The little girl shifts her stance–Drin still can’t see her feet, can’t look at her feet–and then she smiles at him, a tired, companionable, frighteningly adult smile.
“Let’s take a look at your scrubs, son,” she says. “Inspection time.”
There’s a strangled sound behind him, and Drin turns to see Barret, blundering past Cesar’s gun to come up beside him. Barret is breathing hard, and there’s something gray beneath Cesar’s dark skin.
“Callie?”¬†Barret asks.
The little girl regards him impassively.
“Not really,” she answers finally.
Her eyes flick to Drin. “Keep this one in the back line. He’s got a headful of jam. Don’t let it get cracked open too soon. And for Christ’s sake, don’t let him shoot anything.”
She stretches out a twig-arm–Barret is still gasping like he’s been running hard–and across empty air effortlessly moves Drin aside.
“Let’s see the other guys,” she says.
Drin’s neck aches viciously, and he tastes something bitter and metallic on the roof of his mouth. The little girl has her back to him, now, and she’s walking with casual arrogance towards Cesar and his weapon, towards Emma astonished in front of the Jeep, toward the wavering, half-conscious Dance. There’s a weird rhythm to her walking, as if one hip is riding higher than the other, and it’s this, even more than the smile and the inflection, that makes Drin start to shake.
He knows that walk. He’ll never forget that walk.
Cesar stands completely still as the little girl approaches. She’s tiny, small for her age, small even compared to Dance. But as she lifts her head to squint at Cesar in the stormy light, he lowers the muzzle of his gun, changes its angle just enough to let her in his guard.
She’s talking to Cesar. In Spanish.
Cracking jokes the troops only ever heard from one guy, ever.
He hears Cesar say something in response, hears Aaron’s indrawn breath all the way across the clearing. The little girl is snorting with laughter, and Drin goes cold all over.
She tosses a grin at him over her shoulder.
“I’ll be goddamned, boy, you know what you got here? A coupla dead guys.”
“We’re not dead!” Cesar says, in a tight, muffled voice.
“Yeah,” she says. “I call bullshit. You’re the twice-dead. They killed you in the tanks, and then you got tossed out with some of their cheap targets. They called you in, you don’t show, they assume you failed to revive. Oh no, you just ignored ’em. Now that’s what I call a real zombie. Boy, are you an embarrassment or what? You just walked away! Walked up South America!” She’s laughing again, and breaks up into a wheezing cough that Drin associates, out of long habit, with lung cancer.
She looks across at Emma, then.
“Watson,” she says softly. “Motherfuck. It’s Watson.”
Emma presses her cracked lips together, closes her hands into fists.
“Callie,” Barret says again, helplessly. “Jesus, Callie, what–”
Dance, inexplicably upright, weaving slightly, has materialized beside Barret.
“She’s a mudang,” he says softly. “It’s okay. She’ll be okay.”

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  1. Kiyakotari

    Damned thing ate my comment!

    Anyway – in short, because I don’t have time right this second to type it all again:

    ARGH. Comments messed up big time on my end, both in IE at work and in Firefox on my laptop. Can’t read them.

    GJ – you win. Sometimes I think you have a better grasp on Jian than I do. Seriously. The way you write him is magical with a capital “M.” I love his reflexive “We’re not married,” and I adore Callie’s “Yeah, I call bullshit” answer to that. Happy, happy day.

    More later, when I have more time and can read the other comments. TT_TT

  2. numaari

    In my own world, weres are completely natural, a genetic anomaly that is passed down from generation to generation. Such families are usually very proud of their ability to produce such creatures. The rats and wolves, most particularly.

    The lycanthropy can present itself at any time, though usually in adolescence. Sometimes family lines are lost, and a completely “normal” person suddenly gets furry.

    Works pretty well for us and allows for all sorts of storyline twists.

  3. numaari

    Yup. The building down the street from Harmony Hall houses a were school. Mostly lupines, but a few ursines and a stray were-raven or three. Oh, and a tiger and a snake, but they’re from Kyoto, not Southport.

    They have a killer HS football team.

  4. nagasvoice

    Im getting issues with wordpress thnking I’m doing a duplicate entry when I’m coming backin with another differen reply to the same comment.
    So I’m putting it here instead!
    Common on the General’s name:
    Also, search on wojohowitz pulls the character from Barney Miller, whose name is spelled differently, but would sound the same, played by Max Gail
    comment here found that link.
    They note:
    I’m sure he’s been on other shows…but he was on Barney Miller for years and years as the sort of dimwitted big softhearted detective.

    I’m not sure the General is quite that slow or soft.
    But he may, in his own tough-minded way, have been that kind.

  5. greenjudy

    Side note:

    “Watson” may be a bad joke (see “Emma Watson”) on the General’s part. He…she…? has a rather good grip on contemporary popular culture, particularly for a dead guy.

    “Watson” also resonates insofar as she has, in the past, occasionally functioned as this particular dead guy’s erstwhile sidekick, dogsbody, and recording angel.

  6. nagasvoice

    From googledocs work, I replaced the prior text that had Kiya’s earlier characters, adding Cesar and Aaron instead. It hink this is the last piece that needs it done, but by all means bring it up or edit if you find others that need it done!

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