Copyright © 2013-2023 by Rafael
All rights reserved Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this novel may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or stored in a database or any information storage retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents, organizations and dialogue in this novel are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:11
Whatever you think you know about werewolves, throw it out.
Eerie specters flickered on the cave walls. Shadows mimed the macabre masks and fantastic faces within. Hoots, howls, trills, echoed and reechoed. Sora feared none of it. Nor the huge wolf tethered to the pole’s end of the one male present. Everyone else, the clan elders, her mother, aunts, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, crowded the cavern floor. They danced and chanted, twisted and gyrated, lost in their fevered rhythms. Only now on the cusp of mating with Rorken could she gain entrance to this, the clan’s inner sanctum.
Sora stood rooted, transfixed by the sight before her. Hard muscles bulged and flexed as the wolf yanked and pulled. She’d never seen the fierce warrior on display, just a gentle man, ready to help, to share, quick with a kind word, and ever vigilant to what might harm her. Alongside a stoic and silent tribe, she had watched him disappear into the forest. Tradition demanded a warrior who wished to mate a clan woman had to capture and bring back a wolf. Some never returned.
Time crawled to a slow eternity. Each moment veered from love, to hope, to dread, and back again. Fear became her minder, unease a companion. Sleepless nights cradled in her mother’s arms lengthened the days. Eight suns passed before he reappeared—unprecedented in clan memory.
Her cousin’s scream reached the riverbank where she labored to help her father mend fishing nets. “Rorken!” Sora’s heart raced up the hill faster than the legs she begged not to stumble or falter. She shoved past the cheering throng and gasped. Only Rorken could have captured the monster lashed to his pole. He had trapped the biggest, the alpha male.
Hands flew to her mouth. Gashes, wounds, bites, and still bleeding cuts across his body witnessed the pack’s desperate attempts to save their leader. The powerful beast strained against Rorken’s might. Pride swelled Sora’s bosom. Her mate had proved worthy.
She had waited long enough. Only the clan women approved matches. They had followed his growth into manhood. Observed the tenderness and affection he showered on her. Marked his skill as a hunter when he brought home the deer and the boar, the elk and the beaver. Her time neared the night a war party returned to the village. Rorken carried the head of one who’d dared to invade the Wolf Clan’s land. The man she loved had risen to warrior. At fourteen and eight seasons past her woman, they approved her match to Rorken.
Fearsome growls and snorts filled the cave. As if to test her patience once more, the wolf leaped, twisting its body to snap the pole between it and freedom. Startled, Sora stepped back but trusted Rorken would hold the beast and thereby his beloved. Unable to escape or attack, the wolf spit its frustration. Flanks heaved, eyes glared. It dared anyone come within reach of the daggers encased in foam-flecked jaws.
Chants Sora always heard from the cave proper rose in volume. The women encircled Rorken and the wolf. He forced its massive head to the ground. With no fear of losing a hand or worse, the aunts closed in. Each grasped a leg to secure the 140lb brute in place. The elders handed her mother the spouted bowl used only in this the clan’s most sacred ceremony. Their song changed to soothe and ease, calm and comfort. Perhaps sensing its ritual role, the wolf grew still.
Her mother sidled between two sisters. With the bowl in her left hand, the right slid under the tail and between the legs. Low chants hummed while her hand, soft and slow, caressed the animal. Like a virtuoso, her fingers teased and massaged, stirred and aroused. The wolf’s tongue lolled, huffs gave voice to lust. From a furry sheath, it grew into the hand meant to fulfill its passion. Voices echoed off walls that now included Sora’s. Heated energy intensified and choked the air. The wolf panted. Its body quivered in rhythm. Elixir streamed into the bowl, saturated the cave with musk.
At last, nothing stood between her and Rorken. Only a wolf’s release sanctioned a mating. When Sora became an elder in her own right, she learned how the women protected one another from a forced match to a brutal man. Her mother could have irritated the wolf.
Cradling the bowl with both hands, its warmth let slip a wisp of steam into the chill air. The aunts released their holds, rose to surround the bride in a U formation with Rorken and the wolf at the open end. Sora abided her mother’s signal to lie on the pelt, legs open, bent at the knee that her mate could bear witness. A soft push coaxed her legs wider. Gentle tenderness guided the spout’s insertion. The tilted bowl let its contents flow out in Rorken’s full view.
He could not mistake the ritual’s message. Sora belonged to the wolf. Through its power, her children would be strong for the clan. Her offspring would grow knowing the wolf as their sire. It sanctioned their rule for as far as one walked between the full moons.
The women gave voice to their song letting it reverberate off the walls and out to the cave proper. It told those gathered the ceremony neared an end and they parted at the entrance to permit its completion.
Rorken emerged first. The tethered wolf resumed its fierce snarls and snorts. Then followed the elders, sisters, aunts, mother, and last Sora. The position emphasized she belonged to no man. Contentment and bliss flushed her face. The wolf had blessed her.
Outside, the warriors surrounded Sora for the ceremony’s final act. Rorken moved past the clearing at the cave’s entrance and to the tree line. He lowered his spear toward the wolf, and with a deft motion, opened the noose at the pole’s end. For a moment the beast remained motionless, unable to comprehend its sudden freedom. It looked at the spear and at Rorken. Huge fangs bared. A growl rumbled from its chest. Fear’s brief stab stopped Sora’s heart. Rorken stood unafraid. He meant the creature no harm, but his spear point never wavered.
With a look of disdain, the wolf turned its back to move along the tree line at an easy lope. Its ears pricked forward, nose sampled the air. Its pace quickened and the male headed for a rise overlooking the clan’s cave. At the top, its mate emerged from the forest, stamped its paws, impatient for her partner to race up the incline. They leaped and snapped at one another, rubbed noses and bodies, reconnected disrupted bonds. The night’s silvery orb broke through the clouds. They raised their snouts. A long mournful howl announced their presence that all who heard might fear it.
Sora’s heart soared. The warriors around her raised their arms. “We are the Wolf Clan.” they shouted, “Mightiest of all.”
That night, led by Sora, the clan feasted and celebrated their affirmation and renewal. Songs and cheers rose on the flames of their bonfires. She laughed and hugged, teased and joked. When Sora performed the Dance of Seduction, hardened warriors roared their approval and their women jeered a bewitched Rorken.
Later, much later, in the dawn’s still light, Sora rested her head on Rorken’s chest. Somehow, in the way of all women, she knew his children grew within her. The twins would be strong and take their place amongst the clan. In the fullness of time they did—one to become a warrior, the other to birth them. Brought on by the mix of human and wolf sperm, neither knew they carried a chance and random mutation lurking within their genes.
Time’s magic altered and reworked, revised and perfected. Many, many generations passed before it rose to the fore. When it did, legends grew surrounded by tales of horror—and fear.
Flights of Fancy
“1 Actual, 1 Actual, Dragon 2 on station five by five.”
“Roger on station Dragon 2, standby.”
Two F-80 Ninja jets had just replaced Air Force One’s normal escorts. Not only did the F-32’s fuel gauges read low but given the current circumstance, nothing less than America’s premier air-supremacy fighter would do.
Advanced stealth construction made it invisible to radar detection. Viewed from the outside, with no obvious bubble or window area, the jet appeared pilotless. The flier lay flat in the aircraft’s center, contained within a sealed cockpit suspended in a gyroscope-controlled oval. Inside the bubble, advanced video sensors placed 360°, photo-realistic, real-time imagery of the air space on view panels.
The gyroscopes kept the pilot horizontal to flight direction and thus prevented blackouts from the tremendous g-forces an aircraft flying at sixteen times the speed of sound generated. Self-insertion into low earth orbit allowed it to attack the other side of the globe within thirty minutes of takeoff. Nothing in the air matched it. That’s why it had flown here.
Like the legendary ghost ships found afloat on the ocean devoid of life and crew, Air Force One flew derelict. No one responded to numerous communication attempts, and fly-by’s confirmed no one occupied the cockpit. Sensory and imaging equipment designed to see interior objects could not defeat Air Force One’s defense systems. Attempts to commandeer its electronics and land it via remote control had all failed. At ten thousand feet, stuck on autopilot, twenty minutes from Canadian airspace, and three hours of fuel left, each minute brought Air Force One closer to disaster. Worst of all, no one knew the President of the United States’ status.
Trouble began 900 miles back when the two departed escorts watched the President’s emergency eject pod fall from under the jumbo jet. Frantic attempts to establish radio contact all failed though the pilot had made every prior comm check. Navy SEALs homing in on the pod’s radio beacon, parachuted into some of New Mexico’s wildest and most remote terrain. No one occupied the pod. No one moved within a hundred mile radius. Sirens and klaxons erupted as the nation went to red alert.
“Dragon 2, 1 Actual. Canadian government has cleared an air corridor your present course and altitude. CAF friendlies will greet you at the border.”
What else could Canada do besides smile, be courteous, and pray the elephant asleep south of its border didn’t roll over? Again the radio crackled. “Be advised, Force Ten on station seven minutes, comm channel four, four, zero.”
“Roger four, four, zero, 1 Actual. We have them on radar.”
Force Ten, the Air Force’s call sign for its own Special Tactics and Operations unit, did not have the name-recognition of their more flamboyant Army and Navy colleagues and preferred it that way. Their bravery, skill, and daring however, matched anyone’s—as did their lethality.
For the Air Force, a nuclear-armed strategic bomber at altitude with an incapacitated crew presented a nightmare. A missile provided an option but only the last one. Aside from the possible detonation of armed warheads, scattered radioactive material anywhere, let alone on a population center, could have horrific consequences. But once the Squadron Commander removed a heat-seeker from the option list, Force Ten had to do what they trained for: board a pressurized jet at altitude. Across the world, only they qualified for the mission.
The huge C-240 “Samson” cargo transport leveled off one hundred feet above Air Force One. “Dragon 2, Force Ten on station.”
“Roger, Force Ten. We’ll be five miles on your six. Don’t want anything flying into us. Good luck to you.”
“Keep a lookout Dragon 2 and thanks for the escort. Force Ten out.”
While the Samson inched forward, its rear ramp opened. Inside, a box known as the “Chamber” took up most of the cargo area. From the side facing the open air, a tube with a six-foot diameter emerged. Its carbon fiber filaments gave it the flexibility of rubber with the tensile strength of steel. Above the ramp, the rear cockpit’s two spotters guided the tube down to the Boeing 900.
Behind Air Force One’s cockpit, the Presidential suite occupied the next fifty feet followed by the President’s conference room. In between, a galley area served meals and refreshments to both. The spotters wanted to drop the tube on its roof. Powerful halogen lights scattered the inky-black night. A game of skill and coordination ensued between the pilot and spotters. The lowered ramp reduced air efficiency. Constant adjustment and compensation to have the tube’s aperture come down flat tested their patience. When it did, vacuum pumps sealed the tube in seconds to the plane’s upper surface.
Two commandos entered the cylinder their descent controlled via built-in hand/toe holds until the first dropped on Air Force One. An airtight seal confirmed, they pressurized the tube to avoid an explosive decompression when cutting into the jet’s interior. A red laser beam melted a ¼-inch hole through which a fiber optic cable with video, microphone, chemical, and explosive sensors dropped into the jet. Nothing. No movement, no sound, nothing. The lead commando keyed his microphone to report no activity. The earpiece crackled without hesitation. “We’re go.”
Three more commandos slid down braced against the tube’s sides above the first two. Now the laser burned a four-foot diameter. When they kicked in the last circular plate, two flash grenades followed with five commandos right behind, safeties off, rounds chambered, .45 automatics sweeping for targets. Above them five more slid down. The heavy-caliber weapons presented no danger of punched holes in the fuselage. Delta Force trained men hit what they aimed at.
One corridor along the port side connected the cockpit to the aft areas past the executive conference room. Dried blood stained everything. At the passageway’s juncture with the galley, two female flight attendants lay with punctured necks at unnatural angles. Hand signals directed three left toward the rear, two toward the suite. The commandos stepped into the narrow hallway. Already elevated heart rates pounded eardrums.
Toward the rear, beyond the conference room, bodies lay everywhere. Many with chests gashed open as if multiple butcher knives had raked across their torsos. One reporter type, laptop, camera, and notebook strewn at her feet, sat with head and back flat between her legs. A snapped spine protruded at the base. What could have done that? Step by careful step they scoured the jet to the stern. No one remained alive.
Toward the cockpit, the eyes of two bullet-riddled corpses stared into space. Three more bodies blocked the suite’s entrance—none intact, two with heads missing. Identified by their broken communication pieces, the Secret Service agents had remained true to their mission.
Past the corpses, the door lay flat, ripped from its hinges. Just beyond, two others had met their fate in the foyer. Both had arms torn off at the elbows. They must have bled to death; huge red pools soiled the beige carpeting. On the couches and chairs, the severed limbs gripped silenced weapons.
Inside, the escape pod’s emergency lights bathed the bedroom in alternate red and green flashes. On the floor lay the President of the United States. The lead commando bent over the prone Chief Executive. A crumpled chest rose slightly and the eyes tried to flicker open. His massive wounds still seeped blood from slashes in his neck and chest. “Medic! Medic! The President’s alive.”
The medical officer rushed past the corpses, tore off his helmet and goggles, ripped open gauze pads, screamed for the doctor still aboard the transport. He leaned down closer to his patient. Cracked lips tried to move. A hoarse whisper rose, “Were . . .” he coughed up. Blood spilled from his throat. “Were . . .” he repeated.
“You’re on Air Force One, sir, don’t speak. We’re going to get you out of here.”
Not another sound emerged. The President lay dead. The medic had not grasped what the most powerful man in the world had tried to say. Understanding lay in the past, seven months before.