The Wolve’s Bite…unedited…

“Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Flight Echo 1-7-Niner. We are unable to maintain altitude, requesting immediate assistance. Vision is limited, instruments have gone haywire. I say again, in need of immediate assistance…”

The only answer to the urgent request was static feedback, and Captain James Hock cued the microphone for another try, when Flight Echo 1-7-Niner crashed into the unseen mountain that suddenly loomed massive in his cleared vision.

Fire erupted from the engines as the small aircraft hit nose first into the mountain. In the passenger cabin Tate Walker sat on the exit row betwixt two U.S. Marshals. Tate woke to the screams of his fellow passengers and the ripping apart of metal.

“What in the name of all things holy…”

“Stay here, convict. We’ll check it out,” the male Marshal grunted.

Tate shrugged and pushed back against his seat. The Marshal stood and stepped into the aisle when the plane snapped in half. The unexpected split jettisoned the Marshal out of the plane and into the vacuum of the night sky.

“Oh my God,” the female Marshal screamed. “Jake! Good God, he’s gone.”

She clamped her right hand on Tate’s, her grip strengthened by the surge of adrenaline, and she and Tate waited for their turn to dance with Death. The back half of the plane slammed into the ground, and jarred their mouths shut.

Propelled by the momentum generated by the aircraft, the back end slid across the ice toward a cliff. Tate leapt to his feet. “We’ve got to move,” he snapped. “Unless you want to see how well you can fly half of a plane.”

The Marshal cuffed herself to Tate and said, “What now? ” Do you want to jump?”

“Come with me, cop.”

She and Tate moved to the edge of the wreckage, and Tate cut his eyes to her. “On three we bail out. When you hit the ground, tuck and roll-oh, and roll in my direction. We’ll rip each other apart if you don’t.”

“Got it.”

“Thousand one…Thousand two…”

On three, the pair leapt out of the plane as it sailed over the cliff, both hit the ground with a grunt and rolled to the right. An Aspen tree stopped their momentum, a broken branch punctured the left side of Tate and he grunted with pain. The woman landed on top of him.

“Get off me,” Tate grunted.

“We made it,” she said. “I’m Leslie.”

“I’m hurt. Please get off me.”

Leslie untangled herself from Tate and knelt beside him. He’d clamped his hand around the branch that had broken off in him, and he motioned to Leslie.

“Does that scarf mean anything to you? Any sentimental memories associated with it?”

“No, it’s not sentimental. Why do you ask?”

“Because I need it as a bandage.”

“Um, I’ll see if I can’t find you an actual bandage. Stay here.”

“Look around you, lady. There’s no light, and God only knows where we are. If you get out there and get in trouble, I can’t come save you.”

Leslie bit down on her bottom lip and shook her head. A small tendril of blonde hair sneaked out of her winter cap. She knew Tate’s words had the ring of truth to them. As far as they knew, they were the only survivors of the flight. Leslie took off the scarf and handed it to Tate, but he shook his head.

“I’m going to pull out this limb and pass out. You’re going to patch me up.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You will get awfully lonely until the wolves show up and kill you.”

Tate wrapped his hand around the limb and closed his eyes. Leslie watched in fascination as the man pulled the limb out in one swift motion and collapsed against the tree. For a moment, Leslie hesitated and then wrapped the wound with the scarf. She took great care to keep it from getting dirty, and when she had finished, she stepped back and admired her handiwork.

“It’s close enough for government work,” she muttered to herself.

Then, she snuggled up close to Tate and tried to think of anything other than the frigid air that sucked the warmth from her bones.

It was hours later when Tate groaned and came to. Leslie was as close as she could get to him without being right on top of him. Snow drifted lazily from the sky. He reached over and shoved Leslie’s shoulder. She muttered and rolled over.

“Hey, cop. Wake up.”

Leslie stirred and cracked an eye open in his direction. “Hey, you’re awake.” Tate nodded and looked at the bandage. “Yeah, thanks for wrapping this up. We’ve gotta scrounge up some gear-if anything survived on your plane-either way, we need something to make a fire with. Weapons, or something to make snares with would help us out too.”

“Can you walk, convict?”

“My name’s Tate, not convict.”

“Okay, Tate. Can you move?”

“Yeah, Leslie. I can walk, but it’s gonna be slow going. Let’s get started.”

He grunted as he pushed himself up from the ground. Pain rushed through his head making him dizzy, and Leslie steadied him. “Thanks, I forgot how bad injuries like this hurt.”

“This isn’t your first time getting hurt?”

“No, but I hope it’s the last time.”

Together, the pair of survivors made their way down the hill toward the remnants of the plane. Neither uttered a word, but both hoped they would find something to warm their bones and provide a brief shelter from the bitter cold.

Not far from the pair, an Alpha watched from the shadows of trees overlooking the wreckage. Blood soaked the ground, scattered goods and limbs covered the ground outside it. The pack waited for the Alpha to move, but he stood still. His eyes watched, his ears upright, alert for any sound unknown to him.

In the distance, the wolves picked up shuffling footfalls, indicative of wounded prey. All heads turned toward the sound, and the footfalls soon had human voices along with the unsteady gait of the prey. The lips of the Alpha pulled back into a fierce snarl, and a low throaty growl escaped him.

Humans. They bring trouble wherever they go. The pack will wait for nightfall, no sense in wasting kin during daylight.

Tate and Leslie drew close to the wreckage, and Leslie stopped. The stench of death, along with the overpowering smell of blood, was enough to halt the staunchest of persons. Tate took shallow breaths and turned his head to the right. Not far from where he stood was the body of the other Marshal.

“Your friend is over there,” he said to Leslie, nodding in the direction of the body. “I can see the glint of his badge from over here.”

Leslie turned in the direction of Tate’s nod and walked toward him. Tate looked around. Paw prints, big ones, littered the snow. “Leslie,” he whispered to her. “Stop where you are.” She didn’t hear him and continued to walk toward Jake.

“Stand still,” Tate snapped.

The howl of many wolves filled the air, and Tate swallowed hard. Leslie stopped and looked around her. She turned to Tate, her eyes widened with fright and her bottom lip trembled. “Keep your eyes on the woods and walk backwards to me,” Tate told her. “Whatever you do, do not reach for your sidearm.”

Leslie turned back to the woods and stepped backwards. Wolves crept out of the shadows and watched the pair. “Keep coming. They’re waiting to see what we will do. Do not challenge them, just take it easy.”

The Alpha stepped in front of the pack and snarled. The other wolves snarled with him, and Tate took a deep breath. Leslie drew close to Tate, and he whispered: “How many rounds of ammunition do you carry?”

“Three mags of hollow points.”

“Okay, Leslie. How many rounds per mag?”

“17.”

“Are they filled to capacity?”

“No, I short mine five rounds. It helps with preserving the spring.”

“So, you’re fifteen rounds short of a full load.”

“Yes, but my superiors know I short my mags.”

“As we get eaten by wolves, I’ll find great comfort in you and your superior’s incompetence to follow standard operating procedures.”

The wolves approached Tate and Leslie. She pulled her sidearm and pointed in the direction of the animals. “I’ll fire a few rounds and scare them off.” Tate grimaced as he stepped toward her and pushed her arms down.

“This isn’t a training exercise, cop. There are no warning shots. If you fire, you shoot to kill. Otherwise, leave them alone.”

The Alpha grew close, the pack closed behind, and he lunged at Leslie. White teeth flashed as the animal snapped at her. Leslie backed up and tripped over a box. The animal lunged in, and Tate smashed his right hand into the side of the animal. The pack closed and snapped at him.

From the ground, Leslie pulled her sidearm and fired a round into one of the wolves, hitting it broadside and knocking it flat. The loud retort of the pistol echoed throughout the silent woods. The wolves backed up, fangs bared, and they howled again.

Tate helped Leslie up, and they backed up along the wreckage. The wolves watched. Tate crept into the remnants of the plane, the tail end of the plane was intact and could serve as a temporary shelter. Leslie still had her sidearm out, and she bled from where the sharp teeth had grazed her arm.

“Sit down. Maybe if we stay quiet, the wolves will go away,” Tate whispered. He knew it wasn’t true. The wolves would wait for night, and then they’d return. Out of the cold, and away from the wolves, Tate and Leslie rummaged around the plane for anything they could use. A locker in the back of the plane held magnesium flares, Meals Ready to Eat, and two other magazines. An up-to-date map was also in the locker.

With a watchful eye out for wolves, Tate orientated his map north and soon realized he and Leslie had crashed in The Rocky Mountains near Canada. The freezing wind moaned through the valley and both survivors shivered.

It could always be worse, I reckon. We could have died, but I’m not sure this is better.

As the sun went down, and the long shadows of twilight fast approached, the howls of the Alpha filled the valley. Tate scraped a pile of magnesium under his pile of tinder and scraped his knife against a rock until a spark lit the magnesium. Flames leapt skyward, and soon a roaring fire warmed the interior of the destroyed plane.

“Alright wolfy. Come to daddy.”

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