Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc. and IDW comics. I'm just one of a large family of fans who likes telling family stories – no profit needed, no profit earned.
Continuity: Lykoi is set, as all my stories are, in the IDW Joeverse - but it's an entirely separate reality string this time (string theory - for every chosen action in this reality, all possiblilities are realized, each in some other string). It's also not a crossover. I'll add a bit of my thoughts about werewolf stories after this chapter, but for now, suffice it to say that I haven't read or seen any of the Twilight books, which seems to be where many folks get their werewolf ideas these days. Sparkly vampires, gah. The "mass conversion rule" of transformation has been mentioned in many, many werewolf stories, so I'm not sure where to attribute THAT.
Author's Note: I'm trying something a bit different this time and lifting liberally and directly from actual Cobra Civil War comic book settings and scripts, but adjusting them slightly to my own plotline - this is intentional. I'm not trying to hide anything, nor make pretense that I am actually Chuck Dixon, or trying to steal his original work. I want to see if I'm able to write around another author's existing work, for one, and also trying my hand at adapting a visual media to print. The tie-in market - movies and television, largely - is a massive beast, and can be a moderately lucrative one for a writer who doesn't mind the "translation" genre. I prefer to write my own material, as do most writers, but in this economy, it behooves a writer to see if she can pick what low-hanging fruit there is available. Sooo - this is "homework" for me, as well as fun. Those who have read the titles included will, hopefully, get that "deja vu" sort of feeling, and find where my reality splits off pleasant rather than jarring.
This episode starts with Snake Eyes: Cobra Civil War #0.
Bottineu County, North Dakota
They were dead.
All of them, dead - scattered among the trees, lying amid the leaf-litter, eyes staring. Dojo, Banzai, Nunchuk. Snake Eyes crouched, reading the ground for signs, clues, anything that could explain the massacre of the men he'd trained himself.
"We should call in a crime investigation unit," Lawhound was saying.
Typical MP, Snake Eyes thought. Cop first, soldier second.
"This was Snake Eyes' unit," Scarlett replied, and he could almost hear the look she shot at Lawhound. "We let him figure it out."
Thanks, Red. He knew his friend and teammate was just behind him, and even in the rising miasma of anger, grief, and confusion, he felt a flicker of warmth in knowing that, literally and figuratively, she had his back. The scene before him drove away that warmth even before it had a chance to settle, however, leaving him with cold fingers of rage clawing at him.
Who did this? How? WHY? He could almost feel the dead men's eyes on him, accusatory. And... why them? Why JUST them? He could hear Scarlett behind him, speaking quietly - but as the fury rose in him, the words faded to mere sound behind the pounding of blood in his ears.
He held up a finger, signalling Scarlett.
"There was one attacker," she said, translating for Lawhound.
Lawhound's gaze roamed the woods about them, but as the ninja moved slowly among the bodies, face turned to the ground, Scarlett's eyes never left Snake Eyes. She could feel the anger building in him... felt it almost as a palpable force, a tension that set her skin prickling, primed her instincts to fight, or flee. Her every sense was hyper-alert. This was not good. Not good at all.
I've got to get him out of here. Got to get him away from Lawhound, at least. He can take a lot... but this... She turned to the MP, nodded to the ridge where they'd set down. "Have your unit secure the perimeter and keep the helo running."
Snake Eyes, seeming to take her cue, moved off. At least he's still listening.
"When will you be back?" Lawhound's eyes flashed between Snake Eyes, already making his way down the slope, and Scarlett.
"When we have answers." Following Snake Eyes, she noted the set of his shoulders, the slight unevenness of his pace... control was part of his very essence, the core of his being, and it was clear to her that now, just now, he was struggling to maintain that control. He had the right to be here, of course... these were his men, his hand-picked team...
But just because he has the right to be doesn't mean he SHOULD be.
They found T'JBang next, sprawled out on the cold earth. T'Gin Zu, meters away, had died with his back to a tree, staring at a massive trunk fallen long ago across the clearing. They had gone down fighting, both of them... the evidence clear on the earth about them, the wounds fresh, the bodies still warm.
How did this happen? An ambush... but these were our best fighters, next to Snake Eyes. And how did they get our command protocols? It was planned... carefully planned... and whoever did this didn't want Snake Eyes on the ground when they took out his team. Why?
"The attacker could still be in the area..." She said it more to herself than to Snake Eyes. He knew it... every muscle in him showed that he knew it, and what was more, he wanted it so. "How could one person do all this?"
No - it's two attackers, Snake Eyes signed to her from where he crouched by T'Gin Zu - and froze. Scarlett heard it, too - both their heads swiveled to the fallen tree. Again, a low groan... a rustle. A silent signal passed between them and they leaped the tree, he taking point, she backing him.
"Bushido!" Thank God, at least one of them made it... The injured man was half-hidden by the deadfall, and where he'd dragged himself through the leaves to its scant shelter, the bared ground was streaked with mud of soil and blood, but he was - for the moment, at least - alive. Scarlett was down beside him in a heartbeat, checking his eyes, his vital signs. "Who did this? Are they still here? What are we up against?"
"Two... of them..." Bushido's voice was barely audible. His pulse, when she found it, was thready and light. He anticipated her next question, meeting her gaze, his eyes then flickering to Snake Eyes. "Snake Eyes... they looked like Snake Eyes..." The radio was already in her hand as Bushido sagged slightly, his face etched with sheer agony.
"Scarlett to Lawhound... I need a medical team on my twenty, now!" Snake Eyes was turning, and she half-rose, not wanting to leave Bushido, but knowing what was coming... "Follow us downhill. Keep your guns up - we're not alone."
"On our way, Red. How're we going to find you pronto? This is a big forest."
Snake Eyes squeezed off a round, the staccato reports echoing through the forest.
"Follow the sound of gunfire!" She turned back to Bushido, coaxing him into a more comfortable position - until the sound of feet crashing through underbrush made her turn.
"Snake! Wait for the team!" But he was already charging off through the trees. Damn, damn, damn, damn... Scarlett shoved her gun into Bushido's hands. "Keep firing until help gets here."
Then she was running, tearing down the hill and through the trees, trying desperately to catch up to Snake Eyes before... but he wouldn't, would he? He had some sense, even if his anger was shoving it to the side, right? He wouldn't risk...
Oh, no... no, no, no...
She saw the weapons first, tossed carelessly to the left and right in a manner she knew Snake Eyes would never consider if he was thinking right at all. He'd gone past the breaking point, that invisible line only the two of them knew existed, and now...
She passed weapons belts, baldric, uzi, katana... and then the boots. The shirt. The pants. No undergarments... well, of course.
The ninja goes commando. This should surprise you, all things considered?
She put on a burst of speed, ignoring thorns and underbrush, following the sound of his flight and the trail he'd left. He was shedding clothing as he ran, which slowed him - but still, he had the lead on her, and if she didn't catch him... well, she refused to think on that.
We'll NEVER be able to explain it to the team... Below her, the woods opened onto field, leading down to a ramshackle farm building of some sort - and two figures pelting for it. Then Snake Eyes broke from the woods behind them, and seeing him, Scarlett staggered to a halt, knowing she wouldn't catch him now.
Two hundred-plus pounds of muscle and black fur streaked across the grass on four legs, rapidly closing the distance between trees and buildings. If knowing that a Joe team was hot on their trail hadn't given incentive to the murderers to make their escape quickly, a glance behind to reveal a gigantic, snarling black wolf on their heels certainly would.
Don't do this, Snake, don't do this... She lurched into a run again, pushed herself to go faster, nearly tripping and sending herself sprawling on the uneven ground. An engine roar, and the sound of splintering wood. Two "trouble bubbles" shattered the edges of the caved-in roof as they lifted off, leaving Snake Eyes to howl his fury to an uncaring sky from within the ruined building. When he broke cover again, he was already tracking them, following their flight path as best he could.
Scarlett angled her headlong flight, cutting across on a diagonal to intercept the maddened wolf. He was in a killing rage now, and he was as dangerous to himself and his team as he would be to any enemy. She had to stop him. When he paused, half-turning at her approach, she leaped, wrapping arms around his neck as she barrelled into him, the momentum sending both of them rolling.
He turned on her then, eyes entirely wolf-amber with none of the man she knew behind them, and he snarled as he sank his teeth deep into her forearm. She cried out, slamming a fist down on his sensitive muzzle.
"OW! Dammit, Snake, LET GO!"
He released her, staggering back. As he tasted her blood on his teeth, the expression in his eyes shifted - the color lightening to something like gray, the animal rage taking on an expression of horror. She gripped her arm, fumbling at her belt for the first aid pouch, for the gauze and bandage roll, swearing a blue streak at Snake Eyes, at herself, at the world in general...
"You big, stupid idiot! How the HELL am I going to explain this if someone notices?" She was so angry, she barely felt the pain. Her eyes snapped green sparks at him. "Your equipment is all over the place... your uniform... you'll be damned lucky if you can get Changed and dressed before Lawhound and the others catch up. Get moving. NOW!"
His eyes narrowed, hackles rising, and his lip lifted in a silent snarl. He still wasn't fully under his own control... she knew the raw pain in him was affecting his judgement, making the wolf in him ascendant. He wanted to kill something. And, whether man or wolf, even a fully rational Snake Eyes didn't appreciate a dressing-down. She paused in wrapping the wound long enough to level her gaze at him, rising to her feet to give herself the advantage of height, shoulders back, fists balled, staring him down. No words, just the language of the body.
I'll fight you if I have to, she let her posture tell him. Stand down!
It was something she'd never do, not under any ordinary circumstances... they were friends, equals, and dominance displays had no place between them. Right now, however, she needed to assert herself over the wolf in him. To remind him who she was... who HE was.
He broke the stare first, dropping his head and lowering both ears and tail - not flattening the ears, not tucking the tail in complete submission, but dropping both enough to show that he would not challenge her again. Animal instinct had trumped his humanity when he'd fueled his Change with rage, and now she'd used that instinct to her advantage - it was a rare male wolf who would challenge a female. When he looked at her again, she could see that the human blue had returned, replacing the amber of the wolf's animal bloodlust, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Go on," she said, more gently now. "I'll take another path up the hill and head off the team. Buy us some time." She turned her attention back to her arm, to the blood rapidly soaking the gauze pad and bandages, binding the wound as tightly as she dared. It was bad, but could be worse... deep punctures, but no tears; he hadn't savaged her, thank God.
She caught his departure in her peripheral vision - then sensed, rather than saw, him stop and return to her side. In his wolf form he was massive, larger than any natural wolf; his head was above level with her waist. He paused beside her and, for the briefest of moments, leaned into her, his muzzle brushing her wounded arm.
She stopped, stared at him... it was the first time since she'd known him that he'd touched her in wolf form, and he spoke into her mind in the way he could only do in wolfskin.
I'm sorry. She met his gaze, the pain there telegraphing itself to her, becoming her pain, too.
"It's okay, Snake. I know." She reached out, caressed the side of his lupine face, felt him flinch away. Touch was something he was unaccustomed to in any form, and she swore at herself for pushing him too far.
Before she could speak again, he was gone, loping back towards the woods.
- To Be Continued –
Author's Maunderings: It's hard to write original werewolf stories. So much good fiction already exists, with dynamic werewolf sociology and pack structure, that it seems you're going to be stepping on someone's toes no matter what. Take simply the name issue - what werewolves call themselves. Wolfen is taken (Whitley Streiber's novel of the same name), lycan (the Underworld series, though the term was in common use before that), lukoi (Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series). I've chosen Lykoi - going back to the orginal Greek - but someone else has probably thought of that, too.
Even the concept of werewolves serving in the military has been done - I loved Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos and Operation Luna (they are where this original idea came from - a werewolf soldier falling for his red-haired witch teammate), and have on my "to-read" stack Kitty Goes to War, a recent addition to the popular Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, because it deals with both PTSD and werewolf soldiers; I'm ravening my way through the earlier novels so I can read everything in order.
For what it's worth, I am no fan of "anthro" werewolves... human/wolf hybrids who are largely human-shaped. In my world, werewolves look exactly like very large wolves. In the Change, mass remains constant, so if you're a two hundred pound soldier, you're almost twice the size of your average gray wolf, who generally tops out at an uncommon maximum of 120 lbs. (Larger wolves have been recorded, particularly in far northern climates, but even then the world record was 190 lbs after WWII in the Ukraine, and no recorded wolf has come anywhere close to that since.) The main difference between my werewolves and others I've read about is the eyes - in my world, a werewolf, so long as he retains his ability to think rationally at a human level, retains his human eye color. If you have a wolf the size of a small pony with "normal" wolf eyes (amber, brown, gold, or green-gold) bearing down on you - don't try to reason with him, or wonder if his eyes are normally brown in human form. Run.
I'm not sure how long this will be all told, so I'll post in episodes and backtrack to revise if necessary. Commentary and feedback are most welcome.