The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 25
Faces In The Mirror

Chapter 25

 

Faces In The Mirror

 

 

Snow’s body hurt, she was in a daze.  She heard a woman talking, Fairuza’s voice echoing in her head as she spoke.  “Yeah Bitch, that’s what happens if you choose freewill over your duty.  I wasn’t supposed to show you that, but I like people to make informed decisions.”  She snarled her next sentence at Snow.  “So I let you live it instead.”  Smile.  “Welcome back from the future” 

 

Snow opened her eyes, Fairuza had a steel trap gaze upon her.  “Your time of choice is upon you Princess.  You have to make that choice in a few hours now.  Your days are up.  Only a few hours and minutes remain on your clock.  How’s that make you feel bitch?  Still going to up and leave?”  She taunted Snow from the foot of the bed.

 

Snow sat up and looked hard at the raven haired vixen.  “Thanks for showing me, you’ve helped me make up my mind, I am going to leave.  Three months and I’m done, that the message you wanted me to get from that dream?”  She felt nauseous as she tried to stand.

 

Fairuza tittered.  “Dream?  That was no dream sister, that was reality.  That’s what will happen if you choose freewill; you really experienced it because it really happened, you lived it shit for brains.  You might call it a fold in time, not a dream, rather the harsh reality of your choice.  Weren’t you listening?” 

 

That explained the stomach problem and the pain in her arms and legs.  She looked at her arms, no track marks.  When she ran a finger over where they had been, it hurt like they were there, and fresh.  Snow’s face was void of any emotion when her eyes returned to her nemesis; her eyes were two voids of feelings like a singularity in space is to light.  “My choice is made, three months.  I choose freewill.”

 

Smiling Fairuza turned and started walking away as she had done before, only she didn’t turn her head back when she spoke.  “I thought that might be what you’d say.”  She said emotionlessly, then she was gone.

 

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Bait had gone to his office quad with Seven and was going over information with him, he couldn’t stay on the command deck any more.  Seven was going over points of interest he had discovered going though Clay’s files, he had recently picked up where Worm had left off.

 

“Every den that has closed in the states, they have record of.  But these records have been kept from the official archives, the only person who knows their location and existence, is Lord Clay and anyone he has let know.  Most of the more recent ones show up in both records, but not all of ‘em nor any from more than a hundred years ago.  Odd, that’s what it is.  Why hide closed dens?”  Seven asked.

 

Bait had a thoughtful look.  “Does that hold for clan Kim?” 

 

Seven’s head shook quick.  “Na, see that’s another odd thing me chum, see these dens marked here.”  Seven touched the screen on the tablet he held and shuffled to a new page.  “These dens, newer ones are labeled ‘too new - known’, but clan Kim’s site, now here they wrote ‘new, suspicious activity - Westbridge’.”

 

Bait moved from the tablet and dug through his printed documents until he found the printed map Seven was showing him.  He surveyed the map with interest.  Pointing at old dens near clan Clay he recited the names of the former dens.  All had closed for separate reasons, some along the same reason.  Some, due to lack of population had consolidated with other dens for economical reasons. 

 

“I want exact locations on every closed den near clan Clay, starting with the biggest ones.”  He ordered. 

 

Seven nodded and went off to do his tasks.  He had wanted to dig into what Bait was thinking, but given the current situation he let it go for now.  Bait caught him just before he left the quad office with his final question.

 

“Any sign of Snow?”  He asked.

 

Seven looked back with tight lips and shook his head.

 

Bait released an angry sigh and went back to his paper trail.  He’d be wanted on the command deck again soon enough since Snow was still missing.

 

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On the command deck was where he was when Hovlek entered the room, a man who looked almost like him at his right side.  A much younger face with brilliant deep red hair and a brighter version of the color in his beard.

 

“Colonel Commander Bait, Hovlek present to you Hovlek’s brother, Rage Master Vikki.”  After the introduction Hovlek held his arm out towards the bulk of a man.

 

Bait looked up from what he was looking at, after Hovlek told him the man’s name, his face riddled with question.  “Vikki?  Like short for Victoria?”  He asked sounding a little caught off guard.

 

Vikki laughed loud, resembling his brother as he did.  “No, like Hovlek, Hondo Osmrath Vander, Levon Ekrind Kardath; Vikki, Voshech Ignatius Kokluch Kluth Induus.  Hovlek and Vikki, Bait knows of us?”  He asked at the end, jubilant the entire time he spoke.

 

Bait nodded, he understood.  Some clans named their young from a collection of their ancestors.  He smiled back at Vikki.  “Pleasure to meet Hovlek’s brother, welcome to House Squat.”  Bait said holding his attention on the man for a moment.

 

“Vikki is Hovlek’s younger, much younger brother.  HA!  Hovlek, why haven’t you died yet!”  He let go a boisterous laugh to finish.

 

Bait’s face went hard.  “This is Sir Hovlek the Bull.  I would advise you to not wish he were dead.”

 

Vikki stopped laughing and looked at the human as he realized the meaning of what the commander had said to him.  Nodding, Vikki held his tongue. 

 

“Any word on Commander Lady Snow your Grace?”  Hovlek asked.

 

Bait shook his head and looked back towards the main area of the command deck where Max and the others worked on assessing damage. 

 

“Not a word.  No one has seen or heard from her.”  He said with a sad and angry face.  Worry was etched in his voice.  Maybe he made a mistake in telling her about her freewill the way he did, but it was too late now.

 

“Hovlek see last when Lady Snow went into bedroom.  She say nothing to Hovlek then, Hovlek leave before Lady Snow get up.  If Hovlek hear anything, Hovlek will tell Bait right away.”  Hovlek said with his own worried voice.

 

“Thanks Hovlek.  This isn’t like her…” his eyes sank and face wilted as a thought walked up and slapped him in the brain, “… the one place no one would look for her, including me…”  Bait said with a self accusing voice then stormed for the door upstairs.

 

He charged up the stairs, through the door and past the bed Hovlek had been on and into their bedroom.  There was Snow unconscious on the bed, covered in sweat and the bed soaked.  She looked gray and was shaking violently.

 

“SNOW!”  He yelled as loud as he could then grabbed her and tried to pick her up into his arms.  She was slick and he couldn’t grip her.  He tried shaking her shoulders and called to her again.  His face was a torrent of fear and worry, he pulled his hand back.

 

“Sorry lover.”  He said with a sour look and slapped her as hard as he could on the face.

 

Snow’s eyes shot open, what had been the whites of her eyes were now a sickly yellow.  Foam started coming from her mouth as she began convulsing and her violent shaking increased in severity.  She looked starved, her skin clung to her ribs and her abdomen sunk in, her legs were nearly skeletal.  She spewed a froth from her mouth hitting him in the face.

 

It was while wiping his face, Bait noticed her arms.  A milky white fluid was coming from where the bend was for her elbow.  He looked dumbfounded at her, she looked like a junkie.  He felt like he was in a trance as he reached for his radio pack and called River Stone.

 

“River Stone here, unless it’s important Bait, I have people that need me.”  He answered the call.

 

It took Bait a moment to speak.  “River Stone, it’s Snow, I… come quick, we’re in our quarters, hurry!”

 

River Stone didn’t respond.  Bait could sense the doctor’s emotions over the phone as the line went dead.  He could tell by Bait’s voice something was drastically wrong.

 

Snow started gagging and choking, he went to her and turned her on her side towards him, he moved like he was programmed, knowing what to do.  She spit up onto the bed but started breathing again with a gasping sound and convulsed hard with her upside arm shooting out and striking him in the chest as he leaned over her knocking him back.

 

Bait was trying to hold her and keep her from swallowing her tongue when River Stone charged in the room, Hyden was with him.  When he looked back at the two men, they were frozen for a moment as they took in what they saw.

 

Hyden spoke urgently.  “River Stone, cleanse her NOW!  Use purification, the strongest rhythm you can.”  His face was angry. 

 

“Out of the way!”  River Stone said hard as he went to Snow, Bait was already moving back as the doctor moved in.

 

He went and stood next to Hyden, his eyes never leaving Snow.  River Stone rolled her onto her back and she started gagging and choking again.  Closing his eyes and he placed his right hand on her forehead as he started reciting a rhythm on her. 

 

Her mouth came open in a silent scream with her eyes wide and terrified.  River Stone ran his left hand across her face then down the center of her body.  After his hand passed her navel he brought it to her arm that was leaking the milky fluid and placed it over where it was coming from.

 

The doctor raised his face up and began speaking loudly the rhythm he was using on her, reciting with strength and intensity.  Snow’s body arched up, her shoulders and feet remained on the bed, her body vibrated as she defecated and urinated. 

 

She remained in that position as River Stone moved to her center and began moving his hands over her, not touching her, up and down the length of her body.  One hand moved towards her head while the other moved towards her feet then he moved them to her center and they passed each other crossing his arms as far as he could then reversing direction again as he spoke.

 

How long River Stone worked over her, Bait didn’t know.  He’d lost all concept of time.  Snow’s body dropped and went completely limp, her eyes closed and she started breathing slowly.  River Stone opened his eyes and stood straight from her, then he slumped to his knees beside the bed and his head dropped.

 

Hyden spoke softly but with a vexed tone.  “Someone has done something… something drastic, something they shouldn’t have, something dangerous.”  He was still looking towards Snow as he spoke when Bait looked over at him.

 

Bait didn’t say anything, he kept his eyes on Hyden until he looked at him.

 

“Someone took her through time I think.”  He said to Bait.  His face was stone, his eyes beyond angry.  Without another word, the Supreme Bishop stormed off at a hard pace.

 

Bait watched him as he left, he was still in view when River Stone’s voice brought his attention back into the room.

 

He sounded winded.  “I don’t know how, Snow was… she was suffering from detoxification trauma.  She would have had to have been using heroin and morphine hard for months to be in this state.  It isn’t possible.”  River Stone looked towards Bait with a face of disbelief.  “She’s clean now.  I don’t know how…”  He turned back to Snow and slowly stood as he looked at her.

 

Bait walked up to the bed and looked at Snow.  She looked normal now, no longer with the body of a strung out junkie.  The bed was clean, only sweat remained in the sheets.  She was still sweating profusely.  She started to move as he leaned over her.  “Snow.”  He called to her.

 

She awoke with a scream.  She shoved Bait back hard and sat bolt upright in bed.  Sweat ran from her face and she looked around fast.

 

“Wha… what happened?”  She gasped.

 

Bait was rubbing his chest where she had pushed him as he stood, then he took to rubbing his back.  River Stone turned and put a hand on his arm and whispered to him.  “She won’t remember this.  This is beyond me, for now, don’t mention anything.”  He told him then left the room quietly.

 

 Bait went to Snow’s side as she looked at him.  He thought fast for a moment before speaking.  “You’ve been out hard, a lot has happened, bad things. Catch a quick shower, you need it bad, then meet up with us on the command deck.  I’ll let Lord Leyland know you’ve been found.”  He said, waiting a moment and looking at her.

 

Snow was staring at the door taking in what he said, the words not fully a reality to her yet.  She started nodding and moved her eyes to him.  He gave her a nod seeing that she comprehended what was said to her now and left. 

 

Snow looked at the clock, it would be dark soon.  She went to the closet and pulled out her duffel bag and the one piece of hard luggage she had and started putting her belongings into them.  She set clean bra and panties out along with a clean uniform and socks. 

 

She would leave in the morning before the choosing time.  If her choice was between freewill and humanity or werewolf slave, she would rather die free and human.  The two bags she had were stuffed and she placed them in the closet and went to the shower.  She would play her roll until the break of day.

 

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Snow barely looked up when the front door alarms sounded.  In a disinterested manner she looked towards one of the clocks in the room.  Half past midnight.  Not a delivery at this hour.  The sound of the klaxons changed, vampire alarm.

 

“You coming … Snow?”  Bait asked.  He had changed what he was going to call her, she didn’t notice.

 

She looked up slowly and with a faint smile.  “No, I’ve seen vampires before.  No interest, have fun.”  She answered Bait’s suspicious face. 

 

With the current distraction and commotion, she slipped from the command deck and made her way to the community storage area to get more luggage, three large suitcases or four medium sized ones she figured. 

 

She went to the quarters above the command deck with her luggage and took the two full bags to the garage.  Just like in her… vision, her McLaren was parked front and center ready to leave first.  She stowed the first two bags then went to her room and started packing more of her belongings while keeping an ear to the radio for her cue to return.

 

She easily beat Bait and the others that were coming to the deck since she only had to go down one flight of stairs.  They would be unaware of her disappearance and activities, and her assumption appeared to be true as they entered and started to divulge what happened. 

 

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Shevv answered the door, knowing there was a vampire on the other side.  He was backed by five squads of shadow steppers, Vikki and Hovlek stood not far off on either end of the outside of the house watching.

 

“Hi, ah… don’t want trouble.  This is amazing, this is clan Squat right?  You smell like puppies.  Must be the right place.”  The young male (and not too bright) vampire said when the door opened.

 

Shevv glared at him.  “This is House Squat.  Why haven’t I killed you yet?”

 

The vampire laughed.  “Because, I… good question.”  He started thinking and considering why he was here and why he was sent.  He looked like he almost had the answer when Shevv broke his train of thought.

 

“Why are you here dumbass.”  He said harshly.

 

The vampire looked at Shevv with a stupid grin.  “Wha?  Oh, here, I’m supposed to give this letter to a Mr. Bait.”  He said and held out a plain white business sized envelope.  “Are you Bait?”  He asked and pulled the envelope back to himself when Shevv reached for it.

 

“I’m Bait.”  Bait said and stepped forward through the werewolves blockading the doorway.  The vampire smiled large and dumbly and handed the envelope to Bait as his mind caught up to him.

 

He looked to Shevv again as Bait took the envelope from him.  “Because I’m disposable. That’s why they sent me!”  He said smiling, finally coming up with the answer to his being sent to deliver the message.  His face fell to a moment of realization, all to late though.

 

“Correct you are.”  Bait said.

 

The single blast from two four barreled shotguns roared from the left and right shoulder of Bait catching the vampire in each of his shoulders on the inside of the rotator cuffs tossing him back into the yard, the door slammed shut as soon as the vampire was clear of it.  Hovlek and Vikki moved in fast to ensure the job was properly finished.

 

Bait opened the letter and read it as he led his team back to the command deck.

 

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Bait looked at Snow when he walked onto the command deck.  “Hostages, that’s what Sea Mist and Worm are.  They are being held hostage.  The terms of their release are that both of us show up at this location.”  He turned the paper towards Snow and pointed.  “Alone.”

 

Snow looked disinterested and shrugged.  “Then they’re going to be dead hostages.  You said Worm was involved no matter what, you were right.  We can’t give up the commanders for a child and a Marshal.”  She answered without emotion.

 

The room was silent.  All eyes were on Snow.

 

She was unaffected by their looks.  “It’s a command decision.  We can’t sacrifice the operation for the lives of two soldiers.”  She ended coldly and turned back to her computer screen.

 

Though what she said was true, it was a blatant lie coming from her lips.  Even though the decision, from a technical perspective, was the right one, it was the wrong one for her and everyone involved.

 

“I understand this has to be hard on you Snow, she’s my sister too.”  Squat said to her.

 

Snow turned cold eyes to him.  “It’s not hard.  It’s logical.  Her being my sister is irrelevant.”  She answered her brother then looked back to her computer again.

 

The room slowly returned to activity.  Everyone was working on enacting Bait’s orders to scatter instead of working on vampire issues.  For tonight, they’d get a free pass.  It wasn’t too long after that Lord Leyland walked into the command deck surprising all in the room.  They made haste to greet him, except for Snow who didn’t even take her eyes off of her computer. 

 

She was busy transferring the money she’d need for the next three months.  She was smiling to herself, happy about her choice and didn’t notice, or care, that Lord Leyland and her mate had left.  She knew what was happening, Bait was being taken to see his selection of concubines. 

 

When Bait returned, he didn’t look happy at all, pissed to no end was a better description.  He gave Snow a harsh look when he walked in, she returned a smug happy smile to him. 

 

He stopped in his tracks, looked at her smiling at him then turned away from her, joining Squat and Max at a table and started talking quietly with them.  Good, she was sick of hearing about dots and puzzle pieces.  It was just over an hour before daybreak, she wouldn’t have to fake caring much longer.  Was she even faking that anymore?

 

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“I gave my order.  I’m not going and neither is anyone else.”  Snow said harshly to Bait when he caught her on her way to the garage.  Her bags were already stowed in the space the sports car offered.  No one had seen her pack.

 

Bait looked hurt by her words, his face was hard and set, so was his voice when he answered her.  “I’m afraid you’ve been over ruled.  Lord Leyland himself has ordered us to make every effort to rescue our hostages.”  He said bluntly.

 

Snow laughed.  “But of course you went above my head.  Freewill bitch.  How’s that grab you, I don’t have to do anything you or mighty mouse Lord Leyland tells me to.  You can just go shit in your hat Bait all mightily.  You want this, it’s all yours.  Hope you picked a good piece of ass.  Enjoy that.  I’m going to be something you can’t be anymore, a real human.”

 

He gave her a glare that she laughed at, then he stormed past her saying “Fine, I’ll go alone.”

 

Snow made her way to the garage and climbed into her fabulous car.  She pressed the start button and the engine roared to life.  All human engineering, no Hovlek specials in this baby.  She wanted it kept that way.

 

“Fine piece of machinery you’ve got here.”  Sam said from the passenger seat.

 

Snow sighed and didn’t look over.  “This is a solo trip, you and Fairuza can both hit the road.”  She tripped the throttle a few times making the engine roar.

 

She heard Sam chuckle as the engine died down again.  “That’s a hell of an attitude you’ve got there little miss.  How do you sleep with that thing?”

 

She could tell he was looking at her.  She reached up and pressed the remote that would raise the ramp and open the ground door to let her out. 

 

“Fine way to say goodbye to the man who sacrificed everything for you, took you in when you had no place else to go.  One rainy night.”  Sam went on. 

 

He was looking forward again watching the ramp and door as they moved.  “Send him off to die, alone.  Guess that’s freewill to you.  Send a man to his death.”  He looked over at her again.  “That’s a real nice goodbye.  You’ll do good as a human.”  Sam said, then he opened the door and climbed out shutting it hard.

 

Her jaw was ridged and she was looking straight forward, her apparition gone, she put the car in first gear.  She held the clutch and revved the engine again.  She held the throttle intending to peal out as she left, then she took the car out of gear and reset the hand brake then turned the engine off. 

 

She got out of the car and started walking, she could at least stop Bait from getting himself killed, that wasn’t part of her vision.  She grabbed across her waist as pain gripped her in her abdominal area.

 

“What you’re experiencing are menstrual cramps.  PMS, whatever you want to call it, in a couple days you’re going to be bleeding out of your twat, just like a human.”  Fairuza said to her.

 

Snow shot a look in the direction of the voice.  “Thought you left.”

 

“Sam left, I just got here.  Confusing for you?”  She answered.

 

“Frell off, I’m going to keep him from getting himself killed, then I’m history.”  Snow snarled at her as she walked on.

 

“Good, caring is a human thing.  Pay attention to the location, the location is the key Snow tramp.”  Fairuza said.

 

Snow was about to look back, but didn’t bother, she knew Fairuza was already gone. 

 

The location is the key.  Great, a Bait dot, just what she needed.  She did owe this to Bait, her former mate.  That almost hurt saying.  She would leave with her debt paid.  Sam had struck a nerve in her, released a feeling she knew all to well.  Guilt.  Keeping Bait alive would let her break clean from the werewolf life and on into her short life as a human.

 

She went to the command deck and milled around while the others worked.  Max and Squat kept wanting to hide shadow steppers in his truck for backup, Bait refused.  He didn’t want to jeopardize the lives of his sister and Worm. 

 

The meeting was set at ten in the morning, which happened to coincide with the hour of her choosing.  She would stop Bait, then choose freewill and move on.  She saw the way he checked out Shyhon and Sea Mist, how he admired their shape, large breasts.  Even though he claimed to like small ones better, he was still a man.  She knew what they liked, and the big ones always won out. 

 

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Zero hour was on them, Snow made her way along with Bait to the surface. 

 

“So, you’ve decided to come along?”  He asked looking at her over his shoulder.

 

She didn’t answer while they walked to his truck.  They went on in silence until they were in the truck and on their way.  “My mind is set, I’m choosing freewill.”  She said after they had left the driveway.

 

Bait shook his head.  “Why?  I’ve been human, had the freewill.  It isn’t worth what you are giving up lover.”  He said to her

 

“Don’t call me that.”  She snapped at him.  “You gave up your freewill, that doesn’t mean I have to too.  I’m coming along to make sure you don’t get killed, I figure I owe you that much.  The choice is mine.  Why?  That is simple.  I get to not be this…” she said and waved her hands over her body, “I can be the creation instead of… a slave of duty.” 

 

Bait didn’t respond and let the issue drop.  They drove on silently until he started slowing as they approached the GPS location.  He slowed more and engaged the four wheel drive then pulled off the road towards what looked like an old aircraft hanger.  They were almost to it and Snow was looking around for activity outside of the building that looked like the one from her earlier vision where Fairuza had kicked her.

 

“Location is the key…”  She trailed off as she looked past Bait.  “This is wrong, this isn’t the right place.”  She said then reached across the cab of the truck and moved closer to Bait.  She shoved the steering wheel to the left sending them across the field they were in and putting her foot across and down on the accelerator.  The truck sprang to life and blasted across the field.

 

Bait tried to fight her for the wheel but gave up, she was too strong for him.

 

She recognized the layout of the land, the trees, bushes and buildings that they were approaching from across the field.  “There, that’s where the real location is hidden.  Vampires would need shielding from this sun.”  Snow said and aimed the truck more precisely and accelerated hard again. 

 

It was a kneejerk reaction from Bait to slam the breaks when the truck broke through the invisible wall that the vampire spell had created keeping the real building from view.  He stopped inches from a stone wall a short distance into the building.

 

“Advanced Hovlek breaking system.”  He said with relief now that the truck was stopped and they hadn’t smashed into the wall.

 

Snow was already out of the truck by the time Bait was out and standing facing his side of the wall in front of the truck.  She came around behind the truck and stood next to him.

 

Bait reached into a pocket.  “We’re about ten minutes early.  Let’s kill some time.”  He said and produced a joint and lighter.

 

This time it was Snow who gave Bait a concerned and shocked look.  “Do you really think now is the time for that?”  She asked as he took a draw off of the joint.

 

Releasing his breath and smoke, he handed the joint to Snow.  “This is Sea Mist’s special blend.  Since you’ve already made up your mind, this will be the last time you can cleanse yourself before a fight.  For you, your last fight and the fight to save your only sister.  Thought it seemed appropriate.”  He said to her.

 

She took the joint from him and smoked with him.  When they finished the wall had transparent places and seemed to waiver to her, to Bait nothing changed.  Snow recited her cleansing rhythm.  She looked around, nothing happened.  She looked at Bait about to tell him when she realized, he wasn’t wearing his armor, or carrying any of his gear.  Her head went quickly to face the wall again.

 

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Ruth was with Alexander in the basement of the secret building.  He was back to himself, as she had known him.  He was a mess of emotions now, switching from friendly, fun loving, and good in the sack Alexander, to his mean, nasty, eat your head self. 

 

Part of her viewed this as a good thing, meaning he was not mentally stable and wouldn’t notice things she was up to.  He had been unsure of his own orders at times, this would aid her in her underhanded dealings.

 

“They are here my master.  Snow led them right here.  She knew the other building was a trap.  Should we make our escape now?”  She asked feeling a bit shaken by the arrival of her adversaries. 

 

Alexander growled and gave her a scathing look.  “I’m running this mission, I think we will be far more successful then your failed attacks on the dens.”  He said to her, letting his displeasure in her performance be clear. 

 

Ruth looked down humbly.  “Master, I hit their dens just as you instructed.  I don’t know why we weren’t more successful, perhaps the human weapons weren’t enough to collapse their dens.”  She was giving him her version of puppy-dog eyes.

 

He scoffed at her.

 

“Bait’s coming for Alexander, Bait’s coming for Alexander!”  Worm started chanting from the chair she was tied to.  Sea Mist was next to her, also bound to the chair she sat on, only her bindings were silver, as was the chair.

 

“Worm!”  Sea Mist whispered urgently.  “No!”

 

“Bait’s coming for Alexander, Bait’s coming for Alexander!”  She went on.  He turned growling at Worm.

 

He leaned into her face and took his true form and roared in her face.  Spittle and stink blew into Worm’s face, she merely laughed at him and bounced in her chair.

 

“I can smell the fear in your breath little Alexander.  Bait’s here, and when she chooses, the Trustee is going to show him the way to you.  Bait’s coming for you Alexander.  You have something to fear now, Bait’s here!”  Worm taunted with her ever smiling face.

 

Alexander raised his arm and extended his claws, ready to swipe at Worm.

 

Sea Mist spoke drawing his attention.  “I really wouldn’t if I were you Lex.  Bait is rather fond of her, might make his vengeance more painful for you if you hurt her.  Hovlek is fond of her too.  You killed her parents, Hovlek has a brother, a quarter his age and ten times the nasty.  That would be a hard vengeance to outrun.”  He lowered his hand. 

 

Killing the bait could ruin his attempt to catch Bait.

 

One of Alexander’s lackeys ran into the room.  “Master, they’re here already, we lost them in the sand, couldn’t see his truck, it’s the same color as the sand.”  He informed his master.

 

“No shit.  I already know you worthless slave!”  Alexander roared unleashing the swipe he had held from Worm on his slave, decapitating him.

 

“That’s one less for Bait to deal with, keep it up Alexander, thank you for helping.”  Worm giggled in with as the body of the former vampire fell to the ground and exploded.  He hissed at her.

 

“Pale Rider.”  Sea Mist said in a hushed voice as some of her reading and understanding of werewolf history came to her mind.

 

“Pale Rider.”  Alexander said looking at Sea Mist, this meant something to him.  He returned to his human side.

 

Sea Mist looked at him, her eyes distant, her face knowing.  “The Pale Rider came across the desert, destruction followed after.  Justice written on the rider’s right hand, vengeance cast from the rider’s eyes, curse on the rider’s lips.  Free and obedient the rider walks upon the back of the disobedient.  As across the sands the rider walks, from the ocean of the forgotten the rider’s army rises.  Though the rider’s body scared, and though the rider’s soul be dark, the rider walks.  The Pale Rider walks, across the desert sand.”

 

Alexander listened with a face of consideration and thought as Sea Mist recited from memory the axiom of the Pale Rider.  His brow lowered as her words brought thoughts to his mind, as he remembered the axiom himself.

 

“Master, are we going to… you know, while we still can?”  Ruth implored him without saying ‘escape’ and further angering her master.

 

Alexander went closer to Sea Mist.  He flipped her over in the chair, the back of both her and the chair landed hard on the ground.  Alexander shoved her legs apart like he was going to force himself on her.  He pulled his dick out and aimed it at her face and started urinating on her face and eyes.  Sea Mist screamed as his urine burned her face like acid and ate her eyes out of the sockets. 

 

Worm turned away.

 

Ruth hid her expression before her master looked back to her.

 

“I’m leaving, you’re staying.  See to it that Bait and his whore are put to an end.  Then finish the blind one and bring me the child.  If you fail, don’t bother returning.”  Alexander said, then made for the back of the small basement room under the hanger and out the secret passage.

 

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“Only the Trustee can break that wall.  Powerful magic there.  Alexander himself put that one up little pard.  Choosen time is here.  Time to Choose.”  Sam said to Snow from the side Bait wasn’t on.

 

She looked over at him.  Bait apparently wasn’t invited into her insanity this time.

 

The sound of Sea Mist screaming brought her attention back to the wall, when it flickered, she could see light, bright bluish light on the other side of the wall.

 

“Bastard!  You did this on purpose!”  Snow screamed looking back to Sam.  “You knew I’d choose freewill, you set me up!”

 

Sam started nodding.  “Sure nuff did.  I wanted you to make an informed decision.  I wanted to make sure you fully understood your position when you faced this point.  Little harder now with your freewill than you thought, now that you have to witness the consequences of your actions.  Like I said, I wanted you to make a fully informed decision.” 

 

Snow was still staring at Sam, stunned by the revelation.  To get her way, her path to death that she desired so, she would have to watch her sister, Worm and Bait die.  Her choice had been reduced to being selfish, or selfless.  By showing her the future if she chose freewill, Sam and Fairuza had changed the situation her choice was in.

 

“You’re on deck Madelyn, choosing time.”  Sam said as the wall became a sky of the brilliant blue light of the creator.

 

Snow lowered her head and started to shake.  Her choice was to be made before that which created all, true life.

 

“You are not the creation, you may look upon my essence.”  A voice of calm that surrounded her said.

 

Snow raised her face to the Light, the creator.  She started crying.  Her body shook, she couldn’t stop it.  Her limbs were weak, she was human fully now.

 

“Choose.”  The voice said.

 

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Bait was about to ask if Snow had any ideas about this wall, that he was coming up empty when he noticed the look on her face.  She wasn’t there.  He felt cold.  He could see blue light coming from her eyes and mouth, she was facing her choices.  He stepped back from the wall and her.

 

Suddenly Snow screamed, raised her left hand to the air and slammed it towards the wall.  It changed, became fluid, a blue flowing liquid that fell to the ground in puddles and dissipated.

 

He followed her as she ran across the room.  Now he wished he had brought his shotguns, there were two groups of vampires with some distance between them.  Snow was heading kind of towards one group, and the other group started charging at her with guns drawn.  She didn’t slow, only lifted her hand in their direction and said something.  They blew apart.  Snow continued on. 

 

The other group charged on towards her, she flung her hand out from her chest, blue spikes flew from her fingers and into the vampires.  They were frozen in place, again Snow uttered a word, this time Bait understood the werewolf word for ‘sword of light’ and from her hand formed a large sword.  She charged in a beam of light like he had seen from Hovlek, her sword taking the heads of her victims as she passed by them.

 

Snow stopped in a corner of the building and looked at the dirt floor.  “I have to go down these stairs, alone.  I need you to wait in the truck, and follow my orders Inquisitor.”  She said after looking up at him.

 

“Stairs?  What stairs?”  He asked with a confused look as he looked from the patch of dirt Snow was in front of to her.  “Does this mean you’re going to unpack when we get home?”

 

Snow held her eyes on her mate.  He had known all along she intended on leaving.  He was asking her which she had chosen even though he knew.

 

He wanted to hear it from her own mouth.

 

“Yes.”  She said with a stone face.

 

Bait gave her a light bow.  “By your order Trustee.”  He said then turned and started walking towards the truck.

 

Snow waited until she heard the truck door close, then she started down the spell cast stairway into the secret room below.  When she came to the door at the bottom, with a word it vanished.

 

“Shit, shit!”  Ruth said as she held her sword on Snow when she walked through the doorway.

 

Snow walked into the room and at the sword pointed at her.  The vampire general of Alexander quickly moved to beside Worm and put the sword to her neck.  Snow stopped.  Ruth was breathing fast as she looked at Snow.  The two held each others gazes intently.

 

“Any last words?”  Snow asked calmly.

 

Ruth’s head nodded just a little.  “Before I leave, yeah.  Not final words.”  She said cautiously.

 

Snow nodded indicating for her to go on.

 

Ruth was nervous, disturbed even as she spoke.  “I didn’t do that to her, I would never do anything like that to someone.  I didn’t do it, I was against all of this.”  She told Snow.

 

Snow could feel the connection with Bait again.  He was watching through her mind.  Good.

 

she’s the reason the attacks failed, she planned them that way.’ Came to her mind from Bait.

 

Snow nodded to the unheard thought.

 

Ruth seemed to read her nod as a stand down of some kind.  She removed the sword from Worm’s neck and moved near the back of the room.  She set the sword down in a non threatening manner, squatting and laying it lengthwise in front of her before she reached and picked up a shotgun with four barrels.  Snow knew it was the one used to kill Worm’s mother. 

 

“I have no idea why I’m doing this.”  Ruth said, she was clearly unsure of herself.

 

Snow could tell uncertainty was not a normal thing for this woman. 

 

“I should be blasting your ass with this thing.”  Ruth was saying.

 

Snow held her ground and let the vampire general do whatever it was she was doing.  Something inside her was telling her not to attack, the time was not right, nor was the situation.  Ruth moved about half the distance between them and squatted down again, placing the shotgun on the stone floor, then shoving it towards Snow. 

 

Guilt?  Was this creature of darkness capable of feeling guilt?

 

Ruth returned to her sword, picked it up and started backing away.  Snow started walking towards her sister and Worm as Ruth backed away.  In a sudden movement the vampire general made for the back door.  Snow let her go and went to help Sea Mist.

 

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Bait watched through Snow’s eyes at what transpired in the room he was unable to see.  Once the event finished he closed his mental link with his mate, raised his head, and opened his eyes.  A blinding blue light flooded the cab of the truck, he couldn’t tell from which direction, every direction he turned was directly into the light.

 

“Choose.”  He heard a voice say.  He could see Snow standing and facing the Light.

 

Bait watched as Snow stood straight in the presence of her creator, and his.  Why did he need to see this?  She had already chosen, she had taken the fight.  She’d forgone freewill.

 

“Do you choose freewill and humanity, or the life of a protector in service as Trustee over your people?”  The voice asked.

 

Snow stood for a moment without responding.  Then she took a deep breath.  “I choose both.”  She said.  The light grew brighter, but he couldn’t see how it could get brighter, it just did.

 

“Speak.”  The voice said.

 

“I choose the duty of my creation with freewill so that I might never forget the burden humanity bears, so that I might always understand freewill, know its dangers and guide my people with this knowledge.  So that I might see the influences of humanity on the protectors and turn them back to their true paths.”

 

The light faded as he became aware of Snow knocking on the side window of the truck on his side.  He came back into the world and looked at her.

 

“You alright lover?”  She asked.

 

He nodded and unlocked the truck so she could get in.  She took the med kit from the backseat.  He went with as they brought Worm and poor Sea Mist to the truck.  Once they were in the back and belted in, Snow took the wheel and the pale rider drove them back towards home.

 

At some point Bait looked at her. ‘you have freewill, and are still a werewolf?  He thought to her.

 

it seems I have chosen wisely.  She answered.

 

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She was sitting in a chair, and not a very comfortable one at that.  Was she in a room?  Snow tried to focus and look around.  The place wasn’t familiar, but she had seen a room similar before.  It was a hotel room, a larger one like a suite.  The fog that hazed her view cleared, Lord Leyland and Bait walked into the room.  She was viewing from an angle that didn’t let her see the door, but was facing from the direction of it into the room. 

 

There were women, Shyhon was among them.

 

“She… that one.  The one with the mouth problem that you seem to have fixed.  Of these here, she is the best match Prince.  Though she is not the most beautiful.  That one, you girl step forward.”  Lord Leyland ordered with a pointed finger at the young girl.

 

The women were all nude, all were trying to put their best side forward.  Each wanted to be chosen.  The position of Trustee was under only Lord Leyland himself, what werewolf woman wouldn’t want that honor. 

 

“She is just over a year past her age.  A good choice.  She will be the most beautiful of them all, she will fill out very nicely.  With her you will gain youth.”  Lord Leyland’s eyes went to Shyhon.  “This one admires you the most, she has the greatest respect for you.”  He looked at the room full of other hopefuls.  “They all have been selected because of their lineage.  All fulfill the requirements of being your mate.”  He said looking at Bait.  “Sea Mist, she too you may choose.  There is a way for her to be yours, she is the one I would recommend.”

 

Bait’s eyes wandered over Shyhon and the young werewolf girl in front of him.  “She is beautiful already, Shyhon too.  They are all beautiful.”  Bait added as he looked at the women behind them.

 

His attention turned to Lord Leyland.  “I can choose only one mate, and I choose Princess Snow.”  Bait said, then turned and walked from the room as Lord Leyland’s face reddened.

 

Snow gasped and sat upright in the shower, she had fallen to the floor during the vision.  She had been shown what happened when Lord Leyland took Bait to choose a replacement mate.  Even though he doubted her, Bait cast his lot like the others had with her.  Without any hesitation.  His decision final. 

 

Snow smiled.

 

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Ruth had made it out the escape tunnel in the basement to her awaiting car to transport her safely during the daylight.  Her driver had started towards the church and Alexander.  She stopped him and thought for a minute.

 

“Great Ruthless, Master Alexander will be expecting us, night is a long ways off yet, ah… we should go to our Master.”  The driver said. 

 

Ruth looked forward through the darkened glass that divided the space between the front seat and her, keeping her safe.  This was one of the many handypersons her master had taking care of his slaves during daylight hours.  This one, like many of the others, wasn’t on the high end of the IQ scale. 

 

Turned he would be even more worthless.  Humans became dumber when they became vampires.  This hadn’t been the case with her though.  She actually believed she was smarter now than she was before.  Alexander’s blood had negated the negative effects of her turning which had left her somewhat dumber from her original mental capacities, but far above any of the current horde of vampire. 

 

When she took all she could from her master, her intellect rose significantly.  That was part of Alexander’s issues with her.  She needed every bit of her intellect to figure out what was with her master, and avoid her certain death that he held for her.  The moment she was no longer useful to him…

 

“Go to Clive Siv.”  She ordered.  The driver nodded and started off again.  “And keep a low profile, no speeding.  Get us there unnoticed, got it?”  She snapped.

 

“Yes Ruthless.”  He answered.

 

Clive Siv was the name for the home of Jibble, his official coven that is.  Alexander had no knowledge of any other of Jibble’s haciendas, at least from the memories she had in her blood from him he didn’t. 

 

Ruth suspected Jibble had more than one hidden refuge and had gone to great lengths to keep them from her master’s sight.  But this day walker, he belonged to Alexander, not her.  When he looked for his slave’s mind, he would know where she had gone.  Ruth leaned towards the glass and focused her abilities on the mind of the day walker.

 

“Driver, where are we going?”  She asked politely.

 

“We are going to Landon’s coven Dragon Ruthless.  Like you ordered.”  He answered.

 

Ruth smiled.  Alexander wouldn’t search his mind for his perceived location of coven Landon, he only would be interested in the place by name and would assume that’s where she was.  In his mind now, Landon was at the location Clive Siv was, and he had no memory of Clive Siv ever existing. 

 

She was learning more and more about the abilities and powers she had inherited from Alexander.  What Mindy had given her was nothing compared to what she took from Alexander.  Her master may very well not even look for her drivers mind considering the drain on him and the strain of the portal...  but she had to take steps just in case.

 

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Jibble’s coven was a several hour drive from where they had been, Ruth used the time to do some research of her own.  By the time they arrived and entered the tunnel that shielded the coven entrance from the light of day, dark was but a short few hours away. 

 

“Stop here.”  She ordered the driver some distance down the tunnel but well out of sight of the end of it where Jibble would be waiting.  The driver stopped.

 

“Get out, let me see how you’re dressed, can’t have you introducing my greatness looking like shit.”  She said to him before she got out of the back of the sedan.

 

“Yes ma’am.”  He answered then placed the car in park and climbed out and faced his general smiling.

 

“Your collar is twisted.”  She said and reached to adjust it.

 

His head came off in a single swipe from the claws she extended from the hand that wasn’t adjusting his collar.  The rest of his body slumped to the ground.  Ruth was in the sedan and off down the tunnel leaving the corpse of the day walker behind.  Any link Alexander had to her location was now severed.

 

Ruth pulled up to the small underground parking lot in front of the entrance to Jibble’s coven.  Several high end vehicles were parked neatly in marked spots, there were two open spots to the right of these show pieces. 

 

She parked next to the nineteen twenty-seven Rolls Royce that she knew to be Jibble’s favorite.  He had bought it new and kept it in perfect condition.  She climbed from the ‘out of place’ sedan and looked around.  Jibble was a man of culture and refinement.  He kept his people in line well and kept his house clean, unlike most vampire covens.  The air didn’t stink.

 

She started towards the entry doors, as expected when she was within a few feet, they opened.  A man and woman stood on the other side.  Ruth stopped and looked at them.  They turned their backs to the sides of the doors allowing a gap for her to enter through, Jibble stood just past them.

 

“And just what are you doing here?  Alexander hasn’t sent you this time.”  He said to her with a hard and suspicious sounding voice.

 

Ruth started walking again, between the two people.  She spoke as she sidestepped Jibble and walked past him.  “I follow my own orders now.  We need to talk.”

 

Jibble looked after her with heated eyes.  “And now you think you can walk in here and command me.”  He stated after her.

 

“No.”  She called back as she continued on.  “I came here because I consider you my friend, and you’re the only one I can trust.”

 

Jibble snorted.  “You can lie like Alexander.”  He said and followed after her catching up.

 

Jibble took the lead and led them to his private chambers.  He was wearing his usual zoot suit.  He was a man of style.  He had a fondness for old things, past styles, music and especially cars.  The music he played was a mix of the nineteen twenties big band and swing sound and music of the forties.  The light colored fabric of the suit complimented his dark skin well.

 

Ruth took a seat on the loveseat Jibble motioned towards as he sat in a matching loveseat across from her.  He looked her in the eyes for a moment, then broke his stare and reached to his head, took his fedora off and gently placed it on the arm of the loveseat then returned his attention intently on her.

 

“Nice suit, love the hat.”  Ruth said casually. 

 

Jibble smiled honestly at her comment and looked down at his suit and slowly ran a hand over the fine fabric.  “Thank you.”  He said to her.  All minions and the vampire masters that served them had their own idioms of some manner or form. 

 

Alexander would tell his victims he’d dine on their brains, and that was his thing.  To take someone’s head, open it like a coconut and eat the contents with others in attendance.  He never ate his victims alone, he always wanted someone to witness the deed.

 

Jibble’s thing was to always be the best dressed and most stylish, in his mind, of anyone in the room.  He liked to collect human treasures for his own.  Like the cars, he also had originals of great literary works, most signed by the author, as well as many hand written manuscripts.  He claimed to have the original Torah that the Hebrews had during their time of wandering in the desert. 

 

“This particular suit was hand made for me by Louis Lettes himself.”  Jibble informed her.

 

A mostly nude woman, wearing a velvet article that covered nothing and only existed to provide a colored pattern on her body walked into the room from a side door.

 

“Master Jibble, refreshments for you and your guest?”  The girl of about nineteen asked in a soft pleasant voice.

 

Jibble smiled at the girl.  “Ruth, this is Miika.  Anything you care for, in the way of refreshment, she will provide to you.” 

 

Miika was a beautiful woman with full breasts with plump nipples and perfectly round areoles.  Her bottom was nicely rounded and had a seductive twitch and bounce as she walked.  Her tummy was taunt, her skin evenly colored and her limbs were well toned with the muscles dancing as she moved.

 

“Half Africana black, half prime Japanese.  Before she was turned of course.  Magnificent blend don’t you think?”  Jibble quipped noticing Ruth’s admiration of the woman.

 

She truly was a beauty.  Another of Jibble’s loves, beautiful women.  He called women living art that should be admired at every opportunity life offered.  Ruth herself had allowed him to have her dressed to show her body off on her last visit, where she had to relay Alexander’s orders for Jibble’s soldiers to come to his aid.

 

Jibble still hadn’t sent any, nor had he contacted Alexander.

 

Alexander chose to rule his slaves with fear of his power to maintain control while Jibble chose to have his people respect his power.  He was no less the monster Alexander was.  Even more actually when one thought about it. 

 

Jibble hated rudeness, the impolite and uncivilized behavior.  He treated his people with respect and led with a firm hand.  With Alexander, it was easy to see when your end was at hand, with Jibble… you never saw it coming.

 

Jibble was also shrewd in the people he selected to join his ranks and expected his people to hold to his same values.  Knowing the drastic mental capacity loss a turning resulted in, the members of coven Jibble were very selective in whom they turned.  Jibble wanted no retarded slaves.

 

“Yes, she is stunning, a magnificent specimen.  I can see in your eyes she is your favorite.”  Ruth answered with a soft smile.  She preferred Jibble’s manners and style to that of her master’s.

 

Jibble gave her a smile and single slow head bow that said thank you.  Miika returned with their refreshments and a plate with cracker snacks topped with fine treats.

 

Once she was gone from the room, Jibble became direct.  “Before your presence here is known by Alexander, why is it you have come here on your own?”  He was concerned.  He wanted Alexander out of his operation.

 

“The only other one who knew I was coming here was my driver, and I made it so he didn’t actually know here is where he was taking me.  As you saw, I arrived at your door alone.”  She said with a smile.

 

A light chuckle came from Jibble hearing this.  His eyes narrowed and his focus on Ruth intensified.

 

“As far as Alexander goes, he only knows what I want him too.  He has no idea where I am or what I am up to.”  Her face became serious.  “I failed him, he told me if I did, not to bother to return.  It was a trap.  There was no way I couldn’t fail.”  Ruth told her host.

 

Jibble’s face held it’s own seriousness now, his eyes were unconvinced and he clearly thought her to be lying.  Then curiosity slipped into his eyes as he read Ruth’s change in expression.

 

Ruth leveled with him.  It was the only way she could possibly secure any type of allegiance. 

 

She began with a sigh.  “I’m not Alexander’s slave, I’m something different.  When he took me from my first master for his own, he was distracted when I fed from him.  I took everything I could from him, I drained him to mummification.”

 

Jibble’s face was shocked now.  He suspected there was something special about this new Dragon, he knew Alexander, no minion, would willingly create what Ruth was, a replacement.

 

Jibble’s voice told of his reserve and caution.  “So… you intend on replacing Alexander then?”

 

Ruth shook her head.  “No, not replace him, take over from him after I kill him.”

 

Her thoughts were clear to him now, she wanted to be nothing like him, she hated everything about who and what her master was, the minion who thought he was her master.  Alexander was blind and didn’t realize what he had created in his general.

 

“This is a dangerous game you’re playing.  Frell up once…”  Jibble looked away for a moment.  “So why come to me?  Why do you think I’d want any part of this?”

 

Ruth smiled again.  She pulled her ace in the hole card.  “Nigger.  Is that enough reason why?”

 

Jibble leaned back as he looked at her.  Success!  Jibble’s eyes relayed what she thought would be his reaction, now to work out the details of their alliance. 

 

Ruth had set her cell phone on the coffee table between the two loveseats, it started to vibrate and the caller identification lit up the screen, ‘Master Alexander’ it displayed.

 

Jibble saw it just as she did, his face became gravely suspicious.  “Guess you’d better take that.”  He said then listened in on the conversation as Ruth answered the call and placed it on the speakerphone.  If she were going to walk out of here, she’d have to be as open as she could and hide nothing from Jibble.  She was more scared of him than Alexander, and for good reason.  Jibble was a polite man.

 

“Ruth, you haven’t reported in yet, I was starting to worry fearing something had happened to you.”  Alexander’s calm soothing voice said.  He was trying to use enticement on her.  He couldn’t find her mind and that bothered him.

 

She looked at Jibble, his face said she was done.  “I’m fine my dark master and safe.”  She said hesitantly.

 

“Good, I am pleased to hear this news.  So why is it then that you haven’t reported to me in person, that I had to call to find you?”  He asked sounding nice.

 

Ruth paused for a moment before she gave her answer.  “Because master, you told me if I failed, not to bother coming back, I failed and followed your orders.”

 

‘Well played.’  Jibble’s face said.  His face also said it wouldn’t matter, but the effort was good.

 

Alexander’s voice started to laugh over the phone.  “I take it then Bait and his pet found your hiding spot then and retrieved their precious kin?”

 

“Yes.”  Ruth answered.  “But only Lady Snow showed up downstairs, Inquisitor Bait never came down.  She’s chosen, she is the Trustee now.”  She let her accusation hang in her voice.  The accusation that said because of what he did, she chose to become Trustee.

 

Both people listening to the call could easily tell Ruth’s use of Snow and Bait’s proper werewolf titles upset the great minion.  “Odd, are you sure?  I haven’t felt that she has chosen.”  Her master said casually.

 

Ruth took a deep breath.  “I was toe to toe with her, she’s made her choice, I am positive of that.  I knew what I was facing when she came downstairs.”  Her voice had become hard.

 

Alexander’s voice held acid when he spoke next in it’s cool even meter.  “Funny, you stood toe to toe with the werewolf trustee, and you both walked away?”

 

Ruth’s eyes moved to Jibble’s quickly then back to the phone.  “You might say that yes.  It was a very tense situation, I wish you would’ve been there, I could’ve used your help.”

 

Jibble leaned back in the loveseat, she could feel his eyes on her now.  He was analyzing her game.

 

“And the shotgun?  Is it in werewolf paws now?”  He asked with a coy tone.

 

“Yes.”  She answered.

 

Alexander chuckled again, he actually sounded pleased.  “Good, good, then you can come home where you belong Dragon Ruthless, you have not failed me, rather, everything has gone as I planned.”

 

Ruth leaned back from the phone now.  She realized what was happening, he had stopped trying to use entice on her, knowing it wouldn’t work.  Now he simply lied to her, the oldest trick in the book.

 

“That’s a relief master Alexander.  I’ll be home soon.  Have the hot tub ready.”  She said trying to relay her relief through her voice while hiding what she suspected.

 

“Great, fly fast.”  Alexander said, then the call ended.

 

“He knows.  He’s figured you out.  You frelled up coming here, he knows what you are now.”  Jibble said to her with a heavy voice.

 

Ruth was nodding in agreement to what Jibble had said, she was having the same thoughts as he.  “That’s for me to deal with, we need to come to our own understanding before I leave so we have things arranged when I come back.”  She said to him holding his gaze.

 

“You think you’ll be coming back?”  He asked doubtfully.

 

Ruth nodded again.  “The first step in avoiding a trap, is knowing of it’s existence.”  She told him.

 

Jibble gave her a half hearted smile.  “Sounds like you’ve been talking with Fyodor.”  Ruth gave him a confirming shrug.  “Watch yourself around him, you can’t trust him, he’s very deep with Alexander, deeper than anyone realizes.  I don’t know what binds those two together, he’ll never betray his friend.”

 

Ruth smiled her own coy smile.  “I’ve got Fyodor well in hand, trust me.  Let’s talk about us now.”

 

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Fly fast is exactly what Ruth had to do.  She was hours away by car, but now with the safety of night she took to the skies.  She made a stop along the way to add credence to her cover story and to secure a head for her master.  He didn’t say he’d figured out what he had made with her, there was a slim chance he wasn’t aware.  She doubted it, but she had to be prepared for that event.

 

Werewolves were working differently tonight.  They weren’t making any attempt to be unseen.  Ruth considered the possibility of her attacks on them as part of the reason for their change in strategy.  Her deduction was that it played a part in their plan changes, but overall, Bait and Snow were the driving force behind the changes.

 

She made a pass over the church and circled around both high then low to try and pick up a scent of what was going down.  Everything seemed normal, on the surface.

 

As she entered the coven deep underground, she caught sight of Fyodor, he gave her a look then turned and hurried off in the other direction.  He was on his way out, and avoiding her.  Clearly he believed she wouldn’t be around much longer.  She saw the fear in his eyes in the moment they had seen each other. 

 

Alexander had messed with his mind, but she didn’t think he had revealed anything about their conversations and plans they had made together.  He would be as incriminated as she was and as dead if he had talked.

 

She needed a moment with him before she faced the music Alexander had planned for her, knowing what Fyodor had told him was critical, it would change how Alexander intended on killing her.  She passed the human head she had collected off to one of the coven slaves with instructions to bring it to her dark master with a message of her loyalty to him then darted off to intercept Fyodor. 

 

She caught him just below the trapdoor into the church.  “Fyodor, a second… please.”  She said with a needy look that wasn’t staged.

 

He looked back at her.  “I have to go.”  He said then turned to use the door out.

 

“Fyodor!”  She called out.  His hand stopped and he looked back.

 

“I told you that you were playing a dangerous game.  It’s ended for you now, why are you here you should run while you can.”  He said with honest concern for her being.

 

“I know, I know it’s a trap he’s set for me.  But I need to know what you told him about us, our agreements.  Our plans against…”  She stopped short, too many ears around.

 

Fyodor gave a quick sigh, his face said he understood she still had hopes of escaping this predicament alive.  And his doubts.

 

“I’m still alive aren’t I.  Had I said anything, had Lex known any of it…”  He trailed off then pushed the door open and climbed out into the dark church like building.

 

Ruth didn’t delay him or herself any further and was gone before he closed the trapdoor after himself.  She ran to where most of the slaves congregated until demanded by their master and found the girl she had taken interest in as a playmate and a slight friend. 

 

She was the smartest slave in the coven, which said a lot about the poor quality of the rest.  Now that the servants that tended Alexander’s business were gone that is.  Most of those had been dullards anyways.

 

She found the woman she wanted, she was counting on Alexander not wanting anything that pleased Ruth around.  He would later take pleasure in abusing the woman with his version of sex and dinner in Ruth’s remains after he had finished her off.  She gave the woman a letter she had written and a wad of cash.

 

“I have a car ready for you, get in and drive off the property, head to that gas station by the liquor store and read the letter, don’t talk to anyone just go, hurry!”  Ruth told her.

 

The woman looked scared now, she nodded quickly and took off.  She would follow whatever Ruth told her.  She hated to admit it, but the woman was the main reason Ruth came back, to get her out of Alexander’s clutches. 

 

Partially because she rather liked the woman, but mostly because if Ruth made it out alive, it would chap Alexander’s ass to no end that Ruth’s favorite pet had escaped and he wouldn’t be able to make her pay for Ruth’s failure to properly die at his hands.

 

Her delays were over.  The head she had delivered to Alexander announced her arrival at the coven and since she hadn’t shown in his private chambers, slaves were being sent to find her and if needed bring her by force.  Ruth took the upper hand.

 

“You, slave.”  Ruth yelled at a man that was hurrying off and had his back towards her.  He stopped and turned towards her.  “Is Master Alexander in his private chambers?”  She asked.

 

The man looked confused for a moment.

 

“His hot tub room?”  She clarified, he didn’t understand what ‘private chambers’ were apparently.

 

“Oh yes, that room.  He is and has sent me to find you.  You’re going there right?”  He asked.  The way he held himself said he hoped she would say no and give him reason to attack her unexpectedly.

 

Ruth snorted.  “Of course!  Has the food I requested and deep wine been brought to his room?”  She said with a fake sound of happiness.

 

The slave’s expression returned to confusion.  “Food?  Wine?  I… no one said anything about that.  Why… um.”

 

She smiled inside, the thoughts that entered Ruth’s twisted mind were demonically pleasing. 

 

She had intended on distracting the man then separating his head from his shoulders, but a better plan came to her puddles of ideas.  She simply hadn’t been thinking big enough.  Alexander would be probing the minds of his slaves seeking her and anything they knew.  And giving him as much mental stimuli as she could might prove advantageous to her situation. 

 

“Why yes!  Surely you of all people must see how our Master would expect, yea, DEMAND he be properly entertained with the great news I have!”  Ruth was putting up a front of excitement, using her own adrenalin filled moment of brilliance to make it more believable.

 

It was clearly working, the man’s eyes started to dance.  Good news meant a good mood, a good mood meant it was party time.  And that is what all the slaves loved to do most, crank up music, break out the party favors and party on Garth.  This was almost too easy.  And it might be, her plan may just drop like a turd into the toilet and be flushed away by something she missed. 

 

This would have to do, she could plan quickly now and improvise later.

 

“When I tell His Greatness the news I have, and present him with the two very amazing gifts I have… he is going to make me queen!”  It’s always better to say as much as you can with as few words as possible.  Leaves more open for the other person to fill in on their own. 

 

You tell a little lie, and they create the big ones themselves and never question the validity of them.  Lie?  What she told the slave was completely true, from a certain point of view.  Was it a lie to leave the exact details out?

 

The man was about to explode from excitement.  If what she said was true, tonight would be a party like none have ever seen!  “Both… you have them both?!”  He asked as he rubbed his hands together in front of himself, hunching in towards Ruth with the excited expressions of a stupid person.

 

Ruth joined him in his giddiness.  “I shit you not when I tell you, when I present my gifts to Dark Master Alexander, he’s going to react like you’ve never seen before!”  She was bouncing like Mindy when she finished and even added in throwing her arms over her head and giving a convincing “woo-hoo” to finished the moment off.

 

The man forgot all about her and what he was sent to do.  By the time she was at the bottom of the coven pit she no longer had to use the shadows to avoid slaves, the excitement had spread by word of mouth that Dragon Master Ruthless had slain both Snow and Bait and was going to present their heads to Dark Master Alexander. 

 

Ruth smiled as she heard the gossip around her as slaves congratulated her when they saw her.  This would interfere with her master’s abilities through his slaves. 

 

She neared the passage to where dickhead was, screams from him ordering people out and the sounds of crashing things he was flinging around in his rage rang of her success thus far.  He would be in a fevered state now, and not thinking clearly.  She opened her mind and pushed, making him aware of her presence.  This is not something he would be expecting.  He was bracing for her to attack him, not to come passively and with an empty hand. 

 

Quiet greeted her at the door as she stood just outside.  Several slaves exited the room in a rush, seeing her they held the doors open for her.  “Everything is ready for your news Dragon Ruthless.”  One of the slaves whispered to her as she passed him.  She smiled, and her smile was pure vileness. 

 

Alexander’s anger filled the room, blocking all other smells.  Perfect.  She walked nobly down the walkway towards her master who was standing to one side of where the hot tub was near the dinning tables. 

 

He was in his human form and breathing heavily from the rage inside.  He was ready to lung at her at any moment and change into the daemon he was.  Possibly to swallow her whole, she felt he would want her to suffer more than that though.  She was counting on it.

 

“You must think me a fool, spreading your lies that you have their heads!  Walking in here as you are; you come to me with your pride showing, I know what you are.  What you’ve done.”   Alexander stormed at her with his rage filled voice.

 

Ruth stopped and looked surprised.  She dropped every barrier she had between herself and the man who called himself her master.  “I’ve never said any such thing.”  She stood with her hands behind her back and looked respectful.

 

Alexander plunged himself into her mind, she offered no resistance.  In his current emotional state, hate and rage were all that drove him, Ruth was confidant in her belief that he wouldn’t even bother to look into the parts of her mind she didn’t want him too.  Hate was his single focus right now. 

 

He was looking for her lie.  There was none to be found.  She never did claim to have slain Snow and Bait and to have their heads as gifts.  Her master could find no fault in her for lying.

 

“You’re out of your place woman!”  Alexander roared.  He stepped quickly to the table and picked up the head that had been delivered to him for her.  “You insult me?!  Is that you’re message of loyalty?!”

 

Ruth gasped and put on a look of not understanding how her gift could be insulting.  “Forgive me master Alexander; I thought the head of an enemy would please you.  To dine on the brains of a human.”

 

“I dine on the brains of our enemies, werewolves you bitch!  I dine on the blood of humans!”  Alexander threw the head at Ruth and she caught it.  This seemed to piss her master off even more.

 

“I’m sorry my master, I have made an error in judgment.  I thought since the werewolves protected humans, and since they are the creation, a human head would have been an unexpected treat.”  Ruth said with convincing feigned supplication.

 

In a snap Alexander lunged at her, changing his form as he went.  Ruth swung the head by the hair at him.  He opened his mouth and caught the head and her hand in his bite, severing the hand and giving both a chew before swallowing them.  His clawed hands lashed at her, but she moved in a direction he hadn’t anticipated she would choose; she herself lunged right at his charging body.

 

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Walking through the new construction area Bait stopped.  They had come a long way in a short time, Lord Frost’s men were everything said about them in efficiency and ability.  He looked at the alcoves again letting his thoughts settle into place.  This time, he came prepared.  He had called the people in charge of the construction to meet with him in the center of the floor.  As they showed up one by one, they joined him in looking around the vast expanse of the new den area. 

 

The eyes of the people with him moved from where he was looking, back to him with questioning expressions. They were trying to see what he was seeing in their mind’s eye.  He let everyone stew for a minute or so after all were there then he pulled out a roll of brown papers.

 

“These are the plans I want you to use for this den, scale them to fit and build the rest.”  Bait said handing the roll to one of the people.  Bait pointed to a nearby table he had placed.

 

The man and his mate went to the table and unrolled the papers while the others followed.  Bait took position across from the man and looked down at the plans.

 

The man and his mate looked the pages over and whispered to each other.  Then they engaged others in hushed conversation and debate on what the changes were and what making them would entail.  Eyes moved to Bait as he watched on.  Finally the man he had given the plans to raised his head from the plans, looked at Bait and spoke.

 

“Your Grace, there isn’t much difference in the plans, the connecting tunnels to farm dens and the houses themselves, these are plans for very old dens, not used anymore.  We don’t use farm houses anymore, we live in the dens.  Even farming clans live in the dens now, no need for the houses and small work dens.”  He said to Bait with an uncertain edge in his voice.

 

Bait smiled as he leaned back from the table and crossed his arms.  “Exactly.  Now, you are going back to that.  The dens are supposed to be just that, work dens.  They are not what were-kind are to live in.  From now on, we will build all dens to the original plans and werewolves will live on the surface and use dens for work space.”  He looked around at the faces of the men and women around him as his words worked through their minds.

 

There were murmurs and whispers around the group.  Finally one woman spoke the question on everyone’s mind. 

 

“Your Grace, why?”  She asked with a begging expression.

 

“Light.  Sunlight exactly.”  Bait started giving the group a look around.  “Part of the problems with numbers is lack of mating, birthrates have plummeted, and this coordinates with werepeople moving underground.  Never used to be like that, your ancestors have always lived in the sunlight.  You have cut yourself off from light, and it’s having an effect on you.  Time to reverse that.”  He uncrossed his arms and looked at the group again with a tight smile.

 

“Sounds good to me, hell, I hate living down here honestly.”  A man next to Bait said. 

 

The murmurs returned, sound of agreement came from the group.

 

“Well, it’d be easy enough.  Never changed land acquisition when this place was built, they own the parcel, we have the acreage to do it, let’s build four crews, get them on tunnels and get more hands moving rock out.”  The leader of the group Bait had given the plans to said with a smile. 

 

Eager vocalizations of approval surged up from the group.  The idea of more work was appealing to them, they were crafters after all and loved practicing their craft and building art. 

 

The group started talking about designs for the tunnels and making plans.  They didn’t notice as Bait eased himself out of the back of the group as they moved into the plans and started pointing and adding their ideas.  Then, he slipped off leaving them to their work.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

He made his way to the command deck which was empty currently.  Since he had the place to himself, he went to work there, also keeping himself available to any of his officers in the process.  Snow walked in shortly after in a bit of a mental daze and started for the door to the quad above, noticed him then turned in his direction.

 

“Hey.  How’d it go with the build changes?”  She asked as she approached him.

 

He smiled as he continued looking down at the tablet on the table in front of him.  “Good, great actually.  They really only asked one question then started pitching ideas on how to do it.  Werewolves are very easy to get to work.  Wish humans were that eager.”

 

Snow gave a weak smile.

 

“So how is she?”  Bait said as he looked up and turned towards her.

 

Snow shrugged and held her spread palms out and down at her sides.  “Still no change.  Hasn’t said a word and sits there staring forward.  No smile, nothing.  Her face is empty.  You’re right, it’s scary when Worm isn’t smiling.”  Her voice was a frigid sad when she finished.

 

“River Stone?”  He asked.

 

Snow nodded her head.  “He’s ready for us.  He said Sea kept trying to leave and go find Worm.  Threatened her with sedation.  She said she’d just cleanse and walk away.”

 

Bait smiled weakly and nodded at what she told him.  “That sounds like our Sea Mist.”  He stood up and embraced Snow.  “Let’s go and see what the good doctor has to tell us.”  He said then released her and they went to the medical ward.

 

Sea Mist was sitting up in the bed arguing with a nurse who had placed a silver neck piece that secured her to the bed.  It was padded as to not cause discomfort, but would prevent her from breaking its bonds and wandering off.

 

“Is this really necessary?  Why not just let me go see her?”  Sea Mist was yelling at the nurse.

 

“Because Doctor River Stone has ordered you to stay here and you’re being a nit about it.”  The woman answered her.

 

“Remove it.”  Snow ordered the nurse.

 

The woman turned fast and looked to see who spoke to her.  Seeing Snow she immediately turned and removed the restraint. 

 

“Thanks sis.  Bout time you helped me out of a jam.”  Sea Mist said with a smile.

 

Snow smile sarcastically back.  “I order you to stay where the doc tells you and follow his every order to the letter.  Order received Marshal Sea Mist?”

 

Sea Mist’s demeanor dropped fast.  With a sigh she answered “Yes your Grace.”  Then crossed her arms and scowled.

 

River Stone walked in and looked the situation over and finished with his eyes on Snow.  “Should I thank you or be mad at your ass for messing with my patient?”  He said to her.

 

Snow’s eyes were still on Sea Mist when she answered.  “Thank me, I ordered her to obey you.  You’ll be the first man she’s ever done that for.”  She said with a smirk when Sea turned her head to the side.

 

She was keeping up a front, hiding the pain inside.  Sea Mist was blind now, her eyes burned out by Alexander’s urine.  There was no regeneration for her, the damage was permanent.  Where her eyes had been were now scarred flesh grown over the sockets, her entire face a scarred mess. 

 

River Stone was here now, the news would be delivered, Sea Mist’s piloting days, her career as she had known it was over.  The rest of her days she would need looking after, Blade Dance would spend his days being there for her.  A blind werewolf…

 

“As you are aware, certain damage never repairs, and Alexander’s damage never will.”  River Stone paused, he was about to go on.

 

“She’s blind, how can she live being blind?  She’s a werewolf, can’t you give her one of my eyes?”  Snow said, her composure was cracking.

 

Bait placed a hand on her shoulder, Sea Mist looked down in front of her and her mouth opened but Bait filled the answer in.  “She’s no more blind today then yesterday.  She’s been blind since… I’d say her accident.”  Bait said assuredly.

 

Snow’s face raised to look at Bait then turned to Sea Mist when she spoke.

 

“He’s right.  Accident my ass.”  Sea said.

 

“When you were two, the cave in.”  Snow said distantly as memories were mulled over.  “I always wondered about that.  Never been a cave in before in a werewolf den.  And right over your crib.”

 

“Yeah, funny thing isn’t it.”  Sea Mist said with a snide voice, not aimed at Snow, but at where her thoughts were taking her.

 

“So you can see?  Without eyes?”  Snow asked as her wondering took over.

 

“Yup.  Always have.  For me, the only thing that’s changed is I’m uglier now than I was before.”  Sea laughed.  “Now, may I go?  Nothings going to change with me.  No reason to keep me here, I have things to do, people to kill, you know.” 

 

Snow looked at Bait.  He clearly felt keeping her here was the wrong thing to do.  “Doctor River Stone?  Any reason she shouldn’t be allowed to leave?”  Snow asked looking to him.

 

River Stone made some faces and moved his head around as he considered the question, making some noises as he did.  “Well, not anything… no, I can’t come up with anything, no medical reason.”  He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his white coat and looked between Snow and Bait.

 

Snow looked at Bait then to Sea Mist.  “We’re going to see Worm, want to come with?”  She asked her.

 

Sea Mist bounced out of bed and started for the door.  “Duh, who said there’re no stupid questions.”  She said with a look back over her shoulder at her sister.

 

“Ah, Sea Mist?”  Snow said with a ‘your forgetting something’ tone in her voice.

 

“What?”  Sea said stopping and facing Snow while she flexed her palms out at her side with a ‘what’s the wait’ expression.

 

“Clothes.”  Snow and Bait said in unison, he pointing at her.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

“All her hair fell out?”  Sea Mist screeched. 

 

The nurse shrugged.  “Yes, there isn’t a hair left on her entire body.  We have no idea why.”

 

Worm was propped upright in bed.  Her eyes never moved as they stared forward never focusing on anything, never giving any indication there was still a person inside.

 

“Medically, there is noting wrong with her.  Doctor River Stone has consulted with Hyden and the Physicians council.  This has never happened before.”  The nurse said as she rubbed Worms shoulder with a solemn face.

 

Sea Mist, Snow and Bait each took a turn sitting next to Worm on the bed and offering a compassionate touch to her.  Sea Mist was the last to leave.  She kissed Worm on the forehead and whispered ‘come back squirt’ before she left with the others.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

While Snow went off to take a shower, Bait went to the office quad and started rearranging his wallpapers.  He had become engrossed in a trail he was following and jumped with the sounds of the clocks announcing the moment of sunset that went off in the room and hallway.  He looked up and around as the sounds of the bells of the clocks echoed around.  Nightfall, time for more fun and games.

 

Humans, the Clays, empty dens and unregistered clans, Westbridge and werewolves in general, and Bait in the middle.  Things were starting to line up, just a few more answers to find the questions to, and what would he know then?  With a sigh he picked up a stack of files for tonight and his laptop and started out of the office area towards the command deck. 

 

Inside the command deck things were quiet right now.  Max and Meadow were already working as usual and Snow followed in, brushing her hair, a short five minutes after he arrived.  They went over what they planned for the nights operations which was mostly going into the recruiting areas for vampires and taking out the recruiters.  With the damage they had done, the vampires would be looking to fill some positions.

 

“What about business districts, colleges, places where smart people hang out?  If they are going to refill their ranks for command, they’ll want smarter people than what they have working the streets.  Most of Alexander’s network took him quite a while to build.”  Snow commented as they talked.

 

Kevashka and Grey entered as Bait answered.  “I don’t think Alexander’s all that concerned about filling his chain of command as it were.  What he wants is large numbers, brute force to try and overwhelm us with.” 

 

Kevashka nodded in agreement as she came to where they were standing.  “I’d agree with that.”

 

“With our current numbers, that won’t take much.”  Snow inserted.

 

Sea Mist came bounding in.  “Hey all, ugly’s here.  Time to hide.”  She said with a smiling face mocking herself.

 

Bait and Snow glared at her but didn’t say anything about what she said.

 

“You don’t have to work tonight Sea, take the night off, you’ve earned it.”  Snow said to her, Bait nodded slightly in agreement.

 

Sea Mist scoffed.  “Take the night off and do what?  Sleep?  Masturbate?  Shit, I’d rather be working.”  Her face told the untold side, she was feeling lonely and Blade Dance wasn’t helping.

 

Conversation returned to the nights duties.  Snow took the lead now and was fully commanding her people, since her choice had been made a new confidence filled her.  What had been hesitation from indecision was replaced with deep consideration and analysis from her new found perspective. 

 

Bait was smiling at her as she gave her orders.  They were getting ready to move out themselves when Hovlek entered, the shotgun Snow had recovered was in his hands and a grim look was on his face.  The room turned to look at him.

 

Hovlek nodded his head as he looked between Snow and Bait.

 

“It is as you suspected Inquisitor, it is our design, not as good as ours, but effective and clearly stolen from us.  Vampire, never could they come up with this on their own, they steal ideas and claim them.  Hovlek has seen this before.”  He informed them.  “If they have more, are making more, were-kind, is in trouble.  An edge we no longer have.”

 

Quiet took over in the room when he finished.  A few people in the room kept looking at Bait then looking away.  Finally Sea Mist acknowledge the elephant in the room.

 

“How did the vampires get our design?  They’ve never captured one of our weapons, none have been reported missing as far as I know and I’ve been watching the reports.”  She said facing between Hovlek Snow and Bait.

 

Silent nods from the command team around her confirmed they were thinking the same thing.  How indeed, was the top question. 

 

It wasn’t exact, some differences were there from lack of understanding of the design and the attempt to make it usable for silver slugs, but it was too close to exact to be a design from sight.  Someone had to pass the plans to a vampire.  Which raised the next question of who.

 

The door chimed, Mud went to see who wanted in.  She looked at the person via the hall cam and monitor.  “Pack Sergeant Poik, Trustee.  Should I admit him?”  She asked with a look back to Snow.  Snow gave her a nod and she palmed the pad that opened the doors.

 

“Report Pack Sergeant.”  Mud said to the man as he entered and the doors closed behind him.

 

“Major, as you know we monitor human police and emergency communications for anything… strange.”  Sergeant Poik began glancing between Mud and Snow. 

 

“And?”  Mud urged.

 

Poik was a bit reluctant to give his report, it seemed he thought he might be making something out of nothing, but that nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away pressed him here.  Mud knew that feeling and could see it in him.

 

He made a short groan of uncertainty.  “I’m not sure, I just… normally I wouldn’t have even looked twice at this, it’s just something… something just felt off about it, like there was some other reason, because there is no reason…”  Poik shook his head and handed a paper to Mud.

 

Mud gave him a confidant smile and took the paper from him.  She knew what he was going through, how do you explain something that has no explanation?  The best way is to show it to others and let them feel their way to what you are feeling.  Mud read the paper.  She felt it too.

 

“Inquisitor Bait.”  She said in a commanding tone emphasizing the importance of the information.  His curiosity perked and Snow followed with as he came to Mud and read the paper.

 

“I know it seems odd, break in at a hardware store, only thing reported stolen was a pair of welding gloves.  That’s what made it stand out to me, who breaks into a hardware store and just steals welding gloves?”  Poik said as he tried to rationalize his coming to the command deck with seemingly trivial information.

 

Bait looked at him with hard eyes.  “Someone who wants to handle something too hot to handle.”

 

Question formed in Poik’s eyes. 

 

“Anything, and I mean anything even the slightest bit out of the ordinary, report it immediately, clear?”  Snow ordered.

 

“Yes Trustee Snow.”  Poik responded, saluted, then went back to his station.

 

After he was gone Mud asked Bait what this meant to him.  He read the paper over again.  “The back door of the hardware store was ripped open, not kicked in or busted into, steel framed door barred from the inside and the entire thing was ripped from the building.  Took someone with a lot of strength to do that, no human did, and gloves, heavy welding gloves.”

 

“Rouge werewolf or a vampire.”  Max added in.

 

Everyone nodded, but which one?

 

 

 

 

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