FortDetrick’s gates had been empty since the assault by Vance’s people. Sutton and Mitchell took the time waiting for Walinski’s arrival to allow Kunpai to test his new lycan abilities.
All three were changed and save for Kunpai, Sutton and Mitchell ran barefoot.
“Why do I have to wear boots,” groused Kunpai. “My freaking feet are killing me.”
“It’s to get you used to the feel of your feet being restrained by the extended growth,” answered Sutton.
Sutton loped along to Kunpai’s right and Mitchell on his left. The three hurtled over downed trees and brush as they tore through the surrounding woods.
Mitchell added advice as they ran. “From now on you’ll need boots at least a two sizes larger in the event that you need to transform.”
Kunpai’s feet thumped on the forest floor. They ached with each step and he was sure that sooner or later he’d either break a few toes or burst through the suede.
“It’s obvious that you’re stronger than most, but what you don’t know is that sex is going to be a problem.” Mitchell leapt onto a tree and then sprang from it, landing beside Sutton.
Kunpai skidded to a halt. “Hey now,” he growled. “Let’s not go there, all right? My love life isn’t anybody’s business.”
Sutton and Mitchell hadn’t expected his sudden stop. They’d run ten feet ahead before realizing he wasn’t with them. They walked to him, chests heaving with the run’s exertion.
“You’re right,” panted Sutton. Her clawed hands rested on her hips. “It’s your business, but think back to the weight room. Think about what you did there. Now, think about an activity that you normally just go along with. Imagine what you could do.”
Kunpai went to scratch his nose, but ended up smacking his muzzle with his calloused hands. “Damn, that hurts.”
“See what she means?” added Mitchell. “Things you once took for granted no longer apply. You have to be mindful of every move you make, every emotion you have, and everyone you come into contact with.”
“Are you saying that I could kill Tori while we’re…you know? That.”
Sutton and Mitchell exchanged looks. Mitchell shrugged her wide shoulders.
“It’s happened,” answered Sutton. “Sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose.”
“Well do me a favor and don’t take the fun out of things.”
Sutton spread her hands. “Just a warning.”
“Oh, and buy condoms. Lots of them if needed.”
“What the fuck?” exclaimed Kunpai. “Now I’m getting the sex talk from you? What the hell does that mean? ‘Buy condoms’?” He spoke in a mock impression of Mitchell’s voice.
“You can infect Tori, Omi.” Sutton stepped toward Kunpai, and looked him eye to eye. “Oral gratification for both
parties is now a thing of the past unless it’s with another lycan.”
“Hey now,” he said, holding his shaggy arms out. “I like you both, but not like that.”
“Be serious,” said Mitchell, punching his left arm. She pulled the blow just enough to be affectionate while trying to get him to take their words seriously. “This isn’t anything for you shrug off. With great power…”
“Comes no felattio,” finished Sutton. She shrugged her shoulders, and held her palms out once more. “I’m just saying is all.”
Kunpai jerked his head away and rolled his eyes. “This conversation just took a turn for the mucho uncomfortable. How’d we end up talking about things in the first place?”
“I don’t know, but I’m enjoying seeing you blush. It’s kind of cute.” Sutton moved to his side, and slapped Kunpai’s rear. “Nice. Very nice.”
Mitchell laughed with Sutton as Kunpai nervously shifted away from them.
Kunpai wasn’t sure if lycan’s could blush, but he felt his face fill with blood. “And Tori tells me that I’m not right.”
“That’s us,” said Mitchell. “Always wrong and never right.” His lycan face spread into an unmistakable grin.
“Listen,” grunted Kunpai. He looked to the sky. “Inbound helo.”
Mitchell and Sutton looked up as well. Sutton’s left ear perked higher. “I don’t hear anything,” she whispered.
Sutton was about to lower her head when she registered the far off sounds of a helicopter. “Do you hear that, Cameron?”
Both women looked at Kunpai, wondering how he was able to hear it first.
“What?” he asked innocently. “I’ve always had great hearing.”
“Maybe, but now its better than most.” Sutton wanted to perform more tests on Kunpai. Some lycans had better hearing than others, but Kunpai had heard the approach minutes before Mitchell and her.
“Let’s get to the flight deck,” urged Kunpai. “That’s gotta be our girls.”
“You go on,” responded Sutton. “We need shoes first.”
“Right.” He smiled. “I’ll see you shoeless hippies there.”
They watched Kunpai run away. He remained clumsy on all fours, but was still fast.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it odd there’s nothing special about any of us being silver in the past and yet he seems to be?” Mitchell found Kunpai’s developing abilities interesting if not befuddling.
Sutton crossed her thoughtfully arms. “No, you’re right. Silver’s the albino for us, but him… Omi seems to be maturing at a rate that should be impossible. He’s still clumsy on the move, but am I out of shape or did he not seem bothered on the run? No panting, no tiredness, nothing. In fact, he halted so perfectly that I’d swear he’d been doing it for years if I didn’t know any better.”
“What did you do to him?”
“Nothing that I know of. I guess I elevated him to greatness.”
Mitchell laughed. “Greatness? The newly minted Lieutenant Colonel Omi Kunpai? He’s exceptional, but great? Really?”
“I think so. And that’s what scares me.”
Mitchell didn’t know how to react. Even as they changed on their way back to post, she was at a loss on how to respond. She had no idea why Sutton should be concerned let alone scared, but it worried her. It didn’t worry her enough to lose sleep over, but enough to make her want to assist Sutton’s research.
The rescue helicopter touched down and Kunpai greeted it. He shook each of their hands, pleased to have them returned in relatively one piece. Hughes’ executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Belle met them as well.
“General Hughes wants an after action ASAP,” snapped Belle.
Kunpai was about to say something rude to Belle but didn’t. He thought that the time had come for him to take Mitchell’s advice on watching himself. He said nothing, surprising even himself, and watched the base XO walk away. “Rude little prick,” he said, giving into the urge.
“What was that?’ yelled Walinski over the sound of the rotors. She twitched her shoulders. Dolly groaned and Clarice gasped as they all realized what had changed about Kunpai.
“Nothing.” Kunpai ushered the women to the hangar.
Once clear of the noise, Tan had to ask about the new rank and his torn uniform. “Get into a fight after getting your new brass?”
Three medics approached Tan and Zellar. Both women were in pain, but were more curious about Kunpai. The medics accompanied them as they walked to the hangar. Neither woman wanted to miss Kunpai’s tale.
Kunpai looked to the three soldiers walking with them. One was a male lycan while the remaining two was male, female, and human. “There’s been a few changes in the time you’ve been gone,” he answered cautiously.
“We’ve only been gone for eight and a half hours, sir,” observed Tan.
“Aren’t you supposed to be gravely wounded or something?” Walinski grabbed Kunpai’s left arm. She stepped in front of him, and turned his head to see his ruined left ear. “What’s this?” she said, stepping back, motioning to his face. “When did you turn?”
Zellar and Tan took a collective step back. Tan’s hand went to her pistol while Zellar rubbed her hands through her hair, exhaling in mild shock.
“He’s a poodle?” asked Tan. Her hand gripped the pistol tighter.
Kunpai looked left and right, annoyed at the proverbial cat being let out of the bag prematurely. “Yes I am. Thank you very much, Walinski spoilsport. I am now, officially, irrevocably a car chasing, ball licking, fetch the stick poodle.”
“He’s okay,” said Dolly. “If he weren’t I would’ve dealt with him myself.”
“With your kind permission I’d like to conduct this little interview in privacy.” Kunpai wasn’t in the mood to discuss any new occurrences in the open air.
Walinski slipped her arm into Kunpai’s. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like what was coming. “So? Are you housetrained or do you need puppy pads? What is the standard length of time to housebreak a poodle anyway?” said Clarice in a mocking tone of sweetness.
“You’re not funny,” scowled Kunpai. “If it’s not blowjob advice from those other two supposed lycan trainers, I’m getting shit from Donna Reed and the walking wounded Brady Bunch. Don’t you have a report to fill out and injuries to have tended? Get them to sick bay,” commanded Kunpai to the medics.
“Maybe so,” answered Walinski, “but this is much more fun. Come on. Buy me a cup of coffee.”
At the medic’s urging, Tan and Zellar allowed themselves to be led to the infirmary. They did so only after Kunpai’s promise to catch up to them later.
“Your turn, Brenda.” Kunpai waved his hand in shooing motions that Walinski ignored.
“So who was it? Mitchell? No. Not her. She’s working on turning Demarti.” Walinski teased. “Oh, I get it. It was Sutton.” She sniffed Kunpai’s ruined ear. He recoiled at her closeness. “Yepper. It was Sutton all the way.”
“And? Look. Did you kill Cotton and that kid that went with you?” Kunpai hoped to change the subject.
“No. Tan and Zellar topped them. I was knocked out the whole time.”
“You got sucker punched? Seriously?”
“Yeah and if you tell anyone about it, I’ll make your ears match,” warned Dolly. “By the way,” broke in Walinski, “I thought werewolves were supposed to heal from almost anything.”
“The ear is the almost part. It came off. It was destroyed and there was no bringing it back.”
“Wow. I actually like the scarring. Makes you more… dashing.” Walinski widened her eyes as she spoke.
“Flirty little thing, aren’t you?’
“Not really. Just stating a fact.”
“You seem to be taking the whole Cotton and his kid partner thing pretty well.”
Kunpai looked around, realizing that they had arrived at the commissary. The smell of food hadn’t registered to him until they came to the front door.
“How else should I take it? The guy tried to kill the girls and me. I’m not about to waste tears on him for that.”
“So what now?”
“Coffee and some kind of sugary treat for me.”
Walinski and Kunpai entered the cafeteria and were startled to see it filled to near capacity with civilians. The smell of baked ham and vegetable soup filled the air. A third of the refugees were children. The sight made Kunpai grateful that his family wasn’t in a similar situation.
To Kunpai’s horror he caught himself looking at the adults hungrily. Here and there his rebelling mind picked out which man or woman might be the most delicious.
“I have to go,” he stammered. “I…I need to get some air.”
“Not hungry?” asked Dolly. She sensed a sudden change in Kunpai that alarmed her greatly. “Or maybe you just had a sudden ravenous urge?”
Kunpai’s breath became ragged. “I need to leave.” He walked briskly for the door.
Walinski grabbed his shoulder, stopping him. “It’s harder than you thought, isn’t it? You’ve been okay around people you know and love, but it’s only around strangers, right? Strangers bring it out, don’t they? They bring out the desire to feed. Like they’re the fucking cattle that Vance and his bitches believe the human race to be. Tell me I’m wrong?” There was a pleading need to know in her, they’re, eyes.
“Get your goddamn hands off me, meat.” Kunpai growled deep within his throat. “Get it off or I swear to whatever God may exist that I’ll rip your esophagus out through your ass.”
Dolly didn’t blanch at the threat and her grip tightened on his arm. She had threats of her own to level at the man that all Walinski’s called friend. Her right hand went to the 1911 in her shoulder holster. She saw the change slow in coming.
Clarice and Brenda screamed for her to release Kunpai. “If he turns right here and now it’ll panic the refugees and it’ll be your fault,” they screamed in unison. Dolly wasn’t in the mood to comply. She further tightened her grip.
Kunpai’s lips parted slightly, his eyes narrowed. He reached to her wrist, grabbing it tighter than he wanted. Dolly grimaced, but held tight. “Turn me loose, Chief. Last warning.”
Walinski’s brown eyes replaced Dolly’s lavender one. “Think of the kids, Omi. And get help. I don’t care where you get it, but get it. Otherwise I’ll bury you myself.”
Walinski’s words made him blink rapidly. He looked around the room at the children eating at the long horizontal tables. Some spoke in longing voices to their parents. A few sat alone save for a soldier or another adult that had taken charge of them. The questions that his hearing picked up were split between, “When can we go home?”, “Is Mommy okay?”, or “Where’s Daddy?”
Kunpai released her wrist. Walinski freed his arm once realization of what had almost happened crossed his face.
“I’m sorry, Brenda.” His voice was low and his face showed the emotional devastation he felt. “Please. I need to go.” He rushed through the doors. As they swung shut she saw him moving at a full run.
“I don’t want to kill him,” she muttered aloud as the doors clanged shut.
“Like we do,” said Clarice. “Why didn’t they tell him this would happen?”
“Seems to be a lot of no communication going around these days.
Walinski refused to say anything more. Ultimately she agreed with Dolly. Too many secrets and things left unsaid always had a way of destroying cherished things and peoples’ trust. The world situation merited a new move to nothing being held back. Yet the Walinski sisters knew that it was hard to let go of the old ways. Especially when everything you’d once taken for granted was gone.
Kunpai ran into the woods that he’d raced through an hour before. He’d gone in deeper than he’d meant to, but it was for the best. He raised his head to the late afternoon sky, howling with rage filled madness.
He paced back and forth, furious at what the world and fate had thrust upon him.
“Son of a mother fucking bitch,” he spat, punching a tree. “Why me goddammit? Why me? I didn’t ask for this shit. None of us did!” He beat against the tree and in time his knuckles split under the blows. The chipped and damaged wood and bark dug into the wounds, but Kunpai refused to acknowledge the pain.
Kunpai ran into the woods that he’d raced through an hour before. He’d gone in deeper than he’d meant to, but it was for the best. He raised his head and howled his fury toward the uncaring late afternoon sky.
He paced back and forth, furious at what the world and fate had thrust upon him. Filled with hate he began punching nearby trees. In time his knuckles split under the blows. The destroyed wood and bark dug into the wounds, but Kunpai refused to heed the pain.
Exhausted he finally collapsed against a battered tree. “Why me?” he grumbled, looking at a nearby skittering chipmunk. The chipmunk stopped, its curious and nervous noises fading in the air. It sniffed the air, but not at Kunpai’s rage, but at something else.
“It’s okay,” Kunpai grumbled to the chipmunk. “I’m done hitting shit so you free to return to whatever you were doing.”
He’d been so wrapped up in his own emotions that he hadn’t noticed Hughes, Sutton, and Mitchell’s nearby scents. Their musty lycan scents stung his nose, and he found it pleasing.
“I was worried for the chipmunk,” said Sutton, emerging from the shadows. “I’d hate to beat you up because you killed the cute little critter.”
“I’m not going to eat it,” answered Kunpai. His strength was returning. He chuckled, looking at his hands’ healing wounds. “I don’t think you could beat me up anyway. You’re a lab jockey. I’m a Marine.”
“You’re acting more like a kicked dog in the street, Colonel,” said Hughes, sitting down beside Kunpai.
“Walinski told us what happened at the DFac.” Mitchell joined them.
“You know what? Being told that little tidbit about the possibility of looking at people like a side of beef would’ve helpful.”
“It’s something you had to find out for yourself,” explained Mitchell. “It’s like the old saying of trying to explain green to a blind man. You had to experience it yourself. No amount of warning in the world could’ve prepared you for the first time it hits.”
“The point is you didn’t give in. You fought it,” added Hughes. “The next time it hits, and there will be a next time, it’ll be easier. Before you know it, the urge won’t even exist. All three of us have tasted a person. That’s a stain you don’t want, son. What’s that saying you Marines use when going through Boot or OCS?”
“Live every day chow to chow and every week Sunday to Sunday.” It was a phrase all Marines, regardless of rank, knew.
“Right. And that applies to now more than ever before.” Hughes patted Kunpai’s knee as he spoke.
“Still would’ve been nice to know.” Kunpai stared at his knuckles. The healing was complete. It was like he’d never bashed any trees to begin with.
“I still want to kick his ass,” said Sutton gleefully. She stood as the others sat. Her hands opened and closed into fists.
The three looked up at her, confused.
“May I ask why, Doctor?” said Hughes, climbing to his feet.
“He’s never had to fight another lycan before. I want to see what he can do.”
“Let me,” volunteered Mitchell. “I’m a soldier. I’ll do it.”
Hughes padded to Sutton, and whispered, “You’re in heat. If I can smell it so can he. Let Mitchell do it. Remember, he’s married…with kids.”
“Who? What? Hold on.” Kunpai was alarmed. “She’s in heat? No fucking way. Uh-uh. This ain’t happening.” He backed into the tree.
“No, I don’t want to mate with you!” laughed Sutton. She gave a quick shudder as she thought about the act. “Okay, maybe a little, but it’s that time of the month anyway. No, no, no on that. He’s my ‘brother’ now. It’s my blood in his veins and I only want to see how he can handle one of us in a fight.”
Hughes looked over his shoulder to Kunpai. “Fine. You can have him.”
“What?” exclaimed Kunpai. “Is this a joke?”
Sutton roared, and leapt at Kunpai. Her speed was amazing. After all he’d seen and done it still startled him. As astonishing as it was he felt his instincts cut in.
Kunpai moved left, avoiding Sutton’s body. She landed where he had been. Kunpai raised his left leg to deliver an axe kick to Sutton’s shoulder, but she moved quicker than he’d expected.
Sutton went to all fours, and jumped away from the kick. With a series of rapid slashes, she tore open the front of his uniform blouse. He felt her nails scrape against his hardened skin.
He balled his right hand into a fist, and moved to punch Sutton in her upturned face.
With the grace of a gymnast she flung her back to the ground, stopping herself with her hands. Swinging both feet into the air, she clipped Kunpai in the jaw. She was shoeless and her toenails racked the underside of his chin. In a stunning display of skill, Sutton allowed the swing’s momentum to carry her to all fours. She held her head high, and a ravenous grin split her face.
Kunpai’s strike hit the tree again. He wondered whose side the tree was really on. He’d done nothing to it yet it had worked against him twice.
“I’m no tactical expert, sir, but I do believe she’s kicking your ass,” chided Mitchell. She and Hughes leaned against another tree, watching. “Is it your plan to beat Sue by bleeding on her? By the way, watch the tree. I think it’s working with her.
Hughes laughed. “Maybe he should move to a pet shop. Lord knows she’s making him her pup.”
Kunpai roared defiance. There was no way he would allow a civilian, even if she were former Air Force, to beat him. He ran at Sutton. Closing with her he threw a series of uppercuts and crosses.
Sutton blocked or ducked his blows. He included kicks in his attack, but she jumped, blocked, or rolled away from those also.
He had thrown another unconnected right cross when he felt her hand reach past his armpit and grab his throat. It was then that she made the only two fighting moves he could understand: a shot to his testicles, and a punch to his diaphragm.
The air left his lungs and his eyes widened. He felt like his eyes were about to bulge from their sockets. As far as he was concerned, either shot would have dropped him just fine.
“You kicked me in the balls,” he whined, sinking to the ground. “Dirty boxing, bitch.” He didn’t mean the insult. He respected her triumph even though he had no idea how she did it.
“I must agree, Doctor.” Hughes was applauding. “As a male the knee was a bit much.”
Mitchell laughed. “Oh boo-hoo. They’ll grow back.” She knelt beside Kunpai. “Are you okay, sir?”
“She kicked me in my man-gina!” The pain was already fading slowly. It was the mental sting that was the worst to bear. He pushed himself to all fours. His breath was returning, but stars still danced before his eyes.
Sutton changed to human form. She brushed her hair from her eyes, revealing sweat on her forehead. The chest of her t-shirt was soaked as well. “I bested you-”
“Bested?” interject Hughes. “I haven’t used that word in that context in over a century. What year are you from?”
“Shhh,” Sutton said, placing a finger against her lips. “Class is in session.” She turned her attention back to Kunpai. “Now, I beat you…” she looked quickly to Hughes, “because you fought with a human will. If you want to win, you fight as what you are, and what you are is a wolf. You fight like a wolf that happens to have human tendencies. Don’t fight with only grapples and punches and the like. You also fight with tooth and nail. You become an animal because that’s what you are.” She moved to Kunpai, and helped him stand. She tensed slightly, expecting a retaliatory punch.
He performed his own transformation to human as he rose. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”
“Please do. If you fight against one of us, acting like you’re any old human then you will die. If this had been that type of fight I’d have done more than tag you a couple times.”
“I have so much to learn,” Kunpai groaned.
“If you feel the urge to sample anything past a cow, you come see me,” said Hughes, taking Kunpai’s hand into his. “You think she gave you what for…” he smiled at Kunpai, realizing for the first time that Kunpai’s mind was elsewhere.
A new smell had entered Kunpai’s nose. It was acrid, musty, and had a tangible dirty feel to it. He didn’t know how he knew what the odor was, but he did.
The word felt filthy to Kunpai. To him the wooded area seemed to be teeming with them.
“Vampires are in the area, sir. I can smell them.”
Hughes sniffed the air, and he caught their scent as well. It was faint, but there.
“He’s right.” Hughes uttered the words, knowing more than anything else that something he wanted dead was approaching.
Hughes looked at the hand he still held. It was human again. The owner’s face was twisted into a sneer that meant war had been declared.
Hughes pulled a radio from a cargo pocket. “Colonel Belle, Hughes. State base sitrep, over.”
The radio crackled before Belle’s voice came forth. “Belle here. Area’s secured, General. Is there a problem? Over.”
“Go to condition one. This is not a drill. I say again, not a drill. We have hostiles in the area. Out.”
The order to move out didn’t need to be given. The four lycans hurriedly ran through the forest. Halfway back to Detrick they came across five vampires clothed in filthy rags, clustered in a circle. The lycans heard their high-pitched unintelligible babble as they entered the vampires’ line of vision.
Two of the creatures turned, startled by the werewolves approach. One screeched in panic, alerting the remaining three. They looked confused for a moment before attempting to flee. Mitchell leapt onto the one that had sounded the alarm. She tore its throat out with her nails, and then leapt to another.
Hughes took a third as it turned to run away.
Sutton’s target was feeling rather brave. It was clothed in what had once been a red evening gown. She threw the vampire to the ground and began pounding on it with her fists. She found it strange that she should notice the dress.
The dress had once been green, and the red was only old dried blood. She found it fascinating in some strange way. That fascination gave way to a semi-controlled rage.
The vampire’s soft head gave way under her assault. She looked to Kunpai and his vampire.
He held it by the wrists, and was twisting the arms together. The intertwined limbs resembled a rotten Twizzler. The arms made wrenching, ripping sounds as they snapped off at the shoulders. The vampire squealed in pain and then fell silent.
Kunpai held the arms over his head, arched his back, and howled in victory. The bestial scene froze Sutton’s heart for reasons unknown. She’d killed, and seen killed, vampires and lycans before, but there was something different in Kunpai’s case.
“Come on,” urged Hughes. “We need to get back!”
They sprinted off, determined to meet whatever lay ahead.
All content is copyrighted 2011-1014 by Jason McKinney Reproduction is prohibited unless otherwise authorized by the author.