Prologue :Wolf At The Door
couldn’t believe it! After all the effort, all the stalking, watching, and
waiting the moment was finally here! What a perfect moment it was too. I knelt in
the old Bellevue church, while I looked at the human meat bags as they stacked
crates of what my suit’s sensors indicated was Kubdilasha, the formula that
turned those sick freaks, the Animen into unholy hybrids of human and animal.
Yes, one of the meat bags began to speak and confirm my suspicions, “Hurry up Draycon. Simbano needs this formula loaded on the truck and driven to Crossroads by midnight.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Demarco.” My senses told me these meat bags were scared, their hearts were beating like a rabbit thumping in a forest. I had to wait for the right opportunity or the meat bags would flee and I would lose the bigger prey. The wolf must always gorge himself on the fattest prey. I could feel my muscles tense with anticipation as I waited and watched. These meat bags were stupid. Soon, very soon now, the meat bags would make a mistake, and I would track them to my true prey, the man who killed my beloved, my Jessica. I heard myself growl with impatience. What was taking so long? I wanted them now!
Finally, after what seemed like hours, opportunity came. The meat bag called Dreycon answered, “On my way boss.”
The Dreycon meat bag moved awkwardly, his right leg was stiff and immovable. I watched him as he struggled mightily to follow his Alpha’s command. It was he I would track. It was he who would bring me to my prey. I couldn’t wait to rip the meat off his flesh and freeze the burning fire of his soul with fear. I could smell his fear, it smelled sweet, like the intoxicating aroma of a lover’s perfume. I could feel his uncertainty, the fear melted his resolve the way a flame melts ice. I hunger, weak one, move swiftly, I thought at him.
Finally, Dreycon, the limping meat bag, put his cargo in a van, moved to the driver’s seat and pulled off into the street. Finally! The hunt was on again.
I followed the prey for a time, the stupid fool didn’t even realize he was being tracked. I’d marked the van with my scent. That would make my prey stick out like a lamp on a dark horizon. The ugly, noisy machine would not let the prey escape my hungry jaws! The prey stopped at the crossroads mall building and vanished inside. I made a move to follow as stealthily as the fox. Without warning an ear splitting noise screeched in my ears and made me want to howl in impotent rage! Will I ever be rid of that stupid noise? It heralded the arrival of dawn and the humans would soon awaken. I could already feel my strength ebbing, draining away. The wolf must sleep, while the other, the silly human whose existence I share, must watch the prey. Don’t let it escape, foolish human. I shall be angry if our prey is released. I let out a howl of frustration, as I felt my body stop. The change was coming, I could feel it as I caught a final whiff of our prey on the wind. I loosed a final, petulant, howl, then, I crawled inside our mind’s den to sleep.
The first orange rays of dawn began to caress and warm the metal body of the wolf. At first, the touch of the newborn Sun was gentle, like a young mother trying to coax a giggle from her ticklish child. Gradually, the warmth of the Sun became a wee bit more insistent, like that same mother trying to get her lazy teenager out of bed. Anyone seeing this sleeping metal monster would see a bipedal creature whose legs seem to fuss and kick like a baby as it felt the first caress of the new day. This creature was metal, an amalgamation of steal and titanium to be exact. It had the head of a wolf complete with pointed ears and elongated snout. Its fearsome mouth was full of sharp teeth which retracted into its jaws and revealed the face of a man, his eyes were closed but the muscles of his face, jaws and cheeks, were tense tight rigid. He growled, groaned, and moaned. An audience, if he had one, could very well believe that he was a true werewolf caught up in the throes off his horrendous transformation from beast to man. If this hypothetical audience were not frightened off by the horrible noises from the poor fellow’s throat, they would also see the wolf’s two jaws retract, rotate and elongate into an open semi-circle. Anyone watching this, would be amazed for they would now see that the werewolf’s horrible gaping maw was not made of bloody pink flesh but black padding. The creature’s very jaw became a rest to support the human’s head!
If an audience were not frightened off by noise which continued to pour from the tormented man’s throat, they would see even further miracles: the whirring of servomotors, pushed this high-tech man-wolf highbred from a prone to a standing position. Frightened onlookers, had there been any, would have heard the human gasp, breathless and loudly as the beast’s torso, arms, chest, and legs came apart, to unsheathe his human form as knight is loosed from his armor. If an art lover were watching what was transpiring, he or she, would no doubt be reminded of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man. Who knows? Were he there, perhaps even the great Italian Master himself, would describe the scene thus, for it did truly look as if the Wolf was being deconstructed, and the man, constructed in its place, over the same framework.
If anybody hadn’t yet decided to run for the hills in fright over what they had seen, what they would next see would seem comparatively tame, when viewed against the stark naked horror of what had come before, for all they would see is a simple man incased in a vertical frame. This frame would then gently lower itself, and the man it held, into a sitting position. The effect would look as if the fellow had simply decided to sit down. The Wolf’s arms and legs had now become arm and leg and foot rest for the chair’s exhausted occupant.
The last stage of this miraculous process would seem rather funny to anybody passing by because they would see four wheels drop down from a false bottom in the seat. Witnesses would hear thudding and banging and thumping noises as the wheels made ready to perform their services. The machine’s passenger felt them from the top of the seat, specifically, through his butt, hence the amusement. If anybody saw this part, the fellow would look, and sound, as if he were doing some private business in the restroom. They may even wonder to themselves, is it wolves or bears who shit in the woods? As the wheels thudded gently against the ground a passerby would have seen an orifice open in the armrest and a joystick emerge from it and lock into place so that the passenger could grasp it with his left hand. The aforementioned passerby could conceivably stifle a gasp of amazement, as the machine completed its transformation from bipedal werewolf cyborg, to of all things a motorized powered wheelchair. A passive sensor scan, run before the arduous process began, revealed that there was, in fact, no one nearby to witness the machine’s metamorphosis, and so, no one was there to see the passenger’s head fall forward and touch his sunken chest. If there were witnesses however, they would conclude that the man in the seat was completely, and utterly exhausted and spent. The hypothetical observers would be absolutely correct in their assessment. I should know, for I am, the man in the seat.
My name is Cainus. That’s Cainus, as in, Canine, as in Wolf. How apropos. As my alter ego receded from my consciousness like waves receding from the shore, and I opened my eyes to greet the day, I felt an odd amalgamation of profound satisfaction and weariness. Part of me wondered what my old friend Silverwolf would have thought about me using his totem in this way. Silverwolf raised me in the ways of his tribe after pop died. I owed him a great deal. He’d been dead five years, but there are times when I still felt his presence. I could barely lift my head. I opened my eyes around me. I was across the street from the old crossroads mall. The wolf had followed those meat bags – no, not the Wolf. Me, er, um I. Yes, that’s right. I had followed those meat bags- No, not meat bags, I had followed those meat bags, No damnit they’re not meat bags, they’re people. I had followed those people from the old church on the Eastside of Bellevue, the short distance to Crossroads Mall. So that I, er so that the Wolf could, er, I could, apprehend them and find out what they were doing with the formula and maybe, finally, after all this, time get them to take us to Chimera, the one or ones, who had taken my lovely Jessica from me. This Battle-Mech I had been testing had performed fairly well on its shakedown cruise. However, the Battle-Mech’s combat mode seemed to draw a lot of power from its batteries and so, by the time The Wolf had tracked the prey to its layer, there hadn’t been enough energy left in its batteries for it to successfully pounce. Any good predator knows not to attack from a position of weakness. It must wait, until its strength is at its peak. I’d need to inform my partners Lab-Rat and Mckenna that the prey had been cornered and trapped, the batteries could be charged using power gathered from thousands of solar collectors on my chair. Nanotechnology, had worked wonders in the last couple of years, I thought, as I smiled grimly. Tonight, as the moon rises, the Mech’s batteries would be charged and The Wolf would be strong enough to do what needed to be done.
I grunted in pain at a sudden headache, as the wolf suddenly scratched against the mental cage I had erected around it. It seem to chastise me as it said, “Do not lose the scent human, for I shall be hungry when the moon rises.”
“Okay, okay.” I said, somewhat testily as the wolf crouched at my mind’s door, “I’m on it.” The sound of my voice made me jump in shock. It sounded like the rough, course growl of a wolf forming the words. I had an unwelcome flash of Jessica’s broken and ravaged body lying in her hospital bed. The keening wail of the life support machine was reminiscent of a wolf’s mournful cry. I remembered howling like the damned as a raging storm of grief shattered my soul into pieces. Since that moment it seemed to me that I was sharing half my soul with a raging mad wolf. Sometimes, it frightened me, sometimes it empowered me. I did not want to think that I was losing my mind. I already lived in a body that would not obey me. Must I lose control of my mind as well? The thought of The Wolf prowling around in my head, tearing at my thoughts like meat from a fresh kill terrified me and set my paralyzed body to trembling. My upper body at least. I had been shot in the back and Jessica had been the agent of my resurrection. She had taught me to live again and adjust to my disability. Her death had been the impetus that had set the wolf loose on my psyche, and also the impetus for the construction of the Battle-Mech. I’ll need to compliment Lab-rat on its effectiveness. Very soon now the Mech would become the impetus of my revenge.
The Battle-Mech had been constructed with the wolf chasing me, nipping at my heels. This wolf frightened me. There were times when the wolf felt like it was truly separate from me. I didn’t want to think that I was losing my mind. On the other hand, Jessica’s death was like an open wound in my heart that only the wolf could sooth. If this wolf got me closer to the pathetic piece of trash that took my lover from me, did it really matter? It wasn’t a question I cared to examine too closely. I feared that to do so would skew a delicate mental equation that enabled me to do what I felt I must.
“I am weary human”, grumbled the sleepy wolf who prowled my subconscious, “Your whining thoughts disturb me. Watch our prey or answer to me.” The voice was like an icy blast against my face. I shivered in fear, and made myself ready for my task.
“I spoke gruffly to my chair’s computer. “Lycaon, Battle-Mech power levels?”
“Power levels at twenty percent and rising.” The computer stated in a wolf’s angry growl. In other words, it would take all day for Mech mode to recharge.
“ Lycaon, what is the status of driving mode?, I queried the machine.
“Driving mode is functional and ready. Be warned, driving mode uses the same power as Mech mode. Use it sparingly.”
“I know, you bloody idiot, I made the freakin’ thing!”
I’d named the computer after Lycaon, the Greek king who was turned into a wolf for offending Zeus. The computer responds to commands only after I speak its name, Lycaon, as in, Lycanthrope. Those Greeks and their names, heh, I love the irony. After its name is spoken, it compares the voiceprint of its driver, to a voiceprint in its user profile. If the voiceprint is correct, my voiceprint, Lycaon responds to commands. The chair is also wired to a small thermite bomb. Should the voiceprints not match, I smiled a Wolf-like smile at the thought. I always say, if you have to go, make a really big boom! “Down to business”, I sternly ordered myself.
“Lycaon, sonic massage mode.” Immediately, my chair vibrated with a low pitched home as ultra-sonic emitters loosened, revitalized, and refreshed my tired, weary muscles. Five minutes later, I felt as refreshed as if had stepped out of the shower. I looked around for a few seconds more, and noticed my reflection in an old shabby window.
“Ugh!” I startled involuntarily, the person that stared back at me looked as if he’d just escaped from, well, a wolf den. My reflection showed that my frazzled hair stuck out at odd angles, like a birds nest on my head, so, I combed it back. “Lycaon, what time is it?”
“7:00 AM” the machine answered in its growling voice,
“Lycaon, what’s the date today?”
“July, 16th 2051”
“Lycaon, scan the structure across the street for the marking isotope. When found, provide biometric readings on marked subjects and extrapolate activity level.”
Lycaon growled, “Working”, as it hijacked a surveillance satellite and then spoke. “Four subjects marked with isotope residue on the first floor of the structure. Biometric analysis indicates four males with regular heartbeats and shallow respiration.”
“They’re sleeping”, I surmised. They’re lazy, which probably meant they’re stupid. I loved stupid criminals, they made things easier. “Lycaon, engage passive surveillance mode. Alert me if their heartbeats, or respiration level increase.”
“Understood”, the machine confirmed.
I went back to my morning routine. My reflection told me I needed a shave. I drove closer to the window five feet back from one of the pieces of broken glass. “Lycaon, prime laser cannon and engage visual targeting system.” I looked at the glass and said “Lock cannon on target, reduce cannon output to half a milli-ampere for a thirty second burst.”
“Understood”, said my computer. I donned some sunglasses I had in my pocket leaned forward slightly, and thought to myself, I’m about to do something incredibly smart, or incredibly stupid. Squeezing my eyes shut, I said, “Lycaon, open fire.”
I felt the laser’s heat warm the surrounding air as it bounced off the glass and seared the beard from my face. “Ow. Painful, yet practical.” I mused to myself as I surveyed the laser’s handiwork, my face was as smooth as newly sanded wood.
“Lycaon, open ration bin.”
“Understood.” The chair complied. I ate some dried rations out of a secret compartment in the armrest.
“Lycaon, activate coffee maker, add Ice.” An iced mocha rose from the left armrest. I downed it in ten seconds. This is Seattle after all.
“Lycaon, commence waste extraction procedure.” I’ll not relate these next moments in detail. It shall suffice to say that since I am a paraplegic with no feeling at all in my lower body, enemas are an unpleasant, yet necessary, part of my morning. I brushed my teeth using a brush and tooth paste from my pocket and then went back to the window. Lucky for me, the prey hadn’t stirred, Or had they? I needed a closer look.
“Lycaon, engage active surveillance mode Codename: Wolf-eye.” I could feel my alter-ego breathing down the back of my neck. I felt my other self press against his cage. The wolf was restless in his sleep. My head throbbed with his stirring.
The headrest turned into a Wolf’s head, “fifty percent magnification.” I ordered. It worked like a charm. I could see directly into the next building. Four meat bags, er um people were supine, asleep on the floor of the office building. Dust coded the scene like winter snow. Gleaming silver barrels stacked against the wall like children’s toys were shining against the darkness. The formula, the wolf in me supposed. They’d lead me to their buyer tomorrow night and then I’ll have them all.
First things first. I wanted to make sure I was ready in case things got seriously harry. “Lycaon, detail readiness of driving mode defenses.”
“Wheel spikes armed and ready, rocket boosters armed and ready, sleep gas armed and ready. If worst came to worst I had a magnum in my pocket and Kendo swords sheathed in a hidden compartment in my armrests.
“Lycaon, Battle- Mech status?”
“Mech power at five percent, ninety-five percent below optimum levels Estimated recharge time five hours. “
I told Lycaon. “Set alarm for Seven PM. Rouse me if they move. “
It was time for sleep. The long night of tracking had tired me. “Lycaon, recline for rest mode.” The back of the chair elongated and became as slanted as a recliner
Illogically, I wished that Pop was there to read me a story like when I was a kid. Life is like a story he used to say, in every story there’s a moment that will change the hero’s life forever. This moment is usually so grounded in the mundane, the hero never sees it coming. I chuckled ruefully, the road to my life changing moment, started with a simple coffee break.