Your True Nature, Life’s Journey#8

Your True Nature

Below, Matt watched the big Bear leave on one of the screens in the dressing room. He was holding his socks reviewing the events in his mind.  There was nothing on his email or anything in the news crawler that would point to Bear activity.  Also, he didn’t remember a headline that matched Vic’s description of the incident. It was curious but not out of the ordinary. He looked over at his wardrobe, this space was his area. Not even Luke had seen a good look inside. Most of his clothing was custom made; it was a mix of leather, Kevlar, and Titanium Lath. It made for super light body armor and it was ungodly expensive to produce which made the pieces themselves valuable beyond measure. 

Not knowing what to expect from the mission, Matt decided it was time to give into his nature as a Guardian. He pulled back a few items and there it was. The tree of life crest, subtly emblazoned on the form fitting full length jacket with matching leather pants and a custom weapons rig to hold all of Matt’s weaponry and extra items. First he slipped on a mesh polymer body suit; it would mask his scent and keep him dry. Being wet wouldn’t hurt him, but he didn’t want to add any more scars to his body. Unlike other Bears, when Matt was cut it would heal, but leave a scar in its wake; this scarring was a unique to the Guardians. Then, Matt slipped on a pair of socks and the pants; they slide on easily and fit snugly, but gave him the freedom he would need for movement.  He secured his belt and slid the suspenders over his shoulders. Then he clipped on a custom gun rig to each thigh and one over his shoulder. Looking in the mirror, Matt smiled.

A chirp snapped Matt’s attention to the monitors. The front door had opened and someone was talking to Rick, who was still by the fire. Matt didn’t recognize the new Bear, but he sat across from Rick and seemed to be chatting. ‘Time to get a move on.’ 

Walking to the weapons case he touched the glass and a keypad appeared from nothing.  He tapped in the code and the floor to ceiling case slid open. He made a careful selection of several bladed weapons which slid into the pockets along the front of his thighs. He clipped a double bladed sickle with an expanding memory metal chain behind his back. Then he stepped to his left and picked out two custom 45-caliber pistols. These were internally silenced and compensated. Holding 15 rounds each, they slid into their holsters, one on each side. Several extra magazines were stowed and then Matt keyed the case closing it. 

Turning he picked up his jacket and slid it over his shoulder, as long it wasn’t opened no one would be able to see the weapons he was carrying. On the other side of the room he opened a wooden walk in closet that contained four swords and several of his personal pole arm weapons.  He slid his fingers over the weapons and closed his eyes; he let the fates and the gods decide his weapon for him. He paused, his fingers lingering on the newest of them all.  A telescoping short staff made from Titanium and Carbon Fiber. This made it ten times stronger than steel, yet as light as wood. When it was closed it resembled a club about 24 inches in length, but it opened to 50 inches when needed. Matt stowed the staff in a cut out of the jacket on his lower back

Returning to the mirror he zipped up the jacket, it closed over his chest and stopped at a high collar on his neck. The garment would conceal what was hidden underneath, but was split at his waist so he could get to his blades and side arm if needed. Pulling on his gloves and boots, he secured the quick buckles, pulled the hood of the jacket over his head, and made his way upstairs. 

“So when will this little Cub be ready to go?” questioned the unknown Bear seated across from Rick. 

“He’ll be up soon. We woke him from hibernation and I’m sure it won’t be too much longer,” Rick spoke with trepidation in his voice. 

Matt had already moved into the room and was standing just out of the Bears’ sight. This was his home, how dare someone enter and speak to a member of the den with such disdain!

“Time is wasting. I think I’ll just go get him and drag his sorry ass out so we can get on with this,” the Bear spoke and rose from the chair. Rick rose to meet him. 

“No, please … Matt will be along soon, there’s no need for aggression,” Rick spoke holding his hand out to stop the Bear. 

To Matt the world blurred, his vision shifted and he could see the energy flowing from each of the Bears. He saw the surging in the arm of the larger Bear; he was getting ready to hit Rick. 

Matt let a low growl escape his muzzle as he shifted to his half Bear form. One of the custom features of his clothing was that it moved with him, expanded where it needed and kept everything accessible. Matt had moved within a few feet of the two Bears. He had moved silently, without scent or sound causing both Bears to jump when he growled.

“There you are! Get the heck over to the lodge you’re expected!” the larger Bear scolded Matt as he pointed toward the front door. Matt stood stock-still and only the tip of his muzzle was visible from beneath his hood, he smiled menacingly showing his teeth.

“I said get your little ass moving Cub,” the big Bear stepped forward and reached out to grab at Matt. This was all Matt needed. A Guardian’s skills are for defending themselves, their den, and their Elder.  This Bear had crossed the line. 

As the Bear reached for him, Matt kicked into the advancing Bear’s hip. A snap rang as he obliterated the Bear’s hip socket and pelvis. He then grabbed the Bear’s arm and twisted it breaking the arm, dropping the Bear like a sack of dirt to the ground. The Bear howled in pain.  Rick was about to step in, but Matt held up a hand, signaling for him to stop.

Kneeling down, Matt looked into the eyes of the slobbering Bear. Its body was starting to heal, but it was still painful. “Why?”

The Bear snarled and spat in Matt’s face, “You’re wanted, everyone is waiting. I’m going to kick your ass after I heal.”

“Get in line!” Matt snarled back grabbing the Bear by the back of his jacket and picking him up like a piece of luggage. Matt’s strength for such a small Bear was astounding, even Rick was a full head taller than Matt and amazed at how easily he hefted the Bear’s weight in one hand.

Matt turned his head and smiled apologetically at Rick, “Rick, gentle Bear; I apologize from the bottom of my heart for the way I treated you earlier. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. I exist for the protection of this den.” Matt gave a half bow, turned and hauled the slobbering Bear out of the house with Rick quietly following. Once outside, he grabbed a lounge chair and turned it over. He hoisted the much larger Bear and laid him gently on the padded surface, rolling him to his uninjured side. 

“Bear I don’t know you, but you entered my home and were the first to use force. I returned that favor to you. When you heal, if you want a one-on-one then I welcome your challenge, but let it be on fair terms. Now, please stay still and let your body heal. I’m going to cover you and place a heater near you. Now rest,” He spoke with kindness that came from somewhere beyond his young age. The big Bear laid his head down and closed his eyes. The audible pop of bone was noticeable as the Bear healed.   

Turing Matt saw Rick standing patiently by the stairs leading from the wraparound porch to the walkway. Snow was falling and the Ice Melt Systems were doing their job, the stairs and walkways were clear of the ice that had encrusted them during hibernation. Walking to him, Matt paused and turned to the house keypad. He keyed in a sequence and the house started to shut its windows and doors. Below them a steel hatch was closing off the basement from the rest of the house. Matt was watching over the sleeping Bear below. He would ensure that no one could get in and no one could hurt his Bear. The locks could be heard snapping back into place and the home was now quiet and secure. Luke would be safe and hopefully, none-the-wiser of Matt’s activity. After everything locked itself down Matt turned to the Cub and bowed.

“I believe I have an appointment and you’re to be my escort?” Matt rose from his bow and looked up at the timid Cub. Rick took a step back fearfully, even though he was much taller and wider than Matt.

Stammering he spoke carefully backing away more, “Yes, we must go to the lodge where the Elders are waiting.”

“Then show me the way nothing will harm you while you’re in my company, gentle-Bear,” Matt said from under his hooded jacket. The jacket gave him a hidden predatory look and made Rick feel vulnerable and exposed. 

As the two walked, Matt could tell the Cub wanted to ask some questions.  “If you need to ask me anything, I’ll answer without hesitation,” Matt whispered in the easiest tone he could muster.

“Why did you take care of Tom like that?  He attacked you, but you could have killed him?”

“Yes, I could have easily. My skills are for defense only; I don’t wish to take the life of any creature without cause, especially a brother Bear,” answered Matt.

“That’s not what I meant. You took care of him after you incapacitated him, why?” This time Rick’s questions were more pointed and less timid.

“Honestly, I didn’t want him inside the house, slobbering and bleeding all over the floor.  He deserved to heal and he deserves a fair fight. It isn’t fair when I approach like that or when I use my abilities to gauge your movements,” Matt answered flatly, he was a little annoyed at the question. He always tried to return kindness whenever aggression is given, but he wouldn’t back down from an attack. He had a momentary thought that he may have overdone it, but shoved the thought away.

A few minutes later Rick blurted another question, “Why are your dressed like that?  I saw you’re armed. You know Boris’s rule about weapons in the lodge.”

“Yes, I’m fully aware of our Elders rules. I’m being cautious and if I’m wrong then I’ll unarm quietly and enter. If I’m right I won’t let any harm be done to the members of this den.  Would you rather I be defenseless and unable to fulfill my responsibilities to the den, the Elder and yourself?” Matt was speaking plainly and honestly to Rick; this Bear deserved it.

“So, you fight for the Elder?” Rick asked snottily.

“No gentle Bear, I die for the Elder, the den and its members. My life is forfeit for yours; that’s my responsibility, it’s my destiny, and it’s what I have been chosen to do.”

The two walked in silence the rest of the trip. Matt reached out with his heightened senses as far as he could. He hated walking into a trap, even if this was safe ground and neutral territory it still felt like a set up and he was walking right into the middle of it. 

As they reached the edge of lodge territory Matt could feel others around, but nothing felt out of place. All of the movement was normal as well, but his gut was still tight. “Rick, go on ahead I won’t be far from you. Tell them I’m right behind you.” Matt ordered and promptly disappeared before Rick could turn around. He stopped and watched Rick move off, something wasn’t right. Matt’s gut was telling him something was about to happen, something bad.

Moving fast and sticking to a little known path he made his way to the service entrance of the lodge. Entering he made his way up a backset of stairs and into the upper level of the lodge without being noticed. From there he made his way out onto the support beam above the massive steel and mesh chandelier. The cascade of light would conceal his presence and he could listen to the voices below.

“Boris, where is your Guardian? We’ve waited almost the entire day,” an unfamiliar Bear spoke to Boris, who was sitting in his chair besides a massive fireplace. Boris’s leg was bouncing in obvious agitation, but his voice remained calm and collected as always.

“He will be along soon. Remember we woke him from hibernation. Even the oldest of Bears remembers their first hibernation and the effort it takes to come back,” Boris said.

“We need him and this is taking much too long.”

“Claus, please be patient. I have sent a trusted member of the den to bring him,” Boris pleaded. 

A few seconds later Rick made his way into the lodge past several unfamiliar Bears and into the main seating area. All eyes turned as he made his way to Boris.  Before he could speak he was interrupted by the new Bear, Claus.

“So Cub, where is this Guardian?” he questioned, standing as he did so. 

“He is not far behind, he stopped to pick up something then he’ll be along,” Rick said turning to Boris and winking at him. 

From his vantage point, Matt could feel that Claus had brought several members of his den with him. They were unfamiliar to him. He couldn’t locate Robert or Vic which was curious to him. Outside of the seven of them the lodge was completely empty, there was one more Bear on the outside, but none had made an approach. They were just hanging around.

Claus walked closer to Boris, and Matt’s gut tightened. “This will not do at all, we are leaving your help will no longer be needed,” he barked at Boris. 

“Claus, sit down! Matt is already here. He has probably been inside for quite some time, listening to us,” Boris said, rising to his feet. Boris was a Bear of impressive size and met Claus eye-to-eye. He and Claus were both ancient Russian Bears. Standing nose to nose, they could have been brothers. However, it was obvious they were on opposite sides of the spectrum.

“If you hadn’t insisted on sending one of your own I’m sure he would have been here sooner. The only thing sending an unknown did was set Matt into a defensive posture.  Guardians are naturally weary creatures. That Bear you sent probably got more than he bargained for,” Boris added locking eyes with Claus.

“Matt, if you’re here please come in. We need to speak with you,” Boris spoke in raised voice, turning in a half circle.

Matt hesitated for a few seconds, but noticed that the other Bears on the perimeter had started to close on the room. He made his leap from his perch and landed a few feet away from the larger Bears. All the Bears jumped when Matt landed, the rush of air that came after pushed the larger Bear, Claus a few steps back. Matt had positioned himself between Boris, Rick and the Elder, Claus.

In his crouched position, he had his hands on the ground ready to spring, his body completely motionless. His senses were ablaze working out the angles of entry, which Bear would be his first target, and where the escape routes were for Boris and Rick.

“Good, the Cub has arrived. Stand Cub, let me see you,” ordered Claus.

Matt didn’t move, his face still hidden beneath his hood. 

“Matt it’s okay, Claus is a very old friend. His den is in need of your help, please relax,” Boris spoke carefully, his voice full of caution.

Matt rose and clasped his hands in front, standing motionless. He noticed that the other Bears were making a slow entry to the inside of the lodge. He also smelled Vic on the breeze coming through the open side doors, which was a relief. 

Claus took a few steps toward Matt, reached down and pulled the hood, up and off his head. As he did, Matt locked his crystal blue eyes with the taller Bear. Matt was still in half Bear form and his silver fur was bristling.

“Oh my, you are a unique Bear,” remarked Claus taking a few steps backward. 

The three other Bears that Claus had brought with him were now inside and seemed to be looking for a fight. They were taking up positions within the lodge, weapons drawn.

“Elders, the Bears that have entered are armed. If conflict is their intent, I’ll defend this den,” Matt spoke, locking eyes with Claus once again.

“I was counting on it,” Claus smirked and Matt’s world blurred.

Matt reacted; he shoved Boris and Rick down and to the far side of the room. He met the first attacker head on. The other Bears had no firearms but were armed with hunting knives and club type weapons. ‘This is a display, a test, to gauge my level of skill.’

Matt shifted back to his human form in mid fight. As the Bear’s blade came around, he snatched it away, cut the Bears throat, and snapped its knee, arm and jaw. One Bear was down and the other two entered the room.  A barrage of blades cascaded through the air towards Matt.  Avoiding them, he noticed they were dime-store throwing knives. He returned the favor and took the second Bear out of the fight with a blade to the eye and neck. The sheer impact of the hits took the Bear off its feet, almost cleaving its skull in two, and it landed with a wet thud on the floor. The third Bear had gained height on Matt and launched himself in an aerial attack, a large knife in each hand. Matt paused, smiled, and took his staff from his back. In one smooth motion he extended it to its full length, caught the attacker in his mid chest and slammed him around and down into the concrete steps and floor of the entrance, cracking the steps and entryway with its force. The Bear was still moving until Matt leveled an aggressive kick to the Bear’s throat, ending its movements. Turning he was faced with the Elder; Matt lifted his hand to the large Bear, egging the large Bear into the fight. He was primed and ready. 

The Elder smirked, spit on the ground and attacked Matt like no other Bear he had ever fought with. This Bear was on par with Vic, and his movements were faster.  Matt traded blows and blocks, throws and sweeps. He took hits and returned them in kind. It took him a few minutes but he found the Bear’s weaknesses and exploited them. Changing styles, he took the fight to all angles; he made use of his small size and agility. He pummeled the Elder from odd angles with thrusts that seemed to come from nowhere. He attacked even while in retreat. As small as he was, his strength and speed were on par with Bears much older and larger than himself. This seemed to frustrate the larger Bear. Responding the Elder moved to his half-Bear form to match Matt; however, it was no use. Matt had him dialed in while still in his human form. In several more movements Matt had the Bear’s legs broken and arms locked. He was twisting slowly listening for the slow snap of bone and tendon. A smile spread across his face as he twisted the Elder’s arms further; he was enjoying this fight. His energy was flowing and it felt amazing, his senses were on fire, and he was channeling the energy around him. The air crackled with static and a gentle breeze had picked up in the lodge. 

“Matt THAT IS ENOUGH!” boomed a commanding voice. Vic stood in the doorway of the lodge; he had shifted to his half Bear, weary of what was about to unfold. He was still weary of Matt and his ability to control his Bear. Even after all these year, at times Matt seemed as wild as any native Bear; uncontrollable, primal, and eager for conflict.

Matt still in his human form looked up at Vic and winked. ‘Matt was in control the whole time, this devastation was controlled. Oh my, what has he become?’ Vic watched Matt step away from the Elder and pull the hood back over his head, retract and stow his staff and kneel in front of Boris.

Boris and Rick rose from where Matt had shoved them. Looking around, the Bears were starting to heal and come back around. Vic walked over and retrieved the blades from the Bear on the ground. Thank the Gods he was still out. As he looked at the blades he saw that they were heavy, very heavy. The blades had a central shaft of heavy metal wrapped in laser cut titanium.  No wonder they took the Bear off its feet, each blade had to be at least five to eight pounds. He looked over at the Bear on the steps; the force it took to take the Bear out of the air and shatter the stone steps was ungodly. The kick Matt delivered had almost decapitated the Bear. ‘Gods, what has Matt become?’

“Matt, please stand,” Boris looked down at him.

Standing, Matt’s eyes were lowered. He could feel the building of energy inside of Boris.  He felt it crest, ebb, and then retreat. “Thank you for ensuring our safety,” spoke the Elder.

“Elder, I’m sorry for the damage to your den. These Bears presented aggression when none was offered. Was this a test?” questioned Matt. 

“Yes it was they didn’t trust me. Claus over there is one of the best fighters I have ever seen and you easily defeated him without much effort. The others were fodder; I’m not sure why they were brought here. It seems that their purpose during this visit was more than a test and asking for your help,” Boris spoke, looking around at the Bears healing and coming around. 

“Boris, something is wrong, these Bears were looking for a fight. The Bear that Claus sent tried to attack Matt in their home earlier,” Rick said, looking around.

Walking up behind Matt, Vic slid the blades back into Matt’s hands, “Here, I think these are yours.”

Matt didn’t meet Vic’s eyes, but took the blades and secured them on his thighs. He was sheepish, embarrassed by the devastation he had caused.

“Elder, may I step outside? I won’t be far,” asked Matt, Boris nodded slowly still watching the other Bears.

Matt turned and moved out of the room quickly past the Bears and to the door. Tom, the Bear he’d fought earlier met him at the entrance. Matt was distracted by the smells of Werebear blood, and walked right into a fully automatic shotgun blast. The first shot took Matt backward off his feet and the successive blasts grazed his head and face; he rolled and put his back to the blasts while ducking for cover. His jacket held and nothing penetrated to his body but the others were not so lucky. He looked up to see a shot hit Rick and a grazing shot go past Boris. Matt roared and took the sickle from his back. 

Swinging the weapon in a tight arc around his body, gathering as much force as possible, he stepped into the shotgun blasts that were peppering the inside of the lodge. Several impacted him on his approach to Tom.  Matt jumped as he let the weapon fly at the unsuspecting Bear. It struck the Bear mid chest and sliced through him. It’s tapered and tooth like spines prevented it from coming back out. The Bear looked down at the chain from the sickle hanging from his chest, his arms dangling at his sides. Matt had severed his spine with the attack. Landing he pulled with all his strength. The force of the pull folded the Bear in two and jerked its body into the lodge. As the Bear flew past, Matt decapitated it, ending its magical existence on this earth. He had taken the life of another brother.  It was always the last resort.

As the dust settled Matt quickly checked on Boris and Rick, neither was seriously injured and the pellets were being pushed out as they healed. ‘Vic, where is Vic?’ Matt turned circles, looking for him, but debris was everywhere covering most of the floor. There … blood. 

“By the Gods, please no!” Matt growled as he ran towards Vic’s body. He had taken a blast to the upper chest and neck; it looked to be healing but he had lost a lot of blood. 

“Death will not have you this day,” Matt whispered kneeling beside the bloody blond Bear. He would further make his skills known to the Elders. It was a selfless act, a skill only held by Guardians, and Matt would use it save Vic. In the past 20 years, Matt had come to fully understand his abilities as a Guardian. He could heal others and use nature to his advantage, as well as take the energy that hung in the air around him. 

He quieted himself and became both outwardly and internally still. He reached out for the energy around him gathering it within himself. As he did the air in the lodge picked up, and became charged with static. He was summoning the energy of nature and using his own life force to heal his mentor, his friend, and his brother. He had placed his paws on Vic’s chest as he worked. Under his paws a luminescence could be seen and Vic’s wounds began to heal at an alarming rate. It was working, Vic would be ok.  However, as Matt did this several scars stretched themselves across his face. He was taking the wounds from his friend; he was bearing the burden of action. The static charge was building on them as Matt worked and discharging to the ground and objects around them.

The inside of the lodge was a vortex of air and static.  The Bears standing close started to back away. Matt was growling. He wasn’t going to let Vic die, not here, not like this. The Elder, Claus had healed enough and risen to his feet. He was making a limping retreat from the lodge as he witnessed the healing. The other three had healed enough to wake up and drag themselves out the door. Claus paused by Tom’s head and looked back at Matt, he was lucky to be alive, but he wasn’t leaving without taking the life of one of this den’s members. The Bears went to the vehicles and grabbed their weapons, readying to make their next attack against Matt.

Matt took his paws off Vic and looked around. Boris and Rick were staring at him. As he looked up, he caught his reflection in the mirror of the broken bar area. He now had a scar that ran from his neck to his ear, deep, red and angry looking. It would turn back to normal skin tone soon, but another scar had been added to his body; a new addition to the storybook of battles won and lessons learned that had etched itself across his body.  He looked around taking in his surroundings as Vic began to wake up.

“Where did the other Bears go?” Mat asked.

“They went outside, we were watching you and lost them,” Rick stuttered.

Matt turned to the front entrance of the lodge, and stared out into the distance. His senses searched for the Bears. His anger was peaking. “Elder, Vic, Cub please move to the back entrance of the lodge and go to my home. Do it NOW!” he ordered, jumping to his feet. He reached to his sides and un-holstered his side arms. 

“They’re coming, move now,” Matt commanded, walking to the entrance of the lodge. 

“What are you doing?” Vic asked, grabbing Matt’s shoulder.

“I’ll cover you in retreat, get to my home. Boris knows the codes to enter. Go to the armory upstairs and prepare. Wake Luke and get him ready to move.  This wasn’t a test; this was an extermination that went wrong. They didn’t expect me to be skilled, nor did they expect that Boris was so patient. GO NOW!” Matt yelled, pulling himself away from Vic and pushing Vic towards the others. Matt walked towards the entrance of the lodge to meet the approaching Bears.

As he did he focused his rage and anger. He wasn’t going to let any of these Bears escape. They had brought conflict where none was needed. They had brought malice where there was no reply. Matt would deal out death this day; he would end their existence on this earth. None of them would escape. 

As he walked he growled low, he reached out his senses and felt the Bears as they circled the lodge.  Matt moved with stealth and grace. He pushed himself to go faster and harder than he had before. ‘I must protect the den.’ He met the first Bear before it could react; two rounds point blank decapitated the Bear. Shots rang from Matt’s left. He reacted quickly, rolling away from them as he returned their fire. Several rounds went wide, but three found their mark taking another Bear down. Matt had severed its right arm and placed a round in its chest. As the Bears closed in on him he ducked behind a woodpile, reloaded and jumped firing at them as he went.  Two more Bears were down and out of the fight. The rounds he was firing were custom loaded and made for the purpose of killing Bears. Landing, Matt kept his head down sensing the world around him. It was just him and the Elder left.

“You’re quite a unique Bear. It’s a shame that I’ll have to kill you now,” the Elder gloated, leveling the automatic rifle at Matt opening fire.

He moved into the incoming fire; he had holstered one pistol and unsheathed a blade.  He drove the blade into the Elder’s chest, stopping the Elder’s heart splitting it in two. Matt fired a round point blank into the Elders mid section, severing his spine. He twisted the blade to ensure the maximum damage was done. In the few seconds the Bear had left it muttered its last word, “How?!” Matt looked up into the Elders dimming eyes, his crystal blue eyes, the eyes of a Guardian, glared at the dying Bear. He sunk his teeth into the Elder’s neck, ripping his head away from his body. Matt had killed an Elder; he was sure there was some karmic justice that would befall him soon.

Looking around he made sure to end the others where they had fallen, more rounds to the head worked sufficiently. When he was done he wobbled and staggered toward the lodge.  Looking down, he grabbed his belly; his fur was matted with blood, the Elder had shot him. It was sheer adrenaline and focus that had kept him moving. He was bleeding from his gut. At some point his jacket must have opened, revealing flesh to the Elder. When he made it to the stairs of the lodge he fell, rolled to his side and slipped into a void of nothingness.

A Helping Paw

Vic stopped and turned around; the gunfire had stopped and he feared for Matt. He felt a sadness wash over him; a deep loss of something dear to him. He looked up at the sky; the clouds had started to circle the lodge as if they were being pulled on. He knew it was a sign that something was wrong, something had happened to Matt. He turned around and quickly began making his way back to the lodge.

“Where are you going?” Boris asked.

“I’m going to look for Matt, something is wrong.” 

“No. He told us to go to his home and wait, let’s go,” Boris ordered.

“Boris, something is wrong. I can feel it,” Vic whined, still walking towards the lodge.

“Ok, but stay under cover and hurry along. Who knows how Luke will wake without Matt there …” Boris shook his head and hurried along with Rick.

Turning and shifting to his half Bear form, Vic made careful progress back to the lodge.  He knew something was wrong and he feared the worst. As he came closer to the lodge, the unmistakable scent of Werebear blood assaulted him. It was Matt’s blood; he had smelled it enough to pick up on it. Pausing at the cooling body of one of the Bears he recognized the Elder, headless. Matt had indeed lived up to his reputation. Vic scanned the other Bears where they lay and the ferocity of Matt’s actions frightened him. As he made his way around to the front entrance, he spotted Matt lying on the stairs. 

“Gods no!” Vic yelled, darting to Matt’s body.

He reached out for him carefully, avoiding the pool of blood that surrounded his body.  Vic sniffed Matt’s body, the stench of death clung tightly to him. He checked his pulse; it was weak, but still beating. Vic rolled Matt onto his back and opened his jacket. A round had found its way in. He had a wound just below and to the right of his navel where the Elder’s shot had torn through him. The wound had still not closed. Vic bit his wrist and let blood drip into the open wound which bubbled as it began to close. He rolled Matt over and did the same to the exit wound. Checking him over, he didn’t seem to be harmed anywhere else. He was covered in blood from his muzzle to his toes, still in his half-Bear form. It was curious that even unconscious he didn’t change back to his human form.

Looking over the smaller Bear Vic closely inspected Matt’s clothing. His jacket and pants had withstood a massive amount of gunfire. In several spots the leather was eaten away to reveal the mesh underneath, but the silvery gray weave of the lath had held together. Matt had been well prepared for this encounter as if he had known what was going to happen. The clothing was made so he could shift forms and keep his gear ready. As he looked at Matt’s hands he saw the gloves he wore had plate on the back of each hand and were fingerless; they allowed his claws, no, his talons to protrude. No wonder everything Matt hit was destroyed, he was a walking armored Bear. His boots were the same as the gloves, plate down his shins and the toe was tipped. As he ran his fingers over the arms of the jacket he could tell there was plate and rod inside to protect him. He opened the jacket revealing the weapon rig Matt was wearing full of extra magazines, a few small tools, and a small pouch of money. “Matt is always prepared,” Vic said aloud.

He looked down inside his jacket and found a small beeper-like device that would blink red every few seconds. As Vic removed the device from Matt’s side it blinked rapidly, ‘FAILSAFE’. ‘What does this mean?’

Matt knew that in any combat situation there was always a winner and a loser; it was just a matter of time before he came up on the losing end. The pager that Vic was holding was wired to Matt and Luke’s home. It placed the house in total lockdown if he was killed or incapacitated.  No one but Luke could unlock it. He had sent the Elder to safe ground away from the conflict but unless they could wake Luke they would be exposed. 

Vic sniffed Matt again, the scent of death still lingered against his skin weakly. He glanced around at his surroundings once again and plucked the knife from the deceased Elder’s chest. He walked around Matt’s body and picked up the sidearm that lay a few inches from his hand. Inspecting the weapon, Vic was impressed, it was well-balanced, green laser sighted, ported and silenced. It would fit in a Bear’s hand just as well as it would in a human’s.  Matt could use the weapon in any form he chose. Ejecting the magazine, he realized how devastating Matt’s shots were. The rounds were Hydro-shock, frangible rounds with a center spike of heavy metal. They would shred through anything they hit. “Damn!” Vic said aloud as he slid the weapon into his hip pocket, scooped Matt up and walked carefully back to their home past the cooling remains.

As he carried Matt, he thought back to all the times he had already hauled the Cub out of a fight; which had happened quite often in the beginning of Bear life. Vic thought back to the very first fight between him and Matt the day after his change. He had really thought that Matt would lose himself that day, but he was thankful that it did not happen. He had never admitted to Matt, but his unbridled rage had been almost too much for Vic to handle. Had it not been for Matt’s training Vic doubted that he could have remained sane. Through the years, Matt had to learn control.  In a small setting, he was calm and collected.  In a group he was tense and always on edge. Bears being Bears like a good scuffle occasionally and Matt never backed down. His small size made him an easy target for bigger Bears with more bravado and common sense. However, most times the bigger Bears received more than they bargained for. Before Matt changed his second time, he was skilled and fast, but after his speed, agility and abilities took on new form. He made the transition to Guardian and nothing had been the same since.

  

A moan came from the little Bear he was carrying. Vic glanced down but kept moving.  He could see Matt and Luke’s house in the distance.  ‘Not long now, we’re almost there.’  He could smell Boris on the wind, which was good. As he made his way to Matt’s property, his mind flashed back to the ‘FAILSAFE’ message on the beeper. His goal had always been protection; he had pledged himself to Boris and his den, however, he was always concerned about Luke’s safety. Whatever the ‘FAILSAFE’ message meant he was sure it was to ensure Luke’s safety. 

He cleared the line of trees that bordered Matt and Luke’s property and saw Boris with Rick, both of them standing on the porch. They were pacing, waiting; it seemed that neither of them could enter the house. As Vic approached the house, he could see it was in full lockdown and not even the ambient lighting was on. It was dark and quiet. Vic reached the steps and Boris ran to him, his face full of concern.

“Is he alive?”

“Barely … his body is healing, but he took a shot to the gut. I closed the wound and it’s healing very slowly,” rattled Vic.

“We can’t get in. The codes don’t work and the service entrance that I used earlier is closed,” said Rick.

“Yeah, I found a pager on him. It reads ‘FAILSAFE’, I guess this is what it meant,” Vic replied, laying Matt on one of the lounge chairs. 

“We need to wake Matt; I fear that others will be coming. Claus was known for redundant planning. I’m sure he has more Bears waiting,” Boris warned.

“What happened to the other Bears?” Rick asked nervously, pacing, and itchy to move.

“They’re all dead. Matt saw to that,” replied Vic, leaning in to sniff Matt again.

This time Matt returned the sniff. He inhaled deeply, his ears twitching, working out the sounds. He was coming around; he opened his eyes and looked up into the eyes of the blond Bear. 

“What’s the situation?” he grunted.

“We can’t get in, the codes don’t work,” said Rick more nervous than before.

“Let me get up,” Matt said, stirring from the lounge chair.

As he got slowly to his feet, he looked around and walked over to the pillar of the porch.  Running his hands over its surface, he opened a concealed panel and two smooth glass surfaces were exposed. About the same time, new scents hit him. Turning he looked sharply out into the distance through the falling snow. His senses stretched; other Bears were at the lodge. More were coming. Turning, Matt placed his paw on the panel and it came to life. He punched in a set of codes, opening the front door shutters and unlocking the door. 

“Get inside. Wake Luke. I’ll wait for them,” Matt ordered looking back at the Bears.  They were just staring at him.

“I’ve unlocked the basement and the armory, please prepare yourselves. If they get through me, this is your last bastion of safe haven,” spoke Matt looking back at them. They were standing stock still, not grasping what he was trying to get them to do. 

“Go in, I’ll be right behind you. I need to grab some things,” Matt said nodding towards the door, and turned taking a half step. 

As the others walked in Matt turned back to the screen and quickly keyed in a sequence.  The door closed and locked behind them. The Bears turned as the door slammed shut and locked.

“What are you doing?!” Vic bellowed, but with the glass and walls the sound never reached Matt’s twitching round ears.

Vic tried the door handle, but Matt had already secured the fail safe locks. Vic reared back and punched the glass, but it didn’t budge. As he looked at the glass and door, he realized that Matt and Luke’s house was a fortress. One that Matt had designed with protection as its primary goal. Walking to the door Matt put both paws on the glass. He reached to his right and touched the intercom button, and pressed his paws against the paws of the blond Bear on the glass of the door.

“Vic, please make sure Luke is safe. He is still a clumsy Bear and needs lots of attention.  Keep Boris and Rick safe get them out of here; please do it quickly,” he said smiling.

“What are you doing?” Vic whispered pain evident in his voice.

“What I was destined to do. Now go and wake Luke, get Boris and Rick out of here.  There are ample supplies and a vehicle setup for this purpose. Go to the lower garage, everything is there,” Matt smiled again taking his paws off the glass and stepping backward, looking at the big blond Bear.

“No, No, No,” Vic whimpered and pounding the glass with his paws. He knew what Matt had done. What he was about to do. Matt would sacrifice himself for their protection if need be, without hesitation, without remorse. 

Turning away, Matt walked back to the screen on the porch pillar. He tapped a few more keys and the security shutter of the door started to close. The whole time Vic was pounding on the glass, trying to get out. Matt had sealed them into the house; he had made sure they were safe. 

Inside Vic was lost in his own rage. This Cub had protected the older Bears; this was not the way. The old ones were to protect the young ones. “Vic, we need to wake Luke,” Boris spoke laying a caring hand on the huffing, panting blond Bear.

“This isn’t right. This is all wrong. I should be with him,” Vic growled, looking up at the stoic Russian Elder. 

“We need to move. If Matt is right, then we have more trouble coming,” Boris said, pulling Vic to his feet. They quickly made their way to the basement to wake Luke. This would be the second time that Boris had to tell Luke Matt might not come back to him. He dreaded it.  His heart sunk for the huge white Polar Bear. For all of Luke’s size, he was awkward and clumsy; he had aged but not progressed in skill. He was still a Cub at heart and needed Matt desperately. Matt took care of him, lavished him with attention, love, and care.

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Matt sighed as he watched the shutter close over the door and lock into place. He glanced at the display and surveyed the house’s systems one last time ensuring that it had locked down. The basement and lower garage were both open to the Bears inside as well as the armory so that the Bears could arm themselves.

“Gods protect them, please” Matt whispered and went back to the tapping in commands.  He engaged the perimeter defense systems, and checked his pager to make sure it was active. ‘Good’.  Around the home, four automated machine guns rose silently from their concealed hubs.  They fired a light armor piercing round, were silenced and liquid cooled, and each turret fired a three-round burst and held 5000 rounds each.  His pager would keep the turrets from hitting him, and the vehicles would pass unharmed. 

He keyed in another sequence and a panel popped open just to his left; stepping around he armed himself with more weaponry. Matt kneeled to grab more blades, a light machine gun, four fragmentation grenades, two sonic grenades and extra magazines for his side arms. He noticed that one was missing, so he unclipped that holster and tossed it aside. He used the free space to slide more blades into the cutouts on his thigh. 

Standing, he zipped and buckled his jacket back into place, slung the machine gun, closed the panel and walked back to the control screen. He paused and keyed in the last sequence of commands which transferred all command access to the inside of the house. The external keypads would no longer be operational. The house was totally secure. 

Closing the control panel, Matt turned and started to walk away from the house. He passed the first turret and it swept his direction, but did not fire.  ‘Good.’  He moved quickly past the border of their property and back onto Lodge territory where he could sense Bears moving about. He counted at least fifteen, all converging on the Lodge. He walked towards it at a sharp angle into the wind. Stopping in a clearing, he turned with the wind at his back blowing toward the Lodge and took out a blade slicing his wrist. The blood dripped and swirled in the gusts of air as it fell away from his body. The wind would carry the scent of his blood toward the pack of Bears at the lodge. His scent was different from other Bears, unique. After about ten seconds, he could tell they had picked it up and that they had begun to move toward him. ‘Good, now to lead them away.’

Matt moved slowly at first, like a wounded Bear he fell around, rubbing the blood on trees, the brush, anything he could find as he moved. The pack of Bears was following him and gaining speed in their pursuit. More cuts to his wrist drew more blood, as he slowed his gait. He let the pack close on him. ‘Now to have some fun’; Matt stopped and dove into a snow bank. He quickly covered himself with snow and waited. He quieted his mind and his body. The snow would freeze the blood on his body and stop the scent from carrying. He could tell the Bears were moving past him; only a Polar Bear would be able to smell his blood on the snow.  As the last one hurried by him, Matt emerged behind its back.

It was a young Cub, armed with a pump shotgun. ‘Hmm.’ Matt seized the Bear and sunk a blade into its spine just below its shoulders. The Bear’s arms and body ceased their movement as soon as he severed its spine. He removed the blade and cut the Cub’s throat, and let it slide to the ground. Moving away quickly, Matt scaled a tree and waited.  He gathered the wind and pushed the breeze toward the pack. All at once, the pack caught the scent of fresh blood and turned around. As they made their way to the cooling remains of the Cub, Matt watched from his high perch. As they gathered around the Cub, he pulled the pins quietly on the two fragmentation grenades and lobbed them into the midst of the pack. None of them were going to survive this encounter. 

Left on his own, Matt had become a terrifying guerrilla fighter. His small size gave way to different tactics than larger Bears. In his human days, he had been called on numerous times to do nasty things in the name of Security and Honor. Now, using his skills to protect the ones he loved most was all that mattered. 

Judging from the turmoil below, these Bears were as unskilled as the first group. Of the original fifteen, only about nine were still standing. They formed a circle with their backs together, waiting, looking for their invisible attacker. From beneath him, Matt picked up the sound of static. ‘A radio? Interesting!’ A single Bear who was slightly smaller than the rest, was hanging back partially inside the circle. It was time to hunt them, to push them, and to thin them out.

Matt took a single sonic grenade, activated the device and lobbed it just on the far side of the circle of Bears. The sound of it hitting the ground startled them and they fired in the direction of the sounds. Then the screech started and the Bears backed away right toward Matt. He smiled from under his hood where he had shifted back into his human form; this was how he would proceed. Looking down he saw two of the Bears had started to retreat away from the sound and peeled off by themselves.  Slinging the machine gun to his back, Matt took out a two blades and dropped from his perch.

The first Bear felt the impact, but nothing more as Matt slammed the blade into and through its skull. Facing the other Bear, he dropped it with a slice across its throat and a kick to the knee. Pulling the blade free of the Bear’s skull, Matt hid behind a small snow bank before the group reached the dead Bears. ‘Seven left to go.’ The others walked into the two new dead Bears and panic spread through them, taking over. They started to yell at each other, but the sound of the sonic grenade was making it difficult for them to communicate. 

Popping from behind a tree, Matt threw two blades striking a Bear in the back of the head and another in the face. Both were down.  Five left. The remaining Bears fired in the direction of the blades, but Matt had already taken to the trees again. Right above them, on top of them, a predator. The five remaining Bears were huddled together, reloading their weapons. The smallest Bear was trying to talk into the handheld radio but it was no use; the frequency of the grenade was tuned for ursine ears. Matt knew that the most prominent threat to a Werebear was another Werebear; knowing how to hunt his brothers was a prudent skill when protecting the ones he loved, and respected. 

Matt pulled the pins on the last two grenades, counted to three, and dropped them.  The grenades exploded three feet from the ground and shredded the remainder of the group. All of them were now dead or dying in the snow below him. He waited until the sonic grenade stopped before he moved. He reached out with his senses, scanning the area. He noticed that the few Bears he had taken down were starting to recover. Dropping down he quickly ended their existence. While making his way out of the area, he heard the crackle of static; it was the hand held radio. 

“Jerrod … Jerrod answer me, what is going on? Answer me.”

Picking up the radio, Matt keyed the mic, “They are all dead.”

There was no sound for a few seconds and then, “I’m going to find you and make your end slow.”

Matt spoke formally and directly: “No … No, you are not. You sent Cubs to do a Bears job, and I am coming for you. There is no place on Earth you can hide from me; there is no refuge that will keep me from you, you will know no peace or safety until you are dead. You brought conflict with you, when there was no need for it. Neither you, nor any Bear in your keep will have my mercy. I will kill until your entire line has met its end. Your judgment is coming.” 

Matt let the radio fall to the ground. Pulling his hood over his head, he moved silently toward the lodge, removing his rifle from his shoulder as he moved. That radio only had a few miles of range; they were either at the lodge or at the base of the access road. As he made his way to the lodge, his ears picked up a vehicle starting and peeling off out of the parking area.  He smiled, shifted to his half Bear form and pursued. 

They would not survive. He would kill them all. They had attempted to harm his family, and there was no worse infraction in Matt’s mind. He burst through the tree line as the vehicle went out the circular driveway and down the gravel path leading to the lodge. The path had several switchbacks and was an aggressive decent to the paved road a mile or so away. The vehicle had reached the first of the switchbacks, braked hard, and slid around the curve.

“The driver is a novice, he’s using the brakes,” Matt said to himself, smiling under his hood. He advanced past the vehicle and beat them to the second switchback. Jumping and landing in the center of the road, Matt took a knee and opened fire on the vehicle. He sprayed the driver and the passenger. He was aiming high, so the driver would try to run him over; it worked.  The driver planted his foot in a vain attempt to hit him. Matt ejected the spent magazine, and reloaded in mid jump. He leapt to the left of the vehicle and sprayed the left front tire. The tire and engine exploded, the vehicle dug into the dirt and its momentum took it over into a roll. It rolled up, over the embankment, and down the hill leading to the lodge. The hill was not steep, but it was enough to keep the vehicle tumbling to the bottom.

  

Reaching the edge and looking down at the rolling vehicle, Matt noticed two occupants had been ejected. The rolling vehicle had crushed one and the other was scrabbling away. Matt slung the rifle and took out his sidearm; engaging the laser, he amputated the Cubs leg at the knee. It was left howling and clawing trying to get away. 

“You will be the bait,” Matt sneered and moved off in a sharp angle down the hill, keeping the bait in between him and the vehicle, now resting on its side. 

Matt took a position and took out the rifle; selecting single round firing, he slid the halo scope into place and waited. In those few seconds before the occupants tried to exit the vehicle, Matt ordered the events of the days. Several things did not fit. Firstly, why did these Bears attack Boris and test Matt? As far as he knew, he kept pretty much to himself and helped those who came to him. He knew Boris and Robert were old Bears, and with age comes enemies. Second, the Bears that were with Claus were unskilled and undisciplined fighters they seemed to be a distraction or maybe a warm up. Third, if Boris was the intended target, why wait until Matt woke up?  ‘Did they expect me to not defend the den?  Was this all a larger test? Was I the target? What is the connection?’

A sound from the car brought Matt back to his senses; the back doors had opened and three large Bears wobbled out. Matt waited, watching as they made their way over to the wounded Cub. He dropped the first of the Bears with a single round to the head, the second and third with multiple rounds through the chest and head. Then, he waited once again. He could feel one more occupant in the vehicle. The vehicle shook a bit, as if the Bear was making his way to the back of the suburban; Matt was shocked to hear a growl. A Bear in half-form emerged from the vehicle and looked in his direction. 

‘Ok, this one wants to talk.’ Matt fired a round at the Bear’s feet, it did not move. ‘Good, this one has some skill; it is probably the one from the radio.’  Matt slung his rifle and emerged from his position. He made a steady approach toward the Bear. It was massive in its half form; it would have been incredible as a full Bear. Matt stopped short and waited.

“So, you are the Guardian Cub that I’ve heard so much about,” remarked the Bear.

“I’m Matt, Guardian of this den. Why have you brought this fight to our door, when none was offered?” Matt questioned.

“We want the Kermode,” spat the Bear and charged Matt.

Matt caught two closed fists to each side of the chest, and the impact took him off his feet. Rolling and coming up the Bear had closed the distance and proceeded to attack. In the midst of this Matt thought of Rusty, he had gone to the Arctic Den for the summer. ‘Why do they want Rusty?’  He had kept a very low profile because he was a Spirit Bear, so why did they want him? ‘Well, it’s time to find out.’ 

Like in the fight with the Elder, Matt traded blows until he saw the pattern repeat and then shifted styles and attacked. The Bear picked up and swung a log at Matt. Returning the call for weapons, Matt unsheathed two blades and went to work on his much larger opponent. After a few slices the large Bear was on the ground, bleeding out and unable to move. Matt had cut nerves, tendons and muscle to incapacitate the Bear without killing it. 

“Why are you going after the Kermode?” Matt questioned, twisting the blade buried in the Bear’s shoulder. 

It howled in pain and spat in Matt’s face; another turn of the blade shut the Bear up. 

“For the last time, why the Kermode?” Matt asked again.

“The Elder wants him to make more of you,” growled the Bear.

Matt froze as the puzzle came into focus and the details into order. The southern den did not have a guardian. They resided on the border of the United States and Mexico; their roots extended back to the indigenous Mayans. ‘We were not the target, Rusty was. By the Gods where is my Sire?’

Without a thought, Matt took out his sidearm, and put the large Bear down. He did the same with the Cub and ensured the others the same fate. Glancing up he saw the gold SUV that Matt had prepped coming down the back trail. He pulled his hood on and loped off to catch the vehicle, they must go back to the house, and they had to find Rusty and Norman. As big as Norman was, he did not stand a chance against fighters of this caliber. Rusty as Bearish as he was, was no fighter either. 

When Matt reached the vehicle, he saw everyone was safe. He his way to the driver’s seat where Vic sat, and held up a hand to silence them.

“We were not their targets, it’s Rusty. They are after the Kermode. We have to find them now. Meet me at the house.” Matt shifted to his half Bear form and took off up the path. Panic and fear were creeping into his mind as he moved. Rusty and Norman had left when Matt and Luke went into hibernation. 

When he reached the house, he made his way through the open lower garage door and to the first panel. He deactivated the defenses, but left the rest of the house closed up. He was sitting in his den when the other arrived; furiously tapping keys. He wore a headset and seemed to be trying to reach the Arctic Den, but there was no response on email, messenger, or page. He tried the high-gain radio … nothing but static filled their frequency. His gut was getting tighter.  He reached out to them, but could not feel the pair. He could always reach them no matter where they were; he could always feel his Sire.  It scared him; for the first time in years, fear entered Matt’s heart and mind. 

He did not move as everyone came through the door of the den. A Bearlike vocalization came from Luke as he entered. He was in half form and wobbly; he bumped into the furniture as he walked in. He was about to fall face first when Matt slid under him and caught him. To the others in the room it was only a flash of movement. Matt caught him mid fall, and took the impact. While they watched, the others began to understand Matt even more. Luke just chuffed, whined and licked Matt all over; he was patting him and shifting to his Bear. 

“Luke, you can’t change in here honey, please relax, I’m fine,” Matt softly spoke, rubbing his ears.

A few more whines came from Luke and he started his transition back, but he was stuck in half-Bear. He whined more, fear filling his face. 

“It will be okay Luke, it takes a little bit. You will wake up fully soon,” Boris spoke, walking up to the two of them. 

Luke chuffed at Boris and put his large Polar Bear head on Matt’s chest.  Luke was a massive Polar Bear; even in his half form, he was still substantial and enveloped Matt as he lay on top with his legs out behind him.

“Honey Bear, let me up, I need to find Rusty and Norman. They’re in danger,” Matt spoke while grasping both sides of the massive furry head and muzzle. Luke licked him and let him up. 

“Rick, can you take Luke up to his shower, it’s on the second floor. It’s Polar Bear sized.  Let him change to full Bear and hit the wash button. Luke will do the rest,” Matt spoke while getting to his feet.

He reached over and grabbed both sides of his Bear’s muzzle and face. Looking him in the eyes, he spoke slowly. “Go with Rick. Go take a bath. Enjoy the water for a while. Okay?” The Polar Bear nodded and walked out with Rick. 

After they exited, Vic asked, “Polar Bear sized?”

“Yes, it’s like mine, but about 5 times larger with toys for a Polar Bear,” Matt said walking back over to his keyboard.

“Um … what?” Vic raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“Okay, Luke’s shower is a cold water shower, actually chilled. It allows him be in full Bear, take a bath, and play in the icy water. I guess I should have warned Rick not to join him. He has a tire that swings and other playthings to bat around and chew on. He chews on stuff terribly,” Matt sighed and looked up at the two Bears. They were just staring at him dumfounded.

“What?” Matt said looking at them, his hands turned up.

“I never would have guessed as big as Luke is, that he is that clumsy and Cub like,” Vic said walking to Matt.

        

“No worries, let’s get to it. I can’t locate them. Elder, any ideas?”

“I have none. I’ll make some calls; the events of today are deeply disturbing,” Boris spoke and walked out of the den and upstairs.

Vic laid a hand on Matt’s shoulder and they looked at each other. It had been a troubling day to say the least. Matt sat scanning the images of the security cameras. It became apparent to Vic that they were everywhere. Matt could watch the grounds, road, and entrance to the lodge.  Even the common areas inside could be watched. Matt reached over and tapped a few keys and a schematic of the grounds came up. As he worked, he engaged the turrets and the something else that Vic could not make out.

“I know those are turrets, what are the other icons?” he asked.

“5lbs shaped mines,” Matt said plainly.

Vic just looked at him, “What the heck?”

“If someone or a group gets past the turrets, the charges will slow them down. They ring the house and grounds,” Matt said plainly not wanting to talk about it. It was time to find Rusty and Norman. It was time for action, he could feel the energy of nature and it was circling him, lifting him, giving him clarity.

Sacrifice

Part I

Matt reached for the radio to his left and was about to speak into the headset, but turned and flipped a switch and instead used the speaker so everyone could hear.

“K-A-P tower this is Eagle-Two-Zero come in.” Matt spoke, then released the microphone button and waited. 

“K-A-P tower actual, go ahead,” a female voice responded.

“Jane, this is Matt I need to speak with Marty, it’s an emergency … over.”

“Hold on Matt he’s in his hanger. Over.”

“Copy.”

“What are you doing?” Vic asked, hovering over Matt’s shoulder.

“We are the supply link to the Arctic Den and points east. Marty makes the weekly supply and passenger run to them. It’s scheduled for tomorrow and would be the fastest way to get to them. He would also be the one to ferry passengers-” Matt stopped short as the radio crackled.

“Eagle-Two-Zero, this is Marty, go ahead,” a voice crackled over the line.

“Marty, go Zulu-1-5-9, repeat, Zulu-1-5-9 … over,” Matt said, holding up a paw to Vic signaling not to speak.

Matt looked over at Vic, “It’s a secure communication with Marty; he will be in his office away from everyone.”

“Roger, Z-1-5-9,” Marty said and the static took over. Matt reached up and hit two buttons on the radio.

A few silent minutes later, “Marty here, Matt what’s the matter … over” questioned the brother-Bear.

“Rusty and Norman are in danger, I need to get to them tomorrow when you make the supply run … over.”

“No can do brother, that storm has the airspace closed. I had to make the run yesterday and I just got back this morning. Over” Marty said.

“Did you see them?  Did any passengers go to the den? Over,” Matt spurted out concerned.

“I didn’t see them on touchdown, but they came out to meet the four visitors from the southern den. I had to leave to beat the storm; Matt, what’s going on?” Marty was new to being a Bear, he was prior Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard. 

“Eagle-Two-Zero was attacked today. The Elder and all parties are safe and secure at Eagle-One-Zero. Over.” 

“What do you need? I owe Rusty and Norman everything,” Marty asked calmly.

“Can you get me above the storm, over the Arctic Den?” asked Matt.

“I’ll have the plane ready by the time you get here. Come across the lake, we have to beat the storm out. It’s coming down on us pretty hard,” Marty said plainly.

“I’ll be on the way in less than 30 minutes. Eagle-One-Zero out,” Matt said, and flipped off the speaker for the radio. Turning to Vic he held up a paw.

“You will not stop me from going. I’ll protect them,” Matt spoke evenly to Vic, his eyes burning with purpose.

“How will you land, they’re in the middle of the storm of the century?” Vic questioned.

“I’ll HALO jump through the storm and wing suit through the valley and into den territory. From there I’ll just have to take it as it comes,” spoke Matt as he got up and walked toward the garage.

“Hell no, you are not going alone. I’ll go with you,” Vic said following Matt.

“No old friend, you can’t join me on this one. I need you to stay here and keep watch on the Den. I fear that more trouble is coming and fast. This was not an uncoordinated attack, this was well thought out. I will go get Rusty and Norman and ensure their safety. When the storm passes we will take the southern valley and meet up at David’s cabin in the Badlands. That is the only secure location with supplies within 300 miles,” Matt trailed off as he opened a large wall locker. Vic stood motionless as he looked at the array of gear that was stowed. Matt opened a large bag and started to throw gear into it. 

“Before you even mutter a word, you can’t stop me from going. You can relax your arms and your legs. Trying to stop me will only get you hurt. I can see the energy flowing through you. Your actions will not deter me from going to them,” Matt said looking over his shoulder, still throwing gear into the bag. 

“Old friend, please protect Luke and the rest of the Den. I trust this to your care,” he said turning around, looking up into Vic’s eyes. Matt walked over and wrapped his arms around the big Bear, hugging him tightly. 

“Let me go Vic … it’s time you let me go,” Matt spoke, looking up into the big Bears eyes. They both stood silently staring at one another. Vic nodded and backed away, turned and went upstairs to tell the rest what was happening. Matt turned around and kept packing gear. Vic and Matt had never been a pair, they were not mated, and they were not den mates. They were close friends and brothers, someone who Matt could talk to, vent to, cry to. Both Bears had to act for the protection of the Elder and the den, without regard to the others safety. This was what Vic always had a problem with. 

Matt finished the gear pack, lashed it all down to the back of the Snowmobile and started the engine. Checking his weapons, he reloaded and stowed them. He reached for the goggles and walked over, ready to leave. Before he could, a crash came from upstairs; Matt knew it was Luke. Boris and Vic told him what was happening. Before it got worse Matt gunned the engine and took off out of the lower garage and into a raging snowstorm. 

Behind Matt the world blurred, and he focused his senses ahead of him. Letting the energy of nature guide him where his sight could not. The snow was blinding, the wind howling.  He came down the mountain that was Lodge territory and headed across the massive lake toward the airport. It was almost a whiteout and it would be hard to get airborne in this. He knew that it was going to be a rough ride out. 

As Matt moved onto the lake, something caught his attention from behind.  He had been followed; two Bears were running at top speed toward him. One of them was Luke; he was tracking the exhaust from the snowmobile on the wind. Only a Polar Bear could track in a blizzard. Vic was with him.  ‘Why are they pursuing?’

Matt pushed the vehicle to the red line; he saw the beacon for the tower and veered to the left. At the edge of the runway, was a private hangar of Bjorn Airfreight. He could see the nose of the aircraft on the edge of the hanger. Matt didn’t let off the throttle until he was inside the hanger. He let the vehicle slide into the back wall as it spewed its fluids. He was off, gear in hand heading for the plane when the snowmobile finally died, sputtering to silence.

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