At the end of the ten weeks of hellish training, we four found ourselves at the “top of the class,” so to speak, having outperformed most of our peers. The graduation ceremony was not meant to be a big deal, but all the Hunters from the surrounding area attended to congratulate us on our achievements. It rapidly morphed into a crazy party and I was rather forcibly reminded of our going-away bash.
The next day, I got up before everyone else, mostly because I was the only one without a hangover. Tony and I had shared a room all through training, and to torment him I opened the blinds, allowing a watery winter sun to flood in. He moaned and threw his hand up to cover his eyes.
“Morning starshine,” I said, chucking a bore brush at him. He moaned again and rolled over, away from the light. “How you feeling?” I inquired loudly, “Good?”
He ignored me. I finally grew tired of tormenting him and got dressed and headed outside. It was cold, and I wrapped my jacket tighter around me. I trudged in towards the main building, intending to hang out in the cafeteria with a newspaper until breakfast. After breakfast, we would all be meeting individually with Harbinger to decide where we would be assigned within the company. We had submitted requests as to what we wanted to do, but the final decision was up to the Ops Director. Tony and I wanted to be actual Hunters, but Ryan wanted to join Milo at his giant workshop, and Phil wanted to become a mechanic, as the last one had been killed on a mission and no one else wanted the spot.
I entered the main building and glanced over towards the reception desk. Hm. Dorcas wasn’t there. She must have been taking the opportunity to sleep in. I headed down the hall to the cafeteria, and discovered there was already someone there.
Kaylee Williams was a cute redhead who had worked as a waitress and part-time model before having a nasty run in with a vampire that had been created hours before. It had managed to bite here before she killed it with a steak knife, but like Phil, she was completely unashamed of the fact.
We had got along fairly well throughout training. We never really had a chance to talk for any period of time, but we hit it off nicely.
She was already hunched over the only newspaper, and I walked over and sat down across from her.
“Hi. What you doing?”
“I came to get the newspaper before breakfast.”
“You lose. I was here ten minutes ago.”
“You almost done?”
“Nope. You can wait your turn.”
I grinned and adjusted my position. Long minutes passed. “What you hoping to get today?” I finally asked. She looked up.
“I’m hoping to go Hunter. You?”
“Yeah, me too. That’s what appeals to me. I mean, I’ve already done some of it,” I joked. Out of the whole class, we were the only ones to have sought out a monster to tussle with after our first encounter.
We continued talking until the room had filled with bleary-eyed Hunters, and then we ate breakfast with a few friends. Anticipation made us nervous, and all the Newbies were talking and laughing excitedly.
Finally, at around 0900, Harbinger began to bellow for people in alphabetical order. Phil was the second one called, and the first one of us. He headed off to Harbinger’s office, looking slightly nervous.
About ten minutes later, Phil returned.
“Do you know, man?” I asked, “Did he tell you?”
Phil looked very solemn, and then burst into a huge grin. “I got it!” he whooped, “I got mechanic, and can still be called out as Hunter if they need me.” He looked thrilled.
We cheered and congratulated him, but our celebrations were cut off as Harbinger stepped into the room and bellowed, “Dimholdt, Todd!”
“Right here,” I called, getting up.
“Good luck, man,” Tony said, slapping me on the arm.
I headed towards Earl, who stood aside to let me go through the door first. “Enjoy yourself last night?” he asked conversationally as we walked towards his office.
“Yes sir, it was pretty fun. You?”
“Fine. Right in here, please.” We entered into a large office stuffed with old books, maps, and gun racks. Owen and Julie Pitt were also there, Julie with a laptop. “Take a seat,” Earl ordered, seating himself behind an old desk and picking up a file. He read through it for a few minutes while I fidgeted.
“So!” Earl said, startling me, “You appear to have done fairly well for yourselves. Great scores on all the tests, good PT, and I’ve got to say, impressive performance on the range and in the kill house. You and your friends have taken care of your own.”
I smiled nervously. “Thanks, sir.”
Earl grunted. “So . . . your application says you want a position as a Hunter, preferably somewhere in the south. Julie?”
Julie pecked briefly away on her laptop. “We can do that, Earl,” she said, “Boone’s team has three openings, what with Peterson gone and two others retiring.”
Earl grunted again. “Good. It’ll be good to get some new blood in there. Well, Dimholdt, you interested?”
I started. As easy as that? “Hell yes, sir!”
Earl cracked a brief smile. “Good. They’ll be glad to have you. Anything else?”
There was one more thing. “Yes sir.”
“I’m sure you noticed, sir-” I began, but Earl cut me off.
“Call me Earl. ‘Sir’ is the Boss.” For whatever reason, Owen snickered from over in the corner at this.
“Okay.” I could deal with that, I guessed. “Anyway, Earl, I’m sure you noticed that Tony Urso had the same request as I did . . .” I let my voice trail off. Earl nodded, getting my drift.
“I see . . . Hmm.” He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. “Okay,” he finally said, “With qualifications as high as his and yours, I think we can accommodate that.”
I grinned broadly. “Thanks, Earl.”
“Pleasure,” he replied, “It was an honor to train you, Dimholdt,” he continued, “You and your friends have enormous potential in this field, not to mention some extreme balls.”
This sounded odd. “‘Scuse me, Earl?”
He chuckled. “Sorry. What I meant was that we have never had anyone come to MHI who has sought out an experienced vampire and tried to kill it themselves. That’s either very brave or very stupid, and monster hunting is a little bit of both of those.”
“We had our reasons, sir,” I said, the image of the first vampire crushing Josh’s skull coming unbidden to my mind, “We had our reasons.”
Earl stared at me penetratingly for a brief moment. “I’m sure you did,” he finally said, “All right, Dimholdt, that’ll be all. If you could tell Urso where he’ll be assigned I’d appreciate it.”
I stood up, “Thanks very much, Earl.” I sprinted out of the office and down the hall. I barreled into the cafeteria, nearly avoiding a trash can. “I made it!” I yelled, thrilled. Applause came from the congregated Newbies, and Phil gave me a high five.
“Oh, yeah, Tony,” I said, grabbing him, “Earl said you’re assigned to Atlanta with me.” Tony’s eyebrows merged with his hair and his mouth dropped open.
“Yahoo!” he shouted, high fiving me again. We continued celebrating as more Newbies departed for their assignments and came back celebrating again. A few didn’t get the positions they wanted, but they tried not to let their disappointment show.
I was thrilled to find out that Kaylee had also been assigned a Hunter position, and even better, it was in Atlanta with us. Peter had also gone Hunter, except was heading to a team in North Dakota. He said it would remind him of home. He had been the last one to go back, and everyone was now celebrating and whooping it up in the cafeteria.
I briefly broke away from the crowd to stare out the window. I’d made it. We were all finally on our way to a crazy life full of action, adventure, and untold amounts of money. I didn’t bother to suppress my smile. This is all right, I thought, This is definitely all right. Todd Dimholdt . . . Monster Hunter. Oh yeah.
Author’s Note: At this point, I think Monster Hunter International: Retaliation is done. I very well may return to it once Larry’s new book comes out, but time will tell. Thanks for reading!