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Lee Yen’s room was small, and above a Chinese restaurant.  No pets were allowed.  Luckily, Yen didn’t think of the two strays she had invited home as pets.  They were new acquaintances (in her mind).  One was a Japanese Akita, a pretty dog.  She had a collar, but from her appearance, she had been on her own for a while.  The other was a Belgium Sheepdog—beautiful and black.  Yen didn’t actually know that they were a Japanese Akita and a Belgium Sheepdog.  They were just dogs to her and that was not meant pejoratively.  To the dogs, they didn’t see themselves as breeds either.  She called the Belgium Sheepdog “Coal” (actually she said Mei-tan) and the Japanese Akita “Salty” (and again she said Xian, not Salty) and that was that.  


So far, the relationship was going quite well: Yen seldom had a problem with animals.  Both dogs also enjoyed being groomed (even if Yen had to use her own brushes and combs on them).  They both sort of purred like cats (though they would have been deeply insulted if they knew of that comparison).  


"Hao Gou, Hao Gou,"  Yen didn't really have to verbalize herself to the dogs.  She could be inside their minds.  But Yen was lonely enough to talk aloud.  About the only people she had conversations with were Auntie Lee, and Adria Nighttraveler. 


The dogs enjoyed staying with Yen and Yen enjoyed having guests.  But she had to be up early in the morning and off to the Police K-9 Unit training center in Jersey City.  The trip from her room above Hawa Smoothies in Chinatown was long.  She left at 6 AM and left strict mental instructions for the two dogs to not cause a ruckus.  However, Yen knew most dogs didn’t have long memories. She would be back by 4 PM to take them out and exercise them.  After that, Yen had to go to her evening classes at the Police Academy.   

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Someone had walked up to Yen as she was waiting for the subway and had said, "The End Is Near."  The person then simply tossed her hood up and walked away.  Yen was still adapting to her new home and found people here rather baffling. She was looking forward (very much) to getting back to her room and to Coal and Salty.  


She also saw several Muslim women with faces covered and wondered how they still believed in their religion considering all that had happened.  Yet, she reminded herself that Auntie Lee prayed daily at the local Taoist temple to Ma Tzu and that Yen didn't find that so strange.  Yen herself was too busy to actually think much about religion, philosophy, politics, entertainment or economics.  She spent all her free time struggling over her police academy textbooks.  She needed to wear out Chinese/English dictionaries on a nightly basis to even garner a superficial understanding of the police academy homework.  


Yen also needed to stop at the local market and get some ingredients and worried greatly at the high cost of food and the limited selection--not even sweet potato greens or bamboo shoots.  


The subway stations were also a worry for Yen.  They were filled with homeless and some of them looked menacing.  Yen wished she could take Coal and Salty with her everywhere.  

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So, far Yen had made exactly four friends in NYC, if one included Coal and Salty (the Beligian Sheepdog and the Japanese Akita).  Auntie Lee was Yen’s nearest and dearest neighbor.  Auntie Lee looked like she could be 80, but she was still feisty, which Yen appreciated.  Auntie Lee was full of warnings about how dangerous NYC was and to beware of the “cops.”  It seemed Auntie Lee didn’t really get it that Yen was sort of a cop. 


“Ni Bu Ke Kao Jing Cha,” was how Auntie Lee puts (when she was being more polite).  Yen, would usually make a cup of oolong tea for Auntie Lee if she had time (she sadly was really busy these days). 


Adria Nighttraveler was the fourth friend.  Yen didn't see Adria often.  She was too busy keeping the city safe.  


Yen loved animals and monkeys were her favorite.  Sadly, NYC seemed to be sorely lacking in monkeys and those that Yen had found were for some strange reason locked in cages.   To Yen, dogs were incredible at finding explosives or drugs.  They could find people.  They can detect illicit goods, even cell phones.  They can even smell cancer--melanoma.  Dogs can even detect bedbugs.  Yen knew that this was so unfair to dogs because their capacities went far beyond these meager things but humans simply didn't know how to communicate with dogs.  Yen did know how to do that and did it for much of every day.  


If a person touches anything, they leave a trace of themselves and a dog can detect that.  A dog's nose can get a different odor sample with each nostril.  Through their very long snout, they analyze it.  Close to their eyes is a receptor cell location, where dogs have millions more receptors than humans do--plus more types as well.  So, Yen loved these creatures and thought of them as just as advanced as humans.  In fact, in some cases, she thought of them as far more advanced.  


The dog's exhale is even different.  A dog exhales through a side slit, which allows odors to linger in their nostrils for more analyzing.  Dogs, Yen knew, were very amazing.  Dogs even can tell time through their sense of time.  Their olfactory world is amazing.  A strong odor is a newer odor--the past thus comes to a dog through their sense of smell.  


Well, Yen thought, enough of thinking about dogs, as he brushed Coal's fur and Salty's fur with her hair brush.  Both were loving it.  


Down the hall Yen heard footsteps of several men and knew they were going to Auntie Lee's room.  Yen had wondered why so many men, Chinese by the looks of them, and maybe even gang members, would stop by Auntie Lee's room.  But, Yen was too busy to be overly curious.  And she knew nothing about the Shadow Ghost gang.  

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Yen was in one of those moods, and was thinking, "We cannot choose what we think.  We are not free.  We are all victims of our genes and our past.  Oh, how much happier it would be to be just a normal animal, a monkey, a flying squirrel or a dog.  Anything but a human."  


Salty noticed Yen's lassitude and malaise and took that moment to lick Yen's face with a sloppy tongue.  Yen squealed and giggled and with mock anger, chastised Salty: "Naughty girl."  


But the ploy worked and Yen got up from her boring textbook and went to the one window in her small room.  She looked down at the street below--a cold looking street.  She noticed two Chinese-looking guys lurking in a doorway and she sort of thought they were looking up at her room.  She decided she was imagining things.  


She thought about watching a film and immediately felt guilty.  She was so far behind in her homework.  The smells and fragrances from the Hawa wafted up and into her room and gave her stomach the grumbles--and for a brief moment drove her mind from movies to cravings for pot stickers (vegetarian ones).  "The Wizard of Oz."  That idea had just popped into her head.  "I bet Dorothy's Toto didn't lick her face," and she saw the blank question in Salty's mind and giggled. 


"Oh, Salty, go lick Coal's face."  But Salty didn't fall for that ploy.  Salty and Coal were good at living in the moment.  Yen was thinking too far into the future.  She needed to stop that.  

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Yen was learning something of the history of the area--old history.  It was history of people like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton who Yen discovered was the hero of Rap Musical on Broadway or something like that.  She learned about Rip Van Winkle and found the history more than a little suspect.  


Yen had been living on cabbage and rice for weeks now.  She craved something made of processed soy products but those were expensive.  She also found that even such things a bananas were rare here.  


In the square near the Police Academy there was a crazy man who preached apocalyptic havoc--or something like that.  He seemed more animal than human.  Yen was keeping a keen eye out for danger and crazy preachers seemed something wise to keep at arm's reach.


Yen liked walking because walking warmed her up.  She was always cold in NYC.  It wasn't a place for people, she often thought.  But the dogs were happy enough.  They hated heat.  Again Yen contemplated on how different she was from others here.  She longed for monkeys but she had yet to meet another human who had the same feelings.  They craved Cheese Cake or sex or soft toilet paper, but they didn't long for monkey companionship.  


It was strange, but thus far Yen stayed a safe distance from Central Park.  Maybe it was that the park was too big and she didn't have time.  But maybe the reason was that various animals signaled that the park was filled with creatures other than natural ones.  Yen wasn't really used to the altered world, not even really used to her own enhanced powers.  She had never met most races yet.  She wasn't sure she was ready to meet them.  She was most curious about Werewolves.  Those she thought she would like.  

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Dogs love to smell a person's crotch.  Luckily for Yen, she can mentally communicate to dogs and she never has that problem.  Lucky Yen.


But still, Coal and Salty aren't exactly willing to share with household chores.  They got it all figured out.  Yen scratches their bellies.  Yen brushes their furs.  Yen walks them to Stuyvesant Park and Yen tosses sticks for them to retrieve.  Then, Yen gets them tasty morsels to eat and even cleans the dishes.  Yen sweeps the dog hair from the floor. Yen deals with the landlord who doesn't allow "pets".  He doesn't quite get some of Yen's pronunciation and so far has let her keep Coal and Salty.  In a show of appreciation, and with much mental encouragement from Yen, Coal and Salty are extremely nice to the landlord.  Though they do let Yen know that he sometimes smells a bit--or a lot.



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Yen means swallow (the bird) in Chinese.  Yen sort of wondered about that.  It now seemed interesting that her altered human powers were all about animals, connecting with them. and then to have a name that was an animal, it all seemed so much like destiny.  


But like all animals, Yen was a young woman, some might even say a girl, and she was feeling desires she didn't really know how to deal with.  Coal and Salty were so different.  They went into heat and when they weren't in heat, they didn't have any problems at all.  


And it wasn't like Yen was necessarily attracted to any of the guys at the Policy Academy.  They just all seemed so focused on all the wrong things--but Yen could sort of understand that too.  So, Yen was wondering what to do about this "tickle" and not having any friends other than old Auntie Lee and Adria, who she seldom saw, Yen was sort of on her own with this one.  


Was food the answer?  Yen considered splurging on something she couldn't afford.  The Hawa sold a lot of things--none really tasted like the Taiwanese cooking she liked, but it at least had soy sauce and ginger and garlic.  


The problem next was that there were only three vegetarian entries on their menu and the vegetarian dumplings were too expensive and a serving included only 8.  The fried noodles were a bit more filling but also oily. 


In the end, Yen had what she had every night: homemade noodles boiled, some greens from the throw-away bin at the Whole Food Mart in the Bowery, and a steamed bun (split into three part and shared with Coal and Salty).  Yen always also brought home bones from Ping's Dried Beef next to the Mulberry Hotel on Mulberry Street.  From those, Yen made a poor dog's meal for Coal and Salty.  


After eating, Yen retired to her cot and her books, but she felt restless.  Coal and Salty wouldn't understand this but Yen suspected she needed a boyfriend (or a girlfriend).  This celibate lifestyle wasn't what she was made for.  Yen rolled on her back and stared at the mottled ceiling that badly needed painting.  There were ugly splotches on it that reminded Yen of cockroaches and there were no shortages of those either in her room.  Yen sighed and wondered if she was really meant for life in NYC and a life as a cop--law enforcement.  That too seemed utterly ironic considering her grandfather had been a gangster.  


She rolled over again and closed her eyes tightly and imagined she were being romanced.  There wouldn't be much studying this evening.  

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Five days ago had been a very scary day.  People all over had panicked.  Yen sensed the presence of werewolves and other animals in an extremely agitated state.  Yen had spent the evening behind locked doors with Coal and Salty, two strays she had adopted.  


Since Yen had the weekend off, she hadn't really talked to anyone and since she had no TV either, she didn't get any news.  All she had to go on were the sense of unease from the nearby animals.  


Since then, Yen had taken extra precautions but had continued her simple lifestyle.  One of the biggest dangers Yen noticed were not from werewolves, who though Yen had not met any yet, she did not fear, but bad drivers on the roads.  Yen had grown up with no traffic.  NYCs traffic was chaos.  Luckily Yen didn't drive but used public transport. Had someone offered her a car for free, Yen would not have accepted the offer.  She still knew that someday she would be patrolling the streets in a squad car along with some canine.  But those days were still far off.    

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Yen is pretty.  That is not always a good thing.  This evening Yen had taken Coal and Salty to Stuyvesant Park to run and exercise.  While they were off sniffing scents, two heavily tattooed men had approached Yen.  Yen sensed immediately that these men both had some unnatural abilities--maybe they could manifest mana.  Yen wasn't sure.  But,  Yen felt a moment of fear.  She signaled mentally to Coal and Salty and both had come bounding back and as they saw the men, they had assumed a protective attitude.  


The snarling was welcome to Yen.  She even smiled at her guardians.  The sense of being protected by two loyal canines with canine incisors gave Yen a great sense of pride.  The two men might have had talents or abilities but neither seemed quite sure they wanted to take on two canines--not two snarling ones who clearly were Yen's body guards.


Yen had later wondered just what those men had really had in mind.  Were they simply approaching her to flirt or to mug?  


Back in her tiny room, Yen gave both Coal and Salty extra long belly rubs and groomed them with her hair brush.  Yen wondered just how Coal and Salty would react if an actual werewolf ever visited her.  

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Gold flashed, a quick glow in the darkness as her eyes moved to follow her peregrine.  She was above him, watching him fly in the same circle she’d seen the last few days.  Orion looked confused.  Skin itched, the world seemed to pulse with agitation.  With its anxiety, hers was escalating.  The world was going to hell.  It was as if it was spinning, her sense of  direction spinning with it.  What would do that? A change of the rip in the sky?  Birds could navigate in such ways, and she was more like them than she wanted to admit.  There was also something else.  Orion liked this spot, something in the buildings beneath his circle had caught her attention too… though not it seemed as much as her falcon.


Pulse of deep black paused, catching the updraft to hang like an archangel above the glow of the city below, watching Orion spiral downward to a place she’d seen him go after before.  He hovered over Stuyvesant, then landed on a building near it.  This time, she descended with him, soft landing in the darkness on the edge of the same building.  Inky with shadow, the gold sheened eyes surveyed closer to try and figure out what was attracting her bird.  She felt it too, most likely not as strong as the bird next to her. 


Cringe was deep, turning her stomach.  She didn’t eat a lot, and fried food was definitely not on her menu.  The scent of it below billowing out of a kitchen vent brought a creased brow, soft ‘thwpt’ of her lip calling the peregrine before her own massive shadows pulsed once in the darkness and picked her off the ledge to head home.

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Yen had this problem: she was aware, in a rather vague and indistinct way, when beings of power were nearby.  Back in her home country, that never happened, not up in the mountains where she had been hidden away by her grandfather.  But here in NYC, those feelings happened way, way too often.  It made her overly alert.  It wasn't a pleasant feeling.  That is one reason she liked Stuyvesant Park.  It wasn't a place where many people were and even fewer of those with supernatural powers.  


Thus, the park seemed like a good place.  Stuyvesant was dog-friendly.  Both her dogs could run off their pent up energy at being cooped up all day in her tiny room.  Neither dog was a bird dog, so they sort of left the birds alone.  But dogs are really, really good with scents.  Both Coal and Salty did pick up a new scent.  It wasn't one that could be classified.  Yen sensed their momentary unease, but the dogs soon resumed their play.  Yen, as usual, relaxed and tried to regain some modicum of energy because she still had to hit the police academy books later.  


Coal and Salty were protective of Yen.  They would never roam far and would often come back unbidden, just to check up on her safety.  Yen sort of laughed at that since she figured she was the one taking care of them.  Yen looked upward.  It was relaxing.  Sitting on a park bench was never the most comfortable place to sit, especially in the November cold.  But it beat just standing with her hands in her pockets.  


Looking up and out at the vastness helped ease the strain in her eyes.  Had yen had the eyesight that hawks have, she might have seen more than just dark sky.  Had Yen been focusing her powers, she might have noticed some distress from some of the more distant birds.  But Yen was much better with mammals.  If there were beings watching her, she wasn't aware of them.  She really wasn't all that worried either: Coal and Salty had already scared off the one attacker she had faced so far in NYC.  


Yen was ready to go back to her "dump" of a room.  


She did not have to verbally call Coal and Salty.  She could communicate mentally with them.  It was time to go home and they were there in a flash (though not literally).  


Yen pondered a moment what strange creatures inhabited NYC.  Were they all dangerous?  Could two stray mutts really protect her from beings with amazing powers?  Might not making friends with someone other than old Auntie Lee and Adria Nighttraveler be an advantage?  


Yen simply was too busy to make friends--or so she told herself.  And she had two friends, both now heeling like highly trained dogs--but they weren't highly trained, they were being commanded mentally by Yen herself.  

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Dec. 24th 


Christmas.  This would be Yen's first Christmas.  A lot of people, post Event, no longer believed in Christianity while others were even more zealous in their beliefs.  Yen was not a Christian and in fact, was not very knowledgeable on this topic.  She wondered at all the decorations.  


And since her first semester was over, she was free (sort of).  She had more time to walk the streets, but it was so incredibly cold that she would often slink back to her chilly and dark room to huddle with Coal and Salty to keep warm.  Coal and Salty are dogs and quite happy to have Yen close to them.  They are also very protective of Yen.   


Old Auntie Lee wasn't very religious either.  In fact, she was looking under-the-weather.  


Yen was not expecting any presents and hadn't bought any either--money was a big problem.  


Yen did hope that maybe she could visit the zoo in Central Park.  At least that was a plan. 

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Jan. 24


Well, it had happened.  On one of the coldest days of the winter, and on a day in which the temperature was colder than Yen had ever thought possible, she had been propositioned.  Yen had gotten used to the daily flirtations of her fellow cadets, some of them not even male, but until now, none had come straight out and propositioned her.  Well, not like this time at least.  This case involved a muscular cadet who had invited her to his bed.  No, not to a restaurant or even a movie, but to bed.  Yen gave him credit for being direct.  But, Yen had two dogs to care for.  One might have thought that being the center of so much male attention, she wouldn't feel much of anything at such behavior.  But, Yen admitted to herself that she enjoyed the attention more than was healthy for herself.  


Yen was also learning a great deal about the new world she was living in and the challenges that faced the NYPD.  People weren't normal people any more--not even Yen, for that matter.  So, how was she to combat crime and threats if people could do the kinds of things she had been learning about?  Well, being able to communicate with animals didn't seem all that great or even valuable of an ability.  


So, dealing with flirtations, that very direct one and those less direct ones, were sort of a distraction from Yen's worries about her own inadequacies. She suspected the other cadets doubted she had any self doubts.  But the truth was she had a great many self doubts.  


Yen, had discovered that she was very popular.  That had its good and bad sides.  For example, despite the cold, and despite Yen's claims she needed to get home to take care of her dogs, she had let herself be dragged to a karaoke club where she proved that just because she looked great didn't mean she could sing great.  Yen seemed to win points for being a good sport.  But the undeniable truth was that Yen knew a lot of her popularity was really because of her looks, not because of her accomplishments.  She hoped someday to prove that she was more than just a pretty girl.  

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April 16th


Second semester at the Police Academy was much like the first semester, only Yen was putting more pressure on herself.  Her English had improved fast.  Now, she felt she didn't have any excuses to be middle of the class.  Her goal was something rather modest--top of the class (which came with a nice scholarship).  

Her favorite part of each day was still working with the canines.  Of course, the word "working" might not be apt.  She had fun with them.  They had fun with Yen.  Her mind could connect with theirs in ways she couldn't explain.  But since she had been able to do this for so long, it seemed to her, quite natural.  In fact, she wondered why the other handlers weren't able to understand their dogs.  

Sometimes it was quite funny what the canines were feeling: "This handler stinks," was common and often Yen agreed with the canines.  For dogs, smell was almost everything and Yen could sense what they sensed.  It was also interesting how bad humans were with that sense.  They hardly seemed to be able to use it at all.  Humans were mostly visual creatures.   

Yen was at home at the present moment and cooking rice the hard way: she didn't have a real rice cooker.  So, she had to pay attention or she would end up burning the rice.  The stove wasn't officially a stove, just a one burner gas thingy.  Once the rice was done, she planned to make something really simple: fried rice with various greens (some of which she got for free from the local marketplace).  


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April 25th


Yen had gone on her first raid the previous day.  She had been in charge of two canines.  Surprisingly, Yen really hadn't been frightened.  She had focused all her energy on her charges.  She had stayed in constant mental connect with both dogs.  The dogs were aware that this wasn't just a training exercise.  She had found it interesting to see how they had figured that out.  And of course, it had to do with smell. They could smell the humans who were reeking with anxiety and adrenaline.  Yen, had stroked both dogs and noticed that they were ready to get out of the van and get down to "real work".  


The target area had been seedy, and had more vacant lots and houses than most communities.  There were not many viable businesses around the area either.  The target had been both illegal drugs and weapons.  


Normally, a more experienced handler would be accompanying the dogs.  But one had been killed the previous day in a raid, and two others were down with super bad colds (one other trainer said it was more likely they had severe hangovers).  Yen felt ready.  She wanted to get this experience.  


Once they had arrived at the location, Yen remained in the back until the armed and trained unit cleared the area, or took down any potential perps.  


More than one of the unit had gone over to Yen and had offered their support and told her it was normal to be scared.  Yen hadn't told them that she wasn't really scared at all--or if she were scared, it was for her two charges.


The raid had been a classic success.  Both guns and drugs had been found.  The canines were heroes and Yen also had felt a sense of accomplishment.  


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Yen was not really so happy.  Her English was getting better.  Her studies were becoming more challenging and more interesting.  Yen's two mutts (Salty and Coal) were still the two loves of her life.  Auntie Lee seemed ageless but Yen also felt there was something more to the old lady than she was aware of.  But to be honest, Yen's problem had nothing to do with Old Auntie.  It had to do with herself.  She feared she was so connected to animals that she was somehow allergic to humans.  


After nearly a year in the Police Academy she didn't have a true friend.  The same was true at the Canine Unit where she was wildly popular with the dogs, but not half as popular with the other trainers.  Everything was too easy for her.  She sensed some resentment.  


Human beings are remarkably resilient.  But is being resilient actually helpful?  Yen thought about how hard life was for so many who weren't enhanced and didn't have super powers or magic.  She should feel grateful.  She should really feel totally grateful every waking moment.  But she was actually lonely.  And there didn't seem to be an easy cure.  She preferred the company of dogs to humans.  


Plus, there was the drain of having had to hit the books for so long.  She had never been a schoolgirl type girl--a girl who was happy highlighting supposedly important phrases in textbooks.  


Plus, her place above the Hawa had to be the worst room in Manhattan.  



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