* Two-legs up ahead. * Bright-Eyes warned.
Avon rested his hand lightly on her shoulder as she guided his steps. Everyone dropped low, looking around warily, trying to listen.
The storm still raged around them, roaring in their ears. Random energy spikes ripped across the skies throwing light across their faces. The wind was sharp with cold.
"Where?" Argus came up to them. His breaths were wispy puffs of frosty air and his tattered shirt and jacket were draped around his body and held in place by his belt.
Bright-Eyes indicated the direction with her nose. * That way. I will investigate. *
"I'll come with you."
She shook her head. * I will be faster. *
Argus had a strong desire to be alone with her, to work together, to race across the landscape side-by-side… Wolf, stop it. We have a mission.
The Wolf grumbled inside his head.
* Who are you talking to? * Bright-Eyes asked, her head cocked in a mixture of curiosity and suspicion he might be soft in the head.
"How did you know I was talking to someone?"
* Your body shouts. *
Was this an insult, a criticism or simply a comment? It was hard to tell. "We're wasting time. I'm going. You can join me." He gave her a teasing challenging grin. "If you can keep up."
Bright-Eyes bristled. * No two-legs can beat a wolf in speed. *
"We'll see." He raced off without waiting.
The she-wolf turned to Avon. * Is he always like this? *
Avon said, * You're lucky. This is a good day. *
He didn't know if wolves rolled their eyes but this one nearly managed it before she loped after the Argus/Wolf.
Avon leaned back, grimacing when the rough bark of a tree pinched into his back, and tried to rest. It took a conscious effort to ignore all the signals to his brain that demanded his attention. Sighted people would close their eyes to signal rest, cutting out the most important sensory input in order to relax the brain.
The sound of the storms, though disruptive and irritating, had been regulated to background noise. The unfamiliar smell of damp fur, the huff of the wolves breathing and the clicking of their nails on the rocks were new inputs he wasn't able to push into the background yet. The irregular dripping of water on unknown surfaces, the whistling of the wind and the rustling of leaves were unpredictable.
Jenna sat nearby, her weapon ready, eyes searching for signs of danger as the wolves kept watch and patrolled the area. "Avon."
His head turned towards her, waiting for her to continue.
"Do you really think this is where Argus received the wolf in his head?"
"All indications point to it." He leaned his head back against the tree.
"It's a scary thought."
Avon found it strange Jenna was attempting a conversation with him. He was the only human being nearby, but he wouldn't have thought that would be enough incentive to talk to him. "Quite."
"Is that all you have to say?" she asked with sarcasm.
At her tone, a faint smile touched Avon's lips. This behaviour was much more understandable. "For the moment." Until he understood what she was after.
"You didn't seem that surprised about the wolf being in his head."
Ah. This was the reason for the conversation. "You want to know why."
"I'm not blind. I know there's something between the two of you."
Avon wasn’t prepared to discuss his relationship with Argus but he had to give her something, satisfy her curiosity before she asked more questions.
He realized Jenna knew nothing about the Academy. She had not been present during the revelations and he didn’t feel like giving a history lesson, not about himself, but she was bound to hear it eventually.
"We knew each other as children.”
"I knew there was something."
He heard leaves rustling, twigs cracking and guessed Jenna was trying to find a comfortable position. A wolf huffed near them.
Black-Tail's mental voice put them on the alert. * Two-legs approach. *
"We need to find out who they are. They may be my pack mates." There had been no sign of Lt. Dain or the others who came down in the life pods.
The wolf exhaled loudly and Avon felt the warm, moist breath touch his face.
* They smell different. *
"Mutoids?" Jenna asked in alarm.
"That's possible." Avon planted his cane on the ground, readying himself to get up.
Black-Tail said worriedly, * There is something wrong. *
"What is it?" asked Jenna.
* The pack leader does not respond, * said the wolf, but Avon and Jenna did not hear him. They stared at each other, waiting for a response.
* What do you sense? * asked Avon.
The wolf continued staring at him.
Bright-Eyes glanced sideways, admiring the running form of the human beside her. He ran easily and silently, like a wolf on the hunt. Confident and alert. There was no question he was an Alpha. She found it odd there were two Alphas in his pack, though the Avon human had injuries to his eyes.
She smelled their quarry close. * They're here. *
They both dropped low and Argus lifted his head to look around. * Where? *
* Can you not smell them? * Her ears flicked in query.
* I'm not a wolf. *
* One can still smell. *
He was about to turn towards her with a response when he spotted movement in the long grasses up ahead and to his right. * Wait. I can see something. There. * He pointed. They slinked forward slowly.
A flash of the storm gave him a glimpse of fabric. Dark. Too smooth to be natural. Pointing his gun forward, he said, * You take left. I'll take right. *
Bright-Eyes looked after a human who gave orders so easily and expected them to be followed. She gave a soft sigh of irritation and weaved left.
Argus crawled forward, ready for anything. Adrenaline made his senses extra sharp; he felt elation, a high that only came from being in a dangerous situation. Wolf's eyes opened in his mind, an amber glow that was bright with anticipation. They were both enjoying this.
One. Two. At least two people. They were moving towards him, keeping low, and their heads below the level of the tall green grasses that swayed in the wind. No. Three. Maybe…yes, four.
* Bright-Eyes, on the count of three. *
* We attack? *
* Yes. One. *
Wolf took a deep sniff in the direction of the enemy. Familiar.
* Two. *
Argus asked distractedly, What?
* Thr-- *
Wolf said, Pack.
His eyes widened in shock even as he heard Bright-Eyes launch herself from her hiding place. Dain whirled to face the charging wolf and squeezed the trigger.
Argus jumped up, waving frantically, "Stop! Don't attack! Don't shoot!" The startled soldiers pointed their guns at him but recognized their leader in time. A shot burst outwards from Dain's gun and singed Bright-Eyes' shaggy fur. She barrelled into him and knocked him down with a crash, his gun flying, her amber eyes flashing angrily and her sharp fangs bearing down. The soldiers pointed their guns at her.
Argus ran forward. "Stop! Don't shoot the wolf! Bright-Eyes, don't kill him! We're all friends!"
Bright-Eyes directed her glaring eyes at him. * This is not my friend. * Her fangs were gleaming.
He calmed his voice. * He is my pack mate. This is a misunderstanding. *
The she-wolf looked down at the wild-eyed and struggling Dain. Having a creature the size of a pony sitting on your chest and looking like it was going to eat you, was extremely uncomfortable. She huffed and stepped off him.
Dain rubbed his chest and grunted as he got up. "Sir?"
"It's alright, Dain. I'll explain it later. We have to get back to the others."
Dain retrieved his gun and slipped it back into the holster. He grimaced and held his side.
"Are you hurt?" asked Argus.
"It's nothing, sir."
Argus looked him dubiously but there wasn't much they could do for now. "Let's go." He led the way back to the others.
"Sir, the wolf is following us." Dain looked back nervously at the creature that was shadowing them at the rear. Her amber eyes were eerie in the darkness and she seemed to be eyeing them suspiciously.
Baxter gripped his rifle tighter. "She looks hungry."
"They've volunteered to help us get into the base," said Argus.
"That sounds like there's more than one," said Dain.
"There's a whole pack."
Bright-Eyes said urgently, * Argus, there is danger. The pack does not hear me. *
Argus turned his head in alarm, looking back to where they came from. "We have to get back, run!" He was so preoccupied, he didn't realize he hadn't heard the she-wolf in his head. The Wolf had read her body language.
Sester pulled on the skin-tight black trousers. They formed around his legs like a tough outer shell. It had been nerve-wracking sneaking through the base, but now that he was dressing as a mutoid, it should be easier.