Donald had to keep his head low as he rushed under the back of the truck, so when he reached his man there was no time to jump. The punk never knew what hit him; one moment he was closing the tailgate and leering at a crying young woman, the next his groin exploded in pain. Donald bit deeply, shaking his head as the momentum of his charge knocked his man on his back. He didn’t wait, he released his bite and lunged for the man’s unprotected throat. This time when his teeth bit deep, he held on. Viciously shaking his large head side to side, his wolf in full control, he ripped and tore at his throat until his head was rolling along the sidewalk.
BANG! He looked for the source of the shot, it was the man who had been beating the old woman in the crowd. He didn’t get off a second shot, Barry leaped onto his back, his teeth gripping him by the spine. The man screamed as he fell forward, his gun dropped from his hand as he tried to grab the wolf off of him. Barry slammed him into the pavement with his full body weight, then shifted his grip and tore his throat out.
Donald looked to his right, Terry had already finished off his man and was running to Brian’s side. Brian had not been as lucky in his attack as his man had moved during his leap, and he only succeeded in biting his shoulder and knocking him to the ground. The man rolled clear and pulled a knife with his good hand, pointing it at the huge wolf who had just attacked him. They could smell his fear as his eyes went from Brian to Terry, then to the others. The two wolves looked at each other, then made a space in the circle for Barry. These assholes had tormented and killed innocents, and they were going to make ONE of them pay with more than a quick death.
Terry moved first, leaping forward from behind and grabbing his knife forearm with his powerful jaws. The man screamed and dropped the knife, he tried to pull his arm away but it wasn’t going to happen. He reached across with his injured arm, but Barry got to it first. The man screamed again as he went to his knees. The two wolves pulled in opposite directions, holding the man in the prison jumpsuit upright as Brian growled in his face.
He pissed himself.
Donald smiled as he watched his friends take the man apart strip by painful strip. The townspeople watched in a combination of horror and relief as his screams were finally silenced. It was such an effective distraction, no one saw him shift into his human form. Pulling the shorts from the man Terry killed since his guy had blood all over them, he stood up and faced the town. “ENOUGH,” he yelled.
The three wolves sat down looking at him, and the townspeople gaped at the bare-chested stranger who had just shown up in their midst. “My name is Donald Ross, I’m with the North Fork pack of werewolves. We come in friendship, and mean you no harm.”
The statement set off a cacophony of yells, statements and questions that he couldn’t begin to answer. “Quiet, please.” He waited for the noise to die down. “I know you don’t believe it, but let’s face it, there’s a lot we can’t believe about these last few days. Terry, Barry, go get some clothes. Brian, come here.”
Brian padded over as the others ran off, despite being covered with blood he was trying to be as friendly and non-threatening as he could. The scent of fear was still prevalent as Donald took the jeans off the man Barry had killed. The crowd moved back nervously as the two approached. Donald looked at them, then back at the three women in the back of the truck who were peering over the tailgate with frightened eyes. “Just watch. Brian, shift.”
Brian turned away from the large group and sat down before smoothly shifting to his human form. As the people behind him gasped and talked, he pulled on the jeans and stood up to face them. “It’s all right,” he said. “We aren’t here to hurt you, we are here to help.”
One of the men in the group stepped forward. “You are real…”
Donald nodded. “We’ve lived among you for centuries, we are your friends, neighbors, coworkers. We just have a little extra.”
“Why are you here? I mean, we appreciate you getting rid of those guys, but why?” The man looked around, some of the people behind him nodding their heads.
“I am looking for the parents of Abigail Dawson.”
There was a shriek from the crowd as a middle aged woman with her dark hair in braids started to cry. “Abigail? My baby is alive?”
“Yes, she’s alive Angela, she’s in North Fork, Idaho with my people.” She looked up at him. “And Autumn is doing fine too.” He rocked her gently as she sobbed into him.
“Your husband? Did Bruce make it?”
She pulled back and looked at the bank building. “He… he’s dying.” She looked down at the ground. “He tried to come get me, I was working at the bank when it happened, and he was blinded. Now he’s got a fever, he’s coughing up blood. We’ve tried to help him, tried to help all of them but nothing works.”
“How many people are sick in there?”
“Thirteen. We lost five today, they don’t think the rest will make it too much longer.”
Just then Terry and Barry came back wearing clothes they had taken from a nearby house. Donald looked at the people and made another decision he didn’t like, but he had to. “We can help, we have a doctor down in Salmon and he knows how to save them. Terry, Barry, help them retrieve the sick and let’s get them in the truck.”
Several people from the group on the sidewalk moved back into the bank, so Donald turned to the truck. “Ladies, I’m sorry for what happened here.” Looking back at the crowd, he asked a few women to find clothes for them then he dropped the tailgate. Digging in his borrowed shorts, he pulled out a keychain that luckily had a handcuff key. He quickly freed three girls, then moved to the front of the bed where the fourth was sitting against the cab, her head down. “Miss, I’m just going to…” He stopped when he lifted her chin and saw the hole in the center of her forehead. Her eyes were open and glazed.
“FUCK!” He checked for a pulse, but there was none. His outburst attracted the other girls, who started to scream and cry for their friend Kim who now was cradled lifeless in Donald’s arms. He called for a blanket, and one was passed in. He had it set down then covered her with it, rolling it around before he picked her up and carried her out. The townspeople were aghast at the change in fortune, the young bank teller had been well liked.
Two women moved forward and relieved him of his burden. “We’ll take her. We have a grave in the park we are using for the dead.” They moved off, several more watching, as the sick and wounded made their way out. The girls were given clothing and helped down, they moved quickly to their friends and family in the crowd.
Terry looked over at Donald as he sat on the steps of the bank. “What now, Donald? We can save a few, but the rest are sitting ducks. Imagine what happens tomorrow night when the guys in Missoula figure out their men didn’t come back.”
He looked around. “I don’t know, Terry, we only have one car and the night is half over already.” He got up and went to the group still gathered on the sidewalk. “Are there any vehicles still running in this town? Especially big ones?”
An older man nodded. “There are a couple old buses at the school district garage, they have the old diesel engines. I fired them up last night, I just didn’t have a place to go. We figure the bank with all the steel and concrete was what saved us from getting sick, so we didn’t leave.”
“Can you go get them?” He nodded, pulling another man with him as they walked down the street. Looking at the rest of the people, he stood tall and gave them the only choice he could. “You can stay here, but we have to take your wounded and we can’t protect you if they come back tomorrow. We do have enough room for you in North Fork. If you want to go with us, grab what food and clothing you can carry and be back here in fifteen minutes to get on the buses.” Some people left immediately, others stayed and asked questions, but soon they had all gone to get ready.
The four men looked around, and Barry looked at the people in the back. “Good a time as any, boss. The sooner we bite them the faster they heal.”
Donald nodded, jumping up into the truck as they closed the tailgate. He pulled off his shorts then shifted to wolf form, then moved from person to person biting their arm or leg. It only took a few minutes and he was back down. They could hear the buses coming. “All right, Terry will be with me in this truck, we will be lead. I want each of you to be in a bus, be up front where you can get out quick if we run into trouble. Tell the drivers to stay together, but keep back from us a quarter mile or so. If we get it trouble, do what you have to in order to reach North Fork or find a place to hide for the day.” The three nodded, it seemed like a good plan.
The townspeople had started to return and loaded up the buses, in addition to the wounded in the truck they had forty-seven more in the buses by the time they left town. Donald drove the army truck, leading the way south. He and Terry were busy scanning the road ahead and the surroundings for danger, but it was eerily quiet. It didn’t get fun until they approached the first town they had bypassed, Hamilton. A man ran out into the road, frantically waving his arms. They slowed down and stopped next to him.
“Thank God you’re here! I can’t believe it!” The man was about eighteen years old and smelled of stress.
“Why?” Donald looked around, the town of over four thousand was strangely quiet.
“Well, because the Army is here to take care of us!” He looked behind them, he could see the lights of the buses coming.
“I hate to break it to you, boy, but we aren’t Army and we aren’t here to take care of you. We’re evacuating some injured and refugees. What is the situation here?”
The kid pointed towards downtown. “We’ve got a few hundred survivors, we are mostly in the town hall, except the sick are at the clinic.” He pointed to the building a few blocks down.
“How many sick?”
“Maybe thirty, I don’t know, they’ve been dying off pretty quick.” He shook his head. “Nothing we do helps them, they end up choking on their own blood.”
Donald sighed, he didn’t have much room but he wasn’t going to leave more people to die. “All right, you wait here for the buses and tell them to meet me at the clinic. We’ll grab who we can. Meanwhile, who is in charge here?”
“The Sheriff, I guess. He’s acting like that, anyway.”
“All right, when you get done with the buses, you find this Sheriff and have him meet me at the clinic.” They pulled away and stopped outside the single-story building. He told Terry to wait with the truck while he went inside.
He was met by a middle-aged woman in scrubs. “Who the hell are you?” Her eyes were sunken with dark circles under them, she clearly hadn’t slept in a long time.
“I’m Donald, I’m evacuating wounded to Salmon where we have a doctor who can help them.”
“How? I’ve been treating these people for days, there is no effective treatment for radiation sickness this severe other than palliative care. If there was, I would be doing it!”
Donald smirked. “The cure, it isn’t one in the medical books. It does work, though.” He looked at her name badge. “Doctor Jenkins, I’d like to start with the most serious cases, we can load them in the truck. A few buses will be here shortly for the rest.”
“No one is going anywhere, mister, until I’m convinced that they will get better care elsewhere.” She folded her arms across her chest, glaring at him.
“Fine. You want to see how we heal them?” She nodded. “Don’t scream.” He stepped back and dropped his shorts, then shifted into his large wolf form. He moved to her, she was frozen until he touched her hand, then she started to scratch his ears. He shifted back, immediately turning to get his shorts back on. “I’m a werewolf, if you haven’t figured it out. When we bite them, the change starts, and the change has regenerative ability. We’ve saved over a hundred people this way, people with blindness, sickness, even on the brink of death. There is no other way, you of all people know that the ones who haven’t recovered yet, won’t.”
“Well raise my rent, you ARE the kid.” She shook her head, still trying to get her mind around it. “I’m coming with, though. They are still my patients.”
“Fine.” She led him back to where the most serious cases were, and between the gurneys and him carrying them they had four people loaded in the truck before the buses got there. Barry and Brian exited the buses, while the other people looked out the open bus windows. “We’re taking Doc here and their sick with us. It’s going to be tight, so please cooperate.” Five minutes later, the bus and the truck were full just as a Sheriff arrived.
“What the hell is going on here, Doc?” He looked at the half-dressed men and the buses. “And who are these people?”
“I’m Donald Ross, from North Fork. I evacuated most of these people from Corvallis. There is a criminal gang out of Missoula, they sent people south to loot and kill. They are dead, but tomorrow night they might come here. I suggest you be ready for them.” Everyone else had loaded up, so Donald shook his hand as he got ready to leave. “I’ll send reinforcements when I can, we will honk the horn three times as we approach so you know we are friendly. All right?”
The Sheriff looked at Donald, then up at Dr. Jenkins who was in the middle of the seat next to Terry. “You agree with this, Doc?”
She nodded. “We have to go, keep everyone safe, all right? Let them know that I’m taking my patients to Salmon for care.” Donald hopped up and put the truck into gear, and they moved off with the buses following.
Donald pushed the truck up as fast as he was comfortable as they went down Highway 93, still nervous as they hadn’t cleared this part of the road. Terry was answering Doc’s questions, and she had a lot of them. Donald had to answer about the changes, the process, the symptoms, everything. Finally, as they saw the sign for the next town, Donald realized that they still had decisions to make.
“We’ve got Como, Gorus and Darby still before we hit the mountains. What about those people?” Doc’s question hit them hard; even though the towns were smaller, they still could have survivors.
“I’m hoping the Sheriff can stop any bad guys in Hamilton, that gives us a little time.”
Terry looked out. “Yeah, but that doesn’t help any sick, and it doesn’t ensure the towns are safe for us to pass through.”
Donald noodled on it, he didn’t like the answer but it was the best one. “You’ll have to link this to Barry and Brian. I’m going to just drive straight through the towns, if they don’t attack we’ll assume they are friendly. Have Brian bail out in Como, Barry in Gorus and you in Darby. Scope out the people, change those who are sick, and organize the rest. Top priority is vehicles, food and drugs. I’ll bring reinforcements back tomorrow night and we can pick them up.”
“You sure they’ll want to go?”
Donald nodded. “Most will, we can offer them safety and community. If they don’t, fine. The towns are close enough together that you should be able to pass messages along.” He waited for Terry to finish his linking, then finally it was agreed on. Just in time, Donald thought, as they pushed through the first town.
He didn’t slow down too much as he passed through the one stoplight town, the stoplight of course not working. He had to stop and push a vehicle out of the way to clear the road, but it was enough for the coming buses. They were out of the town without incident. This repeated at the next two towns, and soon they had reached the mountains again.
“Are we going to make it, Donald? It’s not too long until sunrise.”
“I think so, Doc. We’ve been through this part of the road, it’s clear and safe. I don’t think we will make Salmon but we can at least stop in North Fork for the day.”
“That won’t affect our sick?”
“The first ones are going to start getting the fevers in a few hours. Our Pack has enough people to help them out, and you’ll be there to monitor.” This led to a long discussion about Pack structure, what had happened in their Pack and Salmon, and other details that kept him busy until they were close enough for him to link his Pack.
Alpha Calvin was surprised to hear from him so soon, more so when he was told what he was bringing. He promised they would be ready, and he said he would make sure Abigail was there to meet them. “What do you want me to tell Silvia, Donald?”
He sighed. “Tell her I have to go back, that I couldn’t get farther north than Corvallis. I’ll explain it to all of you when we are settled.” He wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.
“I will. And Donald?” Calvin waited a moment. “I know you did what you had to do, she won’t hold it against you.”
“I hope so, Alpha. I really hope so. I hope she doesn’t hate me if she finds out her family didn’t make it because I didn’t go there like I said.” He cut the communication off, wiping his eyes as he needed to focus on the road ahead.
When they pulled into town, the whole Pack was there to meet them. He came to a stop, and before he turned the truck off people were already starting to unload the sick from the back and carry them inside. He looked around for his Silvia, and his shoulders fell when he didn’t see her. “Welcome back, Donald.” Calvin embraced his Beta as they looked back at the buses.
“GRANDMA!! GRANDMA!!” An excited Autumn raced forward as Angela stepped off the bus. They both started to cry as she hugged her granddaughter to her. The pair was quickly embraced by a crying Abigail.
“Mom? Is Dad…”
“He’s still alive, honey. He’s in the truck, he was very sick. Donald said that biting him would save him, so that’s what he did.”
Autumn started to jump up and down. “Yay! Grandpa gets to be a wolf too!”
“Yep, watch me Grandma!” Autumn pulled off her dress and shifted into her pup form. She jumped up with her front paws and started licking her face as she leaned down.
“Oh my, it’s true!” Angela knelt and hugged the pup to her. “You’re beautiful, Autumn!”
Donald walked towards the hotel, he was completely wiped out and the others would take care of all the people he had brought with. There was only one person he wanted to see, and she was hiding in her room. As he got closer, the door opened and his mate stepped out, her scent both calming and exciting his wolf.
“My family?” She looked at him with hope in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Silvia. Missoula is under the control of a criminal gang, I couldn’t get close enough to find them, and then I had to deal with all this.” He looked over to the others.
Her face fell, and she closed the door on him without saying another word.
Donald sat in front of her door, his hands over his face, and he sobbed as his mind went back through everything that had happened, wishing it would have turned out differently.
Donald sat by her door, his wolf whining in his head at the separation from his mate. He had stopped crying twenty minutes earlier, he knew it wouldn’t help to rehash his decisions. As he looked at the people settling in, he knew deep down he had made the right choice for the Pack to bring them here, to save the sick and dying.
It wasn’t right by his mate, though, and her disappointment crushed him.
He listened as she moved about the room, feeding and then changing Michelle and putting her to bed. Abigail and her family had passed him as they went into the room next door. She was crying as she hugged him and thanked him for saving her parents. He told her it was the right thing to do, and he almost believed it. They had seen Silvia’s mood and had taken Zach into their room, he was going to sleep with the puppy pile in one bed while Abigail and Angela shared the other.
The moon had set, but the dawn was quickly approaching. Soon he would have to go back to his home or find another place to sleep, as the light was still too strong to bear. He stood up, his old bones cracking and protesting from too long spent on the pavement, when the door opened.
“Donald?” His mate stood there in the door, a long T-shirt covering her body. She was tired, and he could see the tracks where the tears had gone down her face before being wiped away. “Can you… can you stay with me?”
“Of course, Silvia.” He watched as she turned around, walking slowly towards the bed. He linked a Pack member, asking for clothes to be brought to him so he wouldn’t have to leave. He followed her in and tucked her in bed, leaning down to kiss her. “I will always be here for you, Silvia. You never have to ask.”
He gently stroked her hair as she fell asleep. There was a gentle knock on the door and he got up to get the clothes, then checked to make sure Michelle was sleeping soundly before he stepped into the bathroom. He lit the candle and stepped into the shower, for once glad that the cold water could be put to productive use. He scrubbed the dirt, grime and blood from his skin as he tried not to picture how the light penetrated the loose shirt Silvia had been wearing. His mate had luscious curves, a body made for loving and bearing children, and he and his wolf couldn’t wait to see it and touch it.
He cursed to himself, as he’d gotten excited just thinking about how he shouldn’t get excited. Directing the cold spray on the offending member, he did math problems in his head until it had subsided. When he was truly freezing, he turned off the water and dried himself off. Quickly dressing, he shaved and brushed his teeth before leaving the room.
The sunrise provided a gentle light in the room, enough for him to see that nothing had changed during his time in the bathroom. He looked at Silvia in her bed, curled up on herself on the left side of one bed. The other bed was empty, and this was his next important decision. She had asked him to stay with him, but was she ready to share a bed with him? The safe play would be to take the other bed.
He moved to the other side of her bed and quietly slipped beneath the covers. He was on his side facing her back, and his wolf was pressing him to touch her, to hold her in her arms. He scooted over until he was close enough to kiss her shoulder, then he put his arm over her and gently pulled her back into his chest. She stirred in her sleep, moving her hips back to his and snuggling in to a spoon position before dropping back off to a deeper sleep.
He smiled to himself, the pull of the mate bond was working on her, and with that thought he drifted off to his own sleep.
He opened his eyes to find himself on a rocky hilltop, with fog moving between the broken stones. The full moon bore down upon him, the mist occasionally getting in between. He was walking with his wolf alongside him on the strange landscape when he saw them.
The woman was beautiful in an otherworldly manner; her hair was so white it almost glowed, her face was pale and clear, her eyes swirled with power. The dress she was wearing was loose and torn, it was a light material that shifted in the wind while barely covering her body. By her side were two white wolves, both male and female reeked of power and dominance. When she looked at him, her power overwhelmed him and he quickly dropped to his knees, his wolf lying down beside him. There was no mistaking who this was. “Luna…”
He bowed his head as she approached, soon her bare feet were in front of him and she had cupped his cheek with her hand, raising his head to look at her. “Walk with me, my child, we have much to discuss.” She held out her hand and he took it, the hand was warm and sent tingles up his arm, he was instantly comforted as he stood up.
“My Goddess, so many times have I prayed for your help.” He couldn’t look at her as they started to walk along the clouded path, the three wolves following close behind. “There was so much I did not understand, now more than ever.”
“The ways of the Gods are not always smooth. Yes, I am a Goddess, I have powers over the hunt, and over werewolves, but I do not control it all. What has happened was the work of the Sun God, not me. I have been doing my best to help and to save my people, but it is not easy. There is so much anger at the way the world has turned out, most of the Gods wanted a reset and they got their way.”
“So all of this death…”
“Yes, and there will be more, and to prevent that and to keep my people alive I need you, I need people like you. You’ve seen what is going on up in the valley, there is true evil at work there. My people were not prepared, I was not able to save but a few when this happened. There needs to be a Pack up there, but right now I have no Alpha pair to lead it. That is why I have chosen you, and have given you a worthy mate. You need to be the Alpha that saves those people and makes them into a strong Pack.”
He looked at his wolf, doubt creeping into his mind. “But I am not an Alpha, I am a Beta… I am strong, but I do not have the power.”
Luna laughed to herself as the wolves chuffed. “Where do you think that power comes from, Donald? I give it to those who I deem worthy to have it. You have demonstrated with your entire life, not just the past few days, that you are worthy. You didn’t seek power or land or glory, you sought justice; and when hard decisions came, you always placed the Pack above your own desires. You are exactly what is needed.”
She placed her right hand on his chest and chanted a few words, her hand began to glow and then it spread to his whole body. He felt the power, his wolf was more powerful, the Alpha influence coming to rest inside of him. When the glow stopped, he fell to his knees and held tight to his wolf. It took a few moments to collect himself before he could stand.
He looked at his Goddess, and one question that had plagued him forever came forward. “Luna? I don’t mean disrespect, but I’m fifty years old. Why did you wait so long to give me a mate, and then it is a human who isn’t ready for me?”
She looked out, her hands gently scratching the ears of her two companions, as she thought about how to answer. “Sylvia is your mate, but she’s actually the third woman I’ve paired with you.” He froze as the implication came in. “Your first mate was a warrior in a pack in Colorado, she was killed in a battle months before your scheduled visit there when you were twenty-two.”
“Wait, you’re a Goddess, how did you not save her? Or know that she would die first?”
“Yes, I am a Goddess, but only the Goddess of Fate knows the future. When I pair wolves together, I make the best match I can, and then try to influence things so the two meet. Most times it works, other times it doesn’t.” She wiped the tear from his face. “I then paired you with a child in a Cascade pack; when she grew up, she fell in love with another man and never sought you out. Last year she killed her wolf.” She looked at the moon. “She took a large dose of wolfsbane, so that as a human they could be together and have children. As you can imagine, this displeased me but since she was human she was no longer one of mine, and there is no going back from what she did.”
Donald was crying now, he had sat heavily on the ground as his wolf rubbed against him, howling his pain and loss to the moon. His whole life, two mates taken from him before he even met them.
Luna sat at his side and placed her arm around him, the two white wolves pressing up against their backs from behind. “I was going to find another, maybe one who lost her own mate, when all this happened. There was so much death, so many wolves died in that first couple days. Then I saw you on the road to Salmon. Did you ever wonder why you didn’t recognize your mate’s scent when you first smelled her on the men who attacked her on the road, but you did when you found her in the car?” He nodded. “It wasn’t until I started to look at her that I knew she would be a good mate. She was so strong in the face of things; I know she is a mess right now, but there is steel within her. She is passionate, loyal, everything I was looking for in a match for you. Since her husband was killed, I put the bond in place between you and you know the rest.”
“It’s so difficult though, she resists the pull.”
“She’s in your arms now, isn’t she?” Luna smiled. “It is different when I put the bond with a human, since they don’t belong to me and they feel it differently. I have been doing this a lot lately, as you have seen. It was important that we bring humans in, to rebuild our Packs and allow us to survive the coming years. Now with Silvia, she doesn’t understand everything, but the bond will do what it must. Treat her well and with patience, and she will rule by your side.” She got up and pulled him up after. “It is time for me to go, Donald. I will help you as I can, but your future is very much in your hands. You have the right ideas and instincts, so think of the people of the Bitterroot Valley as your Pack and you will do the right thing.”
He stood there as she walked away, the two wolves by her side, as she was swallowed up by the mist. The darkness came, and when he next opened his eyes he was looking at Silvia’s hair in front of his face. He smiled, his wolf content with her in his bed. He rolled to his back and looked at the ceiling as his mind processed the dream. He had never expected the Goddess to answer, much less what she had told him. It changed everything, and he was starting to get excited about the prospect of being the Alpha of a large pack with her by his side.
His thoughts were interrupted by Silvia’s nightmare. She started to toss and turn, she was begging the men to stop, to leave her alone. He reached for her and this just caused her to scream and fight him. He gripped her wrists, holding them to his chest as he called her name and finally she woke up. “Donald?”
“You’re safe, love. I’ve got you.” With that, she rolled over and buried her face in his shoulder as the emotions poured out. He held her tight as she told him of that night, finally letting go of the guilt from her assault and rape. It took an hour for her to get it all out, but she finally fell asleep in his arms. “I love you, Silvia. I always will.”
The sound was so soft he could barely hear it, but he did. “I love you too.”
Donald’s wolf was on alert as they slept, intent on protecting his mate that was snuggled in to his side where she belonged. As soon as the connecting door opened, his eyes opened and he saw Zach standing in the door. He could immediately smell his distress as his eyes took in the sweat spots on his T-shirt and his flushed appearance. “Come on in, Zach, Your mom is really tired right now, but I can help you.”
Zach moved over and sat on the bed facing them. “I woke up, I’m all sweaty but I’m still shivering.”
Donald carefully moved Silvia’s arms and legs off him and tucked the pillow into her arms. He watched as she sniffed the pillow and pulled it closer, then dropped back into a deep sleep. He rolled off the bed and put his hand on Zach’s forehead. He was burning up. “It’s the fevers, Zach. The change is underway, you’re going to become a werewolf.”
Zach started to cry, and Donald sat by him and pulled him into his side. “I… I’m afraid. It looked like it hurt so much…” He closed his eyes, remembering the change that had come to Autumn.
“It does, but the pain goes away, and what you are left with is worth it,” he said. “Look at Autumn now; she is happy with her wolf, she has sharp senses, she is stronger, and most importantly she is better suited to survive and thrive. Things are getting bad out there, Zach, and you changing will be a good thing. You will be able to protect your mom and your sister better as a wolf than as a human. That’s important, I can’t always be here for them.” He picked him up, then pulled the comforter off the motel bed and pulled the thin sheet back. He set Zach down, covering him with the sheet, and put his hand on his shoulder. “You’ve seen what happens now; the fevers will get bad, but soon you will sleep and you’ll miss most of them. We’ll take care of you until then.”
“I’m thirsty, Mr. Donald.” Donald moved to the sink, taking a plastic glass he filled it with cold water and soaked a washcloth in it as well. He let Zach drink it down then, as he laid back, he placed the cold cloth on his forehead.
“Rest now, try to sleep. I’m going to check on the others.” Donald knew that if Zach was changed, Abigail would be too. He quietly opened the door to the other room and moved to the bed where she was sleeping. Her forehead was burning hot and she had tossed her covers off. She didn’t wake up as he picked her up in his arms and brought her back into the other room. He placed her on the other side of Zach, then went to get a cold cloth for her. There wasn’t much else they could do, in about 24 hours they would both wake up.
Duane Molback woke to the glare of the sun in his eye. He was going to roll back over and sleep, then his brain recalled that sunlight was bad and this meant something had happened. He sat up in the bed of grasses he was using to separate his body from the cold of the concrete tube they had taken refuge in; it was a drain pipe going underneath a roadway on the east foothills of the Bitteroot Mountains. Looking to the side, he saw that some of the branches they used to cover the south end of the pipe had fallen, probably due to the wind.
He looked back the other way, over the huddled forms of the women and children he had with him, and saw the north end was still good. Groaning a little as he rolled to his knees and stood up as best he could, he tried to focus on the floor as he walked to the light. The culvert pipe was only five feet in diameter, so his six foot two frame was hunched over. He held a hand over his eyes, his tanned fingers touching the gray that had started on his temples when he turned forty last year. He smiled as he recalled how his Alpha had teased him, telling him that he should use some Grecian formula so as not to scare away his mate when he saw her, since he was starting to look like a grandfather.
He made it to the end, and focused on moving the branches back to where they blocked sunlight again. This was their fourth day underground and there was no telling if and when it would be safe to be out in the light again. When he could finally look up and he verified all was ready, he turned and moved back to his makeshift bed. Laying on his back, he looked at the shadows in the diffuse light and thought about how he had gotten here.
That Saturday had been a normal day for the Wise River Pack in Montana. He was in his office, working on the training schedules and his other duties as the Gamma or Third in Command. He could see the pups playing in the yard out his office window when suddenly the lights went out and his radio stopped. The Pack bond was full of confused voices and reports until a patrol on their southern border reported he thought he smelled other wolves. The Alpha blasted through the link, declaring attack protocol and calling all warriors to go with him to the south.
In retrospect, it was the one false report that doomed most of his pack. As third in command, he was the Luna’s guard and in charge of protecting the vulnerable of the Pack. Rushing to the basement, he opened the Pack safe room as the well-trained women and children lined up to get in. He stood guard outside until all were accounted for, then he locked himself in using the sliding iron bars. The thick steel doors and reinforced concrete of the safe room were designed to hold off attackers indefinitely.
He looked around, the room was full of the Pack’s young and mothers of young children. Those women who were unmated, with no or with older children were outside the Pack house, forming a last line of defense. He reported all secure, followed by the Beta female’s report that the house was secure, and listened to the Alpha’s communications as they rushed south.
It wasn’t long before they realized this wasn’t something they were prepared for. In ten minutes, multiple wolves reported having problems seeing, and getting sunburns on exposed skin. By the time they all realized that being outside was deadly, their eyesight had failed and their bodies were literally cooking in the solar radiation that was pouring down on them. The Luna ordered the women to report to the safe room, but only half of them made it. Their wolf healing couldn’t keep up with the damage, and over the next few hours all of them died.
The ones outside were lucky, their deaths were quicker and the pain was over sooner. The safe room was a madhouse, the mates feeling the pain and death of their men and wails filled the dim space. Many lost the will to live, and they begged to be let out to join them in death. It broke his heart to turn them down. Even the Luna had ordered Duane, and he refused her. He was still under orders to protect her, even against herself.
They didn’t open the room until well after sundown. When we got outside, the scene they found was horrible. The Pack members who had died outside were red and bloated, their skin burned badly. The Pack cattle and livestock, all dead. When they listened, they heard nothing- no birds, no animals, just the wind through the trees and the wails of the women and children when they located their fathers and family members.
The Luna killed herself shortly after reaching her mate, and for the twenty-two remaining members of the Pack, it made for a lot of work. The warriors were gathered and burned together in a shallow ravine, while the rest were placed in the loft of the hay barn. Duane had chosen this as it was a ready-made pyre and without livestock would not be needed. Saying a few words, he tossed a lit torch into the hay and the remaining Pack watched as their family was sent home.
Duane ordered them back to the safe room before sunrise, not knowing what dangers the sun might bring. It was a wise decision. Looking around, he had six women left and he was the only adult male. The rest were children between six months and fourteen years. It wasn’t much, he thought as he went to sleep.
That night was his first visit from the Moon Goddess. She didn’t say much, just that he was to journey to North Fork as he would find his destiny there, and those with him would find a new Pack.
When he woke everyone up just before sundown, he told them of what Luna had said and to prepare for the trip. They each packed backpacks with clothes, food, and water, plus a pack with medical supplies. He checked the vehicles, but the only one still running was an old dump truck they used to haul manure and hay.
It would certainly be a fragrant trip, he thought. They put a large tarp in place over the back and tied it down on the outside, then weighted the inside down with mattresses taken from the pack house. Pillows and blankets were then put in place so the young ones could sit or sleep during the trip, and the packs lined the outside. Duane drove, with two of the women in front with him. They only made it twenty miles the first night before they had to seek shelter in an abandoned barn; there were too many vehicles lining the road, too many things that forced them to stop and send a wolf forward to check it out.
The second night was a little better, but the smell of death was now constant. They stopped at a stream just outside of Gibbonsville to stretch their legs and get water, all of them shifting and taking a quick run. Duane froze along with the others when they heard a mournful howl in the distance. He raised his head, letting out a howl of greeting, and they waited. Soon there was another, from a different hill. He sent the young ones back to the truck while he waited.
Ten minutes later, two wolves trotted up to him and shifted, so he did too. Luke and Leia were twins from the Wisdom pack, both had just reached mating age and he remembered them from when they visited looking for mates. And yes, their parents were huge Star Wars fans. “Kids, what are you doing out here?”
“Looking for anyone who made it,” Luke said. “Our Pack is gone, we were the only ones to make it. We were exploring a cave when this thing hit, and we got enough of a warning to stay there until nightfall.”
“We spent the night looking for survivors, then went back to the cave for the next day. That night Luna came to me and told me we needed to head west to the Salmon River.”
Duane rubbed his chin. “Funny, she told me the same thing.” He looked up at the moon and smiled. “You may as well ride with us, we’ve got a truck. Just try to ignore the smell.” He led them back to the road and helped them climb in the back, after introducing them to his remaining members he got back in and they headed down the road, next stop, North Fork.
Beta Candice awoke in a sweat, her arousal heavy in the air after the dream she had finished. Her mate had come to her in the dream; he was tall and handsome and she ran into his strong arms as he ran to her. Their lips crashed together and she ran her hands through his thick hair as their bodies made tingling contact everywhere. She felt the tingles shoot through her body as if it was an electric wire, from her mouth to her nipples to her molten core. No matter how much contact she had, she wanted more. He carried her into her room, closing the door behind her before setting her down on her feet. They looked at each other for only a second before the need to be naked overcame them, and they ripped the clothes off each other before she jumped on him and lined up his turgid length to her sex and smiled before plunging down and…
“Candice, we need you immediately!”
“Yes, Alpha, I’ll be there in a minute.” She got up, looking at the hotel bed next to her she could see the children were still asleep. Zach was no longer there, but she could smell him next door so she figured he had gone to his mother. She could see that the sun was just below the mountains, so she quietly left the room and headed for the park.
As she approached her Alphas and Beta Donald, she could tell something was different. The power emanating from the group was stronger than usual. She couldn’t help but to submit as she approached, not her Alphas, but Donald.
“Candice, may I introduce Alpha Donald of the Bitterroot Pack.”
Reggie’s wolf moved through the barren landscape, Josi keeping pace at his left side. They moved around the large rocks that were alternately hidden and exposed by the fog slowly moving down the slope. “Do you recognize any of this, baby?”
“No, never been here.” They kept their senses alert and both were sniffing for clues as to where they were. She rubbed against him, slowing him down as her senses started to fire. “Slow down… there’s something up ahead.”
They slowed to a walk and spread out instinctively as they crept forward. They each took a side of a large boulder, and when they were on the other side the fog suddenly cleared and they stopped at the sight, dropping to their bellies at the power of the woman in front of them. She was ethereal in her beauty, He long hair was so pale as to be white, and it almost glowed in the moonlight. Her face was young, yet her eyes were old and held wisdom and power in their soft glow. A white fur graced her shoulders, above the long white dress that had silver bands on the arms and a silver belt at her waist. At her side were two huge white wolves of obvious power. She held her arm out to the two black wolves and her voice filled their minds. “Rise, my children, we need to talk.”
“Luna…” Josi looked at her in wonder, her wolf letting her know who this was.
“Yes, my special child. How happy I am to have you as one of mine, and to have you together with Reggie.” They shifted to human form, and with a wave of her hand Luna covered her with a dress and him with white pants and a shirt. She opened her arms and they moved to her, she hugged them as the emotions of the moment boiled over. When they could look up, she pulled back and took their hands. “Walk with me, please.”
“Luna, why did my parents die?” Reggie was still crushed by their loss, and Josi could feel his ache through the bond.
“It wasn’t my plan for them to,” she said. “Lisa was making a change in the Pack, and a bigger change in her mate. If not for the hatred of that human, they would have made peace just like you did and I wouldn’t have had to push Josi’s wolf forward so fast.” She looked at Josi with a smile. “It is a good thing you are strong and young, having that Alpha power come out before your shift occurs can be damaging. I had no choice, though, and you responded magnificently. As a result, your town will have peace and your pack is becoming powerful, just as I wanted.”
“You don’t control these events? I thought you were all-powerful.” Reggie looked up at her, a little confused.
“I have many powers, but knowing the future is not one of them. Nor am I the only God, and we don’t always work in the same way for the same things. This whole conflict is a result of those Gods who are upset with how humanity has developed, and thinks it is time to start over. I’m doing all I can to preserve my people, at least those I have left.” She pulled them to the edge of the cliff and they looked out over the Earth far below. “So much has changed in the days since the Sun burned the earth. Human nature has shunned community and compassion, and has devolved into power struggles and violence. I don’t need the powers of Fate to see what the end will be of this. Mankind will only have a pittance survive the coming seasons, and could be snuffed out completely, if it has no leadership.”
She showed them images from the burning cities, the fighting and the violence. “Humans see us as animals, as being violent creatures without humanity because they are afraid of the power of our wolf side. They delude themselves in thinking that this violence is part of our wolf nature, and not part of our common human nature. It always happens that in the absence of moral guidance they behave like this. Your job,” she said, “Is to provide that governance and pull humanity back from the brink.”
“Do we need to make them all werewolves?” Reggie looked down. “I don’t want some of them in my Pack.”
“Of course not, Alpha. Never make a wolf out of someone unworthy of being in your Pack. Do not force the change, either. What you will do is take control of your territories and provide safety and governance for those who live there. My Alphas will become the basis of the next world system of governance, as only they can start the change. That change will begin in towns like yours, and spread to cover the land.”
Josi looked out at the violent land below and shuddered. “You ask a hard thing of us.”
“Not really, you are already doing the things I need you to do. You are cooperating with other Packs and humans, you are reaching out to the other Alphas, and you are taking care of your people. I just need you to focus on what is important and do it while you still can.” She squeezed her hand. “Winter is coming, and there will be no crops this year as the sun is burning them all. Wildfires are bound to happen as well. I need you to consolidate what you have in your territories under your Pack control before it is lost to bandits, rot or fire. Use the humans and the wolves quickly, while the food and fuel is still there for you to take. Centralize it and protect it so your Packs survive to next harvest.”
Reggie looked out as well. “And at the same time, make things safe for our Pack territories.”
“Exactly. You will not be alone, though. All throughout the world, I am visiting surviving wolves and giving them messages. Alphas like you get this message, those who are of lower rank are told where the nearest surviving Packs are. You will see a flood of wolves coming your way soon, the remnants of Packs no longer viable. They will bring the numbers and skills you need to continue your work. Don’t be jealous or possessive, your three allied Packs will need to allow humans and wolves alike to flow to the Pack that has need of them, plus many are going to find mates among you. That’s also part of my plan to grow my people.”
Josi looked at her in confusion. “Three packs? There is just us and North Fork.”
Luna smiled. “You will see soon. Keep doing what you do best, which for you is helping humans through the change and training them quickly to join the Pack. Let Alpha Calvin do what his pack does best, organizing the people to get things done that need to be done. Let the third Alpha establish a safe territory to the north, and show you the way to expand outward.”
“Who is the third Alpha?”
“You know him already, my child.” She led them away from the cliff and back to the rocks. “It is time, when you awaken I need Reggie to take warriors with you to North Fork while Josi continues to work with the human changes. Remember I will be with you as you go forth.” The two Alphas looked in wonder as Luna faded to nothing, then the scene faded to nothing and they awoke in bed in each other’s arms.
“You said it, Josi.” He pulled her into his broad chest and held her tight. “It just got real.”
The pair got out of bed, the sun was just about to drop below the mountains and the Pack was moving about. He quickly contacted his leadership, informing them of the gist of the dream and that Josi would be in charge while he and his warriors rushed up to North Fork to join Alpha Calvin. There was plenty to do, more humans had requested the change and the new wolves needed intensive training and immersion in Pack life to adjust.
Twenty minutes later, Reggie’s large wolf howled and was answered by his warriors and the Pack as they set off down the road. He set a fast pace, the twenty-five of them forming a line as they raced through the trees backlit by the fading twilight. The aurora borealis were already apparent, but not as much as in previous nights. The solar activity was returning to normal.
They stopped briefly when a truck approached carrying wounded; Reggie talked to the driver briefly then linked Marcus they were coming. He would never turn down those in need of medical help.
As they approached the bridge that marked the border between their territory, Reggie howled in greeting and was immediately answered by a welcoming howl. A border guard was standing naked on the middle of the bridge when they came into view. “Follow me, Alpha is expecting you.” He shifted into his grey and white wolf and took off, and the column didn’t break pace as they continued down the road. It wasn’t long until they came into North Fork and were led to where Alpha Calvin, Luna Kelly and his Betas were waiting to greet them.
Reggie stopped in front of them and shifted, pulling shorts out of a bag around his neck he put those on then a shirt as his men and women behind him did the same. Moving forward, he embraced Calvin and Kelly, then stopped confused as he encountered the Alpha aura surrounding Donald. “Donald? You…”
“Luna appeared to me and gave me Alpha powers, she is sending me to the Bitterroot Valley to protect the people there.” He embraced Reggie, who he used to play with at Pack functions when he was a puppy, and smiled broadly. “Come, we have much to talk about.”
They all moved to the picnic area where Calvin had his Pack waiting. “Wolves of North Fork, honored friends, tonight is a great night because Luna herself has spoken to us and blessed us.” There was a murmuring that quickly died down. “Last night, Luna spoke to me about how the North Fork pack would help lead the way out of the mess that surrounds us.” He detailed the charge she had given his Pack, to teach and help organize the resources of their area so that they would have food, water and heat for all to survive. When he was done, he turned the stage over to Alpha Reggie, who described his own dream and how Luna wanted their Pack to take the lead in changing and training humans to live within the Pack. Finally, it was Donald’s turn.
“Last night, Luna appeared to me and told me more about what was happening to our north.” He sighed, some of the people in the park had been rescued from those towns, and more remained. “The Packs of the Bitterroot valley were hit hard, none of the Alphas of that region survived. There are a few wolves who have already come to me, and others are out there. Luna charged me with becoming the Alpha of the region, and my first task is to protect the people that live there. Barry, Brian and Terry were with me when we met the criminals in Corvallis, men who were out to rape and plunder the populace. Those men are dead, but more are out there. This is also personal to me, because my mate’s family is in Missoula where this gang is based.” Silvia moved forward and took his hand as he looked at her with adoration. “Our first task is to bring peace to the Valley, after that we will gather a Pack and help the remaining humans survive and change if they desire.”
“This isn’t just something for Donald to do,” Reggie said. “Luna wants this done first, and how we do it will be a model for how we move into new territories to bring peace. Whether you have friends or relatives up there doesn’t matter, we still haven’t heard back from our allied packs to the South and that is the next direction we will go. Luna wants us to establish safe and secure territories where human and werewolf can live and thrive, and repopulate the earth.”
“Donald is going to lead the warriors in the fight to the north, and Reggie and I will be at his side directing our warriors.” Calvin looked at his men and women who were ready to go. “Our Lunas will be in charge here. Beta Candice will be going with us along with a few of her assistants; Luna’s charge for our Pack is to lead organization, and no one is better at that than Candice. She will be loaned to Donald’s pack to help him get things established.”
The meeting went on for another ten minutes, as questions were answered, then Alpha Calvin called for the warriors to head to the buses. They were using them as transport as not only were they faster than running, but they would be needed to bring humans back to Salmon who would volunteer first to make the change. The Pack gave them a rousing sendoff as the buses pulled out and headed north.
From the door of her hotel room, Silvia watched with Michelle on her hip as Donald left her again. She couldn’t hide it any longer, her heart belonged to him and his leaving left her with a huge hole in her heart, a hole that she never expected to have. Brushing aside the tears, she went back into the room and checked on her son and her friend, both of whom were still out with the fevers.
Luna Kelly came to her room as she was wiping the sweat from Zach’s forehead with a damp cloth. “Silvia, can we talk?” She waved her in and Kelly sat on the bed across from her. “You heard the Alphas talk about how the Packs will be concentrating on what they do best. When the truck returns from the Salmon clinic in an hour or so, we need to send these two down there.”
Silvia froze, she hadn’t thought that far ahead. She had fled Salmon but that was only because they believed a war had occurred with the humans, one that Josi had averted. “Who else is going?”
“You are welcome to go with, you know Donald won’t be back for a while and it won’t be safe for you to join him until he can get established.” She noted how Silvia blushed at the thought, then continued. “I’m sending Britney and Bethany too; their mates are fighting with Donald, and as recent turns they can both help out and be helped. Autumn as well. The training they have there will help them learn about their wolf side.”
“Do we have to stay?”
“No, of course not. The Alphas all agreed, they will allow every changed human to choose their own Alpha and will allow free movement between Packs. We expect that Luna will put people where they need to be, and with the people that are destined for them.” She snickered a little. “I can’t even keep up with all the matings that are happening these days.”
Silvia came over and flopped down on her bed. “Will I ever get used to this?”
Kelly laid next to her and held her hand. “Of course, you will. You have a lot within you that you haven’t tapped yet. Luna wouldn’t have picked you to be an Alpha if you couldn’t do it.”
Silvia shivered. “I suppose I’ll have to become a wolf too?”
“Yes, to have your Alpha powers you will need your wolf. There is no hurry, though- get your son through the change. When you are ready, Donald will change you. Then you will fully appreciate the strength of the bond you have with him and the power you have inside.” She sat up and pulled her with her. “Come on, we need to get you packed.”
Meanwhile, the two school buses were moving through the mountains. Alpha Donald was on edge, and his wariness was soon validated when he spotted the headlights approaching from over the next rise. “STOP!” The buses pulled to the side. Hopping out, he told the drivers to kill their lights as he met with the other Alphas. “There’s a truck coming… just one.” They could hear it, a single diesel engine and the sound of gears changing as it reached the peak and started back down the road. “We need defensive measures. Reggie, your men have rifles, send four up each side of the road and find firing positions. Calvin, have a dozen of your men shift and take position on the ditches down by the stream. Nobody does anything unless they fire first, until you hear my signal.”
“What’s your signal?”
Donald smirked as her opened the cargo door under the bus, removing one of his homemade Claymore mines, a detonator and a spool of wire. “It goes boom.”
A few minutes later, the men were in place, a tree had been knocked down across the road, and Donald was pulling wire back from the hidden roadside mine to a large rock that would provide him cover. They all hid as the truck approached, and the riflemen trained their weapons on it, fingers next to the triggers.
As it slowed before the downed tree, Donald stretched his senses out. Whatever was in there was masked by the overwhelming smell of manure.
He put his hand on the detonator and watched as it came to a halt.