Chapter 61: Island Refuge
Marge made it back with Al for dinner, matching mating bites on their necks matching the fresh ones Craig and I had on ours. The mood was festive, I could tell Al just wanted to take her to the cabin and lose himself in her for a few weeks, but we had things to discuss.
The children wore out an hour after sunset, the food and the swimming combining to wear their little bodies out. I had shifted into my Panther after dinner, which was fascinating to the rest of the Pack and my mate. I had demonstrated climbing trees and had given more than a few rides to the younger ones. Mabel placed a large blanket in front of the fire on the beach, and the children puppy piled onto it and went to sleep; those old enough to shift did so, the younger ones cuddled up to them for warmth and comfort.
I loved the beach in front of the hotel complex, it was shallow and fairly sheltered, without the danger of rip currents and undertows some of the other beaches had. The water was clear, and farther out was incredible diving by the reef.
For a bunch of wolves, my Pack had sure taken fast to the tropical paradise that was Isla San Jose’. The kids were now accomplished swimmers, and boogie boards were being used for the younger ones. Some of the older kids and adults had taken up surfing on one of the remote beaches. Elder Michael Campbell had arranged for the purchase of a sportfishing boat, and had quickly become the expert on the big fish in the area.
Dinner was excellent, two wild boars had been hunted and were roasted over a large charcoal pit. Native fruits and baked fish, along with vegetables grown in the gardens behind the hotel, completed the meal. I was amazed at how smoothly things were going; the Pack had quickly bonded and divided up the labor since I was gone. Everyone contributed, we were all happy, and I prayed to Luna we would be able to be safe here.
It was truly relaxing to be away from the threat of war and capture.
Craig had formalized the Pack structure to incorporate the new additions while I was in Fort Detrick. Elders Michael Campbell from the Johnson Pack, Mark Miller from the Alexandria Pack, Lois Albertson from the Grand Forks Pack, plus Marge and Mabel formed the Council of Elders. They advised the Alpha on Pack matters, decided guilt in Pack trials and recommended punishments, and helped to conduct Pack ceremonies.
Mark and Olivia were our Betas, second in command to Craig and I. Olivia had been pulling double duty as stand-in for me as Luna while I was gone; she had done well despite not having her wolf any more. Like me, she had been raised to be a Luna. She to make the Pack respect women and mates, and raise the young ones to do the same.
Jerry and Mary Peters were Betas in charge of education. They had already set up a Pack school, and supervised the care of the younger children during the mornings so the parents could get work done.
Marge and Mabel were Betas in charge of food and housing. They did the food orders from the mainland, arranged deliveries from local fishermen, and supervised the kitchen and the cleaners. All Pack members over the age of ten had assignments to help out in the kitchens or the hotel. They weren’t about to let idle hands create trouble. Now that Al was here, he was a Beta by training. I hadn’t talked to Craig about it yet, but it made sense for him to be in charge of security.
We had to keep the island secret so we remained safe. Right now, the only person who was off the island who knew about us was Ker, and I didn’t even know if she was still alive.
Jimmy Erickson, the warrior who lost his left arm and we rescued from the Johnson Pack, had not joined ours or he would have been a Beta too. He couldn’t leave his mate, who was deep in the Exclusion Zone with the remainder of the Pack. He was still valuable to us; he was running logistics for the support of Packs behind the lines. Mark’s parents, Tom and Shelly, were still in North Dakota overseeing our properties and our finances. They were Pack just as much as any wolf, and I wanted them safe. I filed that away to discuss with Craig later.
The adults settled into chairs around the fire, mates snuggling below blankets as the moon rose above the horizon. It was time to talk. Al and Marge came to sit next to Craig and I, and I told my story- how I had been taken to Quantico to train to assassinate a druglord. When I talked about being changed into a panther, they were spellbound.
I described how tough my training was, ending with the story of the shooting duel with Gunny to roars of laughter. I covered our flight to Mexico, my mission, and finding Al near the house that was surrounded by dead bodies.
Al picked up his part of the story. “I thought I had taken care of everything. We were traveling without papers, and I was careful we didn’t show ourselves to the locals. Even the driver never saw our faces. The ones who rented and stocked the house didn’t know or see us.” He paused and looked at the ground. “I’ve been thinking about this since we were attacked; only Ker and a few others knew the target and the plan. Ker fought them off, but I haven’t seen her yet. I don’t think it was her, but I can’t rule her out either. I’m more scared that it was someone in the CIA, or close to us. They wanted us dead, and since they think they got me, I’m going to stay that way.”
“You’re retiring?” Marge just giggled. “You just became a Beta, you’ve got LOTS of work to do.”
He kissed her and looked at us. “I don’t mind, but I’m never leaving this island until I know who set us up.”
“I can’t either,” I said. “Look, I worked for the CIA, was held captive by the Army and was trained at Quantico. I’m known by some in the military, and if they burned Al they know about me, too. I need to stay out of sight.”
“Like I’d let you out of my sight again,” Craig said as he pulled me into his lap. “I plan to keep you barefoot and pregnant.” He buried his nose in my shoulder, calming his wolf. “At least it’s warm enough to be barefoot down here.” He wasn’t kidding, I could see how much he loved our boys and how thrilled he was I was carrying his child.
We finished the story and asked if there were any questions, and it wasn’t long before security questions came up. Maggie stood up and looked at us. “Alpha, I know you put a communications ban on us when we came here. Is that going to be permanent?”
I nodded my head, Craig looked and saw Al nodding as well. “It’s going to be permanent for good reason,” Craig said. “If anyone finds out we are wolves, that our Pack has come down here, it risks us all. For that reason, there is no cellphone or internet service out here, and the only satellite phone will remain in my office.”
“What about our families? Can we at least get word to them we are safe?”
He shook his head. “Nothing. As far as the government knows, we disappeared into thin air.”
Al stood next to him. “You have to understand what is at the government’s disposal should they come across information any of you are still alive. Radio, telephone, internet- it’s all being monitored. Homeland Security got smart and started to build a relational database, starting with known werewolves and expanding out to their friends and family. If it wasn’t for the damage our hackers and Packs did to computer systems early on, the war would already be over and werewolves would be extinct.” He looked every adult in the eye. “I’ve stayed alive for decades in a world of men who wanted to kill me. Trust me, the best thing we can do is to shut up and enjoy this island. I did everything I could to get you here without a trail, we can’t afford to lead anyone to it now.”
“And it’s not just us,” I said. “There are still stragglers out there, survivors of Packs that have been destroyed. Wolves who have been maimed in the war, who can’t continue to hide in the mountains. Family members who don’t have anywhere else to go. We are a safe haven, a hiding place others may need to survive the war. I intend to exploit this, as a one-way ticket. Once you are here, you stay disappeared.”
“What about the war,” John Johnson asked.
“It’s basically a standstill,” Al said. “The government’s strategy is to force wolves into remote areas, keep humans out and then pick them off. It’s slow, but it is working. It makes it tougher for us to attack them, too.”
“What about the cyber war? Isn’t that working?”
“Not really,” he said. “It seems like it is doing good, but the effect is more like terrorism. It is turning public opinion against wolves, making it easier for humans to support the war- especially since it isn’t happening in their home towns anymore. The more we do it, the more support there is to wipe us out. There have even been talks of using tactical nuclear weapons in some of these areas to get rid of us.” There were shocked expressions, no one thought it was that bad. “I didn’t focus much on this war in my past job, but I’ve been part of asymmetrical warfare on both sides. You..” he smirked, “no WE, we need to change strategy. It was a big mistake when we were revealed to hide out instead of revealing ourselves and helping to control the situation. It will take a long time to reverse that damage.”
“What if we told them about wolfsbane? If they had that available, they could stop forced turns in their tracks, even reverse the change if it wasn’t wanted. That would take some of the fear out.”
“It would also give them a powerful new weapon in the war,” I said. “Imagine wolfsbane being mass produced, being put in bombs or sprayed from the air. It’s one thing to use on humans who don’t want to be wolves, quite another to take our wolves from us. You’re never the same, trust me.”
The meeting broke up, and parents started to collect their children and take them back to the cabins or their rooms. I had a lot more to talk about, so I did a lot of mind-linking with my mate while I was helping with the cleanup. I explained my plan, and he agreed with it. I asked Mabel to take our boys and put them to bed, we had another difficult talk ahead of us.
We knocked on the door, and were let in. We sat down with the couple on their couches; they were nervous, our faces showed how serious this was. “I need to ask something of you,” Craig said.
“We need someone to go back to the United States.” As soon as that left my mouth, their mouths dropped open, and he started to object. I put my hand up to stop them. “Just hear me out. You know we can’t call, text or email those we left behind. I don’t trust any communication anymore that isn’t face to face. I need someone to go back, because there are people that need to be talked to.”
“Like who,” she asked.
“Well, Tom and Shelly for one. I can’t risk people taking an interest in me or my properties now. I want my assets sold; I can’t say I’ll ever return to Belden. I need them to cash out, transfer the money to offshore accounts and the dummy corporations so I can get at it from here if needed. Besides,” I smiled, “Tom needs to retire and Shelly needs to be around her grandchildren. I want the triplets to grow up among pack mates, so if they become stable enough for the change they are already comfortable with us. I think they would love being here.”
“They would,” he said. “Who else?”
“We need to get a message to the Spencers,” Craig said. “The government is closing in on Josh, and being in Canada isn’t enough to protect him anymore. After all the damage that boy has done, they won’t stop until he’s dead. He’s too valuable to our side, he needs to be safe.”
“Even if that means taking a hacker and putting him on an island with no Internet?”
“Exactly. He’ll drop off the face of the earth, hopefully in a few years they will forget about him. Even if the war ended tomorrow, he’s still on the Ten Most Wanted list, and being at war won’t save him.” Craig shook his head. “It’s going to drive him crazy, though. We owe it to their family to get them here and safe if they’ll come. No one can know where we are, you’ll have to go to them last, then travel back here with them.”
“Plus we need to talk to Jimmy Erickson,” I said. “We need to set up a code we can use over the satellite phones so if he has someone who needs refuge, he can contact us and let us know without alerting the authorities. Finally, we need someone to go to the areas where the Packs are located or used to be located, and look for any stragglers.”
“So you want us to go,” he asked.
“No… not you.” I looked at my best friend’s mate. “I need someone who can pass for human, without using contact lenses, but still knows the wolf side. I need you to go, Olivia.”