A werewolf waits for his soldier son to come home, and reflects on how they first met.
|Corporal Jason Ripfangs was at the airport, sitting on a bench in the corner. Like most members of his family, Jason was a werewolf, and was quite proud of it. Also, for the past fifty or so years, at least one member of each branch in the family served in the military, in one way or another. This was something of a safety measure against civilian authority, because those who served, as well as their families, were considered military property, and to destroy or damage military property was considered an act of treason. Then again, in a world of monsters who prayed on those weaker than themselves, this was an important safety measure. True there was a chance that one could be killed during the line of duty, though that was low thanks to certain spells that the medic-mages knew, but at least those in the military could trust their comrades with their lives, unlike some other careers. Everyone in the military, in every branch, was family. It didn't matter if you were the newest recruit, or the longest surviving general, the others would watch your back, and give up their lives if need be to protect you.
Jason put a hand on his left shoulder. Underneath the uniform was a special mark, a tattoo, one that marked one as military property. However, to a soldier, it meant more than that, as it wasn't just ink, but a brand, one that had burned the skin to a degree. It meant that they were amongst the best of the best in the military. Those who made it though the training would be strapped to a table and an iron would be heated to a thousand degrees and then placed on the skin. The pain was immense, as the person would only be given antibiotics to fight off infection. After that, the person could call themselves a soldier. Also, after the person choose which branch that they wanted to serve in, they'd be branded again, and they would be branded again and again every time they were promoted. Then, if you decided to retire, or were honorably discharged, you'd get a special brand, one that said that you'd done your duty and though you weren't a soldier anymore, you were considered military property in the eyes of civilians. Of course those who were dishonorably discharged got the whole thing cut out, and their memory wiped out, to protect the military's secrets, and they wouldn't be under military protection.
Jason knew what that secret was; every soldier was to respect each other, no matter their race and species. However, that wasn't the only thing, humans, who were on the bottom of the social ladder, and even the food chain, outside of the military, could hold some very high positions, including, rumor had it, being the top general of one of the branches. However, one couldn't tell that from the uniforms. It was the brand that showed it, and only those in the military, or those who'd been honorable discharged, knew the code.
Of course, this wasn't on Jason's mind. He was waiting for his son to return home. The young man had followed in his footsteps when he turned eighteen. It had been the proudest day of Jason's life to show him that brand. Of course, it had meant more than just that. Jason had adopted the boy over ten years earlier, after serving in the Middle East. He and his men had been searching a village that had been attacked by a group of insurgents looking for survivors when one of them stumbled across a young human boy, who was hiding in a hole. None of the men, not even the one demon in the unit, would leave the boy there, and had even threatened to desert if Jason had refused to take the child with them. At that point, Jason had said, "He's going to be your responsibility men, because I'm not going to care for him."
Unfortunately for him, the boy hadn't known English too well and when Jason had woken up the day afterwards, he found the boy sleeping next to him. When he asked why the boy was there, the men had laughed at him and the one who knew the boy's language said, "He thinks that you are his dog, turned into a human shaped form." Also, as the unit walked back to base, the boy would keep calling him something, which he was told meant "My doggy." He hated it, especially since the kid kept on climbing up his back and holding onto him, nearly choking him on a couple of occasions. Also, every time he tried to pass the boy to one of the others, the kid would rush right back to him. As for trying to sleep by himself, he was unable to, as that kid would just get into the sleeping bag with him.
However, the next day, that changed. As the unit came within ten miles of the base, they were ambushed by desert bandits. Most of the men had been taken by surprise and had been severely injured. Of course, that wasn't the worst of it, as they took the kid. Jason had been helpless as he saw those monsters run off with the boy, who was screaming something which to Jason meant, "Save Me! Save Me!" However Jason had been unable to move, due to a shot in the back from one of the bandits that he'd gotten while trying to protect the boy, and lost consciousness soon after.
When Jason had regained consciousness, he'd found himself in the care of the medical unit. A recon patrol had found him and the others. Of the boy and the bandits, there was no sign, as the desert winds had swept away the tracks and other such things. However, Jason couldn't rest knowing that the boy was out there, and in danger. Against the orders of the medics, Jason had snuck out of the medical unit and stolen a rifle and some supplies. "They can court-martial me if I make it back," he'd thought.
He had then gone to the site of the ambush. Like the others before him, he'd saw no sign of the bandits and the boy, but something told him to head in a certain direction. Heeding this instinct or whatever, Jason had gone in that direction. Several hours later, he found the bandits' encampment, which had fifty or so men in it, mostly were-jackals or some such dog or wolf-like creature, with a scattering of sand golems, which told him that there was a wizard or two in the group. Getting down in the sand, Jason had carefully snuck into the encampment, making sure that he wasn't seen in the light of the fire where their supper, which Jason had hoped wasn't the boy, was cooking. With some luck, Jason had managed to locate the tent where the boy, as well as several other children, was being held. Using his service knife, he'd started to cut the ropes when one of the guards, a jackal-like creature, came in and saw what he was doing. Jason had then thrown his knife at the man's throat, but not in time to prevent him from barking out a warning. Within moments, the rest of them had burst into the tent and tried to capture him, but he fought back. There was no way he'd let them do anything to the children. He had managed to kill quite a few of them when one of the sand golems managed to hit him in the back of the head, knocking him out.
When he woke up, Jason had found himself tied to a pole, with his hands tied behind it, in a very awkward position. In front of him was the tallest were-jackal he'd ever seen. At fifteen feet tall he was almost double that of Jason's eight foot tall wolf form. This was the group's leader, and more importantly, he was the leader of the insurgents that Jason had been tracking down. The man had tried to get him to talk, trying to find out where Jason's men were. However, Jason only bared his teeth and growled. Even if he'd known where his men were, there was no way he'd betray them. This angered the leader, causing him to take out a large curved sword.
However, just as the jackal tried to take his head, Jason turned into his human form and slipped through the ropes. He had then tackled the jackal by his legs, knocking him to the ground. Then, in a berserk-like rage, he had managed to jump onto his chest and started pounding the man's face in, shattering the various bones. Then, he had ripped the man's head off, covering himself with the blood of the jackal-man. After that, the others tried to flee, but Jason's men, who had followed after him, prevented them from escaping and wiped them out. After that, they'd taken him and the children back to the base.
For several days after that, Jason had been locked in the brig for going AWOL. At any moment, he'd expected to be summoned onto the grounds to face a firing squad or some such thing. However, it seemed that someone had put in a good word for him, and instead of being sent in front of a firing squad, he was relieved of active duty and sent back home, so that he could train new recruits and other such "light" duties. However, there was more, his squad had managed to send the kid home with him. After that, while Jason had still found the boy annoying at times, he had adopted him.
In the Present, Jason smiled as he thought about the whole thing, as well as what happened afterwards. While he hadn't been allowed to train the boy himself, as he might not of had the boy train as hard as the other recruits, Jason had been kept appraised of how the boy was doing and all of that. To hear that he'd passed all of the tests with flying colors and had been at the top of the class had made him proud.
Suddenly, Jason heard a voice on the loudspeaker. "Flight 359 has now arrived." It was his son's plane. Standing up, Jason walked over to the Landing Strip where he saw the family members of other soldiers waiting. Noticing his uniform, most let him cut through them, and allowed him to go to the front. Then, he saw the door open, and the stairs descend. Then, the passengers started to disembark. He saw as each one of them went to their loved ones, giving them the first hug and/or kiss they'd shared in however long it was they'd last seen each other. Jason smiled as he watched each of them, as he had either trained them, or served with their relatives. However, nowhere in the crowd of soldiers was his son. Wondering where he was, Jason looked up at the door where he saw a group of six men carrying an engraved coffin. Then, Jason saw the other soldiers start to line up on both sides of the doorway, creating an avenue of sorts. As the six men came down, Jason scanned their faces, but none of them were his son. At this, Jason became concerned, because unless he had missed the man as he was coming off the plane, the only other place that he could be was in the coffin. "Please God," he thought. "Please tell me that my son isn't-" He couldn't even bring himself to think the words. "There must be some mistake. Please, I hope that I'm wrong and that I missed him in the crowd."
His concern only grew as he saw the commanding officer came over to him. "I'm sorry sir," he said. "But I'm afraid that your son was killed. He was killed while trying to save some children. You have my deepest regrets." At this, tears came to Jason's eyes. His son had tried to do the same thing that he'd done all those years ago.
But then, he heard a man next to him say, "May me and my wife see him one last time before the ceremony?"
At this, the officer said, "Yes Colonel. You and your wife can come to the base and we'll hold a viewing for him there."
Jason then looked to his side, where he saw a fellow officer, holding onto his wife, with sadness in his eyes. At this, Jason felt two things, relief that his son wasn't dead, and a shared sadness for his fellow officer, who had lost his son. He put his hand on the man's shoulder and said, "My condolences to you and your wife. I can't even imagine the pain that you must be feeling now."
At this, the man looked at him and said, "Thank you for your words. I can tell that you mean them, unlike some other people will when they will say those same words. After all, they don't know what we really are."
"Yeah," Jason said. "We're family. When one feels loss, we all feel loss; When one is happy, we are all happy. I'll see you later then."
"Likewise," the officer said, as he and his wife fell in behind the pallbearers.
As Jason saw the men leave, along with everyone else, he gave out a sigh. Here he was, waiting for his son, and yet he hadn't seen him at all. Then, he heard the sound of Army boots crunching on the asphalt, along with what seemed to be the nervous shuffles of a child. Turning around, Jason saw a young man, holding onto the hand of a small boy. The young man looked at him with a smile. Then, he said in a Middle Eastern language two words that Jason Just had to smile at. The words meant, "My doggy."