The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 15
A Human Perspective

Chapter 15

 

A Human Perspective

 

 

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Snow

 

Snow’s flying had improved.  Duncan insisted on her logging hours as often as she could.  Sea Mist had even gotten her up in the Sikorsky.  It was considerably different.  Snow thanked her sister for the experience and politely opted to stick with her little whirlybird. 

 

Being as Sea had started flying well before her thirteenth birthday, she had beaten her fear of heights before it ever existed.  Snow was not so fortunate, but she was adapting.  Being air shuttle with Sea not only helped with the fear of heights, it also took on a competitive edge, each sister trying to make the trip faster than the other.  But that was after their arrival at clan Squat.

 

The landing pad at their host den was the ultimate in makeshift.  An area of brush and tall grass had been cut in a circle, the refuse pushed to one side and left to lay.  A three to four foot wide path through field grass was carved to the den house, the cuttings lay over the path.  Sea Mist was climbing hard and banking away on her return flight for more support crew as Snow hovered into place to set down at their new field base. 

 

There were two landing areas carved for the sisters and their craft.  As Snow powered down, people emerged from the tall grass and brush around them.  Ten in all she counted.  They approached the chopper fast, opening the doors then standing ready to aid the passengers out.  Once the living cargo was off, the grass people removed their luggage.

 

“Clan Squat welcomes you and is honored you have chosen our clan for your field operations Colonel Sadness.”  The man in the black uniform with the most fruit salad on it said to Snow when he stepped to face her and saluted.  All the others wore light gray uniforms.  Snow returned the acknowledgement. 

 

“Thank you Major.”  She acknowledged.

 

After Snow responded the man snapped and turned in a military fashion to face the path towards the den house.  He marched forward.  Snow, with Duncan at her side, stepped in rhythm with the Major and led her people after their escort to the house.  The ground crew fell in behind with their bags.  The heavy layer of field grass ended, neat lawn began.

 

Looking up, as she noticed this from her plodding along, her eyes were greeted by people.  They stood on either side, forming a path as they faced each other.  They were in full dress military fashioned uniforms.  The beginning of the path of people started about fifteen feet from where they broke free of the tall grass.  The pairs of people were widely spaced all the way up to the house as they walked. 

 

They approached the house, a carpet had been rolled onto the grass.  It had gold fringe and a brilliant purple boarder that framed the Squat clan crest at the middle of the carpet in a circular design and a pictorial depiction of the patriarch and matriarch’s lineage on an end, either side of the crest.  Snow smiled.  ‘A greeting for family only.’  She thought to herself.

 

‘This is a good start then.’  She felt come from Duncan’s thoughts. 

 

Control.  She, as well as Duncan, needed to work on control.  Snow almost laughed as a couple walked towards them down the carpet.  Their dress and walk clearly stated they were the head of the clan.  ‘I wonder what thoughts he would get from me when I was pooping?’  Was the random thought that chose to run through her rampant mind at this unfortunate time.  Busting out into laughter as the patriarch and matriarch greet you would make for an awkward situation at best, even if that person is your brother. 

 

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Kevashka

 

The reception given to the command team was exceptional.  The ground crew standing by safely in the tall grass was a nice touch.  Duncan had shared Squat’s personnel file with her.  He didn’t ask permission.  Kevashka appreciated Duncan’s respect of her. 

 

She noticed as she came to the carpet it was not a standard blue or gray carpet, fringed in the clan’s color with their crest, small, at one end.  It was the ornately hand weaved family carpet.  This was reassuring in regards to the cooperation they would receive from the clan.  As they were not being greeted as a command team, but family, they would have no issues there. 

 

Sadness stopped as she met her brother.  Squat was a small man.  He stood five foot four flat footed.  He was very compact, which was fitting for his chosen career path.  Assassins.  His entire den and its resources were utilized to train small teams of two mated werewolves in the fine arts of all forms of covert incursions. 

 

Kevashka was aware Duncan had been talking with Squat; the subject of interest was the new water pistol.  She had to admit, with Hovlek’s aid and assistance, Malkah had produced an exceptionally designed weapon. 

 

Squat had been chastised for his choice of profession.  “This human style of combat is of no use to our people.”  That was what he was told again and again in one form or another.  Clan Frost funded his operation, because they could.  His mother found it amusing.  I want him to enjoy himself, then, when he fails I can gloat over his pathetic rat face.’  His mother had been overheard saying by a ‘source from inside’.  The lady of the clan was not well liked, by anyone.

 

They started moving again, the pleasantries had been exchanged.  Sadness and Squat talked as the command team followed.

 

Kevashka could see they were talking, but was unable to hear what was actually being said, as they walked her mind added dialog to their lip movements.

 

“You look like you just got out of bed sis.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  It’s just so hard for me to run a comb through my hair in the morning.”

 

“Well, you are commander now.  Maybe you could put a little effort into it.”

 

“I would but I like looking like a teenaged human gothic street kid.”

 

Kevashka laughed inside as she mentally filled in with her own words as they spoke to each other.  She didn’t dislike Sadness in anyway. Usually, she simply felt the kid needed to clean up her act some. 

 

The den house was a simple ranch style house.  They were led to the den through the house instead of the garage.  All formal welcomes were into the den via the house.  She never understood why.  The garage was a more logical choice.  It was designed to handle larger groups of people in an elevator.  Kevashka preferred an elevator to stairs.  To her chagrin they were led into the living room of the house where the entire room lowered into the den below. 

 

The den was a simple small design, considerably smaller than the one Sadness had.  From the looks of the people around they were in the process of expanding the den as workers were busy with what looked to her to be construction related tasks. 

 

This in a sideways way confirmed the reports she had heard about the successfulness of Squat’s squads.  The clan never recorded their kills.  The observers that did report a reduction in the number of vampires at a location, were never able to confirm the presence of any werewolf forces.  Vampires had started simply vanishing.  Questions were asked.  Clan Squat received more funding.  More trainees. 

 

Kevashka could see Duncan’s fingers in this.  He had been digging into reports and numbers.  Then he dug into the sources of those reports and numbers.  A simple ‘word of mouth’ advertizing and suddenly, clan Squat is of interest.  The cherry on top was that the field command base was being set up here also.  Among the clans this would be big publicity, especially across the water.

 

Squat was motioning out over the second floor balcony over the main assembly area of the den.  “As you can see Lord Galt, my squads will be utilizing your new weapon in certain attack scenarios.  I am sure with our experience in this type of tactical fighting, we will be able to teach some old dogs new tricks.”  He was saying. 

 

However, Kevashka missed most of what the patriarch of their host den said, as something caught her attention  Below them in the den’s main assembly area, people were training with the weapon Duncan had invented on each other.  Though the training had a lighthearted edge to it due to the type of ammunition of the weapon, the people were lightning fast and micrometer accurate.

 

“These, are the Shadow Steppers.”  Squat informed the command team as they looked out on the people below. 

 

“Shadow steppers, interesting name.”  Kevashka said absent mindedly. 

 

Suddenly a form appeared at Duncan’s back, knife to his throat.  There was other quick movement from the command crew, a blur crossed her vision.  “We pop in, hit and are gone before you know.”  The person with the knife at Duncan’s throat said.

 

“I wouldn’t be to sure on that.  You have a knife at my commander’s throat, remove it.”  Morning Dew’s calm voice said.  He bent his wrist into the person’s stomach letting the dagger be known.  The person looked down, and across him lay a long sleek dagger, had Morning Dew wished, he could have gutted him like a fish where he stood. 

 

“This is Darby.  He helped me build this crew.”  Squat said.  Darby cautiously lifted his hand from Duncan’s shoulder and eased the knife away from his neck.

 

Darby turned to face Morning Dew.  Kevashka observed several others return their weapons to their places.  “I must say sir, that you bested me, is impressive.  Perhaps there is an assassin in you?”  He said, smiled and extended his hand to Morning Dew.

 

Morning Dew didn’t have an expression of warming or welcome.  He locked eyes with this Darby.  “Not anymore.”  He coldly stated then moved to stand next to Mud putting his arm around her waist then putting the dagger away.

 

There was an awkward ‘tense’ in the air now.  Squat had tried showing off his clan’s abilities with a live demonstration.  Eventually Squat cleared his throat and went on to explain how his people focused on use of the ability to move through the light side of shadows to accomplish their goals. 

 

No clan, crew or team had ever concentrated their efforts on mastering the ability beyond the normal werewolf use of it, which was fairly rudimentary at best.  The squad members had become very adept at the use of the light side of shadows.  They had discovered previously untapped understanding of the ability and what could be done with and through what they now referred to as ‘shadowlight’. 

 

“Slipping into a building unseen by any of our veteran members is accomplished with ease, we only need an opening big enough for our wolf form to fit through.  Werepeople have used the shadowlight as a hiding place, to be unseen for a short duration.  Because of our lack of use of this ability, strength in it has never been developed by any of our people, present or past.”  Squat said trying to be a bit of a showman as he talked.

 

He raised his hands for emphasis.  “My vision connected me with others who believed this ability could be strengthened and made a valuable attack tool.  Together we have trained and strengthened use of shadowlight.  Being unseen in a room is nothing.  My people don’t become drained from short use.  Any of my veteran assassins can maintain themselves in shadowlight for a continuous two hours, minimum.  Darby here can step into shadowlight for nine hours before being forced from shadowlight.”  Squat smiled, his pride in his people and their accomplishment pouring from him.

 

“That is frelling amazing puddin’ pop, you have got to teach me that.”  A familiar voice said from behind.  Kevashka looked back, Sea Mist was standing at the back of the command team that was being escorted.

 

Sadness wore a look of concern and question as she looked to her sibling.  “Lieutenant Sea Mist, you are here, you were pulling away when I landed.  Explain please.”  She said to her. 

 

Sea Mist’s stance became professional.  Her features changed to match.  She held herself to look the experienced pilot she was.  “Low oil pressure alarm.  Pulled around and came in fast.  Good thing I was empty, would have had to clean barf from the back otherwise.”  Professional yes, but still snarky and sarcastic at the same time.

 

Sea Mist’s chopper being down would slow the ferrying of support staff.  Malkah had thirty total people working in his department.  Two were staying behind to maintain their den.  Hovlek had eighteen, one of whom was also staying behind. 

 

Silence and the bulwark were seventy three including her.  None of her people could afford to be left behind.  They had kegs to man, they would be filling many tanks.  They had worked overtime crafting the bolts and arrows that would normally be needed and consumed in a standard engagement of vampire forces ahead of time.  Weapons were pouring in, all needing to be filled with holy water. 

 

On top of that there were at least another two hundred and fifty or so other personnel from other departments and general labor.  There would be under twenty people remaining at their den.  Sea Mist’s chopper carried thirty seven, Sadness’s only eight. 

 

“Alright if I take Phillip until you are done here?”  Sea Mist asked Sadness.  “She’s a little touchy on oil changes, I was just over fifteen hours overdue for one.  Filter gets a little blocked, she squawks.”

 

“How long till she’s flying again?”  Sadness requested.

 

“Have to pick up my mechanics, and their tools, oil and parts.  Hour after we land.  I can run Phillip for you till then if you want.”  Sea Mist offered with her news.

 

She nodded in response.  “Just watch that cliff wind, it can rock Phillip a lot more than yours.”

 

Sea Mist saluted then left.

 

“You named your chopper Phillip?”  Kevashka overheard Duncan say to Sadness.

 

She tittered.  “Yeah.  Seemed appropriate.  Every time I land I have to fill-up and I always seem to get fuel from Phillip’s.” 

 

Duncan snorted then chuckled.  “You have an interesting logic sometimes.”  He said.

 

Squat took back over.  “Well enough shop talk for now, let me show you all to your lodgings for your stay with us here.”  He said while Darby made a hasty trek from them after speaking with his patriarch. 

 

He clasped his hands together upright about chin height.  He had an excited look about him.  “Please forgive the mess, the area you will be staying in has been recently constructed, and the entire new addition is still under construction.  We have finished new living areas specially for you, we wanted to give you our very best.  There will however be work being done around but away from your area.”  Squat turned with a majestic air and led the command team off. 

 

They made their way down a flight of stairs that exited at the back of the hallway around the main floor where an oversized, stretch golf cart was parked.  “Our carriage awaits.”  Squat said extending an upturned palm towards the vehicle, showman fashion.  Kevashka climbed in the front next to where the driver would sit.  Duncan and Sadness sat behind her with Teagan.  Mud came to her side.

 

“Are you supposed to sit there or am I?”  Mud asked her.

 

“From my understanding, even though you have seniority by time in grade, I fall in the third in command slot.”  Kevashka held her hands up in gesture of uncertainty then let them fall limp in her lap.  “You’re call Mud.  We never followed strict militia code in my life time in any den.” 

 

Mud smiled in understanding.  “Mine either.”  She answered.  Making a fist she reached over and chucked Kevashka on the arm near her shoulder.  “Feel good doesn’t it.”

 

Kevashka couldn’t help laughing a little.  Mud was as much of a hard ass as she was. 

 

“Go ahead, I’m not one to ride up front unless I have too.”  Mud said then moved and took a seat in the rear. 

 

Squat took the wheel and drove them off and over to the tunnel that connected to the newly constructed housing and work area.  He explained as he drove that he had ordered the workers to finish the executive guest suits first for the command team, then they were to finish the workshops, starting with engineering (Malkah) and weapons/bulwark. 

 

They still had earth to clear for the full construction, but they would have a portion of the addition completed soon.  They would need it too.  Several clans were now interested in starting a stealth operations unit, trained by Squat.  The expansion to the den would be for visiting nobles and clan representatives observing their members in the training area that was also being constructed. 

 

They traveled through construction dust, dirt and scrap materials and the makeshift workbenches set up by the craftsmen down the tunnel that was also a mess.  Cords and hoses ran along the sides of the un-swept floor.  At the end of the connecting tunnel the path went left and right.

 

When the carriage turned down the right passage, the hall was no longer a mess.  It had been immaculately cleaned and polished.  A short distance down this wide corridor they made another right then a left into an ornate hallway with handsome teak doors lit by gas globe torches.

 

They passed by the first door, there was a plaque on it but Kevashka noticed too late to read it.  The second door they also passed by, this time she read the plaque on the door.  It was a name plate, there was room for two names but that door only had hers on it.  They stopped at the third door.  The plaque on this door held Mud and Morning Dew’s names.  The two named on the door disembarked from the cart as Squat came around the front and met them .

 

“Major Mud, Morning Dew.”  He said then reached for the door handle and pressed the thumb lever, the door coasted open.  Two people stood just inside, a man and a woman.

 

“Good day Major Mud, Morning Dew.”  The two said in unison.

 

They introduced themselves to Mud and her mate as their attendants.  This was repeated at each room as the new occupants were dropped off.  Blade Dance entered his quarters solo as his mate was currently in the air.  Now it was just her and her two commanders remaining to be shown to their room. 

 

Though the hallway was wide, it wasn’t quite wide enough to turn the extended cart around in, Squat made use of a nearby stair entry though to make the U-turn.  Kevashka felt Duncan and Sadness were up to something, she could see it in the little smiles they gave each other that they thought she couldn’t see.  Even Squat seemed to be in on it. 

 

Her name was on the door they stopped at next.  This time, everyone left the cart.  “Ok, I do not like surprises.  So whatever you are up to, spill it now.”  Kevashka growled at them.

 

Her request was ignored, instead Duncan reached and opened the door right after a smiling Sadness moved beside him.

 

“Good afternoon Kevashka, I am Grey.  I am looking forward to spending my time with you.”  The lanky man on the other side of the door said.

 

She couldn’t believe her eyes.  He was here.  The empty inside her vanished at his sight.  He was really here.  They had arranged for her mate to be brought to her.  She charged through the doorway and leapt into the air landing on him at the right height to wrap her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.  Expecting her reaction Grey had adjusted his feet to prevent falling.  She kissed his face again and again, his neck as well.  She stopped her lip assault long enough to hug him tight again then gave him a proper kiss. 

 

“Thank you, thank you, both of...”  She started after lowering herself to the floor and turning to the door.  It was closed, they were alone.  This was Duncan’s idea.’  Kevashka thought to herself.  And Sadness would’ve been all too eager to help.’  She turned back to Grey.  His face told of his longing for her, the void in him now filled. 

 

“Those two are true romantics.”  She said smugly, then went to be in the arms she had suffered so much separation from.

 

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Ruth

 

Another day.  She hated the college scene.  Everyone was fake and plastic.  Until high school she had been a social outcast.  The only kids that would associate with her in the least were the freaks of the school.  Girls that dressed in torn clothes, usually black with some sort of over abundance of metal objects attached to them.  Emo/goth drab dress. 

 

Some had actually put some thought into their ensemble, others failed either in the attempt or the effort leaving themselves looking like emo gothic slimer hooker slut whores.  At one school she had been dragged to, the local witch clique befriended her.  She really didn’t like any of them, they were, however, the only classmates that would talk with her in every school.  The freaks, outcasts and weirdoes. 

 

After seven or eight bounces for her she decided to cut to the chase and started adopting a wardrobe that identified her with this group for the simple reasoning that:

1) If she looked like one of the freak-a-zoids, they would initiate contact.

2) They would be the only ones that she had a chance of becoming ‘social’ with.

3)  Identifying herself as one of ‘them’ cut down on the acceptance time.

4)  The freaks would bring her into their own little network of friends.

 

This helped her blend into the school faster, and as the ‘new girl’ the freaks always wanted to be nice to the ‘new girl’.  This power as she thought of it as lasted a short time.  She found that since she dressed the part now, this time grew and the quickness of the offer of favors and help increased. 

 

In elementary school she had gotten used to having food thrown at her.  Names and slurs said under cover or blatantly shouted at her.  In the years between elementary school and high school she adapted to hanging with the freaks.  She was able to manipulate them into a viable force. 

 

The first time she employed this logic, one of the school sports heroes decided it would boost his macho factor among his awestruck groupies to assert himself physically against one of the freaks in her clique.  She didn’t know how old the boy was, but he was a thin, pale skinned computer geek that gamed online and played old school Dungeons and Dragons with his friends.  Ruth had rolled some dice with him. 

 

They had a get together the night before, she’d been working them individually and wanted to rally them as a group.  They knew what to do, all had agreed to her plan, some reluctantly, and she was assuming they would also be reluctant to participate.  But once they succeeded, that would change. 

 

The jock was kicking the boy in the stomach for the second time after walking up and knocking him to the ground.  Just as the jock was bringing his foot forward towards the geeks groin, Ruth kicked the jock in the shin hard, both deflecting his aim and inflicting extreme pain and an immediate change of attention from the meathead. 

 

“Don’t pick on my people.”  Ruth said to this mindless jock.  He was cute.  She held up her hand and whistled with two fingers in her full lips.

 

Kids, mostly in dark colors, some had splashes of color in a punk fashion, started closing in from around the crowd of observers.  Maybe ten in all. 

 

“Your ass is toast freak-show.”  The jock said then grabbed her high on her chest grasping her vest and shirt.  His other hand formed a fist and was pulling back.

 

The darkly dressed students closed in and formed a circle that then closed in on the jock as his fist connected with her face.  She heard and felt her jaw give and break.  Two of her ‘friends’ grabbed his arm.  Another jumped on him from the back and wrapped an arm around his neck.  He was pulled back and the boy on the ground stood up slowly. 

 

Some of the first to start the rebuttal attack were punching the jock wherever they could get a shot in.  The boy the jock attacked kicked him in the gonads from a running start.  The jock dropped to his knees.  Some of the jocks friends moved in to help, striking the freaks from behind, that’s when more freaks from the growing crowd of observers joined the fight.  The jocks were well outnumbered. 

 

In the end six people were taken to the hospital, five jocks and her.  After that, no one at that school messed with the freaks.  She had utilized this strategy since at every new school she was bounced to when her family moved, until high school.  Theirs was a wealthy family, however, her fathers work required constant movement to earn the large salary he did.  His family paying that price with him.

 

The summer before she entered high school she had asked her father to send her to Paris.  He had refused at first.  “Don’t you at least want to hear why I want to summer in Paris?”  Ruth had asked her father after his blunt ‘no’.

 

He paused and looked at her for a second, she knew he was remembering what he always said to her.  “Alright, go for it.”

 

“I don’t know if you know this, but in schools, I am the outcast freak in school.  Those are the only kids that will talk to me.  Do you want a gothic freakish outcast daughter?”  She moved in closer to her father and looked up at him and unleashed her puppy-dog eyes on him.

 

 “I want to learn how to dress and act like a lady of fashion and class.  I want to be able to run with the popular kids.  Think about it daddy.”  She reached down and took one of his hands in both of hers.  “Being a part of the in crowd will give me better references from teachers for colleges.  I will have a better chance at getting into an Ivy league college with parents of my friends, alumni, putting in a letter for me.” 

 

Ruth smiled to herself.  She loved the feeling of victory.  She knew just how to play to her father to get her way.  College.  He was big on her getting into a good college and had been a part of the popular clique in Yale himself. 

 

He nodded his head as he thought about it.  “Have your mother and her sister arrange everything you need.  Claudia is very well traveled, listen to her and you will be running things when you return to school this fall.”  When he finished he looked her over for a minute. Turning away from her and walking behind his desk, he sat down looking to the papers that lay on it.  Her time was up.

 

Her father was right.  Claudia had been a big help in arranging her trip and offered to come with to France and show her around.  She had refused her offer, only to be greeted by her with a limousine at the airport when she landed. 

 

“I’m the type of person you don’t refuse.  Now that that is settled, get in.”  Were the words of greeting Claudia used when her ‘men’ interceded on her behalf and escorted her to the awaiting limo.

 

“You’ll do what you’re told, when you’re told and how you’re told.  For the next month you are under my complete control.  Work hard at what I teach you during that month and you will spend the rest of your summer perfecting your skills under my watchful eyes, understood?”  Claudia informed her as they traveled without looking at her.

 

Ruth looked blankly at her aunt.  She had wanted this change to be fun, something she did on her own.  Her plans included taking in some of the sights, sampling the food, getting laid.  With her aunt lording over her, all the fun parts were now amputated from her itinerary. 

 

Claudia turned out to be amazing.  When she walked onto her first new campus when she returned, she was a high society high school girl.  Her waist length hair now a bright honey blonde instead of its natural dirty color dyed black like her former friends. 

 

Designer dresses and shoes, color coordinated underwear of the finest sex appeal kind.  Perfect makeup using the current popular brands and application styles.  She finally began wearing the contacts her parents kept in prescription for her.  Hanging with the freaks the glasses helped her blend.  Now as a new shining star in the popular clique, the glasses had to go.

 

The new look came with a new upgraded vocabulary, voice and manner of speaking.  Walking was another thing Claudia changed.  When she walked across a room, she drew stares.  Thus began her rise in popularity. 

 

By her junior year she was running things.  Number one girl in the popular clique and dating the captain of the football team.

 

Entry into college had been a breeze.  She actually worked hard through her first four years.  Now she was nearing the end of her masters degree, six months to go.  Frequenting parties then clubs became a common occurrence for her where she would often end up as the life of the party.  But like the freaks that had befriended her, she hated the popular people too.  ‘Even more now’ she thought. 

 

She enjoyed, reveled, in power over others.  Mastering her social skills within the popular clique had put her in a position that none of her peers questioned her and they all followed her lead.  Sometimes though, she needed space from her lackeys. 

 

In such times she would visit a private club that her popular friends would never enter.  She had rented a small apartment in a nearby middleclass suburb.  The sole purpose for the apartment was a place for her to change clothes in when she was on her way out to clubs her friends wouldn’t be in, and a place to bring guys to when these clubs closed. 

 

Her secret club life consisted of private sex related clubs, typically bondage clubs.  Depending on the partner she chose, she would either be getting tied up, or tying her date for the night up.

 

She made a ‘club friend’ with a young girl that she at first found grating but after giving her a chance, Ruth found herself liking the girl. 

 

The supply of man meat available on one particular night was slim pickings.  The hottest guys with noticeable groin gear were there with their overstuffed girlfriends.  The single friends of these college boys weren’t exactly the first line up.  Second string was even pushing it.  The best looking single guy was the bartender, and she had had him several times already.  Not bad in the sack, a bit sappy though.  She was sitting a table back from the frantic dance floor when her club friend Mindy walked in.

 

“Ruthless, you are looking tasty tonight.  Is that new?  Where did you get it, was it on sale and to they have it in my size?”  She said to her after she weaved her way through the ant farm of couples and waitresses.  “You’ve got some zip-bang going on tonight!

 

Mindy waved her hand over the image of Ruth as she viewed her.  Her hips waggled around at certain points as to add some emphasis to her words.  Mindy was a wiggler at parties and social happenings.  She wiggled when she giggled, which she would do often while she talked. 

 

Her version of dancing was that she would go onto the floor, raise her arms above her head then wiggle her ass and shimmy her shoulders to make her boobs shake.  At times she would mix in bouncing which sent her fluffy hair out around her head.  She came off as perky happy, but inside was actually very dark person.  It was this revelation of her club friend that made her personality tolerable. 

 

Mindy sat down and waved at a waitress.  The girl took her drink order, checked her ID then darted off to another table.  She started looking around the club. 

 

“Looks like couples night here.”  Mindy announced.

 

“Gathered that all by yourself did you?”  Ruth slid back at her.

 

Mindy returned a satirical smile. 

 

Both women looked around at the floor shows that were being performed.  This was a fetish club.  Three of the four small stages had couples performing on them.  Even the shows seemed to be lacking due to the amount of couples.  This seemed to happen about once a month.

 

“Wanna head someplace different?”  Mindy asked.  She placed an elbow on the table and rested her chin on her palm with a disinterested and bored look.

 

Ruth was looking at one of the stage shows.  It involved choking.  After a moment she turned to Mindy.  “Where else is there, Purgatory isn’t open tonight, everyplace else is mostly dead, unless you want to go to a ‘normal’ club.  Ruth answered. 

 

Mindy exhaled hard and shook her head.  “I want to do something different tonight, you know, something I haven’t done before.”  She threw her arms over her head and made a loud woo-hoo sound then returned to her bored state.

 

Ruth’s face formed a half cocked smile.  “Ever have sex with a girl?”  She asked.

 

Mindy chortled and raised her eyebrows.  “No… you?”

 

Ruth’s composure broke and she started to giggle but was able to contain it.  “Nope, never.  My place or yours?”  She brusquely asked as her face flushed.

 

She didn’t take Mindy to her rented sex lair.  Morning found her laying in Ruth’s bed in the house she used that was owned by her family.  It was hers as long as she was in college.  She had never brought a lover here. 

 

She started spending time with Mindy outside of the clubs.  Ruth showed her the rented lair she had for her encounters.  Mindy had asked if she brought all her lovers here instead of her home.

 

“No.  I never brought you here.  All the others, yes.”

 

They started working together, each bringing a man to the lair.  Convincing their intoxicated dates to perform together in the living room.  They liked watching each other with their men. 

 

Ruth started spending more and more time with Mindy, leaving her hold over her social clique up for coup.  She was aware of moves being made by certain girls, there would be a fight soon between her sisters over who gets to be queen bee. 

 

She would let them fight, then step in when they had beaten each other up and crush them.  Figuratively of course.  Maybe.  She had started caring less and less about maintaining her status within the clique.  She was gone in a couple months.  Screw ‘em.

 

One night Mindy called Ruth with a tantalizing offer. “I’m inviting you to a very exclusive club.  I think it’s time I introduced you to some of my best friends and their club.”  Mindy said over the phone.

 

“What kind of exclusive club is this?”  Ruth inquired.

 

Mindy laughed on the other end of the call.  “It’s a surprise, trust me, you will love it.”

 

Ruth was looking for something different.  The same clubs again and again was becoming dull.  They were almost predictable.  Even the sex had become boring for her, she had always wanted something new and fresh her entire life.  ‘Never satisfied’ her father often said of her.  He was right.  Adrenalin junky.  That was what many of her preppy friends called her. 

 

She just wanted action, adventure, excitement.  Once you had experienced something, it was time to move on and find something new.  “Sure, why not.  What time?”

 

“Let’s say nine this evening, usual place, I’ll drive this time.”  Mindy answered her.

 

“Can we make it earlier, seven perhaps?  That way I can catch a bus there and take a taxi home.  I don’t like to drive the freeways at night.”  Ruth requested.  She didn’t care much for driving on them during daylight hours either.  

 

“I’m sorry, no.  I am busy during daylight hours now.  Start early and work late you know.”  Mindy gave a labored laugh.  “Oh, the club is having an after party, and you, as my guest, are invited to this very private and exclusive after party.”

 

‘After party?’  Ruth thought.  ‘This might just be worth checking out.  I hope the rumors about some of these are true.’  A perverted smile came to her lips.  “What happens at this after party?  And don’t tell me it’s a surprise again.”  Ruth said with moderate force.

 

Mindy tittered.  “Sorry sister, top secret, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.  You’re still in, right?  You’re not going to grow feathers and start to cluck on me are you?”  She taunted.

 

Ruth groaned at the attempt to chide her into agreeing to this adventure.  “Fine, I think I can trust you.”  She answered.

 

“Great, why don’t I just pick you up at your place, say around nine thirty?  The place doesn’t really get moving till ten anyways.  Then you won’t have to worry about busses or taxies.”  Mindy chirped.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Ruth was finishing with her makeup.  The finishing touch, hand brushed lips.  Mindy had told her to wear some moxie tonight, the boys would be hot!  She was looking forward to the boys part of the evening.  Playing with Mindy was fun, there was just something about a man that satisfies.  She had been wrapped up in studying and preparing for finals.  It had been a while now, a night out was just what she needed to release the coiled springs of tension in her.

 

A car horn sounded.

 

Ruth put her lip brush away then gave her hair a final look.

 

The doorbell rang.

 

Check the necklace, earrings, adjust the cleavage.  Perfect.

 

“Come out come out let’s get this party started!”  Chimed from Mindy as she came towards the bathroom Ruth was in.

 

She grabbed her handbag and met up with her chaperone for the night.  They exchanged near kisses on each cheek.  Mindy chattered for a few moments on her approval of the little black dress she wore.  The skirt was extra short and the front opened at the waist and revealed a teardrop shaped opening over her stomach making her jeweled navel prominent in the visual effect of the outfit. 

 

“Wow, you sure have the puppies packed into that thing!”  Mindy teased.  “I bet if you sneezed, you’d come popping out of that!”

 

Ruth gave a mischievous grin.  “I hope to be popping out of it many times tonight.”

 

Mindy slapped her on the arm in jest and tittered more.  “You are just so bad girl, you are just nasty. Several times.  Somebody’s been repressing to much energy.” 

 

“Impending finals will do that to you.”  She responded then started past Mindy towards the door.

 

It wasn’t a long drive to the club, it was in her part of town.  Only the upper crust would be venturing into the clubs here.  The smell of money was in the air. 

 

Inside the doors the club was packed.  The man working the door nodded at Mindy and dropped the velvet rope that crossed the entrance to the club.  Ruth walked with her, the man never gave her a look,  Mindy apparently was invited with guest privileges, no questions asked.  They crossed the busy floor.  Mindy grabbed two beers from a waitresses’ tray as she passed without her noticing and handed one to Ruth as they continued to make their way through the maze of people. 

 

Mindy led her back to a recessed corner where a man stood at a stairway down.  When they approached Ruth noticed at the bottom of the stairs another man guarded a door.  Mindy walked right to the man at the stairs and greeted him by name.  He nodded to her. 

 

“This is my friend.”  She said and pointed to Ruth.  The man nodded to her as they walked past and down the stairs.  At the bottom the man opened the door for them.

 

Inside was an interesting sight.  At first glance the mind would say you were at a perverted costume party.  But after you had been there for a good five minutes or so you realized you were at an extremely perverted costume party that encouraged guest participation.  People were expressing their innermost perversions in an extremely flamboyant outward manner. 

 

Ruth smiled.  It looked like she was in for a wild time tonight.  Hopefully she would be sore for a day or so after, that was the mark of a really good party.  Like that one time in the Ozark’s...  One person that caught the eye was dressed in some form of costume that involved a large blue phallus at the top of the headpiece he wore.  It bobbed and bounced as this man moved around the dance floor and to tables to greet the people at them.

 

“We’ll want to stop by the costume room.  They are pretty strict on the ‘must be in costume’ rule.”  Mindy informed her grinning friend. 

 

“Costumes... ok.  Never actually been to a required costume party, but ok.” 

 

Mindy led her around the outside of the dance floor where the traffic was the lightest.  She waved back and talked to people who greeted her as she walked by.  She seemed to be popular at the elite club.  They stopped for one person who walked to her after he caught her attention.  ‘Is this yours Mindy?’  The person said coming to her friend then giving Ruth a once over evaluating look. 

 

Mindy said she was and introduced her to the man.  Ralph or Fred.  Maybe Ken.  She had no idea what his name was two seconds after he said it.  He was partially balding and looked boring to her.  He didn’t fit into the scene.

 

Mindy finally moved them to the far end of the dance floor, opposite end of the same wall the bathrooms were on.  There was a Dutch door in the wall.  A woman in a fetish costume manned the wide flat top of the bottom half of the door. 

 

The woman brought them into the costume room, which was sizable, and recited the names of the costumes as she pointed to them and occasionally sliding one out to better show it off.  Mindy went with an evil sex kitten costume while Ruth opted for the slutty vampire one.  This had the feel of a great night. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

The party was a success.  Ruth had been very busy the last four hours.  She averaged five to seven men an hour, depending whether or not she stopped to play with a girl before her next man.  The club upstairs was beginning to close, she could hear the bartender calling last call.  But there was no sign of any intention of the party where she was slowing down. 

 

She looked back at the exit.  She was about three feet from it, a large bald man with a goatee stood near the handle side of the door.  His arms were crossed and he looked pissed all the time.  She considered that he was there to put an end to any altercations. 

 

Ruth looked back towards the dance floor when the man moved his eyes to her.  She didn’t like his eyes.  There weren’t words she knew to describe them accurately, but they made her cold.  ‘What if...’  Ruth held her breath a moment. ‘Can I leave if I want too?’  She questioned to herself.  Turning back to the door she walked to the man by it.

 

“What time does the after party end?”  She asked him.

 

His eyes remained on the crowd.  “Six a.m.”

 

Ruth bobbed her head awkwardly.  “Cool.”  She said then reached for the handle of the door.  “I just need to run to my car for a second.”  The door was locked.  The man looked at her and leaned slightly towards her.

 

“Can’t leave.”  He said.  His breath was sour smelling. 

 

Ruth felt a chill run through her.  What had Mindy gotten them into? “Can’t leave, why not?”  She asked the man.

 

“Locked party, was on the flyer, didn’t you read it?”  He replied still with his eyes locked on her.  He was making her skin crawl.

 

“No, no, I never saw a flyer... my friend, she brought me.  Mindy?  You know her?”

 

The man sighed, his exhale said he was annoyed by her.  “Yeah, I know Mindy.  It’s a locked party.  End of story.”

 

She turned away from the door guard and walked several steps away and resumed watching the crowd.  Locked party.  She didn’t like being someplace she couldn’t leave.  A man came up and grabbed her hand, dragging her to the dance floor.  Time for another go around. 

 

He brought her to a group of his friends who formed a ring around her as she danced first with him, then as the circle formed, with the people forming it.  They ‘danced’ for a good twenty minutes before she left the floor needing a break.  That was when Mindy found her as she was making her way to the bathroom.

 

“Hey!”  Mindy said when she bounced up to Ruth.

 

“Hi, where you been?”  Ruth asked.

 

Mindy laughed, then looked like she was about to speak and instead burst into giggling.  She waved her hand aimlessly towards the dance floor.  “Oh, you know, run into someone here, say hi for a bit, run into someone there, say hi for a bit.  Here there everywhere!”  Mindy laughed again, clearly having had plenty of adult beverages and other party favors in her system.  “How ‘bout you?  Been having loads of fun?”  She asked as slutty as she could sound.

 

“Yeah, it’s been a good night.  Some of the guys are real good.”  Ruth said smiling sinisterly. 

 

“Great!”  Mindy chimed.  She moved next to Ruth and put her arm around her shoulder, whispering in her ear.  “Listen, there is a separate invitation only gathering in a private room below us.  You are my invited guest for this special private party, very exclusive.” 

 

Ruth thought fast for a moment.  Her lips hardened.  “What kind of ‘special party’ is this?  I don’t think so.  You know we can’t get out of here?”

 

“Yeah, locked party, didn’t I tell you?  My bad, anyways.  It’s like this.  I belong to this secret society.  I was recruited… just over a month ago now.  And, as a new member I need to recruit someone.  I’ve chosen you!”  Mindy bounced again all excited, hoping Ruth would catch some of the fever from her.

 

Ruth backed away from Mindy, a disbelieving suspecting look on her face.  “Secret society?”  She shook her head.  “No.  I don’t think so.  Not for me, thanks though.”  She turned to walk away.  Mindy grabbed her shoulder and turned her back.

 

“Ruth, this isn’t something you want to miss, trust me.  You’re in to far now.  You can’t say no, its too late.  I’ve already told them you’re my first.”  Mindy’s eyes were completely black.  Ruth shivered.  There was a cold lump just above her stomach.  It hurt when she breathed.  Why was it too late for her now?

 

She shook her head and scoffed.  “Mindy, what are you talking about?  I’m not involved in anything.  Enough, I want to leave, tell your friends I want out or I’m calling the police.”  Ruth reached under the PVC costume she wore and pulled out her phone from where she had concealed it in the skin-tight outfit. 

 

She held it in her right hand and started to turn, intending on heading for the door when Mindy’s open palm slammed into her chest knocking the wind out of her, but leaving her standing.  No air… can’t move.  Her chest convulsed.  Mindy reached to the hand she held her phone in and slipped it from her hand.  Can’t breathe.  A tiny gasp.  AIR! 

 

Her hands struggled to reach for her phone, now in her assailants hand.  Convulsion.  Mindy moved to her side and put a hand around her waist and started walking her towards the back of the room in the direction the costume room was. 

 

Ruth gasped, a full breath.  The effects of the impact to her chest were starting to relinquish their grasp of her.  A man approached them.  He held something out to Mindy, her hand moved. Ruth couldn’t see what she did.  By the time Mindy turned back, Ruth's breath had fully returned. 

 

Mindy stuck her index finger into Ruth’s mouth and tucked the tip in between her lips and gums and rubbed it back and forth.  The finger felt cold and wet, there was something on her finger.  The taste of it was sour and musty.  It tingled at first then she was lost in a mind trip that she was suddenly thrust into.  Vibrant colors, sounds.  Did Mindy slip her acid?

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Ruth was barely aware of walking the rest of the way to the costume room.  She started laughing, she couldn’t help herself.  Everything was funny.  “See, now you’re really having a good time, and it’s only going to get better, I promise.”  Mindy said then kissed her on the cheek. 

 

Ruth chortled, “Now you funny too” she said as she was shuffled along.  In a back corner of the costume room some boxes had been moved aside so a small door could be accessed.  They ducked with Mindy helping push Ruth’s head down, she was giggling too hard finding the door extremely amusing for some reason. 

 

The room was warm, Ruth tried to focus on where she was.  The lighting was odd, dark.  She looked around while still laughing.  Fire.  That was why the lights looked weird, the room was lit with fire.  There were circular stands with flaming coals burning in them and torches along the walls as well as candles in freestanding holders. 

 

There were chairs in a circle in the middle of the room, behind them were tables and some couches.  Along the far wall was what she thought was a bar.  Good, she needed a drink.  Ruth started to walk towards the bar.  The room went black as she fell.

 

Blurry.  She held her eyes open even though they burned, slowly they started clearing.  She could hear people talking.  A finger was stuck into her mouth again, something cold and sticky rubbed against her gums.  This time it was a mans finger, not Mindy’s. 

 

Her mouth went cold, the effect was instant.  Her head was clear.  Mindy was sitting on a small stool in front of her.  There were others in the chairs next to her and all the way around the small circle.  Each had a person sitting across from them on the inside of the circle.

 

“Ruth, if I told you vampires were real, that I could prove it to you and that I was asking you to become one, to be my first turning, would you be interested?  It’s great, really.  Look at me, don’t I look frelling awesome!”  Mindy waved her hands at her body.  “Immortality, we look this good forever!”

 

Ruth rolled her eyes.  “Yeah, nice, not interested.  Get me out of here and stop drugging me.  I want my phone back.  I’m done with this freak show.”  She tried to stand and found she couldn’t.  Her body wouldn’t respond, not even a finger twitch. 

 

Mindy smiled.  She looked evil, savage.  “Fine, prove it.  If you can prove to me you are a real live blood sucking vampire, I’ll join up happily.  If I’m not convinced, you let me go.  Deal?”  She offered.

 

Mindy lurched forward hissing.  Fangs grew from her open mouth and saliva dripped from her lips.  Her eyes became black again, and her skin started to gray then darkened more until it was black.  Her face contorted and her shoulders pushed out. 

 

No, something was growing from her shoulders at her back.  Wings!  Large black bat like wings.  They fanned out.  The creature hissed and screeched at her, inches from her face.  Ruth’s head spun, she felt as though she would faint.  The wings pulled in as it backed from her, then Mindy was looking at her again.

 

She stared at her in complete shock.  Ruth could feel the wetness in her seat.  “Convinced?”  Mindy asked.  She could only nod her head in response, she was too stunned to speak still.

 

“That leaves only one question then, a deals a deal, right?  And you are going to stick to your deal, right?”  Mindy growled.

 

There were screams from several of the others near her, the people across from them had their heads near the persons neck they sat across from and appeared to be biting them.  Ruth was still fighting belief.  Her position was clear to her.  Either she accepted, or she would meet her end tonight.  It was too late.  Her head started nodding.

 

“Good human.  Now for the question, do you wish to trade your soul in exchange for the gift of immortality I am offering to you Ruth?”  Mindy asked with a devilish smile.

 

This was it.  She didn’t want this, didn’t want what vampires were.  She didn’t want to be a killer.  She was all about the fun, sex fun.  There wasn’t anything wrong with wanting fun and fun sex.  She shouldn’t have to die because she likes to party on the dark side.  An alternate life to her dayside self.  It wasn’t supposed to become her entire life.  But now it was the only chance at a life she had.  Mindy had betrayed her.  Murdered her.

 

“Yes.”

 

“I need you to say it like this, repeat after me: I offer up my soul for the gift of immortality in service to he who is Darkness.”  Mindy instructed leaning in close, her breaths short and fast.

 

Ruth was already cold and dead inside.  “I offer up my soul for the gift of immortality in service to he who is Darkness.”  She recited, her voice empty.

 

Mindy reached to her face and gently turned her head.  Ruth looked to the side, she could see Mindy open her mouth wide, fangs aimed at her neck.  She closed her eyes before Mindy moved in to bite her on her jugular. 

 

Pain.  Intense pain.  She was being ripped from her body.  Pain.  Every tendon, muscle, even her hair follicles burned.  Then she was empty, in complete darkness.  She saw a man.  He was cloaked in fog.  Smoke, it was smoke not fog.  He was tall.  He knew everything about her instantly.  He looked to her.  She could tell his interest was something special.

 

Ruth cried out as she sat up in the chair, soaked in sweat.  Her body was cold.  There had been six people seated at the inward facing circle, the invited guests.  One was now slumped in a chair, his throat ripped out. 

 

A young girl sat on the floor in front of him licking blood from the fingers she used to clean blood that was running down her face.  He had apparently refused the girl who had interest in him.  Immediate death was apparently a better choice in his mind.  Not in Ruth’s.

 

The room hushed, a tall man came from behind a curtain that clearly hid a door or room.  He had been watching from secrecy.  Ruth recognized him, he was the man from her vision when she died.  That was the pain, the pain of dying.  She was dead now, living dead.

 

“Alexander!”  Several vampires said. 

 

“Master!”  The man who was running the private party said as he approached this person of importance fast, kneeling before him.

 

“Stand, there is one here that was turned that I have interest in.  It is a female.  Her!”  This Alexander said then pointed to Ruth.  “She is mine now, bring her and her... sponsor, to me in private at once!”  He said firmly. 

 

His voice was deep, it made Ruth think of coffee.  His eyes caught hers at one fraction of time, she felt weak.  His features spoke of authority, his movements elegant with confidence.  A feeling came over Ruth that she hadn’t had in years.  She could remember the day, she was thirteen. 

 

The head cheerleader had ill chosen to pick a fight with her.  The fight ended after she had stuffed the cheerleaders pompoms in her jeans.  One down the front, one down the back.  She needed a lot of makeup for her squad pictures the next day.

 

There was a boy she liked, after the fight she felt, excited like she had never felt before.  She wanted to find this boy.  When she found him, she kissed him.  At first he had smiled.  They went someplace private at her urging.  She tried to get him to do things she had seen her mother doing.  He refused to take his clothes off.  She couldn’t explain her feelings, she tingled, there.  She wouldn’t take no for an answer.  She hit him.  He went down.  Ruth pounced, ripped his clothes from him.  That’s how she felt now looking at this Alexander before her.  She burned for him.  Just like she had for that boy.

 

She and Mindy were quickly taken behind the curtain Alexander had come from.  It was just past four in the morning she noticed as she stumbled along with the  servants escorting them.  There were an unusual amount of clocks in this room.

 

They were led to a small chamber with a large ornate and jeweled chair central and to the back of the room.  Ruth thought of an audience chamber as she looked around.  Alexander sat on the throne as she and Mindy were positioned before him.

 

“Kneel”  A man said from behind them.  The two women knelt at once.

 

The room seemed to become brighter.  She became aware of a noise, a car with a large sub-woofer came to mind.  Though it reminded her of a car going by with loud bass and all the beats, that didn’t quite describe it.  Her limbs ached.  Her mouth was dry, her eyes as well.  She felt like she itched inside, all the way to her bones.  The sound was coming from the direction they had left the after party from.  It was rhythmic and random simultaneously.  She felt hungry. 

 

She turned her head towards Mindy.  Hate.  It burned in Ruth now, hotter than she had ever felt it.  Hate.  From her belly up it flamed igniting her mind with thoughts of loathing revenge on Mindy.

 

She was fifteen.  It was a Wednesday, just after four in the afternoon.  Ruth was walking home from school as usual.  She’d have her driver’s permit in a week, then she would drive her friends home.  Her current house was built partially into a hill that overlooked the city trail she used for most of her trek home. 

 

She was in high school, recently back from Paris, her new popular friends had broken off one by one and were now at their homes, her house was the last.  She had created her own path up the steep side of the hill to the steps that led to the deck of the lower part of the three story house.  The trail went on cutting through dense woods about a quarter mile to the road.  Something hit her, everything went white.

 

Someone was there, she was being rolled over, then she felt hands on her breasts.  She tried to open her eyes.  Her head throbbed, the back of her neck burned.  When the fondling stopped, the hands grabbed her blouse, they jerked in opposite directions. 

 

She was starting to make out colors and blurry images.  That sound.  High pitched, it almost sounded tuned.  She knew that sound.  A finger lifted the front of her bra, she swung her arm trying to make a fist.  She hit something, then something hit her square up in the chin. 

 

Next she remembered her panties being removed, her breasts were already exposed.  Then her knees were pushed to her shoulders.  She was very sexually active and was able to endure the putrid violation by disassociating and disconnecting.  She felt him finish.  He was small and it didn’t take long.  Ruth could see clearly now.  The man stood and looked down at her.  He started laughing when his eyes met hers.  Hate.  She looked away from him.  He was dirty, slimy. 

 

The thing about a man who preys on little girls, any of them, they are stupid.  Sure, they are good at keeping control over you when they start.  The man pulled out on the elastic of his dingy dirty white jockey shorts putting his midget away then as turned from her, laughing and looking at her as though she were dirt. 

 

As he pulled his pants up the rest of the way and started pulling up his zipper, his back fully towards her now.  Knife.  That was the sound, he had used it to cut her bra.  It was in a sheath hanging from the back of his pants.  Hunting knife.  They are stupid because they actually expect that a freshly raped girl is going to just lay there and wait for you to dress while your semen runs down the crack of her ass.  

 

Ruth moved quickly and quietly.  The overweight man was grunting as he struggled with his belt.  He hadn’t fastened the snap on the strap that held the knife in place.  She delicately placed her hand on the handle, crouching at the knees. 

 

She leapt as high as she could in the air, bringing the knife with her aloft, high above her head.  Her hips were about level with the top of the mans head, she gripped the handle of the large hunting knife in both hands, her elbows bent, as she began bringing the knife point down towards the mans head in momentum with her body succumbing to the effects of gravity. 

 

The man spun around.  Seeing legs bent in front of his face he snapped his head up, too late to react outside of an ‘oh shit’ face as Ruth plunged the stainless steel blade into the flat of his forehead.  All of her force and bodyweight was focused on the knife, it slid into the mans skull without resistance. 

 

When the flat metal blade stop connected with bone, his skull, it shattered and the hilt started into the mans brains.  The blade’s forward plunge stopped only when her hands and wrists impacted the head, knocking it free of the knife.  The body piled to the ground.  She kept the knife.

 

Mindy would pay her penance for murdering her.

 

Alexander was laughing.  Ruth’s attention moved from her hate burning for Mindy.  Seeing he had her attention, Alexander’s smug laugh stopped.  He stood from his throne and walked towards them, coming to Ruth.  He reached for her hand, she put it in his.  He cupped her fingers in his and brought her hand to his lips, gently kissing the back.  “Good evening, I am Alexander.” 

 

Ruth scoffed.  “How cliché.”  She said unimpressed and looked away from him letting her hand fall to her side.

 

Alexander’s slow satin laugh started again.  “Better than being food, wasn’t that your reasoning for joining us?” 

 

He turned and walked towards his throne.  Heartbeats!  That’s what that thumping sound was, the humans at the after party in the other room.  She could hear their heartbeats.  She could smell their blood.  She was thirsty-hungry now.  The thought of feeding on humans excited her.  She tingled.  Alexander sat.  He laughed again, his laugh sounded knowing.

 

“So those people, the ones at the after party, they are actually here for a dinner party?”  Ruth asked, her mouth curled to a malefic smile. 

 

Alexander’s face had an assuring, smug, and conniving smirk of confidence.  His fingers were curled to his palm tucked under his chin, his elbow resting on the arm of his throne as he stared down upon them.

 

His eyes went to Mindy.  “How long have you been my servant?”

 

“Seven...”  Her eyes rolled off and her lips moved as she counted.  “Seven weeks, four days.”  Mindy deduced.

 

Alexander blinked slowly, the corners of his lips twitched slightly.  His eyes chained upon her.  His head raised and he adjusted his frame in the seat.  “Excellent selection... Mindy... for your first.”  Alexander’s voice silently churned with undertones, laden with unnoticeable traps.  “Exceptional.”  Alexander stood.

 

He clapped his hands and addressed the two women.  “Please, rise.” He shouted out a command, “Seats for our guests!”  He clapped his hands again. 

 

The light in this chamber was of the same manner as in the next room.  It wasn’t any brighter Ruth realized; she could see better in the light.  She was noticing other changes too.  She felt that somehow, Alexander knew what was going on at her core.

 

Four men trotted forth, each carrying furniture.  Two had chairs, one for each of them, while the remaining two each toted an ottoman to accompany the chairs.  The chairs were placed and the women were moved to the chairs by the men who had brought the furnishings. 

 

Ruth sat, put her feet on the ottoman crossed her arms and looked at Alexander.

 

“Do I have to tip them?”  She spurt.

 

Alexander ignored her, Mindy tittered.

 

He reached to a chest pocket of his pristine suit.  A long slender dark object came from hiding.  He slipped his other hand to a pocket near his waist on the vest and pulled an odd looking, scissors?  He put one end of the dark object in the device and a snip sound was heard.  Ruth then realized it was a cigar and cutter. 

 

Something weird was going on with her eyes.  Images trailed when she turned her head.  Objects seemed to have a color around them that was not normal.  Was this a side effect of the drug she had been slipped?  The antidote maybe? 

 

One of the men went to Alexander and produced fire for him to ignite his ‘smoke’.  She hated smoking, cigars the most.  He didn’t seem to care.  She liked that.

 

Lowering his cigar after dragging on it several times and producing a plume of gray around him he returned to Mindy. 

 

“You have done well slave.”  He paused to smile for a second.  “So well in fact, I must ask you for this recruit for my personal service.”

 

Mindy’s nose rattled from her excited respirations.  “Thank you!  Thank you master Alexander!”  She bounced in her chair and rigidly waved her bent arms with fists in front of her. 

 

Ruth already felt nauseous, this perky bitch was about to make her blow.  She wondered how far she could aim vomit.  Maybe if she tried to help it along and pushed, she should be able to reach Mindy with a good stream of hurl.

 

“Then you are willing to let me have her, take her from you, bring her completely under my control?”  He asked with a cool sultry voice.

 

Mindy giggled like she was about to hyperventilate.  “Yes!  Yes master, by all means sire yes, please, if you desire her, she is yours!  Completely!”

 

The smile that grew on Alexander’s face was hideous.

 

Ruth had a feeling of premonition, a fortuitous event in her favor seemed to be on the horizon.  She could feel the quirky expression on her face.  She didn’t care.

 

Alexander stood and held a hand towards Ruth.  She looked at him for a moment, realizing, or understanding, he wanted her to stand.  She stood, then took a step towards her master.  Alexander came down a step from the throne and was now beside Ruth and across from Mindy. 

 

His eyes moved again to the woman who betrayed her.  “You do realize though, there is only one way I can take this splendid recruit as my own.  Or do you need it explained to you?”  Alexander’s voice was death, it should have bother her, this time though, it made her feel good. 

 

Mindy’s face froze in a gleeful smile, then belated realization oozed in.  Standing she took one step forward and stopped, her upturned palms near her breasts as she made vocalizations in an attempt to speak.  Gasping, tears started down the cheeks of her terrified face.  Ruth’s smile grew.

 

Alexander pulled up on the hilt of a sword that was tucked under the coat of his suit.  He freed it from its sheath and placed the hilt towards Ruth.  “If you will serve me, kill her.  Once she is dead, feed from me and...”

 

There was a faint sound of air.  Ruth’s arm was outstretched back just past where Mindy stood, sword in hand.  Mindy’s head toppled backwards leaving a bloody trail as it landed on the seat of the chair with a bounce and rolled to the back.

 

“I hope that fabric doesn’t stain.”  Ruth said with an emotionless expression.

 

A grin started on Alexander’s face.  Slow laughing followed which grew in intensity until he was full out belly laughing.  Letting the moment pass he tossed the cigar towards a brass pot on the floor.  “Come, time for you to serve me.”

 

The room they were in was deep in the ground.  It too was lit by braziers, she had learned what they were called.  There were four hot tubs, two were in use, Alexander led her to a far one.  It looked larger than the others.

 

“Get out!”  He yelled to the others in the room.  “And see to it no one enters this room until I leave.”

 

The room cleared.

 

They disrobed in silence and stepped into the tub, she waited for him to sit then took a place beside him an arms reach away.  Hunger burned in her.  Alexander held his arm out to her.  He touched a finger to his wrist where she should feed from.  She was starting to die, her master was gone.  She had slain her, now she needed a new master or she would perish.  She had come this far, she still wanted to live, at any cost. 

 

She opened her mouth.  Nothing.  She didn’t know how to get her fangs to come out.  The answer came to her mind, he knew what she was thinking.  Ruth lowered her head and had her first meal as a vampire and became Alexander’s personal property.

 

Alexander watched as his new servant consecrated the deal.  Her fangs sank into his flesh.  She was his now.  He would let her feed longer than normal, like he had done with Galt’s wife.  That would make her stronger, more powerful.  He had plans for her, she would fill the place that was left vacant when Galt and his humans attacked the coven his wife had ran to.  They used explosives, exposing everyone to light.  Her replacement would be even better than her, and he would use her to take Galt out!

 

He felt weak, drained.  His mind came rushing back from remembering the past, plotting his revenge.  His new servant was still on his arm.  He was nearly drained.  Grabbing the back of her head he ripped her from him.  He never intended to let her take that much.  She looked full of life and invigorated. 

 

Alexander called for his servants.  Shortly after he spoke with one, a young boy in his late teens was brought to him.  He wasted no time, grabbing the boy by the head and lunging at his neck.  The boys body twitched as his eyes flailed around, gasping gurgling noises came from his mouth.  Then everything stopped.  A half minute later Alexander released his hold and the boy's body fell to the floor.  Two servants came and removed it.

 

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When Ruth awoke her eyes opened in another room.  A single hot tub was centered in the back section of the room.  Two rows of two tables were ahead of that near what appeared to be the only door in the room.  Like the other rooms that were formal vampire property this one was also lit with braziers and torches.  There were no candles she noticed. 

 

She tried to stand but she felt drugged.  That is when she became aware of bracelets on her wrists, shackles, that’s what they were, and they connected to a chain on both of her wrists.  In her struggle to stand she realized the chain ran from wrist to wrist, not to an anchor. 

 

The surface she was against felt curved.  She turned her head first left, then right.  She could see shiny stone, marble.  Bending her head up and turning the best she could she ascertained she was chained to a pillar.  She was able to slide the chain up with her so she could fully stand.  The hot tub looked inviting. 

 

She heard a door as it closed.  Looking in the direction of the door, her eyes could see no one.  She found she was able to switch between two different forms of seeing.  She thought the new ability had something to do with seeing heat patterns.  Sounds and smells, new.  Footsteps approaching.  One set was clearly Alexander’s.  The easy steady sound could only be him Ruth rationalized.  They were at the door. 

 

The door was opened for Alexander.  Then the owner of the hand she saw open it followed behind him.  Ruth was right, it was a feminine hand.  The woman was naked.  She looked down at her own body. 

 

She was dressed in a simple white smock.  She vaguely remembered going back to the after party with the rest of the new vampires.  Joining in with the dinner party was orgasmic.  Dining on the life of humans was better than sex, the smell, the taste, the feel of their life entering you. 

 

She bit her first human and began feeding.  The tingle turned into a flood, she climaxed as she finished the last drams of life from the young man she had chosen.  He had a small dick and on top of that was a lousy lay and didn’t know how to use his tongue properly.  That had been her first reason for selecting him. 

 

As she stared down at his limp remains, the wrapper her lunch had came in, she fancied the idea of purging the species of bad lays.  Seemed as good a reason as any.  She used the same reason for her next two feedings, bad lays.  This seemed to amuse Alexander who only watched, he apparently felt no urge to feed.  Maybe he had eaten on his way here.  Who cares, three humans, was she full now?  She felt she could possibly take more, but an entire adult was too much, maybe someone had brought a child.  Veal.  That is what a child would be.  Veal.

 

It was a feeding frenzy all around her.  Humans were going down like a homecoming queen on the beach at spring break.  Ruth felt Alexander call to her.  She was to go to a secluded room with him.  She didn’t hesitate.  They met about half way there where two hallways met a third in a T.  He ushered her forward and she took the lead the rest of the walk to their meeting place which was naturally, a bedroom. 

 

“Are you ready for what I am going to do to you?”  Alexander asked her once the door was closed and he had turned to face her.

 

Ruth had laughed at this.  “Bring it on vamp man.  Let’s see what you’re packing.”  She hoped he would deliver.

 

She remembered her romp session with Alexander, the delivery wasn’t quite what she was hoping for, then she woke up chained around a column.  There was a kickback time on being turned.  Some would be unable to come to terms with what they had become and would be useless.  They would be freed of this problem. 

 

Twenty four hours, that was the timeframe her new master was looking at for her.  He intended to keep her chained here until she had reached that marker of time.  How long had it been?  How did she know this information? 

 

She had fed more from Alexander than he intended.  He was lost in thought while she fed as long as he would let her, she was fresh and near death from slaying her former owner.  That advanced her turning, increased her power, her abilities.  She was linked into the hive-mind of the vampires.  She had taken everything Alexander had.

 

Alexander only glanced at her as he crossed the room to the hot tub.  He disrobed and entered the tub.  Ruth watched him.  Ruth scoffed.  She shook her wrists to rattle the chains that bound her.  It wasn’t as loud as she had hopped.

 

“So that’s it?  Wham bam thank you ma’am, chain you to a pole?”  Her voice was annoyed.  Alexander ignored her.

 

The woman who came with him joined him in the tub after bringing a small tray with food and wine on it.  She watched as the two carried on in the warmth of the water.

 

“Can I play too?’  Ruth called out.

 

There was laughing coming from the woman.  Alexander looked at Ruth and hesitated a second before looking back to his entertainment with him in the hot tub. 

 

Ruth broke into singing any song that came to her mind as loudly as she could.  She could only remember mostly the choruses and was on the fourth song when a clenched fist connected with her face.  Reminder, never sing with your eyes closed when chained in a dungeon while trying to get the attention of some arch daemon who has just become your master. 

 

She took the blow with ease.  She tightened the muscles in her arms and wrists tightening the chain as much a she could then lifted her knees to her ears suspending herself in the air with her working parts prominently on display. 

 

“See anything you like?”  She said in a sultry voice while she laid her smoldering eyes on his member.  “Why don’t you put that meat stick to use on me?”  Ruth was being as provocative as she knew to be.  “Or better yet, undo these things and let me join you in the tub.  Kick that poor excuse for a good time out.”

 

“Keep your hole shut, and I mean the one in the middle of your face.”  Alexander growled at her, anger billowing in his eyes.

 

Ruth kept her drive going.  “I know about kickback.”  She said bluntly  “Look into my mind, I know you can.  Tell me by what you see, or have already seen, do you think there is any chance I will do that?”  She challenged.

 

Alexander turned from her and started walking back toward the tub and his entertainment. 

 

Ruth scoffed again.  “Big bad Alexander, too chicken-shit to handle a freshly turned if she goes kickback, has to keep her chained to keep himself safe.” 

 

She was looking disinterestedly around the room while she spoke but was keenly aware her master had stopped walking.  “Could be getting pounded on by a real freak who knows what she’s doing instead of some limp noodle waist pop-tart.”  Her master turned to face her from near the hot tub, Ruth’s ass still stuck straight out at him.

 

He turned from her and walked across the room to an antique looking stand with a drawer and picked something small up from it.  Ruth lowered her feet to the floor when he returned to her, Alexander used the key the item turned out to be to release her.  Grabbed by a wrist she was jerked in the direction of the tub.  Catching her feet she started in the indicated direction, being sure to exaggerate the movements of her ass as she walked..

 

“You better live up to your words, else I will rip off your head and dine on your brains.”  Alexander’s thudding voice told her.  “You, get out!”  He yelled at the woman in the tub.

 

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Ruth was sitting on Alexander in his lap.  They had slowed down as both needed a chance to recover from the exertion each had been putting out.  They actually started talking.  At one point that feeling returned, the warm one about events being in her favor.  Her master had stopped talking, she could see he was considering thoughts.

 

“There was a man by the name of Duncan Galt who had a wife who was a creature of the night by nature.  I helped fulfill the night in her, she soon became my second in command, the head of my Dragons.  It’s been nine years since she died, killed by her husband who had discovered vampires in another country.”  Alexander was distant in memories again.

 

“One night he interrupted her feeding.  She fled his assault on her and ran to a safe house.  Her husband and his mercenaries blew the safe house up, exposing all inside to the noon sun.  I have never filled her position.”  Alexander stretched and laid his arms out across the back of the tub and watched her gyrations on his lap for a minute.  She had been with him long enough now, the twenty-four hours were up.

 

“You truly are an excellent recruit.  I have given you more power by my blood than I have ever given to anyone...”  ‘I took more than you wanted to give me, you didn’t give me anything, I took it.’ Ruth mused.  “...I want you to be my second in command, work the field, see over our people.”  Ruth stopped moving.

 

Perhaps there was an upside to being murdered this way.  She realized instantly that as his second in command she would be free to rampage on the people she hated.  She would be something that people feared in the night.

 

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Blade Dance

 

Urban warfare was a different breed of fish.  Blade Dance’s artillery was useless in this aspect of the war and he was nothing of the archer his mate was.  His sword skills were adequate at best.  That left plan B: werewolf it up and get in close and personal for the fight.  There was this other option, a plan C if you will, but he had his doubts despite the raving reviews of the water pistol Duncan had Malkah build. 

 

Now that they were at clan Squat the command team was encouraging all combat and support personnel to take any time they could with the new weapon.  Behind closed doors away from their support crew and the occupants of the den, the operation commanders Duncan and Sadness emphasized the need for mastering the weapon as well as their belief in leading by example.  Thus ordering all of the command team to spend time working with the weapon and being seen. 

 

He had nothing to do until night hours when they would oversee teams in the field.  This would be their first chance to observe the effectiveness of Squat’s Squads.

 

To break some of the boredom Blade Dance went to the training area for the new weapons the clan had decided on in the under-construction addition.  The original intent was an archery range. It was easy to modify for water fights, add some drains, use ceramic tile for the floor and walls, seal coat the ceiling.  The smell of both remained in the room.  It had been in use just shy of a week now. 

 

Clan Squat trained hard at everything they did.  The entire clan was devoted to battle training.  Even their kitchen staff was borrowed.  Filled quivers were shipped in from other clans, they had no bulwark nor bishop, though the latter had now changed.  They were brimming with bishop now. 

 

He requisitioned a pistol from the weapons cache and had been working with it about forty-five minutes when he returned to the desk.  The man that had helped him before was gone, a very pretty and as much young girl stood at the desk, her large blue eyes beamed at him with a polite grin on her face.

 

“Are you Thuobfen’s youngest?”  Blade Dance asked. 

 

“Yes Marshal Blade Dance Sir!”  She ejected with bright enthusiasm.  “My name is Worm.  It’s an honor to help you Sir!”

 

He laughed, her youth and enthusiasm was refreshing to him.  “Mister, that is how you address a Marshal.  We aren’t commissioned officers.  We are… somewhere in-between soldier and officer.  How old are you Worm?”

 

The girl bounced on her toes.  “Eleven Mister.” 

 

With her blonde curls and Norse features she reminded him of a television character from a show he saw years before, The name Nellie came to mind.  He shook the thought from his mind and returned to the room.  “Do you like work like this?  Maybe work in a bulwark when you’re of age?”  She shook her head, “uhuh” she enunciated as she did.  She started nodding her head, she seemed to expect her answer to be received with expectancy.  “Computers.”

 

Blade Danced nodded expectantly at her response.  There seemed to be a lot of interest in the young of the clans to seek service in some field relating to the high-tech aspect that had become an ever present part of their world.  “Beam me up Snotty.”  He said then chuckled to himself.

 

He moved from his cordial facet to his business.  “I would like a second one of these please.”  He asked the girl and holding up the water pistol.

 

Worm looked around past him into the room.  He was the only one there.  “Someone joining you?”  She asked as she produced another water cannon from under the counter they both stood at facing each other.  He didn’t answer.  She checked the indicators on the weapon before she handed it to him.  “Water is at seventy, air at ninety.  How do you like it?”

 

Taking the pistol from her small hand which still seemed to handle the weapon with ease, he gave it a look, then looked to the one in his other hand.  “Don’t know yet.  Going to try one in each hand and see what I can do.  If that goes well then I might like it.  If not...”  Blade Dance shrugged then walked from the counter. 

 

He tested the balance of the guns in his hands.  After several minutes he was trying to do tricks with them like a wild west fighter.  When he tried his quick draw one of the guns went flying from his hand and skidded on the floor.  He heard high pitched laughter from the girl at the counter.  He gave her ‘the look’ and she quieted. 

 

After he retrieved the pistol he fired both at the same time.  He brought up the targeting display in his contacts then aimed the pistols.  Both came into his view and targeted perfectly through the system.  It handled two guns at the same time fine.  What would require some effort would be getting his hands to work in unison AND separately at the same time.

 

He was getting better with two pistols but still needed to refine his tactics.  He had tried integrating fighting moves with the urban room-broom and assault techniques and was pleased with the results.  Blade Dance worked on his new style, concentrating only on two weapon fighting.  He was unaware of how long he had been training or how long she had been watching when he noticed Mud.  Her face wore an expression of mild interest.

 

“You’re integrating Duncan’s urban warfare with our combat styles.”  Mud said on her way to him. 

 

“Yes Ma’am.”  He answered.

 

Mud nodded with a thoughtful gaze focused on Blade Dance.  “I find it interesting.  You might have more success, or better results if I were to teach you… more advanced methods of pugilism.”  A half toothy smile formed on her face.

 

Blade Dance liked the idea, if she thought his efforts on this new style of fighting were worth investing herself into, then he must be onto something.

 

A pugilist Mud was.  She was one tough customer, fast, accurate, agile.  ‘Never be where they think you will be.’  That was her simple logic.  It was poetic and effective.  “Can’t hurt me if you can’t hit me, move faster.”  Was she instructing him or taunting him?  At times Blade Dance felt an edge of both. 

 

Time with her was beneficial.  His new style, which Mud was now also a student of just as he, involved moving and firing the pistols with movements from hand to hand combat styles the werewolves had developed over the millennia. 

 

Again Mud’s logic was simple.  “You are ranged fighting, by using close quarters fighting styles to implement this ranged firepower, you are already fighting when an enemy closes on you.  You merely change targets.”  She was absolutely right. 

 

They dueled.  She gave him an affirmative smile when they ended.  Sea Mist walked in, thus ending their session.  Command team on deck, big dogs wanted to bark at them.

 

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Kevashka’s eyes followed Snow as she talked.  She had a tendency to pace while she walked; Kevashka admitted to herself, that she did the same thing as Snow, only without the hard crisp military turns Snow did at the end of each of her pacing stretches when she turned around.

 

“We have been going over the recon reports from the advanced teams Duncan and I deployed into the city.  They have been following movement of a specific type of vampire traffic.  On our last attack run as soon as we took out a crew of vampires, they were replaced typically by the next night.  We are trying to track where these replacements come from.  Attacking their outposts... is exactly what they want us to do.”

 

‘About face!’ Kevashka envisioned someone calling out as Snow snapped her foot and made her one-eighty degree turn, with her hands behind her back and keeping her eyes on her teams the entire time.  That would be Lord Frost’s doing.

 

“Duncan and I believe we can hit them higher up in their operations and break vital links in the mechanics of these operations.  Taking out the potential replacements when we take out the coven masters sending them.”

 

She stopped in the center of her pacing path and looked out over the room. 

 

“This little smoke screen they are working so hard on is more than just Alexander’s coven.  We could be dealing with a hundred small covens in the end.  We need to concentrate on the larger covens that control the small ones in the inner city.  These vampires don’t live or hang out down by the dive bars, strip clubs and shops that we have been targeting.  Middle management and higher vampires.  Eliminating them will disrupt Alexander’s daily operations.  He will have no choice but to deal with us, force to force in person.”

 

All eyes were on Sadness as she spoke.  The room was serious as death. 

 

Kevashka stood, she was to Sadness’s right.  She took a seat beside Duncan and let her take over.  “The traffic the recon people have been following indicates we need to be looking in upscale neighborhoods.”  The strategist pulled out a map with several clear overlays attached but not over the map displayed.

 

She described the area and named several areas of interest.  Her abrupt eruptions into insults and binges of names both flung at those attending the meeting was distracting.  Duncan and Sadness both seemed to pull back when Kevashka took to her rant.  Duncan’s arms were crossed, Sadness’s forearms were draped across her legs as she slumped forward and gawked at the performance. 

 

Blade Dance liked the concept of what they were doing.  He had felt the entire time during the last field operation that their targets ended up being low-end operators.  The recon teams had identified four location in two different affluent areas. 

 

Tonight, Squat’s Squads were entering these areas as well as any other upper income part of the city to sniff around and see what they could uncover with their new style of fighting.  He had high hopes they would uncover the covens he felt were missed and still hidden from their knowledge.  There had to be more than just those four.  Fifteen to twenty was a more believable number in his mind. 

 

The sound of a door being kicked in and commotion involving several people followed. 

 

Four of Squat’s people were holding and escorting in a man bound in silver chains and handcuffs.  His mouth was gagged and his eyes blindfolded.  Six other people surrounded the man in addition to the four people he was attempting to fight off.  His legs were shackled at the feet, a single binding that held both legs together over the ankles.  Squat walked just ahead of the precession.

 

“We have him Sir.”  Squat announced loudly, his voice echoing through the main assembly room of his den. 

 

Duncan looked to the man that was the center of attention.

 

The man looked feral.  His clothes looked to have been worn awhile, himself unwashed for possibly months.  Their prisoner was attempting to yell, his efforts rendered useless by the gag firmly set in and over his mouth. 

 

His arms lurched, two of the people closest to him flew back followed by the collision of the heads of the other two as they realized their prisoner had broken free of the silver handcuffs.  He did a summersault towards the largest open escape route, grabbing the binding around his legs he broke the locking bolt that secured the device together, freeing him from all but the collar around his neck. 

 

With his legs and arms free he moved fast away from the others closing in on him, then he vanished and the thin silver collar that had been around his neck clattered to the floor, the gag and blindfold silently fell with it.

 

Duncan looked around fast, at first to see where the prisoner had escaped to, then to see members of the clan vanish.  Who was this man?  ‘We have him Sir’ Squat had said.  He hadn’t asked for any prisoner to be brought to him. 

 

Then a thought snapped into his mind.  He had asked for the best renegade in existence.  This couldn’t be him, a man so wild he needed to be restrained?  Duncan hoped there was a mistake or some inconceivable reason for the way this man was treated and acted. 

 

Insanity?  The thought and analysis left him with a hollow feeling inside.  He didn’t have time for games right now. 

 

The fleeing man popped into view again, caused by one of Squat’s clan members accosting him in the shadow plane.  He flew back down a flight of stairs, landing hard he grunted loud and attempted snapping back up and into the fight.  Two people were closing in on him from up the stairs while one approached from behind.  He took in everyone’s position without looking, he vanished again. 

 

A blurred image caught Blade Dance’s eyes, it moved towards Duncan, the prisoner appeared in front of his commander, slightly after Morning Dew’s sword came up from the floor, taking both the prisoners hands off, a dagger clattered from one of the hands as they fell to the floor. 

 

Morning Dew leapt into the air high enough to kick the prisoner in the chest and sending him flying back a solid forty feet.  Morning Dew vanished from sight, appearing again where the prisoner was, he grabbed him in a full Nelson hold while others from the clan shadow-stepped to where the prisoner now was. 

 

Squat stepped out of the shadows near them and walked up to Morning Dew holding a set of hand binders like the ones that had been used on the traitor Robert of the Clay, thick heavy silver binders, no chain and barbs that extended into the flesh of the detained.  Another approached with a similar version of a neck collar. 

 

Morning Dew stood up with the man.

 

“If you should be so foolish as to attempt attacking either of my commanders again, I’ll take your head.”  He said to the prisoner as the collar was placed on him, tightened and locked into him.  Two of Squat’s people came forward and each took an arm and helped Squat put the man’s wrists in the binders. 

 

The silver would slow the regeneration, his bleeding had stopped.  Morning Dew walked from them back to where the command team stood, Squat watched him intensely as he walked.  He had been holding back about his abilities from them.  Blade Dance wondered if even Noktok knew of his shadow-stepping ability. 

 

“I’d call that a successful demonstration.”  Blade Dance said looking around to the command team around him.  “Even better than a field demonstration, shadow-stepper against shadow-stepper.  That was very impressive, I’m impressed at least, anyone else?”  He asked and looked around.  He received blank stares back.  The response made him feel awkward. 

 

Squat walked from the prisoner towards the command team while he was escorted away.  “That is Twitch.  Best renegade ever born.  Hates everything, born under a mean star.  My men are going to chuck his insufferable ass in an oubliette until you are ready for him.  Due to... who he is, we will be taking extra precautions with him.”  Squat waited a few seconds for Duncan to respond.  When he said nothing, only nodded to him, Squat left in the direction the prisoner had been taken. 

 

Sadness attempted to bring their little meeting back on track but everyone was either distant, distracted or both.  After Kevashka lashed into a round of verbal attacks on everyone Duncan called an end to the meeting, then said everyone would meet an hour before mission time to go over the rest of the material. 

 

After the meeting broke Blade Dance met up with Sea Mist in their room for a few minutes before she left to practice with her bow.  Having nothing else to do, he decided to go back to the water pistol training area and work on his new style.

 

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Hovlek was working in the weapons cache when he went back to the training area, the girl was still at the counter.  He again requested two of the pistols and began working his moves again. 

 

“How Blade Dance like new weapon?”  Hovlek’s voice boomed at one point. 

 

Blade Dance looked back, he was standing near the counter now, the girl was reading a book.  Nodding his head he said “I like it over all, it’s easy to handle.  Targeting system works great with two pistols.”  He looked at the guns in his hands.

 

“You are making new fashion of fighting, Hovlek thinks this is good thing.  This you should be teaching to others, yes?”  Hovlek said as he looked gallantly at him. 

 

“Mud helped me, if anyone is going to be doing any teaching, it should be her.  Or Noktok, I’m no teacher.  No patience for it.  Plus, I am only on the command team by default.  If my mate wasn’t the commander’s sister, I wouldn’t be a part of it, they aren’t interested in anything I have to say.”  Blade Dance hung his head and turned back to his targets.

 

Hovlek looked at the boy intently for a moment.  He shook his head then turned from the counter and looked at the little girl.  “Tell your father, all is good here, Hovlek will check again tomorrow.”  The girl nodded then Hovlek left.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Squat

 

When he returned from personally seeing to the securing of the prisoner, several of the command team members were sitting at a table talking.  Sadness was there along with her partner and the tactician Kevashka.  They were looking between several maps that they had laid out. 

 

Kevashka looked at him.  “Squat, we’re going over field reports, we have some thoughts on other areas to look into tonight, if you think your people will be able too.”  She said to him. 

 

He came up to the table and the tactician started pointing out locations and filling him in on the details that were reported.  Sea Mist came walking through carrying her bow and a quiver.  He had never seen her with a compound bow before, this was something new, and the bow looked different than any bow he had ever seen.  She tucked it away and joined them at the table. 

 

Kevashka informed them of another Alexander sighting.  “And again our people came up dry on finding Alexander’s den.  We hit the place he had been seen heading towards only to find a small recruiting party in a garage of a building.  There were several other known covens in the area, we couldn’t verify which if any he had entered.”

 

Sea Mist took several of the file folders Kevashka had laying out and started looking them over.  Duncan was talking now, pointing to a map and moving his fingers along lines of an overlay.  The plan was to hit larger more important targets in hopes of drawing their adversary out to reveal himself. 

 

That was what tonight was all about, sniff out more middle and upper managers of Alexander’s or his allies and eliminate them, forcing him to take action against them, to take them seriously again.  Squat felt that the vampires were laughing at them. 

 

“Duncan...”  Sea Mist said, her face cast into one of the files.  Breaking her distraction and looking to the face of her commander she went on.  “ ...commander Galt, these times don’t make any sense.”  She said.  “Look at these.”  She picked up a erasable marker with a fine point and started writing times beside a corresponding dot she placed on the overlay currently on the map. 

 

“When you first had us looking for Alexander’s coven, when you did your triangulation thing with all the points and the lines, did you take into consideration that he knows where our dens are and would avoid traveling near any of those?”  She asked as she wrote. 

 

Duncan’s eyes narrowed as he looked at what Squat’s sister put at on the map.  He rubbed his face as he considered the meaning.  “All these times... most are within half an hour of each other.”

 

“Right, except for one, and they are all near sunrise.”  Sea Mist said as she looked back to the paperwork she had on the table in front of her, setting down the file she’d been looking at and taking up another.

 

“That would mean that Alexander is traveling...”  Duncan started, Sea Mist cut him off.

 

“Excuse me, I’m not finished yet, there’s more.”  His sister said as she looked at Duncan with a vexed look on her face. 

 

Squat understood where that reaction came from.  He had been struggling for years himself getting over the treatment of his mother.  Sea Mist still needed the benefit of years and experience.  Sadness had been as bold, only not quite as abrasive. 

 

Duncan looked slighted.  “Please, lieutenant, go on, by all means.”

 

“Thank you.”  Sea Mist said not yielding any to Duncan’s tone.  “Also, there is no report of Alexander engaging in combat at all, not once at any of these sightings.  He is seen while traveling, he never stops to engage in combat, it almost seems he’s avoiding any fight at all.”  His sister looked back to Duncan.

 

“Are you finished now?”  He asked.  Sadness’s face was tight as her eyes bounced between Sea Mist and Duncan. 

 

“Yes, thank you Lord Galt.”  Sea Mist answered trying to deflect the intense stares on her from her commanders. 

 

Squat took in the map with his sister’s information and considered all he knew about Alexander.

 

“Alexander is opening a portal, doing so requires his presence and his power.”  Duncan said.

 

“His power is strongest at night, why would he be traveling when he should be attending to his portal incantations?”  Squat asked blankly wondering.

 

Duncan nodded.  “How exactly does he ‘work’ on this portal?  How long do these incantations take?”

 

Sadness cleared her throat.  “He has to focus the energy of the darkness through himself, he does this by reciting specific incantations in the room he has the obelisk for the portal at.  A typical set begins about an hour after sunset, this is the energizing incantation, it focuses the power for building, usually about a twenty to thirty minute incantation followed by a period of setting for the portal and rest for the caster  to allow full flow of power.”

 

“Then the main incantation is cast during the witching hour from midnight till one.  A stabilization incantation would follow near an hour after and depending on the type of ritual, and I am sure this one would require it, another incantation again after an hour for stabilization and containment.” 

 

“For the portal, the incantations would be exceedingly draining, Alexander  would be extremely weak from them by the time he was finished.  He would need to rest, away from the portal because anytime he would be within range of it, it would drain power from him, trying to grow itself and strengthen.  Even though he rests between incantations, the portal draws more than he recovers.”

 

Duncan nodded hearing this.  “The man would be pooped.”

 

Sea Mist spoke next.  “Then these sightings, they’re actually Alexander looking for a hiding spot after he has been drained by the portal.”  She said then picked up a different colored marker and started drawing on the map again after she brought a clean overlay onto the surface. 

 

“Okay, these marks are our dens.”  She switched colors again.  “These are known covens.”  She marked these out as everyone watched. 

 

Sea Mist taped down another overlay then started drawing lines the best she could.  She circled groups of covens and drew lines from the clusters of covens through the widest area between werewolf dens.  This time a single triangle formed around a new area of land that was significantly to the west of where they had looked before. 

 

“That’s in a fairly remote area, not a lot there.”  Squat stated.  “Mostly farm land, that’s a historic agricultural area.  There are historical buildings and a museum there. The other half of it is mostly abandoned buildings and orchards, they grow nuts in this area.  More touristy than anything.”  He informed them.

 

Duncan looked at Sea Mist.  His eyes were a touch angry but had softened at her.  “Good job Sea Mist, I think you’re right, makes sense, and why he never takes part in the fights, he needs to recover.”  He quivered then sprang from the table at a run towards the bathroom.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Zero hour approached.  Squat was trying not to pace nervously around the tactical room he and the command team were at.  This time he wouldn’t be commanding from the field as he had always done before, he would be where he was supposed to be, at the base of operations overseeing and commanding his squads.

 

“Lieutenant Squat, a word with us in private please?”  His sister Sadness asked with Sea Mist standing behind her and just to her right.  Her face betrayed no emotion, she looked her station, that of commander.  Though he would never tell her, he was proud of his sister. 

 

He tried to pick up on anything from Sea Mist’s eyes, nothing.  Her body language only said she would be the focal point of the impending discussion.  “Yes Colonel Sadness.”  He responded then saluted.  He could tell her heart wasn’t in her salute.  That spoke volumes to him about the severity of the matter she wished to discuss with him.

 

He followed as she led the way through the maze of construction to a far off room that the workers had finished off enough to serve as a break area for them.  They had since abandoned the room and set one up closer to where they were currently working. 

 

Sadness had apparently cleaned off a table and several chairs.  A secluded meeting room.  It was her style.  She held out her arm when they arrived at the table.  “Have a seat everyone.”  Sadness said then sat herself.

 

He sat across from his sisters, directly from Sadness.  Sea Mist looked as though she were awaiting the arrival of an ass chewing.  He smiled inside, having a feeling he knew the particular event that would be used as a fulcrum for whatever action Sadness was about to take against her. 

 

“Lieutenant Sea Mist, you did good work in discovering a pattern in Alexander’s sightings, however; your actions towards Second Commander Galt were beyond unacceptable.  I have spoken with Lieutenant Colonel Galt and asked him to stand down on this issue, that I would handle it personally.”  She looked at Squat when he sighed. “Issues Lieutenant Squat?”  Sadness asked seeming polite. 

 

Squat tittered and made a side to side motion with a flat palm held out mid chest in front of himself.  “No, no.  That’s not it at all, I fully support your reprimand, even though I have not heard the content of it, I agree she was snarky and insubordinate.  I was just remembering back, not too long ago either, when I remember Lord Frost having a similar conversation with one of his daughters.  Maybe some forty five years ago now.”  Het smiled at his eldest sister.

 

Though her face remained unchanged, her eyes smiled at him.  He could tell she knew the incident he was thinking of.  Madelyn and he were finally bonding the way a brother and sister should.  They were out from their mother’s thumb now, they could grow on their own and not fear any repercussions from the lady of anger and misery. 

 

Sea Mist scoffed and crossed her arms, pushing her chair back from the table she extended her legs and crossed them.  Her head shook slowly as she looked to one side. 

 

“Duncan is your commander as much as I am, though I think had I been in his place you would’ve done the same thing.”  Sadness charged. 

 

Sea Mist nodded with a defiant disposition.  “I understand you are young, but you are part of the command team now, upfront, we have to present ourselves a certain way.  Separately in a private setting we can be more direct with each other.  I cannot have a member of my command team acting disrespectful and insubordinate.”  Sadness reached to put a hand on her sister’s shoulder, Sea Mist recoiled from her.

 

“Now that is a way to get nowhere fast.”  Squat advised. 

 

Sadness looked to her brother then back to Sea Mist.  “Lose the attitude.  I’m not going to bust your boobs, but I do have a deal.”

 

Sea Mist giggled, then lost most of her composure and started laughing.  Squat got caught up with her, first tittering then himself outright laughing. 

 

“What?”  Sadness asked with a perplexed face holding a palm up towards each of them not seeing the humor they had.

 

After a few moments of a laughing fit Sea Mist restrained herself enough to speak.  “Boobs, bust.  Pun.  It was funny.”  She panted then tittered a bit more before she fully recovered, aided by the glare on her commanders face.  Squat cut himself off short.

 

Sadness waited till both were stable again.  “Here’s the deal.  Two weeks, I give you the rank of Marshal grade one, relieving  you of formal command duties on the deck during missions and allowing you field work, at the end of the two weeks in rank, if there are no more instances and a considerable improvement in your attitude and how you conduct yourself as command grade personnel, you get to keep the rank.”

 

Sea Mist uncrossed her legs then her arms and sat up in the chair.  Her face and aura had changed, she was devoutly interested in what her sister had to say for her reprimand now. 

 

The promotions in the Marshal ranks came slower, but there were only five grades.  She was grade one, that meant she was four promotions away from top dog, or wolf.  Nobody messed with a grade four or five.  Those required experience and age.

 

“And if I fail?”  She asked with trepidation. 

 

Sadness sighed.  “Then you are packed up and shipped back to clan Frost.  Your mate would remain here as he is part of the command team and your removal has no consideration in his abilities.”

 

Sea Mist swallowed hard.  Her stomach rolled.  She could feel the color run from her face, back to that woman.  Sadness was evil, she never would have figured she was capable of such a horrific deed.  But what other choice did her sister have?  If she were to send her away, her only choice was clan Frost.  Was it that, or was her sister evil?

 

“No, not there.  There is a clan in Amsterdam that will have me.  I think you know the one.  I will go there, never clan Frost.  Do that and I will take your deal, sister.”  Sea Mist said solidly. 

 

She could read in Sadness’s face the understanding for her request.  She wasn’t evil, Sea Mist realized her sister had issued the ultimatum with the expectancy of her offering up an alternative.  “We have a deal then.  Marshal.”  Sadness said.

 

Squat nodded his approval of what his eldest sister had done.  Sea Mist was now totally in control of her own success or failure.  Sadness could no longer be held as a reason for her failures. 

 

“Can I serve this two weeks at another den?”  Sea Mist asked politely.

 

Sadness turned short to her.  “No.  Why would you ask that?”

 

Sea Mist sighed hard.  “Because, here I’m just following in your shadow.  You don’t know what that is like!”  Her voice had become frantic.  She had loosed a deep seated jealousy of her sister.  It hadn’t been invisible over the years, but it had been contained for the most part.  But now it was trying to escape its bonds.

 

Sadness’s face looked a bit stunned with two parts angry added.  “Excuse me?  My shadow, you?  Trust me, my shadow is nothing you would want to be in, nor are you.”  She retorted bluntly.  “I’m a disappointment to most.”

 

Sea Mist guffawed and waved a hand at her sister.  “Don’t even, Valiant Knight, thanks to Duncan’s creative history lesson, now the focal point of a pointless myth.  ‘Maybe if you practice harder you can be as good as your sister’ you know how many times I have heard that?”

 

She scoffed as she went on.  “Or ‘Sadness was much quicker at picking this up, you should ask her what she does, if you want to be good.’  You know what it’s like to put up with that?  Always hearing how great your sister is, always being used as an example of how bad I suck next to you!”  She scoffed at her sister shaking her head. 

 

“No matter what you walk into you come out pristine.  Another title for her grace goddess Sadness.  Youngest combat team member, youngest to be knighted, now youngest Colonel and commander.  Everything comes easy to you.  You just walk along doing whatever it is you do and shit falls into your lap.”  Sea Mist kicked her legs out and crossed her arms again.

 

Sadness was emotionless as Squat watched. 

 

“Youngest combat team member, not a record I hold any longer.  Sea Mist of clan Greenleaf now holds that honor.  Also youngest Lieutenant and now youngest Marshal.  Then there is the pilot thing, youngest pilot, only werewolf that can fly anything and has no fear of heights.  Youngest member of a command team.  I would say you aren’t doing to bad yourself.”  Sadness pointed out with mild attitude.  “There has even been a little talk that maybe you are the fulfillment of the legend instead of me.” 

 

Sea Mist took this last nugget of information with a surprised look.  She?  Part of the legend?   Impossible, but it gave her a good inside laugh.  Maybe Sadness had a point, no one was comparing her to her sister now.  It was nice to have the pressure of her mother’s ways removed from her life. 

 

“Are we good on the deal then?  Unless you have something more to say about that, then we need to move on.  Put this behind us.”  Sadness said.

 

Sea Mist would show her sister she could be ‘proper’ as she viewed it.  Marshal was a much better rank for someone like her to have.  She would command troops and be able to be involved in maneuvers.  Sadness was being understanding. 

 

This was a drastic difference between what life at clan Frost had been.  The recent events of her life since she left her father’s home flooded through her mind.  Sisters.  Hers had called the Supreme Bishop of Clans on her behalf so she could be mated to Blade Dance.  She had fought to have her commissioned and made part of the command team. 

 

There were many other smaller things Sadness had done for her.  Respect.  No one had treated her without any.  Reality.  She was a part of the command team, accepted by all.  She may be the youngest, but they were all in over their heads, even the most experienced among them.

 

“No, I have nothing else.  Thank you.”  Sea Mist said.  Sadness dismissed her.

 

Sadness sat with Squat while Sea Mist left them.  Once the door closed behind her he looked to his sister, she was looking off to a corner of the room.  Duncan came from hiding and walked towards them.  He sat where Sea Mist had been.  She had been spared the embarrassment of facing Duncan.  He could see his elder sister’s hand in that. 

 

“Lieutenant Squat... “  Duncan started, “after consulting with my counterpart, Sadness, and taking the issue to Lord Leyland and Night Harvest, we have been given permission to fix an issue, that being a combat clan patriarch not properly ranked.”  Duncan looked to Sadness.

 

With a nod she took over.  “As a leader of a special combat unit such as yours, the patriarch must be ranked at a command grade level.  Therefore, by the order of Lord Leyland and Lord Night Harvest, we are promoting you to Commodore.”  She said, ending with a large smile. 

 

Commodore, that fell in-between captain and major, it was the lowest command grade for a commissioned officer.  It was a considerable increase from his present rank.  Commodore had its advantages over major too, even though it was technically below the rank. 

 

Major was more of an office/command rank.  Commodore was a combat command rank and not one often used.  When you were up to your armpits in vampires, always listen to your commodore. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Duncan

 

Duncan ordered a ground crew from a clan near the new triangle of area to give the area the once over and see if there was anything of interest, but to be as discrete as possible.  He would want to fly the area himself tomorrow, there simply wasn’t time before the night’s mission started. 

 

This was an important night.  First active mission where his idea, brought to fruition by Malkah and Hovlek, was being fully implemented.  All attacks would use the water cannon unless more conventional weapons were deemed necessary.  Even then both Malkah and Hovlek assured them face bashing with the weapon was of no concern. 

 

“It is AK-47 of water cannons.  Even if nozzle get jammed, water pressure clear it, builds till it pop clear”.  Hovlek had said about the weapon.  It had turned out better than Duncan had hoped, even before Malkah had Hovlek’s help slimming the pistol down.  Now it was simply amazing.  Mental note, ask Snow about Hovlek’.

 

Snow was most supportive of Duncan’s idea of requesting Squat be promoted.  He had been passed over many times by stateside review because of his mother’s reputation.  He was now where he should’ve been. 

 

“Our biggest problem will be Squat, he is what could cause the shadow-steppers to fail.”  Snow had told Duncan.  When he asked why he learned from her that their mother might call, suggest he make changes in his operation.  Question him about his plans, then interfere.  He wasn’t failing, therefore his mother wasn’t amused.  She thrived on others failure.  Squat had been her favorite.  This was not a good thing in their family.  Because of this, he would do whatever she asked, striving for her approval.

 

Malkah was in his shop, working hard with two of his staff.  They would normally be back in the large workshop area and not in the lead’s private work area.  Unless needed.  When Duncan walked in he noticed a twitch in Malkah’s cheek ..  Interruption was something he clearly had not wanted right now, though he wouldn’t let on to Duncan. 

 

Duncan stayed back from where Malkah was working with the two assistants.  He took a rigid stance and crossed his arms looking at Malkah as he propped himself against the waist-high table.  He timed three minutes, twenty seven seconds before Malkah left the work he was doing and now faced his commander. 

 

“You need me to tell you how long I waited for you?”  Duncan asked in a rhetorical way. 

 

“Ahem, I was working on an item you requested, Lord Duncan.”  Malkah feigned a sheepish look.

 

An under-toned scoff came from Duncan.  “When your commander comes in to speak with you, hand off whatever you’re working on and get to either of us, never keep us waiting.  Next time either myself or Sadness has to wait more than ten seconds, you’re on the next boat to Ecuador.”  Those in command at every level were becoming hard asses as needed. 

 

Malkah’s face crinkled; that was far from rational, Ecuador?  “Pardon me... me chum, Ecuador?  What is going on there?”  He had seen nothing about activity from there in any of the reports he had been privy too. 

 

“Nothing, that’s the point.”  Duncan answered.

 

Malkah stared at his commander.  Reasoning, meaning, calculation.  All of these were factors in dealing with Duncan.  Where had the latest rabbit trail he took to following taken him.  Not listening to him would be an asinine mistake.  As Malkah realized Duncan’s understanding of his thoughts, interpreted via his facial expressions and scent, he changed stances and attempted controlling his scent. 

 

The young gadgettier scratched his head as he looked back at his commander.  “That... just wouldn’t make sense me chum.  I am a benefit to every werewolf, not just our crews.”  He began as his defense against Duncan’s fail condition for him.  The face of the Lt. Colonel did not give any reason to suspect comprehension. 

 

“Doesn’t matter to either Lady Sadness nor myself if you understand our reasoning.  What is necessary is that you understand you screw up and fail to follow our orders exactly, implementing some plan of your own design, you’re out.”

 

Duncan looked to the floor for a moment as he considered the next item up for bid.  He could see the tense movements of his prey. 

 

“Lose the pseudonym.  Come out as who you are, Seven.”  Duncan said after raising his head again.

 

He shook his head fast.  “N... No, no, no!  No, never, our identity must be kept a secret.”  Seven stammered out his defense of the manner they had kept their clan out of sight.

 

“This isn’t a request Seven, I will give you twenty-four hours to come out.  You do not have to reveal anything about any... historical facts about your clan.  Keep it as vague and windblown as you want.”  Duncan responded. 

 

This was a difficult moment for the young future patriarch.  His commander was ordering him to drop his facade and be who he was.  Why was such a simple and honest thing so hard?  When he looked up from his mental stroll, Duncan had left the room.  He was alone, there would be no further discussion. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Duncan didn’t have time to ‘discuss’ every issue in detail with everyone regarding decisions Snow and he had made together.  In the essence of time and success, explanations were cut out via C.O.C. mandates. 

 

Orders, if you had a problem following them, then you weren’t needed.  He needed to speak further with Seven, on a far more sensitive subject but he needed to get his facts straight before he put his next plan in motion.  He called Noktok and asked him to meet up with him near Kevashka’s office.  Then he contacted Kevashka herself to arrange a meeting.

 

“Sadness should be in on this Duncan, she is by far the best resource.”  Kevashka was saying after hearing his plan and reasoning for leaving his partner out of the planning stage.

 

“She will be, I just didn’t want her here before we all understood why and if it was a viable action to take.  If it was prevented by some code or law you have, wouldn’t be much reason to involve her, right?”  Duncan responded.

 

Kevashka looked back blankly at him.  Noktok turned away from them with his hand to his mouth as though he were stiffening a laugh. 

 

“How about after we have everything in place and his calls monitored.  That way she can’t interfere or do something that might tip her brother off.”  Duncan offered to his strategist. 

 

“How about,” Kevashka began shaking her head at him, “we involve her right now as we should since she is operations commander.”  She was unrelenting. 

 

“You’re not going to give on this are you?”  Duncan said factually.

 

“Not in the least.”  His adversary replied.

 

“Well, Commander Sadness will be here shortly, while you two were arguing, I placed my support with Kevashka and radioed her.”  Noktok said with a cantankerous grin. 

 

Duncan flapped his arms at his sides once with an exasperated expression.  “Well, I guess that settles that, thanks.”  He said at Noktok, clearly not liking being ganged up on.

 

When Snow arrived, Kevashka took charge of bringing his partner up to speed.  Duncan felt she believed he would slant the facts and omit certain ones from the disclosure.  The operation commander glanced at her counterpart several times during the recital of information.  When the informant ended her monologue Snow nodded briefly.

 

“I like it.  Duncan, I support your plan, I won’t interfere in anyway.  Malkah can take care of that in no time.  Tell him I ordered your operation a go.”  She said to him. 

 

Duncan gave her a small smile, he had expected some resistance and he still might get it during some of their alone time with each other.  Right now though they talked about how the call from Squat’s mother would be handled when it came in.  Snow was adamant that she would call, and Duncan fully believed his partner was right.  And as operations commander, only she could authorize interception and screening of communications to a clan patriarch. 

 

Mission time approached.  They wrapped up their business regarding Squat and the matriarch of clan Frost.  They waited till Noktok left to make ready for the mission that was nearing its start.

 

Snow looked at Duncan who nodded to her, then she cleared her throat and looked at Kevashka.  “My partner and I have discussed how we want our people to conduct themselves and how we want crews and teams that are a part of our operations managed.”  She looked to Duncan again, their minds touched.

 

“We see no need for the... method you use to disconnect and distance yourself from the people you derive tactics for.  In short, knock off the insults and name calling unless there is a valid reason for an ego slam.”  She sat tall when she finished.

 

Duncan took his turn to speak now.

 

“While we are in command of the stateside clans, all members will conduct themselves in a professional, military manner.  We are ending the separation that has developed among the ranks and clans.  We all need to be working together and on the same team.”  Duncan’s eyes were locked on Kevashka.

 

She understood what they were trying to accomplish.  Centuries of complacency had taken their toll on the werewolves.  Rivalries had sprung up between hunters and support staff, elitism.  The same was true of various clans, they viewed themselves as better than other clans. 

 

Clay was a prime example of this attitude.  Bring the focus back to the reason for their existence, their duty.  But did they understand the reasons behind why these separations between their people had developed?  It was a moot question now, they had decided on their direction for resolving the problems as they perceived them.  Kevashka nodded her acceptance to Duncan.

 

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Silence

 

Mission time.  The command team had formed up in the operation deck room that overlooked the main assembly room floor.  The staff the den had on loan to tend to the needs of the combat squads moved around as they cleaned the area from the meal that had ended over an hour ago now. 

 

Silence had nothing to do now that everyone had possession of their needed weapons.  The formal bulwark was far from ready and the cache they had use of was depressing at best, but she had managed.  Everyone was out on time. 

 

The bishops had been a major advantage to that, they took it upon themselves to help in not only filling the water chambers and placing them on the pistols, they also locked in the pneumatic drive cartridge as well.  She and the young daughter of the man who ran the cache were busy putting filled pistols in holders that had been quickly built while the man and one of Silence’s assistants logged weapons out to those heading out to the battle tonight. 

 

All was silent when her mate had entered the cache and he took her to a quiet place. He seemed broken, his passions released on her.  He was drawing comfort from her.  When their time ended, he confided in her the pain he held inside. 

 

Now on the command deck she took a seat off to the side and watched on monitors as the teams and squads moved to their staging positions for the beginning of the missions for tonight.  No one seemed to take notice of her, which is what she had hoped for.  For Seven.

 

When he walked into the command deck, all eyes fell on Malkah.  Silence unclasped the robe she wore and let it fall as she rose in her formal dress uniform and took her place beside her mate as he took position centered at the head of the room.

 

Duncan’s eyes analyzed Seven as he stood before the room.  The realization came to him that his orders had nothing to do with what was about to happen.

 

Across both their shoulders was a black sash.  Seven took a deep breath, now was his time.  “Attention please.”  He said, the little remaining attention that was not on her mate now was.  “I am heir to Patriarch Boxtemmill the Sixteenth, his first born alpha son, Patriarch Boxtemmill the Seventeenth.  My father has passed, my mother is soon to meet him.”  He turned and bowed to Duncan.  “Lord Galt.”  Then he turned to Sadness and bowed to her.  “Princess Snow.”  The room was quiet.

 

Mud walked from where she looked over a computer display and knelt before Seven, her palms to the ground, face down.  “Lord Boxtemmill.”  She said, then rose and moved from Silence’s mate.  Mud sidestepped to her, lowered her head and brought it to her chest.  Once this was done, Mud returned to her station.  Sadness led the rest in paying their respects ending with Duncan.

 

This would be the only time the new patriarch of clan Boxtemmill would be addressed as Lord, the time until he accepted his position as head of the clan. 

 

“Lord Boxtemmill the Seventeenth, Seven, I give you seventy-two hours to tend to the needs of your clan.”  Duncan said.  He looked to his partner who nodded to him.

 

Sea Mist looked intently at Duncan, he took note of her attention. 

 

“Thank you Lord Galt, however, I must decline.  Leaving a mission would be a disrespect to my father.  I will remain here and see to my duty because I honor him.”  Seven said with his head held high.

 

Sadness raised her chin and spoke to him.  “It is well you honor your father, after this mission is completed tonight, Sea Mist will take you to your clan, you will see to the transfer of governorship, then return to us.  We do this in respect of Patriarch Boxtemmill the Sixteenth and his son.”  She said firmly so all in the room could hear.  Duncan gave a soft smile and nod to his partner in support of her orders.

 

She was now the matriarch of a clan, a den.  Their responsibilities had suddenly changed greatly.  “Thank you all.”  Her mate solemnly said, then moved from her side and the front of the room walking to where the command team would be working.  Activity returned to the room. 

 

The order was given for the teams and squads to move in.  There were several radio channels being broadcast into the room for all to hear.  Their radio packs were for the most part like a smart phone, which as her mate had said, smart phones were nothing more than an advanced radio.  The chatter died as the teams moved in.  The entire command team seemed to hold it’s breath as the night began.

 

Duncan had ordered some of Squat’s people into what had been deemed a dead area for activity by vampires.  He explained that as Worm had pointed out, there was activity in the upper-class areas werewolf forces had detected, now, except for one area. 

 

He felt this was odd and agreed when the little girl pointed out what she saw on the map.  A large oddly open area.  Silence had been talking with Sea Mist nearby when the girl wandered up to where Duncan sat looking over the map he and Sea Mist had been talking over in the main assembly area. 

 

She had been curious as to what he was looking at and innocently asked why there were no marks in this area since it was like the others on the map.  That being an upscale district.  The child’s comments had clearly started the man thinking again. 

 

‘One of these things is not like the other…”  Charged through his mind like a freight train fully loaded with thoughts, headed for the home stretch of flat straight track after an eight day run and the engineer knows his wife is going to have a nice thick porterhouse steak, mildly seasoned and perfectly grilled with all his favorite sides waiting for him at home.  Throttle position seven and let the ponies run.

 

Duncan slipped off to a table where he and Sea Mist again looked over a map and talked quietly.  Both kept their eyes on monitors displaying information and feeds from the teams and squads. The latter is where Duncan had his monitor tuned to. 

 

The shadow-steppers moved into a dark building that had been indicated as a site of interest. 

 

“We have cold movement, above us at three.”  A voice reported in.

 

Kevashka and Sadness were watching the same display, they spoke quietly to each other. 

 

“Kicks to Colonel Galt, over yoh!”  Came across the general channel.

 

Duncan signaled to have Kicks patched over to a private channel.

 

“Kicks, can I help you?  We are all very occupied, and you’re bothering us, so what did you find that brought you here?”  Duncan said in his field commander voice.

 

“Sir, can we go to a secure channel?”  He asked.

 

“You’re already in one.  I knew it would be important, had you moved.”  Duncan informed him.

 

“Good, listen up, I’ve made a few observations after reading some of what you put in the side notes of your reports.  I’ve seen something you may be interested in, another area to look.  The sewers are crawling with suckers and they have built and are building link tunnels to the network of service tunnels that utility and maintenance workers travel down in their go-carts.  I can’t be sure, but I think they have their own go-carts too.”  Kicks informed him.

 

Sewers, always dark.  Always dark.  What Kicks was calling a go-cart was probably a golf cart or utility ATV with a box on back.  Duncan’s mind wheeled as he shuffled these new pieces of puzzle around in his mind. 

 

It was always dark, why would Alexander worry about getting his own golf carts when the city had already provided him with them. 

 

He only needed to have a viceroy tell his people in the sewers to turn a few city employees that work in the tunnels.  Then they would invite their friends and soon, you have vampires that know the network of tunnels and sewers under the entire city already; that information flows to the viceroy and Alexander.  POOF!  You can now build your sewer highway right away. 

 

You have people who can plan it and do it.  And they can also provide taxi service to his servants in their taxpayer provided mini-limousine .  Makes perfect sense coming from Alexander. 

 

Silence watched him and used her keen hearing to pick up on Duncan’s conversation, the skin of his ears did not stop the sound coming from the ear-bud.  She tossed her own ideas around about what Colonel Galt might be thinking.

 

“Can you give us a number?”  Kevashka asked the squad member she was talking with.

 

There was a pause.  “Can’t be sure, we may have overlapping readings, could be several vampires in one cold block.”  The voice called for another squad member to advance and take a position hopefully giving a better tactical on the occupants of the room.

 

“We have bogies in the shadows.”  A voice announced. 

 

“Stay calm, everyone move into the shadows, keep an eye out.  Stay in the shadows, everyone!”  Squat’s voice said.

 

Silence looked around.  Squat wasn’t on the command deck.  Duncan was looking around too, apparently Squat’s location was a mystery to him as well.  He returned to his conversation with Sea Mist.  The two squads now in the building reported an even dozen vampires guarding it.  The squads were well out of sight and kept an eye on the vampires.  The situation there was stable for now. 

 

It was about five minutes before Duncan moved from where he was with Sea Mist to one of the computers in the center of the command station.  “Squat, what is your location?”  Duncan asked over the radio. 

 

There was a noticeable delay in a response.  “I am currently on a roof across from a building in the area you had wanted to have checked for traffic.”  Squat finally answered. 

 

Duncan looked around the room again.  “A Mr. Morning Dew wouldn’t happen to be with you, would he?”  He asked.

 

Again there was a pause in response.  “Yes, Commander Galt, Morning Dew is with me.”

 

Duncan looked at Mud, he sighed.  “Colonel Galt to Teagan, Teagan, over.”  He called out over the radio. 

 

Several seconds passed.  “Lieutenant Teagan, go ahead Colonel Galt.”

 

Duncan’s face showed expectancy.  “You location please, lieutenant.”  He asked knowing the answer.

 

“About three feet from my mate.”  Came Teagan’s prompt reply.

 

Duncan shook his head, Silence found amusement in his expression.  Where else would she be but with her mate?  “Go on, might as well.”  He said to Mud who was looking at him with subdued puppy-dog eyes.  She didn’t miss a beat as she bound out of the room to join her mate.  “Mud’s on her way, I’d hate to break up the team.  Out!”  He ended.

 

Squat’s squads investigated the areas of interest covertly, not engaging any of the vampire they encountered.  Their mission for this part of the night was to observe and collect information.

 

The teams were staged in areas like the ones they had first engaged in, the seedy parts of town.  All reported in ready to engage. 

 

“This is Julia, teams three and eighteen crew one, stand fast, we have a crew of vampires bringing in possible harvests in your vicinity, coming up on Quincy Avenue, just crossed ninety-seventh street.”  Her familiar voice said.  Julia had been missing from them for some time, deep ops of some kind.  She had become only a name on paperwork as she commanded her surveillance members. 

 

“Team four, we have visual on your targets Julia.”  Came from the radio.

 

The conversation about the approaching crew of vampires and their victims filled the events for a bit.  Julia backed off from following and repositioned allowing the teams to take over surveillance.  Silence was put to use when Sadness had her take over talking with Squat’s people while she saw to the happenings with her teams. 

 

At one point a man in a suit came and started talking with Duncan.  Sea Mist soon joined him and they returned to the map they had been looking at earlier.  Silence relayed bits of information as it came in from Squat and his squads.

 

Several minutes passed, Silence listened close to the radio she was monitoring.  Julia broke in.

 

“Command, I need a private link to Commodore Squat, yesterday!”  Was her urgent request. 

 

She looked around the room fast, where was he?  There, Silence stood and waved towards Seven.  It took a couple waves before he saw her but when he did he came to her in a rush.

 

“Yes Sci, what’s the matter mate?”  He asked in a calming voice.

 

She waved a hand at the radio base next to her.  “Julia, a private channel she wants to Squat.  I don’t know how...”

 

Her mate smiled with a soft chuckle.  “Here love, see this with the pause icon, click that, then here where it says line.  Now call Squat and when he is online, tell him who you’re giving to him, press connect.  When you hear both people talking, click out and you are, well, out.”

 

Silence quickly did as her mate had told her.  “Squat?  Julia wants a private link, here she is.”  She clicked the out button then looked back to Seven.  “Thanks.”  She let her smile to him last a second or two then turned back to her work.  He gave her a quick shoulder squeeze then walked towards where Sea Mist and Duncan had gathered again to view their maps.

 

Activity from Sadness’s section of the command room took off, the battle was on in the dive bars and party clubs.  She heard part of a report from the radio down the row from her that had the crew teams on it.  ‘Days walkers, a few.  Had to toast them.  Pistol could use more rounds.’  The voice on the other end had said.  ‘You have a shotgun, use it’  Came another voice in response.

 

Her mate moved to the radio near Sadness.  “Save the pistol bullets!  Those are for vampires if they have protective suits!  Use as a last resort, the shotguns we have plenty of ammunition for.”  He called out to the teams.

 

“Squad eleven to base, over.”  Came from her radio.

 

“Base, go.”  Silence answered.

 

“Can you patch Colonel Galt into us please?”  The man asked.

 

Using what she knew of her mates means of design for his gadgets Silence tried her hand at linking in another call without asking her mate first.  It worked perfectly.  Paying attention to her mate was beneficial, usually.  With all the chatter that built up around her, she put on the headphones to monitor the radio.

 

The rest of the mission seemed to go well, Colonels Galt and Sadness both seemed pleased with the results.  There were no casualties on their side, and only one human was lost, that due to being too close when a vampire ended. 

 

They had room-broomed seventeen vampire business fronts as well as hosed down several groups that were walking the streets with day-walkers.  The operations were winding down and some field teams and squads were rolling back to their dens, Silence rose and approached Sadness.

 

“M’ Lady, I will need to return to the weapons cache, I will be needed very soon.”  She said to Colonel Sadness. 

 

“Understood, thank you for your help tonight, and I am most sorry for your loss.”  Sadness’s head fell to her chest when she said this. 

 

“Thank you, Lady Sadness.”  Her feelings returned to the low tides of loss again.  It was hard to avoid, everyone would be offering their version of condolences. 

 

Sadness raised her head.  “As soon as you are no longer needed, you do not need to see the last weapon put away, when the others can handle it, you and Seven, Sea Mist, plane, go.  Nuff said?”  She was making her point without making it an order. 

 

“Yes ma’am”  She answered then Sadness turned from her, Silence left and made her way to the weapons cache, which was already overflowing with people.  Seven was already behind the counter helping.  He was always there when she needed him.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Sea Mist

 

Squat had traveled the country looking for either a place to make hallowed ground and build or an abandoned den to set up shop in, preferably the latter, though those were few and far between to begin with and most were abandoned for a reason.  It was a rare find to come across an empty den that was simply no longer needed and left in storage for the next occupant. 

 

When his time came, he had one spot chosen to build on, and this den.  He had been leaning towards building considering the history of this particular den.  It was unlike any other den in the states, Canada or Mexico. 

 

There were three others of its nature world wide, two were still used.  Because it had been a prison up until the mid nineteen thirties the floor plan was different from other dens.  There was an abundance of oubliettes and the doors to the quarters all locked, from the outside. 

 

The room they occupied as a command center for field operations had formerly been the prison guard offices.  The entire operation had been run from the two floors of what was now the command deck on the first floor and offices on the second.  The oubliettes remained, as did the quarters, only the locks were swapped to lock from the inside, except for a few deep down. 

 

Now however, even the oubliettes were being used to house people, the door removed and a ladder installed to the roof of the cell.  Most could hold nine triple bunks.  A few held as many as fifteen. 

 

The rooms made excellent crash-pads for the over taxed bishops and support crew.  Sleep had been a rare commodity around the place for several weeks.  Two oubliettes were fashioned so even a shadow-stepper would not be able to slip out.  One of these had its door locked fast.

 

One was now in use.

 

Looking out what had once been windows for viewing convicts as they ate and worked, again a bustle of activity which pretty much would look the same as when it was a prison.  People still ate and worked just as prisoners had done.  The difference between a prison and a home was willingness.  Squat and his people made it a home when they ‘chose’ to live here.

 

Sea Mist was trying to maintain a low profile on the command deck.  “Sea Mist, see me to your left?”  Duncan’s voice asked over the command teams channel.

 

Turning her head slightly she saw him, nodded acknowledgement and walked to her second commander.

 

He had maps on the table that had been out of her view until she was in front of him.  The map on top had many overlays already laid over the tactical and elevation map of the region they would be operating in. 

 

Duncan began with a rundown of what ‘else’ he had discovered, deduced or somehow finagled.  He picked at Sea’s mind for what might possibly be in or near the triangle that might possibly, hopefully, be the location of Alexander’s hell hole in the ground. 

 

She looked at the map with a glazed expression while Duncan continued covering variables and personality traits of their adversary.  Only a small portion of the information was of any interest or value to her.  Her commander seemed to think there was some sort of connection between the two of them for blood-hounding hidden information. 

 

Sea Mist appreciated being useful and included, but how she reasoned details was completely different than how Duncan did.  She had no idea how he discovered what he did and still pressed on relentlessly.  If he needed her to play along and be part of his clique, she would play along for now.

 

Raising her eyes from the map and her head to her commander the sounds of the command floor bubbled to the front of Sea Mist’s brain. 

 

She looked to where the command team worked.  Sadness was working between two stations, teams and squads were ready to move, a couple squads were already on tactical maneuvers but were not to engage any vampires. 

 

“Sir, Colonel Galt sir,” She began trying to be as ‘military proper’ as she could remember from class when she had been ten, “shouldn’t I be helping on the deck?”  She grimaced slightly when she considered how different what she had wanted to say sounded out loud. 

 

“I mean, no disrespect sir, but... I’m not good at this sort of thing, like you.”  Sea Mist gestured with her closest hand at the map.  “I got lucky and noticed something, you made it useful.” 

 

Duncan’s face was frozen at her while she spoke.  Now she looked back waiting for his feedback.  He nodded a few times.

 

“What are you going to take Seven and Silence home in?”  He asked.

 

Sea Mist chuckled softly.  “It’s fast.  That’s what you’re really asking.”  She put a hand on her left hip.

 

A grin on Duncan’s face confirmed what she had stated.  It felt good to call him out, a nice switch.  “She’ll do point five past light speed.”  Sea Mist’s eyes flared at first then curled at the edges.  ‘Cocky’ set in her persona. 

 

Colonel Galt’s head bobbed at her.  His face said he was not in approval of his marshal’s spunky retort.  His eyes on the other hand, they said ‘that was a good one, I can’t laugh because of this sword your sister stuck up my ass.’ 

 

“Colonel, vertical lift two human occupants and mach twelve.  They have to be in wolf form and share an oxygen mask.”  She shot back.

 

An approving look.  “Share a mask?”

 

“I have planned for this contingency, I have an adapter and G-force... thingy, to take up to five wolves with me.”  A smug smile set on her face now.

 

The quick smile her commander gave her faded just as quick as its coming.  Then he turned back to his maps.

 

Sea Mist waited.  Duncan started making notes.  She waited. 

 

How much time had passed?  It was longer than a minute but not quite five.  Was he finished with her?  A look back to the busy command deck, then to Commander Galt.  Sea Mist decided not to bother him and returned to the activity of the command deck.

 

Sadness had her help with a couple tracking items, she was happy for the distraction.  She was just finishing up one task that involved entering data that their forces would have access to when she saw Duncan join the action.  He headed for the area those working with Squat’s squads were set up at, picked up the mic and called out over the radio.

 

“Squat, what is your location?”  His voice was callous. 

 

A few seconds passed then Squat’s voice came from the speakers.  “I am currently on a roof across from a building in the area you had wanted to have checked for traffic.”

 

Duncan looked around the room again.  “A Mr. Morning Dew wouldn’t happen to be with you, would he?”  He asked.

 

Again the response was not quick in coming.  “Yes, Commander Galt, Morning Dew is with me.”

 

Sea Mist shook her head as she listened to the conversation with her brother.  His mate was with him as well, Duncan sounded as he had expected her to be at his hip.  Then what the Lieutenant Colonel did surprised her,

 

He looked to Morning Dew’s partner and sent her to be with her mate.  He not only seemed to grasp the bond partners had between one another and appreciate it, he encouraged it by always trying to keep mated pairs together. 

 

He had used his connection with the immortals to bring Kevashka’s mate here.  But there was always something dark in his eyes, something she could pickup from his scent on occasion when he watched or talked about mates. 

 

Julia called in.  The vampires were up to something.  Duncan had come over and was standing next to her when a man walked in the room asking for him.  The two men moved back to the table the maps were at. 

 

Sea Mist watched them until they arrived at the table then turned her attention back to what was happening with the forces of darkness.  They seemed to be escorting a small number of humans to another private party.  Max seemed to think these people were hand picked for turning and not a simple food run. 

 

“Sea, join us please.”  Duncan said over a private channel to her.

 

“There just isn’t much there.  We did some ground searches, came up empty.”  The man with Duncan was saying.

 

“This is Dagan, he’s reporting for the clan that checked the ground in the triangle.”  Duncan said looking to Sea Mist then back to Dagan.  “This is Sea Mist, our lead pilot.”  He continued, putting a hand on her shoulder and flashing a short grin when he introduced her. 

 

They nodded to each other then the three leaned over the map and talked about the area.  Buildings are what was of the most interest.  Duncan rationalized his reasoning for the coven of Alexander being fronted with a larger or more public structure rather than a house.  Dagan, as did she, agreed with his logic. 

 

Dagan pointed at locations on the map as he talked.  “This area is mostly tourist interest.  It’s historical.  This here is the main business building of this part of the triangle.  It’s the Ag Historical Center.  The Historical Society owns most of the land and buildings in this zone.  There is a public park and small lake that has a boat house across the lake from the dock and boat that we checked out.  The building is on the verge of collapsing, and defiantly not a coven entrance.”  He looked at Duncan and waited.

 

“What’s this over here?”  Duncan asked pointing to one of his marks on the map.

 

“Foundry, closed in the late sixties and is currently being sold to a candle company.  Other than that, empty.”  Dagan looked as though he had decided to cover everything instead of making Duncan asked about every mark on his map. 

 

“Over here we have the Ag Watershed District building, here, Ag Museum, Kreck schoolhouse over here, Ag Industrial building, Ag Church, Ag show grounds, nothing more than a field with a fence and bleacher seats.  And this last one is the County Ag building, mostly used for road equipment now days.  There are some pieces of fire equipment stored there for the local DNR.”  Dagan stood straight from the map when he finished.

 

Duncan still hunched over the map tapping his lips with a finger as he stared down at the mess of dots and marks on clear plastic covering the map.

 

“What about the school house, tell me about that.”  He asked still hunched.

 

Dagan shrugged.  “Not much to tell, an old historic one room school house, cupola on the roof with a bell, white clapboard siding.  Was the first building we checked actually.  It had been a forgotten boarded-up crack house for quite a few years.  Originally it served a church as well as a school till new of both were built, then it sat empty and ended up a drug house.  Apparently the Historical Society purchased the land and building and fixed it up.  It’s an art museum slash gallery now.”

 

“They have a gallery just for Slash?”  Sea Mist piped in.  “Cool, can we go sometime?”  She had her hands clasped in a ‘trying to look cute’ way, smiled and bounced on her tiptoes a couples times for good measure. 

 

Duncan still looked at the map, nodding as he listened to Dagan, ignoring Sea Mist.  “We’ll fly the area when Sea Mist gets back.  What about the other buildings?”  He faced Sea Mist for maybe two seconds, that was all he needed with the look he gave her.  Her feet came together and she stood straight-er.

 

“Same sort of things, either historical or county, and the church is still an active church.  I don’t mean to doubt you Colonel Galt, I just don’t think Alexander’s coven is hidden here, I don’t see anyplace in the area that we haven’t checked.”  Dagan bent over the map again, he ran a finger loosely over the markers on the maps for the buildings and businesses. 

 

“That leaves houses, if you want us to begin looking into those.  The only other buildings that aren’t houses, and not public buildings are a gas station and the Ag Co-op Creamery.  We went there as well, same sight and a few buildings as the original creamery, quite a few new ones, still very much in business.  Trucks rolling in and out of there all day.”  He concluded.

 

Duncan looked at Sea Mist.  “Creamery?”  His face contorted at the suggestion.

 

She made a face herself.  “No, not a creamery.”  She agreed. 

 

“This is a plat map of the same area.”  Dagan said then laid out a book with detailed maps of the buildings with property lines and roads. 

 

Seven was just heading around the back of the room and cut across towards whomever it was he intended to speak with.  As he passed Duncan and Dagan his eyes fell to the map.

 

“Lovely, Ag Church on Silver Ridge road.”  He muttered as he passed.  All at the table could hear what he had said.

 

Duncan let him walked past two and a half steps.  “Seven of teen, about face, front and center.”  He said crisply but in a reserved tone and volume.

 

Seven stopped fast and returned to Colonel Galt.

 

“What about the church?”  He asked.

 

Gesturing oddly at the map Seven made a few grasping noises before he finally got out what he was thinking.

 

“It’s nothing.  Ag’ Church on ‘Silver’ Ridge road.  Irony.”  He said dismissively.  “I’m sorry commander, I was thinking out loud.” 

 

Failing to connect what his gadgettier was getting at Duncan inquired, maybe there was a nugget here.  Simply relentless this sleuth was.

 

“Irony, how so?”  Duncan posed to Seven.

 

He fumbled trying to come up with a simple explanation.  “It’s nothing sir, really, silver ridge, Ag, Ag Center, Ag this, Ag that.”  Seven watched his commander’s face.  He could tell he had no idea what he was talking about.  “Ag, A, G.  one oh seven point nine?”

 

Duncan’s mouth curved down at the ends and pushed up in the middle as he considered what was said to him.  His head slowly started shaking in a negative manner.  “Nope, got nothing here.”  His eyes returned to Seven.

 

“Periodic table, silver, A-G, weight one hundred seven point nine, Silver Ridge road?”  He said hopefully.

 

“Oh.”  Sea Mist and Duncan said at the same time.  They both stared at him a bit with an ‘uh-huh, alright then’ face.  With an embarrassed look Seven moved off.

 

Everyone’s attention returned to the map.  It looked as though the Historical Society and the church held the most land, followed by the creamery.  The rest was either part of nut tree groves or one of the scattered houses. 

 

Off in one corner part of a vineyard was listed.  Sea Mist asked about that, Dagan said it was no longer a vineyard, the winery had close about twenty years ago, belonged to the church now.  That’s when Duncan’s eyes lit up.

 

“That’s an interesting timeframe.  Over twenty, or under?”  He questioned.

 

Dagan thought for a few moments.  “Not sure, around, could be either way honestly.  I know the area, but not all the meaty details.” 

 

Duncan nodded.  A reasonable response.  They were protectors, not historians.

 

“Duncan, I need you now.”  Sadness said over the radio.  His head snapped in her direction from the tone of her voice.

 

He looked back to the Dagan.  “Give me a written report on everything else.”  His voice was full when he spoke.

 

Dagan nodded once.  “I will have it in your email box by morning sir.”  He said, then began to turn to leave.

 

Duncan pointed at one of the assistants in the room.  “Speak with that young girl there, tell her you need a terminal and a printer.  I want that report now.”  He said then stepped off towards his partner at a rapid gate.  Sea Mist decided she would follow, only at a more casual speed.

 

Her commanders occupied most of the view on the large monitor with the live video feed from one of the people in the field.  As she positioned herself for a better view she caught enough to know the feed was of a street, a small group of people were moving along it. 

 

A man was holding a door that was inset on one of the buildings.  Before the person wearing the camera turned their head from the door she thought she saw the ceiling inside the door drop at an angle.  That meant stairs on the other side of the door. 

 

Now the view of the people nearing the door was clear, Sadness zoomed the camera in.  The five vampires were easy to spot.  Five human females and four human males were with them and four day walkers.  This was not a feeding party.  She could tell that by the way the vampires walked and the body langue of the day-walkers. 

 

The people seemed willing to be with them, which was normal, humans never seemed to suspect evil was afoot when they were with vampires.  They walked around in their daily lives never suspecting that certain fairytales as they saw them were actually true, only different for some of the tales. 

 

Werewolves were not the savage vicious creatures hunting humans so many tales told of them to be.  The hunting humans part that is.  Looking at the feed as it displayed she felt the humans knew the reason they were entering this… coven.

 

“Look towards the door again, Sirs, I need to see that door again.”  Sea Mist urged.

 

Duncan looked back at her.  The people had entered the doorway and she had watched as their heads bobbed as though walking down stairs, thus confirming her observation.  Then the door had closed.  The person with the camera turned to look to a person next to them. 

 

Sadness radioed in for the person to look at the door. 

 

“Zoom in please, tight on that door.”  Sea Mist said as she pressed between her sister and Duncan right up to the monitor.  They quickly made room for her.

 

“Should we try the door?”  Someone asked over the radio.

 

Duncan looked to her, her head was already shaking no.

 

“No, stand fast.”  Duncan answered.

 

There it was, beautiful and majestic.  Truly a work of art, in her eyes.  She had seen similar types from different manufacturers, but there was none like this.  She had always wanted to see one, to try and pass it’s test.  She stared at the image.

 

“Marshal Sea Mist?”  Duncan said.

 

She shook her head abruptly clearing her head of thoughts.  “That’s a Majestic door.”

 

Sadness had understanding in her face. Duncan on the other hand, wasn’t with the program yet.  “And what, exactly, does that mean to us?”  He asked in a metered manner.

 

Sadness answered.  “Sea Mist is a locksmith.  An exceptional one at that, she cracks safes.  Comes in handy with ‘data collection’ at times.”  She explained smugly.

 

Duncan nodded, his eyes remained on Sea Mist.  She nodded understanding his look, get on with it.

 

“The Majestic Door Company made vault doors, but not just any vault doors. Fancy, ornate doors for ‘private’ vaults.  Doors for panic rooms, prestigious banks and financial institutions.”  She backed from the image of the door a little and sighed. 

 

“They were more than just a show piece, they were extremely well built.  From the outside there is a two key system to enter the door, these keys are big, thick and heavy.  Also impossible to pick.  The best have tried.  They also made doors for securing buildings, rumor has it Majestic covertly made the doors for the vaults at Fort Knox back when it first actually held gold.  The company went out of business about twenty years ago now.”  She sighed again as she looked at the door.

 

Both Duncan and Sadness looked to the image of the door, then they looked to each other, seemingly reading the other’s minds.

 

“How hard would it be to break that sucker in?”  Duncan asked.

 

Sea Mist guffawed.  “You ain’t!  Alexander could rip that door open, might be a werewolf that could, Hovlek maybe, but outside of blasting, you aren’t going to get in, the building would give way first.”  She sighed again at her sad thoughts.  She finally gets to see a Majestic door only to have it protecting vampires.

 

Duncan pressed the talk button on the mic again.  “Stand down, bug out and let this site go for now.  Abort missions in this area.”  He ordered.

 

The view on the monitor changed, she could see people moving as they complied with Duncan’s orders.  Kevashka took over redistributing the personnel to areas they could be useful.  Duncan’s face gushed with thought.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Worm

She was in what passed for the clan’s bulwark and was finishing the logs for the night.  She didn’t understand why they still used paper ledgers.  People had to sign for what they took, but that could be handled electronically now.  She closed the book and walked over to her father.

 

“Thanks for your help Worm, now it’s time for you to make for the kitchen.  Your mother wants you to help deliver food to the command team in the overlook.”  Thuobfen said to his energetic and up too late daughter. 

 

“After that, to the shower room and shag towels to the laundry.”  Her face went to its whiney pose.  “Now before you start, I know it’s your brother’s turn, but he is needed elsewhere and no you can’t do what he is doing.  When you’re of age, and more durable, then you can.  Now get moving, the food is waiting.”

 

Face down she replied.  “Yes father.” 

 

Worm made her way out of the cache and to the kitchen.  Inside was a whir of activity, the kitchen always was.  Her mother called the kitchen the heart of the den, she would muse at times how the chefs were what kept a den alive.  Without good food, poor attitudes followed.  And poor attitudes in the field lead to mistakes. 

 

Therefore and whereas they were the heart of the den, it was their life duty to ensure not only nutritious but frelling tasty food was served to all.  It always made her laugh when her mother really got going and into her rant and swore.  The faces she made would also make her laugh.  It was also a good way to kill five to ten minutes of work time. 

 

Worm was good, she could get her mother going about something, get sent to a task when she finished her rant, then turn around and innocently ask a subliminally suggestive question, and off her mother would go again.  Her answer would be a single word usually, never more than three and a harsh tone would be used. 

 

Then she would apologize to her daughter for the undeserved harshness  then follow with the story behind her rashness, which would kill another five to ten minutes.  Her record was three times in a row for this technique, her goal was to get to five.  Her father always told her, ‘you need to have goals Worm, set goals and achieve them’.

 

“Worm!”  One of the chefs that was new to her yelled from across the room kitty-corner to her.  He was near the sinks, a dishrag in his hand.  Scrub brush in the other. 

 

She could see a dim-bi-tri cart sitting between them closest to him.  That would be the food.  Her mother had chosen to enlist one of her coconspirators in getting her to work more and to avoid Worm’s distractions.  ‘Cleaver mother.’  She thought to herself. 

 

“Got it, thanks!”  She screeched back.  Whenever she tried to be loud over the kitchen noise her voice cracked and made fingernails on a chalkboard sound pleasant. 

 

She charged on to the cart at a stiff tantrum pace, her hands fists at her sides.  Clutching the small cart’s handle she pushed it out from whatever it was set next to then turned the cart around and stormed off towards the exit of her prison. 

 

“Do your work happy young one, and it’s not so bad, do it angry, only makes it unpleasant.”  The chef said to her back as she stormed away.

 

“I hate kitchen duty, I hate it, hate it hate it!!”  She said hard in an exhaled breath-voice that was raspy from the force of her exhale through her constricted throat, not wanting to mutter aloud too loud. 

 

She hated everything about the kitchen, noise, heat, nasal passage overload from the scents in the air and steam.  It made her nauseous.  Her mother didn’t seem to care when she told her, only said for her to get back to work and stop being such a drama queen.  She didn’t even know what a drama queen was.  She figured it was a human thing; she wondered how much a drama queen earned in the human world.

 

The door to the overlook.  Patriarch Squat tried to get everyone to call it the command deck, however the old prison term of overlook was still used, when Squat isn’t around.  She took a few more steps so the cart was just past the door, she would pull it in by its handle, just incase she needed to move something to get through. 

 

She rang the buzzer.  She wasn’t even of age yet, only officers and command team members could enter freely, everyone else had to buzz and wait.  She always arrived with food; she never had to wait long.

 

“Worm, come on in, set up wherever you like.”  Colonel Galt said when the door slid open.  His face broke into a smile when he saw her. 

 

Everyone always smiled at her.  Even when they were mad at her, eventually.  She pulled the cart into the command deck and moved off to the front right corner.  It was the most open area in the room, and it offered her a view of what was happening on the main floor.

 

She did love the creation of the dim-bi-tri cart.  Though she felt the name left considerable room for improvement.  It had a left and right side, or front and back when you were serving, on the rectangular server that would rise out of the cart when she told it to.  Each side had three dimensional pocket chambers that held plates and bowls of food. 

 

The first chamber was the hot chamber, the second was a room temperature chamber and the third the cold and frozen chamber.  Worm called this one the ice cream chamber.  It could hold a considerable amount of food and the neat part was when you opened one of the chambers and removed a serving of food from one of the three levels inside, another one appeared in its place. 

 

The story of the cart’s invention said the man who invented it for his mate worked on it for seventy years before he came up with the incantation to make the pockets dispense food and another hundred more to make them the proper temperature.

 

The command team was plenty hungry, Worm was the main attraction in the room.  That was the only thing she liked about kitchen duty, when she was serving food, she was everybody’s friend. 

 

A small sign atop the server informed those she was feeding what food was on the cart.  She was working up a sweat handing out the food.  The rectangular server riser would turn around when she instructed it too, giving her access to the other side.  This was an advancement of the original cart she liked, it followed a fair amount of time after the original invention, long before she was born. 

 

When things finally slowed to a near halt and everyone was settled in eating and working Colonels Sadness and Galt came and took food.  They had stood off and waited for their entire command team to pick up their food and sit before they visited her. 

 

‘Come and join us, grab a plate you can sit by me.’  Squat had came to her and said after the Colonels went to sit.  He used a grainy whisper when he spoke next.  ‘Maybe you can take some of the heat from Colonel Galt off of me.’  He winked at her when he finished. 

 

She had smiled at him, she hadn’t a clue what he spoke of, but sitting and eating with the command team sounded a lot better then wiping down the counters and tables in the kitchen. 

 

‘So, what’d you get stuck doing last night?’  She envisioned one of her friends saying to her during intermission from classes.  ‘I issued weapons to our victorious shadow-steppers then I took food to the command deck, part of my regular duty now.  After I finished serving fourth I sat down and ate with the command team.  It was nice.’  She would respond.

 

‘You got to eat with the command team in the command deck?’  Her friend would ask.  She would take her time to gloat. 

 

If it was the boy she was thinking of, who always asked her that, she would be the center of his questioning world.  He would want to know every detail.  Opportunity would present itself and give her the ability to trade her information for items of interest from him.  He would willingly do as she asked, he was sweet on her.  She had no interest, he was merely the means to and end.  Though, his scent did make her smile at times.

 

She was on her second spoonful of lemon, lime, blueberry, kiwi sherbet when the doors to the overlook crashed open, a man in an all black uniform and a clan crest she did not know stumbled into the room, a silver sword in his right hand. 

 

“Lord Duncan Galt!”  The man called out as he frantically looked around the room of people all staring at him.  One of the team members moved quickly to Colonel Galt’s side.  She was ready to fight.

 

“Stand easy!”  Colonel Galt barked as he looked at his people.

 

Once he seemed sure they were steady he looked to the man who seemed to have trouble standing.  The sword still held in his right hand.  “I’m Colonel Galt, what do you have there?”  He asked commandingly, a small nod towards the sword with his head when he spoke.

 

“This my Lord Duncan, was run through me by a vampire whom afterwards was introduced to Bad Betty at very close range.  He was still holding the sword at the time.  I changed his mind about fighting me.”

 

The hand this man had this sword in was bare.  He held it as firmly as he would his own.  There was no sign of any kind the silver looking hilt caused him any discomfort. 

 

Duncan had known he wasn’t intending to attack him, the sword was in his right hand, werewolves are left handed, always.  He could see on the chest of the man’s uniform the hole from the sword being run through him, at the bottom edge of his crest.

 

“This was run through you?”  Duncan iterated as he rose and stepped slowly to the man then took the sword.

 

He looked the blade over and again at close range.  It appeared to be the same as the others, though it felt... different.  The weight was off.  The metal felt... wrong.  Duncan keyed the earpiece of his radio.  “Hovlek, I need you in the command deck NOW!”  His voice was urgency. 

 

“Yes sir, when it was in me I pulled it out, I wasn’t weakened at all and the wound regenerated normally, not like a silver wound.  I heard you were looking into the weapons the vampires used.  The silver ones.  Thought I should get this to you right away.”  The man said.  He was clearly not fully recovered from other wounds he had received during his battles. 

 

The man sat down at an empty spot at the nearest table, his arms limp.

 

“Worm, bring this man some water please.”  Colonel Galt said to her.  She snapped to comply. 

 

“Thank you.”  The man said raising his head.  “I am Lieutenant Keegans, by the way.  Forgive my rude intrusion into your fourth.”  He said to Duncan.  Worm arrived with a bottle of water for him.  He drained the bottle in one long pull and handed the empty bottle back to her.

 

“Thank you.”  He said when he looked at her.

 

“Would you like another?  We have plenty.”  She asked politely.  Her face a beaming smile.

 

“No, I’m good, thank you.”  The Lieutenant answered her. 

 

Worm went back to her food, only she repositioned tables so she sat closer to the one Colonel Galt and the others were at.  The sherbet was almost gone from her bowl when Hovlek interrupted her attention when he stormed into the room.  When she heard the door open she snapped her head to see who was entering.  Hovlek gave her a smile as he passed by.  He went straight to where Colonel Galt stood holding the sword. 

 

“Sir.”  She heard Hovlek say.

 

“What can you tell me about this sword Hovlek?”  Duncan asked in full reliance on the weapon smith’s knowledge. 

 

Hovlek looked at the weapon as Duncan held it out.  His eyes were a dark question.  His hands remained firmly at his sides.

 

“Go ahead, you don’t need gloves, it’s not silver.”  Duncan assured him as he read his face.

 

Hovlek gave the sword an uneasy look then reached and took it from Duncan’s hands.  Gingerly at first then he gripped it like it was one he had grown.  He tittered a few times as he moved the sword around and accepted it was not silver. 

 

Then he stopped and brought the blade to his nose.  He exhaled onto the blade, then he sniffed the metal.  He ran the length of the blade and the hilt under his nose, sniffing fast and deep pausing only to exhale so he might continue sniffing.  He looked to Duncan.

 

“Platinum, nickel and... tin.  Strange.  Oh and rhodium.”  He put a hand on the blade near the end, with his other on the hilt, he flexed the sword.  “The frame is lighter too.  Hovlek thinks possibly wrought iron maybe.  Balance, not as good.  Lord Galt want Hovlek to remove cast and see?”  He asked pointing to the general area on the sword where the makers mark had been last time.

 

Colonel Galt stared at the sword Hovlek held in his hands.  Suddenly his eyes moved to Worm.  She turned back around and faced the table.

 

“No, Hovlek, what you have told me is more than I need to know.”  She looked back when he started talking to Hovlek again.  Colonel Galt fidgeted with his lower lip.

 

“On second thought Hovlek, please do, I want to make sure the mark is the same.  Just to be thorough.” 

 

Hovlek nodded.  “Right away, Hovlek blast this... thing and tell you what Hovlek find.”  The weapons smith said with a smile and strode determined from the room sniffing the sword again as he went.

 


 

 

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