I've been at the keyboard, getting Facets ready to become an e-book and I realized, I didn't do an excerpt from this story. It's called Without a Paddle and you folks get the pleasue of meeting Mr. Daniel Ryan O'Riordan...
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The Gods were pissed off.
They had to be. How else could I be stuck in the woods, surrounded by an angry pack of werewolves and have only two rounds of Were-ammo left? Oh, let’s not forget I have a fifteen year old boy with me who’s scared outta his gourd and my right arm, my shooting arm, got slashed practically down to the bone and I can barely lift it.
This was supposed to be a simple recon op, just follow this werewolf pack to their meeting place, find out who their new Alpha was going to be, along with all the members, and quietly take all of them out in their normal guises. Some kid coming along and photographing the pack after they’d shifted was an unforeseen complication. The recon op became a rescue mission and it snafued from there.
The plan was to get us back to my Hummvee. Once we were there, the kid and I‘d be home-free; Armor plating that could stop an RPG shell or angry claws and an auto-weapons system that could track and take out any number of monsters within a 500 yard radius. The problem is my GPS tracker got trashed along with my arm when I jumped in to save the kid. So, on top of everything else, I’m lost. Joy.
“Hey, kid.” I said. He looked like he was in shock and didn’t hear me. Seeing something that’s supposed to be nothing more than a character in a horror movie trying to kill you could have that kind of effect on a body.
“What’s your name?” I asked as I looked around. I thought I heard something.
“Willard, I need you to take the gun in my hand so I can bandage my arm.”
He looked a little confused. I looked around again. I definitely heard something. Frustration rose inside me and I wanted to grab Willard by the shoulders and shake him out of it. Instead, I took a deep breath, tamped down the pain and frustration and led Willard towards a cave that was a small ways away from us.
Once inside, I took off my backpack and pulled out first aid supplies, a bottle of water and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I put the stuff on the ground and leaned against the wall. My arm was throbbing with pain and I was starting to get lightheaded from blood loss. The rough wall of the cave felt so nice and cool and I was so tired…No! I can’t pass out. If I do that, the kid and I are toast. I took a deep breath and focused past the pain and fought to keep the black on the edge of my vision from creeping over me.
“Kid!” I rasped. “Will!”
He looked at me like I was an alien. Bloody hell.
“Will, I know all this is scaring you half to death, but I need you to be here with me and keep your head if were gonna get through this, okay?”
Thank God. “’Kay. Take the gun. Watch the entrance, if any hostiles come, shoot them.” I opened the bottle of water and washed off my arm as best I could.
“How does it work?” Will asked.
“Which hand are you holding the gun with?”
“My right one.”
“The safety’s on the left side of the gun, by your thumb. Just flip it up and the gun’ll shoot.” I opened the rubbing alcohol. I was gonna hate this next part. “You know how to shoot?”
“F…from playing video games.”
“Well, unlike the video games that gun’s gonna kick like a mule.”
“A couple of ‘em have guns that kick like the real thing…”
“Believe me, that gun there will kick harder. Hold it in your right hand and use your left hand to steady it, ‘kay?”
“And squeeze the trigger, don’t pull it.”
I hissed out a breath as I poured the alcohol on the wounds. Next, came the gauze. It was treated with chemical compounds that would make my blood clot a little quicker.
I finished with that and pulled out a pneumatic syringe. It contained an experimental lycanthrope vaccine my boss, Joshua Van Dieter extrapolated from a rabies vaccine. He noticed that lycanthropy manifested itself the same way rabies did and shared a lot of the same symptoms, so he made a serum that should cure lycanthropy in anyone who was infected and still in the incubation period. The keyword here is ‘should’ because it hasn’t been properly tested on a human yet.
Say hello to Mister Guinea Pig.
I put it on my thigh and hit the button. The fucker hurt going in, but if it’ll keep me from goin’ furry, I’ll deal.
“What was that?” Will asked.
“What were you doing in the middle of the woods on a school night?”
“I asked you first.”
“A lycanthrope vaccine. It’s supposed to stop me from turning furry.”
“First time it’s been used. My boss, who also designed the gun you’re holding, reckons it’ll work.” I grinned, but I’m sure it looked more like a grimace. “We’ll find out.”
Will took a deep breath. “There were stories goin’ around that people were disappearing in these part of the woods, Y’know? The popular kids dared me to come out here tonight for two hours and take pictures of anything strange.”
“I walked up on this bonfire with a bunch of people dancing around it. I thought it was some kinda hippie thing ‘cuz they were all buck naked. Remember that dancing in the moonlight song?”
“By King Harvest? Yeah.”
“They were listening to that and I was getting into it when they all started to change into werewolves. I took a couple of shots. Somebody probably saw the flash, ‘cuz they all turned and looked at me. The last thing I heard before I started running was the lyric about how people don’t bark and they don’t bite.” He grinned, but the fear in his eyes leeched any humor out of the gesture. “Kinda ironic, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, a bit.” There was a rustle off to the left, by the front of the cave.
“Will!” That was all I got to say as a werewolf sprang straight towards him. Will turned and drilled the werewolf twice in the chest. All those years of playing first person shooters came in handy, obviously. He did wind up on the ground, though.
As I limped over to Will, the lycanthrope howled in pain as it changed to human form. There were hundreds of little pops, cracks and tearing sounds.
The werewolf ordinance contained a compound that caused immediate osteoporosis and triggered a lycanthrope’s transformation into human form. Basically, the stress of changing shape broke bones to splinters and cut internal organs into useless meat with way too much damage to heal. Eventually, the howling changed to gurgling screams. Then all was quiet.
“Whoa,” was all Will said.
“Thank you, Keanu,” I retorted as I helped him up. An idea came to me and I took the gun and put in the vampire ammo. Since it contained silver nitrate and a very powerful anti-coagulant, it might be more helpful against the werewolves than the zombie load. What the hell? It couldn’t hurt. Speaking of hurt, my arm didn’t hurt so much anymore and I could move it some. Strange.
Will walked over to where the ruined body lay. I was about to stop him, but he’d gotten close to it and promptly lost his lunch. While he did that, I gathered up everything and stood behind him as he got his breath back.
“I’ve never shot anyone before. For real, I mean,” He said.
“I’m sorry you had to.”
“It was like a video game, but real, y’know?”
“No reset buttons in the real, Will, and no extra lives if you make a mistake either.” Will looked like he was about to get all queasy again, but he swallowed and asked how someone became a werewolf.
“Attacked or scratched by one,” I explained. “Sometimes it’s caused by magic, like a curse or an amulet or, very rarely, a body’s born a lycanthrope.”
I searched through the stiff’s pants and found a wallet. Will threw up again as I did this. The I.D. said the stiff’s name was Jayson Plano and lived in an address in
. I reached into my back pack, pulled out a mini-pc roughly the size of a hardcover novel, fired it up and made a video call to Joshua. In a few seconds, he was on-line and his face, earnest, intelligent and bespectacled, filled the screen. Manhattan
“Have you tracked down the wolfpack?”
“Yeah, but I’ve encountered a few sticking points along the way.”
“Explain.” I did.
“So did the vaccine work?”
“Seems so. I’m able to use my right arm again. Frankly, I ‘m surprised by that.”
“You should be. The wounds you described should take a few months to heal, including physical therapy.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’ll have to look into that when you get back. Where’s the young man you were telling me about?”
“He’s puking his guts out in a corner. His name’s Will. He’s freaked out by all this, but he seems to be coping awfully well, even so.” I paused as Will stopped and stood on shaky feet. “I gotta get him home, Joshua.”
“Absolutely.” Joshua tapped on the keyboard in front of him. “I’m downloading the GPS program into your notebook so you can find the Hummer.”
A window opened to show that the download had started. Once it was done, I launched the GPS finder and a window opened with a map and a blinking red dot that signified the location of the Hummer. According to the map it was about three miles away. If I was by myself, that wouldn’t be a problem, but I had Will and he couldn’t move nearly a quickly as I could. Problem was we couldn’t stay here either. The other Weres had probably heard the death throes of their fellow pack member and were on their way with vengeance on the mind. We had to move.
“As you Americans say, no problem. I wish there was more I could do.”
“You’ve done enough. I’ll call you after I’m done.” Joshua nodded and broke the link. I closed the notebook and walked over to Will. Hmm. No limping. And my arm definitely doesn’t hurt anymore. Fuck.
“How d’you feel?” I asked him. He nodded as if he didn’t trust himself to speak.
“Come on. We have to go.”
“Yeah and plenty of it. C’mon.” We walked out of the cave and I opened the notebook to get our bearings. We had to head east towards the highway.
“’Kay. Will, your job is to hold on to this notebook and navigate us to where the red dot is. That’s my Hummer. The sooner we get there, the sooner I get you home. Stay close, keep up and be quiet, clear?”
He nodded. I closed the pc, stuffed it in its’ carrying case and gave it to Will. As he strapped it on, I pulled out my gun, checked the load and slung it on my shoulder. I also pulled out a 9mm Beretta, pulled back the slide, turned on the safety and handed the pistol to Will.
“There’re silver bullets in the clip. They won’t have the same effect as the Lycan ordinance; it’ll slow down their ability to heal. Go for head shots. Same as before: squeeze the trigger, don’t pull it,” He swallowed and nodded his head.
Will looked pitiful in his ripped, black Beastie Boys t-shirt, dark colored jeans and dark blue Chuck Taylors. His arms and face were full of scratches from the trees and brambles he ran through. There were leaves and branches in his dark hair and a fine trembling shook his whole frame. Will was scared, but there was a resolve in his face that wasn’t there before. He wanted to go home and he trusted me to do it. I just hoped I didn’t fail him.
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