Dominant Species

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Donald moved along Highway 93 north until he came out of the Bitterroot Mountains, pausing to look over the valley to his north. Corvallis was the fourth down away on the highway, about thirty miles from here. The moon didn’t reveal much, and there were no lights in the town to show where they are.

Direct route or circuitous, that was the question. If he ran straight through, he could make Corvallis tonight and see if Abigail’s family was safe. The problem was that there were too many potential hostiles, too many ambush sites, and he was a sitting duck on the road. No human with a gun would hesitate to shoot a wolf that could feed their family for days. Staying within the forest, though, would double the distance and he would have to find a place to hole up for the day.

Turning to the west, he stayed within the treeline of the foothills. The forests were silent as he moved, no animals, large or small, were scented alive. The smell of rotting flesh was everywhere. The solar flare had wiped out anything that was above ground. He moved along at a comfortable pace, the miles eaten up under his callused paws as he thought through the events of the night.

Sending her back without him was not what he wanted, but it was better than any of the other choices. He hoped she would realize after tonight that it was too dangerous for her and her children to be out on the road, that they needed the protection of a Pack. He saw in her eyes that she wanted him, which made his wolf happy, even if she wasn’t ready to accept all that their bond meant. The bond was there, he could see how it affected her, and if he could keep her near, it would continue to grow.

He’d waited fifty years. He could wait longer.

Stopping at a stream cutting through the valley between two mountains, he lapped up the cool water while taking a well-deserved break. His bones were protesting, the ache of arthritis reminding him he wasn’t as young as he believed. Smiling to himself, he sat back and let out a howl. He may not be young, but he was a force.

He was startled when a wolf to the north answered him. The North Fork pack didn’t have treaties with any of the Montana packs, but they weren’t enemies either. He considered changing course to avoid them, but then his curiosity won out. They might have information for him and could be allies.

He had to try. The wolf sounded like he was only a few miles away.

Twenty minutes and a few soft howls later, he saw three wolves approaching through the trees. He paid careful attention to their body language; they were not aggressive, so he left his hide to meet them. Once they had sniffed each other, he knew they were three young males, unmated, and from a pack. Satisfied they were not a problem, he shifted, and they quickly followed. “Hi guys, I’m Beta Donald Ross of the North Fork pack.”

The oldest of the three, who was about 25 with close-cropped blonde hair and a short beard, stepped forward and shook his hand. “Barry Johnson of the Wye River pack. This is my younger brother Brian,” he pointed to his left, “and Terry, one of our friends. We’re glad to see you; you’re the first werewolf we’ve found alive.”

Donald looked at them. “Wye River, that’s up near Missoula, right?”

“Yep, our Pack was at the north end of the range. We had about twenty members, but they are all dead now.” He couldn’t hide his pain. “We hoped to find another pack still alive, but the Corvallis pack, they were all dead too. We were headed for the mountains, hoping that someone farther south was still alive. Plus, we needed to get away from what is going on in Missoula right now.”

Donald knew this was a story that would take a while. “I’m on my way up there now, with a stop in Corvallis. My pack is still whole, we responded immediately by going underground and made it through the solar storm.” He looked out at the valley. “If you want to join us, I can use your help. We need to find some shelter before sunrise. Let’s find something, then we can talk.”

The three talked briefly on their Pack link before Terry spoke up. “We can do that. There is a cave we passed about an hour ago, about ten miles southwest of Corvallis, that would work well.”

“We also passed some cabins. We could break into them and see if there is any food or supplies we need,” Barry added. “It’s not like these people will need it. There’s not much living in this valley.”

“Our Pack Doctor, Marcus Mendez, figured it out as soon as it happened. A solar flare wiped out the ozone layer, causing a massive radioactive exposure and electromagnetic pulse the wiped out electronics. If you stayed outside you were blinded, if you didn’t get underground or behind a lot of shielding you took a lethal dose of radiation. We lost most of the humans in our town while we were in our shelters.” Donald looked at the sky again. “We better get going.”

The four shifted to wolf form and headed north. The first cabin they stopped at was enough; the owners were dead, found in the woods. They filled a backpack up with canned food, half thawed frozen meat, and bottled water. They grabbed sleeping bags and pillows before they continued north. They arrived at the cave as the first signs of dawn were coming; it had a narrow entrance before expanding into a large cavern, and there were cracks in the ceiling that let air circulate. They shifted and put shorts and shirts on. Donald sent the three to collect wood for a fire while he set the sleeping area up and started dinner.

The boys got a fire going, and Donald set some canned beans around it to heat up while he skewered steaks on a stick to put over it. “Boys, why don’t you tell me about what happened to you while I get this ready.”

They sat on the sleeping bags, and Barry started. “Our pack isn’t large, and most of us live in or near the town. The Pack owns land bordering the Lolo National Forest, and our Pack House and Alpha pair were there. We also have a gold mine on the property, that’s where the three of us plus Mike were working that day.”

Brian picked it up. “The area we were working was too far underground for the Pack link to work, but the mate bond was still there for Mike. He couldn’t talk to her, but he could tell something was wrong. He went back to the surface. We figured we’d keep working until lunch then check on him. When we got up close enough to the entrance for the Pack link to work, that’s when we figured out how bad it was. The Pack was dead or dying. We begged the Alpha to let us help, but he gave us an Alpha command to stay deep underground and not come out. We had no choice; we had to hide.”

“We stayed until it was dark,” Terry said, “Then we went out. They were gone. We packed up our bags and shifted, figuring we could get to the Seeley Lake pack, our closest allies. The run was brutal. Nothing was out there but death and decay. We ran the whole night only to find them dead too. We knew that we needed to be underground, so we found a cave and hid out again. The next night, we headed towards Missoula. We figured we might find people still alive in a big city like that.”

“Did you? I’m trying to locate the family of a Pack friend up there.” Donald was clenching his hands, hoping for good news.

“Oh, we found some people alive, all right.” Terry’s face held back the horror of what they had seen. “They were killing and raping all night long. The houses were no shelter, but all that concrete in the jails was. Some of them still had prison orange on. The blind and sick couldn’t fight back. Half the town was burning, while the rest was looted. We didn’t stick around, we bypassed the city and started this way. We figured we would check the valley packs, but we didn’t find any of them either. You’re the first werewolf we’ve seen since this happened.”

The meat had finished, and they paused to divvy up the food and eat. Donald thought about what to do next. He should accept their report and return home, but he knew Silvia and Abigail needed closure. Looking at the boys, he sighed. “I know it’s backtracking, but I have to verify whether the families I am looking for survived. After sundown, I’m going to Corvallis to check on the first address, then I’m going to Missoula. You can stay here if you want, it will be safer.”

The boys looked at each other before Terry shook his head no. “If you are going, we are going with you. It’s too dangerous to go there alone.”

“Fine then. Let’s get some sleep.” Taking turns, they went to the entrance and pissed out onto the rocks before washing up and getting in their sleeping bags. Donald’s thoughts were only of Silvia as he drifted to sleep.

“Mom, I think Mitch passed out.” Zach was turned halfway around in the passenger seat of the convertible, looking back at where the blood had completely soaked through the shirt over his shoulder. He had stopped moaning in pain a little bit ago, and he was worried.

Silvia checked the rear-view mirror; she couldn’t see or do much. She was already driving too fast for what her vision could make out, so she was trusting no tree or animal had moved onto it since they drove through. She knew she was about ten minutes away from North Fork, but that seemed like forever with the twists and turns of the mountain roads. “Keep an eye on him, Zach, I’m going as fast as I can. How is Michelle doing?”

Zach checked his baby sister; she was sleeping in the car seat, sucking on her pacifier occasionally. “She’s still sleeping.” He sat back. “What are we going to do now, Mom?”

“I don’t know, baby. We need to get Mitch to Doctor Marcus, then we’ll worry about the rest. What do you want to do?”

“I heard what Donald said. I want to find Grandma and Grandpa, but I like it in North Fork too. If we move, can we still visit?” He looked sad. She knew he had made friends in each Pack while they were playing.

Silvia thought about it. Donald was in the back of her mind and wouldn’t go away. Even if she wasn’t over losing her husband, knowing it was too fast, she couldn’t close the door on him. “Yes, I’m sure we’ll find a way.”

“Good.” He went back to watching the road, and it wasn’t long before he spotted something. “Look, Mom, a wolf!” She could see the black wolf that came down the hill and started running alongside the car, sniffing the air. It stopped and let out a piercing howl, then ran forward to catch up. “What was that?”

Silvia looked in the mirror, more wolves were joining the chase, but they weren’t a threat, they were more like an escort. “I think they smell the blood, baby. They know someone is hurt, and they are warning the others.” A minute later they rounded the bend, and the town was ahead of them, and a group of people was waiting in front of the motel. Silvia pulled to a stop in front of the Alpha as the wolves that had followed them went back to the northern road. “Mitch was shot; we have to get him to Marcus.”

Alpha Calvin went to her while Luna Kelly went to check on Mitch. He opened the driver’s door and offered his hand. “Come on; you can fill me in on what happened. Tom is here; he can take him back to Salmon if you let him take your car.” She nodded, and Pack members helped get Michelle’s car seat out. Abigail was there, she took Zach’s hand and led him off.

“I’m going with, he’s lost a lot of blood, and I need to keep pressure on this.” Kelly jumped in the back seat, placing her palm on the wound. “Come on, Tom, let’s go.” Tom jumped in the car and adjusted the seat, then they tore off out of the lot and continued south.

Calvin led them back to the park, where Zach ran off to play while his remaining Betas gathered with them at a picnic table. “So, what happened out there?”

“First,” Silvia said, “I agreed to let Mitch come along. I never thought you’d send Donald out there too. I thought I made it clear that I didn’t want him around.” She thought she could make Calvin look guilty, but he didn’t.

“He’s your mate, Silvia. We couldn’t keep him from being out there, protecting you, even if you didn’t know. It’s how he’s wired.” The other people nodded; it was just part of being a mate, you were protective.

“Well, it’s a good thing.” She talked about how they had almost gotten through the mountains when the men attacked, and how she and Donald had fought them off. “I’m afraid I put Donald in an impossible position. He wanted me to bring Mitch to the Doc, but I wouldn’t give up on finding our families. He agreed to try and find them if I got Mitch to help, and so he’s still out there.” She looked up the road. “He won’t come back without an answer. I made him promise me.”

“You poor dear,” said Beta Candice as she gathered her into her arms. “I’m sorry you had to go through that again, I bet it dragged up bad memories for you.”

Silvia relaxed into the older woman, letting some of her control slip. “It was different this time.” She started to cry onto her shirt, taking comfort in her embrace. “I wasn’t going to let them hurt me, or my family. When Mitch got shot, I lost it. I got my kids out of there and grabbed my gun.” No one interrupted as she cried for a little more. “I’ve used guns before, but I’ve never killed anything. I refused to hunt. But this guy?” She sat up and looked at the people around her. “Fuck him. The bastard shot Mitch. I blew him to little bits and I don’t regret a damn thing.”

Alpha Calvin placed his hand on her shoulder as he knelt next to her. “And you shouldn’t. You did what you had to do, got your family out of there, and you saved Mitch. I’m proud of you.” The others all lent their support as she worked her way through her emotions. “Now, how is Zach handling all this?”

“He hasn’t reacted much.” She looked out at the park where he was playing with other kids, some in wolf form. “It will happen sometime, though.”

Calvin nodded. “It may catch up to him tonight.” Linking quickly with Kelly, he smiled. “Kelly suggests we put him with some of the other kids tonight, kind of like a sleepover. It’s a pack thing. When one member is hurting, the others will support him by surrounding him. I’m sure we can find some volunteers for a puppy pile.”

Silvia snickered, thinking of what that would look like. “That would be nice.” She looked off to the north again, thinking to herself that she would like Donald to be comforting her tonight but she had sent him off. Her face gave away some of what she was thinking.

Abigail reached over the table and took her hand. “How about if Autumn and I stay with you guys as well? The beds are big enough, and with Autumn done with her fever now, I want her around other people in case she starts to change.”

Silvia smiled. “I’d like that.”

Tom pulled in to the Salmon Clinic emergency entrance. Having already alerted Marcus when they were within range, he was waiting with several assistants and a gurney. Mitch was whisked inside to the operating room. Kelly sat back, carefully avoiding the blood pooled on the seat, and closed her eyes. She wanted her mate but was too far away to link.

“Welcome to Salmon, Luna Kelly.” She looked up to see Reggie standing next to her door, a pair of scrubs in hand. “They mentioned you could use a shower and change. I’ve got a few people coming to help clean up this mess.”

She smiled and took his hand as he helped her out of the car. “You still have running water?”

“We’ve managed to get a few things up and running. One is a diesel driven well pump; we run it at sundown and just before sunrise to fill the tower. As long as people conserve water, it gives us a clean supply. Electric power is more difficult since most everything was fried. We still have some flashlights. We’ve also gone through the town looking for any forms of transportation that still work. We found two old cars, some tractors, ATV’s, motorcycles- if it has a carburetor, we tried to get it running.”

“How is the town reacting to you?”

“Good now. Marcus bit and saved over a hundred of them. Most of them have now changed, and of the humans left in town, almost all have asked for the change. This town will be fully werewolf in four more days.”

She was shocked, that would make their pack about two hundred and fifty members. It would be one of the largest in the country, mostly new wolves. “The newly turned, how are they doing? Do they fit in?”

“So far, we haven’t had serious problems. We expected to have some issues with dominance, and we have.” Just like wild Packs and dogs, there was a dominance hierarchy. When a new member joined, that person had to figure out where he sat; who was dominant to him, and who he was dominant over. Most of it was figured out with their wolves and non-verbal cues and posturing, but some things had to be fought for. “There have been dozens of dominance fights, nothing serious for injuries.” He chuckled. “We also had some wolves who immediately found their mates. The lucky ones, like Tammy Cordoba, found her mate with a human or another unmated wolf. Mrs. Johnson was not so lucky. When she and her husband got their wolves, she discovered David wasn’t her mate, his brother Bob was.”

“Oh shit.” She started to laugh as they reached the locker room of the clinic. “That must have been interesting.”

“Yep, especially since Bob had always flirted with her. Overall, it’s been very positive for us and the town. I don’t see how else this town would survive; you need the structure and leadership of a Pack to keep everything going well.” He handed her the bag with the scrubs in it. “There are towels, soaps and other stuff outside the showers. I’d warn you about conserving water, but there is no water heater, so that’s self-correcting.” He handed her the small battery powered lantern he had been using. She thanked him and went through the door.

An hour later, Marcus came out of the surgery room. “Alphas, Mitch will be fine. I removed the bullet and repaired the damage as best I could, his werewolf healing should take over from there. He did lose a lot of blood, but I had enough volunteers for transfusions.”

“Thank you, Doc. You get some sleep, all right?” Reggie shook his brother-in-law’s hand, his pride in him evident.

“Sure, Alpha. I need to check on those still with the fever first, including Josi.”

“We went through a few minutes ago, there are only a half dozen townsfolk left who haven’t gotten past the fever, and all of them were damn near dead when you bit them. You’ve done a good thing here, Marcus.”

“I think so too, Reggie. There would only be a few dozen humans left in this town if we didn’t.” He walked off, stripping off his surgical gown and tossing it in the garbage as he headed for the locker room.

Reggie and Kelly went to Josi’s room; she was still feverish but improving. “Luna, I think it is too late to get you back home before sunrise. If you want, we can bring you back to the Pack houses, and you can stay there.”

She looked around. “No, there are plenty of beds and couches here. I want to talk to Josi before I leave. She was ours before she became yours, and her friends are still up in my Pack. I need to tell them how she is doing.” She saw Reggie cuddling his mate. She smiled as she saw the love and care he had for her. Taking the other bed in the room, she laid down and covered herself up.

Tomorrow would be a better day.

Donald woke first, and he moved silently around the cave without disturbing the others. After relieving himself outside the cave entrance, he went back in and started building a fire back up again for breakfast. The smell of meat roasting was enough to wake the rest; Barry, Brian, and Terry soon joined him around the fire. They ate a big meal of steak, canned vegetables, and canned fruits, knowing that they might not eat for a while today.

“How well do you know Corvallis,” Donald asked as he sat back.

“Not well,” said Barry. “We rarely got south of Missoula. We didn’t see any fires, that’s a good thing.”

Terry leaned in. “There aren’t any Packs here in the south valley, so there wasn’t any reason for us to come down here. I came once while in high school, our basketball team played theirs. It’s a nice town, about a thousand people, just up the hill from the river.”

“How well do you think they came through? Are there a lot of stone houses, basements, that kind of thing?”

“I’m not sure. Downtown has some solid stone buildings, but most of the town was built with lumber. I don’t remember seeing much in the way of basements, probably too rocky for most.” He tossed a stick into the fire. “I guess we’ll find out.”

Barry looked out the cave entrance, noting the sun was going to be down soon, then back to Donald. “So what’s the plan? Look for your kin and then what?”

“Change them if they want and bring them back to North Fork.” He saw the shocked faces. “That’s what we did back home. The humans who survived the initial event, we changed them all, but by the time we decided to, we could only save eleven. Down in Salmon, they’ve saved over a hundred by biting them, and the rest of the town will be changing next.”

“But… you can’t do that! It’s against the Council laws; it’s punishable by death!” Barry looked at Donald like he had three heads, their whole lives they had known it was death to let humans know of them. No one would change a human without permission, which only given for mates.

Donald laughed. “Geez, Barry, get with the times. That thinking is SO last week.” He gestured to the cave entrance. “Ninety percent of the living things out there died that first day, the only ones who survived had gone underground or had some protection from the radiation. Cattle, deer, birds- all dead. No electricity, no electronics. No running water, no refrigerators or freezers, no medical care, no manufacturing. It’s all gone. They are all doomed, even ones who made it through the night were dying rapidly. We found out that biting a human allowed the person to fight off the radiation sickness and recover. These were our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. We couldn’t just let them die.” He saw Terry nod in agreement. “It’s a whole new world now. Werewolves are better able to survive than humans, we can function better at night, and we stick together as a Pack. Humans are devolving, they might hang on in pockets, but very few will make it through this winter without us.”

The three looked at each other, obviously talking through the bond. Finally, Barry spoke up. “So you plan to change everyone?”

“Only the ones who have a chance of becoming good pack members. I also can only change those I can take care of and get back to North Fork; without an Alpha to help after the change, they could go feral, and I can’t risk that. It’s too far to walk them back in a night, so unless we get some transportation, we will be limited to those we can carry on our backs. So no; I don’t know what exactly I’ll do yet, but I need to find Silvia’s family. Their house is just north of downtown, she said.”

They took a few minutes to smother the fire and gather the gear as sundown approached. They divided their gear among the bags so they could carry them in wolf form. They put clothes on top as they knew they would be talking to humans. As the sun dipped below the mountains, Donald addressed them with the plan. “We’re going to circle to the north of town and leave our gear there. We’ll change back and dress, then make our way to the house. Try to avoid humans and follow my lead.” With that, they shifted and moved out of the mountains and over the flat land of the valley.

An hour later, they had shifted and dressed. The town was quiet, and the smell of death and decay was heavy in the air. As they moved through the small housing developments, they could see why. The houses were all built on slabs or crawlspaces and were wooden in construction. In the flare, they were huge coffins that provide no protection. They breathed through their mouths to avoid the smell as they worked their way to the address Donald had.

The ranch house was quiet; they worked their way around the outside, using their sensitive hearing they didn’t sense anyone inside. Donald had them keep watch while he went in. He had a small flashlight that still worked; it didn’t look like anyone had been home. He found some orange juice in the fridge; taking that, he went back outside and gathered the guys around. They passed the drink around as he recapped what he did and didn’t see.

The break was nearly over when the sound of a truck came from the north. They spread out, finding places to hide as the lights approached. It was a big Army Reserve truck, the kind with a canvas cover in the back, and it was headed straight for downtown. As it came closer, they could make out the driver, and he was wearing the orange of a prisoner. “Bad guys,” Barry said just loud enough for them all to hear. They stayed in their hides as the truck passed. They could see three guys in the cab and one in the back, all armed with rifles.

When they had passed, the guys got back together. “What do we do about this shit?” Brian looked at the truck disappearing in the distance. “Those guys are bad news.”

Donald nodded. “They are headed for downtown, let’s follow them and see what is going on. Shift to wolf form and follow my lead.” Taking their clothes off and packing them in their bags, they soon were moving along the dark streets. The houses got older as they got closer, including some beautiful Victorians, but there was still no sign of life.

As they approached downtown, they could hear shouting, gunshots, and screaming from the bank building. The wolves moved instinctively to surround the threat while staying out of sight. The scene before them made their wolves rage for blood.

The bank had been the shelter for several townspeople, who were now being herded out by the men with rifles. They could see two men lying dead on the steps, one with a young woman crying over him. The people gathered together on the sidewalk, clutching each other in fear. They watched for a while longer as men were forced to carry loads out to the truck. One by one, they tossed the bags of cash onto the army truck.

Donald motioned for them to fall back, and when out of sight they shifted so they could all talk. The boys were upset. “Donald, what do we do?”

Donald laughed. “They’re idiots.” The boys looked at him in shock. “Did you see what they are going around collecting? Cash.” He waved his hand at the sky. “Do you know what those bills are worth now?”

“I don’t know; they had to have a few hundred grand there,” Terry said.

“It makes sucky toilet paper. If they were taking that, they’d be smart. That, canned food, liquid propane canisters, medical supplies. That’s what you need now, not cash or jewelry. It could be decades before that stuff is worth having.” He looked at them all. “We can’t let them continue terrorizing these people. Are you guys in?”

The three nodded. “All right, we don’t have weapons, so we have to do this in wolf form. Terry, you’ll be with me. We’re going to work our way to the front of the truck while they are in the building and hide underneath. Barry, Brian, you’re going to loop around behind the building and make your way to the front corners. We wait until at least two of the bad guys are at the truck, then Terry and I will take them out.” He stared the three down. “Nothing fancy, go right for the throats and tear them out. We don’t want them to warn others. Barry, Brian, when we move you do too. If there are more bad guys outside, you take them. If they are inside, you wait by the doors for them to come out.”

“What about the people,” Brian said.

“Keep out of their sight, but when we’ve taken the four bad guys out, shift.” Their jaws dropped. “It’s all right. They won’t be as frightened of the wolves that kill the bad guys. Plus, we are going to reveal ourselves anyway, so what better time than now?” They nodded in agreement, and after a few more questions, the four of them shifted into their wolves and moved off.

Donald and Terry waited for the moon to go behind a cloud before they moved from their hide in the parking lot across the street. None of the people were looking their way; they focused on the bank where the bad guys were still having people bring stuff out. They were being watched by one man, who was busy collecting wallets and jewelry from the people in the group. The two wolves crawled under the front wheels of the truck and waited. It didn’t take long before they saw Barry and Brian, both in position, and they were all set.

They heard voices coming from inside. The doors opened, and three men came out, but it was what they were pushing ahead of them that caused them to see red. Four young women, crying, handcuffed, and naked. “Boss will love these young ones,” the last one out said. “They aren’t the same after the first time you fuck them. I can’t believe we found virgins in this town.”

“Yeah, so no dipping your wicks on the way back. If you need to get off, use their mouths, that will help keep them quiet.” A woman broke free of the crowd, begging them not to take her daughter. The trail man pistol-whipped her to the ground as the others reached the truck. The tailgate was down, so the men picked up the girls and tossed them in.

When the last one was up, Donald gave the sign, and the four of them sprung from their hiding places with murderous intent.

Silvia woke up just after noon to a crying Michelle. She quickly picked her up and shut the connecting door between the rooms so it wouldn’t disturb the other children. They had pushed the two beds in her room together, and Autumn, Zach and three Pack children (Joe and Jerry, twins 8, and Lisa, 7) had turned it into a big pile of limbs and paws. She brought Michelle back to her bed, the light coming through the shades and curtains being enough to see by as she changed her diaper. Holding her in one arm, she lit the small camp stove that had been given to her so she could heat the baby formula.

She walked back and forth while she waited, thinking of how her life had turned upside down. Her heart tugged her in different directions. She had to know if her family was still alive. When the formula was ready, she started to walk around the room while Michelle sucked hungrily at the bottle. She was beyond tired but was able to stay awake long enough to finish and burp her daughter and put her back in the drawer they were using as a crib.

She had just collapsed into bed when the first cries came from next door. She listened for a moment, trying to sort out what was going on, as the voice became louder and the other children started to stir. She was about to get up when the door opened. “Mom, something is wrong with Autumn.”

That was all it took for Silvia to leap out of bed and rush to the next room. She could see Autumn thrashing about in the middle of the beds, crying out in pain, as Abigail tried to comfort her. “Oh, God!” She rushed to Abigail’s side, gathering the other children in her arms.

Joe had shifted back to human form, pulling on a pair of shorts from the floor nearby. “I told the Alpha she is changing, but he is busy with other humans. I’m supposed to tell him when she changes.” He looked at Autumn as a loud crack echoed in the room, and her right arm bent at an unnatural angle. “We have to leave her alone, touching her hurts her.”

Reluctantly Abigail set her daughter back down on the bed, tears streaming from her eyes as she watched her baby suffer. The children surrounded her for encouragement, with Jerry and Lisa still in wolf form. The cracks and pops came faster with each minute, and her pained screams tore at their hearts. Her chest and legs were first, then a series of pops like gunfire as her tail formed. Her screams changed as her face reformed, her jaw elongating as it moved to wolf shape. Finally, light fur erupted through her skin. The twenty minutes of her first shift seemed like hours, but then it was over. A tan-colored wolf pup lay panting on the mattress.

Abigail rushed forward, her hands reaching for her daughter’s neck. “You’re beautiful,” she said.

“No, don’t!” yelled Joe, but it was too late. Autumn’s wolf snapped at her, biting into her left hand. She jumped up and growled at the people surrounding her, becoming more and more agitated by the second. Looking for the weak link in the circle around her, she charged at Zach, biting his leg as she ran past him to the carpeting by the closet. She became more frantic as she realized there was no way out, and the people still surrounded her. She backed into the closet, growling loudly and looking desperately for an escape.

Silvia looked around in horror at what was going on. “Everyone, back up from her.” She got the children behind her as they moved to the front of the room, near the door to the parking lot and the other room. Moving slowly, she got the connecting door open while keeping an eye on Autumn. “Abigail, take Zach and go clean those bites in my bathroom. Jerry, Lisa, get over here by the door and lay down.” They moved slowly, not meeting the shaking Autumn’s eyes until they were all in position.

Things were starting to calm down when there was a knock on the door. Everyone averted their eyes as the door opened, and Alpha Calvin came in. Autumn was growling and snapping at the interruption, but Calvin just took off his dark sunglasses and clothes and shifted into his large wolf. Moving forward, he let out his Alpha influence on the young pup. She fought it for a moment, but Alpha influence got her wolf side to settle. She rolled onto her back, exposing her neck to him in submission. He walked up and took her neck in his mouth, then released it. “Welcome to the Pack, Autumn,” he said through the link. “Come meet your Pack members.” She rolled to her feet and with a yip went over to greet the two in wolf form, soon joined by a third. The pups played on the bed as if nothing had happened.

Calvin shifted back and got dressed again, then went to the next room to check on the others. “Sorry about that, I got here as quick as I can. Is everyone all right?”

Abigail came out of the bathroom, holding a washcloth to her hand. “She just nipped me; it will be fine in a few minutes. Zach got a good bite to the leg, it’s still bleeding.” Calvin sent a message to a Pack member to dress and come over with a first aid kit. He didn’t need them becoming infected. “Alpha, will this… I mean, she’s just a pup, can she change us?”

He took the washcloth off and inspected the wound. It was deep enough. “I don’t know. Pups can cause a change, but not always, and we don’t change human children, so that’s a wild card. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if you get the fevers.”

Zach walked out holding the washcloth to his thigh. “So I could be like her?” Calvin nodded. “That was pretty scary watching her go through that. I’m not sure I want to.” He walked to his Mom and grabbed her leg. “What happened in there, Alpha?”

He sat on the bed and looked at them all. “A new wolf can be unpredictable. When she got scared, her human side was pushed aside by her wolf who saw you all as a threat. She was scared, and it was all new, so she just reacted with her primal side. She didn’t even know it was you that she was attacking; she just wanted to get away.” He smiled as the four wolves ran into their room, jumping up on the bed by him and begging him for scratches. “She’s all right now. When the mate or an Alpha is there, it gives the new wolf an anchor, and then her mind finds balance. You’re doing fine now, aren’t you Autumn?” The pup closed her eyes and yipped as he scratched her ears. “Too bad we can’t take you outside to run yet, not until dark. She will have a lot of energy to burn off, so they should play for another hour or two and then get some sleep. Joe, Jerry, can you help talk her through changing back when she is ready?”

The two pups yipped back in reply as they tried to burrow under his arm and get scratches. “I’m counting on you guys to help her out, we have lots of new Pack members today, and the adults are all busy with them.” He stood up and started to get dressed for going back out into the dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun, covering every inch of skin and putting his glasses on. He had a blanket that he pulled over his head, so he could only see the ground a few feet in front of him. “I’ve got to get back, but Beta Candice is almost here. She will help the rest of the night.”

There was a knock on the door, and everyone turned away from the light as the Alpha left and Candice came in. She closed the door and started to take off all the clothing she was wearing. Picking up the first aid kit, she walked over to where Zach was sitting. “Hi, Zach. Alpha said your bite was bleeding, so can you show it to me?” He nodded and moved the cloth aside as his Mom watched. “Well, she got you pretty good there. Let’s clean it up.” She pulled out some alcohol wipes and rubber gloves. “This is going to sting. Can you be brave for me?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled as Autumn jumped up on the bed and crawled until she was next to his other hip, pushing her head under his arm. She looked up at him, and he could see the sorrow in her eyes. “It’s all right, Autumn, I know you didn’t mean it.” He concentrated on petting her, clenching his teeth together as the sting hit.

Candice finished cleaning the wound, then applied an antiseptic and some butterfly strips to hold the skin together. She finished with a large bandaid. Smiling, she pulled off the latex gloves and looked at him. “It will be sore for a few days, so no running or roughhousing until the cut is healed, all right?” He nodded. “If it heals fast, that is an indication he is going to change. Now Abigail, let’s see that hand.” She quickly took care of it as they watched the pups tearing around their room and the room next door.

Abigail couldn’t believe that Michelle hadn’t woken up from all the noise. “Kids, take this into the other room. The baby is sleeping, and you guys need to as well.” The pups looked at her with their heads bowed down. “You heard the Alpha, help Autumn burn off the energy, then sleep.”

Candice smiled. “You guys look wiped, why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll go next door and keep an eye on the kids for you.” She picked up the first aid kit and moved the kids out. “Sleep. I’ll wake you if I need you.”

“Thank you,” Silvia smiled. She and Abigail returned to bed, and Zach crawled in with Sylvia as he was still in pain. She held him close as she tried to sleep, but it wasn’t easy. So much change, and now her son might turn into a wolf. She knew that she couldn’t leave if she wanted to, not with him needing to have an Alpha around for the change. They couldn’t risk what almost happened with Autumn happening while they were on the road. Eventually, sleep took her.

It took another hour for the pups to exhaust themselves on the bed. Candice had to laugh; it was as if a switch had gone off. One moment they were wrestling, and the next, they were asleep in a pile. Watching the pups was bittersweet for her; she had always wanted a big family, but when she found her mate, he was already dying. He was a warrior for the Jackson Hole Pack and was mortally wounded in a fight with an Idaho pack. She was a young wolf at the time. When he died in her arms, she thought her life was over. She wasn’t marked, so with her family’s help, she got past the depression and lived.

She had thrown herself into Pack life after that, helping in every area until being chosen as a Beta. Her duties included everything involved with keeping the Pack running smoothly- food, housing, cleaning, child care- and it gave her a busy if hollow existence.

She let her eyes close with a prayer to Luna, the same prayer she said every night, that she might be granted a second chance mate before it was too late for her to have pups.

Her mind slipped into dream space, and she smiled to herself as Luna gave her a dream. She saw a man. He was handsome and strong, with black curly hair graying at the temples. He walked up to her and took her in his arms. She hugged him tightly as tears fell down her eyes. “I’m coming for you,” he said, his voice penetrating to her very core.

Back at the Salmon clinic, Josi started to wake up after almost a day spent in the fevers. She felt good, her body seemed to tingle with excitement every place her mate was touching her, and since they were nearly naked and spooning in the narrow hospital bed, there was a lot of tingling going on.

She looked around, the room had another bed and she could see Luna Kelly asleep on the other bed. She looked absolutely wiped out. Josi thought about what she wanted to do next, and since she knew werewolves had different beliefs about sex and nudity than humans, she wasn’t going to let Kelly’s presence stop her.

She pulled up on the sleeping gown she was wearing, allowing more and more skin to contact his as it pooled under her firm breasts. Moaning slightly at the sensations, she rubbed her backside against the rapidly growing cock still trapped within his boxer shorts. This… this wasn’t enough. She grinned as she moved his arm back from her waist and she turned around in the narrow bed. He was on the edge, his back against the rail, and he was still deeply asleep.

She scooted down underneath the sheet that was loosely covering them, leaving a trail of kisses along his muscled chest and firm abs. Her tongue followed the trail of dark hair that went from his chest down to his belly button, then continued below his shorts. He still wasn’t stirring, but his cock was hard and pushing against the restriction of his underwear. Reaching her hand in, she moved it so it was freed through the front flap and she jacked it slowly while her tongue continued its journey down.

Josi sat back for a moment, savoring the taste and feel of her mate with her heightened wolf senses. Her wolf was pushing forward in her mind, wanting to take him now. She smiled as her wolf sent her images; her on all fours being thrust into as she moaned in pleasure. Her falling asleep with his cock still inside, holding his essence deep inside. Him holding her stomach from behind as it swelled with pregnancy. The two of them in wolf form in the yard, pups playing on top of them. Her wolf wanted her mate, and she wanted him now. “Patience,” she said. “We will have all that, but we will have fun too.”

She wiggled down the bed until she was at his waist, her left hand holding his rod in place just in front of her mouth. She stretched her tongue out, flicking it around the tip and collecting the clear fluid that was oozing slightly from it. The taste of her mate’s precum caused her own desire to spike, she could feel herself getting wet and her lips swelling. She moved her head towards him, taking the tip into his mouth gently as she moved her tongue around it. Reggie moaned softly in his sleep, and she smirked to herself as she moved him in and out of her mouth slowly.

She took him until he hit the back of her mouth, then stopped as she reached her gag reflex. A few more times, then she held him and yawned, pulling him into her throat as she held her breath. She pulled off after a few seconds, using her tongue and lips on his tip, before moving back again. It wasn’t long before her lips were touching him and she had his full length inside her. She closed her eyes, proud of herself, before pulling back.

He was getting more restless in his sleep as her activities brought him closer and closer to orgasm. She could see his eyes were still closed, but now his hand was on the side of her head as she pulled him deep again. His moans became almost constant, and as he whispered her name in his sleep she felt him swell impossibly large in her throat. Fighting the need to breathe, she kept him deep as he poured his come down her throat while screaming her name in pleasure.

His eyes opened and he shook his head as he realized what was going on. “Josi, love… By Luna, that’s the best wakeup call ever!” He pulled her up next to him and kissed her deeply, tasting himself as his tongue plundered her mouth.

“Congratulations, Luna Josi.” Kelly was sitting up in the other bed, wiping the sleep from her eyes. “You lovebirds continue on, I’ll go rustle up some breakfast. It’s bound to be another long night.”

Last week Josi would have been mortified to be caught in bed with a guy, but now it seemed natural. “Thank you, Kelly, it’s good to see you again. Are you staying long?”

“I don’t know, we brought Mitch here to get fixed up from his gunshot wound. As soon as he can be moved, I’m sure we will be going.” She gave Josi a hug and walked out the door smiling.

Josi snuggled back down in the bed, a satisfied smile on her face as she could feel her mate’s emotions through their bond. “How long was I out, baby?”

“About a day. Now that the fever is gone, your first change should come in the next day. Of course, that’s for a normal change, and you’re anything but normal.” He kissed her forehead. “I can’t believe your wolf came out so early. No one has ever heard of that happening.”

“Well, she needed to.” She started to moan as his hand cupped her breast and his thumb flicked over her erect nipple. “She’s been talking to me. Playing with you is fun, but she wants more. Much more.” She reached down and gripped his cock again, it twitched as it started to come alive. “She wants this inside me until you’ve given me pups, and she doesn’t want to wait.”

Reggie smiled, his wolf was pretty much saying the same thing to him. He wanted her exploding in pleasure beneath him as he filled her. “What do you want, Josi?”

She got up on her knees and pulled the nightgown over her head, then let her hands trail down from her face to her shoulders and cupped them as she looked down at him. Her eyes were going black as her wolf pushed forward, and his eyes also clouded with lust. “You.” She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him down onto his back. He tried to pull her down, but she growled and fixed him in place with a look.

Reggie saw that her wolf needed to take the lead here, and his wolf was all right with that. Even though he was an Alpha, his wolf saw her as his equal and didn’t feel the need to maintain dominance in the bedroom. He relaxed back into the pillow, deciding to enjoy the view, and what a view it was. Her dark hair tossed about her shoulders, her tanned skin, her firm boobs bouncing as she straddled him. She tore his boxers off his hips and tossed them onto the corner, then her hand grabbed him and placed him at her wet entrance. She dropped down onto his length with a loud moan, one he echoed as her walls squeezed him tight.

“Oh God, baby, you feel so GOOD in me!” Josi had her hands on his chest as she lifted her hips up and then slammed them down, their bodies making wet smacking noises as he impaled her over and over. Her eyes started to hood over as she sped up. She rode him hard, her moans echoing through the room as she found her pleasure in him. She sped up to a feverish pace as she approached her peak, and he gripped her hips and thrust back into her. If she was still human, the force of their coupling would have left bruises, but she wasn’t human any more. A werewolf female could take a lot more, and she was taking it.

She let out a scream as she crashed over the edge, and Reggie grunted as he held himself deep inside her as he came as well. His seed splashed her insides as her muscles milked him dry. He looked up at her and her eyes had started to glow, and when her mouth opened he saw that her teeth had partially shifted. Her scream became a howl before she dropped herself onto him. She found what she wanted, the junction on his left shoulder where his neck started to rise, and she bit down hard. Her sharpened teeth easily punctured his skin and her wolf eagerly tasted his blood as she made her claim on him.

The full effect of the mating bond kicked in. Her mind was overwhelmed with the different sensations; her own pleasure still washing over her, his pleasure and love and pride in her, and the celebration of the Pack as they realized their Alpha couple had completed the mating. It was all too much for her after just completing the fevers, and she passed out on him.

Reggie was over the moon with happiness as he held his sated mate in his arms. He had never dreamed that a mate would be such a deep and fulfilling connection. He lightly stroked her back as he thought of how lucky he was to have such a beautiful, strong and worthy female by his side. He still couldn’t believe what he had been told about what happened in the near battle, how her wolf had come forward in full Alpha power before she had even changed. If it hadn’t, the end would have been tragic.

Now, things were good and only getting better. His Pack had rapidly grown and was going to become even stronger as additional humans were changed. He had solidified their alliance with the North Fork Pack, and in a few weeks he would make that alliance regional. Werewolves, he thought, were going to be the savior of the new world.

He waited a few minutes until she began to snore lightly, then he gently rolled until she was laying on her back. He got off the bed and tucked her in. He didn’t want to leave her, but he knew she needed rest before she finished the change. Walking to the mirror, he examined the claiming bite she had given him. It was another first, a mating bite before she even changed. How strong must her wolf be to push forward enough to be able to do this? He shook his head and walked into the bathroom attached to the room. Taking a quick, very cold shower, he cleaned the evidence of their lovemaking off before getting dressed again. With a last look at his sleeping mate, he stepped out into the corridor.

Tom was waiting for him. “How’s the Luna doing, Reggie?”

He smiled. “She’s fine. She needs to rest though.”

Tom moved his shirt aside, checking out his mating bite. “She got you good, but that isn’t a human bite!”

“She did something else I didn’t think possible; her wolf came forward and shifted her mouth in order to claim me. I don’t think it will be long until she competes the shift.” His pride in his mate was evident to all as he moved through the clinic, accepting congratulations and speaking with his Pack members new and old. He checked in with Marcus, who was in Mitch’s room with Luna Kelly. “Doc, how’s he doing?

“A lot better now, Alpha. He’s lucky he got here, the blood loss almost got him. I got him sewed up and we had a few volunteers give transfusions, so he should be fine. He will wake up in a few hours and the Luna can take him home.” He gave his brother in law a hug. “Congratulations on completing the mating, Reggie. Josi is a jewel, she’ll be an amazing Luna for our Pack.”

“I think so too.” Marcus left to check on other patients, so he sat down in the chair opposite Luna Kelly. “Kelly, did you find out what happened to Mitch out there?”

“Yes, before we got too far away from North Fork Calvin linked me with what he had. Silvia had decided to leave for Missoula to check on her family. Beta Donald is her mate, but she wasn’t ready to face that yet.”

Reggie nodded, he knew how much the woman and her family had been through on the road- being raped, losing her husband in front of her, and being rescued by a werewolf. “I imagine so, she has a lot to get her mind around right now.”

“Yes, but we consider her Pack already so we didn’t want her out alone. She wouldn’t allow Donald to escort her, so we sent Mitch along on the pretense of reaching out to some of the Montana packs. Donald followed along, staying out of sight. They got through the mountains before two men ambushed them just as they were entering the valley. Silvia shot one man, and Donald took out the other. It was bad- they shot out the front tire, then shot Mitch as he was getting out.” She clenched her fists in anger. “I’m getting a little tired of my Pack mates getting shot at.”

Reggie nodded. “I know, that’s part of what I want to talk about when we have the Alpha Summit. Right now, I’m focusing on securing the Pack territory, but soon we will have to move out from there.”

“What are you thinking?”

“We can’t have anarchy, and we can’t allow bad men to terrorize the good ones. Face it, Kelly, we ARE the government now. Only a Pack is strong and organized enough to provide safety now. We have to use what we have to make our neighbors safe.” She nodded as he continued. “It’s important for other reasons as well. I figure 90% or more of the population is now gone, along with all the cattle, deer and other animals. Winter will be coming soon, and without planning now the remaining people will die before spring. What I want to do is expand out. Those good people still out there, offer to bring them in, as humans or wolves, provided they respect the Pack structure and laws. If they are good people and don’t want our help, respect that. Bad people- well, those we need to eliminate. We can’t keep looking over our shoulders for the next threat to come.”

“It’s not just people though, is it?”

“No, Kelly, we need to consolidate supplies before they are lost or stolen. Humans tend to stockpile as they are inherently selfish, not having the Pack first. We need to collect everything that will be helpful to us with the Packs. Food, medicine, clothing, fuels- everything. My plan is to send teams out to do what we have already done in this town- find and organize anything that can help us survive in the future.”

They talked for a few more minutes, then Josi’s plea broke into his mind. “Reggie… It’s coming… help.”

Reggie jumped to his feet. “Josi’s changing.” He tore out of the room, Kelly following behind, as they went back to her room. When he opened the door, she had tossed aside the sheet and was curled up in pain on the bed. There was a loud snap as a bone moved, and she let out a scream. Reggie was instantly at her side, encouraging her while avoiding painful contact.

Her wolf was stronger and had already pushed forward a few times, so her change was much more rapid than normal. In just a few very painful minutes, Josi lay in wolf form on the bed. “By Luna, you’re magnificent,” Reggie said. Her wolf was larger than normal, befitting her Alpha status, with a deep chest and strong legs. Her fur was an inky black, with a white patch on her chest and at the tip of her tail. Reggie picked her up and set her on the ground, putting her head in his lap as she recovered from the change. He couldn’t stop petting her neck and ears as he spoke to her over the bond. Finally, she stood up and walked around the room, getting used to her new form.

“It’s after dark now,” Kelly said. “Why don’t you take her for a run?” She yipped in agreement, so Reggie took his clothes off and shifted into his coal black wolf. Kelly chuckled looking at them, they looked like twins with their matching white patches on their chests. Reggie was larger, her head came up to his shoulder, and his white-tipped ear made it easy to tell them apart. Reggie rubbed his neck into hers, walking down one side then the other, laying his scent thickly on her as she stood still. When Kelly opened the door, Josi jumped forward in excitement. She opened the front door of the clinic and the two headed out of town for the woods above.

Two hours later, Mitch was loaded into the back seat of Silvia’s convertible and Marcus was saying goodbye to Luna Kelly. She had just buckled up when two large wolves appeared by her door, the smaller one putting her front paws on it and leaning in to lick her face. “Couldn’t you just change and say a normal goodbye?” Josi yipped and shook her head no, she was having too much fun in wolf form to change now. “Fine then, take care of that man. Visit anytime, I’m sure your friends would love to see you.”

She drove off, and when she was gone the two went to the park and laid together in the grass. “Come on, love, we should change back soon.”

Josi chuffed. “You know you can lick yourself in wolf form, right?” He nodded. “I don’t need you, now that I can do this I may never leave my room!

He jumped on top of her, forcing her head down with his grip on her neck as his body straddled hers. He aligned his body to hers and plunged in, his front paws holding her hips in place. “I don’t think your tongue can do THIS, love.”
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