“Alright,” Vedia announced as the squad moved to take up positions on the street. “Here is the plan; Gabriel, you’re going to track this thing until we can locate it. Then, Oliver; you, the Chief and myself are going to help drive it directly into Gabriel. Once you have him cornered you pound him hard and hold him as long as you can. While it is preoccupied with you we’re going to blast it into oblivion. Everyone got it?”
Nobody questioned Vedia’s plan. Instead everyone merely nodded in agreement and Gabriel tentatively sniffed at the crisp night air. The subtle shifts of the weather brought to him a mix of smells. Moist earth filled his noise highlighted by a fresh zing of ozone. It had rained during the day, nothing heavy but enough of a light drizzle to saturate the ground slightly. The aroma playfully toyed at his taste buds and made the air feel so clean in the dying rays of sunlight.
Gabriel closed his eyes and concentrated on letting his senses roam without restraint. Every moment bringing with it another delicate detail that promised to aid him in his deductions. Eventually an obscure musky scent drifted to him that he slowly recognized from their last encounter. It was like a distant whiff of damp fur with a mingled mix of dried blood and stale sweat. He was sure this monster had more than likely made use of its daytime respite to lick its wounds and recover from their previous meeting. But this time things would be different. This time this prowling primal predator was about to face a determined force that was dedicated to its sole destruction.
“This way,” Gabriel growled and strode into a steady sprint that carried him into the distance. Vedia and Oliver immediately followed suit, already familiar with their peer’s pattern. Chief Gnaeus on the other hand grunted to himself before moving to join them. “So, we’re going to be running now,” he lamented quietly. “I have definitely been behind that desk too long.”
It wasn’t easy to keep up at first but slowly his wind came back to him and soon the Chief managed to stay within a handful of steps behind his younger squad members. When they all came to a halt he took casual note that while he was panting heavily both other officers were slightly out of breath as well. Only Gabriel himself seemed unaffected by the brisk pace that they had maintained.
They had come to a halt before an old drainage runoff, where rainwater and the like pooled from the streets to disappear down into the ground. The reinforced grating had been busted open roughly to provide access to the shadow-swimming subterranean sanctuary. “Back up,” Gabriel advised gruffly. His body changing as thick fur of vibrant burnt sienna sprang to life to cloak his flesh everywhere that didn’t already ripple with a steely shine. Ears elongated along with his nose and fingers to take on the bestial body that mixed with that of a man he had come to feel comfortable with.
A deep growl began to gurgle up from inside hammer-held howling hero. As the Chief looked on both Oliver and Vedia took a few steps back to take their positions. He couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could look on at such a transformation and ever see past the experience to see the man inside he had come to respect. With a shake of his head he tried to cast the wandering thought from his mind to refocus his attention on the nature of their task at hand.
Gabriel gripped his hammer in his hand and roared a regal challenge that echoed down into the dark. No one needed words to translate the implied meaning of the message, it was altogether clear. It spoke in a language beyond intelligent speech and what it said loud and clear was; fight me – I dare you.
Chief Gnaeus watched on unsure of how effective this tactic was going to promise to be but already he had his Python in hand, trained on the pitch-black portal. No sound signaled an answer to Gabriel’s demanding dare. No monster appeared to answer with its own animal anger. Everything remained eerily silent on the street as they waited. Even Gabriel’s ears twitched back and forth slightly as he continually sniffed at the air. The lack of response lengthened until everyone began to question if somehow Gabriel had been mistaken about the tracked scent’s trail.
And then, all at once a furry flurry of teeth and claws exploded like cannon-fire from out of the grim ground to collide with Gabriel. The two bestial bodies blurred into a makeshift ball that rolled along the ground exchanging snapping bites and savage stabs. In the chaos Gabriel’s grip slipped free from his handy hammer and upon finding his familiar friend absent he instead formed a metal mallet-like fist from his empty hand. Where his claws carved at the creatures flesh his fist repeatedly hammered away in thunderous bursts.
A rough scraping against his back announced that Gabriel had managed to find the ground beneath him as he fought the overwhelming fresh ferocity of the massive monster atop him. Bracing his weight he kicked off hard with both legs to launch the savage stalker backwards into the air. The gambit only bought him a few breaths as his foe landed easily enough upon the ground to redouble his attack.
Charging forward into a lunge the creatures claws became makeshift spears that sought to stab their way into Gabriel. His robotic right arm held high in defense the metallic man-beast planted his feet firmly and prepared to meet the attack. Gabriel knew full well the blinding grip of fiendish fury that must completely seize his adversary in its sway. He had experienced it himself and understood the powerful need to crush the thing before you. However he also knew how it stripped you of your ability to reason or think. So when the monster closed within striking distance to deliver its intended blow, Gabriel gave it a simple surprise.
As the adrenaline fueled animal thrust its claws forward it found only empty air awaiting it. Gabriel had sidestepped gracefully to avoid the attack and instead pivoted his stance slightly to the side. The absence of his promised prey threw the beasts balance askew as it stumbled forward. To aid in it’s off balanced momentum a steel-solid strike slammed home into the back of the beast’s skull. Without pause Gabriel followed up the attack with a series of rapid punches that carried the creature further forward and towards the ground.
Gabriel barely managed a step back as he struggled with the temptation to continue his assault before a chorus of blasts broke the growing gloom. As he watched on Gabriel refused to look away until the barrages burned the beast’s body almost to nothing but ashes. While the rest of the Night-Watch Squad stopped to reload and assess the carnage they had wrought Gabriel made a final assurance to satisfy his own lingering doubts. He reached down and mangled every last scrap of anything that had once been the malicious monster until his own breath started to come in gasps and heaves.
When he finally looked up once more it wasn’t just the rest of the squad who now looked on at him. Instead a handful of people had begun to brave the night to step out from the safety of their homes and witness for them selves if their nightmare was over. Where some looked on in horror at what must appear to them to be a new monster marked with gleaming metal and savagely slaughtering the remains of something else. Others watched with eyes that declared that what they saw was their howling hero with wonder and gratitude.
As Gabriel looked around him at the growing gathering he discovered a growing mixture of feelings sparking to life inside him. Pride filled him to finally see the thing that had caused him so much pain reduced to ruin beneath him. But he also felt a surge of worry for the uncertain fate awaiting him. He had given his word to submit to the Chief’s judgment, and keep his promise he must. However he couldn’t predict how the people of Gallu would accept Chief Gnaeus’s decision.
A sense of regret teased at the back of his mind as Gabriel calmed the kindled fury that burned ever in his chest to welcome once more his mostly man shape. He questioned the wisdom of willingly releasing the potently primal power of his bestial body. But he resolved himself to the fact that he could not break his word. So with empty hands and lowered head he presented himself before Chief Gnaeus to kneel.
“As agreed I now submit myself to your judgment,” Gabriel somberly announced. And with so many eyes eagerly awaiting his decision, Chief Gnaeus found his own voice strangely silent.