Authors: Di Toft
HIL, THIS ONE'S FOR YOU!
Nat Carver was genius at keeping secrets.
He knew that seeing or feeling stuff before it happened was called
. And it usually meant that something
was going to happen. Nat and his mum, Jude, were waiting impatiently on the platform for the London-to-Paris Eurostar train when his pulse started to race and he only just managed to control the urge to pant like a wolf. He had felt crazy jumpy ever since leaving Temple Gurney, but had told himself it was just excitement at the thought of seeing his dad and Woody again.
He glanced at his mum and couldn't help wincing at her appearance. Yesterday, Jude Carver had undergone a complete transformation. Her long brown hair had been bleached blond and rolled into dreads. Her dark blue eyes were now emerald green, courtesy of some colored contact lenses, and were framed with unflattering wire-rimmed
glasses. Worst of all were the slightly protruding false teeth fixed over her own, which Nat thought made her look a bit like a llama or a slightly insane English teacher. Lady Iona de Gourney, their great friend and ally during the whole Proteus saga, had been responsible for Jude's makeover. She had provided them both with sanctuary until Nat had recovered enough to travel, as well as procured the cleverly forged documents they carried, giving both Nat and Jude brand-new identities.
Nat was thankful he had escaped his own extreme makeover. Over the past few months he had grown tallerâhis muscles had filled out and he'd grown his hair longer. He was barely recognizable as the puny kid of last summer.
It was freezing, and due to the recent power strikes, the St. Pancras train station was in near darkness. Nat felt the hairs rise up on the back of his neck like hackles.
Why is it
, he thought,
that you only have a premonition when things are going to go wrong
? He scanned the busy platform. It seemed to Nat that
on it had bad BO. He could see the vapors rising from people and hovering above them like a sort of stanky aura, making him feel as if he was about to lose his breakfast. He tried to concentrate on
finding what could be alarming him, but he had brain freeze from overhearing so many snippets of other people's thoughts and conversations. Sifting through all the psychic white noise to zone in on the source took all of Nat's concentration. It was like when you pat yourself on the head with one hand and make circular movements on your stomach with the other. It's impossible to do both things at the same time unless you practice for about three hours every day. Nat couldn't wait to ask Woody how
managed to cope with all the extra information.
In the months following the werewolf attack that had almost killed him, Jude had watched Nat carefully. She had heaved a sigh of relief when the first full moon passed and her only child hadn't shown any signs of sprouting fur and turning into a slavering wolf. When the second full moon came and went, she allowed herself to relax, thanking her lucky stars that whatever gifts Nat may have acquired from Woody's Wolven blood, it didn't include shape-shifting.
Nat was also thankful, not least because he had watched Woody's struggle with his own shape-shifting. He had seen up close and personal how uncomfortable, not to mention
stomach-churningly weird, stretching out of shape could be. But once Nat had realized how thrilled his mum was when there were no physical changes in the weeks after his emergency blood transfusion, he decided to keep what was
going on to himself. His physical recovery following Lucas Scale's attack had been incredibly fast thanks to the new blood â¦ but the recurring nightmares had left scars on his soul.
Since the summer, Nat had developed some seriously cool improvements to his human senses, and had so far managed to keep them secret. The cool things were:
His eyesight was
. Nat had needed glasses for school before all the bother at Helleborine Halt; now he could see for miles and, even more amazing,
he could see in the dark
But there was a flip side. Nat struggled with self-control, sometimes resenting his new senses as they threatened to take over. Other problems were:
Their train was due to leave in a few minutes and Nat was still sensing that something bad was going to happen. More people spilled onto the already crowded platform, some impatiently pushing and shoving. Nat positioned himself between his mum and the platform edge, worried that the crowd was going to push too much and someone would fall onto the tracks. He hoped like crazy that
wasn't going to be the bad thing. Then someone shoved past him, causing the crowd to scatter. In the confusion, Nat heard a scream, and he caught the
flash of a steel blade as a knife slashed through the leather strap of an elderly woman's bulging handbag. The woman was knocked to the ground, lost in the melee of people struggling to get out of the way of the knife-wielding thief.
Nat's sight locked onto the slightly built figure running away. He was dressed in black, his hood pulled over his head, a scarf covering most of his face. Nat's body was overtaken by an overwhelming urge to make chase. He could feel his heart pumping Wolven blood, preparing his muscles for fight
flight. He wanted to
, to run him downânot because the thief had committed a nasty, cowardly crime, but because Nat
to, as though an
switch had been flicked in his brain. He shoved his way through the crowd and was off on his toes. He could hear his mum screaming for him to stop, but he ignored her and honed in on the hoodie, who by now was near the terminal, glancing over his shoulder to see if he was being followed. When he spotted Nat gaining on him, he sped up, and Nat could smell his fear as he closed in. As Nat ran, he realized there was a strange noise coming from his throat. He was
!. It both excited and frightened him.
He launched himself at the hoodie, knocking him to
the ground with a muffled
and wrenching the bag from him. Nat pulled the scarf away from his face.
The thief was a girl
! She stared up at him, panting hard.
“Your eyes!” she said breathlessly.
“What?” snarled Nat.
â¦,” she repeated.
Nat sprang to his feet. Other people, including his mum, had joined in the chase and were fast approaching. He examined the backs of his hands as though expecting to see them covered with fur. They weren't. He willed his pulse to slow and his muscles to relax. He glared down at the girl.
my eyes?” he demanded.
“They â¦ they changed â¦ they were
,” she gasped.
“And now?” growled Nat.
“N-normal!” she stammered, shocked. “Blue. But when you took me down, they changed.”
“You better get out of here,” said Nat. The last thing he wanted was to get involved. If the police were called and he was a witness, it could lead to all sorts of unwelcome attention. Luckily, the hoodie didn't need to be told twice. Nat watched her speed off into the afternoon gloom.
Nat and Jude Carver were happily unaware that their plans to leave England had already been discovered. A few days before they left the southwest countryside for London, certain information regarding their whereabouts had been passed on to a man named Quentin Crone, the former head of Her Majesty's Military Intelligence, otherwise known as MI5, the British Secret Service.
At a clandestine location in London not far from Fleet Street, Quentin Crone was sitting in his new office, trying hard not to think about the night he had first heard Nat Carver's name. Sighing deeply, he gazed around his new place of work with something like dread. Although it wasn't yet three o'clock in the afternoon, the narrow street outside was dark and eerily deserted. The only light inside was from the embers of the fire and the glow of Crone's
computer screen. The rest of the vast room was murky, with shadows in every corner.
Crone glanced nervously around him as he so often did these days, half expecting to see something lurking behind him, hidden in the gloom: a nightmare creature that slavered and snarled, its eyes glowing with violence and hunger.
Stop thinking about it
! he told himself sternly. Unfortunately his brain had other ideas. Awake or asleep, Crone was both haunted and taunted by images of creatures that he had believed only existed in the most lurid of horror movies.
The night his world had turned upside downâwhen he had no choice but to believe that monsters were realâwas tattooed on his brain forever. Quentin Crone had seen things he had never thought possible.
! Great big black ones, ten feet tall, loping toward him,
coming for him
, thick ropes of drool swinging rhythmically, almost hypnotically, from their impossible-looking, bloody jaws.
At a remote stately home in deepest, darkest Somerset, experiments to create the ultimate fighting machine for the twenty-first century had gone badly wrong. Barking-mad
scientist Dr. Gabriel Gruber had tried to fuse the DNA of crazed werewolves with that of a telepathic Wolvenâa noble shape-shifting creature thought (until recently) to exist in legend only.
And the government had known all about it
! Quentin Crone had felt he had no alternative but to resign as soon as he had been decommissioned. Two good things had come out of it, though: The crooked prime minister and his entire corrupt cabinet had all been fired, and, even betterâa warm smile lit Crone's tired face whenever he thought of itâthe boy, Nat Carver, and the shape-shifting Wolven creature had