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Wolves Reign: Blood Moon

Seattle, Washington

a part of Wolves Reign: Blood Moon, by Caged Bird.

Seattle is not it's vibrant Capitol Hill or Space Needle attraction; it's dark, uninviting, and cold in more ways than one... Crime and danger lurk around every corner in this werewolf populated metropolis.

Caged Bird holds sovereignty over Seattle, Washington, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Seattle, Washington is a part of Wolves Reign: Blood Moon.

There are no Places in Seattle, Washington.

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Up in the top left corner of the map, Seattle retains a sense of mystery with its slightly isolated location, legacy of grunge music and rumors of non-stop rain. But as any local will undoubtedly clarify, New York annually receives more precipitation than Seattle. It just so happens that the Emerald City receives its rainfall little by little over the better part of nine consecutive months. Locals also don’t mind that this reputation keeps tourists to a relative minimum most of the year. In the short, sweet summer, though, Seattle is a playground for all types. Go outside the city to the mountains or islands, get lost in neighborhood record stores and organic restaurants, or just try to fit in as many concerts and shows as possible. And for those who don’t believe in Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter is also a prime time to ski, snowboard and to test out every coffee shop within walking distance. This gem of a city has plenty of reasons to be a must-see destination...if you can stomach the eye sore that is the werewolf 'ghettos' that is.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Silverstein Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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J A C K S O N
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A weather-beaten homestead sat at the far end of an untended track of land at the edge of a small one horse town, lawn littered with disorganized trees and no landscaping, practically melding into it's backdrop. The wooden slats were long since silvered by the sun, and the roof shingles warped. That house, although a much smaller scale, was one that was frighteningly reminiscent of the old abandoned haunted houses in the Scooby Doo movies Jackson Kastner had grown up watching as a child. The floorboards creaked in odd places, making him feel like he was playing hopscotch at the moment rather than trying to sneak past his mother's bedroom door without waking her. Creeeeeak. He froze, cringing, hovering in mid-step like a victim of Medusa's wrath.

He waited for what felt like an eternity until he was, like, ninety-nine point nine percent she hadn't stirred before daring to move again. Or at least ninety percent. He was eighteen years old now officially, for Christ's sake, why was he creeping about like the hamburgler in his own 'home'? Because his mother would jerk a knot in his ass if she knew what he was up to this fine Saturday morning, that's why. Eighteen or not. After all, no respectable teen was up before the crack of noon on the weekends. She'd suspect he was up to no good....yet again...and to be fair, he was. Jackson couldn't help it though, he just had a taste for trouble. Whatever brought the most eyes on him. He basked in the attention.

He finally made it safely past her door and to the front of the house, releasing a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding until now.

Out onto the porch, the old boards creaked under the weight of his boots too. Goddamn, does everything in this house make noise? They felt thin and veined, frozen by a hundred winters, baked by a hundred summers, and smelled of dust and age. He didn't freeze mid-step this time though, he was almost scott-free and if she hadn't woken yet she probably wasn't going to. He skipped risking taking the steps down and just cleared the whole thing, jumping off the deck onto a rolling sea of dry grass and picked up a light brisk jog down the dirt drive up to the street. Jackson didn't have a car, couldn't afford one, but the town was small and one could get just about anywhere on foot. Plus, he had a knack for finding the fastest route possible to any given destination, even though he couldn't find his own way in life.

It was his senior year, at long last, but Jackson didn't like to dwell too much on high school. Most of it was sort of hazy anyway, like his brain had been stuffed with cotton balls, but he remembered a lot of bad marks on his report cards, a lot of "Apply yourself!" and "See me after class!" notes scrawled down on his failed tests. Calculus didn't click for him, grammar was a waste of time--he knew how to write a damn sentence--why did he have to deconstruct it and then put it back together in some stupid diagram? It was difficult for him to pay attention. His brain was constantly offline it seemed. It wasn't like he hadn't tried. Early on, before he'd given up completely on academics, he'd tried, like, ridiculously hard. Stayed up late studying, gotten tutored, scribbled pages and pages of notes...But a light was on in an empty house, or so one of his teacher's had once said. You see though, lesson plans were differing in every town they moved to. Each school was at a different point and it made it difficult for Jackson to follow things he had yet to learn at the previous place and he couldn't get caught up before he was too quickly thrust into yet another school. It just was rough on him altogether....Which was probably one of two reasons he was headed the direction he was now, to vandalize some school property.

On to reason numero dos. Now though his academic game was weak, his social game was strong. Jackson could charm the skin off of a snake without batting an eyelash. He could easily win over many friends, but he'd then be forced to sever those ties each and every time his mother decided they had reached some invisible point where it became necessary to pick up and leave again without notice. Ms. Kastner believed it was important to keep your friends at arms length anyways when you were unidentified werewolves like they were, so she could never be brought to see his plight. Now, technically, werewolves were supposed to be confined to living in the ghettos in the city, but his mother largely avoided that for whatever reason; choosing to illegally hide out under a human guise. Jackson wouldn't have minded living in the city with others like him despite the prejudices outted Werewolves faced today, but anytime he pressed her about it, she shut down. She shouldn't have been surprised when her teenage son, cut off from the rest of the world, fell in with a bad crowd then...One that wanted him to meet them early on a Saturday morning to leave paint bombs in the school lockers, set to explode on Monday when the hapless students of Thorp High went to retrieve their books.

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Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Turns out the school had an alarm system installed last fall and when the cops showed, mid-setup; Jake, Ryan, Bobby, and Jo bailed, leaving Jackson to take the fall. It was not in Jackson's nature to be bitter or angry over it though, he understood that his friend's might not get shown the same leniency that he was sure to, and he was happy to cover for them, because even more importantly, they knew they could trust him not to narc. But none of this stopped Jackson from crossing his arms over his chest in the back of the squad car like a sullen little boy, pouting for being placed in time out. This wasn't the first time he had been scooped up by the police, not even the first time in this town, but maybe this deputy had a soft spot for kids or maybe he was just a perv for blonde teenaged youth, Hell, he didn't know or care, the important thing was he was letting him off with a warning, dropping him back home instead of the county jail. The vehicle hastily pulled up outside the humble house, kicking up earth and dust with each tire rotation, blanketing the white squad car with a fine tan layer of dirt. The driver, one John Griner, who had deemed Jackson could be let off the hook parked it on a patch of dead grass and came around the side to let him out as the other officer ducked out of the passenger side to meet him, to hold Jackson back from bounding straight into the safety of his ramshackle walls.

"I'm going to have a word with your mother, first." Deputy Griner stated. "Mcknab, Stay with him a moment."

Jackson sighed, rolling his eyes. "Good luck with that, she's probably not even home. Can't you just leave a note or something?" He pressed knowing full and well she was, only to be proven right as a bleary eyed Ms. Kastner stepped out onto the porch, delicate hand shielding her face from the bright midday sun, appearing all to the world like she had just woken up. Dammit.

She looked to the police officer approaching her door with skepticism until her eyes went back further to rest on her son. Surprise.....a blazing white grin, that under different circumstances would make even the most doleful person smile, flashed across his face, splitting across his countenance like a nail pounded into glass as he cheekily waved at his mother. The officer and notorious prick Mcknab, holding Jackson back with a hand placed on his chest, scowled.

"You realize you are one lucky son of a bitch, don't cha? Griner may think you will sort yourself out, but I know better. You'll be back behind that cage in my car again. Your type always finds a way to screw something up." He grumbled, voice low so the pair on the porch wouldn't hear him.

Jackson frowned and began patting himself down, checking the pockets of his jacket like he was looking for a misplaced set of keys. "Now where did I put....that rats ass for your opinion I could give?"

He barked out a laugh as the officer grabbed a fist full of worn leather and spun Jackson around, slapping him onto the hood of the squad car.

"Damn, I didn't know you liked it so rough, if you wanted to 'frisk' me, all you had to do was say so." He breathed out as Mcknab applied pressure to the arm he had twisted behind his back, forcing a hiss out from behind Jackson's pearly teeth.

A growl rattled around in his chest, but he suppressed it. He could have tossed this bastard off of him with a simple shirk of his shoulder, but he had to play his human role and submit. He and Mcknab did this little song and dance just about every time Jackson was caught. He had a real chip on his shoulder about not being allowed to do his job, when the most excitement he saw was getting to issue the odd speeding ticket or two, or submitting the weekend revelers to the station's drunk tank.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Silverstein Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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L A U R E N
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Lauren’s eyes opened to the sight of damask wallpaper. The light on the bed stand was on and when she turned over she saw through the tall slatted windows that it was still dark outside. She didn’t know why she had woken up but now that she was, she was parched. The metal springs of the bed whined as she shifted her weight to the edge and set her feet down on the wooden floor. Tip-toeing out of the room, she tried her best not to wake her teenaged son in the room beside hers and went down the stairs to the kitchen. A mouse scuttled away unseen as the bare bulb over the table came on and she walked over to the basin sink to fill a glass of water.

She downed the metallic tasting well water in one eager gulp and stared outside into the obscure blackness. There wasn't any sort of light pollution where they lived. To her, living out in the country was peaceful, while her son suffered and felt his youth was being wasted in solitude. They had spent most of the past 18 years of his life on the road, but on Jackson's last year of high school Lauren had decided it was best for him to stay in one place for him to graduate... But of course, she had to choose the most isolated, boring, back roads town that she could find.

A creaky step gave away the movement of another in the house. It was near impossible to sneak around with every floorboard, faucet, and rusty hinge that squeaked in the old place. She must have woken Jackson up and she turned to look at him as the footsteps behind her ended at the doorway to the kitchen. Only it wasn’t Jackson her eyes rested upon, instead the visage of an older, more menacing likeness of him stood there staring back at her.

Heart-stopping, mind-numbing, panic that slowed down time overtook her; the only thing she could hear was the whooshing sound of her heartbeat in her ears. She couldn’t tell whether it was a malicious spirit or the flesh and blood person of her ex-mate staring her down from the kitchen door, but her instinct to fly kicked in, causing her to bump back against the glass basin and drop her cup clumsily. It hit the floor with a loud crack, bringing everything back to full speed.

"You have been very bad, my dear." He said in his all too familiar condescending voice; his placid tone belying a truly savage nature.

"You’re dead." She stammered.

His face broke out in a smile, eyes crinkling with belittling delight; as smug as a cat batting around an injured bird. She recognized that look, loathed and feared it, knowing that nothing good came of it.

"I was about to say the same thing about you." He said.

She immediately b-lined it for the back door attached to the kitchen, only to open it and reveal her son Jackson obstructing the way. Her heart was now beating the inside of her chest cavity so hard it threatened to burst out.

"Jackson! Run!"

She tried to direct him out the door but her son simply stared at her quietly in return, behaving unusually impassive to her panic. A sense of dread washed over her before he suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her back into the kitchen.

"Run? Why? Why are we always running? What are we running from?" Jackson questioned in monotonous rapid-fire speech. With confusion came clarity, she realized something was not right, yet this didn't help calm her any. She backed away from her son who continued stepping further into the kitchen.

"This isn’t real."

But just as she thought this she was captured from behind by a pair of massive hands on her waist – as strong and possessive as she remembered, so real her breath caught in her throat.

"Not real? Not real?" he scoffed with an arrogant chuckle, his hot breath curling around her neck. "What part of this doesn’t feel real? Aren’t all dreams in some part based off reality? This is your psyche, your emotions, your problems" - his hands slithered down from her waist to her hips, sending a tingling sensation up her spine – "And you still seem to have a lot of those to work out, don’t you?"

He twisted her around with a quick flick of his wrist and like an illusion, he was gone; as was everything else, the kitchen falling away into nothing but blackness and she was face to face with her son again in a dark void.

"What are you afraid of, mom?"

She squeezed her eyes shut, placing her hands over ears, and with all her might wished to return to consciousness.

"This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real."

At last her mantra seemed to work as her mind and body pulled themselves back together like polar opposite magnets, colliding, and awakening her on the other side. She gasped and jerked herself to an upright position, rubbing her eyes until they found their focus on the floral wallpaper ahead. She glowered at the peeling paper; how had she not caught on sooner to these inconsistencies in her dream? She kicked off the tangled bed sheets and crawled out of bed, making her way downstairs.

Every slatted window in the house cut rays of morning sunshine through the dusty air inside. She went into the kitchen over to the sink and turned the faucet to fill the coffee pot, only to have nothing come out... Reminding her the sink didn’t work either in contradiction to her dream. She sighed.

Just as she managed to get herself a cup of coffee made from water in the bathroom sink and sit down to watch the news she heard the noise of a vehicle making its way up the gravel driveway. She curiously got up to go see who was approaching; wrapping the robe she had on over her night gown and walked out onto the front porch in her bare feet. Her heart sank to the pit of her stomach as she saw through the blinding sun rays the Deputy Sheriff’s vehicle pull up into her yard, and her son and two sheriffs exit the vehicle. Jackson waved with a cheeky smile on his face at her and she resisted the urge to hide her own face behind her hand in shame.

Deputy John Griner – a sheriff that she had become almost too well acquainted with the past few months they’d lived there– came over to her. "Hello, Officer Griner." She greeted uneasily, thinking in the context that good morning would not be so befitting to say. As friendly as the officer was he must have been tired of seeing her and hearing her excuses for her son.

"What happened this time?" she asked.

A loud thud drew her attention momentarily away to see Jackson being slammed onto the hood of the cop car. It took some willpower not to growl, clearing her throat uncomfortably, and looking back to Griner calmly and expectantly.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Silverstein Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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G R I N E R
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L A U R E N
Deputy Sheriff John Griner smiled at her in his classic way as he graced the porch with his mud spackled boots. It was the sort of smile that was born from years of municipal service. It crinkled his eyes and drew lines around his unbalanced mouth, and his perpetually upturned brows were oddly reassuring in that they appeared sympathetic. "Miss Kastner." He greeted kindly, warmly even. "Well, I'm afraid I'm not here for a social call." He threw a glance over his shoulder at the quarreling pair by the car. "We caught Jackson...vandalizing school property...again. Now, I know he's a good kid, wouldn't of done it on his own, but he isn't helping himself out too much by refusing to give us any names." John sighed, pulling a long drag of air in through his teeth as he ran a hand through dark sweat dampened hair that stood up on it's ends wildly. The cop always had this sort of approachable look about him, formal but casually so. Whether this was his natural state or by design was unclear. "This is the sixth time in five months we've had to cart him over here...and it's getting kind of difficult to keep Andy on a leash..." He chuckled good-naturedly and shook his head like an indulgent but over worked father.

"I know, Officer Griner, I know, and I appreciate you so much for being so understanding." she said, clasping her hands in front of her. "I promise, I'm going to have a real good talk with him this time. This will be the last time you ever have to deal with him."

This was probably the billionth promise of this nature she had made to the deputy, who up to this point seemed satisfied living on her unfulfilled words and pretty appreciative smiles. She earned sympathy points being the single mother of a rambunctious teenager, but she could tell by Officer Griner's worn expression she was close to having used up all these.

He had seen and heard her promises all before that had yielded little to no results, so he approached a different method as tactfully as he could.

"...Can be frank with you for a moment?" He asked politely, wringing his hands together. "...have you ever considered the why in why Jackson might be inclined to act out so often?" He chuffed, folding his arms over one another. "I think he just craves the attention is all, the discipline. And not to fault yah, lord knows there's only so much a woman in your position can do, but I'm beginning to seriously doubt the effect your words can have on 'em." John's eyes widened perceptively at her obvious fright. "I'm not suggesting anything dramatic like taking him in to the station, I'm just saying...offering really, if he needs a male authority figure...someone to give a little extra focus on him, I'm more than happy to lend a hand is all."

"Oh, uh..."

Lauren still wasn't the best at reading people, but she had come to understand a thing or two about people's nature. Humans and werewolves were not that different after all.They even structured themselves similarly; there was a hierarchy, and every community, even human ones, had their Alphas. Officer Griner was one such Alpha and she knew just how to handle those.

"That is very generous of you, Officer Griner. It would be so nice for Jackson to have someone to look up to like you." she replied, "But, I couldn't possibly put that responsibility on you; you've already done so much for him. I really appreciate the offer, I do..."

John's shoulders went slack in defeat. Well, maybe not total defeat, but he realized the notion might have to rest on the back burner for now until Miss Kastner deemed herself ready for such a step. He nodded once resolutely, "Well, just putting it out there." before waving to his partner which obviously was the signal to release the ever vexatious Jackson. He had hope, she seemed to really take to the idea of having him around, but simply worried about the untold burden it would undoubtedly be...so he'd just have to take extra care to assure her he was ready to tackle it head on. "And you don't have to go callin' me Officer, John's just fine." Jackson happily lopped up to the porch like some carefree Labrador heedless of the crap he was tracking in. He was victorious in his smile. "Yeah, thanks John." he stated a none too gratefully, face split from ear to ear with teeth.

Lauren shot Jackson a reprimanding looking as he slinked inside the house before turning her attention back to officer Griner or John as he was now insisting she called him. She wasn't exactly happy about this development but at least he was letting her son off the hook which was the whole point. "Thank you, John, so much! I mean it." she said backing away towards the front door bashfully not taking her eyes off him. She gave one last meek little wave as she stepped inside, then shut the door; resting her back against it with her eyes closed and listening for him to leave. As soon as she heard the officer's heavy footsteps trot down the porch stairs and across the dirt towards the car, she let out a breath she hadn't even known she was holding and finally opened her eyes. She was the first to break the silence in the house after they heard the patrol car roll away, speaking only three words in as low and aggravated voice as she could pull off:

"Jackson. Ian. Kastner."

Nothing to see here. Move along, 2681216.

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J A C K S O N

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L A U R E N
Suddenly all of the amusement that had surrounded the situation only a moment earlier seemed to be sucked out of the room with three spoken words; her voice deliberate, slicing each syllable with pregnant silence. Jackson's hands formed shameful fists at his sides, nails biting his palms angrily. He towered over his mother but he might as well of been three feet tall. Eighteen years might as well of been six. "What?" He stabbed, tone falsely void of guilt to spite his culpable gaze.

Lauren looked taken aback by the bravado in her son's voice; she straightened her back up and folded her arms across her chest. "What do you mean 'what'? You nearly got arrested! Again!" she exclaimed her voice high with exasperation. She unfolded her arms and pointed back behind her, "That is not keeping a low profile! Do you realize how lucky you are? If it had been any other cop besides John you would be down at the station right now!"

Jackson bared his teeth in the effort to keep accusing words from tumbling out of his mouth, but to no avail. They bore their way through like persistent termites out to destroy the foundation of the house or in this case the foundation of their relationship. "Ugh, that guy's a total perv mom. Wake up! Besides, I wouldn't have to 'keep a low profile' if you'd quit lying to everyone and let me be what we are!" The implication hung there, hovering like a ghost. Smothering and suffocating the never posed question, why?

Lauren, for the most part, rarely lost her temper, but at the present was having a hard time containing herself. She had tried sheltering Jackson from a lot of their troubles, had wanted him to lead as normal a life as a young werewolf possibly could living among humans; yet now she realized this had not impressed upon him the type of caution that he needed to survive. She could also sense the aural presence of his unspoken question. The 'why' behind all her actions which she stubbornly denied any real answer to. "Jackson - I don't lie because I want to- I lie for the sake of us both! If we acted on our natural instincts and people discovered what we are we would be persecuted and sent to the ghetto, or worse!"

"What's so terrible about the ghettos?" He shouted, his voice finding footholds in his indignation on which to climb higher. "Are they really any worse than this?!" He kicked the wall to his left, and the floor moulding coughed out a cloud of dust before abandoning it's place as part of the partition to join the floor. The regret was instantaneous.

His anger fell from his chest to pool in his gut, cold and clammy and uncomfortable. "Mom, I'm sorry...I didn't mean for it to come out like that." Jackson's voice was tired and thin. He looked like a car stripped at a junkyard, form and polish ripped away to reveal a rusted frame, brittle and bare, sanded down to the bone. "I just mean...if we are gonna live like this anyway...why not in one place, with people like us. You know, sure maybe the conditions are crappier but the company could be nice, right?" He shuttered a sigh, never intending to insult all his mother continued to provide. He knew her life hadn't an easy one even if the details of it still remained a mystery to him. He just couldn't take the lies anymore, but he was beginning to doubt she could even find the truth if she had wanted to. Somethings were buried so deep, unearthing them would mean the destruction of everything that made a home above it.

Every muscle in her body tightened for a moment as if she had been given an electric shock as his foot met the molding with a 'bang' and the decorative board collapsed. After the shock washed over her, her face fell blank, almost catatonic as she listened. She was retreating back inside herself and she was having a hard time finding words when it was her time to speak.

"I wish... I wish I could give you a pack. A family. But..." She shook her head, "But it's just not that simple Jackson. It's not. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry, it's just me you have."

This wasn't the complete truth either of course, only increasing the deadening feeling inside her, a numbing cold spreading through her soul like winter. There was Jared. Her first son who still inquired after his little brother in every letter, how he was doing, how tall he was, how got along in each new town they moved to. He was eager to meet him one day... But she was too afraid of letting her old and new world meet.

"I'll be outside." With that she went back out onto the porch, perching herself on the side where the railing had fallen off.

He watched her retreating figure, the silence in her wake stretching thick like mud. All this pain for his defiance and fruitless defiance at that. He swallowed the lump in his throat, and reluctantly trailed after her. The screen door protested it's overuse within the past hour with a few pitiable whines, but then fell prey to the quiet as well. His mother was stooped on the porch, legs dangling over the sides, eyes distant. Jackson lowered himself beside her with a apologetic smile, wrapping an arm around her narrow shoulders. The weight of her against him was comforting, like the press of a Kevlar vest, a shield against the world. "You remember that dumb game we used to play? The uh, the five senses one?" His words were colored with acceptance, a substitute for 'it's okay, you're enough.' He wouldn't ask her to say anymore on the subject of their situation, the argument left behind in the house to be picked up at a later date. It was far from forgotten though, like a rock in his shoe the question would exist, a hard irritant that would tear everything around it until removed.

Lauren smiled against her son's shoulder and gave an affirmative 'mmhmm'. She pulled away, sitting back up with her head erect looking, listening, smelling her surroundings. The sun was starting to go down, a blend of oranges and pinks silhouetting the mountains and barns of the landscape. A cool breeze floated by, ruffling their hair and she closed her eyes, took a deep breath. "What are the neighbors cooking for dinner?" she asked.

There weren't very many werewolf games that Lauren had taught Jackson. She generally didn't encourage him to use any of his supernatural abilities. But the senses she made an exception for; she didn't see any harm in him honing them. They could help him survive even in the human world and were underrated by werewolves even though they were just as important as strength and the ability to transform. You could win a fight without being very strong. Adam had taught her this.

There was always something to draw your focus outside, even in the evening--the huddled mounds of birds, succumbed to the lethargy of the hour, heaped on the creaking boughs of the trees; their lazy mellisonant songs were a distraction. As were the flares of dying light caught in his eyes, the rimose porch beneath him, or the hundreds of overloading divergent scents drafted on the breeze…but Jackson was prepared. They had played this game a hundred different times, a hundred different ways. He knew how to win, how to concentrate and identify. This was the one time when his mother happily celebrated his wolfish side, and he never relented an opportunity to prove himself. He lifted his chin, taking in a few whiffs from their neighbor’s distant direction.


It was consequential and widely unrecognized that to discern the origin of a smell, you had to taste it on the back of your tongue. If you inhaled deeply enough for the air to reach the somatosensory parts of your body, you would discover the source. This was somewhat unpleasant if the scent in question was a particularly nasty one. But the trick wasn’t detecting a smell or espying the fount, but pegging what it was. He grinned, meeting her wide fawn eyes. "Pork chops?" He posed, knowing full and well what her reply would be. He could practically taste the grease popping from the griddle. They’d go on like this for another hour or so. ‘What sides were being served, how many people could he hear in the house, etc.’ This was how she sated his desire to succumb to his true being. It was a distraction but not one that was sustainable. For now though, they challenged one another in blissful denial until the moon crept over their shoulders and chased them into the house for supper and then to their respective beds to lay to rest that lamentable day. Jackson fell asleep with a content smile on his face, burying his concerns and questions in his dreams.

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L A U R E N
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D E B B I E
Post-revolution, post-everything-she-knew, Lauren was a more decisive person than she had ever been. Fear no longer controlled her like it had or at least did not keep her in a state of paralysis. She wouldn't let anyone decide her fate for her or let her will be subverted by another's. Such was her reluctance to be made vulnerable again that it took a whole lot to get close to her. She also believed once someone learned she was not all meekness; once they saw the blood in her gums and skin under her nails that they would turn away. The one person who had known her best was dead. And would he have even liked what she had become she wondered? Maybe... After he got over the fact he was dead.

To be known so briefly and never again was its own little Hell. But her life was not completely devoid of relationships; there were some people who were relentless enough to befriend her and demanded to be let in; people who really didn't know quite what they were getting into. People like Debbie Wallace.

"HONEY. Put that thing down before you take someone's eye out." Debbie hollered before hastily prying a rather large steak knife from Lauren's grip.

It was the next day at work and Lauren had already burned herself on the coffee pot machine, dropped a plate, and been generally a frazzled mess up until she intervened. She didn't like the distracted manner in which her co-worker was operating, turning all sharp objects into hapless weapons. She placed it safely in the industrial sink basin before unleashing her knowing gaze on her friend.

"Is it Jackson again? What's he done now? I swear that boy is as wild as a bag of feral cats. I'd of slipped some Xanax into his corn flakes ages ago were he my son. And, you know, my boys ain't exactly the best behaved bunch."

She tossed her candy apple red hair over her shoulder with pursed set of lips. "What? Don't judge me until you've had to corral five of 'em. Plus they daddy, I'm just sayin' is all."

At first Lauren continued to hold a phantom steak knife in her hand, dazedly listening. It was hard to fathom that this was her only friend but Debbie, within her endless twangy spiels always had a few good nuggets of strangely sound advice. When Lauren realized she had probably been staring blankly for too long, she tuned back into the conversation, frantically putting her hands out in front of her.

"Oh no no no I wasn't thinking that I just--"

She conceded to Debbie's well-meaning pestering, knowing the only way to keep her from continuing was to tell her the truth. "--- Yes, it's Jackson. He got in trouble again... He came home with the police yesterday. He set off a bomb with his friends in a school locker!" She said, resting resting on the formica countertop with her face in her hand. "I just don't understand what I'm doing wrong..."

Debbie placed a consoling hand on Lauren's back, halfway into a prime hugging stance already. Her affection was a sloppy, demonstrative thing.

"You can't beat yourself up about it. Boys will be boys and whatnot. I think he just likes him some attention. My Coby is the same way, always spray painting dicks on the barn door. I spent a fortune on cover up paint, but I ain't doing it no more. I'm gonna leave that large neon penis for the neighbors to see. They know how it is raising kids these days."

She quickly steered Lauren back upright, and embraced her friend warmly. Where as most people might have bawked or been embarrassed on Debbie's behalf, Lauren listened to her friend with an unflinching amount of stoicism. She had grown quite used to her detailed storytelling of her family that verged on the explicit. It was only when Debbie pulled her into a warm sentimental hug that she became uncomfortable, managing to pat her two times stiffly on the back before she turned to collect some dirty plates from the counter.

"Lucky the cops brought him to the house instead of charging him, it could've been a helluva lot worse. It's almost like..." Debbie was careful not to make eye contact here as she worked a casual inflection into her tone. Her body language, however, betrayed her. "you've got a special friend on the force looking out for Jax. One could almost say a friend with benefits." She finished, finally facing her with eyebrows raised in both question and accusation, dishes clutched tightly to her chest in voracious curiosity.

"You mean John? What are you saying?" Lauren arched an eyebrow back at her, resting a hand on her hip.

Debbie nearly barked a laugh, "Was that who we were talking about? Funny, I didn't even mention a name and your mind jumped straight to Griner. Very telling." She hummed smugly. "I think you know EXACTLY what I'm saying, more so than you'd like to admit."

For so simplistic a person, she had a razor sharp intuition, especially where men were involved. She shuffled Lauren's discarded plates into her own stack with practiced ease.

"Ain't nothing to be ashamed of. Honestly. He's as good a man as any."

She often found Lauren to be a bit sensitive in her objections. Deb was hardly a spring chicken, but Lauren had the propriety of Debbie's eighty year old grandmother.

"It's not like that -- we're not --" Lauren's cheeks burned red and she pursed her lips shut. Anything she said she knew would only affirm Debbie's suspicions. As she had read in a copy of Shakespeare long ago, 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks.' Instead she waved her hand dismissively at her then grabbed a rag to begin cleaning tables.

Deb just smiled. "You could do worse, so be careful, you string him along for too long and he will find another filly to chase. Men are fickle like that, fickle and stupid." She sighed, the weight of the many stupid men of her past sitting heavily on her chest. "And I bet that good looking man, with all that pent up aggression...probably dynamite in the sheets." she snorted and giggled conspiratorially. "God bless Terry's soul, he ain't exactly exciting in the bedroom. You know what I mean? Slap a girl a little, pull some hair! Though, if he tried that shit outside of the bedroom, in say the kitchen, he'd be liable to get a slap right back."

It was true Lauren wasn't completely oblivious to Griner's attention of her and didn't necessarily dislike it -- it had its advantages and disadvantages. But there was no future, not the future that she could sometimes see the sheriff picturing in his hopeful eyes.

In fact it was this affection and familiarity that were making her contemplate a move, despite having promised her son they would stay until Spring. With Jackson suspended from school probably for the next week, there would be plenty of opportunity to pack and get out of dodge. She looked up from the table she was wiping as Deb came out of the back. Catching her eye, she smiled wistfully before quickly absorbing herself back in her task.

It wouldn't be easy breaking the news to Jackson they would be moving again, it never was, and there was something about this time that made her regret it just a little more.

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Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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J A C K S O N
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Jackson shuffled along in his mother's absence dutifully that day. He may not have been the best of sons, but he had a few redeemable qualities about him. Chores waited none too patiently to be attended to, and were not in short supply despite there only being two occupants to the house. It was a fair amount of work keeping a falling in building from doing exactly that, falling in, but it was a job tackled without much effort on painfully slow Sunday's when you had inhuman abilities, and endless stretches of time at your disposal since being suspended like Jackson had. The gutters had to be cleaned but first reattached, the lawn mowed-but only for the sake of weeds as the grass was stubbornly refusing to grow, and Jackson was pretty sure something had died in their crawl space making the whole house reek.

It was about mid-morning, when he was visiting the broom closet to locate some gloves or a bucket to work with, that a water stained, decaying shoe box fell without any preamble from the top shelf, hitting the floor with a soggy thump. It's contents managed to escape spilling out all over Jackson's boots but only just. It was nondescript and not of this decade, made clear by its bare cardboard body sans any logo. This was not a particularly entertaining find in and of itself, his mother had managed to collect a slight hoard of ill cared for keepsakes stashed away in boxes of varying sizes over the years. Just enough to leave a cluttered feeling behind with all who perused their contents, but not enough to prove unreasonable to take with you in a hurry. However, what was intriguing was that Jackson had known every single one of those boxes intimately after shuffling them from home to home, and yet he had never personally relocated this one.

Perhaps it was just a new old box, one found and re-purposed for her overflow items, this seemed a sensible enough idea, and yet he couldn't resign himself to leave it alone, placing it safely on the shelf to get back to work, without first investigating. Say what you will about individual privacy, but here that concept didn't exist between a mother and son when, said aforementioned son, had unpacked the contents of his mother underwear drawer on her behalf more than a time or two.

It could also have had something to do with the fact that his current chore, decaying opossum duty, was a particularly unpleasant one to be avoided by any means of procrastination.

He gingerly peeled back the lid, handling it more delicately out of suspense rather than care. Delicate was not a word oft found in the vocabulary that made up Jackson Kastner's being. Inside were stacks of crinkled yellowed papers, every empty margin filled with hastily scribbled words. It was curious, obviously some type of correspondence between his mother and some unidentified person. The letters were unsigned and insignificant in appearance, it was only once he pulled one off the top and began reading that he realized the importance of the letters and their nature. Back and forth the pair wrote to each other countless times, the man asking about Jackson and his progress, if he could come and see him. Hope took root in his chest. Could it be something from his late father? Some insight into who he was as a man? No...A lump formed in Jackson's throat as his mother shot the writer down time and time again. It couldn't be his father, could it? He had died before Jackson was born. But then why would this stranger be eager to meet her son?

Jackson had settled into the floor, pages fanned out all around him, time forgotten when he discovered it. A mistake, a slip of the pen, a clue. Brother. the author was growing impatient, frustrated with the infrequency of the updates and wanted to see Jackson, wanted to see his brother. Jackson felt shell shocked. Like the whole world around him was tilting and balance and gravity suddenly became meaningless. This man wasn't his father but rather his sibling, a sibling that by all accounts was still alive and had wanted to be with them but was denied. Anger roared through his veins, setting his blood on fire. Why? Why would his mother do this?! Let him feel so alone all of these years, deprive him of family, keep this a secret? With revived determination he gathered the letters back up and drug the entirety of the box down stairs to the kitchen table. He spread them out in an impressive display, a physical accusation, and jerked out a chair to sit in. He would wait, unflinching for how ever long it took, all the while growing more and more fueled in his resolve. The past two days had been leading up to this moment. No more lies. Jackson would have his truths. She couldn't hide this from him any longer.

He. Had. A. Brother.

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Character Portrait: Lauren Silverstein Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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L A U R E N

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J A C K S O N
Clothes, bedding, dishes, pictures, and other personal belongings... Lauren went through the mental checklist in her head of what needed to be packed. Then she went down the other list of things to do: pay her last month of rent, map out where they were headed to next (she always had a list of at least three locations to run to in case of emergencies), research where they were going to live (some place where they accepted rent in cash, with no renter background checks, and preferably a place with a basement or attic for full moons), and write a letter to Jared where they were going. The 90's Frankensteined Nissan that she drove creaked to a stop in the driveway and she gathered up the dinner of a burger and fries she brought home for Jackson from the diner; noting as she got out that she saw no lights on in the front windows. She came into the house first going into the kitchen and turning on a light and setting down the bag of food on the table.

"Jackson, sweetheart!" she called out, shirking off her jacket and hanging it on the coat stand beside the door. Nothing. Maybe he was in his bedroom. "Jackson, there's dinner!" she called out in a more coaxing voice. When he did not respond to that she became a little curiouser as to where her son was at, as he was not one to miss an invitation for dinner. She went to go upstairs, pausing when she heard a noise eminate from the kitchen. She stepped into the dark room, head cocked to the side.

"Jackson, what are you doing sitting in the dark?"

Immediately all the humor was sapped out of the room as she flicked on the light and looked at her son sitting at the table disconsolate, papers spread out in front of him.

"What's all this...?" Lauren asked -- knowing of course exactly what the papers were, but not wanting to immediately incriminate herself. It was hard to look at her whole correspondence with her oldest son over the past 18 years spread out before her that she had kept hidden away like some dirty secret in a box in a dark corner of every place they lived. They were so many that they consumed the entire surface of the formica table and spilled onto the floor. She couldn't help but stoop down to pick up the few that had fallen. Jackson had never had any physical proof to substantiate or challenge what little she told him. Lauren might as well have been born out of a void, walking out bearing scars that she pretended she had no idea where they came from. She left the details of the past scarce and let him fill in the blanks as he pleased, as they were surely better than the truth anyways. Probably nowhere in the patched together made-up story that he had in his mind did he have a sibling though...

Jackson wore a startlingly electric expression. It was wide awake and glittering, a match struck just behind his eyes. It was not his usual mien. This expression moved in a way that his face had always been capable of, surely, but never been asked to.

"I don’t really know. It appears to be letters between you and a sibling I didn’t know I had…but you tell me?" He asked, his voice unsteady, a mixture of hurt and anger rolling generously through the vowels causing it to shake.

It was difficult to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and even more so with the fact that she still seemed to be searching for her out, guarding her lies. He could see secrets dart between her glances and it infuriated him. He had righteously anticipated an immediate confession, or at the very least a reflection of guilt but this? Did she even possess the ability to be honest without avoidance? Even when confronted with inscrutable evidence? She had had eighteen years of opportunities to break this to him, she had been given chance after chance to best figure a way to reveal the news. He was old enough now, difficult truths should have only become easier to unload. He didn’t even know who she was and by proxy, who even he himself was. Jackson saw before him a smash-cut slideshow of memories that didn’t gel and lies that didn’t stick. The schism between his manufactured past and reality had begun to narrow.

"SAY SOMETHING." He demanded.

Lauren inhaled sharply at his tone, for a moment needing to look away as to not show the pained expression in her eyes and think. She filled the momentary silence with setting the paper sack with his dinner inside on the kitchen counter before turning back to him. She leaned against one of the back of the kitchen chairs with both hands, her nails trimmed and filed into docile ovals drumming anxiously against the wooden frame while her face remained unmoved. After another moment she stopped the incessant tapping having finally come to terms there was no other way out then to tell the truth. It had stood tacit on her tongue for so long that it did not come naturally for her to speak it and she began with much hesitancy.

"Yes... that is your brother, my son, in those letters... We were separated during the revolution... He lives in a ghetto, in Seattle."

Jackson's mouth hung agape, his words staggering in his throat. It was so...blunt. So without preface or excuse. He waited, hoping there was more to be said, but she just stared back at him with this inscrutable physiognomy. His rows of teeth met one another in a grind as he refused to break eye contact, to waver. Calm down, breathe. Get your answers. Yesterday's argument had felt like a portent for this one, the one that would haunt his impression of his mother until the day he died.

"...and why is this the first I'm hearing of him?" He finally asked, words aimed like knives across the chair between them.

So much of what he felt right then was conveyed by his body. The thrust of his shoulders, the slant of his neck, the curvature of his arms into the dull traps of his hands. This wasn't right. Jackson was a happy, carefree kid. He didn't feel things like this, like betrayal.

"It wasn't safe for you to know him." she replied almost sharply, "...It's all very complicated Jackson. I wish there was some easy way to explain it. After the revolution being together as a family was simply out of the question." Outcasts. Traitors. Defectors. She swallowed, "-- We are both regretful of things done in the past. Me, especially. The path I chose has made it so I could never see my pack again, let alone your brother. You should not blame him for having not reached out... clearly, he has tried many times."

Getting the whole truth out of her was a fruitless effort. Even as the proverbial writer of her own life she seemed fuzzy on the details, the definition of an unreliable narrator; her story was marred, some pages ripped out, others burned, and no conclusions ever reached. There were no answers to give her son because she didn't have them either, namely why. Why had all this happened? Why to her? Why to Jared? Why had her mate done everything he did? And why if she was so justified in her own actions did she feel wrong?

She hadn't been able to much contemplate these questions in the midst of trying to survive. All she could do was manage what was suppressed in her psyche. She had taught herself to go to sleep without crying, to be able to stand her own reflection in the mirror, and to look at her son without thinking of him. Except now, as much as she had told herself over the years this was her son and not his, she could not deny as Jackson glowered at her as calm as the eye of a hurricane from across the table that at least in appearance he was his father's son.

"I don't blame him, I don't KNOW him, I blame you. There was a way to explain it, you just never even bothered to try!" He cried out in total and utter frustration. He was spinning, reeling, his calm lost in a snap of a moment. "You could have just said-" His voice broke. "Even if I believed you, which you've given me no reason to, that doesn't mean you couldn't have at least TOLD me. All this time...you lied to me."

Jackson Kastner, fighter of men, devil of a boy, didn't do things like cry but for some reason, in that moment, tears seemed to be stinging the back of his eyes. He'd be damned if he let them fall, though. His hands clenched and unfurled a few times at his waist. He finally broke eye contact with her, letting his gaze plummet to the floor. Jackson felt robbed, robbed of any choice that might have led him someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.

"Is there anything- anyONE else? No long lost uncles, cousins, or maybe sisters hiding in the woodwork somewhere?" His tone was scornful and sarcastic, but the question remained, what more could she been concealing behind that glassy stare?

"No, no family. Neither your father or I had any." Lauren replied deadpan. She thought about the pack she'd left behind, people like Coren, Lucas, and other friends that she was close to that she had once considered family; but there was no blood and she didn't know what had happened to most people she used to know. She hated to see her son hurting as he so obviously was; his bravado slipping slightly with tears stinging at the corner of his eyes. Yet it didn't move her enough to tell him everything, holding onto the back of the chair in silence like every last fiber of her calm composure.

The statement 'neither did I until recently' instantly came to mind but, it would do him no good to take jabs at her now when he was close to the truths he had been unwittingly searching for all these years. Jackson swallowed his ignominious comment and plowed on. "What...what happened back then? Why are things like this now?" If he just knew a few details, he could figure the rest. He just needed something to grab onto so verity could take root. He just desperately wanted to understand.


Lauren let go of the back of the chair and looked out the window above her son's head; seeming to search for her answer outside somewhere and looking back to places that she had long since left behind. She began with some trepidation but gathered momentum as she spoke, fueled by an undercurrent of ire that rose to the surface.

"Not everyone was for the revolution. I didn't want a war but your father... he desired it more than anything. More than anyone I might say. He cared about the revolution above any future we might have had or even his own life... I hated it. I resented what it brought out in him."

It was the first time she had ever spoken at length about what had happened 18 years ago. Some of it she realized would be quite contradictory to what she had already revealed to him. She had, believe it or not, never spoke ill of Adam. She had never led on one iota that she bore any resentment towards his late father and very carefully spoke about him, even constructing him in a positive light. Not out of any caring for Adam, but to give her son a father that even though he was dead he could at least look up to. This was easy to do because the dead were better than the living by virtue. They could never fail you. They could not hurt you. They could make no more mistakes.

Not like her. Not like she was about to do with Jackson.

"... So I decided to leave because I had you to think about; I could save you. But there was nothing I could do for your father. He had made his bed... He chose to fight, and died. Your brother tried to escape but did not make it out.."

She let out a heavy sigh as if she had just dropped a heavy load off her back and finally fixed her gaze back on her son to gauge his reaction as she finished.

"I feared going back after that, I had defected and knew I would not be welcomed back. I didn't want to raise you in a ghetto either... And that's it... That's what happened."

The floodgates had opened and Jackson just stood there numb in his shock, trying and failing to absorb her words. Nothing made sense. He didn't know if he was supposed to be consumed by despair or anger at this point. So he vacillated wildly between the two, occasionally burning himself out and feeling nothing at all. It wasn't until she uttered that last line that one of the warring emotions won out and completely obliterated the other.

Anger.

His feelings were an oil spill; he suddenly allowed them to overflow and now there wasn't a damn place in the ocean that wouldn't catch fire with the match Lauren had just struck. He hated her. Hated her for her lies, for her willingness to pollute the pure image of his late father that was all he had left to him, for her cowardice. He hated her in that moment because he had loved no one more than she, and love and hate were two sides of the same coin, after all. He directed this fury at her.

"Y-you mean to tell me...that you're the reason dad is dead." Jackson's whole body was a riot of shivers. "YOU ABANDONED MY FATHER, YOU ABANDONED YOUR SON! YOU ABANDONED OUR PEOPLE!" This felt like a heart attack that would never stop. He had believed he was prepared to hear the truth, but nothing in the world could have prepared him for this. He looked on her with disgust. "You don't leave your family behind, I would never have left you! I'd of stayed and DIED before I'd of given up on the people I love! You didn't deserve them...and you took my choice away from me." His mistakes weren't hers, and even if the traitor that she was wouldn't be welcomed back among her people, it didn't mean that he wouldn't be too. He couldn't stand to look at her for a second longer, he couldn't stand to remain in this house for a moment more. She had had everything and threw it all away.

She was the source of his loneliness.

"I hate you." Jackson shoved past her and made his escape up the stairs before violently slamming his bedroom door closed behind him. He couldn't think about the look on her face when he shouted those words at her, the pain in her expression was too raw and he could not afford to doubt his resolve now. His anger was all that protected him from this unbearable pain. He snatched his backpack off the ground and dumped it's contents on the floor before stuffing random articles of clothing lying about into it. He was leaving, and he was never coming back. He'd find his brother in Seattle and be welcomed into the pack. He'd meet those wolves that stood for something more than themselves, and fought to protect what was theirs. That was his true place in the world, he was his father's son after all-or the son of the father he imagined at any rate.

It would have been impossible to escape the house with tensions just having been so high. No matter how keyed up Jackson was and ready to leave, he couldn't fathom a successful way to get away with it in that moment. He'd had enough confrontation with Karen Kaster for one day, and wasn't eager to start yet another argument. The next bus didn't run until dawn at any rate, and he couldn't very well walk to Seattle. Though, if his determination was anything to go by, he probably could have made it half way across the globe in a night. He set his bag down beside his bed and buried his face in the pillow, unshed tears sealing themselves away.

Amidst the tangle of his bed sheets, Jackson drifted in and out of restless sleep that night, and his dreams for the most part were muddied with the same anxiety that bled into his waking hours. It was nearly an hour before dawn when he finally pulled himself from this restless state and scooped back up his backpack before he approached his bedroom window. When sneaking out, he had never previously used this particular window as an exit despite it being an obvious choice for it had been painted shut a long time ago, and wouldn't break away easily so he'd always made do with the front door. But now he dug his extending claws into the frame and wretched it open, paint chips scattering across the ground. He wouldn't be going back any further into that house, not even to make his escape. There was a sense of finality about this action that was strangely satisfying.

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Character Portrait: Cade Bishop
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C A D E
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About 60 miles west of the small town of Thorp in what seemed a whole different reality, lied the metropolis of Seattle. The Emerald city, once the cultural capitol of the Northwest was now known as the City of Walls; City of Wolves; The New Berlin. Most of these wolves the city was known for were kept within the infamous walls of the ghettos, yet they were easily confused with their human counterparts if it wasn't for their idenifying arm bands.

They were by nature and somewhat by circumstance, a secretive species; on the outside appearing like any human and modifying their behavior to fit in. The same principle followed for their dens and gathering places, the most secret places hid in plain sight. A highschool on the outskirts of the city, delipidated and long forgotten was one such den. It had last been used as a shelter during the revolution by humans and when the young werewolves who occupied it first came across it there was still some half-disentigrated writing on the chalkboards. They were evacuation instructions and what to do if they were attacked by werewolves. No one had cared to wipe them off, not even the numerous graffiti artists that had trespassed on the premise before it was marked for a demolition that never happened.

Better dead than turned was the last scrawled message on every chalkboard they found.

It made them wonder if it had come to that and how many had followed. Cade remembered this statement, it was chiseled into his bone like ice. But it didn't make him any less fervent in his mission. He admired the ultimatum. He was reminded of the lengths in which both sides strove to win. Now that humans had their victory, he felt it was his job to make sure that even though they were broken they were never defeated. The war would not be over until every last one of them was gone.

He seered the messages of their ancestors into every one of his pack member's hearts. He indoctrinated them in the message of werewolf supremacy as he had been growing up in Sector 1. Praetor Lupus was built on this message and it kept them together, unlike an ordinary pack which was formed and bound together by one Alpha and kept united by blood and territory. They were all young, loyal to an idea and a cause: the revolution that Adam had started.

They had started out with just five members in the pack after Cade led a break out of one of the reform schools. (The irony of ending up in another school did not escape him) Since then Cade and his pack had managed to grow the number to 50. Still a piddly amount, but they were working on it. Tonight they hoped to increase their numbers by at least 20 while kids at the reform school were on break in the ghettos.

Cade convened his council of his most trusted pack members in one of the classrooms, consisting of the original pack members plus two younger members. When he entered the room, they all stood up from their seats around the long table in the middle.
Cade didn't bother with greetings and got right to business before he even made it to the table.

"What have all of you been talking about?"

As he sat down everyone else did as well. David Lacayo, an original member and the Beta of Praetor Lupus, sat closest to Cade at his right hand and responded first.

"We were just talking about the Liberation Act."

"And?"

"Well we have covered the merit's of its legislator, Ms. Davenport..." Miranda, one of the few females in the group spoke up, she was also one of the two non-original members in the council, "She's very popular, her father is a long time governor and she has the backing of a lot of werewolves in the Harlow Ghetto due to her association with the Alpha Daryl---"

"Ex-Alpha. We know this already. Some of us have been around for a while." David cut her off with an annoyed tone, "Anyways, for the obvious reasons Miranda just explained, it looks like she's got it in the bag to be put on the ballot in November. She has through the next three days to get all the signatures."

Cade mulled this piece of information over silently.

Next to Miranda the other non-original member, Liam, a kindly still boyish-looking young man, spoke up, "Isn't it possible that the Liberation Act could be a step in the right direction?"

The polite quiet became an eerie silence.

A quick shift of eyes; a cough; an irritatingly high pitched noise of metal against concrete as someone squirmed uncomfortably in their chair. No one said anything. The majority of Praetor Lupus being young adults meant not all old decorum was followed. But what hadn't changed was hierarchy and how it nuanced every action and conversation. Liam realized in that moment he lingered dangerously close to crossing a line with his Alpha, yet he persisted with his point:

"It could end reform schools. That's been one of our main goals this whole time." he reasoned his voice a slight pitch higher.
Cade didn't show any kind of response in his face, his expression resting constantly somewhere between annoyed and silent anger that made everyone unsure whether or not they had just pissed him off.

"It's not enough." he responded none too aggressive, but not in a tone that could give any kind of assurance.

"... Yeah, but if it ends reform schools, that's one less thing we have to fight and we could focus on other things." Liam posed desperately, looking around for anyone at the table to defend his point.

David smacked his palm down on the table like a gavel, yellow eyes lighting up. "Will you shut the fuck up with your pacifist bullshit, Liam? Who the hell are you to contradict the Alpha, huh?" Liam cringed in his seat like he was ready to get hit, but having been sufficiently terrified back in his place David relaxed and turned the meeting back over to Cade.

"Sorry, sir..." Liam mumbled, this time remembering the proper address.

"It's fine..." Cade replied surprisingly unruffled. Oddly enough, he really did seem to have a lot of patience with the younger members. It was one of the many surprising characteristics of the Alpha that was buried under his prickly exterior. He proceeded calmly to talk.

"The ballot proposes that the schools be shut down over the next four years. We may be able to live forever, but when childhood is over, it's over. Even for us... In the meantime we can only imagine what the humans might come up with as a replacement for the schools. This is nothing more than a lightweight measure to keep the masses from revolting..."

David sat back in his chair, arms crossed and smirked at Liam across the table.

"...Giving our enemy the benefit of the doubt though, let's say this measure will do everything it says: It would be considered progress if equality was what we were striving for - but that is not what we want... Nobody can hand us our freedom, especially not those who enslave us. We have to fight for it. Tonight many of the recruits we will be picking up are escaping the reform schools where they have been brainwashed into thinking they are inferior and we cannot be wavering in our stance against humans."

He paused as he looked around the table at each of them, then he stood up. "On that topic. David. Miranda. You're both coming with me tonight for initiation." David grinned whilst Miranda nodded somewhat surprised.

Cade promptly left the room after having wrapped up, followed by his Beta. They walked on in silence down the corridor a ways until David was sure they were not in ear shot of anyone.

"That little twat should be removed from council; back talking you like that." he commented.

"He was trying to make a point, a misguided one, but none the less a point."

"It was dissent. What he was saying goes against our philosophy, our mission. If you start allowing that kind of talk at all--"

Cade stopped his stride abruptly, turning and halting mere inches away from David's face. In an instant Cade's presence grew to become so overpowering and domineering it felt as if it was physically pushing up against him, suffocating him. They were of the same height, but somehow Cade felt 10x larger than him in that moment. It was like he had transformed into a beast without physically having transformed, conveying his power through one hard steely gaze.

"Do you think I've forgotten our mission? That I've forgotten who killed my father? Who put us in chains?"

David looked back into his friend's icy blue eyes and shook his head.

"Have you forgotten what I've done to break those chains?"

"No. Of course not."

After a tense moment Cade backed off, taking his overwhelming presence with him and allowing David to breath. He returned back to himself, calm and cold as a snowy winter's day.

"... I will never stop fighting for the cause that our fathers did -- and we will get your brother out of human hands, soon. I promise."

A slow smile broke out on David's face breaking the tension and he nodded. They both reached out at the same time and clasped their hands together, forearm to forearm, in a show of solidarity.

"Better dead than chained, my friend." David repeated Praetor Lupus's old adage with a grin.

Cade gave his old friend a rare half-smile.

"Better dead than chained."

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Character Portrait: Jackson Kastner
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J A C K S O N
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After traveling all day, Jackson arrived in Seattle that evening with the slightly ruffled aspect of a sea-bird blown off course. The light had faded to an industrial gray as he climbed off of the midtown bus and hit the street. His heart scrambled and floundered with excitement at even the most innocuous of noises; car horns honking, the rattle of the cages around store fronts being pulled closed, even church clocks tolling the hour. There was an edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of adventure. On the corner, a street musician played a handful of simple runs that hung tinny and fragile in the spring air, hat on the sidewalk for spare change, dwarfed in the shadow of a skyscraper. Most of the cities occupants milled about the streets with hushed voices and purposeful footsteps, eyes gliding across Jackson coolly as if they didn't quite see him. It was an overwhelming amount to take in, the landscape so vastly different from everything he'd ever bore witness to. He decided upon walking for a bit, to gain his bearings, clinging to the bag slung over his shoulder like a lifeline. Traversing a few blocks revealed more of the city, but it looked startlingly much like the part he'd only just left. The buildings were simply too tall to see over and were all linked together like refugees holding hands so's not to drift apart and become lost. He felt a bit dejected. It wasn't as if he'd expected a huge neon sign advertising, "Ghetto this way, welcome visitors!" But he also hadn't expected to be quite so at odds with simple navigation. He'd learnt and relearned town after town after all...but that was a much smaller model to study. At the present he was impatient, and night would fall soon. He walked about a block more before approaching the first stranger to round the bend.

Now, starry-eyed tourists were, in general, ignominiously shunted in most big cities by the natives. Having grown up in a small town, Jackson wasn't accustomed to the level of indifference that these people had for the problems of strangers. That being said, Jackson also had a certain effervescence about him that was hard to ignore...not that he really knew what "effervescent' meant. He was fairly certain it had something to do with his face. Any level of attractiveness seemed to be a prerequisite for effervescence, really. He smiled brightly at the man, thrusting out a hand to shake in a gesture that seemed oddly formal for a passing greeting. ""Hey there, I'm sorry to bother you but I could really use some help.""

The man eyed his hand with mistrust, hesitantly freeing his own from his pockets. "I don't have any money." He seemed to be bracing himself to reject a sales pitch from what he assumed was a street peddler.

""Money...OH! No, man I don't need that kind of help."" He laughed. ""I'm just trying to find the ghetto...and I don't have a clue which direction to head. It's my first day here."" Jackson said somewhat abashedly.

The man sighed, finally taking the hand in front of him and giving it one brisk shake. "You a tourist? I wouldn't waste my time with that nonsense. There's not much to see."

Jackson smiled harder.

"Which ghetto were you after, there's like four of 'em."

Jackson faltered. ""Four? Seriously?""

The man nodded, suddenly bemused.

""Um, well, which ever is closest then I guess.""

He tried to wrap his brain around the difficulty of the task ahead of him. Combing through four different ghettos was more than he had prepared for, but he had his resolve. Surely someone in the first, were his brother not there, could direct him to the proper place. The man began to give him directions to the nearest location, which was only a few blocks southeast of where they stood. No sooner had he finished, he had already started shuffling back onto his path down the side walk.

"You can't miss it, the walls give it away." He called, wondering what this dumb farmer's kid planned to do seeing as you needed a permit to even get in.

Jackson, absolutely clueless, waved goodbye with vigor. ""THANKS SO MUCH!"" he shouted as he lolloped in the opposite direction with a thinly concealed glee.

Once he had found the ghetto, he wondered at how anyone could, in fact, miss it. The moment it was in view, it completely consumed his field of vision. It was just this massive concrete wall, endlessly uninterrupted shy of one wide and ponderous gate laced with barbed wire. Currently, it hung open, an official looking pair of men posted on either side. Crowds of workers streamed in, joyless as a swarm of hornets, entering through the iron doors. Jackson felt a shiver of disconnection, their expressions hung tantalizingly just beyond reach of his comprehension like a hiccup of lost time or a few frames snipped out of a film.

The dense block of workers were, however, not human and that was all that Jackson needed to know at this juncture. He stood there for a while, eyeing their curious armbands. These were things he'd only ever heard about, never seen. One of the men ushering the wolves through studied Jackson sharply for a minute before growing bored and bouncing back around to those entering. It was obvious to him now that they wouldn't post guardsmen outside unless it was to keep unbanded individuals out or rather keep those with the band in. He briefly considered lifting a band off of someone before disabusing the notion. It wouldn't do to keep someone from being able to get home, back to their family. The word stung in his mind. He'd have to find an alternative route in, perhaps over the wall if it didn't prove too high...or maybe a service entrance. He slid back onto the side walk to disappear from view and come up with a plan.

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C A D E
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It was becoming dark when they assembled in a safe house outside the walls of Harlow. For four young werewolves all between the ages of 14 and 17 it would probably be the first time any of them had been outside the walls past curfew. They waited nervously inside the empty building, long abandoned after the revolution, a few desks and chairs left of what might have been in an office. Outside smells had invaded the interior, the smell of wet concrete and dead leaves violating the space.

"Are you sure we're in the right place Mateo?" one of the kids asked the other.

"I'm sure; they'll be here any minute." Mateo, the curly-haired one replied.

"What if they're still able to track us here, huh?" - The forboding 'they' now referenced the humans - "Are you sure that chick knew what she was doing? All I saw her do was swipe that thing over our wrists and tap a few buttons on her computer. It can't be that simple..." he scratched the skin on his wrist where he knew the chip was, "If we're caught, principal Cager will put all of us in solitary confinement for sure! Doesn't matter if we're on campus or not when we break the rules..."

"If you're so scared you can go." Mateo told him.

"I'm not scared man, I'm just saying..."

Just then Cade and David entered the room that was on the second floor of the dilapidated building and they all fell silent. They had not heard them coming up the stairs, a surprise to all of them. They were much stealthier than the youth. They looked in awe at these 'older' werewolves, who made no deal of wearing their glowing eyes as darkness fell. They seemed so comfortable in their own skin, at ease with their bodies and all of the things that they could do with it that they had been taught were not normal. David licked the front of his teeth and smiled with his fangs - he loved recruitment day if only to see the young ones squirm. But this day was particularly special to him, one that he had waited so long for.

Mateo unlike the others was staring at David not in fear or even awe, but a wide-eyed wondered that verged on tears. He blinked a few times containing himself before he walked over to his older brother. It had been years since they had even been in the same room together. They had only communicated through letter once in a blue moon and even then it was only one way, David to Mateo: We are coming for you. Just wait. Be strong. Until just the other day when he received a note finally telling him it was time.

"Hey punk," David said in a friendly manner that was unusual to him. He hooked the young wolf around the neck with the crook of his arm and ruffled his curly head. "Me extrañaste?"

"No!" Mateo choked, struggling to get free, "I've had the room all to myself and don't have to share la comida with your gordo ass since you left."

"Well that's all about to change, hermanito." David laughed and let him pop his head free from the head lock, "Now you have to share everything, AND I get to boss you around."

For a moment David didn't seem all that unapproachable, the young werewolves relaxed, grinning at their peer being teased by his older brother. But then David looked at the rest of them, his eyes immediately narrowing.

"What the hell are you all looking at?" he asked all friendliness seeping out of his voice. Their smiles vanished, confused and once again a little afraid. "Don't you look me in the eye! Were you all born yesterday? Stand up straight for your Alpha you fucking worms!"

They all fixed their posture immediately, and David grinned smuggly, pushing his brother back towards his friends. With greetings out of the way, Cade got down to the business at hand, their mission that would initiate them into the pack.

"As some of you might have heard before tonight, recently a young werewolf girl was beat by a guard while playing outside with her sibling." Cade recounted. "They beat her after a ball went astray in a game on the street and hit a patrol car. She was charged with threatening an officer... He was charged with nothing."

He let a solemn silence pass then continued, "We are going to send them a message; that there is not one injustice that escapes our attention. Not one little thing that won't be written in our ledger for revenge. We are always watching and listening, and every debt will be paid. We will make sure of it."

"What's happened to the guard?" one the young werewolves asked.

"He works in my neighborhood, I haven't seen him on patrol since." one of them answered.

"Probably on administrative leave or some bullshit suspension." Mateo interjected bitterly, folding his arms.

"Doesn't matter, he will get what's coming to him..." Cade said. At this point he finally opened the mystery bag he had in his hand and took out what he had hidden inside: red paint cans, and tossed them to each of them. Just as he did, a siren sounded in the distance indicating that curfew was upon them in thirty minutes. Another one would sound 10 minutes before the ghetto gates closed, then a final one on the hour.

"...But first, you will let him know we are coming for him and anyone else who lays a finger on us."

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At just past the hour four sillhouettes slunk along the ghetto wall. They searched for a spot remote enough from the entrance of the ghetto and far enough from any occupied building that they would have time to work without being spotted right away. Once they found their spot, they wrote out in blood red letters across the concrete wall "We are watching" with the symbol of the wolf they wore on their arms as a visible warning to others.

"Hurry, hurry!" one of them keeping watch urged nervously, "They'll come around any minute!"

There were patrolmen in squad cars that surveyed the perimeter of the ghettos at night. And not a minute after they had finished their handiwork, one of them came into view.

"C'mon! Let's go! Let's go!"

"Hold on!" Mateo hastily sprayed on his last little message on the wall, a side note scribbled as an after thought - (PS fuck U)

"Hey!! You kids!" The megaphone from atop the patrol car screeched.

The others only stalled a moment as they shielded their eyes from the spot light that shined onto them from the patrol car then booked it in the opposite direction. The officer jumped out of his vehicle and pursued them. Mateo dropped his spray can and turned to follow the others, but the officer had already gotten close enough to pull out his taser gun and shot him. The surge jolted through his entire body and he collapsed to his knees.

"Wait! Wait! He got Mateo!" he heard one of his friends say.

"Fuck it! I'm out of here!"

The patrol officer came up behind him and he heard the sound of him taking the baton off his belt.

"So much for traveling in packs... Where are your friends now, huh?" the officer mocked, bringing down the baton with a crack to the side of his head. Mateo fell down onto his hands, struggling to get up with a heavy head and spots filling his vision. "Fuck... you..." he grunted through clenched teeth, earning him another swift swipe from the baton, this time on his back to keep him down as the officer took out his silver-lined cuffs.

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J A C K S O N
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After hopelessly circling around this section of the wall one, two; maybe three times, he had yet to figure a way over. The construction of this monstrosity was impeccable to say the least, and it was well patrolled to boot. The inky-but not quite atramentous-blackness that was nightfall in the city cloaked everything, differing greatly from the color of the countryside evenings Jackson was accustomed to. The quality of it was alive and mindful in a way. There was no soft, reassuring blanket of stars, only a fluorescent luminescence; a thin veil of artificial light to keep the vast rolling darkness skirting at the edge of your vision at bay. It was black you could drift away on without even being aware, frothy wake churned and vanished on a cold obsidian ocean. Unnerved and resigned, he was about to settle into finding himself someplace cheap to hole up for the night before looking into more legal means of entrance come morning when he spotted them. Ahead, around the bend, he only captured the briefest snapshot of a boy not much younger than himself, laid out upon the ground beneath an impressive display of bold, red defiance. He was a token of lucidity, cursing the guard who had seemingly stricken him down. He locked eyes with him for a long, strange moment, like two animals meeting at twilight, during which some clear personable spark seemed to fly up through those eyes and Jackson saw the creature he really was-and he, he believed, saw Jackson. For an instant they were wired together and humming, like two engines on the same circuit. Then the baton came out.

Jackson, ever impetuous, scrambled to action, skidding harum-scarum to the nearest object of use...the squad car.

The uniformed men had failed to notice anyone in their peripheral and it offered an element of surprise. This wasn't about species unity, he had grown up too far removed from what it meant to share the same struggle of attrition. It wasn't about revolting against authority either, though that was something Jackson liked to believe he did best. It was just who Jackson was at his core to help those in need, even at his own risk. Planning, well planning out his moves in advance was not, however, his strong suit. He scarcely had time to grasp the more practical aspects of his situation before he was behind the men, snaking in the vehicle through the ajar door and slamming it shut behind him with a swift click of the car locks. Startled, they turned in unison as Jackson revved the car engine. The boy on the ground was completely forgotten as the nearest guard sprung for the door, tugging on the handle and beating on the glass furiously with his free hand. His partner was not far behind him, ordering Jackson to get exit the vehicle.

Rookie mistake, leaving the key in the ignition.

"...I'm sorry? I didn't quite catch that." Jackson replied, cocking his head to the side like a bewildered puppy.

"GET OUT OF THE CAR, RIGHT NOW!" He attempted to scream, but his voice was lost to the sound of Jackson's foot dropping on the gas petal.

"The engine, it's too loud. I can't hear you. You want me to...take the car? Well alright. I mean, if you say so."

A blisteringly ebullient grin danced across Jackson's face as the bellowing officer turned pink around the ears. He looked fairly furious.

"Thanks for the ride, gentlemen." He mouthed through the window before revving the engine one final time over their shouts.

With any luck, that kid would have taken hold of his opportunity and gotten the hell out of dodge. Jackson shifted into drive with a triumphant holler and tore ahead, leaving the men trundling gracelessly to the pavement. He spun out and climbed from zero to sixty in what was only a matter of seconds, adrenaline spiking with the horsepower, leaving the pair to eat his figurative dust. He laughed mirthfully as the tires screeched, hugging the rapidly approaching street corner, not a trace of regret to be found within him. He'd have to abandon the car in a rapid fashion, they were probably calling for a backup cavalry at that very moment. The roads wouldn't be easy to navigate, no chance at escape via a high speed chase, but there were plenty of places to hide in a city such as this he'd imagine. There wasn't time at the present to mull this over for too long, though. He slammed on the breaks when a certain floppy haired recalcitrant little whelp was illumined in his head lights. He flung open the passenger side door hastily, "Jump in! Let's get the FUCK out of here!" he breathlessly implored, practically vibrating in his seat. The kid had apparently made it this far, but those men would long catch up to him before they could catch up with Jackson. Their incensed shouts could still be heard off in the distance. With no trace of hesitation, he clambered in through the passenger side and they tore back down the street, made their daring escape off into the night, two literal strangers...

How had he gotten himself into this?

A few blocks over in an unlit alley way not quite spacious enough for the car to fit comfortably, Jackson whipped the vehicle into place. It would be difficult to catch glimpse of it from the street in the building's dual shadows. Furthermore, they'd have to climb out of the windows to exit, as the doors hadn't enough space to even open, which in his mind made it not a suspicious spot for the car to have been ditched in the first place. He rolled down their windows and shut everything off, enveloping them totally in a simulacrum of isolation.

"I gotta be honest...I'm not too sure what to do from here. I was just kind of winging it." He confessed, slumping in his seat a bit. "What's your name anyways?" his voice was somewhat shaky but sounded far less unsure than he actually was.

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C A D E
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Mateo sat breathless in the passenger seat for a moment. "Oh, uh... the name’s Mateo." He replied with a shaky laugh as well. "Holy shit man... That was AWESOME!" Jackson's chest swelled with pride as Mateo ran his hands through his unruly hair, and looked around the interior of the patrol vehicle. "Heh, this is the first time I’ve ever been in the front of one of these..." Jackson nodded in kind, he was far more acquainted with the back seat as well.

He picked up a coffee mug in the cup holder between the seats, still warm and half full. It had the Seattle PD emblem on it and having decided it would be the perfect souvenir to bring back as evidence of their triumph, Mateo poured the rest of the coffee onto the floor board; The scent of the steaming liquid wafting through the interior of the car as Jackson snickered.

"We should get out of here and get back to the others." Mateo told him. He had no idea that Jackson had just stumbled upon the scene and decided to risk life and limb simply as a Good Samaritan. He assumed he must have been another recruit for Praetor Lupus he didn’t know about. Jackson, completely oblivious, agreed to come along to see the kid safely reunited with his friends for lack of a better plan. They left the vehicle behind and quickly zig-zagged through the streets and allies, back towards the safe house. Having made it back, they climbed the stairs to the second floor of the deserted building where Cade and David were waiting for them.

David was clearly relieved to see his little brother back, starting over to him. "That took you long enough, what happened—"

He stopped mid-stride and looked at Jackson, realizing he was none of the recruits from earlier, "who the fuck is that?"

Mateo appeared surprised, looking between his brother and Jackson. "Him? He’s... he’s, uh..." Mateo then remembered he had never asked for the blond kid’s name, "he’s one of us... isn’t he?"

David palmed his forehead, "No! You dipshit! Why the fuck is here!?"

Cade moved from the wall, gaze fixated on Jackson with a predacious look in his brightly lit eyes. Praetor Lupus had survived only by being the utmost careful in its operations and who it included. Even when it came to other werewolves, Cade was discerning with who he permitted any kind of knowledge of the pack and its whereabouts. He did not trust them by virtue of their species. The revolution had failed because of betrayal from within after all and he would not make the same mistake.

Mateo was flabbergasted and frantic, "He-he saved my life! One of the patrol guys got me and he stole their vehicle and got me out of there! I just thought because he was a werewolf and.. and.." he fell silent as Cade strode past him, seemingly ignoring what he had to say and focusing on Jackson.

"Who are you?" Cade asked pointedly, standing just close enough to Jackson to be intimidating. The first thing that came to Cade’s mind is that he was possibly a spy, an infiltrator from the outside trying to learn more about them.

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J A C K S O N
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No sooner had they entered into this uber creepy, seemingly disused building did Jackson locate his missing regret from before. He was confused by this sudden glare of attention; it was as if the characters in a favorite story, absorbed in their own concerns, had looked up out of the pages and spoken to him. This entire circumstance had caught him completely off guard. He hadn't known what to expect, but it sure wasn't this. Boy, the city is just chock full of surprises. Were all werewolves so ornery about tag-a-longs to their wolfie shindigs? He asked himself. He didn't understand if exclusivity was like some sort of pack thing or what.

Chiseled jaw Mc-glowing eyes was terrifying in his intensity to say the least, but Jackson couldn't help but be more exhilarated rather than frightened. He'd never been this close to other wolves before. All this raw bestial energy, something he had been forbidden from participating in for so long, made his threatening stance downright inviting. Jackson possessed a considerable level a chill, and figured remaining buoyant and convivial, an advertisement for friendship might de-escalate things a bit. He didn't know much if anything about werewolf hierarchy or etiquette.

"Oh, well I'm Jackson. Uh, nice to meet you guys I guess!" He began, settling into the situation. "Don't be too mad at Mattie here, we were a little too overwhelmed at the moment to really figure our shit out, ya know?" Jackson finished laughing awkwardly, rubbing the short hairs on the back of his neck. The surly wolf in front of him didn't seem any less agitated. It brought to mind the expression 'raised hackles' though Jackson wasn't entirely sure what hackles were.

"I don't want any trouble, really. Your boy just seemed to be in a pinch, and I can relate. Those guys were douchey times infinity." He huffed out a breath of air, pantomiming an expression of relief and ease, like he wasn't completely keyed up and vaguely concerned this dude may actually lurch forward and attack him at any moment.

"Anyways, we're co-conspirators now, so it's not like you have to worry about me saying anything. I don't want to get in trouble any more than you. Besides, Grand Theft Auto is as I know it, a more severe offense than whatever charges he could have stick to him."

He refrained from pumping a fist and adding something along the lines of 'Wolf Power.' or 'Wolves for life, bro.' That would probably have been a tad much. He was talking too much.

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C A D E
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"Christ, does it ever shut up?" David laughed bemused. He held his brother by his shoulder who was looking more and more concerned by the second on Jackson’s behalf.

Cade cocked his head to the side curiously, backing off slightly, and taking him in more fully - gauging Jackson’s posture, strength, demeanor, all from a glance.

"Jackson, huh?" Was all he said, his face enigmatic in its expression. Although it couldn’t be told what he was thinking about everything he said, at the very least he was looking a little less like he was about to eat him.

"Seems like a chatterbox to me, sir." David said, cracking his neck, "I could take care of ‘im if you like."

"No! But he helped me!" Mateo pulled away from his brother.

"Carnal— we can’t risk letting people we don’t know have any knowledge of where or what we are doing. He could be a Fido fetching information for humans."

"Alpha, please!" Mateo addressed Cade this time, pleadingly. "Everyone else ran away but he— he risked his life for me! For no reason and without hesitation! A complete stranger! Don’t we need people like that in the pack?"

Cade wasn’t positive on Jackson’s motivations. The only thing he felt fairly certain of at this point was that he had no intention of ending up here. In fact, he wasn’t even sure the kid had any intention in what he said or did beyond the present moment based on his unfiltered rambling. This meant he might not be a Fido but a blabber mouth which wasn’t much better if he went around telling his story all over town to human or werewolf. However, the act of saving Mateo was quite impressive and the type of fearlessness (and perhaps, yes, stupidity) one needed to be in Praetor Lupus.

Luckily Cade wasn’t a hot head like his Beta. He wasn’t the type, despite all his posturing, to squash a kid on the off chance they were a spy. Before he could make a decision on what exactly to do with him though, he felt like he needed to know more... He had listened very carefully to his blathering and certain things just weren’t adding up... Some of what he had mentioned about himself seemed off from what other werewolf youth might have experienced and his interest was piqued.

"What ghetto are you from, Jackson?" Cade finally asked after a pensive moment.

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C A D E
This David character had a wild, manic quality, something unhinged and hectic and a little perilous radiated from his person. The only thing Jackson was sure of was that he wouldn't want to be left alone in a room with him, wolf consanguinity or not. His attention snapped back to the obvious one in charge. Would they believe this had all happened by mere happenstance?

"Well, that's actually a funny story...I'm not from one of the ghettos. I was trying to sneak IN that one when I ran into him and those patrol guys." He explained, throwing a nod in Mateo's direction. "I wasn't having much luck though. Those walls are a bitch to get over, am I right?"

He combed the room for an empathetic expression, but none were shared. How did they get in and out if not over the walls? Jackson wondered. Adrift in an air of charged significance, doubt struck him: Perhaps these guys were not the ones to lend a hand in his efforts to find his long lost brother. He wanted to ask just who they were exactly, but seeing as they were on the defense about their identity from the start, that knowledge probably would not help matters.

Cade blinked, once, twice at him. They were becoming more confused by the minute with Jackson. He wasn’t from a ghetto and didn’t even seem to be from the same planet as them.

"The trouble isn’t usually getting in, it’s getting out..." Cade told him, raising an eyebrow. "If you’re not from a ghetto... That must mean you’re rogue."

Mateo audibly gasped at this, his jaw dropping open at what to Jackson must have been a meaningless statement.

"Whoa." He awed, "Now we have to have him in our pack!"

David elbowed his brother in the ribs, giving him an annoyed look and Mateo shut up, rubbing his side with a sullen expression.

Cade still seemed neither here nor there with Jackson, only curious. He didn’t have all night to play 50 questions with him -staying in the inner city too long was risky business- but he was fast learning that Jackson had NO idea what he was doing. Now whether it was the kind of recklessness that was useful or dangerous to have around was the real question; and the fastest way to get at that was to figure out his motivations.

"Are there anymore of you?" Cade questioned further. "why were you trying to get into the ghetto?"


Jackson puzzled over how him saving their friend had turned into an interrogation, vaguely wondering if this differed all that much from the grilling the police would have given him had he been caught. He exhaled audibly again, this time more naturally that premeditated. Mateo seemed impressed by his sheer existence though, which was a positive. He did know the definition of the word 'rogue' but not insofar as it pertained to werewolf vocabulary. However, it did sound like an incredibly cool title to have...

"Just my mom, and well my brother, but that's why I was trying to get in the ghetto." He confessed, choosing to trust in them. They were, after all, what he wanted to be a part of for his whole life long. A little honestly always went further when building bridges, and he desperately did not want to become Karen Kastner, burner of said bridges.

"I think my brother is living in one of those ghettos, though my mom wouldn't say which one. He's older, and mom took me away after my dad—after he was lost in the uh,"

Was it a battle? War was too big a term for what lasted only a month but seemed weighty enough for the impact that one month had on everything.

"conflict. From eighteen years ago." He swallowed, for this was still a fresh wound reopened. He knew what the news called that incident, The Seattle Siege, but he also knew he wouldn't like the taste of that in his mouth. It painted the 'offending' party in a very malicious light. The victor's writes history, as they say.

The slightest bit of empathy slipped through Cade's otherwise impervious facade, not expressed so much in his face, but in the quiet way he spoke, "Right..."

David on the other hand, was obviously less moved. He crossed his arms.

"We all lost family in the revolution. I don't see how that makes him anymore trustworthy." David commented bitterly, though it seemed he was going largely unheard. Already he didn't seem to like Jackson but it was more or less a part of David's nature to not like anyone right away. Jackson's overall happy-go-lucky demeanor was definitely not doing him any favors with the grizzled young man.

Cade considered Jackson a moment more silently. He hated making decisions without all the information, but he decided this time he would take his chances. His mother may have deserted the cause, from the information Jackson gave it was hard to tell, but perhaps there was some loyalty to be found in him from his father.

"We can help you find your brother..." Cade finally said, "That is, if you are willing to fight with us... The revolution is not done, the one your father and mine sacrificed their lives for. We are still fighting it, my pack. We are not many yet, but we are growing stronger, and one day we will take back our freedom and our city."

Jackson was felled. He hadn't anticipated any sort of invitation, Hell, he had barely hoped for even reluctant assistance. The encounter had been laden with varying degrees of obfuscation, as they skirted the topic of themselves while insisting he knew too much. If he had to of wagered a guess one way or the other before that moment, based on Mateo's relative, he HALF expected an ass kicking of some kind...but to go with them?

Knowing who they were, specifically, was of little consequence as long as he knew what they were about. This 'Alpha' and his pack were revolutionaries, who had also apparently lost fathers to the war, which made them more kin to him than even being werewolves did. Unlike Jackson's mother, however, they weren't going to give up on those who were left without a fight. This was the first thing to make sense during this entire exchange, or rather, the first thing to make sense throughout this entire day. It was steadying in the midst of confusing events—and, like a stray dog hungry for affection, Jackson felt some profound shift in allegiance, blood-deep, a sudden, humiliating, eye watering conviction of these people are good. He shook his head fervently, wearing a smile that was wide and assured of itself.

"Willing? Hell yeah, I'm willing! I'm sure my brother, where ever he may be, will be too when we find him!"

He didn't know anything about his brother, not even a name, but much like the invention of his father in his mind, he had already constructed a brother not unlike himself. Does this make me a member of a pack? Was it all that easy? Jackson was so very naïve...

"Then considered yourself initiated... Welcome to Praetor Lupus." Cade said with half a smirk.

Jackson's heart stuttered. Praetor Lupus He'd heard the name on the television, or in the contemptuous whispers of those who preferred the status quo the way it was now. It was a group people usually spoke about with disdain...but he was in awe for he had always considered them heroes.

"Hey, what about me?!" Mateo asked.

"You too, hermanito." David patted him on the shoulder.

"Yes!" he cheered pumping his fist in the air. He then ran over to Jackson's side who had now been cleared of suspicion. "Hey, you and I are practically family now! And you're gonna find your brother. Good thing you showed up when you did, eh primo?"

Jackson was pretty sure his heart may actually explode. Family. Acceptance. Mateo handed over the brushed-nickel coffee mug he had stolen from the cop car to him, "For saving my life man, or at the very least saving my ass from solitary confinement. You should keep it." Jackson accepted it with pride, handling it with care, mumbling out only a giddy thanks least he reveal to everyone just how choked up he was all of a sudden.

Just then footsteps could be heard coming up the stairwell and in came two more of the recruits, out of breath.

"Hey chickens, what took you so long?" Mateo taunted them.

"Well some of us didn't get a ride!"

"Yeah, well you deserved it! You left me behind."

"Dude we had cops on our tails too! We woulda gone back for ya but.."

"Suuuure, I saw the shit trails you left behind running away."

This instantly started a fight, not a real one, a play one triggered by the adrenaline still pumping in their veins and the sheer excitement of having made it through initiation. The two older werewolves didn't seem to think much of it, allowing them to push and shove one another, nearly pulling an apprehensive but enthusiastic Jackson into it when one of them collided with him. However, Cade had interrupted the recruits' bantering and play fighting with a more serious question before he could decide whether or not it was appropriate to join in the fun.

"What happened to the fourth one of you?"

They immediately halted, pushing off one another and rolling their shoulders and necks, shaking off the rest of their adrenaline.

"Oh..." the two who had entered last looked to each other seeing which one would try to explain their missing friend.

One of them finally spoke, "Um.. He... He left, said he couldn't do it, sir."

"He's going back to his folks in the ghetto in the morning." the other added.

Though disappointing, Cade was not angry at this news. He had after all not technically lost a recruit with Jackson nor did he want anyone who might have doubts of joining.

"No point in sticking around then... You're all in." Cade announced to them, he paused once more though before they took off. "Next time all of you are on a mission, you stick together. One of you was nearly caught and left behind, and it was only because of him-" he pointed at Jackson, "-that all of you are here. He's a rogue and still has more pack instinct than the rest of you. Now let's go."

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L A U R E N
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Lauren had gone to bed with more restless dreams; sweat-inducing, feverish ones, the ones about the past that felt so real it was like the events were happening again. She could feel his hand around her throat, the coppery taste of blood in her mouth, the pressure of his weight and anger upon her. And how weak she was, powerless to stop it, like trying to douse an inferno with a bucket of water. She fought in her dreams all night until morning, so that when she woke up the next day she felt no more rested than when she had gone to bed.

None the less, she set aside her mental and physical fatigue for work that morning, dutifully arising and getting ready as she normally would. She decided rather than trying to amend things right away with her son, that she would give him some space. The bag of food she left sitting outside his bedroom door still sat there untouched. Unusual since nothing seemed to spoil the boy’s appetite but last night had been exceptionally stressful, so she dismissed it.

However when she returned from work that afternoon and found the bag still there, she knew something was amiss. She knocked on his door lightly.

"Jackson?" There was no reply.

She opened the door and went inside the bedroom where the air was cool from the window that had been open all night and morning. The room was in a state of complete disarray, not that he had ever been very tidy but this was different and there were obvious signs that something was not right. His drawers were open haphazardly with most of his clothes missing, his cellphone charger was unplugged from the wall, his school books were scattered on the floor with his backpack gone. Panic set in instantly.

Immediately she rushed out of the house and used her heightened senses to try and search for him around the property. There was not a trace left of his scent though anywhere, long gone in the autumnal breeze. She hopped into her car once again, not bothering to go back inside to change from her work uniform nor lock the front door. She drove around, stopping at every teen hang out in town, at the local school, searching through abandoned rural barns and buildings, and even going to neighbors on the off chance they might have seen him; She called his phone a minimum of 15 times in the span of three hours. All her effort was for nothing.

At nightfall she forced herself to stop, knowing that it was hopeless to search any further, at least within the local vicinity, and that he wasn’t going to answer her calls either. At this point, she knew in her heart of hearts where he had gone, and there was no way without putting herself in danger that she could go there: Seattle.

She thought back to the night before. How badly she had handled everything. How wrongly she had treated her son... Not just last night, but all the times he had inquired into the past. She redirected, dodged, and outright manipulated him so that he would never push her into saying more than she wanted to. Yes, some of this had been to protect him, but in retrospect of last night it was just as much to protect herself. He had now learned the truth in the most horrible fashion possible and this had unleashed an anger in her son she didn't know existed. It was not the kind his father had that would sadistically hurt, but similarly unbridled, uncontrollable, that left scorched Earth in its wake. He was ready to put his past into flames and leave her behind.

Lauren was so distraught she did not know that she could return back to her empty house. So she drove to her place of work instead which was not far from the park she last looked for Jackson, knowing that Debbie had the night shift.

When she arrived at the diner it was empty of customers. The only sound was the jingle of the Christmas bells perpetually tied to the door all four seasons when she entered and the background music playing some slow ambient rock song.

She slumped down onto one of the pedestal stools at the counter, finally resting her head in her hands. When she heard the kitchen doors swing open from the back, she looked up, meeting Debbie’s eyes and in an unforeseen display of emotion felt hot tears streak down her face.

"Debbie, he left. Jackson ran away." Her lower lip quivered, trying to keep herself together somewhat. She hadn't expected this, she felt so embarrassed, she hadn’t come here to cry. But something inside her cracked when she saw Debbie, the closest person to a friend she had in the past 18 years.

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D E B B I E
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Debbie stood there for a few moments, swallowing her initial shock, in intense deliberation. She didn't often reign in her reactions, but one look at the welted face of her sobbing friend had her carefully considering her approach. In favor of words, she simply set her cleaning cloth on the nearest counter before striding over to where she sat. She pulled Lauren to her chest, cradling her head as assiduously as a newborn baby's. She softly stroked her hair, comforting her in the only way she knew how to, like a mother.

"Shhh...honey, I know. I know." She cooed, her words sopping with commiseration.

Lauren‘s posture slackened, allowing herself to melt into her friend’s arms and hide her teary face in her shoulder.

"I am a terrible mother." She said muffled against her body.

Debbie just squeezed her tighter. "Nuh uh. I don't wanna hear it. You do just fine as a Momma, this ain't got nothing to do with that. Our best is all we can do."

She pulled Lauren back to get a good look at her, pity sinking its teeth in further as she locked her eyes with Lauren's red and puffy ones. Deb didn't particularly enjoy seeing her friend gaze up at her with the same face any one of her children had when lost at the supermarket, bawling their eyes out as a bored cashier lead them down the aisles to find their mom.

She clucked her tongue. "That damned boy. He is probably hiding out at a friends, sulking or something. I'm gonna whoop his butt." Her tone softened. "What can I do? What in the Hell happened anyways, hon?"

Lauren wiped the tears out of her eyes with her sleeve and reached over to grab some napkins from the counter to blow her nose. After she had done this she took a deep breath, composing herself before speaking.

"I just… I said some terrible things I shouldn't have…"

She looked from the crumpled up napkin in her hands back to Debbie. As far as Debbie knew she was just your normal single mother with a teenage son. She never talked about her history with anyone. And as much as she might have wanted to spill the whole truth to her at that moment, there was no way that she could. So she paraphrased and edited as best she could on the spot.

"When I was pregnant with Jackson I was living in Seattle with his father… And when the siege happened, I ran away. Not because of what was happening but because I couldn’t stand him... Or couldn’t stand to be with him. I don’t know…"

She shook her head confused and looked down once again, afraid of seeing what her friend might be thinking as she continued.

"But he died there and I never looked back. And I never told Jackson the truth because I didn’t want him to think poorly of me for abandoning his father... Well, he figured out last night what I had done and now he's gone. I can't say I blame him… He’s probably already in Seattle by now, looking for relatives."

She peered up hesitantly, expecting admonishment or at least a judgmental look.

"If you say you had to get away from him, for whatever reason..."Debbie paused, the anticipatory Lauren very nearly holding her breath in foretaste. "Then that's what you had to do. He may not understand it now, or ever, but us momma's...we always do what is necessary." She watched the tension in her friend's posture abate with relief. "Every other living soul be damned." Debbie smiled softly, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Lauren patted her hand and smiled tiredly back, taking in a deep breath and exhaling lengthily. It had been a while since she had had a good cry and there were very few people she trusted to share in her true emotions, opting mostly for a veneer of noble stoicism in bearing her burdens. She was about to speak again to say thank you to Debbie when the door to the diner swung open and in with the breeze blew officer John Griner.

The tension she had just exhaled returned as she fretfully wiped the wetness from her cheeks away, but there was no hiding the splotchy redness around her eyes and nose even looking away.