Silicone Lupus

Girl's Night Out
Sometimes the line between good and evil is razor thin

“You be a good girl for Daddy,” Bethany handed a swaddled Mika to her husband with a kiss.
“Have fun with the kids,” she said. Johnny gave a bit of a helpless shrug. “C’mon, you battle nightmarish creatures and you’re worried about a play date with the Falconhands?” Her smile was wry.
“They are more chaotic than any beast I’ve faced,” he responded as he settled his daughter into the crook of his arm. She laughed. They certainly were a handful.
“Don’t worry about anything here. We’ll make certain that everything is prepared for our guests.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.” Johnny responded, giving her a peck on the cheek as he walked out the front door.

Bethany smiled and waved, and after he was out of sight she took a heavy seat. This baby had been tougher than her sons. She was bone weary. She felt old and wrung out. There was a light knock on the door as it opened and Tonya came in already bubbling over with plans and to do lists. Bethany wondered how her friend managed to have endless energy and enthusiasm. She felt a pang of jealousy arise and she quickly smothered it. It would help no one for the two of them to be having cross words on the eve of an important gathering. The alliance with North Country was a big deal for them all and their new partners needed to see that Thunderheart had a united front.

“….and so if we have the dinner at the lodge table, we can probably work out enough seating….” Tonya trailed off. “You alright, Beth?”

“I’m fine.”

Tonya’s face wrinkled in a combination of concern and annoyance at the white lie. Before she could even draw a breath to speak, there was another knock on the door. Bethany suppressed a sigh and rose to her feet, “I’ll get it. It’s probably Walt wanting to know about the guest quarters.”

Bethany opened the door and was surprised to see Alex’s impeccably attired bride standing on her front porch. Rumor had it that the King’s Consort had deeply sunk into a months long bender and showed no signs of surfacing anytime soon. “Katherine!”

Katherine gave a small bow and a demure subservient smile. “Matron Lao,” she softly spoke, using the formal kin title that Bethany tended to avoid. “I beg forgiveness for the unannounced intrusion.” Her voice was quiet, even deferential, but still carried notes of old world culture. “It is my understanding that Matron Falconhand is here.”

“Of course, come in.” Bethany cast a quick look at Tonya and saw that her friend was equally surprised by their visitor.

Katherine greeted Tonya as formally and with even more deference than she had Bethany. “Kin Mother. Please pardon the interruption.” Her hands spread before her in a conciliatory gesture and her body language was submissive. The scent of her perfume lightly danced on the air as she moved. Bethany struggled to place all of the elements. It was light, fresh, and more spice than sweet. Garou as a general rule disliked perfumes as being too harsh on their senses, but Bethany couldn’t detect a single offensive or off putting note. If nothing else, she found it soothing.

Tonya approached Katherine for a hug. “Nonsense. You’re always welcome here.”

“You honor me.” Katherine replied, enduring the embrace of her mother in law.

“Perhaps we should sit, have tea, catch up?” Bethany suggested.

“I would enjoy that, Matron Lao.” Katherine replied.
Bethany listened from the kitchen as Tonya made small talk with Katherine. Katherine’s replies were elegant in their formality, but Bethany noted there was little substance behind the words. At best, Katherine seemed to be little more than a subservient debutant. Bethany wondered for the hundredth time why Alex had shackled himself to this pretty, but worthless girl.

Bethany served the tea, herbal this time with a little kick. God knew, she needed the energy shot.

Katherine sipped, smiled in approval. “Matron Lao, your talents have been understated.”

“Kat, why are you here?” Bethany asked with a bit of a blunt edge.

Kat lifted a perfectly groomed eyebrow. “I was hoping we could have straight talk.”

“It’s the only kind we prefer, Kat.”

Katherine laughed. “I had heard that.” She took another sip of the tea. “So straight talk it is.”

Bethany watched as Katherine’s entire demeanor changed. She sat a little straighter, her gaze became direct, and the shy serving girl routine fell away. It was a nearly breathtaking transformation and the hair on Bethany’s neck stood on end.

“You are about to invite a den of vipers into your home,” Katherine began. “This is a time of great peril for you, Kin Mother.”

Tonya laughed. “We’ve hosted more questionable people than I care to recount, dear. This cairn is one of the safest places on earth. I’m not concerned.”

“Then you are a fool.” Katherine’s words landed like a slap. Bethany watched Tonya recoil at the reprimand. Her fair skin flushed and her red headed temper was about to make an appearance.

“Kat, you listen to me. My husband…”

“Can do nothing about the war that’s about to waged in your borders.”

Bethany interrupted, “You think there will be an attack?”

“Of that, I have no doubt.” Kat replied. “But it will not be with guns, or klaives, or fists. It will be the systematic dismantling of your alliances with other kin folk. All of the sweat and tears you’ve spent to fuel kin allegiances to your cairn are going to be infected and eaten from the inside out by a malignant force that you don’t even see coming, and by the time you sense the danger, it will be too late.”

“Bullshit.” Tonya replied. “Our allies are like family to us.”

Kat gave a dismissive shrug. “Then I guess we are done here.” With military precision she removed the napkin from her lap and folded it to be left on the table.

Bethany leaned forward. “What do you know? And don’t give me any of your political double speak.”

Kat smiled. “Well, it is the language I’m best versed in, which is why I know that the alliance His Highness has hastily arraigned between the New North Country Proctorate and Thunderheart can really only go one of two ways.”

“And how is that?” Tonya demanded.

“In scenario one, they come here and quietly sow the seeds of discontentment amongst your kin even as your greet them as family with your elaborate meal plans and shows of solidarity. No one will actually hear a single shot fired, but I promise you this cairn will be a battle field. Old alliances will be renewed, old grudges brought to bear, and this will have real world consequence, not only to the kin, but to our Garou brothers. More critically, it will adversely affect His Highness. That can not be allowed.”

“And plan B?” Tonya asked.

“Plan B is where the North Country kin fall in behind His Highness’ banner, completely and without reservation. That their loyalty is so complete and abiding that there is no doubt that when His Highness must marshal forces, North Country will respond.” Katherine said.

“All of this assumes that the Garou will follow the lead of their kin, which we all know is crap.” Bethany commented.

Katherine’s eyes narrowed and critically studied Bethany for a moment. She felt like a bug under a microscope. “You are the wife to an elder in the Garou nation. You are mother to one of His Highness’ key advisors. You wield more influence than you could possibly know.”

“I am not manipulating my husband.”

“Nor do I suggest that. I understand that is not how things work here. But you can pave the way for your husband, and your son to focus on the true enemy out there. This is all within your power.”

Tonya interrupted. “Do you manipulate my son like that?”

Kat smiled, and for once it seemed genuine. “His Highness is particularly sensitive to such behavior. Therefore, I do not offend him that way. His Highness is a brilliant tactician, but his war has many fronts. It is incumbent on me, and on you, to insure that he is not distracted by petty things.”

“Do you even love him?”

Katherine sat back for a moment. “I do. But more importantly, I am a loyal soldier. Make no mistake, I will do whatever it takes to build his monarchy, so that when the time comes he is an unstoppable force of nature. I listen to his words, and I know without a doubt that the final battle is coming. If the Garou fall, we certainly will as well. This happy home you’ve built? Wiped off of the face of Gaia along with everyone you know and love. In that scenario, it would be a blessing to be killed first. But we know how the enemy likes to inflict the most damage possible, so it would be very likely you’d outlive your children. For a time, anyway.” Kat idly pressed the folds on her napkin and let her words sink in.

There was silence.

“What do you have in mind, Katherine?” Tonya asked.

“Let’s discuss your house guests in some depth, shall we?”
Bethany sat forward to pay close attention. The aches, pains, weariness, and doubt she’d been suffering for weeks fell away.

It was time to take action, for her family, for her cairn, for herself. Hell yeah she was all in.

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Unintended Consequence

The lightest touch of the late night summer breeze filtered through the open bedroom window bringing with it a brief moment of respite against the humid air. She stared at the ceiling and wished she would have turned on the air before turning in for the night. Of course, practical considerations had been the last thing on her mind when she’s tumbled into bed hours earlier. So now she forced herself to lay quietly and pretend that the causal arm draped across her midsection wasn’t a full on assault of body heat threatening to send her into heat stroke.

She listened to Trevor’s even breaths and counted the seconds between them. Even in sleep, he was steady, maybe even predictable. She loved that about him. Her life was chaotic, but he was a firm anchor, a safe harbour, a bit of sanity. Deciding to risk the movement, she slowly maneuvered her torso so that the heat of her lover’s arm would fall mercifully away. Rejoicing in finding a cooler spot beneath the sheets she slowly inched her way towards the edge of the bed.

“Where you going, Jenna?” His voice was sleepy, but she knew his mind was already sharply awake.

“You’re an inferno.” She gently pushed away.

“That was not a complaint earlier.” Trevor’s voice was wry and she couldn’t help but laugh. Jenna sat up in bed with the hopes of catching another breeze.

“What’s on your mind?” He asked.

“Nothing, just hot in here.”

“Hmm….” His tone of voice let her know that he understood she’d been awake for hours. Damn. He always knew.

Jenna sighed and weighed her options. She could pass her insomnia off as nothing, but Trevor was like a blood hound when it came to secrets. “I got a message tonight. He’s coming.”

Trevor sat up in bed, taking her hand. “When?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. His hand squeezed hers to the point that she nearly winced.

“You don’t have to do this,” Trevor said for what seemed to be the millionth time.

Jenna could feel the same old argument well up between them. “He’s not a bad guy.”

“Sounds like you like him.”

“You jealous?” she teased. But this time Trev wasn’t having it.

“I don’t care if that guy is the fucking Mother Teresa of the Garou nation, this is bullshit.” There was anger when he spoke. “We’re meant to be together. I love you.”

“I know. And you know you’re the love of my life.” Jenna replied. “Look, it’s a name only deal. He’s not interested in me, and I am most certainly not interested in him. It’s a political thing. That’s it. This won’t affect us.”

Trevor shook his head no, “Yeah, how could my woman marrying another man possible affect me?”

“It’s just politics!” Jenna protested. “And besides, I’ve met this kid, he’s a fucking idiot. If anything, I’m doing him a favour.”

“He’s a Falconhand.” Trevor countered.

“So what? I’m telling you Morgan doesn’t have a scheming bone in his body. I should know.”

“He’s a Falconhand. Look what happened to Katherine DuBois.” Trevor replied.

She stared out the window into the light of the waning moon. “I know.”

He touched her chin, turning her face towards his. “We could leave.”

“They’ll just find us.” Jenna lamented.

“Yeah.” He paused before he spoke again. “But maybe there is another way.”

“Doubtful,” she pouted.

“I’ve heard of a kin ceremony. The Garou don’t know a thing about it, but it protects people like us from their influence.”

Jenna laughed, “Sounds like a fairy tale.”

“It’s not. At least, I don’t think it is. Couldn’t hurt to look into it, right?” His voice was so full of hope that somehow they could extricate themselves from the machinations of their Garou brethren that rather than dash his dreams with the sharp laugh that welled in her throat she curled back into his arms. Even though the night was unseasonably warm, she felt a chill run through her spine for some reason that she couldn’t quite pin point.

“Can’t see how it would hurt at all.” Jenna finally agreed.

“Good.” Satisfied that he’d resolved the issue before them, Trevor quickly fell back into an easy sleep. Jenna listened to him breathe and counted the intervals until sun rise.

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The burdens of youth

The adults were here.

They would make the decisions.

They would fix everything.

She should have felt relieved. She should have felt a weight lift. She should have felt happy.
The opposite was true. She’d screwed up big time, and the consequences that were not apparent to her a few weeks ago were exposed starkly in the words of her mother, her father, and her elders. Even still, her pack stood up for her. They argued that the alliance as written was no big deal, that it had given the edge to New Hope.

New Hope needed every advantage it could get her pack reasoned even as the elders of Thunder heart shook their heads in abject amazement and clear disapproval.

She’d agreed with the pack just a short time ago. She’d been the first to say that the safety of the cairn was primary to all other concerns. New Hope had to survive through whatever means necessary. She’d ordered the pack into the alliance. She’d done this.
The raised voices became a confusing noise to her ears.

“It’s no big deal. Right, Whispy?….Whispy?” Jake interrupted her thoughts. He was expecting her to make a call, issue an order. After all, she’d made an admittedly ill-advised and yet highly effective stand against the alpha of their own pack, her own brother, the leader of the Garou. It was how she’d become the de-facto alpha and instantly famous. But that day she’d felt in the right and she had been strong and certain. Even though Alex was the better fighter, smarter, stronger, and was superior in every way, she’d known he could not defeat her that day. She’d been right.

But that was then.

“Hear them out.” Her response wasn’t even a whisper. She could feel all of them staring at her, but she didn’t want to be the center of attention. She wished they’d all quit looking to her. She wished she were invisible. After a beat, the argument continued as though she’d said nothing.

“You alright, Whisp?” Alex’s quiet voice cut beneath the din of a dozen voices debating the course forward. It hit harder than his fists had all those months ago when he’d stood toe to toe with her in the challenge ring. And damn, could he dish out a right hook. Her teeth were still loose in her jaw from the pounding she’d taken. Eating an apple was out of the question. She missed apples.

Whispers On the Wind stared at the barely dried and now thoroughly smudged finger paint her little sisters had painted on her nails a half hour before. They’d laughed, combed each other’s hair, and played with dolls. That had felt right. For a bit, she was a girl again. That was what she was, not some leader, not some warrior. Rather than answer Alex, she looked to the mother who barely acknowledged her and then to the father who had been forced to take her in. Neither of them gave her a glance as their attentions were focused on her brothers Jake and Moe. It was clear once again who the legitimate children were. No one much cared for bastards, after all.

She’d been expected to be an adult, a leader. But she was really just a girl with pink polish on her fingers and straggly braids made by her younger sisters in her hair. She’d failed them all, and now the elders had to pick up the mess.

She could feel the beast within her rise up, but this time it was just telling her to leave. They wouldn’t even notice. “Don’t say a word. Just slip out the door.” She followed its silent howl.

The adults were here.

They would make the decisions.

They would fix everything.

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Damned if you do....

A quick rap on the door signaled that it was two o’clock. Amelia looked up from her Inspiron 8600. Scarlett poked her head into the room, “Everyone is ready in conference room B.”

Amelia dismissed her with a quick gesture and snapped the laptop she’d been working at closed. Instead of rising to her feet, she turned her office chair to face the massive floor to ceiling office window that was a perk of being the CFO of an up and coming corporation. She wasn’t prone to sentimentality, but as she stared across the streets of Boston below her, she couldn’t help but feel a tug on her heart strings. This was her city. As cars ebbed and flowed with the changing of traffic lights, she couldn’t help but think it was like watching the pulse of the place she loved to call home.

It was amazing, when she thought about it. Three very green college kids had guided, nurtured, and healed a city filled deep with decay. Sure, there was still work to do, but the heavy lifting was done. And here she sat, overseeing it all. It was a dream fulfilled because she and her pack brothers were either too stubborn, or too stupid to understand the meaning of the word impossible.

Nothing was impossible.

She rose from her chair and lightly rested her palms against the glass. It felt pleasantly cool to the touch. A faint ring of condensation spread outward along her palms, fogging the window around her finger tips. It reminded her of when her children would drawing pictures in the frost of their farm house windows with their fingers during the depths of winter. She smiled, wondered how the three of them (four!) she forcefully corrected herself, were doing. The smile faded. The coolness against her hands that had been pleasant seconds before suddenly felt like an all-consuming chill. She stuffed her hands in her sensibly styled blazer pockets. She knew all too well the statistical probabilities for a Garou to ever reach age 25. Less than 50%. Survival to age 30 was far less than that. Amelia had a mind for numbers, and without even wanting to she ticked off their ages. Jake, 17. Grace and Brian 16. And soft hearted little Wispy, 13.

‘Jesus, she’s only 13.’

Amelia swallowed a lump in her throat. What kind of mother sent her child to war at age 13? What kind of mother sent a child to war at 17 for that matter? Sudden tears burned at the corners of her eyes and threatened to fall. She swallowed them back forcefully.

The war would not wait. That was a fact. She had done the best she could to give her children a sense of normalcy in the midst of a crazy world, but sooner or later there would be no choice. The Nation needed every soldier it could get, it didn’t much matter if they were children or not. Amelia resented that truth.

She was going to change that truth. It might not have been the way Johnny would go about it, and it certainly wouldn’t have been the way Morgan would approve, but by any means necessary it would happen. If she had to break the law for it to come to fruition, so be it. If they branded her a traitor, so be it. If it cost her the respect of her allies, the approval of her friends, or the love of her pack, so be it. If it cost her the relationship with her children, while it gutted her to think it might come to that, so be it.

Nothing was impossible.

She took a deep breath and straightened her jacket. It was time to go to work.

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The beast with in

As I sit here listening to my smug asshole ancestor teach me his language that died out over 3000 years ago, I cant help but think that things were easier when I was a younger Garou. We did not have the fore sight of wisdom to stop us from the impulsive indiscriminant slaying of the worm. We were not responsible for anything or anyone. The three of us gave in to our inner beast when it howled for its rage to be released so that it could slake its thirst for blood and gore. We were the incarnation of death and the worm shivered in fear as we slashed and burned huge swaths through its ranks.

Now we are crushed by the weight borne by the few older Garou our age. The weight of wisdom. The weight of responsibility. The weight of tutoring the next generations. The weight of protecting the our children ,and the king even if they do not think they need it. These are just a few of the loads the suffocate the beast with in me.

My students have recently reminded me of a rule I have drilled in to them for years. I may have allowed myself to become to comfortable with following the rules of man. I have come to realize that this is why we are losing to the one called number two. I am tired of being two steps behind this high priest of the worm. When I get done learning this dead language of the ancients I am going to follow my own teachings. I am going to change the rules and take the fight to him. He may not have to stay in one place for very long, but he is running a corporation. That corporation has rule in the land of man that they must follow or the corporation would not be able to exist. I will use these rules against them. The beings that do this work for him on this world have to have some where to work from. I am going to find that place. When I do my beast will once again run free and this number two like so many other agents of the worm shall quake in fear as I howl my challenge fueled by wrath and revulsion.

All I have to say to you now number two is run and hide, this old wolf will soon go on the hunt. You are the prey.

Johnny Lou
Elder and the last Star Gazer

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