Breach and Clear

~ a short story

Agent Ali readied himself at the point of the door. Agents Zoe and Dirk positioned themselves on the other side of the threshold. Agent Bishop was at his back. Ali took two quick breaths and then one deep one. At this point, to his surprise, there was a confidence in the work to be done here, despite the uncertainties. The power was out so all four agents had dropped down their goggles, their magenta glow reflecting three ocular prisms now at eye level. The gear felt heavy on him, Ali was exhausted from the mad dash up the stairs. He needed to wipe the sweat from his eyes but there was no time.

There were lives in danger beyond this door.

Now Ali blinked two times quickly, prepping himself for the series of actions about to commence. He raised his eyes to meet Zoe’s. Ali nodded. His right finger moved into the trigger of his weapon. Dirk silently tapped Zoe’s shoulder; Bishop tapped his.

breach

~

Ali’s heart was beating furiously. They had had to work quickly. There were too many variables moving too fast for him to feel comfortable with the operation just yet. The risk for the potential complete loss of life and mission failure was getting higher every moment. That’s why they had to act; that’s why they had to send them in.

“In ten minutes, we start killing hostages.”

Special agents Ali, Zoe, Dirk, and Bishop comprised the small team of special operatives tasked with salvaging this tense situation. Each of them was highly trained and intensely focused. The group had worked together for a long time now, collective capable of assessing situations in the heat of the hottest moment, wielding special weapons and special tactics, and moving with effective conviction. When negotiation failed, they {typically} didn’t.

Agent Ali and his team stood as the last resort. Operatives to be sent into a situation which held no recourse. Such was the case here. Small group of terrorists. Hostages taken. Estimated: at least five hostages, two or three armed hostiles. Tenth story of a hotel in downtown. 12+ hours of negotiations with no progress. Untenable demands. No clear visuals, no angle for a sniper. No heroes inside, too risky. With no progress, no compromise from the nameless terrorists, hostages starting to get killed inside of 10 minutes — the play was clear. Naturally, at this juncture, Ali and his team were sent into the building — to take decisive and special action.

They were now in position. It had been eight minutes.

~~

The charges were set. About a minute on the clock. Ali spoke quickly in whispers, across comms:

“Alright we go in fast and hard. Fan out, neutralize all direct threats to hostages. Everyone stick to your field of view. Encircle them. Move while firing. Go lethal. Don’t take any chances. We breach and — ”

Ali was cut short by a scream from inside. It sounded like a man. Gunfire immediately followed, along with more screaming and yelling and furious movement.

“Go!” Ali commanded

Zoe pressed the trigger.

In the split second before the fiery sound of the explosion, a resounding sound rings through the air, muffled by the door but distinct in its nature: an inhuman, beastly roar.

In the next split second, the door blasted inward with a crash.

~

In the haze of the aftermath, the four rushed into the darkness, weapons aloft, lasers keying for hostiles. Inside was a large conference room, about 50 feet wide, 30 feet deep, lining up with the schematics from central command. There was no significant light source within. Tables were overturned. The smell of burning plastic and concrete filled the air around their immediate area. They could see several forms moving, perhaps recovering from the shock of the explosion. There was no more gunfire. Each of them gazed past the smoke as it cleared. Ali started to speak towards two prominent figures in the center of the room,

“Freeze! Put your hands up — “

He stopped short. Each of the others halted their maneuvering too as they watched these two massive forms rise up from behind the rubble of a broken table. Their outlines were larger than any of them could’ve expected. In the clarity of their goggles, long, gnarly fur was visible on two hulking forms.

Ali was certain he could feel a near silent growling within the fibre of his soul, a tension building up from all the uncertainties coming now to a head. As he took in their sight, his heart felt like it was completely stopped.

Now turning, the blazing, reddish glow from their eyes visibly locked onto the four operatives, the newest and loudest entrants to the scene. Four orbs of seething, damnable sight gazed out across to Ali’s team. Haze cleared and natural light started to bleed in from the windows outside. Moonlight from the windows making up the outer wall of the hallway they had entered from, beyond the blasted doors, basked the scene and the remaining smoke with an unnatural candor.

In this moment, all the actors meant to be acting were frozen, in trepidation, in anticipation, in the starkest fear.

Smaller forms, perhaps the hostages, suddenly crawled away in places along the floor, on all fours and away from the two massive forms. Others were visible hiding behind tables, trembling. The location of the purported terrorists was not readily available.

Each of the four weapons they carried into the room shined the singular points of their laser sights in separate zones of the scene, none of them yet moving. Both of these creatures just stood in the darkness. Each of the operatives waited, observing, breath held. For this beat of time, none of the players blinked.

Ali’s index finger hovered in hesitation over the trigger of his weapon. One was near, within 10 feet, just beyond a shattered table. It’s was half-turned, its back heaving and the breath from its massive snout was visible and audible. Zoe felt a chill go up her spine. The other one was further back into the room, about 25 feet. It held the body of a man. It looked damnably small in its grasp. Dirk swallowed hard, his eyes wide with surprise, confusion, and unabated fear uncontrollably rising every moment. The dead man’s assault rifle slipped from his hand and clanged to the ground at the feet of the monster.

“Light ’em up!” Bishop shouted, breaking the momentary standoff.

All six combatants made their move simultaneously.

Quick on the trigger, Ali turned his weapon on the nearest beast, just as it lowered itself into a crouch, fully turned now, snarling and baring white fangs marred by bloody bits of flesh hanging loose from its lips. He fired directly into its torso, scoring repeatedly. Its body lashed to and fro from this payload’s strike.

Dirk let out some kind of battle cry, quickly overtaken by his and Zoe’s gunfire coming next. Each of them was closest to the one now crouching. The quickness of its movement caused Dirk to miss his opening salvo, firing above its head. Zoe, shooting from an angle just a bit further back struck a table now serving as cover, as her sights followed the thing’s movement down a bit too slowly.

Bishop fired at the furthest one, striking it twice in the head before it started to gallop on all fours, directly towards their group.

These shots didn’t put them down, and didn’t seem to slow them down.

The closest beast slipped into striking distance faster than Dirk or Zoe anticipated, faster than they could track it. The motion blur of their night vision didn’t help. Dirk, now in close quarters with the beast, panicked. His weapon fired around it for a crucial moment before he could right his aim towards a killing shot. It was more than enough time than the thing needed to do its desired work.

It struck down with its right, disarming Dirk. He cried out gruesomely, a bucket’s worth of blood instantly poured from his gashed side. Zoe continued following the creature’s movement with her gunfire, mostly unable to keep her sights on it. She saw it reach Dirk, and suddenly there was his weapon on the floor, among other things.

The beast followed up with a horizontal strike with its left, digging its long, jagged claws into Dirk’s wounded, armless side with blood-crazed ferocity and an outlandish roar. Chunks of his armor and flesh fell to the ground at his feet, as the thing lifted him up off the ground and above its seven feet of height. Dirk cried out in horrendous pain. Zoe continued to fire, now screaming in defiance of this unpliable foe before them, killing her friend with ease.

Dirk groaned, his consciousness fading. He could no longer feel the pain, he no longer knew who he was. The instincts of his training kicked in. Ali, no longer firing with his angle too close to hitting Dirk, saw the raised figure of his trainee, his buddy, reach down with his left hand towards his belt. Ripped and falling off, Dirk was able to apprehend a single grenade from it, flicking its pin as he grabbed for it. It wasn’t clear to Ali whether that was intentional or not, or what his next move might be.

Strangely, unconsciously, unnervingly, Ali couldn’t help himself from thinking of the last time he and Dirk had trained together…

~

“C’mon man! That’s all you got?! That’s all you got?! What do you think this is? This is nut up or shut up time. This is for it ALL, c’mon — Come on!”

Ali was shouting, just above Dirk, as he lifted his final rep, the muscles on his neck pulsing and his right eye reliably closed in the exertion.

Dirk finished the lift and the set, with a groan rising to an impassioned yell. Ali helped him rack it and immediately high fived Dirk’s spinning form. Rising from the bench, the two pals embraced one another firmly but quickly. There was an in-and-out chest bump with a harrumph at the end.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Ali shouted once more.

Dirk, still a bit out of breath, returned,

“I owe you a beer, chief.”

Ali smiled, reflecting on how far his rookie had come. Later on, they walked out of the academy weight room together, arm in arm, riffing on the upcoming Red Sox v. Yankees series.

~~

“Dirk!” Ali found himself shouting. He moved in what felt like slow motion towards his buddy.

Dirk was smiling. He reared back with the grenade in his left hand. He was cooking it, timing it. The instincts of his training were the only thing left in operation. Blood poured out from his form and along the beast’s tense forearm.

Zoe turned and leapt behind one of the nearby tables. Bishop continued to unload on the other creature, rushing him with its long tongue out, its eyes wide and keyed in on him. Ali shouted and continued to run towards Dirk.

Continuing to hold him up with its left claw, the wolf-like creature began to bring him down to meet its widening maw. Its eyes continued to blaze with fury and hunger and hatred. Dirk’s smile widened.

With one final effort, he shoved his spent grenade into its open mouth.

The resulting explosion was immediate. Ali was thrown back, his body armor absorbing much of the soundful shrapnel. Bishop staggered nearby, further away from the source of the blast. Zoe held her head behind the table.

One werewolf fell down; the other one leapt.

After the shock, Ali gathered his surroundings and his senses; Bishop threw himself unto his.

Bishop, furthest away from the explosion, could see the beast’s path projected in his mind, he anticipated it, tracking its speed along its singularly obvious intention: him.

Recovering, Bishop took one hard step and burst into a roll. Down and lower to the ground, he went right underneath the leaping creature. He reloaded the clip of his submachine gun as he did in one smooth motion.

Bishop, rising up on the other end of his roll, noticed in the moment Ali nearby prone and apparently stunned. The wolf-like monster landed in between the two men, about equidistant. Bishop called out, hoping to draw both their attentions.

“Chief! Eyes up!”

Ali instantly noticed the creature’s presence near his new position. On command, he brought his weapon up on it. It was now turning its back to him. Still on the ground, he pulled the trigger as hard as he possibly could. No bullets released. His clip was out.

The creature bore down on Bishop, impossibly fast, inhumanely ferocious. Its hairy, sinewy back muscles tensed in a crouch turning to another leap. It was decidedly away from Ali and towards his companion. The light from Bishop’s barrel lit up his form as he unpacked everything he had into the creature fast approaching him.

Ali reached for another damned clip, cursing to himself. For some reason, in this moment he inexplicably recalled back to a moment a couple weeks ago. It felt like a lifetime ago. Tears were in his eyes as he rummaged around the side of his person, looking for an extra magazine. Searching and searching, he was choking back tears, thinking of Katy and Bryan.

~

Ali grinned serenely as he watched the scene play out. Buster danced around rather vigorously, knocking the two down into the grass of the backyard repeatedly. But they seemed to be enjoying it even more than the Labrador.

“You know, they think I’m a superhero,” Bishop’s baritone voice felt just right, backdropped against chirping birds and screaming cicadas of the late summer afternoon. He held his wife in one hand, and an icy brew in the other.

Ali chuckled. Victoria, Bishop’s wife, spoke up with mischief in her voice.

“I’m certainly not going to tell them otherwise,” she smiled widely herself, rising up to deliver a kiss to Bishop’s cheek.

Ali slapped his long-time companion on his broad shoulder. He lifted his own beer.

“Here’s to you, Super Dad.”

Bishop looked over, smirking.

“Here’s to you, chief.”

The brewskies met, both men laughing with merit.

~~

The beast leapt upon Bishop. Both man and beast collapsed into a melee, Bishop’s weapon continued to fire for a few more seconds. Ali cried out, lifting himself to better sight his shot onto the creature’s back.

It only needed a few moments to do its dark and violent work upon Bishop. He made no sound as the creature tore into him; his weapon continued to fire into the beast in small opposition. It ripped away his body armor like tissue paper, stabbing and carving with bloody, razor claws. Bishop finally let go of the trigger when the creature’s maw finally, mercifully closed around his throat and ripped it out.

Ali rushed forward in a rage, barreling into the wolf’s wiry back. It didn’t budge; it continued its feast. Ali put his weapon right up against the creature’s spine and pressed the trigger with gusto, tears flowing freely from his eyes, welling up within his mask.

The machine gun’s spent shells, alongside an equal number of misshapen bullets, fell upon the ground at their feet in a clatter. The beast continued to face forward, unbothered and very much undamaged from his magazine’s worth of shots. Ali stepped back, another clip expended. Seeing this, he began to back away slowly, at a loss. His mind screaming.

What the hell are these things? What in the hell!

As if it finally noticed the dozens of shells just blasted into its back, the creature turned around, its mouth still full. With instinctual velocity, it swiped back with its massive hand. Ali saw it coming, but due to the speed managed to just narrowly avoid it, kicking his head back and stumbling to a crouch.

Moving away from its kill, the beast rose to its full form, its attention now locked firmly upon Ali. Gigantic red eyes lit up towards him. The beast’s frontside was covered in crimson viscera. Its rows of incisor teeth shaded a similar aura. Its snout flicked in the man’s scent before him. It smiled widely, growling with a furious, throaty rumble.

Ali stared at its hellish visage in a mesmerized state of fear turning to helpless inertia. His mind screamed once more for him to run. Despite such stark mental energy, Ali’s feet remained firmly planted in place, his knees trembled in an apparent resignation to his own bloody fate. His weapon dropped to the ground at his feet.

No more bullets, no more hope.

The wolfen beast from hell began its wayward approach towards the man. Ali backed away unconsciously, his body sweating profusely underneath his suit. He raised his goggles, and removed his the mask covering his face, freeing up his labored, exhausted breathing. The moonlight sprawling out from the blasted doorway brightened the scene before him. Ali watched the creature’s full appearance illuminated in the enhanced lighting. Its continued approach held a surreal, nightmarish qualia to it.

Its head was unmistakably that of a wolf. It was bipedal, walking confidently upon its hind legs. Its shoulders and torso were broad, a well-defined and meaty musculature to it. Ali believed that such a creature had never existed — and could never exist — outside of Man’s wildest, darkest imaginings.

wolf mouth~ Art source

As it walked, witnessing his release of his mask, the beast seemed to finally take measure of Ali. It stared him up and down; its gaze lingered on his face. In this exchange, Ali considered its own countenance, perhaps thinking he’d seen some level of emotional, human recognition behind its visage in this action.

Ali’s attention turned to all the blood as it dripped gratuitously from its mouth, leaving a trail behind the beast’s approach.

Ali continued his slow backpedal, thinking of nothing but Dirk, Bishop, mortality, regrets, blood, pain…

~

The remaining hostages watched these scenes play out in silent terror, from the darkened corners of the room. There was no movement among them, only an appalled and terrified freeze. No one knew those that had transformed or why they were here. The terrorists were apparently dead, their bodies and weapons dispatched upon the ground in the creature’s initial transformative and bloody frenzy. This was a new kind of hostage situation and none of them knew what to do now.

~

The beast began to tense its full form for sudden movement. Locking its body into a tight stance, it prepared itself to lunge upon Ali.

He didn’t move. He stood his ground. He’d given up. He was exhausted.

Despite this despairing sentiment, on instinct and on queue, Ali reached for his own grenade belt.

The sound of furious gunfire nearby broke him from his spell.

“Chief!”

He heard someone call out to him. It was Zoe. She emerged from the darkness to his right, into the light of the open threshold. She limped, wielding a grimace alongside her tactical shotgun. Blood caked the side of her body and she spit more of it as she spoke.

“Get out of here!”

She followed up her command to her commander with sustained shotgun blasts into the beast bearing down on him. The creature was forced back at this, the sheer force of the gunfire moved it so.

Ali nodded and began to move. He felt a renewed level of energy after seeing Zoe.

My god, she’s still alive. We can still get out of this. We can still — 

He retreated back towards the door and unlatched a grenade, arming it.

“C’mon Zoe, let’s go! We need — ”

Zoe began to backpedal, firing her weapon’s clip to its end. Turning back, Ali saw something approaching Zoe. From the darkness, broad shoulders, shining razor whites opening further and further, black smoke emanating from its maw, glowing eyes bleeding, their convicted stare upon her. She was distracted. The distance between him and her was too much. He couldn’t make it to her. Her shots finally played out and Zoe turned to face Ali, ready to move towards him. He stared into her eyes. She was afraid but determined. Strong. Resolved.

Perfect.

~

Ali smiled. Zoe smiled. They stared into each other. Intertwined in the backseat of his car, they couldn’t stop laughing and smiling; they couldn’t stop loving the moment. She said it first, he said it next.

“I love you.”

~

Ali let out a wordless, soundless scream as the specter of the beast at her back materialized itself fully into the light, bringing its massive maw down upon her. She couldn’t escape.

Ali snapped his head away, unable to watch, turning towards the blasted doorway, towards light, towards something like survival.

Blacking all of experience out in this time, Ali felt no more. His body kicked into full gear. Blood pumped into the spirals of his utmost instincts. He felt an unbidden, instinctual, frenzied level of vivacity fall upon his body. In this energized state, he no longer felt the rational fears or the emotional reality of his fallen companions. Ali felt only the compulsion to continue. His feet pumped one after another through the threshold and back out into the hallway, away from the abyss and its pair of voracious demons.

The power was still out. The evening was on in full. The night sky outside the large windows was ever-presently looming. It’s all Ali could see as he ran towards it.

As he reached it, a newfound darkness enveloped the hallway. Cloud cover spread out over the bright and full moon.

Ali heel-turned away from the doors and sprinted along the hallway’s expanse, hoping to make it to the stairwell.

He wasn’t going to.

The two werewolves made their way into hallway to follow their prey. It was important to them that it was running. The remaining flesh within the room wasn’t worth their time. It wasn’t proper prey unless it was worth hunting.

With their superior athleticism, the two wolf-men gained on Ali with ease. Running on all fours, they alternated between growls of ferocity and yelps of excitement. One led the other due to injuries sustained in the combat with the agents. One of its legs was a bit slower to heal from the gunfire; one’s skull still rung from the shrapnel which had tried to reshape it.

The lead wolf’s capture of Ali was imminent. It galloped at his heels, hungry and hopeful.

The cloud cover moved once more and the moonlight returned. At the same time, another light sourced into the interior the building. At the end of this tenth-story hallway, as it rounded into a corner, a ship appeared in the air. From the window directly facing Ali’s mad dash to escape, and one of the wolves close on his tail — a pair of searchlights, like eyes, shone their unnatural gaze into the full expanse of the hall, forming new silhouettes on the carpet of the two figures.

Each of them stopped at the hinge of the hallway, momentarily stunned by this appearance. The wolf recovered more quickly, moving to strike Ali down with a clawed sucker punch in his stationary state.

It is in this split second that he intervened.

The ship hovered at eye level with the tenth floor. Out of it, launched a man with a cape and a blade. The point of his long sword leading, he crashed into the window, shattering it. Ali closed his eyes and shielded himself from the broken glass instinctively. Right as the wolf’s right arm descended towards Ali’s vulnerable form, the caped figure struck his own blade through its wrist and forced its hand down helplessly into the carpeted flooring of the hotel hallway.

The beast howled in sincere pain. The caped figured twisted the sword in its place. Blood leaked out onto the floor from the beasts’ arteries. From this wound, the blade cleanly and easily cutting through it, there was a sizzling sound and a slight stream of smoke wafting up from where the blade touched the beast’s body.

Ali staggered back and looked at this newcomer. He wore all black, cape fluttering in the breeze of the shattered window and now open to the cool night air.

The creature snarled with renewed rage and brought its left claw over to swipe at the figure. Ali saw it coming. Before he could formulate any warning words, the caped figure wrenched his blade free from the ground, and from the beast’s limp right arm, and slashed it across to connect with the left claw coming in to kill him. The beast tried to catch the blade, wrapping its long claws around it. But it didn’t find purchase. This silver, gleaming blade once more managed to sever right through the beast’s hide. Half of its hand fell upon the floor, alongside another splatter of blood and another, higher pitched scream from the creature.

The beast’s scream was quickly silenced as the swordsman performed one more strike. This time, the blade came up above his head with both hands and then down, at an angle, right upon its skull. The figure let out a nigh silent grunt of exertion as the blade passed through the beast.

For a moment, nothing changed. Ali stared at the scene in consternation. Then the howl ended abruptly and the beasts’s head fell apart, separated by the upper and lower jaws. Its massive body fell soon after, to its right. Blood began to pool after the initial splatter. Ali gasped and then looked beyond, back down the hallway. The other wolf stood on all fours, staring down at them. It looked as though it was surveying the scene, discerning the arrival of this competent, new prey. It now continued its approach, only a lunge or two away. Black smoke continued to waft from its darkened face, along with swollen, hate-filled eyes.

“This isn’t over yet,” the black swordsman spoke. His voice was muffled, robotic, filtered through a mask.

The swordsman threw a handgun at the feet of Ali. It was a desert eagle, gleaming in the moonlight.

“When you see an opening, take the shot. These ones will count!” The swordsman called back to Ali as he ran into the fray.

Ali reached and picked up the gun with a sense of urgency. The swordsman ran on the outside of the hall, strafing along the window, his drawn sword almost scraping against the glass. The beast squared up at his approach. It was in the center, and for this brief couple of seconds intervening their oncoming bout, Ali had his shot.

He took several. Left eye closed, right arm straightened, left arm couched underneath supporting, right eye wide open and staring with ferocious intent — Ali fired at the werewolf. The handgun recoiled with considerable vigor. Three, four, five shells blasted into the wolf-man with force. The first couple plugged its torso. Ali wasn’t taking any chances. On instinct, the creature raised its arms in an x-formation, hoping to defend against continual damage. It cried out and blood began to pour from its many wounds.

Ali saw smoke emanating from each hole. He also witnessed a kind of transformation in the beast after taking these shots. Right as the swordsman lunged into its space, blade flashing with intended violence, it let out an impassioned roar. The creature’s eyes were wide with a mix of lively terror and wild survival instinct.

The deathly fear Ali had felt earlier in its presence returned in full. In him, there was this immobilizing, blood curdling sense that such a predator was born to kill you and there was little chance it would not succeed in such an endeavor. Ali felt lesser in its presence, even from this far away. The silver deagle fell from his hands, splashing into the blood-soaked carpet at his feet.

The swordsman, apparently staggered by the beastly scream himself, brought his weapon across with significantly less force behind it. The wolf was ready, standing at its full height and bearing down on the smallish human figure. This time it did catch the blade. The swordsman grunted as its momentum was halted so suddenly. The silver sword dug into the wolf’s large, clawed hand but didn’t slice through. It was smoking, burning with its contact against the interior of its hand. This served to merely make the beast angry. The swordsman’s muscles tensed, unable to move from its clutch upon the blade. They each stared at one another, breathing heavily, ready to trade blows to the death.

For many moments here, the black figure and the wolf locked into an anticipatory, near mortal embrace. The wolf bled from multiple bullet wounds riddling its form. Continuing to clutch his blade, the swordsman calculated the creature’s next move and his response to it. He’d have to guess. This animal-man hybrid would be necessarily faster in its decision. The swordsman felt he could make an educated one.

No longer hesitating, the beast cast the sword aside and in the same motion performed its own vicious strike upon the vulnerable swordsman. He willingly let go of his sword with his left hand and moved his body away from the hooking, leftward strike. With his right hand, he had already started reaching back behind his cloak to his belt, and brought forth his combat knife to meet the other hand approaching his head with killing intent. Right before the wolf’s claw reached his own mask, the silver of the knife dug into its wrist from underneath. Another painful howl. The claw continued in spite of this new, smaller blade’s bite. It still delivered its clutching strike upon the swordsman’s mask, but necessarily weaker as the knife dig through muscle, bone and tendon. The force was still enough to break it apart, and the black mask tore away from his face. Falling to the ground, the swordsman released his grip from the knife as well, rolling away and trying to retreat from the melee momentarily.

He called out to his ally, “Ali! Put it down!”

Ali gathered his wits, and moved once more pick up the gun the swordsman had thrown to him. Its hilt was soaked in blood, he fumbled with it for a moment looking up at the wolf ripping a dagger from its left wrist and then proceeding to chase the swordsman down the hall towards him.

With the black mask now ripped away, Ali now noticed the man’s face.

“Ramirez?” Ali mouthed the words.

He didn’t have time to consider the implications. He raised the handgun up, remaining crouched in order to improve his aim. These shots scoring would be vital.

Five shots spent. Nine rounds in a magazine. Four left. Make ’em count.

Ali squared up, finger on the trigger. Ramirez ran, seemingly in slow motion, now unarmed and with a frantic look on his face. The spot light still shone into the hallway from his strange ship hovering in front of the broken window at Ali’s back. The moonlight still danced to and fro across the carpet of the hallway, as the wind outside moved the clouds in and around the shining moon. The werewolf picked up speed, shifting from two to four legs. Its wounds were no longer healing on their own, the bloodletting had not seized from those initial shots. However, this fact didn’t seem to slow it down one bit. The wolf’s countenance was one of determined, murderous animus — it featured two red eyes wide with life, two rows of razor sharp teeth, two ears flicked up at attention, one large and hungry howl escaping from its lips as it chased its final and ultimate prey.

Ramirez looked back at the beast gaining on him, preparing itself to leap to his form. For him, the fear and the vulnerability and the mortality of the moment now reached their home in his heart. The adrenaline kept his feet moving and his heart racing.

Ali steadied himself, taking one final breath, and fired.

One. Two. The first shots glanced and missed the werewolf, it’s speed too much to find purchase to stop it.

The werewolf finally leaped, the murderous fury in its face reaching a peak. Its claws reached out, grasping at the back of Ramirez’s trailing cape. His body and his head jerked backward, precariously close to a bloody end inside of its widening jaws.

Meanwhile, Ali snarled as he delivered the third and fourth shots. The final shots. Leading its form on, each one connected with devastating effect. Each silvered bullet ripped through the wolf’s skull, tearing through all kinds of matter and exiting on the other side and out of the window. Two holes, surrounded by cracking glass and spatters of wolf’s blood appeared upon the glass behind its jumping form.

Ramirez fully fell backwards with a yelp. The beast’s form went limp and slip on the carpet for a few more feet. Ramirez’s back landed atop the back of its furry head. Ali ran over quickly, to ensure the deed was done.

Ramirez looked as if he was reeling from a shock. He flipped himself over the creature and quickly crawled away from it. The beast’s eyes remained open, but they were lifeless. Two massive, steaming holes made their homes now upon its forehead head. Moonlight reflected down upon its sprawling form; the window streamed the creature’s spent blood down along the window.

Choosing to crouch right next to him, Ali put his hand on Ramirez’s shoulder and spoke after a deep breath.

“I had good money on you being placed as a pencil pusher after academy those years ago… guess command had something different in mind for the likes of you…”

Ramirez chuckled and placed a hand on Ali’s shoulder as well. He looked into his eyes somberly.

“I wish I had arrived sooner…”

Rest In Peace, both men mouthed.

After a few moments, Ali asked,

“Who… called you?… How…

“Wait! The hostages…”

Ramirez sighed and grabbed the quick-moving Ali. He lifted himself up to look squarely at his former friend, then beyond him — to the breached doorway down back the way Ali had come.

“Chief, this still isn’t over.”

On queue, another set of screams and another roar surfaced from down the hall.

Ali looked back at Ramirez with terrible concern.

“You’re gonna need that. You understand what it’ll take now,” Ramirez motioned to the handgun still in Ali’s hand. He handed over another clip.

Both men faced the blasted threshold, the moonlight spread out over its smoky exterior.

As they began their approach, Ramirez mentioned,

“To answer you question: No one called us, we’re just always watching for these sorts of incidents.”

Ali just glanced over to him, one eyebrow cocked, as they stacked up on both sides of the door. Ramirez held his blade down at his side; Ali clutched the handle of the Deagle resolutely, blinking deeply and staring into the sightless void of the room.

No more sounds emanated from within for the moment.

Ramirez looked over to him after staring into the darkness for a second or two, making a handsign indicating for him to follow him in into the breach when ready.

“You’re lucky I was close by.”

Ramirez began to count down from three.

“Let’s end this,” Ali stated resolutely on three.

The two waded into the abyss of the room, once more unto the breach.

~