Epilogue, Book 1:
It’s midday and the building is bathed in sunlight. The hallway is wide enough to drive a tank through and is lined with floor to ceiling glass windows. As such, we are covered head to toe in multiple layers of thick, non-permeable fabric. We proceed down the hall looking ridiculously conspicuous. Every few feet Xan stops to scan the crowd with a pair of thermal goggles; Dade and I are on his heels, watching the bystanders, looking for anything abnormal and trying not to raise many eyebrows in the process.
Which is damn near impossible given that we look like a team of Navy Seal rejects.
The masks are the worst. Aside from making us look like convenient store robbers, they itch like hell. We look strange, for sure, but Greek life is big here and students probably figure it is a frat-related stunt or hazing prank. Or maybe they are too absorbed in their own drama to care. A group of girls gossiping away at a nearby table doesn’t even look up as we pass.
Why do we even bother saving them? Some days I wonder. Then again, like with the vaccine, this is as much about us and it is them.
The hallway opens up into a mezzanine lounge area with a coffee house. It is not very busy at the moment as it is getting late in the afternoon and most students have probably progressed from coffee to beer. I have to admit it’s a bit nostalgic being back on a college campus.
“Report?” Dade asks.
“All clear,” Xan confirms, shaking his head. We turn our attention to the floor below.
We’re standing by a pair of escalators that leads down into the lobby of the main entrance below. The coffee house juts out over a large seating area that takes up half the lobby. The escalators face north toward a corridor twice as wide as the one we’d just ventured down. It’s lined with doors to classrooms with students wandering in and out, bags slung over their shoulders.
Dade studies the building’s floor plan on his phone. Xan, positioned a few yards ahead, suddenly backs away from the escalators and drops to a crouching position. We drop back, imitating his movements.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I think we have a positive ID.”
Xan glances up from the goggles, “I gotta get a better scan to be sure.”
Dade looks around. Xan points below us. Then he moves by the escalators and peers over the rail. I do the same and he pushes me back, motioning me to stay down. But not before I manage to glimpse our target: a tall, cloaked figure leaning casually against the wall of the ground floor lobby.
“Got him. He’s roughly thirty yards away, east of the escalators.”
Xan shoots me a quizzical ‘How did you do that?’ look before concurring,
“Yeah. He’s registering twenty-two degrees Celsius.”
Room temperature. Bingo.
“Let’s do this.” Dade reaches for his gun.
Xan waves him off.
“No way. There’s at least two dozen bystanders down there. We can’t just open fire. Too risky. We should follow him and see what he’s after.”
“We know what he’s after. He’s after what those people down there have to offer.”
I am weighing our options.
This creature can travel fast, possibly faster than us and is just as deadly. We need to act. Dade opening fire might not be the best option though.
Xan holds out the googles, “You need these?”
“Nope, I can make out his silhouette.”
Standing upright now, he is watching someone very intently, out of my eye line. I move closer just as he starts walking. He hasn’t looked up; he’s been too focused on a target of his own. Time is not our ally. I remove my sunglasses and peal off the layers I can afford to lose for a few minutes, shoving my ski mask into my back pocket. The room is bright, my eyes begin to sting.
“He’s on the move. Dade get the car. We’ll need a hasty exit.”
Dade looks from me to Xan.
“Are you nuts? What are you doing?” Xan protests.
“I’m the only one who doesn’t need goggles to see him. Go with Dade. I got this.”
“It’s reckless. We don’t know what we’re up against.”
“It’s an order. Now go.”
“Did she just pull rank on us?” Dade lets out a bemused laugh, but obliges, retreating with Xan.
I leap up onto the foot-wide divider between the two escalators and spring effortlessly down into the lobby. I charge the target, preparing to make use of the new gadget Jiro has rigged: a retractable sword. The silver blade runs down half the length of my arm, pointed inward until I push in the trigger on my wrist, which launches it out to become an extension of my arm.
It slices open the sleeve of my new leather jacket as it arcs out, a cause and effect I hadn’t considered until it was too late. A little heads up from Jiro would’ve been nice.
The demon wears a hooded trench coat, similar to the cloak I’d just shed. He is easily a foot taller than me. He senses my approach and spins around, throwing open his coat. A red glow emits from his arm, nearly blinding me.
I slide like a baseball player determined to steal home plate. Except this catcher is armed.
Flames shoot past, over my head. I roll on my side and thrust the sword through his abdomen, into his chest at an upward angle, piercing the heart.
As the air cools above me, I crane my head upward to better assess the damage. Since he’s not a wolf, the silver blade won’t deal a fatal blow unless it’s to decapitate him, which isn’t happening from this angle.
But this isn’t a typical vampire. This thing is some sort of demon, a breed I’d not had the pleasure of encountering previously.
A breed that doesn’t share our aversion to fire or daylight? And can hide in plain sight? A new race of vampires?
Perhaps he is the upgraded version. Until he catches my blade, that is.
Fangs line his entire mouth. I observe this first hand as I study his frozen expression, mouth agape, from directly below him.
The creature stands rigid, smoke still rising from the device on his right hand as he moves it to his chest. His figure hardens, then crumbles into a pile of dust. From silver through the heart. I suppose even the upgrades have their flaws.
Slightly different from what I was expecting. But dead is dead.
I get to my feet, picking up a curious little black box that had been affixed to the creature’s ankle. Several students, their backs pressed against the wall, stand stunned, faces registering shock and horror.
Farther down the hall, others are fleeing out the exit.
Screams echo through the building.
I retract the sword and examine my jacket sleeve.
“Damn it, Jiro,” I mutter, then turn my attention to the remains, sifting through the ashes for the mini flame thrower device and anything else he might have had on him.
I turn to find a cop standing twenty feet away, his gun trained on me with shaking hands. Two more cops are running through the lobby entrance, guns drawn. Since when does campus security carry pistols? Times have changed.
I can’t help but wonder if the first cop on the scene had been privy to the before and after. Certainly some students had witnessed an eyeful.
His trembling says he had.
As his back-up closes in, they catch site of the trash can that’d fallen victim to the flame thrower. It burns steadily, flames shooting upward and outward.
Distracted by the fire, they look from me to it accusingly.
“Now that was not my fault,” I insist, pointing to the can.
Without warning I rush at them, launching vertically and easily clearing the stunned cops, the burning trashcan, and half the escalator’s distance to the second floor.
As I bound up the remaining length of the rail, one of the cops fires a shot. The bullet strikes the wall to the right of the escalators. Way off.
Seriously? With all these people around? Don’t make me come back down there and disarm you.
I pull my gun from the small of my back and fire at one of the oversized windows, peppering the glass with bullets. I hit the weakened pane at full force, yanking on my mask as I dive into the daylight.
A black Escalade with tinted windows jumps the sidewalk and lurches into the courtyard just as my feet strike the ground. The door opens and I fling myself inside.
Behind me people are shouting. I expect the cops emerged as we pulled away, but I am too distracted by my burning arm to notice. With the sleeve ripped from Jiro’s contraption, my arm was left exposed to the sun. I hadn’t slipped on my ski mask completely, either; my neck seethes.
Tires squeal as we speed away from campus.
Xan is sitting shotgun, Dade at the wheel.
“Took him out. He had a little flame thrower strapped to his wrist. Seems a bit extreme given what he was hunting. It’s as if he was expecting heavily armed opposition.”
“You get it?” asks Xan.
“No, but I recovered this,” I toss the black box at Xan.
“What, was he on house arrest or something?”
“I think it’s what made him invisible.”
“Really? Sweet. Oh hey, you need blood?”
Xan tosses a packet back. I can already feel the burns healing, but I take it.
“Made a bit of a scene. Cops will be after us,” I look through the rear window; the coast is clear, but sirens aren’t far away.
Dade is cursing at the GPS screen, jabbing it with his index finger. I lean over the front seats.
“It’s cool. Make a left down this road. Careful though, it’s got some sharp turns,” I caution.
After several “mysterious” deaths on the campus caught our attention, we’d started an investigation of our own. Xan had even cleaned up the remains of one victim. The less humans know, the better. A serial killer draining the blood of his victims, eating flesh and removing organs, is best handled by professionals. The already dead kind.
For the past week I’d taken up residence on campus and staked out the area. This included devising several escape plans when things inevitably turned violent.
And we are currently executing one of them.
The road curves sharply.
“Buckle up,” Dade laughs, enjoying this a little too much.
“Maybe we should test that box out,” I suggest.
Xan fumbles with it, pushes in a button. It makes a sizzling sound akin to a bug zapper.
“How do we know if it’s working?”
“We may know soon enough…See that ravine? Take us down into it.”
“Are you serious?!” Xan eyes where I am pointing.
Dade simple nods and accelerates, sending us off-roading down into a rocky dried up riverbed.
“If we blow a tire we’re screwed,” Xan has a death grip on the dashboard.
I ignore him, looking around.
No sign of police pursuit; the sirens are fading.
The gorge leads us into a tunnel; a safe haven devoid of sunlight to escort us out of the city and back to base. We all let out a sigh of relief as the vehicle plows through its entrance and we are consumed in familiar darkness.
Not that they need my encouragement. The scientists make a mad dash down the street, a few still wearing their white lab coats – just stick a bullseye on them already, damn – as I hold my ground in the middle of the road, rain and wind whipping past. My gun is out of bullets, but I can’t see the sense in letting them know that. And by them I don’t mean the scientists.
The mercenaries sprint around the corner in hot pursuit. They spot me and almost don’t know how to react.
It’s probably not often their target moves towards them instead of away. I step slowly, walking methodically towards my prey with deliberate, intimidating strides. It doesn’t carry the same effect as it does when serial killers do it in slasher films. Perhaps it is the lack of a machete.
Their hesitation is brief. I am met with a bullet to the shoulder. Then another. The first doesn’t do much except maybe add to the menacing villainess image I’m cultivating, but the second spins me just in time for my back to catch the third. I hit the pavement.
Hot steel tears through cold flesh, veins break apart, tissue severs, bone snaps.
I feel every bit of it.
I lie twisted on the wet asphalt, gravel grinding against my skin, blood soaking through my clothes. The bullets came from high powered rifles and I have to admit I’m hurting.
But I know I can do what has to be done. Bullet wounds and all. And that’s the bitch of it.
For a second I think about what it would be like to not get up.
And a part of me looks forward to the day I don’t.
But it won’t be today.
A car suddenly appears around a bend down the street. The driver must be quite shocked by what the headlights illuminate. Brakes screech as I pull my knees into my chest and push myself to my feet. Fangs bared.
The hired guns move like a trained SWAT team. But even they don’t seem to know how to react at that exact moment. Especially with a civilian shining high beams on their attempted murder. They stand, frozen, just out of reach of the car’s headlights as they watch me rise.
Taking advantage of the spare seconds the car has afforded me, I wipe the crusty purple mix of blood and grit off my hands and clothes as I feel my body healing, then pick up my gun.
I will get up and I will keep fighting. It’s not a choice so much as a desire for change. There’s no honor in what I’ve become. My motives do not come from a good place. There is no happy ending to fight for in my reality. I care nothing for the people my actions may save. Nor am I above them. I have even less regard for myself. I just want the all–consuming plague of rage and grief and envy to be replaced by something else entirely. It is my sole motivator.
I despise those who live a blissful existence and to whom suffering is a foreign concept. And loath those who squander their own mortality; taking even a second of it for granted; who use the term helpless without ever having lived it.
I grieve for the ones I’ve lost, for those who died for me when they shouldn’t have, and for my own mortal life that was doomed from the start.
I envy those who have never felt pain the way I’ve come to understand it. Those sheltered in their own little happy bubble of ignorance that defines their existence; who have wanted but never needed.
I lash out at anyone and everyone who prevents me from evolving past my current state. The anger I’ve carried all my life, it’s the anger that comes from knowing what can never be changed; of trying so hard to right your wrongs and be a better person and in the end being told that none of it matters.
In my human life the happiness I attained, those moments fleeting as they were, still linger as a reminder of something warm and wonderful I know exists, but with this knowledge comes an acute awareness that I will never experience those feelings again. I’m incapable in my current state. And I understand the resentment that comes with that, but I refuse to wallow in my own unfortunate circumstances. Instead I find new avenues to express my discontent and replace the void where happiness once lived.
In some cases the end result is misdirected rage. I’m fully willing to admit this. But in this circumstance specifically, I’m pretty sure these assholes attacking unarmed scientists have earned my fury.
Then again, no one on either side of this battle is innocent.
If I told you I dislike violence you wouldn’t believe me and I’d be lying.
At the end of the day, the answer to why I do what I do is as much who I am as what I am.
And I won’t apologize for any of it.
To put it simply: it is all I’ve ever known.
The driver shifts into reverse; tires spray dirty rain water as the old sedan lurches up onto the curb to complete a choppy, panicked version of a three-point turn. In that moment the headlights shift from me to the men and I take the opportunity to dive for cover behind a parked car.
In the shadows I see a scientist lying face-down on the sidewalk.
It was someone else’s turn tonight.
I grab her arm and slide her over. No pulse. I can smell the death on her, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting confirmation. Maybe it’s a force of habit. Maybe it’s the unwillingness to trust the demon’s intuition. Maybe it’s a sign I still have hope. Whatever it is, I find myself checking pulses, performing CPR, and in the end just not wanting to see another dead body. Another reminder of the callous disregard for life that comes so naturally in this form of existence. I want to see something else derived from this state. I would like to save someone who deserves to be saved. It would be a nice change of pace. Might even make me feel human again. Not that I was much for saving anyone in that state, either. But at least back then I tried. It felt good to care. To have the illusion of faith and the comfort that came with it. I miss that.
I look around and don’t see the other scientists. This is a good sign. I am vaguely aware of the tires screeching from the car pulling away and the lack of gunshots. I risk a look over the hood and see them fanning out.
The comm in my ear beeps.
“What about stealth did you not understand?!” Abrams’ voice bellows over the static.
“Not my fault. That black box piece of shit you gave me doesn’t work.”
“They wearing goggles?”
“Goggles? Like swimming goggles?”
“Eye pieces. Probably orange in color.”
I watch a couple of the men cross to my side of the street, half a block down.
“They have black helmets with orange eye slits, yes. They look more like visors though.”
“Okay. Those visors they’re wearing – the eye pieces can see through the shields.”
“Oh. And you failed to mention that because…?”
Gunshots resume and glass breaks above my head. They’ve located their target.
“Didn’t have confirmation.”
“Well you do now,” I yell, unintentionally raising my voice as I wipe wet shards of glass from my shoulders.
“I deployed backup. A team is less than a minute out. If your shield is still on, deactivate it so they can find you. Help them lead the scientists to safety.”
I look at the woman at my feet.
“About that. One is down.”
“Uh…” I check her pockets for identification. Her badge must’ve fallen off during the chaos, “I dunno the female one. African American. If there was more than one black female scientist I’m going to be really impressed.”
“Dr. Hallager,” I hear him grumble, “The others okay?”
“I think. They disappeared around the block. I’m pinned down in the street trying to hold these SWAT guys off.”
“Right. Can you get a visor?”
I find one last clip in my boot and reload.
“From one of the soldiers. We could really use access to that technology. These scientists probably know how to develop it, but a working prototype wouldn’t hurt.”
Wouldn’t hurt you maybe.
I pop up and fire shots aimlessly into the street. A couple men duck, gesturing to the others to take cover.
“Sure I’ll just ask one of these nice mercenaries to hand theirs over,” I shake my head, scan for a clear shot, “I’ll see what I can do.”
I click the comm off. A man in combat gear scurries down the sidewalk in a crouched position. He does not have one of the fancy orange eye pieces and he’s firing shots across the street as he makes his way towards me. Backup has arrived.
When he reaches the car he drops in beside me, pressing his back against the door so that he’s shoulder to shoulder with me. He surveys the body to my right with a look of disappointment.
“Hey, Agent Garret, Tyler Garret. How many are there?”
“Lori Black,” I wonder if I’m supposed to be calling myself “Agent” now.
Even under the rain–soaked gear, the chiseled jaw and cocky smile give off a star quarterback vibe. A few strands of dirty blonde hair stick out from his helmet and I immediately think G.I. Joe–Ken doll hybrid.
I don’t know what’s more cliché, his look or that I buy into it. Focus Lori, focus.
“Are you backup?”
“Part of it,” he smiles realizing I’m wondering if he is all they sent, “Rest of my team is with the doctors.”
I nod, relieved. “There’s four or five of these mercenary guys. I shot a few, but they’ve got some serious Kevlar. If you provide cover I can get close enough to do some real damage.”
If this is his first time staring into the eyes of a vampire he doesn’t show it. He simply nods. I sprint into the street charging the nearest moving shadow.
Leaping onto the hood of the van proves to be a dumb, overly–dramatic play. Especially because the man I saw dive behind it isn’t there when I land. But it does draw all the fire away from Tyler. No one can resist an easy target.
Tyler goes to work and I hear bodies drop from his side of the street. I spot a silhouette crawl between two dumpsters as I leap off the van in search of my elusive mercenary. He is leaning on the brick wall, propped up between the dumpsters, fumbling with a jammed gun when I lower mine on him.
“Don’t suppose you’d just hand over your helmet?” I ask. A poor excuse for a street light shines behind me, its reflection catches the corner of his visor. My image is noticeably absent, but my gun’s isn’t.
His response is to lunge at me, rifle in his left hand, a bowie knife in his right. I move too fast for him, grabbing the wrist of his knife hand, I snap it back as I throw my weight into his gun. The gun clambers to the ground and I slam him into the side of the dumpster.
He drops to his knees, holding his broken wrist. He’s about to have a bigger problem.
I pick up the knife and jam it into his neck, letting the blade slip under the helmet. I stop when the handle hits his chin. He spasms, gurgles, and starts to slump over. I catch him, yank off his helmet, then let his body fall. The blood makes my nostrils flare. I am overly conscious of my fangs and the thirst. I quickly retreat. Not that I wouldn’t partake under normal circumstances, but I’d prefer if my new allies didn’t see me indulging. First impressions and all.
When I step back out into the street, Tyler is putting some assurance shots into the exposed neck of a mercenary. I look around. It has gone quiet again. The rain water is red with blood as it pools around drainage grates.
“Nice work,” I offer, impressed at how quickly and efficiently he cleared the street.
“I see you got a souvenir,” Tyler nods at the helmet.
“For the boss man.”
“Let’s get out of here. We told the APD we were running an operation and they know that means to stand down, but all the commotion we just caused will be hard to ignore,” he shoots me an admonishing look that says only an amateur would botch a stealth mission this loudly.
Drip… Drip… Drip.
I regain consciousness, but do not immediately open my eyes. Lying on my back, I remain still, sniffing the air and waiting for my memory to return. The pain is sharp and constant. It’s all I can register at first, forcing me to wait for my brain to process through the blinding fog it’s creating.
The cement slab I’m splayed out on is cold and damp under my skin. I feel it’s rough edges. The air smells of blood. My blood.
Or another vampire’s.
But I’m pretty sure it’s mine. Especially given the searing pain in my abdomen.
And the dripping sound below me.
It’s all I can hear.
Slowly, I peal open my eyes. The windowless room is lit by one dusty, low watt bulb hanging from the ceiling by a wire. An afterthought. Three walls of concrete cinder blocks offer a glimpse at my fate; foreboding and decrepit. A line of vertical bars extends the length of the forth side. Effectively conveying its status as a prison cell. I arch my head up cautiously, noting the surveillance camera pointing into the cell.
My side of the bars has an unfinished basement meets medieval dungeon vibe going for it. The other side is quite the opposite. A clean, brightly lit hallway with touchpads and cameras stares back at me through the bars. No light bulbs on strings that’s for sure.
The compound. I am still inside the compound. In some sort of holding cell. I try to push through the throbbing in my skull to recall the blueprints and figure out just exactly where I am. And determine the nearest exit. That’s when I remember.
The memories come rushing in. The excruciating imagery makes me want to scream. I feel myself wince at their return. I led them into an ambush. It was my fault. I am just as guilty as the men who pulled the trigger. And Tyler… I cared about him when I didn’t think I could. More importantly perhaps, I respected and admired him. And now all I see when I close my eyes is a bullet ripping his face apart.
The helplessness I feel at that moment tears me to shreds. Figuratively and literally. I sit up on the blood–soaked cement block that serves as some sort of prison bed. The cement has turned a deep purple color and excess blood drips off its sides.
They were ready for us. Owen. The second name to come to mind was the last name I thought of before losing consciousness.
Where had he disappeared to during the fight? Did he get killed or was he a traitor? Did the cameras tip them off? Did they spot our approach? Or did someone tell them?
If it was the last option it had to be either Owen or Abrams. If I get out of here, they are going to be paid a visit.
If I get out of here … they could have killed me. They should have killed me. But they didn’t.
Why didn’t they?
I look from my partially healed wound to the camera pointing in my general vicinity.
Footsteps. Stiletto heels. And boots. Two pairs of boots. I see them walking down the hall before they are in range of my cell block. Now I have a vision. Lot of good it will do me.
My cell is in a corner, directly facing one corridor. I can’t see down the adjacent hallway, but it’s really not a top priority at the moment. Aware of my weakened state, I am preserving every ounce of energy. The vision turns into reality as the woman and her two bodyguards approach the cell.
The woman sports a mischievous smile and short, spiky blonde hair. Her commandos are twice as wide and walk as though they forgot to remove the hangers from their shirts. Both brandish high powered rifles. I doubt they are ever without a weapon of some sort.
Of the three, she is clearly the most lethal.
“Well well, Lori, good to see you up. Nice of you to drop in on us. I hope you found the welcome party sufficient.”
She stops three feet from the bars, out of reach.
“I think we share different definitions of the term welcome party, mine doesn’t include a firing squad,” my voice is so thick with sarcasm I can barely get out the words, “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
“My name is Brixton. This is my base you’ve invaded.”
I’m only pretending not to know who she is. I recognize her from the grainy black and white photographs the DIA in all its money and resources had managed to procure. Abrams beamed with pride when he produced them, like a fisherman boasting about his award–winning bass. ‘We caught her in action!’ his tone had implied. They did not do her justice. She is much more terrifying in person. And humans don’t often send a chill up my spine.
“Your base huh? Well I got to hand it to you, your security is top notch.”
She laughs, “My men really did a number on you and your little group of renegades.”
“They were government agents. Your actions will have severe consequences. We intended to come in quietly, passively. We used nonlethal ammo on your lab techs. Your men responded aggressively, did not even give us a chance to surrender. That bloodbath is on your hands and there will be severe repercussions,” I fight to spit out the words, to sound menacing.
Brixton looks bored, shakes her head. She knows I’m bluffing.
“That may be partially true, though given your objectives and that you were trespassing on private property without the proper warrants, I highly doubt there will be any repercussions. In fact, I know there won’t be any fallout from this. But I don’t blame you for playing the only hand you’ve got,” she sighs, looks like she’s suppressing an eye roll. “However, if you think for a second there’s a task force gathering outside to pull off a rescue mission the only person you’re fooling is yourself. There is no contingency plan. This was a suicide mission.”
“From the start apparently.” I resign, “It’s Owen isn’t it? He is your inside man.”
Brixton gives a coy little smile, “Thanks for returning our black box.”
That’s all the confirmation I need.
“Why didn’t your men finish what they started then?”
She hesitates, chews on her lip. There’s something she’s not telling me and I have a feeling I’m not going to like whatever it is.
“We’ll get to that. Tell me what you know about this place.”
I sigh and lean back against the cement, staring at the ceiling.
“You can get everything you need from your double agent.”
“I want to hear it from you. You have been privy to more intel.”
“And if I don’t, you’ll what? Kill me? It’s a little late for that.”
“We can do this the hard way if you insist. But your cooperation will, well … let’s just say I’d rather the two of us have a civilized conversation than be forced to perform my questioning in a less preferable environment.”
“Opposed to this?” It is my turn to laugh. I can’t think of any information I know that she doesn’t have access to through Owen. He was with us in Atlanta when we freed the scientists they were holding captive. I’m guessing Brixton gave us that one. It was too public, they were too exposed. No compound in the middle of nowhere to hide in … maybe I hadn’t botched that mission as poorly as I’d thought … if Owen was feeding her our every move…
Brixton clears her throat.
I don’t think I know anything Owen doesn’t. I don’t think disclosing what I know will compromise the DIA any further. Should I even care at this point? They don’t, they were just using me. And I am too tired and weak to put up much of a fight.
“Right, okay then, well I doubt I really have more intel. Owen’s been inside the agency much longer than I have. My orders were simply to infiltrate this compound, steal data and samples, take photos and report back. Based on our findings we were then to assess the extent of the threat. We believe you have some people here detained against their will. But we needed proof to get a warrant. Or, if our findings were considerably more serious, we were to take immediate action to dismantle your operations. ”
“What you think it does. I have authority to call in an air strike.”
“I see. So I’m to believe you have no idea what is going on in here?”
“We know you, or rather we know a PMC, has illegally obtained some experimental data from the DIA and counter terrorist agencies in relation to weapons, drones and other resources that could prove highly lethal if they ended up in the wrong hands. And we suspect you are running some rather ill–fated tests. We expected to find more of those black boxes along with other weapon prototypes.”
I sit up, leaning back on my elbows for support, “I personally was not expecting you and your commandos to be human, at least not all of them.”
Brixton nods. She seems disappointed.
“I assume I just validated everything your mole already confirmed. I doubt I’ve given you any new or valuable information … it’s not like a government organization is going to trust someone like me – something like me – with anything worth repeating … so I ask again, why are you keeping me here? What do you want from me? You stated yourself this was a suicide mission, if you think you can hold me hostage, the DIA isn’t going to offer a ransom or a trade. They’ll deny my existence.”
“I’m not planning to leverage you for money or anything else the DIA has to offer,” Brixton waves off the guards. They abruptly turn and head down the hall.
When they are out of sight she takes a phone from her pocket and taps the screen while looking up at the camera. Eventually the little red light blinks off. She checks that the others have gone dark, then directs her attention back to me.
“The reason I let you live. Or–” she waves her hand at me, “whatever you call this. Is quite simple.”
She walks up to the bars. I stiffen.
“They’re electrified, Lori, but try if you must,” she smirks. I remain seated, hands bracing the edge of the slab.
“Where was I? Right. I want you to turn me.”
Brixton waits patiently for her request to settle in. Studies my reaction.
“You’re serious? You want to be a vampire? Fangs, blood lust, aversion to sunlight? All that.”
“I want to be immortal. I want the power, the strength, the youth.”
“You are romanticizing an infection that strips away humanity and infects its host, transforming its victim into something they don’t even recognize. Vampirism is not a cure for mortality, it’s a curse. You’re foolish if you think otherwise. And clearly, I am not immortal.”
“Good so you won’t have any problem turning me then. If it’s such a punishment, I would think you’d welcome the chance.”
I regard her with hardened eyes. I know my limitations and I know I won’t make it another day without blood. I’m a few drops away from disintegration. I have to take her request seriously if I want any chance of ever making it out of this cell.
She continues, “Vampires are not invincible, I realize that much, but you are powerful and you are infinitely more untouchable than a human … and you will be young for the remainder of your existence. You were what twenty when you were turned? Twenty three? Couldn’t have been much older than that. And how old are you now? That’s a hell of a lot closer to immortality than I could ever accomplish in this form.”
Brixton leans closer, her voice a whisper.
“I’ve heard a little rumor about your abilities. Your friends in the agency like to talk.”
I don’t react and she doesn’t wait for a response, “You saw my men earlier. Before the shield went down. I’ve been watching the camera footage over and over. And sure enough seconds before the first shot is fired, you try to warn them.”
“That was merely me catching a whiff of something putrid.”
Brixton grins, “I need your blood, Lori, it will give me the power I need to complete my objectives.”
“And I’m supposed to just go along with this plan of yours? You really expect me to be all ‘Oh sure, no problem, let’s do this’?”
“Well no, not exactly. I had hoped to capture a comrade or two so we could arrange a sort of barter, but my soldiers are a little trigger happy. They’ve been cooped up here for months without much to do for entertainment…”
She tilts her head and slips a stiletto from the holster on her hip. I watch as she spins it in her hands before slicing open her finger. I try not to look at the blood. But I’m too weak to resist the urge and my eyes glow from the sensation.
“So we improvise.”
A drop hits the floor. I do not move. It takes every ounce of will power.
“I can help you make up your mind. Come on, you know you want a taste.”
“I’ll pass thanks,” I mutter dryly.
“Fine then,” she licks the blood from her finger, “I’m offering you two choices. One involves slow agonizing torture, not just to achieve my goal, but continued indefinitely after, simply because I can. Or option two, a voluntary participation in which you turn me and I let you walk out of here of your own accord. We call a truce and part as neither friends nor foes, strictly a business arrangement. Call it an exchange of services.”
She shrugs, “I know which option my men hope you choose … Either way, Lori, you’re going to turn me. If I have to break your jaw to do it, so be it.”
“That’s not how it works. I am not even strong enough right now to turn you if I wanted to. And I do have to want to. There is no alternative, no science or technology can accomplish what I can do to you. But you already know that. I suspect that is something you’ve been trying very hard to figure out here in this fortress. Had the outcome have been different you wouldn’t need me.”
The anger fades from her eyes.
“Sadly, yes, but it is just a matter of time before science catches up to God. Which is why I need more time. And that’s where you come in.”
“You think God did this to me? That’s an interesting theory. What’s to keep you from staking me the minute after you’re turned?”
“I have no ill will towards you, it’s not personal. I have no problem letting you walk out of here once I get what I want. But as it stands you will have to take my word for it. Given what side of the bars you’re on right now, I’m afraid you don’t have much choice. But I assure you, you’re existence does not bother me, once I’m turned, my mission is much greater than you … as long as you agree to a truce, then I see no point in spilling more blood. Or ashes rather,” she smiles.
“While I can tell a truce is a big step for you, I have no desire to be linked to you for eternity, which is what happens if I sire you.”
“Then my men will be happy to relieve you of the burden, should you wish.”
I stand and walk slowly to the bars, trying not to limp. This is in itself a huge feat.
“Why don’t you come in here, I’ll be happy to show you first hand just what it’s like to be a vampire,” I hiss, eye glowing, fangs on full display, “Or better yet, why don’t you send Owen in. I’d love to congratulate him on a successful back stabbing. Plus, I’ll need to build up my strength if I’m going to turn you.”
If Brixton is caught off guard, she hides it well. She merely steps back, frowning.
“Perhaps that can be arranged … I’ll consider your request while you consider mine. I can see I’m going to have to give you some incentive. Let that hunger inside you grow while the last of drops of blood leave your body. Given some time to mull it over, I believe you’ll come to realize just how generous my proposal is.”
There isn’t anything to consider. I have one move: agree to turn her, drain the life from her and seal my fate in the process. Flushed with blood, I can maybe take out a handful of her men, but the likelihood of escaping the compound is slim to none. And no doubt Brixton is expecting this. She’ll be ready and there is no way she is going to let me live after I turn her. At least maybe I’ll get the chance to kill Owen. That would be a nice parting gift.
© S.L. Eaves