It took the solaris spy posing as Paul Mitchell a week to find out he had been hired at the mill. This gave him a successful foothold within the Parker Valley Pack’s borders.The general laborer position didn’t draw any attention to him; go to work, do the job, and go home.Like all the companies Alpha Stockdale owned, this one had good pay and benefits even for the low-end workers.Within a few days of being hired, he managed to rent an apartment about fifteen miles from Silver Pines, and began what appeared to be a nice relaxed life.
At night, he would slip out and conduct surveillance around the territory, concentrating on the northern region.If any attack came, it was likely from there for the simple reason of logistics for the rogue gang.Several times, he ran across hunters.He was not able to discern a defined patrol pattern.It appeared the information he had been given was correct.The patrols were few and far between.If the rogues could surprise one or more, they could be taken out before being able to alert the pack, leaving a large hole in their defenses.
In the weeks since Jack Doe was healed by Ethan, he underwent extensive psychological rehabilitation.His nightmares were intense.A few times he shifted into lunis form as a result of them.The psychiatrist brought in to help had never encountered a wolf that had undergone the apparent torture Jack Doe had.The fact he had been feral was kept from the doctor.In the daily sessions with the psychiatrist, little bits and pieces would come out about his captors or the mistreatment he had endured.Though not a lot was remembered, Jack Doe did have memories of many people being around.At times, the doctor tried to have him focus on smells or sound he could remember, to figure out where he came from.He was still fearful any time the alpha came around since he associated the pack leader’s power and strength with that of his former captors.John and Jackie would visit him often, sit beside the scared wolf, and read or softly talk to him about what life around a pack could really be like.
Doctor MacRae assisted the psychiatrist as much as he was able.Following Jack Doe’s capture, he submitted a DNA sample to the Lycan Council database to try and find the original pack or family for the boyish man.The email response was short.
Thank you for your DNA inquiry to the Viral Records Department.We regret to inform you we were unable to find a direct match to the wolf in question.No living relatives were located in our database.One deceased familial match was discovered, but there is no information associated with it beyond a flag the individual belonged to a pack decimated by a rogue attack.The marker is dated fifteen years ago.Due to the length of time and the fact no survivors were located, all additional information was apparently purged from our system.Thank you for using our services.
Different people visited during his treatment; Anthony and Jonas spent the most time with him.Anthony having experienced torture understood the fear Jack Doe faced, and was able to help him realize these lycan were here to help him.Out of all the people who sat with, listened to, talked with, or just held his paw, it was Anthony who made him feel the safest.
After the meeting incident, the alpha decided it was time to discuss the matter of the Elemental with the council.Calling a private gathering at his house under the pretext of welcoming the newest member, he also invited Ethan, Aiden, and Casey.All eight council members sat in John and Jackie’s living room discussing various matters to bring their newest member up to speed on governing issues.The alpha changed the subject to Ethan upon hearing the teens enter the house.
“As most of you know, I’ve been reticent to share sensitive information.I felt it best to limit access to this knowledge until we better understood it. For pack security and the safety of those involved, I deemed secrecy as essential.Only a handful of people know about this with certainty.But the number of people who are able to speculate is growing.
“Charles and I butted heads before, but he crossed a line with his public outburst and pissed on the wrong tree this time.I could not overlook his actions any longer.For a while now, I’ve known he leaks information to the Lycan Council, and used that to my advantage when I could.It was past time I dealt with his conflicting loyalties. I’m actually pleased with his removal from a leadership position.Especially for trying to expose this information despite my orders. I’m satisfied his ass is sitting in jail.”
John handed his newest advisor a folder containing his official credentials.“Derek, I want to thank you for accepting this responsibility to serve on the council.”
“I’m honored, Alpha.”
“As some may suspect, one individual is solely responsible for the cure of the ferals that we’ve captured.”
Right on cue, Jackie escorted Ethan, Aiden, and Casey into the room.She gave a nod to the young blond before moving over to take a seat next to her mate, leaving the three standing for the moment.
Six of the council members looked to the newcomers with curiosity, wondering why the three were being included in a private council meeting.Helen’s sharp mind put the pieces together as she focused her attention on the blond. “It’s Ethan, isn’t it?He really is the reason behind all this.”Her appraisal was intense, sizing him up and with a nod confirming her conclusion was the correct one. “Boys…Forgive me, gentlemen, grab a chair. There’s obviously a lot to talk about.”
“Yes, Helen, he is.”John stood and offered his hand to Ethan and the others. “Thank you for joining us, guys.Have a seat.Sorry I’ll be putting you on the spot tonight.Recent events have made this necessary, and this will happen again as needed.”
Another council member appeared skeptical. “How can one person, that until recently was human, be able to cure a feral?It’s not like he’s a doctor who spent a lifetime researching this as some have.”
“That’s a good question and a fair statement, although there is one incorrect assumption in it.”A little smirk crossed John’s face; he nodded at Ethan and Aiden to execute their prearranged plan. “I’m being a rude host, would you three like something to drink? Water perhaps, Ethan?”
“Thank you, Alpha.” Aiden reached for the pitcher of water on the table, and poured for Casey, Ethan, and himself.
“So, if my question is not entirely correct, then…” He trailed off and gaped at Ethan as a blue glow caught his attention.
Mist rose from Ethan’s glass, forming a small cloud in front of him. It built until his glass as well as Aiden’s were empty.The mist took the shape of a wolf.It sat in the fog, turning its head as if scenting the air.The aberration jumped to its feet, running without the image moving away from its creator.The illusion was dramatic with mist trailing off it like it was dashing through a field.When those present managed to tear their eyes from the visual display and stared at Ethan, his eyes glowed bright, effectively backlighting the mist.He allowed his ghostly wolf to dissipate and refill the glasses, only to have the water freeze.
Setting his glass down, he looked at the flowers in the center of the coffee table.They were nice but appeared to be a couple of days old. He smiled at Jackie. “Those are pretty flowers, ma’am.Did you grow them yourself?” He reached out, touching them.It moments, they were back to appearing fresh cut.As Ethan settled back, Aiden put an arm around his mate, and pulled him to his side showing his affection and protectiveness to the council.
The members were in awe at what they had witnessed.No one was entirely sure what they had seen, or how to address it.
Finally, it was the newest member, Derek Addams, who broke the silence. “The earlier premise was wrong because he wasn’t human to start with, I’m guessing.”
“No, though we thought he was, and Ethan believed he was too. He most definitely wasn’t.”The alpha paused for a moment. “We started noticing small anomalies shortly after Aiden brought him here.Trying to explain those, a medical workup was done along with genetic testing, all of which said he was human.After he had been with us for a short time, his gifts began to manifest, possibly a result of being near his mate. Or maybe it was just his time.It was limited to the control of water at the start, if you could call it control.After Jonas and Anthony joined us, he went to the clinic saying he needed to see them.His instincts guided him there. When we let him come in contact with them, he was able to heal them.The best we can determine is he’s what would be called an Elemental.There are different names in the limited references throughout history on the few like him who have appeared, or at least shown themselves, but Elemental seems to be the most used.”
Helen leaned forward, scrutinizing the young man. “Speaking for myself, and I hope my colleagues agree, I understand why you tried to keep this quiet as long as you did.Obviously, it could present a tremendous risk to the pack if others found out and wanted to try and take him for their own purposes.”
Breaking his silence, Dan joined the conversation. “Yes, there’s a risk when this knowledge gets out and eventually it will.Our Sheriff’s Department and Hunter Corps will vigorously protect everyone. Our warriors too, if it comes to that.Not to mention Ethan is quite capable of defending himself.”
The meeting went on for another two hours with the alpha and Ethan fielding what questions they could answer and discussing their thoughts on his ability to cure the ferals.The alpha stressed that regardless of the rumors running around, he would prefer discussion of Ethan’s nature be limited as much as possible.
The solaris spy had been submitting daily reports to his handler following his nighttime excursions around the territory.They contained information on how many hunters he had seen, general location as best he could provide, and times he saw them.He also provided information on shifters who lived on the fringe of the territory, possible easy targets to prevent early warning of any attack.His handler wanted better details on the places he reported on.They told him since he had encountered no issues so far to activate his GPS device at any location he felt was important, and to specify why in his reports.That way they would have precise coordinates of potential targets.
The Hunter Corps had their own office and command center, separate from the Sheriff’s Department, but linked and sharing information.It was located in the basement of the pack’s office building.There was always a deputy on duty with them, and a hunter always working in the sheriff’s dispatch center so the two could coordinate whenever needed.Occasionally, law enforcement departments in the territory’s other counties would send a liaison officer to work there.
Since the night of the full moon, it had been quiet with no activity.A large screen on the wall displayed a map of the territory.If any hunter turned on their beacon, it would be displayed there.They would show up as a green dot and they only turned on their GPS unit when in pursuit of something.On-duty deputies always had their GPS active so dispatch knew who was where. They displayed on the map in blue with the name of the deputy and their vehicle number beside the marker.
The first alarm when off at 10:17 p.m.On the screen, a red dot appeared, and was present for about two minutes before it blinked off.A half hour later, another one flashed on a few miles away from the first, again it was only on for a few minutes before it vanished.
The third time it showed, the deputy working in the hunter’s office called the sheriff. “Sir, we have an issue.We’ve picked up one of those mysterious GPS units, but it isn’t like when the ferals came into the territory with them.This one originates inside our border, stays on for a few minutes, and turns off.We’re moving trackers into the area to see what they can find.”
“Keep an eye on it.I’m on my way in.”
By the time midnight rolled around, there had been six occurrences, all just a brief activation with a short blip on the map.
“Sir, we’ve got a report from one of the trackers.He says nothing unusual could be found and no indication of a feral.He couldn’t pick up any trails in the area, not even a human. He suggested if they were on the ground, whoever used the device is masking their scent.If they were airborne, it would have likely dissipated with the breeze.”
By morning, there was no new information on what had happened during the night, no definitive scent trails in any of the areas recorded, and no evidence of anything beyond the mysterious GPS hits, not even a footprint.
When the solaris returned home following his night of exploring, he connected the GPS unit to a laptop and sent off an email to his handler with a description of each spot he had marked.He made special note of where he encountered a hunter.In response, he received instructions on different targets to locate.He rolled his eyes at some since many were able to be found by using Google Maps, such as the alpha’s house, the pack headquarters, sheriff’s stations, and the likes.
Having gotten little sleep during the night, when he woke to get ready for work at the mill, he opened the windows to let the sun stream in.Lying in direct sunlight for a few minutes, he recharged almost as if he had slept all night.The work at the mill went well and he had to admit he fit in with the people there.Unlike other normal jobs he had held in the past, everyone was friendly, and management seemed to care what each employee thought.Even the pay he had been offered was better than average. He could understand why this pack had the population it did.If he managed to stay long enough to get his first paycheck, he knew it would never be what he was paid by the rogue gang, and it did not have the adrenalin rush some of the jobs gave him.Still, it was a relaxing assignment and though he preferred warmer climates, he could almost picture himself settling down here.
After his shift, he was surprised when his supervisor and a few other workers, both lycan and human, invited him to join them at the local bar for a few drinks.He figured it would be best to hold off on reconnaissance for one night, just so he did not arouse suspicion.
John regularly visited his different companies and mills; by midweek he needed time outside the office.If for no other reason, it gave him a chance to check on operations, and talk to managers and employees. He liked to make sure management kept everyone happy.Darius walked out of the Hunter’s locker room in the basement of the pack’s offices as the alpha entered the command center.Movement around the territory for John was no threat and any issue that arose he could handle in one of his forms. However, there were protocols he needed to follow at times, or he would earn the wrath from not only his mate, but from his enforcer.
The alpha extended his hand as he approached the solaris. “It’s good to see you, Darius.Coming on shift or going off?”
“Alpha, a pleasure.I’m coming on duty.Is there something you need?” He offered a slight tip of his head, showing respect.
“I’m doing my regular business tour. How would you feel about accompanying me?”
“I’d be honored, Alpha, but don’t you have regularly assigned guards or typically travel with a wolf?”
“Assigning someone or a group to be a guard when I go out says I consider one is better than another. Or a pack member is more trusted than a non-pack hunter.You all work for us and have our full faith and trust.Each of you equally puts your life on the line when the need arises.Besides, this way I get to spend time with each hunter at some point so I can get to know them.You’re still new, but the reports I’ve seen on you have been exemplary.”
“I’ll notify the captain you’ve requested me and be with you momentarily, Alpha.”Darius informed his duty commander of the request, before running over to the weapons officer.He checked out his rifle and a sidearm.Slipping his shoulder holster on, he was ready to go.“Alpha, do you need me to check out one of the trucks?”
“No, we’ll take mine.You’re a passenger today.”
“Oh, and you really didn’t need to bring the firepower with you.This isn’t normal hunter duty.”
“I’m sorry, Alpha, but you indicated I’m your security escort for the day.I may step out of line here, but me watching out for your safety requires me to be armed and ready for anything if I’m to undertake this assignment. Though with the sun up, my lion would have its full strength to fight if needed.I take protection duty very seriously, even when there is no perceived threat.”
A grin crossed John’s face.He had read the reports from the previous alpha this lion worked for.Darius was meticulous in his protection of others.He had regularly been on the detail guarding the alpha pair’s son and daughter.The leader had commented how Darius treated his pups as if they were his own cubs, and how the children loved their protector.John knew Darius would not yield when it came to his duties.
The drive around the territory was fairly silent for the first few stops.After the third one, Darius finally asked about Ethan.
“I expected you to bring him up as soon as we left the office.You were there at his shift ceremony. In a way, it surprised me with you being so new to the area.It was also somewhat expected knowing him and how he surrounds himself with all lycan, so there isn’t any chance of denying the obvious.You saw him and some of what he’s able to do.He chose to reveal himself to you and the others invited to his shift, perhaps not intentionally as it appeared to be uncontrolled due to the pain he was in.”
“I know of the legends of the Elementals, and that at some points in history, both our kinds worshiped them almost like the old gods.I’m not sure I believed they could be real.I certainly never expected to be in the presence of one.He’s the cure, isn’t he?Forgive me if I’m intruding in pack security matters.Seeing him as his wolf prepared to emerge, I understood how he knew what I was on sight.”
“From what I understand, he was exceptionally perceptive with the shifters he met prior to his turning.Seeing that mane of blond hair you have, he drew the natural conclusion of a lion.He seems to identify little visual subtleties we tend to overlook since we simply do it by scent.”
The alpha drove in silence for a few miles. “Yes, he’s the cure for the feral population.We think he’s why we’ve had so many come here since he joined us.The first feral arrived a day after Ethan’s first serious use of his abilities.We’re also guessing they can sense him on some level. Knowing help is here is why they act different and don’t fight as a wild animal.Of course, they could have always fought before simply because we were shooting at them.”
The two talked at some length during their drive from one location to the next.At the end of the day, they pulled up to their final stop.The day shift had gone home and the evening shift had just started.The mill was staffed by a mix of humans and lycan.The alpha walked with the manager, chatting about operations and production, occasionally stopping to talk with one of the workers.Darius was always a few steps behind.
As they passed one workstation, Darius stopped. “Mister Stockdale, a word if I may?”
The alpha was surprised since at every other stop, Darius said nothing and quietly followed, keeping an eye out for anything that could happen.He stepped away from the manager for a moment to speak privately with his escort. “Yes, Darius.What is it?”
“As far as you know, I’m the only solaris in the territory?”
“That’s correct, although I get the feeling from your question that’s not the case.”
“The scent is dissipating, but definitely solaris.I’d say someone on the day shift.He was leaning against the equipment here probably an hour ago.”
The alpha approached the equipment and sniffed the air.There was a heavy mix of both human and shifter in the area, plus all the industrial lubricants for the equipment, but John could detect just the hint of a scent similar to Darius.
“In a location like this, it would be very easy for me to miss that, so no telling how long he’s worked here.It’s worth investigating though, especially with that mystery GPS signal the other night.He could just be trying to live and work as a human, though he’s violating our borders by not identifying himself as a lycan.It’s better to be safe.” The alpha patted the lion on the shoulder.“Good work, Darius.”
The next day, Darius found himself at Aiden and Ethan’s door.He stood, staring at the doorbell button for several minutes, not sure what to say or even understanding why he was there.As he once again reached for it, Aiden happened to walk around the side of the house.
“Darius, good to see you.Have you been here long?We didn’t hear the bell.”
“Hey, Aiden.Umm, no, I just got here.”
“We’re all in the back.Come on around.The guys will be happy you’re here.”
“If you’re entertaining, I’ll come back another time.I don’t want to intrude.”
“It’s just some friends over for food, drinks, and conversation.You’re one of our friends and if you don’t join us, I’ll just tell Ethan you didn’t want to see him.Oh, and Casey’s here.” Aiden grinned knowing that would get the stoic feline to join them.
The barbeque at the outdoor kitchen was open and ready to be lit.Snacks lined the upper countertop and a couple of ice chests were beside the space.
Cody raised his beer to salute his newly-arrived friend. “Was wondering where you were.I tried to find you to tell you they’d invited us over tonight, but you weren’t even answering your phone.”
He glanced at his phone seeing a few missed calls and a text. “I guess I was a little distracted after my shift.”
Aiden grabbed a chair for him and pointed over to their left. “There’s drinks in the cooler, help yourself.”
“So, the big bad hunter finally decided to join us.”Connor grinned from ear to ear.
Everyone seemed to be in a playful mood and Kevin fit right in.“I told you guys we needed some cat toys around here for him.”
Ethan could not help cracking up, laughing so hard Tyler took a step away as he waved.“Good to see you, Darius.”
Still timid in groups, Anthony had made a lot of progress due to the friends he now had.“C-can I get you something to drink, Darius?”
“I’m good for the moment, Anthony, but thank you.”Darius turned his attention to Casey who was not smiling, though he wasn’t glaring either.Tilting his head away from the group, he silently asked the young enforcer if they could talk.When they got a little ways from the others, Casey crossed his arms, and waited for whatever Darius had to say.
“I know you’re a very capable protector and I would never want to step on your toes.I cannot explain the draw I feel toward or the need to protect your brother, but if you should ever need assistance, I humbly offer my claws and my life to help you keep him safe.”
Casey stared at the tall blond, sizing him up before reaching out his hand. “Offer accepted.”He became frustrated when he noticed his own scent shift to one of attraction.
Darius tried not to smile.“If it wasn’t evident from Ethan’s emergence celebration, I think you’re rather sexy.I enjoyed having my paws wrapped around you.”
“I never thought I’d end up getting held and groomed by, let alone wanting a big pussy, but I kinda liked it.Go figure for the gay wolf.”The smile he gave Darius was infectious.“I’ve also thought about what you said at Aiden’s birthday party. You’re probably right about that too.”
“Up to you if it’s in fur or skin the first time, but I’m sure you’ll never turn down pussy again.”
Casey blushed as his scent of arousal went through the roof again, causing a Cheshire Cat grin on the kitty’s face.
The two returned to the group, and rejoined the conversation.Ethan had a silly grin on his face seeing the lion and wolf sitting close.
Hoping to steer attention away from his brother and the lion, Ethan asked Cody to tell them about his time in the military.
“I’d spent my entire life in Idaho up until that point.The coyote pack I grew up in was great.Small by comparison to here, but all my extended family was there.” For a moment, Cody sounded nostalgic.“I wanted to see the world outside my rural community, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps the day I turned eighteen.I was a fresh-off-the-farm coyote going to basic training in San Diego.Getting thrown in with all different types of lycan and human definitely broadened my experiences and views.”
“Are all those stories about drill instructors being assholes true?”Kevin leaned forward with interest.
“My DI was a hard-ass wolf who acted like he had a chip on his shoulder the size Montana.The Corps was his life and family.He didn’t play favorites between lycan and human, but he took me under his paw and pushed when he knew I needed it.Saw him go furry once when he gathered all the lycan in our company together for a full moon.Don’t know how he did it, but even in his fur he marched around like a bulldog.An asshole would be a good description for him sometimes.All he was concerned with was making sure his recruits learned what they needed to survive combat.I’m still friends with him.He even helped me get my first hunter job with his home pack when I left the Corps.”
Tyler grabbed another drink from the ice chest.“What was it like for a small town guy going overseas?”He held up a beer to offer the coyote.
“Thanks, I could use another one.Deployment sucked, but it’s part of the job.Hot dusty places and a lot of gruesome stuff people shouldn’t see.Sometimes busy as hell and other times waiting hours to see my target through the scope.I don’t like to talk about that time in the Corps much.”
“Shoulda joined the Army and been a real soldier.”Darius ribbed his friend.
“Mmhmm.Sure, join the prima donna force who gets all the newest and best toys, but waits to go in until after we’ve made the area safe for them.”
“Okay you two.If you want to settle which service is best, strip down and I’ll get out the oil.You two can wrestle and we’ll decide who wins.”Ethan giggled while hoping they might take his challenge seriously.
Aiden buried his face in his palms while shaking his head.“And I used to think I was the one who spoke without a filter of any kind.”
Casey licked his lips.“Oil wresting will get them both lubed up for me.”
“And then he speaks to prove he’s my mate’s brother.”
“I will say this about the Marines: the other services would be hard pressed to find a more skilled sniper.”The lion gave the coyote a subtle nod.
“Speaking of small town boys traveling… Growing up here had its ups and downs.We never really went anywhere so this is all I know.Farthest I think the three of us have been from here is Philadelphia.”Tyler looked to his companions for confirmation.“Every sophomore class goes to Independence Hall.Junior year we get to see Washington D.C.”His scent changed slightly along with his two long-time friends at a shared memory.“It would’ve been cool to go on the mentoring camping trip if the right people had gone as leaders.I used to want to get out of here so bad, even if I had to flip burgers somewhere or keep working in a yogurt shop to live.Adding the friends I have now to my two best buds, I’m happy to stay here and want to come back after I finish college.If I manage to go to more than the local junior college, that is.”
“I wanted to go to West Point more than anything.”Darius clasped his hands behind his head.
“Annapolis rules!”Cody inched closer to Casey.
The lion flipped off his friend.“Would someone find something to shove in the jarhead’s mouth to keep him quiet?”
Most of the guys reached for their zipper.Casey grabbed the back of the coyote’s head and shoved it into his crotch to everyone’s enjoyment.Kevin surprised the group when he stood and reached for Cody.“You guys don’t mind if I drag him to a bathroom or bedroom, do you?I guess behind the garage would work too.I’ll keep him from talking for a while, but I doubt he’ll be quiet.”The group burst into hysterical laughter.
“It’s always the quiet ones like Kevin you have to keep your eye on.”The lion side-eyed the younger wolf.“I started in the Junior ROTC when I was in high school with the goal of joining the Army.My grades and test scores were all high enough make it into the academy, but my family didn’t have the connections to get a nomination from my congresswoman.I did a deferred enlistment and went to a university on an Army scholarship instead.Their ROTC staff and program were great.I pushed myself hard and graduated in three years.”Darius stood, and went to grab munchies off the counter.
“It sucks you didn’t get to go to the school you wanted.Just to be able to say you’re a West Point graduate would be cool.”Connor was excited to hear the hunters’ experiences, envisioning possibilities he never considered for himself.
Darius popped a few pretzels and downed his beer to return some moisture to his mouth.“I was disappointed at first, but I still had a great time at school.Ultimately, I wouldn’t change it. I had both basic and Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Benning in Georgia.My DI was a falcon who didn’t like land bound lycan.I masked my scent around him, but he always kept an eye on me.That place sucks in the winter and not much better in the summer.As soon as I finished the first two schools, I was selected for Ranger School.Now that shit is hard.”
“I’m sure a big, bad pussycat like you was able to handle it.”Casey winked.
He grabbed another beer and took a long pull from the bottle.“Screw you, puppyboi!You’ll find out what I can do and handle later.Like everyone else, I did the usual deployments to countries that suck.Over the years, they put me in a few different areas within the Special Forces Command.I planned on making it my life long career until a new commander took over, policies changed, and I could not in good conscience go along with what they expected of me.So, I found a pack in need of hunters and have been doing this ever since.”
“Being around guys like you and Cody, hell, even Aiden and especially, Ethan makes me feel small.You’re all strong and powerful.I was always a coward.Too scared to say something and more scared to get away from the cause. It sucks none of us spoke up sooner.Provided anyone would have believed us, maybe if one of us showed a backbone it could have prevented things that happened.You and Cody probably don’t know since it’s in the past for these guys, but the three of us all attacked Ethan at some point during his early time here.As hard as it is to say, I’m glad of what happened at the bridge because it put a stop to a lot of stuff.Also got me a new set of friends to add to my two besties.”Connor tried to hide the tear that threatened to fall.Kevin patted his buddy’s back.
“You had to endure something I couldn’t imagine.I wish I would have realized what was happening.I would have listened and helped you.”Aiden had to clear his throat.“You showed courage and came forward when it was truly needed.”
“Connor, anything you three did to me worked out for the best since I ended up with you three as my friends.”Ethan paused, unsure if he wanted to share anything like the others had.“I guess since everyone else is talking about their past, I will too.Aiden and Casey are the only ones here who know about mine.I got kicked out when I was fifteen.” Ethan dropped the comment with no emotion; his sigh the only indication the matter might still bother him.
“That home was never really a happy place to grow up in.I got three meals a day, clothes, and a place to sleep, but was usually treated like I was in the way or not wanted.Came home from school one day to find the sperm donor, as Aiden calls him, home early.Beer bottles were scattered around the kitchen.My spare backpack was next to the door instead of in my room.”His tone was flat and mechanical as if a computer was speaking.“I was told fags weren’t welcome in the house and if I ever came back I’d be shot as an intruder.”The slightest of a grin formed at the corner of his lips.“I guess it’s good I didn’t have my gifts then or I might have gone all Carrie on him and burned the house down.I lived on the streets doing what I had to so I could survive. Slept in doorways, boxes, or anywhere else I could find.Three years later, Aiden found me.
“I’m really happy I was told it would be best if I lived with the Tuckers.I got to see what a family was like.I ended up with a mom and dad I couldn’t even dream of having.Plus my brothers have been there for me anytime I needed them.I’m more comfortable with Aiden because of being adopted by my family.Between Aiden, Casey, and Dad, they helped me to deal with my gifts.You all got to see everything happening.I was in too much pain to even notice what was going on around me.”
Aiden leaned forward in his chair.“Guys, I know we don’t need to worry about you, but I just want to impress the importance of not saying anything to others about what Ethan can do.In our own group like this it’s okay.I just worry about my mate’s safety.”
Darius waved a hand at the group. “Ethan, without some of the hardships you’ve had to endure, you might not have been strong enough to bear what the universe has placed upon your shoulders.That applies to the rest of you who lived through tough times as well.Of course, with your mate and brother, plus your friends here, I have a feeling you could have borne most anything.Perhaps the universe is now trying to make up for those hardships.”
Once the barbeque was ready, Aiden grilled steaks, and the rest of the group pulled out things they had brought over.
With dinner finished, Ethan sheepishly peered around. “Would any of you guys be up for going on a run?”
Aiden could not resist teasing him. “You’re just trying to get everyone naked, aren’t you?Suggesting oil wrestling earlier wasn’t enough?”
“With guys like me and Casey around, who wouldn’t want to get us naked?Even Dari looks good when he pulls his shirt off.” Cody was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.“I would have been down for the oil wrestling with Darius earlier.As long as I wasn’t held responsible for anything that might happen.”
Everyone laughed hysterically at how red Ethan became, but all were in favor of a run.The shift this time was much easier for him, though he still felt serious discomfort.Once Casey was in his wolf, he walked over to Cody and nuzzled his snout against the smaller coyote, licking the side of his muzzle.Moving over to Darius, he growled before repeating this with the large lion who gently cuffed him upside the head and tenderly groomed him.All through the run, Cody stayed beside Casey.The group ran for a couple of hours, playing, hunting without actually going for the kill, and having a good time in their animal.Anthony, with his smaller wolf, had never felt so included in a group before.
The next morning, as Ethan got ready for work, he looked out the kitchen window.Cody and Darius came out of Casey’s door.Cody had a goofy grin on his face as Darius ran his fingers over the short hair on the coyote’s head.Wearing only boxers, Casey stood still for a moment before leaning in and giving each a tender kiss.
As they drove to the job site, Ethan could not suppress the smile that kept crossing his face.
Eventually, Casey noticed and also grinned.“Okay, get it out of your system.I know you want to say something.”
“What? I can’t feel happy seeing my brother and two friends were apparently all happy this morning?”He glanced over as Casey tried to adjust himself.“From the looks of it, someone’s still having happy thoughts.Guess you’ll be able to pound twice as many nails today.” Ethan broke into a fit of laughter and had to adjust himself at the mental images of those three together in Casey’s bed.
“Looks like I won’t be the only one able to pound a few extra nails today.” Casey grinned back. “Have a feeling Aiden’s going to be sore after you get home.Tell him I said he’s welcome.”
An investigation began into the mysterious solaris working at the mill following its discovery by Darius.It was widely felt this unknown lycan was most likely the one responsible for the phantom GPS signals popping up several nights before.Not wanting to tip their hand, Darius was kept away from the mill.The records for all personnel were thoroughly investigated, especially any new hires.The alpha spent considerably more time there, though even with his enhanced ability, it was proving to be a challenge.This shifter seemed well adept at masking its scent and the smells of the industrial materials present assisted in further covering the trail.
After five additional nights over two weeks of locations being tagged by GPS, the alpha took Ethan and Aiden on a tour of the mill. The group made their way through the facility with John showing the two around.At one point, Ethan stumbled and grabbed the alpha’s arm to steady himself.John gave an almost imperceptible nod to the shift manager.About twenty feet in front of them was a six-and-a-half-foot-tall, muscular blond hard at work operating one of the pieces of equipment.He looked very much like everyone else in the area, but for some reason he stuck out to Ethan.
Once the day shift finished, some of the alpha’s men invited the suspected solaris out for a drink.Everything was kept extremely friendly like the other times workers had asked him to join them.Surveillance was put in place, and his movements were tracked.When he went out late at night, he was difficult to follow without alerting him to the presence of the tracking team.They had to admit he was good at covering his tracks.
There were a few additional GPS hits that night.Twenty minutes later, an alert came in of another tracking device crossing into the territory.The map showed it came in close to where the solaris was located.Hunters were told to stay back while the two were tracked.When a patrol did get close, they picked up the scent of a feral. The men took an occasional shot at the wolf that always missed, and then made it appear they lost the animal’s trail.As long as they could keep tabs on both by GPS, they could herd the feral away from any populated areas.After the game of cat and mouse went on for a while, the marker for the solaris was in a spot well out of visual sight of the feral. The order went out to shoot the wolf they were chasing.With careful aim, the beast was brought down and a team of hunters quickly converged on the location to deactivate the tracking unit.A near fatal dose of Wolfsbane was administered to sedate the animal before the capture team pulled back.The hunter fired several more rounds into the ground near the feral, as if finishing off the beast.With the hunt complete, the solaris moved off into the night and forgot to turn off his tracker until he reached his apartment.
Paul sat in the apartment writing up his report on the night’s events and his observations of the hunt.He hit send and decided to shower while waiting on a response from his handler.The feel of the warm water running over his body was a pleasurable treat after the long night’s work.He was surprised by a pair of arms wrapping around him, binding him with the shower curtain as it pulled free from the hanging rod. His assailant dragged him out of the bathtub.He tried to struggle, but the combination of the curtain, strong arms, and wet floor did little to aid him.The smell of multiple lycan filled his apartment now.As he was pushed into a chair in the living room, the shower curtain was pulled away from him. Two men were at his laptop, several more searched the room, and the tall blond who pulled him out of the shower had a painful death grip on his shoulder. He could now identify his assailant as a fellow solaris and pondered how he had missed it.His eye’s zeroed in on the man sitting across from him; the man he knew to be the pack’s leader.
“You’ve been busy lately.” The alpha’s voice was hard and cold.“From the reports I had on you at the mill, I’m disappointed we’ll be losing you as an employee.For now, I suppose we’ll keep calling you Paul.At least until we find your real identity.”
“Alpha, he’s been sending information on our hunter patrols, the location of lycan families living near the border, and other potential targets within the territory.He also sent a detailed account of the feral incursion tonight and how inept our hunters appear to be,” one of the sheriff’s techs reported.
The alpha locked eyes with the man. “I don’t suppose you’d care to discuss your employers with me, would you?”
Paul remained silent.
One of the deputies came out of the bedroom with an iPhone, holding it up for the alpha to see.
Darius had remained behind the spy.With a painful grip to the older solaris’ shoulder, he forcefully lifted the man’s hand towards the deputy holding the phone. “Try swiping his finger over the sensor.That should probably unlock if for you.”
They accessed what information was on the phone.Seeing iMesssage was still locked, they swiped his finger over the print scanner again to open the app.It worked and they reviewed the messages he had been sending.
“Darius, escort our guest to the jail.Employ whatever measures you see fit for security.”
The forensic team spent the next couple hours combing over every inch of Paul’s apartment while the contents of his laptop and phone were downloaded for additional examination at the lab.The techs were unable to trace IP addresses in the emails as they seemed to bounce all around the world, though most of the numbers in Paul’s phone appeared to be from either New York State or Quebec.It would take time to go through everything, but with a sense of urgency, they would try to uncover what was going on.
Darius sat outside Paul’s cell, staring at the first solaris he had encountered in two years.He had hoped to meet others of his kind, but not in this fashion.The small enclave of about twenty solaris he was raised by had instilled a sense of honor and duty in him.Not unlike the wolves in the packs he had worked for or his fellow soldiers in the military.Now, for the first time, he was presented with one of his kind who was for sale to the highest bidder.He tried to remind himself he did not know anything about this man or how he had lived his life.The realization he was also for hire, as a hunter, gave him pause; perhaps the differences between the two were not as wide as he first thought.
“Sir, we have the report from our agent in the pack, and the tracking data on the feral we sent in tonight.”
“Break it down for me.What did he see tonight?”
“Three separate hunters engaged the feral. It seemed they would run across it, track it, miss their shot, and subsequently loose the trail.The third finally managed to kill it after a significant chase by all three.”
Jean-Pierre queried.“What does this tell us about their hunters that might be useful to us?”
“Based on this visual account, as well as the previous tests, their hunters are spread too thin near their borders to provide adequate protection and early warning.I know you want facts instead of theory, but perhaps they feel their size alone would prevent them from ever being attacked.”
“Do you and the others feel an attack on a pack this size could be successfully carried out?”
“If we send in multiple teams, we feel we could be in and out in a short amount of time.A first wave would take out any hunters along the border, as well as capture or neutralize any shifters in their weakest areas before they could notify anyone.We then launch the multi-pronged assault.Using a large force of wolves going overland, we engage their main forces as they start to respond and press deep into their territory. While they’re attempting to mobilize to defend against our main army, the second group will go in. Men using trucks will head for prearranged targets to secure as many as they can before returning.It would allow us to grab what we want, and get out before they realize the main body of our forces is a distraction.With luck, we can make it into Silver Pines before they even know they’re under attack.We’re estimating the use of around one hundred and fifty men plus a large number of ferals for this attack.”
“Never use ‘with luck’ in a battle plan.I’m still unconvinced.My instinct is to cut our losses on this and continue with our core operations.It appears good on paper, but you make it sound too easy. And you’re committing one half of our organization to this plan.Granted, we could stand to thin the ranks a little and many would make good cannon fodder, but it still needs to be profitable to pay all those assets to fight.At least the ones who survive.There’s also the cost of equipment, transportation, and other logistical expenses to factor in.You’ve failed to factor the financial aspect of this strike into any proposal so far.I thought I’d taught you better.Easy attacks have a way of turning around and biting you in the ass.In case you’re not familiar with history, you might look up Pearl Harbor.”
“Sir?The Japanese achieved total surprise and decimated the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.”
“Yes, they did.However, by attacking the larger force who possessed nearly unlimited resources, and missing the aircraft carriers, some believe it prevented a second wave from attacking Hawaii.That second strike was intended to go after dry docks and other facilities to repair the fleet so they couldn’t rebuild quickly. All they did, in the words of their lead admiral, was awaken a sleeping giant.Make sure if we do this, that is not the outcome here. Because if we don’t get the aircraft carriers in the opening strike, they will come after us with everything they have. They won’t stop until we’ve been destroyed.”
“We have been discussing another option.” The lieutenant passed a separate battle plan to Jean-Pierre for review.
Running with the Pack, WolfM, 2012-2016, All Rights Reserved