Shape-shifter

No one knew where he came from; he was too young to remember anything but his name. Joey, or that is what he called himself grew up in the orphanage just outside of El Paso Texas; he was a mute, or at least he didn't speak. Miss Roberts looked after him and watched him like a hawk; she had too, Joey had an explosive temper and quite literally would scare the urine out of anyone who messed with him.

"Let's get him!" One of the boys yelled as they ran after the obviously frightened boy.

Joey took off like a shot; though shorter than the boys he had fierce speed and agility and could easily outpace anyone who decided to chase him. The boys didn't give up soon; they chased the young man for over a mile before he hit the scrub. Joey would turn the tables now; and shift into something ugly. The three boys ran in and picked through the brush; they happened upon a black bear that was charging at them at full speed, roaring. They ran, not having anything but their bare hands to ward off the juvenile animal. The bear chased them for a bit before letting them run back into the fields; it turned around and ran back to the pile of clothes it shed before turning into the bear.

"You know, one day they will catch you."

Joey jumped back and switched into a puma; his scream was enough to startle the elven girl looking at him.

"Calm down Joey, it's just me." Tina said.

The cat growled and shifted back into human form; he pulled his clothes back on and glared at the girl.

"Oh hush."

During the past several years a plague had literally killed off almost eighty percent of the men on the planet; Joey was just lucky he had a healing factor, he caught the sickness and fought it off before it killed him. In fact, the local anti-viral was made from his antibodies and every boy had a dose of him floating around in their systems. Due to this sudden man-made plague several sub-species of human began being born; elves, dwarfs, ogres and trolls were the most common, drakes, minis, and giants were not, but they were there. Tina was a Lowland Wood Elf, normally short, around five-three on average, and petite they lived in the scrub and woodlands surrounding the older forests. Tina was a pretty little thing, just shorter than Joey's five-six frame and bumpy in all the right places; she was amazed at his powers, and studied him like a book to see if she could learn how to transform herself. Or at least that is what she said to him.

"So, when are you going to let the school know that you have a bear form?" She asked.

He laughed silently, he had to touch an animal to get the energy signature before he could complete the transformation; he happened on a recent kill of a black bear and just managed to touch it's fur before the hunters came out of the store. The orphanage was going to take them to the zoo tomorrow; that is the place where he got the mountain lion from a living breathing cub. He looked forward to it; the web-site said that they had several new cubs in the zoo.

"Let's take the scenic route home." Tina suggested.

He smiled, the scenic route went by the swimming hole; sometimes the girls forgot to wear their tops, he liked it. Joey walked beside his friend with his shoes in his hand, he liked the way the sand felt between his toes; and he could tell what kind of animal passed by just by the way the ground felt beneath his feet. Tina was a little empathic, so she could tell that he found something interesting when they passed a rock that had a sheet of stone fall off of it; Joey went to investigate, and found a fossil. Tina scoffed at the rock.

"It is just a rock." She said, "Let's go."

Joey touched the rock and it gave him the chills; it was just enough soul left in it for him to notice what it was. He left it there and shook off the chills; ten minutes later Tina found herself walking beside a saber tooth cat.

"Holy shit!" she screamed.

Joey looked at her and tried not to laugh; but the growl was real and so was the heart stopping roar.

"Joey!" Tina screeched.

The cat became a boy again and put his clothes back on.

"You damned near gave me a heart attack!" She kept the screech up.

Joey snarled at her.

"Ooh...I have to pee now!" She huffed.

Thankfully the port-a-potty was nearby and she ran to it; he waited patiently until she came back out. They walked past the swimming hole and no one was there; it was still early, he would come by later and see if any of the girls from town happened by. A few hundred yards more and they walked up behind the old mansion that passed as the orphanage; the state purchased it at cost because the lady of the house couldn't keep up the taxes after her husband died. They slipped in the back door and crept around to the front; they were late, again, and if they were caught they would have to do manual labor in the heat of the day.

"Joey, Tina...I know that is you." Miss Arlien said.

"Yeah kids, you should know better than to sneak in on Friday." Arlen, her blind brother, said.

"Oh please, Joey got chased again." Tina said, "I waited for him by the oak."

"Oh...are you okay Joey?" Arlien asked.

Joey nodded.

"I won't say anything." Arlien said, "And he won't ether."

"I know nothing." Arlen said, "Just get the dust off of you before Miss Austin finds you."

"He can smell that?"

"Yep." Arlen said.

"Git." Arlien said.

The kids ran, later, Tina asked for permission to go to the swimming hole; she wanted to take Joey with her for protection.

"Joey for protection?" Miss Austin asked.

"Oh please, he doesn't go out much." Tina said.

"Go on." She smiled.

"Joey, come on!" Tina yelled.

Joey thankfully ran up and gave Miss Austin a hug; she squeezed back and slapped his bottom when he ran to catch up to Tina. They hauled butt and made it as a bunch of girls came up from the sleepy little town; they saw Joey and one of them turned up her nose.

"It is the freak." The ork said.

"You should talk." A short troll said, "Hi Tina!"

"Oh hi Samantha!"

Joey waved.

"Hi Joey." Amber, another Lowland Elf smiled.

The girls pulled off their shorts and shimmied into the cool water; Joey, already accustomed to the cool water, just watched as the t-shirt clad girls cooed and purred as the cold water soothed their baking skin. One of the girls looked at him and smiled; her name was Polly and she was a pretty brunette Midland Elf.

"Girls, does anyone know how old Joey really is?" She asked.

"He was about three when we got to the orphanage." Tina said.

"That would make him about eighteen." Amber said.

"Yes, then why is he a junior in high school?" Polly asked.

"He's a senior." Tina said, "He passed with a three point two."

"Ow, he must be smart." The troll said.

"Smarter than you." The ork said.

"Smarter than you too." Samantha growled.

Joey was content on watching the human female's skin react to the cold water; the certain part he was looking at was reacting very well, the human, Laura noticed his gaze before he could turn away.

"Oh..." She purred, "So you are a boy after all."

Polly swam over to the two orphans and made herself a spot just beside Joey; the look the boy cave her was confusion and surprise. She smiled at him.

"I don't care what Ruth says, you're cute." She kept up the smile.

Joey turned bright red and caught all the girls giving him a once over.

"Tina, do you think Joey would mind if we knew what he could do?" Amber asked.

Tina looked at Joey and the boy glared at her; "You'd better not."

"I think he wants to keep that a secret except for a few specific people." Tina said.

"Oh poo." Amber frowned.

"If everyone knew what he could do Joey could get into more trouble than even Ruth could imagine." Tina said.

"I heard he could change into a bear." Laura said.

"Oh, who told you that?" Tina asked.

"Oh...my mom." Laura said, her mom was the sheriff.

"Keep it to yourself." Tina said.

"So he can change into a bear." Amber said.

"Joey...?"

"Might as well." He signed.

"Joey is a shape-shifter, bear is only one of the forms he can change into." Tina said.

"Ooh what else?" Laura asked.

"Why do you want to know?" Tina asked, "Your brother tries to beat him up every day."

"He does? Well mom will put a stop to that right now." Laura said.

"Here we go, Joey likes three forms mostly; though he has many that he can pop into in a hurry if he has too." Tina said, "A black bear, a bloodhound, and a red-tailed hawk."

"Oh..." Polly purred, "He can fly."

"The hawk can fly." Ruth huffed.

Joey switched to a male Midland Elf; and looked at Polly.

"Oh wow." The girls said.

"That isn't that impressive." Ruth said.

Joey slid beneath the water and came up just in front of Ruth as an ork; tusks gleaming with the water rolling off of them.

"That is more impressive." Ruth said.

"Joey, can you do a troll?" Samantha asked.

A pair of horns grew from his head and Joey grinned behind bigger tusks; he slipped back beneath the water and came up between Tina and Polly in a garrall form of a bloodhound.

"He can half-shift too." Tina said.

"That is probably the coolest thing I have seen." Polly said.

"Now the boys that are trying to beat him up will know he is the bear charging them and try to hurt him." Tina said, "Please don't tell anyone."

"Joey...we have a problem." A voice came from above them.

"Hi Miss Austin." Tina said, "I think he knew you were there."

"Joey, the Morris girl is missing; and the sheriff's bloodhound is having her pups." Miss Austin said.

"I will take your shorts." Tina said.

Joey ran up the creek bank in full bloodhound form; he ran beside Miss Austin to the back of the Morris home. Miss Austin made it around to the front; Joey tore off South barking like a...well, bloodhound.

"He's onto something!" Miss Austin tore after Joey.

"Where did they get a dog like that?" A deputy asked.

"Who cares?" Miss Morris asked, running after them.

Joey ran a few hundred yards and broke hard; sliding in the sand, the scent just stopped. Upon further inspection he found a well with girly scent all over it; also the drakes were eying him like dinner. Joey barked and howled, a signal for the normal people to bust their asses over there; Miss Austin was first, and Joey barked at the well.

"Joey...!"

She watched as the dog changed into a red-tailed hawk and hopped into the hole; a little girl's scream was music to her ears, she was alive. Joey shifted to a Capuchin monkey and he hopped around to where she was sitting in the dirt; the monkey gave her a quick inspection and then changed back into the dog. He sniffed around, this wasn't a well like he had thought; it was a mine shaft, and the freshest air came from the left. Joey licked the dirt off of the girl's face and wined.

"I want to get out." the girl sniffed.

"Joey is she okay?"

"Woof." He barked, "Girrl fine, mayybe hurrrt ankle." The garrall dog said.

"We're getting a rope, keep her talking."

"You talk?"

"Good dog." The garrall form said.

"Is she in there?" Miss Morris asked.

"Yes Miss Morris, she has a hurt ankle; but Joey will sit with her until we can get them out." Miss Austin said.

"Joey...the dog?" Miss Morris asked.

"Not many people know." Miss Austin said, "I'd like to keep it that way."

"Wee!" The girl squealed as she was lifted by a huge paw out of the hole.

"Joey!"

"Narnia!" Miss Morris snatched up her daughter and ran to the paramedics.

"Herrr gone?" Joey asked.

"Yes, come out and...is that a black bear?" Miss Austin asked.

Joey switched back to bloodhound, and gave her a whimsical look; his green eyes were filled with mischief. Miss Austin shook her head and walked off in the direction of the commotion.

"He was a big black bear!" The girl said to the deputies.

"Oh...a bear pulled you out of the hole?"

"Uh-huh, he was very nice to help me." Narnia said.

"Oh you bet." The deputy with the smile said.

"Let's go home Joey." Miss Austin said.

The bloodhound led the way; on the way he stopped and picked up the piece of fossil he dropped earlier.

"Give." Miss Austin ordered. She inspected the rock, "A fossil, Joey, you know the rules."

Right, if anyone found anything interesting on the property they were to tell the matrons; since Miss Austin was the Head Matron, he had to show her. Joey led her to the spot and shifted to the great cat as they approached.

"Holy...Joey...that is a saber-tooth cat!" Miss Austin almost screamed.

Joey looked at her with those green eyes and dug at a spot; sure enough, there were more bone fragments. It only took Miss Austin, an amateur paleontologist,a few minutes to figure out that they were in a bone bed; she grabbed her satellite phone and called a number.

"Oh Harry, you've got to see this." She shook, "It is a fossil bed on your property."

"Really, wow, okay, I'll be there tomorrow afternoon; that will give you time to go to the zoo and get back." Harry said.

"A shape-shifter that is a resident at our facility found it."

"A shape-shifter, you've been holding out on me." Harry growled, "I would like to see her too."

"Oh...please don't call the saber-toothed cat I'm looking at, her; Joey is probably eighteen year old senior in high school." She said, "I didn't tell you because I thought you knew; you were there when he came in with the fire department."

"The...boy with a collar on?"

"Oh he lost that a long time ago, thankfully." She said.

"I will be there tomorrow afternoon with both of my wives." Harry said, "And Doctor Grant, you know the Dinosaur Man."

"Joey...is transforming again...Joe...oh shit." Miss Austin watched as Joey transformed into a dinosaur. "He is an allsaurus!"

"What?" Harry asked.

"He's getting the energy off the bones and using it to copy the animals!" she realized, "Oh you are not going to the zoo tomorrow mister..." she paused, "Probably not the best time to be scolding you huh?"

Joey roared in her face; think Jurassic Park T-Rex, only smaller, and faster.

"Okay we can be there tomorrow morning." Harry said.

"Okay..." Miss Austin said, "No, crying won't get you to go mister."

Joey sat in his room and grumbled to himself; he could very well go out and rip the buses apart, but what good would that do? He watched as the girls got on the bus and left for the zoo; he sighed, it would be next year before they would get to go again. A limo pulled up at the orphanage and a man came in with two women; he could hear them come in and then come up the stairs.

"He lives with the girls?"

"He has his own room; and his side is always kept neat." Miss Austin said.

"But the girls will have their way with him." Another woman said.

"No, Joey and Tina have been here the longest; and they treat each other like brother and sister. I don't think the girls realize that he is near eighteen years old." Miss Austin said, "This is his room."

The door opened and four people entered his room; they looked around before the man cleared his throat and pointed up. Joey was in a rouge drake form, sitting on the light, looking at the window.

"No fair." Joey said.

"I thought you said he was mute." Harry said.

"I thought he was."

"Not when like this." Joey said, "You no fair."

"Tough, you made me have to change underwear." Miss Austin said.

"Show us where the bones are Joey." The shortest woman said.

"You dig?"

"Yes." She said.

"Okay."