High above the rooftops of Greater Cascadia, a Little Wolf reminisces about the life he’s led to this point.
Cassius Clifford looked out over the skyline of Greater Cascadia from his perch on the rooftop as he listened for the telltale sounds of trouble. He was one of many babies born in the US in the weeks and months that followed the end of the war on supers. He didn’t remember much from his early childhood, only that his first few years were spent in Southern California.
Growing up, Cas never had a stable friend group. Like pretty much everyone else at the time, Cas moved nearly year on year. Since the world had focused so much on the war effort, other problems that had been just as pressing had fallen by the wayside. Climate change was the one that really bit the US in the ass.
Decades of inaction were exacerbated by the war economy that sprung up as a result of the UMDC. Cas’ family was one of hundreds of thousands that became climate refugees in the aftermath. One of Cas’ earliest memories was the smell of smoke and panic as his parents peeled away from their home with nothing but the clothes on their back and one pack of diapers that they’d managed to salvage.
Cas was just going into first grade when the US collapsed and took the world economy with it. Those two years were the worst. He remembered going to bed hungry more often than not. There was a point he and his parents ended up living out of a car.
By some miracle—nobody really knew how they had managed to pull it off—someone managed to establish order out of the chaos. As governments and institutions from before the UMDC crumbled, the United Earth Council rose to take their place.
There were those suspicious of the new world order, who fought against it at every turn. Cas had been too young at the time to really understand any of it. Like most people, he was just glad for the stability that the UEC brought.
To mollify the populace, at least temporarily, the UEC promised that it would help to restore what governments it could. That was around the time that Cas entered middle school. The UEC seemed to give the notion a genuine effort for a year before the excuses started coming.
During that time, the US government had been "restored" to some measure of function on the federal level, but a lack of funding, crippling debt, and pathetically low public confidence meant it was an uphill battle to actually "govern."
Hardly anyone was surprised when the broken facsimile of congress handed over sovereignty to the UEC. Just because no one was surprised didn’t mean that no one was angry. The protests started when Cas was in seventh grade. His father, who had never liked the UEC but kept quiet for his sake, decided it was time to speak up.
Cas’ father was killed during one of the protests. The official report stated that an anti-UEC extremist accidentally blew himself with an improvised explosive. Cas’ father had died trying to protect others from the blast. He’d accepted the reports at the time, but doubted them as he got older.
Without his father around, Cas had to help make enough money to keep his and his mother’s house. They moved to Greater Cascadia because the cost of living was low. By the time he was of high school age, Cas was juggling three part-time jobs and barely saw his mother who was doing the same.
Cas’ mother, who had always been somewhat delicate, died of severe exhaustion when he would have been in 12th grade. Alone in the world, having not even graduated middle school, he decided he had one option left if he didn’t want to work himself to death like his mother had.
After the US was absorbed into the UEC, with Canada following soon after, most of the western US states as well as British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territory were put together in the North Pacific-American Administrative Region, a country in everything but name, with its own military and government under the oversight of the UEC.
Cas enlisted in the navy and survived training to become a full-fledged marine. Along the way, he became acquainted with a Japanese-American sharpshooter named Adashi. They were fast friends, practically connected at the hip, and it was Adashi who changed Cas’ opinion on supers.
At first, Cas had blamed supers for the woes of the world. Adashi helped him realize that supers were just like everyone else. For the sake of their friendship, he kept Adashi’s secret. He kept it even when Adashi disappeared. The only clue Cas had as to his friend’s whereabouts was the official explanation: Adashi had been accepted into a program run by an organization called ASTRA.
Cas didn’t have time to ask around about ASTRA. Soon after Adashi disappeared, he was packed off to Bulgaria as part of a team tasked with eliminating a commune of rebel supers living in a remote forest region. He wasn’t given an opportunity to wonder whether their orders were justified because combat was already happening when he and his team arrived.
Cas took what should have been a fatal hit from a plasma-slinging super. He was out for a week. When he recovered, he discovered that he was one of them. A super. His world was flipped upside down.
Apparently, while Cas had been lying on the forest floor, abandoned for dead by his comrades, a pack of wolves had come upon him. Somehow, in that barely-lucid state, he managed to make a connection with the creatures, who then dragged him to the commune of supers for healing.
For the first few weeks, Cas was essentially a prisoner. As he got to know the supers, he came to realize how unjust the prejudice was, how unjustified the orders to wipe these people out were. They were just trying to get by, like everyone else, but it was clear the UEC didn’t think that was good enough.
Cas knew that the UEC would send a bigger force. It would keep sending a bigger force until the supers were all dead. He tried to convince them to leave, but they were stubborn. They refused.
The supers told him to go. They told him to spare himself. They taught him how to survive and how to use his powers. At first he refused to leave them, but the commune’s elder, a super whose name apparently meant Old Grizzly, said to him, "If you do not spare yourself, who will tell the world our truth? Who will avenge us? Who will make sure no others suffer our fate?"
Cas took a deep breath. He wiped the tears from under his mask as wolves materialized from the shadows of the roof. His scouts had returned, and they had concerning news to report. The Wild Hunt was on the move, and that could only mean trouble.