by Chris N

TIME: August, 1985

LOCALE: Buffalo, New York

I can hardly believe that I begin my martial arts training in earnest today. I have had lessons in the past, but never from an instructor as formidable as Allan Thompson. And best of all, he understands my…personal situation, since he also has a dark side, given his willingness to inflict brutal, life-threatening injuries to gang members. Then again, considering how these gangs have been victimizing people on Buffalo’s East and West Side lately, including mugging and almost crippling Allan’s own mother, I can hardly blame him for this behavior. He has said that his main reason for training me is because he wants to gain as many allies in the gang war as possible. And he thinks someone with the power of the lycanthrope would be a mighty asset to have at his side. He only reveals his true identity to a few select individuals whom he has decided to train, so I guess I should feel honored. Instead, I feel a bit…well, creeped out. I’m not sure, exactly, what the price of this training will entail. I know that he wants me to act as his ally in the gang war, but as much as I admire super-heroes, I’m not a hero myself. And a lot of people question whether or not Allan Thompson can truly be considered a hero considering the type of justice he routinely metes out to criminals. In his guise of the Dark Rebel he has brought terror down upon the gangs. And this despite the fact that he is only my age—17!

So here I am, sitting in the back of Waterfront High, in a low income area of Buffalo known as Pine Harbor, awaiting Allan’s arrival. This is where we will train. Yes, this area of the city is near the harbor, but not close enough that you actually get to see Lake Erie or any of the beautiful boats that normally park there. Instead, Pine Harbor consists of tenement buildings, infested by roaches of both the six-legged and the two-legged variety. I’m a bit surprised that he would find such a place conducive to my training, but this area behind the school is really deserted during the summer months. Perfect for his purposes. Little does the general public know what I and only a select few others know: Allan Thompson is the well-respected co-leader of the Buffalo contingent of the Guardian Angels, an esteemed organization of citizens who protect common people from criminal violence. Despite the high degree of discrimination routinely leveled at people in our age group, Allan’s degree of training, the full extent of which he conceals, has enabled him to rise to the top of that org despite being one of the youngest members.

That last thought was the final one that went through my mind before I hit the ground, stunned. The breath was almost knocked out of me. When I came to my senses I looked up and saw Allan standing there, bereft of his Dark Rebel gear, wearing just comfortable sweat pants and a t-shirt with mini-holes in its sleeves, designed to keep him cool on a hot summer day. But this was Buffalo, so even though it was late August it was only about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, he probably figured the gear looked cool on him. He arrived without my noticing and kicked me in the back of the head. At least I think he kicked me; I’m not exactly sure what move he made, but whatever he did knocked me flat on my ass.

“You certainly aren’t aware of your surroundings in human form,” he said with more than a bit of disappointment in his tone of voice.

“Geez,” I replied, forcing myself to my feet. “Did you have to do that?”

“Yes. It will teach you to be more aware of your immediate environment. Suppose I was a gang member who was out for your blood?”

“Does the average gang member have your level of stealth?”

“No. But that’s beside the point. You never know who they may hire. What if they hire a ninja assassin to kill the competition here?”

I grinned at that statement, only to see that Allan wasn’t grinning back. He was quite serious.

“Though I have had a few incidents with gang members in this city over the past few years,” I continued, “my main focus is dealing with supernatural menaces. I’m not sure if I have what it takes to become a…costumed crime-fighter, if that’s what you are gearing me towards.”

Suddenly, a flash of black hit me in the chest and knocked me flat on my back. Once again, the air had been forcibly knocked out of my lungs. I was in pain. But this time I clearly recall seeing Allan kick me and the flash of black was from his pant leg and sneakers moving at what looked to me like the speed of sound.

Allan was shaking his head. “So, what is your excuse this time, wolf boy? I was standing right in front of you. You should have seen that coming.”

“Well, I’ve never faced a martial artist with your level of skill before,” I replied, coughing as I got to my feet while rubbing my sore chest. “Are you here to train me or to embarrass me? Or perhaps you just get off on beating people up?”

Allan frowned when I said that. Then a look of anger appeared on his face. Without a second thought, he flung his lithe body through the air and grabbed me by the shirt, practically lifting me off my feet and pushing me back into the brick building behind us.

“Listen, you!” he shouted in my face, and loudly at that. “I don’t have to take this shit from you! First order of business: you do not insult your sensei! Not even when he insults you! You deserve the insults, because right now you are nothing more than a worm crawling blindly through the soil. You haven’t the years of experience that I have! Is that clear?”

I had to confess, I was completely unable to extricate myself from Allan’s grip. Though I worked out frequently to keep my human form as physically strong as possible, and Allan looked much more slender than me, his grip was flawless. And those moves which he used to embarrass me earlier today…I think they would prove very useful to me. So I decided that playing the game Allan’s way would be worth it to learn these skills.

“Yes. It’s clear…sensei.”

“Good. Now, on to basic training. I already have a good idea of what areas you need to work on. So let’s start here…”

Over the course of the next three hours, Allan taught me more than I ever thought I could learn. The training was grueling. At one point, I threw a series of punches at him, all at full force, and he managed to block them all. He moved like greased lightning. I remember that song “Kung Fu Fighting” from about ten years ago and it reminded me of seeing Allan in action. So all I have to do is beat up on some gang members to continue receiving this training? To use the words of a classic individual that a friend of mine once told me about: “Awesome! Totally awesome, dude!”

Of course, the fact that every single one of his blows hit me, and considering how many times he knocked me on my ass and all the bruises I acquired from this session, I couldn’t say that I was happy. I totally hated this guy. Yet, he may be the most important person I have ever met in my life since Zachary Fenrir first gave me the needed paraphernalia to become one of the Brotherhood of Fenris. I have yet to meet more than one member of that group, but once I meet them en masse and find out with their ultimate plans are for helping me achieve the power of the lycanthrope, you can rest assured I will have as much training as possible and as many formidable allies of my own as I can gather.

While huffing for air at the end of the session, I bowed to my sensei (and he to me) and I found myself really appreciating the training, if not all of the resulting bruises.

“You are rough-edged, but capable of being a moderately skilled master of the martial arts in time,” my erstwhile sensei told me.

I looked at him a bit disappointed, wiping a few smears of blood from my nose and mouth at the same time. “Only moderate?”

“That will be enough to take care of yourself against many menaces while in your human form. You won’t be fighting in the Kumite any time soon, if ever, but these skills combined with your shape-shifting ability should transform you into a force to be reckoned with. And we have yet to start your training with weapons.”

Suddenly, Allan’s spiel was abruptly cut off by the sound of a gun firing, followed by a scream. Unfortunately, such a sound was not unusual in this area of Buffalo during the recent past.

“Someone needs my…our help,” he said to me, lowering his voice to emphasize his seriousness. “Tell me, quickly…do you have any type of fast regenerative capability in your human form?”

“None,” I replied honestly.

“Can you morph during the daylight?”

“I have actually tried in the past, but never succeeded.”

“Then we will need to work on that. Your inability to morph during the daytime is quite a limitation, since contrary to popular belief many violent crimes and situations that may require your morphing ability to deal with occur during the daylight hours. And you are not yet skilled enough to engage these gangs in your human form. But you will be in a few weeks, once you are good enough for the Guardian Angels.”

Wonderful. So I will have to hang out with and fight alongside them.

“You stay here. I need to go. Now!”

“Um, okay, but…”

Allan saw no time to respond to my partially formed statement. He reached into the duffel bag he brought with him and pulled out a black hood which obscured all of his facial features save for his eyes when he donned it, and it seemed to be composed of thin enough material to enable him to breathe properly. It was similar to the hood he wore over his head as the Dark Rebel, but designed for emergencies like this when he didn’t have the time to get into his full outfit. He also quickly put two nylon gauntlets on his wrists, each of which hid a baton.

“Stay here!”

I felt totally useless. I was infuriated at having to wait a few weeks before I was skilled enough to go into combat with my sensei. Then again, even though I realized that I should goad my lupine form into preying upon gang members when my bestial alter-ego’s bloodlust became nasty enough, I was more inclined to gain these skills to help me deal with more supernatural matters that I knew I would be going against in the future. But I guess you have to give a little in order to get a little. Hmm, I wonder where I learned that proverb from? But that’s not important right now! I need to go and help my sensei, even without his permission and against his orders. He may be an asshole, but his training is going to prove essential to me.

Just like that, I started following the Dark Rebel, and it seems my time in lupine form has given me an edge when it comes to stealth techniques after all, as he made no overt sign of noticing my presence about a hundred feet away from him. I could see my sensei talking to a hysterical young woman who was standing over the bleeding body of a young man, evidently her boyfriend. They couldn’t have been more than a year older than me.

“Who did this?” my sensei asked the young woman.

“Are you…are you…?” was all she could manage to say given her emotional condition.

“Yes, I am the Dark Rebel. Now tell me…who did this to your boyfriend?”

“They were…from the New York Boys. They said they would kill me if I…”

“They won’t. They will never kill anyone ever again. You have my word on that. Now tell me where they ran after they did this.”

Wiping tears from her eyes and mucous from her nose the young woman hastily told my sensei where the gangbangers went. Evidently, they ran into one of the apartment complexes making up the Pine Harbor dung pit. They obviously didn’t expect to run into the Dark Rebel here during the daytime. As I saw my sensei take off for the apartment in question, I figured the least I could do is stay and try to help the young woman out. After all, she was a fine looking young black woman, and I had recently developed an interest in African-American ladies, so…

I slapped myself on the head. Dude, this young woman just had her boyfriend’s brains blown out in front of her. She was quite possibly in love with this young man. Do you seriously believe that you have a chance in hell to score with her during a time like this? I know people have used you in the past, but you can’t just do the same to others. It goes against…well, what does it go against, exactly? Am I going to tell myself that Captain America and Batman would never do such a thing? Of course they wouldn’t, but they are both heroes, real heroes, and I’m…*sigh*

I quietly approached the young lady, held out my hand, and asked her if there was anything I could do to help. The young man before her was a gory mess as he had been hit directly in the gut. He was shaking and blurting out absurdities, obviously both indicative of the fact that he was in shock. I remembered some courses I had taken on first aid, thinking it might prove useful for me in the future, and I recalled the importance of putting direct pressure on a wound. Maybe if I could help save this man I will feel better about myself. So I put my hands on his gut to block the flow of blood, hoping to hold as much of it inside of his body as possible. I was used to the sight of blood by now, considering how much my monstrous alter-ego spilled in the past, so I didn’t worry about humiliating myself by throwing up. But I wasn’t a doctor or a nurse, so I had no idea if I was actually helping to kill this man rather than saving him.

“Will…will he be okay?” the young woman asked me, barely able to form the words in her mouth.

Keeping my attention and my hands on his wound to continue applying direct pressure, I responded, “I honestly don’t know. Did you get someone to call an ambulance?”

She nodded in the affirmative, and sure enough two minutes later an ambulance arrived. The young woman rode to the hospital with her boyfriend, who was still alive. I’m not sure if anything I did for him extended his life, but he was in the hands of the medical professionals now. The woman gave me a quick kiss on the cheek for helping before she got into the vehicle and rode off with the E.M.T’s. I guess this is what it feels like to do something good. It actually made me feel better than all of the revenge attacks I have been involved with since first becoming a lycanthrope almost five years ago. Is revenge really what I am seeking in life? Or was I intended for a higher purpose? No time to philosophize right now; I have to see what I can do to help my sensei, with or without his permission. I feel really bad for what they did to that guy, and I don’t often feel bad for other people. I don’t even know—nor care—why they targeted this specific man, but I didn’t get the impression it was for a “good” reason. So I am going to help deal a little bit of death back to them, even without my lupine form.

My sensei was clearly not too comfy being “in action” during the daytime. The night was his ally, even as I made it mine (though in a different way). I could see him skulking about the shadows of the buildings making up the Pine Harbor apartments, and I could tell that in the past few minutes he had spotted the correct flat. I’m not quite sure how he deciphered it. These were skills I also had to obtain from him. Had I been in lupine form, I would have been able to follow them by scent. But in this stupid, weak human form there was only so much I could do.

Walking up to the correct residence, the Dark Rebel could see that the front door or the front window were the only two ways into the apartment. Deciding to go for broke, my sensei decided to kick the front door open. That was quite a powerful kick for someone without superhuman strength, as he smashed the lock right in with a single blow.

“Nobody move! I am here to make a citizen’s arrest!”

Did he seriously manage to say that with a straight face?

Anyway, as I neared the residence I could clearly see--through the open door--what next ensued. One of the five gang members present attacked the Dark Rebel with a knife. My sensei easily trapped his arm and broke it right before the elbow started. The thug screamed as he saw his horribly fractured bone come protruding through his skin. Moving as fast as a person can think, the Dark Rebel grabbed the switchblade and hurled it into the stomach of one of the other attacking thugs, causing the dude to drop the piece he was about to use and to quickly drop to his knees with his hands on his gut. I remembered thinking that was poetic justice, considering where the bullet from that piece hit his most recent victim. This act of throwing a switchblade was particularly impressive on my sensei’s part, since those knives are not specifically designed for throwing into objects, and it takes special skill to accomplish such a move.

Next, the third thug picked up a wooden baseball bat and ran towards my sensei, who quickly drew one of the batons from his gauntlet, ducked the swipe of the bat--which would have taken off half of his skull had it connected--and struck the attacking gangbanger in the solar plexus with his baton. The man keeled over and spewed a torrent of vomit on the floor, after which he was knocked totally insensate by a second blow from the baton, this one to the top of his head. The fourth gang member finally seemed to realize that this mysterious masked attacker was actually the Dark Rebel, and the vicious ruffian therefore stood by shaking nervously with a switchblade in his hand, knowing better than to try to use it. Panicking, the fifth man grabbed a young woman who was in the apartment with them and after brandishing another piece, he pointed it at her head. She screamed and squirmed, but ceased doing so after the malcontent cocked the gun and gave her a warning.

“I’ll shoot this bitch!” the thug screamed at my sensei. “I swear I will! So back off!”

“Aw, man, Jude,” the other remaining hoodlum said to his partner. “That’s Eli’s sister. We can’t use her…”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up, man! Do you know who this masked man is? Now back off! And drop that stick of yours!”

“No problem, dude,” the Dark Rebel stated calmly. “Just don’t harm the girl.”

My sensei threw his first baton aside (though I knew he had another in the other gauntlet). He then followed the directions to slowly put his hands on his head, where the treacherous gangbanger would presumably proceed to shoot him. Though I had total confidence in my sensei’s capabilities, I had to do something. And I had to do it right away.

Running through the entrance like a madman, I yelled “Police!” at the top of my lungs to distract the gunman. He turned for a brief second to see who had just run into the apartment and, as I hoped, instinctively turned the piece towards me. C’mon, Allan, please please be good enough to take advantage of this brief instant I just bought you. Needless to say, I wasn’t to be disappointed. Swiftly removing his second baton from his right gauntlet with harrying speed, the Dark Rebel hurled the weapon at the criminal’s wrist, apparently striking it at just the right place to shatter a key bone to be found there. Dropping the gun after yelping in pain, the thug leapt to retrieve it with his other hand, only to have the Dark Rebel upon him before he realized what broke several more of his bones. And just then, it was time for me to leap into action and prove myself capable of being the student of such an incredible sensei.

The fourth gangbanger attempted to take advantage of the confusion by running out of the apartment, only to find me standing there blocking his way. He pointed his switchblade at me threateningly.

“Get out the way! I said, get out the way, mother fucker!”

I grinned at him, even though on the inside I was exploding with nervousness. Could I take down one of the New York Boys in my human form? I would have to do this quickly, or my sensei would arrive and do it for me. The homicidal young criminal slashed the knife at me, but using some evasive techniques that I learned I was able to get out of the way in time. He then leapt forward and cut my arm with a subsequent swipe of the razor sharp blade. Growling at the pain suddenly inflicted upon me, and thoroughly hating said pain, it was as if the wolf inside of me was unleashed despite my remaining in human form. I growled at the thug, who obviously thought I was on some type of drug akin to PCP. Slashing the knife at me again I quickly grabbed my opponent’s wrist—taking another cut on my arm in the process, but feeling that this was well worth it—and pulled him towards me. I quickly shoved my knee into his lower pelvis, and as he lost his breath I swiftly dragged him to the ground. I bashed his hand against the hard concrete several times, until it was battered enough that he had no choice but to drop the blade. I then hit him in the face numerous times as if I was a savage animal, losing any trace of my humanity in all but my physical appearance.

By the time my sensei grabbed my wrist and told me, “Enough!” I had beaten the ruffian into a bloody pulp.

“That is not how a martial artist fights,” he told me in a very stern voice. “We use guile and grace to win a battle, not animalistic savagery. Though those evasive moves you used were effective—along with the knee to the pelvis that you delivered to that gangbanger--well, let’s just say that you have a lot to learn.”

I grinned again, and simply retorted with, “But I got the job done. This bastard is down and he won’t harm another human being—assuming that he doesn’t get out of jail anytime soon, that is. And if he does, next time I will meet him at night, when…”

My sensei cut me off. “I’m sure that will be the case. But right now, we need to find a way for you to achieve your wolfen form during the day. I am confident that with the proper amount of meditation techniques you can find the power within you to summon the wolf during the day. Even so, we must get you trained enough to fight well during the daylight without the need for your lupine form.”

I now became a bit agitated. “So you don’t count this take down as ‘fighting well?’”

“I will confess that it certainly did get the job done, as you said. And it suggested that some part of the wolf remains within you even during the daylight hours, when you can’t transform…yet. But you could just as easily have been killed if this man wielded a gun instead of a switchblade, or if more than one of these bangers had escaped from the apartment. Is it possible for you to return from the dead if you are shot or stabbed to death while in human form?”

Again, I had to be honest with my answer. “I’m…I’m not really sure at this point.”

I sulked, knowing that my sensei was correct in everything he said. I did have a lot to learn, and I had to accept this. But I was still proud that I accomplished this much without the need for the lycanthrope. Nevertheless, my savage alter-ego was still with me in spirit, if not in form. However, I knew and understood that I had light years to go before I could hope to be one of the Dark Rebel’s prize students. And I also knew that I needed to achieve that goal in order to become effective against the perils I hope to face down in the future.