The nurse wheeled me out of the hospital, explaining all the while that I wasn't to over exert myself. My arm, while useable, was still injured and could break again if I strained myself. I wasn't supposed to drive, lift anything more than ten pounds, and if I wanted to walk anywhere I was supposed to use the set of crutches I had been given.
The highway we take home is normally busy all day but we hardly pass anyone as we start the drive home. I guess it's just a slow day, but before long we find a military checkpoint.
A dozen soldiers and a pair of M1 Abrams tanks are stationed on the highway. A line of cars on either side of the road are being checked two or three at a time.
"Why the hell, would they put up a checkpoint here?" I ask.
Uncle John gives me a look like I'm missing something obvious, "The mall was the first time in years that monsters have appeared in an urban area. The military is searching for something that might have caused the attack."
"So what? They think a demon is going to drive into town?" I ask, sarcastic now.
"That's exactly what they think. Do you remember what I told you about that imp that tried to escape the lab?"
"Ya, I remember. But making itself look like a lab tech to escape is a lot different than driving around town, I mean wouldn't bodies be piling up if a demon was on the loose."
"Demons are different from monsters Zame, they're more intelligent, and it is quite possible one may be trying to blend in with the human population," Uncle John responds.
As we inch closer to the checkpoint I start to pick out the ranks of men on duty. Mostly new recruits, a sergeant seems to be running things, sending the privates to check cars in teams of two. It looks like business as usual until I spot a pair of soldiers wearing the black plated armor of S.W.O.R.D.'s special operations unit.
The armor was expensive; every suit costs several thousands of dollars. Starting with a wetsuit made of polymerized Kevlar, titanium plates are attached to vital areas. The metal blackened and its shape varies depending on the soldier, while each suit starts the same it can be upgraded and modified constantly by its owner. Some have simple upgrades, extra thick plating and such, others opt for more technological oriented upgrades, optics or in a few cases weapons that were worked into the armor itself.
Uncle John helped develop some of the equipment, most importantly the detection software that tracks monsters. Just about everything from beyond the rifts is mildly radioactive; and by tracking the unique signature of the rifts we can track monsters rather easily. Unfortunately the detection software isn't as specific as we'd like; a strong signal far away seems the same as a weak signal up close and the strength varies on a half dozen factors, how long the monster has been in our world, the size of the creature, and so on.
These two officers were prime examples of how different the armor could be. The first is big, built like a linebacker; the plating of his armor is easily over an inch thick, but cut to allow him a full range of movement. He's carrying a M249 machine gun and an axe; and when I say axe, I don't mean for chopping wood, I mean axe the size of a car tire with a four foot handle. The second soldier has a slighter build, and with a half dozen small hilts sticking out from between the plates on his armor speed and precision over raw power. I can also spot the familiar silhouette of a M40 sniper rifle strapped to his back and a pair of pistols holstered at his waist.
After the rifts had opened soldiers were trained with melee weapons. Most monsters like to get in close, after numerous friendly fire incidents a sword or axe became standard issue to all military personnel.
Reaching the front of the line a pair of soldiers approach Uncle John's window, one carrying a small mirror in hand. The soldier gives Uncle John a once over with the mirror, paying particular attention to his eyes and teeth. As one scans and verifies Uncle John's ID the other starts asking questions.
As I watch and I'm startled by a sharp tap on my window. When I turn I'm surprised to see the larger of the two armored soldiers.
When I roll down the window, the officer begins speaking, "I thought I recognized you, you're that boy we found in the mall."
"You found me? I was told an officer brought me out but I didn't expect a member of S.W.O.R.D."
"Carried you out myself, you were covered in blood head to foot, glad to see you made it," he says.
"Thank you," I can't think of something else to say and sit staring at him. He looks giant in all the armor but up close, seeing his face, he couldn't be much older than me.
"Anytime, I never thought I'd see the day someone would take down a werewolf with only his fists," he chuckles a bit, "you ever think about signing up with us, we could use a guy like you?"
"I have, but I was planning on working at the research station with my Uncle."
He looks over at Uncle John who is still talking with one of the soldiers, "Well I guess that's almost as good, you find more ways to kill em and my brother and I will try them out. If your ever on the base drop by, just ask around for the Balewood brothers."
"Sure," I doubt I'll ever be on the base, they stopped letting nonmilitary personnel onto the base when S.W.O.R.D. moved in.
"Ok, boys let these two through, we've taken up enough of their time." He waves us through the checkpoint and moves off the road.
_ _ _ _ _
When we get back home Uncle John helps me to my room, I could tell already that the stairs were going to get annoying. Every other step a sharp pain goes through my leg. My room looks the same as the morning I left, even though Uncle John must have cleaned recently, not a speck of dust anywhere.
I sat at my desk and turn on my computer, I was sick of lying in bed all day.
"You need anything?" Uncle John asks, still by the door.
"No, I'll be fine. Just let me know when dinner is ready," I say.
"Ok, try and get some rest, your still recovering."
I feel like resting is all I've done the past few weeks. But I nod to Uncle John and turn back to the computer. I had planned to distract myself, but after a few minutes of an old RTS game I got bored, or maybe I just realized it was futile. After almost three months in the hospital I was a bit starved for information. I wanted to know what happened; Uncle John had been pretty tight lipped about the mall. Kept saying he'd tell me more when I was better. I booted up a search engine and looked up the mall, rather than sort through all of the random links I refined my search adding news and werewolf to the search.
It wasn't hard to find information after that. Fifty-three werewolves were confirmed within the mall, the last of them were killed shortly after the news teams arrived. There was no footage of the fighting, just reports and statistics; seventy-nine civilian casualties, 2 injured; and three soldiers killed, five injured.
That's it, Uncle John was right, two survivors; Chloe and Me. My mind is flooded with images from that day, screaming shoppers, howling wolves, Kevin lying against the wall of the food court, and blood lots of blood. I switch off the computer, looking up the mall had been a bad idea. I switch on the T.V. and climb into bed to wait for dinner, but all I see on the screen is colored blobs.
_ _ _ _ _
The next couple days pass in a blur, I eat and sleep little. My leg itches; the cast is a never-ending annoyance. I've taken to reading as a distraction, once I'm absorbed in the story I don't think about much else, or at least that's how it normally works, every few hours I have to put whatever I'm reading down, I can't seem to escape seeing the mall washed in red. My dreams alternate between twisted nightmares of blood and walks through the woods that are becoming all too familiar, the wolf's woods.
_ _ _ _ _
Reading again, an old favorite, Artemis Fowl. Somehow I've managed to wander while reading again it's the first time since I got the cast; I'm lying on the living room couch. My crutches are most likely still in my room, where I had started reading an hour ago. I'm rather amazed, my cast encases most of my leg, I can't walk strait with it; less yet go down the stairs. Getting back up will be a chore, but if I could get down the stairs I should be able to at least walk right?
I slide off the couch, careful not to bump my leg. Standing isn't a problem, now for walking; I head towards the kitchen while I'm down here I might as well get something to eat. Each step hurts, not as much as a broken bone should, but the cast cuts into my leg as I bend it and my restrained knee aches from trying to move against the cast.
Ignoring the call of leftover chicken I turn towards the training room. I'm used to working out every morning; I needed to feel my blood pumping again. The room looks the same as ever, weighted blades set along he left wall; a treadmill, two barbells and free weights on the right. The center of the room was empty and the floor was lightly padded.
I moved to the free weights and tried to lift a pair of 40's, my arm flared painfully before I could get the weights off the rack. I grabbed the 20's instead, the weight still hurt my arm but it was bearable. I moved my arm through its full range of motion, as long as I didn't try to move too fast my arm kept steady. It wasn't long before I put the weights down, my arm burned and stung but not in a bad way. I tried the treadmill next, but after the first few steps I knew it wouldn't work. The cast was too restricting I had to lift and move my foot awkwardly to keep my foot on the machine.
It was going to be a while before I could train like I used to. Still I think I'll come back to the training room tomorrow, it felt good to be moving around again.
_ _ _ _ _
When Uncle John got home he found me in the living room eating leftovers and watching some sort of old sitcom about a hospital. "How do you feel Zame, I see your apatite has finally returned," he says.
"I'm always hungry after I workout."
His eyes widened a bit at that, "Workout? You're supposed to be resting."
"Been resting for months I'm sick of resting. Do you think we can get this cast off sooner?" I ask, gesturing towards my encased leg.
"The doctor said he would check on it next month, it shouldn't be off before then
where are your crutches?"
"Upstairs I suppose, I guess I forgot about them," I shrug.
"Forgot," he pauses, and looks around. "How did you get downstairs without them, you shouldn't be walking with that cast. You won't be able to heal if you keep stressing it."
"I think that it's kind of healed already, I've been on and off it all day. Barely noticed the crutches were gone."
After a few more questions Uncle John calls the doctor and makes an appointment for the weekend. I start to head up the stairs while he's on the phone but he hangs up and insists on helping me. "Now don't get your hopes up the doctor says they'll take some x-rays but you should expect to be in that cast for at least another two weeks."
"Sure, sure, I'll try not to think about it."
_ _ _ _ _