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08 December 2017 @ 10:28 am
_Stone_ part 30  

Ah, rival . . . packs. Sort of sharing the primo dancing floor on the flank of Mt St Helens.

They stripped the ruins of my jacket and shirt off, and I was handcuffed. Shit. Metal.

They searched my pockets, found the multitool, the folder in the ankle brace. They yanked my shoes off and the pants, feeling the seams, stabbing my shoes . . .

"Nothing, no wires."

"Where's his wallet?" That sounded like the guide Hunter. "He put it in his pocket."

"Search your car. If you find it drive it away from here." The big man waved him off.

The king of Portland? Your kingdom exists only in your mind, you corrupt killer.

I was dragged to the poles—the trunks of dead trees, left in place—and one cuff taken off. My attempt to fight resulted in a blow to the head that had me fighting just to stay conscious as they threw me against the dead tree and fastened the handcuff again. Ropes for my ankles . . . Should have kicked while I could.

I let my knees bend, my weight on my wrists, the handcuffs digging in as I sagged forward. I tried to make my struggle look helpless, not like a test saw at the tree trunk.

How long ago had it died? Could I hope for a bit of rot?

I shut my eyes.

Three desperate little glows to my right. Sickly yellow everywhere else . . . until I reached out further. Half a mile away, over the ridge to the west, where we'd started the last climb and hair pin turns, working our way around this shoulder of the mountain. Where they'd blocked the road. A bonfire of clean white . . .

I opened my eyes and looked at the sun. Here in this little hollow, with the crest of the ridge to our west, the sun was going to be setting in an hour. Maybe they wouldn't start while it was so light? They might wait for the sun to touch a more distant horizon?

I looked the other way, The mountain was black rock, streaked with the white of an early snow, crowned in white.

The ground shivered. A cloud . . . no . . . the way it was rising that had to be steam rising from the ruptured crater. Climbing high and bright.

The Hunters threw back their heads and howled.

"She comes!"

Then again, this close to the source, maybe they didn't worry about the sun.

I took a deep breath for courage and closed my eyes. Sickly yellow green, bright spots of the hunters, but now there was . . . something like a ground fog creeping around rocks and boulders. An awareness so large it encompassed the entire hollow, oozing up from below, and flowing down the mountain like an avalanche of pure evil . . . no. Not evil. Inhuman. Un-human. A god playing with living toys, a boy with an ant mound, a scientist with a puzzle.

And the dance, uncoordinated and unorganized as it was, was twisting the aura, the energy . . . opening access and pulling the so-called demon through.

The Hunters' demon had nothing to do with Heaven and Hell. It was a creature, a thing that had no place in our world, our reality. An entity that had slipped in through a place of strain . . . And created a living tool to help it return.

If they'd hired a choreographer it would have been a lot easier for the demon.

And while a couple hundred Hunters were capering about and lighting multiple fires, I concentrated on doing something I'd never tried before. I'd changed half way, and then reversed. But I'd never tried changing just a small part of myself.

Claws. The first two claws of my hands. Claws to dig into dead wood. Claws to free me.

Chapter Snipers

Mike cursed under his breathe.

Can't be but maybe half a mile to the crest of this bloody ridge, but bloody hell it's steep, the pine needles are slippery, and the rocks are deliberately place to be tripped over!

His favorite rifle was over his shoulder. His second favorite was broken down to fit in his backpack, along with lots of ammunition. All well and good for Barnette to talk about "one bullet one kill" But Mike had been frighteningly close to dry when he'd faced his first and only ever fight with werewolves.

It wasn't going to happen again. Even as he cussed the weight.

He glanced back, but Danny Barnette and trees were all he could see. Down there somewhere three teams were hoofing it up the road while the last team cleared the road.

Hopefully from up here we can see what's going on. We'll be a quarter mile away from the phone's GPS.

He climbed up a slanted ten foot patch of rock to almost level ground.

That shivered.

"Earthquake." Barnette grunted. "Probably another steam explosion in the crater."

"So long as it doesn't erupt." Mike wound between a couple more trees, sidestepped thicker brush as he reached a drop . . . into a broad cup full of howling Hunters.

"Damn, we're right on top of them." Mike pulled out his binocs.

Barnette stepped up beside him. "About three hundred meters. Simpson . . . are we really supposed to kill all of them?"

"Mr. Write is a bit . . . paranoid about these guys. They got four victims for tonight's fun . . . "

"Looks like three women and a man."

"Yeah. Crap, that's Leo."

"Uh . . . The friendly one Wright really wants dead?"

"Yeah. Wright's really paranoid about him. He's an orphan, raised by nice people, he's helped break up three groups so far, and is helping us here . . . And there are—that we know of—two groups on the East Coast that we could use his help with. But Wright wants him dead."

Mike eyed the man. I'm a desk jockey. The bosses borrowed these guys from who knows where. Can I actually give them orders? That will be followed?

"My recommendation is that you keep busy killing the other Hunters to avoid the ire of people higher up who do not agree with Wright about Leo."

Down below a dozen fires were starting.

Mike clicked on his radio. "Alpha, we've found them. They're right below us. There are close to . . . "

"Hundred and fifty." Barrette leaned into the mic. "I've got a good spot to take them."

And in return, "We've found the cars, we're coming across. Wait until we're in position before you open fire."

"Roger." Mike left the radio on, covering the mic as he turned to Barnette. "First priority is to save those women. Second to not let any of them escape."

From below, howls, and something that might have been chanting. Dancing, not terribly well coordinated, stomping around, raising dust, or perhaps it was smoke from the fires, hugging the ground, and swirling as the dancers threw things in the fires.

Once the sun drops behind the ridge, that's going to look spooky. And full night, worse. Mike rubbed his eyes. Actually, it's pretty eerie right now. I don't like the way it's reaching out for those women . . . even if it isn't getting there yet.

The Hunters turned, heads up.

Uh, oh! "Alpha! I think you've been spotted." Mike crammed his ear protectors over his ears and snugged down with his rifle.

Down below, a fat man pointed into the forest on the far side of the basin. "Kill them all!"

The dogs charged. The men started shedding clothes.

Mike took aim at the fat man and squeezed the trigger. he saw him go down, and switched to shooting the dogs before they were lost in the forest.

Click. He rolled back and grabbed his backpack. Switched mags. Started shooting. Damn it, he was taking too many shots to knock each one down.

New mag. Aimed carefully, trying to not waste ammunition. Trying to keep the Hunters away from the sacrifices.

He laid the rifle down to let the barrel cool and pulled out the /// Slotted the barrel in and loaded.

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on December 8th, 2017 09:14 pm (UTC)
I think the /// bit will be describing the assembly of Mike's second favourite rifle
matapampamuphoff on December 9th, 2017 03:31 am (UTC)
Actually that's a "Go find some people who know guns and ask what makes, models, calibers of whatever else guns come in, he'd think they'd be carrying, and how much assembly the backup would require after being hauled up a mountain just-in-case."
(Anonymous) on December 9th, 2017 01:00 am (UTC)
One thing that has bothered me. Leo hasn't healed his previous wounds. I think a little bit more writing is required to explain why - there's something keeping it from healing, or he has some priority reason to not take a couple of extra days off to heal.

matapampamuphoff on December 9th, 2017 03:36 am (UTC)
Wounds from the sacrificial knives don't heal properly, and start bleeding whenever the Demon is summoned. That one of the things Leo needs to discover, in the second draft. Possibly because Rachel's cut isn't healing properly either.

They need to find and destroy all four knives, before the cuts will heal.
matapampamuphoff on December 9th, 2017 03:46 am (UTC)
I should add, there's a great deal of suspicion among the hunter groups, as the official knives have been stolen before. Plus,lets just say, that when a pack gets too large and splits, whichever group didn't get the knife is certain the others stole it.

The Phoenix Knife is being studied to destruction in government labs. It started in southern California, and there have been several attempts to take it back there, hence the suspicious receptions that Leo has encountered.

The two very large groups in the Pacific Northwest have only one knife between them.

Finding the other two knives will have to await a possible sequel.

mbarkermbarker on December 9th, 2017 08:48 am (UTC)
Sequel, sequel, sequel...
If we say it loud enough, will the muse listen?
(Anonymous) on December 9th, 2017 06:51 pm (UTC)
Good. Remember that detail, and how to get it into the second draft. Or something - to date, I don't remember anything about Rachel's wound being mentioned. Tying that in would be good.