1 Hunt for Freedom

~Planet Lupa, Beta Universe~

The wind coursed over tall grass. His eyes gazed off into the violet sky. Maximus' ears perked to the sound of his young ones frolicking in the tree-line. They twitched, listening for the source of a low rumble building towards them. The meaty Arimen herd was approaching as it did every year around this time. He chuffed at his pups, receiving a quick yip and silence in return. His eyes adjusted to take in the warmth of the rocks and savannah trees. Slowly he stalked out into the overgrown grass. Black fur with his white markings did not lend camouflage to his hunt. Others of the pack fared better in that department. They did allow him advantage at night in the forest that was their home.

Maximus gave a quick glance toward his mate Kharem. She lay absolutely still. The dark brown, light brown brindle pattern making her among the best of their hunters. The Arimen were coming closer still. The wind blowing with their movement masking what lay in wait. He reached out with his mind to hold his pups in place so that they would focus on the task at hand. Next year they would join. They gave barely a noticeable response. The Creators their species had arrived with had given them this ability to be better servants. Little did those beings of yore know that they would not survive the harshness of this planet. Maximus' kind had not only survived but thrived. The modifications allowing them near perfect attributes. His ancestors from some distant star had been smaller, subservient, and limited. Abilities from the Creators cousins and some other manipulation had come down the line along with necessary evolution gave him superior strength, intelligence (including mental communication designed to allow for following commands better), and speed. One thing that their creators had not expected was for his dew claws to become opposable digits.

He raised his paw slowly as the herd came into view. Maximus held as the Arimen began to pass. A few ranged close enough for him to see the mud caked into their shaggy brown fur. A large Ariman nearly trampled Kharem. He had to give it to her that she stayed her ground as the chitinous legs grazed her nose. The sensations she must have felt…

The last of the herd was in sight. The stragglers too weak to maintain the herd's pace and those too large to move swiftly. Suddenly the Arimen in the rear began to emit a screeching noise through their elongated snouts. He could see his sisters Ros and Bewa on the back of an Ariman. Damn them! He had warned them when they nearly got Kharem killed on the last hunt. It wasn't as if anyone in his pack was starving, they did well every hunt. He swiped his paw downward at last. Kharem and a dozen others darted from the grass towards the largest group of stragglers.

Maximus moved to the head of the targeted group. He and his particular group needed to herd them to the same small court they had used many times over. A particularly large Ariman charged him. He used his powerful hind legs to lunge to the side while swiping it's left foreleg with his claws. He swiped again, gripping the hindleg, tripping the massive beast. Nyx had either the misfortune or the blind stupidity of leaping into the front legs of the frantic animal. The Ariman began to thrash in a frantic rage. Maximus feared he might lose Nyx so he leapt onto it's thick neck. The gripped a pair of protruding spikes with his front legs while tearing into the bottom of its neck with his rear legs.

In his mind, he could hear Kharem issuing commands and organizing the pack. Finally, the Ariman he was attached to went down with a final screech. Maximus and another pack member pulled Nyx from beneath the dead beast. She limped towards the patch of forest the pups were watching from. Two other pack mates were already sitting wounded there. Maximus returned his focus to the hunt. To no surprise, Kharem had everything under control. His pack had several of the Ariman cornered. Above them, others were shifting boulders towards the larger Arimen. Large rocks were already being hurled toward the weaker ones. The few that attempted to flee the trap were chased back into position. In short order all but a couple of the Arimen remained standing uninjured.

"Bring the carts and let's load up this meat," Maximus ordered with his mind. Several large carts were brought forward and his family began loading up those Arimen who were downed. The few living Arimen were herded with the carts back to the forest. The entire hunting party consisting of nearly forty Canii ambled along the trail home. Kharem brushed her short snout against Maximus' larger jaws. There was plenty of meat for the entire pack for at least a couple weeks.

A howl rose up from the north. Maximus jerked his head toward the sound. He could not hear anything with on the mental plane. He ordered Bewa, Ros, and several others to follow him. His party sprinted through the forest as swift as their bodies would go. That howl had been desperate but distant.

Maximus was hit with a sudden wave that had him and his sisters tumbling as they lost all focus. Intense, unimaginable pain, constant surges slammed them again and again. He pulled himself together and nudged the girls. Slowly, they pulled themselves together as well. The others were not as sensitive or intelligent and did not feel the surge as strong. Yet they still knew something terrible was amiss.

His kind were a blur. Other predators were startled as they passed by almost undetected. It wasn't that they were attempting any subtlety. Their haste tossed that concern aside. It was their genetics and time. Hundreds of years had passed since they were brought here. Less than a quarter of that and their Creators had either been wiped out or fled due to the hostile planet and war elsewhere. Left to their own design, his species had risen to the top of the food chain. They had learned many technologies the Creators had left behind. Adaptation was their linchpin.

They approached the territory of their northern kin. Smoke rose from the makeshift village they used during the rougher winters. The sun had begun to sink below the horizon. An odd sound could be heard further north. Howls and growls echoed in the distance.

"Anyone who can hear me, please help us! Aliens are attacking our village and have killed half of our pack."

Maximus looked northeast. He and his troop ran to help their kin. Aliens in armor were entrenched on a hill overlooking the village. The neighboring pack was attempting to breach one side. He and his own ran to flank the hostile beings. Something about their armor seemed familiar to him. Ros and Bewa hit the alien looking over his shoulder. Their teeth did little to the metal protecting it. Their jaws were narrower, had less power, to puncture the armor. Their paws however grasped at the edge of the plates covering the aliens knee.

The bipedal aliens realized they were being hit from the rear and turned to the new threat. The northern Canii, realizing they had allies in this fight, charged the hill. Four went down to bizarre weapons. Maximus grabbed the next closest alien by the arm. His massive muzzle crushed the armor like a dried branch. The alien screamed within it's helmet. A weapon buzzed loudly and a burning sensation spread across his left forearm. He dropped the alien, smashing its helmet and the skull inside with his other arm.

A large vessel dropped from the sky. Heat blasted from it's engines shoving the Canii away from their enemy. The aliens scrambled into the vessel, shooting at the packs as they fled. As the vessel lifted away small canisters dropped from it's belly. Maximus yowled and sprinted away from the falling items. His pack followed but many of their kin remained to investigate. A fireball erupted instantly killing those that were curious. His gut saved his group. A few of the northern tribe ran wild, howling in pain and terror as the fire stuck to their fur. The alien vessel flew south over the forest. Several more flew in the distance to join it.

A distant mental cry weakly tugged at his mind. Ros looked to him, exhaustion playing on her face as well as the others. They followed him as he pushed his body to trot home. He kept his pace slow enough for the others to keep up. At this pace, it would take them until morning to reach home. Bewa's head hung low. Trampling and impaling were normal happenings in the hunt. A larger creature killing one of the pack happened when one strayed too far from the village. These aliens brought destruction to the peace that had been maintained for generations.

Maximus' paws dug into the dirt more with each step. Rage building in his firm gate. His muscles rippled more and more with restrained eagerness. Slowly he began to move further astride of his group.

"Stay with the pack Alpha," cautioned Ros, "those things are dangerous."

He glanced back. She was steadying Bewa. His smallest sister had a bad limp. One of the aliens must have shot her with its weapon. His ire grew more. Bewa was the sweetheart of his litter. She had taken in many pups who had lost their parents. Only the three of them had survived their Outting. Another older litter had tried to take over leadership. He and Ros had held them off and chased them off.

More and more voices flooded his min from a distance. Calls for help, pups with the affinity of the mind, elders who were fighting an alien taskforce. He threw caution to the wind and began running. A few of his group managed to chase after him. Ros barked after him. He barely heard Bewa's whimper. The forest passed by again. He took the same route as they had heading to the north. This time other creatures hid ahead of his arrival or prepared to strike. Three different large predators attempted to ambush them only to fall swiftly to their claws.

His village was a far different scene than what the northerners struggle had seemed. His pack wasn't caught as unawares. Canii dashed to and fro in battle. At the same time, the aliens weren't just a small strike force. By the count of one elder there were a couple hundred or more attacking. They had killed many already but Kharem was struggling to organize against the attack from all sides. Their pups had already been sent to the knoll which was their safe haven. Lights from the burning weapons seared his people.

He ordered his best hunters into the trees. A large alien warrior wore only a small device on it's head. Again, he was reminded of some intrinsic memory but could not grasp it. Something about these invaders was familiar. Why did he know these things? What was it about them that called to him?

It spoke in a firm voice, "Cease and desist! All of you SIT!"

An urge as old as time surged through his hind legs and those of every other Canii. That command! It was as if his body knew something he didn't. And the familiarity of that invader…

"Who are you? What are you?"

The alien nearly jumped out of its skin, "who said that? Men ceasefire unless one of them come at you."

Maximus strode forward. His head nearly level with the alien's shoulders, "I asked the questions. What do you want?"

Again, the alien seemed to start for only a second, "you are our property. You will come with us. Gather your packs and obey your Masters."

He couldn't believe it. The tales told that the Creators vowed to one day return for their companions. This alien though had not come in peace. They had coming bearing weapons and evil intent in their hearts. If they had, why attack?

"Why have you come bearing weapons of fire? Why have you attacked our villages?"

"Look dogrill, we are your Masters. There are too many of your kind. You were a mistake. Your pack will come with us. The rest will be euthanized"

Euthanized… Something about that term filled him with fury… His ancestors spoke of what happened to those who were disobedient to the Creators. He and others thought it pup tales to scare the young into obeying the Alpha and the Elders. The Creators truly killed those who stepped out of line? Were these then the descendants of the Creators? No, it couldn't be. They would gladly work with another intelligent species but never would they serve under another again. That word as well- dogrill… He remembered the more intelligent of the pack passing down their true name. Yes, they called themselves the Canii, but their scientific name was Canisilla Lupus Familiarus. The name the Creators had given the original pack as a joke.


"Flee to the knoll! Defend the pack but everyone flee. Freedom for the Hunt!"

He lunged for an alien nearby and crushed its chest. Fire filled the air. Maximus crouched behind a log and sent runners to the other villages he knew of. Others would go from there beyond to the entire continent. A familiar bark caught his attention. Bewa leapt onto a soldier grabbing one of her adopted pups. Ros grabbed the pup and ran to Maximus. He jumped to cover her. A blast caught his ribs. Pain numbed his mind. As his vision faded he saw a flash of light expand turning Bewa to ash. Ros ran to help her only to drop mid-flight and lie still. He yelped as he attempted to crawl to them. They couldn't be gone. Nothin but churning visions remained in his mind, utter silence.

~Unknown hours later~

Maximus expanded his mind. A gentle caress touched him.

"Where am I? What happened?"

It was what made him the Alpha of all packs on this continent. Every Beta reserved their broader commands to his approval. He constantly questioned every situation. The Elders deferred to him in matters of science and knowledge while he heeded their advice. They helped implement improvements to their way of life.

Kharem's mind reached out to him again, "everyone left alive from our pack is safe. The runners should have reached the nearest villages by now and those beyond the horizon should be safe soon if they yet live. The Elders are attempting to find information. We will not let this go. The invaders are still searching for remnants. They have not found the knoll and the elders assure me they will not."

"The fables are a lie. We were never the Creators companions. Not if these invaders are their descendants. We were their slaves."

"Darling, these cannot be the Creat-"

Maximus snapped at her, "I have been having these feelings. These are what they became. We cannot trust them. EVER! We must gather the packs and prepare…"

He opened his eyes at last. The cavern was vast. He had been dragged from the knoll through the tunnels down here. This was the home of the Elders and their apprentices. Thousands of his kind called this home. Those who were not of the other class helped to provide the labor. Maximus peered over the lip of his private den into the depths to watch the tens of thousands of residents and refugees moving back forth working together. There was no anger at being displaced. His people were used to moving often. Those who had to move here found open paws.

Maximus turned his view upward to what the Creators had left unfinished. The weapons these Creators had used seemed primitive. Massive ships filled this vaulted cavern and many others across the planet. The Canii had learned to work tools and quickly after more advanced technology. Fuck the Creators. The Canii were not going to take this sitting down. If they had been rediscovered, it was only a matter of time before more showed up. It was finally time for his people to abandon their peaceful existence and inherit their destiny. It was time for the Canii to return to the stars…

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