Highrock Pack History Songs: Song for Three Voices - Part Five
Strike padded behind his pack leader. In the growing shadows of twilight, White seemed to almost glide across the turf, his paws making no sound as he stalked his prey. Strike mimicked his Alpha’s movements to a tee. Beside him was another pack member, a young female named Crescent Moon’s Unwavering Light.
Strike lacked his kin’s stealth tracking skills, but he made up for it with his gun like speed. Strike was the fastest Lupe in the pack after his Alpha, growing faster every day.
The slow footed, slow witted Bargasaurus was no match.
White signaled with his ears and the two young Lupes launched themselves into the midst of the herd. Strike quickly outpaced Cres, dodging amongst the panicked dinosaurs. There, the target. A lamed oldster, lagging behind the herd. Strike’s mouth watered in anticipation. He had failed earlier to catch, and was very hungry.
He leapt up to bite the Bargasaurus’ flank, only to receive a sharp kick in his lower jaw. He flew tail over snout, landing with an undignified thump on the ground. The clearing spun around him, and he shook his head to clear it. Bad idea. His already throbbing skull started to pound, and he groaned in pain. He staggered upright, glancing around. His pack mate had managed to grab the stupid Bargasaurus, but the beast wasn’t giving in. The last speck of sunlight vanished, leaving the clearing in a pool of darkness.
Suddenly, White erupted from the cover of the trees. He had been letting the young Lupes try to hunt on their own, but it had become clear that they were out of their depth. He leapt over the split Lupe, and fastened himself to the target...
* * * * *
Strike smiled, licking his chops in content. It had been three days since he had joined the pack. After shedding the name Will, and taking on his true name, he had been welcomed by the other Lupes. Now his belly was satisfyingly gorged with Bargasaurus meat, he was contentedly resting in the cave that served as a den for his pack.
My pack, he though, relishing the idea. He was home.
* * * * *
“Alright, now keep your weight balanced on your toes. This will allow you to be ready to instantly react to any situation. You can jump if you need to, run if necessary, and dodge to the side,” White said calmly.
Strike nodded, adjusting his posture. This was his first lesson in wild combat, and he wanted to do his best.
Instinctively, he circled around White, ears flattened against his head. “Keep your ears pricked,” White said. “You want to hear every sound around you.” Obediently, Strike lifted his ears, smiling sheepishly.
“Sorry, Lor-” Suddenly White dashed towards him. Caught off guard, Strike tried to dash to the side, out of the leader’s way. White was ready for it, though, and threw his paws forward, tangling them in Strike's paws and tripping him. Strike found himself pinned under his Alpha’s paws. He knew trying to thrash away was useless, so he instead thrashed his head upwards, jaws parted. White leapt backwards, and Strike's teeth clipped together seconds too late to grab his Alpha. The split Lupe was instantly back on his paws, tail lashing in excitement.
Strike jerked in surprise. That voice wasn’t White. He realized with a jolt that an unfamiliar scent had invaded the clearing. Ashamed that he hadn’t noticed sooner, Strike spun around, bristling, ready to chase off the invader.
It was a shadow Xweetok with glowing red eyes. Around his left foreleg was a metal band, and from his mouth protruded long, sharp teeth.
White padded up beside Strike, eyes on the stranger. To Strike’s astonishment, the Alpha bowed his head submissively to the Xweetok, eyes full of respect. “Lord Proto,” he murmured. “It is as I said. This is the one that the pup spoke of, the one that Shriek seeks.”
The shadow pet nodded. “I believed you. You’re right, he is certainly the one.” The Xweetok turned to Strike, “I am Prototype 12047. Proto to you.” He smiled. “I am a genetically altered experimental biological weapon.” He cracked his neck nonchalantly. “I have forsaken my original purpose, and I now seek to end the rule of human race in this world.”
Strike gasped. “You... you know each other...”
White laughed. “Lord Proto raised me from puphood. I owe my life to him.” He cocked his head to the side, eyes aglow with some unnamable emotion. “You have the potential to be great, you know. I can see it.”
Strike shuddered. “What do you mean by ‘end the rule of the human race’,” he asked.
Proto shrugged. “I mean to drive them off of this world. They abuse the Neopians, and they do not deserve to have it.”
Strike cowered. “The humans... where will they go?”
“That is not our concern. They may go where they like, as long as they leave this place.”
The coldness of this statement rocked Strike. The Xweetok had said it as if the humans were of no more consequence than a bug on the wall. “That’s so cruel, though,” he whispered.
Proto snorted. “Come now. You can’t tell me that you honestly like the humans. If you did, you wouldn’t have come running into the wilds. What have the humans given you?”
Suddenly memories flooded Strike, threatening to wash him away...
“Absolutely not! I refuse to be anything other than a Lupe, you hear me? I won’t be the pet who gives you bragging rights about owning a Draik! No, no, no!”
Lou stood up with a jolt. “I’ve already given a 300,000 neopoint deposit to the owner of the potion. You’re becoming a Draik, whether you like it or not.”
Yuki raised a forepaw timidly. “Perhaps we could reach a compromise, Will? Would it be so bad to be a Draik? I was born a Lenny, and flying is like nothing you could ever imagine. If you were a Draik, you could fly. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Will rounded on the spotted Gelert, snarling. “I refuse to surrender my pride as a Lupe. You may not care about giving up your dignity to that crazed Scorchio, but I will not.”
Kris leapt between Will and Yuki. “Brother, don’t take this out on her. She was only offering her opinion; she didn’t deserve that.”
The split Lupe bared his teeth. “Stay out of this, you wimp. You’re just like the rest of them, hugging your stupid teddy and refusing to acknowledge your own heritage. You’re an insult to Lupes everywhere.”
“William,” Lou snapped, “as a member of this family, you will treat your siblings with respect. My decision is final.”
Resentment and rage flooded Strike's mind. Proto was right. The humans were a cruel, selfish bunch. They had to go. No honest Neopet deserved to be subjected to that. No honest Neopian. Sentient creatures should never have been pets in the first place.
Seething with rage, he turned to Proto and grinned bitterly. “I’ll help you. I’ll help you any way that I can. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that the humans pay for making us their pets."
The Xweetok nodded. “In that case, follow me.” He turned, walking away. White flicked his ears, signaling that Strike should go with him. The split Lupe nodded and dashed after Proto.
* * * * *
Strike gazed at his surroundings. He was in a vast underground laboratory, deep beneath Neopia’s crust. Proto had used a transportation machine to take them there from the pack’s territory. The place was impressive. Hoses webbed the rooms, and panels glowed faintly with multi colored lights.
Having grown up exposed to stories of Sloth and the Space Station, he wasn’t as overwhelmed by all the advanced technology around him as a wild raised Lupe would have been. Still, it was a lot to take in. He couldn’t even begin to guess what most of the machines did. Strike followed close to Proto, fearing that if he strayed from the Xweetok’s side, he would be lost in seconds.
They entered a room that was dominated by a massive monitor, a keyboard with paw sized keys sprawled beneath it. Proto glanced at it and chuckled. “It’s difficult to type without digits. I envy that in Zafaras.” He pointed to a small pedestal. “Stand on that.”
Confused, but compliant, Strike obeyed. He couldn’t see the relevance in this, but he figured it must be important.
With a grunt, the split Lupe leapt onto the pedestal. He turned around to face Proto, and said, “Now what?”
Suddenly, a cold metal band closed around his neck. Strike felt a jolt of terror, and tried to turn around. The collar around his neck glowed with a faint, sinister green light. He felt a tiny jolt of pain in the back of his neck, as if he had been pricked with a needle. A feeling of numbness spread throughout from the point of the pain, and to Strike's horror he found that his limbs would not respond. An inviting tide of warm blackness welled up within his mind. A single word sounded deep within his brain.
And he knew nothing more.
To be continued...