The Howling

Curse of the Blood Moon

In a small dusty section of the American southwest, if one had far too much to drink and no sense of direction, one would come across a most peculiar sight among the sagebrush and rattlesnakes.

Pioneertown

A scale model of an actual pioneer town built on the frontier, it was meant to be a backdrop for the kind of Westerns that stared men in gaudy cowboy outfits with guitars strapped across their backs in lieu of rifles. But in the pale moonlight all that was left was crumbling storefronts and deserted lots.

A grizzled man, looking more like a shaved grizzly than a man, walked down the center of the main street. His eyes peering out from his shaggy main, he drew open his coat to revel twin pistols. He stood at attention, his eyes taking in all the sights in the lonely ghost town, almost as if the specter of Hop-a-Long Cassidy himself would call him out for a fight.

"I know you're there." He spat a large wad of tobacco out of his mouth as he drummed his fingers against the metal pistol grips. "Come on out and fight you mangy dingoes!" he shouted to the night sky.

Almost in response, a lonely wolf cry echoed across the plain, quickly joined by another.

And another

And another

The man cursed in several tongues as he drew his pistols and looked around. "So, trying to bushwhack me, eh?" he asked the night as he slowly made his way down the main street. He had taken no more than two steps before the sound of growling filled his ears. Turning around, he saw that he was not alone.

Down the street were well over two-dozen wolves that would be (if there were actual witness to this bizarre showdown) at best described as impossibly large. "Clever, little Shelia send you out or did you big dogs just know where I am?" he asked as he drew the pistols and pulled the hammers back. The wolves snarled and rushed en mass towards the man. "Come on you bloody sepos!" the man yelled back in challenge as he began to fire into the pack.

The wolves scattered, although a few were unlucky enough to catch several slugs in the face and muzzles. "Teddy, you got yourself into a mess this time." He muttered to himself as he turned and dashed the main street with the horde of wolves right behind him.

Still firing as he ran, he rounded the closet corner and ran towards a tarp-covered object. "Right were I left you Matilda!" he mumbled as he tore away the tarp to revel a motorcycle that had seen better days. Opening a saddlebag located on the side, he pulled out a saw-offed shotgun and fired off three rounds in rapid succession at the on coming horde. "Bloody hell, how many of you hairy bastards are here anyway?" he cursed as he jumped on the metal steed and gunned the engine.

Tearing out of the alley, he tore through the dusty streets, narrowly avoiding having several head-on collisions with the wolves. Firing off another shot with the shotgun, he tossed the weapon away as he exited the town and made his way into the open desert. "Blast, hairy buggers are multiplying! I've got to call this one in ASAP." He thought as a deafening chorus of howls greeted him.

Slowing down, he spied almost a hundred wolves circling around him. "Aw shit." He cursed as he drew his only remaining pistol (the other having been dropped back in town) and did the only thing he could think of.

He revved the engine and headed straight towards the line, his gun firing off round after round towards the snarling beasts.

End Night

Day 1

The next day

The hot sun blasted the area like God's own flashlight as a small crowd of men in official looking uniforms gathered around a small stretch of highway.

"Well, I think we can rule out suicide." Wheezed an old pasty man with white hair and bad taste in suits. "Ok Chief, but what do we put down on the death certificate?" asked a deputy with face that looked as if he had been in the losing end of far too many bar room fights.

"Let's just say cause unknown." The Chief answered as he gazed over the remains before him. A couple had spotted the remains and had called the police dispatch when they saw the bones. A wrecked motorcycle and the rider were collapsed in a ditch by the side of the road. Chief Kester had seen a lot of things in his line of work, but this beat almost all of them. The body had been literally torn to pieces, almost like a coyote. But Kester had seen coyote attacks before, and they had never bothered to go after something like an armed man, nor were there any coyotes capable of producing bite marks that large. Looking around the area also gave birth to more questions. "The couple said they found him in this ditch?"

"Yes sir."

"Then were are all the tracks? A motorcycle crashes, there should be some burnt rubber, but this asphalt is smoother than a nun's thigh." Kester thought as the remains were loaded up into an older model ambulance. "Boys, I want this sent on over to Yuma and let their med team take a crack at this. Something about this isn't right." He thought as he slid into his cruiser and pulled an oxygen canister out from under the seat. Uncoiling the breathing mask, he took several long gulps before putting the can back under the seat.

In a undisclosed location

In a darkened room where only the briefest illumination came from small overhead lamps, there were various mutterings, most of them bad. "Sir, we lost contact with Major Turner." A voice off to the side of the table spoke, sparking off a wave angry mutterings among the assembled men. "Quiet" an older voice with a light English accent spoke, instantly hushing the crowd.

"Damn" the older man muttered as he dismissed the page and turned his attention to the assembled group. "Well gentlemen, it seems that our fears were correct after all. Tom's failed to contact us, so we must assume the worse."

"Sir, surely we have enough evidence to move forward?"

"Forward to what? This isn't the old days anymore Brandner. We can't just slaughter an entire town because of a hunch. The full moon won't be for at least another four weeks. That should give us time to organize our forces."

Various computers began to hum to life as various pictures were being analyzed and personal information scrolled across the screen. "In the meantime, we will send an agent in to check on Turner's last known coordinates before we do anything rash."

The order didn't sit well with too many of the group, but for the most part they held their peace.

Day 2

Yuma Medical Center

Kester drew his coat closer around his frail body as he walked past the swinging doors. Rubbing his arms in an effort to try and keep the blood flowing, he walked on the bleach-scented tiles until he saw what he was looking for.

A small sign nailed above the set of doors before him with the word: "Morgue" written on it.

Pushing the door open, he strode into the cold room and made his way over to a small desk near the corner. "Joe? You in here?"

While Kester was asking, he failed to see a bagged form on a examining table moving. The body bolted upright at the sound of Kester's voice. Turning around, Kester's hand flew to his gun as the bag was unzipped from the inside. "Jesus Joe, you trying to kill me faster?" Kester wheezed as the bag fell away to revel a middle-aged man, his face tanned despite his occupation, standing before the chief with a grin on his face. "Sorry, chief, but you really should call ahead." He chided as he walked over to a small drawer and began to slip on a surgical gown. "I take it you're here about the John Doe?"

"Yes" Kester grumbled as he followed Joe over to a separate room. "Well, I haven't got much, but here's what I've found." Joe began as he flipped through a folder and read off the contents. "Your victim was about 45, he worked with his hands a great deal, He has some strange surgery recently, and he was born or at least spent a great deal of time in Australia."

"And how did you know this?" Kester questioned, his confusion still present. "Well, I noticed he had some really thick calluses on his hands, mainly along index finger and thumb. As for the Aussie part, well, he had a kangaroo tattooed on his left buttock and an emu on his right. Now here's were things get weird."

Opening a drawer, Joe pulled a desk lamp over the remains with one hand with pulling back the shroud with the other. "His hands" Joe indicated as he shined the light on the severed appendage. "He doesn't have any fingerprints, which is why I've had a dammed hard time trying to figure out just where he's from." "Wait, what about dental?"

"Oh, those would be great, but we're missing most of his head. I'll have to send his remains over to Phoenix if you really want some real answers, but here's another thing that stood out." Joe said as he closed the drawer and went back over to the desk.

"And what's that?"

"These" Joe answered as he pulled out a large envelope and spilled the contents out into a tray.

The echoing of the bullets hitting the metal tray sent chills down Kester's spine. "Are those?" he began as Joe picked a shell up and admired it under the lamp. "Yep, .32 caliber and made" he said as he flicked his finger against the shell for added emphasis, "from pure silver."

"So, an Australian, with enough silver bullets to take down a rhino, gets killed on our back roads. Am I right?" Kester asked as he surveyed the table. "On the money the chief, but I also found a few other things that might clear up a few questions."

"Such as?"

"Well, I found some fibers under his nails. They belonged to, get this, Canis lupus baileyi, and Canis lupus youngi and a few others that I can't quite id just yet." 'Wait, you mean there was wolf fur under his nails?" Kester asked, his eyebrows rising almost to the point where they disappeared under his hair.

"Not just any wolves Chief. The former is better known as the 'Mexican Wolf' and it's presently endangered. The later was the Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf, and it's been extinct for close to 50 years."

"Impossible!"

"Yes, but here it is" Joe answered as he help up the small plastic bag. "Also, I found some wool fibers attached to his collar, as well as some red clay on his boots." "Meaning?"

"That whatever or whoever killed this guy first killed him, and then dumped his body in that ditch. The wool looks like it came from a blanket and the clay was probably where he was killed."

"Fantastic Joe, I owe you one!" Kester smiled as he turned to leave. "Actually, you owe me several, but you're welcome anyway Chief." Joe smiled back as he went about placing the remains back in the cooler.

Kester exited the morgue and made his way back to his car. "Alright, he wasn't killed there, but then where?" he wondered as he absently strolled out into the parking lot and towards his car. "Defiantly a five-percent problem here, no doubt about that." He thought to himself as he entered the car squad car and drove off towards the station.

Clicking on the radio, the sounds of Johnny Cash soon filled the car. "Damn it, what is going on here?" he muttered as he drove down the city streets, the setting sun giving the sky a bloody look.

Day 3

Along the California/Arizona border

Jaro Prikopsky grumbled as he fiddled with the cracked knobs on his radio. The harsh light of day gave the endless road before him a watery look, but he didn't mind too much, as he had no particular place to be.

That is until the naked woman showed up.

Slamming on his brakes, Jaro almost spun out of control as his truck came to a screeching halt. The stench of burnt rubber filtered up into his nose as he stared at the woman. She was (as his initial impression was correct) naked as jaybird. She was also covered in dirt and blood, but he wasn't going to worry himself with the small details.

Rolling down the window, he leaned and said in his best John Travolta impersonation: "Where to little lady?"

"You have to help me!" she cried as she almost jumped into the cab of the truck headfirst. "Well hot damn ma'am, no problem at all!" he grinned, which showed off a set of teeth that were almost as black as his front grill.

The woman shimmied in through the open driver side window (not that Jaro complained) and curled up on the floor on the cab. "Drive, drive please!" she begged as he gunned the engine and tore off down the road.

They continued in silence for a bit before he could remember to ask for her name. "What's your name lady?" he said as he tried to keep both his eyes on her face and on the road at the same time.

"K-karen White" she muttered as she rocked herself back and forth within the small confines of the truck. "We have to get out of here, they'll be back for me!" she stared to sob as Jaro began to question even slowing down. "Umm, alright." He muttered as he fished around under the seat. Finding a cell phone, he keyed in the numbers 9-1-1 and quickly spoke into it.

But as he began to relate the strange tell that was unfolding around him, he spotted a nearly a dozen motorcycles and a few tricked out cars roaring up behind him. "What the hell is that?" he asked aloud as he saw the motorcycles parted to let a beat up Volkswagen beetle drive up with a large bullhorn attached to the top.

Karen, slowly but surely, peered over the headrest at the sight. "Oh God, you have to let me out!" she cried as the Bug proceeded to rear-end Jaro's ride. "Not a problem!" he cursed as he slammed his foot down on the gas, leaving several of their pursuers in the dust.

As the truck barreled down the highway, Jaro cursed loudly and long as he shot a sideways glance at his passenger as the car slowly drifted back, but not the strange chanting over the loudspeaker.

"Drive…hurry!" Karen gasped as she suddenly sat. Jaro, ignoring her nudity for perhaps the first time, stared intently at her hands as the cracked and dirty nails of her hands suddenly spilt open. Karen screamed…no, it more like howled, at the sight.

Her flesh started to ripple as she gasped, "For God's sake, either speed up or let me out!" she cried as golden fur began spread across her swelling frame. As her jaw and face slowly snapped, reformed, and reshaped itself into what looked like a muzzle, Jaro had had enough. As Karen thrashed about the cab and climbed onto the seat, he slammed on the break.

The sight of the still changing Karen flying backwards through the windshield lessened the pain of the seatbelt slamming into his chest. Her body hit the hood once before she slid over the grill and down the pavement. "The hell with this freak show!" Jaro swore as he slammed down on the gas again.

Seconds before his foot touched the pedal, a beast from hell suddenly appeared before him. A wolf, it's fur a bright gold, lunged for him; at least until the truck stared moving then the horrid thing vanished from his sight as it was dragged under the truck. Jaro smiled in grim satisfaction as he heard the sound of bones crunching followed by a cry of pain. "Good riddance!" he muttered as he sped through the desert.

While a short ways off, on a rocky plateau…

"Little one, why do you keep annoying me?" a raven-haired woman asked aloud as she spied the following events through a pair of binoculars. Putting them down, she carefully place the binoculars back in their carrying case before walking over to a pickup truck that was in far better shape than the one presently speeding away.

Walking around back to the tailgate she bent over, the faded denim of her jeans stretching just the right way across her body. "I always wanted to try this!" she again spoke into the air as she straightened up with the object of her search.

A bazooka

"Prepare to be huffed little pig" she smiled at her own joke as she readied her aim. With a careful squeeze of the trigger, she braced herself against the force of the blast. The rocket screamed through the hot desert air before slamming into the speeding form of the truck. The rocket hit the vehicle dead on, ripping through the metal like a knife through a potato.

The explosion echoed throughout the valley as the mysterious woman tossed the bazooka back into the truck and climbed into the cab. Picking up a CB receiver, she pressed the button and spoke into it as she turned the key. "Big Bad to cubs, target eliminated. Shut off the tunes I'm coming down." She spoke as she drove the truck down the mountain path and back to the main road.

As the truck entered the highway, the mysterious woman rolled down her window and surveyed the carnage. Karen (who had changed back to normal) was being helped to her feet by two of the bikers, while the Beetle simply sat idle with it's engine running and the driver (a skuzzy fellow of indeterminable age) sat at the wheel.

"Nice work Pack" the woman said as she exited the truck and made her over to Karen, who looked none the worse for wear. "You heartless bitch!" Karen spit as she dragged over to the row of motorcycles that had been parked on the shoulder.

The woman took the curse in stride. "I am, aren't I? But then, I wouldn't have to be if you just learned your place pup." She said calmly as she lashed out with a kick that caught Karen right in the stomach. She went down with barely a sound. "Now I'm in charge, and you can die when I say and not before, understand?"

Walking past Karen, she nodded to the bikers. "Take her back to the compound, but make sure she travels hard."

With a nod, two of the bikers grabbed Karen's feet and lashed them to the back of their cycles. The woman gave a short barking laugh at the sight of Karen being dragged away by the two. Karen screamed in rage and pain as the flesh on her back was literally ripped off by the asphalt. "You" she said as she turned attention to the car, "I want you to go through the wreckage. Find anything of value and bring it to me, and make sure that shit-kicker is dead."

"We have two weeks before the moon, and I won't have anyone, not her or some dumb redneck screwing this up!"

Getting back into the truck, she started the engine again before shouting out one last order. "Head back as soon as you're finished. I think Mrs. White back there could sue some more discipline when you get back!"

This provoked grins and round of raucous laughter from the men as she drove away.

Day 4

Kester sighed as he pored over the files from the crime scene alongside a map of the area. "Where did you come from?" he said aloud as a knocking at the door made him jump. "Who's there?"

A man entered the office. Kester stared up into the man's face. The man was tall, and so thin as to appear taller. His face was haggard, and Kester couldn't help notice the man's left eye was a milky color as opposed the right's dark brown. His neck was adorned with a simple white collar that suggest the priesthood. A deep row of scar tissue covered the man's forehead and left side of his face as he removed his wide-brimmed hat and looked straight at Kester with a gaze that seemed to suggest that the man was not in anyway afraid of anything Kester could do.

"My name if Father John Huff. There was a homicide on your roads a few days ago." He said in a tone that suggested that he was simply stating a fact and not a question.

"Well Father Huff, that is correct, but I'm a might curious as to how you knew that." Kester replied as his hand inched towards his pistol.

"The Lord moves in mysterious ways Sir, and you do not want to draw that gun." Huff spoke slowly as he cracked his knuckles. Kester got the feeling that Huff could have hurt him without breaking a sweat as he saw the massive hands slowly snap the fingers and he almost winced at the sound of the cartilage being popped under the skin.

"Alright, but you haven't explained to me just why you're here."

"I knew the victim Sir, and I must be allowed to see his remains." Huff said as he stood stock still before Kester's desk.

"Alright Father, alright. But I hope you had better have a good explanation for this."

The car ride to the morgue was uneventful, but Kester couldn't help but be unnerved by the man in the passenger seat. "Sir, I must know, has there been any animal attacks in this area."

"Now why would you want to know that?" Kester replied, his curiosity now thoroughly piqued.

"I'll explain more when we see the body." Was all that Father Huff would say. The rest of the trip was in silence.

At the morgue

After slipping Joe an extra $50 to let him and his guest enter the area, Kester slowly drifted towards the back of the room while Father Huff examined the remains. "So…you said you knew him?" Kester opened up, trying to get more out of his enigmatic companion.

"Yes, we were…friends, after a fashion." Huff answered as he peered down at the chew remains that he had spread out before him. "I suppose you would want to know the truth?"

"That is generally what men in my profession want, yes."

"Very well." Huff changed his tone as he covered the remains back up and slid them back into the cooler. "His name was Major Theodore Turner. He and I were investigating the rumors of something very dangerous in this area, and he was sent in first to seek out the evil." A wry smile played across the man's face as memories came flooding back. "Ted always did have the tendency to go charging in with his guns blazing."

The mood sobered back up as Huff grabbed the envelope that contained Turner's belongings. "Hey, now that's evidence!" Kester protested as Huff opened the envelope up and started to pocket the silver bullet. "Chief, I know this may sound insane, but I must have these shells. They are the only things capable of stopping the evil from claiming more victims!" Huff almost shouted, a mad look in his remaining eye.

"And I say you still haven't told me nearly enough. Why would an army man be armed with silver bullets, and what is this evil you're talking about?"

Huff sighed, like explaining a simple math problem to a particularly dull student. "Werewolves Sir, werewolves. Foul beasts that murder and spread their plague throughout the land, and these silver bullets are the only things capable of stopping them. Major Turner had reason to believe that a particularly powerful Alpha female had set up a pack in the desert, and I also had reason to believe that this particular Alpha had plans…plans that went above and beyond simply killing livestock and the occasional wayward tourist."

"You're nuts." Kester said flatly as he drew his pistol and aimed it at Huff's head. "And you're under arrest."

"Chief." Huff's voice was firm and he showed no fear at the gun before him. "I am not asking for your help. If you wish to, as the saying goes, 'sit this one out' then I will respect your wishes. But if you seek to stop my mission, than I shall view you as a threat and treat you as such."

Kester didn't move or flinch as Huff calmly raised his hands over his head. "Now you're making sense." Kester gave a sigh of relief as he approached the man with his gun still trained on him and a pair of handcuffs in the other.

Before he could blink, Huff had wrested the pistol away from him and Kester found himself staring down the barrel of his own gun. "I assure you Sir, that my mission is quite real and the threat is valid. Major Turner fought a similar menace near here some time ago. Now, are you going to stop me?" Huff asked, his finger squeezing around the trigger.

Just then, Joe entered the morgue. "Hey Chief, Fischer just called and said you needed to see something he found!"

Huff (who had quickly stashed Kester's gun within his robes) nodded at the police chief. "It begins Sir; you can either help me now or let this plague go unchecked."

Kester stared straight up into the man's one working eye. "If you give me back my gun I might forget you ever showed up here." Kester warned. Huff sighed, handed the pistol back, and quietly walked towards the double doors. "I'm saddened by your decision Sir, but I will respect it. Goodbye." He spoke softly as he exited the room.

"What was that all about?" Joe questioned.

"Long story Joe, but what is this about a emergency?"

"All I got was Fischer babbling about some kind of wreck just off the interstate, and I figured I ought to call you. What was that weirdo doing anyway?"

Kester paused as he looked at the now empty envelope. "Nothing important Joe, nothing important. Sorry about the mess." He mumbled as he made his way back to his car.

15 minutes later

Driving at high speed, Kester slowed down when he spotted the familiar flashing of the squad car lights up ahead. Stopping the car, he got out as fast as he could and stared at the sight before him.

A pickup truck lay in a twisted pile in the middle of the road. Smoke was still rising off of the burnt metal as Kester approached. "What the hell happened?" he asked as Fischer spit a long stream of tobacco juice out of his mouth and looked at the chief. "Well Chief, looking over it, I'd say this old boy got hit by a RPG or something damned similar."

The scarred deputy motioned over to the driver side of the wrecked vehicle. "And I found this also." He jerked his thumb towards the driver side door, which was riddled with holes. "Looks like someone wanted this old boy dead pretty bad."

"Looks like." Kester agreed as the EMT's crow-bared the door and pulled the still smoking corpse out. "They took his plates, and I'm betting more than that." Fischer spat again as the body was loaded onto a stretcher.

Thinking back on the strange priest's words, Kester shook his head in disbelief. "Well, find out what you can." Turning his attention to the surrounding area, Kester mumbled aloud, "What is it?"

"Chief?"

"Sorry, just speaking my mind. That biker we found, he wasn't too far from this spot, was he?"

"Hmm, maybe about an half hour drive or so; why, you think these are connected?"

"I hope not, but still…" he said as his voice trailed off.

"What's around here anyway?" Kester suddenly asked while the wrecker was earning its keep and hauling the battered truck away.

"Nothing but sand and dirt…well, I did remember there being some kind of stage or something out in the desert", Fisher recalled, his brows furrowed. "A stage that the studios built back when I was a kid. I think some hippies run it nowadays."

"Hmm." Kester muttered as he stared out at the moonless night. A howling cry echoed across the desert, sending chills down his spine. "I think we might need to head on out there."

"Alright chief, but do you think we'll find anything out there?"

"I hope not Fischer, I hope not." Kester muttered as he climbed back in his car and headed back towards the stationhouse, remembering when the thought of lukewarm coffee and stale doughnuts were the biggest concerns to be had.

"Damn city folk" he grumbled as he drove off into the darkness.

Day 5

Back in Pioneertown

The old faux town had done all right for itself once the new owners had shown up. The buildings that had seen rivers of blood being spilled daily in the street stood mostly silent. A few modern motorcycles and a odd assortment of trucks were the only sign of recent habitation.

The woman from before exited one of the trucks and smiled as she inhaled the dusty air. Walking, her hips swaying sinfully in the early morning light, she walked past cigar store Indians and various buildings until she made her way down a side street and into a small chapel.

Walking past the empty and dust covered pews, she started to whistle an odd tune as she walked near the pulpit. Reaching into her front pocket, she pulled out a painted covered key and opened a new looking lock that was presently being used to secure a trapdoor under her feet.

"Wakey wakey eggs and bacey" she whispered as she threw back the door and stared down into the rank smelling hole.

Karen didn't even bother to look up at her. "Now really sweet thing, just when exactly are you going to get it through that vapid little head of yours that escape is impossible, hmm?"

"Go to hell" Karen whispered as she sat in the mold and filth. "I've already been there baby, I've been there ever since that fairy killed Eddie and you torched my pack. You are one of us Karen, and I think it's high time we stopped playing around. I admit these past few years have been fun, but these escapes of yours are seriously working on my last good nerve." She spoke as she reached into her jacket and removed a small flask. "Here, I hope this will tide you over for a while, because tonight we are going to do something about that negative attitude of yours little lady."

She tossed the flask down into the hole where Karen made no effort to pick it up.

Marsha Quist, her hair still wild and her figure even wilder, began to whistle again as she relocked the door and strolled causally back out into the sun shine.

Karen, her frame gaunt from lack of food, eyed the flask carefully. Slowly picking it up, she unscrewed the top and chugged the contents. Seconds later, she spit the noxious liquid out. "Blood!" she cursed as a red river drizzled out of her mouth. "I'll kill you Marsha…I swear It." she uttered as she tossed the flask as far she could muster.

Marsha, unaware or uncaring of Karen's words, popped her back as she strolled back down towards the main drag.

Thinking back on her life, Marsha smiled as she sat down in a rocking chair that been left in front of a general store/tavern with unlikely name of 'Pappy's'.

The silent streets brought on a sense of peacefulness that she had not experienced in a long time. "Eddie, you would have hated it here" she thought as she rocked back and forth. Her brother Eddie, better known as the Mangler, had been the one to free her from the weakness of the flesh.

The incident with Karen notwithstanding, Marsha viewed her lot as being pretty fair. The loss of her old pack was hard of course, but she managed to do all right by herself over the years. She smiled broadly at the memory of hearing about Karen's 'resurrection' and of the subsequent years that followed. Pioneertown had been one of her own ideas, but she didn't want to simply repeat the mistake that Wagner made. No, this time things were going to go according to plan.

Getting up from her seat, she made her way to the cars and bikes. "I think a little hunt would be just fine about now." She thought as she opened the car door and picked up a scratched up cassette tape.

Heading back to her room (living on set had it's advantages as noted by her 'room' being the top floor of the town's hotel) Marsha passed by some of the members of the pack that had opted to stay inside. "Boys, I'm going for a little walk. I'll be back around nightfall, so keep Mrs. White properly entertained while I'm out, 'k?"

Going upstairs, she closed the door (but made sure not to lock it) and kicked off her boots as she pulled an old model Walkman out from her dresser and inserted the tape. No manner how many times she went through it, the seconds before the Change were always the best. The anticipation, the feeling of raw power that started in your gut and just spread out in every direction…

Marsha couldn't wait any longer. Not even bothering to remove her clothes, she put the tape in the player, inserted the headphones, and pressed play.

The actual content of the tape was a mystery, even to her. There had been rumors of a 'wolf-boy' showing in freak shows out of the northwest, which naturally had drawn her attention. The owner of the show, a vampire, had been using a spell he picked up from a holy man during a stint in Outer Mongolia to make one of his enemies suffer. He had been quite impressed with her…talent, and had given permission to record the chant for her own use.

Marsha paced back and forth on the floor as the sounds of the man's smooth voice began to filter in through the duct-tape covered headphones and the all too familiar feeling began to move through her body.

Heat began to build in her lower body and quickly spread out to the rest of her. The true change started out in her extremities first; her feet and hands began to tingle almost as if they had both fallen asleep. The Change had become so routine by this point that Marsha had learned not to view it as pain, but rather pleasure. "Oh Eddie, you'd be so proud of me!" she gasped as she dropped to her knees.

All at once her fingertips and toenails exploded as long claws burst out from deep within. "Yes!" Marsha moaned as she felt her canine teeth elongate and fill her mouth. Fur began to rapidly grow along her forearms. Unable to wait, Marsha gripped her faded work shirt and in one tug reduced the garment to tatters with her claws. Her breasts (which showed no sign of sagging she smugly thought as she tossed the ruin top away) swelled slightly as dark fur began to grow and cover them.

The rest of her body had not been idle the whole time either. Her jeans, which had been tight enough before, now looked positively painted on as her thighs swelled with muscle. Spreading her legs, she moaned in pleasure as she felt the cool air from the small oscillating fan brush over her more sensitive areas through the ripped fabric.

The sensation of her face changing was hard to ignore as she heard and felt the veins and tendons reshape around her face as it grew into a muzzle. Her nose stretched and the familiar smells of her pack filtered up through her new nostrils.

Rearing back (and pushing her already strained jeans past the breaking point) on her hind legs, she let out a lustful howl that rattle the walls of the old building. The headphones fell away from her newly elongated ears and fell to the floor with a clatter. The tape finished playing as Marsha broke through the door and down the hall. The sound of the tape softly hissing soon was the only thing playing.

Downstairs

"Boss is going to be busy, huh?" quipped Jim, a rather skuzzy fellow with a bandana that proclaimed both his favorite sexual position and his view on women's rights. The sound of wood breaking followed by the sight of a massive wolf bounding down the stairs and out the front door. Lowering his mirrored sunglasses, he smiled as he kicked to his feet back. "Anyone ever tell you that your jokes suck?" asked Bonnie, a woman with a gray mullet that seemed to defy gravity. Jim snarled back at the insult, but that wasn't enough motivate him to him from his table near the bar.

"Brock you fat-ass, get in here!" Jim hollered from his chair as Brock, a morbidly obese man in a shirt that fit reasonably well about the last Red Sox were in the World Series, sauntered in and flopped down in a chair. "Yeah, what you want?" he grumbled as he opened a bottle of beer with his teeth. "A blowjob from Patsy Cline, but from you I want those damn choppers filled up." Brock nodded and left without pausing to put his beer down. "You sure the boss has the right idea?" Bonnie asked as Brock vanished from sight. "Maybe, and if not, well hell it'd be fun anyway, right?"

That afternoon

Kester drummed his fingers on the dashboard as he drove down the highway. "A blown up truck, and a dead biker. What's the connection?" He thought as he grabbed his CB and flicked it on. "I maybe nuts, but it's the only place I haven't checked out yet." He thought as he thumbed the dial to the right frequency. "Dee, this is Chief Kester near the border, I need you to round me up everything you can get me on a man named Huff, John."

No sooner had he given the request then a tall and black clad figure step out onto the road. "Well, I'll be dammed." He muttered as he flicked his lights on and slowed down. "Alright buddy, don't even think about moving!" Kester ordered as he drew his gun and aimed at the priest from inside his car.

Huff, his brow covered in sweat, removed his wide-brimmed hat and sighed at the man. "Sir, I told you, we are not enemies."

"I'll believe that when I see some damn proof!" Kester shot back as he reached with his free hand toward his radio.

Huff saw this, and made no gesture to stop him. "Arrest me if you must, but know this. I know where the wolves are. They rest during the day in a place called "

But before Huff could finish his saying, a large wolf roared and leapt at the man seemingly from out of nowhere. "Holy!" Kester muttered as he saw the wolf, which was easily taller than his tallest deputy, towering over Huff and stare down at the priest with a blood crazed look in its eyes.

He could hear Huff saying something in Latin, but his exact words were lost. The twin .45s that he pulled from his robes on the other hand, he did know. The wolf charged him and slashed at him with its claws. Kester could only watch in rapt horror as the beast slashed the priest's chest, nearly cutting the man in twain.

"See your foe!" Huff shouted as he fired point blank into the wolf's lower legs. The animal let out a blood-curdling howl and fell backwards on the hot pavement. "This must end now!" Huff wheezed as Kester could see the man's black shirt become a deep crimson.

Kester found the strength to move again as he ducked down and grabbed his CB. "Officer needs assistance! I'm near the border on HW 10 send back up!" he yelled as the wolf (despite it's own wounds) stalked over the wounded priest and made its way towards him. "Officer needs assistance damn it!" Kester wheezed as he felt his chest tighten. The wolf gave a savage snarl as it reared back and slashed the front of the car. With out even stopping, it leapt up onto the hood and Kester could see it's hot breath fogging up the windshield.

Without hesitation he fired point-blank into the monster's face. It's head jerked back and it gave a scream that chilled Kester's bones despite the heat. It rolled off of the car and scrambled away into the hills.

Panting, Kester reached down under seat and pulled out his oxygen mask. Fumbling with the valve, he started to see spots swimming before him as he saw Huff somehow pull himself off the road and limp towards him.

The tightness in his chest grew worse as he tried to open the door, but his arm felt like it had suddenly turned to pudding. Sucking at the life-giving air, he felt lightheaded as he heard the sound of his door being opened. The grave visage of Huff was the last thing he saw as he felt the world spinning around him.

Later

The night brought a cool relief form the blistering heat. Pappy's was of course the only building in town that was lit. The rest of the lot was quiet and dark. "When the boss coming back?" Brock snorted between chomps of various deep-fired pork products spread out before him.

"Don't know, but she'll be back" grunted a man that looked almost like the town. Decked out in a rhinestone shirt, he quietly sipped his beer as a enraged scream tore through the back room.

Immediately the commotion stopped as the various men and woman dropped their food and beverages (or carried them with them) and rushed to the back.

"Boss!" many of them cried as Marsha stumbled in through the back way. She was naked, her feet and legs bloody. But the wound that drew most of the attention was the gaping bloody hole where her right eye used to be. "What happened?" Bonnie asked gently as she helped the nude woman to a chair. "Hunting", Marsha hissed as bandages were brought forward to stop the blood flow. "I found the priest, but he had a friend."

"I'll kill those sons of bitches!" Jim swore. He was quieted when Marsha shook off Bonnie's hand, marched over to him, and slapped the taste out of his mouth. "No, you're not. We've come to far and too close to screw this up now. This" she said as she pointed towards the bloody and ruptured socket, "will heal. If you need to work out any anger, go pay a visit to Karen. I'm sure she could use the company."

This seemed to placate most of the men, as judging by their rushing out the front door. Marsha slumped back down after they left. Bonnie silently began to apply gauze and bandages to the wound. "Was it that same guy we met in Bonesaw?" she asked as she helped tighten the dressing.

"Yes, yes it was. I got him, but I couldn't confirm it. Some hick cracker shot me, I think he was a cop." "Cops can be trouble." Bonnie warned. "Cops aren't shit baby." Marsha snorted despite her pain. "Unless they start issuing silver bullets, I'd say we're in the clear."

Standing up, she looked herself over in the mirror over the bar. "Not bad, not bad at all." Turning around, she slipped her arms around Bonnie's neck. "Now come here" she ordered as she drew the woman closer.

Day 6

Late afternoon

Kester grumbled as he buckled his belt while still hooked up to an IV. The nurses had insisted he stay longer, but after nearly becoming dog chow he was most insistent on finding the culprit.

A quick chat with the head nurse reveled that Father Huff was still living, although in condition to talk. Yanking the IV tube out of his arm, Kester slipped his undershirt on and silently made his way down the hall towards Huff's room.

Huff was alive, barely. His chest was more scar tissue than flesh, along with what looked like inlets of silver inserted into his skin. "Sir!" he gasped as he tried to sit up. "Easy old man, easy." Kester chided as he walked as fast as he could towards the bedside. "I'm not sure what to think now, but I think that I saw something out there that defies description." Huff gave a small smile as he tried to speak. "I found the alpha. No other wolf could fight like that and not be in command. I was near a amusement park, something with cowboys and Indians." His voice trailed off as he was suddenly overcome with a coughing fit.

"Easy Father, easy. What else do I need to know? Do I need silver bullets or something? How do I stop these things?"

Huff gave a weak at Kester's questions. "Ah, silver bullets. Effective for teaming up with Lone Ranger but not much else I'm afraid. Silver can effect the wolves, yes, but you must combine silver with fire in order to truly stop them."

"Wait, you said you saw this thing near an amusement park?"

"Yes"

"Well, the only place that matches that description would be Pioneertown, and it's over the state line." Kester said as he rubbed his temples. "You mean you would let these fiends roam free over petty bureaucratic nonsense?" Huff almost shouted as the color returned to his face.

"No, I'm saying that it is going to be difficult that's all." Kester shouted as he wobbled unsteadily on his feet.

"Spare me your excuses!" Huff shot back as he reached for the call button. "I thank you for your help Chief, but we can take it from here." He muttered darkly as he pressed fro the nurse. Kester, not wanting to deal with any more problems, shook his head and left the room and back to the relative safety of his own bed.

No sooner had he left than Huff removed his finger from the button and grabbed a cell phone that had been hidden in his boot. Dialing a special code in, he whispered quietly before breaking the connection and hiding the phone.

"Bring forth the Fiery Sword"

Day 7

Pioneertown

The whole town was quieter than normal. The harsh light of the noonday sun blasted the painted wood of the town, and yet there seemed to be something in the air. Brock fanned himself with his hat as he tolled away on the bikes when he suddenly stopped. "What the hell?" he muttered as he dropped his wrench and stood up, his eyes scanning the sky. "I think I'd better go tell the boss!" he said to himself as he dashed off as fast as he could towards Pappy's.

Inside

Aside from the sound of glasses hitting the bar, Pappy's was as quiet as the outside. That is, until the sound of a car driving up snapped the patrons to attention. "Damn it Jim, why didn't you say something?" Bonnie groused as she grabbed a shotgun out from under the bar.

"Maybe because you never shut up long enough for anyone to talk except for the boss!" he growled back as he picked up a baseball bat and readied himself for whoever it was that made the mistake…

Kester drummed his fingers tunelessly on the dashboard. "This is insane." He muttered under his breath as he tossed his sunglasses off (watching them join the ever growing collection he had on his dashboard). Getting out his car, he looked around the dusty tourist trap. The town was almost a ghost town, which did little to ease his mind. Tapping his knuckle against his pistol, he started walking towards the only building that looked that there might be some kind of civilization around it.

"Shit, he's coming!" Jim swore as he hefted the bat. "Put that damn thing down you moron, you want him to be nervous?" Bonnie whispered as Kester pushed aside the double doors.

"Howdy." He said politely.

"What can I do for you?" asked a rather unattractive woman from behind the bar. "Just directions, I seemed to have made a wrong turn." Kester apologized.

"Well, we aren't the AAA but I think we can give you what you deserve." Trailed a female voice behind him. Turning around (and almost drawing his gun as he did), Kester was shocked to see what was quite possibly the most beautiful woman his old eyes had seen in a while standing before him.

Her shirt looked like it was fighting a losing battle against it's owner, whereas the rest of her clothes seemed to be lightly painted on her frame. She was perfect…except for one tiny little detail that stood out to Kester more than anything else.

She was missing an eye.

"That's kind of you ma'am, but I wouldn't want to impose." Kester hastily said as he tried to find the quickest way out. "It's no trouble at all sir." The woman huskily breathed as she moved forward, her hips swaying dangerously all the way.

Despite the temperature, Kester felt himself grow cold. As his fingers encircled his pistol, he heard (and felt) the swift crack of a bat against his shoulder. Dazed, he dropped to the floor as he saw the three culprits looming over him, a predatory look in their faces.

As they began to close in for the kill, they stopped suddenly. A strange look went across their faces as a rotund man wearing a grimy T-shirt and a cowboy hat burst in a wild state. "Boss!" he cried, "someone's coming!"

The one eyed woman turned on him. "I know that you moron, but who?"

Kester let his eyes wander as he stared up at the cracked ceiling. He heard the sound of a rotor thumping as the foursome ignored him and took up defensive positions inside the bar. "Shit, they must have been following that pig!" One eye spat as two older people, a man and a woman, exited from the back room. "What's all the fuse about?" the man asked as he straitened his bolo tie with use of the mirror hanging over the bar. "Pappy, get your ass out there. We'll cover you from in here." She ordered.

Pappy did not look altogether pleased by that particular order, yet he went outside without such much as a shrug. Kester turned his head slightly and spied through the window that had been framed with cheesy Christmas lights a large black helicopter hovering over the streets.

Pappy sighed as he exited the building. Looking up at the chopper, he took off his hat and waved it at the pilot. He didn't have time to react when the guns locked on him and fired.

Kester almost lost control of his gut as he witnessed the old man being shot. The sheer amount of bullets that were pumped into him was enough to split the old man in twain.

"Shit!" One eye cursed as she backed away from the window. "Jim, Bonnie, you're with me. Brock, get rid of this loser and met up with us later!" she hurriedly shouted as the trip ran like mad towards the backroom. The other woman, a dumpy blonde with wrists that suggested that she was quite the looker back in her day. "Pappy!" she screamed as she rushed outside. "Harriet, no!" Bonnie cried as the older woman was cut down just as ruthlessly as the luckless Pappy.

"Those murdering pigs!" Jim huffed as Bonnie grabbed him by the bandanna and dragged him backwards. "We can mourn later! Brock, just do it!"

Kester looked up at the towering form of Brock. The fat man sniggered and grabbed the discarded baseball bat. "Going to mess you up old timer." He said as he raised the bat. Kester swore to meet the death head-on, but as Brock raised the bat, Kester become aware of something that Brock didn't know.

The helicopter had aimed it's guns on the store.

If Brock was even aware of the bullets ripping through him, his face showed no surprise. Still locked into a furious mask, Brock continued to stand despite wave after wave of bullets ripped through him. Kester covered his eyes as the blood and bits of bone splattered over him.

Crawling as fast as he could, Kester hid behind the bar as the bullets literally ripped Brock apart at the seams. The fat man was still gurgling as he lay in a bloody pile. Kester fought back the urge to vomit as curled himself as small as he possibly could in hopes of avoiding the metal rain.

The guns stopped, but that brought no relief to him. Looking up from behind the bar, he saw several men in combat gear repel out through the side and run around the building. He didn't know their purpose, but the large metal canisters on their backs gave him no comfort. "Well, I always wanted to go out in a blaze of glory." He muttered as he grabbed his gun and crawled, commando style, to the back room. Once past the door, he stood up and made his way towards the back door. "Here goes nothing." He thought as he opened the door and checked the way before diving out of the bar and running down the back alleys and side streets of the town.

The sounds of the guns firing followed by near deafening explosions filled the air. "Damn fools are blowing up the whole place!" He wondered as he debated the rationality of trying to make for his car or hiding inside one of the few buildings that had managed to be spared the destruction.

When flaming debris impaled his car that was enough for him. Running towards an abandoned chapel, he almost flew up the steps and charged through the front doors. Slamming the door behind him shut, he busily scanned the inside in hopes of finding a either a alternative way of escape or at least a better way to defend himself.

The tightness in his chest made him pause as he stumbled over to a dusty pew and sat down. "Alright old boy, you've been in tougher places than this." He gasped as the mere act of breathing was quickly becoming much more difficult.

The sounds of the rotor blades coming closer brought his attention back, but as he stood up he heard the sound of…knocking?

Walking up to the stage, he saw a large trapdoor secured with a large chain and padlock. Bending down, he placed his ear to the floor. The sounds of something being knocked around below filtered up despite the wood and the sound of the motor outside. "Hello?" he called as he knocked on the wood. "Is someone down there?"

A female voice, almost sobbing with relief, answered back. "Yes, please help me!"

Kester raised his gun and placed the barrel near the lock. "I'm going to shoot the lock off, stand back!" he shouted as he fired. The lock flew open as the bullet tore through it. Ignoring the pain in his chest, he pulled the chain away and lifted the trapdoor open.

"My God" he muttered as he saw the nude woman staring back up at him. "Hang on, I'm going to get you out of there." He said as he holstered his gun and climbed as fast as he could down the hole.

"Help me" she mumbled as he shoot the locks off of her chains. She limply crawled towards him as the chains fell away.

"Now hang on ma'am, we're going to get out of this." Kester promised as he heard the sound of the church door being forced open. "Aw hell" he cursed as the sound of boots marching across the old wooden floor echoed down the hole.

"You can come out now Chief Kester" a thickly accented voice said from up top.

Drawing his pistol and motioning for silence, Kester slowly climbed up the ladder. His plans for freedom were short lived as the barrel of a M-16 was jammed into his face. "Don't try anything stupid Chief" the accented voice spoke from behind the man with the gun.

The solider stepped aside to revel the speaker was a dwarf. The dwarf was clad like his fellows in combat fatigues and he sported twin .45s on his hips. "My name is unimportant, but you may call me Father Florin. Father Huff radioed us the location of the hive and your presence here. You're quite lucky we didn't open on you."

Kester stared at the dwarf (who's accent seemed to suggest eastern European, but the uniform was defiantly of American vintage) before he answered. "Yeah, lucky me. Look padre, I've got an injured woman down here and I'm not doing so well myself. So if you don't mind."

"Of course not. We are after all on the same side." Florin waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, as if that absolved him of the carnage that Kester saw. "I suggest we hurry. The timers only have about 5 minutes left before this town is reduced to atoms." Florin spoke as Kester was helped up. The woman, her eyes wild, was dragged up. She nearly sobbed with relief as she saw the outside. Kester couldn't help but notice the hair that had been growing on her legs and forearms, nor could he ignore the sheer amount of bruising and cuts that covered most of her backside. "What the hell did they do to you?" he thought, a flush of anger showing in his features.

Stepping outside, Kester felt as if he had been thrust into Hell itself. Buildings were slowly burning, while men in hazard suits tossed bodies into bonfires that had been set up. Florin cast a glance at him, but again waved his hand. "A needed precaution I can assure you."

Kester saw the burning bodies, and he had to disagree. "So, you're working with Huff?" Florin nodded as Kester noticed even more bodies being pulled out of the wrecked buildings. "What happens to us?"

"That depends. We will have to debrief you of course. Huff speaks highly of you, but rules are rules you know." Florin said flatly as the woman was given a spare coat and hustled into a waiting chopper.

"Why am I not relieved by that statement?" Kester wondered as he followed her into the ship.

Day 8

Kester grimaced as he gulped down the poorly made coffee. The woman, Karen, was sitting across from him. "Want some?" he asked as he gesture towards the coffee pot.

"Yes please" Karen meekly answered as she kept fidgeting in her chair.

Kester nodded and started to pour her a small amount into a Styrofoam cup. "Thank you…for saving me." Karen spoke as she took the coffee.

"Just doing my job ma'am." Kester replied as he looked around the medium sized room that their rescuers had placed them. Karen had been taken away as soon as they had been touched down, and it wasn't until a few minutes before that she had been thrust into the room. She had said little, but Kester could get the feeling that she was hiding something.

"Do you know who Karen White was?" Karen asked as she sipped the coffee.

"News reporter, right? Got shot by some whacked out fan back around '80?" Kester answered as he tried to remember all the details.

Karen gave a small laugh at his answer. "Yeah, she was, but that's not the whole story."

Kester, wondering what brought this topic of conversation about, pressed forward. "Oh? And just what is the whole story?"

"She was shot, but it was by her best friend. And she wasn't just shot, she was shot with a silver bullet."

"Why would she be shot with that?"

"Because she was a werewolf." Karen answered in a matter of fact tone. She continued, ignoring Kester's questioning glance. "But she didn't stay down for long; the bullet was removed during her autopsy."

"I thought that silver bullets were suppose to kill werewolves?"

"They are, but only as long as they stay in the body. With the bullet removed, Karen came back, but not for long. A werewolf hunter and her own brother dug her up and shoved a silver stake into her heart."

"Wait, a stake? I thought that only worked on vampires?"

"Silver doesn't have to be in the shape of a bullet, it just has to pierce something vital." Karen answered back.

Kester looked her over, dark thoughts forming in his mind. "You seem to understand a lot of this, mind telling me how?" he asked, despite the sinking feeling in his gut that told him he just heard the answer.

"Because I'm Karen White." Karen spoke quietly.

Blinking, Kester stared at her before shrugging his shoulders. "Why the hell not? I've seen stranger things today," He muttered as the only door to the room was opened and Father Florin entered.

"I see you two have rested." The dwarf spoke as armed men stood behind him. "If you please, follow me."

Following him down the bare corridor, Kester nervously eyed the armed guards. "Hell of a place not to have a gun" he thought as he and Karen followed Florin down a hallway that seemed to go on for miles until they stopped short at a seemingly dead end.

"Father Huff has some words for you." Florin spoke as he slid a card over a small dot situated near his head. Kester was taken aback as the wall before him slid away to revel Huff staring back at him.

Huff smiled (a disconcerting sight) as he leaned back in his bed. A series of fresh scars ran alongside his head, and his sunken in eyes had a glint of fanatic zeal about them that seemed to pierce the glass and sent shivers down Kester's spine. "Hello Sir" he spoke as he pressed a intercom button. "I see you have been treated well enough."

"Fine and dandy, but where are we?" Kester demanded.

"In a safe location. You have been brought here because I think you deserve some closure on this mess. Besides, the young lady can help us identify the Alpha." He said as he gestured towards Karen. Turning towards Florin, he gestured towards the door. "See them to the briefing room."

Florin nodded and stood aside as the pair was walked down another corridor that they had somehow missed on their initial trip. Turning back around, he stood at ease as Huff gave him new orders. "Kester is to be left unharmed. The girl as well."

Florin blanched at the order. "Sir, that woman is one of them!"

"I know that, but she is also the only one here who can properly identify the Alpha and put a stop to whatever scheme is brewing. We know that they are planning something, and the countdown is rapidly approaching its zenith. She might be a lead."

This did little to pacify Florin. "And if she isn't?"

"Then we send her to hell." Huff spoke with a air of finality on the subject.

This seemed to placate Florin as he saluted Huff and marched out.

Day 9

In a deserted stretch near Death Valley

Marsha spat as she scanned the horizon. Bonnie, with a fearful look on her face, carefully approached her. "Boss, what are we going to do?"

"The plan hasn't changed, just the location." Marsha answered at length before she ignored Bonnie and made her way towards a small folding table that was presently covered in books and maps. "We suffered a set back, no doubt; but that doesn't mean we've lost though." She said softly as she unrolled a long piece of parchment. "The moon is only a few days away. If we pull this off, then all of those weak pieces of meat will be licking our fur clean for all time." She gave a small laugh at the image of this as she picked up a rifle and removed her eye-patch. The wound had healed almost completely, with almost no sign of any kind of injury what so ever. "Get Jim, tell him to get us some more grunts. I don't care who you get or how, but we need more members. You too darling."

Bonnie blushed at the order, but simply agreed in return. "As many as we can?"

"Honey, I don't care if you have to streak through downtown LA, but get us some people, strong people, got it? We need them for the ceremony. Besides, we could use some fodder in case those pigs find out where we are this time."

Day 10

Several miles inside the desert

Kester breathed in the oxygen as he fiddled with the valve on the tank as the truck rumbled through the sand and dirt. Karen had sat silently in the back, simply staring out into the blasted landscape.

"We have to stop her." Karen said suddenly as she stood up.

One of the guards, his finger already on the trigger of a rather large type of rifle that Kester didn't recognize, pointed his weapon at her and barked out an order for her to sit down.

"She's gaining more people, don't you understand? She'll just recruit more, and then she'll try to make her pack even more powerful!" Karen shouted as she slowly moved towards the opened back of the truck.

The guard, perhaps due to nerves or maybe due to orders, opened fire. Kester flinched as the bullets ripped through Karen's body and the woman was flung from the back due to the impact.

"You idiot, you shot her with regular bullets!" the driver shouted as he tried to bring the vehicle to a stop as they approached a bridge.

"So? It's not like she was human." The other solider said at length.

"Yeah, but she didn't tell us who the Alpha was you moron." The driver lambasted his comrade at length as Karen weakly sat up, the bloody holes in her abdomen slowly healing.

"It's Marsha Quist you stupid bastards." Karen spat as she picked herself up from the ground and made a mad dash for the bridge.

Kester watched in wide-eyed horror as Karen, with a indecipherable cry, dove headfirst off of the edge of the bridge.

"Well damn." One of the soldiers muttered as they saw her plummet like a stone and hit the river below them.

Day 11

Marsha looked over at the assembled throng of people before her. Bikers, drifters, and what looked like a gaggle of high school students milled about before the rock that would serve as a stage. Sighing, she walked out and stepped forward towards the group.

"Brothers and sisters" she began as Jim and Bonnie sat up two large speakers and started to roll sheets of barbed wire around the stage. "You have been summoned here for one reason-Power!" A few of the dirtier looking bikers raised their fists in a mock salute, but she continued. "I'm not talking about something you can smoke, and I'm talking about some bullshit hippy talk about finding your inner strength, no, I'm talking about the power to do whatever you want, when you want to do. No rules, no cops, nothing to hold you back but yourself."

This seemed to quite some of the disbelievers, but she knew she had better so some proof. "Anyone who wants to be in on the ground of the new species can climb up here and stand with me. Anyone who doesn't…" she said as she gestured towards Bonnie and Jim while putting a pair of headphones on.

Bonnie flicked the switch on the speakers while Jim quickly ducked inside the wired gate and snapped the lock shut. Bonnie grinned wildly as the few stragglers watched them with disbelieving eyes.

Bonnie was the first to start changing. She let out a scream that quickly changed into a howl as she kicked off her steel-toed boots. "Always want to save those?" Jim sniggered as beads of sweat (which had been building up during his work in the hot desert sun) quickly changed into a river that ran down the back of his head and stained the collar of his T-shirt.

"With the money I spent on 'em, hell yeah" Bonnie gasped as, to the eyes of the now interested crowd, her breasts started to swell against the cotton fabric of her top. Her nipples stood out like twin bullet as the bizarre chanting being played over the speakers increased in tempo. "Fucking A!" She cried as she reached down and tore the tightening garment in two to revel her bare chest. Only seen by Jim at this point was a fine layer of grayish white hair that had started to grow and spread around her stomach.

Knocking Jim aside, she stared down at the group before her. Fangs erupted from her mouth, sending driblets of bloody saliva down her chin as she heard Jim undergoing a similar change. "Fresh meat" she grunted as she pushed herself forward to the ground, her bare feet stretching out and forming pads on her soles. Her hands cracked like a pistol as the fingers stretched and broke, reforming into paws. Muscle and sinew began to grow under her skin (which was quickly being covered into fur), causing large rips to appear in her jeans.

The jeans, already stretched to the literal limit, were unable to contain the rapidly swelling flesh and exploded as Bonnie, or Bonnie had become, reared up on her hind legs and howled as Jim joined in seconds later.

The two snarling beasts stared at the few unlucky people who failed to move when the change began before they both leapt at them. The fight was as brief as it was gory. The two wolves had no difficulty ripping their way through the people, even those that tried to fight back were slaughtered with the rest.

"Join me and this power can be yours!" Marsha shouted over the sounds of the wolves eating. "All I ask for is your loyalty!"

The men and women, some of them visibly ill as they witnessed the deaths, collectively raised their hands high and swore allegiance to Marsha.

"We must move though" Marsha spoke after the crowd had quieted down. "Sometimes the sheep's think that they can take the fight to us. We must grow strong, but after the Plan is finished we will be able to do that," she said as she pointed towards Bonnie and Jim, who were both slowly regaining their human forms. "And we must weed out the weak from the strong. Only then will our pack grow."

Day 12

Kester coughed as the truck stopped. After Karen's escape, his guards had brought him to another building where he had been placed until another truck had picked him up. The drive to wherever they were going had lasted most of the day, but they had stopped at a small roadside diner. He had overheard something about an assault, but no one would answer any of his questions.

He was so lost in thought that he didn't even hear the muttered 'excuse me' behind him. Turning around, he looked down into the eyes of Florin as the dwarf handed him a pistol under the table. "I heard about the loss of Mrs. White. I'm sorry, but understand that she was a monster."

The dwarf's speech did little to placate him. Kester scanned over the menu as more men entered. "More of your boys?" he asked. "Yes, we've gotten a rather good tip on just where the Alpha will be. Let us handle this Chief Kester, please. These creatures are a threat to us" but Kester cut his speech off midway.

"Save it. I don't know about whatever bogeymen you fight, and I don't care. I haven't said anything to anyone and I'm not about to. All I want is to go back home and sit in my damn easy chair."

Florin took the outburst in stride. "Understandable Sir, understandable." He said as more and more filtered into the dinner. "If you're worried about us killing you, don't be. You said so yourself, you don't know or care about our fight, and with the types of menaces we face I rather doubt any respectable news source would believe what you say."

"So then I'm free to go?" Kester as looked around in hopes of spotting a waitress.

"Yes and no. We managed to implant a tracking device into Mrs. White, which will then lead us to the Alpha. My men and I will lead the assault. We brought you along mainly to reassure you that you were not in any danger nor to give the impression that you were a prisoner, but I'm afraid we can't simply let you waltz out of here at the very moment. The wolves have seen you, and if we fail then your life would be forfeit as well. You're not in jail my son, but we are going to insist you stay here until an official truck comes back. After which you're free to go and do whatever you want."

"Hardly the Ritz, but I suppose I could do worse." Kester agreed as a series of trucks and other military vehicles started to arrive.

"Excellent decision my son." Florin spoke as he slid out of the booth and began to follow the men and women out the door. "Oh, and might I suggest the pie? Dee here does possess magic fingers."

"I'll take that under consideration."

Day 13

Karen had a grim smile on her face as she spied down at the assembled groups before her. The escape through the river hadn't been pleasant, but she thankfully managed to avoid any broken bones. "I knew listening to that blowhard bitch would work." She thought as she remembered Marsha's plans for a backup place incase of an attack.

The itching in her shoulder started again ('this has been driving me crazy since I escaped from those military guys' she thought) but she ignored as she saw the preparations going on below her.

Large speakers were being set up, as what looked like a large table. Armed men tooled around the area on motorcycles while many of the group seemed to be in the middle of a large (and rather rowdy) party.

"Alright people, listen up!" Marsha shouted over the PA system. "We have the area secured, now all we do is wait till moonrise. When the sun goes down, we take over!" she shouted, causing a ripple of applause throughout the crowd.

Marsha's words drifted across the sands and rocks to where Karen was hiding. "Oh no." she whispered as the realization of what she had planned hit her. "She's going to turn those people into monsters and attack everyone!"

The familiar sound of a gun being cocked brought her back to attention. Turning around, she found herself face to face with Jim, and to a lesser extent, Jim's pistol.

With a tobacco-stained grin, Jim gestured for her to start walking. "Drop your linen and get to grinning baby. You're going to be the main event for our little shindig tonight!"

The convoy rumbled through the desert sands like a living beast. Truck after truck tore through the sands until the one in lead flashed a signal. Like a well-oiled machine, the convoy slowed to a crawl and the well-armed men filed out. Father Florin hopped down from the lead truck and addressed the troops.

"Men, thanks to the intelligence and our own satellites, we have discovered the location of the wolves. They are about half a click east," he said as he pointed in that direction. Bending down, he began to draw out the plan for attack in the sand. "They are presently in position in this canyon here," he said as he drew out the diagram, "we can expect some sentries, but they will most likely abandon their posts at nightfall. We know they are planning on turning a large group of people, and we also know that at least one of them possess the ability to transform at will. If any of these dogs gets loose, this whole mess could start all over again."

One of the younger recruits stepped forward. "Sir, why don't we just firebomb them from a distance?"

"Because that isn't totally precise. If the Alpha escapes, then there would be no point. We have to kill her above all else. After that, we blast this area with enough napalm to cook the devil himself."

His mission did produce some discontented murmurs from some of the men, but he ignored them as he went on. "We will be spilt into two groups. The first will surround the area and launch a headlong assault. The second group will stay back here in the event the first group fails. After we confirm the death of the Alpha, we'll call in an air strike."

The group agreed to the plan and using their honed skills the men vanished into the sands without a trace.

One hour later

Karen cursed her lot in life, as she was lead towards the makeshift stage. "I swear White, you're worse than a bad penny!" Marsha laughed as she kicked Karen's legs out from under her. "But I'm glad you showed up anyway. We needed a showstopper, didn't we?' she asked towards the crowd. The now thoroughly drunken crowd shouted back an affirmative.

"Then I guess we had better give the crowd what they want, shouldn't we?" she sniggered as she pulled a razor blade out of her boot and waved it around with a theatrical flourish.

Karen didn't even flinch as the blade slowly sliced through her government issued jumpsuit. Her eyes were dead as she stared at the people and their raucous laughter. "Don't worry honey," Marsha whispered in her ear as she continued to slice, "the second that sun goes down, all your troubles will be over. Tonight is the Blood Moon, and once we combine that with the sweet little tune you've heard so many times before, we are going to be calling the shots from here on out." she gestured towards the sun, which was hanging rather low in the sky.

Humming some obscure 70's song under her breath, Marsha lowered the razor blade down to Karen's waist…before something quiet unusual happened. As Marsha slowly nicked the buttons off, Karen heard the sound of a trigger being pulled. A dirty looking man, wearing only a tattered pair of jeans, jerked forward as part of his head dissolved in a fine red haze. "Jim!" cried a woman standing near the stage.

Throwing Karen forward, she cursed loudly. "Hit the damn switch!" Marsha bellowed as she dove off of the stage and sought safety in the crowd.

The chanting filled the darkening sky as the mass of people all suddenly began to trash about. "Oh God no" Karen whispered as she felt the familiar change beginning inside herself as well…

"Mission scrubbed, abort!" Florin heard over the radio. "Blast" he muttered as he flicked a switch and pressed a red button near his hand. Crossing himself, he picked up the radio. "Retreat, the eagle will land" he said quietly before turning the radio off and sitting back in the truck.

Karen screamed in rage as she felt her body once again starting to change. The sun was sinking fast as the moon started to appear. "No, not yet" she pleaded as she rolled off the stage and pushed her past the rapidly changing audience.

Stumbling as her feet started to stretch, Karen dashed past the piles of tattered clothing and ignored the screams and moans surrounding her. Falling to her knees, she crawled in the mud as she tried to ignore the sounds of her bones snapping and reshaping.

The object of her quest was right in front of her. "Please, just a little longer!" she moaned as she stumbled to her feet and tackled one of the speakers playing the chant. With a thundering crash, the speaker toppled over. The chant was quickly replaced with a electronic squawk that pierced the now extremely sensitive ears of the newly changed.

Ignoring them, Karen howled to the moon as she tore away the rest of her jumpsuit. As her mind slowly faded into darkness as her baser instincts took over, she caught a familiar scent just over the crowd.

Marsha….

With a howl she raced after her enemy as the whine of jet engines filled the air. The wolves, their minds hardly comprehending the familiar yet strange sound, stood alert as the silver jets streaked the night sky. As she raced out, the sound of another wolf caught her attention.

The wolf was almost as tall as her, and its silver coat seemed to shin in the moonlight. Karen snarled at the new creature and charged it. The other wolf snarled in return and met her attack. The two locked arms and rolled over in the dust as the fire raged behind them. The other wolf howled and bit down on Karen's shoulder. Karen ignored the pain and blood and bit her attacker back in kind.

Blood sprayed from the wound as the other wolf released her hold and crouched back. The pair circled each other like gladiators from some bygone age as the sounds of gunfire and explosions drew closer. Ignoring the approaching men, the two once again rushed each other, both their fangs bared. The two clashed and soon even sounds of the men were drowned out by the sounds of another kind of battle.

Karen, her fur missing and blood flowing freely in several spots, snarled at her enemy. The white wolf's fur was equally bloodied, but she showed no signs of slowing down. Back to pacing each other again, lights and the cries of men froze the pair in their tracks.

"Here's a couple of runners!" shouted one of the men as lights quickly flooded the area. Karen turned and fled as her enemy charged the men with a defiant howl. The soldiers reacted in accordance to their training.

They emptied enough ammo into the wolf to literally blow it apart at the seams. Staggering, and it's life seconds away from coming to a end, the white wolf fell to the ground as a startling change began to happen for the last time. The fur receded as the bones (the ones not presently shattered by the bullet that is) began to reshape into a more humanoid appearance.

"Sorry boss" Bonnie spat through blood flecked lips as the soldiers approached her dying body, and without any further bravado or wisecracking, put a silver bullet right through her temple.

"Engage target, fire at will" came the order, as the area was quickly transformed into a killing floor. Marsha had thought she was wise for picking the boxed in area, but she failed to factor in the tactical ability of stinger missiles and the stopping power of silver jacketed 80mm bullets. A few wolves tried to run out through the main entrance, but a few volleys of pure hell stopped them (along with anything else within range).

Unseen by the pilots, one wolf did make it out of the inferno with little difficulty. Karen, or to be more precise what was formerly Karen dodged the volleys and the death around and raced with inhuman speed over the gate and into the open desert. Explosions and debris from the area were launched into the night sky and burned at her back, but Karen ignored them.

Running full tilt, dusk kicking up behind her, Karen raced through the land. The scent she was after had been muted somewhat, but she could still find it…

Elsewhere

Florin wiped the sweat from his palms as the reports from the field kept coming in. The mission had, for lack of a better term, been FUBAR'D almost from the get go. The alpha had escaped, but not before creating almost an entirely new pack. The air strike was in full effect, but the threat of one of the contaminated escaping was still a possibility.

Picking up the receiver, he issued a new set of orders over the bullhorn. "Attention all personal. Prepare for total EVAC." He said as he picked up another phone. Quickly pressing in a number, he spoke quickly to the other party. "Yes Father, we have not confirmed the death."

A second passed before the other extension spoke, but after hearing what was said, Florin's face lost most of its color. "You're sure that step would be necessary? Yes Father, I understand."

He quickly hung up and crossed himself before pulling a key out and looking at it in the dim light of the dashboard. "Heaven forgive me". He muttered as he began to insert the key into the dashboard.

Karen howled to the sky as she raced past the humans and their strange metal beasts. She had smelled her prey here, but somehow her scent became muddled. Looking around, her ears picked up as a strange humming filled the air.

Florin wiped the sweat from his brow as he heard the instrument approach. He glanced back into the rear of the truck for a second before turning his attention forward.

Looking back at him, kept at bay via a thin sheet of Plexiglas, was a werewolf.

Florin hit the panic button on the dash with all his strength as the beast before him pulled it's lips back in a mockery of a smile before it reached back with it's massive paws and cracked the windshield. The glass cracked, but it still held as Florin hurriedly unbuckled his safety belt and scrambled out of the seat.

The sound of the glass being ripped away spurred him on as he opened the back door and dived out of the truck, only to find his means of egress blocked by yet another wolf. "Mother of God!" he crossed himself as the beast looked down at him and snarled.

Karen got a good whiff of the scent as she approached the metal beast before her. As she crept closer, a small thing leaped out from it and fell before her. Speaking a tongue that seemed familiar to her, Karen paused as the creature before her rolled around in the dirt beneath her. Wondering if she should stop to have a snack, both the scent of her prey and the sounds of another wolf brought her back to attention.

A flash of recognition went through her mind, as the sounds of destruction grew closer. Without waiting for her enemy to exit the truck, she jumped in to meet her head on.

Florin scrambled to his feet as he shouted out orders. The men he had assigned to stay had by now fully assembled around the van with their weapons drawn. "Fire!" came the order, and each solider responded by firing their rifles into the wildly rocking van. Bullets punched into the armor plating, leaving large dents in the metal. The howling on the inside increased as more powerful artillery was called in. Round after round was fired, tearing away large chunks of the van in the process.

A shape shot out of the now smoking van. "Hold your fire!" came order, and all at once the guns stopped. "What's our status?" Florin asked as he tried to shake the ringing out of his ears.

"One escape, but we have a confirmed kill on the other one." Came back the reply.

The soldiers inched forward as the sounds of someone moaning slowly filtered out through the hole punched metal. Raising their weapons at the ready as the sounds of someone stumbling out almost made a few nervous men open fire.

"Oh no" Florin muttered as the bloody form of Karen White stumbled out of the back of the van. Her torso was drenched in blood, and he could see the blood. "Medic!" he cried as Karen teetered like a puppet on the steps before pitching forward into the dirt.

"Please, let me rest" she gasped as she looked up at the moon with eyes that no longer saw pale beauty. "Marsha escaped, she'll start this whole thing over again" she struggled to say as her breathing lessened.

"We'll get her." Florin gently removed his coat as Karen slowly stopped moving. Placing it over her, he turned his attention to the assembled troops. "You heard her. The Alpha is still out there. The special is going to clean the area, but we need more people" he began as he rambled off orders. The troops all rushed around like ants. "This ends tonight." Florin swore as he poked inside the van and tried to find something that wasn't totally riddled with bullets.

Karen's death had bothered him, but he couldn't let that distract him from the mission. The 'special' would be hitting the area and saturating the place with enough jelled gasoline to cook a diamond. The orders for evacuation had been sent, but a part of him chafed at the thought that he had been wrong. "I should have done that from the start." He cursed. Picking up a phone (that had somehow managed to avoid being shot) he dialed in a number and spoke softly into it. "Yes, you might be having company soon. We'll send a truck by for the man. No, he's not to be harmed."

While back at the diner

Kester slowly nursed his eighth cup of coffee as the small bell over the door rang. Casually looking up, he almost spat the drink out through his nose as he stared at the woman before him.

She was tall, with dirty hair that might have been of the brunette variety. She was clad only in mud encrusted jeans and a ill-fitting (or fitting just right, it depended on how you looked), and her bare feet left a series of muddy prints on the floor.

He couldn't quite hear what was being said between her and the waitress, but he ignored them as he scanned the dinner frantically for a weapon…

"What will you have darling?" the old and tired looking woman drawled behind the counter.

"Hamburger, extra rare." Marsha ordered as she slid onto a corner stool.

"That's her!" Kester thought as he shakily got to his feet and looked around. There had been no sign of any of the armed trucks, and as far as Kester could prove none of the staff at the diner were working for Florin. "Up to me I guess" he thought as, as inconspicuously as possible, he walked past Marsha and pretending to admire a set of knickknacks displayed by the front door.

With her back still to him, Kester wrapped his hand up in napkins and punched the glass as hard as he could. The glass cracked, but his choice in protection would prove to be a poor one. Reaching in with his other hand, he grabbed a silver knife out from the display and turned around as fast as he could.

"Why don't you give it up you old fart" he heard Marsha's voice laugh at him from behind him.

"I'd like to, but the choice isn't in my hands anymore." Kester replied as he thrust forward with the knife. Marsha laughed again as she easily sidestepped the attack and lashed out with her foot. She caught Kester right in the shin, sending him toppling to the sticky floor.

The tale-tell sound of a shotgun being pumped stopped them of them in their tracks. The waitress, her thin mouth drawn back in a disapproving grimace, simply pointed the shotgun and fired.

Kester ducked as the blast left his ears ringing, which was a far better fate than Marsha had suffered. The shot caught her straight in the chest, sending her flying backwards out through the double doors.

"Damn mutts." She groused as she casually reloaded.

Kester rose as carefully as he could. He could see Marsha lying sprawled out on the ground, her torso a deep red. "Is this knife real silver?" he asked as Marsha slowly started to raise again, a rather upset look sprawled across her features.

"That? Sorry, sugar, no." the Waitress muttered as placed the reloaded shotgun on the counter and bent down. "I've found this to be a bit more effective." She grunted as she lifted what looked like a heavily modified vacuum cleaner up and placed it on the counter. "Stand back sonny" she cackled as she hefted the hose attachment and hooked up. Before Kester could question her, Marsha sat up and grinned as the fading moonlight reflected off of her now rapidly growing teeth.

The old woman, her face set in resolve, squeezed the trigger on the hose, resulting a large spray of some noxious liquid that quickly coated Marsha. Kester's nose burned at the smell, which reminded him of a cookout that had gone wrong in his youth. "You might want to move. The fumes on this baby can hold a kick." She cautioned as she stuck a match on the counter and tossed it outside.

Marsha hardly had time to scream as the whole world around her burst into flame. Her flesh instantly turned black and flaked away as she tried to bring forth the change anyway. Fur, which under normal circumstances would be sprouting and flowing like a dark river over her swelling muscles, exploded into a sizzling mess as she rolled on the ground, trying to smother the flames.

The waitress, tossing her 'Lucy' nametag to Kester, took aim once again and squeezed the trigger. The liquid arched through the air seconds before it ignited. Marsha screamed in agony as she stumbled inside the dinner, setting off small fires every time she flung her arms.

"Damn dogs never can go quietly" Lucy groused as she picked up the shotgun and fired it, this time aiming higher. The shot almost tore Marsha's head in two, but it was enough to get the job done as Marsha's flaming corpse was propelled backwards onto the jukebox. Lucy and a cook from the kitchen each grabbed fire extinguishers and put the roasting werewolf out.

"Sorry about that hon" Lucy apologized as the flames were put out and only the stench of burning hair and flesh remained. "But sometimes you have to handle these things a little harshly."

The sound of Marsha's foot twitching caused Lucy to spin around and unload another round of shot into Marsha's head before reloading and continuing to fire. After several minutes of this, Lucy stopped. Inspecting the smoking hole in the floor, she nodded in satisfaction and handed the shotgun back to the cook.

Kester stared in a mixture of admiration and horror at the sight, but he said nothing as he sat down on a stool. After forcing himself to breath through his mouth in an effort to ignore the stench, he finally brought himself to ask something that had been on his mind for a while.

"When can I leave?"

The sound a truck rumbling up as soon as he had finished talking answered his question. Looking back at the sight of the charred and headless body, Kester decided that he drunk enough coffee, and quickly made his way out.

As he sat in the back of the truck, the youthful officer in the driver seat shot a casual look at him. "So, where to sir?"

"Anywhere but here son." Kester replied as a deep cough settled in chest. He leaned back and closed his eyes, as the knowledge of what he faced would not be a concern for anyone much longer.

The first few streaks of daylight appeared over the horizon, making the long harrowing seem all the more like a bad dream. Sighing (and trying to ignore the cough) Kester leaned back in seat, as thoroughly content with the world as he could be.

The end