand. Two times four thousand six hundred and fifty five is...
The farther I went north, the more uncomfortable I became. From the way the arcane radiation was growing, wherever this thing was probably was giving off at least one full moon. If there was someone like me there, that could be very bad. Especially with an approaching full moon; hell, it was bad enough for me just being here.
I quickly looked around and dashed into an alleyway, hoping that nobody would be coming out of work too early from the car sales yard nearby. Something was wrong; the best that I could judge if I went too much farther I'd be getting enough to start transforming me. I needed to call Doctor Keenan for help. I pulled out his phone and jabbed nervously at his number in my contact list.
Two times four thousand six hundred and fifty five is eight thousand... nine thousand two hundred...
"Hello, Doctor Keenan's office. Susan speaking. How may I help you?"
I answered as politely as I could muster, "Hi, Susan. It's me, Spike."
I could feel her glaring at the handset she'd be holding in the nicely decorated waiting room of Doctor Keenan's office from where I was standing; it was probably stronger than the arcane radiation that was making me feel very sweaty.
Or was that the running from before.
Susan finally got around to answering me. "Oh, Doctor Keenan's in with a patient at the moment; he won't have time today to-"
"Look," I grunted, hand shaking and damp with sweat so much I could barely hold the phone. "This is an emergency. I don't care if it's he or you who calls, but someone needs to notify the arcane research division at Massey or wherever that there's something giving out some very serious radiation somewhere in northern Palmerston North."
Susan asked, accusative, "What are you doing in Palmerston North?"
Something was wrong, and it wasn't Susan for once; I curled up, gripping the phone in my hand, shuddering in the alley. Whatever was putting out the radiation was either getting closer or putting out an increased amount of arcane radiation, and in the former case unless it was practically next to me it was pretty damned potent.
I needed to be quick. I could change into my wildling form for a while to avoid suspicion, but even that was just buying time.
"Shut up Susan, and listen!" I growled, "I need to get out of here or I'm going to change. Call the university. Call the police. Whatever it is is strong, and is either getting stronger or is mobile. You don't like me but whatever it is is dangerous and needs to be stopped."
My phone clattered onto the concrete; I couldn't hold it any more. Thankfully I couldn't hear anything Susan was saying. Mostly because my heart seemed to be trying to beat out of my chest. Forced into the fetal position, I gritted my teeth together. With my last ounce of strength, I yanked off my shoes before collapsing.
Two times four thousa-fuck it. The Fibonacci sequence is: one...
I felt my torso starting to elongate, my abdominal muscles firming as they rapidly clenched and unclenched, my spine stretching upwards, my ribcage pressing up hard against my skin. My stomach gurgled and spluttered; the jerky quickly being consumed.
My internal organs, quivering and sensing the increased capacity, started to expand to fill my larger cavity. My shoulders, obligingly, widened out, as did my hips; my abdominals weren't the only ones horribly cramping; I was a twitching mess of quivering, growing muscle.
Thankfully my skin cells kept up, multiplying rapidly so I only had a couple of layers of ripped skin to peel off later. The sweat drenching me slicked down the extra hair that was growing over me.
To keep up with the rest of me, my hands and feet grew, and my neck thickened; my head didn't change too much, it was mostly increases in hair and cartilage: thicker, wider nose; larger, pointier ears, bushier beard, thicker eyebrows, spikier hair.
My face and body was losing most of its roundness. The jiggling that had been accompanying me had depleted a great amount, and if I hadn't grown in other ways the clothes I'd been wearing would be flopping over me.
My scent glands, or whatever, were in overdrive too. I could smell the wet dog smell that usually accompanied me during my transformation; at least I knew this stage would soon be over with.
Everything that needed to balance out, did so: even my privates, which had decided that I should be further punished by getting my pubic hair caught in my boxers, so when I twitched my legs I got uncomfortable pain down below. And naturally, this balancing hurt the worst. Getting kicked in the balls is nothing in comparison.
The pain, at least was subsiding; at least, that from the transformation. It wasn't over, but I needed to stay at least vaguely human
and that meant thinking enough to expend the extra energy. If not, I'd go furry which would be
a big problem. Unfortunately, I was now without shoes, and didn't have the time to get changed into proper-fitting clothes either. I had to get out of here.
Easier said than done, of course, as I quickly rubbed my face and arms so I didn't look like I had leprosy or some other kind of disease. I had no shoes to wear, so I pulled off my socks as well, sticking them both and my dropped phone into my backpack. Running may be in order, and I didn't want to drop it again.
one hundred and forty four...
Now barefoot, I'd have to walk around, and hope that I didn't step into any glass or discarded needles or used condoms. I slowly sauntered around, trying to stretch my clothes - made for someone a foot shorter and a fair bit rounder - over myself as best I could.
two hundred and thirty three...
I set off, walking along the streets, monitoring the footpath ahead carefully, my body instinctively heading south, my mind focused on the numbers.
three hundred and seventy sev-
I wasn't prepared for the explosion, but I had at least been concentrating enough on the numbers to at least weather the assault of extra arcane radiation headed in my direction.
I turned north, where a large plume of smoke billowed out, and ran.
I'd probably regret it later
okay, where was I
but I knew that I'd probably be the only one who knew that this wasn't just an ordinary explosion, which meant that the usual rules may not necessarily apply. I'd not heard of this kind of thing happening before - though I'm far from an expert, kind of like being sick doesn't make one a doctor - but there could be problems, and as I was already screwed for tonight I decided to just to embrace the oncoming disaster for all it was worth.
start again, primes: two...
I raced along, concentrating on the smoke. My heart pounded like an amped-up rock drummer during a solo. Fortunately the adrenalin made my reaction times better, so when the car squealed to a halt I was able to jump up.
I vaulted onto the hood, and sidestepped off. Ignoring the driver, whom I could hear swearing loudly, I continued onwards, building up speed. My clothes flapped around me, annoyingly slowing me down. I wished I could strip off, especially with the waves of radiation making me sweat and shake again.
not just yet five...
The explosion appeared to have come from a warehouse; one end was a burning mess, vomiting up smoke like a volcano on the verge of eruption. A terrified crowd of onlookers milled about, a few tending to some ashen people who I gathered stumbled out of the warehouse. The ground around was covered in debris, and I had to be careful where I stepped; even if I'd been wearing shoes I'd probably have had to have been careful.
"What happened?" I barked, my voice hoarse from a combination of the transformations to my throat, the strain to keep from transforming further, the heat of the fire and my earlier exertion. While waiting for an answer, I took the time to breathe in.
A guy, who I gathered - from the smell of cheap beer, pot and the muskiness of old library books - was a student, that was standing next to me looked at me strangely - something I get a lot - and mumbled, "Something caught fire." If anyone else had a more useful answer, they either didn't hear the question or decided not to give it to the scraggly barefoot stranger. I tried asking again, but my voice was lost in the sounds of the inferno and approaching sirens.
That's probably why none of them heard the screaming; there was so much of that already, and I had certain advantages the other nosy onlookers didn't.
I yelled out, "There's people in there!" but there wasn't much that anyone could do, at least until the fire trucks arrived. And even then, they'd be hard-pressed making it into there.
Being this close to the source wasn't helping me to think rationally; I knew the explosion wasn't due to normal energy, and I was struggling to keep it together. But those people trapped in there kept screaming, and it wasn't going to go away without me either doing something or ending up sick to my stomach and feeling guilty for the rest of my life.
I grabbed Pot Student by his shoulder, and pulled him over, slipping my backpack off and handing it to him. He just looked at me as I pulled off my shirt. We both knew it was a bad idea; I, of course, knew it was worse. "Look after my stuff," I said, throwing the shirt at his head.
Everyone else was looking at the explosion, so nobody was really paying attention to me except Pot Student, who was thankfully stunned from witnessing a burning building to really do anything. I leaned up against the heated metal wall of the neighboring warehouse to the explosion, where everyone had assembled.
Trying to pull off my sweatpants was difficult, as I was shaking and twitching. I panted and growled, my face muscles twitching as my jawbone began to stretch out painfully. My boxers were straining as my body prickled with hairs that weren't even close to faking human.
My fingernails bled a little as they lengthened, curving slightly as they extended. I ripped off my boxers, carefully grasping at the front and shredding them with my transforming claws. I leaned harder against the door, the warmed metal uncomfortable against my fur and skin. My eyes teared up, the colors swirling. I closed them, only opening them a few moments later, when they had changed to the yellow, dichromatic stare of a wolf.
The whole thing seemed a worse idea when the wet black dimpling on my misshapen nose came online in my brain. I could deal with the stench the nearby sweaty bodies and the scent of burned flesh - some people hadn't been as lucky when the explosion had occurred - but the artificial smoke was sickening. My leg bones shifted around as my lower paws started to come in properly; longer feet that changed as my ankle reshaped, and my shins shortened, the associated muscles shifting around as I stood tiptoed, waiting for them to fill in fully.
I slid my jaws over one another, knocking out the few loose teeth that my growing jaws hadn't knocked out. I spat them out into my freshly-padded palms, suddenly realizing that I was standing around naked in front of a whole crowd of people - by now, they'd noticed that the exploding factory wasn't the only unusual thing to stare at, unfortunately - and shifting my teeth to one hand I reached down with the other to check, even though I could already sense the changes.
My tail flickered; I grabbed my backpack and dropped my teeth in. My paws were somewhat padded now, which was the best foot protection I was probably going to have, and I didn't have much more time to waste. I tried my best to ignore the continuing changes as I growled and stared at Pot Student, hoping to intimidate him, before bounding up to the raging inferno. The crowd parted as I dashed forward, so I thankfully didn't have to knock some fat office workers or old ladies onto their respective asses.
I might be a werewolf, but there's no need to be rude.
I panted as much as I could; the hot air inside the warehouse wasn't going to give me much of a chance to cool down. I focused on my counting, while straining my ears to distinguish the surprised cries from the pained ones coming from inside the warehouse, and trying to avoid the worst of the hot metal and glass remnants littering the ground.
The emergency services had probably just arrived, from what I could hear, but I tuned that out. The cries for help were getting weaker, and I guessed that was bad. Besides, I had to fight off the source of arcane radiation that was pulling my brain in a bad direction, especially given I was trying to look around in a burning building that could collapse on me at any moment.
One of the warehouse's storage spaces had fallen over, covering the stairwell; up them was what I guesses was an office and where I could hear the coughing. Werewolves aren't made for climbing as well as humans, but I didn't have the time or energy to change back; I made do as best I could, after a couple of falls I managed to bound up the heated, twisted metal.
My paws were sore when I plowed into the wooden door, shattering it as I somersaulted through. I heard a frightened, weak yelp, and after recovering I struggled on to all fours, taking a quick glance. There were two people there, alive but barely. The man was unconscious, and had a bad bump on his head; the woman was pretty dazed. Neither seemed too badly injured, but I wasn't a doctor.
Figuring that even if one was injured in a way where they shouldn't be moved, being left in here wouldn't be terribly good. I started to hear a hissing sound; I guessed the fire engines were pumping water out. I didn't have time to give the non-threatening doggy stance that I might have otherwise, so I grabbed them both, and slowly creaked over the floor, hoping it would bear our combined weight long enough for me to get over to the shattered window. No way could we get out the other way.
Using my elbow, I battered out the rest of the glass. My body and lungs were already aching so much that a few glass cuts didn't add much more. Hacking like cat to clear my throat, I then howled as loudly I could to get some attention before grabbing the woman's limp hand and waving it out the window. Thankfully, someone noticed, and I saw a swarm of activity as after a couple of seconds some officers and firemen were assembling down below, stretching out a sheet for us to drop into.
I wasn't sure whether people could be dropped out whilst out, so I lowered the guy to the floor. Grabbing the woman with both hands, I held her out, my arms shaking, until the emergency crew were prepared to catch her and she was prepared to drop. Her clothes fluttered down as she went; she kind of looked like a bird who'd struck the window.
I took off the guy's ripped shirt and tried to tie him to me; figuring this might be the safest way to get him down since he was out and no amount of facial licking or slapping seemed to bring him around. Turning around, I sunk my claws into the windowframe and slowly backed out, gripping the guy with one free hand. I looked down and closed my eyes, hoping that material was big and strong enough for two, especially with one oversized. Then I jumped.
We free-fell for a second before a power cable snaked out, grabbing me by the leg. More came out, and I realized I didn't have much more time; knowing I gave him my best, I dug my claws into the material around my waist, cutting myself a little. The guy continued to fall, while I was jerked back into the burning building, getting my head smacked on the windowsill for my trouble.
That was new.
My head was dizzy, and I was starting to lose my self-control with the combination of head wound, smoke inhalation and being wrapped around by electric cables drawn in towards something that was spewing out arcane radiation. The shocks weren't helping any, either. Finally pulled in, I clawed at the ground in vain, then flailed my arms around.
Think! You've got to save yourself!
I didn't have to rely on the maths this time; now I had a far more pressing problem to focus my attention. I was being dragged across the floor by electric cabling; I needed to get out.
What is it and where is it taking me? Well, it's probably arcane...
...and apparently very stupid.
The controlling thing had outsmarted itself; it tried throwing me out the broken door and into the fiery mess below, but I was far too heavy for the cables to pull, so I ended up tumbling over the edge and fortunately grabbed the edge of the catwalk. Ignoring the flapping cables whipping at my hands, I pulled myself up. If I hadn't been horrible sore and achey, I'd have wagged my tail
The whole building had been belching out radiation, but I had a fairly good idea of the source now. Especially with the cables attacking me. I reached over, and with all my remaining physical strength, grabbed the computer and raced for the window. My mental strength went to trying to force myself back towards humanity.
The computer arced and flew out, and I heard people yelling. Freed from the grid, the amount of radiation it was pouring out was dwindling.
The crowd yelled again as my hairy ass tumbled out of the window, utterly exhausted. Doubly so as my ass was getting less hairy, my body finally free from the computer's influence. I howled and screamed on the way down as my fatigues, heavily wounded, transforming body bounced against the fabric.
I came to for a second, then tried to mumble all the stuff that was in my head: I need a lot of food, as soon as possible; the computer is possessed; can Pot Student give me my backpack back?
I don't know how much came out, because I passed out again.