Bane (Page 2)
The thick walls of the fallout shelter kept out the ice. The generator warmed the room. Kahli was comfortable there. She stretched, and pulled her long red hair into a ponytail. She didn’t want to leave, but she had to. If the Trackers discovered the wolves were following her, she was screwed. As it was, the wolves were becoming more and more of a problem.
The animal was probably waiting for her on the forty-second floor. That was the way she came in, and it was the only way out. The building was covered in a thick sheet of ice, making it impossible to break through other panes. That opening was made when the safe house was constructed. Tools to shatter glass coated with four feet of ice weren’t at her disposal. And before now, there was no reason to desire them.
Kahli looked back at the cement room. It had been her home for three months. It was the longest she’d ever stayed anywhere. Slipping into her thick white coat, Kahli donned a pair of gloves, and grabbed a flashlight. After putting her backpack on, she shut down the generator, and clicked her light on. Its narrow beam sliced through the inky darkness. The cold was already seeping back into the room.
Moving quickly toward the stairs, Kahli walked the hundreds of steps up from the basement and emerged on the forty-second floor. She reached for the door that separated the exit from the stairwell, and pushed it open. The only sound she heard was her pulse beating steadily in her ears. It was morning. The sun flooded the room, illuminating electrical cords that hung from the ceiling like snakes. Kahli pocketed her flashlight with one hand and grabbed a knife with her other. She knew what would be waiting when she walked through the door.
The telltale shadows spanned across the floor, but she didn’t see it. Not yet. Kahli stepped through the doorway and let it click shut behind her. Taking a step forward, she clutched the knife tighter. The wolf was too damn close this time. It must have pulled away from its pack to hunt her. Kahli’s eyes raked the room, her body tense.
A low rumbling growled beside her. To her right, a wooden desk had been knocked over and obstructed her view. The noise came again—the low pulsating sound that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. It was coming from behind the desk.
A pale white snout slowly emerged from around the side of the desk. The beast’s lips pulled back, snarling. Kahli lifted her hand, showing the wolf her sharp blade—a warning to stay away. If the creatures weren’t half crazy with starvation things would have been easier. The fur on the wolf’s thick hide moved, as a gust of wind belted through the broken window. The animal was too close, but that wasn’t her primary concern. No, this was much worse than she thought. This wasn’t a lone wolf that managed to get into the building—there were more. Kahli heard them all around her—the throaty growls, the padded feet crunching on the frozen carpet.
Panic threatened to swallow her whole, but she didn’t move. Kahli remained motionless, her eyes locked on the wolf in front of her. She knew that there were only a matter of moments until they surrounded her. While she could tell there were multiple wolves, she had no idea how many. Kahli didn’t want to retreat to the stairwell until she knew. It was possible that there were only a couple more, in which case, she planned to deal with them and move on. But she soon realized that wasn’t the case. One by one, wolves stepped from behind frozen cubicles, their breath turning white in the frozen air.
Some of the padded walls were still erect, with desk chairs sitting in front of blackened computer screens, as if people might return. Other parts of the office space were in disarray, revealing the mass panic that ensued as people tried to escape from this place when the sea water rushed in. No one thought it would happen. No one thought that Manhattan Island would sink.
Kahli stared at the broken glass window across the room. That was the only exit. It must have been where the pack entered as well. The room was long and narrow, surrounded by windows on one side and a solid wall on the other. One window was smashed, missing from its frame. Frozen sea water covered in snow was less than 4 feet below that opening. The towering building stood frozen in the water up to the fortieth floor. The broken window left a massive hole in the side of the structure. In a city filled with twisted metal and busted glass, the Trackers wouldn’t notice it, but the wolves had. And they entered the space looking for her.
If Khali stayed much longer, the Trackers would find her. If she tried to leave, the wolves would kill her. It was at least a hundred feet to the exit, with no clear path. More white fur and black noses appeared. Their hackles were raised, their lips pulled back, snarling. Yellow eyes narrowed on her as the wolves moved slowly, heads down, bodies tense.
There was no way to leave this location without leaving a trail for the Trackers to follow. She couldn’t depart this safe house without leaving a trail of blood behind. Glancing at the creatures circling her, Kahli snarled back at the closest wolf, the one that approached her when she first walked into the room. Tension crept out of her muscles as she fought to control her fear. Fear did nothing for her. Fear would not help her survive.
There were only two choices: Go back and risk the Trackers catching up to her. Or face the pack.
Swallowing hard, Kahli made her decision. Sliding one foot in front of the other, Kahli slowly began to move toward the broken window. Her movements were slow and deliberate. The snow-covered ground was only a few feet below that broken window. All she had to do was get there. Sunlight poured into the room, showcasing tiny specks sparkling in the frosty air. Kahli’s throat tightened, as a chill ran down her spine. She craned her neck, only to see wolf after wolf surrounding her. There were too many to count, too many to fight.
Blood rushed through her veins deafeningly loud. They’d been waiting. Panic tightened Kahli’s muscles. Living in the wild had its advantages, but this was one of the drawbacks. The pack had been following her for too long. They knew her patterns, even when she tried to alter the routines. The pack followed her here and waited. Kahli took a deep slow breath. Turning slowly, Kahli crouched closer to the ground, ready to fight. Her emerald eyes were wild, glittering with a savageness that only came from surviving ten years completely alone.
“Come get me,” she growled. The sound hissed between her teeth. Every muscle in her body tensed. Kahli narrowed her eyes and waited, staring down the closest wolf.
A low growl emitted from deep within the beast’s throat. Black lips rippled, revealing a mouth full of pointed teeth with sharp ivory fangs. The wolf stared at Kahli with hungry eyes. Bones protruded through its thick fur, showing a frame that was far too thin for a wolf that size.
For a moment it seemed like neither of them would move. Then the wolf lunged. A white muzzle came at Kahli fast with teeth bared. Kahli braced for impact. The wolf launched itself at her neck, and Kahli quickly shifted her weight before the wolf slammed into her. The animal was so crazed that it ignored her weapon. As the animal’s body collided with Kahli, her knife slid into its stomach. Pointed teeth snapped shut in an ear-piercing yelp. The animal’s deadly mouth narrowly missed Kahli’s neck before her blade punctured its heart. Warm blood covered her hands and soaked into her white coat. The wolf’s body hit the ground as its eyes rolled back.
Shaking and covered in blood, Kahli watched the animal die at her feet. When the wolf fell, two others were on top of it immediately. They ripped flesh from bone, devouring their newly fallen pack member. Starvation made them desperate. It made the normal rules that wolves abided by null and void. This pack wasn’t a pack at all. They attacked in unison, but there was no clear alpha. It was survive or be eaten, each wolf vying for a better spot closer to the food—closer to Kahli.
Kahli didn’t hesitate when the slaughtered wolf fell. She darted toward the window. Before she could reach it, another white wolf appeared, blocking her path. This one snapped at her before she had time to react. Sharp teeth caught the flesh just above her wrist. Kahli screamed, trying to pull away, but its jaws were locked tight.
Kahli’s scream echoed in her ears. Blocking out the searing pain was difficult, but she managed to twist the weapon in her fist. Drawing back her arm quickly, she let her hand fly. The knife lodged deeply in the wolf’s eye. The creature wailed as it pulled away. Without warning, the wolf lunged at her again. Kahli didn’t flinch as the wolf’s bloody head lunged toward her. She struck, moving quickly. Kahli sank her knife into its other eye and twisted the blade.
The creature yanked its head back so quickly, that the knife ripped out of Kahli’s hand. But the wolf continued to attack, ferociously snapping teeth, trying desperately to kill Kahli. The blade protruded from its eye, twitching as the wolves maw got closer and closer. Kicking hard, she smashed her boot into the blade, driving the knife blade further into its skull. With a final yelp the creature fell, one leg at a time. Blood gushed from the wound covering the wolf’s white fur. Kahli’s knife still lodged in its head.
Sucking in air like she couldn’t breathe, Kahli stared wildly as the other wolves turned to their fallen pack member. They were on his fallen form before she could blink. Kahli shuddered, stepping away from the feeding frenzy. Blood and gore were everywhere, and Kahli’s only weapon was at the center of it, still in the wolf’s body.
Turning back to the window, she saw there was one wolf still standing in her way. Kahli only had seconds to act before the starving wolves would be done with their last victim. She could hear the snarls of the crazed animals behind her, and had no intention of staying.
Her actions were lunacy laced with desperation. Weaponless, Kahli ran straight at the creature, screaming savagely. The white wolf stood firm. It lowered its body, poised to attack when Kahli crashed into it. Kahli grabbed her wrist as she ran, aiming her elbow for its face. When the two collided, she smashed her elbow into the wolf’s maw. Pain shot up her arm, as she staggered back, still on her feet. The wolf hesitated, as if dazed. Its snarl faded from its lips. The animal didn’t move. It just blinked and staggered to the side, but it did not fall.
Kahli used that moment and threw herself through the broken window. She landed hard on her side on the frozen snow below. It felt like falling onto stone. A sharp pain shot through her shoulder. A crazed growl echoed through the air above. Kahli quickly jumped to her feet, but the wolf already launched its lean body from the window. It landed hard, colliding with Kahli, and trampled her under its paws. Kahli screamed as she fell to the ground. Her emerald eyes were wide, as she fought to stand, but she couldn’t free herself from the wolf’s hold.
Before Kahli could force the beast off of her prone body, teeth tore into her shoulder. She screamed. Warm blood trailed down her shoulder. Kahli shoved her hands in the wolf’s mouth, trying to pry its jaws from her bleeding body, but she wasn’t strong enough. Wildly, she cried out, trying to free herself, but failed. The wolf wouldn’t release her. Instead, it shook her once. Hard. Kahli’s body jerked like a rag doll, nearly snapping her neck. Any moment the rest of the pack would be upon her. Any moment she would die as sharp teeth tore her body to shreds.
But, before the other wolves were on her, another animal came from the side. It rammed into the wolf, and released the teeth that were sunken into her shoulder. Kahli screamed when the jaws were ripped away. She scrambled to her feet, her hand tightly gripping the blood pouring from her shoulder. Kahli gasped with wide green eyes when she realized what had saved her.