Border, KS

Isn't Kansas a little northern for Southern Gothic? (Updates Tuesday and Thursday)

9.7 Don’t Choke

Siobhan gasped for air as she was lifted off the ground by her throat. She reached up to try to pry the fingers off of her windpipe, but they were like cold iron bars and she could find no purchase. Perhaps predictably that left her next move as trying to kick whomever it was in the stomach, but her choker was apparently pretty hardbodied as it just ended up hurting her foot. She started to panic a little bit, as she heard a voice.

“They always try to kick,” the deep voice offered with an amused drawl. “It’s always the fingers and then the kicking. Why aren’t people more imaginative?” Siobhan managed to look over her shoulder to find the largest Asian man she had ever seen holding her up. Each of his fingers was the size of a sausage—he probably could have effectively choked her with two fingers and a thumb.

“I mean,” came the other voice, which turned out to belong to a slender woman of medium height. “You’d get more variety if you didn’t just kill people by choking them to death. Kind of your fault if it gets a little repetetive.” She walked up to Siobhan and reached out to stroke the back of her head. “Now then, you seem to have brought us who we needed. Put down the…knife, and we might let your sister go. It won’t help you with us.”

Oh, right, Siobhan thought wryly, even as she was choking. It was worth a shot—she didn’t think vampires ware particularly susceptible to swords but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying for. She got a good grip on the sword, and started squirming to try to get a good angle. The Asian man laughed at that. “Oh, she’s got fight in her, I like—” He started in a condescending tone. Then Siobhan got the right angle and jerked her body, swinging the sword in a wide arc that brought it through the man’s wrist. Far from having no effect it seemed to have a completely normal effect, slicing in to the flesh and bone. The man let out a gasp and screamed in pain, his hand releasing her neck and dropping her to the ground.

Siobhan stumbled away from him back to the other students who were watching in mute horror at the unfolding proceedings. That brought her back to the side of the Eisenhund as well, who was growling at the vampires. Siobhan gave him a sidelong look, gesturing. “Thanks for the assist, buddy,” she groused in a voice gone hoarse. The dog looked apologetic somehow, but took a step forward to indicate that its head was back in the game so to speak. Siobhan nodded, and turned to the vampires again who were staring at her in shock.

“What the fuck are you?” The Asian man asked, looking at her through eyes gone wide in fright in a way that seems like it might have been a long time since he was afraid of anything. The woman was also looking in concern, but since she wasn’t injured it was less pressing at the moment. “Why is it healing so slowly?”

Siobhan shrugged. “Faerie…girl?” She shrugged a little bit, brandishing the sword out in front of her. “Faerie princess seems a little bit presumptuous. Wait, no, I got it!” Siobhan grinned wickedly. “Faerie knight, that’s the ticket. I’m a Knight of the Courts of Faerie, and you are not taking my friends. Leave now, keep all your limbs,” she offered.

The Asian man grunted, but with his off hand reached in to his long coat to pull out a wicked long knife. “No, now we’re going to make it hurt. I’ve never gotten to kill a Faerie before. I wonder what you taste like, you little bitch?” He hissed angrily. Siobhan blinked, and then snorted.

“That’s your line, I wonder what you taste like?” Siobhan asked. “Seriously? You don’t sound like you’re a badass, you just sound like you’re a pervert. I’m not worried about you killing me, I’m worried about leaving my drink unattended. So if you want to have to ask your buddy there for a courtesy handy, come and get some fang face.” That was apparently all the motivation they needed to start bolting for her.

Shit they’re fast! Siobhan thought, throwing herself to one side as the Asian man came at her in a blur with the knife. She thought they might have been faster than the Faerie woman she killed in the High School, but she wasn’t faster than the demon they’d killed in the basement of the hospital. God my life is screwed up!

She dodged out of the way as the man slashed with his knife again, and he looked rather surprised that she hadn’t been right there to get disembowled. But he was fast as a viper to turn and press the fight to her, until he was interrupted by the Eisenhund snarling and lunging at him. That distracted him for a long enough moment that Siobhan could turn and slash at the female vampire as she came in for a bite. That forced the woman to dance back because she had no desire to get slashed with a weapon that could apparently hurt her. But they were still fast enough that Siobhan felt like she was probably going to be on the losing end of this battle. Even as she thought that, however, she felt something in her chest that felt…familiar somehow.

She had no time to think about it as the woman changed angles and tried to come in from the side. That required her to pivot but put her back to the Asian man, who lunged at her past the Eisenhund. The dog’s snapping teeth prevented him from scoring more than a light slash, but it still burned as the knife lacerated her shoulder and spent a little spray of her blood across the hallway.

“Shit!” She gasped, stumbling back away. The Eisenhund lept to join her, presenting a united front, as the feeling in her chest continued to grow. She whimpered, backing up past a storage closet as she tried to place it. The vampires turned to advance menacingly, growling with a little bit of inhuman hunger as they did so.

“Well what do we have here,” came a voice from behind her. Siobhan groaned, looking back over her shoulder as the two vampires they saw originally came up from behind her. “Having trouble containing one little girl with a sword?” These were two men, and one raised an eyebrow in taunt.

“Ok, I don’t want to go through this again,” Siobhan began, shaking her head. Finally the feeling in her chest, why it was familiar, fell in to place. It was the High School, what Antigone had felt before she opened the door. Which meant… “Sorry, little bit distracted. I don’t want to go through this whole thing again. You guys run the hell away, and you get to keep your limbs. Got it?” She turned to face the closet and backed away, putting her back against the wall so she could watch everyone as they advancd on her—which they obligingly did, coming up slowly to form a loose half circle around hr and the Eisenhund.

“And why should we do that?” The vampire woman asked. “There are four of us, one and a dog of you, and while you apparently have some skill I doubt you have more than all of us.” She held up a hand, and her fingers and nails slowly began to grow into wicked black talons. “And like the man said, I bet you taste delicious.” Siobhan swallowed, her pulse pounding and her shoulder aching. Come on, come on…she thought, biting her lower lip. “So why should we run?”

“Because,” Siobhan answered, swallowing as she looked at them. “If you don’t, that closet is going to open up and kick your asses.” She pointed beyond them to the closet, which drew their attention. They all looked back it with raised eyebrows and bewildered expressions. Come on, come on…she thought desperately.

“Are you smoking something? Professionally speaking, since we’re about to eat you, that effects us too,” the Asian man offered with a pained if cruel grin. “Cause there’s no way something is going to come out of tha—”

He never finished his thought as there was a flash of bright blue-white light and a burst of frost along the opposite wall. The door to the closet exploded off its hinges in a spray of snowflakes and Walter Richards, dressed to kill in a suit, launched himself out of the closet and buried a strange looking knife in the back of the Asian vampire’s head.

Share

9.6 Yet Another Hospital Fight Club

Siobhan Richards was not a young woman prone to idle threats. She didn’t start fights when she didn’t intend to finish them. But she was forced to admit, as she threw herself at the next soldier who was raising his gun, she didn’t exactly have an exit strategy for this one. Her father wouldn’t have been thrilled at that, she knew; he was a firm believer in the Powell Doctrine, at least as far as it came to always having an exit strategy from any scrape she got in to. Far too often recently she had been thrown in to these fights without any kind of idea what the victory conditions were or how to get out safely—the only rule she had to live by before and now was to get her sister out alive, followed by herself. In that order, always in that order.

The next man was a little bit slow on the uptake, so Siobhan was on him in between the beats of a heart—even one racing as much a hers. His rifle came up, but it was easy to reach out and tap it aside with her sword. The blade was feather-light and eager, seeming to glow in the reflected crimson of the emergency lights. Since Morgan had said it was a part of her, Siobhan had a split second to idly wonder if that meant she too was eager. After that split second, her blade lashed forward to bury itself in the throat of the gunman, a crimson spray bursting from his neck that looked like black ichor in the lighting.

One woman did not beat four men, especially with a weight and apparent training disparity as it existed between them. But two men, as one was dead and one was bleeding to death from a hand that could now be cast in a Star Wars movie, was doable. And perhaps one Faerie blooded woman could take on four men and live. Perhaps one Faerie blooded woman who was the daughter of Walter Richards could have taken on more—she didn’t want to find out.

The other two were faster and further back, and both got their rifles up in time to fire off a three round burst at Siobhan. She knew in her mind that she wasn’t fast enough to dodge bullets, but someone had forgotten to tell her body that. She threw herself forward in to a roll which took her under the spray, and came up next to the third man in the group. He was on the ball, however, and spun to use his rifle as a club. It cracked her across the face and a lance of pain burst through her skull, drawing a gasp of pain from her. She spun to absorb some of the blow, although not neary as much as she would have liked, and whipped around to find him jumping at her with a knife in his left hand and his rifle in his right.

Somehow she knew the knife was iron. It was almost laughable that they would be kitted out for hunting an actual Faerie, not just someone with some tricks, but she also knew it wouldn’t exactly feel good even if she wasn’t Morgan or Tania. Deep in her bones she knew that iron would hurt more while her sword was out, would hurt more while using any powers connected to Faerie, and worse it could shatter her sword. Also worse, she thought wryly as the man advanced,It’s still a freaking knife!

He had it in an ice-pick grip, blade toward the floor, and she knew he would either have to bring it up high to stab down at her or he would have to slash in an almost punching motion. She was ready for either, but as he started to move number 4 raised his rifle again.

“Shit!” Siobhan snarled, starting to try to move again and somehow avoid both gun and knife. But in their desire to kill her, the active threat, they had forgotten the other threat of the large and terrifying dog. Siobhan stopped having to worry about man number four as the Eisenhund lunged for his throat and he was forced to step back and deal with it. Of course, that meant Annie hadn’t run like a smart girl, which meant Siobhan needed to finish this quickly.

The man didn’t raise the knife to stab but did start forward with a punching move designed to slash. It was fast—maybe slightly more than humanly fast—but he wasn’t faster than a Faerie Queen, and Siobhan had once kind of gotten the drop on one of them. Siobhan’s blade lashed out as she stabbed him in the hand between the middle and ring fingers, and he screamed. He also dropped the knife, which let her leap forward and punch him in the throat with her left hand. Now screaming and gagging simultaneously he stumbled back a step, only to gape in horror as Siobhan pulled her sword free and spun. His throat too opened in a blackened maw, blood spraying across the hallway and the wall he had been backing toward. He fell, silently except for the clatter of the rifle still wrapped around his body on a sling, and was dead before he hit the floor.

Fire ran through her body as Siobhan turned to see all of her friends still there, not just Annie. Electricity tickled her fingertips and her scalp as the adrenaline burned through her slender frame, muscles whipcord tight with tension. Maybe there’s a little more than adrenaline there, she thought; her fingertips and the tip of the sword were lightly coated in frost.

“Jesus Christ,” Scotty gasped, gagging at the sight of the carnage in the hallway. Monica and Lacey looked pale as ghosts, but they had seen her messy work before. Now I am Shiva, Siobhan thought, Destroyer of worlds. Did Oppenheimer’s friends look at him like this afterwords?

“I know these guys,” Sally breathed. “They’re all mercenaries hired by the vampires with the promise of getting turned eventually. That means those two—” She trailed off, her eyes going wide in horror as she looked over Siobhan’s shoulder. Shocked, Siobhan started to turn until she felt a frozen cold hand close around her throat and her whole body was lifted off the ground.

Share

9.5 Hiding (Bijoux, Pt 2)

Two different thoughts ran through Antigone’s mind at the same time. The first one was to run as fast as humanly possible away from the people, because oh my god they were coming for them. There was a terror, Antigone found, to being hunted and knowing it that she hadn’t expected. But the other part of her mind was screaming at her that they needed to find somewhere very close by to hide in, because the person had mentioned other people who were going to look for them.

“I don’t fucking know!” Antigone hissed out in response to a question no one asked, shaking her head. Now it was her turn to look over to Siobhan and shake her head again. “Bonnie, I don’t know what to do—” she panicked. Siobhan reached out and grabbed her, and all of the panic that had gripped her disappeared as she saw the look of calm in her sister’s eyes. It was like a cool salve on a burn, or the feeling of clarity when a headache is gone for the first time in hours. Her sister knew what to do, and that meant that Antigone didn’t.

“They don’t have an army,” Siobhan whispered quickly. “Or they’d just start shooting everybody. They cut the lights, which means they want some privacy. We can avoid them, get out, and get to safety.” Antigone nodded, and Siobhan grabbed her shoulder and squeezed. “Our first plan was good. We stick to the shadows, avoid the main hallways, and get out the front.”

Once again everyone fell in line, and Antigone ended up in the middle. That cold-electric feeling of adrenaline running through her body was leaving her on edge, and everything in the world seemed to make more noise than it should. The clop of Siobhan’s boots, the rustling of Scotty’s jacket. At least she and Sally were walking quietly—of course, her forgetting her sandals and Sally not having them would be a serious disadvantage if they had to walk over broken glass. But then again, things were unlikely to go full Die Hard.

They crept down the hallway for a few moments until the Eisenhund sniffed the air and paused. Antigone was afraid that it would growl but it seemed to understand that they were sneaking, so it contented itself with baring its teeth and flattening its ears. They all took the warning and glanced around. Siobhan quickly motioned them down a side-hallway, which Antigone recognized as being the one with the memorial to the victims of the plague from decades ago. It was not exactly a place that she wanted to hide, but they weren’t spoiled for choice—they all quickly, and as quietly, as possible shuffled in to the hallway. The emergency lights ran on the major arteries of the hospital and many of the smaller hallways, but not all of them, so as they all but ran in to the memorial hallway they were plunged int darkness. Almost as one they turned to look back in to the crimson clad hallway, breathing softly and trying not to draw any attention to themselves.

Slowly, slower still to a hallway f frightened teenagers with pounding hearts, the sounds began to grow closer. They were, at least to Antigone’s eyes, probably well trained at sneaking—their boots made very little noise as they walked and it was likely just an accident that had given them away. In the red light as they passed by the mouth of the hall in tense silence they looked even more ominous and threatening than a group of scary men in dark military style outfits would have. Their black shirts and pants were given a red gloss by the lights, which also gave a sheen to their weapons. Most of them appeared to be human, but there was something about the way two of them walked that made it clear they weren’t. Their walk was too smooth, too gliding—they didn’t seem concerned with anything around them, and they didn’t carry any guns. Their eyes moved lazily from side to side as if looking unenthusiastically for something or someone.

Antigone watched them like she had watched nothing else in her entire life, her heat beating so loudly in her ears that she was convinced it was audible from space let alone from just outside the hallway she was in. And for what was then almost a heart stopping second the figures stopped just beyond the hallway and looked around. They had passed the hallway so their line of sight didn’t include on the group of teens, and after a moment they continued walking along. Sweat beaded on her brow and after a long moment she reached up to wipe it off of her brow. With her eyes adjusting to the dark Antigone could see enough of everyone’s faces to see her own emotions mirrored there. After about two minutes of silence they nodded to one another and began to walk out of the hallway. They could hear sounds of conflict rising further in the hospital, although Antigone couldn’t tell exactly what was happening. They made it back to the hallway and started to walk toward the entrance of the hospital again, still sticking to the plan and hoping they weren’t walking toward the fight. They were creeping in the right direction, past a couple of private rooms and storage closets, when a voice broke the silence like the crack of thunder.

“You!” The voice shouted, followed by searingly bright flashlights shining in their faces. They all paused, and Antigone saw that Siobhan tucked her sword behind her as she turned. It left her standing awkwardly, but her body hid the slender blade well enough without her having to summon it again. They all shared an awkward look as if trying to decide who should speak, when Lacey stepped forward. Petite and blond, she was about as non-threatening as anyone could appear to be.

“Are you a cop?” She asked hopefully. There were four men, each dressed in black and holding an AR-15. The lead one kept his shouldered while the others, arrogantly or lazily, had their rifles held loosely. “When the lights went out we got so scared, sir—” She continued.

“Shut up!” The lead man barked, looking at her. Then his eyes went to the rest of the group, and fell on Sally in her hospital gown. He smirked, and motioned. “There. Radio the others. Take her, kill the rest.” His rifle raised to point directly at Lacey’s face, drawing a squeak of fair from the young woman, and Siobhan started moving.

It won’t be fast enough, Antigone thought in horror, as the man’s finger moved inexorably toward the trigger. It almost made it too before the Eisenhund caught his attention with a room-shaking growl. Turning his rifle toward it in shock turned out to be a terrible mistake as Siobhan flowed past Antigone like water and silk and with one confident move severed his hand at the wrist. He screamed, although it was lost in the growling of the Faerie hound, while Siobhan kept moving and rushed the other men as they raised their weapons.

“GO!” She screamed, as the fight began.

Share

9.4 Seeking (Bijoux, Pt I)

The hospital, Antigone reflected, was not any less spooky with the lights shut off now than it had been over winter break. That might have been comforting, that it really had been as scary at that point as it was now, but it wasn’t; they were still in this goddamn place again with the lights off and it was making her cranky.

“So what’s the plan?” Siobhan asked, looking back to her in the red lit hallway. “Bolt for the door, go try to find a nurse we know, head for the spooky door?” She shuddered a little bit at the idea of going back to the spooky door. “Basement sex dungeon?”

“What?” Monica sputtered, shaking her head. “You know what, can we just as a rule avoid anywhere that you could conceivably label a sex dungeon? That seems like the kind of place where the black girl dies first.” That drew a startled laugh from Antigone, Scotty, and Sally. Siobhan smirked appreciatively, while Lacey looked genuinely concerned for a moment. Siobhan reached back to pat her on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make sure Scotty dies first if anyone does,” she reassured, before looking to Antigone. “Seriously though, is it time to have fun with freaky shit or do we keep it under wraps?” She looked more hesitant than normal, and Antigone knew that being back in the hospital was effecting her too. Antigone looked around, sighing a little bit. They all expected her to know what she was doing, to have some great insight; only really Siobhan knew what it was like to have a few dreams, some terrifying images, and to be expected to come up with something. But here they were in the nonsense again, and everyone was looking to her for a plan.

Is this what it feels like to be a hero? Is this what Dad feels like when things go sideways, everyone looking to the guy they think can bring them out of it? She thought to herself. Is that what caused Mom to leave, knowing things about the future and wondering if everyone will expect her to fix them?

“Oh hell, better to have the spooky shit ready then want them later. Like Dad always said, a pistol under the pillow isn’t worth jack when you get jumped in the bathroom,” Antigone offered with a shrug. One thing that had gotten far easier was summoning their dog, who still needed a name more dignified and less terrifying than Eisenhund. She closed her eyes and breathed out, calling the part of her that was tied to the iron clad Faerie hound, and then she felt a wet nose nuzzling at her hand.

She opened her eyes and saw Siobhan holding her Faerie sword, long and out of that strange dull metal and with the leather wrapped handle. It never looked exactly like a sword should, but it struck Antigone now that it looked exactly like lightning should if it could be wrapped in leather and dipped in otherworldly metal. And of course Scotty looked absolutely baffled, stunned at the sudden appearance of canine and weapon. Monica just nodded, and Lacey gave a little clap.

“You both got way faster, congrats!” Lacey offered appreciatively. Antigone was briefly grateful for the way their friends had adapted so well to all of the weird stuff, because it was part of what made them so valuable. There was some alternate universe where they hadn’t met Lacey and Monica, or they weren’t able to just deal so plainly with the frankly bizarre things they had been exposed to, and Antigone didn’t want to think about how lonely she would have been in that world.

“Thanks,” Antigone offered with a smile. She looked back to Scotty and grinned a bit sheepishly. “Spooky shit, sorry. She gets a magic sword, I get a magic dog; together, we fight crime. That pretty much sums it up.” Scotty, who over the course of the evening had been exposed to vampires and faeries and now the ability to summon things out of nowhere, continued to look pole-axed but nodded a little numbly and followed as they started walking again. “As for where we should go or what we should do…” She sighed and considered the things that she had seen in her weird…trance…thing. “Let’s try to quietly head toward the main entrance and see what’s happening before we do anything rash.” She didn’t know if it was the right answer or not, but it was an answer; the others nodded and they all began moving with some semblance of stealth. Tat stealth left Antigone alone with her thoughts as she padded along.

The need to get moving, to get out of the hospital room, had been the one thing that she took our of her vision. It overrode everything else, and had propelled her to movement even through the sudden onset of the headache. But now that they were moving, putting distance between themselves and the room, the rest of what she had seen seemed to be little more than a blur. There wasn’t a lot she could pick out of what she had seen besides an impression of danger and darkness, and that they needed to b…somewhere. Where that was, exactly, still eluded her. She hoped that maybe by continuing to walk along they would be able to figure out where they were supposed to be. Maybe there was simply virtue in movement, and the vision had been to force them to be doing something in general rather than something in specific.

There was a clatter of something down the hallway and they all froze in place, sharing a panicked look with one another. The sound had come from further on down the hallway—in the direction they came from. They all slunk away from the nearest light to wait and watch, and more sounds came to them.

“We’re at the room,” a voice spoke. “Lights are off. Going in.” Following that there was the sound of a door being kicked in violently, wood splintering and metal hinges being torn by the force of the kick. The kick sounded powerful, more than a human leg should have been delivering, and it chilled Antigone to the bone. As did the words that followed it:

“No one here. Everybody fan out. Find them!”

Share

9.3 Small Comfort Indeed

Antigone woke up with a start, gasping as the darkness faded away from her eyes. She was shivering, and she had fallen to the floor. Her head was in Siobhan’s lap, and Scotty was straddling her to make sure that she didn’t hurt herself thrashing. Or at least that was what Antigone could figure out for how he could be straddling her without Siobhan castrating him. It also, Antigone was forced to admit with a blush, wasn’t unpleasant to have Scotty right up against her like that.

“Annie, thank God,” Siobhan breathed, and Antigone laughed a little bit as her sister leaned down to hug her face. “You were having a seizure, you fell out of the chair. I think I kept you from braining your head, but you never know; maybe you’ll stop wearing Birkenstocks.” Siobhan must have been relatively reassured, because she was joking.

“Never,” Antigone responded, and was surprised to find her voice was a croak. She smiled at her sister to make sure she knew it was playing along, before coughing. Apparently having a vision/seizure made one’s mouth dry. “I saw something,” she managed to continue as Siobhan let go and Scotty rolled off of her. She started to try to stand, but had to settle for sitting up and panting for a moment. “I…” She struggled to remember what she had seen. It was there, but sitting up had brought a headache crashing the likes of which she had never felt before. She winced, reaching up to grab her head and cradle it; it felt like there was a bomb going off behind her left eye, and her neck throbbed with pain as well. “Shit!” She cursed, gasping.

“We need to get a nurse!” Sally spoke up from the bed, reaching out next to her for the little button that would summon medical help. Antigone shook her head quickly, struggling to get up to her feet. Siobhan and Scotty reached out to put their hands under her arms and helped her to stand, before she reached out to grab a bottle of water that had been left for Sally. Chugging it helped her feel better, the headache dimming slightly and the hoarseness in her throat abating even more.

“No, we need to go right now,” Antigone insisted. She grabbed Sally by the arm and started carefully working to pull sensors off of her and the IV drip out of her; she was thankful that Morgan had shown the both of them how to remove and insert IVs during their brief and tumultuous winter as candy-stripers. She could also intubate someone, in theory, but that didn’t seem relevant to her at the moment.

“Hey!” Sally protested, clamping down a hand on her arm as the IV was removed, but not protesting beyond that. Apparently her having dreamed about the two of them meant they had some latitude to do weird and disruptive things, and Antigone had to admit having IVs yanked out randomly wasn’t fun.

“Sally, I know you don’t actually know us, but you have to trust me right now,” Antigone said seriously, reaching out to take the formerly comatose girl’s hand. Her voice was intense, and she felt like she was trying to bore in to the other girl’s soul with her eyes. “We have to get you out of this room right now, because they are coming for you right freaking now. It’s time to go, if we all want to live and not have everything go to shit. Can you trust me?” Antigone asked. Sally swallowed, awed Antigone’s sudden switch to being super intense.

“Y-yes,” she stuttered, nodding. Antigone nodded in return. “What’s g-going to happen? Are they going to take me b-back?” Her voice was unsteady but her demeanor was slowly getting more balanced. Having someone who sounded like she had a plan was apparently helping, even if Antigone was terrified bone deep.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, Sally; I’m not exactly in control of any of this, and I don’t have anything but shadows to work with. But we won’t let you get taken back, no matter what,” Antigone reassured. “Now we’re all going to get up and run like crazy, OK?” Once again, Sally nodded. Monica moved up to the bed as well, and nodded at Antigone and Sally.

“We won’t let you go back,” the taller young woman reassured. “There’s been too much terrible shit that’s happened in this hospital anyway, and this is what Antigone and Siobhan do. They pulled us out of the fire at the High School, and I trust them to pull us out again today. Come on, can you stand?” She asked, reaching out to place a hand under Sally’s arms.

“I’m a little wobbly, but there’s nothing wrong with my legs beyond what a brief coma will do to you,” Sally pointed out wryly. She slid out of the bed, and looked around. “No idea what they did with my clothing, so that will be fun, but let’s go.” Lacey moved over to help Monica with Sally, while Scotty and Siobhan stacked themselves up front by the door. That left Antigone in the middle, feeling both somewhat insulated and disconnected but also simultaneously in charge. She had the distinct feeling that they would be looking to her to decide where to go and what to do, and she swallowed against a rising burn of nausea in her throat at the thought.

“Alright, let’s go,” Antigone said, and Siobhan opened the door. They stepped out in to a normal looking hospital hallway, and for a long heartbeat Antigone thought she might have been wrong about everything. Maybe things would be alright, and she was just suffering from some form of weird but entirely treatable schizophrenia. What an odd hope, Antigone thought idly, but it was a hope nonetheless.

That hope died a moment later when the sound of gunfire erupted from down the hallway, and all of the lights in the hospital shut off. A moment later they were replaced by the soft glow of emergency lights.

“At least the fucking emergency lights work this time,” Siobhan griped, a small comfort indeed.

Share

9.2 Working on Visions and Dreams

“Yeah, we know,” Siobhan answered. “Listen…you don’t know us, but this isn’t the first time we’ve had people coming for us.” Antigone saw her sister swallow back the lump of fear in her throat and bury it under the kind of blase courage that she put up as a defense against the world. “We’ve beaten them before, and we will this time too. She’s the hero of the high school,” Siobhan bragged, pointing at Antigone. Antigone flushed in response, shaking her head.

“Oh…I heard about that right before I got taken,” Sally responded, looking with admiration at Antigone. Annie’s first instinct was to protest that it hadn’t really been anything she had done, that she had just gotten a headache and the tiniest bit of a vision and had also gotten breathtakingly lucky. But there was hope on Sally’s face, and even the others who had been there looked a little bit reassured by the comment. So she swallowed it, and just nodded.

“Yup, that’s me,” Antigone offered with forced cheer. Her cheer was obviously much more fake than Siobhan’s casual bravery, but it seemed to hearten the girl nonetheless. Maybe that’s all it takes, and why she does it, Antigone thought of her sister. Antigone knew that Siobhan was brave for her frequently, and had been brave for their brother Ryan, but hadn’t ever stopped to think of how frequently Siobhan would be brave in a way that would benefit other people. Random people, people just walking by or observing her or watching the situation unfold. When she had stood up to bullies in school, was there a part of it that had been for the rest of the school—encouraging them to stand up to bullies too? And how much of that is conscious, or just a part of who she is?

“Besides,” Siobhan continued. “I guarantee that something much more terrifying than whatever is coming will be coming pretty soon after.” That drew a round of looks from everyone except for Antigone, who snorted at that.

“He’s never going to let us go anywhere again,” Antigone pointed out to her with a sigh, which Siobhan met with a nod.

“Oh come on,” Monica offered, piping in to the increasingly weird and random conversation for the first time. “Your dad is pretty chill, and you’ve talked about his career some, but if there are bad people coming maybe we should get the hell out of here? No one person is that good.” Neither Antigone nor Siobhan looked convinced by that, but they shared a look that said they should at least be willing to consider it.

“The problem is we’re working on visions and dreams, and that’s not exactly…replicatable,” Antigone answered after a moment. “I…uh…” she trailed ff, looking around. There was a chair in the corner, and she shrugged. Walking over to it she stepped out of her shoes and sat cross legged on it, closing her eyes. “I’ll see if I get anything. Siobhan, you bring Scotty up to speed and keep everyone entertained while I get my ‘Om’ on and hope?” She couldn’t see if Siobhan nodded, but heard her sister shift to get comfortable on the edge of the bed while Antigone did the same in the chair. She was just beginning to take deep breaths when she heard Siobhan, in her best storyteller voice, begin.

“Let me tell you the time about that our Dad killed a god,” Bonnie spoke, infusing her voice with as much mystery and mysticism as she could. Antigone smirked, but focused on breathing slowly. In and out with deep, calming breaths, like her mother had taught her. And taught Siobhan, for that matter, but she had never had much patience. Antigone had, and had always enjoyed taking quiet moments like this to think and center herself. She was also particularly good at tuning out her sister while she was trying to do so, as a simple matter of survival.

When Antigone was younger her dreams had come and gone like she imagined was normal. For the last several years it had felt more like they retreated to a part of her. Rather than burning away with the coming of light and consciousness, they had begun to retreat to a place in her brain. Sometimes it felt like she could follow them if she tried, burrow down in to her self and find where they were hiding.

That’s what she was trying to do now. There was a feeling to them retreating, that was like remembering a word in reverse. With her eyes closed and her sister’s voice a comfortable white noise behind her, she followed the feeling in to her own mind. It felt familiar, and it only took a moment for her to realize why. It’s like opening the door, she thought. That brought back a host of bad memories, of blood in hallways and a door that she couldn’t open and the sinking feeling that she might die in a terrifying school basement. But beneath those memories was the feeling that she had been chasing the whole time, the feeling inside of her that let her open the door. The muscle that she didn’t quite know how to flex, the tune that danced in the back of her mind but she couldn’t quite remember the words to. It was there, waiting for her.

For some reason this part of it was easier for Bonnie, and she knew that—and it bothered her. Siobhan had been able to call her sword on command several times now, and while she was always grateful for her sister’s ability to save them via slice and dice, she was a little bit jealous her specialties didn’t come so easily. She spent the better part of what she figured was twenty minutes searching her inner self, chasing that feeling in her brain that she just couldn’t figure out how to work.

“I don’t think it’s going to—” she began, before the blackness crashed in on her and her eyes rolled back in her head.

Share

9.1 Scientific Methods

“Jesus,” Siobhan responded, moving over to the bed. Antigone would have thought it silly—it wasn’t like Siobhan had any medical training, and normally one did best to stay away from creepy looking young women who proclaimed they had been waiting for you—but it was Siobhan. She processed nervousness through movement and action, so of course she would go right toward the strange thing. “Do they know you’re awake? Have you talked to a doctor yet, are you OK?” After a moment of seeing nothing terrible happen, Antigone and the others moved to join Siobhan around the bed.

The girl blinked owlishly at Siobhan, apparently taken off-guard by the sudden maternal—or sisterly, Antigone supposed—instincts. It took her a long few moments of consideration to respond. “I…yes. The doctors have been in here and they’re pretty sure that I don’t have any brain damage because of my nap. But you know what I almost was, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, Vampire, whatever,” Siobhan offered with a wave. Antigone laughed, while Lacey and Monica started at that—as did Scotty. They hadn’t exactly been brought up to speed on the whole vampire situation, and Antigone hadn’t exactly known when to bring them up to speed. Well, they’re up to speed now, she thought wryly. “Do you need something to drink or eat? We can raid the candy machine.”

“I’m not used to seeing you this…solicitous, Bonnie,” Monica offered as she looked at the pale girl. It almost looked like she was resisting the urge to reach out and touch the girl’s hair to see if it was real.

Antigone smiled fondly at her sister. “Bonnie has a hidden caring streak. When Ryan had his tonsils out, she played nurse for two weeks. She was with him almost constantly; we almost expected her to arch her back and hiss if someone came by.” Siobhan, prompted, arched her back and hissed slightly. “She’s very protective of the people she cares about.”

The girl looked baffled at all of them, and finally shook her head. “I don’t know why, but I knew you two would come back. I dreamed it when I was unconscious, I think it was the drugs they gave me. There is some weird shit in there.” She paused for a moment, leaning back against her pillow for a moment and then sighing. “My name is Sally, by the way. Sally Smith, and you’re not allowed to make comments about how it is alliterative.”

Siobhan held out her hand. “Siobhan and Antigone Richards, nice to meet you. These are Monica and Lacey, but their last names are being withheld to protect the innocent. And Scotty Rivotti, whose name is already plastered over YouTube, so he gets what he gets.” Sally and Siobhan shook hands, and she looked back at her friends. “I mean, our names were in the paper; no need to let bad guys doxx you if we don’t have to.” Scotty shrugged at that, apparently having known what he was getting himself in to when he put his last name on the internet.

“I have had people egg my house because they didn’t like my videos,” Scotty confirmed.

“Can you tell us what happened to you?” Antigone asked curiously, working to steer the conversation back toward something useful. “We found you in the woods near our house,” she offered, by way of explanation. Sally nodded at that, sighing and closing her eyes as she considered her words.

“I was at a party, and oh my god the rest of this is going to sound like an after school special,” Sally sighed, rolling her eyes. “I took some drugs that I was given, and I had a reaction. I think, from what happened, that was the point; they were either testing different strains to see what worked, or looking for people with a sensitivity to it. Or both.”

“I mean,” Siobhan commented, “That wouldn’t be a very good study, that many unknown variables…”

Antigone rolled her eyes. “They’re vampires, not the Curies. Also how are you struggling in Chemistry if you can poke holes in other people’s studies?” She then sighed. “And that’s also not the point. What happened next?”

“Our teacher is criminally under-qualified and probably lied on her resume?” Siobhan answered. “Also, too cool for school, all that cliche nonsense.” She offered the last bit with an artless shrug and roll of her eyes, to shoot for maximum cliche carelessness.

Siobhan had an almost limitless talent to derail conversations, and the other three took her bait with an ‘ooh’. “Oh that’s right, you have Ms. Easter. God, isn’t she terrible?” Monica asked with a sigh.

“Focus!” Antigone didn’t growl, because growling would have been counter-productive and mean to her friends. It was just that she was more used to dealing with Siobhan’s ability to run people off the rails, and knew it took a jolt to bring people back to where the conversation should be sometimes. Really, that was it. “What happened next?” She asked Sally, who smirked at her before growing more sober again.

“I woke up in some…facility, I don’t know where. But they were experimenting on us, trying to get us to become like them. They really liked me—something about my blood or my…soul, I guess, made me more valuable for making it. But I was also resistant to it; even when they were getting good results with other people, I wasn’t turning. They gave me what they expected to be the production model, and that’s the last thing I remember before I woke up here.”

“You were found with someone,” Siobhan asked gently. “A guy. Did you know him or his name? Was he taken with you?” Sally shook her head, and looked like she might be on the verge of tears at that. She reached up to scrub her face defiantly, to try to keep the tears on the inside and not break down.

“No, I don’t know his name. Maybe he told me and it was lost in a drug haze, I just know he had been there as long as I had—and he tried to protect me. I tried to protect the others,” Sally continued, “And he tried to protect me. I hope he got away, and that he didn’t end up back with them.” She looked at Antigone and Siobhan, focusing on them perhaps because they had been the ones doing the talking. Or because she had dreamed of them, which was shiver inducing in a way Antigone didn’t want to think about.

“They aren’t going to stop,” Sally said, swallowing. “I’m something they want, although God I wish I knew why. They’re going to try to bring me back. You know they’re coming for us, right?” She asked, her voice cracking with suppressed fear bubbling to the surface.

Share

9.0 Inside a Yellow Room

Chapter 9: Meanwhile…

“I haaaaate this hospitaaaal,” Siobhan grumbled from the back seat of the minivan as they pulled in to the parking lot. “I got jumped by death and we had to shank a demon in this hospital and it was scaaaary,” she continued to whine, kicking the back of the driver’s seat in a surly fashion. Antigone, seated beside her sister, watched with a smirk at the antics.

“One, that sounds like the most metal thing that has ever happened to anyone,” Monica pointed out as she parked the car neatly in a spot, “So why are you complaining about it? Second, you’re the ones who called us to go to the hospital. We were happily hanging out at my house doing homework when we got your call. We all could have stayed home. Second, stop kicking my goddamn seat.”

Siobhan paused in thought at the first part, and then shrugged. “Alright, when I describe it that way it is pretty metal, but we were freaking terrified when it was happening. Like an Ozzy concert, but he was trying to bite off my head instead.”

“We are all of us too young to know what an Ozzy concert is like,” Lacey pointed out mildly as she unbuckled and opened her door.

“And my lady-like posterior you were ‘doing homework’,” Siobhan finished teasingly as she launched herself out of the side door of the car, drawing indignant noises from the two girls who had been in the front of the car and a laugh from Antigone as she too exited. Antigone leaned over as Siobhan came around the car as if looking for something or examining something in great detail, before she shook her head.

“Nope, it’s about as lady like as all the rest of you,” Antigone proclaimed, and now it was Siobhan’s turn to make indignant noises and the others to laugh. Siobhan glared, and then leaned down to re-tie one of the laces on her boots casually.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I am the very picture of feminine grace,” she responded, turning a little pirouette that was more impressive because of the footwear. Rather than responding, each of the other girls just clapped and then started walking toward the hospital. “And we couldn’t stay at home, not when Annie had a vision.”

Monica and Lacey shared a look, which the sisters were almost universally coming to interpret as ‘the look people get when they reflect on how strange it is that their life includes visions now’, before sighing. “And was it vitally important that we be here, or were we just the transportation? Are we going to find notes with our names on them again?” Lacey asked. It was a relevant concern, as the last time they had been involved in nighttime extra-curricular activities it had involved breaking in to the shop of a not-psychic and being attacked by terrorists.

Siobhan shrugged at that as they stepped up to the door of the hospital. “We don’t even know where Gabriel is, since the battle of the High School. And the way Annie described the vision it was a little more…impressionist than realistic?” She looked over to her sister for confirmation.

Antigone stopped in the doorway, shivering suddenly. The vision hadn’t been specific images, but it had come to her in a sudden wave when she was laying in her bed reading a school assignment. Fear, absolute terror that made her gasp for air and break out in a cold sweat, and the knowledge that something bad was going to happen. After she was able to breathe again, she had known deep inside of her that it was going to happen at the hospital. And that it would be worse if she wasn’t there.

“No, I didn’t get specific images,” Antigone breathed, walking forward again after a moment and reaching out to rub her arms for warmth. She sighed, pausing with Siobhan to look around the entrance to the hospital and shaking her head. “We do need to at least get people taken to other hospitals though, why shouldn’t we get to have traumatic experiences at every hospital in the city?”

Antigone knew where they were going without bothering to ask, because they had been there earlier in the day and they knew that was where they had to end up. A room off of pediatrics, which had so many fantastic memories for them both, in a yellow room where a girl was slumbering. They walked that way in silence, not even Siobhan popping off comments as they did. A tension continued to rise in Antigone’s shoulders and spine as they walked, tightening and clenching to see what sort of horrible thing would await them, when she stopped suddenly in the hall. Siobhan stopped too, and a moment later so did Lacey and Monica who were following a step behind—they hadn’t been to the hospital earlier in the day, so they didn’t know where the room was.

“Scotty?” Antigone asked, blinking owlishly. The young man was coming out of a room in the same wing they were headed to, and she would have sworn she saw a look of surprise flicker over his features before they settled back in to his habitual grin. Self-proclaimed World Class Hottie and alliteration enthusiast Scotty ‘The Body’ Rivotti walked toward them and offered a melodramatic little bow when he got close.

“The hero of the city, and entourage,” he offered before anyone else spoke, before he laughed at Monica’s raised eyebrows. “Squad? Partners? Co-conspirators? What are you all doing here so late when I know there are tests in just about everyone’s future?” Antigone considered him for a moment, noting how quick he had been to take control of the conversation. She wasn’t going to say anything, and fortunately for her she could always rely on Siobhan to say something just as quick.

“Giving condolences to a victim of backyard wrestling?” Siobhan asked with a smirk. As the not actually self appointed King of their High School, Siobhan had an almost contractual obligation to poke some fun at him—even though they actually got along well every time they interacted. Scotty matched her smirk with one of his own, shrugging.

“You know how it is, a throw goes a little bit wrong and you have to give your buddy a visit in the hospital,” Scotty bragged, shrugging. And bring them flowers? Antigone thought, noticing him surreptitiously palming a petal from his sleeve and tucking it in to his pocket. “And now to provide an honor guard to wherever you’re going, so I can ignore my own homework.”

Siobhan shot her a look, and Antigone offered an artless shrug. Scotty had been there the night they went to Gabriel Shepherd’s shop, and the athletic young man had been a help; plus he was enjoyable to be around. Fear gnawed at the pit of her stomach at the thought of involving even more innocent people in to what could be a terrible evening, but she couldn’t find the words to say no to him.

“Thank you, Scotty,” she offered instead, holding out her arm for him to take in escort, if he recognized the gesture. He apparently did and took it with another overly gentlemanly bow, as they walked toward the room they intended to visit. It hadn’t changed from the outside, but the moment they stepped in they saw something had indeed happened.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” the pale girl on the bed spoke, her voice hoarse but her eyes open and alert.

Share

8.8 Dire Deeds and Petty Insults

Walter wasn’t sure he had ever seen Morgan more still, and he knew that he likely resembled statuary himself. Once again he was considering several different responses, but unlike before he wasn’t considering whether to be vulgar or not; he was considering whether or not to respond with immediate, unthinking violence.

“Right now,” Nadezhda continued in the brief silence, “There is a great deal going on in the city, Major. There are major attacks in multiple quarters of the city, there is a great deal of arson, and more armed men like you so ably dispatched are making their way in to the hospital. There they have orders to get in to the room of the young lady that you rescued this morning, and retrieve her. And anyone that gets in their way…” She let the statement trail off dramatically, and offered an artless shrug to punctuate it.

Walter’s vision swam red, and he started to move around the chair to come at Nadezhda. His body was moving in that automatic way that it did when it was moving purely by instinct, his limbs going to the right places to inflict great violence without needing to be told. The only thing that stopped him was the sudden appearance of Morgan’s hand on his, cool and firm. She caught his eye when he looked down at the hand, as if stunned at its presence, and shook her head quickly. He realized his other hand had gone to the sheath with the orichalcum knife in it and half drawn the blade out.

“You can probably attack me, Walter,” Nadezhda offered. “But you don’t have the time to do so. My men are going to be attacking any minute, and even if you get some assistance,” she offered with an even look at Morgan and Tania, “And even if you are every bit as skillful and resourceful as you seem to be, you can’t both kill me and get to them. And that is ignoring two things,” she continued. She reached out to tap the table with the green crystal, “I have what I believe you refer to as an Oberon crystal and know how to use it, and my men aren’t just attacking the hospital right now.”

She snapped, and a man stepped forward with a radio. The man was dressed all in black and appeared to be made of sides of beef, and Walter instinctively identified him as a goon. The goon turned on the radio, and the room was instantly flooded with the controlled panic of police officers under fire. Apparently things had gotten much worse in the time that they had been discussing politics with Nadezhda. “All of these are my men, and when you were shown in they started pressing. Your men are under fire across the city, Major, and very few of them know how to respond to the supernatural.”

Walter stared at Nadezhda, Morgan’s hand still on his arm in a reassuring and restraining fashion. “Why?” He didn’t articulate more than that, because he wasn’t sure he could without trying to pull himself from Morgan’s grasp and fling himself across the table. Every inch of him was burning to get out, get to somewhere he could help—help his kids, help the police, help his kids again. That one kept coming back, loud and clear.

“Because you went from nothing to very close to ruining everything,” Nadezhda answered simply. “You spent all of today finding too much too fast, and we need time.” Her tone of voice suggested this was the simplest and most rational thing in the world. “So we’re taking the time to move our resources out of the way, and ensuring you don’t have a chance to follow along and find them. A tactical and temporary withdrawal, while you all are kept too busy and off balance to respond. By the time you’re done dealing with all of those things, we will be safe.”

“Those are people—those are people’s lives you’re talking about!” Walter sputtered in anger. Now his other hand did reach back to pull out the orichalcum knife, which seemed to gleam in the low light of the room. It had a warm glow to it, like a fire that had reduced down to just radiating coals.

“They are—on my side too,” Nadezhda responded. “You’ve never sent men in to a fight for a rearguard action, Major? You’ve never tried to preserve your mission even if it costs lives? Especially if it is the enemy? Having seen your full record,” she purred, “I’m certain that isn’t true.”

Walter shook his head angrily. “These aren’t enemy soldiers, thee are civilian peace officers you’ve baited into traps!” He was nearly shouting now, and almost shaking. Right now his anger was raging red hot, even though he recognized he needed to be doing something with it besides yelling. He was starting to be a little annoyed, underneath the anger, that no one else in the room was having a similar reaction when Tanya slammed her fist on to the table n front of them. If Walter had done the same it would have served as a punctuation of anger, but when Tania slammed her fist in to the table it sent cracks running out in the expensive woods.

“Those are our people, Countess,” Tania said angrily. She stood, leaning over the table with an aura of menace. Walter could see little flames starting to lick at the edges of her knuckles. “I know,” she continued, “Attacking the policce is not enough to bring us in fully, but if we cannot take this as a declaration of war then I promise you we are taking it as a declaration of intent.” She turned to look at Morgan, and Walter’s eyes followed hers. Walter realized Morgan hadn’t been quiet, but had gonee glacially still. She could have been carved from marble—or ice—except for her eyes, which smoldered with rage. She wasn’t unfeeling about the situation, she was just keeping her anger more under control.

So do the same, Walt, Walter told himself angrily. “We’ll see how your retreat goes, Nadezhda,” Walter offered, with a flippant little bow, before he turned to Morgan. “How fast can you get me to the hospital?” He asked Morgan and Tania. Morgan stood evenly, and cast her eyes around the room like she was looking at the broader building.

“I’m afraid you’ll find our maintenance closet is a little overstocked,” Nadezhda offered with a smirk. For some reason, that drew Morgan’s ire out even more and she outright scowled. Standing, the Queen of Winter reached down to brush her dress smooth as she met Nadezhda’s gaze evenly.

“We never forget petty insults. And a Countess does well to remember how outranked she is by a Queen, girl,” Morgan told her, her voice just above a whisper and laced with icy daggers. She spared a look over to Walter, and smirked. “Hold on to your everything,” she murmured. From nowhere Walter could see a wind rose around her, and tendrils of frost began to spread out around her. The tendrils crept along the ground as if pushed out by a pulse, and Morgan reached out to take Walter’s hand. She smirked at Nadezhda. “As if I need a closet,” she spoke softly, and then a pulse of energy burst out from her and Walter felt like he was being turned inside out.

Share

8.7 The Goat

Nadezhda went supremely still for a moment, considering the four of them, before Walter saw her shake her head and smirk. “I didn’t expect that all of you would, although I knew that the Major did,” she offered. Now it was Walter’s turn to go very still and raise his eyebrow. The other’s caught on after a second, and the gaze from the two Queens almost could have burnt through the table in front of them.

A number of different responses went through Walter’s mind, tumbling one after another. The cliche would be You seem to have me at a disadvantage. His natural instinct was What the fuck do you know and how do you know it? He settled for keeping a poker face and keeping his eyebrow raised, while responding mildly. “Why did you know that?”

Nadezhda gave a little bit of a smile, leaning back in her chair. “Mr. Richards, you cannot imagine how frustrating you’ve been to us today.” She reached out a hand and pulled out a folder, which she opened in a very police-esque style to reveal the pictures inside. “You’ve been everywhere important to us, and it’s caused us to be very concerned.”

Walter smirked, and he saw a somewhat proud look on Morgan’s face at the revelation of his capabilities for annoyance and concern. Tanya’s look, on the other hand, could be best summed up as See, someone else feels my pain. “It’s hard for me to feel too awful about it when they’ve involved attacking my children, attacking myself, and I didn’t even know I was doing it.”

The vampire woman leaned back, considering him again. Maybe she had thought it had all been part of a brilliant master plan—maybe Walter should have let her keep thinking that, except he had no idea how he would have kept that high wire act going if he had been called on it. “You found our…unfortunate lost ones this morning, then you were working with a doctor at the Hospital to try to figure out what was wrong with the poor lost lamb,” she offered, managing to sound sad—although whether at the young woman’s plight or at having lost her, he didn’t know. “Then even worse, you were talking with the Reverend, and somehow even worse than that you were at the research facility. For not knowing what you were doing you did a very good job of it—I’m impressed.”

Morgan couldn’t help but speak up now. “We’ve always thought he had great potential as an accidental ruiner of evil schemes. In High School he was voted ‘Most likely to accidentally save the world,’ unanimously.” She smirked.

“Mmm,” Nadezhda replied, glancing to the Faerie Queen circumspectly. Walter noted both sides were careful not to make direct eye contact, and resolved that he should do so going forward as well. “Is there anything that I could do to convince to stop opposing us in this?” She asked, plainly. Every one of them on Walter’s side of the table reacted with some form of muted, poker faced surprise. None of them had expected her to come out and speak so plainly.

“Weren’t we supposed to obliquely dance around for a while?” Walter asked, stalling for time to think. “I remember that from endless staff meetings, at least.”

Nadezhda smirked at that, albeit briefly. “Why? Eternity is filled with too many opportunities to waste words. I can promise you we are not actually trying to destroy the Border or the world. As a wise man once said, that’s where I keep my stuff. And all of the lovely people who taste so delicious. We are trying to win a war, and this is a part of it.” She scanned his face for a reaction. “Have they told you the differences between ourselves and our brethren on this continent?” At his blank look, her smirk returned. “We create more of ourselves, but the very act of creation weakens us—and the more children you create in a short amount of time, the weaker they are. Vampiric diminishing returns, so to speak. Our American kin make them so rarely that they are far more powerful than the majority of European vampires. So we stale mate, and exist in a kind of cold war you would be very familiar with, from your record.”

Walter considered that, nodding. “And this is a way of changing that. Of making as many as you want with some kind of strength parity. Win the war because now you can out-breed them and not increase the power differential.” Now it was Nadezhda’s turn to nod, and Walter shook his head. “So here are the problems with that. First…your science project tried to kill my children today, and if I read our conversation right you tried to kill me today with mercenaries. So I’m not inclined to give you any benefit of the doubt. Even if I was, second…” Walter trailed off, considering his words, before he shrugged. “Like my old Drill Sergeant used to say, you can’t un-fuck the goat.” Nadezhda, Tania, and Morgan all blinked at him, while Ryan was apparently used to th idiom.

“And that means exactly what?” The vampire woman asked.

“It means even if I believed you, once you know how to mass produce blood suckers there’s no way that’s just used for this war. Same as nukes—once something like this is out there, it doesn’t go away,” Walter explained. “You don’t use it for that, someone else will. Whether now or later, once you can put vampires together out of the medicine cabinet someone is going to use it and try to take over the world.”

Nadezhda’s gaze moved from Walter to Morgan, Tania, and Ryan in turn, looking for somewhere she could go next. Eventually she gave a simple shrug of her shoulders, and looked back to Walter. “I expected it wouldn’t work, but it never hurts. Now then,” she continued, pulling a slender green crystal out of her desk and putting it on her table. “Let’s talk about what’s going on right now at the hospital.”

Share