Everett writhed in anguish. His normally roguish features were twisted and malformed in a grimace of unbearable pain. Every muscle and tendon in his body was strung too tight. A length of rope being pulled from both directions until it frayed apart. Soon he would snap.
He ran through the forest that grew up and out of the mountainside. His home. His hunting grounds. Beside him loped a shaggy coy wolf, its pelt a dark chestnut brown, the same color of his own hair, woven with hints of red at the chest and paws. But now hunter had become the prey.
The wolf looked up at Everett and the wolf was Everett. He could see the forest that surrounded him, and he could see the wolf vision. Lower to the ground, its mind on the tracks that mice had made in the fallen fall leaves.
The wolf was more than just a wolf. It was him, and he it. His anam cara. His shade. Everett was a hunter. Born as a human, his spirit had been split in two by the goddess Nyx and given physical form.
It made him powerful. Stronger, faster, given senses and instincts he'd never had before.
Everett could feel the fierce freedom as the wolf surged forward on powerful haunches. He could taste the sweet thrill of the hunt as it stalked its unwary prey. And he felt the agony as hard steel teeth snapped shut, rending flesh and sinew, crushing bone.
The wolf's howl of misery shattered the forest silence. The same haggard, horrified sound was pulled from Everett's tight throat. He rushed forward, pain and shock in every step. He could feel the broken bones grinding together in his right leg even though his own body was undamaged. He could feel every wound as if it were his own.
Everett staggered to a stop. He couldn't take his terrified gaze off of the struggling wolf not ten paces ahead of him. He watched it pull and jerk against the steel trap that held its front leg. He could feel every stab of anguish and tear of flesh. He could feel the blood that ran in deep rivulets from the wound, matting in his fur.
A man stepped from the shadows. Cold blue eyes glimmered with triumph, set in a face as hard as stone despite the years that marked it. He had short cropped gray hair, a wide nose, and a small smile strung across thin lips as he watched the animal writhe in agony.
Then those merciless eyes flicked past the wolf to Everett and a chill shuddered through his pain-wracked body. Fury followed, red hot and dangerous but icy dread snuffed it out as more men stepped forward. Too many men for him to take on alone.
These new men were all wearing the drab, olive green uniforms of the Terran Alliance. The same as the hard-faced man, though the bars on his chest and the knots at his shoulder clearly marked him of higher rank. With Everett's heightened senses, he had no problem making out the name tag emblazoned below the bars, even from that distance. Redding.
There was only one man that he could be. A man that even Everett had heard of though he spent most of his time isolated, hunting in the mountains. A man that was notorious for his ruthlessness and lack of mercy, even amongst the Alliance, a group not known for their kindness or compassion. General James Redding.
That small smile grew into a smirk.