the back of my left thigh and ricocheted off to the left after it shattered my femur. It ripped free of my leg five centimeters left and seven below the entry point, tearing a chunk out of my femoral artery as it went.

I screamed, but as the echoes of the scream died in my head I heard the howl of a wolf rise in their place. Stumbling forward, I spilled onto the warehouse floor. My left knee hit hard and sent another shock wave of pain through my leg. I tried to choke back another cry, but it came out as a lupine yelp.

I rolled over onto my back and pulled the MP-9 to me. 'Move it, campers. Get Moira out of here.'

Val stared at the hole in my leg. 'You're hit!'

I bit back the pain. 'Yeah, my days in the big league are over. Maybe you can retire my uniform.' I looked up at Zig and Zag. 'Move it! I'll hold them off if I can. It's got to be Fujiwara yaks out there shooting the granges up. That'll buy you some time, and I'll buy you more. Go!'

Zig made for the back door, but Moira shook her head and knelt beside me. 'No, I'm not going. You need help.'

She started making all the hand motions for a spell, but I closed a bloody hand around her fingers. 'Save it, sister. You'll need all the magic you can muster to get the hell out of Seattle. Val, get her out of here.'

Valerie crossed to Moira and rested her hands on her shoulders, but the elf shrugged her off. 'No. I can save you. I can fix your leg.'

Inside my head the Old One growled seductively. 'Let her fix you. Let her fill you with magic. Do as she asks and I assure you the others will not follow.'

'No!' I shouted at both of them.

Her eyes flashed with an anger that told me my stay of execution had been denied. 'Wait.' I pulled the Viper from my belt and tossed it to Val.

She stared at it as if it were commercial software. 'I don't want this.'

I swallowed hard. 'You might.' I reached down and dipped the fingers of my left hand in my blood and painted twin parallel lines beneath each eye and across my forehead. 'Do this, Moira, and then leave. All of you, get out of here. Don't look back, no matter what. Don't go looking for me. I'll find you, when I can.'

Zig and Zag stared at me as if I'd gone mad and Val shivered. Moira ripped my pants away from the wound and pressed her hands to it. She subvocalized a chant, but I felt warmth and a tingling flow from her hands into my leg. Almost instantly it nibbled the pain away. The energy continued to build and tissue began to heal, my body motivated to restructure itself at a rate that should have taken months. Even so, I knew the spell she'd cast was more than I needed.

And it was more than I could control.

I grit my teeth and shoved her away. 'Go, go!' I snapped at them. 'Run!'

They vanished from sight just as the first tremor hit me. I shrieked as fire filled my ribs with molten agony. I heard the crack as my breastbone parted down the middle, thickened and broadened to accept the new angle of my expanded rib cage. I gnashed my teeth at the pain and the growing canine teeth split my lower lip.

'Don't fight it, Longtooth. It won't hurt so much,' the Old One whispered.

Gotta retain some control! Can't let you run wild!

My long bones telescoped back down, shortening but strengthening my limbs. The muscles flowed into protoplasm as the transformation continued, then congealed into new muscles with new insertions able to exert more powerful pressure and leverage than before. My fingers and toes likewise shrank-the latter far more than the former-and organic claws grew to give me some new weaponry.

My head felt as if it were exploding when my jaw and facial bones broke. My whole face grew into a muzzle and my tongue lengthened along with it. The top of my head flattened somewhat and my eye sockets sank back to a more protective position. According to the only person to watch me go through this lunacy, my eyes do not lose their silver color or the Killer Rings.

The bodily transformation almost complete as my pelt thickened and ears lengthened, I felt the Old One begin to gnaw on my resolve and humanity. I clung to the image of Dr. Raven sitting across from me as I changed and the sound of his voice telling me how to concentrate so I would not surrender to the beast inside me. 'You have been blessed by Wolf, greatly blessed, but that blessing will be a curse if you surrender yourself to him.'

The Old One whimpered with disgust. 'Someday Raven will fail you and you will become mine.'

Stuff it, you mangy mutt. I've won this round.

The advent of three grunges storming through the warehouse door precluded any remark the Old One might have made. I gave them a toothy grin from the shadows. 'My, my,' I growled in a voice that even grunges knew to fear. 'What fine little piggies we have here.?'

It took a bit more than a fairy-tale huffing and puffing to blow them all down, but the grunges didn't offer much more than that for a fight. They've never been much for hitting a moving target, and in my more compact wolf form I don't stay in one place very long. I left them in a broken heap on the warehouse floor, then dashed out into the killzone, doing my best to spit out grunge blood.

I couldn't have been much more than a gray blur as I streaked across the opening, but I felt The Chauffeur's eyes on me the whole time. I paused for a second at the place from where the rifle shot had come, but a yakuza forced me to tear out his throat before I had finished nosing around. I almost lost control with that kill, but, fortunately, the yak had some sort of augmentation that meant I got hydraulic fluid in addition to blood when I took him down.

Despite that hardship, I learned what I wanted to

7Okay, right, everyone knows there's no such thing as a werewolf. And a hundred years ago there was no such thing as a dragon, too. Raven's explained it all to me, that the Wolf spirit picked me special to grace me with abilities and all. Doc's smart, but he's never been through this transformation and even Native American traditions tell of skinwalkers. The Old One and I know what I am, which means you don't want to invite me to any Full Moon parties you'll be having. know and took keen delight in watching The Chauffeur shudder when my joyous howl filled the warehouse district like the fog rolling in from the coast.


Ronnie Killstar's eyes grew as wide as the hole in my leg had been when he heard me release the charging lever on the MP-9. Seated in his favorite chair, nestled deep in the shadows of his unlit living room, I spoke to him in a husky whisper. 'Close the door. Sit down at the table.'

'What's this?' He stared blankly at the little repast I'd prepared him while I waited.

I smiled at him. 'That's your last meal.'

The punk stared at me. 'Milk and cookies?'

I shrugged. 'It's the perfect thing for a little boy who doesn't know when he's not supposed to play adult games. If you'd have been content to just sell us out to Fujiwara, that would have worked fine.'

He tried to look offended, but his nervousness betrayed him. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'

'Can it, joeboy. Val and I cracked your personnel file and it concluded with the last telecom number you called. Later, when we broke into Fujiwara I recognized the number. There was a connection.'

Ronnie straightened up in his chair. 'Circumstantial evidence.'

I shook my head. 'It would have been if you could have kept your ego in check. In the Weed you told me you could 'bull's-eye a rat's ass' at a klick in the dark. A chip's got to be four times the size of your average rat's ass, and the range wasn't nearly that long.' I sighed. 'And to top it off, you were still wearing that cologne of yours.'

It suddenly dawned on him that I was going to kill him. The color drained from his face and he looked at me with big puppy-dog eyes. Yet before they could have their full sympathetic effect on me, his features sharpened and a bit of the old defiant fire returned. 'Wait a minute. I destroyed the chip you never really wanted to give to La Plante anyway. That's gotta count for something!'

I hesitated for a second and hope blossomed on his face. Then I shook my head. 'No, it doesn't. Dr. Raven had tipped Fujiwara about what we were going to do anyway. Fuji's programmers put a Trojan horse carrying a nasty virus in that chip that would have destroyed La Plante's computer system. The ambush, which didn't include your shooting of the chip, was just to make sure La Plante bought the whole thing as genuine.'

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