Author's note: At least one more character badly damaged. Next chapter will have the aftermath from this arc. Then, it's off to Springfield. And significant plot developments, I would imagine. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens there. I hope they start to get a few answers, even if those answers create more questions. All feedback is appreciated.

June 10, 2013

"I need to see Eric," Jacob said, holding onto that thought so he wouldn't do anything he might regret later. "Right away."

"Of course," the older blonde replied. "I'll go get him. You wait here, with these two." She left the room, and the two girls turned to Jacob.

"Alone at last," the blonde said with a smile.

"Hopefully she'll be gone for a while," the redhead said. "Why don't we fool around a bit while we wait? It'll be fun."

"Uh, no," Jacob declined. "Sorry. I don't want to do anything until I've talked to Eric."

"What are you going to tell him?" the blonde asked.

"I have no idea," he admitted. He paced around the room. There was no clock in the room, and he didn't have his phone, so he couldn't tell how long it was taking, but it felt like a long time. Impatiently, he tried to open the door.

"Why is the door locked?" he asked.

"Is it?" the blonde replied. "Huh. Must have been an accident. Well, nothing we can do about it. Why don't you join us on the bed while we wait for her to come back?"

"No," Jacob said. "No, I'm tired of waiting. I'm getting out of here." He kicked the door trying to break it down. On the third kick, the lock broke, and he pulled open the door . . . then froze.

. . .

As the group got near the town, they saw a roadblock ahead of them. Some cars and trucks spread out on the road, with armed men around them. "Maybe they're friendly," Lisa said. The others looked at her. "You never know!"

"Turn right around and go the other way!" one of the men shouted.

"OK, so they're not friendly," Lisa said.

"We're looking for a couple friends of ours," Ashleigh told the man.

"I don't care," he replied. "Your friends aren't here. So go away."

"What's the plan?" Ashleigh asked. "Do we go back and then sneak around them?"

"That would take more time," Taylor said. "Eric and Jacob are in trouble now."

"Lisa, do you sense anything about these guys?" Shirley asked.

"Yeah," Lisa nodded. "We're close enough now that I can sense that they're being influenced. He's not even trying to hide it."

"Then we fight," Shirley said. "Ash, get your gun out. Lisa, we'll need some protection. I'll provide a distraction."

"What about me?" Taylor asked.

"I'm sorry, but unless you can turn into a werewolf, there's not much you can do," Shirley said.

Taylor looked at the sky. There was no moon. He wondered how he was supposed to turn into a werewolf without a moon out. Then the sky was filled with birds. They swooped down and harassed the men. While they were distracted, Ashleigh took out her gun and opened fire on them. The squawking of the birds was joined by the barking of dogs, biting at the men's hands and making them drop their guns.

The men were firing wildly, trying to protect themselves, and a stray shot hit Ashleigh's left arm, making her scream, as much in surprise as pain. "Ashleigh!" Taylor shouted in concern and angry.

"Couldn't make a barrier?" Shirley asked Lisa.

"I tried!" Lisa replied in horror. "I really tried! I'm sorry!"

"It's OK," Shirley told her. "Ashleigh looks fine."

"Fine?!" Taylor shouted. "First those bastards capture my friend, now they shoot the girl I love? They won't hurt anyone else!"

His anger, and his lust for violence, triggered a change in him. He grew slightly larger, with more muscle definition. He also sprouted hair all over his body. His hands grew into paws, with claws at the end. His face extended out slightly into a small muzzle. He looked halfway between himself and a werewolf.

In this form, he rushed at the men, who were still distracted by the birds and dogs. Several of them had dropped their guns, and a couple had run away. Taylor charged at the ones still left. He leaped at the nearest one and tackled him to the ground. With one hand on the man's chest, he raised his other hand, preparing to bring it down straight at the man's throat.

"Taylor, no!" Ashleigh shouted. "Don't do it! They're being controlled, remember?" She shot a man who was trying to take aim at Taylor. "You're not a killer!" Taylor hesitated. He still wanted to claw the man's throat out, but Ashleigh was right: It would be wrong. So instead, he punched the man in the gut. Then he leaped at the next man, backhanding him to the ground. The few men remaining went down quickly.

"I'll get Ash bandaged up," Shirley said. "I know a little bit of first aid. FRIDA can walk me through better treatment later."

"Taylor, are you OK?" Ashleigh asked.

"Am I OK?" he replied. "You're the one who was shot! Are you OK?"

"I'm fine. It hurt, but I can still move my arm, so it couldn't have been that bad. But I'm glad you didn't kill anyone."

"Yeah. I wanted to. I kinda still do. But you're right, I would've felt terrible about it later. But now it turns out I can turn into a werewolf at will. I just hope I can turn back to normal later."

"I'm sure you will," Lisa said. "If you're having trouble, I think I can actually help. You absorbed magic to transform, so I think if I drain the magic off you, you'll turn back to normal."

"Thank you, Ms. Exposition," Ashleigh joked.

"I don't get it," Lisa replied.

"I'm going to go ahead to the town," Taylor said. "See if I can find Eric."

"No," Raven told him. "I'll just be another minute with Ash. We're sticking together."

"But they're in trouble!" Taylor said.

"And we can best help them if we work together," Shirley replied bluntly. "And anyway, while we argue, I'm just about done, so you wouldn't be saving any time going off alone anyway. There. That should stop the bleeding. Now we can go and stop . . . him." She shuddered at her memories.

. . .

"You!" Jacob shouted in fear and anger. "What are you doing here?"

The Albino said nothing. He simply walked slowly forward. Jacob stepped back away from him. "What have you done with Eric?" Jacob demanded.

"You should be more concerned," the Albino said with his quiet voice that made Jacob shiver, chilled to his soul, "with what I'm going to do to you."

"D-Do your w-w-worst," Jacob stuttered, trying – and failing – to put on a brave face.

"My worst?" the Albino said curiously. "No. You will not get my worst. I have no reason to show you my worst. You are no threat. You do not even rise to the level of nuisance. You are a weak-willed fool. I care little about you."

"Then why are you doing this?" Jacob asked, nearly in tears.

"Silence. Girls. I leave him to your tender mercies."

"Thank you, master," the girls said together.

"What?" Jacob said. The girls grabbed him, and pulled him onto the bed. He tried to fight back, but he found himself unable to move. He could no longer even speak. His body was no longer his, and he was helpless against a pair of teenage girls.

. . .

Eric was having trouble thinking. He'd been praying for guidance for some time, and the more he prayed, the more clouded his mind became, and the harder he found it to think. He felt a presence against his mind, gentle and familiar. "Lisa," he gasped in recognition.

"I beg your pardon?" the priest said beside him.

"My friends are here," Eric said. "I need to go to them."

"That may not be safe," the priest said. "Your friends are out of control. They have been assaulting people all over town." Eric did hear some noises outside. It sounded like a fight. He could hear birds, dogs, shouting . . . and some guns. Something hit the church doors hard. Then the doors opened.

"Eric!" a werewolf shouted.

"Taylor!" Eric replied. Even with an altered body, Eric knew his best friend.

"Monster!" the priest shouted. "How dare you intrude on a house of God!"

"I'm agnostic," Taylor replied gruffly. He swung his arms out and smacked aside the pair of men who charged at him from the sides. Another pair of men ran down the aisle, holding bats. Taylor caught the bats as they were swung at him, and snapped them in half. Then he grabbed the men, slammed them together, and tossed them away. He walked down the aisle, and was confronted by the priest himself.

"Vile creature," the priest cursed him. "Servant of Satan! In the name of God, I-"

"Oh, shut up," Taylor punched him. "I'm not about to take that from someone working for the Albino."

"The Albino?" Eric repeated. "He's here?"

"That's what Lisa says," Taylor nodded. "Are you OK?"

"I'm . . . I'm fine," Eric said uncertainly. "We need to find Jacob!"

"Yeah, we're working on that," Taylor said. "Come on."

They went outside, and Eric gaped at the carnage. There were animals everywhere, attacking people who were screaming in a panic. Ashleigh fired her gun to knock people down, while Shirley dealt with them up close. Lisa was somehow concentrating in the middle of all this, as FRIDA floated at her side, shocking anyone who got too close.

"I found Jacob!" Lisa shouted over the noise. "It's that house over there!" She pointed at a nice-looking two-story house. They ran towards it, and Taylor busted down the door. "Upstairs," Lisa said.

They went up, and saw an open door. They approached and looked inside. Jacob lay on the bed, weeping, while a pair of girls – a blonde and a redhead – sat on the floor, looking very confused. "Uh, hi?" the blonde said. "Um, who are you?"

"What did you do with Jacob?" Eric demanded.

"Is that his name?" the redhead replied. "We woke up, and he was just laying there. I don't even know where we are."

"I think they're telling the truth," Lisa said. "I don't feel the Albino's influence on them."

Eric walked over to the bed. "Jacob?" he said quietly. He put his hand on Jacob's shoulder, causing Jacob to jump. When Jacob saw it was Eric, he looked relieved.

"Eric," he said. "Oh, god, Eric." He threw himself into Eric's arms, and wept against his shoulder. Eric, did his best to comfort him, while the others stepped outside to give them some privacy.