Chapter 53: Family Time
We had gotten dressed, finally, and were laying about on the bed kissing when the door opened and two little boys rushed in. “MOMMA MOMMA MOMMA!” Darryl said. “BREAKFAST!” yelled Mitchell. They jumped onto the bed and soon had me pinned down as I tickled them to get free.
“All right,” I said. “Get down there and we’ll be down in a minute.” They ran back out of our room and down the stairs, while I struggled to sit back up. I couldn’t hide the wince that came from my sore girl parts when I moved.
“Are you any better?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. “And I wouldn’t change a thing. Come on, I can hear we have a full house.” It was evident with the door open, it sounded like the whole Pack had come over, and it didn’t surprise me. It felt so good to be back with my people.
I held onto Craig’s arm as I descended the stairs slowly and walked into the room. Mitchell saw me limping in and his head went to the side. “Momma, why are you walking funny?”
My face started to turn red as the adults started to choke back their laughs. “I’m just sore, baby, don’t your legs hurt from being in the bounce house yesterday?” I was desperate now to shift attention.
“No, we bounced for an hour then Miss Marge made us go to bed. Did you bounce for a long time, Momma?” Darryl was looking at me, so innocent, as the adults hid their faces or turned away.
“Oh, Momma bounced for a LONG time, dear,” said Mabel. “I think she was bouncing half the night from the sound of it.” My face was glowing by now, and several people got up and left the room.
“That must have been fun!”
“Oh, it was,” said Craig as he pulled me into his chest. “It was long and hard but we had a LOT of fun.”
I elbowed him then turned and buried my face in his shoulder as more and more people lost the battle to not laugh out loud.
Marge set our plates out for us as the laughter died down. We finally sat, just for her to look at Craig and say, “So did you wrap it this time?”
I choked on my orange juice and glared at her. She stared back at me and smiled. “I guess not. It’s all right, you don’t want too long between sets of babies. Maybe girls this time?”
“Just STOP,” I said.
Mabel came over with a shopping bag, inside were my dress from last night and my torn up underwear. “Mr. Patterson found this by his garage, he thought you might want it back.” I put my head down on the table, I couldn’t even look at anyone now. “Oh, he said he can rent his alley by the hour if you want.”
“Oh Luna…” I just wanted to crawl under the table and hide.
“Momma, can we bounce again today?”
I looked up, they were so cute and innocent. “I don’t know, Dad and I have a lot to do today. Maybe we can arrange something so you can meet your friends to play?”
I looked over at Marge, she nodded. “We should have a Pack meeting, I’ll see if I can arrange for sitters from Rose’s Pack to watch them so we can all be there.”
“That’s great, just let me know when they’re coming.”
“No problem,” said Mabel, “and in this house everyone knows when you are coming.” I started banging my head against the table, there was no way I could look at them right now.
Craig leaned down and whispered in my ear. “I’ll get you a ball gag, dear.” I closed my eyes, wondering how this was better than being strapped down for medical experiments. Those were less embarrassing!
Eventually they allowed me to finish breakfast, and I told everyone to be back at ten for an adults-only Pack meeting. Craig, Marge, Jacob and I went into the office so I could catch up on my financial status. Craig sat down behind the desk and pulled me onto his lap; I could see his wolf forward in his eyes. They didn’t like me being out of arms reach after being gone so long, and in his arms was better.
“When you were captured, you were never officially processed for arrest or charged,” Craig said. “You just disappeared off the radar. We eventually pieced together that the military had taken you, and they were hiding behind national security laws. Tom did what he could as your lawyer, but under the war powers granted to the President, he had no recourse.”
“So they just took me and no one knew?”
“Exactly. Filing a missing person’s report was fruitless, and we had no evidence you weren’t alive, so you were in limbo. Luckily, we got our marriage certificate filed before you were taken, and Tom still had power of attorney for you.” Human marriage was only done for legal reasons and to blend in with the human populace; in the werewolf world, only the mark and mating mattered. “Tom has been handling your accounts and properties, we are maintaining the illusion you are human since it has never been proven otherwise. He’s done pretty well with them, even with all the expenses we’ve incurred.”
Jacob handed me a balance sheet with some graphs at the bottom; my net worth had actually increased since I had left. “What expenses?”
“I mentioned last night that I’ve taken over logistics for the Pack,” Jacob said as he sat back down in his chair. “We all agreed that you would want to help our allies, especially the Johnson Pack, and we had the financial means to do so. Shortly after you were taken, we purchased ranches on or near the border of the Exclusion Zone. We moved our people in, either werewolves using the contact lenses, or humans who are allied to the Packs, to keep up the illusion they are working ranches. We turned them into smuggling hubs. All the properties have large pole barns, big enough to park a semi inside. We buy food, medical supplies, ammunition, weapons, whatever the Packs ask for and store it there. When they can, they send a group out in wolf form, we give them our special packs and they haul it back inside the zone.”
“Special packs? What do you mean?”
Marge smiled. “This was my idea, but Jacob found a way to make it work.” She went to the closet and pulled out what looked like a huge green mylar blanket. It wasn’t a space blanket, though; it was heavier, with a fabric back and I could feel a battery pack and a bladder. “You see, the military is using drones and aircraft in this war with infrared sensors. They work because things hotter than their surroundings show up as brighter colors. We had to reverse that.”
Jacob turned the blanket over. “The mylar functions as a cool conductor, the blanket as a thermal insulator. Inside this pouch we put a five pound block of ice and some water; the pump and battery here circulate the cold water in between the layers, causing the outside to remain at just above thirty two degrees. The person in wolf form gets packs with supplies loaded onto his back, each can carry about a hundred and fifty pounds, then we put this over the top and turn it on. It practically makes them invisible for the slow trek back.”
“So they can use these all the time?”
“No, you need blocks of ice and batteries. In the winter, they can be used, but outside of that they aren’t as good. There is some value to wearing them, but most of the wolves prefer to fold them up and return them in their light packs. They stay farther apart and move fast, that way an airstrike or Predator drone can’t take out more than one at a time.”
Shit, there was a lot going on here, I thought. “So are we winning?”
Craig laughed. “I don’t think anyone is winning right now. The larger Packs have been herded into exclusion zones, where they have the advantage in terrain. It’s become a guerilla war, good enough that the Army won’t send troops inside the zones. They soon found out that werewolves are far better at fighting in the woods and mountains than they are. Smaller packs like ours, if they survived, do so by hiding and avoiding attention. We may fight, but it is asymmetric warfare, not the normal.”
“What the hell is asymmetric?”
Jacob looked at me. “In normal warfare, the fighting forces face each other on the battlefield, and the stronger prevails. What we do is more nuanced. We’d never survive a straight up fight, so we don’t. What Josh has been doing on the cyber front is one example; we’ve caused more than a trillion dollars in economic damage since the war started. Hell, Josh has made warfare into a moneymaking operation. He’s transferred more than five hundred million dollars from others to overseas accounts, and is using that money to help fight the war and keep Packs afloat.”
My head was spinning. That kid wasn’t even eighteen yet and he was financing a war? “How many Packs are we talking?”
“Out of the Packs that were allied to us before the war, about half still exist. We are giving them access to accounts so they can pay their bills, buy food and survive without having to expose themselves to working in the human world. I think you already knew the St. Cloud pack was wiped out, so was Alexandria and Grand Forks. The North Shore pack was hit hard early, and their Alphas fled to the Vermillion Pack and they combined. The Rochester pack was also hit early, thankfully Nadine hadn’t gone home then.”
“They are all gone?”
“Mostly. Some managed to escape and join other Packs, and we have a few dozen refugees who have joined with us. Olivia and Mark did a circuit of the Pack areas, checked on the ones who were still there and rescued a number who wouldn’t survive much longer. Those contact lenses Ker told us about saved dozens of lives.” Craig hugged me. “I didn’t have them introduce themselves last night because you didn’t know them, but some will be at the meeting later. They felt more comfortable in our Pack than with Alpha Stormwater, and will leave with us when we go.”
“And we have to go because?”
“Too much heat, we’ve been here too long and we can’t endanger our hosts. We don’t blend in with the Reservation if they start looking too close. We’ve already started looking for a place to go; back home is still too hot to return to.” He nuzzled my neck. “By the way, we tore down the remains of your house and buried the evidence of the safe rooms, Tom got that done after we fled. I need to know what you want to do with it. Tom’s been holding the insurance money, but I couldn’t find it in me to decide without you.”
I leaned back on him, it was home but it also wasn’t safe. There were also the other houses I owned along the street that weren’t being used. “I don’t know, love. I’ll have to think about it.” I looked at the clock, it was twenty after nine. “I think we need to stop for now, I need to freshen up and we’ll need to greet people as they arrive for the meeting. What do you want to talk about, Craig?”
“Well, everyone will want to know what happened during the time you were gone, it would be best to get it all at once. Jacob is going to give an update on the search for a new home, and we need to induct Charlie into the pack, formally.”
I had already accepted him, Craig knew that, but he was the Alpha wolf and he needed to do it so the Pack bonds could form. “Let’s do that after lunch, that way everyone can be there.” He nodded. This should be fun, I thought, as we broke up and left the office.
Marge knew that the meeting would run long, so they had already prepared a lunch that could be pulled out of the fridge and served. “Dagwood sandwiches,” she said. I saw the dining table had been turned into a buffet, with rolls, chips and such already out, the rest was in our fridge or being brought over from nearby houses.
The emotion level was a little lower today than last night, so I had more fun with the greetings. I asked Charlie to sit by me, so he could be properly introduced and could tell his part of the story. The meeting went well; there were a lot of tears as I told my story, and even more for Charlie.
They hung on my every word as I told of how I was brought out by Al, and Black Ker. As I talked about the drive away, the death of Alpha Marvin, and my talk with Al on the flight, one thing was clear to everyone.
The CIA and Black Ker wanted something from me, and until we found out what it was, we couldn’t plan anything. It was time to make the call.