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"Why are his hands tied?" Robert Hamilton-Scott shouted over the wind that drove stinging rain against his face.
"Because I value my life," Trevor Hardy yelled back. The leader of the resistance wasn't a cautious man. Hardy was a bear even though he was one hundred percent human. Six feet three and at least two hundred twenty pounds, he dwarfed the other resistance fighters beside him.
His words caused Robert to squint his eyes against the weather to get a closer look at the fugitive shape-shifter Hardy and two others hauled to his front door.
Tall and muscular, the shape-shifter male they supported was also worse for wear. His jeans were mud-splattered, torn and dark with moisture. Pale skin flashed through them in many places. Of course, he could also see much more skin elsewhere, because the man's torso was bare. His shirt, if the scraps of material hanging from his arms had been a shirt, was shredded almost beyond recognition, leaving the ridges of his abdomen to channel the streams of rainwater as if they were rapids.
Robert tore his gaze away from those ripples to help get the man inside. His home was a safe house among hundreds of others in a network that formed a trail from the United States to the Free Western Territories. Inspired by Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad, the Network provided aid and shelter to shape-shifters escaping government research.
This shifter was barely conscious. He stumbled and shuffled his feet as two men and one woman pulled him up the porch steps to the door of Hamilton Croft. Even with his head down and his shoulders slumped, sturdy rope around his wrists and three people holding his arms, the man was threateningsavage enough to give Robert pause.
"He's been in the labs for a year or more," Merry Bridges gasped, explaining when the others didn't. She didn't let go of the big arm she held with both hands, though her grip threatened to slip on bare skin grown slippery in the downpour.
They all stopped, finally sheltered under the porch roof. It wasn't the sudden respite from the torrential rain that caused them to pause. Robert could see his horror mirrored in the others' eyes. They all knew what it meant for a shape-shifter to be in scientists' hands for so long.
The scientists had less respect for shape-shifters than they had for lab rats, and the experiments they implemented put captured shifters in a living hell.
A bioengineered species was product not people.
And shifters were a product that had yet to yield maximum benefits for their creators.