It is said that change is unavoidable, a part of life. We are born, we age, live a little while, and die, hopefully in old age, with friends at our side, comforting us before we take that final journey to whatever is beyond the veil that separates life and death. For most us, this is how life tends to be; Simple, unimpeded, and for the most part, uneventful or untouched by anything more than we see or feel. For others, life is nasty and horridly short. Suppose for a moment, that change was not slow and gradual, but sharp, painful, brutal even in with its gentlest graces, leaving a swath of destruction behind it or turning your life upside down.

Here we must pause for a moment before we begin and consider this point. What causes such suffering, such pain, such bloody death and violence. Is it really the force of change or the human reaction to that change and a failure to adapt?

In nature, all creatures must adapt or die. There is simply no alternative.

Humans, as much as we like to feel safe and comfortable in our houses and surrounded by our guns and computers, like to think we are safe and above nature, that we are the masters of it.

In reality, nature masters us all, and we too must adapt...or pay the price.

Prologue

Brian Dorcy was an average person. There was nothing remarkable about him. Physically, he was attractive enough, as humans tend to go for, some would say. He was tall, just over six feet, and he had messy dark hair that refused to be tamed in any way. His eyes were brown, a deep earth tone, that had a tint of hazel and oddly, a hint of amber. His build was not muscular but rather natural, at around two-twenty, with natural muscle that if developed could be formidable. He owed that to working his early years on his family's ranch and now, construction.

A five o'clock shadow, something he allowed himself to keep, darkened Brian's cheeks. His skin was a smooth dark tan but not black, nor white, but rather in the middle. He owed his eyes to his father, whom he greatly missed and his tan from spending long days outside in the sun working construction work. His mother now lived in New York city, in a little apartment that Brian sent her money for each month to help her as best he could while he scraped out a living here in the City. Brian had left New York to try to make something of himself two years ago, but had fallen into a rut of low paying jobs and half-hearted attempts at writing, which was his one true passion.

For Brian, writing was cathartic, and if he kept at it, he would be able to sell the novel that was currently resting on his computer's hard drive and get out of the City for good.

When he was younger, his family had owned a horse ranch in California but those days were long gone and over with; then, they did not have to worry about money, medicine, or food.

Now, every day was a struggle for him.

This evening (it was well after eleven o'clock) the moon was full, showing its pale bone-face through the moving tumultuous cloud cover as the rain storm pelted the filthy asphalt of the alleyways and streets in unending driving pellet drops that stung like needles, making rivers in the gutters into muddy, filthy torrents. The tall buildings of uptown had long since fallen behind him as he walked; his well-worn black high tops slopped in the rain and drove ripples through dark accumulating puddles.

His jeans and white t-shirt did nothing to stop the icy rain, neither did his leather jacket, one of the few things from his father he had left, even though he tried to pull it closer around his neck. He was alone, his old brown leather backpack thrown over his shoulder. Inside, Brian kept his life; his cell phone (a battered Motorola Razr), a pad, a pen and his small laptop. His wallet and apartment keys tended to stay in his jean's pockets where they could not present such easy targets for the gutter scum that lurked in the dark places the City nurtured so well.

Not that he had much cash on him, he thought; A lousy thirty dollars that he had managed somehow to hold onto for the last two weeks. Working as a construction worker did nothing for one's finances when the rain had been pouring down in driving sheets for the last few weeks. Hopefully, with any luck, the meteorologists were right about the storm front that had been assaulting the City would pass by soon. Brian needed work and badly.

He did not own a car; thus he had to walk or take the bus wherever he went. While this kept him in shape, he thought sordidly, it did get old after a while. He would have to do something about that soon before the soles on his shoes wore through completely. Hell, he wouldn't even mind a nice bike; he had a four wheeler that he rode everywhere before the family lost the ranch.

He had just come from one of his favorite places to work on his writing, a local bar in the downtown area, just off 66th Street, called Ero's. Ero's was run by a pleasant older gentleman named Ero Riley. He was of the old guard, a true gentleman. Brian could not recall ever not seeing the man in a suit with his long hair tied back in a pony tail, tending the bar, refusing to let alone else take the job and rather, doing it himself, interacting and remember each and every client that came through the establishment. He had the build of a body-builder but the grace of a duke. His accent was strange as well, deep old English and his pronunciation, Brian reflected, was always perfect.

He also had strange eyes, almost yellow amber in hue, which glinted oddly in the light. Brian enjoyed Ero's because Ero gave him his own private area to sit and work in and made sure he was undisturbed. Ero made sure that Brian's glass at the table never ran dry of his favorite drink. Ero had even installed a wireless network for Brian to access whilst he was there, and actually, Brian chuckled to himself as he turned a corner and skipped over a nasty looking puddle with a dead rat in it, it had boosted clientele once the word got out.

Which was another odd thing, Brian thought as he passed a run down electronics store with several old television sets sitting dark in the window display behind its wrought iron bars. The clients of Ero's were mostly nocturnal, like Brian found himself becoming more and more as he became more and more desperate for money, both for himself and his mother. At twenty-three, he should not have gray hair, but he swore he could have seen a few peeking out after his shower last night.

As he passed the electronics store, a flicker of blue light caught his attention.

One of the television's sitting in the display of Rick's Electronics, a two story flat building that had about as much distinction as a slab of concrete can have, with its brown dirty bricks and aged awnings, had just turned itself on, casting crazy shadows and wild forms as the light pierced the dark store window.

He stopped and found himself captivated by the news story that the television was tuned into, though how it was on or even getting a signal was beyond him through this storm. With nothing better waiting for him at home for the time being, Brian decided to check the story out and see what celebrity was caught in an affair or what the score was in some war in some far off country was. As he stood in the rain, he thought it best to get under the awning poste haste. Shaking the water out of his eyes with a swipe of his hand, Brian squinted, the brilliant light from the screen temporarily blinding him. His eyes adjusted quickly and then he saw the news report for what it was.

On the screen, a CNN report flashed up with an attractive female news reporter sitting at an large stylish metal and wood desk and behind her flashed a video graphic.

Her voice to him sounded like a stereotypical news anchor and in some ways, Brian supposed, she reminded him of the way Chris Hansen presented himself on the news.

"....and this was the scene just an hour ago in downtown Washington, DC, as members of Lupine Freedom opened fire with assault weapons and Molotov cocktails on a meeting being held at the Library of Congress by expert members of the Regulation Panel, which is currently filing a motion for the passage of the controversial Lycanthropic Registration Bill…"

The camera switched from the news anchor at her desk with the fake New York skyline backdrop, to footage that would have seemed normal coming from a war-zone.

Brian was shocked at the sheer amount of carnage that was filmed by the cameras as the terrorists mounted the large sweeping stairs leading up to the entrance of the marble building, as flames and fireballs exploded, blackening the columns that graced the front of the Library. Screams of panic pierced the night from the footage as gunfire exploded.

The report continued, "... This bill, if ratified, would mean every lycanthrope that is a shifter or a full generation would have to register with DNA sampling, with the U.S. government and be entered into a database for potential offenders. Already the tensions are high between supporters and opponents of the bill, who some say, is tantamount to the eugenics policies of the Nazi party in World War 2. Supporters argue that lycanthropes are a clear and present danger to anyone in their vicinity, while some who oppose the bill claim that there is scientific evidence that lycanthropes are human and thus are to be granted clear and equal protection under the law the same as their fellow man.."

The shot switched back to the news anchor, her face deadly serious and her eyes dark as she went on. "The terrorists, some of which were full generation lycanthropes, were arrested, though none were killed. However, there was a casualty from the Library's occupants as James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was killed by a single blow to the head by this lycanthrope, pictured here," the reporter stopped talking and the report cut to video of the killer.

The killer was a dark furred lycanthrope, standing well nearly seven feet high; his body was well muscled and covered in a dark blue black fur that was sleek and short, like an otters. His face was that of a wolf, wild and savage, with a long muzzle lined with razor sharp fangs. One of his ears had been torn off, and blood covered the side of his head; he did not seem to notice.

His only clothing was a ballistics vest and a pair of tattered tactical pants. His feet were plantigrade, flat footed, like a normal humans, not bent backward as so many fantasy artists portrayed them, Brian noticed; his arms could have easily snapped steel. He had been contained with a special set of binders that completely enclosed his wrists and hands, sealing his fists in steel. The lycanthrope had no way to escape, but still fought savagely against the chains that bound him to the flat bed SWAT truck that he had been detained in. His eyes were wild with fury and his voice rang out across the parking lot, screaming at the top of his lungs.

" YOU FURLESS MAGGOTS!!!! YOU WILL PAY FOR THIS! SUPERORITY! WE WILL WIPE YOUR SPECIES OUT FROM THIS PLANET!"

At this, the news report switched back to the blonde reporter who gravely continued.

"...This lycanthrope has been identified as John Carrey, fittingly known in police records as Brutus. Carrey had a long criminal history of assault and battery, theft and several murders have been laid at his feet. He is wanted in several states and it is unknown at this time whether or not the prosecutors will seek the death penalty, but if convicted of aiding in tonight's brutal attack and of the crimes of which he is accused, the law may seek the Madison Treatment for Carrey...."

Brian just shook his head.

Lycanthropes were a new development of sorts. Just over ten years ago, it was discovered that lycanthropy, not the mental affliction, but rather the physical transformation of a human into a wolf, was not legend at all but rather a type of hidden underground secret. The secret was discovered when a high profile scientist named Donald Madison had discovered the gene that controls the shape-shifting abilities of lycanthropes, commonly known by their slang name: Weres.

Madison had been on the forefront of Were research now for years, often he publicly claimed, to find a cure for the people who were afflicted by lycanthropy. When the news story broke and other scientists confirmed it and lycanthropes began to come out and reveal themselves for the first time in hundreds of years, the public reaction had been strong, composed mostly of fear and bigotry with a healthy dose of old fashioned hate.

Brian did not understand why people feared or hated the Weres. He had seen Weres day in and day out for as long as he could remember and never had any problem out of them. The only reason Brian recognized them as Were's was because they were what had been termed Full-Generation Lycans or First Generations. The people who happened to have this variant of lycanthropy could never assume human form, and were forever locked in their wolf like bodies, even though their minds and emotions were still one hundred percent human. The other kind of Were, the shifters, were impossible to tell that they had the astounding ability to shift from human to wolf form in a matter of seconds, because they looked exactly like normal humans.

He knew that there were extremists in every flock though, and to him, it smacked of the same race versus rights argument that sparked off the violent Civil Rights movement in the 1960's.

That was really all that Brian knew about the Were situation or the current political situation or in fact, about the science of Were's at all because Brian detested politics. He saw no reason to panic and fear them; sure there the crazy ones but hey, the same could be said of normal people too but for now, he could not let himself get dragged down by other people's struggles. His alone were enough to deal with.

All Brian wanted to do was to stay out of the fight, to live his life and be as normal as he possibly could while avoiding living on the streets as much as possible.

Shaking his head, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.

A cold wave went down his spine and Brian felt his body go rigid as if he had stepped into a freezer.

Turning, he squinted out into the rain as a car that was driving far too fast on the road shot by, sending up a spray of water that reached him, even as far back as he was on the sidewalk. He jumped back, throwing his hands up in front of his face as the cold gritty muddy spray hit him. Cursing, he wiped the water out of his face.

As soon as the glare of the car's headlights had dimmed and it had passed away, the streets were dark again, except for the pale light cast by the dim streetlamps that barely worked. In their yellow glow, he saw that four men had assembled in the opposite ally. Though he could not see them clear enough to make out exact details, he could see that they were clearly not the kind of person you wanted to be around in a dark city in the rain alone. They were dressed in baggy clothes, ragged shirts and torn jackets. They stared at him, unblinkingly, and Brian got the distinct impression he was being hunted.

Like a lamb to the slaughter.

Making the choice right then and there that he did not like that thought, he pushed it from his mind.

Deciding it was far more prudent to remove himself from the dark side streets and alleys and get himself home as soon as possible. Brian did not meet their gaze but rather took off at a brisk walk, leaving the electronics store behind, trying not to show his unease as the four men left the ally and fell into step behind him. Tightening his grip on his pack, Brian moved quickly, feeling the rain sting him, burying itself into his hair, shirt, like a million wet damp cold nettles. Behind him, he heard the footsteps of the two heavier men increase with his own.

One of them called out, "Hey, buddy, we need to talk to you!"

Brian heard an unsettling chuckle come next.

This was not good.

Another car passed by him, slinging mud and dirty water into the air, the headlights blindingly bright. Brian took the opportunity to duck into an alley hopefully losing his pursuers long enough in the glare so that he could find a different way home. He was no coward, but four against one was not exactly fair odds. The alley was littered with trash, refuse and the waste of lives day in and day out, complimented with overturned trashcans. A rotting metal rusted dumpster filled to capacity sat at one end and a fire escape crawled up the side the empty building on the right but it was too far out of reach. A rat squeaked and bolted across the asphalt, vanishing into a wall. The only streetlight in this alley was blown and it was like entering a velvet darkness that was wet with the Earth's grimy tears.

His heart sank quickly as he realized his mistake.

The ally was a dead end.

A fifteen-foot high wooden fence blockaded the far end.

Not good, Brian thought, seeing no way out of the alley. Brick walls surrounded him on either side and again he cast a longing look at the fire escape ladder. It was too high for him even if he jumped.

"Damn it..." he cursed, turning around to see that the four men had appropriately blocked off the entrance to the alley.

Now that they were closer, he could see them better. The shortest was a man probably in his thirties with grizzled hair and a filthy jacket with no shirt on beneath it. His eyes were dark and beady, shifty, like a rodent. The other two, with their completely shaved heads, were clearly tee-teetotalers on bar night judging from the size of their beer guts and biker's jackets. Each of them wore sharpened metal spikes on their closed fists; iron knuckles.

The last man was a tall one; he was probably the worst out of the four as the other three had the air of lackeys, of toadies.

This man was no toady. He had the atmosphere about him of a coiled snake, ready to strike. His eyes were a bright, clear ice blue and they possessed a horrid sick sheen to them. He was dressed as the others, in baggy clothing, with leather jackets. His boots were riding boots, and they made clear their arrival with controlled and precise clicks as their metal sole tips clinked on the asphalt. His own hair was slicked back and perfectly coifed, giving him a desperate civility that you knew was a lie the moment you saw it.

"Now, now...you shouldn't have made us run, buddy. We just wanted to talk to ya." he said, his voice as oily and slick as the rest of him. Brian's skin crawled.

He nodded in response. "Well you fellas have said hi. What can I do for you?" Brian replied, trying to keep his voice calm. His own voice was a mix of a rough baritone, which a copper feel to it, like old well-worn but loved metal. He kept one hand on his backpack strap, his fist tightening unconsciously.

"It's not what you can do for us...it's what we can do for you, buddy. Your pack looks very heavy. Meet my associates...Shank," the tall man indicated the shorter man to his right who grinned dementedly, "Coby and Grindr." he pointed with a sweep of his long bony fingered hands to the bulkier men to his left, who both flexed their own fingers threateningly, the spike-knuckles glinting in the occasional lightning flash.

Thunder began to chatter on the horizon, low and steady.

"Nice to meet you." Brian cracked, backing up, trying to find a way out of this before he ended up on the news tomorrow himself.

" Oh no, the pleasure is all mine...My name is Skinner, " the tall man said, reaching into his right breast pocket of his jacket. Brian couldn't see the object clearly at first but a second later, the sound told him all he needed to know.

SNICKER-SNACK.

A gleam in the darkness, the gleam of sharpened steel and an eight inch switch blade appeared in Skinner's hand. He looked at knife like a lover and then to Brian.

"Now why would you reckon they call me that, buddy?" Skinner said, advancing forward a few feet, switching the knife to his right hand into a reverse grip, the blade turning from a vertical shaft of death into a horizontal razor.

Brian decided not to answer and instead opted to bolt for the fence. Perhaps if he used the dumpster at this base as a vaulting point, he could leap over it, never mind that the fall to the other side would most likely do some serious damage, but it was a risk that he was willing to take rather than be butchered by these mugger wannabes.

"GET HIM!" Skinner yelled, and like attack dogs, Shank, Coby and Grindr leaped forward, moving faster than their bulk and stature would belie.

Brian reached the dumpster, placed his foot in the brace where the trash truck's beam would normally slide and boosted himself up and reached, reached wildly for the fence top. His left hand fingers grasped the wood, feeling the wetness of the ledge, while his right hand buried itself in the slop and muck that was the garbage that lined the dumpster's filthy rim.

For a moment, he gripped it and threw his weight into hauling himself up.

A violent fork of lightning split the sky, throwing crazy shadows all over the alley and the thunderclap screamed afterward, vibrating Brian's bones.

Then he felt the grip on the back of his jacket, felt the stinging stabbing of iron knuckles and a second later, he fell through space, before slamming into the ground, the wet asphalt rushing up to kiss him in the face. His pack went skittering into the dark corner of the ally, its contents spilling all over, the laptop crashing into the far wall with a sickening crunch. His notebook with his writing in it landed face down, open in a filthy puddle just beyond his reach. The wind was drove from him from the force of the impact and he felt warm blood cascade down his stomach and chest where his shirt had come up, the asphalt scraping his skin raw.

"Hold him!" Brian heard Skinner bark.

Coby and Grinder wasted no time in grabbing Brian by the hair of his head, gut punching him, driving the spikes home, and with a single fluid motion slung him into the front of the dumpster hard enough to shake it with a resounding thud of flesh hitting metal. The sharp agonizing nerve burning explosion of pain in his lower back as the edge of the dumpster caught his spine made Brian double over.

Gasping for air, Brian struggled as much as he could, his upper arms held fast in the crushing grip of the two men on opposite sides of him. Brian's feet were still free and he made liberal use of them, trying to twist up either Coby or Grindr's feet, but they were having none of it, easily maneuvering away from his weak attempts. Shank who up until now had stood aside with Skinner, was suddenly there, in front of Brian and solidly drove a booted foot violently into Brian's groin, instantly subduing him.

Brian felt sick, as if he were going to throw up as a lead weight dropped into his gut, and for a moment he saw stars, and sagged against his captors, unable to scream, unable to cry out in the sheer shocking agony of the pain he now felt in his loins.

He let his head hang limp, matted with water and dirt was the rain continued to pour, unable to fight anymore, instead reduced to taking deep breaths to avoid passing out.

Skinner laughed, as if he found the situation amusing. He walked slowly, like a big cat over to his prey, the blade in his right hand glinting in the thunder claps that had begun with first sparks of lightning a few moments ago; the storm was intensifying rapidly.

Skinner stopped in front of Brian, where the thief simply stood, and then Skinner took his left hand and used his index finger to lift Brian's head up, to make Brian face him. He lowered himself to face Brian, eye to eye. His cold blue orbs stared into Brian's dazed eyes. Skinner's voice was like poisoned silk, low and conspiratorial, as if he was giving Brian the winning lotto numbers.

"You know, you could have made this much easier on yourself. You do not know the countless people who I have gutted for fighting back or trying to run. All we wanted was your money but I hate a runner more than anything, buddy."

Brian tried to scowl and finally, worked up the best he could do.

He spit in Skinner's face.

Skinner did not cry out in shock but launched a powerful sideways blow with his left hand that sent Brian's head clanging off the back of the dumpster. Brian's vision went crossways and began to swim. Brian tasted the wet coppery taste of blood gush in his mouth. He spat it out onto the ground, glaring at Skinner.

"You'll pay for that one," Skinner snarled, raising his right hand with the blade in it, the gleaming steel razor edge snarling in the lighting that flashed. Shank, Coby and Grindr laughed. This was fun.

Even broken that laptop would fetch a pretty price...after all, they had watched him for weeks in that ratty bar, Ero's. Skinner knew how much he had on him.
As he cocked his arm for the blow that would surely decapitate Brian, lightning flashed again and Coby and Grindr's faces drained of any color, turning a sick shade of white. Skinner noticed at the same time as Shank. "What is wrong with ya...getting' cold feet after all this time?" Shank jeered. Skinner saw the true fear in the eyes of his men and suddenly he realized they were looking behind him...and up...

Keeping the knife at Brian's throat, Skinner turned and looked up, following the looks of stunned looks of terror on his men's faces.

"Jesus Christ..." Skinner felt the words fall from his mouth as his eyes took in what he was seeing, his face going ashen and eyes dilating in shock.

There, perched upon the roof's edge of the building that made up the right wall of the alley was a figure, a two-legged figure. It was well over six feet high, powerfully muscled and covered in (dear God) fur, Skinner realized.

Covered in gray otter sleek fur, just like a dog.

Its form was human, two legs and two arms with human-like hands, five fingered with an opposable thumb, just like a humans; the feet were flat like a humans, the toes and fingers ending in blunt black claws. It was dressed in torn jeans that ended at the knee, with rags of jean material reaching its furry ankles.

It had a long tail that was bushy, just like a wolf's that snarled in the night, curled like a snake, lashing in the storm. Its upper body was shirtless, and like the rest of him, was covered in dark gray fur; the body itself as Skinner previously noted and could now see better, was toned, and fit, and the head..(Jesus H. Christ and Mary too)

. the head he saw was not human at all...but rather....

...A wolf.

Its ears were long and pointed, ragged and its muzzle, once graceful, was long and covered in four scars, slashed down sideways, as if it had been clawed. The nose was black like a dogs and the mouth was lined with fangs that made a steak knife look tame. The eyes, to Skinner's horror, were fixed on him and were glowing with an odd light of their own, an amber yellow glow. Skinner felt his heart begin to pound in the rising panic he felt that matched the bile rising in his throat.

With the next lightning flash, Brian was able to focus his eyes enough to look up and see what held his captors attention and he saw what they did, his blood ran cold.

A Full Generation Lycanthrope.

He felt his brain disconnect as he tried to process what he was seeing.

With a roar like a lion's the lycanthrope leaped down, dropping down three stories to the pavement below, landing in a crouch. From his new position, Brian saw the yellow eyes flick up to Skinner and then the lycanthrope spoke, his voice was raspy, dark and quiet; it had a gruff quality to it, as if from disuse, and it was deep. Not James Earl Jones deep, no, but more like Kevin Bacon.

"Don't you boys have anything better to be doing tonight, like hitting up the roach motels on Fifth? Leave him alone…Now."

It was not a request.

Skinner, now caught between the Lycanthrope and his own prey, made a snap decision. Whatever this creature wanted, it sure as hell wasn't going to kill him. He was not going to end up on the news as a furry victim. Not Skinner Johnson.

A memory tugged at his subconscious as he stared at the man-creature, something familiar. Then it hit him.

"Mind your business, fur-ball. I've heard of you on the streets, trying to save people, be some kinda hero. This has nothing to do with your flea-ridden kind; get lost before you get hurt."

The Were simply blinked, the yellow eyes dimming momentarily as he did it. He had been following this one for days now. He knew this one was named Skinner. The scumbag had robbed countless, left more than a few bodies in the dark alleys of the city. He had no desire to hurt anyone but he also had no compulsion to spare them if bullets began to fly.

" Apparently you guys don't speak English. I said, leave the man alone." The Were had not risen from his crouch.

Seeing that they were not going to be torn limb from limb immediately, Grinder and Coby and Shank let go of Brian and backed into positions next to the dumpster, sliding their hands into their jackets. Brian tried to move but Skinner moved the blade, nearly sending it through his throat.

"This one is mine," Skinner said to his men, turning his back on the Were, forcing Brian's head up with the blade of his knife, exposing his neck.

" Kill Fido."

"Kill a lousy Were? With pleasure." Grinder snarled, apparently having grown his bravado back. He reached around to his belt and drew his own knife; Shank did the same and Coby pulled a small pistol from inside his jacket, sliding a round into the chamber as he racked the slide back, the ratcheting sound loud in the alleyway with all the cold heartlessness that all steel seemed to possess.

" I don't want to kill you." The Were said, shifting his weight on his ankles.

"Too bad...we want to kill you." Coby stated flatly, and took aim with his pistol and fired.

The gun shot was painfully loud, and even the thunder above did not swallow it entirely. The muzzle flash was like a second sun. The round slammed into the Were's right shoulder, throwing blood and tissue out, causing the Were to stumble backward with the inertia of the bullet; the Were uttered a small cry of surprise.

"NOW!" Grindr barked, bringing his blade to bear as he dove forward, seizing his chance to gut the wounded Were.

With a move so fluid it seemed impossible, the Were rolled to the right, coming up on his knees, directly in the path of the razor knife in Grindr's right hand. In a split second the blade would slice into the Were's jugular and he would bleed out in the alley.

That split second never came.

Even as he was rolling, the Were's powerful arm and left hand shot out, fingers open; the sound of flesh striking flesh, the thick wet sound was swallowed in the lightning burst. The Were had flat palmed Grindr to the solar plexus, driving him backward.

At the same instant Grindr went back on his ass to crash to the pavement behind him, the Were's right hand came up and caught the falling man's right flailing wrist and simply twisted, breaking it with the sickening sound of cracking bone, pulling the man to the ground with enough force to stun a bull into submission.

At once Grindr screamed and the blade fell the asphalt clattering out of sight and that was the last thing Grindr ever saw as the Were brought his knee up into Grindr's face, cracking his skull and snuffing out his life like a lit match in the wind.

Coby lined up a new shot and fired; the gun sputtered pitifully; it had water logged in the rain.

"Goddamn it!" Coby cursed, and dove down next to the dumpster to un-jam his weapon, ducking like a scared dog. The Were moved towards him his tail lashing in the rain.

Sliding in like a whip snake, Shank tried to slice the Were's Achilles tendon. The Were was too fast, jumping out of the way, grabbing Shank by the back of the shirt, rolling back around to the left and up to his feet, hurling short stocky Shank face first into the brick wall with an ear splitting thud, sending spider-web cracks through the brick face, shaking dust loose from the mortar.

Shank sank to the ground and moved no more.

Skinner hauled Brian away from the dumpster and held him, struggling, and the blade against his throat. "You want to save this meat-sack, eh, fleabag? You wanna kill my men? Well fuck you!"

Before the Were could cover the distance to him, Skinner turned Brian around to face him. " I promised to kill you slow and I ain't gonna lie. "

"NO!" the Were barked and dove towards Skinner.

Coby chose that moment to rush the Were and slammed shoulder first into him, knocking him backward in a flying tackle, the jammed gun forgotten.

Skinner drove the blade of his knife deep into Brian's abdomen, twisting it.

Brian felt a scream rip from his throat as the knife pierced him and a terrible fire begin to spread through him, as much as the red blood that gushed from the wound, spilling onto the pavement. His whole body went rigid as Skinner dragged the knife up through his bowels and finally, yanked the blade clear and tossed Brian away like yesterday's trash.

The world tilted wildly and gravity snared him, dragging Brian crashing to the ground. He felt the pain but his stunned brain could not process it.

Brian felt his awareness slow down as the pain overwhelmed him, his hands went to the gash in his stomach, the shirt ripped where the knife went through, blood soaking his hands, making them slippery and wet even as he tried to staunch the flow of his life force. He lay where he fell, too weak to move, trying to stay awake even as the pain and the strange heavy feeling in his eyes wanted him to go to sleep.

He heard muffled scuffling and saw twisted distorted shapes as his consciousness fled his body.

Was this dying?

Yes...it must be...

With a snarl, the Were simply straight punched Coby in the face, breaking his noise with a meaty-bone crunch; hot blood cascading from the fat man's nose, even as he fell away to the ground on his knees, his bravado broken and his strength useless.

The Were crossed the distance between himself and Skinner in two seconds, backhanding Skinner into the dumpster before the man could even turn around to face him. The skinnier man's feet left the ground with the force of the blow and crashed back first into the sharp edge of the dumpster. The thunder swallowed the wet splintering connective snap that was his spine.

Coby had done the smart thing; he had taken the opportunity to run and run he did, leaving the alleyway in sheer terror, taking his gushing ruined nose and leaving Skinner to face the creature alone.

Skinner lay where he fe1l, his back broken from the sheer force of the impact with the dumpster's hard right edge.

He was able to look up at the Were who stood over him. He glared at him with hate in his pain-filled eyes. "Your kind are nothing...Humans are the only ones...So you've killed me...you weren't able to save him, were you...were you, Max?"

The Were flinched at the sound of his name. He supposed word had gotten around about his nocturnal exploits.

"Go to hell." Max said, and turned away from Skinner, whose eyes rolled back in his head as he died, blood leaking from his mouth from the internal bleeding; he literally downed in his own blood.

Max stepped over his corpse and moved over to Brian, whose form was now still on the ground, the pavement stained in blood. He couldn't save him...there was no way he could get the man to an ambulance or hospital in time.....just like he had been able to save his family that night years ago from the raiders...he was just as pathetic as the men who'd he'd put out of their misery tonight. Half angry, half frustrated, he growled to himself.

Turning, Max hung his head and went to leave the alley, and he was half way over the dumpster and the fence when he saw movement.

His sharp eyes caught it and he saw the unbelievable.

The guy that Skinner had stabbed was alive.

Dropping back to the ground, the pavement wet on his bare feet, soaking through the fur, Max moved quickly to Brian, and knelt beside the man.

Brian looked up at Max and for a moment, they simply locked eyes. Then Brian did something that Max did not expect.

"Thank you...for trying..." Brian said, his voice fading, the light going out of his eyes as his life fled his body.

Max did not respond. Was this what his life was going to be? Watching everyone he tried to help die and be ripped away from this world? Was that the curse of being what he was? To be nothing but a monster...he was no one, nothing...what could he do....he had failed again..

Then it hit him. He knew how to save Brian's life.

" No...I can't...." he said out loud, his voice barely a whisper and even as Brian's lay his head back and closed his eyes, Max made his decision. He would not loose another life. Not this time. Not tonight.

Going against every belief he had, he took Brian up from the ground and bared his fangs, and drove them into Brian's left shoulder, holding them there.

Brian's eyes shot open as the pain of the bite drove away any of the pain he felt from the stab wound. Brian felt a fire pulse through his veins, as if his very blood were boiling and he gasped in shock, his back arching like he was hit with an electric current.

As Max held Brian in the death bite, the bloody gash on Brian's stomach seemed to close a bit, the blood flow slowing to a trickle.

Finally, weak from the blood loss and pain from the newest injury, Brian passed out from shock and went limp in Max's grasp.

Max immediately withdrew, and spit out the blood from his mouth, the iron copper taste flooding his senses. For a moment, Max thought he had killed the man. He quickly wiped his mouth and checked Brian's pulse and then realized with shock that the man not only had a pulse and instead of growing weaker...it was growing stronger.

Unsure of what to do next, Max did the only thing he could and took the man's jacket off, ripping what was left of Brian's shirt from his body and tied it around his abdomen, creating a tight make shift tourniquet. Replacing the jacket and making sure he wasn't doing any more damage, Max lifted Brian's limp form into a fireman's carry. Moving quickly as he could already hear the police sirens wailing, he vaulted onto the dumpster and over the fence in a single fluid motion. His feet hit the ground hard and he began to run, carrying Brian with him, and deep inside, praying he done the right thing to whatever god that would listen to him. Behind him, floodlights and blue-red flashers light up the night, even as Max vanished into the darkness.

*******