The Culling

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Chapter 2

By the end of the week, a total of two hundred and seventy-three recruits had been sent home. The last test was what had sent most of them packing. We had been put into a room that mimicked the Great Hall in the castle. The officers had placed many dummies around the room with a number on their back. And then the recruits were given a number. The matching number was their charge. The objective was to protect that person no matter what.

The doors were then closed and sounds of a party filled the room. Everyone had found their charges and hid. My charge was the largest dummy in the room, and I knew instantly that it represented our king. About ten minutes into the ‘party’, the lights were suddenly cut off and a soft hissing sound could be heard. One small whiff told me that it was a very small dosage of Knip, a drug that renders a werewolf unconscious. And it had been one of the many things that I had made sure my body had built up a very high resistance too.

Several minutes after the drug had been put into the room; both wolves and dummies started dropping. Using that to mask whatever sound I would make, I slipped forward and grabbed my ‘charge’. Then, I silently pulled him back and placed him in a corner. The room had several cameras that let the officers watch and keep notes. Taking the paintball pistol from the holster, I crouched down and waited. Phase two would soon begin. Just a few moments later, a soft thud could be heard. Quickly looking around, I noticed five ropes hanging from the ceiling.

Silently, almost like ghosts, five men began to slide down the ropes. Taking swift aim and I fired five shots, each one finding their mark. They fell from the ropes, ‘dead’. The only sound heard was a little louder hissing as more Knip was pumped into the room. I could only smile and prepared for the next phase.

Four hours later back in the command center, the king quickly entered and took a seat by Captain Taggart. “How’s it coming, Taggart?”

“It’s coming along pretty well. We’ve only used about half an ounce of Knip and I think that they’re all out.” Just as he spoke, the sound of three shots could be heard. Both men turned to the screen and watched as three men fell. King Stone laughed softly. “Well, it’d be my best guess that there’s at least one still standing.”

“Right you are.” Taggart hit the intercom. “Who’s unaccounted for Major?”

“Captain, we’ve managed to find all the dummies except for number 198.” King Stone looked at the captain. “Who is that supposed to be?” Taggart looked down at the list before him and smiled. “That would be you, my king. And the guard for 198 would be no other than P. Rivers.” Both Taggart and the king laughed at the sound that the Major made. “Do you want to wait her out and see how long she’ll last, or end it now?”

“No offense Captain, but I’ve seen what that woman’s done all week. And I have counted at least seven pistols that are missing. Something tells me that Rivers would last for a very long time.”

“Alright, I’m calling it.” Taggart hit a switch and the lights came on in the room, but I stayed just where I was. Standing before me was one of the ‘bad guys’. “Alright recruits, the test is over.” The captain’s voice echoed in the room and I slowly stood up. Grabbing my ‘charge’, I walked towards Major Green and stood at attention. “Good job Rivers. You’re going to make a fine guard.”

“Thank you sir,” I said before heading to the barracks. That was Friday, and now the remaining recruits were all in formation, waiting for the induction ceremony to begin. As the captain began to speak, I noticed that my wolf was starting to grow restless. Keeping my face blank and staying in formation, my eyes began searching. A vivid flash of blue and white caught my attention and pulled my eyes upwards.

A child had somehow managed to climb one of the spirals, and I could tell that she was in trouble. Suddenly, the little girl’s foot slipped and I sprang into action. I flew off the stage, ignoring the Captain’s order to get back in place. Several people had turned to watch the running woman, including the queen. She watched, surprised as Phoebe began to swiftly climb. And that’s when she saw the child. “Rachel!” The queen yelled, surging to her feet. At the name of his youngest grandchild, the king turned around just in time to see her lose her grip and start to fall.

I leapt into the air and easily caught the child. I pulled her tight against her chest, and the two of us plunged towards the ground quickly. Just moments before impact, I managed to twist my body so that I would take the brunt of the impact. The king, the queen, and the captain rushed towards where the two had fallen, but they were met with a sobbing child. The girl was swept into the arms of her grandmother who scolded her for climbing the spirals and then covering her in hugs and kisses. The king and captain kept going. They reached Phoebe’s side just as she popped her shoulder back into place.

When I saw that I wasn’t alone, I slowly got to my feet, hiding the pain that was surging through my body as I did so. Standing at attention, I lowered my head. “I’m sorry for breaking formation Captain, but I saw that the child was in trouble and I had to get to her before she fell. Is she alright?”

“She’s alive, thanks to you Phoebe.” The king said softly and I smiled softly. “Get back to the platform Rivers.” The captain ordered, his voice softening a little. I saluted the two men and slowly started to make my way back to the group. Both the captain and the king noticed how slow she walked. “Rivers,” the captain yelled and I turned around. “Yes sir?”

“After the ceremony, report to the doctor and have him examine you. That’s an order.”

“Aye, aye, captain.” I joined the rest of the recruits. The ceremony resumed, and name by name, they were all called and given the mark of the Royal Guards; an RG branded on their left shoulder. Once the ceremony was over, I did as I had been ordered. I went to the pack doctor, who gave me a full examination. But since the damage had almost completely healed, he just told me to take it easy for the next day and gave me a prescription for some pain pills. I gave him my thanks, left the pills on his desk, and made my way back to the barracks. Tomorrow was my first day of real duty and by the time I woke up, my body would be completely healed. At least, that was my hope.

King Stone, Captain Taggart, and the Alpha of First Death all sat in the king’s office. “Alpha Fannin, the reason why I asked you here was because I wanted to talk to you about Phoebe Rivers.” Neither man missed how the elder alpha’s eyes brightened at the name. “How’s she doing Sir?”

“She’s doing very well, better than we first thought she would do. She saved my granddaughter this afternoon. What I’d like to know is why does she act like a guard who’s had years on the job?” Alpha Fannin sighed and ran his hands through is hair. “Phoebe has always been a determined child, even at a very young age. You probably know that when she was six, her father brought her to a Culling because I couldn’t attend.

“He told her about the Guards, and ever since that day, Phoebe has made it her mission to become one. She trained every day, for fifteen years, to be able to carve a place among them. When her father died a few years ago, Phoebe threw herself deeper into training. She became relentless. Every day she would push herself to beat her best from the day before. When she turned thirteen, she came to me to ask for my permission for a project of hers.

“When I asked her what she wanted to do, she told me that she was going to have the pack doctor slowly introduce all the poisons and drugs that are known to be fatal to our kind so her body could build a resistance to them. So, I said yes; but only because I knew that if I hadn’t, she would try to do it on her own, and I didn’t want her to fool around and kill herself over a mistake.” The alpha stood and sighed softly. “She’s so much like her father. She’s really focused, and Phoebe won’t let anything stand between her and what she wants.” The men talked well into the night. By the time the three of them parted ways, King Stone and Captain Taggart had a deeper understanding of Phoebe and what motivated her.

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