Hodge wasn't your average 17 year old. Most 17 year olds weren't as strong as he was, or tall as he was, or working for a covert government agency like he was. In almost every respect he was different, but in this moment he felt strangely normal. It was a feeling he wasn't used to. Hodge stared at his hands, flesh pink against the endless white background. He didn't know where he was, he was naked, and somewhat confused. He wasn't used to seeing himself this way, although, in a sense, this is how he saw himself in his minds eye. His hair was longer than most and he could see his brown locks hanging down just in front of his eyes like they used to years ago. His body was not defined like an athlete but he was by no means out of shape.
“Good evening, Agent Hodge!” a voice from behind him startled him. He spun around to see a beautiful blond woman in her early 20's staring at him. She, unlike him, was fully clothed in an agency uniform. He scrambled to hide his nakedness with his hands, but nakedness hidden by nakedness is still, well, nakedness.
“Uh... hey...” He said shyly.
“My name is Agent Symco, I'll be your telepathic link throughout this mission. Have you been prepped on the mission details?”
“Somewhat, where are we?” he asked.
“We are in your subconscious, I was able to tap in to your lower thought patterns to establish the link.”
“Ok. Why do I look like this?” he asked.
“You are seeing yourself through your minds eye. Because you don't wear the same thing every day you don't have a fixed image of what clothes look like, so you appear naked.” She explained.
“Ok.” He paused “...Why aren't you naked?”
“Because we're in your mind, agent, not your dreams. I'm not naked because I'm a class 5 telepath. I can appear however I want. What have you been told about the mission?”
“I'm supposed to find and stop a vampire ritual—” he started. Symco cut him off.
“It's a treaty ceremony between a vampire coven and a witch coven that have been warring for a generation. Peace between them would be a threat to public safety. Are you in position?” Hodge opened his eyes into the real world. He looked at his hands, no longer pink against a white background. They were much larger and rough looking in real life. He looked down at his body, no longer soft and undefined, now shaped, but more misshapen. He was well over 7 feet tall at this point. His shoulders were broad and his muscles were thick and interwoven like ropes. His torso was quite small and his legs too long, his arms drooped down well past his waist. He felt his face, once handsome and happy, now disfigured and monstrous. His mouth drooled slightly and involuntarily as his jaw bone was off center and his lips receding. He hated the way he looked now and hid his face behind a mask most of the time. He had several different masks that he wore depending on his mood; tonight he chose his “Smiling Japanese Cat” Mask that he found on a Harajuku store on Etsy. He pulled the mask over his face as he stood up, grabbed his oversized rifle and walked towards the dark mouth of the forest in front of him.
“I'm in position” he said. Hodge stepped into the woods, trying to be quieter than his size would allow. He walked for nearly a half hour hearing only his heart beat, his breath, and the crunch of twigs and leaves under his feet. “Are you still there?” He asked silently.
“I'm here.” Symco replied. “I'll be monitoring the whole mission from HQ. Do you see anything yet?”
“A fire.” he said “about 100 meters ahead.”
“That's probably what we're looking for.” Said Symco, “Try and gain a tactical vantage point and report what you see.” Hodge strapped his rifle to his back and grabbed hold of a hefty tree trunk. He began to climb up and then over through the trees like an ape towards the camp fire. He perched himself about 50 feet out and 30 feet up and began to observe the goings on of the fire through his rifle scope.
“There is a bonfire with a camp of people on each side, all wearing black cloaks.”
“Concentrate on what you're seeing, try and form a memory or a brain picture so I can get a better look at the scene” Said the voice in his head. Hodge concentrated on the fire and the people around it. “I see it!” said Symco.
“What are we looking at?” asked Hodge, “Two people just removed their cloaks... A young guy and an old guy.”
“That young guy is Varak, the patriarch of the Vampire coven; he's nearly 400 years old. The old man is actually only a few years younger; he's Cornwall, the high priest of the Kovani witch coven. Our sources tell us they may be attempting a body swap ceremony to maintain peace between the covens.”
“And that's bad?” asked Hodge.
“Very bad” replied Symco, “If they stop warring with each other they can focus their energies on converting the public, a process involving massive bloodshed on both accounts. Orders are to stop the ceremony and, if possible, apprehend one or both of the coven leaders.”
“I think I can get them.” Hodge said. Symco started to object but Hodge had already dropped to the forest floor and began running towards the fire with his side arms drawn.
“Agent Hodge, listen to me, it's very important that you don't enter the circle.”
“What circle?” He asked, mid stride.
“The ceremony has to happen within a circle, but until we know the enchantment used it's too dangerous to enter...”
“Would the circle be white paint sprayed on the forest floor?” He asked.
“Yes, do you see that?” Symco asked him, “Do not cross it!”
“I crossed it 40 meters back... I can do this...”
“Negative agent, you are ordered to stand down!” Symco said in a panicked tone.
“Agent Symco, I got this!” Hodge ran towards gathering firing some warning shots in front of the crowd of cloaked people and bolted straight for the vampire and the priest. He was about to shout “PPD! Get on the floor with your hands up!” But as he opened his mouth the priest looked directly into his eyes and shouted “Covatu navorah! Omkun gabrosa!” A flash of light emanated from Cornwall and hit Hodge, knocking him backwards off his feet.; he felt like he was having an out of body experience and passed out. At the same time, Symco was blinded by the same light and flew backwards off her chair.
NEXT TIME: Episode 002: Bait and Switch