One: Ambushed

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April 8, 2014

Three years of tracker school— including extensive combat training, courses on social etiquette, and peer integration— and none of it ever changed the fact that I really hated humanhigh school. Every time I started a new school to get close to a new charge, I found myself rethinking my career choice.

Back before I chose to go to tracker school, rather than finishing out Kanin high school to become a farmer or a teacher or maybe a horse trainer, I remember watching the trackers come and go from missions. They all seemed so worldly and powerful. They earned the respect and admiration of everybody in Doldastam.

I imagined the kinds of adventures they must be having, traveling the world. Most of them stayed in North America, but sometimes I’d hear stories of a tracker going off to England or Italy, and some even went as far as Japan.

The prospect of traveling and protecting my people sounded exciting and noble. Then I had graduated, and I spent the next four years actually doing the job. If only I had known how much of my “missions” as a tracker involved wearing itchy school uniforms and trying to keep up on slang so I could fit in with spoiled rich kids, I might’ve reconsidered.

It was during lunch on my fifth day in Chicago, as I followed Linus off the high school campus, when I realized they were watching him, too. I wasn’t exactly sure who “they” were, but I’d spotted the car— a black sedan with tinted windows— parked nearby several times since yesterday morning, and that was too much for coincidence.

As I trailed behind Linus and two of his friends, deliberately staying far enough behind so he wouldn’t see me, I wondered if the mystery men in the sedan had noticed me yet. If they were staking out Linus, then they had to have seen me, since I’d been interacting with him. But that didn’t mean they knew who I was. At least not yet.

Tracking was usually simple when done correctly. The first step was surveillance. I found the target— in this case Linus Berling— and for the first day or two I did nothing but watch him. The goal was to figure out who he was and what he liked, so it would be easier to earn his trust.

The second step was infi ltrating his life, which was why I was wearing a ridiculous prep school uniform with a blue plaid skirt and a cardigan that felt too warm.

With a combination of bribery, charm, and a bit of Kanin skill, I’d gotten as many classes with Linus as I could, and started bumping into him “accidentally.” We’d talk a little, I’d bring up his interests, laugh at his jokes, and ingratiate myself to him.

This would lead to step three. Once I had the target’s trust, I’d drop the bombshell on them about who they really were, and hope like hell that they’d believe me. Usually they already had inclinations that they were different, and if I’d done my job right, everything would fall into place.

Then it was just a matter of getting them back home, preferably with trust fund in hand.

Now there was this issue with the black sedan, bogging things down right at the beginning of the second step, and I had to figure out what to do.

Linus and his friends from school had gone into a restaurant, but I didn’t follow them. I stayed outside, watching through the front window as they sat down at a table. In his dark blue blazer, Linus’s shoulders appeared broad, but he was actually tall and lean. After watching him fall half a dozen times during gym class, I knew he’d be no good in a fight.

The restaurant was crowded, and his friends were talking and laughing with him. Whoever was following him in the dark sedan, they were trying to be inconspicuous, which meant that they wouldn’t want to create a scene in a place like this. For now, Linus was safe.

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