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World of Darkness: Attrition - Assault on a Rest Home

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February 19, 2012

“Out of bed!” The voice snapped through Imriel’s brain, jogging him awake. He was on his feet before his eyes opened, so he was already halfway awake before he saw the time. His mentor and roommate was annoyingly awake, fully dressed and ready to go. He was still wearing his tank top and flannel pants. Whisker liked it a little colder, so he adapted.

“Whisker, it’s three in the morning,” he said, realized he’d said it in slurred Japanese, and repeated himself in English.

“Yep, and we have work to do,” she informed him. She grabbed his head and he felt something flow through him. Sleepiness fled as she stepped back, grinning. “You might want to call into work now.”



-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


I’m going to lose my fucking job, Imriel sighed as he drove down Foothill Boulevard. This was the third time he’d had to call in since the start of the year, and that wasn’t a good track record. Unfortunately, Seers didn’t wait for convenient times to act out.

Whisker pointed at a parking spot on the side of the road and Imriel snagged it. As he parallel parked, she pulled out a tiny spy glass and peered through it. When he shut off his engine, she passed it to him. It looked like a run-down apartment complex of a dozen buildings. The sign out front said it was Last Foundations Retirement Home, but it looked like it had been retired. The building that Whisker pointed out wouldn’t have caught his eye, as it was a dirty, broken-down building in a row of dirty, broken-down buildings. A second look revealed signs that she was right; all of the windows were still in place and the doors was firmly locked rather than just nailed shut or kicked in.

According to Whisker’s intel, there was a Seer cell operating in the building. The word was that they had captured supernatural creatures and were running tests on them. This could not be allowed, not just because it allowed others to possibly learn about magic but because it was wrong. It was something his mother would do, and so when he’d learned about it, he’d been as ready as Whisker was to kick some Seer ass.

Imriel sighed as he glanced at the dashboard and saw it was now just after four-thirty. Whatever Whisker had done to him had been like a Red Bull, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be up right now. But his mentor had a lead on Seer activity and this time it sounded far more important than the usual Seer bullshit. It sounded like something needed to deal with immediately.

Whisker waited until he’d had a good look before she asked, “Did you see the light? On the first floor of that building?”

“No,” he admitted, not at all surprised. Whisker’s eyes were much sharper than his.

“They painted over the windows, but they didn’t go a perfect job,” she said, her sexy voice serious and smug. She really liked having anything she could hold over the Seers, no matter how trivial. “I can see a spot on one of the buildings.” Her exotically-shaped gray eyes focused on him. “Where’s that friend of yours?”

“She’s not my friend,” he said absently, still scanning the building’s black windows. “She’s just another mage I know.”

“I wish we had more Arrows,” Whisker sighed. Imriel agreed, but Calypso had been the only one to answer her phone when he’d called around for backup. “I’m going to get some eyes on the inside.” Imriel nodded as she hopped out of the car and slipped over to a shadow. He watched, but only saw her kneeling. A moment later, she returned, looking smug. “A rat’s going to check it out for us. We just have to wait.” Whisker was silent, then asked impatiently, “When will she get here?”

“When she gets here,” Imriel replied, used to her impatience. She’d wait, though not happily. And she’d make sure he was unhappy about having to wait, too. “She has the address, and she said she was coming.”





-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


Thad groaned and pulled the pillow over his head as the beast roared again. He was trying to sleep damnit, and he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to do that when that monster was making so much noise. The spell soundproofing the apartment complex kept people outside from hearing the noise, but he could hear it and he needed some god damned rest! “Fucking furry monster!” he snarled as he rolled out of his cot and stormed for the door.

The noise was even louder when he opened the door that had once separated the studio apartment from its bathroom. This room mirrored the other bathroom, which had been left intact for their use. The far wall of this bathroom, along with all the facilities, was long gone and emptied to make a storage room. The opening led to another former studio apartment. This one was now a large kitchen and dining room for the six-man team who lived here. Emilio was standing at the butcher’s block, chopping celery. The ingredients for an omelet were arrayed around him. The former Mexican was the best cook and usually pressed into service for cooking. “I haven’t gotten any sleep,” Thad bitched to the older man, stopping to watch him.

“No one is,” Emilio said, looking up at Thad through salt-and-pepper hair. “I told her we should kill the hombre-lobo.”

Thad winced. “You and everyone else, Milo.” The Biologist was super creepy, and when Emilio had told her to kill the werewolf, she’d just said ‘No’ and no one had said anything else. Just that single no had made his skin crawl. He tried to avoid The Biologist with her staring eyes and face that never, ever showed a single expression.

He preferred DeathFire, sorta. The guy had the corniest name ever, but after seeing him make black fire from his hands, Thad had never ever laughed at the name again, even privately. He looked like nothing; just some punk with stringy hair and the tendency to wear ripped t-shirts that had band names on them. All the bands had Deth or Death in the title, so at least DeathFire kept to a theme. He was scary too, but not in the testicle-constricting way that The Biologist was. DeathFire was terrifying because of what Thad had seen him do; he didn’t ever want to see what the Biologist could do.

Thad once again wished he’d never answered the ad for a vet tech specialist working with exotic animals. A wealthy employer with a private collection who needed round-the-clock vet techs and were willing to pay were few and far in-between. Only once he’d taken the job did he learn why he’d gotten it: he saw magic without freaking out. DeathFire had shown off his fire-tricks, The Biologist had stared – and then things had gotten weird. He was so not suited for this. He was a vet tech, for fuck’s sake, not a… whatever you called people who looked after fucking werewolves.

He’d been watching Emilio prepare breakfast when another roar tore through the kitchen. Scowling, Thad pushed himself off the counter and walked over to one of the industrial fridges in the room. This one was the one for food, he knew, not the other one – that was a mistake you only made once. Reaching inside, he pulled out a raw steak and a beer. “Whatcha doin’?” Emilio asked, watching him.

“Bribery,” Thad explained and stomped over to the next door. This door led to a library of sots; the room held bookshelves and the Biologist’s desk. Thad wove through them, crossing through another set of former bathrooms, this one with only support studs left. The autopsy room was next and Thad winced at the smell. A man was on one of the tables, his chest and other parts splayed open. Yvette, a slim, petite black woman, was examining something from the dead man that Thad deliberately didn’t look at as he stalked past. He was supposed to be working on animals, damnit!

Yvette glanced up at him as he walked by, her dark skin clashing with the blue hospital coverings she wore. “What’s up, sugar?” she asked, glancing at his hands.

“Can’t sleep,” he snarled as he entered the next studio apartment. In this one, both bathrooms had been removed again to make room for six cages. Thad’s steps slowed as he looked at the newest occupants of the cages, freshly arrived last night. Of course, then they’d all been unconscious and blissfully quiet.

The first cage on the right held a shivering woman. She was actually more of a girl, younger than he, at twenty-nine, would have been comfortable dating. Even with that discomfort, he admitted that the girl was blonde and gorgeous, with a body that would not stop. She was also high out of her mind, shivering and muttering softly to herself. The first cage on the left held a young man; he was in his early twenties with short black hair and pale green eyes. There was something unsettling about that one, and Thad glanced away.

There were two empty cages, then the last cage or the right held the source of the noise. Thad’s lips curled in an angry grimace as he understood the cause of the monster’s outrage. Roman, Yvette’s half-brother, was stabbing at the beast through his bars with dowel rods. The monster was snapping them, but Roman just picked up another. Thad considered shoving Roman against the bars and letting the monster do as he would to him; the bars were too close for the werewolf to get his muzzle through, but he could rend the man with claws.

Thad settled for kicking Roman in the backside. That was bad enough; Roman spun and glared down at him. Unlike Yvette, Roman was big and ugly. Yvette had been hired for her medical skills; Roman had been hired because he broke things. “You lookin’ for hurt, Tad?” he grumbled, his voice like rocks grinding.

“I’m looking to get some fucking sleep,” he snarled, ignoring Roman getting his name wrong again. “Leave it alone so it’ll calm down.”

“It was making noise before I started,” Roman protested.

“Stop it,” Thad snapped, “or I’ll tell The Biologist what you’re doing to her experiments. If she wanted you to be riling them up, she’d say so. Now get.”

The threat of The Biologist was enough. Roman scowled, but he pushed past Thad, bouncing him off one of the empty cages. “Asshole,” Thad muttered when he was sure that Roman was far enough away he wouldn’t hear.

Now alone with the werewolf, Thad tossed the steak between the bars. “Truce?” he asked, then held up the beer. “I’ll give this to you, too, if you agree. I just want some damned sleep.” Lips curled back from teeth as long as Roman’s fingers. “I know you can understand me. Just nod and you get the beer.”

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The werewolf in the cage didn't look like the movie monsters made popular by The Wolfman, or even the newer Underworld flicks. There were no humanoid features at all, no 'were' - just a LOT of wolf, as big as a pony and considerably meaner, with paws that could cover a man's face. The cage was eight by eight - hardly large enough for the beast to move, and Thad privately admitted that he was glad of that, as well as the spell-strengthened steel of the cage. The thing radiated vitality and power that, had it been roaming free, would have translated as majestic. Trapped and infuriated beyond measure, the only word that fit was 'deadly'. Silver eyes, tinged with gold, glared out at the man offering it beer, but they weren't purely bestial, were they? No... the thing was human-smart. It's a mistake to keep it alive, Thad realised anew. It's not an animal, it's not a man. It's a predator that can reason, and plan, and wait for the right moment. He remembered that the werewolf had had a tattoo on it's arm, a U.S. Army Ranger tattoo with some sort of lightning-flash pattern. A predator with military skills. He fought back the sudden surge of fear as he stared back at those silver eyes, noticing the monster's muzzle wrinkling as it bared it's teeth at him. Then the wolf lowered it's nose to the steak, sniffed once, and ate the whole damn thing in one bite as though it were a canape.

"I guess that's a truce, then." Thad said to it. It, it. Not 'him'. He's an It. Gotta keep thinking that. Abruptly he stepped back half a pace as the werewolf shifted, but stopped as he realised that it was changing shape, shrinking as the fur receded across it's body until it became a man... Man-shaped, he corrected himself. The eyes were the same, gazing steadily at the Seer from under dark brows framed by shaggy dark brown hair. Not as big as Roman, the werewolf's human shape was well-muscled and lean, as though all it did was run and hunt. No paunch, no trace of flabbiness around the middle, and no sign of civilised softness anywhere in it's appearance. Even in human shape, crouched on his haunches in the center of the cage, the man was still a wolf.

"Here." Thad tossed it the beer, noting the easy way the werewolf snatched the arcing bottle out of the air. A small thing, seemingly. He watched for a moment longer as the werewolf set the bottle on the ground beside itself, never taking it's eyes off him the whole time. Thad waited, but the monster in man-shape said nothing. Just watched. He forced himself to smirk at it.

"You're welcome." he said after a moment more, turning to go.

"I'll thank ya when I get out." The werewolf said from behind him, it's voice possessing a low, growly timbre. Thad forced himself not to look back, walking towards the door. "Because I will, sooner or later. Thad." Somehow, the way it used his name was the worst part of hearing it talk. Then Thad revised his opinion at what it said next. "Ya know wolves are social creatures, right?" the werewolf added conversationally. "You think I'm alone? You think we can't track? I could track you plain across this city, and we only just met, Thad." The Seer reached the door. "Sleep well." the werewolf told him, malevolent humor obvious in it's voice. Thad hesitated, then left the room, hoping none of his fellows saw him sweating.

Back in the cage Owns-The-Night grinned to himself... and for the benefit of the cameras he felt were likely on him. A little Psy-Ops to get things warmed up never hurt. Of course, the Vargr knew he was full of shit. There was no pack, no-one coming to his rescue. But like he'd told August in their first training session, the key to surviving a fight was to keep the opponent off-balance, hitting them with whatever you could, even if it was screaming at them to make them flinch. Well, one of his enemies had flinched. Two, actually. The big man, Roman, was a bully who responded to Declan's roaring and howling with violence - therefore he could be provoked. And the other guy, Thad... Well, he had tried to placate the beast. Both of them were weak links in the chain that held him in this cage. If he kept working on them, maybe he could snap one.

He spared a glance for the other prisoners, not lingering on Kaitlin or calling any attention to her. The girl seemed in a bad way, smelling of confusion and fear. The guy... The guy smelled off somehow. But he was a prisoner, same as Dec, and so they had a common goal. Wordlessly, the Vargr nodded at the young man, settling back on his haunches and waiting.

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Gary nodded back at the brown-haired man, fixing his eyes on the nurse when she came in to move a crate. How he'd wound up here he'd not remembered. All that remained in his head was the memory of investigating a bargain sale for Peter when - blankness and now he was here. To be experimented on, clearly in the name of supernatural research, not on the side of the divide he'd prefer. Not that live experimentation was acceptable to him by any ways, but...

Three of them, one werewolf- must speak to him once we're through this mess- a girl. And Gary Norton, the bearer of the Rotting Scholar.

*Scritch-Scratch*

Yes, I know. But we need to study our foes in advance of the prison break. After his remonstration to the Rotting Scholar, Gary leaned back, adopting his most memorable and honest interest in the setting around him, like an absent-minded yet excited professor. "So, isn't it a little gauche for this Biologist to kidnap us without permission?" Gary inquired out loud.

"They pay me enough that it doesn't matter, sweetie." The nurse replied... Gary moved in verbally. "Well, it matters to me. What's this Biologist like?" Georgia sighed. "Magic and you things? I'm not asking questions for that sum of money."

"Ah, a lady Voldemort, have we?" Gary murmured, having met one or two mages before. So powerful, alarmingly, and so self-interested and unaware of the reflections that came from nearly dying. None would have dared this, though, would they? "Fetch her, would you?"

A cross stare was his answer. "No? Well, I'm also suffering from Jungle Fever, and I wonder if you'd like to help with an experimental cure of brown sugar-?"

She was out the door in a matter of moments. Gary grinned and leaned back. "Well, the hired help has their buttons."

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“When she gets here,” Imriel replied, used to her impatience. She’d wait, though not happily. And she’d make sure he was unhappy about having to wait, too. “She has the address, and she said she was coming.”

Except they didn't have long to wait. In fact, just as Wakiki spoke, Whisker noticed a very slight rustle from a tree at the edge of the parking lot. Another one followed, and then - very quietly - she saw the shadowy figure of a thin young woman drop out of the tree and land smoothly on the ground. She stood up and made her way quickly and quietly towards the car, and the quiet gleam of cat's eyes in the moonlit darkness, shining out from a human face as she approached, was confirmation of the mage's identity long before the shadows retreated enough for them to see the rest of her. She opened the door and slid into the backseat of Wakiki's car along with what looked like a very small leopard, closing the door after it with barely a whisper.

"Hey. Sorry I waited, I wanted to make sure it was you. I got here about ten minutes before you did. So what's going on - what are we doing here?"

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Kaitlin huddled in the corner of her cage, shivering despite the sweat beading on her brow, glassy green eyes watching the door close behind Yvette, then snapping back to Gary, before settling once more on the man who had been a wolf. Every movement around her drew her eyes, sounds had more depth and every touch felt more tactile. Her skin felt too tight for her body and her heart was beating a mile a minute.

It was like being high on ecstasy and fear, but she hadn't had any X since the night she had been captured. There was still plenty of fear, though.

Under her breath, she hummed 'Zoot Suit Riot.' At another time, in another place, she might have realized the man was Declan, who she had seen more than once at Oneca's place, including her first night there. But at the moment, all she could see was the werewolf she had seen in Las Vegas, the night Madison had died.

Died at the hands claws of werewolf Kurt Russel/Snake Plissken, who was in the cell next to her. She couldn't help it, though she tried to stifle it, small, hysterical giggles slipped between her lips. She had run, and Kurt Russel found her anyway, and he was in a cage too. The giggles got stronger, breaking into snorts.

"I swear, werewolf Kurt Russel, if we get outta here, I won't tell nobody nothing," Kaitlin promised fervently, her voice high and tight. "I don't wanna die." Giggles turned to choked sobs, though her eyes were still dry, if glassy. "Why'd you claw Madison like that? We were only tryin' to get away from... from Vamp and Lyken fight."

Kurt Russel was staring at her and she stared back, shivers stilling, head cocked to side as she realized something. "You can regrow your fuckin' eye back?"

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Since the new year, her life had been growing... strange. She made it into UCLA, albeit not the way she had wanted... on a goddamn Cheerleading Scholarship. It was far less than the Athletics Scholarship she had left behind in Las Vegas, but it did get her in for the semester, and gave her time to apply for something better next year. And she had a courier job to supplement her income.

Despite the self-disgust in joining the pom-pom crowd, Kaitlin actually found she liked most of the girls and was coming to have a grudging respect for them. Say what you want about it, cheerleading was a vigorous, physical activity, and the girls did it all with smiles on their faces. - she still couldn't bring herself to call it a sport. She 'found' the books she needed for her classes and was trying to develop at least some rudimentary study habits again.

But with each day that passed, a feeling of anxiety or impatience rose higher and higher inside her. It felt like she was being chased, or a cage was closing around her. Yet if that was the case, the one chasing her, or the cage itself was her. She tried brushing it off as guilt for fleeing Las Vegas, leaving Madison behind like pile a rotten meat, but it didn't work.

She went through phases of manic activity and somnolent lassitude. Her burgeoning studies began to falter. She spent more time going out at night, drinking, fucking, looking for... something. The few times she bothered with engaging in some 'wealth redistribution' were more daring than usual, almost daring to be caught. She imagined being watched, by a pair of large, green-gold eyes with slitted pupils, strange eyes and yet as familiar as her own.

It came to a head one afternoon after cheerleading practice. She had thought she was alone in the showers with Liliana Ramirez, a short and stacked latina, and took the plunge, slipping close and giving her a kiss. Liliana was just beginning to respond when Stacy Philips, the captain - areligious and a stuck up bitch - caught them. She had only time for a condescending, "God hates muff-eaters," before Kaitlin punched her in the face.

After that, knowing she was going to get kicked off the team and lose her scholarship, Kaitlin went and got wasted, planning on getting fucked into oblivion, and worrying about things after the hangover and self-loathing wore off. She might have found oblivion, because next thing she knew, when consciousness clawed her awake with stabbing needles, she was in a cage... somewhere.

She tried breaking free, but was still feeling like crap and was about as effective as a kitten against the big black fucker. Being confined almost made her go crazy and she fought hard, but the sight of the guy making black flames flare around his hands nearly made her piss herself. And despite all her protests about not being some sort of monster like they claimed she was, they never let her go, and didn't stop their tests.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

They must've have been drugging her food. She couldn't seem to focus right - under better circumstances, she'd say she could pick these cages with a hairpin, but her fingers felt... fuzzy. She imagined cold, feline eyes everywhere, the gleam of long teeth, her cheek caressed by soft fur. Are those silver eyes real - I know someone with eyes like that, don't I? - or are they illusions too. I need to get out! I need to run! I need! I need... to be... free!

Kaitlin pressed herself against the front of the cage, one arm straining through the bars for the closed door well out of reach. "Please! Please let me outta here! I'm not monster like the others! I'm not!" she begged, but then her voice dropped into a hissing snarl and she wrapped her hands around the bars and tried to pulled them apart, forearms corded with sleek muscle. "Let me out, you assholes! I don't belong here!"

Her burst of energy failing, Kaitlin slinked back into the far corner of her cell, curling up into a ball, hands wrapped around her legs and head pressed against her knees. She gave her fellow prisoners a sheepish grin, but there was no apology in her eyes. She began shaking again, looking and sounding young. "S-s-sorry guys, but I ain't a freaky bump-in-the-nighter like you. They made a mistake. W-why won't they believe me?"

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“We have Seers holding supernatural creatures prisoner and experimenting on them,” Imriel said, giving her a brief smile. He was happy to see her, and wondered if that was because of her, or because of the link of Fate he’d seen or if it was Fate for him to feel this way. Sometimes, it would have been better to be a Sleeper, serene in ignorance.

“I just sent a scout in, and we should have intel shortly.” The woman in the car had spoken, and now she twisted to look back at Calypso. “I’m afraid it’s just you, me and Imriel.”

“I’d like to get close enough to enlist the prisoner’s help,” Imriel said. He sighed and propped a hand on his chin. “Of course, we need to get them out first.”

“Let’s wait for the rat,” Whisker said and the three mages were silent for a while. After another twenty minutes, Whisker slipped out of the car and into the shadows again. “The rat counted three rooms. More people than that… rats can’t really count that high. However, it did tell me how to get in.” The exotic woman turned to look at Calypso. “Can you assume an animal shape? A small one like a rat?”

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"Why won't they believe me?"

Dec realised that Kaitlin smelled of more than confusion, fear and anger. There was something there, something Wild that underscored the girl's scent. With a belated sense of illumination, he realised what it was that he'd been smelling ever since he'd woken up in his cage - a Nahual, ready to tear itself free. He remembered what his cousin had told him: that the Nahual never smelled stronger than right before birth. He sipped at his beer, trying to think as he regarded Kaitlin. The girl was Changing Breed, that was why these fuckers had her. But how did they know that?

They got close to me, were able to get me without even triggering off my instincts. These aren't normal folks. he reasoned, then turned his attention back to the sobbing girl in the cage across from him. The kid needs help... and I'm the only skinshifter here.

"Kaitlin." The voice called, trying to intrude on the young blonde's mixture of fear and self-pity. Dec's patience was NOT his strongest quality, however, so the second call of her name was sharper. "Kat! Snap the fuck out of it, frail!" Kaitlin blinked in the cradle of her arms - that didn't sound like Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell didn't call her Kat, and only one guy she knew called girls 'frail' (which, by the way, was totally fucking sexist even if he did make it kinda hot).

"Declan?!" she looked up over her arms and stared at him. Silver eyes: check. Shoulders: check. Shaggy-yet-sexy: check. Totally not wearing any pants: check, and neither am I. Oh shiiit. "Declan! It's you! Oh Jesus shit fuck I thought I was on a bad trip or something! They got you too!?" Kaitlin didn't know whether to be relieved or more scared. Dec was a Tough Guy (which most of the time translated to macho asshole in her vocabulary), but he'd been teaching August to fight, and Oneca liked him, and so did Ari too. If he was here, then maybe he could do some Tough Guy shit and bust them out... But then again, maybe Tough Guy shit was all for the movies, and he was in deep shit like her, the dude in the next cage, and that big fucking wolf- Hey, waitaminute!

"You were a wolf." she said, somehow certain of that. It was hard to be certain about a lot of stuff lately, but THAT was definite. She hadn't been hallucinating a raging wolf the size of a horse. "You were a wolf and now you're Declan." She sat bolt upright in the cage and pointed at him. "You're a fucking WEREWOLF! I'm so telling the guys!" Okay, it wasn't the most rational reaction, but Kaitlin was feeling stretched rather thin right now. "August will shit bricks, and Oneca... Wait, does Oneca know?!" Kaitlin knew she was babbling, a little, but somehow Dec being a big bad wolf was easier to deal with than everything else, which just kinda highlighted how bad everything else was.

"Kaitlin, shut the hell up now." Dec rasped. "We're in trouble and you wanna play twenty fucking questions?" Kaitlin subsided from the growl in that voice. "The people who grabbed us didn't make any mistakes. You just don't know what you are yet. I've been there too, so keep it together and I'll try ta help, but right now we need to focus, girl!" He looked at the silent dude in the other cage.

"I'm Dec, she's Kat." he said shortly by way of introductions. "You got a name?"

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Aradia shook her head, looking a bit sheepish.

"No, not yet, sorry. I'm working on it.. I can do small stuff. Gills, feathers, eyes, that sort of thing. And I can change the way I look a bit. But I can probably get in through a window or an air vent, too."

She motioned to the ocelot, who was - despite being casually curled up on the Thyrsus's lap - watching the two strangers intently.

"Or maybe Latigo can help? What needs to be done?"

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Gary had both a curious eye and an odd smile at the interplay between- Dec and Kaitlin, he filed down for later note. "Gary. And when you said, Oneca, Kaitlin, did you mean Oneca Bahaar?" Kaitlin got out a babbled "Y-yes? She knows you?" Gary nodded, despite the level stare Declan the werewolf was giving him. "Yes. I think she'll be surprised by that news, not shocked though-" Gary's words causing Declan to suspiciously deepen his stare. "Look, I'll happily tell you the fine details later. Right now, if the hired help's words mean what I think they do, we're held by one or more mages, or as they do love to call themselves, Awakened."

"Mages?" Kaitlin gasped. Gary nodded with a slight but not joking grin. "Wizards, sorcerers, witches, etc...." "Ok." Dec cut him off with a growl. "You sound like a fucking academic, so what do you know about them?" Gary leaned back as he explained in turn. "In a way I am." His holy grail of the supernatural and the occult, a never-ending research trip. "Unfortunately, I haven't gotten that close in actual study- because well, they are extensively powerful, with unclear limits to their abilities. More than a bit arrogant too, as you may have guessed. That's it."

He peered around, but for whatever he was looking for, he didn't see it. Dec and Kaitlin had no idea. Gary was less than pleased apparently. "Dammit. Can't there be any ghosts around here? Then I might be able to do something."

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Ghosts and Wizards?! Vampires and Werewolves! They're all real?! How does the world at large not know about this?! But Oneca knows! And she never told me! Kaitlin tried to shove the panic away, to steady her rapid breaths, but it was hard. Grabbing a bar, Kaitlin pulled herself to her feet and began pacing around her cage, full and perky chest bouncing slightly under her tight, midriff-baring shirt, toned muscles in her legs and abs rippling smoothly with each step, even though she still shivered. She preferred moving, entering the flow where thought and action came together as one, but being confined in an eight-by-eight cage wasn't enough, the bars a constant reminder of her confinement.

Coming to the side of her cage, she glanced around Dec to look at Gary - though not without taking a good, long look at a very naked Declan, despite her frazzled state. Werewolf or no, she supposed she could see why August spent time training with him, even if he made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

"Hey, uh, Gary, these, um, wizards, they still need wands like in Harry Potter," she asked, while reaching inside her shirt, and through feminine magic, unhooked and pulled out her bra without showing anything or raising her shirt. "Those guys were fucked without a stick in their hand."

"I wish," Gary said with a snort, stealing a glance at how well the very fit blond filled out her shirt - hardly seemed she needed the bra she was holding in her hand. "They don't have to do anything showy. I found that out the hard way."

"Crud," she muttered, fingers working at her bra. Her frustration mounted as it wouldn't rip as easily as she was hoping, and it didn't help that her sense of touch felt... fuzzy. "That woulda been too easy." She descended to using her teeth, spitting out fabric, but finally holding up her prize, a stiff wire bent with a pair of tell-tale curves. "Aha! Underwire - a girl's best friend."

"And what do you plan on with that, frail?"

"Getting outta here. Keep an eye on the door." Taking extreme care, Kaitlin used her nails, and the edge of the padlock's keyhole to bend the end of the wire, but her hands still shook and she wiped the sweat beading her brow with her shoulder. Her tongue poked out the side of her mouth as she concentrated on the improvised lockpick she slipped into the lock. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon."

Cat-Burglar Skillz!
Dexterity + Larceny Roll (Lockpicking): 7d10.hitsopen(8,10 = 1 success It's an extended roll, and I assume she'll need more.

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“Mostly freeing people.” Whisker’s grin promised pain to those Seers who would imprison other people. “I think that those who are in there are going to be more than capable of helping us help them.”

“So we’re going to get them out first.” Imriel nodded in agreement, his voice curiously relaxed. “Sounds good. I can provide a distraction.”

“Just don’t get shot.” His mentor’s advice wasn’t that helpful but Imriel smiled at the inside joke.

Imriel nodded and quietly checked his gun to be sure it was loaded. “Good advice. Thank you.”

Whisker grinned and opened the door. “You knock on the front door, and I’ll slip in the back. Calypso, why don’t you back up Imriel?”

“Don’t get shot.” The handsome Japanese man smiled at the former circus-girl, including her in the joke. Turning serious, he asked, “Anything to add to the plan?”

“Let’s do this. Give me fifteen minutes.” Whisker stepped out of the car and slipped into the darkness.

Imriel checked his watch before settling back against the seat. He and Calypso waited in silence, each reflecting on the upcoming mission. “If you need a gun,” Imriel offered, “there’s one in the glovebox.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Whisker the Cat snaked around the corner of the building, eying the vent cover. It was going to be a tight fit but she would rather be in a larger form with a bit of fighting prowess. As the rat had said, it was easy enough to slip past the cover and ease into the short shaft; previous rodents had worn away the interior cover, too.

The room inside was devoid of enemies, but still the Whisker-cat paused, listening and watching. Only when she was sure it was safe did she ease out of the vent and drop to the floor. Three eyes swiveled to her and Whisker eased herself over to the woman trying to pick the lock. Sharp eyes scanned the room; then the cat hopped over to a bit of wire, snatched it up and brought it to the girl, setting it in front of her. Then she hid in the shadows and waited for Wakiki to present his distraction.

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The soft shurring of something slipping through the vent grate broke through Kaitlin's distressed concentration, her glassy gold-flecked green gaze snapping towards the slinking feline, eyes as wide and unblinking as those of the apparent - if uncanny - cat. Kaitlin watched the cat's every movement with too intense focus, head cocking to the side, a puzzled furrow growing between her fair brows as it brought over the piece of wire then hid in the shadows in the corner of the room.

Kaitlin stared at the faint glints reflecting from the cat's eyes for a long moment, unaware her own were glinting even more brightly, then pressed against the cage, stretching arm through the bars and picked up the piece of wire. It was finer than the one from her underwire bra, not as rigid, but still stiff... A perfect complement to her first improvised pick, to help her trip the tumblers in the lock.

"Not sure where you came from or why you're doing what you're doing, pussycat, but thankee all the same," Kaitlin said in a low, husky whisper, waving the piece of wire in salute. Kaitlin wiped her brow again with her arm, surprised to find it free of sweat, then swiftly bent and twisted the end of the wire into a mate to her first ad-hoc lockpick.

As the young, fit blond woman went back to work on the lock, her pair of picks making faint, metallic clicks, she tried to stifle her snorts and giggles of once more rising hysteria. Every minute was making the world a stranger place. "The kitty, she belong to one of you guys? A were-kitty friend or a, um... er, what's it called? A... familiar? Or your familiar, Gary? I'm not 'magining this am I - you see the cat too, right? Open the shit up, you piece of fuck!"

Once More Unto the Breach!
Picking the Lock, round two! Dexterity + Larceny + Equipment (Basic Lockpicks)

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 3 successes

4 Successes total for picking the lock (Suggestions in the book say picking a Padlock or a House Lock could take from 4-7 successes to open)

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She watched Whisker slip across the parking lot, then boosted herself forward through the space between the seats, leaning past Imriel in a way that was a bit distracting, as she popped open the glove box and pulled out the other gun.

"Not a thing. Though I sare say 'knocking' on the front door seems a tad suspicious. You wanna elaborate on that plan a little? You know what, nevermind. I don't need to know the details, just tell me hat to do and I'll do it. I'm new to this sort of shit, after all."

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Gary flickered his gaze over the cat, kneeling down to stare eye to eye with the odd feline. "We don't have familiars, and last I thought it was just Hollywood myth. But then there's been very little of anything Mages haven't been able to do to my understanding. Shapeshifting isn't unique to the were-creatures, I think." His analytical looks challenged the cat intently.

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"So either it's a shifter, or a wizard, or a really smart cat." Dec shrugged and finished his beer, then set the bottle down within easy reach. "Big whoop - we'll find out when it's ready to let us know. Meantime, keep it down so the kid can do her thing." Silver eyes watched Kaitlin work at the lock on her cage, and though Dec's expression was stoic, there was a dreadful eagerness in the gleam of his gaze. He wanted out of this cage already.

I'm gonna rip that big black fucker a new asshole right where his trachea oughta be, and then I'm going to tear the rest of these fucks to pieces.

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Snarling behind her tight lips, Kaitlin tried to focus on picking the lock, but it was difficult. With a rushing, throbbing sound in her ears, she barely heard Declan and Gary talking. But every single little movement drew her attention. She pulled her eyes off the beer bottle and went back to the lock, trying to still the twitches and spasms wracking her body.

With a final twist and jig, there was a click that sounded impossibly loud to the blond girl. Kaitlin grinned wildly as she pulled out her improvised picks and bit off a whoop of triumph. She stared at the door to her cell, then gave it a kick... then had to scramble and catch it before it crashed against the back side of her cell when her kick had a lot more strength behind it than she had intended.

"Yes, yes, yes!" she crowed in a fierce whisper as she scampered out of the cell, then began to quickly case the room, hoping for a convenient set of keys for the rest of the cells. Her heart pounded quickly, flushed with the need for fight-or-flight. "I'll have you guys out in a sec."

Watching the athletic, curvy young woman, Declan and Gary could see the wiry muscle beneath, tanned, deeply flushed skin coil and twitch oddly; they were far more energetic than her smooth movements should have demanded, though her unconscious feverish fidgeting might have been responsible in part. Unfortunately, there were no keys in evidence.

"Fuck! Fine! We'll do this the long way!" Kaitlin growled in sudden frustration that nearly seemed overwhelming. Yeah, after a night like this, no more drugs. This is way too fucked up a high.

Kaitlin crouched in front of Declan's cell, flashing him a nervous grin, her green-gold eyes glassy, then bent her head and inserted her picks into the lock. Declan could see the tips of her breasts tenting the sweaty fabric of her halter top and being so close, could actually feel the feverish heat washing off her, and easily heard her muttering under her breath. "I got this! I got this! I can do this! We'll get outta hear. We will!"

I pick ALL the locks!
Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 2 successes

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 1 success

Two more rounds to finally pick her cell (7 successes total)

Declan's Cell:

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 3 successes

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: (8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 1 success

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 4 successes

Three rounds to open Declan's Cell (8 successes total)

Gary's Cell:

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 1 success

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 4 successes

Dexterity + Larceny + Basic Lockpicks: 8d10.hitsopen(8,10) = 2 successes

Three rounds to open Gary's cell (7 successes)

Kaitlin will work on Gary's cell after Declan's, if she has the time. This post, she spent 2 rounds on her cell, then 3 rounds for Declan's, and 3 rounds for Gary's... if she isn't interrupted. ;)

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Dec's crouched on the other side of the bars and just watched the young werecreature - because he was damn sure that's what she was - fiddle with the lock, muttering under her breath the whole time. He didn't say anything, didn't even move for fear of distracting Kat. Instead, he just kept his eyes on the door and his ears and nose peeled for trouble. His patience was rewarded with a *click* and the faint metallic groan of his door opening.

"Good goin', frail." he murmured in an approving rumble, giving her a nod. Kaitlin, looking up at him as he slipped out of the cage, grinned from ear to ear despite her confusion, fear and too-keen sense that Declan was naked, a werewolf, and out of his cage. Of the three, she wasn't too sure which was making her heart beat faster. She scrambled over to start working on the other dude's cage.

Declan scooped up the empty beer bottle and moved to the door, keeping low and moving with practiced stealthy grace on the balls of his bare feet. His muscles tensed smoothly under the tanned skin as he waited, to all other appearances calm as he watched the door. For now things had become simple: either someone would come through the door before he and his fellow prisoners were ready to leave, in which case he'd attack and kill them. Or else they'd have the time to get ready to leave, in which case he'd charge into the next room and kill the first person he saw.

Simple was good sometimes.

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Gary noticed how flushed Kaitlin was, which intrigued him for a moment. Her increasingly excitable and frantic state seemed odd, and the kidnappers had a reason for grabbing her, yes? Of course, his eyes did seem level with her breasts, so Katlin had a different take.

"Don't ogle my tits!"

Gary shook his head. "Wasn't." He replied politely. Once the cage opened up, he scrambled out, and focused his mind, unlocking powers of the Sin-Eaters, the Cold Wind Shroud, and the Phantasmal Caul.

The air around his and his skin chilled all of a sudden, and Kaitlin could feel it. "Did you just get freezing?" Gary grinned with a smile. "Just wait." Likewise, his flesh shifted pliable and stretched in an unearthly fashion towards a knife in the expanded room - grasping onto it and then snapping back into place.

To complete the weirdness, his forearms and hand grasping the weapon became seemingly sharp-edged and blade-like, pointy too, to accentuate the effect of any attack. "All set."

OOC
Spending 2 Plasm.

[Jeremy] 7:26 pm: Cold Wind Shroud unlocked

Jeremy *rolls* 9d10: 1+5+2+5+9+2+4+7+8: 43

2 successes = 2 points of armor gained, and Gary is immune to any damage to to extreme cold, gas based or suffocation based attacks.

[Jeremy] 7:27 pm: Phantasmal Caul unlocked

Jeremy *rolls* 6d10: 8+9+9+10+7+9: 52

Jeremy *rolls* 1d10: 4: 4

5 successes = an exceptional successes. Gary may alter his body as an instant action, adding 5 dice to any appropriate Physical skill roll. Any subsidiary power gets the 9-again quality. Currently adding the activation successes to Melee.

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Kaitlin stared at Gary in horrified fascination, gold-green eyes so wide white showed all the way around. She held herself still and quivering like a taut guitar string, as his arm squished and stretched like Play-doh across the room to meld with a knife.

When Gary's arm snapped back to normal length, alien and knife-edge, Kaitlin suddenly hopped back two steps and bent at the waist, vomiting a thin, yellow-brown bile - they hadn't been fed well. Another heave, then the wiry blonde forced herself to stand straight, wiping her mouth on the shoulder of her shirt, then shot Gary a furious, cat-eyed glare, since it was better to be angry than scared.

"That is most fucking disgusting thing I have ever seen!" Kaitlin exclaimed, balanced warily on the balls of her feet, chest rising and falling rapidly with her panicky breaths. "I dunno what the hell you are, Gumby-boy, but you're walking ahead of me and you ain't touching me."

Kaitlin glided to the opposite side of the door from Declan with a great deal of stealthy grace herself, if with little of his menacing calm. Sweat beaded her forehead and cheek, her eyes huge and too bright in her youthful face, hands opening and closing as she tried to futilely calm herself.

"Let's get the fuck outta here!" she growled-whispered emphatically.

She was good enough to win a scrap on the skate-park, but she practiced JKD as an adjunct to free-running. She didn't delude herself into believing she was a bad-ass mofo in a fight like Dec. But she could fucking run.

Empty your mind

Be formless

Shapeless

like water

Kaitlin thought, trying to collect herself by recalling one of her favourite quotes from Bruce Lee. It espoused his philosophy for JKD, and it applied closely to parkour as well.

You put water in a cup

It becomes the cup

You put it in a teapot

It becomes the teapot

Water can flow

Or creep or drip or can crash

Be water, my friend

If there was anything she had to adapt to, the craziness around her was it. Her breathing deepened, steadied, in through her nose, out through her mouth, but the flow, the effortless ease when she was running and in the zone wouldn't come.

Something kept intruding on the emptiness, something wild and fierce, fighting for release. It scared her and aroused her, and that scared her too. There was a primal screaming in her head and felt like it was trying to tell her something, something she should know, something intrinsic, like breathing, but she couldn't tell what.

The athletic girl crouched lower, almost predatory, sleek muscles painfully tensed and taut, making them stand out in stark relief. She could barely stand still and more and more, the primary instinct to flee was being replaced by the instinct to fight.

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Wakiki walked toward the front door of the former rest home, the pizza box balanced lightly on his fingers. The gun hidden in the back of his pants felt like a neon sign that everyone could see, even if the Pizza Hut vest hid it from view. Calypso was out in the dark behind him, ready to come in after he started the fight. Whisker was in place—or he hoped she was. He’d given her more than enough time to set herself up. If she wasn’t there, if she hadn’t freed at least some of the supernaturals, this was going to suck, bad.

Still, he moved to the door of the target and knocked briskly. Assuming an expression that he hoped was ‘bored delivery minion’, he waited. The door opened suddenly, with no noise to warn him. Wakiki tried to keep from jumping out of his skin, though he was sure he was only partially successful. The fact that the door had been answered by a big black man who looked like he could bench a car didn’t help. “Hey, man,” he said, “it’ll be seventeen-fourty-two.”

“We didn’t fuckin’ order pizza.” The black man crossed his arms, looking pissed. “Take it back.”

“No way, man, this is the address, I ain’t takin’ back a triple meat with double cheese.” Wakiki scowled and thrust the box forward. “Someone’s paying for this.”

The thug grabbed the box and started to hurl it away, only to stop when he heard the rattle of the dirt Wakiki had used to give the box weight. He opened it, peered at the gravel and closed the lid of the box—just as Wakiki pointed the gun at his nose. “Back up. Slowly.”

The surprise on the thug’s face melted into sadistic glee. “You’re a dead mother-fucker,” he announced as he backed into the building. Wakiki moved after him, keeping the door and his eyes open. “You picked the wrong place to rob.”

“Who writes your lines?” Wakiki glared at him, wondering where Calypso was. Surely she’d be right behind him.

There was a tingle as he passed through the door; a spell. As he crossed the threshold, he could hear the music and sounds from inside the building—a sound dampener. Just as Wakiki was wondering if it would muffle gunshots, the black man jumped at him. Wakiki fired just as the thug slammed into him.

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The escapees heard the shots, but whereas the instinct of most upon hearing gunshots was to freeze, Declan responded differently. His fingers found the neck of his empty bottle and, keeping low, he pushed open the door into the labs.

,,

The woman was half-facing the doorway, and upon catching the motion of the moving door she glanced over out of simple reflex, her expression one of disturbed concentration rather than alarm at first. Then she saw the shaggy brown hair framing a pair of silver eyes and stiffened in sudden mortal fear. Cursing loudly, Yvette spun and reached for something on a nearby bench. Her fingers had just brushed the handle of the tranq gun when the spinning beer bottle shattered against the side of her head.

,,

She fell hard, blood streaming down her face and neck on her left side. Beer bottles, contrary to Hollywood-ism, don't shatter very easily when impacting people. That the one hurled by Dec had shattered meant that it had been thrown hard. Yvette wasn't out yet, but she was down and dizzy, scrabbling to push herself back onto her feet. Her hand slapped onto the table, instinct screaming at her to get the weapon now, but then a strong grip closed around her wrist and she looked up into the face of the werewolf. Puzzled, the scientist wondered why the werewolf wasn't ripping her to pieces, but the short, chopping downward punch ended any further thou-

,,

Declan let the unconscious woman slump and scooped up the weapon she'd been reaching for before turning and making a 'hurry up' gesture to Kat and Gary. Both were somewhat dazed both with Dec's sudden, violent reflexes and the speed with which he'd crossed the room. But at his gesture they hustled out of the door and started across the labs. Then the other guy appeared.

,,

He looked like a joke. Just some skinny punk with a death metal t-shirt, an unwashed reek, and greasy hair. But his lips were drawn back in a soundless snarl as he raised his hands towards the escaped prisoners, and every nerve in Declan's body screamed a warning.

,,

"Down!" he rasped, taking a step and flipping a lab table onto it's side between the new threat and the escapees. Instruments and samples were strewn across the room with a loud clattering, shattering sound as the vargr hunkered down behind the upturned lab bench.

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Still flinching with the iron bite of blood assaulting her nose, Kaitlin sprang with animalistic grace behind the table as she saw the black flames flare up around the hands of the scrawny metal-head. She hunched down, muscles painfully tight, tendons standing out in stark relief as her fingers clawed the ground and she gritted teeth that looked suspiciously sharp.

,,

"I... feel like... I'm on... fire!" Kaitlin panted in a hiss. "Something's trying to... get out - I need to get out now!"

,,

To most eyes, her posture would have looked almost alien and feral, back arched greatly as she crouched balanced on toes and fingers. She was so tensed, her clothes were straining against sleek, taut muscle - in fact, Kaitlin looked oddly... larger, hulking. It might just have been her posture, with her tawny hair all wild, but when Declan caught her feverish, green eyes, he saw slitted pupils.

,,

Panic, terror, and rage was coursing through her in equal measure, and any moment now, there were going to reveal a destructive outlet.

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Gary didn't have the primal speed or agility of Kaitlin or Declan, and so as DeathFire the scrawny mage started to fire his gout of black fire - streaming from his hands - the Sin-Eater dropped down in a mix of unspectacular movement more like a stumble, and the unearthly flexibility and pliability that was his flesh defined by the Caul. Landing on the floor, knees first, Gary clutched onto the knife...

,,

The burning blast traveled over the hunkered down trio, barely missing them. But Gary - scant as his knowledge on mages was - had a rapidly processing idea or two. Mages could do a fuck lot of things, with as far as he had seen, very little limit in versatility, if not power. And yes, they had no need for wands, staves or any talisman. But they did need some concentration... there was no time to explain to Dec or Kaitlin before Grease Punk re-targeted with better aim.

,,

With the Caul shifting his form at his mental command, Gary sprang up from over the table, nearly cartoon-like yet unearthly. His arm and hand whipped about in several cycles of similar motion as he charged forward - then with a sound like a whip-crack, Gary threw the knife at DeathFire. The mage barely had time to process this before the blade impacted against the slowing properties of his shield... but enough momentum survived the guard of entropy to slice his arm before clattering against the wall.

,,

DeathFire's style was to blast his foes at range, and when he felt the sharp slice and the pang of pain, his instinctive reaction was to grab his injured arm in response to the pain, a terrible mistake. Gary was still moving forward and slammed into the unwashed mage, tackling him. DeathFire wasn't a brawler, and struggled against Gary as the Sin-Eater worked to restrain him. Truth be told, neither was Gary, but the shifting, plasm-infused body of his gave him more than enough advantage to swing the difference.

,,

Still, Gary's goal had been to occupy their ex-captor, not take him down... "Help here?!"

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Wakiki went down under the weight of the black guy. The man caught him around the waist and they tumbled to the floor together. He wasn’t sure if he’d shot the guy or not; if he had, the guy didn’t seem to be feeling it. The gun was gone anyway, knocked loose by the two-hundred plus weight slamming him. A ham-thick hand circled Wakiki’s neck and squeezed; in sheer desperation, Wakiki struck back with one of his best weapons.

,,

The lance of Mind magic was invisible to non-practitioners and those not looking for Mind magic. But to Wakiki, the metaphysical representation of his will was as clear as day: a long samurai sword slammed into his opponent’s mind, ‘cutting’ deep and hard. The man’s head curled up and his fingers loosened; as Wakiki shoved him off of him and rolled to his feet, he could see the whites of the man’s eyes as they started to roll back in his head. The man wasn’t dead; he’d recover just fine in time. But few things slowed someone down like a psychic knife to the brain.

,,

Wakiki turned to proceed deeper into the complex, only to be faced with a Hispanic man with knives. The mage paused as one of those knives was thrown at him; his attempt to twist away saved him from being stabbed in the torso but didn’t help his arm. The knife sliced through his shirt, skin and flesh together. “Fuck!” he yelped in shock and pain.

,,

* * *

,,

A small furred shape darted out of the shadows, growing as it entered the light. The black housecat became a sleek lioness, her leonine form beautiful as she moved to Gary’s side. As her claws readied themselves to tear at the grappled man, he erupted in blue flames. “Morons!” the flame-mage screamed as Gary’s clothing and hair started to smolder and the lioness paused. “Never touch a man who makes fire his bitch!”

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When the weird Gumby-guy had charged fire-dude and the kitty had become a lioness, Declan had spared the two of them only a glance. He spared Kat a little more concern, hoping the kid would hold it together, but Owns-The-Night was a practical creature, first and foremost. He looked around the lab, saw what he had in mind, and grinned. Wolfishly. When Kat looked around to see where Declan was, he'd disappeared from view.

,,

The black housecat became a sleek lioness, her leonine form beautiful as she moved to Gary’s side. As her claws readied themselves to tear at the grappled man, he erupted in blue flames. “Morons!” the flame-mage screamed as Gary’s clothing and hair started to smolder and the lioness paused. “Never touch a man who makes fire his bitch!”

,,

"Hey asshole!" A voice barked to Dethfire's left as he grappled with Gary, putting more will and energy into his flames to make the clinging man release him. The magus' head snapped round to see the werewolf standing there, holding someth-

,,

A jet of foam hit the greasy punk right in the kisser, then covered him from head to foot as Dec played the stream up and down. He tried to roar protest and outrage, but more foam went up his nose and down his throat. Gary got liberally covered as well, and though the magically fuelled flames did not go out as a normal fire would, they did sputter and weaken as Dethfire's concentration faltered. Still locked in a struggle, he and Gary slipped on the foam-strewn floor and went over like tenpins, slipping and scrabbling to try and regain their equilibrium. Gary reflected that, on the upside, at least he wasn't smoldering anymore. He rolled away from the thrashing Dethfire and wiped foam from his eyes in time to see the fire extinguisher sputter and run out.

,,

"Y-glub-fuggin'-DIE!" DethFire started to sit up from his prone position, his flames beginning to spring back into incandescent life from his rage. He too dashed foam from his stinging, smarting eyes, which widened as he saw the tall, muscular werewolf step forwards, swinging the empty extinguisher like an All-Star hitting for the bleachers.

,,

*CLONK*-shhwiip-*THUD*

,,

There was no other way to describe that sound. No metaphor would do. It was exactly like the sound of ten-plus pounds of metal, wielded by an incredibly strong man, smacking another man square in the face at an upward angle followed by the unfortunate second man sliding ten feet across a slippery, foamy floor on his back, then the sound of him hitting the wall.

,,

"Play with matches, get burned. Fuckface." Declan growled, tossing the badly dented and empty extinguisher to the floor.

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The crackle of flames, the hiss of the spraying foam, the ringing of the metal canister bouncing across the floor, it was too much to the stricken Kaitlin. The remnants of her conscious thought took a step and the Beast caged inside her shouldered itself free into her own skin. It was not gentle.

,,

Pain wracked her entire body. Like stepping into a bath that was too hot or getting a too hard massage when you were too tense, it hurt, but there was the promise it would feel better soon. But soon was a relative term. Kaitlin snarled and growled for what felt like forever as bones and joints cracked audibly, muscle and cartilage slurped and slipped into new configurations, and fur burst from skin with searing itchiness.

,,

The others turned from eying the mage at the sounds coming behind them. They watched with various emotions depending on their experiences as the young woman's thrashings knocked the flipped over table away, her mass doubling, then doubling again, shredding her clothes, growing more bestial with each pound gained. In seconds, where there once was a distressed, athletic woman stood a savage, primal cougar from ancient and mythic times. She was the size of a particularly large tiger, almost the size of a horse, dwarfing the lioness in the room. Down one flank, dark fur contrasted with tawny gold in a flowing, pointed, tribal pattern.

,,

The panic and confusion was gone under the feral focus of immediate needs. She wanted out from the stinking and confining man-cave. She would get out from the stinking and confining man-cave. If any stood in her way, they would be removed, expediently, with finality if necessary, though it was the caress of night air and the soothing light of moon and star she sought.

,,

The cougar regarded them with ferocious gold-green eyes, no hint of recognition in them under the frenzy of the First Change. It opened its mouth, revealing a big, pink tongue and glistening, ivory fangs...

,,

It should be noted, though cougars were of a size with other great cats, like leopards, jaguars, lions, and tigers, in many ways, it shared more with domestic house cat. The great cat couldn't purr, the cougar could. The great cats could roar, the cougar couldn't.

,,

Instead, it screamed.

,,

... the terrible, almost-human-but-distinctly-animal sound burst throughout the apartment complex, setting teeth on edge and making windows vibrate in their frames.

,,

Hands pressed to his head, DethFire jerked up to a sitting position as the scream resonated in his skull. Unfortunately for him, his sudden movement drew the motion-sensitive attention of the enormous cat. Even more unfortunate, he was laying between her and what it believed was the way out.

,,

Powerful hindquarters flexed and in a single bound, the cougar pounced all the way across the room, its sheer mass carrying it and DethFire through the drywall and into the hall beyond. DethFire screeched in panic, summoning a blast of dark flames which seared the terrifying Beast down one flank.

,,

But the Beast was in a state of exulting fury and pain and fire didn't deter it. It snarled, twisting with frightening speed and grace for such a large creature, its jaws clamped down on the mage's arm and yanked, nearly ripping it off. Scared and in excruciating pain, DethFire was still a Mage, able to manipulate reality to his will. He wreathed himself in flames once more - if the Beast wanted him, it would burn doing so.

,,

The Beast didn't care. With a clawed paw the size of a plate, it batted him down the hall, sprawling on his chest. It hissed like a steam engine as the flames burnt it, but before DethFire could get to his needs, over eight-hundred pounds of feral predator came down on his back. Bones snapped and pain exploded. But it didn't last long, as hot, moist breath brushed his neck. Teeth came down, crushing, splintering his spine and the cougar shook him from side to side like a doll, the iron tang of blood like nectar on its tongue. DethFire felt nothing at all.

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The Beast looked back through the hole in the wall, the blisters and burns on its muzzle already beginning to fade. Declan, Gary, and the lloness-witch watched crimson blood and translucent slaver drip from the Beast's jaws as it screamed once more. Then is bounded away down the hall, searching for freedom.

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The man with knives advanced on Wakiki, pushing him toward the exit. Teeth bared, the young man managed to stumble back from his assailant without getting cut again. The man lunged forward and Wakiki wasn’t quite fast enough to get away from him; the knife pierced his flesh but his ribs stopped the wide blade from sinking further into his torso. It was bad enough when the weapon slipped over his ribs, opening a long gash across his skin.

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Wakiki prepared to break this guy’s head, too. Before he could do more than think about summoning his most potent magical offense, a large form loomed behind the man. Wakiki’s opponent disappeared under a blur of golden-black fur and slashing claws. Wakiki’s brain didn’t even try to discern what had happened; it registered that something worse than a knife-wielding maniac had shown up to the party.

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Glittering golden eyes locked onto Wakiki just as he unleashed his brain-spike again. This time his target was the feral mind he sensed just in front of him; he didn’t even bother to get the shape of the mind before he was lashing out at it. The monster – he saw that much, at least – screamed like something out of a B-movie and shot past him, heading outside.

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Wakiki slumped to the floor, holding his bleeding side. “What… the… FUCK was that!?”

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The Cold Wind Shroud had kept Gary from getting hurt, but he had realized that he underestimated the pyromaniac mage. Fortunately, that was where Declan intervened, putting out the blazes with the foam before adding in a canister smash. It was like he was a werewolf Rambo. And then Kaitlin transformed. Gary was simultaneously shocked and intrigued, but in short order her primal panic happened too fast for him.

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"Well...." He blinked and seemed less phased than someone should - Sin-Eaters were a bit de-sensitized to death at time. "Let's try and hurry it up then."

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"Yeah." Dec said, looking in the direction the fleeing shapeshifter had flown. "We need to catch the girl up before she does something she'll hate herself for later."

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"Oh?" Gary asked, glancing at the hole in the wall and the splattered blood that lay beyond. Declan shrugged.

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"Yeah. Like acing someone's sweet little white haired ol' grandma." he shot back tersely. "Or chowing down on a cop. The Wild side is out for the first time, and it's gonna wanna party." He headed down the hall at a steady, fast trot, forcing Gary and the lioness follow if they wanted to stay with him. He glanced at the lioness as she glided alongside him. "I figure you know more than you can say right now, and yeah I'm curious, but there's shit to do. So let's just follow the kitten and try to keep her from eating someone, 'k?"

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"You think there's more bad guys ahead?" Gary said as he jogged down the hall after the naked werewolf.

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"Could be." Dec murmured tersely, his every sense stretched out, scanning the environment for more than blood and pissed-off cat. He smelled some familiar scents ahead, near the front of the building, and padded that way.

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They found a shredded Hispanic man in the first room. An empty cot and an open window suggested that someone had fled rather than fight, and Declan remembered the man who had offered him a bribe for silence. Thad. Apparently he had believed Declan’s threats and decided to put some distance between himself and the angry werewolf and his “pack”.

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“Wakiki!” The lioness spoke as if she were human, creating a creepy image straight from Narnia. Aslan’s wife slipped past Declan to kneel next to a slumped form. “Where are you hurt?”

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“Yes,” he answered gravely in a pain-filled, accented voice. “I didn’t get the number of the saber-toothed semi that just went through here.”

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“Smart ass.” The lioness peered at the wound before asking, “Can you hang on until we find and calm down the shifter?”

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“Oh, is that what that was? Sure, not a problem, I’ll just sit here and bleed.” Wakiki gave her a thumbs up. He looked past his mentor for the first time and blinked. “Uh… you have a naked guy right behind you. And a not-naked guy. You are far kinkier than I realized, Whisker.”

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The Beast burst through the front doors of the derelict rest-home and ran free, and Kaitlin ran with it. There was fear, but there was excitement and exultation as well. She felt powerful, invincible, dominant. Two men had gone down to her claws and teeth, their blood on her tongue a heady nectar. There were true monsters in the world, and now, she was one too. Let them come! She wasn't afraid of them anymore.

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Glowing green-gold eyes pierced the gloaming of grey dawn. A thousand thousand scents awakened a new world to the shocked teen, a world the primal Beast knew well. Every motion drew its eye, ears twitching to sounds no human could perceive. The screeching of brakes as someone reacted to seeing what he assumed was a zoo animal made the Beast flinch and hiss at the car blue Honda Civic before turning away from Foothill Boulevard.

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The Beast trotted North, then haunches bunching, it leaped easily to the roof of a strip mall. It slinked through the shadows, every movement effortless and flowing, like the feeling Kaitlin got when she was in the zone while freerunning or skateboarding, but a hundred fold. She prowled through residential yards, not an elusive thief, but arrogantly, the queen of the urban jungle.

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One Yorkshire terrier with more bravery than brains yapped aggressively at the Beast intruding on its territory. The enormous cougar looked down at the small dog, head cocked to the side, her chuffing breaths sounding suspiciously like laughter. Then she pinned it to the ground with one big paw with claws like knives and bit its head off.

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There was a crash by the back door, the overweight owner of the unfortunate terrier with her hair in curlers and wearing a floral print mumu dropping her over-sized and over-sugared mug of coffee as she checked on her wittle Precious and found out wittle Precious was now a snack for a tawny monstrosity. The Beast stood up, licking the remnants of wittle Precious from its lips and stared at the woman, daring her to steal her kill, poor as it was. When the woman fled, three hundred pounds of fatty meat, the Beast chirped in amusement and continued on its way. It wanted better game.

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Nostrils flared, picking up minute scents on the air, and it headed North and East, heading for Angeles National Park.

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"You can talk, fella." Declan said in his rough voice. He recognised the dude from somewhere... Oh yes. "That saber-toothed semi that went through here was the jailbait you picked up at the party, not all that long ago." He looked at the talking cat that Imriel called Whisker. "She's on her First Change, and she's pissed. She's running on pure instinct right now - if some hero takes a pot shot at her she'll rip him up as fast as she did the fire geek, then hate herself in the morning. If you're plannin' on helpin', we need to move." He turned to Gary.

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"You okay to stay here and help Imriel, man? No offense, but I dunno if you can keep up with us. Imriel, this is Gary. Gary, this is Imriel. Yer both more than you seem, and we can pow-wow about it once the cat's in the bag." He gave them both a grin, which widened impossibly as his tanned skin sprouted dark fur shades of charcoal and black. There was a faint series of popping sounds as his bones reshaped, and a stretching noise as his body contorted in an eyeblink. Despite the sound it didn't look as though it caused him pain, and as the massive wolf picked its way past the reclining Wakiki on paws as large as the mage's head, those silver eyes seemed suddenly far more fitting to this new shape.

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"Jesus!" Waki didn't try to scramble away, but only because he was awestruck. Gary was likewise taken aback, even though he'd see the wolf before. Declan in a cage, however fearsome when raging and snarling, was not the same as Declan with nothing between you and him. The giant wolf was... majestic. There was no other word for it. He seemed to glow with vitality and pure feral grace, absent of malevolence or rage. He was practically totemic, the epitome of all things Wolf.

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Owns-The-Night breathed in the air, tasting the scents of rage, death, blood and fear. He could smell Thad's spoor, could run the man down if he wanted to. He could taste Imriel's blood on his tongue, the smell causing him to rumble deep in his chest. He lowered his nose to the ground, picking out the pungent scent of Kaitlin's beast, and whuffed as he looked back to Whisker, his ears pricking up.

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“Let’s go,” the lioness said, stretching her legs in front of her before leaning forward and gracefully repeating the movement with her rear legs. She glanced at Wakiki. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

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“Hey, I’m a magical brown-skinned man. We exist to get hurt and left behind to heal.” Wakiki gave her a thumbs up. “Besides, if Calypso catches up, it’ll give her something to do.” He shrugged (and clearly regretted it by to the wince that followed) at Gary as he added, “No offense to you. I’m sure you’re a great doctor, but she’s hotter, and if I have to choose between who’s going to nurse me back to health… I’m sure you’ll understand.”

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“Yeah, I got it,” Gary muttered as he peered at the wound. “You better hope she’s actually the better nurse.”

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“I said she was hotter. Hot women are always better at everything, right? It’s why they’re hot, the Universe is pointing them out to the rest of us.”

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“I’m ready.” Whisker looked up at the big wolf, ignoring the banter between the two men. “I think you scent better than me. Lead the way.”

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Once the two shapeshifters were gone, Wakiki glanced up at Gary and asked, “Do I really talk too much? Because I have to warn you – I talk when I’m nervous or in pain.”

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Gary filtered through the comments - apparently Imriel (possibly Whisker as well then) were what, mages then? This was a good opportunity, on the other hand, he felt some concern about what had been going on if mages had chosen to involve their powerful selves in... freeing them? Taking the time to strike at Gary, Declan and Kaitlin's captors?

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Well, in this case, Imriel couldn't talk enough, in Gary's viewpoint. Giving the cuts on his chest and arm one last scan, Gary glanced back to Imriel and the edges of his mouth quirked a little. "If that's the case, I'd need a thick gag to stop you." The Sin-Eater traced his fingers just fractions of an inch away from Imriel's skin to indicate the injuries precisely. "I'm no physician, but you really need medical attention for these. Stitches are a must too."

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Without skipping a beat, Gary shifted to more current matters. "So, you're a mage, your friend is a mage, and I suppose the emo fire-boy and his boss are mages? Is this part of the Mage Civil War arc? Marvel did a horrible job with their crossover - please don't imitate them."

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Wakiki stared at Gary for a moment. “Marvel? Are you kidding me? Did you just try to make a comic book joke?”

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“It’s appropriate, I figure.” Gary looked far too interested in the conversation and less interested in Wakiki’s injuries as he asked, “So mage civil war, right?”

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“What the fuck, man? I am sitting here bleeding and you’re rambling on about mages.” Wakiki looked at Gary with disbelief in his expression. “Can you please give me some first aid? Why do I have to ask you for this?”

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“I don’t know any first aid.” Gary shrugged casually. “It’s not my forte.”

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“Forte!? Fucking… Okay! How about this! You help me get my ass off the ground, and we get me to someone who has a forte in healing?! And even better! Let’s do it before I fucking bleed to death!” Wakiki knew he was getting a touch rude, but he felt justified in this case.

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The wolf led the way, his dark fur seemingly absorbing the darkness as he loped unerringly along the scent trail of enraged feline, reflecting that he could have probably tracked the girl in human form just as easily: cats tended to be liberal with their emotional states when it came to scent. The sharp pungent smell was vaguely unpleasant, the smell of rage and hunger, and Owns-The-Night picked up the pace with Whisker in tow.

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It was only a few minutes before they found where the dog had died. Wolf and lioness cleared the hedge in synchronised silence and padded across the fat woman's garden, curling streamers of scent telling the tale of what had happened here not long before. Those, and the single paw left laying forlornly on the ground.

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"She ate a Yorkie?" Whisker asked in disbelief as the mage's nose told her the tale. Inside the house, they could hear the screaming, blubbering sound of a woman on the phone. "Better the dog than the owner, I guess." The vargr chuffed in laughter and padded across the yard before leaping the next fence, tongue lolling out. "Okay, but lets find the girl before she gets more than embarrassing memories." the talking lioness told the amused werewolf, who nodded as he led off again.

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They passed several more physical signs of the beast's passage: a dumpster out the back of a White Castle that had been overturned by a mighty paw and then scrabbled through; someone's pet goat (hey, this was L.A) which had been mostly-eaten; and claw marks scored into a poster advertising Calvin Klein's underwear featuring Lucien Hunt. The trail was consistent, though: Kaitlin was headed for the wilderness, which would be the beast's primary objective. Owns-The-Night did some figuring and assumed that the beast was carrying her to the L.A National Forest, specifically Deukmejian Park. This could mean trouble, as the park was a popular lover's hangout on warm nights: far enough from central LA to be 'remote', and close enough to be readily accessible. The introduction of x-hundred pounds of enraged kitty wouldn't add to the romantic atmosphere. He sped up, Whisker keeping silent pace with him.

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* * * * *

Kaitlin, or rather the Beast formerly known as Kaitlin, had slowed her pace since hitting the wooded hills. At last, surcease from the noise and stink and fumes and stink and... well... stink of the city. She moved through the night with casual grace and stealth, pausing every now and then to take in the breeze and smell it for prey. The small meals she'd had down in the city had been enough to sustain her, barely, but with the werecat's metabolism kicked into overdrive by the stress if the transformation, if she had been able to think about it Kaitlin would have actually felt her body's reserves being burned away as the First Change reshaped her on every level. The Beast didn't need to think, though. With the haze of its berserk fury gone, the cougar was now performing the calculus of survival. It needed calories, it needed protein.

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It needed meat.

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There. A smell of prey. Some part of the Beast's consciousness struggled at the classification of the scent as prey, an echo of Kaitlin beating her hands against the inside of her corner of the newborn werecreature's mind. Because the cat had smelled human beings, a scent of soap and cologne and perfume. A lot of human beings, and the smell of alcohol and other things that meant, to the Beast's enhanced reasoning, that the prey would be fuddled and inattentive. A few minutes lope through the woods brought her to the top of a rise overlooking a collection of shiny cars and humans clustered around several large fires, passing food and drink to each other and laughing, dancing and making merry. Students out for a party in the 'wilderness', unaware that the Wild was about to come to them.

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Still, the mindless rage had passed, leaving the Beast cunning. It was no good to attack the herd head-on. She might get one, but the others would be alerted and scatter. Best to wait until one or two split off from the crowd... like that male was doing right now. Blond hair, enduring the laughter of his friends as he stumbled drunkenly out of the ring of light, heading for seclusion to answer nature's call. Kaitlin padded in a large circle around the party, angling towards the point in the bushes where she had seen the young man disappear... then she froze, ears twitching as she looked around.

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Something was near. Something not-prey.

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Her eyes fell on a dark patch of brush maybe thirty feet away, specifically on two motes of silver that burned from within it. The great wolf rose from his cover and stalked in a circle, moving with slow deliberate movements. Kaitlin knew this wolf, knew that it had a name, knew it was an ally, if not a friend, but the Beast simply saw another predator and potential threat. The big cat's eyes were flat and suspicious as she watched the dark-furred interloper move, only caring that he didn't seem to be coming closer to her... until she belatedly realised what he had done. The wolf had placed himself between her and the prey!

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The Beast met eyes of molten silver with ones of burning gold-green. The Rage only simmered now, but the Beast was a thing of primal instincts and urges, emitting a deep hiss in warning. The Wolf stood between it and food. It would move or it would be made to move. Or it would be food. The Wolf was of a size with the Beast, but it was a pack hunter and it was alone, whereas the Beast was a solitary predator able to bring down prey larger than itself.

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Tail twitching with deceptive laziness, haunches bunching, the tawny Beast prepared to pounce. The silver-furred Wolf stood in still and silent regard.

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Inside the feral surety of the Beast, Kaitlin began to panic. Broken free of her cage, both the one of steel and the one in her soul, the girl had ridden the fierce strength of the Beast with reckless abandon, laughing mentally with the unrestrained power. But the casual slaughter of the Yorkie had stirred a doubt. The impersonal malevolence the Beast was directing at the silver-eyed Wolf that sparked recognition in Kaitlin stirred a great deal more.

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The Beast didn't care. It pounced, launching itself low and fast over the brush. Declan didn't evade, knowing it would only give the Beast a free run to the man-prey behind. With the mind of a man and the reflexes of a predator, he paused for a moment, timing a snap at the Beast's outstretched paw, causing it twist in mid-air to avoid his jaws.

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Declan may have had the experience, but without a man-mind to add a measure of control, the Beast was reacting on pure instinct and it was frightfully fast for its size. No sooner did it land than it rushed forward again. Declan flowed to the side, keeping himself between the Beast and the partiers, which earned him a slash across the flank with a huge, hook-clawed paw his thick fur couldn't entirely prevent from drawing blood.

,,

Now close, the two supernatural predators, wrestled and grappled, the Cougar trying for a spinebite to snap the neck, the Wolf trying to prevent it while resisting the urge to try ripping out the girl's throat. They earned scratches and nicks from claws scrabbling at each other. The Cougar had the edge here, with sharper claws meant for rending and tearing, but the Wolf's wounds were healing faster.

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Inside, Kaitlin struggled for control in her ill-fitting body.

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It a moment when the two Beasts parted to reposition, the Whisker-Lion pounced. Seeming under-sized compared to the enormous Cougar, it still possessed the mass to knock the Beast unbalanced, twisting to slam into its haunches with a shoulder. The Cougar righted itself instantly, swinging its great, round-ear head from side to side, keeping the Lion and the Wolf in view at they circled it, a hint of confusion in its blazing green eyes. It hadn't smelled another wolf and hadn't expected the smaller feline to form a pack with the Wolf. Rage building anew, the Lion would pay for its temerity.

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The Beast screamed, the terrible sound silencing the revelers a short distance away, and in its moment of distraction, when it pounced at the Lion, Kaitlin pounced as well with a mental scream of Noooo! Slipping her arms and legs into the limbs of the Beast, Kaitlin switched from a passive passenger into an active driver, There was an instant of mental jarring, like someone had snapped the bra-strap of her soul, then Kaitlin made the adjustments so their were both in the driver's seat.

,,

It wasn't a matter of one or the other being in control, but rather the Beast and the Woman running in tandem. Like being in the zone when freerunning, muscle memory and instinct moved the body, but experience and adaptability of the mind directed where they went and what risks they took.

,,

Mind and Body as one. Thought and Action as one. Woman and Beast as one. We are one....

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... Puts a whole new definition on being called an animal in bed, though...

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Kaitlin completed her pounce over Whisker, landing on the far side of the clearing. Her movements graceful and easy still, but there was something in the way Cougar moved that suggested to Whisker and Declan that it was a human mind maneuvering several hundred pounds of feline predator. Kaitlin eyed them, recognizing Declan and Whisker, through sight and scent, from the Rest Home and knowing who they were.

,,

Kaitlin plopped down on her haunches, head tilted to the side and made a plaintive chirp, managing to look sheepish and apologetic, despite being near half-a-tonne of biological death machine.

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The huge wolf licked a nasty gash in his shoulder and grumbled, and Kaitlin could practically imagine Dec's hot-n'-growly voice cussing softly: not at her, but in general discontent. Then the vargr trotted a few paces away from her and looked back over his shoulder, silver gaze steady as he regarded her. The implication was clear, and Kaitlin flowed to her feet - paws - again and trotted after him. The lion followed also, flanking the overlarge cougar warily.

,,

Owns-The-Night broke into a gentle lope, moving the party of shapeshifted individuals away from the party of drunk and stoned - though sobering rapidly after the screaming and growling from the darkness - kids back there. He put his nose to the wind and followed traces of scent that hung there, leading Kaitlin-cougar and Whisker deeper and deeper into the wilderness. He knew what it was to be reborn as a shifter. He knew that whatever Kaitlin's tenuous control was now, she wouldn't truly satisfy her beast side until she'd hunted and eaten.

,,

So it was not by chance that the group of predators found itself overlooking a small cluster of wild pigs, laid up for the night and dozing in a tight group. Descended from domestic pigs that had escaped captivity as well as wild boar that had been introduced as a new source of game meat, Declan knew that these critters were a nuisance with few natural predators. Even wolves and cougars would be cautious about tangling with pigs, and besides, the pigs preferred the hotter climes far to the south of the usual wolf and lynx ranges. They infested California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, bred ferociously, ate like, well, pigs, and therefore were a plentiful supply of game that no-one really worried about if a few turned up dead.

,,

Perfect.

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The pigs were upwind and downhill, and being diurnal were not particularly alert. Lack of natural predators had made them fat and complacent - much like humankind, now that Owns-The-Night thought of it - and so they were not as vigilant as they maybe, in retrospect, should be. Of course, even allowing for pigs being smart, they hardly knew that giant, regenerating predators would be hunting them. Oh well, that was life.

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Owns-The-Night silently lowered himself to lay at the top of the rise, his eyes and ears the only parts of him visible from below. He looked pointedly at Kaitlin, then at the pigs, then back at Kaitlin, his head tilting slightly in unspoken query that was part challenge. Well? the large wolf seemed to say.

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Head tilting the other way in inquiry, Kaitlin prowled up next to Declan, staying to limit her profile - really no different than when she skulked around roof-tops. Laying her eyes on the herd of bacon-on-the-hoof, Kaitlin unconsciously licked her lips in hunger, tasting dried blood - disturbingly peaking her appetite - as she debated with her selves.

,,

They're pigs. Hogs.

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They're meat.

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They're still alive! I can't eat those!

,,

Why not? Fresh, not carrion, not diseased. Good meat. Our hunger must sated.

,,

But... but...

,,

Our hunger must be sated. Or the hunger will grow. If it grows too much, then we will find meat where we must.

,,

What meat?

,,

Any meat. Two legs or four. Prey or predator. Or friend. Feed the hunger to control the hunger.

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A low, rumbling growl escaped Kaitlin's throat. She could sense the truth of that, coiled muscles tensed. The Beast was going to hunt tonight - it was up to Kaitlin if she was going to go along for the ride and give it a bit of direction. Besides, she'd always liked ham and bacon, and this whole cat-monster thing probably explained why she preferred her steak very rare.

,,

Then let's hunt me down some pork-chops!

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Kaitlin glanced at Declan, nodding her head, slowly squinting her green-gold eyes and flashing a hint of fangs in the feline version of a smile. Challenge accepted!

,,

Kaitlin slinked off around the rim of the valley, paws silent on the brush, so some of the fleeing pigs would head in Declan's and Whisker's direction. She knew she could simply rush down there and chase one of them down, but both her instincts and those of the Beast frowned at what was a desperation measure. Both traceurs and ambush hunters favoured efficiency of motion, no wasted energy.

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A common cougar might have to be wary around a sounder of boars, seeking to strip one away from the protection of the group, but Kaitlin was a far cry from being a common cougar. She was going for the shock and awe of the surprise pounce. Pigs had a decent sense of smell, but were upwind and had poor eyesight and were drowsy besides. Human cunning and predator instincts and muscle memory were working together.

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Poised with taut patience, Kaitilin scanned the herd, picking up the dominant male through sight and scent. Mating season was approaching and a trio of normally solitary males had joined the sounder of boars. The two smaller and less scarred males were going to get a chance to spread their seed if they weren't stupid.

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Before Kaitlin could really consider the fact that she was going to hunt down and kill a wild animal with her bare hands and teeth - regardless of the fact they were more than dangerous weapons at the moment - she pounced. Powerful rear legs launched her through the air, further than anything her size should have been able to, tawny fur flashing under pale, early dawn light.

,,

The great mass of the over-sized cougar crashed on the back of the dominant boar, shattering its spine. Not missing a beat, her jaws clamped down on its thick neck, crushing vertebrae and jugular, blood exploding in her mouth. Kaitlin could feel the boar jerk in surprise, panic, its feeble attempt to escape, then the life leaving its muscled and fatty corpse.

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Kaitlin felt a thrilling exhilaration, surprisingly okay with her first kill. Meat was meat, and if it was seasoned and grilled, well, hunting it down herself added its own spice. And she was a motherfucking big-ass cat now, a little raw meat was going to hurt her. She had to resist the urge to scarf down her kill then immediately start off to Vegas to find werewolf Kurt Russell, to pay him back for Madison.

,,

Kaitlin had already dragged her kill halfway across the clearing before the sounder of boars really began reacting to the scent of blood on the air. Kaitlin dropped her killed, watching the sows squeal and run, her tail twitching as the two other males turned toward her, pawing ground as their tried to intimidate her with their size and tusks.

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The enormous cougar chuffed in silent laughter. She dwarfed them and there was no way she was going to run to a pair of goddamned. Not on her first kill and which Declan and the shapeshifting Lion woman thing. Kaitlin countered the boars' grunting with harrowing scream then even silenced the squealing of the sows for a moment. The boars got the idea and fled with the females.

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Kaitlin finished dragging her kill to Declan, presenting it to him in victory. The silver-eyed wolf wasn't too impressed, though has to give frail her props for a clean kill. But that wasn't the end of it. He pawed the boar, then nodded at it, as if to say, The Kill was only half of it.

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Kaitlin got the idea, but still paused for a long moment. Am I really going to do this? But the hunger was speaking louder and the scent of her first kill was enticing. With an odd delicacy, Kaitlin nipped at her kill, but grew more vigorous as the hunger was provided with sustenance. The Wolf and Lion let her eat without interference.

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Eating her fill, and finding it not that bad - and who knew what that said about her - Kaitlin was cleaning herself cat fashion, when she paused, looking down at her five-clawed paws and the tail curled around her, then glanced up at Declan with wide eyes and a small whine. How the hell do I turn back?

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Finally, the mysterious Calypso made her appearance. She stumbled into the room and leaned against the doorjamb, taking a slow look at the carnage surrounding the two men. Gary could make out the hotness Wakiki had spoken of, but only barely. Her long, currently pale-green streaked brown ponytail was askew and partly undone, as if someone had yanked hard at it. She sported at least a half-dozen long, thin, painful-looking welts that were sure to turn into nasty bruises, and at least a couple gashes that, while shallow, were still dripping blood slowly down her forearm and over her cheek.

,,

"Looks like you boys had a pretty shitty time of it too. Sorry I missed all this fun, but as you can see, I got invited to my own party." Her eyes rested on Imriel, and she gave him a concerned second-over. "Holy shit, you look worse than I do."

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