Fall 2207, New Florida Territory
“Zina McFay stared at the giant, almost-impenetrable research lab. Here the humans and some traitorous Weres had gathered under the banner of “mutual scientific advancement” to find a way to either suppress or eradicate the genes that made Weres so special. She ran her fingers through her bobbed, blond hair and pondered more ways to make the Were traitors pay for their part in this mockery of science. She scented the night air. It had the familiar bite of approaching winter to it. It was chilly out but not cold enough to form snow. She curled her lips in disgust as the smells of death and rage permeated the air. Zina hated humans and their disgusting human ways. Their callous disregard for lives not their own. Just the thought of humans made her stomach roil. Since the beginning of time humans had been taking, pillaging and destroying everything that came in contact with them. Her people had been no exception.
“You need to control yourself.” Stefan McJeysen’s brown-eyed stare collided with Zina’s in a momentary battle of wills before Stefan looked away. His shaggy, dirty blond hair fell forward to shield his gaze.
“I don’t have to follow anything you say or suggest. Or have you forgotten, Stefan, that you don’t even have the rank of Beta anymore?” Her voice held a hint of barely leashed violence.
“Of course not, my Alpha. I have not forgotten nor did I mean any disrespect.”
She watched him, aware of his insolence, but chose to let it slide. Other things were more important, such as the Sevicorps building before them that was manufacturing the experimental Were-suppressant drug that promised to eradicate the “Were problem.” She could not, would not allow it to happen. Weres had rights and come hell or high water, those rights would be kept and maintained.
“The troops are in position, my Alpha.”
The messenger’s words brought Zina’s thoughts back to the task at hand. She growled happily. “Let’s go! Kill any who get in your way, no matter what age or gender!”
Ignoring Stefan’s look of shock, Zina slipped by him and headed for the field her troops were charging. Unlike Stefan, they eagerly welcomed bloodshed. Killing humans excited and ignited were-hunger and bloodlust. Both emotions were all consuming, almost living, breathing things that could topple governments and decimate enemies.
“We are ready, our Alpha!” The group shook claws and paws in the air.
“Death to those who oppose our will!” Zina roared.
The assembled Weres gave voice to their bloodlust and malice making the very air reverberate with the weight of it. The group charged the building, shifting mid-run to their various Were forms. Felines, wolves, equines and even avian animals came at the human guards barring the way to the building’s entrance. The Weres in the lead smashed into the electric fence, screeching and yowling their intent as several lost their lives. An audible pop and crack signaled the eminent end of the gate. Howls of triumph filled the yard as a thunderous boom shook the ground and the energy barrier died. Belatedly alarms blared, but the Weres paid no heed, swarming over the top of the fence and attacking the guards.
“My Alpha, the males have the scent of Dr. Le Croix and are tracking him now. The females have distracted the remaining guards and mercenaries with their…feminine charms.” Stefan stood to Zina’s right, his eyes on the fighting below. He kept about five feet of distance between himself and the volatile female Alpha.
“I want Le Croix, his wife and their brat brought to me. Challenges to my authority and the established order of Were society will not be tolerated.”
“Yes, my Alpha.” Stefan bowed and swiftly left to deliver her instructions.
Fifteen minutes after it had begun, the assault on Sevicorps had slowed. Triumphant shouts reached Zina’s ears and she watched the progression of a group of felines as they herded a man, woman and child to the spot where Zina stood. The small family was unceremoniously pushed to the ground in front of her feet, making Zina smile. A malicious glint filled her eyes.
“Should have known it was you, Zina! Still striving to destroy things you can’t control?”
Zina laughed at the man. “Now, Henry, there’s no need to get your fur knotted. You, of all people, should realize that your union, and the resulting abomination it spawned, would not be accepted by the clans. Nor is your research on ways to get rid of our very essence being embraced. Face it, Henry, you are twice the fool!” She licked her lips and eyed him. Henry was a gorgeous specimen of what could go right in a Were. Giant, powerful 6-feet-2 inch frame, with piercing blue eyes that made a female think of wanton moments. Such a waste.
Henry glared at her. She calmly stared at him, her light blue eyes shining with cruelty there.
“Our child is not an abomination!” the diminutive redhead snapped, hugging the frightened little girl closer to her body. The child trembled, glancing back and forth among the three adults.
Stefan arrived in time to hear the woman‘s defense of her child. “Oh do get over yourself, Helena. Just because you chose to whore yourself to the Le Croix clan does not give you the right to pretend your union to Henry is pure. There is a reason why we do not mix tribes.”
“Love does not recognize imposed boundaries. We’re happy and content. Why can’t you respect that and leave us be?” Helena implored.
Henry shifted closer to Helena and took his trembling daughter into his arms. “It’ll be all right, Laylah,” he murmured. Helena’s mind touched his and she whispered the plan to him along their private mental path. He knew the plan was flawed and reached to grab her hand, but she was in motion, shifting into her were-panther form and charging a startled Zina. “No!”
::Save our child, Henry!:: Helena’s claws scored a hit, ripping Zina’s clothes and leaving deep gouge marks on her chest. Helena was going to save her husband and child, not fearing the death she knew would follow. ::Don’t let her forget me and how much I love her. Now run, my husband. Run!:: She yowled and swiped at Stefan who had joined the fray.
Shaken free from his horror, Henry scooped up Laylah and ran by the disbelieving Weres. Laylah’s wails filled the air for a few minutes before his warning growl silenced her. He continued to run hard for several minutes, waiting until the cries of their pursuers grew faint. He stumbled when pain lanced his soul and mind. Helena was dead. He stopped, threw back his head and screamed his agony and grief to the heavens.
Laylah cried loudly and clung to his shirt. “Mommy! Mommy!”
Henry closed his mouth. Tears ran down his face as he looked at the top of his daughter’s curly auburn hair. He shut away his pain and started to sing a lullaby to calm Laylah. He ran again, his mind on one thing--making Zina and all the others pay. Oh, yes, they would pay.