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Connor felt goose bumps on his arms as he stared at the brick wall at the end of the wide alley.  He considered climbing it but it was easily twice his height.  For an incoming high school junior, he was significantly shorter than his friends and the red wall stared back at him intimidatingly.  His pulse quickened as he turned around in the sickly yellow glow of the streetlights.  He took a few steps away from the wall and flinched when his foot landed in a puddle.  The splash of the water seemed to launch a mixture of odors into the night air.  Conner only recognized a few, scrunching his nose at the intensity of the unpleasant scents.  However, as he attempted to escape the sudden influx of smells, he only opened himself to more.  Refuse and stale food scraps threw their stench to the passing breeze and overwhelmed him.  He coughed as he wished for the sudden overstimulation of his senses to pass and hoped that his head would clear so he could determine where to run to next.

The ragged apartment complex on the left side of the alley showed promise but as he examined the service door, he concluded that it would make too much noise if forced open.  Connor quickly glanced over his shoulder.  The bars closed hours ago and there wasn't a soul in sight.  As far as he knew, he was alone.  He convinced himself to risk the noise and grasped the door knob firmly, surprised that the metal bent slightly when he did, and twisted.  The sharp crack of the lock failing filled his ears, louder than he anticipated.  The knob came loose in his hand as he took several quick scans of the alley.  It was too bright in his opinion but he was thankful that he would be out of the open soon enough.  He gave the door a gentle push but it didn't budge.  Connor thought that there must be another lock, only visible from the other side.  As he prepared to break it as well, the sound of footsteps stopped him cold.

The muffled, rhythmic cadence of shoes on damp concrete echoed through the empty streets.  The approaching stranger's scent reached Connor before long, although the moisture in the air seemed to dilute this as well.  He knew he would definitely draw attention if he broke the second lock yet he would surely be seen if he remained in the alley.  As he evaluated his options, the footsteps grew louder.  He was about to try getting a running start at the wall when the approaching stranger appeared at the end of the alley.  Connor froze and tried to size up the figure he saw.

Although the streetlights bathed the majority of the alley in light, the man stood just outside their reach.  Connor stared at the silhouetted figure and knew that he had been spotted.  A multitude of scenarios rushed through Connor's mind; none of them pleasant.  The only explanation that made sense was that the man was about to mug him or worse.  However, in light of the recent events in Connor's life, he feared more for the man than he did for himself.

Moments passed in silence until the man stepped into the light and spoke to Connor. "Good evening, young man.  It's an awfully strange night to be wandering the street all alone, isn't it?  Although, I believe you wouldn't have any difficulty handling yourself."

Connor struggled to understand what the man meant by this.  His growing unease was only slightly offset by the man's appearance.  He was a middle-aged man with traces of grey in his otherwise dark brown hair who wore crisp, black, casual pants and a loose, tan jacket over a white collared shirt.  Nothing indicated that he was on any drugs or that he was desperate to rob Connor for money.  Still, there was something that Connor suspected the man was hiding, something just beneath the surface.

"Am I correct, Connor?" The stranger's voice rolled across the moist blacktop and through the misty air, catching Connor off balance.

"H-how do you know my name?" Connor stammered at first before finding enough composure to add force to his question.  He slowly began to back away from the door but the stranger remained at the end of the alley.

"Relax; I only wanted to make sure I have your attention.  Before we start off on the wrong foot or you go about making any assumptions about me, it would be best if I introduced myself.  My name is Dr. Daniel Valmora and I want to help you." the man said calmly.

"You didn't answer my question." Connor replied.

"I work for a special division of law enforcement." Dr. Valmora reached into his coat pocket and produced a silver badge in a black wallet. "We are tasked with handling special cases such as yours.  We have been monitoring you ever since you were checked into the hospital.  The official reports say you were involved in a common animal attack  but we both know different.  We know what really happened and we know a great deal more, Connor."

"Then you must know I'm dangerous.  You must know what can happen around me.  I don't want to kill you but you've forced me into a corner here!" Connor raised his voice, hoping he could convince the doctor to leave him.

"I know what you are, Connor.  It must scare you, but believe me when I say that I know who you are.  Who you are is what is important, what really matters here.  You are not dangerous.  You are not a monster.  And you are most definitely not a killer."

"How?  How do you know that?  You can't be sure!  I'm not even sure!" Connor took another step backwards.

Dr. Valmora paused, hoping to calm the young man at the end of the alley. "I won't pretend to know everything about you.  The only information I can be certain of is what is on your records.  But that doesn't really matter here, does it?  Knowing your birthday, blood type or medical history won't help us right now.  However, I've been doing this job for a while now and I can guess that you ran away because you don't want to hurt anyone."

"I don't think I have a choice with this."

"There is always a choice, Connor.  Especially when it comes to who you want to be.  I can help you if you'll let me." The doctor spoke firmly but in a reassuring tone.  "You can leave this alley unharmed and you are free to run out of the city and go wherever it is you planned on going.  I won't stop you and my people will not get in your way.  You have my word."

"How do I even know I can trust you?  You already said you know so much about me." Connor's heart pounded inside him as beads of sweat began to roll down his face despite the cool air. "For all I know you want to lock me up and run experiments or tests or whatever it is you people do!"

"Connor, if that was what we wanted, we would have secured you five minutes ago.  There was a time when we did use force.  It was a bad idea from the start.  We have learned from our mistake.  We don't want to hurt anyone any more than you do." Dr. Valmora pulled the left side of his jacket away and reached for an object under his arm.  Connor strained to make out the object but he was fairly certain that he knew what it was before the doctor drew it.  In the yellow light at the alley's end, Dr. Valmora held a pistol out to the young man.

"You said…" Connor began.  Dr. Valmora cut him off by ejecting the magazine into his palm with a soft click.  He placed the weapon and its ammunition on the ground that glistened with the rainwater and streetlights.  The doctor stood up and walked to the other side of the alley and raised his hands.

"My superiors used to hate it when I did that." he said. "The first time I disarmed myself they had a few words for me in the debriefing.  I told them that it was my choice and I saw it as the best way to prove that I meant no harm.  I know that you don't want to harm me but you're afraid of what you think you can do.  You think that you're a danger to your parents and friends but we can teach you to control yourself.  There are others like you and we have a facility deep in the wilderness where they can show you how to handle everything.  I won't force your decision, Connor.  I only wish to present you with options." Dr. Valmora gestured to the open street. "It's your choice."

Connor stood motionless.  Somehow, he felt himself relax.  He thought about his plan to run away and realized a multitude of factors he had overlooked.  His plan was full of holes and he feared that any one of them could lead to more trouble.  The man at the end of the alley seemed to offer him a future.  Although he had little reason to trust him, the sincerity in his voice was a start.  His final thought was that he needed support and Dr. Valmora and his organization appeared to be able to provide it.

"What about my parents?  Or school?" Connor asked.

"I have a team awaiting my word to pick them up.  They will join us before we move to the facility.  Your time there won't extend past the end of the summer and you can be back in school by the start of the year.  I won't lie to you and say your life will be normal by then but we can help you adjust." Dr. Valmora said.

Connor glanced back at the wall and nodded.  He had made up his mind and met the doctor at the end of alley.  "Besides, when you've been in my line of work for as long as I have," Dr. Valmora said. "You'll find that normality is rather boring."  Connor smiled and shook his hand.  The doctor winced at the strength of his grip.

"Sorry." Connor said sheepishly.

"It's alright.  But that will be among the first things we'll teach you to control.  For now, let's call our ride, shall we?"  Dr. Valmora tapped a button on his coat and spoke into his collar.  Connor could make out a message of confirmation coming from somewhere near the doctor's head but his attention soon fell to the black pistol still lying on the asphalt.  He walked over to the weapon and picked up both it and its magazine.  To his surprise, the magazine did not appear to be loaded with normal bullets.  Instead, the clip had several small silver-tipped darts filled with a translucent blue liquid.

"Ah, thank you." Dr. Valmora said as he took the pistol from Connor.  He loaded it and returned it to its holster as Connor looked at him quizzically. "Tranquilizer pistol.  Potent, but non-lethal.  Don't worry; it's only for the real monsters."


As a green SUV pulled around the corner and approached the pair, Dr. Valmora answered him. "Another thing we'll have to teach is how to recognize those who have made different choices.  They are out there and every day we try to keep people like you from repeating their mistakes.  Today, you made the right choice.  But I think that's enough for now.  Our transport is here."

The driver opened the door for them and Connor took a seat, eagerly waiting to discover what the doctor and the organization would teach him.  For the time being, he felt that he had a chance to regain his future, even if it would not be exactly typical.  He supposed he could try to find a new state of normality or he could embrace whatever came his way.  He thought about the doctor's words as the doors closed and decided that whatever happened to him, all that mattered was what he made of it for himself.
When a frightening event leaves Connor's world upside-down and changes his life, he thinks his only choice is to run. As he escapes into the night, the appearance and offer of a mysterious stranger helps him realize another way. Does he continue his flight or will he forge a new future?

From an older world I envisioned a few years ago but just now actually started to write about. Here the normality of our world is but just a cover for the subtly extraordinary that lies beyond our view. Just be wary, for not every stranger you meet may be as tame...
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Deuce777 Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
"I got a really bad feeling about this..."
     -Stormtrooper VK-8847


So, here's what I make of "What You Make of It", in other words, here's a sorta-theory based on cannon evidence, keen intuition, and a pinch of tin-foil hat, resulting from me reading in-between the lines far more than I probably should've and subsequently letting my theorizing mind run amok, so don't take it as me crapping on your story; I'm saying this because it can kinda sound like it at some points. Just keep in mind that it's an expertly written story being TOTALLY overanalyzed by a huge fan of the series.


"...we have a facility deep in the wilderness where they can show you how to handle everything" is basically word-for-word what you'd say to a C.A.C. Private-Military Devision recruit before shipping him off to a Cascadia Proving Ground for intensive training, so there's a fair chance that Dr. Valmora HAS said it to a C.A.C.P.M. recruit before. Connor had a feeling that Valmora was one of the bad guys from the start, and Doc pretty much said it to his face himself. Plus, the title of "doctor" in this context wouldn't make sense if Valmora was Blackfield... but it would if he was a Cassie (I thing you know what I mean)... Would someone working for Blackfield say "Don't worry; it's only for the real monsters"? No, no they wouldn't; they would say "Don't worry; it's there just in case things escalate", if anything in the first place, because Blackfield doesn't see werewolves as monsters at all, they see them as "ordinary people with extraordinary abilities", as stated in the main "The Next Phase" timeline (although I have a theory that both timelines are one-in-the-same, with the C.A.C.-supplied terrorist cell being responsible for the event that revealed werewolves to the general populous).

Oh, and Connor's parents? Most likely dead. C.A.C. sweeper team probably broke down their door and shot the place up. Why? Because they aren't werewolves, and Cascadia doesn't need leverage over Connor, so they're going to tie up loose ends. We know Cascadia does this all the time, so why would this be any different? The C.A.C. sees werewolves as a threat, and are willing to go to war over it -actually, scratch that- Cascadia sees werewolves as mindless, 500+ pound killing machines possessing little-to-no-regard for human life. They train their soldiers to believe that anything and everything a werewolf says is just a ruse meant to lull them into a false sense of security, and nothing more.
And wadda ya know, it works almost every time. Congratulations Cassies, you successfully pulled an Adolf Hitler (one of many Holocaust parallels; speaking of which, again, you did a great job incorporating them seamlessly, it really adds to the ideas that humans haven't changed and are easily blinded and influenced by emotion).

When you think about it, it just makes sense. To Connor, Valmora fits the "secret agent" description, but we know quite a bit more than he does; we know that Valmora doesn't fit Blackfield's MO. Blackfield would know where he'd be, set up a dead-drop, and then put a piece of paper with the dead-drop location on it in a place where Connor would see it, and that dead-drop would have the location of the actual meet. Blackfield rarely-and-barely makes immediate direct contact, so it's more than a little suspicious that they'd make an exception for a potential asset. Cascadia wouldn't know the specifics, but they would know Connor wouldn't either. All Cascadia would have to do is act "Cloak & Daggers" and they'd bag-and-tag another werewolf. It also makes sense from a writing perspective, since the sudden change from perceived-friend to foe would hammer home just how bad Cascadia is, even if the Cassies with the most screen-time are mostly soldiers who think they're the good guys.

Ok, now that that's over with, what do I actually think about the story?
As usual, I love it! You're an amazing writer regardless of my hair-splittingly numerous theories, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
An example of just how amazing you are at this stuff is your Versatile Infantry Defensive Armor; it's like if Tom Clancy took a look at a Call of Duty Goliath Power Armor and said "I can do better than that!"; Halifax's description of VIDARs fits them perfectly:

"It's a machine that only stops killing when it runs out of bullets! It's a goddamn massacre on two legs!"
     -Agent Olivia Halifax
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2017  Student Writer
I totally see how this could all be one big set up. Looking back, I did put a lot of sketchy feelings into the story atmosphere. Oh well. Thankfully, everything is chill and everyone's safe, no one's with Cascadia here. Thanks for reading and the multi faves! What did you think of those other stories?
Deuce777 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Loved 'em! Absolutely loved 'em! The alternate timeline has a near-future Saving-Private-Ryan-esque feel that is absolutely mind blowing, and the VIDAR is probably as terrifying as it is because we could build a semi-functional one IRL right now... actually, it's probably because it can do a 180 and catch a werewolf mid-air without letting up on its CHEW... or maybe the fact that the only practical way to kill one is by turning the pilot to mush with thermeobaric weapons... ok, I gotta stop or I'll be here all day, I think I got the point across: a VIDAR in, in Halifax's words, "Goddamn massacre on two legs".
Anyways, though I really like both storylines, the "Dark Turn" storyline is where you really shine as a writer. The World War II parallels are integrated seamlessly, giving a sense of familiarity, because "The Supremacy War" has happened before, only this time people are fighting back hard enough to make a difference.
I just love the series, and I'm pretty sure you got into Titanfall 2; Cascadia Proving Ground, meet IMC World Foundry, your super-high-tech great-great-great-grandchild. First a magazine, now a video game, what next? A movie? (intentional jinx)
If I was better at writing, I'd write a TNP fanfic... or two... or twenty...
Next Phase Extended Universe? I kinda like the sound of that... now I just need to improve my writing skills.

It's a sort of morbid-clarity, knowing that in order for the rebels to win, to survive, they'll need to become the monster the world thinks they are. Knowing that no-matter who wins, the rebellion will in all likelihood be labeled as the enemy. But there is something that shines through the darkness: the rebellion was able to tamper with Apex production facilities, breach into a fortress city, and from the looks of it, take it over.
That means that Cascadia isn't invincible, that they can lose a fight to an enemy a fraction of its size...
It means there's still hope.
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017  Student Writer
That's great to hear! The VIDARs are one of my favorite pieces of antagonist tech. I just took all the current exoskeleton/suit concepts the military and others are working on now, and adapted it to the story world. Although we may be a bit of a ways off from something like them being built in our world, I figured an organization with the resources and dedication like Cascadia would be able to pull it off. Lots of their revolutionary tech is fueled by their fear of werewolves taking over, hence why few costs are too great. The crazy thing is how certain parallels end up as fictional and real world histories seem to replay certain patterns. Part of what I also tried to explore is this interesting phenomenon we see pop up in real life: Everyone thinks they're the "good guy." Cascadia and its true believers absolutely think they're doing the right thing, (stabilizing the world, curing all diseases, strengthening economies, bringing safety, etc.) since they don't consider the ones who are suffering as being human. Since they see their enemy as inhuman, they can justify doing anything to them.
Robertjolley Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012
excellent. i hope i eventually get this good at writing stories.
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012  Student Writer
Thanks. It definitely helps to practice and plan. With time, you'll be able to control your story direction and then it should feel more natural.
Robertjolley Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012
ok thanks
Johnithan-Walters Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012
Very well written, keep up the good work.
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you and thanks for reading.
BrokenTales Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012   Writer
Read and well enjoyed. I like that you never quite spell things out exactly, but there are enough clues to strongly suggest what's going on.
At first I thought you were over describing the scents at the start, but that soon clicked into place when the werewolf thing became apparent.

I would be wary of over using phrases such as 'seemed like...', as there are a couple of places where it's not really necessary.
(unless this was done on purpose to suggest further disorientation with his new senses, in which case carry on)
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you. I was aware that the scents were explained in detail but I wanted to show how overwhelming and confusing the character's heightened senses were. However, I will now be sure to check to make sure I don't overuse certain phrases as I could see how that might change things. I was hoping that I balanced the clues with the subtlety and since you correctly deduced the answer, this was a success. Thanks for reading.
ResidentNobody Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
"You'll find that normality is rather boring" Can't agree more, doc! Personal opinion aside, this was a story filled with mystery. I enjoy how you ended it, they way Valmora says Connor made the right choice sets an ominous tone, giving me doubts about the organization and the world. I'm not sure if you've ever read The Lightning Thief series, but this story sounds a lot like it, at least it sets the tone for a story like it. A different person, apparently a monster in some fashion, is taken into the middle of the woods to learn how to control his abilities. A world hidden beneath our noses, filled with mysteries and oddities that belong in the realm of fantastical dreams and fiction, and a nameless organization trying to hide that world from us. Very interesting stuff.
I have to know, how did you come up with the name Valmora? It fits him so well, and flows so smoothly, it's near perfect.
WanderingGoose Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2012  Student Writer
I have not read that series but I see the similarities. A multitude of stories and movies provided pieces of inspiration and I was going for a sense of mystery (especially with what is "unusual" about Connor). A deleted scene from this story revealed the organization's name but it sounds more ominous than they really are. I can send you a note if you want to know more on that. The honest truth about the Doc is that I saw a sign for a town called Valmora, New Mexico on a road trip. I just liked the way it sounded so I applied his name to the character I had in mind for a while. Again, if you want to know more, tell me so I can note you.
ResidentNobody Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Sent a note.
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