Phase 1, Chapter 7.
It was hot, dry, the air outsite of the armoured transport filled with dust as the convoy rolled through the poorly maintained streets. The shaded eyepro lenses which covered the wolf's black muzzle did little to stop the blaring sunlight as he was bounced roughly within the cockpit for his vehicles fifty caliber machinegun. The rotatable platform did little to offer any sort of shade, and Kalevar found himself cursing his dark coloured fur. The UV rays permeated the scarf he had wrapped around his face and neck, sinking through his uniform to heat the full battle-rattle like an oven around his chest. It was supposed to be just another routine patrol from the forward operating base to a smaller comm outpost, nothing unusual. The men inside the vehicle were chatting idly with one another, some laughing, others complaining. The enviornment was what you made of it at this rate, and for Kalevar, what he made of it was a strong sense of paranoia. Perhaps it was because he was on his first tour, the youngest in their echelon. Perhaps it was because, thanks to his lack of seniority, he was manning a weapon capable of shredding a person into mincemeat in a matter of moments. Whatever the justification, the wolf could feel nothing but the tense binding of his muscles as the transport jolted along the windy paths...
Minutes passed, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.. The heat and the lull of the scenario began to lure the canine into a haze... How long they drove, he couldn't say. Every part of the adobe and plastered brick started to look exactly the same as every other building or wall, every other run down hovel. So much so that he was genuinely confused when the driver abruptly slammed to a halt, jerking Kalevar rudely into the world of the living as his body was thrown against the side of the cubby-hole in which he stood.
"What's going on? Why are we stopping?"
"The route is blocked off, look! The fuck are all those vehicles doing there?"
The driver leaned out the window of the transport to point towards a line of old, dirty cars which were the only modern transportation used by the people of these cities. Kalevar's ears perked, his heart beginning to race for some reason as he turned the mounted turret to face the obstruction. There was no movement, but something about this didn't seem right. A voice from below came sharply up from underneath his vantage point.
"Yo, are we fucking there or something?"
"No man, there's a bunch of cars in the way."
"Cars! Fucking cars, all over where the driver says we need to go!"
"Oh, fuck, no no! You idiots, start driving, start driving now!"
"Just fucking MOVE! Trust me!!"
Before he could ask where exactly they were supposed to be moving to, a trail of smoke streaked past the corner of his vision. His inner thoughts instinctively understood, but all coherancy was lost as the RPG exploded against the side of the vehicle. The impact shook the entire frame, sending the wolven soldier hurtling out of his post at the vehicle's gun with his helmet flying off into empty space. Surrounded by dust and smoke, ears ringing and vision filled with spots, Kalevar became acutely aware of his own pulse as the world went narrow. There was a burst of screeching tires as he reached to unsling his M4 from around his shoulders, scrambling to his feet only to be knocked to the dirt once again as he was clipped by the vehicle which had been behind him as the remainder of the convoy attempted to speed through the blockade. Heavy weapons fire filled the air, the bursts from the second and third transport's turrets creating a steady stream of sound, so much that the wolf would not have been surprised if his sensitive ears had burst. Moving through the haze, Kalevar tucked the butt of his weapon into his chest, grippng it close with his paw while reaching blindly outwards with his left to keep himself from walking into the side of the vehicle. A strong pair of paws suddenly gripped his shoulders and lifted him away from the ground.
"You okay, kid? You hurt? We saw your vehicle get tagged, and.. Well.. Not to sound like I don't have faith in you, but I'd thought for sure you'd be long gone."
Kale recognized the voice of Sergeant Hope, a border collie of brown and white. He was a good NCO, concerned and involved with his troops, and had taken the nineteen year old wolf under his mentorship as soon as Kale had arrived. Thankful to know that he was now inside of a vehicle and out of exposure from the torrent of lead raining down outside, Kalevar waited until the pounding in his ears had faded away before trying to speak. Hope was a tough as nails fighter and a fair leader, but despite all this Kale's intuitive nature had easily sensed the fear in the collie's words. At this age, the wolf had not realized he was psionic, nor would he have recognized the term... But his empathetic abilities were already strong even in their untrained state. Clearing the dust from his throat, he tried his best to put up a hard front.
"I'm fine, Sir.. It was a hell of a trip, but nothing too rough."
"Glad to hear it, soldier.. Lets get these people home."
Shoulder to shoulder, the two canine troops ducked out of the vehicle and pushed through the debris. Sprinting to the nearest building, the two proceeded to sweep the rooms. In coordinated motions, Kalevar would duck while starting at the right side, Hope bringing his weapon overtop of the other canine leading towards the left as they moved into positions. Twice they engaged hostiles, each occurance beginning with a loud bark of 'contact left!', and ending with a lightning response of 'contact down.' The aim of the two soldiers was deadly, leaving only bodies behind them until their hindpaws again found the dust of the streets. Kale took up a defensive position as Hope raised his off paw to activate his comm.
"CC, this is ravager seven. Area appears to be clean."
"Copy that, ravager seven. We have visual on your position. How is number two holding up?"
"Better than I would have at his age. The way he moves, sometimes I swear he somehow knows where things are."
"On your six! Looks like ravager two has movement. Ravager two, do you read? Update status."
"Ravager two to combat control, it.. I think it's a cub."
"It's a kid! ... It.. It's..."
"You're cutting out, ravager two. It's what? Report."
"They've.. rigged a grenade to him, sir. He's advancing. I can't shoot him, can I? That can't be allowed.."
"Negative, ravager two, you are weapons free."
"W-what?! You can't be serious! He can't be older than four!"
"You are weapons free, ravager two. Call the shot at your own liberty."
Wide, green eyes filled with panic turned sharply to look towards their Sergeant. The collie had already raised his rifle, a pained expression on his face. Kalevar watched in horror, turning again to face the wobbly-kneed cub as it padded towards them, gibbering in a language he couldn't understand. Something in his core told him that the child wanted help, that the enemy had sacrificed and used this poor soul for entirely selfish reasons. Shaking his head, he lowered his weapon helplessly, trying to back away so as to prolong the time before the anti personnel device came within threatening range.
_ "Sergeant, this can't be legit!" _
_ "How can that be the case? Who would do this?!" _
"They would. They're banking on our culture's love of children to keep us from defending ourselves. It's a psychological attack as much as it is physical."
_ "Well it's fucking working! We've gotta be able to save that kid!" _
"Believe me when I say I've tried before. I lost three men because I wasn't willing to pull the trigger.... It wont happen again. If that kid so much as trips, that grenade will cook and we're all about to meet whoever we call God."
_ "Hope, wait, you can't!" _
A shot rang out into the evening, and an explosion rocked the earth. Covering his head with his arms, Kale tucked against the walls at his flank with tears beginning to pool in his emerald optics. Hidden behind his shades, the tears began pour over his fur as he felt the powerful paws of his mentor beginning to guide him down the alleyway.
"This is who we are, Savantes.. These are the pains we must endure. We face these obstacles so that others may not have to, and we cannot be selfish. Ask yourself, what life would that child have lead here? Raised in a society of terrorists and thieves, men who would rig him with explosives in the mere hope of killing a handful of us? Death is not always a punishment... You must never deprive someone of their honest judgement, simply to save yourself the pain of making a difficult decision. Sometimes there will be guilt, but you must face it, carry it always. Our paws stain with blood so that a thousand others may live in peace. Remember that."
Hope's voice faded away as the images of sand and adobe began to merge, his final lines drifting on the strings of eternity as Kalevar was drawn between the worlds of sleep and consciousness... Softly, veridian eyes fluttered open, a low groan escaping his lungs as the realization of being awake washed fully over him. Nomatter how many times he relived his deployments, they never seemed any less real... Distracted by this fact, Kalevar failed to notice the lack of pain in his limbs as he instinctively rolled a bit to one side, only to come face to face with the same pair of ocean blue eyes that had watched him fall asleep. A light smile crept across the doe's face where she lay watching him, their noses practically touching after Kale had rolled. Offhandedly she was toying with her hair, curling the dark strands between her fingers while the other paw remained hidden beneath the blankets.
Giggling, Hannah leaned in and kissed him on the nose, obviously entertained as he blinked several times in response and remained lost in silence. Without properly responding, Kale abruptly sat up, tossing the covers in order to look at his body. The patches where he had been burnt over his legs were still missing their fur, but the burns themselves were gone. His chest felt whole again, the graze on his shoulder had closed. Any open wounds had shut themselves entirely. Looking back to the doe still curled beneath her blankets, the wildcat felt his jaw open to speak, but couldn't seem to find any words.
"Cat got your tongue, hun?"
"... Actually.. I think a doe has it."
"Mm.. I wish, sugar. But why that face?"
"What happened to me?"
"I got a friend to.. fix you up."
"Well it's certainly quite a 'fixing'.."
"Didn't you wonder why I came after you in the first place, in the club?"
".. I don't follow."
"Why did I decide to talk to you, Kain.. For all the times I spend there and keep to myself, why would I decide to open up to you."
"To be fair, I had no knowledge of your social habits."
"Fine. Point being, I knew you were... different. Different like us. I can feel it in your aura, you're psionic."
".... You're a psion?"
"Not exactly, but.. I'm different, like you."
"And the government hasn't found you yet? You're not part of a program?"
"Of course not. Why do you think I live in such a ghetto?"
"I thought your powers could only surface with the proper genetic catalysts... Medicines, cell splices.."
"That's just what they want you to think, sugar.."
Kalevar stared dumbfoundedly at the female as she rolled casually onto her back, arching upwards in a stretch for a moment before snuggling down against the pillows. She obviously had no intention of going anywhere for a while, and the way she grinned over at him and patted the bed probably meant that he wasn't going anywhere either. Laying his head back down, he couldn't help but smile as Hannah cuddled up to his warm frame. Running his paws through her hair, he again felt a deep rumble somewhere in his chest for the second time since being a cat.