I might have come to accept being queen of the Thorn Land, and it was hard not to grow attached to a place you had a spiritual connection to. Nonetheless, nothing the Otherworld offered would ever take the place of my home in Tucson. It was a small house, but in a nice neighborhood, near the Catalina Mountains north of the city. Gateways between the worlds existed all over, facilitating travel, but I had an â€œanchorâ€ in my home, meaning once I shifted out of the Thorn Land's gate, I was able to materialize directly in my bedroom. An anchor could be any object tied to your essence. My roommate Tim, who hadn't seen me in a few days, was understandably shocked when I came strolling into the kitchen. â€œJesus Christ, Eug!â€ he exclaimed. He'd been flipping pancakes at the stove. â€œWe've got to put a bell around your neck or something.â€ I grinned and had an inexplicable urge to hug him â€“ though I knew that would freak him out even more. After all the craziness in the Otherworld, his normality was a welcome sight. Well, â€œnormalityâ€ might have been an exaggeration. Tim â€“ with his tall, dark, and handsome looks â€“ had taken to impersonating Native Americans (badly) in order to score chicks and make money selling his awful poetry. He rotated through various tribes, and last I knew, he'd been passing himself off as Tlingit, seeing as the locals got a little less pissed off by him donning the clothes of a tribe living hundreds of miles away. He lived in my house rent-free in exchange for cooking and housework, and I was glad to see him dressed in an ordinary jeans and T-shirt ensemble today. â€œAre you making enough for two?â€ I asked, heading straight for the full coffeepot. â€œI always make enough for two. But most of it goes to waste.â€ That last part came out as a grumble. He'd once complained about being my â€œslaveâ€ but missed my being around now. â€œMessages?â€ â€œUsual place.â€ When in the Otherworld, I left my cell phone with Tim. It forced him to play secretary, something he resented since I actually already employed one. Indeed, most of the messages he'd scrawled on the refrigerator's white board were from her. Tue. â€“ 11 AM â€“ Lara: two job offersTue. â€“ 2:30 PM â€“ Lara: one possible client needs ASAP helpTue. â€“ 5:15 PM â€“ Lara: still wants to talk to youTue. â€“ 5:20 PM â€“ Lara: needs you to finish tax paperworkTue. â€“ 10:30 PM â€“ Lara: won't stop callingWed. â€“ 8 AM â€“ Lara: who calls this early?Wed. â€“ 11:15 AM â€“ BitchWed. â€“ 11:30 AM â€“ Sam's Home Improvement: interested in vinyl siding? I admired his detailed message taking â€“ frustration with Lara aside â€“ but my heart sank when I saw who was conspicuously missing. Every time I came home, I secretly hoped I'd see their names up there. Sometimes, on the sly, my mom would check on me. But my stepdad, Roland? He never called anymore, not after finding out about my allegiance to the Otherworld. Tim, preoccupied with his cooking, didn't see my face. â€œI don't get why she keeps calling. She knows you can't get any of her messages. Why does she need more than one? It's not like a billion of them are magically going to get through to you.â€ â€œIt's just her way,â€ I said. â€œShe's efficient.â€ â€œThat's not efficient,â€ he declared. â€œIt's borderline neurotic.â€ I sighed, wondering not for the first time if I should just let messages go to voice mail. Despite having never met, Tim and Lara were mortal phone enemies. Hearing them bitch about each other was wearying. Nonetheless, staring at her string of calls already made me feel tired. I'd once had a brisk trade as a freelance shaman, kicking out ghosts and other annoying supernatural creatures who harassed humans. Now that I moonlighted as a fairy queen, I'd had to become much more selective with clientele. I could no longer keep up with the demand around here and felt bad about that. I suspected Roland was picking up my slack but didn't know for sure. I waited until after breakfast before dealing with Lara. Pancakes, sausage, and coffee gave me the strength to deal with this latest batch of requests. Undoubtedly seeing my number on her caller ID, Lara didn't bother with formalities when I finally called. â€œAbout time,â€ she exclaimed. â€œHas he been giving you my messages?â€ â€œHe just did. I've been gone for three days. You know you don't need to keep bugging him about it.â€ â€œI want to make sure he tells you I called.â€ â€œHe writes them down, every one. Besides, my phone's log also tells me you've called â€¦ a lot.â€ â€œHmphf.â€ She let it go. â€œWell, you're getting a lot of requests lately. I've thinned them out, but you've still got to choose.â€ It was almost February. We weren't near any major sabbats, when paranormal activity always increased. Sometimes, though, it happened for no reason. It figured now would be one of those times â€“ right while I was in the middle of a war. Or, I realized, it might be happening because of that. My identities as queen and shaman were both well known among many creatures. Maybe they hoped they could get away with more while I was distracted. Half seemed to show up for selfish purposes in our world; the other half hoped to forcibly father Storm King's heir on me. â€œOkay,â€ I said. â€œLet's hear the priorities.â€ â€œWe need to finish your taxes.â€ â€œThat's not a priority. Keep going.â€ â€œSingle woman, stalked by a fetch.â€ â€œThat's serious. I'll have to get on that one.â€ â€œTree elemental. In your neighborhood.â€ â€œYeah, that one's here for me. He won't hurt anyone else.â€ â€œPhantom-infested subdivision.â€ â€œOn a graveyard?â€ â€œYup.â€ â€œSchedule it, and make sure the builder's charged double. Their own stupid fault.â€ â€œWill do. Then you've got the usual weirdness. Lights in the sky. Possible UFO.â€ â€œWas that Wil again?â€ â€œYes.â€ â€œDamn it! Did you tell him it's just the military?â€ â€œYes. He also said there's been some Bigfoot sightings â€“ â€œ I froze. â€œBigfoot? Where?â€ â€œI didn't get the details. I thought it was his usual craziness. And didn't you say they don't live in Arizona?â€ â€œThey don't. Has there been anything weird in the news? Deaths?â€ There was a pause, and I heard the rustling of papers. â€œTwo hikers died over in Coronado, near the Rappel Rock trail. The report stated that they fell. Took a couple days to find their bodies. Nasty stuff. Some animals got to them.â€ I was up and out of my chair in a flash, making the dishes on the kitchen table rattle. Tim, leafing through a magazine, looked up in alarm. â€œCall Wil,â€ I told her, trying to tug on one of my boots while balancing the phone. â€œFind out where he heard about these Bigfoot sightings. If it's not Coronado, give me a call back. If it is, no need to call.â€ Wil was Jasmine's half brother, and I avoided speaking to him when I could. One reason was that he always asked me about her. The other was that he was a crazy, paranoid conspiracy theorist. This time, he might be on to something. Lara was understandably startled. â€œBut you said Bigfoot â€“ â€œ â€œIt's not Bigfoot.â€ â€œDon't forget your other job tonight!â€ â€œI won't.â€ I disconnected and managed to get on the other boot. Tim regarded me warily. â€œI don't like it when you get that look.â€ â€œThat makes two of us.â€ He watched as I went to our hallway closet and produced a little-worn leather coat. â€œYou're going to Coronado?â€ â€œYup.â€ â€œHigh?â€ â€œYup.â€ He sighed and gestured to where we hung our keys near the door. â€œTake my car. It'll handle better if you run into snow.â€ I slung my satchel over my shoulder and flashed him a grateful smile. He warned me to be careful, but I was already out the door with the keys, heading for his Subaru. My eyes barely saw the road as I drove toward Coronado State Park. Bigfoot. No, you wouldn't find Bigfoot out here, not even in the Catalinas. Now, tell me there'd been a sighting in the Pacific Northwest? Or anywhere in Canada? Yeah, it'd be Bigfoot hunting time. But it wouldn't be a priority. They were generally harmless. Here? When you got a Bigfoot sighting in Tucson, it was a demon bear. Yeah â€“ I know. It was a ridiculous name, but it got the point across â€“ and really, there was nothing funny about them. They came from the Underworld and were utterly lethal. With their tall and furry appearance, it was easy to understand why the untrained eye would mistake them for popular images of Bigfoot. Demon bears didn't fuck around either. If only two people were dead, then this one hadn't been in the area long. We were lucky â€“ even if the hikers weren't. No rodents or foxes had fed on those bodies. In Tucson proper, we were enjoying our typically mild winter weather â€“ mid-seventies today, if I had to guess. As I drove higher into the mountains, the temperature dropped rapidly. I soon saw snow on the ground and signs for Mt. Lemmon's ski resorts. Other signs directed me toward popular hiking and climbing areas â€“ including Rappel Rock. In and of itself, it was a popular area for outdoorsmen. With its proximity to the ski areas, the demon bear's presence was doubly dangerous this time of year. I finally reached the trailhead and parked in a gravel lot. Only a couple other cars were there, which was a small blessing. I stepped out of the Subaru, shocked by the blast of cold air that hit me. I was not used to these temperatures. I hadn't been bred for them. Give me monsters and ghosts? No problem. But cold weather? That was a weakness. I could've used magic to adjust the air but needed to conserve my power. Instead, as I stuffed my arsenal into my belt â€“ not comfortable but ready for easy access â€“ I used my magic for a summoning. I spoke the ritual words, and a few moments later, a small implike creature appeared before me. He had pointed ears, smooth night-black skin, and red slits for eyes. â€œMy mistress calls,â€ he said in a flat voice, â€œand I answer, no doubt for some mundane task.â€ â€œWe're going after a demon bear,â€ I said, moving briskly toward the trail and trying my best to ignore the cold. My jacket wasn't suited for this weather at all, but it was the best I had. â€œA more challenging task than most,â€ he observed. I ignored his condescension as I stopped before the sign indicating the various routes and levels of difficulty for these climbs and hikes. Volusian was a cursed spirit I'd subdued and enslaved. His power made him a useful asset â€“ and a risky one. He hated me and spent a good deal of his time planning how to kill me, should I ever lose the control needed to bind him. I closed my eyes, attempting to become one with the air rather than its victim. The world was silent here, save for the rustling of wind in the pines and chatter of birds and small animals. I spread my senses out, seeking something out of place. My abilities weren't perfect, but I could often sense a presence not from our world. â€œThere.â€ I opened my eyes abruptly and pointed near a trail marked â€œmoderately difficult.â€ â€œDo you feel anything?â€ Volusian studied the area, using his senses as well. â€œYes. But more there.â€ He pointed not at the trail itself but more toward its left, off into the woods. I grimaced but knew his senses were slightly better than mine. â€œOff-roading. Lovely.â€ We set out in that direction. Volusian shifted to a more ghostly form that floated along with me, rather than treading through the underbrush like I had to. It wasn't anything I couldn't handle, but it made for slow going. Yet, as I traveled farther and farther, that magical feel increased. â€œIt will sense you too, mistress,â€ said Volusian, in a rare show of unsolicited commentary. I didn't doubt it. â€œWill it come after me? Or will it run?â€ â€œRun? No. Hide? Perhaps.â€ There was a calculated pause. â€œIt won't try to force itself sexually on you, however. The blood of the shining ones is too alluring. It will simply try to eat you.â€ â€œHow reassuring,â€ I muttered. â€œI'll do the banishing. You distract it.â€ Soon, I needed no special senses to know we'd reached our goal. The forest had grown deadly silent. No more birds or other signs of life. A strong sense of â€¦ wrongness filled the air. The worlds were stacked: human, Otherworld, Underworld. With our proximity, Otherworldly creatures could sometimes move throughout this world without me feeling anything. Something from the Underworld was too foreign. It stuck out. â€œWe're close,â€ I murmured. â€œWe're practically â€“ oomphf!â€ A massive arm swung out from a cluster of trees and hit me in the stomach, knocking me painfully backward. There was nothing I could do to prevent my fall onto the forest floor of sharp sticks and rocks, but I did manage to grab hold of my wand as I went down. A giant form loomed in front of me, almost eight feet tall. Long-limbed, with clawed feet and hands, its muscled body could easily be mistaken for that of a Bigfoot. Its ears â€“ while definitely bearlike â€“ were flattened against its head, adding to the humanoid appearance. It roared, showing a mouthful of sharp teeth. Black eyes, filled with nothing but mindless rage, peered down at me. Volusian, compelled by my orders, threw himself against the bear. The power radiating around Volusian's body had the substantiality of a ton of bricks. The creature staggered backward, eyes shifting angrily to my minion. The fact that Volusian hadn't knocked it to the ground was concerning. They were either well matched, or the demon was even more powerful than Volusian. The latter would be problematic, seeing as I wasn't strong enough to banish Volusian. Well, that is, I wasn't strong enough to banish him and fight him. If someone else subdued him, I could have sent Volusian on. If this demon bear had the means to defeat Volusian, then I'd be cake. Hopefully, the demon bear couldn't obliterate Volusian while distracted by something else â€“ me. I scrambled to my feet, holding my wand out as I prepared to open a door to the Underworld. Volusian and the demon battled it out, neither capable of killing each other. I gathered my will, channeling the power of my soul to spread past this world and the Otherworld, on to the Underworld. On my arm, a tattoo of a black and white butterfly sacred to Persephone began to burn as I touched her domain. The air near the demon dematerialized, forming an opening to the Underworld. Grabbing my silver athame with my free hand, I approached the battle, cautious of both the combatants and the forming gate. Volusian hovered over the demon, keeping its eyes directed high. I sneaked up unnoticed. With well-practiced speed, I snaked out with the athame, drawing an arcane symbol on the demon's chest. Usually, banishing a demon back to its domain kept it from returning. A binding mark like this ensured it. I didn't want to take any chances. The demon's roar of rage echoed through the woods, and it turned toward me. I'd anticipated this and had already scrambled away, keeping out of its reach. Really, I'd been lucky the first time it hit me. It had the strength to kill me with one blow. Volusian came forward again to pull the demon's attention back â€“ only, it didn't work. The demon recognized the threat I was and could feel the opening of the gate. Volusian, attacking and attacking, was a nuisance â€“ a painful one â€“ but one the demon could apparently ignore as it came toward me. â€œShit,â€ I said. I backed farther and farther away, but the demon was quickly closing the distance. Its massive feet could trample the underbrush that slowed me so much. I worked hard to ignore just how dire my situation had become and instead concentrated on the gateway. That door grew more substantial, and soon, its power began calling to its own â€“ sucking the demon back. The creature paused in its attack. The problem was, the gate wanted to pull Volusian too. Orders or not, he moved out of range for self-preservation, which I didn't exactly blame him for. Only, without my minion to beat on the demon, it now had just enough strength to fight the gate and keep coming toward me. It had to know that if it could take me out, the gate would go away too. Suddenly, I heard something approaching us, sticks and leaves crackling under strong feet â€“ or, to be more precise, paws. A red fox â€“ much larger than a normal one â€“ sprang out onto the demon's back, sinking its teeth into the furry brown hide. This brought another shriek from the demon â€“ and gave me a moment's respite. I threw all my power into the gate and jerked the demon toward it. The demon flailed, unable to fight being sent back to its own world. The fox had the sense to get out of the way, its services no longer needed. The demon gave one last mournful cry and then faded from our sight. I stretched the wand toward where the demon had disappeared, sending my energy through the wand's gems to banish the gate as well and reseal this world. Silence followed, except for my own rapid breathing. Slowly, birds began to sing again, and the forest's natural state returned. I leaned against a tall, leafless oak in relief. The banishing hadn't been as easy as I expected, but it certainly could have ended worse â€“ like, with my death. â€œWe didn't need your help,â€ I said. â€œWe were doing just fine.â€ The fox was no longer there, as I'd already known. It had transformed into a tall, muscled man, with deep, golden-brown skin and black hair that barely touched his shoulders. He was a kitsune, a shape-shifting Japanese fox from the Otherworld. Actually, he was half-kitsune. His mother had been the kitsune; his father a mortal from Arizona. Power-wise, it made little difference. â€œYeah,â€ said Kiyo, crossing his arms over his chest. He needed no coat and simply wore a burgundy T-shirt. â€œYou seemed to have it all under control.â€ â€œWe were about to,â€ I retorted. â€œActually, mistress,â€ said Volusian, deadpan, â€œyour death was probably imminent.â€ â€œOh shut up,â€ I snapped. â€œYou're dismissed. Go back to the Otherworld.â€ Volusian vanished. I turned back to Kiyo. â€œWhat are you doing out here anyway?â€ He shrugged, and I worked hard to ignore the effect his physical appearance always had on me. â€œSame thing as you. I'm on Wil's mailing list. When I heard about the Bigfoot sightings â€¦â€ I sighed and turned back the way we'd come. â€œI don't need your help.â€ â€œI wasn't coming to help you.â€ He caught up with me easily. â€œI was coming to kill a demon bear. You just happened to be here first.â€ Considering the trouble Volusian and I had had, I doubted Kiyo could have taken out the demon through brute force. Kiyo was strong, yeah, but hardly all-powerful. Unfortunately, he was all-bravery. He rushed into impossible situations, ready to defend others â€“ even at cost to himself. He'd always been reckless that way â€“ except for once. And that was the core of our problems. Kiyo and I used to date, wrapped in a deeply romantic and physical relationship. His continual disapproval of my Otherworldly relations had begun to fracture things between us. The final break had occurred after Leith had raped me. Kiyo had come to rescue me but had refused to punish Leith. Kiyo had advised a tamer course of action: letting Otherworldly justice take its course. Dorian, however, had opted for on-the-spot justice: he'd run Leith through with a sword. Kiyo and I had broken up shortly after that. â€œYou were outclassed,â€ I told Kiyo. â€œThere are a billion other creatures running loose right now. If you want to help, go after them.â€ â€œAh, yes. I forgot,â€ he said. â€œTucson's former caretaker is too busy playing queen.â€ I came to a halt and glared. â€œI'm not playing at anything! Controlling the Thorn Land wasn't my choice, and you know it.â€ â€œThat's true. It was Dorian's choice â€“ one he tricked you into. Yet, somehow that doesn't matter, and now it's okay for you to shack up with him and wage war.â€ I started moving again, marching through the woods in a haze of anger. When we'd broken up, Kiyo had been sad and withdrawn. Over time, he'd gotten his spunk back and now â€“ whenever we ran into each other â€“ didn't hesitate to express his opinion of Dorian, the war, or anything else Otherworldly I was involved in. â€œThe war wasn't my choice either,â€ I said at last, after refusing to respond for several minutes. â€œStopping it wasn't exactly out of your control either.â€ â€œSo what are you saying? That I should just stop now and surrender?â€ â€œNo.â€ His calmness was annoying. â€œBut there must be a peaceful way to end it. To negotiate something.â€ â€œDon't you think we've tried?â€ I exclaimed. â€œHow bloodthirsty do you think I am? Every diplomat we send is either given unreasonable demands or met with death threats.â€ â€œI like the use of â€˜we.' I wonder how seriously Dorian is taking the peace process.â€ I could see the parking lot through the trees ahead. Good. I needed to be away from Kiyo. His presence was stifling. It stirred up too many feelings, too many feelings I didn't want to deal with. â€œDorian isn't running this by himself. We're in it together, and we have tried to settle with Katrice.â€ â€œAnd as that's failed, you're now going to march in with your allies and take her land with overwhelming force, expanding your empire.â€ We reached the gravel lot, and I turned on Kiyo in full anger, hands on my hips. â€œWe don't have any allies. And I don't want another kingdom! I sure as hell don't want an empire!â€ He shrugged. â€œSay whatever you want, but everyone knows you're looking for people to join up with you.â€ â€œAnd Katrice is doing the same,â€ I said smoothly. â€œI hear she's visited the Willow Land quite a bit.â€ Ah, that broke him. Kiyo's smug, cool faÃ§ade faltered. â€œNothing's decided,â€ he said stiffly. â€œBut your girlfriend's no fan of Dorian and me. She's afraid of us. How long, Kiyo? How long until she â€“ and you â€“ fight against us?â€ I was gaining ground; he was on the defensive. He and Maiwenn the Willow Queen had once been lovers; they'd even had a daughter together. I'd never believed their â€œjust friendsâ€ claims since our breakup. Kiyo took a step forward, leaning toward me and fixing me with that dark, dark gaze. â€œShe's not my girlfriend. And we're staying neutral.â€ I gave a shrug as masterfully casual as the one he'd given me earlier. â€œIf you say so. And I like your use of â€˜we.' Except, you don't really have an equal share in it, do you? You just run along and follow her orders.â€ â€œDamn it, Eugenie!â€ He clenched his fists. â€œWhy do you have to be so â€“ â€œ He couldn't finish, and as we stood there, so close, I became aware once more of his body and the memories of our time together. I remembered what that body could do in bed. I remembered the way we'd laughed, how easily we'd connected. The Otherworld consumed so much of my time lately, but I was still half human. The human part of me called to other humans. And as he looked down at me, the anger softening a little, I had a feeling he was thinking the same thing. If he had any lingering attraction, the animal attributes in him would make this doubly awkward. My physical appearance would trigger sexual attraction that much more quickly. Even my scent could arouse him. He looked away. â€œWell. None of that matters. You should go home. You're freezing.â€ â€œI'm fine,â€ I said automatically, like I wasn't shivering and covered in goose bumps. â€œOf course you are.â€ He glanced back at me, a small, wry smile on his face. â€œBe careful, Eugenie.â€ â€œWith what exactly?â€ I asked. â€œEverything.â€ With that, he shape-shifted back into a fox â€“ a smaller, normal one â€“ and scampered off through the trees. Naturally, he was too hard-core to have driven up here. Suddenly feeling drained, I got out Tim's keys and turned toward the car. I'd done what I needed to, that was what counted. I didn't want to think about Kiyo or war or anything like that. I wanted to go home and rest before the next job. A tingling along my spine made me drop the keys as I felt an Otherworldly presence appear behind me. I spun around, pulling my wand back out as I did. There, before me, was a ghost. It was female, looking like she'd died in her midthirties. Her translucent form washed out any color, but her hair was curly and shoulder-length, her clothing casual. Seeing a ghost outdoors was rare; they tended to be attracted to material things. Still, location didn't matter. They were dangerous. I pointed my wand at her, banishing words upon my lips. â€œWait, don't!â€ she cried, holding up her hands. Pleading ghosts weren't uncommon. â€œSorry. This isn't your world. You need to move on. It's for the best.â€ â€œPlease. Not yet. I need to talk to you, Eugenie Markham.â€ I frowned, wand still poised and ready. â€œHow do you know my name?â€ â€œBecause I've come to ask for your help. I need you to find out who killed me.â€
Do performance management systems in organisations lead to improvement - Essay Example
Performance management systems make use of the fact that performance is increased on the part of all concerned and there is no shortfall as concerns to commitment, dedication and devotion when at work.
The performance management systems can ensure the right people for getting the bonuses, incentives and so on as well as point out the ones who have fallen short on the companyâ€™s expectations over a period of time. This would help in giving them rewards and incentives which will eventually make one and all happy at the end. Also this will continue their desire to achieve more and more within a specified period of time and thus come into the good books of the company. In return, they can be given all these rewards so that they could be encouraged in line with their work attitudes. Moreover, the people who lag behind with regards to their work schedules and dedication levels will stand up and take notice and thus would want to be counted as the effective and efficient ones within the company as well. The role of organizations in the maintenance of these systems is also very paramount.
The role played by the organizations in advancing their performance management systems is immense since a lot of the population depends on them for their needs and wants. This is met in a fair manner courtesy the E-government initiative adopted by several different companies and organizations. All such innovations which help and facilitate the related process must indeed be given thumbs up since these try to solve the miseries of the people and it is because of these people that the performance management systems are put into place originally. This further pinpoints the fact that the deployment of an efficient performance management system policy within the organization would indeed help it to essentially tackle its internal issues in a better and more effective manner possible.
There is a lot of growth potential for the sales force to be automated in the
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.