Chapter 43

29 Jan 1994

James was enjoying his Friday, at least as much as he enjoyed any weekday the last few weeks. Returning to school had been a shock. Going from Hogwarts back to public no-maj school was weird, but he was glad to do it.

James was back with his friends, except he was way behind. Fortunately, Thomas, a high schooler from the reservation and a member of the packs, was tutoring him to help him get caught up.

Outside of the workload, his training with Alpha Hardfast was still ongoing, as were the lessons with Shaman Moon.

'God above, I am being run ragged.' James thought as his mind drifted while he ran laps through the snow. 'Literally.' The negative thirty-degree temperatures helped build character according to Alpha Hardfast. James finished his last lap, five seconds faster than the day before, and headed straight into the gymnasium for the next part. While the full moon had gotten him out of two days of class, it didn't relieve him of Alpha Hardfast's training program.

Though he had to admit, he hadn't felt off at all before the transformation and afterward he'd been totally fine. Unlike the rest of his family. Even Morgan had needed at least a bit of pain killer to deal with the aftermath of the transformation.

After the New Year, James joined the rest of the next generation of Alphas. He was also the youngest, and the last one in from the cold. Alpha Hardfast followed him a moment later.

"Right then. Now that you're all done with the run, I am going to be gracious and you lot will just play basketball today." He said conjuring a ball for them to play with. A whoop went up from among the young werewolves.

James didn't see the suited individuals arrive to talk with Alpha Hardfast. He didn't see them move out of the gym. He didn't see them leave fifteen minutes later. He did see the scowl Alpha Hardfast was wearing when he returned.

"Alright boys and girls, that's enough for today. Something has come up that I need to deal with. You are all free to go. Jacob, James, you two come here."

James jogged over with Jacob. Alpha Hardfast waited until the gym was emptied before speaking to them.

"Alright gentlemen, let's step into my office." He led them to his office in the training center. He sat down behind the desk and gestured from James and Jacob to take a seat.

"Jacob, you are here because you are planning to start your own pack here in the next year with Molly, run it out of the University of Minnesota for the next few years and go from there."

"Yes Alpha," Jacob said, glancing curiously at James. "What is this about."

Alpha Hardfast reached into his desk and pulled a folder out. He slapped it on the desk and flipped it open.

James felt his stomach churn as he saw the pictures within.

A body, maybe two, was spread across the floor of the room. The furnishings were wrecked. The walls were covered in long slashes.

Jacob seemed to take it all in, the only sign of his discomfort a slight paling of his face. He took one of the pictures and looked at it intently. He put it down slowly. "This was done by a werewolf wasn't it?"

"Yes, Special Agent Stark just brought that file over. It happened up Duluth ways last night. Per the Special Agreement we have twenty-four hours to deal with it. I already have the two best trackers on it." Alpha Hardfast said, taking the folder back and putting it away.

"Why are we here then?" James asked.

Alpha Hardfast tapped the desk. "Jacob you are about to be an Alpha. James, you already took your father's place in your pack. Now it is time you both learn more about the responsibilities that come with being a leader of werewolves. Especially here in the States."

He pulled a pair of revolvers out of the desk and passed one to Jacob. "Colts with silver bullets, just in case." He said. Alpha Hardfast strapped the big iron on his hip and waited for Jacob to do the same. He saw James' confused expression and answered before he could ask.

"Magic is all well and good, but sometimes a silver bullet is quicker than trying to cast a spell. Especially against a rogue wolf. Besides, you can only cast with one hand. No point letting the other go unused." He said.

"Oh," James said, watching as Jacob slowly strapped the pistol and holster to his waist. "Then…"

"You are a bit too young for a pistol James. You are coming along purely to observe. You will stay back, stick with the trackers, and learn a bit while Jacob and I deal with the rogue." Alpha Hardfast said as he checked Jacob over. "Good, you got it right. James, call your folks and let them know I'm taking you hunting this weekend as part of the program. Jacob, while he does that we are going to talk tactics for this hunt."

"Yes Alpha," they both said. James stepped out and down the hall to the lobby were a payphone hung on the wall. He fed coins into the hungry device until he got the dial tone and phoned home. Veronica picked up.

"Hello, you've reached the Lupins, who is calling?"

"Hey Mom, its James."

"James, is it time to come pick you up?" Veronica asked. James chuckled weakly.

"Actually, I am not going to need a pick-up today. Alpha Hardfast is taking me hunting this weekend. It's related to my training. He will bring me home when we are done."

"Hunting for what? The full moon was just last night and it is thirty below. What could you possibly be hunting? And doesn't he know you have homework to do and nearly a full semester to catch up on since you never did much work in the homeschooling books we brought with us?" Veronica said angrily. "Well?"

James vacillated for a second trying to second of how to answer.

"Well Jame, is he there? Put him on if he is."

"He is in the office talking to Jacob about their tactics for the hunt. I don't know if he knows. I don't think he cares about it that much, Mom. But don't worry," James was quick to add. "I have all my homework and books, I'll make sure to get it all done quickly. I'll make sure to get word to Thomas so he isn't waiting for me tomorrow."

Veronica was silent for a moment. "James, what are you hunting?"

"James, what are you hunting?"

James wet his lips before answering. "A rogue. Alpha Hardfast said some agent dropped off a file on a rogue werewolf and that we have twenty-four hours to find and kill him. Trackers are already at work."

The line was silent for a few seconds.

"Be careful James. Don't get hurt. Be safe. See you when you get home. Love you." Veronica said.

"Love you too, Mom."

"And no matter what else happens, make sure you can come home."

"Okay, Mom."

"Love you, James."

"You too, Mom," James said, hanging up the phone. He shook his head to get himself into the right mindset and returned to Alpha Hardfast's office.

He sat down and listened as Jacob and Hardfast went over different plans for how to deal with the rogue. James did his best to listen, learn, and steel himself to be party to an execution.

Xxx

29 Jan 1994

They were in Fredenburg, at an abandoned house just outside the town limits. Mato and Misae had tracked the rogue from Duluth to here.

"She is in there Alpha. See the wards?" Misae said softly, as they crept towards the house under a disillusionment spell cast by Mato. Keeping together purely on scent.

"Basic perimeter, and a backfire ward. The first is pretty normal, but the backfire is a rare one. Strange." Jacob said.

James didn't know what a backfire ward was, so he wrote it down on the little notebook he was carrying with lots of other questions for once this was over.

"Strange, but not unheard of in certain places. What I want to know is how someone casting Ukranien backfire wards wound up here." Alpha Hardfast said. "Too bad we'll never find out. We only have a bit of time left."

Alpha Hardfast gave the house a quick look over. Then addressed the invisible group. "Alright, here is what we do. Mato, you will throw up the trap wards over the rogue's wards. Apparition, portkey, fadestep, and, just in case, two-way gate blockers too. Misae, as soon as that is done, you collapse the wards."

"Jacob, you and I will go via to the front door and try to catch it unawares. If it answers the door, shoot it, but only if it is our rogue. Scent will be key here. You will know it when you smell it."

Jacob swallowed thickly. "O-Okay." He said patting the pistol on his hip. "If it doesn't?"

"Then we go one room at a time with me in front. Be ready with a physical shield spell, I will have the magical shield spell and first shot." Alpha Hardfast said.

"Understood Alpha."

"James, you will stay with Mato. Since you are a fan of transfiguration, if the rouge manages to get out of the house, you are to shield him and yourself while trying to tie it up. Misae, you will watch the other side of the house and go to support them or kill it yourself. Everyone understand?" Alpha Hardfast looked at each member of the party in the eyes and waited for their confirmation. "Then let's get it done."

James followed Mato to the west side of the house. Mato went straight to work establishing the trap wards. The second they went up there was a flash from the east side and James felt the rogue wards fall.

Alpha Hardfast and Jacob broke their disillusionment and walked up to the front door nonchalantly. Jacob held the pistol tightly in his hand, finger slipping towards the trigger as Alpha Hardfast knocked on the door.

James held his breath waiting for someone to answer.

No one did.

Alpha Hardfast made a gesture to Jacob then broke the door down. James heard the wood crack as the door flung open. Alpha Hardfast led the way with his wand at the ready and pistol in his off hand. Jacob hesitated for a second at the door before following him.

James waited in silence. It seemed wrong that it should be bright daylight out for what they were doing. Then there was a flash from inside and someone came crashing through the window. A second later the sound of gunshots rang out, catching them in the leg.

Her hair flew wildly as the rogue cast a spell back the way she'd come. It hit the wall causing an explosion that rocked James off his feet. He rolled over, stood, and remembered to do his job. He set to work turning the snow into stone, reshaping the earth beneath his feet, and otherwise trying to create a bunker for Mato. Misae appeared and started slinging spells at the rogue who caught them on a conjured shield of bronze.

Alpha Hardfast burst out of the burning building, a set of burning spears flying as he waved his wand forward. Jacob stumbled out a second after him, coughing with someone bundled in his arms and blood running down his brow.

The rouge scowled, sent a blasting curse at Misae's feet and tried to run. She stumbled along, the wound in her leg slowing her, towards James and Mato.

"Bind her, James. Don't let her reach the edge of the trap wards." Mato said, sweat beading up on his brow despite the cold.

James stopped building their defenses and lashed out on the attack. He tried to conjure ropes, chains, nets, anything to slow the rogue, but his attacks were slow and easily batted aside.

Alpha Hardfasts gun barked again. The rogue, distracted by James, didn't react in time and fell to the ground as the round tore through her shoulder.

Now, James conjurations made contact, quickly binding her. Alpha Hardfast rushed forward, took the rogue wand, snapping it, and then stepped back. "Jacob, pass the kid off to Misae and get over here."

Jacob passed the bundle, which James now saw was a little girl Morgan's age, to Misae and walked over to Alpha Hardfast, his hands shaking.

"Alright, time to finish this Jacob. Make it quick."

Jacob gulped, his eyes flicking between his wand and the holstered pistol. In the end, he drew the pistol. Before James could process what was happening the pistol barked twice.

The rogue's head exploded in a shower of gore.

Jacob turned away and started puking. James joined him.

'He just killed her. He just killed the rogue. In cold blood. We had her captured. We could have turned her in. Why did he do that? I know we planned to kill her but to actually see it. I just saw someone die.' James puked again.

A little part of him spoke up. 'It's not the first time though. Remember the Forbidden Forest.'

James did.

'But that was different, it was self-defense, and I wasn't party to it. I helped here. It was my spells that kept her from running.'

James felt a hand rubbing his back.

"Go ahead and get it out. This is the first time you've been part of an execution. It's to be expected. There is no weakness in it." Alpha Hardfast said.

"Execution?" James asked.

"Yes, that's what this was. The execution of a rogue. It is something all Alpha's have to be prepared to do." Alpha Hardfast walked off to talk to Jacob. James finished emptying his guts and straightened up.

'This is the kind of stuff it means to be alpha?' James thought. 'Am I prepared for that?' He looked at the pale Jacob. 'Is he?'

Mato came over and vanished the vomit. "You did good, James. I was unsure about bringing you, but Alpha Hardfast insisted. Now I am glad. Come help put out the fire." He said pointing at the burning building.

'I don't feel like I did good,' James thought before joining Mato.

They cast water charms and fire freezing charms on the burning building. As they were doing that, a pair of MCUSA agents arrived. They quickly took the body, chopped off a couple of fingers, took some blood and vanished the corpse, storing everything they gathered in vials which disappeared beneath their suit coats.

They wore basic black suits, woven with notice-me-not, no-maj repelling, climate controls, and defensive enchantments with controls worked into the cufflinks. There was a time when James wanted to be an agent, and reading the Agent Kazam series of comics had been a major pastime of his when he was younger.

That the MCUSA published the comic nationally so that folks would just think any agent was a cosplayer if something was noticed wasn't something he picked up on until Remus explained it to him. That werewolves couldn't be an agent had a sour fact to swallow.

The agents were talking in hushed tones with Alpha Hardfast, eyes constantly looking at the girl Misae was holding. James and Mato joined Jacob where he was waiting.

"How are you feeling, Jacob? Still, want the job at the top?" Mato asked.

Jacob looked up at the sky for a moment before answering. "I honestly don't know anymore. I know rogues have to be dealt with. I know the death penalty is what you get if you go rogue, and I know that the packs have a special relationship with MCUSA. I just never realized how it all worked."

"Me either," James said.

Mato laughed humorlessly. "Of course you didn't. You're not even in high school yet. You're still just a kid." He said to James. "And you Jacob, that is why Eric had you do this. It doesn't always happen when someone is becoming an Alpha, thank goodness, but new Alphas always get tested on this. Eric wants to make sure anyone who might replace him will be able to do the things which must be done."

They lapsed into silence as James and Jacob considered what Mato told them.

"So who is the kid?" Mato asked as the meeting between Alpha Hardfast, Misae, and the agent broke up. The agent left quickly to do whatever it was they needed to do with all the rogue's bits and blood. Alpha Hardfast knelt down and started talking to the little girl.

Jacob glanced over. "No clue. She was there when we arrived. The rogue was talking to her in broken English. It sounded like she was saying that everything would be fine and she would be the girl's new mommy."

"Wow, that's-"

"Not surprising," Mato said cut in. "Rogues look to build packs. It is a normal thing. Take children and they are less likely to run away or fight you. This is part of why stopping them is so important. Let's go find out what the final decision was."

Mato, Jacob, and James joined Alpha Hardfast and Misae. Alpha Hardfast's coat was around her shoulders. Despite being signed at the edges it should have been working fine. That meant her shaking was fear.

"Good work today everyone. Let's get home. Misae will be taking Michelle here to the MCUSA Bureau of Enforcement to hopefully find a living family member. The rest of us will apparate back to the reservation."

Misae and the girl left first. Once they were gone, James was pulled into a side along by Alpha Hardfast.

It took a few hops, but they were soon back at the reservation. From there Mato took James home as Alpha Hardfast and Jacob went back into his office for a full debriefing.

They rode through the freshly plowed streets in Mato's Jeep Comanche. The only sounds came from the tape deck playing Marty Williams. They pulled into the Lupin's drive and Mato placed the Comanche in park.

"Alright James, you are home. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Take some time to think through what happened today. If you need someone outside your family to talk to you can call me or Alpha Hardfast. I am also sure Jacob would be happy to talk too." Mato said, handing James a slip with his phone number on it.

James shoved the slip in a pocket. "Thanks." He mumbled as he opened his door. James hopped out, waved goodbye over his shoulder and fished his keys out of his coat pocket. As James turned his key in the lock, he felt a wave of fatigue overwhelm him.

He barely grumbled greetings to Veronica, Remus, and Morgan before collapsing in his bed and passing out.

XxX


AN: So the MCUSA/USA/Werewolf relationship isn't quite so rosy as James used to think. Instead he is having to grow up quick and learn some of the darker sides of the world he lives in.

Next Chapter will probably be a bounce back to Katie for her first transformation and the immediate aftermath.