By Eve Langlais
Enjoy this free introduction to FUC Academy, an EveL World short story.
Read it either by scrolling down, or download your copy via Smashwords.
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’VE BEEN ACCEPTED IN OUR TWO YEAR PROGRAM AT FUC ACADEMY.
The letter went on with its felicitations and more information on registration. It also bore a date two weeks hence. So little time to prepare.
A flight was booked. Bags were packed. Goodbyes said to friends and family, marked with sadness but excitement.READ MORE
Going to FUC. A dream come true. Who didn’t imagine as a cub or pup or even foal, growing up that they might one day serve and protect the shifter race? There was no higher caller than becoming an agent of the most prestigious and secret agency in the world. And now they had a brand new academy to train its personnel, with legends acting as teachers.
Excitement made it hard to sleep. The plane ride took forever. The man who held the sign a the busy curb lined with vehicles, waited to give a ride, his expression sleepy, his mannerisms slow. But his smile proved genuine as he held out a hand and said, “Hi, I’m Tom.”
The car ride took under an hour, with each passing miles only increasing the nerves.
The gates, upon first glance appeared simple. Wrought iron metal that slid open on tracks to keep the premises secure but the more discerning eye would have noted the cameras, noticeable despite their discreet locations. The occasional passerby would never know that the gate could be charged to more than a thousand volts but they might wonder at the strip of metal on the ground showing the tips of spikes. Not just your run of the mill pierce tires kind of tines. We’re talking Vlad the Impaler type of stakes. Overkill? Not when the safety of shifters was at stake.
Welcome to the Furry United Coalition Academy, more commonly known as FUCN’A. The n standing for newbies.
But only shifters called it that. Humans, perceiving the academy from the outside, knew it by a different name. Animal Rescue Special House of Learning. Training people in the rehabilitation of animals. Known as ARSHOL for short—and giggles.
An animal rescue place that was also a school provided the perfect cover. After all, if people saw animals running around, or large shipments of food arriving, or heard more roaring than seemed natural, they wouldn’t question it. And if they did…well, FUC knew how to apply the kind of grease to squeak by in those of situations.
Entering those lofty gates there was lots to take in. A campus with a running track, a massive building, a few stories in height, the brick of the main part aged but its wings obviously newer. According to the brochure, they had new, impeccably clean stables. The most up to date medical equipment and medications. They even had areas sections off to provide specific habitats because they handled all kinds of animals, from the familiar North American variety, to the more exotic and even aquatic.
But it wasn’t just the animals that got all the perks. FUCNA provided nice quarters for the students living there. Even nicer for the teachers and staff who lived on an adjacent chunk of land within the new neighborhood that went in. No humans, unless they were FUC approved, allowed.
Speaking of staff, here bounced one of the instructors, a clipboard held to her chest. Jogging in place, she seemed familiar with her bouncy blonde, wavy hair, and what would be a trim figure if you ignored the protruding belly. By her side, a cute tyke, with matching golden curls, wearing a pink romper, standing knee high and clinging to her mama’s leg.
Waving and smiling, the woman exclaimed. “Oh my gosh, new students. I am so bouncing happy to meet you. Isn’t this place epic? And wait until you have the food. Especially the carrot cake. Although not too much, or I might stab you with a fork.” The stream of words appeared never ending. “I’m Miranda.”
“The Miranda?” someone said in a state of partial euphoria.
“That depends, if you’re the owner of that garden whose carrot bed I raided yesterday. I had a craving. So sorry about that. I swear, I’ve been meaning to replace them. Bunny’s honor.” She held up a pair of rabbit ear fingers.
“Is it true what they say about the Mastermind battle and how you used an arm as a weapon?” a brave soul asked the renown FUC agent.
“Now do I really look like the kind of girl who could rip off a grown man’s limb and then use it to beat him with?” Miranda blinked long lashes and smiled coyly. There was tittering. She did seem meek and sweet. Surely the rumors were exaggerated.
The ones about her being a killer bunny, that was. She definitely had the energy of her grandfather. But according to her biography, she never played the drums.
“Are you ready for your academy tour?” She jogged in place and beamed.
The moment one of the group said yes, she was off, racing down a concrete path which forced us all to chase after.
In between our huffing and puffing, we could hear her giving us a rapid fire commentary. “Here’s the training fields,” which currently held some cadets dressed in gray sweatpants and t-shirts. They wrestled each other in their public form, meaning the one that wouldn’t send the humans screaming for weapons.
“You’ll be taught how to defend yourselves, but also how to attack. Because we only have one rule in FUC Club.” She paused to eye them seriously before peeking down at her child who bounced in place faster than her mother. “What’s that rule?”
“No one FUC.” The toddler beamed as she shouted the shortened reply.
Adorable-and inappropriate in so many ways. But we all understood. If you weren’t part of the shifter world, then you couldn’t know about our existence. Only a few exceptions were ever made.
“Fighting. Defense. Stealth. You are going to learn to be the perfect predators.”
“But what if we’re not tough?” one of the smaller marsupials asked.
“You’ll also learn how to fight with this.” Miranda tapped at her head. “There is no I in FUC. A good FUC needs a team effort.”
“Time to move on.”
The pace Miranda set was daunting. There was much huffing and puffing in the group as Miranda jogged, her projectile belly leading the way, while her child sprinted alongside.
They passed various buildings, greenhouse, aviary, a marsh where massive hippos lounged.
“Anyone got some marbles?” someone joked.
Miranda paused to jog in place. “Please don’t feed the animals.”
“Even if they’re hungry, hungry hippos,” was the snicker in the crowd.
As if the words were a trigger, one moment there were benign lumbering beasts in the swampy water and mud. The next there was a sob as the new cadets were surrounded by giants maws that could literally crush a grown person to death.
The one who’d dared joke, whimpered. “Don’t eat me.”
Miranda took on a serious mien for a second. “You’re going to learn to recognize danger. And listen to orders. You might just survive if you listen to what we have to teach. But know right now, most of you won’t make it to the end. Only the most valiant will get a license to FUC.” Which for the unknowing used to stand for Furry United Coalition but had a petition demanding they rebrand the moniker to Friends United Coop. Being more inclusive might get them more ASS. The Avian Soaring Security had a lot to offer. They also hoped to recruit RUB and TUG. The Reptiles Ultra Brigade and the Terranean Under Grubs would make some nice additions.
They’d need all the help they could get if they hoped to have the academy succeed in providing agents to protect them from the humans and the world in general. They were the frontline against the enemies before they became enemies.
For example, if someone claimed they saw a man turning into a wolf downtown. Wouldn’t you know the person who swore they saw it was high at the time, a drug test proved it. Or perhaps there was an accident and a shifter went to a human hospital and had all kinds of blood and tissue samples? That involved a clean up where files got purged, and any samples taken or tests run were destroyed. FUC had people at all levels of power, from federal to city.
The first rule of being a shifter, was let no human know about shifters.
Miranda clapped her hands. “Thanks, folks.” Her words turning the hippos around and waddling back to their mud. “No need to worry, cadets. You’re not getting eaten today. I was just making a point about the importance of listening to orders. Also, pay attention to your environment. Part of your lessons will involve learning how to blend in whether in your two legged shape or beast mode. You’ll also become adept at the element of surprise.”
“How often will we go on missions?” asked someone in the group.
“Depends on the area you’re posted. Some are higher action zones compared to others. There are times, you might be called to another zone to aid in a planned offensive.”
“Why would we attack?” A tremulous voice queried.
“Because sometimes we don’t have a choice and we have to fight to protect those we love.” Miranda fist pumped.
Her little clone mimed the action yelling, “Save da honey.”
“It’s bees,” Miranda corrected. “Save the bees.”
“Honey!” insisted the tyke.
“You are just like your father.” Miranda shook her head, but she smiled. “Are we ready to see the forest? And as an FYI, don’t touch any webs.”
By the time the cadet group returned to the main building, we’d lost two recruits—their screams as they struggled in the sticky webs that only arachnid legs could unbind, were only faintly hear over our huffing and puffing. Miranda didn’t even have a sweat going.
“And that concludes my part of the tour.” She hopped in place by the steps. “But I’ll see you bright and early in the morning, crack of dawn, for our ten mile run.”
Amidst a bevy of groans, with a cheerful wave, she sped off. Her kid hopped on the stairs, and said, “Come on Follow me.”
She led the way inside the main building spilling the group into a massive lobby. However, there was little time to look around.
A sharp whistle brought a cringe. “Pay attention.” The brisk command came from a commanding fellow with buzzed hair, a square jaw and an unimpressed expression. He loomed at the head of their group. “I am Viktor.”
A cold gaze fixed the one who asked. “It’s Viktor,” he emphasized, “And that is all you need to know. I am just here for the day filling in given the usual welcoming committee was unavailable. I’m supposed to give you a tour.” He glared at them, making it clear he would prefer anything but.
“A tour of what, er, sir?”
“Does it matter?” Viktor barked.
No one dared say a word but more than a few blinked in shock at the woman that was suddenly draped around Viktor’s neck, her hair a luxurious tumbling red, her expression amused. “Are you scaring the snacks again?”
“Renee, we’ve talked about this. You have to call them cadets,” he corrected.
“Not for the next week or so they aren’t.” Renee slunk off Viktor and offered them a smile that held a hint of vixen. “For the next seven days you are ours to play with.”
“I like games,” some idiot said.
Her smile turned even more mischievous. “I guarantee you’ve never played a game like this. Over the next seven days you will be subjected to stress tests. Fear. Anger. Panic. You will experience it all so we can see how you react when put in intense situations.”
“But you can’t hurt us, right?” squeaked a voice.
“Accidents happen,” was her shrugged reply.
“I don’t know if I can do this.” Again the same small voice.
“If you can’t handle it, there’s no shame in bowing out.”
Viktor snorted. “Yeah, there is.”
She cast him a glance. “It’s what they told me to say. I’m being sensitive.”
“Screw sensitive. We are not here to mollycoddle you. Either you can cut it, or you can’t. We don’t need quitters or whiners. It’s FUC or nothing.” Viktor eyed the group with the cold yellow gaze of a reptile that would clamp his jaw around your head and not care if he cracked it.
There were stories about a special FUC agent named Viktor, but no bodies ever found to prove them.
Viktor tucked his hands behind his back and addressed us. “Your time here is not going to be easy. Being an agent is an honor, not a right. You will be tested as my wife said. You will be pushed to your limits, and some will fail. But I would hope you don’t fail because you were too afraid to try.”
“No fear!” It was the knee high kid, who’d stayed behind, fist pumping and yelling it. But it started a chain reaction.
“No fear!” Adrenaline filled us. We were going to do this. Become agents with a license to FUC.
Just then there was a shout.
Who was loose?
Apparently, someone bad news given the way Renee straightened from her slinky pose and shot off to the main door. Viktor followed, a gun in hand. When had he even drawn it?
Outside WANC—the abbreviated name for the main building that handled the Working and Administration Networking Core--there was a roar.
More than one as a matter of fact. A few caws as well. Some tweets, and even a moo.
We emerged to see a bit of chaos as an impossible creature, sitting on its haunches took swipes with its glittery claws. Its nails matched the sparkle of its horn. The fur was silky, puffy and raised in teal hackles as the giant living impossibility spat gobs of glitter goo at everyone.
“What is that?” A woman with dark hair pulled back and an expression much like that of an animal caught in headlights, exclaimed.
“Unikitten.” A name that sounded more ominous than the cute hissing and spitting fuzzball.
“How did it get out?” Viktor barked.
“The better question is, can I eat it?” Renee mused with a tap of her lower lip.
“Kitty!” It was Miranda’s kid that ran for the monster, that swiveled its head, narrowed its eyes and lowered its horn.
There went any hope of staying low key, especially since strings were pulled to get that acceptance letter. However, letting a child be gored wasn’t an option.
Clothes shredded as the beast within came forward. Bigger than anyone ever expected in such a compact frame, but mostly because of the hollow bones. Massive wings unfurled, smoke curled from a nostril. A tail, ending in a spike thumped the ground.
The unikitten blinked then stared at the tail. Up, down. Flick left. Flick right.
The creature pounced and while it played with its new toy, the other students stared, and only one dared whisper, “I thought dinosaurs were extinct.”
It was Miranda’s child who recognized greatness. “Dragon! Toothless. Mine.” The hug was tolerated as was the unikitten gnawing on my limb.
The handlers emerged with a collar and leash, as well as a large vat of cream that took two to carry and in short order, they led their full-bellied, purring charge back to its hidden home.
Viktor tucked his hands behind his back and eyed us. “This type of situation is what you’re going to learn how to handle. And more. Any one of you, at any given time, might be called to save the world.”
This was why we’d all applied. Serve and protect. There could be nothing more honorable.
The training started just past dawn, later than scheduled given Miranda had her baby the night before during a rescue operation. Apparently, her husband threatened to tie her to the bed if she didn’t take it easy meaning the cadets only had to endure a five mile run and were eating breakfast by eight.
By noon, two people had quit. But not me. I would see this through to the end. FUC or nothing. It helped that later that same day, love was in the air.