Heero pulled his backpack up on his shoulders and slid carefully on the muddy and steep slope. He tripped more than once, but succeeded in not finishing the glide on his ass, and once again boldly opened his path between the spiked branches.
The stolen bike he should have driven to his refuge had broken down an hour ago and he had decided that, since he couldn't repair it, he would just have to join the safehouse walking… As the road was too long for him to go on foot he would have to take a shortcut though the woods.
Twilight had come some time ago, and he was hesitating to use the flashlight in his pack to light the way, fearing a probable observer, when he froze suddenly. He hadn't heard a thing, hadn't seen a thing …and yet…
His survival instinct was screaming at him that someone was observing him, someone who was too near, shouldn't have been able to get so close, and who didn't have any good intentions towards his person.
He put his hand on the butt of his gun, which was sitting safely in its holster, staring intently at the bushes around him, alert for the slightest hint of movement, senses heightening with the adrenaline beginning to flood his veins.
Naturally, the attack came from behind him.
Not one rustling of leaves to warn him. He was hit hard in the back and thrown to the ground; he sprawled out on the damp soil, the wind knocked out of him. He didn't waste time trying to recover and automatically rolled on the side, his gun pointed immediately at his assailant, ready to open fire.
The beast's sparkling eyes dived into his for a few seconds. Its white fangs slowly revealed themselves as its hackles were progressively pulled back; a low growl rose from the depths of its throat.
When the young terrorist pulled the trigger, the wolf wasn't in the bullet's path anymore. It had rolled over to the side and gotten up again. Twisting its back, it leapt toward the pilot's throat, fangs bared up to the gum.
Tangled up in his backpack, the boy didn't have the time to change the angle of the gun barrel. By reflex, he raised his shoulder to protect his neck and grit his teeth as the beast's fangs ripped into it with violence. With his other hand, he put the mouth of the gun on the foaming monster's skull between its eyes and fired four times.
He had to use his gun's barrel as a lever to succeed in unclenching the wolf's teeth, still deeply embedded in his shoulder. Fortunately, he had succeeded in shooting very rapidly, before it had the time to tear or bite even more deeply….With the sheer pressure this animal had contained in its jaws, it was more than obvious the beast would have succeeded in completely ripping off his arm.
He got up, clenched his teeth tightly together, and examined his wound. He didn't have any major blood vessels cut, or any serious ligament damage, but this arm would stay out of commission for a long while… Crap. All of that time wasted on hassling with a damned rabid dog. Heero stripped off his already torn T-shirt and tore it into strips to bandage his shoulder, hoping to stop the blood flow before he lost consciousness.
While he was treating his injury, he examined meticulously the corpse of the dark wolf which had attacked him, carving its picture in his nearly eidetic memory. He then realized that the wolf’s proportions were rather…peculiar.
Heero didn't know that much about animals, but still… He had never heard of a canine this size, apart from a Saint Bernard, and even that was stretching it thin. Standing up, the beast’s shoulders came up past the teen's waist, nearly to his armpits, and from its nose to the end of its bushy tail, it was at least three meters long.
Mentally, Heero replayed the attack.
Yes, the wolf really had dodged the bullet by rolling out of its path. This taught him two things. First, that it knew what a gun was and how much damage it could do. Second, that it had just invented a dodging maneuver as of now unheard of in the animal realm.
He thought about it while taking up walking again, but not any amount of turning and twisting the problem in his head helped him. He just kept finding himself at the same logical conclusion. A scientist, from OZ maybe, had engineered a new, stronger and more intelligent breed of attack dogs. This one had probably been let loose in the area, maybe even just for him. All it needed was something with his scent on it…
"You're being even more paranoid than usual," answered an ironic voice in his head, a voice that sounded suspiciously like a braided baka he knew rather well.
Ok, it could also have run away from its kennel all alone, like a big boy –err, dog. Furthermore, it could have decided to train on a mobile target instead of a straw-filled dummy.
Nevertheless, the paranoia had already saved his life several times.
Intensifying his vigilance, Heero hurried his steps.
* * *
Finally, he reached the cabin he would use as a safe house. He entered the cabin with gun in hand; making sure no unpleasant surprise was waiting for him, like a group of OZ soldiers or the big bro of that damned wolf. When he was sure he was alone, he authorized a small, relieved sigh to pass his lips. He put his backpack on the couch before going to the first aid kit and something to disinfect the wound, forcing himself not to fall on the bed and just go to sleep like he so wanted to.
He finally acknowledged that he was exhausted, and weary to the bone. Much more than he should have been. Moreover, he was running a fever.
Bah, he had to have caught a cold in this damp forest, that’s all. Still, it was strange, what with his usual resistance to sickness, but it was still a possibility… He gave himself an anti-rabies shot, just in case.
While keeping a Mercurochrome soaked piece of cotton wool on the pretty holes in his shoulder, he booted his laptop and waited. No messages. He sent an e-mail to warn J that he had finally arrived where he should have been two hours ago, and had resumed his mission. He closed his laptop, then properly dressed the wound and got to bed, at last. He was relieved to be able to let the deep lethargy engulf him. He tried to berate himself for this lack of discipline, but the sleep invaded his consciousness before he could formulate half of the sentence.
He had a few days before he was back in top form again, before doctor J would judge that the minds panicked by his last mission were sufficiently calmed for him to surface again.