Lone Wolf

From the Story Arc: Hunting High And Low

Previous Story in the Arc: Firefight by Victoria Victrix (Thursday, January 22, 2009)

Next Story in the Arc: On The Trail by Victoria Victrix (Thursday, January 22, 2009)

(posted Thursday, January 22, 2009)

The she was weak with more than simple exhaustion. Something had happened to her; when she moved, although she did not whimper, the he could tell she was in pain. It was as if all her muscles had been strained; he and the new she could tell that by her scent.

It is the way of the pack to tend to the sick and injured; they did not even think twice about doing so, going out to hunt together while she remained behind, resting. Besides, the he was enjoying his new mate, but the new one seemed to think the little one was the alpha female and was a bit shy of mating in her presence.

And perhaps she was the alpha female, but was more like one of the old ones, no longer able to bear, but still wise and canny. Certainly she had known how to find the new one, and how to persuade her to come along.

When they came back again, laden with game, the Wild Hunt had drawn closer. With one accord, the three shared out the catch and ate everything, every feather and bit of fur, and licked each other clean to get rid of the blood-scent. Then they huddled together, breathing softly. The little she fell asleep, and in her sleep, twitched.

She should have guessed something bigger than normal was up by how attentive Red had been during their little “honeymoon.” Oh, she knew something was going on—Red had been doing a lot of Portal work lately, and it had been serious stuff, she could tell by the way he acted when he came home. It was, she suspected, the real cause of that fight they’d had the day he turned around and asked her and her folks to meet him at City Hall to get married. He’d slipped up one day and dropped the name of Tina MacIntyre as the person who was facilitating this, and she should have guessed that something odd was going on, because Tina was an odd little duck, with a very peculiar position at Portal Corps and it seemed, a finger in every pie out there. But she hadn’t thought anything of it.

Not until the week of honeymoon was over—and Red went out to do another one of those special jobs—and didn’t come back. That was just before the explosion at Portal Corps and the Murdock clan—well, she actually hadn’t worried, because he was only a day or so overdue and that happened now and then. And getting Sera and the kids back was so much more urgent. If anything, she was grateful it hadn’t been him caught in that tragedy; one less loved one to worry about.

But then one day turned into three, and three into a week—and she went to Portal Corps to demand the coordinates of the world he’d been sent to, only to be told there was no record of him being there.

If Johnny hadn’t already been tearing the place a new one in his frantic search for his family, she’d have been holding knives to throats. But he was, and she didn’t. Instead, she spent every waking second that she wasn’t tracking down the Murdocks—or trying to—tracing leads and coming up against nothing. Nothing at AoC. Ranc out of communication too. Portal Corps hacked into and a gig of secret files uncovered that gave her nothing. Magical traces dead-ending at Portal Corps, at the base of Portal Two, Building C.

This was the man she loved more than life, and not even that could power the magic enough to find him. And there was no mystical connection between them as there was between Johnny and Sera; nothing more to follow.

And every day that passed, every sleepless night, she had to look, act…normal. He hadn’t wanted her to talk about this. There must have been a reason.

Finally she remembered that tiny little hint, and went back to Portal Corps a week ago. She’d cornered Tina MacIntyre in her office, and something in her eyes must have scared the crap out of the woman, because, although she never raised her voice or uttered a threat, MacIntyre had spilled the beans.

Red and some others—MacIntyre wouldn’t say who—were doing under-the-table Portal hops. MacIntyre was putting them through, off the books. Her orders were to destroy the coordinates and all records as soon as the hop was made. This had been going on for months, and since they always came back—

Except this time, they hadn’t.

Vickie walked out into King’s Row, face tightly under control. But the thugs that accosted her, thinking that, dressed as she was in her civvies she was an easy target, found themselves waking up in the Zig with every bone in their bodies broken and half-healed again, and a dim memory of a walking rock pounding the hell out of them.

Red—Red—where are you?

She trudged up the twenty flights of stairs instead of flying to the balcony or taking the elevator. She unlocked the door of an achingly empty apartment, to find Grey sitting glumly next to the combination comm-set and telephone. Her familiar shook his head at her look.

Red—