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The Advent of Wolf TeamOmnes angeli, boni et Mali, ex virtute naturali habent potestatem transmutandi corpora nostra.
"All angels, good and bad, have the power to transmute our bodies."
I’d heard that once, back in Catholic Sunday school, what seems like lifetimes ago. It comes back to me now as I run, drifting through my mind like a miasma. The forest’s sparse this time of year, but thick with a low, cloying fog. My bestial snarls of exertion are echoed by the distant shouts of men barking orders. Getting closer.
Every breath tears like a saw at my chest, my blood is acid. Soon I’ll falter; my lunging gait will pitch and I’ll stumble, plunge into a scratchy cushion of late autumn leaves. They’ll catch me.
Lights up ahead, glimpsed between the bobbing trees at the forest’s edge. I slow, knowing this body has reached its limit. I have only minutes now, if I’m lucky. I stagger, step by agonizing step – and something surprising happens. My shoulders disengage and ease back. My ribs, which feel swollen beyond my chest, seem to retract.
Crashing out of the forest behind me, the soldiers reach the town a moment later. They scan the crowd, but it’s too late: I’ve already blended in with the citizens out for their nightly strolls.1. DISTURBANCE
In 1991, I was re-assigned to the 31st Ranger Battalion following a freak injury. Right around when it all started. Of course, back then, we didn’t know what ‘it’ was. But we each had our theories. Soldiers talk.
Reports claimed livestock had been slain with surprising savagery by unseen things in the night. When the first people turned up dead, mutilated beyond recognition, our investigations turned up caches of animal carcasses in the foothills… but no sign of whatever was responsible.
It was strange from the start: why call the military for a municipal (albeit gruesome) issue? We were all versed in the usual folklore – Area 51, Roswell, and the like – and though we should’ve known better, our imaginations got the best of us. Teams either came back with nothing to report, or didn’t come back at all. Just when my anxiety neared a climax, I received a summons from General Garrick.2. THE WOLF TEAM
They were calling it Wolf Team. That’s all I knew.
I was brought to a facility thirty miles away, my wrist sore from signing the stack of waivers and NDA’s they’d dropped in my lap. They escorted me to a briefing room filled with other brawny, tattooed soldiers like myself. The General said we were to become the vanguard in a new line of military research; a specialized team to neutralize this cryptic threat.
We crammed into a service elevator and descended. Below, white plaster halls branched out like an ant colony. We passed heavily-armed sentinels. Laboratories. Smock-clad men and women swarming around high-tech equipment. We all must’ve had the same questions, but we also had the same lumps stuck in our throats. The General led us to a surgical theater. That was where I first saw one: muscular torso, hair as coarse as fur, limbs straining against iron restraints; protracted jaw like a muzzle; huge, gnashing teeth dripping strings of saliva. It was seven feet tall if it was a foot.
It suddenly clicked: not every soldier who’d vanished had met a gruesome end. Some must’ve been routed here, under strict orders of silence. Pawns in some sick game.3. PRIDE
The General was vague about the nature of the mutation. That it was a mutation was all we were given. Though vicious, rabid, and unfathomably strong, they’d finally taken one alive. Now, our task was to contain the rest of them and preempt widespread panic.
It was to be an extinction. We were the reapers; the ones who’d introduce them to their cruel maker. The training was suitably intense. Every night I’d curl up, nursing tender skin, trying to suppress what I’d experienced. They were trying to elicit some reaction from us, though I didn’t know exactly what. Some progressed faster than others and were sectioned off into units called Prides. They’d return from field exercises like Viking warlords, gore smeared on their clothes or teeth.4. UNDER THE VEIL
I became ill, wretching in corners when no one was looking. Terrified of what would happen if my affliction was discovered, I scoured the facility for a remedy. With practiced deflections I skirted the inquisitions of guards and found my way into the labs, where all the equipment – even the reports – bore Paien Labs logos like postage.
Footsteps sounded in the hall, just as I picked one up titled Lycanthro-Primum. I pushed through an unmarked door, locked it behind me, turned with my heart beating in my throat… and stared.
There were rows of formerly human test subjects, buoyed like petrified sea creatures in amber liquid. I crept among the tubes that hung like spider webs, feeding them God knows what, noting the disturbing progression. The first creature was gaunt, twisted, exceedingly human; the last nearly identical to the creature from the surgical theater. Each had a tribal-style tattoo, much like mine.
I slumped to the floor. I don’t know how long I sat in that nightmarish room, reflecting on the perverted figures in their amniotic cylinders. But after a while, I opened the file.5. EVOLUTION
Several years earlier, the military had contracted Paien Labs to bio-engineer a super soldier by splicing genetic material recovered from the remains of a 20,000 year-old canis dirus – a Dire Wolf – into human DNA. Their first prototypes, Lycanthro-Primum, had the pack mentality, stamina, speed, and viciousness of wolves. But they were too animalistic to accept direction – a fact punctuated by their eventual escape from the facility. A second generation was created, with more humanity. Their first task would be to hunt down and kill the Primums before the blunder could be traced back to the military.
I stopped there. My placement, this summons, had been no accident. My tattoos… were they the consequences of some half-remembered drunken spree, or some kind of branding? Had my injury even happened? I pictured myself floating in amber while men in lab coats took notes. I remembered my blood-smeared comrades returning from Pride exercises, and wondered what was about to happen to me.
That first transformation was sudden, like the onset of some typhoid fever. A montage of thrashed equipment, dented metal, bullet-scored walls, bloodied lab coats. I woke up chained to a hospital bed. Half me, half something else. Sicker and weaker than I’d ever felt. A technician explained I’d need the Paien Serum to regain equilibrium. After sedation, I was injected. The last words I heard before my eyelids drooped closed were ‘Congratulations. Welcome to Pride.’6. FALLEN ANGELS
Perhaps that should’ve been that. But several months later, a member of Wolf Team managed to escape and hide among the human population.
See, the military miscalculated. Left us just human enough. They hadn’t known the new breed of Lycanthrope could change themselves back. Hadn’t known there was a ‘back’ without the serum. But Paien Labs knew: their serum was nothing more than a sedative mixed with an industrial-strength painkiller – meant to induce subversion and chemical dependence. A fact they’d carefully omitted when selling their bioware to the government. Then that first man escaped Wolf Team and discovered he was better off without it – and everything changed.
That man was me. William Kroll.
I learned a lot in the time that followed. How to control the metamorphosis, for instance. Regression was a bitch at first: the migraines, the melancholia, the manic depression. But as the drug cleared my system, it was replaced by a revelation, that the serum was just another subjugation tool. Over the years I found others like me, escapees – though most of our brothers remained prisoners in that secret facility. When our numbers grew strong and our anger grew bold, we decided it was time for a jailbreak.
Some of those we intended to liberate saw it our way – that Wolf Team had inadvertently sowed the seeds of revolt by giving their soldiers a brutal lesson in just how expendable and inhuman they were considered to be when they were sent after Primum. We were creatures, but we were also people – and few people appreciate being slaves. Others had a different perspective: that Wolf Team was top of the food chain; more than human and above human law. These, intoxicated by their strength, remained loyal to the General. Tried to stop us.
There was a ferocious melee. Violence more intense than the world is ready for. We were forced to retreat, but our pack had grown.7. RISE OF THE LYCAN
In 1692, a man testified under oath that he and other Werewolves were the hounds of God – warriors who were sent into the Devil's lair to battle his minions, so they couldn't drag innocents down to hell. Maybe that’s us. Maybe we’re all that stands between this new breed of soldier and a population powerless to stop them. Straddling the line between demon and angel.
We're out there, gathering, and we've kicked our dependency. Creatures that've outgrown their gods. They'll label us terrorists, describe us as monsters. Justify their hunt. And you'll listen. That's your prerogative; your validation doesn't matter to me. Because we're the only ones keeping them from absolute power over you. And we're ready for war.