I forgot how it feels like to be looked at with sympathy.
It. Fucking. Sucks.
The longer both shifters looked at my exposed, prosthetic hands, the more it felt like I was broken, and an abomination. Just fucking awesome. I didn't need sympathy, it was absolutely useless to me at this point. What I needed is to be taken seriously.
"Who the fuck did this to you?" I heard Roman's voice coming right through his gritting teeth. He was adamantly upset, furious even, with fists clenching each of the seat's armrest to the point that his knuckles turned hot white. Adam's hand was squeezing his shoulder, pushing him down, as he wanted to keep his Beta from standing up and wrecking the whole airplane.
"Roman, come on man chill. Let him explain," he pleaded with the shifter, but it seems like all of this went right past Roman.
"Calm down would you? It was simply a very unfortunate accident. I'm not broken, unlike what you might think, I actually got very lucky to have gotten these as a replacement," I finally said, trying to divert the conversation back on the 'how do my arms work' track.
"Could you elaborate on the technology behind them? Seems that you've got yourself something extremely advanced, looking at their functionality," Adam interjected, helping me out with shifting the topic.
"Well, first and foremost, they are attached to my skeletal system by osseointegration. That essentially means a very strong titanium component that connects with the prosthetic limbs, being integrated with my bones." I dived right into it, to not let the huge guy go on a rampage in the middle of our flight for no apparent reason.
"Pylons are made of graphene, a very lightweight material, a 100 times stronger than steel. And as for how I control it," I continued, seeing that Roman was now focused solely on my words, "it's a combination of myoelectric control and targeted muscle reinnervation, TMR, which, simply put, is an advanced type of neural interface control," I saw a hint of confusion on both their faces.
"Think of a lamp with an electrical wire being cut. Even though the lamp won't work, the remaining part of the wire leading to it will still carry electricity. All it takes is to fix it by continuing the connection of the wire. TMR connects the nerves that would have gone to my missing limbs."
"Fascinati-" Adam started saying but was immediately cut of and pushed slightly back by Roman's muscular arm.
"We're gonna land soon, Alpha. You can pester him about it later, right?" I noticed that he sent Adam a rather pointed look, and alpha smirked in return.
"Fine. You can have him all to yourself for now Beta," Adam said, clearly amused, but also made sure to remind him the hierarchy in the pack.
Ouch. Nice move, Alpha.
Well, whatever Roman's problem was, he went quiet for the rest of the flight, glancing towards me on few occasions, until it was time to go.
The West Coast Pack was, as the name suggests, pretty much spread along the west side of the US, covering big cities like LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle, all the way up to the state of Washington.
That's actually where Alpha Adam's packhouse was located, on a territory cleverly marked as an official wolf rescue and preservation sanctuary.
I have to say, for the area's rather gloomy, rainy weather as a norm, this place was quite scenic, drowning in greenery and nature. And the deeper we drove up the mountain and forest roads, the fresher and lighter the air got, along with the sounds of civilization going mute.
At last, the car slowed down, right when a tall gate came into our sight. The guards quickly let the vehicles through, upon seeing their alpha and beta in one of them. We took a long, dirt road, seemingly deeper into the forest, only to be greeted by a village emerging from between the curtain of trees.
At this time of the day, between twilight and dusk, the place started shifting into it's nighttime appearance, bathing in the gleam of golden-coloured lights, coming from the cobbled streets and the houses itself. Each building had a beautiful, wooden finish, but you could tell they were not just your regular cabins. Here and there, I could spot a few people walking around, heading for their homes, or the main packhouse.
And what a packhouse it was.
By far the biggest building in the whole village, although with a similar, wooden finish to its walls and roof, certainly looked a lot more sophisticated and...well... wealthy. I couldn't expect any less from America's biggest pack.
As the cars stopped in front of the packhouse, we were instructed to step outside, but nothing further, which I immediately knew meant we were not to head for the building just yet.
"Holy shit, you guys are loaded! I call the biggest bedroom!" Quinn, my other sister, shouted and giddily proceeded to walk towards the mansion. Her dark locks bounced on her back, tanned skin beautifully glistened in the accompanying, golden light.
She couldn't even make three steps before her way was blocked by guards, growling at the, now scowling, Quinn.
"Sit, bad dogs!" Her unhappy tone didn't match the playful comment, so characteristic for my sister.
"We didn't give you permission to enter just yet," said Adam, as he stepped in front of our group, like he was about to give us some pep talk.
"First, we have to set some rules and boundaries in place. I have been given the jurisdiction over this unit, during your time here, and I expect you to follow our rules, on our turf," he started.
Shit, it IS a pep talk. Splendid.
"You are not to roam around the area unattended by one of our guards. You will participate in daily training sessions with our warriors, and will eventually assist in missions, ONLY if I determine that you're ready, and above all, trustworthy. There will be a 9pm curfew in place for this unit, at least until we say otherwise. All the tasks given by me or Beta Roman are to be followed, all the patrols you'll be attending are to be conducted following the instructions of the head of the patrol squad at the time. Any further instructions will be explained during the morning wake-up call at 6 am. Am I making myself clear?" That was a whole, new Adam right there. He shifted from a playful guy into a military general within a second.
Well, nothing new for this bunch, being in and out of military lab and prison over the decades. I knew it all too well myself.
Didn't work for them then, won't work for them now. We'll have to follow our normal drill in that case.
"Now," Adam continued, "state your names and code."
So he knew about our lab code. Interesting. That means the Council really did talk to him about us.
"Ugh, so annoying, fine, Klaus, 03." My first brother spoke, clearly not happy with the military, disciplinary undertones of this situation.
"Trai, 04," said the other man in our group.
"Ummm, Mina, 07," our petite sibling mumbled.
"Alistair, 06," blue-haired boy spoke, not looking up.
"Quinn, 05, you better remember me boys," she said, sending a wink towards the guards.
"02," I said, without including my name. It was just so meaningless to share that with them all. I will be gone soon, and I don't want any of those people, strangers, to have my name in their memory.
"What about Rae-" Roman interjected, but was cut off by Adam's panicked tone.
"You... you're 02..." His eyes wide and round as moons.
This was it. Recognition.
In the next second his eyes turned golden like in all shifters, claws replacing his nails, and bones cracking, a sign of a shift.
He charged straight at me.