Chapter 38: New man
I held the shirt to his open wound while watching him carefully for changes. His eyes closed, his breathing became more labored as the change started to move through him. His body was in crisis, so it was moving faster than a planned changed like Rose’s was.
I watched as his body temperature started to rise, his face becoming flushed. I saw the entry hole on his shoulder start to close up, the bleeding had stopped. I waited a minute then carefully lifted the shirt; the exit hole was larger, but it was healing over as well. Lars was starting to twitch uncontrollably as the change raced through his body, both healing and changing him at the same time.
When the first bone snapped and reformed, it sounded like a rifle shot. Lars screamed, but the change could not be stopped. More bones changed, skin stretched and muscles moved under them. Fur started to poke through his skin. He lifted his head, screaming to the sky until it was cut off as his face and neck started to change into his cat form. It seemed like the change took a long time, but it was less than a minute before the large cat was panting on the rock before me.
He looked up at me, I could see the fear and panic in his eyes. He coiled his legs underneath, preparing to fight and escape. His eyes were completely cat, his human side pushed aside. I had seconds to save him before he would be lost to rage.
I shifted and jumped on top of him, my jaw grabbing him at the top of his neck. He snarled and started to fight, but I was bigger and used to this form he was just figuring out. “Submit, Lars. You are not in danger here, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you, Marine.” He kept struggling but I could feel him starting to relax. “Talk to your human side. Gunny is your friend, you are safe. You are safe, Lars.”
He stilled, and I let his neck go. He submitted to me, baring his neck as I looked into his eyes. I was happy, he had found balance and pulled himself back from the cliff that was going feral. “How did you… what… you can talk to me in my head?”
“Yes, we are Pack now, we can talk this way. Just by thinking of talking to each other.”
“This is weird as hell, Gunny. Everything looks so different.” He took a deep sniff. “I don’t know where to start.”
“Come on, let’s go find Alex.” I stood up on my four legs and stepped aside, giving him room to get to his feet. It took a few tries, he needed to let his cat do its thing, both sides had to learn to trust each other. When he finally stood, he roared his happiness and I joined him.
Lars was a good looking cat. Nearly as dark in coloration as I was, you could see the rosettes on his body but only when looking at the right angle. At a side angle, the black color was glossy and appeared solid. He was nearly as muscled as I was, and would be a strong warrior in this form as well. I rubbed my face against his shoulder, then licked the blood off his neck from where I had grabbed him. When I was done, I led him carefully down the slope to the level ground.
We trotted over to the house, where Alex was working on the woman. She was in a lot of pain, but we didn’t miss the hatred in her eyes as she saw the pair of us approaching. Down a hand and a leg, there wasn’t much she could do about it. I shifted, unconcerned with my naked state, while Lars just sat there and watched.
“She’ll live,” Alex said. “Tourniquets are holding.”
“Long enough,” I said. I looked over to where a man was coming out of the house, holding towels and a roll of duct tape. He was wearing body armor, so he was our decoy.
“Here you go, Alex,” the man said as he knelt down next to the woman.
“Thanks Michael,” he said. He took the dish towel, folded it over and used it to cover the stump of her leg. He then used the duct tape to secure it in place, pulling it tight to keep pressure on the wound.
“Ambulance and law enforcement are on the way,” Michael said. I noticed he was carrying a cell phone, and he was soon busy giving them a description of the victim and her injuries.
Alex finished up and looked over at Lars. “He looks good as a cat, is he all right?”
Lars roared, and this caused the woman to shiver in fright. “He seems fine, the wounds healed up before his shift.”
“And the other shooter? Dead?”
Aw, fuck. Lars and I both turned to the spot he had been hiding. “Knocked out. I’ll be back.” I shifted and ran off towards the spot, I could hear Lars behind me trying to keep up. “Just take your time and get used to your body, Lars.”
“This sucks, I have to remember to pick my paws up.”
“Quit thinking, let your cat go, he knows.” We reached the base of the formation and I leaped from one rock to another until I was at the place I had left him. He wasn’t here. “Fuck! He’s gone.”
“Can you track him?”
“Yes, he only has three legs, so he can’t have gotten far. We have to tell the others.”
“I’ll go back, you go get this fucker. Just tell me how to change back.”
“Imagine yourself in human form, feet on the ground, fingers, skin. Close your eyes and go into your mind so your human moves forward and the panther recedes.”
“Got it. And Gunny… kill the fucker this time.”
“Oo-rah.” He ran back the way he came while I started to sniff. His cat had a sour, spoiled smell to it, the result of being feral. I sniffed around the ledge long enough to get it in my head, then followed it down to the ground. This wasn’t going to be fun or safe, the terrain was broken by rock formations, perfect ambush sites for a cat. Eventually, he would turn and fight.
“Gunny, Alex has called his Alpha for help. They are bringing every warrior they can send from both packs to aide in the hunt. Robert is talking with law enforcement right now, asking them to set up checkpoints to keep humans out of the way.”
“What about the Pack? Are my people being defended?”
“He’s sending them to the safe rooms to be protected by the remaining warriors, Gunny. He doesn’t like sending that many people out either, but we have to protect the humans.”
“Tell them to send groups to the perimeter and work in. He’s moving northeast, so let’s get guys on the other side in case I lose his trail.”
“Got it. Sheriff and ambulance are here, gotta go.” I picked up my pace, the trail was pretty easy to follow right now. Ferals were completely without conscious thought, they pushed their human side apart and became driven solely by fear and rage. They were dangerous to fight because they had no fear, no mercy, nothing held back. They would tear through anything in their way, and if humans were there they would kill or change them. This was what had kicked the war off in the first place, a feral werewolf going through a school causing an explosion of feral changes.
I was so focused on following the scent trail as it started to wind around the rocks and brush that I wasn’t paying enough attention. It was only when I was driven to the ground, my face scraping the rock, that I realized my error. Teeth tore into my neck, I roared in pain as I twisted to the right. I managed to throw him off, but felt the flesh tearing as I did so.
I got to my feet, ignoring the pain from the bite and the scratches. “Lars I’m hurt, he got the drop on me. HELP!” I roared again, pulling myself up and making myself bigger. He roared back at me, his eyes red with rage. He leaped for my throat, but this time I was able to move out of the way. Pushing to my right, I rolled out of the way and struck out with my front claws, ripping shreds from his chest and stomach as he flew by. He shrieked in agony as I rolled back to my feet.
I could see the blood spurting from my neck onto the ground, and that’s when I knew just how bad this was. He’d caught an artery, and there wasn’t much time before I bled out.
I couldn’t let him get away.
He licked his lips, clearly enjoying the taste of my blood on him. He charged again, this time I wasn’t fast enough. He bit into my shoulder as I turned and ripped a chuck out of the back of his neck. I wrapped my front legs around him, pushing off hard with my rapidly diminishing strength. I got him on his back, only to have his back legs tear into my stomach. He used his one front leg to roll me off of him, and I landed heavily on my side.
My energy was nearly gone and I was feeling dizzy. I watched as he coiled to attack again, and I could barely roll myself onto my stomach to meet him. “Tell Rose I love her,” I sent to Lars as I fought to hold my head up. I roared one last time, defiant until the end. “Semper fi.” He charged again and I bit into his only front leg, holding on despite the fog, the pain of his bites, and the darkness that took me.