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The life and times of Chris Shalock
by David Ihnen
David Ihnen -- all rights reserved

Oh, I always wanted to be a policeman. Ever since I was real little, you know. My uncle was one. Policeman. He used to come by for dinner. He told mommy and me stories about the guys he busted. He told us all about being a policeman. Everything. Ever since then I always wanted to be a policeman. I know you can do anything you put your mind to. So I set on doing that. I read all the law books. I got my uncle to ask me about the laws, and I always got them right. I was gonna be a policeman. I had to know everything. I worked extra hard at high school. I studied all the time. Then I went to the junior college. I majored in "criminal justice". I got good grades. School was pretty hard. But I put my mind to it, and I did it. I got a job at the cafeteria. Then I could pay for the bills. I even got my very own apartment. It was over by the college. Thirteen oh one thirteenth street, number five. It was alot easier to get to school from there. It is way longer to biker-ride from mommy's house. Everything changed after college. It was time to go to the police academy! Mommy helped me fill out the forms. I mailed them in. Pretty soon, they sent me a letter in the mail. It said I could go to the academy!

I set my mind to it. I went there. There were lots of other cadets too. They lined us up in a straight line. We had to all look forward. The man talked to us. He said that he was going to figure out which of us was good enough to be policemen. I knew I was! He had us do all sorts of tests. He had us run around and around. I am good at running. He had us run in tires and jump over things. I am good at that too. I even climbed over the wall faster than everybody else.

When we were all done we all took showers. Then we ate a good lunch. We all had to talk to the doctor. He had lots of papers about me. He was worried. He said I didn't do good in elementary school. I did not know how to set my mind to it back then. I told him that but he was still pretty worried. He said policemen have to learn stuff real fast. So they can catch the bad guys. I told him I could do it, I will just set my mind to it.

He took me to see the big important guy at the academy. I do not remember his name. I told him I could be a policeman. He did not believe me. When he said I could not be a policeman, I cried.

I moved back home. College was all done. I did not know what to do. I was pretty confused. I put my mind to it at school for as long as I could remember. They said I could not do it. Mom said that if I could not be a policeman, then maybe I could help them out. So I did. I went down to the big field behind the big police station. They trained the big police dogs there. My uncle worked there sometimes, so he let me in. Mostly I would just hold the dog. Or maybe get water for the dog. Sometimes, they let me wear the sleeve. That let the dog bite my arm without hurting me. I was not a policeman, but at least I was helping. Mommy said she liked having me at home.

One morning I did not feel good when I woke up. I went to the police station anyway. I said I would. It is important to do what you say. There was a new dog. His name was King. He was lots of fun. They told me to run around and around with him to tire him out. It was tiring me out more than him! Then we did the sleeve thing. The hot sun made me feel bad. I felt all hot. I was dizzy. King was a good dog. He stayed still with my uncle just like he was supposed to. Then they said "Attack!" King ran at me again. I felt really dizzy. Then the ground jumped up. It hit me right in the head. I do not remember falling.

I woke up in the hospital, as if from a deep sleep. The first thing I noticed was my thoughts. Instead of tumbling through in a roar of chaos, making it hard to pick words out, everything was quiet. Thoughts slid through cleanly, easily. All I had to do was think, and comprehension was there. I could see what had been wrong now. And it was gone.

I smiled, and opened my eyes. The first thing I saw were the bandages on my right arm. They wrapped all the way around. Some tender probing found it was sore on both the top and the bottom. I'd probably been injured pretty badly. I remembered wearing the bite sleeve on my left arm, so it obviously wouldn't have helped. Just a dog bite. I looked around for the call switch. It was hooked on the railing. I picked it up and pressed the button. My arm felt like I hadn't moved it in days. My press had triggered a distant chime. While I waited I tested my muscles gingerly. Everything still seemed to work. All my parts appeared to be intact, though there were a couple annoying tubes attached to me. Within few minutes, a scab nurse bustled in. She picked up a clipboard from its hook at the foot of the bed, peering at me through her glasses nearsightedly. She was mostly human, with some rodential features thrown in. Her face had a short muzzle, larger front teeth prominent. Her ears were larger than normal, round like a mouse's. Perched atop her head was a traditional white nurse's cap. Her head and arms were covered with short grey fur.

I blinked. I'd never seen a scab nurse before.

"Ah, Chris, you're awake." she glanced at her watch, "Ten fifteen, August 16th."

It had been the 9th last I remembered. An entire week.

"I didn't know they had scab nurses." I told her.

The nurse nodded, her husky voice easily filling the room. "Well, they do in scabs wards. Which is what you had, by the way. Count your fortunes, honey. I've seen too many die. Some just end up feral." She shook her head sadly. "But hey, you came out with no discernable change. Do you need anything deary? Juice, some milk?"

"Um, no. I guess not." I responded slowly, my mind sliding over the information.

"Alrighty then. I'll be along to change your bandage in a while. See you later." She replaced the clipboard and hurried out, the chime of another patient calling for her attention.

I fell to the pillows and sighed. Scabs. The full name came from somewhere in my brain, Stein's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome. The martian flu. So that's why I didn't feel good. Wouldn't you know I'd get scabs. As if things weren't bad enough already. I was still male, thank God. And at least I wasn't growing fur or scales. Not yet, anyways. Maybe I was just lucky and it wouldn't affect me. I found a book laying on the bedside table with a note. I read it easily. I didn't remember reading anything easily before.

Dear Chris,

Left you this book to read while you're in the hospital. I know its bigger than you're used to but you have plenty of time to read it while you recover. I'll come visit soon as I get back from San Francisco. (shh, I'm under cover)

Love, Uncle Joe

It was a novel. The cover showed a blue uniformed officer behind the business end of a glock pistol. I smiled, and started reading.

The physical therapy went quickly and I was soon free of the antiseptic walls of the institution. They told me I might change later, that they would check back regularly in the next few weeks to make sure everything goes okay. Give them a call if I get any symptoms. I don't think I'll need them. Lucky me.

The bite healed nicely, all you can see now is a little scar. You can hardly tell my arm was half chewed by that dog. I've been feeling better about myself, for some reason. I think it's from doing stuff. When I arrived back home, I could hardly breath indoors. I never realized that mom's house was so stuffy.

So, partly for lack of anything better to do, I cleaned up my mom's house. You'd be surprized how many things she had that were pointless. It took ages to cart it all to the dump. And she just doesn't put things where they're supposed to be. I'm always picking up her stuff. I had to practically remodel the place to make it livable. I took up the ratty rugs, that'd been there as long as I could remember. The floor underneath was actually kinda nice. I borrowed a sander and some floor finish from a contractor building a house nearby. I painted, I cleaned. The place looks pretty good. It makes a big difference to mom too. She's actually had some friends over for the first time in years. The social worker actually hugged me. I don't think she's ever smiled so widely.

I got a haircut, close and neat like my Uncle Joe. I had to throw out half my clothes, too. Stripes and corduroy. What was I thinking? I don't know how I wore them. I found some great deals at the thrift store on some much better clothes. I'd heard that in a week there was another qualification exam, and I was sure I could pass it. I talked to the commandant personally the other day, and he said he was impressed. None of the tests they have show I had any learning deficit disorder any more.

So, I was sitting in the bleachers, watching the latest class of cadets sweat as they ran around the track. There were two scabs at the back of the pack. A fox and what appeared to be some sort of strange looking rodent. They were both human enough to run on two feet though. Cadet scabs. What's next. They weren't letting them in before.

I wandered down to the bottom where the sargent was watching the runners critically.

"Hey Sarge." I called, leaning over the railing.

He glanced up at me, and waved.

"Hey Chris. Hear you're gonna try again, huh?"

"You betcha!" I nodded, looking at the runners as they jogged by.

Coach was writing on his clipboard.

"Hey, I thought they didn't let scabs become cadets?"

The man shrugged.

"There was a lawsuit, some scab said he was qualified and turned down for the academy. They removed scabs from the list of disqualifying prior conditions." he explained, glancing at his stopwatch.

I sat down on the bleachers at that point, rubbing at my fingers. My fingernails were itching in the most annoying way. I scratched at them, frowning. My fingernails turning black, narrowing and lengthening. Like a claw. My stomach dropped. The scabs! This couldn't be happening. Not now. I started to panic, trying to push the claws back into my fingers. Naturally, it didn't do any good. I watched incredulously as my fingers slowly shortened.

The strangest sensation spread up my arms, like goosebumps, tingling, almost hurting. I brushed my changing hand up my arm, feeling short fur. The sensation met at my neck and rushed down my torso. I collapsed on my side, shuddering. The bones in my chest popped and shifted. Breathing was impossible, I gasped for breath futilely, gagging as my throat seemed to swell. My nose right after. I was going to die. My whole body was covered with the tingling. It intensified into burning, hurting as it covered my whole body. I gurgled helplessly. Then, suddenly it was gone. I gasped deeply, able to breath again. I lay there panting. My nose worked.

I could smell, well, everything. The damp earth below the bleachers, the scent of humans worn into the boards. The stench of the locker room nearby. The dust kicked up by the runners, and their scents too as the jogged by. My ears caught each crunch on the gravel, each ragged breath. A car drove by on the road. A train horn far in the distance was answered

by its echoes, and the distant wail of an ambulance siren.

I sat up about then, opening my eyes. I was obviously a scab now. I could see a big nose in front of my eyes. White fur to a black nose. I reached up to my ears. Large ears. My mouth. Blunt teeth, like a dog. I looked at my hands. They were shortened, tipped with black claws. But I still had a thumb. I looked at it, still in shock. Words swirled through my head.

"The most disadvantaged scabs are disabled due to a very simple matter; the lack of a thumb. Some have altering surgery done to correct this, while others simply must deal with it for the rest of their lives..."

Some professor back in college, scab sensitivity or some boring class like that. The backs of my hands and my arms was covered with white fur. I was a dog. But what kind? A pomeranian or something? A long white tail was sticking out the back of my jeans. I mean, thick and long. I could feel it brushing the bleacher behind me. My legs were shorter too. I couldn't quite reach the floor from the bench. I looked around, feeling out of place. Nobody was staring at me. It seemed as if the world carried on, completely oblivious to my change. Why should they care. They're not the scabs. The runners kept running. The bleachers were still empty except for me.

I held my pants close around my waist as I walked home slowly. My belt couldn't tighten enough around my now far slimmer waist. I left my shoes behind. They were far too big for my new paw-feet. I ignored the scab haters barking from a passing car. I avoided looking at anybody. Walking was different, I kept stepping on my pant legs. My legs were so much shorter! I felt like a kid in his daddy's clothes. When I got home mom wasn't home from work yet. I walked into the bathroom and stood before the full length mirror. I rubbed some water spots off it with a towel as I looked at myself.

God, I was a german sheperd. A white one. I dropped the towel and my sagging pants, taking off my oversized shirt.

Looking at me in the mirror was a beautiful morph. And I'm not the sort of pervert that calls scabs beautiful either. I had large stand-up ears, which were swiveled towards me. A black nose glistening with moisture. I watched myself lick it without even thinking. The muzzle white and slender on the front of my face. My chest was different, narrower, but still more like a human's than a dog's. My eyes dropped to my groin, my once human genetalia replaced by a furry sheath and a velvety dark scrotum. My legs were shorter, shaped more like a dog's, but I at least walked on my heel. I've seen some of the digitigrade scabs. They always seem to have trouble balancing on two feet. Behind me I could see the long tail waving gently. And I could feel it too. The fur ruffled as it waved through the air.

My mother didn't seem particularly surprized, but then she never was a hateful sort of person. She jumped when she saw me. Who wouldn't be a bit freaked out at a strange scab in their house? She was okay when I told her who I was. She seemed to take it all in stride. She even took me shopping for some new clothes that would fit better. Turns out there's a whole strip of scabs-owned businesses downtown. The proprietor of the casual clothing store was a canine too, some sort of wolf I think. I thought she was kind of scarey, but I'm not sure why. She supplied me with the clothes I'm wearing now. Looks pretty good, huh? She modified the Levis herself, to make room for my tail. They actually feel pretty good, outside of the way my fur gets matted after wearing them for too long.

I'm a scab, so I'm at a disadvantage. My physical therapist helped me figure out how to work with the changes in my body. The hardest was learning to speak clearly. It was easy to bark or growl, much harder to speak english words. We worked it out though. I kinda like the way I sound now, sort of gruff and authoritative. Good for an officer. She also knew one of those scabs who can affect the forms of other people. We'd tried shifting for days, using dozens of techniques, and even just meditating. I never changed even a bit. She brought over one of her friends that could shift the forms of other people, as long as they weren't morph-locked. Not even she could change what I looked like, though it did feel... well, lets say I got a bit embarassed when she was trying. So, I'm officially morph-locked. Stuck as a dog, probably forever. Since it didn't seem that anything was going to change, I decided that even though I still felt like a klutz in this body, I'd try out for the academy again anyway.

I was the only candidate there that was obviously a scab. The others assembling for the tests kept looking at me. If any of them were scabs, they sure didn't show it. They were "Normal" looking humans. I sat straight and smiled a bit, letting my tongue loll for cooling. May as well make myself comfortable!

The Sargent led us out to the physical evaluation field. I stripped to the waist with the rest of the cadets. I got all the more looks then. I'd better get used to it. I'm a scab. Frankly, I did better than I expected. My smaller body was able to leap higher and dance lighter over the ropes, tires and fences than the heavier humans. I arrived at the end of the course, panting heavily, but a full twenty seconds before any of the other candidates.

"Good job, Chris!" grinned the Sargent, "I don't see why they wouldn't let you in now!"

I laughed, and high-fived my friend.

"I passed this part last time too, remember?" I commented soberly.

The man pressed his hand to my furred shoulder, looking me in the eye. "You know you can do it. I didn't use to think so, back before you got scabs. But you're different now." He thumped my side.

I smiled and nodded. "Thanks Sarge."

I won't say it went without a few bumps. They had all the same papers they had last time. I had to insist they retest me, that I had changed. I got angry, showed some teeth. I think that had alot to do with them deciding I would be a good officer, as shallow as it sounds. You know, keep the mean guy on your side? They did retest me, and found me to be exceptionally bright. Like, Duh. I told'm.

They assigned me to the downtown precinct. All the non-scabs officers got assigned to nicer areas. They said it was a special assignment that I was uniquely qualified for. Yeah, getting a shit job 'cause I'm a scab. Some qualification. Naturally I approached the job with some apprehension. First I went to the captain's office.

"Chris Shalock reporting for duty, sir." I pronounced carefully.

The captain looked up, and blinked, half a sneer forming on his face. I guess he was surprized to see a white german shepherd morph scab standing in uniform in his office. Probably didn't like scabs either, I'd seen that look before. He nodded and shuffled some paper on his desk. Opening a folder, he nodded again.

"Ah, yes. You're here for a special project. Some sort of scab outreach program. Federal funds. Seems the city council thinks they detect a bit of a disconnect between the scab community and the local beat police. You'll be working with Officer Anderson," he looked up at this point and barked out, "ANDERSON! Get your tail in here!" The officer entered and looked to the captain. He spoke to me again. "This is Officer Anderson, your new partner. Anderson, Shalock. Shake paws, sniff butts whatever. I don't think much of this idea, but it's out of my hands. We don't have a car for you so you'll be on foot for now. See the Sargent for details on your territory. You're dismissed."

Officer Anderson was another canine. He appeared to be part golden retriever. He looked out of place in the uniform, like a model pretending to be a policeman. His tail wagged in a rather undignified way. I gravely shook paws with him as instructed, and saluted the captain before exiting behind my new partner. The captain didn't salute back. Anderson grinned at me, leading the way to his desk.

"Welcome to the force, Shalock." he spoke cheerfully, "I can't wait to hit the streets with another scab. We'll be great together I know it!"

His enthusiasm was infectious. I found my tail wagging despite my misgivings. I followed him around the desk as he dropped into a creaking wooden springback chair that had seen better days. His tail wagged from between the wooden slats.

"We'll see what we can do. Is this my desk?" I asked, indicating an empty desk nearby Anderson's.

"Yup, gotcha some paper clips and pens. Hoard them, you never know when they'll order more. We have some time before the briefing, so why don't you tell me about you a bit then I'll tell you about me?"

I took a deep breath. "Well, I've always wanted to be an officer. Ever since I was like, four or something. I didn't make the academy on the first try. They turned me down 'cause I was learning disabled. But scabs seems to have fixed that. So, here I am!"

Anderson nodded agreeably. "That's great! I became a cop 8 years ago, back before the martian flu. Was going to get a promotion too, when I got sick. I was out for weeks, naturally. When I got back I was like you see me now. Its okay and all, but people don't seem to take me seriously any more. I don't think I'll get promoted."

I smirked, liking him already. "Probably 'cause you look like the family pooch!"

He growled, and I laughed. I saw others moving towards the briefing room. I stood and thumped his shoulder.

"Come on, pooch, we got a briefing to attend." I teased, walking off with my tail wagging. I ignored his growl as he followed me.

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