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Life of Rowan Flowers

by Okami_177

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8

A Harsh Beginning

It was dark that night in the forest of Sampi, all seemed to be well for the village of Kyrai. There were no storms, no bandit raids, nor beasts coming from those forsaken woods. That was true, but this was a night where destiny destroys lives to begin some for heroes who Omega wants dead. And all know the God king gets what he wants, but little did he know that a single child had survived that horrid fiery hell of a night. The wolves had taken her to safety that midnight hour as the newborn dirus quietly slept in her basket with a doll held firmly in her grasp. The soldiers the God king sent destroyed everything with fire and, to make look as though a battle had happened there instead of a massacre, landed on their swords or shot themselves in the head leaving even more people dead.

Chapter 1
A Humble, Interrupted Life with Wolves

The forest was quiet as the deer herd grazed on what little they could find in the Sampi forests, a little too quiet. The deer didn't suspect anything until a moment too late as I had leaped out of my hiding place, killing three old bucks and four sickly does. The herd stampeded out of the snowy meadow, but I didn't give chase, her pack had enough to feed themselves for a few weeks and then some for the alpha female and her unborn pups. Old Ironsides and frisky, little Pamela, members of her proud pack, came out and began to help me carry my kills back to the den, carrying two at a time. They both were majestic in their own way, Ironsides with his battle scarred, rough, iron colored coat and his broken left horn shaped like a gazelle's and Pamela's smooth, silky, strawberry-blond coat with a white underbelly, a nick in her right ear, and two smooth, shiny horns on her head tangled with weeping willow leaves giving a dryad-like look. I, however, didn't look anything like them, in fact I wasn't a wolf at all, much to my dismay. I was tall, had auburn hair the same shade a fire save for two gold-colored locks at my forehead, a cadet-blue coat with white undersides and bib, and eyes like the aquamarines found in the riverbeds of Sampi. I was also faster, and stronger, than any member of my pack. The alpha female had raised me like her own pup when the alpha male brought me to her after her pups had died of the cold and a lack of food. So to her, I was her only surviving child from that dreadful winter, her eldest pup in the pack. There were only fifteen of us in the pack and we were a tough lot, fighting off bears, battling rival packs for their territory, and the occasional escape from avalanches caused by chupas as a way to chase us out of Sampi. We always came back and, much to their annoyance, stole a cow or two as payback. The Kyriako pack never gives or takes anything lightly or without reason.

By the time we had brought all of my kills to the pack den, the sun had just risen in the sky and the others were getting ready for the day ahead. I selected this big buck for the alpha female and brought it to her whelping den inside Crystaliana. We had lived in this old, glowy building the chupas must have made a long time ago that we called Crystaliana (mostly because it has crystalline objects all over, two of which were like the two swords the alphas allow me to carry and serve as my fangs and claws), filled with strange rooms, but we only use the first three chambers of it. One for practice, training and feasting, one for sleeping in, and the last one for the alpha female to have her pups in. I was about to enter with the buck when I heard this strange sound, that I have never heard before. Worried, I dropped the kill and went to find the alpha male, Dimitri. He was pretty easy to find in here since his color was pure white in color and I rushed toward him, making a series of sounds and gestures to inform him of what was going on in the Alpha female's chamber. This seemed to excite the whole pack as the alpha's grandmother, Chantal, went in. If the grandmother she-wolf entered the whelping den, I could mean only one thing, the alpha female's having her pups! Chantal snapped at Dimitri who tried to follow her into the whelping den, probably saying no men in the birthing chamber. Dimitri snarled and then whimpered, saying that his mate was having their pups and that he should be in there comforting her. Chantal barked and growled, saying you're still not going in there or do you want to make the gods angry and cause the loss of these pups? Dimitri whimpered, saying no, I do not. Looking satisfied, Chantal left the central den as Dimitri came back looking rather worried for his mate, but excited to have pups.

We waited for three hours before Chantal came out. We all came as close as we dared to Chantal, wanting to hear the news. Chantal howled a victory howl, the pups were born! Everyone in the central den leaped, barked, doing everything you can do to show your excitement. Chantal led Dimitri in, having Dimitri pick up my kill to offer to his mate. Chantal came back to direct us as what to do for the day in place of the alpha for the moment. Iggy, Ariana, Penny, Rufus and Jazz were sent south for a border patrol, Susie, Gus, Max, Johnathan, Rex, and Miranda to the northeast to hunt for a couple of cows for the Alpha female, and Ironsides, Pamela, Mikey, Old Man Jake, Parker, and I to the west to gather soft grasses for Chantal to give for the alpha female to nest on for the next few weeks until she recovers her strength. Given our duties, we headed out with thoughts of what the new pups were like. Ironsides, Pamela, Mikey, Old Man Jake, Parker, and I had arrived to where we needed to be for these soft grasses and with a little help from Old Man Jake, we found what we needed especially since the grasses were softer this time of year when these arctic willows turn this reddish gold color. We had this system we worked out when I was only just six years old, the wolves gathered the grass and I had to carry the majority of it back to the den. It was a pretty good system since to wolves couldn't carry much without sneezing it all over the place... It's a funny sight to see.

This lasted for the rest of the day and as we were heading back, we thought that all was well. Until we came over the ridge and looked below. The chupas were coming and they were armed. They didn't see us nor were they headed our way, but they were too close to the den for anyone's liking. Dropping our final load of soft grass, we high-tailed it back to the den Old Man Jake howling as he went, running ahead of the group. Everyone else must've seen the Chupas as they freaking out too. Dimitri howled for silence. We became quieter than a field mouse hiding from a cat. Dimitri yipped, barked and made a lot of gestures saying, he understands that the chupas are closer to our den, but it's not safe to move his mate nor pups at this time, that we needed to wait a week before leaving the den. Though we all thought otherwise, we all agreed, the Alpha's word is law and to defy that law is to die by his fangs. The beta, Kyraino, howled from outside of the den, alerting the pack the chupas were the here before yelping in pain and the retort of a rifle. We were in danger.

Frightened, the pack would've scattered had the alpha not done his howling roar calling them to the fight. Dimitri and Chantal had me block the only entrance to Chanalia (the alpha female) and her three pups, Michael, Sasha, and the only girl Natalia. I could hear the combat outside and the whimpers of the pups inside the whelping chamber. I wanted to go outside, to fight alongside my pack mates. Chanalia must have had similar thoughts for herself, heading outside of the den to fight, but not before shoving me into the whelping chamber. Michael, Sasha, and Natalia cried for their mother to come back, shaking really bad from the cold. Worried, I went over to them to share my body heat with them. They knew that I wasn't their mother, but they accepted my offer of warmth. Sasha though did try to find milk that I did not have, so picked him up and put him by Natalia who had fallen asleep a few seconds ago. Sasha didn't like it and crawled back to me and finally slept right under my neck. Michael was shoving his way under my neck causing Natalia then to move there too, then they all fell asleep. I would've fallen asleep too if my mind wasn't worrying about everyone else, I mean, everybody in the pack is supposed to be back by now. Then something came into the whelping den and smelled like a wolf, but not at the same time.

This strange chupa was blond except for the light-brown hair, with eyes like a wolf, came in on all fours with his tail held in an alpha male's tail position. Unsure of what to do, I whimpered. He looked at me and sniffed, not really making any sense, but held his alpha male position. I raised my tail, the top auburn part fuzzed out menacingly as he got too close to pups. He saw that as indication of my rank instead and swiped at me, expecting a fight. I hadn't realized that I stood up on all fours and decided to sit, avoiding the pups, and not look away basically saying that I wasn't going to fight him. He calmed down and got closer to both me and the pups. I growled at him to back off when he got too close to the pups again. He got the message this time, moving away from them and closer to me. He seemed more curious about me than anything else really. Then this bell sound rang, filling the whelping den. His eyes changed color to a dark green color and he fell asleep as this female chupa, bluish-green with red hair and bright green eyes, came in holding a bell. I snarled at her, defending the pups, as she shot me with weird yellow, fluffy thing that made me really sleepy. I could keep my eyes open as I fell on top of the male struggling to stay awake and failing as I drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 3
Tests, Tests, Tests

Ow, my head... What happened...? Oh... yeah, that's what happened. My pack is dead, I met these strange chupas, and I fell asleep while protecting the pups. I better go check on them... OW, what was that? Oh, god, where am I?! Where the pups?! And why is this place I'm in so small? "Well, well, well, look who awake.' I froze, that wasn't a wolf's voice that was a chupa's! I tried to find the source of the sound, making a racquet. "Will you please stop that, you're going to hurt yourself.' A bright light appeared above me, blinding me for a second before being able to see, it was the same chupa that shot me! I launched myself toward her only to be hit by this invisible thing. "She's all yours sir.' And she walked off as another slightly smaller chupa came close to the invisible thing. He was gray with blond hair and he looked much younger than the female and had brown eyes. I tried to sniff him, but couldn't what with the invisible thing, which I learned much later that it was glass, in the way. The blond chupa was with him too and along with another new chupa. His coat was dark purple and he had green hair, I have never seen that before, and he had kind, gentle brown eyes. As interested as I was with the other two, I tried to get the blond one's attention by barking, yipping, the occasional yelp, and a howl. The blond ignored me, so I moved on to gesturing. I lifted my tail to the height I had it at last time and did things that I had seen Chanalia do when she tried getting Dimitri's attention, this tactic seemed to work better, but the other two were watching as well. The purple one was chuckling at the blond one who looked pretty much in a huff by what I did, looking embarrassed it seemed. The gray one watched, but pretty much ignored my antics as he pressed something and this strange noise played, an ack-ack-ack-ackawoooo-ack-ack-ack kind of noise. I had never this sound before so I looked around for the source of the sound before it was gone and replace with and animal I haven't seen before. "Release the fox, start test one.' This small creature was rather small, but it looked like a wolf, so I howled a greeting. The fox screamed. I made a loud yelp and hide in the corner and it followed me! So I turned and growled at it, expecting it to leave me alone. The fox was getting closer and it barked at me, I barked at it, and it barked back, its tail moving back and forth. Annoyed, I sat on it. It yelped and I got off, letting it go, and sat down again. The fox looked offended and screamed at me again, so I howled in its face, bit its ear and left for the corner, the fox left me alone for a few moments and then started jumping on me. What was up with this creature? I clawed at the glass and fox mimicked what I was doing... not cool, red, fluffy dude, not cool. I kicked him at a wall leaving him limping. The little door they shove it in through opened and it ran back in.

"Start test two.' Another door opened to put a deer in the room, my stomach growled, so I leapt at it, digging my teeth into its throat and started eating. It tasted so good. I stopped myself and brought some to those chupas before I picked the carcass clean. They just looked shocked at what I did, the deer was to eat wasn't it? I tilted my head questioningly. They didn't say anything back except a, "Someone clean up the testing floor before we start test three,' from the gray one. I hate the gray and blond one. Something scary came in and took my kill away and what I offered to the chupas behind the glass. Then it sprayed something awful on the ground and started doing something with this white wiggly thing on a stick. I swiped at it while it was doing its thing on the floor and then it was gone leaving an overpowering flowery stench, yuck! It thankfully, didn't last that long as another door opened and in came the blond chupa. He definitely looked different than before, but I can't really place it. I cautiously approach him, he doesn't flinch until I had started sniffing him. He most certainly smelled like me, a little different, but similar and I had already memorized his scent, lavender, birch, and artic willow. I liked that smell for certain. The gray one said something and this made the blond one act the way I had seen him before. He seemed confused as to where he was. Since he was in the room, I barked to get his attention. He looked over at me showing his facial scar that had partially blinded him. I let him sniff me this time, so he could memorize my scent, when I noticed something strange. The door was still open and there was a pathway, but better yet I heard wolf pup cries. Leading him to the door, I waved my tail at him and jumped a few places back before running through the door and him following. It didn't take long before we reached this new room that had my pack's pups. I sniffed them, reassured them that they were safe, when the blond one stuck his face close to one of them. They weren't scared of him, they must've gotten used to his scent while I was asleep. Michael seemed to like the blond one the most out of the three. Sasha still came to me, though and that's when it happened... the pups eyes were opening! I was happy, but it should be Chanalia and Dimitri instead of the blond one and I. The gray one did something to the blond one when he rang the bell. The blond chupa falls asleep every time it rings, it's very freaking weird.

They shoved me into a new room for some more tests and after the tests were done, they'd let me see the pups. This happened over and over again until this one particular test. They led me to a room that had blackboard on the wall at the back of the room saying, "This is Wash, this is North, and this is York. Can you say these words back to us?' with a picture of each chupa underneath. The gray one was Wash, the purple and green one was North, and the blond one was York, got it. I repeated what was written on the board, causing Wash, North, and York to look so astonished at the fact that I was able to read. My reading skills help my pack when there were signs saying "Warning: Electrified Fence" or "Warning: Minefield Ahead!" The words on the board then disappeared and were replaced with "What's his name?" and an arrow pointing at York. "York." The arrow then pointed at Wash. "Wash." And then landed on North, "North." Another arrow then appeared pointing at York. "North and York" and Vis versa.

They occasionally changed the pictures and the words tell me a new set of names until it turned into a paragraph saying, "Connecticut doesn't like being called Connie anymore and wants to be called C.T. instead. She's not a good person to be close to and is a liar. She betrayed the Freelancers and went with the Rebels. She stole and lied to the people she made believe that she was their friend. What do you think of this girl's choice?" they probably weren't expecting me to answer the question, but to repeat it back to them. I proved them wrong, "She betrayed her former pack mates and that's punishable by death according to pack law. Have you punished her yet?" So shocked, they are. New words on the board appeared, "You can talk?" "Of course I can, how else do you expect me to be able to protect my pack from electrified fences and minefields?" "So you're saying the wolves could understand us too?" "Yes, but the pups, they haven't gotten a chance to learn yet, I mean, they did just open their eyes and all." "Are they your pups?" "Don't be silly, they were the alpha female's pups, I believe one of you killed her a while back." "Who do you think did it?" "I personally believe it was that female from earlier" Carolina, wasn't it?" "Why's that?" "Because she shot me and I could smell my former pack-mates' blood on her! How else would I think that she did?!" "You do have a point there" Could you please head to the door on your left for your final test?"

So I got up and headed to the open door on my left, seeing a white room with a table in it and a couple of those scary chupas. There wasn't a glass pane in this room, but a couple of cameras and a speaker on the ceiling. The scary chupas had me stand against the wall at my full height, not my "wolf" height, taking pictures (they zapped me with a cattle prod when I stood only at my wolf height). Another took a measuring tape, wrapping it around me at places, announcing some numbers that the third one wrote down what was said. The fourth was cleaning the table and messing with a few buttons as the first two chupas took to it having me lie down on it. Whatever the buttons did, they made me float. I floated as they move the table from underneath me as they started to do things to me. This went on for a while until one of them, the third chupa who had blue hair and orange fur and was rather petite, announced, "She's a Dirus, pureblood, appears to be sixteen years old," as she typed it down in her little black tablet. The first chupa, tall, blond hair with lavender fur, and male, said, "Now that's pretty rare nowadays, I thought they were extinct." The fourth one, also tall, but muscular, with brown hair and mint green fur, replied, "No, but they are more common in Sampi due to their" hardiness in harsh environments, but even then Dirus are hard to find, sir. Especially after the battle that took out Kyrai." "I see" let's take her down, we've got what we needed to get." The second one, female, sturdy in build with crimson hair and brown fur, pushed the table back under me without so much as a word as the fourth turned off whatever it was that was making me float. The third and first chupas lead me out of the room to this place with a bed, a table, and a box with the pups inside it. Sasha saw me and he tried to cross the smooth floor rather unsuccessfully. The door shut behind me, but I can open it if I wanted to, and went over to little Sasha. I carefully embraced him before carrying him back to the box, only to have Michael and Natalia's noses pressed against my hands as they sniffed, familiarizing themselves with me. I pulled the box close to the mattress on the floor before I curled up on it and falling asleep.

Chapter 4
Life among the Freelancers

The next day was quite different than yesterday, the one called Wash took me out of my room into a place called the mess hall. There were many chupas in there, some I recognize, but a large majority that I don't and they all seemed to stare at me... I didn't like it. I was about to "demand' respect when Wash told everyone to stop staring saying that they were making me nervous. They looked away and went back to what they were doing before, but with snip-bits about me here and there. Wash must be their alpha... if he is then who's his mate? I didn't want to pry, but I just had to ask, "Do you have a mate?' He almost tripped himself, "What?' "Well, you're these guys' alpha, so I thought...' "Oh, um, that's not how it works around here.' "What do you mean?' "Well, we aren't run by a pack mentality like you were, we more different hierarchy going on... it's kind of hard to explain, have York tell you more about it after I tell you how the mess hall works.' "It's a place you get you food from right?' "Right an- .' "That just sounds lazy to me.' "What?' "You basically told me that you act like cattle, eating anything given to you, when you have claws and fangs you can use to hunt deer with. That is just being sincerely lazy, if you ask me.' "... You're not going to hunt.' "What?!' "You heard me, so just get over it and eat food like we do.'

I glared at his back the whole way through the line. I took the tray he handed me, thinking of ways I could literally jam it up his ass, as the cooks put food on it. I didn't pay attention to what they were putting on there, but as Wash looked over before paying for my "meal', he seemed to go pale. I looked at my tray to see that every inch of it was covered with the stuff Wash called "food', more like lies! He paid for it anyway, but he damn well made sure I ate it all... the meat was disgusting, the plants tasted like dirt, the bread, eggs, and the chocolate pie were the only good things on it. I looked York's direction and he seemed to have the same reaction I did.

I turned to Wash with a pleading look on my face and said, "Can I please hunt instead eating this crap every day?' and made my head hit the table as I groaned. He just glared at me as other people began to agree with my lament before saying, "Alright, alright already! Fine, you can go hunting-' "Yes!' "But someone's going with you to make sure you don't break any laws!' "Damn it... is the person you're going to have follow me around a good tracker or, at the very least, pretty handy with blades?' "Well, I haven't selected anyone yet, but thanks for narrowing down the list.' "You're welcome,' I said to him as few chupas came up to us, obviously vying to go with me when I go hunting. To name a few, there was Nevada, Oregon, Maine, Wyoming, Michigan, Utah, North, and... North? Why are there two Norths? They looked a lot alike save for the fur color and gender, but, much to my misfortune, I just blurted out, "Why are there two Norths?' Everyone laughed, even North and his female counterpart. York was the one to explain to me first as to their laughter, "They're twins, they get this kind of thing a lot, but it's still pretty funny as hell when someone makes the mistake though.' "Oh...' I was pretty ashamed of myself for making such a mistake and apologized for my mistake. I got close enough to them to take in their scents. North's scent was water lily, pine, and gun smoke while South, as she introduced herself, had a scent similar to North's, but instead of gun smoke, it was this odd scent I couldn't name at the time, but I knew now as purple-stemmed aster. While I talked to my fellow hunters, I did the same thing I did to North and South. No one said anything about what I was doing, they figured that I was being friendly with them. Maine seemed to be the only one who was used to people being friendly with him at all. He is a rather odd fellow. Wash though... he did seem quite amused with what I was doing enough so that he did not even care that I got his scent memorized, deer fern, Oregon-grape, and creek dogwood.

Okay, just to get one thing straight, I really didn't know that there is more than one kind of chupa at all. As I went around the mess hall, I could find some with big, bushy hair at their tail tips, some with large manes, some that were huge, some that were small, some with fur covering their whole tail, some with barely any at all on their tails, and some that had markings shaped like wings on their back or a diamond on the forehead. I did end up having to ask Wash about this, but he just took me a couple of scientists so that they could explain it to me better than he could. It only took a couple of hours to explain to me as to why the chupas had many different appearances... it basically was that they're a race comprising of different species found on Sirca, the ring world that we inhabit, if you want the glorified basic-as-hell type of answer. Though their long explanation did give my something to tease the rude new Connecticut about... (It goes: Connie Wonnie is a horse, Connie Wonnie is a cat, so she's a hairy horsey who yowls, hisses and purrs... it is still a work in progress mind you). They did also tell me more about some other things like this whole "werewolf' business that's got everyone's panties in a wade and the more that I listened, the more it sounded like they were describing me, and I even pointed this out to them. Richard, the head of the science department of the Freelancers, only said in response, "That would be because your behavior and the behaviors of the other werewolves is very similar almost to the point of there not being any difference between you and them. It's much safer to study you than it would be to study the werewolves as you'd most likely would be less inclined to kill us, but we still do study them just via camera and compare the data we got from the both of you from there.'

He would have apologized if I gave him the chance, seeing as to how irked I was by this, if I hadn't got up and walked back to my room with the pups not before taking someone else's steak with me.

"Hey, wait up!' I was halfway to my room when someone I haven't seen before someone who I have never seen before came running up to me. He had dusty brown hair with blue fur and had these... light bluish-green eyes that seemed to be older that he physically looked. "What do you want?' "I just wanted to see if you were okay.' What the... okay, so he's not scared of me, "I'm fine really... Don't you have friends that'll worry that you came after me?' "No, I really do not have friends in this place, just colleagues who prefer to kill things and ask questions later. They're not really "friend' material.' "What's your name?' "What?' "I'm sure you've heard about me, but I don't believe I have seen you before.' "No, I have not heard of you, but to start off introductions, I'm Captain Butch Flowers, most people here know me as Agent Florida, and you are...' "Well, the pack I used to live with called me Firemane, but I don't really have a "normal' name.' "How about Rowan?' "Why that?' "Well, your hair color kind of reminds me of this rowan tree back where I used to live before this damn war started... it sounds weird doesn't it?' "No, not at all, Mr. Flowers.' "Ha, ha, no, just call me Flowers, Mr. Flowers is my father.'

And just like that, I made a friend in this place. I wanted to get to know him some more, so he took me to the roof of the Freelancers' den and we talked, learning things about each other. The view though, the view was incredible! I don't know where we were, but we were on top of a plateau with a hollowed out inside for the whole facility with a large visible hole on one of the sides for the hanger in which pelicans, (the aircraft, not the bird) fly in and out of going to where they are needed. The surrounding area was covered with forests with the occasional river seen cutting its way through it only to fall down a cliff leading to a valley with a village nestled inside. Flowers said that that's where he grew up, where everyone in Freelancer grew up. "Everyone here's an orphan, the people who run Freelancer just takes kids younger than yourself who've been orphaned for some reason or another and send them there to train and gradually replace the agents who died or retired from Freelancer. But most of the time we're just to replace those who died, not many of us make it to old age.' Flowers is a pretty old soul for a young guy. The way he talks makes me feel like we're equals and shows a good level of trust. And he hasn't lied to me once, believe me I'd know. We must have worried a lot of people back in the facility because someone opened the roof doors behind us causing us to turn to find a rather annoyed black-furred female chupa with red hair called Tex, "May I ask what possessed you to take her up here?' Flowers just laughed, saying to me that this must be a day of firsts as he took me back inside and started running from Tex just to annoy her with me following close behind laughing, Tex is not that fast a runner.

Chapter 5
The Hunt

We've been up on the roof for two and a half hours and that was enough to make everyone worry about us. Wash specifically for this particular matter, "AGENT FLORIDA, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!' he shoved his face in Flowers' after pushing him up against a wall. I was about to defend his actions before North beat me to it, "Wash, he probably didn't know- .' "HE DAMN WELL DID KNOW!' "Was it at one of your meetings?' "Yes.' "Then, no, he didn't know. We all know how much effort he makes just to avoid your meetings.' This little fact seemed to really vex Wash very much, he only paused before slamming Flowers hard against the wall and stormed off. I rushed to Flowers' side and asked if he was okay as everyone else just went off to do something else, disappointed that there wasn't a fight between Wash and Flowers. "Honestly, I feel like shit at this particular moment, but hey, this always happens one way or another,' He said as I helped him up to his feet. I had invited him to my room to meet the pups, so I decided to follow through with the promise. "How about we see the pups now? They probably are wondering as to where went.' "That sounds nice.' And we went to my room, followed closely by North for a little while until I opened my bedroom door. That was weird. Once in, Sasha, Michael, and Natalia bounded on over from their box, that looked pretty gnawed up, and jumped on me before running over to sniff Flowers... and peed. I quickly grabbed a towel to clean him off as he laughed, "Don't worry, this happens all the time,' he picked up the inquisitive Sasha causing the little fella to wriggle around, trying to get closer to Flowers' face, "Doesn't it, huh little guy?' The intercom then turned on announcing that I was to go to the first floor and that Utah would take me there. "Sounds like you got to go Rowan, I'll leave first.' "Why?' "So that you won't be upset that I've been with the pups to long.' "Oh, okay.' I pulled the steak out of the baggie Flowers handed to me, mostly so that I could stay clean, and gave it to the pups before I left. "Good afternoon, Utah, how've you been?' "I've been good, better than you I hear.' "Yeah that was a bit much on Wash's part though...' "Yeah, but you can't blame him after what happened to Winnie.' "What happened to Winnie?' "Trust me, you be better left not knowing what happened to her.' "Oh...' "On to a better subject, how are you doing, miss? Excited for the hunt?' I became gleeful at the thought of hunting prey, "I am, bye Flowers, see you later!'

It was a pretty long walk to the first frigging floor. Utah seemed to be purposely trying to take me the long way down stairs, by literally having me go down the stairs. Here's some math for you: you're on floor 76 and you're taking the stairs to the first floor, many stories of stairs is there? Answer: Too freaking many! (I'm not that good with math, but on everything else, I'm your girl) By the time we got down there, Wash was pissed off again. "What the hell took you so goddamn long?!' I told him before Utah got a chance, "He made us use the stairs and this just proves my point that elevators and escalators are much faster.' "Well, I prefer to get exercise when I can-.' "Utah.' "Yeah?' "I'm going to give a thirty second head start before I start shooting at you with this highly modified gun turret.' "So?' "One, two, three.' "Okay, okay, I'm going, I'm going!' Wash was still counting down as Utah started running for the stairwell and once Wash got the thirty... Wash gave chase and started shooting. Utah was still alive, but I can't say the same for a few Pelicans... that is what those drop ships are called right?

Oregon just appeared right behind me without so much as a claw tick on the floor, I only noticed him when he asked, "What did Utah do now?' I may have yelped when I found him right behind me. That single noise got Wash to stop shooting up the damn stairwell, trying to hit Utah. "Oregon, how long have you been there?' "Three minutes and 58 seconds.' "Right, got all the things you need?' "I've had them for a while now, but I could check again if you want me to.' Wash then face-palmed himself, doing this annoyed sigh, and said, "No, just no... Why are you still here? GO GODAMN IT!' "I still need the keys to the Pelican.' "Take. The. VAN.' Oregon sighed, but accepted the "van's' keys and pulled me to this chubby-looking Pelican that should've been decommissioned a few years ago, positioned in front of the gaping hole in the side of the plateau (I only know this because of the books I have read that my pack brought to me for my reading and speaking lessons, there may have also been a Guns, Military Tactics and More!, Art of War, Modern Combat: A Day-To-Day Soldier's Life, and Civilization: A Guide for a Soldier to Fit Back into Ordinary Life, each the size of two and a half textbooks). "Is that thing safe to fly?' I asked nervously. "It is, surprisingly enough, besides it's the only vehicle the Heads up don't give a rat's ass about what we do to it.' "Oh.'

He leads me inside before going into the cockpit. The engine starts, roaring like a violent rabid animal, speeding up, levitating, and moving to the open sky. For an old piece junk, it can move very fast. We flew for good long while before Oregon had found a clearing to land in. He must be enjoying this, the bastard, as he saw fit to have the Pelican drop for several feet before having it float just twenty feet above the ground, "Was that fun or what?' "NO, THAT WASN'T FUN AT ALL! ARE YOU INSANE?!' "No, I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested.' Is there really a test to see if one was crazy? 'Cause I highly doubt it. "Sure, whatever, shall we get hunting?' "Sure, but let's make this more interesting.' "How so?' "The one that kills less animals has to clean the Pelican when we get back to the Facility.' I thought about his challenge for a few seconds before saying, "Alright, challenge accepted, bring it!' and I dashed off to the woods starting the contest before he could grab his modified-up sniper rifle.

I leaped, landing on the tree branches, using them to speed up to my intended target, the deer I smelled when the Pelicans loading hatch opened up to release the two of us. I got there faster than I thought I had to halt myself before the deer saw or heard me above them. I waited for the right moment before leaped into the middle of the herd, killing five elderly deer before they could blink. The herd panicked, working to my advantage as I took out more of this abnormally large herd until it was a normal size, and it meant that I had to kill at least 150 deer including some slow fawns and only five sickly bucks. Seems like Oregon just starting shooting some animals, I may have just won by a hunter's default. I carried each one of my kills back to the Pelican before I went out to continue hunting and assuring my win as I heard a yell of pain.

I turned my head toward the sound as the smell of blood reached my nose and I knew that smell instantly, Oregon. I rushed to where Oregon is, following the scent of his blood, leaping into a clearing as this chupa was going to rip out his throat. This must be one of the werewolves the scientist back at the Facility told me about. Angered that she hurt my new fellow pack mate, I leaped on her, digging my claws and fangs deep into its flesh, pulling it off of Oregon. The werewolf threw me off and rushed at me, determined to kill me before it got to Oregon. I dodged its claw swipe as I swept my tail under her feet. Oregon grabbed his gun and shot the beast in the back, just missing its spine, but hitting it in the lung. It lurched forward before collapsing, I ran to Oregon, going to take him back to the Pelican, when he tells me to pull out his flare gun. He takes it and shoots into the air a black flare. The response was immediate. A newer model of the Pelican came, lowering North and South in a metal basket who were in high alert. South put Oregon on the basket, taking it and her up to the Pelican, leaving North, the werewolf, and I behind.

"Is it dead?' North asked "I am not entirely sure... Oregon did hit its right lung though.' He flipped it to its side, leaving one side exposed, showing this... mark on its side. It was a χ XIII and it appeared to be branded onto its side the same way most chupas marked their cattle. "Oh, shit!' "What?' "This is from the first werewolf pack, God damn it, I thought they were extinct!' "First pack? I thought there was only one pack.' "No, they aren't, but all the other packs are descended from the first pack. Could you lead me back to your Pelican? We need to get this back to the Facility and fast.' I saved my questions for later, leading him back to the Pelican. There was still room for it and myself in the back as North got to the cockpit, starting it up faster than Oregon did, getting up in the air faster than Oregon did too. We got back in record time, landing right next to South and Oregon's ride just as Oregon was put on the stretcher, taking him to the medical bay. The scientists gathered close to our ship to take the werewolf for themselves to study. Once it was gone, Wash came over, demanding to know what happened. North told him what I had said back in the Pelican, adding a few details himself as to what he had seen. "God damn it, that pack's back? This is very bad news, very bad.' And Wash left just as fast as he came with North close to him.

Chapter 6
New Clothes, New Job

Unsure of what else to do, I just went to grab the kills from the "van' and take them to the cooks for dinner. Flowers came by to help, thank goodness, with my little mini chore and we talked while carrying three dead does, "So what happened out there? Everyone's in quite the panic.' "A werewolf attacked Oregon while we were hunting.' "Damn, as if his life wasn't bad enough... He wasn't bit was he?' "He was going to be when I got there. I barely got her off of him before her jaws snapped shut.' This made Flowers laugh, "Oh my god, it was a chick werewolf? That's just perfect! I always told him that he'd get attacked by a woman one of these days, but this is just too much bad karma on his part.' "Why's that?' "He's a pervert! He probably got permission to go with you by buying his way to it. It's bad enough that you walk around without clothes on, but now with him just following you around on your hunts... I just hope he didn't have a camera on his person during that time alone with you.' "But wouldn't this make you a pervert too?' "It would, but then again I'm used to it, I mean, I did live in a family of ten being the only boy in the whole house with no dad to boss me around, having me act like a "real' man.' "That would explain Oregon's snide comment on the way to the hunting grounds.' "What comment?' "He said and I quote, "That Flowers boy sure is quite the pussy.' I didn't let him finish the thought as I had punched him the face.' "So he was attacked by a woman twice? Very, very bad karma. And thanks for doing that by the way.' "You're welcome... Do I really need to wear clothes?' "Yes.' "Darn it.' "They keep away unwanted attention you know and they allow you more respect than not wearing anything at all.' I perked up at respect, wanting that very much. If the clothes gave them, then I'd wear them (much to my utter annoyance).

The cooks were amazed at how much real meat Oregon and I had brought back (they served everyone imitation meat for a real long time) and they seemed thankful to be working with recipes that used real meat. I just drooled at the thought of trying the "famed' chupa foods I have heard about from Old Man Jack (he was a clever chupa food-thief in his prime and knew a lot about it, like meat-lovers' pizza, steak au poivre, philly cheese steaks, beef bourguignon, and chocolate pie!) glad that I could still work for my meals instead of standing in line and getting the "food' from before.

Flowers had left after 28th trip back to the kitchen, leaving me to ask the cooks as to where I could get some clothes. Skyla, the head cook, said to me in a husky voice, "Exit the mess hall, go left for twenty paces, then turn right and go forty paces, enter the elevator and press number 8, and it should be the door you see just as you get off the elevator, Okay dear?' "Okay!' I said cheerfully. She is a nice, scary lady. I followed her instructions to the letter and reached the room just as York was coming out, "Thanks man, I know I can count on ya. Oh, sorry!' He didn't even look to see who he ran into, the jerk! Oh well, once I get my new clothes, I'll get some respect around here! I entered the room looking for the person who'd help me with my new clothes, "Hello?' then this half-pint of a chupa jumped down from huge pile of metal clothes (I figured out that it was armor after dinner) and said, "Yeah, whadda ya want... A new girl! Excellent, come with me!' he grabbed me and lead me to the only clean area of the whole place he's got. He starts measuring me, leaps off the grab this light grey body suit and tight-fitting stockings with a leather toe thong, and puts it on me. It fits like a glove! He runs off again only to bring back multiple different armor pieces and said, "Hold still now or it will look really funny!' That made me hold still, if I look funny, I won't get respect! The armor was white with red markings painted on it and it matched up with the little red marks on the suit. I love it! "All done! Now run along girlie, HA, HA, HA!' and he shoved me out of the room and he slammed the door shut with a closed sign on it.

Giddy, I went back to the mess hall, hearing as they announced dinner. I was just about to enter as soon as Wash saw me, "What are you wearing?' "Clothes?' I said timidly. "Who told you that those are clothes?' "Skyla did. She is very helpful.' He looked shocked, but then sighed, "I guess the cooks would call armor that now wouldn't they (sigh) Well we'd better give it back...' "No, these are mine! You can't take what's mine!' "W-what? No, it isn't yours!' "No? Then whose is it? Tell me that!' He didn't say anything. "If you can't tell me that, then it's mine, now good day!' and I walked into the mess hall. Everyone stared at me again, but I didn't care. I got my food and sat next to Flowers. "Hey, Rowan... What are you wearing?' Unsure that he was going to say the same thing as Wash (who sat at the table across from ours at a position so that I could see him glaring at me), I said, "Clothes.' "This is about what I said earlier wasn't it?' "You did say that if I wore clothes, I'd get respect.' It appeared that everyone in the mess hall, except for the cooks, was listening to what we were saying seeing as they all burst out laughing. Having eaten all of my food, except for the white mushy potatoes, I scooped up Flowers' and my potatoes and flung them at South and Carolina, they both were direct hits. Nobody saw that it was I that had thrown the potatoes, but Carolina grabbed and flung her potatoes at South who shouted, "FOOD FIGHT!' This caused everyone to fling their potatoes all over the place minus Wash, Flowers, York, North, and myself (seeing as that I had already used them, but wiped my paws before anyone noticed).

We dove under the same table to avoid getting hit and to wait it out. It lasted for a good long hour, before the Director came, "STOP!' they all froze mid-throw. "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS? WHO ALLOWED YOU ALL TO DO THIS?!' no one spoke as they knew full well that once they got involved, they'd be at fault too. "None of you are speaking up? Well then, three laps on every floor of the entire facility for all of you!' Looking ashamed, they left to start their laps leaving Wash, Flowers, York, North and me behind. "Were you five not involved in that mess?' North answered, "No, sir.' "Good, now get back to your meals gentlemen, madam, consider it my treat.' He's letting us get a second dinner? And Wash is the beta in this, not the alpha? So odd, so very, very odd. We all got new trays, got our food, and sat at the only clean table available as the Director left with his meal to wherever he's going.

We talked after a moment of silence and slowly eating our food, including the mashed potatoes so that the Director wouldn't suspect that it was any of us who started this whole mess. York spoke up first, "Where did you get the armor from?' "The same room you came out of and hit me in front of. It should be a pretty easy guess.' "You're the one I ran into?! God, I'm so sorry... why were you in the armory though?' Wash responded for me, "The head cook, Skyla, just thinks of our armor as clothes and when she got asked by her, she directed her there.' "She has a name you know,' said Flowers, annoyed that Wash kept calling me, her. "She has a name? What is it?' "Her name is Rowan.' North decided to join the conversation, "Why does she have the same name as the tree?' "Well I- .' York gave his idea on how the name came to be, "Her hair is the same color as the tree's wood, it probably came from that. So who gave you that name?' "I did.' Wash just looked shocked, "You named her? You?' "Yes and yes, is this really such a surprise for you?' North, Wash and York all said in unison, "Yes!' they gave different reason as to why. "Because you're lazy and normally try to avoid work that doesn't have to do with a mission.' "Because you're always the one to avoid people or making friends.' "Because you always, always, have avoided any kind of relationship with anyone and everyone and also because you always seem to disappear whenever someone talks about something strange happens a mission you were on.' "Can I change the subject?' They all looked at me like I said something in a foreign language. Wash gave me his permission so I asked him directly, "So why can't I keep my new clothes?' "They aren't clothes and you can't keep them because you're not a Freelancer!' North and York coughed. "What?' Wash said angrily. "Well...' "Well what?' "She's on the roster.' That flipped the lid for Wash, "WHAT?! Who the hell put her on it?!' "I did par the Director's orders.' We turned around to a see a black-furred and blue-haired chupa half York's size they called the Counselor. Calmly, Wash asked, "Why?' "All that the Director would tell was that it is for... analytical purposes.' "So I can keep the- ,' Flowers nudged me as I was about to say clothes, "Armor?' "Yes, you may. Now if you can excuse me, I still have some work to do.' And he left with a tray too. I was starting to sing an "I get to keep it' song before noticing a slip of paper right next to my tray. It said, Agent Alaska report to room 343, floor 12 for your first assignment at 0400. Do not be late. York whistled, "Damn, you get an assignment right off the bat. I just hope luck's on your side rookie.' "Flowers, what's a rookie?' "This place's version of newb.' I couldn't help, but notice that he had a slip of paper similar to mine, but with Agent Florida instead of Agent Alaska. "Well,' Wash poke up after a few seconds of me staring at my little piece of paper, "You'd better get to bed now or you'll fall asleep on your first day and you wouldn't want that.' We all left to our rooms and called it a night.

My alarm clock, with the help of York as to set it up, went off making this loud, blaring noise. It was 0300. I quickly got up and caught my wits before tending to the pups. Sasha and Michael were fighting over who'd be the alpha among them three and Natalia was chewing on the box again. The night before, I had smuggled in some deer meat for them, twenty pounds of it to be exact. I must've slept in my armor last night... at least I didn't have to figure out as to how to put it one, but I did clean the outside of it until it was just as shiny as before.

Excited for what may come, I rushed to room 343, floor 12 as directed last night. I got there five minutes before Flowers did. "Good morning Rowan.' "Good morning to you too, Flowers.' This was going to be a good day so far. We didn't have to wait long to enter, but I did question as to how the holy hell he got in without either of us seeing him! "Enter!' we walked in, similar to wolves expecting a great quest bequeathed only to them. The Director stood on the other side of the table with a semi-see-through top, he touched something, causing it to glow and form the shape of this military compound. "Sir, did we get a mission from Blarganthia?' "Indeed we did Agent Florida, but not from the military personal of the Red and Blue armies, but the House of Omega.' "Really? This should be interesting.' "The Movement has been reported by a lone Red army survivor that they've killed both the blues and reds posted in Blarganthia, the House wants us find out if this report is true and to kill any that are there. Understood?' "Yes sir, but...' "But what, Agent Florida?' "Don't see how this requires Agent Alaska, sir.' "Simple, I want to see her combat skills myself, none of this exaggeration that I've been hearing.' "But sir- !' "She's going whether you like it or not, Agent Florida. Now get to your objective,' the Director was very adamant about seeing what I could do, "Dismissed.'

For no real reason, I began to hate the Director. I don't know what came over me and I did try to ignore it the ride to our objective, but it was just gnawing on me like Natalia gnawing on a box. "Hey, um, Flowers?' "Yes?' "Why is the Director such an asshole?' He thought about it for a few minutes before speaking again, "I believe it was because of his wife.' "Wife?' "It's kind of like a mate... Before the Director became the Director, he had a family, I believe you met his daughter, Carolina. His family was like another, until this "holy' war came. His wife, Allison, enlisted just as the enlistment board came up. It went pretty well for her, but every time she tried to leave to get back to the battlefield, the Director would stall here, saying that he wanted to capture the moment with her. The next time she left, it was to Stigma, that horrid, bloody battle of Stigma. When he heard that Stigma was lost to the Reds, he made calls to every military officer he knew to find out if she was alive or not. Sadly, it was the former and that has left him a very bitter man and if he had a choice, he'd not accept any red army requests ever.' "Wow, now I just feel sad for the guy.' "I know!' "But, I still hate him!' "Again, I know! It's so frustrating and ever so slightly- .' "Aggravating!' we would've continued if the pilot hadn't gotten us to point Alpha at that particular moment. "Hey, Rookie, hope you aren't afraid of heights, 'cause here we go!' the pilot dropped the ship! Why do they do this?! She did the same thing as Oregon, but that did not make me like her, the pilot, Four-seven-niner, at all. "It's official, I am going to kill her.' "No, you're not. She'll probably get you first.'

We were two clicks from our objective north of us, luckily, we had forest to hide us from the enemy's prying eyes as we stole closer. Hiding behind some thick tall grass, Flowers and I discussed our plan after he told me how to spot a member of the Movement (They'll behave like soldiers, but it's easy to tell when they are of the Movement when they screw up a heavily practiced military routine, maintenance check of weaponry), "'You take the blue base, I'll take the red one.' "And if the report was false?' "Escape unseen, now let's move.' "By the way, I call dibs on the tank if we're taking stuff back with us.' "Darn it! Fine, I'll choose something else to take for spoils.'

Following our decided plan, he got in via the hole on the roof and I took a more direct route, by pretending to be a visiting blue army sergeant! "God damn, this base is the worst kept base I've ever seen!' The people inside came out in a military fashion, stood at attention, as the big white-furred oaf demanded as to why I was here. "A spontaneous maintenance checkup of the whole base! If your weapons are ready, we'll win this war for sure. Those damn reds won't know what hit them until it's too late! After all, the faster this war's over, the faster you worthless pansies get to go home!' They just stared at me in astonishment, unsure of what to make of it, as I marched right on over to the warthog. "You, Khaki, come over here this instant!' the khaki-furred teenage-looking petite girl rushed over and, worriedly, asked, "Y-Yes sir?' "That's a yes ma'am to you!' she looked so shocked, I was a girl? What? This is very fun. "Sorry, ma'am! I meant no offense by it ma'am!' "That's better, Khaki! Now, what the hell did you and your squad do to this once-fine transport?!' "I-I-I don't- .' I grabbed the back of her tiny head and shoved it into the front seat of the warthog, showing her how much in disrepair it was. "Are you going to tell me that this is okay? HUH?!' I released her and yelled at her to fix it. That's when I noticed it, her major screw up. She was using the wrong tools for the job and just looked like she was doing something. One Movement member discovered. Then I marched over to the gun rack, looked at all the semi-broken guns, I grabbed a few and threw them at the oaf and his two male mini oafs, one beige, one dark grey. "Look at these guns, they're broken! Why are those guns broken?!' They just looked at each other all confused. "What waiting for, your mommy o show you how? Well, you mommy isn't here, now fix those guns!' This exposed three more Movement members.

As nervous as I was knowing that I was close to some members of the Movement, I still managed to inform Flowers in my own way as I told him back at the tall grass, by shooting a tank at the red base. "Let's see if this needs maintenance,' I grumbled, trying to continue the façade of pissed-off sergeant, and I headed for the tank. I got in and it said, "Hello, and thank you for activating the M808V Main Battle Tank. You may call me Sheila.' "Um, hello, nice tank lady... Could you lock on to the red base please?' "Certainly, I am happy to oblige... Firing main cannons.' KABOOM! The shell hit the side of the red base... That was awesome, let's do it again! The chupas outside the tank were freaking out at what I did, they didn't even notice until too late that I had turned the tank and pointed the tank's gun barrel at them. "Shelia, these a-holes are of the Movement; you mind locking on to them?' "Yes, the Movement is a terrible organization and all must be put in jail or be killed... Firing main cannons.' They scattered just before Shelia took the shot. I did have fun chasing them and running them over. As I did, I yelled, "That was for Clare, that one's for Tyrone, and that's for Aurora!' (They were the wolves of my old pack that the chupas of Sampi had run over with Warthogs). That girl was the last one left and she had entered the base to get away from Shelia and I. I got out and asked Shelia to make sure that the girl didn't leave, "Certainly, activating patrol sequence.' And she went round and round the base as I went in to take that girl out.

She was waiting for me and had armed herself with combat knives, you don't bring a knife to a gunfight. I pulled out my newly issued SAW, leaving the knife for later, and shot the knives out of her hands. I pulled my knife as she started to panic, rushing to finish her off. I slashed up the length of her right arm as she managed to get another knife. Screaming in pain, she kicked me hard in the stomach. I quickly recovered as she had pulled out her magnum, firing three shots. "¡Fuera, fuera, perra! Sólo quiero matarte!' What the hell is she saying? I grabbed my gun and fired full-clip, "Madre de Dios!' she dove behind some crates, and it sounded like she was moving since the crates got shredded. The SAW jammed, shit. Pulling out a shotgun, I took a few shots at her from behind my crate. She got away from each one of my shots. Crap, I pulled my knife out again and struck upwards, hitting her in the leg, as I jumped out of the way. "You are so dead, you little puta!' I growled and leaped at her, using what I was born with, and buried my claws deep into her back. She tried to wrap her hands around my throat as her life slowly left her... I did not enjoy killing her, she could've had a different life if she chose to. I didn't feel good and I wanted to do something to show my sorrow, but the Director is watching me, I'm not sure how, but he did say that he wanted to see my combat skills.

Flowers entered the base, the smell of blood covering him like an unwanted haunt, and he came over to comfort me. I accepted it, and we left the base and were greeted by Shelia, who has seen Flowers before. "Hello, did you get that last Movement member? Oh, I'm sorry, I don't believe have met, I am the M808V Main Battle Tank, you may call me Shelia, and your name?' "Um, my name's Agent Florida. I'm from Freelancer.' "Well, isn't this a coincidence, I was also from Freelancer, not this body, but my A.I. core. It is such a pleasure to meet someone else from the same place, tell me, is she from Freelancer as well?' "Yes, she's Agent Alaska.' "This is a very good day. Could you two take me back to Freelancer? I believe I have to update my systems!' I responded before Flowers, "Okay, let me and Flowers just call the Four-seven-niner first.' Flowers pulled me over in between the two bases, "Why do you want to bring the whole thing? Just take the A.I. core out and we can get out of here easier.' "But won't she be upset if we don't take the tank with?' he thought about it for a few seconds, "You know, it'll be better than the thought of being blown to bits by her having an angry fit.' He walked off to call our ride out to inform them of our "big package'. This'll surely amuse the Director.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"What is that doing here?' asked the Director in a calm voice, thinly veiling his anger.

Everyone was at the roof wanting to meet Shelia and Shelia was rather enjoying the attention, she even allowed Wash and York to drive her around for a bit. They others had never seen a "smart' tank before nor have they met an A.I. like her. The Counselor told him of our mission's return report, but that didn't quell his growing anger. Flowers and I were in the crowd when he did that horrid thing to Shelia, he had ordered her demise. Every one of his freelancers were still gathered around her as a Pelican rose up from one side of the plateau and shot a towing cable at her. Everyone grabbed onto Shelia, someone among the fifty-eight chupas there yelled, "Don't let her go! She'll fall off the side otherwise!' This got the other Freelancer personnel to join us and they too grabbed Shelia. I was right behind Shelia as the Pelican started to pull her to the edge, despite the weight. Then I had an idea, "Everyone get on Shelia! The weight should break the cable!' Wash and York, who were just about to get off, helped more people up there. The more people on, the less the Pelican pulled Shelia closer to the side. Sixteen chupas were on her when the Pelican paused. She was twenty-eight feet close to the edge. We all thought that they stopped because of our protecting her, but no, it was to deceive us into thinking that. Something had popped out of the panel on Shelia's back and, what had possessed me at that moment I am grateful to it, I pulled it out. I was noting the magenta glow of the data crystal chip just as the Pelican pulled again and Shelia fell... crashing down to the forest floor.

"No! Shelia, Shelia!' "Shelia, Shelia!' many of us cried out as she fell, some were in shock and just stood there, others had really big meltdowns, and some just didn't care. The Director was unfazed by this and turned around to leave. Someone in the crowd threw a rock at him and yelled, "YOU MURDERER, COME BACK HERE!' Wash got to her and we all saw that it was New Mexico, fury distorting her face as she continued to yell at the Director, "YOU WERE THE ONLY ONE THAT WOULD'VE DONE THIS! COME BACK...Come back...,' She broke down into a gut-wrenching sob. If anyone didn't hate the Director before, they sure as hell did now.

Everyone ate lunch in silence, willing themselves not to speak. Even though I had Shelia's mind in my pocket (I had told everyone of this when the Director and the Counselor were gone), it was still saddening. Then the Director and his pet, the Counselor, came in and we all stopped what we were doing to glare at them. No one spoke as they got their meals, laced with laxative as we learned from the cooks, and left. Wash the first to break the silence, "What the hell?!' "What your problem, Wash?' "My problem is that no one is saying anything about this! He destroyed Shelia because we were enjoying ourselves for once, does no one see a problem with this?' We all said yes or aye and many other words of agreement. Carolina piped up, "He's right, we were all miserable before today and the Director, my father, was okay with it. Then this one time, this one time, that we enjoy ourselves, he rips it away and made us miserable again! You all may be shocked when I say this, but the Director must go!' We weren't shocked and we roared our approval. This talk went on for many hours and it lead itself to one question, who would replace the Director after he was gone. I chose to speak now, "Wash, I think you should lead us.' That statement got many to agree. York yelled, "She's right about that, you've practically have been leading us already, I say also say that you must be our leader fully!' North got out of his seat and stepped onto the table, "Wash for our leader!' and it was like a domino effect after that as each one of us stood and declared our loyalty to Wash. Wash would be our alpha, not the Director.

Chapter 7
Out with the Old, In With the New

We began plotting the Director's downfall before leaving the mess hall, the plan was simple, we'd make the Director suffer in front of the House of Omega next Saturday night and have them know that we not united with the Director anymore. For the next few days, we acted the way we did everyday as to not raise suspicion with neither the Counselor, nor the Director.

Sasha, Michael, and Natalia must have guessed what I was doing as they seemed to get more and more me and my new pack mates in this fight, but not now, not while they still have to learn to fight and hunt. They have been growing bigger every day and their coats more pronounced in their color. Natalia was red with black ticking and a single white paw on her left hind leg, Michael was silver and red with streaks of black on his sides and a shock blond fur running down his back, and Sasha, he had this mahogany coat with a white bib, underbelly, tail tip and streak of his face and all of that white seemed to be outlined with black hair that look more like it was smudged on him with some charcoal. They all had their horns polished up as best as they could without much help, but at little help every now and then is nice if you want to look your best on your first day out of my room (this was going to happen either by I myself letting them out or by them clawing and chewing a hole through the door). Even though we were all plotting to over throw the Director pretty soon, it was nice to get to see and play with the pups. Even the oh-so-serious Colorado played with the pups.

Michael, Natalia, and Sasha really enjoyed the meat the cooks gave them as were eating lunch the day before we overthrew the Director. Some of us were even steeling themselves for their part in the mutiny when the alarms blared and someone over the intercom said, "Freelancer has being invaded, this is not a drill, repeat this is not a drill!' The Movement decided to get bold... how nice of them to drop in, but let's see how long these Chihuahuas can survive an attack from a wolf pack.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Movement wasn't as strong as we thought, it comprised of farmers who've lost children or husbands to the war, unsatisfied teenagers trying to be revolutionary, over-taxed villagers, spoiled greedy folk we call scavengers, and of retired war veterans just beyond their prime. I really hated to kill them and I dearly wished that we weren't fighting, but, as the question as old as war itself, if someone's trying to kill you, should you not rise up and kill them first? This was true for both wolves and chupas.

The Movement may have numbers to their advantage, but Freelancer had both harsh training and superior weaponry. We had killed hundreds of thousands before their numbers dwindled into hundreds. The survivors then tried to flee once realizing that they were all going to die that day if they didn't escape with their lives. Michael and Natalia gave chase, testing their claws and fangs on the enemies' fleeing backs as Sasha stayed close to me, attacking anyone that got too close for comfort. We could still see the survivors, they were just standing there, watching us... what were they waiting for? Then someone came out of the Facility, the leader of their suicide mission I guess, dragging the Director by the scruff. We all looked at him now, determining what he'd do to the Director.

That idiot paraded himself over to the highest point outside of the Facility where all could see him. He didn't say anything, he maybe mute, as he had drug the Director up there with him and pulled out a wicked-looking knife, grinning while he did so. He pressed it against his throat and tore it open, spilling his blood over the rock he stood on. Wash looked on and said, "Pulvis et umbra sumus,' he leaped to the top of the rock, ax what he said wiped the grin off of suicide mission leader's face "Thank you for killing him for us.' He jammed his gun into the mute's mouth and pulled the trigger.

The survivors had disappeared, taking their dead with them, when we turned to collect our dead. Out of twenty thousand men and women to fight alongside the freelancers, only six thousand survived. I was running around calling for Michael and Natalia as the rain started to fall. I heard a howl, it was Sasha's howl, but it wasn't one of I found them, It was one of deep terrible sorrow. I went over toward the sound... the sight was heart breaking. Michael and Natalia were close to each other, placed there by someone, with their throats torn out and riddled with bullet shells. I screamed loudly as I held little Natalia and Michael in my arms and broke into a sob similar to the one New Mexico had many days ago for Shelia. Some of the freelancers came to my cry, expecting there to be some enemies, but not this, never this. North offered to carry Michael as York gently took Natalia out of my arms. Flowers comforted me again, guiding me back to my room with Sasha close behind, looking depressed the whole way there. Flowers set me down on the bed and left to help with the dead, leaving Sasha and I to comfort each other. We both had lost family that day. We both cried ourselves to sleep that night.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was the next day that I had learned that they had burned the bodies of our dead and buried their ashes, but were waiting for me before they burned Michael and Natalia and did the same. I came out of my room with Sasha to attend this funeral with the box they both shared with Sasha when they were much smaller in hand. Everyone I walked past put a flower in it and bowed their heads in respect. The funeral was on the roof, so that the smoke didn't choke any birds below in the forest. Michael and Natalia looked like they were asleep on that pile of wood, their also some little things here and there with them, flowers, two collars, one pink and the other blue, and a sprig or two of wolfsbane. I placed the box in the space between them and was about to walk away from the wood, North asked, "Do wolves say anything before burying their dead?' I nodded and said, "Lo there do I see my father, Lo there do I see my mother, my sisters and my brothers, Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they do call me, they bid me take my place among them, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever.' I was handed the torch and, with it, I lit the pyre.

The flame consumed everything as we stood vigil there, the sky seemed to open up and accept Michael and Natalia's spirits. After the fire went out, North gathered the ashes into a wolf-shaped urn and handed it to me. I took it back to my room before heading into the mess hall. We had gotten what we wanted, but at a high price, many of us mourned. Wash told the remaining six thousand of the freelancer personnel that they could leave if they wished to, but they had declined the offer, saying it was better for them to stay.

It was during lunch that someone, a member of the personnel, broke the silence, surprisingly enough, with song, "There's a grief that can't be spoken. There's a pain goes on and on. Empty chairs at empty tables, now my friends are dead and gone.' So other people joined in making it a beautiful, haunting melody. North rose, "Oh my friends, my friends forgive me that I live and you are gone.' "There's a grief that can't be spoken. There's a pain goes on and on.' Sasha howled in harmony with the song being sung as Flowers walked to the tables and ended the song with an amazing voice, "Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me, what your sacrifice was for! Empty chairs at empty tables, where my friends will say no more...' the silence no longer engulfed us as we talked in a familiar old way, but talking about each one of our former friends' past that we remembered in a Irish fashion.

Chapter 8
Forward Unto Dawn

The House had accepted Washington as our leader and congratulated us on protecting our home from the Movement. They demanded that we tell them everything that had happened in the battle and even took some of us for an interrogation. We all told them what had happened from each of our perspectives and they all ended the same way. I really didn't get the misgivings from them at all! We didn't do anything to deserve this amount of distrust. After 6,158 "interviews,' they left us alone, taking 4,000 of our remaining personnel to funnel back into society due to an "unsafe working environment' (our work is always dangerous, who are they to judge?), and the job requests came in a rush. Many of us left to do our work. Some didn't come back from them and, as something Wash made so that we may have a peace of mind, the recovery one team goes to retrieve their bodies so they may be burned on the funeral pyre.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Three days after the fact, North, York, Carolina, and got called up to Wash's office, he certainly has a thing for... Cats. They were everywhere! Cat pictures, cat statuettes, pretty much everything cat. He even had a real one there. It hissed at York and leapt into Wash's arm and meowed all happy like. "Good morning, Kitty Ya-meow-guchi.' We tried not to laugh, but York was the first to break and get hit with a flying wooden Maneki-neko, "Don't you dare laugh at my cat!' "Not my fault you named it what you did, geez!' "Besides, aren't you a little too obsessed with the... cats?' "Hey, I can decorate my office however I want and you made change it from my awesome decorating job last time!' "That's because you're not running a mafia.' "Do you want to hear your job or not?'

He walks over to the table right next to it, the same one that was in room 343, and turn it on, showing us the location of our mission, namely the mountain in between Omegrad and Wortistan. "We've got this job in Omegrad and Wortistan saying they've been getting some strange activity. I've read them over and I'm certain that this is werewolf activity, pretty unusual amount of it too. You all have had experience with werewolves, I need you to handle it before it gets worse than it already is.' "What's the situation like at the moment, Wash?' "Let's see...,' Wash pulled out both mission files, "Mass murders indicating an animal was the murder weapon, numerous people having gone missing, mostly children and women, and several sightings describing it as more than one of these things. There's more too, but I think you got the idea, yeah?' York spoke up, "So we possibly going against a whole pack then?' North placed a hand on his shoulder, "From the sounds of it, yeah. Get your A.W.R. gear ready man.'

We left for the hanger after getting our gear on and holstering our weapons, we needed to get there by dawn. Four-seven-niner had the Pelican prepped and ready to go by the time we got there. "Hey, I thought you guy weren't coming.' She sneered. North wasn't having it today, "May we get going or do we have to take you to bed like a child?' She glared at him and got in the ship and we followed closely behind. Off we went to the mountain with a pissed-off pilot.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Once on the ground, North started tracking our targets. "They appear to be heading northwest from here.' Following the trail, we find it at the side of a ravine, just finishing up a meal, one of the missing children, before jumping down the ravine, landing on some sort of cliff, and entered a cave filled with roars, howls, and the occasional chupa screams of pain. York's fur rose up, making himself look bigger as the sounds became more and more intense before the screams turned it to howls. Then everything in the cave howled in triumph before quieting down. "Guys,' said Carolina bluntly, "I think we found their den.'

York and I were the first ones sent down, saying that those things wouldn't be really suspicious of the two of us since we smelled like them already and they were right about that, they were suspicious at all. York, who was already "wolfed out', growled and looked all around the cave as we entered on all fours. The pack pretty big in size, numbering around at least thirty or thirty-five. The werewolves stopped what they were doing to come over to sniff at us, they didn't seem to care one bit that they we were not their pack mates. They were, however every single person that went missing from Omegrad and the villages of Wortistan only two of the missing children were there sniffing us... I thought back to the child the one had eaten not so long ago. Their alpha, the one that had turned every one of these people into werewolves, had just come into the room, growling for everyone to back off. They did as he commanded while he walked toward us, making himself seem oh-so-important (he looked like a royal, snobbish, teenage brat with self-security issues).

Then this high-pitched sound came out of one the speakers on York's armor, causing him to fly into a rage. He lunged at the alpha, gunning for his throat. The other "wolves' watch as York and there alpha duked it out, this gave me time to plant the C4 on the farthest wall close to the ceiling. Strap it backward, press the time, jump, and run, just like Carolina showed me on the last mission we were on together in Qoppa. York, with his blood-covered muzzle, had just howled his victory when BAM! A part of the ceiling collapsed, making a new opening to the outside forest. The members of this pack were shocked that the opening came at first then, looking gleeful and very hungry, ran outside to find food in every shape and size of wild animal (many a rabbit has lost its life due to this and squirrels, chipmunks, quails, foxes, the occasional bear and deer).

Carolina and North were shooting tranquilizing darts at the werewolves when York and I heard something. (GRRRRAAAAARRRRROOOOHH! (Yes, it sounds like that.)). That other tunnel... I had thought that it was another den chamber, but I think that they sent the rest of those kids in. The light that now filled the main chamber did show the bones littering the entrance of the inner one. It was some sort of base instinct to get away from that entrance and it was sure as hell a good thing that we did! Whatever it was, it was huge and it looked terrifying! Bursting out its chamber, throwing rocks everywhere, it roared as soon as sunlight touched it. It looked blind, but it sure as hell knew where we were at, throwing its long, scythe-like claws like homing missiles. York cried out when one of them cut him deep in the side. "York!' Shouted Carolina as she began to shoot that thing. It didn't like it, or the noise, at all. It came completely out of its chamber before any of us saw it for what it really was, an Omega Variant. It had the main body figure of a chupa, but everything else greatly deviates away from that, resembling something more like multi-armed praying mantis mixed with an Ankylosaurs. Leaving York and I alone, it started to go after Carolina and North (North had joined in on the action after seeing Carolina was in trouble). Using York's emergency broadcast (we were prepped to fight werewolves, not Omega Variants!), alerting Freelancer of the Omega Variant and requesting immediate assistance. The response was very immediate since the radio call was followed by the roar of a Pelican, two Falcon-class, four Hornet-class fighters, and the Valor (it's the Air Care Ambulance, but many chupas still call it Valor).

The Variant roared in pain when Maine and Wyoming arrive, mostly due to a couple of Falcons and four Hornets keeping it busy from up high in air where it couldn't reach. Those two really are crazy bastards, that's all that I can say about what I saw afterward of their fight with it. The Valor landed close to York and me, both sets of helicopter blades slowly whirring, as a two medics jumped out of it. "Did either of you get hit?' "York did, left side!' "Got it, Freelancer, this isValor-117, have the medical bay ready to receive a patient, rampaging Omega Variant, repeat, rampaging Omega Variant.' I had to help the medics get York on board (damn, he's heavy) when I got a good look at his wound. It was long, deep, and very jagged, oozing a black-blue pus out of it. I got him on board before I vomited in the bushes everything I had eaten before, I most certainly did not want to see that again, ever. Valor-117 got in to the skies and out of there in good time as O.V. figured out how to attack aircraft. The hornets came crashing down all torn apart or slashed up to where it could no longer fly. I ran into area of combat to find Carolina and North. It wasn't easy with all this stuff getting thrown all around the whole place.

After much dodging, ducking, and crawling, I do manage to find them, hunkered down behind the only thing that wasn't shredded or tossed around. "Where's York?' "Medics took him back to the Facility, he got hurt real bad back there.' "Damn and when we needed him too!' Maine and Wyoming had just jumped behind just to join us, "I told you we needed the rocket launcher, but you just had to bring your precious brute shot instead!' We didn't get to talk long when the O.V. smashed our cover, "RUN!' We scattered to escape the damn, but it's my damn luck that it decided to chase me out of all us! I had run to the thicker and thornier forest path, running until my legs gave out near a lake. It wrapped its hands around my throat and tried to drown me... It stopped... Why did it stop? It seemed to stare at the water for a few minutes before plunging its head under the surface and looked at me with complete and utter shock. Releasing me, it started to scream and thrash around before it spoke (I was disturbed by what it said more than its appearance at this point). "What happened to me?!... Mom, I'm scared. Silence, you worthless creature! I'm not a worthless creature. You are, you are the worst filth the world has ever seen. I'm not, I'm not! We were made to kill, to slaughter, anyone we see. I'm not a killer!' it was still talking to itself as I got to cover up in the trees, "Then who murdered your father, your mother? NO! It was all for your god king's entertainment, these murders you've so willingly committed. They were going to hurt Chi, It didn't make me willing to this!' Chi... why did that sound so... Oh my god, χ XIII! I remember someone back at the Facility saying that the χ symbol was Chi, it must have been a member of that pack before it became that monstrosity! Then I noted something, a gaping hole on its back, if I could just get this frag grenade in there... Death would be a kindness for it at this point. I waited until it was looking well away from me before pulling the pin and tossing it in the hole while it still argued with itself.

It must've heard, or felt, something roll around in its protective shell as it seemed distracted by its back just a few seconds before it we- KABOOM! Having its spine turned to shrapnel, it kneeled over and died. I leapt down from my hiding place to look at its right side for a mark... it had ζ XIII, Zeta, so it was a member of that pack. Carolina, North, Wyoming, and Maine must heard the explosion as they came crashing out of the forest. "Rowan, are you alright?' I didn't answer their question, but instead asked, "Why does this thing have a mark similar to the werewolf with χ XIII?' This peaked North's and Wyoming interest, it was a werewolf of an old pack and an Omega Variant... interesting. Carolina called for extraction as North, Wyoming, and Maine tied the corpse up to haul back to Freelancer.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Upon our return, everyone fussed about us, seeing if we were actually okay, and some shrieked at the sight of the O.V.'s corpse as Maine drug it out of the back and left it for the scientists, they gathered in a fashion similar to buzzards. Carolina ran to the medical bay to see York (no matter how much she denies it, she really loves York) just as Wash entered the Hanger. We all stood at attention, being respectful of his new rank, while he freaked that he had put us in harm's way. Even though we weren't hurt, he still made go to the medical bay to get checked out, at least we got to join Carolina and York... I think we're interrupting a moment (Carolina and York, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, literally!). I sang the tune as soon as we saw them do that rather loudly for everyone in the whole area to hear. "N-no, we not doing that!' Wyoming was the first to comment, "Yes you two were, don't deny it plus everyone here is a witness to it!' Everyone else nodded sagely to that comment.

Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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