Chapter 1 Thursday
Hunched over the computer keyboard, Romulus Haldane searched for government secrets. He bore the government no malice, but probed purely for the thrill of the hunt.
From his room on the top floor of the frat house, Rom had just broken in to the NSA's computer. Now he could bring up a sophisticated password-cracking program. He hoped the NSA would be more of a challenge than the CIA had been.
Rom scowled. No. The NSA was a piece of cake, but maybe he could find some juicy stuff.
"This is too easy," thought Rom, "I'm getting out."
Rom tried to log off, but he couldn't. The remote computer wouldn't let him out.
Oh gosh. It's a trap.
Rom hit the power button, and his screen went blank. He hated closing down his computer this way, and he'd probably lose a few files, but better that than… Rom shuddered. He'd probably cut power fast enough so that the NSA couldn’t get a direct track on him. But they probably had a fix on the server at the Vet School where he was logged in. Rom knew he was in trouble. The NSA would certainly, contact the Vet School. The Vet School would have its suspicions and call the Alpha Wolf, and that would lead straight to him. Chaba wouldn't turn him in of course, but he might call a Disciplinary Howl.
Why do I keep doing this?
He knew though, that he really didn't want to break the addiction. He lived for the danger, and the thrill of hacking was no less intense than the thrill of the hunt. Rom grimaced. A Disciplinary Howl would be no fun at all.
He put it out of his mind. It wasn't happening now, so why worry about it? There were more pleasant things to think about.
Tonight, the moon would be full, and as usual, The Nocturnal Order of Werewolves had scheduled a hunt on all fours. There'd been a run for deer every full moon for as long as he could remember.
He smiled as he remembered back when he was a little kid, before he was old enough to change. He'd pleaded to go on the hunts but they'd just laughed at him. And when he'd finally come of age and could run with the pack, he had to stay in back, out of the action. Now it was different. Even though yet not full-grown, he could bring down a small buck by himself.
Until tonight though, Rom was trapped in a human form--the lowest kind of human form, an undergraduate research assistant, and if he wanted to keep his assistantship, he'd better trot over to the Vet School and do some assisting.
Rom padded down stairs, snagged a couple of raw hamburgers for lunch and headed for the Veterinary Research Tower.
The research was significant--a hunt for a 'magic bullet'--a cure and preventative for silver poisoning. The work had taken a strange turn however. They were nowhere near finding a cure for silver poisoning, the scourge of werewolves, but they had stumbled on an enzyme they'd named Lycanthrozine. This compound which could be taken orally, made werewolf transformations easy. With it, older or infirmed werewolves could experience the pleasures that a wolf's body could provide.
Rom thought it would probably also work for kids who were still too young to change. He sympathized with his Cub Scouts who wouldn't be old enough to change for another three or four years. As their Assistant Cubmaster, it was his job to sympathize.
Kit, the senior boy in the pack, knew about Lycanthrozine. His father, Professor Eotvos, had developed it, and Rom was Eotvos's assistant, as well as baby-sitter to Kit's younger siblings. Kit had begged Rom to take some from the lab, but there was no way. If Rom were caught, there'd be a class A Disciplinary Howl and he'd be toast.
Rom took the Vet School stairs two at a time, and burst into Professor Eotvos's office.
"Ah. Just the very wolf," said Professor Eotvos, holding up a sheath of papers. "Could you make three copies of these. I've got to give a report in Budapest on Monday. And could you pack a twenty milliliter vial of Lycanthrozine for transit?"
"Oh, and by the way, Kit told me you made him do push ups for excessive talking at last night's scout meeting."
"I'm sorry about that, but---"
"No. No," interrupted Eotvos, "I'm glad you did. The boy needs it. Cub Scouts have been good for him. He looks up to you, you know."
Rom blushed, and went off to make the copies. He spent several hours helping Professor Eotvos prepare for the Budapest Conference before returning to the chapter house.
"Haven't you heard," said Rex Talbot, President of the house, "The hunt's been called off."
"What?" said Rom. "Why? It's not fair. I've been looking forward to it all day."
"I don't know why," said Talbot. "Chaba canceled it, and he said we shouldn't do any wolfy stuff for the next few days."
"Did he give a reason?"
"The Alpha Wolf doesn't need to give a reason. He muttered something in Hungarian, and rushed off."
"Rats," said Rom. "That means it's meat loaf or something for dinner tonight, and not raw deer."
"Sorry," said Talbot with a shrug.
Rom trudged upstairs toward his room, and then stopped. He had an idea. I'll go on a hunt by myself.
He'd never hunted alone, and the prospect excited him. He could hardly wait for it to get dark.
Rom drove his car, 'The Winter Rat', to a rural part of the county, and parked just off the road. He looked around, saw no one, and got out of the car. Leaving one car door open, he dug a little hole directly in front of the left front tire, and buried the car keys. He looked around again. Good. No one.
In a dark blue car with tinted windows, on an overpass a half mile away, two men watched 'The Winter Rat'. The man in the front passenger seat held a large binocular night-scope to his eyes.
"What's our presumed computer hacker doing now?" asked the man in the driver's seat.
"It looks like he's burying something in front of the car."
"What? Could it be a document? Maybe the kid really is a spy."
"I can't make it out. Wait. Sam. You're not going to believe this, but he's taking off all his clothes."
"No. Really. And…"
"And what?" said Sam. "What's he doing now? Elliot. What's going on?"
Elliot turned up the magnification. "Holy Shit."
"What the hell's going on, Elliot."