Ben brought the Huey up to cruising speed and altitude as we settled in for the flight back. We'd been in the air only five minutes or so since our tangle with Samuel's group.
"How long until we reach the base?" Jesse asked Ben.
"We're loaded down a fair bit. It'll be a bit more than an hour and a half."
I'd been standing behind and between the front seats of the helicopter and I decided to go back and check on Cole. As I approached him I saw him shivering and he said, "Jake, I'm cold. Is there something I can put on?"
He was still naked after the change back to human form. I hadn't even considered that before we left the compound. I could have easily taken some of his clothes from the RV.
From the cockpit I heard Jesse say, "Shit, cuz, I'm sorry! I ran into Grace when I was going to find Samuel. When she got done laughing at how I looked she told me she had clothes for Cole. At least one person thought far enough ahead to realize he'd be naked. I completely forgot I had them after the dust up with Samuel."
He unbuckled himself and stood and worked his way back towards us. I noticed he was still limping, but it wasn't as pronounced. I looked down and saw a fair bit of blood on his right calf. Most of it was dried but some looked fresh. He'd thrown himself on top of Cole when the shooting started and he'd been hit by several bullets. One must have hit in a spot that wasn't covered by his armor.
He turned to face away from me and said, "Pop the bottom part of my pack open, Jake. She put his clothes right on top. Sorry, Cole. I should have remembered."
Cole said, "It's OK. I'm just glad I can get dressed."
I reached in and undid the fasteners for the flap at the mid part of Jesse's backpack. Sure enough, Grace had stuffed in a full set of clothes for Cole.
I put the clothes on the seat next to Cole and he unbuckled and went to work getting dressed. She'd included underwear, jeans, a T-shirt and a warm hoodie along with hiking shoes and heavy socks. He'd be warm and comfy for the rest of the flight.
While Cole got dressed, I turned back to Jesse and said, "Let me at your pack again. I want to see what sort of first aid is in there. We need to look at your leg. It's still bleeding."
He nodded and turned his back to me again and said, "It stings like a son of a bitch, but it ain't bad. Bullet grazed my calf. Didn't hit the muscle though. We just need to make sure I don't bleed out before the next change tomorrow night."
I found the small emergency kit and pulled it out. I indicated the seat behind me and Jesse sat down. I knelt in front of him to look at his leg. It had a gash on the back side of the fat part of his calf muscle. It was bleeding steadily, though not heavily. It had already started to clot a fair bit. It looked as though it just needed a good bandage to keep pressure on the wound and the bleeding should stop completely.
I opened the kit and found antiseptic, gauze and bandages and all of the other standard first aid supplies. I tore open some alcohol pads and set to work cleaning the wound, and Jesse jumped and winced at the contact.
Cole hissed and said, "That looks like it must hurt! You got that when you jumped on me, didn't you? You saved my life! Those bullets would have hit me!"
Jesse shrugged and said, "It was the least I could do, after what I did to you in Mexico."
Cole stared harder at Jesse's face, then his eyes went wide as he said, "I know you! I knew you looked familiar! You were the one that was talking to me when I got separated from Mom and Elias! You didn't have a beard then. You were shaved. That's why I had trouble figuring out where I knew you from! Why did you do that?! Why did you give me to those guys? They were gonna cut me up!"
Jesse got a pained look on his face as he said, "I'm so sorry, Cole. It was the wrong thing to do, but I thought I had to do it. It's complicated. I wish I could go back and do it different. I know for sure it was the wrong thing to do now. If I hadn't done it Samuel wouldn't be in possession of the virus. I should have guessed what he had in mind. I've wrecked everything. I could be the one responsible for the human species going extinct!"
"Don't blame yourself for that, Jesse," I said as I continued to work on his leg, "Nobody's responsible for that but Samuel if he goes through with it. Cole, Jesse did what he thought he had to do to save all of the werewolves from those government people. To save the lupines, too. Like the ones you saw outside the facility. He gave you to those people so he could track you, to find out where they would take you so he could stop them from doing what they planned. They had no other way to find out where the government was doing their experiments. He knew he could get you back out as easy as we did. He wanted to save all of the werewolves and it was the only way he could think to do it."
"What do you mean, save them? What were the government guys gonna do?" Cole asked.
"They were trying to find a cure that would turn all of the werewolves back into normal people again. They needed a werewolf to work with to find the cure and they knew you were one. That's why they tried to get you at your old house that first time. They wanted to control it all so they could decide who would get to be a werewolf. The lupines would be at risk because there aren't enough of them yet to keep their species going, and the government would never allow them to exist because they'd be competition for the humans. What Jesse was trying to do was really important."
"But, if they turned me back to normal I'd have ALS again! I would get weak again like I was before!"
I hadn't even thought of that, but he was right. He would immediately begin to deteriorate again and he would likely be in a wheel chair by the time he was twenty and would probably not live past twenty-five.
I nodded, "That's right. They were planning to spread it to everyone in the world using the virus Samuel wants to use to turn everyone into a werewolf. You would be a normal boy again and you'd start aging again and the ALS would advance."
Cole thought about it for a while and turned back to Jesse and said, "I guess you really did have to do it. If you didn't do anything and they got that cure out then I'd die for sure, the same horrible way I was gonna die before Elias saved me. You sort of saved my life by giving me to them. I can't blame you for that. I'm glad you did it."
Jesse got a puzzled look and asked, "You have ALS? I didn't know that."
Cole nodded and said, "It was killing me real slow by shutting my whole body down and eventually I wouldn't be able to swallow and then I wouldn't be able to breathe. It would be an awful way to die. It doesn't matter anymore now that I'm a werewolf. If they cured me though, I'd be back to being sick again. You really did the right thing, even for me. If you didn't give me to them and track me so you could stop them, I would die for sure if they found some other werewolf instead and used him to get a cure and then turned me back to normal. I never want to worry about my ALS again!"
Jesse suddenly looked as though someone had just told him he'd been placed on death row by mistake, and he was free to go. A look of relief washed over him, but it was short lived. He shook his head and said, "No, it was still the wrong thing to do. I saw what they were gonna do to you in there. It was a stupid risk."
Cole shrugged and said, "If you say so, but I don't see it that way."
I said, "I'm with Cole. They had to be stopped. I've already forgiven you, Jesse. Cole has too, obviously. Maybe it's time you forgave yourself."
From the cockpit Ben said, "I'm with Jake and Cole. You need to lighten up on yourself, Jesse."
He nodded, but said nothing. I could tell by the look on his face that he was still thinking of Grace and how she would react to the truth once he told her.
Cole went over to him and gave him a hug and said, "You saved me from the worst death I could imagine. I don't care that you gave me to them. It was the right thing to do and I'll never see it any other way."
I saw tears welling in Jesse's eyes as Cole pulled away from the hug and he smiled at him and nodded.
I'd finished cleaning the wound fairly thoroughly and it had started to bleed a bit more as a result. I put some thick gauze pads on it and began to bandage it up to put pressure on it so it could start the process of clotting again. It should be fine, and it would of course heal up completely on the next change anyhow. In hindsight I realized all I'd really needed to do was bandage it up tightly. Even the cleaning was unnecessary. There were definitely perks for a soldier to be able to completely regenerate twice a day almost every day.
Cole looked up towards the cockpit and asked, "Could I go up and watch out the window, Jake?"
From the cockpit Ben said, "Yes, of course you can. Come on up, Cole. You can take the gunner's seat and Jesse can stay back there for a while."
"Cool!" Cole exclaimed, and he moved up to the front to hop into the seat Jesse had vacated and buckled himself in. He looked over at Ben for the first time and said, "Oh my God! You're like those guys with the big guns! You're a wolf man! You look so cool!"
Ben said, "Thanks. We're called lupines. If your mom got busy with someone like, oh, I don't know, Jesse maybe, their babies would turn out like me."
We all had to speak quite loudly to be heard over the noise of the helicopter, but Ben had shouted just a bit louder to make sure Jesse heard what he'd said. Jesse blushed a bit and I smiled.
I moved up to stand behind the cockpit again and said, "I guess I should introduce you two properly. Cole, this is Benjamin. He's with you and me and Elias now. He's part of our family."
Cole's face brightened and he excitedly asked, "Really? You're with us now?"
Ben smiled and said, "Yup, I am. I fell in love with Jake right when we first met. I hope that's OK with you."
Cole said, "Of course it is! If Jake loves you I know I will too. I wish I could hug you right now."
Ben said, "Me too, but flying a helicopter is really sort of hands on. It's kind of like balancing a spinning plate on the end of a stick in the middle of a high wind. I need to constantly adjust to compensate for all of the changing forces the helo undergoes at all times."
"Could you teach me how to fly a helicopter?" Cole asked.
"Sure, anyone can learn to fly one. You're a bit small to fly the Huey, though. Your feet need to be able to work the pedals at all times to control the tail and yaw the chopper around to the left or right. Your left hand works the collective, which controls up and down basically, and your right hand works the cyclic, which controls tilting the disk to make the helo tilt in order to bank left and right or pitch forward and back. I could teach you how to fly it in a computer simulator I like to play around on. It models the Huey almost perfectly and it's a lot like flying the real thing. It's really not as hard as it might seem, but it takes a lot of practice before you can even just hold it in a steady hover without crashing. Once you really get used to it though, you can do it without thinking. It just takes time and effort to get there."
Cole looked over the myriad of dials and switches and numerical displays scattered all over the cockpit. There was a panel loaded with them between the pilot and gunner's seats. The front was covered in dials showing engine pressure and fuel flow and torque and altitude and heading and horizon. Even the roof was covered in switches, knobs and lights on a long panel between the two seats.
Cole said, "This is all so cool. I don't know how you could ever remember what it all does. What does this flashing red one mean up here?"
Ben said, "Huh?"
Just as he turned to look up at what Cole was pointing at, a klaxon suddenly sounded loudly and the red light on the panel turned solid while others began to flash on the forward panel next to the engine gauges.
Ben said, "Shit! The engine temperature's going ballistic! I think our ruptured fuel line might have ignited! Jake, strap in!"
I went back to sit next to Jesse and buckled myself in.
"Will you be able to get us down?" Jesse asked.
Ben shouted, "I need to cut the fuel flow or the fire might get into the main tank and we'll be blown to bits! The temperature's critical as it is! If I don't shut it down we might lose the..."
There was suddenly a muffled bang and the turbine engine's roar increased to an incredibly high-pitched howl while the helicopter lurched and began to drop from the sky.
Ben's shoulders slumped as he finished his sentence, "...turboshaft."
He flipped some switches and suddenly the sound of the engine died away completely. We were without power and we started to fall faster and faster.
"Everyone hang on tight!" Ben shouted, "I'm gonna autorotate. I can see a patch of ground ahead. It should be big enough and we just might have enough altitude to make it. It could be a bit of a rough landing!"
"You mean you can land a helicopter without the engine?" Cole asked.
"Sure, it's easy. I've done it lots of times as part of my training. I can teach you how to do it in the simulator, too. In fact, I can explain it to you right now. Your first lesson in flying a helicopter will be to learn how to not crash when your engine dies." He continued to work the controls as he explained the procedure, "Autorotation isn't really that hard. I lower the collective all the way to get a near negative pitch on the blades and I push full right rudder with my feet because the tail doesn't have to fight the torque of the engine anymore so I need to compensate for that. I keep the nose nearly level so we start to fall flat through the air. The air rushing through the blades spins them up and keeps the head rotating at a good, high speed to store our energy until we need it most, like a flywheel. The spinning blades continue to act sort of like a disk-shaped wing that keeps us gliding forward like a plane at the same time as we're losing altitude. I need to keep adjusting the collective so I don't overspeed the rotor head and burn it out or throw a blade. If the RPMs get too high I just add a bit more collective to generate more lift and that will slow the blades back down to a safe speed. I also need to make sure I don't cause us to lose too much head speed by going too shallow and burning up the momentum trying to maintain lift, which would be bad since it takes time and altitude to gain it back, and we're running out of both of those fast as we steadily drop."
"Holy!" Cole said, "That's a lot of stuff to keep track of! I could never do that!"
"If you practice it enough with the simulator I promise you I can get you doing it just fine, over and over again. You'll see. It's just a balancing act, really. When I get close to the ground I change the pitch of the blades with the collective to add lift back and flare the helicopter. The momentum stored up in the spinning rotor provides the power we need to slow us right down even while the blades slow down and we start to lose the lift again. If I time everything right I burn up all of our head speed while slowing us almost to a hover and the skids touch the ground nice and gently just as we lose the last bit of lift from the blades slowing down too much. If I don't time it right we might bounce, hard. Just make sure your tongue isn't between your teeth and hold on tight."
He then shouted more loudly so he would be heard right to the back of the chopper, "Everyone brace yourselves! I shut down the fuel pump, but there could still be a fire burning out there so I need everyone to scramble as soon as we touch down! Get as far away from the chopper as you can, as fast as you can!"
Everyone went quiet and braced for the coming impact with the ground. The sound in the helicopter was eerily different with no engine running. There was only a whining sort of whir from the smooth meshing of the gears in the transmission that linked the main rotor to the tail rotor. Other than that there was only the sound of wind rushing past the airframe along with some creaks and groans as the load shifted while Ben began to pull back on the cyclic control to tilt the disk and bring the nose back to level.
The whine of the gears in the rotor head transmission increased as the blades began to bear the load of the helicopter while it rapidly began to slow down.
The 'thwap thwap' sound of the blades that had almost faded completely began to increase in volume again while Ben lifted the collective to change the angle of the blades so they would bite more air and begin to convert the momentum the head had built up back into lift to try to slow us to a hover.
The helicopter groaned loudly and the thwapping of the blades grew louder and louder as the nose came up more and we felt ourselves decelerating rapidly.
The airframe began to shake and shimmy as we began to lose translational lift and rapidly slowed almost to a hover, then the beating of the blades suddenly began to go quiet again as the rotor slowed to the point of becoming ineffective. Ben had timed it perfectly though, and the helicopter leveled off and we felt a bump and a lurch as the skids touched the ground and we slid just a few feet forward before we finally came to a stop.
"Go! Go! Go!" Ben shouted.
One of the other men was already up and opening the door as I unbuckled myself, and I jumped down to the ground. I moved to the front and opened the side door for Cole. He'd already unbuckled and he jumped out to join me and we ran as fast as Cole could go towards the tree line near the edge of the patch of open tundra we'd landed on.
I looked back as we ran but I could see no sign of any fire as the rest of the men piled out and ran to follow us.
Ben was the last one out, but instead of running, he turned to look up at the helicopter. There was a small amount of smoke coming from the top of it near the base of the rotor, but there didn't appear to be any flames. They would have been easily visible as the dusk had darkened a fair bit more towards full night.
Ben stepped a foot up on the side of the helicopter and reached up and put his hand on the fuselage, then pulled it away quickly. He went back inside the helicopter and emerged a while later with a tool in his hand. He turned several bolts with it and then he popped a panel open and looked inside. After several moments he turned and jumped down to the ground and waved us over.
We emerged from the trees and walked back to the helicopter.
wasn't a fire at all," Ben said, "One of Jeb's bullets hit the
turboshaft casing and cracked it. We lost all the lubricant.
It heated up and seized and the shaft broke. That's why the
engine RPMs went up, when it was suddenly unloaded. If it was
just a fire and if I could have got us down in time, there was hope
that I might be able to repair the fuel line, but with a busted shaft
there's no way to get her in the air again."
"So what now?" I asked, "How far are we from the compound?"
Ben thought about it for a moment and said, "The Huey's a lot slower than the Hercules. We were at cruising speed. We were in the air for close to twenty minutes. I'd say we only got about thirty miles from the facility, and we'd still be close to a hundred and fifty miles from our base."
"Shit!" Jesse exclaimed, "No radio, so nobody back at base knows we're in trouble yet."
"Can't we look for high ground and use our field radios to contact the compound?" I asked.
Jesse shook his head and said, "Not a chance. Their best range in this kind of terrain is about twenty-five miles. We can't contact base and they won't know for sure that anything's wrong until they don't hear from us for long enough."
Ben nodded and said, "It would normally take us at least an hour and a half to get back in the fully loaded Huey, so they won't guess anything's wrong until they still haven't heard from us by then. Even if they do, they have no more helicopters to come get us with. There's only the Herc, and there's no place anywhere near here where it could land. I looked over the topography when the mission was being planned. It's all hills and forest for a long way. Even when you get to the more open areas, a lot of it is muskeg and the plane can't land on that boggy shit."
Jesse said, "Well, at least that means Samuel's options are limited, too, even if he manages to get the long range communications gear working at the facility. The best they could hope to do is hike out to someplace where the Hercules could land and pick them up. It would likely take them days if I remember the layout of the terrain. They'd have to head northeast and cover a good seventy-five miles to reach the closest area flat enough and open enough, and that's only if they could follow a straight track, which they can't. The landscape around here will require them to take several detours around bogs and small pothole lakes, so it will take fairly long to hike it even at speed. Their only other hope would be to fly up more choppers from one of our Colorado compounds and that would take days too because they're slow and their range is limited and they'd have to stop a few times to refuel. That wouldn't really be an option anyhow because I'm sure the humans will eventually clue in that they've lost the facility and they'll send in a response of some sort. Samuel can't just wait around there for a pick up. He'll need to get away from there as quick as he can."
"So I guess they're as stuck as we are for now, at least until they can get that antenna fixed and use the long range radio to call for help. We need to decide our next course of action," I said.
I saw all eyes turn to me, as though waiting for me to say something more. I asked Jesse, "So, what are our options?"
He shrugged and said, "I can think of three. We sit tight and wait for the compound to figure out something's wrong and send the Herc out to search for us and then figure out some way to help us out. That could be a long wait, and while we wait Samuel gets more and more time to fix that radio antenna and divert any help we might have got over to him and his team to get them out of there. He might just leave us stranded here, or he might even send someone to capture us or maybe finish us off. Option two is to strike out for the base. On foot in this landscape, at our best speed, it would likely take us at least four or five days. Probably closer to a week. Again, Samuel would have plenty of time to get things organized and he'd have full control of the base long before we got there. They'd see us as the enemy and they'd be ready for us and we'd be screwed. Option three is we head back to the research facility since it's a lot closer. If we can get there quick enough we might make it before they can get the radio working and we might have a chance to stop them from calling for help to get them out of there with the virus. We might be able to stop Samuel's plan, but it wouldn't be easy. We've got shotguns and door knockers and our machine guns. They have their machine guns, rocket launchers, RPGs and Jeb's chain gun. We'd be heavily outgunned."
Ben said, "But we'd have the element of surprise. They wouldn't know we had trouble and went down. They wouldn't expect us to be coming back on foot. They might have a guard posted outside, but if we could take him out quietly, I could get my hands on Josh's chain gun if they left it outside and we could use it to keep them pinned inside. It would be suicide for them to try to come down that long hallway. I could cut them to ribbons. After what they did to Josh, I'd be happy to do it. If we can keep them pinned inside, we'd have the big antenna outside. We might be able to tie it to one of our short range field radios to get the longer range we need to contact the base and get help."
All eyes turned back to me and waited expectantly. I couldn't figure out why they kept waiting for my opinion. Why weren't they looking at their general?
"So which will it be, Jake?" Jesse asked.
"Huh? Why are you asking me? You're in command!"
Jesse chuckled and said, "Sorry, I guess I'm still following the wolf's instincts. We all saw you, Jake. You're massive. You're all black. I guess the wolf in us is seeing you as alpha of the group."
I shook my head and said, "I'm no alpha. I'm happy to give my opinion, but it doesn't carry any more weight than anyone else's."
"So, what's your opinion then?"
"I think we need to head back to the facility. I don't know if it would be safe to try to take on Samuel's men, but at least we need to stop them from using the radio antenna if we can. Everything hinges on that. The antenna was pretty badly wrecked and it would probably take them most of the night to fix it and get it wired back into the radio room, but it would take us most of the night to run back to the facility, so it would be a tight race. We need to get back there before they can use it. We're screwed if Samuel can communicate back to base before we can. He'll be able to take over the army and he'll have all the power. We might never get any help if that happens. He'd block us."
Jesse nodded, "You're right about that. If I could get on the horn before he can, I could have those that are loyal to me lock everything down, including radio communications. Samuel would be out in the cold then instead of us. He'd have nobody to turn to. It's hard to know if we'd stand a chance though. His group is bigger than ours and better armed."
"We can make a better assessment of the situation once we're there," I said, "It's like Ben said, they won't know we're coming. It should be no problem for us to sneak up and surveil the place all we want in order to determine the best coure of action. If we can somehow get the upper hand, then we'd be able to use the radio equipment ourselves and call out for help, but the main thing would be to stop Samuel from gaining control of the army, even if it means doing a more thorough job of destroying that antenna so it can't possibly be repaired."
Ben nodded and said, "I'm with Jake. It's the only real option. Samuel's not my alpha anymore. He's gone insane. We need to stop him from killing billions of people. Jake's my alpha now and I go where he leads. I say we head back to the facility."
The other men nodded their agreement but Jesse said, "I don't know. We have Cole with us now. We need to get him back safe to Grace like I promised her we would. If we go back to the facility, someone needs to stay back here with Cole. It would be too dangerous to bring him along. These other two guys we picked up are naked and defenseless too. They'd be no good to us out there. They wouldn't even be able to make it all the way there with no clothes and nothing to cover their feet. We don't know them, either, so we can't trust them with Cole. Someone else has to stay here with him."
Cole said, "No! I'm not staying back here! I want to go with Jake and Ben!"
I said, "Jesse's right, Cole. It would be too dangerous." I turned back to Jesse and said, "I'm the only one here who's not trained to fight and not armed with anything other than a side arm. I should be the one to stay back with Cole. The only reason I came out here in the first place was for him. I'm not a soldier and I have no business being here. I'd only get in the way if I go back there with you."
The men all grumbled and shook their heads and Ben said, "If you're staying back, then I'm staying back too. I'm not leaving you and Cole out here."
The men protested even more and one of them said, "We need everyone we can bring. The kid should be safe enough if he stays back in the trees when we get close to the facility. It would be hard enough with all of us and there's just no way we could do it with two less. We need Ben to operate the chain gun. He's the only one strong enough to carry it. We might need the biggest damn wolf we've ever seen, too, so Jake needs to come along. He may not be a trained soldier but if it comes to changing back to a wolf again his wolf will know how to fight, and would be better than any two of the others combined. He's a kindred for fuck's sake, and the strongest we've ever seen. He's more alpha than even Samuel could ever be. It doesn't matter what he says right now as a human, when he changes again the wolf will know who's alpha and will act on it. We need him."
Another of the men said, "I agree with Hendricks. Besides all that, if we can't stop them from using that radio, then there's no way to get Cole back safe anyhow. What do you think will happen if Samuel manages to radio back to base before we can get back there? He'll have anyone loyal to you locked up, Jesse, and that includes the other two civilians, Cole's mom and the other one. You want to keep them safe too, don't you? You're still the general of our army until Samuel says otherwise, so we have to stop him from saying so to anyone back at our base. Samuel's still the alpha to everyone else, even if he ain't ours anymore. They'll do whatever he says. If we let him get word back to base he'll tell them all he stripped you of your rank because you turned on him, and we'll be out in the cold with no hope of getting help. He might send someone out here to find our helicopter, but only to drop a damn bomb on it. How safe would Cole be then? He'd be a primary target. He's safer with us than left behind here and the only way to keep his mom safe too is to get back to that facility and stop Samuel from getting that radio working and getting word back to the base that we're the enemy now. You said you came out here because of Cole, Jake. The only way to keep him safe is to keep him with you, and to come along with us to stop Samuel."
I couldn't argue with the logic. Both men were right. It seemed like the only way to proceed. "I think they're making a lot of sense, Jesse. It might be the only way to go."
Jesse shrugged and said, "I guess it's our only real option. We need to stop them from using that radio if we can, or there won't be any way to get Cole back safe anyhow, and it might put Grace and Elias in danger. Cole should be OK if he stays back in the trees and stays quiet and well out of the fight. Have you ever hunted, Cole?"
He nodded and said, "Yup, why?"
Jesse said, "If it all goes to hell, you need to be able to survive out here on your own. Your wolf will keep you fed no problem. We'll all be eating just fine if we need to. I just wanted to be sure you tried it before and you know you can do it."
"I can do it. I can take care of myself. I don't want to stay behind. If that Samuel guy does what he said, so many people are gonna die! We can't let him do that! If he gets on the radio Mom and Elias might be in trouble too. Jake, we have to go back and stop him!"
I said, "Alright. It's decided then, we head back to the facility."
Jesse nodded his agreement and so did all of the others.
The general looked over at the two naked men who'd been released from the cells and said, "You guys can come with us, or stay here. I'll leave that choice up to you. We've got nothing to offer you in the way of clothes. It's gonna get a lot colder tonight before it starts to warm up again in the morning. We can't have you holding us back, so if you choose to come with us, we won't be stopping or slowing down for you. We need to get back to that facility as fast as we can."
One of them said, "I'm just gonna stay here if that's alright. At least we have the helicopter for a shelter."
The other nodded his agreement.
Jesse looked at his GPS watch and said, "OK. I've got the coordinates so I'll send help as soon as we have things back under control, but you'd better be prepared in case help doesn't come. You'll be turning back into wolves at sunset tomorrow. Make sure you're apart from each other at first. You might want to seize the opportunity to let your wolves hunt down some game for you or you'll be starving out here if you have to wait too long for help to come, or if things go wrong for us and we can't even get help to you at all. As soon as you become wolves start sniffing around for something to take down and eat and let the wolves show you how it's done. It'll be tough for you out here in human form, but once you turn into wolves you'll be right at home and you'll own the place."
They nodded their understanding.
Ben said, "There's a survival kit in the Huey. I'll show you where it is. It's got blankets and field rations and a couple gallons of water and fire starting gear and a hatchet and knife and what not. Just don't start a fire too close to the chopper. It's still almost half full of fuel and there's probably some on the fuselage from the leak. You should be fine out here. I'm completely covered in nice warm fur, too, and I don't normally dress up this much. I wear a flight suit when I'm flying the Huey because even I get cold sitting in that thing for hours at night out here. It'll be way too hot for me when we're on the run, though, and I don't like the feel of it on my fur if I'm moving around a lot."
He crouched down to untie his army boots, then kicked them off. He unzipped his one-piece flight suit and pulled his arms out and stepped out of it. He handed the suit to the larger of the naked men and he smiled and thanked Ben. The lupine was still wearing an undershirt and his athletic shorts. He pulled the shirt over his head and handed it to the other man, then he pulled down his athletic shorts and stepped out of them and handed the man that, too.
Ben was now wearing nothing but his grey boxer briefs that clearly outlined his magnificent package, and his heavy wool socks.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement and looked over to see Cole adjusting his crotch. He was staring raptly at Ben's heavily muscled, furry body and his eyes locked on to the beautiful bulge between his legs and he was quickly becoming aroused. I smiled and he noticed me looking and he blushed and grinned at me. I winked and grinned back.
Ben put his army boots back on and led the men over to the chopper to show them where the survival kit was.
They thanked him profusely for literally giving them the clothes off his back, and he nodded and returned to join us.
"Alright, let's head out," Jesse said, "We need to move fast."
He checked his GPS watch again to get a heading and started off into the woods at a slow trot. The rest of us followed.
The terrain was rugged and varied. The area was heavily treed and hilly and occasionally we started to run into mushy, wet bogland that we needed to skirt around. I wasn't sure at first how long I'd be able to keep up the pace, but I realized quickly I was still thinking with my old body, not my new one. All of us were exceedingly fit werewolves, except for Ben who was even more muscular and fit than any of us were in our human forms. We ate up the miles at an amazing pace and needed to stop for short rests only occasionally. Those of us who'd been outfitted for the strike on the facility had water in our packs that we shared with Ben and Cole. It felt like I could still go a lot longer yet when we finally arrived back at the facility in about seven hours. When Jesse finally had us all stop, the dark of night was already beginning to lighten up slightly to the east in the run up to the dawn that would come in a couple of hours.
Jesse walked up to me and had me turn around. He fiddled behind me and detached my backpack from my armor. He went over to one of his other men and asked him for his GPS watch. He took both and came back to Cole, who was standing next to Ben.
"Put this watch on, Cole. It's a little big, but the stretchy strap should hold. The watch uses satellites to tell you where you are so you can't really get lost if you have it on. There's survival gear in this pack in the bottom part."
Jesse pulled the flap open at the bottom and reached in and pulled out a hand microphone with a coiled cord that was connected into the pack and said, "This is a field radio. I'm turning it on and setting it to our channel. If we need to, we can talk to you. You can talk to us to by holding this switch on the side. Don't do it unless you think you really have to because you might be giving away our position while we're sneaking up on them, OK?"
"If somehow we lose you or you need to move to get to safety or something, we'll radio you, and I'll get you to give us the numbers that are showing on your watch. It will tell us exactly where you are so we can come and find you. There's rations and water in the pack and there's a knife on the side in that scabbard in case you need it. Be careful with it."
Cole nodded again.
Jesse pulled the side arm out of its holster on the side of the pack and handed it to me.
I went to Cole and have him a hug and a kiss, "We'll be back here in a bit. Stay hidden and stay quiet. Will you be OK alone?"
He nodded and said, "I'll be fine. Please be careful."
Benjamin came over next and crouched and said, "I never got that hug from you yet."
Cole grinned and hugged him tightly.
Ben kissed him on the forehead and ruffled his hair and said, "You look beautiful in this light. Your aura's so bright white I could read by it. It would be a dead giveaway for Jeb if he came looking in this direction."
Ben said, "Never mind. Just stay down low and stay behind the tree. Don't try to come any closer. There might be a little bit of shooting. Don't panic. It'll be us shooting at them. Just stay right here until we come back for you."
Cole nodded, "Be careful, Ben."
Jesse and his men all detached their deadly looking automatic assault rifles from the side of their packs and held them ready. Jesse led the way again as we slowly made our way further through the forest towards the facility's entrance. We were there in less than five minutes and once again Jesse signaled us to stop and get down low.
He motioned to Ben, who went over to crouch beside him.
"Your eyesight's a hell of a lot better than ours. What do you see up that hill?"
Ben followed where he was pointing and said, "There's an antenna up there. Big metal one. It looks a bit banged up, but it's attached to the side of a tree."
"Shit," Jesse said, "I guess they managed to get it back up. They might have already contacted the base."
"Maybe not yet. I see two guys out there. It looks like they're coming back down the hill. I think they might have just finished putting it back up." Ben looked further down the hill and added, "There's one guard at the entrance. I can see a thick black cable coming out from the entrance and running back up the hill. I bet those guys used it to hook up the antenna."
"Can you see anyone else? Any sign of Jeb?"
"No, I see Josh's body. It's still out in the clearing. Looks like they haven't touched him. The chain gun is still there. Nobody else would be able to use it so I guess they never bothered to retrieve it. If we rush them now we can take out the guard at the door easy before the other two can get through the trees and I should be able to get to the chain gun before the ones inside catch wind of our attack."
"We need to hit all three of the ones outside at once," Jesse said, "We can't let any of them get to cover or we'll expend too much ammo trying to take them out. We need to be quick and efficient. Ben, can you get the chain gun off of Josh and onto your back without help?"
He shook his head, "Not if you need me to do it in a hurry. That ammo pack weighs a ton. I need someone to help me."
Jesse nodded and said, "OK. Jake, I need you to help Ben. We need him armed and ready with that chain gun in case Jeb comes down that hallway once we start shooting. We need Ben to keep them all bottled up inside."
Jesse continued, "Sykes, you're the best crack shot we have. I need you right here. Get a bead on that guard at the door. Hendricks, Wilson, Benjamin and Jake stay here with Sykes. Myers and I will make our way around and up the hill to get ready to take out the other two. Once we're in position, I'll give the word on the radio and Sykes will put a bullet through the guard's eye. Sykes, Wilson and Hendricks then rush the entrance and keep it covered in case anyone tries to come out, while Ben and Jake make for that chain gun and get it on Ben's back as fast as you can. We need that chaingun ready to mow down anyone with a rocket or grenade launcher or Jeb before they can get outside or we're toast. We'll take out the two on the hill and come back to help cover the entrance as quick as we can. Everyone clear?"
We all nodded and Jesse wasted no time. He and the man he'd indicated vanished quickly into the forest to make their way around to where the two men had been running the antenna cable through the woods. Sykes moved to a position where he could lie down and keep his rifle perfectly stable on the ground and he switched it to single fire mode. He would have to make the shot without the benefit of a scope.
Hendricks and Wilson crouched beside him, ready to rush the entrance as soon as the guard was dealt with.
Ben and I stayed put off to the side, ready to run for Josh's chain gun.
Several minutes went by as we waited for the word to proceed, and then it came. The radio crackled to life and Jesse said simply, "Go."
Even though I was expecting it I still jumped when Sykes's rifle immediately fired a high caliber bullet that hit the guard right between the eyes and he instantly crumpled to the ground dead. I heard a couple of brief bursts of gunfire accompanied by muzzle flashes up in the forest, then there was silence as the rest of us burst from the trees and rushed into the clearing. Ben and I made for Josh's body while the others headed towards the entrance to the facility with their rifles raised to cut down anyone who might try to come out.
When we got to Josh's corpse, Ben immediately went to work undoing several fasteners at Josh's hips and breastbone that held the support frame for the chain gun. He unclipped a belt around his waist that held the large hard case that was filled with the coiled ammo and I held Josh's muscular shoulders off the ground while Ben slid the pack up and off him, while trying to keep the long flexible tube that guided the chain from kinking or getting detached. He then worked the support frame upwards while I pulled at Josh's legs and slid his incredibly heavy body out from under it.
Rather than try to pick it all up, Ben simply went to the ground and crawled up into the frame and began reconnecting it by strapping it tightly to his hips and breast bone. I grabbed the large hard case and muscled it into position and hooked it onto his shoulders and he strapped it at his waist. He then struggled to his knees while I helped him lift the awkward load off the ground. Then he grunted as he went upright and his massively powerful thighs strained as he bore the full weight of the ammo and the chain gun and stood up. He adjusted it slightly and then smiled a wicked smile as he brought the gun around and started walking towards the entrance to the facility.
Jesse and his other man were already emerging from the trees and making for the entrance.
We all joined back together there and there was still no sign of anyone else coming from inside the facility.
"What now?" I asked.
Jesse shrugged and said, "I sort of expected the shit to hit the fan at this point. They should be pouring out of there to try to stop us before we can get fortified out here and pin them inside. I guess we should move inward."
He looked over at Ben and said, "I wish you would have at least put his flak gear on."
Ben said, "There wasn't time. It didn't do Josh much good anyhow. It doesn't cover the neck or face. I can go back and get it if you want to hold the chain gun for a bit."
Jesse sighed and said, "Just be careful. You need to take the lead. You're the only one who can shred them completely if they try anything. We have to see who's still in there."
Ben nodded and didn't wait for any further instructions. He just waltzed right in past the broken doors at the entrance, chain gun at the ready, and the rest of us followed.
Two of the others flanked Ben as we got into the wide hallway and we continued on through without incident. It was completely quiet in the main section of the facility. There was no sign of anyone, though the dead bodies of the armed guards and a couple of the scientists were still scattered here and there along the bloody hallway.
Jesse quietly gave the signal to continue on inward, but there were suddenly several gunshots from further in and everyone took positions to get ready to return fire.
The gunshots stopped and there was silence again, then a pistol slid out along the floor from one of the rooms ahead and to the left. It was followed quickly by an automatic rifle that slid out to join it, then someone shouted, "I surrender! Don't shoot! I'm alone. My weapons are on the floor. I'm unarmed. I'm coming out."
A man emerged through the door the guns had slid out from with his arms raised and started to move slowly toward us. It was one of Samuel's men. One of Jesse's men rushed to him and quickly checked that he had no weapons on him anywhere and he nodded to Jesse to indicate the man was unarmed.
"Where's Samuel?" Jesse asked.
Jesse sighed and got a hard look on his face as he hooked his assault rifle to the side of his pack and then asked me for my pistol and I handed it to him. He turned back to face the man and brought the gun up and said, "I'll ask you one more time, but I expect a much more thorough and constructive answer. You really don't want to fuck around with me right now. Where the hell is Samuel?"
"He's gone! He left with all the others hours ago. He's afraid the humans might hit this facility as soon as some check-in time is reached and they find they can't communicate. He wanted to get the virus samples and the research and scientists out and away as fast as possible. He couldn't wait around for us to get the antenna fixed. I don't know where he went."
"I gave you a chance, cuz, remember that," Jesse said. He squeezed the trigger and the man's knee exploded as he screamed out in pain and crumpled to the floor.
Jesse gave the man a moment and then said, "You know where he is. He left you here to repair the radio so you could get word out to send in an extraction team. The only aircraft left is the Herc. He must be making for a viable landing site, am I right? He must have given you the coordinates so you could radio them to base. Where is he headed?"
The man's face hardened and he simply said, "Fuck you!"
Jesse took a step closer and aimed the gun at the man's hand that was now covering his damaged knee and he pulled the trigger again.
The man howled in pain as the bullet destroyed his hand and continued on through to further wreck his leg. Jesse took one step closer and said, "The next one's gonna make one of your testicles explode."
The man put up his remaining good hand and said, "Wait! I'll give you the coordinates!"
He spoke them and Jesse looked over at Ben. Ben nodded and said, "Sounds about right from what I can remember of the topographic maps I studied when we prepped for this mission. That would be about the closest relatively flat location the Hercules could set down that's big enough and isn't muskeg or forest. I think he's telling the truth."
Jesse nodded and turned back to the wounded man and aimed the gun right at his head and he said, "Those wounds will heal and you'll be fine once you go through your next change. Your immortality can continue, provided you tell me what I need to know without hesitation this time. Otherwise I put a bullet in your brain and your life ends here and now."
The man looked defeated and he just nodded his acquiescence.
Jesse asked, "Did you manage to contact the base and give them the coordinates?"
The man didn't even pause this time as he nodded again and said, "Yes. As soon as I heard shooting outside I knew we were in trouble so I didn't wait for the guys who were repairing the antenna to get back in. I hoped they'd got it hooked up. I tried the radio and it was working, so I got the message out. They'll be sending the Herc to meet up with Samuel's team at the appointed time that he's expected to arrive at the coordinates I gave you."
"And when is that?"
"Three days. Samuel said to have the Herc head out there in three days."
"Did he give you any other message to pass on to them?"
The man hesitated briefly, but nodded and said, "I was to explain to them that you had turned on him. That you were the enemy. I was to tell them that they were to take you all into custody as soon as you arrived back there, but I didn't get that part of the message out. I heard you coming into the facility and I knew you'd be on me in seconds. There wasn't time. I had to make sure you couldn't use the radio our you'd block Samuel's orders, so I shot it up. I wrecked it."
That must be the gunfire we'd heard as we came in. One of the men quickly went forward and looked into the radio room and his shoulders slumped. He looked back and nodded and said, "It's completely trashed. We can't use it."
Jesse cursed and he turned to me and said, "You told me back at the compound that electronics was a hobby of yours. Is there any chance we could do like Ben said before and hook one of our field radios to the big antenna and use it to contact the base?"
I shook my head and said, "Not a chance. That's not how it works. Antennas are designed for the frequencies they need to handle and our radios couldn't really make use of it. They're spread spectrum and they operate at a completely different frequency range. Besides that, the main thing that gives that antenna the range it needs is the amplifiers that boost the signal up into the kilowatt power range. Our radios operate in milliwatts and that's the real reason their range is so limited. The amplifier we'd need to boost the signal high enough to reach the compound will be one of the things that's in that room and riddled with bullet holes."
Jesse said, "Shit. So we have absolutely no chance of contacting the base now. That Herc is the only way to get back out of here." He turned back to the wounded man and asked, "So they don't know we've been split up? They think we're still all together under Samuel?"
The man shrugged and nodded and said, "There's no reason for them to think otherwise, I guess. I only managed to tell them things were fucked up here and we had no way to get back and we needed them to send out the Herc to pick us up. I gave them the coordinates and the meeting time and waited for their acknowledgement and you were already coming down the hall so I had to wreck the equipment to make sure you couldn't give them any other orders."
Jesse turned to me and said, "Well, that's something at least. They still don't know I'm not their general anymore. That means Grace and Elias are safe for now, too. Nobody will be expecting us back if they think something went wrong and we're all headed to the extraction site to be picked up by the Herc. They'll let Grace and Elias know, and they'll simply have to settle in for a longer wait than they anticipated. They'll know not to expect to hear anything more from us for three days until the Herc goes out to pick us up."
I nodded, "It's not much, but at least we're still not the enemy as far as they're concerned back at the base. We just need to catch up to Samuel and his crew before they can reach the extraction site and hook up with the Herc."
Ben said, "Yup, and they have four men less than they did before. The odds will be closer to even when we go to butt heads with them. I've got a chain gun now to match Jeb's. If we can get the jump on them we'll have the upper hand. They won't have a clue that we're coming for them. They'll be going as fast as they can to get to the extraction site and they won't know we're chasing them so they might be so focused forward that they're not watching their backs."
I turned to Jesse and asked, "Were the two outside killed outright? We need to make sure nobody can use field radios to let Samuel know we're coming for him."
He nodded and said, "They're both dead. We'll just need to make sure this one can't get a message out."
The man said, "Please, don't kill me! I won't try to reach them! I swear it!"
Jesse thought about it for a moment and then he turned to Sykes and said, "Take him downstairs to where they were holding Cole and the others. Lock him up in one of the cages."
"No! I'll die in there! It'll be days before anyone can come and get me out!"
Jesse shrugged and said, "Could be over a week. The only way to get you out would be by chopper, and those would have to come up from Colorado and it will be at least three days before we can even get word out that they're needed. It would take them days longer to make their way up here."
The man's face paled and he groaned as Jesse continued, "You're the architect of your own fate, cuz. You chose the wrong side. We'll leave you some water and rations, but that's the best we can do. I don't doubt for a second you'd screw us over in a heartbeat if we gave you half a chance. If I was a bit more cold-blooded I'd finish you right now. You should consider yourself lucky we're leaving you alive."
The man's shoulders slumped as he realized there would be no arguing his way out of it.
Jesse turned to Hendricks and said, "Help Sykes bring him down and lock him up. Take the rations, water and first aid from his backpack and leave them with him in the cage. Throw the rest of his gear out of his reach. It's just another door knocker and we've got no use for that."
Hendricks nodded and he and Sykes grabbed the man under his arms and lifted him up and dragged him down the hall towards the door that leads down to the lower level. As they passed Ben, he reached out and snagged something from a pocket on the side of the man's backpack. It was a loaded magazine for the automatic rifle. He then went over to the rifle on the floor and picked it up, then he handed me the rifle and the extra mag so I'd be better armed for the coming encounter with Samuel's team.
Jesse watched Ben hand me the rifle and it gave him an idea and he said to another of the men, "Myers, go back up the hill to the other two we shot. One of them had an auto-shotgun attachment. Trade it for your door-knocker. It'll be a lot more useful to us when we meet up with Samuel and his men. Wilson, go with him and help him swap the gear. Grab the rations and water from their packs, too, and take them down to the guy in the cage. I guess we should give him as much chance to survive as we can. Death by starvation or dehydration would be a bit too cruel. We'll send someone up here to get him when all this is over and he can face justice then."
The men nodded and headed out to follow the general's orders.
I said, "I'm all for giving the guy a fair chance, but shouldn't we keep the rations for ourselves? We've got a three day hard march ahead of us if we hope to catch up to Samuel. He's got several hours head start and he'll be pushing hard."
"They'll need to rest, too," Jesse said, "Also, they know they have three days so they'll maintain the pace that will get them there in that time. There's no reason for them to go any faster than they need to. We'll be pushing harder than them so we should have no problem catching up even with their head start. We'll need more energy than the rations could provide for us anyhow. We'll have to take down a moose or something later tonight when we're wolves and gorge so that we'll be good for the rest of the march. From then on we'll only need fresh water and there's plenty of that out here. They'll have to do the same as us and stop to gorge, so we won't really lose any ground."
"What about Ben?" I asked, "He needs to eat too."
Ben said, "My favorite food is actually pizza, but I love raw meat too, Jake. I'm more wolf than man in that way. I'll happily chow down on a moose."
I shrugged and nodded.
Jesse said, "Ben, go back into the woods and get Cole. I'm sure he's wondering what the hell is going on and worrying about you and Jake. We'll all meet out front. We need to get going right away."
Ben nodded and hustled out to get Cole and bring him back.
Jesse turned to me and said, "I wish they'd left us with more to work with on the four men they left behind. A rocket launcher or RPG would be pretty handy, but we'll have to make do with one more shotgun. We don't know if we'll be in wolf or human form when we finally catch up to them. If we're human, we'll be pretty even since all we can use are the assault rifles and Ben's chain gun to match Jeb's. If we're in wolf form, we'll still be fairly outgunned if we try a ranged confrontation. We'll have to hit them up close and tight to take their rockets and grenades out of the equation."
"I wish I could work some of your fancy wolf weapons. Even just a door knocker would give me more to work with than I have right now in wolf form. I won't be much use if it comes down to a wolf fight. I'm unarmed."
"You ain't unarmed, cuz. You got teeth. You're the biggest damn wolf any of us have ever seen. Likely the biggest that ever existed. We'll just take the fight in close if we have to. Your wolf will have no problem, Jake. Trust me. You'll only need to watch out for the ones with shotguns."
"And if we have to fight them as humans? I've never tried to work one of these before. I've never even seen one that looks like this," I said as I held up the deadly looking automatic rifle.
"It's a Tavor TAR-21. It's an Israeli design. Super reliable and very accurate. Easy to use, too. Just put the red dot on the target and squeeze the trigger. It's got a kick, but if you stick to burst mode instead of full-auto mode you should be fine. The safety is on the side there and it controls the fire modes. You can set it from safe to semi-auto, to burst, then full-auto."
"OK, got it."
"Good. Let's head out. There's nothing more we can do here. We've got a long run ahead of us."
I nodded and Jesse led the way out.
We assembled outside the facility and before long Ben emerged from the woods with Cole in tow. It struck me as comical for a moment because it almost looked like a giant dog was taking his little human pet for a walk.
Ben said, "Look what I found out there in the woods! Can I keep him, Jake, huh? Can I? Please?"
I chuckled and said, "Sure, so long as you promise to feed him and bathe him so he doesn't stink or get fleas, and take him out for a walk once in a while. If you want to keep him you need to take care of him. I don't need the hassle."
Cole giggled and Ben laughed.
Ben had taken my pack from Cole and was carrying it, and he had me turn around so he could reattach it to my armor. He then took my rifle and slung it on the side and stuffed the extra mag in a side pocket for me and I thanked him.
Jesse did not want to waste any more time. He fiddled with his watch to get the bearing to the coordinates we were given for the extraction site and he led us out at a brisk trot.
We ran part way around the huge hill that the facility was buried in and then struck out to the northeast through the forest. Jesse increased the pace to the best that we could all maintain and once again we began to eat up the miles at a terrific pace. His intent was for us to run as long as we could manage before we were too exhausted to go on, then get a solid rest before sunset later tonight when we would shift to wolf form and deal with hunting a significant enough meal to keep us going the rest of the way.
We hadn't been running for more than an hour and we'd just come to the peak of a smaller hill when suddenly there was a screeching-woosh as something raced by just over our heads followed immediately by the roar of a jet engine in its wake. We all hit the deck wondering what the hell was going on, but there was silence afterward.
Ben jumped up and looked back towards the facility and shouted, "Holy shit! I think that was a Tomahawk!"
We all stood to look back towards the facility. Just then there was another woosh and a roar as a second cruise missile passed over our heads.
Then we saw the hill that contained the facility burst upwards in massive chunks as a huge explosion lit up the night and blew the top off the hill. A short time later we heard the nearly deafening explosion as the sound caught up to us. Then, suddenly, we saw a far more brilliant explosion that quickly expanded into a massive bright yellow fireball that continued to grow into a huge mushroom cloud shape and we saw a shock wave rushing outward from the explosion and knocking down trees as it traveled rapidly across the ground.
"Hit the deck!" Jesse yelled, "Cover your ears!"
We hit the ground again and covered our ears just as a massive and deafening explosion roared through and we actually felt the temperature rise and our bodies compress and vibrate from the concussive force of the shock wave as the entire countryside was lit orange and then slowly dimmed back down. Had we been much closer we likely would not have survived the explosion. As it was we were just out of range of the worst of it, but still would have been knocked hard on our asses if we'd been standing. It had to have been an incredibly powerful explosion to be felt so strongly this far out.
We all stood again and looked back just in time to see the mushroom cloud dimming back down to be enveloped by the night.
One of the men asked, "Did those crazy fucks launch a nuke? Isn't that what they use cruise missiles for?"
Ben shook his head and said, "Not always. There's no way they'd do that on US soil. Cruise missiles can carry all sorts of different warheads. The main point of them is to come in low just above the treetops and follow the terrain to come in under the radar and completely undetectable. If I had to guess, I'd say whatever government guys we're up against are operating without the knowledge of the main branch. They need to be as covert as they can be even if they need to take a target out. That last explosion wasn't a nuke, it was a thermobaric warhead. A fuel-air bomb. Closest thing to the power of a nuke that's still conventional. That first explosion was probably a bunker buster. They're designed to penetrate hardened targets buried deep underground and blow them wide open. The second one was a fuel-air. It creates two explosions in rapid succession. The first one is a 'scatter charge' that cracks open a container of highly oxidized fuel and sprays it out over a huge area, the second charge ignites the aerosolized fuel in one massive explosion that consumes every molecule of oxygen in the air to create a gigantic fireball that will melt everything it contacts into slag, with a blast wave that will crush everything in its path and will vaporize any living thing it encounters for a radius of hundreds of yards. It's a hot, long-burning explosion. It's designed to sterilize the area and leave absolutely nothing left alive. They wanted to crack open the hill and then cook everything inside it. They must have wanted to be sure all of the dangerous shit they were working on down there wouldn't fall into the wrong hands and would be vaporized and then incinerated. They were a bit too late. I guess that poor sap we left behind in the cage won't have to worry about starving to death anymore."
"It seems Samuel was right," Jesse said, "The goons must have realized the site was compromised when some radio check-in was missed. They couldn't take any chances of letting any of their experiments loose and would have to vaporize the site, so they wouldn't waste time sending men in to check things out. They must have seen the damage we'd done at the entrance in a satellite photo once they realized they'd lost radio contact. They must have decided to hit it hard and fast, hoping to catch us inside. They'll likely follow it up with more surveillance from space once the satellites come around again. They won't know for sure what the hell happened out there. They'll be using their satellites to examine this region carefully. Hopefully they won't find our forward staging area."
"I don't see how they could. It's almost two hundred miles from here and hidden. They wouldn't have a clue where to look or what exactly to look for," Ben said.
Jesse shrugged and said, "There's a decent chance they'll find our downed Huey if they search their satellite images carefully enough over a wide enough area. It's right out in the open. If they draw a straight line from the facility's location through the Huey and onward, it will cross right through our base, or at least pretty close, since that's where we were headed. They could focus their search in just one direction out from the facility instead of having to search three hundred and sixty degrees around it. There's a chance they might find the compound, though it wouldn't be easy for them. If they do, there's a solid chance they'll be sending another Tomahawk or two in that direction. With luck they'll never find it since we're always so careful and we know the schedules of satellite fly-overs. If they do find it, hopefully it will take them more than the few days it will take us to get to that plane so we can send a warning to start an evacuation."
"This shit's constantly going from bad to worse," I said, "We need to find some way to get word to Grace and Elias and get them the hell out of there."
Jesse said, "That's exactly what we're working on, Jake. We just need to keep on moving and try to get to Samuel before he can get to that plane. Once we take care of him, we'll hook up with the plane and start the evac process back at the base."
I nodded and said, "Let's get back to it, then."
There was nothing more we could do but press on to try to catch up to Samuel. We felt an even greater urgency to reach him now. We needed to ensure he couldn't get away from us, or we'd be left stranded in the middle of nowhere and he would be able to seize control of the werewolf army and proceed with his fanatical plan to eliminate the human race.
We increased the pace and headed off into the cold Alaskan predawn.
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Predators - The story of a man who enjoys a hobby of luring teenage boys in for a bit of innocent exploration in the woods.
or check the Gay/SF-Fantasy section for...
Favors of the First Ones - The story of an ordinary man who's life is near its natural end, but who suddenly finds himself, at the moment of the unexpected destruction of his world, the victim of an alien abduction with a bizarre motive, that ultimately opens the entire universe to him and propels him into a life of adventure that he'd never imagined was even possible. He eventually finds himself thrust front and center into events that could, both figuratively and quite literally, change the shape of the entire known universe.
The Hawthorne Accord - The adventures of a teenage boy who is rescued from a cruel fate in his home village by a friend, but ultimately finds himself on his own and hunted in a world that is being ravaged by brutal race wars between the humans and three races of monsters: kobolds, orcs and ogres. He discovers in his travels that the world is not quite entirely the way he'd thought it was and that even a single teenage boy can make a difference in the fate of entire races, including his own.
James and the Giant Perv - A humorous modern fairy tale involving three teenage boys, some "beans", a very tall pervert who dwells in his own kingdom in the clouds, and the various interesting ways they find to enjoy each other sexually.
James and the Giant Christmas - Another story involving the three boys and the loveable giant they'd befriended, except this time it's Christmas why not?
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