Hey there! This is chapter one of a (hopefully) completely epic trilogy. Well, chapter one of book one. Well, I hope you enjoy, and don't be afraid to give me constructive criticism. That would be nice. :3

The bell rang, shrill and demanding. Adeline Parker hurriedly shoved her books into her backpack, determined to get to her locker and out of the building before the rush. This had become increasingly difficult as the school year progressed, especially when the freshman became accustomed to the building and stopped hiding in the bathrooms.

It looked as though she'd be home late again, however. Collin Williams, resident mischief-maker and probably the most attractive guy in the school, was blocking the door, teasing one of the girls. Adeline sighed and hugged her bag to her chest, waiting until Collin stopped his idiotic flirting and let the class go through. It seemed a few classmates agreed with her, Jared Larkson – star basketball player – and a random, emo-looking kid she didn't know were also hanging back, glaring at Collin.

The charade went on for a few more minutes until Collin got bored, grinned at the girl, and exited the classroom quickly. The rest of the class flowed out, and Adeline was caught in a swirling mess of students. She pushed her way to her locker, going against the flow.

All sophomores had the inconvenience of having lockers almost at the back of the school. Adeline also had the particular inconvenience of having her final class of the day at the front end of the school, which made her fight the flow of students.

After a few minutes of ducking under swinging backpacks and maneuvering through a blob of at least eight hundred high schoolers, Adeline arrived at her locker, panting. She clicked through the combination, grabbing her coat and readying herself to head for the door.

"Addy, you're not leaving without your best friend, are you?"

Adeline rolled her eyes, turning around to see Jake, her best friend of fourteen years. "I thought you had detention today. Something about killing the mouse you were supposed to be using in the science lab?"

"Hey, it was an accident! Well, and I manged to pin it on Harrison. The idiot was poking it with a scalpel," Jake admitted, scratching the side of his head. The two had the same science class – Biology, unfortunately – but that was the only class the duo had together. "And you know we're going to dissect them on Friday, anyway."

Adeline rolled her eyes, watching Jake dig through his locker. He really needs to clean that out, she thought with a smile as he narrowly missed being hit with his English book. "Are you ready yet?" she inquired, her eyes straying to the last few people who stumbled their way past. Most of them were in her last class, she realized. Collin was going to have quite a few angered people on his heels tomorrow.

"Don't rush the genius," Jake retorted, shoving a few books into his bag. "But yes, I'm ready."

Adeline grinned and, slinging her bag over one shoulder, began to walk towards the exit. "Addy! Just because I say I'm ready doesn't mean that you get to leave!"

Adeline rolled her eyes and kept walking, forcing Jake to run to catch up. The two were some of the last students to leave the school; the only other kids that were in the building were in detention.

She slipped on her jacket. "Are you coming or not?"

The walk home was uneventful, Adeline slipping and almost crashing face-first into the sidewalk being the only interesting thing. Jake had managed to grab her arm, and she ended up in an awkward position, halfway falling and halfway standing. She managed to stand up, brushing the snow off of her jeans. "I hate winter," she muttered, narrowing her eyes against the glare of the sun sparkling against the snow. "It's too cold, wet, and all around gross."

Jake rolled his eyes, sighing. "And here we go again, on another of Adeline Parker's infamous rants..." he said, announcer style, snapping a branch off of a nearby tree to use as a microphone. He mimicked her actions as she gave a detailed explanation about how winter was obviously the most irritating of the four seasons, and why she wished she could just move to Florida.

"...And I wish you would stop doing that!" she finished, glaring at him. He grinned, snapping the twig in two and throwing it to the ground.

"And that's why you love me."

"Shut up," Adeline said, in absence of anything else say. "We should hurry up, I need to watch Jackson, and if Mom can't get to work on time..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Jake sighed. He threw his arms up in the air dramatically. "Single mother, two children..."

Remind me again why I'm friends with a drama student? Adeline thought wryly, rolling her eyes at her friend and moving forward. She didn't just want to get home quickly to babysit her four year old brother, she also needed to get onto the chat site she'd been logging onto the past few months. 'Shifters', or something like that.

Because Adeline Parker had problems, and the people on that website were the only people who understood them. Jake could never hope to, Jackson was four, and her mother would laugh, ruffle her hair, and tell her that, if she wanted attention, she should just ask.

The rest of the way to Adeline's house was filled with useless banter, Jake complaining and Adeline rolling her eyes, Jake being dramatic and Adeline making fun of him. It stopped once the two stopped in front of a modern, two-story building. "Bye!" Adeline said, waving and opening the door.

"See you tomorrow!" Jake replied, heading across the street to his own house.

"Adeline, dear, you're late!" Adeline's mother, a flamboyant woman in her late thirties, rushed out the door, calling instructions for the night over her shoulder. As soon as Quiana Parker was out of the house, Adeline turned to her younger brother.

"Do you want to watch Spongebob?"

"Yeah!" the small, dark-haired child cheered, racing into the living room and sinking into the smooth brown sofa. Adeline swiped the remote from the glass table in the middle of the room and turned on the TV, pleased to discover that it was already on Nickelodeon. As always, Spongebob was on, and Adeline was able to unplug her laptop without having to search through the guide for something Jackson would like.

After waiting a few moments for it to start, Adeline opened her browser and found that only one of the others was on – 'cloudywithachanceofEPIC!' - but at least he was there.

frosted_over: Cloudy?

cloudywithachanceofEPIC!: Ach! Finally someone's on, I've been dying of boredom for HOURS.

Adeline rolled her eyes. He reminded her of Jake sometimes, with his over-dramatic tendencies and exaggerations. She thought a bit before replying.

frosted_over: No sign of the others, then?

cloudywithachanceofEPIC!: My dear, don't you understand the concept of DYING OF BOREDOM FOR HOURS?

frosted_over: I really think that you're overreacting. Besides, if you're really a high school student like you say you are, and if you really live in North Dakota like you say you do, then you wouldn't have been done with school for all that long.

There was no response from her 'friend.' She really didn't consider the other three – or the moderator of the chat room – her friends, but it was always nice to talk to a possible stalker after school, especially one who seemed to understand her problems. Adeline didn't know who he was, if he was really a high school student, and if he didn't just type in 'is north dakota real' into Google, but it was still nice. It was like talking to a Jake that knew what was going on.

frosted_over: Are you still there?

cloudwithachanceofEPIC!: Yep.

"Addy, I'm hungry!"

Adeline jumped, almost dropping the computer. "Oh, sorry Jackson," she said, closing the laptop and setting it on the floor. "I'll get you an apple-"

"No! I want a cookie," the four-year-old insisted, looking up at her through huge, dark eyes. The ending theme was playing in the background, and Adeline sincerely hoped that something Jackson would like would be on next.

"I don't know if we have any cookies, Jacky," Adeline said, ruffling his hair.

Jackson's normally sweet face set itself in a scowl. "Don't call me Jacky. I'm not a baby," he muttered, pushing past her toward the kitchen. Adeline blinked, wondering why he had gotten so irritated so easily. He was four; he shouldn't be caring about what she called him. Besides, she called him Jacky and he called her Addy. It had been that way ever since he could talk.

Sighing and following him, Adeline stepped into the kitchen. It was a mess, as always. Her mother was always too busy to clean, and Adeline herself always managed to forget. Jackson was sitting at a stool, arm elbow-deep in the cookie jar.

"We don't have any, do we?" Adeline asked, all ready opening up the fridge to grab an apple for her younger brother. He nodded and took the ice-cold apple from her hand, running into the living room.

Adeline followed, picking up her laptop to find that the other two...shifters, as they called themselves, had found time to sign on, and were currently talking to 'Cloudy.'

the_night_kills: so, we're meeting tomorrow?

i+dont+care: yep

frosted_over: Any thought of consulting me?

cloudywithachanceofepic!: Oh, we just assumed that you were creepin and not bothering to reply.

frosted_over: …

frosted_over: So, what's the plan? Please explain it legibly, so it would be best if Cloudy would post.

the_night_kills: i feel so loved...

cloudywithachanceofepic!: So, this is the plan, ok? We're going to all meet each other at the zoo – to be ironic, idontcare's idea – tomorrow, after school. By the fish exibit.

frosted_over: Exhibit.

cloudywithachanceofepic!: Nobody cares. Anyway, I've got to go for a run...don't worry, I'll get out of town first, so they won't freak out. 'Oh no! Rogue panther! Call the zoo!'

Adeline grinned, powering down the laptop. Another mindless Nickelodeon show was starting, but Jacky seemed to like those. It looked like he was almost ready to fall asleep as well, even though it was only about 3:40. After deciding he was too old for naps, he'd fallen asleep around four every day.

"Well, Mom won't be home for another hour or so, and Jacky's almost asleep, so...it wouldn't do any harm to practice," Adeline muttered to herself. Raising her voice so Jackson could hear her, she announced her departure and exited the room.

As soon as she hit the hallway, she changed. Dropping onto all four of her paws, she padded down the hall and stared into the full-length mirror. Yes...this is really happening.

I am a shapeshifter.

She was a thing of legends, a thing most people in this town would love to kill. It scared her, looking into a mirror and seeing a coyote staring back. No, scared wasn't a strong enough word to describe it. She was terrified.

How would you feel if you were a shapeshifter, in a world where they were hunted? In a world, where, if you didn't join the Hunters by the time you were eighteen, you were deemed traitorous and would most likely be prosecuted for the rest of your life – and good luck getting a job.

She stared into the mirror for a few more minutes, determined to find a reasonable explanation for why she was a shapeshifter, of all people. She was just Adeline Jean Parker, Straight A student, daughter of interior designer Quiana Parker and security guard John Parker. She was just a sixteen year old girl with glasses, permanently tan skin, and completely unmanageable, curly, dark brown hair.

Furthermore, neither of her parents were shapeshifters. Wasn't it hereditary? At least one parent should be able to turn into an animal. She needed to research it a bit more; she'd looked through a few websites, but not enough to gain any real knowledge about what was going on. Despite all the classes on hunting shifters, none of them explained how a shapeshifter was born or why exactly they were so horrible they had to be murdered. It just explained how to kill them.

Shifting back and straightening her clothes, Adeline returned to the living room. Jackson was snoring, so she had control over the TV. She had always liked multitasking, she had found long ago that things got boring quickly otherwise. Finding an anime she'd never seen before on one of the channels, Adeline sunk into the easy chair she'd taken to and grabbed her laptop once again.

Google was certainly her friend, Adeline decided after finding over thirty million results for 'shapeshifters.' Of course, it was going to take a long time to sift through the results, so she trained her eyes on the page and began scrolling.

After pages of storybook legends and book advertisements, Adeline came across a page that seemed promising. 'Shifters', it was called. After she clicked on the link, a box popped up.

To access this website, you are required to enter the password you were given to enter the Shifter chatrooms. Please enter the password below.

Below the text was a small white box, the cursor blinking. "What was that password?" Adeline muttered, biting her lower lip. "I'm sure it had something to do with freedom...was it..." she trailed off, tapping her fingers against the mousepad impatiently. "Liberty? No, just liber, I think."

After typing the word into the box, she hesitated before hitting the enter key. Should I really do this? I mean, what if it's just a scam by the hunters to find the passwords that are used for the chat rooms?

Curiosity overcame her fear, however. She pressed the key, eager to figure out what the website had in store.

Adeline wasn't disappointed. Not only was it obvious that they website was professionally made (or at least made by a very competent amateur), but even from the first glance she could tell that the paragraphs, links, and pictures were full of information. She adjusted her position in the chair and began to read.

Hello, shapeshifter! If you're reading this, then that means one of the following: a) You're on our camp's personal network, so you need no password, or b) You're a shifter born into a family of normals, or maybe with one shifter parent. This would make you a 'Third Class' or 'Second Class' shifter. More on that later.

If you're the latter, then you probably want to get away from people trying to kill you, and you might want to do that before they find out. Unless you have a death wish, then, by all means, announce your secret to the world! Just don't announce this website. That wouldn't be very nice. We have the address to our camp on here.

Anyway, feel free to explore the website, take a personality quiz (Yeah, we have those on here now), and find your way to our camp, eventually. We just pity you if you live in Maine, because that would be a looooong way to go.

Adeline grinned. "Thank you, Google."

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