In code, a tree shivered against the wind and collapsed into the form of a young woman, arms outstretched. She glanced around quickly and flung her hands toward the sky, fantically throwing flickers of light away and all around her. As she did, off in the distance a growl rumbled through the sky.
Clouds and thunderheads rippled into existence and the woman ran one hand up her side and a tall tree grew next to her, identical to the tree form she’d worn a moment before. She crouched down on all fours and the wind blew her hair into her face, and over her face as it lengthened into a muzzle. She shook the red coat of a vixen over herself, and ran from the wild hunt roaring down out of the storm.
The leader of the hunt was dressed in black and wore a helmet that dripped blood off its edges staining and soaking his shoulders. *Immoderates!* He cried and cracked his whip, leaving bloody furrows on the racketing mob. His black hounds milled around him and the riders, though chained to their horses, bowed. *We were close! Seek! Seek the false son of Prime and his hag of a daughter!*
As the hunt spread out, flinging queries into the wind they’d brought with them, images flickered past him like pages torn from a book. He stood under the tree and caught an image out of the air, with a flat crackle of paper in the wind. *She was here. Not the false Perrin. Hunt them down my dears… hunt them down and we will try them and when all proper forms have been recorded for the greater society… we will quietly let them run, give them the illusion of a felons hunt… and tear them apart when we catch them.*
One of the youngest hounds raised his nose and screamed *Here! Here!* The ground cracked open and the hunt plunged into the earth, following the strand of alien code, riding the wind with the scream of turbines and the howl of the bleeding, limping dogs and horses.
One of the motes of light the woman had flung away, came twinkling back out of the distance and fluttered down to the earth between the roots of the tree… and crawled under into the fox’s earth, where the vixen lay, hidden, still panting. The noise had cut off with a snap as the code closed over the hunt. It was suddenly very quiet.
*Jes…* the bird made of light hopped up to the vixen’s ear. *It’s too risky.*
*Dad… I had to warn you. Glass Mountain has a way to track you. That Immoderate Captain has a tracker of some kind on you. They’re so enraged by me that I drew them off for a bit… but if we are going to survive this, we have to try for it now. *
*I know, dear. My father has gotten very peculiar in his coding… Wild Hunts and Greek Gods and Mythology…*
*Old Earth Russian mythology, Dad. It’s pretty bloody.*
*I cannot attack the old man instantly. We have to run until my last program is finished. Anastasia says that we have to stay out of the old man’s hands for another day…”
*Dad… the Immoderates have Gerrald.*
*Damn. Here they come… I have to run…*
*Stay safe, Dad!* The fox burst out of the hide and ran down the valley, along the creek at the bottom, leaped out on the other side and disappeared… a moment later, she reappeared on a tree branch, jumped back into the creek and swam the opposite direction.