It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean sacrificing a lamb to the lord and lady of werewolves (though that does sound like a capital idea). What I mean is Christmas. For me that means more overtime (no! really?), and Christmas shopping, which eats the minds of every parent on the planet. Back me up here, fellow parents. It’s busier for me personally due to my company moving to Cool Springs, which adds another 148 miles a week to my drive time (trust me, the raise I got in September doesn’t even cover a days worth of added fuel consumption) and forces me to look for another position. Hey, that’s life, right? But the reason I called you here was to present chapter five of Dog World: Gone to Hell. Enjoy!
In a LCD lit room, deep within Vance’s hardened headquarters, sat a youthful looking lycan that was the secret heart of Vance’s technological world.
Vance made sure that the lycan’s abilities were shielded from prying eyes and intruding ears. He was sheltered from those that would use him to destroy Vance. Ironically the danger of betrayal was closer than Vance had ever thought.
The lycan’s name was Leland Collins. Collins had signed on with Vance hoping to put the world to right. He was a lycan of several centuries of experience like Vance, and like Vance was disgusted with the human race, but for different reasons.
It was his desire to put space between him and humanity that led him to Virginia in 1618. It was his encounter with a lycan the following year that he began his true separation from humanity. In time he pulled himself further and further from the world as the United States reached westward, spoiling the land with their overpopulating and petty squabbles over invisible territorial divides.
But Collins didn’t stay hidden forever. His first glimpse of a steam boat in action ended Collins’ self-imposed exile. From that moment on, whenever new, interesting technology presented itself he did what needed to be done to learn all he could about it. Computers were the pinnacle of that.
When computers were introduced he set himself to learning everything he could about them. In time he helped build a computer company that wormed its way into every facet of everyday life. The company was worth billions and had named itself Apple. The name was fitting due to the fruit’s reputation for leading to Adam and Eve’s banishment. It was poetic justice that the company had unknowingly and significantly contributed to the downfall of man.
His brilliant mind made him wealthy and gave him an easy in to being one of the key programmers at the Pentagon Cyber Defense and Research Initiative. Joining the Army ten years earlier had been his idea of helping, and that’s where Vance had found him.
“Want to change the world, Captain?” asked the grinning lycan years before.
“Yes, sir, I do,” was Collins’ only answer. Even then he’d known he’d spoken too soon.
Vance had appeared kind, caring, and concerned about where humankind was taking the world. “They just need to be ushered into an age under us. We’ve been around longer than even their oldest. We’ve seen things they’ve only read about, and we can prevent history from repeating itself again. We can do this, Captain.”
Collins knew that a bloodless revolution was a fairy tale, and he was prepared for casualties. He listened to Vance’s plans and did some asking around about him. What he’d found disturbed him, but he remained hopeful. Later, after it was too late to turn back, he discovered what Vance was really about.
He was a month into knowing the charismatic general when his fellow Army captain, and lycan, Nadine Donovan, approached him, and inquired about the high ranking officer that had taken an interest in him.
“I’ve heard whispers that he’s Aberration, commented Nadine over lunch one afternoon.”
“Not possible. I’ve done some checking around. What I’ve found dates back to the time I was turned.”
“Oh really? You’ve done research on him?” she teased him.
“Yes, Nadine,” he said, annoyed. “I’ve done research. If he’s Aberration, he’s doing a shitty job hiding. Hell. He’s been a soldier for most of his life. Humans would shit a brick if they knew where to look for him in historical archives. He’s left a paper trail any lycan or overly inquisitive human can follow.”
“Maybe you were meant to follow it to what he wanted you to see.”
They’d had the discussion in the Pentagon commissary that afternoon. Looking back, they should have been worried about being overheard. Collins was positive their conversation had led to her death a week later.
“Maybe you’re paranoid, Nadine. Maybe it’s all in your head.”
“Maybe you’re naïve, Lee. Jesus Christ. I’m half your age and more situationally aware than you are.”
“Don’t forget to mention that you worry too much.”
“And you don’t worry enough. Listen to me. Just think about what I’ve said, okay? And watch your ass. I’ll talk to you later.”
Eight days later she’d died in a hit and run. The human driver had said over and over again that he was sorry. A month later the man was dead from choking to death on a piece of prison steak and his family the victims of a murder suicide committed by the man’s wife. For Collins it was more evidence that humans needed lycan help. Their carelessness had cost him a friend, and a man his life and family. At least, that’s what he’d stupidly thought then.
By the time he met Elaine Daughtry it was too late to do anything except serve. She’d been Vance’s secretary among other nefarious things, and had educated him on the real Karl Vance. She’d introduced him to other lycans that had served with Vance and had lost their taste for subjugating humans.
Collins and the others banned together under Ms. Daughtry to stop Vance from within, or at the very least delay him. In the grand scheme things, their attempts had made little difference.
Together they fed intelligence to law enforcement agencies filled with human sympathizing lycans, hoping to close down scattered Aberration cells.
Collins himself had fed info to Bismarck PD about Zellar’s location the night of her capture. He’d personally hacked the departments police call center, making sure that the unit that captured her would be human and unaware of werewolves’ existence.
He’d been tracking Zellar from the time she’d taken out her first cell. Being the head of Aberration intelligence gave him free reign in keeping Zellar under Aberration radar. Vance was oblivious to her existence because of Collins. Collins and Daughtry were the reason she was with Hughes and not dead, or worse at Vance’s hands.
That was a success they all celebrated. The defeat they mourned over was Daughtry’s suicide. Before she’d hung herself over Vance’s desk, she’d transmitted a sample list of traitors within various governments and world militaries to USCENTCOM. There was no doubt that Ms. Daughtry knew she would be caught and that she would have given up her comrades under torture. Collins couldn’t stop from wondering what her final thoughts were. Had she thought of him or the others as the rope strangled her, or had the rope snapped her neck, killing her quickly. Those thoughts didn’t matter in the present. What mattered was her gift to him, the full list, an insurance policy that would guarantee his acceptance into the Underground.
Collins missed her. Hers was another layer of blood on Vance’s hands. And her blood was on his hands too. Over one hundred million people had died because of him. It was lot to atone for.
He tiredly rubbed his eyes and left the room, pausing only to insure the environmental seals and magnetic locks engaged behind him. He ventured into the commissary and paused at a coffee machine before loudly popping his back. A fellow tech examining the candy bar selection at a vending machine glanced at him; her face wore a malignant smile. “You should change and work those muscles out. And maybe get something to eat while you’re at it. Feeding’s are in the open, now. Nothing is holding us back.” She gave Collins a wink, which soured his stomach.
“I ate an hour ago. Nice little MILF with a toddler. Kid couldn’t have been more than three. Now that was good eating.” He smiled as he lied. In fact, it had been well over five years since he’d eaten a human, at least not an innocent one. He’d eaten the proverbial scum of the city, but had never touched anyone that was by definition innocent.
Jelisia, the female tech, laughed. She didn’t bother with a last name. She made it a point to say that such things were for puny humans. Quite often she’d struck him as a perfect companion to Vance. Whenever Jelisia said, ‘puny humans’ she reminded Collins of the Incredible Hulk comics he used to read. He hated her.
“Going for a break then?”
“Going for a piss if it’s any of your business. Are you interested in helping me shake?”
“Don’t tempt me, Lee. I just might.” She winked again. “Don’t be long though. I may need your help with some encrypted traffic. I think it’s from the Harry Truman carrier battle group. Intel indicates it’s the only group in the region. We think they’re moving into position to augment the human and pack traitor positions in Boston. You know how the Old Man gets when we don’t move fast enough.”
“Not a problem, just give a sec. Let me do my business.”
Jelisia grinned again and left with two Payday bars. Collins went to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. He took a moment to stare himself and curse his luck for running into to Jelisia.
Collins knew without looking that it was the Harry Truman and her guided missile cruisers and support ships. Jelisia and others like her had difficulty deciphering more than half of the human militaries traffic because of him.
He’d surreptitiously added code deep within the mainframe to randomly recode ‘enemy’ communications chatter as it was intercepted.
“Can’t you confirm if it’s the Truman or not?” said Collins from behind Jelisia. “You shouldn’t have that much trouble with their encryption.”
“You’d think, right? When we crack their encryption the transmission comes across garbled, cryptic or even coded in some weird language.” She looked over her shoulder to him. “Can you make anything out of this?” She called up a transmission that sounded like a mish mash of Irish Gaelic, Swahili, and Japanese.
“What’s that crap? None of it sounds useful.”
“Exactly. I’m running it through translation software and all it comes back with is garbage about chicken livers and All washing detergent. If I didn’t know better, I’d say we have a virus. I don’t see how the puny humans could’ve infected our systems, but it’s a possibility.”
“Run diagnostics and let me know the results.”
He made it to the door before she spoke again. “Is that offer to help shake still open?”
“Maybe after the scan. How’s that?”
She smiled again. Collins once more restrained the urge to smack her in the face with a five-pound sledgehammer. He forced his own grin and left.
The urge to have her accompany him was strong. She was “in season” and her pheromones were strong. Even with that her attitude was shitty at best to him.
He entered the bathroom, and found Oleg Medklova standing at a urinal.
Oleg looked at him before turning his attention back to business. “How is my favorite computer worm?” said the Russian.
“Good, good. How’s my favorite vegan bear?”
The answer got a soft laugh from Medklova.
Medklova was a Naval Infantry Colonel and defector from the Soviet Unions’ Cold War Kremlin days. He wasn’t a large man height wise, but he looked the very image of a brute. He was the same five foot, eight inches tall as Collins, but was built like a professional body builder. Offsetting all of that was his quiet voice and high intelligence.
Medklova was a lycan that could easily crush anyone short of Vance in the Aberration. Vance was also the only being that frightened Medklova. He was executive officer of Vance’s covert operations team, and had also been slipping information on Aberration black bag ops to the Underground for the past fifteen years.
It was over a game of chess that the two had become acquainted. There was something in Collins that Medklova had seen and identified with. It didn’t hurt Collins’ standing with Medklova that he bested the Russian in three out of four chess matches. Medklova was a skilled player, though not as skilled as Collins.
Over the following months of playing chess, the two men became friends.
“I see you do not associate with butchers and sheep rapists, my friend,” mused Medklova over lunch one day.
“I have no stomach for needless bloodshed. I’m pickier these days about who I call ‘friend’.” Collins paused, a forkful of cantaloupe an inch from his mouth. He felt that he’d slipped up and insulted Medklova. The black ops group was brutal and to be in the top command stations one had to be extremely brutal.
Medklova saw his concern, reached across the table and squeezed Collins’ free hand. “You aren’t in trouble, myshka. Sometimes, you must be brutal to one in order to save many.”
The truth of Medklova’s words struck Collins. Before he knew it, he’d told Medklova his own regrets and thoughts concerning Vance. In time, both knew that they had made the right choice in “joining” Vance’s cause. From within they could save more lives than from without.
Now in the bathroom Collins half sang and half muttered, “You gotta help me out. Yeah, don’t you put me on the back burner.” It was Collins’ code for a plan that he’d waited months to implement; his defection to the Underground.
“You really shouldn’t sing that,” answered Medklova. “You will only bring yourself down. You need to run free with freaks like yourself.” The laugh Medklova released filled the room.
A smile crossed Collins’ face. He hated the cloak and dagger act, but the consequences of open sedition against Vance was well known. Open dissent happened once and the blood bath that followed would have made Joseph Stalin proud.
Regardless, Medklova’s response meant that he would help him that very night. It would be a long few hours before the plan would be implemented but the wait was worth it.
“You should run with me and my freaks, Oleg. You’d fit in.”
“Nyet. Freaks such as myself run where we can do more damage. You best stick to your own pups. There’s no room for old war dogs like me in that world.”
There it was. Medklova would be staying behind. Collins knew the Russian was a danger junkie, but not reckless. Something was off about Medklova’s attitude at that moment.
“Be careful, myshka. Sometimes freaks are never what they seem. Be well.”
Medklova rested his hand on Collins’ shoulder and then left.
“Yeah. I’ll see you later, Big Bear.” The door closed before Collins could speak. It didn’t matter what happened. Once the sun finished setting, Leland Collins would be a free lycan.