Beast, page 9
Beck is irritated, and his voice rises. “When you’re on guard duty, you don’t leave your post, ever.”
Labyrinth opens his arms and splays his hands. “If you gotta go, you gotta go.”
“Then piss in your pants. People die when the guard doesn’t do his job and leaves his post.”
“Okay, boys,” I say straight-faced. Labyrinth is baiting Beck, and he’s been doing it more and more lately. “Why don’t you eat and take away the hangries.”
Two sets of eyes drill me in place. “Or not,” I squeak out on purpose and add a fake shiver for effect. King, of course, growls at the men over my shoulder for daring to meet my eyes. Sheesh, he’s bad.
They shake off their bickering and join us. Labyrinth winks at me when King isn’t looking, and Beck continues grumbling while he tells us what they found. “The tents hold supplies. We didn’t see additional weapons. Our biggest problem is a hundred more hellhounds came in today, and the containers are full. The guards change every five hours, but the men are lax.”
Labyrinth picks up the stick King left behind earlier and draws the boxes again. “It’s a simple slide bar that keeps the hounds inside. With the other cars full, we’ll need two beams, one won’t hold all four containers, and if they get even one of the containers open, we’re in trouble.” He looks at Beck before breaking the other news.
Beck’s gaze settles on King for a split second. “They’re using whistles of some sort. It’s sound frequency controlling the hellhounds. We heard the slight buzz the closer they came to where we were hiding. It’s irritating, but it doesn’t affect us.”
A small spark of memory ignites. “Do you think they’ve been playing with sound waves? That’s what they hit us with when we were trying to leave Washington.”
Beck nods. “Whatever it is, they’ve figured it out. The hounds avoid the whistles.”
King finally joins the conversation. “My uncle told me the government tried dog whistles at the beginning of the war, and they had no effect.”
Beck shrugs. “Whatever they’re using now works, and we need to get our hands on one of those babies.”
The meeting breaks up, and we all need shut-eye. King has first watch so I’m alone. Well, not alone. Beck and Labyrinth are snoring, and Axel and Garret are talking in low voices. Even my Warrior ears can’t make out what they’re saying. I pull my rifle close to one side and my sword close to the other. A few hours from now, they will be ready to play, and I want to be rested.
I sleep until King wakes me.
“We leave in fifteen,” he says above me.
I don’t grumble or make any snide comments; I want to get this over with. K-5 sparks through me, and I allow Ms. Beast to send a little more. We’re going to need it.
The streets are dark and quiet as we make our way to the Federation camp. The men leave me at the building King and I found earlier. I haven’t told King, but I’m shifting as soon as I’m in place. I can’t afford to miss a shot using my claws. I find my spot and set up the rifle. It’s not actually a sniper rifle, but this baby will do the trick.
My shift is flawless. In the beginning, Ms. Beast fought me, but now we’ve established who’s boss and we work as one unit, most of the time. Her forte is killing so she doesn’t mind my human side as long as we’re on the same page. My skin prickles with the last of my shift, and I stretch my shoulders. Using a hair tie that survived during my transformation, I capture my unruly mop of hair and tie it back. Nothing worse than hair in the face when you’re taking a shot. Then I add the boots. I lovingly lift them from my pack and pull them on. After a gentle caress to the leather, I pick up the AK and bring my leg up for stability. Yeah, I can’t help admiring my sexy booted feet. I rest my elbow on my knee and peer out the scope. Using the marks on the reticle to establish the linear measurement to the Federation camp, I calculate my distance. The AK has a range of 330 yards, and I’m well within reach.
I bring the scope to my eye and sweep the area near where I know King and the men are heading in. I spot them a few seconds later and follow their movement as they approach the camp. King’s powerful muscles eat up the distance quickly. He’s carrying a beam with Labyrinth. Beck is holding one with Axel. They’re moving at a fast trot, and I can’t take my eyes from King. Watching him move increases my excitement. I say a quick prayer that he’ll be okay and that I keep the men safe.
Movement from the corner of my eye has me subtly moving the scope. It’s a sentry. I follow his progress as he moves closer to King and his men. Another movement catches my eye. It’s Garret. With a lethal strike, he takes the guard out with his knife. He’s quick, and I feel better knowing he can handle himself.
Running the scope over the entire camp, I look for the placement of the remaining guards. I spot one, but the other eludes me. I keep my breathing slow and steady, ready for what comes next. I’m aware that many of the Federation soldiers were commandeered against their will. There is nothing the Federation could threaten me with to get me to kill children, and I refuse to have any guilt over these men’s deaths. If they would have captured the men and women of the outpost and taken them away, we would have followed. We wouldn’t have annihilated their unit. Now they’ve left us no choice, and I feel no guilt over their pending deaths.
Another flash to my left and I spot Garret going after the second guard. He’s good and quietly assists the dead man to the ground. I almost think we’re in the clear when a shot fires at King and the men when they reach the metal shipping containers. I don’t spot the shooter until another muzzle flash. After a small inhale, I take him out. King drop the beam in place then runs for the edge of the makeshift barracks. I don’t hesitate to take out two men running from the building. King reaches the door, staying against the thin aluminum siding. A bullet can go straight through the steel, and I’m not happy with King’s choice of locations. Another set of doors is thrown open from a building to the right of the Warriors, and gunfire erupts. It’s what the men in the building nearest King were waiting for, and they pile out together shooting at air. I take out two more before King and the Warriors attack.
With my heart in my stomach, I turn and check the remainder of the camp again. Two men have Garret between them. He appears unconscious, and they’re dragging him. My bullet takes one in the head and Garret falls. The other man tries to run, but my next bullet takes him in the middle of his back, and he’s down. Garret isn’t moving, and I know I need to get to him. I start running for the stairs with my rifle over my shoulder and sword on my hip. No way am I shifting and ruining the Doc Martens, and there’s no time to get them off. If Garret isn’t dead, I’m his only hope.
I run through the debris-filled street heading north in order to come in away from King’s location. Garret was about halfway between the north entrance and the metal barracks. If King can manage to take out the soldiers where he’s at, we’ll be okay.
I enter the camp clinging to side buildings. I spot Garret where he dropped. I circle slightly around looking for additional soldiers. There are still shots being fired from King’s direction though I can’t see what’s going on. I run in quickly for Garret. A bullet whips past my head, and I duck behind a half-demolished vehicle and remove a handgun from one of the leather straps on my chest. I’m about to peek out when a noise has me turning.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here, boys.” Crap. I would know that voice anywhere. General Smythe. Fury boils over and it takes everything I have not to shift. Ms. Beasts rages kill, kill, kill inside my head, and it almost ends what little control I have. A red haze fills my vision.
Smythe has no idea I’m Shadow Warrior or that I have the upper hand. At least this is what I tell myself. It’s four against one and even if I wanted to shift and eat the mushy parts of their faces, it’s not a wise move. King is right—a bullet will stop me. I drop the gun and slowly raise my arms, making no sudden moves.
Where the heck is King?
I’m not expecti
Tilting my head slightly, I spit out blood and give him the best sneer I can manage. He steps on a chunk of my tied back hair to keep me down. My eyes travel to Garret, and his hand moves slightly. He isn’t dead, and I’m able to breathe easier. His fingers are moving closer to his knife. I need to keep Smythe and his men’s attention on me.
“There are nearly two hundred Warriors reigning down on your head right now.”
Smythe bends lower, my hair still trapped, and speaks quietly in my ear while running his finger down my cheek. “You’re a liar, little miss defense secretary. You’re a traitor to your country and the punishment for treason is death.” He rises to his full height and points his gun at my head again. I only have a split second to see Garret take hold of his knife. I grab the barrel of the rifle and rip it from Smythe’s hands as I propel myself up from the ground. Using the barrel, I plow the butt into Smythe’s face, and he goes down.
A gun fires, and the bullet almost takes off my ear. I’m still turning with the rifle, and I use the stock on the next guy, mid-stomach. Before I complete the circle, I have my sword in hand. Garret is on the ground rolling with one of the soldiers and the other, staring at me in horror, is trying to decide what to do.
I look him straight in the eyes. “Run,” I say before shifting. His scream is music to my ears. Ms. Beast explodes and before the man takes two steps, I grab him. My teeth sink into the back of his neck. Pushing my hand against his back, I rip his spinal column out, spraying blood everywhere. He slumps to the ground, but I’m already moving to Garret. With a swipe of my arm, I take the guy on him through the throat with my claws. His gurgle is short. I kick him away and bend down next to Garret. His shirt front is covered in blood.
“Where are you hit,” I ask while ripping his shirt and trying to find the injury.
“Chest, knife, deep,” he wheezes.
I find two puncture wounds and tear his shirt completely off, ripping it in half. I use it to press down on the wounds. There’s an extra strap on my chest made just for this purpose, and I’m finally happy for all the times King made me buckle and unbuckle the leather in Beast form. “I’m getting you out of here. Stay with me, okay?” I remove the strap and circle it around his chest.
He coughs. I hear the raspy rattle in his lungs, and I know it isn’t good. “I’m not going anywhere,” he groans. I glance over at Smythe who’s still breathing. We need him alive. I’ll get Garret away and come back for him. I adjust my weapons and lift Garret in a fireman’s carry. Before running north, away from my mate, my foot connects with Smythe’s head so he stays down.
“Marinah.” It’s so faint I barely hear it. “You need to let me go. Leave me here and help King.”
I keep running. The best location is the one I came from, and it’s also where King knows to look for me. When I ran this way earlier, I was in human form and didn’t even realize I hadn’t shifted. Now I feel the power of my legs as I jump seven-foot cement walls with Garret in my arms.
Sporadic gunfire is still coming from the camp. “Go to your mate,” Garret grinds out.
“Oh, shut up, you whiny baby. You are responsible for the loss of my Doc Martens and if you die on me, I’m chasing you into hell to get my revenge.”
He’s unconscious by the time I make it to the building with my rooftop sniper position. I take the stairs four at a time. Gently laying Garret down, I check the bleeding. There’s too much blood, and I tighten the strap around his chest. His wheezing is getting worse. After I’ve done everything I can, I lift the rifle and align the scope.
King and his men are pinned behind one of the buildings. I wait for the next muzzle flash and fire. A man falls but I see another flash and fire again. Running my scope across the camp, I can’t locate movement until Labyrinth’s head comes out for a split second. No gunfire.
The Warriors leave their cover and move farther into the camp. I know they’re looking for Garret. I follow them with the scope until they come across where Garret went down. No Smythe. If there was ever a time to swear, this is it. The look on King’s face doesn’t comfort me either. He picks up one of my poor, shredded boots and shakes his head.
He barks something at Labyrinth, and I can’t read his jaws so I’m in the dark. It’s probably better I don’t know what he said. A noise from Garret has me lowering the scope and bending down beside him. I check his pulse. It’s faint.
“Can’t breathe,” he rasps.
“I’ll get Axel here.”
He moans before speaking, “No time. Tell him it would have been great.” He opens his eyes. “Please tell him.”
I put my clawed hand beneath his head and lift it slightly. “Hold on. I’m in trouble for rescuing you, and the only hope I have of surviving King’s wrath is you alive.”
His eyes roll back in his head, and he’s out. I replay his words, and it finally adds up. This is the reason Axel doesn’t set off King’s mating rage. And my mate knows it; he just didn’t feel like sharing this info. I feel like an idiot.
I lift my rifle again and get back to saving Garret. Axel needs a mate. I find King and fire a shot above their heads. They look up, and I fire another so they see my muzzle flash. They won’t be going after Smythe now, but Garret’s life is more important.
The Warriors understand my message, and King charges back the way they came, heading straight for me.
“Hurry,” I whisper.
I tear into the building where we left Marinah and race up the stairs. I smell blood the last two flights. She’s leaning over Garret when I get to the roof.
“He’s been stabbed twice in the chest, and he’s barely breathing,” she says before I get to her.
I literally lift her and move her away from the injured man even though Beast isn’t causing trouble right now. Even if for only a second, I needed to feel her in my arms.
“King,” she snaps and struggles away. “He’s injured, and we need Axel.”
“He’s a minute behind me; they’re coming up the stairs now.” I bend down and loosen the strap holding the bloody material covering Garret’s wounds. They’re deep. Marinah hands me a shirt from her bag, and I stuff it beneath the strap when I tighten it again. Garret’s face is going blue.
Axel runs onto the roof followed by Labyrinth and Beck. He drops to his knees beside Garret and removes his medical bag from his pack. Tearing our handy bandaging away, he removes a long metal tube from his medical supplies and rolls Garret to his side. Marinah jumps when he slices deep with his knife then jams the tube into Garret’s chest. The sound of air leaving the tube is synonymous with Garret sucking in oxygen. Axel injects Garret with something then examines the knife wounds more closely.
I turn my gaze to my angry mate. “Why did you shift to human?” I grind out.
Her Warrior form darkens as blood rushes up her neck into her face. “I didn’t want to shoot with claws,” she says, a stubborn set to her jaws that isn’t helping my temper.
“You couldn’t have told me this before I left you?” I’m losing it and clench my fists, ready for this fight. She’s a Warrior, and she needs to remember that. Always.
“You’re right.” She holds up her hands. “I’m not arguing with you right now. Garret is still alive, and he wouldn’t be if I stayed here.”
I take a step closer. She doesn’t back down and moves in closer to me. I point over my shoulder. “You went into the Federation camp as human. That was stupid and irresponsible.”
Her eyes burn. “Now you’re calling me stupid?” she growls.
I look down at her giant, bare feet with shredded pieces of black leather clinging to the claws and slowly bring my head up. “If the boot fits.”
“He’s seizing,” Axel shouts and breaks the tension. Marinah goes into action and drops beside Garret.
“What do you need me to do?” she asks.
Axel’s expression is something I’ve never seen before. His eyes shoot around, looking for an answer to save Garret. He’s terrified.
“Grab whatever you can to keep him from biting off his tongue.”
I pick up Axel’s pack and locate a length of thick rubber tubing and toss it to Marinah. She tries to pry Garret’s mouth open, but it’s not working with her claws. I bend over to help and between the two of us, we get the tubing between his teeth.
“Hold it there,” says Axel. His desperate eyes meet mine, and the realization of what I’m seeing is finally clear. “He’s lost too much blood,” he says with such loss in his eyes.
“No,” grinds out Marinah. “He’s not dying. You told me water can help. I remember you saying that.”
The seizure ends, and Axel gets to work setting up an IV. Marinah looks up at me. “I had Smythe in my hands. He got away.”
Now she tells me. I turn to Beck and Labyrinth. “Go get Smythe, alive if possible.”
They disappear from the roof.
“He needs blood. Clear fluid won’t do it.” Axel establishes the IV anyway and sits back. “Warrior blood will kill him.”
“You’re sure?” asks Marinah.
Axel takes Garret’s hand and holds it. Garret’s breathing grows shallow again. Marinah places her hand on Axel’s shoulder. “You haven’t tried mine. Female Warrior blood could make a difference.”
Axel shakes his head. “It will kill him instantly.”
Marinah looks at me. “We can’t let him die.”
There’s nothing I can say that will make this easier for her. She risked her life for nothing, and anger rushes through me again. I turn away and do everything I can to gain control.