Hey folks, welcome back. It's November, which means we're just past the mid-point of National Novel Writing Month. While I'm slightly behind on my word count, I decided sharing the work would be good motivation, so that's today's bit of free fiction. Enjoy!
* * * *
Traffic was jammed up tight on Alvarado. If this thing thought it could elude me by dashing into rush hour, it was about to learn the true definition of "bad decision." I leapt from car to car, both guns drawn as I pursued the rogue werewolf that I'd been hunting for a month.
I got a good sightline and fired. The crack of the gunshot was very loud. My silver bullet sliced through fur and muscle to embed in bone. The werewolf slammed onto the top of a compact car with a roar of fury. Safety glass spider-webbed and bulged from the windows as the car's roof gave way under the beast's weight, and panicked screams from inside the vehicle joined the sounds of rush hour traffic.
"Hunter, are you still in pursuit?"
"Southbound on Alvarado."
"Brass wants you out of there. We have civilian injury reports incoming."
The comm implant was new tech. It had taken me several days to get used to hearing voices in my head, and several more to learn how to broadcast my thoughts in response to Cuernas Central Command's messages. The very first thing I learned, though, was how to ignore the damn thing, and that's what I did now. I'd tracked this rogue wolf for almost a month. Seven people were dead. That left a lot of grieving families and friends. No way was I giving up.
The shot to the werewolf's leg had slowed it some. I was gaining on it. As people bailed out of vehicles and ran for their lives, I took aim and squeezed off another three rounds. The werewolf jerked and yelped in pain as the silver bullets burrowed deep and burned. It landed heavily on the sidewalk, rolled, and turned down Revolution Boulevard.
"West on Revolution." I leapt, grabbed the pole of a street light, swung down onto the sidewalk, and hit the ground running. "Request air support."
"Denied. SWAT is inbound. Disengage, Hunter."
"Not gonna happen."
Yelling and screaming echoed off the downtown buildings. Terrified people scattered pell-mell to avoid the very large, rampaging werewolf and the gun-toting guy chasing it.
"Move!" I bellowed. I leapt over a downed civilian and kept running. My boots pounded against the concrete, the sun glinting off my silver toe guards.
I hit Revolution and rounded the corner in time to see the rogue plow through the intricate ceramic tile mosaic that framed the Cuernas Art Museum's main entrance. Shit. Brass was gonna be pissed.
"PWT has entered the CAM."
A familiar voice hit my skull like a bell's clapper.
"Goddammit Daugh! Stand down!"
"Hey Brass. Where's SWAT?"
"Five minutes out. Do not enter–"
I dashed through the huge hole in the Cuernas Art Museum, the crunching of ceramic tile and glass under my boots obscuring the rest of Brass's mandate. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the lobby. Bits and pieces of sculpture were scattered everywhere and people huddled against the walls. Everything reeked of blood, terror, and chaos.
I zeroed in on the blood trail. It led through the lobby and over to an impressive set of marble stairs leading up. The second floor overlooked the lobby area. Shrieks bouncing off the vaulted ceiling combined with wood splintering, metal groaning, and glass shattering to form a symphony of destruction. I holstered my Glocks and took the stairs two at a time.
I reached the top as a sickening crunch cut off a shriek. Every hunter knows what bones sound like when they break; few know what a rogue in a feeding frenzy sounds like, though. Not many live long after hearing it. The growling and slurping as the wolf tore into his victim made my mouth go dry. Devouring humans was strictly taboo among the therianthrope communities. It was a crime punishable by death. Sweat trickled along my hairline and dripped onto my ear, and my lungs burned from the chase. I pushed the fatigue down. If I didn't finish this now, then when the moon rose tonight, the shifters would take over the city and hunt the rogue themselves.
Crouching behind the upper banister, I reached into my breast pocket and removed a small diaphragm. I slipped it into my mouth intending to moisten it, but my mouth was still dry as dust. I sucked at the thing until I had enough saliva to use it, and then got it situated behind my teeth against the roof of my mouth. The wet gulping sounds had subsided some. I was running out of time.
I scanned around and spotted blood on a nearby column. A body lay motionless on the floor in a pool of blood.
"Second floor CAM, at least two DOI." I sent the thought to CCC as I drew my heavier guns.
"Hunter, Brass is on his way down there."
I rolled my eyes. By the time Brass got here this would be all over save for the cleanup. The museum's air-conditioning kicked on with a thrum and I swore silently. If the rogue hadn't already scented me, it had now.
Stepping free of cover, I raised my 45s as I took a deep breath. I exhaled hard through the mouth-call. Its whistle rent the air. The werewolf dropped a partially eaten, mangled body to the floor, threw its head back, and roared in agony, paws over its ears. I blew another blast and it howled, whirling to face me with its teeth bared.
The werewolf charged.
I emptied both guns, twenty-two rounds of silver hollow-points punching into the wolf's center mass. With one last very human-sounding bellow, it staggered sideways and tumbled over the second floor railing, dropping fifty feet to slam into the lobby flooring. Blood splattered wetly and a cloud of dust billowed up.
I stared down at the mess and ejected my empty clips. Reloading, I watched for any movement. I couldn't really tell from up here. Better safe than sorry. I holstered the HK45s and vaulted over the railing. For one brief blissful moment I experienced the rush of free fall, and then I landed hard. The marble floor cracked under my boots and the force of terminal velocity rolled up through my body, which absorbed it the way it always did. The same jump would've maimed or possibly killed a normal human, but I wasn't normal. I was a hunter.
I approached the mangled pile of fur. Instinct took over. I pulled a Glock and the head disintegrated. The empty magazine sprang free and I reloaded. When nothing twitched, I holstered the gun and removed the mouth call. Crunching drew my attention to the main entrance. SWAT had finally shown up.
As soon as Ricardo, the leader of the ten-man team, saw the downed rogue, he lowered his weapon and his gaze. A lot of people had lens implants these days, but I'm told mine look especially sinister. They hid my bio-eyes, and that was more important to me than ultraviolet light protection.
"Hey Ricky," I said. "You're late."
"Daugh." He nodded at me in greeting. "You're causing all kinds of headaches today."
I shrugged. Small talk wasn't my thing.
"All clear?" he asked.
"At least two dead or infected on the second floor."
"Lefferts. Mendez." Ricky signaled with his free hand. "Secure the dead or infected." Two members of the team headed for the stairs. "The rest of you secure the first floor. DOIs are our first priority."
Castlerock, also known as "Rook" and Ricardo's partner, strolled up, surveyed the remains, and whistled low through her teeth. "It hasn't reverted to human form."
"Rogues don't." I checked my weapons, and then nodded to Ricky. "Scene's all yours." I turned toward the massive hole in the entryway.
"Orders are for you to stay put."
"You want to try to detain me?" I directed the full force of my stare onto Ricardo. The red and blue lights from beyond the entrance danced and skittered across my black lens implants. I shifted my weight just enough to draw attention to my hands resting on the 45s at my waist. He took a step back.
"Just passing it along."
"It was pretty." Rook gazed wistfully at the demolished mosaic and shook her head.
I strode through the lobby. When I hit the street I double-timed it back to my truck. A black-and-white had parked in front of me. I wasn't really surprised. I'd jumped the curb pursuing the rogue and was parked on a patch of sidewalk in front of prime downtown real estate. The cop, who I didn't recognize, gulped audibly when he saw me. His ticket book disappeared.
"Thanks for handling traffic," I said.
"I'll move the car."
"Sure. I'd hate to have to drive over it."
He scrambled for the cruiser and I chuckled. I had a special license for the vintage Land Cruiser FJ40 truck I drove. It ran on diesel gasoline and a lot of it. I figured my work as Las Cuernas's resident hunter more than made up for my truck's contributions to the city's air pollution problem. I swung up into the driver's seat. It started up with a rumbling purr and I headed for home.
* * * *
Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated.
Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:
Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: