The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 16
Shut Up And Fight

Chapter 16

 

Shut Up And Fight

 

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Snow

 

Snow opened the door to the quarters she shared with Duncan, he was sitting in a straight-backed padded velvet chair when she cleared the door.  His face was flopped down into his hands with fingers spread.  She could smell he had another visit with the commode.  People that knew them well were afraid to stand near him because of the frequency of his vomiting bouts.

 

“Sea Mist is safely away with patriarch Boxtemmill and Silence.”  Snow shook her head.  “My sister is definitely a born helicopter pilot.”  She announced as she came and sat down in the chair matching his on the other side of the small coffee table now between them. 

 

She quietly waited for her partner to return to their universe, first fidgeting her fingers as she rested them on her knees leaning forward, then drumming them on her knees.  His head moved, a groan came from him then he lifted his head and looked to Snow.

 

“Hmm?  Why is that?”  He said in a half asleep and stressed voice. 

 

Snow didn’t skip a beat.  She took off telling her story at machinegun speed.  “Well, you see we arrived at the field and the plane wasn’t there, at first you see it was in an underground hanger, naturally, Sea likes... odd things.  Anyways the hanger is an underground one, the plane lifted out of the ground on an elevator then Sea checked it out fired it up and loaded everyone in.” 

 

“There was no runway, none, it was a field Duncan, a field, and this was a plane, I think, it was different, I’ve never seen anything like it, well, maybe in movies, but it was different and she said it was a plane, but it didn’t look like a plane.  She told me its name… I can't remember now, but it had a name.  It was weird.” 

 

“So I asked her, where is the runway.  She gave me a snarky grin and said she was a chopper ace and she didn’t need no frelling runway.  And she didn’t.  Nope, she didn’t.  That plane, it was a plane Duncan, I think, it lifted off the ground from where it sat like a helicopter!  It was amazing.  The plane dropped a little when she put it in forward flight, but damn, that freller took off in a split second and was gone.  I also know what a sonic boom sounds like now too.  My ears ring.”  She was grinning from ear to ear.

 

Snow!  Duncan said abruptly and sharply.

 

She quickly looked at her partner.  “What?”

 

“Breathe.”  He said and chuckled a bit at her.

 

At first what he told her made no sense, she was breathing just fine.  She had to breathe to talk.  Oh.  His meaning hit her.  Realizing she had been talking very fast in her runaway recant of her experiences a blush broke across her pale face.  She felt hyper like the first time she tried coke.  She couldn’t stop pacing after the coke. 

 

It really freaked the humans out when she walked up a wall and started pacing the ceiling.  She didn’t see the big deal, she did explain there was less people to get in her way there, seemed the logical place to pace.  She had to move after that.  Two months later her picture was in one of the national tabloids with a caption that read ‘Bat girl seen walking ceiling of local club’.  After that she stuck with water or seven up.  Too much caffeine in coke. 

 

Snow smiled at Duncan.  “Sorry love, I’m just so... riled up, hyper right now.  I don’t know why.”  She sighed and looked down thinking.

 

Duncan grunted.  “I know how you feel.  Caged.  You’re a field agent like me.  You aren’t happy unless your nuts are dragging in the shit.  I’d have rather been at the mission instead of at some secret hidden location watching from afar like some love struck schoolboy and the hot brunette across the street.”

 

“You had a hot brunette across the street when you grew up?”  Snow innocently asked.

 

Duncan made a face and sound of inaccuracy.  “Well, not across the street.”  He said, then looked away as he mused.  “Across the hall actually.  My sister.  She was fine.  I used to watcher her through the keyhole of her door when she undressed.  She seemed to like to walk around nude a lot.  She never noticed the carpet in front of her door was sticky.”

 

Duncan looked back to his partner.  Snow’s mouth was agape, her eyes looked like marshmallows with a Crow’s candy stuffed in the middle.  Her frozen shock was more than he could keep a straight face through.  Duncan’s composure shattered like cheap glassware dropped from a roof onto concrete. 

 

Gut rolling laughter erupted from her partner giving light to his ruse.  She wanted to punch him in the arm but she feared the frail human might break. 

 

“Bastard.  I believed you!”  She chirped at him.  His laughter intensified.  Clearly her believing him was part of the concept.  “That was not funny.”  She said sounding cross with him, then she herself broke into laughter.  She couldn’t help it. 

 

After a minute or so, both started to recover from their laughter.  “Ok, that was funny, kind of.”  Snow said to him as she wiped a tear that had meandered down her cheek from laughing hard.

 

“I’m sorry sugar-lump, I just had to break the tension of ‘after-mission’ stress.  I’ve been there myself, maybe not with vampires till you showed up on my doorstep, but the effect is the same.”  Duncan said with his kind voice.  It did help to laugh, Snow appreciated his odd tactics, his understanding of how she was feeling.  He always seemed to understand.

 

She gave him a cynical look.  “You were involved with vampires before I was on the scene.  To be specific, it was your involvement with vampire that got the attention of the Archbishop.  He, arranged, my involvement in your life.  Too late I’m afraid.”  Her eyes fell solemnly to her lap.

 

A confused look crossed Duncan’s face after Snow finished speaking as he considered her words and the information they contained.  Dark thoughts came to his mind.  “Too late, what do you mean by that?  Why was it too late?”  He asked with suspicious eyes.  Was this another ‘need to know basis’ revelation? 

 

Sitting up straight Snow looked into his eyes.  “I was outcast.  I needed work, clan Westbridge needed my talents.  They became my employer.  They didn’t trust clan Clay’s handling of ‘situations’ and as they often did, took maters into their own paws and brought me in to be their eyes, ears and paws in your world.”  Snow gave him a soft smile with sad eyes.

 

“We were supposed to be on the same flight you and I.  But Mr. efficiency here unbeknownst to me had cancelation reservations with other airlines for flights that were currently full.  And you just happened to get a flight that left forty minutes earlier than the one I was on.”

 

She looked to her lap and continued.  “I didn’t know until it was too late, thus when I landed I had to catch up to you, fortunately, four legs are faster than four wheels in the city.  I arrived at your wife’s apartment just as your taxi pulled up, so I had about a five minute jump on you.  I wasn’t informed your wife was a vampire.  I almost took you out as a day-walker that night.  I would have had I not caught your scent.”

 

Snow inhaled deep and stretched her torso.  She locked eyes with Duncan’s.  “I was assigned to you by clan Westbridge because Robert was the one assigned to cover you by clan Clay who believed they ran everything and no one would do anything without asking or informing them.  Westbridge knew something wasn’t right with him, they never told me how or what.  I don’t think they knew.”  She relaxed in her chair and broke her steel gaze on Duncan.

 

He just stared at her for the longest time.  She didn't know what he was thinking, she couldn’t even pick up a hint psychically. 

 

“I know.”  Duncan said gently.

 

A calming wave washed over Snow as she looked at her mate.  He had known all this time what had happened and why.  All had been understood and forgiven for some time now.  She had held this inside eating at her needlessly.  Wondering, had she come clean about what she knew about Robert would Duncan have figured out he was the leak and plugged it earlier, before so many more werewolves died?  He had known all along, this put her at ease and a peace came to her soul. 

 

They laid back in their chairs, which were not in the least bit comfortable.  “You know, I saw some fancy looking relaxation something or other chairs in the other room there.  The one with all the plants.”  Duncan said to her.

 

They discussed the chairs that had massagers, heat and cold built into them.  Snow told him the room was called a settee lounge for resting in when one didn’t want to go to bed.  She let him persuade her fairly easily as she wanted to make use of the room and try the chairs herself.  The settee at their house was the sitting room.  They had lounge chairs, but nothing like these. 

 

When they entered the settee Snow notice some small writing on a wall across from them, she’d never really paid attention to the walls of the room before.  Upon investigating, she asked Duncan if he wanted a hot tub ride again with a smoldering seductive look. 

 

He agreed, hot tub sounded perfect.  She keyed the control after Duncan came to stand by her and the room vanished and a new one was placed with a tub that rolled out from hiding in a cubby in the wall.

 

Snow laid her head back. Both had their arms outstretched as they sat across from each other with their legs intertwined below the surface, sitting in silence close to ten minutes enjoying the warm embrace the hot tub offered.  When conversation started again, naturally work was the topic. 

 

Neither one of them was feeling frisky enough to start anything.  Their intimate romps had diminished lately.  Snow felt cheated by not being able to be with her mate fully.  She knew Duncan could feel that in her.  The frustration.  She could feel the same from him. 

 

He raised his head and looked at her.  “What would you say to mobilizing all personnel from support classes that weren’t absolutely needed for den operation into the field, let them get into the mess.  Let them handle the clubs and bars we have been hitting while we move on more substantial targets.  Including members of the command team.  Do we really need all of us in that command cell?”  Duncan posed to her.

 

Water ran from her hair and across her face as she broke surface from ducking underwater as she moved to sit next to him and nuzzled into him. 

 

“You think there’s enough targets in the new areas to move that many people into them?”  She asked once she was settled in. 

 

“I think we have been tricked.  The vampires recruit by the hundreds and stuff these places with lackeys that they don’t give a squirt of piss about.  The main operators behind the scenes are untouched.  They aren’t living in the dark seedy areas, we figured that out.  They have moved up, new days new styles.”  His lips hardened from the thoughts in his mind.

 

“I know there are more covens in the upper class parts of town then we have confirmation on, and the masters of these covens are managing the operation of the red-light district areas in complete safety from there.  There hasn’t been a single werewolf mission in any of these areas.”  Duncan told Snow in a relaxed voice.

 

Snow considered what he’d said.  Fact, as soon as they wiped out a club or any vampire site in the areas they had been working, which had been the type of areas vampires used to live and work from, they never stopped operation and were fully staffed again the next night continuing on as though they had never been attacked. 

 

Another fact was that they weren’t touching Alexander’s top people.  She knew this, even when they made a score against what the field teams said was a major coven leader, she knew he was small potatoes. 

 

Snow knew none of the coven leaders they had taken down, she had been doing battle against the vampires long enough she knew many of the major coven leaders by sight and name. What Duncan was saying she agreed with, she herself had felt they were missing the mark with their attacks and not hitting the tactical points they should be.

 

“So where do we go from here then?”  She asked distantly as her mind wheeled with thought.

 

“That my dear is simple.  Our enemies aren’t ones for a lot of structure, they don’t have strategists, most of their field work involves no advanced planning. They go out and get shit done.  They think on their feet and deal with shit as it happens.  Shoot move and communicate.”  He said with a thoughtful face.

 

He looked to Snow’s face then his eyes wandered forward.  “That’s what we need to do;  Stop being afraid to take action without running it by the system.  Analyze what the situation is, call out a plan, engage.  Our strategies need to be a simple SOP set up, field commanders and team leaders take it from there and communicate their intent.  Two or three people can handle the command deck.”  Duncan splashed the water some away from them. 

 

Sitting motionless Snow ran what her partner had said through her biological computer.  This was her area of expertise, field command, combat life.  Valiant Knight, she and Trust had both earned that title, and oddly enough, earned it in the same rudimentary manner. 

 

Just as Trust had done, Snow had analyzed her situation, kept an observing eye on what was transpiring around her and when she saw her opportunity, she took it.  There was no planning involved. 

 

She had felt when she had been off on her own being the rogue of outcasts and working for whichever clan would employ her services that werewolves were predictable.  She could easily maneuver her way around their parties as they worked.  She knew their tactics, even the adlib parts of a fight she could predict.  And if she could, Alexander could too.

 

“Just so I am clear,” she began, “We should put all support personnel into uniform, train them on how to use the water pistol and hope they still remember sword training and stick them in teams, then again hope like hell they remember how to fight in a raid.”

 

She looked over at him.  “Then you want command to be handled from the field with the command team members chosen to run the command deck overseeing everything we do.  And you want us to find a target and just frelling hit it.  Have I got this right?” 

 

Snow spoke somewhat cynically when she recited her understanding of Duncan’s concept.  There was no cynicism in her at all, she just wanted to sound that way so he would naturally defend is ideas.  Made her part easier as he would then fill in all details defending her imaginary doubt.

 

Duncan raised an arm at his side and made an ‘uhh’ sound.  His arm returned to the side of the tub and he faced Snow. 

 

“That is the main gist of it. As far as training, show them how it operates when it’s issued to them, then O.J.T from their field commanders and team mates.  Also, no returning weapons once they are issued at the end of a mission.” 

 

“All personnel will have their weapons on their person, with dimensional pockets there is no reason to not have them carried, and we are at war, our people need to be ready to fight and able to move out quickly, not having to sign out weapons every night will speed things up considerably.  You don’t sign in your swords, all crew teams and squads shall be fully equipped at all times.  Just like Kevashka was keeping the vehicles.  And that should also be expanded to every clan every crew.”

 

Snow nodded in agreement to the last part.  “Absolutely, when I found out Kevashka did that, I loved the idea.  As far as training, don’t you think they should get some basic training on a new weapon and a chance to refresh themselves a bit on combat?  Remember some of these people haven’t picked up a weapon or really left a den in three or four hundred years.”  She interjected with a considerate voice.

 

No response came from her partner, she looked over at him.  His face told her that his mind was currently busy.  She looked away from him, she would wait, the water was nice.  Snow slouched down in the tub a bit more till the water was at her chin line, relaxed and waited.

 

There was movement from the great thinker on her right.

 

“One night, they train while we fight.  Bulwark staff are trained in how to use the weapons so they can train others, part of their job.  They can train the support personnel how to use it.  We won’t be able to implement the new protocol tonight anyways, not so far as having them in the field, but we can use that time to train.”  Duncan answered.

 

“Ok, we should keep two maintenance people at the den, wouldn’t want to have the kitchen staff try and handle fixing anything in addition to kitchen duties.”  Snow contended.

 

Duncan shook his head.  “Two maintenance people, fine, the kitchen staff fights.  Werewolves only need to sleep once a week for about ten hours.  When they get back, they take a shower, hit the kitchen and do the breakfast run, have a bite to eat and rest with everyone else then back to work.  Teams, squads can help serve and clean up, group effort.  Everyone will get three hours of downtime from here on out.”

 

“Who do you have in mind for running the command deck?”  She asked offhandedly.

 

Duncan guffawed.  “The Stream That Flows Gently Through The Woods and Meadow.”

 

Snow smiled and nodded.  “Max, yes, that’s who I would have picked too.  With Meadow keeping him focused, command is covered.”

 

A chuckle was in his voice when he answered.  “Max, Mr. Deep Thought.  He belongs at the command deck.  Always cool as a cucumber.”

 

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“This is Hovlek for Colonel Galt, do you hear Hovlek Colonel Galt, Hovlek have something for Colonel Commander Galt.”  Came across the general broadcast channel from speakers built into the room. 

 

It was time to get out of the hot tub anyways, her fingers were all wrinkly and she felt somewhat cooked.  They both rose from the tub and grabbed towels from a stand next to the steps up to the tub and started drying each other.  Hovlek’s voice came from the speakers in the room again as he repeated his call and asked if anyone knew where Colonel Galt was.

 

“Is there a wall control for the radios in here?”  Duncan asked Snow.

 

She looked around the room more.  “I didn’t see one.”  She answered and walked the outer walls of the room inspecting them for a radio consol of some kind. 

 

She was assuming that due to the newness of the radio system, there was yet to be a full interface even in the newly constructed area.  Hearing what was said over a single channel was about all that was available right now and that had to be specially rigged.  “Nothing, how about you?”  She said looking back towards where Duncan was looking.

 

“Nada.  My radio was in the other room, the one that was here before.”  He answered.

 

Snow thought for a second.  “Heh, mine too.”

 

Both grabbed their clothes and met up where the control for the hot tub was, Snow keyed the exchange of rooms.  Duncan dropped his clothes on one of the massage chairs and grabbed his radio from the small stand near it.

 

“Colonel Galt to Hovlek, over.”  He said as he stuffed the earpiece in place. 

 

Snow dressed while Duncan spoke with Hovlek.  He soon joined her in dressing then they headed off to see what their weapons master had discovered.

 

“What the hell is that!?”  Duncan barked as they passed some of Malkah’s… Seven’s assistants near the cargo elevator in the back of the den.  They were hauling very large black metal plates and a large amount of boxes that were all the same size, about two foot square.  They would have to get used to calling their gadgettier Seven from now on.

 

The girl that seemed to be leading the crew rushed to Duncan’s front and snapped to attention with a salute.

 

“Lord Galt Sir!”  The young woman ejected loudly.  Duncan returned the salute, with Snow as the woman’s eyes darted between the two of them.

 

Duncan smiled.  “Customarily, you would salute Lady Snow first.  What contraption of our slippery conniving ingenious little gadgettier are you unloading now?”  His voice was a mix of an expectant cynical and a touch of worry.

 

“Thank you Colonel Galt sir!”  The woman ejected, then a soft chuckle came with her further response to Duncan.  “I’m First Sergeant Allahna, and this is a very, very large parabolic microphone.”  Allahna ended with a smile that said she was particularly fond of this device and how they intended to use it.

 

“Explain.”  Colonel Galt said.

 

Allahna vacated the smile from her face.  “You know how a robin hops the ground and listens for worms?”  She asked.

 

Duncan thought back to his childhood, remembering the robins in the yard, how they would hop from spot to spot, cock their head and appear as they were listening to the ground.  Sometimes they would jab their beaks into the ground where they were, other times they would run to a spot a couple feet away and jab at the ground.  They always got their worm.

 

“Yes, I know what you’re talking about.”  He said with a reserved voice.

 

“Well, this will hopefully do the same thing only for vampires.  Seven hopes he can listen over a city, cancel ambient sounds and hear vampires, then pinpoint their location.”  Allahna said with a firm single nod.

 

Duncan looked over the materials they were hauling, thanked the sergeant and they moved on to Hovlek’s workshop.

 

“This metal is shit.  It is weak, it is garbage.  And the cast over it, not a trace of silver.”  Hovlek told Duncan while Snow looked on.

 

He had removed all the outside metal from the form, including that over the hilt.  Hovlek explained that this form was made from a mix of metals that did not alloy together well, it was as though basically slag metal was used.  Even the cast over was a bad blend of precious metals then coated and polished to resemble silver.  This blend was more expensive than fine silver cast would’ve been.

 

“Why?”  Duncan asked Hovlek, his face puzzled.  This was a confusing twist.

 

Hovlek turned the form over and handed it to Duncan.  “Here, maker’s mark.  It is different, but molds used for casting both form and casting over it are the same as others we have recovered that were silver.”

 

Snow leaned in so she could see the mark, Duncan angled the form towards her so she could see it better.

 

“An ‘X’.”  Duncan said looking to Hovlek for further explanation.

 

His head started shaking.  “No, not ‘X’ Duncan Galt, ten.  See the two lines, one top, one bottom.  Roman numeral, that is what Hovlek knows that means.”

 

Her partner was thinking again.  She wondered what this meant to him.

 

“Ex ten.”  Duncan muttered aloud.

 

“Exten?  No, Hovlek not know if Exten involved in this… ah, this not his mark”  Hovlek said causing Duncan’s head to suddenly move to look at him.

 

Duncan’s face was a sudden and urgent question.  “Excuse me?  Exten?  Explain.”

 

A question formed on Hovlek’s face now.  “Major… for the Westbridge, Major Exten.  Exten he oversees covert actions the clan takes.  A very… um… cloak and dagger, yes, a cloak and dagger type person, Hovlek get that right?  Cloak and dagger?  That is the human expression?”

 

Grinning back Duncan nodded quickly.  “Yes Hovlek, you got it right, I understand what you mean.  And Exten may be worth looking at, along with our friends in Clan Westbridge.”

 

Duncan had a quirky smirk on his face when he turned to face Snow.  She felt herself titter silently as their minds worked together.

 

“Steve Rheineer.”  They said in unison.

 

He was mated to a born member of the Westbridge clan that was in the noble line.  Clan Westbridge had watched Duncan’s ass like a hawk and saved his bacon multiple times.  Friends?  No, they were family.

 

“I’ll make the call.”  Snow said before Duncan could spring into action.  His face took a look of surprise.

 

“Oh?”  He said.

 

“Yes, you have other things to deal with, I have our orders to issue, contacting agent Rheineer works into what I am doing perfectly.”  Snow rationalized to her partner.

 

Duncan nodded and gave her and accepting smile.  With Seven and Silence being transported by Sea Mist they were a bit short on help from a technical front.  They needed to arrange another broadcast to all their troops. 

 

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The mission that night went well.  They concentrated their attacking teams on the known targets in the seedy low-end red-light and club districts.  Only this time there would be observers watching the restocking of vampire staff. 

 

Focusing on this would hopefully return some information on how they are re-entering the businesses and opening up as nothing happened.  Duncan had ordered no hostile activity in any of the new areas they were covering, they were to observe and report only.

 

Those in the attack also had secret orders from command.  Duncan and Snow would be in the field and would be coming to the locations of the vampire traps personally once the area was clear.  They were placing ladybugs in the bars and clubs to watch from the inside as well this go around also. 

 

Kevashka was angry when she was ordered to fall out for training and informed she would be joining the fight on the next mission out.  Hovlek was the complete opposite.  There was no need for him to train, he was a master of the water pistol, and was put into use to train. 

 

When told he would be fighting his face glowed and he looked a hundred years younger.  The reactions from the others in the den had been just as vast in variation of reaction. 

 

The younger ones typically became excited while the older ones were usually indifferent.  Only a slight few became angered by the news.  Max and Meadow on the other hand, they were honored that they were chosen to man the den command station.  It showed the trust their commanders had in them.

 

“What’s this?”  Duncan asked Allahna when she stuffed a small white and blue plastic box into his shirt pocket.

 

“Electronic scrambler.  You can bet the vampires have cameras in those lairs, this will interfere with their camera’s operation, and ours as long as you are in range.  Point is sir, this will keep the vampires from knowing you were in there and what you did, they won’t know about your cameras.”  Allahna informed him.

 

A smile came to Duncan’s face, he knew who was responsible for this contraption.  “Good idea, thanks.”  He said then started to turn.

 

“It was Seven’s idea.”  She said then herself turned and went off to other tasks.

 

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Duncan

 

He met with Julia to discuss the details of her radio report.  She had made a major discovery in the area Squat’s squads were doing surveillance work.  She was still tracking when Duncan moved Squat’s people in, neither knew what the other was doing, as Julia’s activities were covert.  She was over due for a full in person report.  Now they needed to remedy that. 

 

“Run that by me again?  They what?”  Duncan said to Julia after hearing what she had said.

 

“I shit you not Duncan Galt, I saw one of the main lieutenants for Alexander enter a strip club that night, he never left it during or after it was hit.  Later I spotted him on Welsh Boulevard, a very affluent neighborhood for a vampire.”

 

“I watched.  He entered a building on Welsh, then a car pulled out from a garage on the far end of the block, blacked out windows.  I followed the car, it crossed town… it went to that gated neighborhood, can’t remember the name, anyways, there he got out and went into a door.  I watched well into daylight hours.” 

 

“Two cars pulled out from that building.  Both had blacked out windows.  I followed one into a Beverly Hills neighborhood, lost them when they entered a gated property.  It was crawling with bad guys.”  Julia stared back at Duncan’s empty eyes.  He had left the room.

 

Several minutes passed while they sat as Duncan thought.  He was the type of person that liked to flip things around in his mind and peer at them from every possible angle.  His insight seemed to be Light guided at times to her.  It may very well be. 

 

“Interesting.  Did you look for a car when you first saw him, or notice one?”  He asked her.

 

“No, he came out of a building.”  She answered.

 

“What about sector nine, you said you knew of activity there?  We have nothing.”  He stated.

 

“That place is a hot bed of high level activity.  Here’s a list of names of viceroy I saw.”  Julia said then handed a folded piece of unlined writing paper to him.

 

Colonel Galt glanced over the paper, the names meant nothing to him, but it made him think of something he had heard Snow say in an offhanded comment, ‘if they were major coven leader, I would know their name.’  He would have to ask her if any of these names meant anything to her.  He was afraid of the answer.  What they had dealt with so far had been some ruthless bastards themselves.  Did he really want to know what the top suckers were capable of?

 

“You think you can give us an accurate map of where these covens are in sector nine?”  Duncan asked in a stressed voice.

 

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Squat

 

‘Into the night he sprang, his quarry stumbled and took flight. Raising his sword to the moon, a savage howl broke from him into the night. To flight the loathsome creature he raged his battle against took, escape in the night skies he sought.  Moonlight echoed from the blade that flew from his hand felling the foe midstride in flight.’ 

 

The words of the poetic historian Gladfield streamed though Squat’s mind as he entered the command deck.  This was part of the descriptive prolegomenon to the book of history of werewolf combat he had written.  Required reading for all who would seek a combat vocation.  He owned a copy of this book and another that was a study version with discussion inserted along with the original work.

 

Meeting time, big changes in the overall efforts.  His oldest sister and her forced mate were looking at an array of maps laid out across several tables.  Duncan was a good… man, human.  He didn’t blame Duncan for what happened to Madelyn, what happened to her was Robert of the Clay’s doing.  He was as stuck in the mess as his sister. 

 

Now was their third mission since his den became the field command post.  His squads were the focus of Duncan’s information gathering.  What they had uncovered, and now with what Julia could confirm for them and enhance, they would play a pinnacle roll in the coming raids. 

 

He liked how Duncan had said ‘every wagging tail that can swing a sword’ when he discussed the orders to mobilize every possible member for combat.  “Bout damn time.”  He said aloud as he crossed the command deck to the overlook windows.

 

Catching his one lieutenant’s attention he gestured for him to get his counterpart and come join him.

 

“Does that mean you want both of us up there with you, Commodore?”  The man on the floor said over the radio with a mildly amused smirk. 

 

Squat nodded, mildly embarrassed.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Always forget about the damn thing.  Rub my nose in it.”  He muttered watching his two officers meet and start for the stairs up, then he turned and joined his sister and her… partner.

 

He wished Madelyn could turn Duncan for a mate, he would make one good werewolf. 

 

The maps were a mess of colored marks and words.  Duncan was explaining what everything was on the main map they were looking at.  There were seven overlays.  This would take some time to go over, his people were able to confirm Julia’s information for her as well, and hers also helped them uncover other hidden happenings in the area.  Colonel Galt had put Julia on the scent well before he started working with his squads.  The fruits of this effort lay before them on the maps, all new targets with real impact on their foes.

 

The door to the command deck blasted open and Sea Mist strode into the room wild eyed and full of spunk.  She stomped her feet loudly while coming to attention.

 

“Hail Skroob!” She ejected fairly loudly then brought her left arm out straight, placed her right palm at the inside elbow then bent her left arm up and wiggled her fingers in a wave at Duncan.

 

The initial shock of her abrupt entrance lasted but the blink of an eye in Duncan.  His face tightened into a spiteful stare.  Sea Mist let her arms fall and the smile on her face vanished, she remained at a stance of attention.

 

Silence stumbled, white faced, into the command deck with her mate.  She had her right arm around Seven and they both seemed to be helping each other walk.  When Seven raised his head Squat noticed his face was a white as his mates.

 

“It goes very fast.”  Seven uttered to the room looking at no one.

 

Silence gasped twice then took a speaking breath.  “It goes mach twelve.”  She seemed to be speaking between stomach flips of nausea . 

 

Sea Mist tittered.

 

Duncan snapped a glass shard look back at her after taking in the sight of her two passengers.  “What did you do?”  He asked in a voice that matched his gaze.

 

Sea Mist shuffled her feet, grasping at her hands then twiddling her fingers as guilt seeped onto her face.  She shrugged.

 

“I, ah, landed fast is all.  Was in a hurry to get back.  I should have landed slower.”  She stammered as her face became red.  Like her sister, her complexion ratted her out.

 

Duncan looked at Silence, his eyes were soft now.  She understood what he wanted.

 

“How does an outside loop help you land that ‘plane’ faster?”  Silence said, her tone was harsh.

 

Sea Mist grabbed her crotch with both hands.  “I’m sorry, I got a little… frisky during landing, I usually do that when I bring her in.  I forgot they were there.”  Her face was very sheepish, embarrassment flooded her, thus revealing her reaction of grabbing herself as her body’s reaction spilled from her hands to the floor.

 

He stifled  his laughter until he saw the roll of Duncan’s eyes and the expression on his face as he said “Oh great, this one does that too!” 

 

After that he couldn’t contain himself.  Dusk was still several hours away and that was funny shit there.  His flying ace sister forgets about her passengers, does a carnival landing, then gets embarrassed and pisses herself in front of her commander who then drags his other sister into the fray. 

 

“Gonna be a good day Tater!”  He roared out at some point during his gut rolling.  He remembered looking up and seeing Sadness’s face red also, which spurred more laughing.  Duncan had yelled something at him once.  He couldn’t stop. 

 

Gasping for air Squat’s laughter was finally ending it’s run though him.  Sadness was talking to Duncan huddled into him in a quiet conversation.  Duncan’s face said he didn’t like what he was being told, though his body language said he was reluctantly accepting what she was telling him.

 

“…and you have to expect it to happen, it’s part of life with us.”  Sadness was saying now that he was under control enough to listen in.

 

Duncan looked over at Sea Mist, she was only getting redder.  He shook his head while letting out a sigh.  “Between puddles here and the giggling banshee…”  He trailed off and looked at Sadness.

 

Their eyes met for several seconds.  “Fine.”  He said then looked to Sea Mist.  “Go.  And you’re coming right back and cleaning that up!”  He pointed to the puddle on the ground between her feet. 

 

She raised her head slowly.  “Yes sir, I’m sorry.”

 

As Sea Mist left the others saw to Seven and Silence who were still clearly shaken from their experience.  An attendant was called for to help the two of them to their rooms.  Sadness asked if they would be able to work tonight.  Both assured her they would, once they settled down. 

 

“I still think she should be disciplined in some manner.”  Duncan said after Seven and Silence were escorted to their quarters.

 

She shook her head.  “Babe, you can’t put too much into this.  Considering flying is her thing, and we are in daylight hours, use what you know about us.  It really was nothing in the end.  Think about it, you’ll agree.  Sea was just excited.  Just like you when you get to use a new toy.”  Sadness turned back to the map, Kevashka walked in.

 

With a sigh and a shrug Duncan turned back to the map with her.  “I’ll take your word.  Least of our worries.”

 

Kevashka joined them at the map.  It was his turn to regurgitate information, what he and his squads observed from the shadows.  It was considerable.  Colonel Sadness interjected that every name Julia had on her list was one of Alexander’s network’s top brass.  She, as did he, knew most of them by name.  Between the two of them, they probably knew them all.

 

Squat nodded in agreement.  “Correct, these are the coven leaders we want.  These are Alexander’s Dragons, his viceroy and his dragons.  Everyone of these we take down breaks a vital link in his network.  If we can take three to five of these down, that’ll seriously frell up his machine.  Monkey wrench boo-koo.”  Het stopped, his hand went to his face and rubbed the side of his jaw.  He was staring at a location on the map.

 

Everyone remained silent and waited him out.  It was blatant that he was pondering something peculiar.  His hand went from his face, reaching to the map he tapped at the area and grunted softly a few times and wobbled his head.  His hand returned to his face, now stationary there. 

 

“They move around, but aren’t seen.  I don’t know how they are doing it, but I have noticed, just like Julia mentioned, bogies enter a building, never seen leaving, resurface at another location, sometimes across town.  It’s more than just their taxi system.”  Squat ended with a suspicious tone. 

 

“Where the hell is Julia?  I told her about this meeting.”  Duncan said in an agitated voice, then bolted for the back corner of the command deck where the restroom was.

 

Conversation lulled until he returned.  “Julia, over.”  Duncan said into his pickup for the radio as he returned.  Several seconds passed.

 

“Julia here Duncan, what do you need?”  She said sounding slightly winded but ever her polite self.

 

“We are trying to have a meeting, you, along with a few others, are missing.”  He snapped back at her.

 

“Ah…” Sadness started.

 

Duncan held his hand up to his earpiece causing her to stop.

 

“By my clock, meeting isn’t for half an hour yet.  Did I miss something Colonel Galt?”  Julia responded.

 

Duncan looked at his watch.  He let go an angry sigh.  She was right.  Still half an hour before the meeting.

 

“Sorry, thought we were running late.”  Duncan looked stupefied for a moment.  “Out.”  He finished, hoping the others would let it drop too. 

 

Duncan paced the floor near where they were assembled tapping a finger to his forehead.  He mumbled as he walked.  Finally he stopped.  “Ok, everyone meet back here in a half hour.  I need some quiet time.  Everyone out.  ‘Cept you.”  He said and pointed to Sadness.

 

-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 anticipation over the next half hour was driving Squat nuts.  He practically cheered when the clock on the wall said it was time.  He moved at a fast gate to the command deck.

 

Inside most everyone was accounted for, Kevashka walked in a few seconds behind him, removing herself from the missing list.  That left Sea Mist and Hovlek.  He took a second look at Kevashka now that his mind chose to acknowledge the difference in her. 

 

She was in battle dress.  Her normal uniform replaced by the tight black night jumper fighters wore.  He wondered how long it had been since she last held a sword in combat, if ever.  In times before his, all would have tasted combat, now those in certain families or careers didn’t have to make that sacrifice.  A slighting allowed over time.  He agreed, every werewolf should be able to hold themselves in combat.  For many tonight, this would be a life test, tales they hopefully will tell their grand-pups.

 

He made his way to where Duncan and Sadness were with Julia.  They were still hovering over maps and pounding on every detail.  Squat hoped something would pay off for his… brother-in-law.

 

“Is there anything else you can remember about that street?  Think back, think about the street itself, the curbs, the pavement, cracks or graffiti, anything at all?”  Duncan was saying to Julia.

 

She shook her head slowly in a short motion, thinking.  “I’m afraid not Duncan, that’s all I can remember.”  She said with a disappointed look about her.

 

“Remember the image of the street in your mind, picture it and describe it to me, everything you see in the image, try and move around and look closer at things.”  Duncan encouraged her.

 

Closing her eyes Julia became calm.  She stood motionless for near a minute then spoke in a remote voice.  “There are no curbs, pavement goes right up to the red brick buildings.  A dumpster, bad smell, not food, more like moldy something and it’s over flowing with bags around it, some are torn open.  There is a streetlight near where I followed him to the street at, the next two lights are out and another a long ways down is lit.  Doorways and street signs.  There is a car parked near one of the dark lights, right by a manhole.  It’s and older car, might be…”

 

“Manhole, closed or open?”  Duncan asked suddenly.

 

“Ah, closed I think.  Yes, there was a cover on it.”  Julia’s face twitched then her head jerked to one side.  “Wait!”  She ejected and snapped her eyes open and looked between Duncan and Sadness stopping on Duncan.

 

“The manhole cover, it was dry,  the street was wet, the cover wasn’t.”  She said with a face of realization. 

 

Duncan smiled.  He had his ways, Squat didn’t understand them, but he was glad he was here.  Now he just wanted to know what was so significant about a manhole cover.

 

“Yes, excellent!”  Duncan said and bent to the map again and made a mark.  “The basement club I backfilled with cement, remember the secret room, it had a tunnel to the sewer and a grate above.  The grate was convenient, but not part of the vampire construction.”

 

Duncan backed from the map and looked over at the table next to them where they had more maps stowed.  Spotting the one of his desire he asked Squat to hand it to him, then quickly spread the map on the table.

 

“This is the storm sewer network.”  Duncan began then flipped an overlay on top of the first map.  While the first map was green dots with green connecting lines, the overlay was blue dots and lines. 

 

“This is the service tunnel network.  Through storm sewers and service tunnels the vampires have a freeway to travel through.  They only need to punch short tunnels from storm sewer to service tunnel and they are set.  Many of the storm sewer main lines have access doors to them already.  Kicks reported the sewers as crawling with suckers in go-carts.  They are using the cities entire sewer and tunnel system, they own it.”

 

Everyone stood silently and stared at the map and overlay.  It made perfect sense. That was how they were able to move a new crew into a wiped business without being seen and without missing a beat.  Like rats, they came in through the sewers. 

 

Hovlek broke the silence when he walked into the room.  Sea Mist was at his side.  The armor Hovlek wore brought a smile to Squat’s face.  It was very old school.  Werewolves now days didn’t bother with armor, that is until a modified uniform was created to stop silver bullets.  Another Duncan Galt idea. 

 

The armor was a heavy black polished leather with silver talons that adorned the armor.  They were about an inch wide at their base and hooked up to sharp points that aimed towards the wearer.  The gloves had a smaller version of the silver colored talons, these aimed away from the wearer, the talons on the legs aimed down. 

 

The talons were hollow and pressure sensitive.  In combat you would thrust your body into a combatant and the talons would rip into their flesh and inject holy water.  Not necessarily enough to kill said vampire, but it would sure interfere with their stride.

 

The murmuring of the first to see Hovlek drew the attention of the entire room to him.  The pole of his weapon was visible just above his head.  The armor only made his muscles seem larger.  The leather creaked with each breath the man took.  This armor was new.

 

“Hovlek, you look good sir!”  Squat said leading the room to approval.

 

He walked to where Duncan and the others were, Squat motioned for his two lieutenants to come over.

 

“Hovlek, what is that you are wearing?”  Duncan asked looking him up and down.  “You do look formidable I will give you that, scare the shit out of me in a dark alley.”

 

Hovlek chuckled and pounded a fist on his chest.  “Old ways Duncan Galt, old ways, that is what you said, to Hovlek, to everyone.  Hovlek used to wear such armor.  Old ways Duncan Galt.”  He grinned large and clapped a hand on Duncan’s shoulder then stepped to where he could view the maps better. 

 

“So, tell Hovlek where Duncan Galt need Hovlek’s hand on his blade at tonight Colonel Commander Galt.”  He said while waving a finger over the maps.

 

-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-

 

Steve Rheineer

 

Duncan looked up and down the fence line.  As far as he could see down either direction of the twin runs of barbed wire there looked to be no more breaks in the fence.  He looked back to the section of wire he had spliced the break.

 

“Looks good kid.  Might just make a rancher out of you yet.”  Jedediah said from behind him.

 

Duncan hadn’t seen his boss walk up.  “Thanks boss.”  He said spinning the handle of his hammer in his hand feeling good about his work now.  The boss liked it.

 

“Nice hammer.  One thing you need when yer stringin’ fence, a good hammer.”  Jedediah said holding up his own hammer.

 

It was a fencing hammer just like his, with the over sized face and straighter claw for pulling nails and staples on the other side, only his wore the marks of many years of hard use. 

 

“Take care of your tools kid, and they will take care of you.  Treat ‘em poorly and they’ll let ya down when you need them the most.”  Jedediah slipped his hammer back into the metal loop riveted to a leather square that slipped onto his belt.  He also wore a small apron pocket that had two pouches, one for staples, the other for nails.  Duncan wore the same standard fence repair equipment, he looked at his own hammer closer for a second then dropped it into the holster he wore for the tool.

 

‘just like a gun’

 

“Duncan Galt, come in Duncan Galt, you have a visitor.”  Snow’s voice said urgently with an annoyed/concerned overtone.

 

The noise snapped Duncan back into the room. His eyes darted around him.  It seemed so real, he even had the smell of field grass in his nose. 

 

another vision?’ Snow’s mind voice said.

it wasn’t a vision.’ He responded to her.

bullshit.  Was her thought.

 

“Steve Rheineer is here, you want to use a private office upstairs?”  Snow asked him.

 

Duncan stood up and cleared his mind as he turned to greet his friend and former partner.

 

“Steve-o, damn glad to see you.”  He extended his hand to Steve in a familiar greeting custom.  “Also, I never got the chance to tell you out in the field, I’m damn glad you’re on our team.”  Duncan clapped his other hand on Steve’s shoulder then they broke their handshake.

 

The two men walked over to Snow, once they were to her she turned and led the way to the door that would take them upstairs.  Here even the halls had a different, more plush look.  These offices were works of art in design and style.  They were more than offices, in theory, they were working quarters. 

 

Each office had a couch which at the touch of a button swapped for a bed.  Though this popped out from inside almost like a hide-a-bed, it was nothing like the old thin lumpy uncomfortable mattresses typical in a sofa sleeper.  Pillow-top bed, ready made.  There was also a small kitchenette and a tight fighting bathroom for a man of Duncan’s size. 

 

The upper area of the command deck, when it was converted from prison offices, was designed to allow mission commanders to stay on the command deck for months if needed without need of their regular quarters.  Work eat sleep and shit just like you were at home.  The idle greeting banter ended, they were in the office now, Snow shutting the door behind them.

 

“This gets interesting.”  Steve said, his face indicating the depth of what he had to report.  “How did you know it was Exten?”  He asked Duncan.

 

Duncan chuckled while shaking his head a bit embarrassed.  “I didn’t, Hovlek mentioned him, it was just dumb luck.  Believe me, I would love to be able to tell you I deduced the name entirely on my own,” another chuckle “it was pure dumb luck.” 

 

“Hovlek removed the metal and showed me the makers mark, I called it an ‘X’, he corrected me and told me it was a ten, not an x.”  Duncan shook his head and grinned sheepishly.  “I was just thinking aloud, was thinking ‘not an x but a ten’  and said ex ten, Hovlek did the rest, I had no idea Exten existed.”  He shook his head again and looked off.

 

Steve Joined Duncan in a moment of amusement.  That was what many of their successes had been from, dumb luck.  Maybe sometimes there were people whom the cards just fell right for.

 

“Like in ninety-eight, Moscow.  That dame and the hotel room.”  Steve turned to face Snow.  “We were trying to get info on some businessmen that were allegedly selling secrets to the Ruskies.  We weren’t having much luck, coming up dry everywhere we dug.  Then this one night we stay in instead of trying to track people down in the night life.”

 

Steve gestured at his former partner with a thumb.  “Duncan was working with the parabolic mic and the recording equipment so it was handy.  We were sitting in the room watching what passed for TV when we started overhearing a conversation through the wall.  You could tell it was a bad cell phone conversation and the woman in the room next to ours was yelling to be heard.”

 

“Ears here recognized the voice as that of our mystery woman that was the contact between the businessman and the Russian agent that was the buyer.  My man here started recording and we ended up getting the location of the exchange, time, day, everything.  We had no idea we were in the room right next to her.  Damnedest thing.”  Steve looked distant for a moment.

 

Reaching into his coat pocket he pulled out a small flash drive and handed it to Duncan.

 

“Here’s the hard copy, in a nutshell here’s the mix.  Exten discovered Alexander had started buying up silver in a processed form.  That being bullets and swords.  He started this about twenty years ago, and you were right, it was from a single source.  Here’s the thing though, Alexander wasn’t buying from a silversmith of any kind or a silver dealer, he was buying from a precious metals salvager.”

 

“They melt recyclables down and separate the good from the bad.  That was how he was getting the swords and bullets, they would cast them over the forms also made from salvaged metal.  Exten found out about this, there is a relative of the company owner that happened to join our family. Oh, and yes it was a Jewish company, how did you know?”  Steve asked squinting at Duncan.

 

“Just Alexander’s style.  Werewolves’ honor them, therefore he despises them and it would be his style to somehow connect a Jewish company to making weapons against the werewolves, played a hunch.”  Duncan said with a sour face. 

 

Nodding his head in understanding Steve continued.  “The long and the short of it is this, four years ago Exten came into contact with a member of the family that owned the precious metal salvage company, they had concerns about their largest customer.  There was a lot of talk, their family had recently became part of our family, no more silver for Alexander and he doesn’t know.  He has blown through a lot of silver, he doesn’t realize it but he is running out.”

 

Duncan looked back at him with concern in his eyes.  “At least that’s what you’re hoping, even if you know exactly how much was shipped to him, what we don’t know is how much he has actually used and how mixed the batches are.  Some cells may be using pre Exten swords and bullets while others are using weapons from after his involvement.”  His face was grim.

 

Steve nodded, his old partner filled in the rest for him, as usual.  He smiled at the familiarity of the exchange between them.  It almost felt like old times.  “You know, I don’t have any pressing work waiting, you did order all personnel to combat unless they were absolutely needed at their regular job, and …” He trailed off looking to Duncan.

 

With an understanding grin Duncan grabbed Steve’s shoulder and gave it a gentle shake.  “Nuff said, I’ll have someone get you a uniform and get you equipped, you can run with Snow and I tonight.”

 

There was a knock on the door.  Snow went to answer it.  Worm was on the other side. “Commander Sadness ma’am, it’s a message for you and Colonel Galt ma’am, Lord Frost is coming!”  Steve heard the girls voice say, squeaking Lord Frost’s name at the end with excitement.

 

“When?”  Snow asked.

 

“Ten minutes.”  The girl answered.

 

Snow looked back at the two men, meeting over.  They headed for the door with Duncan in the lead, he was out the door and gone fast.  Steve grabbed Snow’s shoulder before she could clear the door, and pulled her back.  She looked at him a bit shocked.

 

“Snow… take care of him out there, ok?”  He said, his worry for his friend allowed to be clear.

 

-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-

 

Hovlek

 

He noticed Duncan break from the command deck, Snow and another man followed but went towards the elevator while Duncan was heading towards him.

 

Putting the weapon he had been working on into the dimensional pocket he had designed for it by swinging it into the air above his head and dropping it towards his back where the pocket was tethered, he turned to face Duncan as he arrived. “Colonel Galt, Hovlek is glad to see you.”  His voice was full of energy when he spoke which made his voice a touch louder and more gravely. 

 

Looking back at him with eyes of scoffing humor Duncan rasped his throat and adjusted his stance. “I’m happy you’re glad.”  His arms went limp at his sides.  “Hovlek… I have heard mention of using shotguns during combat operations and also reference to using ‘Bad Betties’ among other things.  You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this?”  Duncan’s eyebrows raised at him.

 

First a toothy grin came to Hovlek’s face followed by several loud chuckles.  “Duncan Galt, you think you give Hovlek good weapon and Hovlek not give it to the fighters?”  Laughter came freely from him as he clapped a hand on the shoulder of the man with the ‘that was a stupid question’ look on his sheepish face.

 

He shook the expression from his face.  “Lord Frost is coming, probably here now actually, short notice so just fall out for formal greeting duty.”  Duncan said taking to his commander self again.

 

Hovlek nodded and grunted acknowledgement.  “It is an odd request, Hovlek knows this, would Colonel Galt allow Hovlek to escort Lord Frost to Lord Duncan and Lady Sadness?”  He asked appearing humble.

 

Only a second was needed for Duncan to decide, his main thought was if Snow would object in any way, and he came up with nothing.

 

“Absolutely Hovlek, Sadness and I would be honored if you would escort Lord Frost to our command den.”  He said with a solid smile.

 

-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-

 

Snow

 

Squat was centered a step behind herself and Duncan as two men were escorted to them. Snow easily recognized both men.  The thicker of the two men was her father Lord Frost, the other… would be called Sebastian.

 

“Commander Sadness, Lord Frost and with me Sebastian of the Grand Inquisitor’s staff.”  Lord Frost held out a hand at Duncan.  “And this is Lieutenant Colonel Galt.” 

 

A grin of bile was on Duncan’s face.  “Yes, we met once at my house, though then we weren’t formally introduced.” 

 

Mild chided amusement curdled in Sebastian’s eyes and a single silent chuckle rocked his body slightly. 

 

Squat stepped forward towards Sebastian, draping his arm around his shoulders and giving a squeeze Squat greeted the covert man he seemed familiar with.  “Sebastian you ol’ fly bitten scrawny twist of road kill, how’ve you been?”  He said like he was greeting an uncle who used to visit him as a child.

 

“Hello Squat, good to see you.  We’ve been getting provocative reports at the office about you.  It is reassuring to see such fruit from a student.”  Sebastian said with a warm fatherly approving look. 

 

Duncan stepped forward and extended his hand.  “Ssebasteon, good to meat you.”  He said with a noticeable pitch in his voice.  Only Ssebasteon read the changes in his facial positions with these vocal variations that changed the meaning of his words.

 

Night Harvest took amusement at his antics.  Duncan had taken to using part of original werewolf language.  The hieroglyphics that were the original writing of the language consisted of both a spoken and physical instruction for use in communication. 

 

The spoken word could be accompanied by a facial expression many of which involved use of the eyes to enhance or change the meaning of the spoken word.  Tone and pitch changes could also vary word definitions.  It was a very precise language.  Knowledge of this part of the language had been lost over the millennia, primarily to the interbreeding and cohabitation with humans. 

 

Duncan had uncovered this hidden aspect of werewolf language.  Ssebasteon was around when it was spoken this way, and he would catch on when Duncan used it, practically looking for something unexpected like this from him, and his subtle way of communicating his knowledge blatantly and in front of everyone, unnoticed.

 

-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-

 

Sadness

 

Her father had come… unannounced.  This was a sudden and unexpected development.  He had clearly taken action without the blessing of his matriarch, using Sebastian as cover for a hasty exit.  But why?  They fumbled through the usual greeting rhetoric then brought their guests to their rooms.  Sebastian lingered back from the front of the precession when it was down to just her, Duncan and their two guests.

 

“Father… this is… out of character for you.  Did the one who calls herself mother approve you being away from the den and coming to where I command?”  She asked.  Her tone and expression was serious as pancreatic cancer.  Her words may have been cutting, but there was no time for bush beating. 

 

He never looked at her while they walked.  “Madelyn Sadness Snow, it is due to my connection with your mother that we are the most profitable clan, we fund a majority of all operations.  If it were not for that point alone I believe your mother would have never been tolerated or allowed to walk outside of an oubliette.”

 

“Where do you think you and your alpha siblings get this do or die leadership quality?  You and Squat, Sea Mist too, all natural leaders.  All natural born fight pickers too.  It was not from your mother.  Do you really think I have simply idly sat by and let her oversee every aspect of my life?  Rhetorical question.”

 

Lord Frost paused long enough to run his eyes over Duncan.  “Your mother is exceptional at making money, and squandering it.  She is however not astute on accounting, managing money flow and knowing how much has gone where, all the money management end of finance.  I do.  I decide where every cent goes, you think I haven’t been funding projects in the blind… daughter?”  He finally looked at Sadness for a moment.

 

They stopped at a door.  It had been the quarters Duncan and she had shared, with the arrival of their two new guests, they had quickly ordered their belongings removed and the quarters cleaned.  Max and Meadow had given up their quarters for Lord Frost.  Sadness forgot herself and stood motionless as wisps of thought on what her father said played in her mind.

 

Duncan cleared his throat getting her attention.

 

“Yes!  Forgive me.  Sebastian, we have prepared this room for you.”  She said then opened the door for their guest.  With a smile and nod Sebastian thanked them and entered the room, closing the door after himself.

 

Duncan let father and daughter walk side by side to their next stop.

 

“I have a gift for you Madelyn.”  Lord Frost said looking over at her, then looking forward he took the last few steps to the door to where he would be staying.  Father and daughter looked at each other as the door to the room swung open from Snow’s hand.

 

“We have prepared these quarters for you Lord Frost.”  She said and curtsied.  “Father.”  She motioned at the open door.

 

An expression of anticipation was on her face as she looked to her father, she knew his style.  He would tell her his secret now, just before he entered his quarters leaving her to her thoughts on whatever it was.  He didn’t like discussion of the details after he unleashed something.  It was then she realized the truth of what he had said on their trek here.  She often did the same thing to Duncan and others.  Clearly, she did get this from her father.

 

“I have a crew of eighty-two urban warriors.  They have been training, working, for the last twenty years.  I have made arrangements for their lodging at a den about nine miles from here.  They are my best.  They are yours to command now.”  Lord Frost said then stepped into his quarters and closed the door.

 

Sadness looked to Duncan.  “Do you know anything about these urban warriors?”  She asked.

 

Shaking his head Duncan pivoted on a foot and started back along the hall they had come from.  “Found out the same time you did.”

 

They walked in silence for about half a minute.

 

Duncan glanced at her.  “Is there anymore of this ‘need to know’ information that you are keeping from me… like with Malkah-Seven Lord Boxtemmill?”

 

Sadness stopped in her tracks, Duncan went on a step and a half then stopped and turned to her with a face of questioning about her stopping.

 

“No.  I will say to the best of my knowledge I believe you know everything I know.”  She said with an expressionless face.  Quizzical glimmers shot through her eyes then her face crunched a bit.  “Why do you ask?  Or should I say, who are you asking about?”

 

He nodded his head and his lips curved displaying both his pleasure in her catching his thought line and that she was starting to figure him out more and more.  “Hovlek, who is he really?  Magistrate Dark Smash Face Pummel?”  A satirical edge was in Duncan’s voice with the mock name for Hovlek.

 

She shrugged.  There wasn’t any secrets about his subject.  “Hovlek is Hovlek.  The same wall of meat I have always known.  I have never heard the man say ‘I’ or ‘me’ it’s always Hovlek this and Hovlek that.  It’s kinda funny actually.  I remember when I was in the combat academy, he was my defensive combat instructor.” 

 

Snow impersonated Hovlek’s voice, somewhat.  “ ‘Defensive combat, Hovlek tell you, it is all about attacks used to defend yourself’ he had said.  Some tart chick had tried to correct him.  She was bubbly while she attempted to learn the weapons master.  When the chick finished Hovlek’s face looked uninterested and as though he considered her to be dull.”

 

She tried to do his voice again.  “He grunted looking at her, ‘Hovlek think you should pay attention to Hovlek’s lessons, vernacular, keep you alive it will not.  Hovlek’s lessons, these keep you alive.’  He answered.”  Sadness recanted this memory to Duncan with a misty smile of reminiscence on her face as she did.  Then they started down the hall again.  They didn’t have time to stroll down memory lane.

 

“What about you Duncan Galt?”  She shot a mischievous grin at her partner.  “Have you told me everything you have figured out?  All your little discoveries?”  Her voice was accusing.

 

Duncan guffawed.  “No Snow, I haven’t.  There is so much I have figured out.  Honestly you probably already know most of it, even if I knew which stuff you knew, it would take more time than we have to tell you.”

 

Sadness nodded.  She could accept that answer.  That, my lover, I am sure of.”

 

They went on quietly for a spell, both thinking.  Duncan finally broke the silence and spat out his thoughts.  “Sebastian is going to want us to resolve this.  Minor issue really, clarification actually.  Now that he is here, he will expect it done.  Kevashka has been complaining about reports, I’ve read them.  It does become a mix.  He’s right, people do need to know what to call us.  Never had a situation like this.”

 

Duncan looked over at his mate when he finished speaking.  “So, what do you want to be called?”

 

She flapped her lips with an aggravated exhale.  “I guess Commander Snow would be the correct choice.  I understand the records mess-up, multiple files on both of us.”  She shrugged and vocalized her venting of frustrations in general.  “What about you?  Colonel Galt?”  She posed.

 

His head started shaking.  His lips became a cantankerous smirk.  “Bait.”  He answered.

 

A smirk grew on Snow’s face that matched her mate’s.

 

-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

 

“Yes Commander Galt, I brought her.” Thuobfen said.  He turned to the smiling girl behind him and with a hand on her shoulder moved her to stand in front of him, presenting his daughter to the commanders.

 

Bait smiled at her eternally smiling face.  “Hello Worm.”

 

“Good afternoon Colonel Bait Sir.”  She responded as she snapped to attention and saluted.

 

Bait laughed, her father smiled and rolled his head back.  “Thuobfen, Commander Snow and I strongly support using people’s talents, their strengths and getting them into areas where they can serve the clans best as early as possible, with that said Worm here is nearing her age and we both know Bulwark and weapons are not something our young lady here is particularly interested in.”

 

Her father rubbed his face and nodded.  “Yup, yup.  Got a point there.”  He said quietly in agreement.

 

“What she is good at, and I have been told this by several others as well as seen the end result myself, is the record keeping and data entry aspect of the weapons cache.  I’ve also heard her on the radio, she’s good.  That is why, with your permission, Commander Snow and I would like to bring her onto the command deck and have her help Major Max and his mate Major Meadow who will be running it tonight.  She would be entering tracking and other data from mission sites and coordinating communications.”  Bait said to Thuobfen.

 

The man was beaming with pride.  Not of age yet and being singled out for her abilities, by field command.  She was an alpha, but not of a noble bloodline.  It was this type of attention that could get her mated to a noble line.  This was good for her family.

 

“Colonel Bait, I am honored, as head of my family, my daughter is in your service.”  Thuobfen ejected with feeling.

 

Squat stepped forward.

 

“I’m afraid I must object Colonel Bait.”  The two commanders turned sideways between the proud father with Squat facing in so they could address both when they spoke.  “Worm and her family are not affiliated with any clan.  Freelance workers cannot serve in command positions.”  Squat changed his attention from his sister and Bait to Thuobfen.

 

“Thuobfen, I offer to you and your family, sanctuary in Clan Squat.  The bulwark is completed soon and currently in need of a fulltime Bulwark Bastion.  I offer this position to you within my clan should you accept.”  Squat proposed.

 

Worm looked between the three officers.  Clearly they had planned this event, though her father’s face said he was not included in said preplanning.  “Daddy!”  She chirped.

 

He looked at his daughter with a jubilant face.  He tasseled her hair and looked back to Squat.  “Patriarch Squat, I would be honored to serve Clan Squat as its Bulwark Bastion.”  Her father said.

 

Squat stuck out his hand and the two men shook hands.  Squat welcomed them both to the clan.  Worm giggled.  Now that they were part of a clan, that cute son of a bishop was in her choice of available interests.  When she had her coming of age party, he would be first on her invite list.

 

“Worm.”  Commander Snow’s voice shattered her thoughts.  “You’ll have the temporary rank of corporal when you are working on the command deck.  Puck will be coming up from Seven’s engineering department to give you some pointers and instruction on what you need to know.  Be here an hour before mission time for the command team meeting.  Any questions?”

 

“No ma’am.”  Worm tried to bark out.

 

“Good, you know where uniforms are, you will need to be in one tonight.  Electronics is blue, right?”  Snow asked somewhat rhetorically.

 

“Yes ma’am!”  Worm answered grinning madly.

 

“Alright then, fall out!”  Snow said returning the salute from Worm.

 

Her father let her leave the room first as he thanked Squat and the others again.  “Good job honey.”  He said to her in the hall.  She had to hurry if she would make it to the command deck on time.

 

-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 uniform was a touch tight, but the next size up was much to loose.  Worm was at what her mother called an awkward size.  ‘You’re growing young one, in a month you’ll fit just fine in it.’  She had said.  Her response was ‘they need to make half sizes for youth clothes’ and she was going to submit that as an idea to the proper people, as soon as she found out who they were.

 

She arrived at the command deck a quarter hour before she was supposed to be there, this time she walked in without buzzing.  Puck ran her through what she would be responsible for.  Everything was pretty straight forward she thought.  Transposing data from displays and paper into the proper boxes on her main display.  Easy.  The radio was simple too, Seven had laid it out well and very user friendly.  The commanders arrived shortly after she did.

 

When they entered the man who arrived with Lord Frost was with them.  They joined Squat who was on the other side of the room sitting at a table viewing something on a laptop.  Others joined them while Puck ran her through her training and drilled her on it. 

 

“That’s it missy, you gots it just fine.”  Puck said to her when she finished one of the tasks.  Kevashka hollered for her, she jumped and went to her and retrieved the paper she held out then went to the radio and followed the instructions from the paper.

 

“Aye, you’ll do’s just fine missy, taint nothing to it.”  Puck praised her.

 

He thanked Kevashka for her help in drilling Worm then went to tell Bait and Max she was very able to handle what was needed and expected of her.  She tagged along when he went to the table.  Colonel Bait shot her a smile and a nod. 

 

“Good, good.”  He said.  The two men spoke for a second. Worm took this opportunity to have a seat out of the way at the table,  just in case she was needed…  and to listen in of course.  She remained there when Puck left, no one sent her away.  She smiled to herself.

 

“I really want to know what’s on the other side of that door.”  Sea Mist said.  Seven and Silence nodded.

 

“Aye, me too.”  Seven sighed as his eyes ran over the mess of papers and maps they were looking at.

 

Colonel Bait looked at Squat.  “You wouldn’t happen to know any explosive experts, would you?”

 

Squat’s face changed to look like he had been caught doing something he shouldn’t when he realized Colonel Bait was talking to him.  Then he looked to his lieutenants and spoke to them.

 

“We can’t use her, she’s insane!”  Squat whispered to one of the men.

 

“She is good, better than most, and she‘s here sir.”  The man responded back.

 

“Damn it!”  Squat whispered, he was clearly considering his options and not liking them.

 

“Well?”  Colonel Bait said with his hands on his hips.

 

Squat turned towards Colonel Bait.  “Well, ah, yes we just so happen to have one here.”  He laughed nervously.  “Since we are building onto the den, we needed one for blasting the new area.”  Squat glanced back at his lieutenants again.  “But, sir, I… make no.  She’s, not right in the head sir.”  Squat said practically in a whine.

 

Bait remained motionless as he continued his stare on Squat. 

 

“Colonel Bait, she is insane honestly.”  Squat shrugged and shook his head.

 

“Sir, aren’t all of our people in explosives, squirrel chasers?”  The other lieutenant asked.

 

Squat sighed, his face was an expression of the truth of the statement the man made. “Quite.”  He stated.  “I’ll go get our explosives expert.”  He said looking Colonel Bait in the eyes, then indicated with a finger he wanted the lieutenant who spoke up to join him.  The man followed, his own face said he would have rather stayed back.

 

Colonel Snow went on after Squat left.  “Sea Mist will be working with Lord Frost’s crew, as I understand they are air assault trained and will deploy from your helicopter, correct?”

 

“That is right commander, they will load in wolf form and change once they have jumped taking positions on top of buildings and coming at targets from there.”  Sea Mist reported

 

“You’re thinking of blasting this door open?”  The man that came with asked, Worm thought she remembered his name was Sebastian.  He wore a suit.  No crest.

 

Colonel Bait went to where he was standing and looked at the picture he was examining.  She craned in her seat and tried to see the picture, it was of a door.

 

“Yes, that is what I was thinking.  Is there a problem with that plan Sebastian?”  Colonel Bait asked.

 

Sebastian bobbed his head slightly.  “Well, this door, it’s one of two.  See this seal engraved in it, it’s part of a set of two.  It’s Alexander’s seal, his bloodcrest.  It has two parts and he always completes the set.”

 

Sighing Colonel Bait processed this information.  “That means there is another door, but is it another exit or is it a second door past this one.  Any recon on any other doors exiting this building?”  He said back at the people in the room.

 

“No sir, not unless it exits into the sewers.”  Came a reply from one of the men, Worm didn’t know which one answered him, she was concentrating on trying to see what was happening and what was being looked at. 

 

Sebastian dropped the picture on the table.  “Not a sewer, not his style, if there isn’t another exit, then it’s an interior door.  That would have been my first guess anyways.  That fits Alexander.” 

 

Colonel Bait looked around the room.  “Where’s Blade Dance?”  He shouted towards Sea Mist.

 

She raised her head and looked over at her commander.  “He’s doing my preflight and getting the chopper ready.”  She answered.

 

“Worm.”  He yelled towards her.

 

She snapped to her feet.  “Yes sir!”  She ejected with enthusiasm. 

 

“Get Blade Dance here, I need his trebuchet and him.”  He ordered.

 

Worm moved to the radio and called out to Blade Dance.  She just finished relaying Colonel Bait’s orders when Squat walked back in with his lieutenant.

 

“Colonel Gal… Bait, I give you our explosives expert, she makes all her own stuff, Baby-Go-Boom.”  He said then the two men turned and allowed a very, even shorter then she was, woman into the room between them.

 

“’Ello there, I’m Baby-Go-Boom, Ka-boomerator extraordinaire, you need it to go boom, Baby make it go boom!”  The woman said and broke into cackling laughter, swaying her back and tilting her head up.

 

Her head was crowned in beyond curly hair so blonde it was white.  She was dirty and there were holes burned in her clothes at many places.  In her mouth what looked to be a cigar, but werewolves didn’t smoke tobacco.  Dirt and grime covered what remained of her clothes and on her face as well. 

 

Looking at her the word that came to mind to describe her was ‘gnome’, that is what she looked like, a human online gaming version of a gnome.  The belt around her waist rattled and clattered with tools and odd looking things as she stepped towards Bait and shook his hand.

 

“Ah, so you’re the legendary Duncan Galt of the humans, commanding werewolf troops, ah, I’ve ‘eard about ye Baby has, yes.  So tell me chum, what’s it needen’ Baby’s special attention wit?”  The short and mildly round woman said in a cheery voice to Colonel Bait.

 

“This.”  He said and led her to the table where the picture was, a couple steps away.

 

“Aye, well pinch my nipples, would you look at that Harvey, they’s got a Majestic ‘ere.  Aye but matey, you’re talkin’ two doors not one.”  She reached down and grabbed other pictures of the door and looked at them.  “Aye yes, you’ve gots yourself a set, see this here is Alexander’s sign see, it’s a two parter this one is, one will be inside.  This one will be a tough cookie, aye but that inside one, that one will be the one you need big ka-boomer for.  That one will kick yer arse it will.”

 

Colonel Bait looked at Sebastian when he heard what she said.  Worm could tell by the look on his face he was not thrilled by the confirming news.  Baby-Go-Boom had a bit more information for them.

 

“Now, yous sees here, look ‘ear, see these lines, cracks from the framework under the stucco fascia.  This building was build for this door.  It be anchored into that wall good.  But here’s the kicker boys and girls, that door set.  Well shit the bed, it wouldn’t be used on anything except where he hangs his hat during the day.  Get me drift watt?”  The strange woman said.

 

“You mean this is his home coven?!”  Bait asked not even trying to cover the excitement in his voice.

 

Baby-Go-Boom shook her head.  “Nah, nah, was matie, was.  Wouldn’t be where he’s shacking up now, no, not the type of place to build a portal you knows.  Naw, that chunk of arse probably built something out of the way, oh I would be guessing ‘bout twenty years ago or so.  Yeah, bout right.  It’d take some time to set up what he needed for that nasty portal you know.  Bugger this wasn’t it though.  Could end things tonight eh watt?”  She bubbled.

 

The door to the command deck opened.  Blade Dance walked in, Colonel Bait called him over.

 

The plan they worked out entailed Blade Dance and Baby-Go-Boom working together to give a clear entrance into the former stronghold of Alexander.  Whatever was going on in there now was something they for sure wanted to disrupt.  Also there may be clues in the coven to the whereabouts of his new hole. 

 

Bait asked Blade Dance how accurate he was with his trebuchet.  Blade Dance stated he could hit a gallon milk jug at four miles.  Then he was asked if he could hit that door from much closer.  Not a problem was the answer.  Blade Dance said he had special loads with a center that flowed to give extra impact.  He seemed positive he could take down that outer door. 

 

The inside one would be Baby’s responsibility.  Once Blade Dance took care of the outside door, Baby would enter as fast as she could and get to the next door and make it go BOOM!  She was very excited to be a part of this attack.

 

“I see one small major problem.”  Commander Snow began as she looked around the maps on the table.  “The moment we hit that door, they are going to know we are there, and when we blow the second door, they will be ready for us.  Whatever interior defense plan they have will be fully implemented.  We’re going to have a hell of a fight.  They’ll be hidden, reducing the effectiveness of a water attack like ours.”

 

The way Colonel Bait looked at his mate, Worm could tell he knew she was right,  they talked on. Worm picked up the pile of pictures and started thumbing through them.  The building was old.  Shifted with age and earthquake activity.  She overheard the building was build for the door. 

 

They’d apparently used large beams that ran up the sides to the full height of the first story for the side supports of the door.  Near the bottom of one of the beams the mortar was missing at the sidewalk.  A large and deep crack ran up the side from the hole in the wall. 

 

“Do you think this little hole goes thru to the other side?”  She said out loud, Seven was near her and looked over at the picture she was holding in front of her.  He leaned in and looked intently at the picture, then hovered in close and examined it further.

 

“I do think it does little miss, I think it do.  That might just be of use.”  He said to her with a smile then looked towards where the others were talking.  “Bait, we may have a way of seeing inside that door.”  He informed Colonel Bait loud enough to be heard then darted off to his commander.

 

“Look here, Worm spotted it, in the foundation.  There is a significant piece of the building missing next to this beam, and look at the crack, very wide at the bottom and it goes all the way in.  I think the hole at the bottom goes all the way through.  With a ladybug I can get inside and look around.”

 

“Sir, Colonel Galt, sorry, Colonel Bait sir, the door can be opened from the inside easily.  If someone could go through the hole, they could open it and let you in.”  Worm said meekly.

 

His eyes glared at her.  “Yes that’s very nice, if someone could fit through.”  He turned from her with a disappointed look.  There were several other glaring looks then all eyes moved from her.

 

“I can get through the hole.”  Worm said in a cracking quiet voice near tears.

 

Bait wheeled in her direction, he had raised a hand, bent at the elbow and with a pointed finger at her.  His lips pursed, he was about to deliver an ass chewing.  Then he froze.

 

“Duncan!”  Commander Snow’s voice said.

 

“I really can.  My father said I was to never speak of it.  My mother agreed, she didn't want me to be a freak.”  The little girl squeaked out.

 

Bait dropped his hand with a sigh.  His face was disbelieving, but there was just a hint of hope in his eyes.  Werewolves were many things, hidden talents and secrets. 

 

His eyes flicked to his mate then back to her again.  “Alright kid, if you’ve got some freaky werewolf… maneuver that can get you through that hole and open that door, you will not be a freak, you will be an asset in a war to save humankind.  Show me.”  Bait stepped back so he was near a table and bench.  He sat facing Worm, crossed his arms, leaned back and kicked out his legs.

 

Worm fidgeted her fingers together in front of her looking down, embarrassed and nervous.  ‘You can do this!’ she thought to herself.  Taking a deep breath she raised her head.  She reached back and undid her uniform and slipped her shoulders out bringing it to her waste then pushed it down and stepped out.

 

Holding her head high she announced, “Husky” then became one.  She looked around the room with her blue cyanine eyes at all, panting.  “Raven.”  She said clearly in English while in the form of the dog.  Then she was a large raven.  She jumped up and fluttered onto the table.  “Nevermore!”  She squawked.

 

“You’re a true lycanthrope.”  Mud said.  “I’ve heard of those, very rare.  Is it true you can be come any living creature?”  She asked.

 

“Yes ma’am, I can turn into any critter at will.  But it does make me sleepy if I do it a lot or too many too fast.”  Worm answered her.

 

Mud laughed at her answer.  “Yes, I can imagine.  I don’t think you’re a freak, I think you’ve been touched by the Light for special purpose.” 

 

Worm felt herself smiling when she heard this.  She liked this woman.

 

She changed into a brown and white field mouse.  A small voice came from the animal.  “This is how I can get in.  Then become myself and open the door.”  Worm said with a ear piercing mouse giggle.

 

“Duncan, you can’t…”  Snow began.

 

“Because she isn’t of age yet?  Because she’s fragile, like a human… like me?”  Bait snapped at her, his voice angry.  “If we loose this war, she won’t get the chance to come of age.”  Colonel Bait ended a bit more controlled but still heated.

 

“Ma’am, if I can have permission to speak?”  Worm asked becoming human again.

 

Snow snorted.  “Why ask now, you’ve already shot your mouth off, speak.”  She sounded vexed.

 

“I would be safe, I can look and see if anyone is there, then go in, I open the door with… you guys outside, and I’m gone.”  She reasoned.

 

Seven held a hand out, he had an idea.  “Actually, I can do you one better, send in the ladybug first, see if the coast is clear, then we send in our little trickster here.  Hmm?  What think of that idea eh?”  He said smugly.

 

Colonel Bait looked from Seven to those around him.  “Then it’s decided.  That will be our first objective for tonight.  Once the teams of support people begin attacking in mass on the bottom end of this little pyramid and when all the dive bars and other recruiting businesses are in a ruckus, we hit the main covens and take them out.  Our teams here will hit Alexander’s old haunt, and if we are lucky, maybe even take him out.  He has been spotted in the area, and he isn't the type of monster to give up his custom built home.”  He announced with a look at Snow.

 

They talked on about the night’s missions until it was time for people to start deploying to their respective areas.  A small group made up of the command team and department leaders stayed back.  They would be moving in after everyone was positioned, then they would turn everything over to Max and Meadow… and her.

 

-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-

 

Snow

 

The scramble was on as everyone moved to get ready for the mission and adjust for the changes in strategy.  The decision to take on whatever was on the other side of the doors required redistribution of some of their people.  Protecting Worm was high on Snow’s list.  She understood Bait’s perspective.  It was all hands on deck.  It was unfair to Worm to have her do this at her tender age, but that was war, unfair to all involved.  And like it or not, Worm was involved.

 

“That leaves one matter left unresolved.”  Sebastian said.  He was looking at her partner when she looked over. 

 

Bait nodded.  “Squat is already on it.  His guards are brining him up now.”  He answered with a grim face.  “He’s had more than enough time to consider my offer.  As you said, time to be who I am.”

 

Bait turned from Sebastian and walked to where Snow stood and ran a hand over her head, putting his fingers though her hair as he ran his hand down the back of her head.  He sighed and looked at her with melancholy eyes. 

 

She leaned into him and embraced his towering form.  Pain was coming.  She could see that in his eyes.  Sebastian was putting him up to something that he felt Bait needed to do.  She had seen the look before in his eyes, when he would talk about days back with the company in the field.  He was a different person then, and he had become another now.  A mixture of field agent, businessman and militia leader.  No longer Duncan Galt, that life left in the past.  He was Bait now.

 

The doors opened and a shackled and silver encased man was brought to them.  He was weak from the barbs the shackles had dug into him, the silver that covered his body in a diabolical armor prevented his ability to use the shadows to escape. 

 

The only people able to catch this outlaw were Squat’s shadow steppers.  Still he evaded them twice.  Then her brother took to the matter personally and went to find the elusive renegade.  Though he did not personally capture him, it was his plan that noosed him.  Now the vilest werewolf renegade was barely standing before them, at Bait’s request.

 

The room became quiet.  The few people that remained behind were watching the silver masked figure now about ten feet from the door where the guards stopped him before herself and Bait.  Sebastian, Kevashka, Mud, Max, Meadow, Baby-Go-Boom, Sea Mist and Worm remained. 

 

Snow wished she had ushered Worm out before his arrival, it was too late now, there was a reason for her name of Worm.  She felt the girl would find someway to see what would happen behind closed doors, just as Snow had done so often when she was her age.

 

Squat stood at the man’s back with his hands clasped in front of him, a calm mellow look on his face.  Bait was staring at the form before them, his mind deep in the ocean of thoughts that crashed on the shores of his actions.

 

“Take off the silver suit and the shackles.”  Bait ordered. 

 

Blinking the two guards looked at each other from Bait then to Squat who nodded once.  “Yes sir.” came their slightly off unison response.

 

They began by removing the leg bracers then took off the shoulders..  The helmet was last.

 

“Blimy!  Twitch!”  Baby-Go-Boom suddenly spit out in a moderately loud shocked moment of recognition.

 

Bait’s head snapped to face the owner of the voice, his body a second behind.  “You know this cretin?”  His voice demanded.

 

“Crikeys yes!  ‘E’s me mate.  Bastard.  Twitch!  You punk you, where you beens off too?  Ya know a lady could use a good bounce round the ol’ home once in a while yous knows.  Yea bugger, what you done got yerself into this time.  They always said you’d end up in an oubliette.  Crumbs and crackers mate, you gonna gets me kilt you is, aren’t yous?”  Baby-Go-Boom rattled off in her stumbling accent.  It was a mix of an old English and old school Werewolf accents, so it really sounded frelled up in Snow’s opinion. 

 

The man nodded then shadow stepped back, only to come flying forward and out of the light-side of the shadows back into the room, close to the ceiling.  Squat shadow-stepped under where he was to fall securing the man by the neck and spinning with him to face Bait again.  The man looked off to the side back towards his mate, he nodded the best he could.

 

“Fraid so Quieph.  Many times as you’ve done yourself old girl, looks like it might be me that gets you.”  Twitch said in a restricted voice, then looked at Squat.  “You’re better then them pups you sent after me.  Guess you’re the bloke trainin’ them aye mate.”  He ended not asking a question.

 

It was unbelievably fast.  Snow couldn’t believe what happened when she first realized it, the speed he moved was amazing.  She hadn’t thought him capable of such speed, grace and accuracy.  Bait proved his swordsmanship.  An ornately engraved werewolf slayer was clean through Twitch’s heart.  His body was stuck midway down the length of the blade, and her dear sweet man was twisting it slowly. 

 

“Mmm, feel the burn.”  She said looking maniacally at the man with a contemptible grin. 

 

Bait’s head turned towards her with a puzzled quizzical look, only for a moment then he looked back to the gasping bleeding man.

 

“You have to be… Duncan Galt… of the humans.”  He panted holding his gaze on the man holding the sword killing him.

 

The sound of someone going to the ground and retching came from her side, behind Bait.  Baby-Go-Boom was on her knees.  She wouldn’t remain long if her mate died.  Bait didn’t seem to notice.  A commander couldn’t.  This was her weak spot.  Command decisions.  Life and death.  Sometimes in combat you have to make decisions that will cost some their lives in order to save others. 

 

“In the flesh.”  Bait growled.

 

“I… was hoping… you would stop by the… oubliette… so we could discuss… your little ‘offer’ to me.”  Twitch sputter with a mix of blood and saliva bubbling from his lips. 

 

Bait face was cold as the void of space, his eyes cutting into the man he looked at.  “Your answer, yes or no.  Yes you live to fight another day under our command, no, I retire your ass right here.  What’ll it be?”  Bait gave the sword a good twist.

 

“If you want my answer… take that damn sword… out… of me.”  Twitch gurgled practically unconscious.

 

Snow looked back to where Baby-Go-Boom was.  She was unconscious.  Blood was running from her mouth and nose.  Was it already too late for her?

 

The two men stared intently into each others eyes, each reading the other with their chiseled gaze. 

 

Twisting the sword as he pulled back on it and stepping with the motion, Bait removed the werewolf slayer from Twitch.  He went limp and would have fallen to the ground had her brother not been on his right holding his neck. 

 

Twitch slowly raised his head, looking around the room in a grog, he focused on Sebastian.  “Your doings.”  He said then his head fell back down again. 

 

After half a minute or so he raised it again, looking stronger now that he had regenerated some.  “You noble Galt of the humans… you sir, you have a reputation that even the likes of I have heard.  You I will help, if I can.”  He said then took a deep sigh and let his head rest again.

 

“Feed him then get him a uniform and weapons, he wears the crest of house Trust.”  Bait said briskly.

 

Squat looked at him along with the guards.  “Sir?!”  He responded in an objecting tone.

 

“You heard him.”  Bait said looking at Squat.  “He agreed.”

 

“And just like that you’re taking his word?”  Squat questioned loudly.

 

A confident smile came to Bait’s face.  “Yes.  Werewolves can’t lie.”  He said then turned to where Baby-Go-Boom was on all fours, coughing and struggling to get up.  Snow went with him to help.

 

-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-

 

It was time for her and Bait to address their people again.  This time though it was an airing only for those in the states.  Originally it was only for the crews working with them, but Sebastian thought it might be a moral boost for all to hear what the core command was doing and see them addressing their troops.  It took Seven only a second and the flip of a switch to make the change.  The fingers started counting down from five, this time they were Silence’s fingers behind the camera.

 

At the ‘point’ at them, she and Bait stood.

 

Bait led the broadcast off.  “Warriors… tonight we are taking on the horde.  We are going to hit hard and in such numbers our adversaries will be overwhelmed by our might.  We are going to hit in raid forces, crews of raid forces.”

 

Snow followed.  “We have new weapons that the enemy is just now hearing of, now is the time for an all out offensive, hold nothing back.  When we strike Alexander, any minions of the darkness, or their Dragons and viceroy, we are attacking their nervous system by taking out their communications and command.  We must, I say again MUST destroy his network.  Any of Alexander’s minion allies we can take out is a bonus, but do not let that become the main focus.”

 

Bait went on from there.  “We are taking out the leadership network and disrupting only.  If you find any information that may help in finding Alexander’s current home, portal location, get it to us yesterday!” 

 

Again Snow spoke following her partner.  “We need to know where Alexander is constructing the portal as well as kill the bastard.  We must draw him out and reveal the location, if we don’t know where the portal is, it is possible if he has a second in command… that this vampire may be able to finish what Alexander started.  If he has a second in command.  Either way we cannot leave whatever he has built standing.”

 

“Unless there are questions, we’re done here.”  Bait said and looked to her.

 

She was just about to dismiss everyone when Hovlek stormed between them.  They both stepped back as he raised a polled weapon in the air and growled.

 

“Hovlek!”  He bellowed and slammed a clenched fist to his chest.  Then he sheathed the weapon in a blink and grabbed one of Bait’s and one of her hands in his and raised them as high up as he could reach.  She was on her tiptoes, Bait could have reached higher.  Hovlek pulled his head back as Bait watched then thrust it forward as his mouth became larger and a deafening roar came from his mouth.  Items on the table vibrated, something fell to the ground.

 

The room was charged now.  When Hovlek’s roar just started to fade the room responded, swords were drawn, and a few water pistols.  With swords high in the air and the spray of holy water crossing the crowd an audience roar was returned and the masses started charging from the assembly area.

 

Hovlek walked with them back to the command deck.  Bait was laughing and patted the man on the back and shook his head.  He seemed to enjoy Hovlek’s battle cry that energized the troops.

 

-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-

 

“Alright Max, anything you need before we go, we’ll be heading out in about ten.”  Bait said to their station commander once inside the command center.

 

Max looked in front of him and around the desk some.  He took in the room and who was there then looked back to Bait.  “No, think I’m good boss-man.  Got the little squiggly Worm girl there, she’s great.  She’ll be back directly from the door, yeah.  We’re good.”  He answered bobbing his head the entire time he spoke.

 

Bait looked at his watch.  Sundown in forty.

 

Seven’s voice called his attention.  “Colonel Bait sir, I could fly Worm down with my… I have a gyrocopter, that way we could get an aerial before we go in.”

 

Bait made a scoffing noise and shook his head a little.  “Of course you do.  And you can fight for her if needed?”  He asked covertly.

 

Seven nodded fast.  “Yes Colonel, for her I can fight.”  He assured acting a touch twitchy.

 

Bait gave a single nod.  “Snow’s driving, so we won’t be far behind.  Go Seven, Worm…”  Bait ended by giving the girl a stern look over a pointed finger.

 

“Yes sir!”  She answered with a smug smile, she understood the fatherly ‘do as you’re told’ look that he was giving her.  She gathered her things, putting them out of the way.

 

“Okay,  Hovlek then going to go get where Hovlek belongs.”  Hovlek said in a grunting laugh standing in front of the door.

 

“Hovlek, you know what you have to do, right?”  Bait asked of the weapons crafter.

 

Laughing more Hovlek reached under part of his armor by his neck and pulled out a piece of paper.

 

“Yah, Hovlek wrote it down so Hovlek would not forget.”  He unfolded the paper.  “Kill Bad Guys.”  Hovlek read from the paper then dropped it, gave a moderate roar and charged out the door.

 

“Is he going to be able to handle himself?”  Bait asked looking to her.

 

Snow started laughing.  “Hovlek can handle himself in a fight, believe me.  You have nothing to worry about from him.”  She answered.

 

“Colonel Bait, sir.”  Worm’s voice called from the open doorway.

 

Snow turned with him to look at her.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Sir, the paper Hovlek dropped…”  She held it so he could see what was written on it.

 

In large block letter was written ‘KILL BAD GUYS’.

 

After looking at the paper he looked at Snow with a raised eyebrow and a question in his eyes.

 

-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-

 

Bait

 

“We’re set here.  Have you got us on visual yet?”  Seven’s voice asked over the radio.

 

“We’re just getting parked.  Should be in position in three.”  Snow answered.

 

They grabbed the last of their gear from the back of the pickup they drove.  The lot she had chosen was across the street and about fifty feet down from where Seven and Worm would be at.  The rampage teams, as they were called, from the raid crews would storm in first.  They all would be using pistols and swords.  The fire squad would follow with a fire hose and start blasting ‘hot spots’ in the rooms.  The part they needed the most was good timing. 

 

“We have you, stand by.”  Snow called out.

 

“This is command,” Max’s voice cut in, “we are still waiting on two teams from crew seventeen and Baby-Go-Boom is still missing.

 

“Shit.”  Bait muttered.  “What about Frisket, or whatever her mates name is?”

 

“No word sir, lost them both from track.”  Max reported.

 

“Jeepers, blimy, look up yous twits, I’s right above ye on the wall.”  Baby-Go-Boom’s voice said over the radio.

 

Bait raised his binoculars and looked.  “Got her, she is too, stuck to the wall about twelve, fifteen feet up.  She’s gone.”

 

Snow nodded.  “Figures, shadow stepping husband, shadow stepping wife.”  She whispered.

 

“Heh, ya, the only thing is, she hasn’t been using it much, Squat got her back into using it.  She can hide but she can’t move.  But when she does hide, she can hold it a long time he said.”  Bait whispered back.

 

“As for Twitch, ‘is name is Twitch sir, he is waiting for your order.”  Baby-Go-Boom added.

 

“Let’s do this thing.”  Snow said with a grin.

 

“Roger that.”  He answered and keyed the radio.  “Let’s kick the tires and light the fires, downtown teams start your attacks, hit like an atomic bomb people.  Go!” 

 

Everyone was listening close as their major offensive broke free from its constraints.  The radio was sporadic with bits of information.  Team screeching monkey was hit hard.  It sounded bad.  The radio was a mix of short blasts of noise.  Someone started to report team members down, possibly one dead, then the speaker became distracted.  Their radio was still keyed.  There was a roar that came from the radio.  Hovlek.  “I gots yer back mate, frellin cut loose man!”  Burst from the earpiece, Twitch.  The radio went dead.

 

Twitch’s voice returned after several minutes of silence in a voice of excited rage and insanity.  “Hey Galt, what’s say we kill some of these bad guys the easy way?  Blow that frelling door, grabbin’ my spice weasel and spanking the frell out-a-da bastard.” 

 

Bait started laughing.

 

“What’s funny?”  Snow asked with a confused face.

 

Looking over at her he asked “What happens when you cut a Tasmanian devil version of a werewolf loose on a group of vampires?”

 

Looking even more confused she shrugged.  “I don’t know, what?”

 

His laughter became slightly harder.  “I don’t know either, but I think we are about to find out.”  He said then pointed to where Seven and Worm were hidden.

 

With a nod she looked forward and keyed her radio.  “Operation Secret of Nim, you are go.”  Snow said over the radio.

 

Bait sat down and pulled out a miniature tablet computer and poked at it, the view from Seven’s ladybug came up.  They were seeing through the crack which did go all the way through.  It was a tight fit at one part.  Seven mentioned that fact over the radio.  He followed by saying ‘she says she can make it’ then pressed the ladybug forward. 

 

The door had a single wheel in the center which when turned retracted the bolts that secured the door into the building at all four edges.  Between Sea Mist and Baby-Go-Boom they figured six or seven turns of the wheel and she would have it open. 

 

 The hall was empty.  It went straight with a downward slope then turned a corner where there were stairs that dropped down several stories ending at the second door with the remaining half of Alexander’s bloodcrest.

 

“About a hundred eighty yards total Baby, you good?”  Seven asked.

 

“Eh, frell ya, I may be old, but I still fast as a pup.  Three seconds, ‘ell, make it two.  I’ll be in position.”  Baby-Go-Boom’s voice said back.

 

Snow radioed to the teams working with them on this endeavor.  “Ten minutes till sunset, the blood suckers won’t be coming out for half an hour minimum, most will wait an hour.  That half hour is our sweet spot, take them out in their lairs.” 

 

That was the trick, hitting that sweet spot, the golden half hour when vampires ceased their hiding from light in the deepest depths of their lairs.  When they came to the upper levels to prepare for their night, have a snack, whoever they may be.  Hit during this time and you would catch them on the top three levels with their pants down. 

 

She glanced to Bait then looked out to where their covert operators were.  “Worm, remember, when you open that door, you run out the door and to the edge of the street.  We’ll get you out from there.  Who’s taking her for sure now?”  She asked.

 

Seven replied.  “I will be, onto the gyro and straight back to clan Squat’s den and into the command deck to help old Max.” 

 

They both sighed looking towards the door.  “Commence when Seven says its clear Worm.  Everyone stand by.”  She ordered.

 

Bait started to rise and move closer.

 

“Hold up sport-o.  You know you have to lay back, I want to be in the mix too, but I’m staying back with you.”  Snow said to him.

 

He looked back at her then pulled himself to where she was.  “Yeah, Yeah, I know.”  He muttered.

 

The hall was clear, no sound from the second door.  Worm became a mouse and Seven carried her in his hand.  Stopping to tie his shoe he let her into the hole then moved directly across from the door, standing on the curb and facing the street as he watched thru the eyes of his ladybug. 

 

He would grab Worm, cross the street and they would run to where the gyrocopter was parked and be off.  He had told Colonel Snow seven seconds, he would be airborne from the time she left the entry.  The gyro was just under seventy five feet away. 

 

Worm was at the narrow, she was pushing her mouse head forward.  What was she doing?  She had stopped, her nose twitched as she wiggled her head around.  Then she pulled back and squished herself through the gap.  Whiskers, she had used them to ensure she would be able to push thru.  She was in! 

 

Seven reported he could hear some movement and talking now.  The voices were not near the door he reported.  Worm skirted along the edge of the hall the foot or so to the door then crossed to the middle staying a mouse as long as she could.  She gave a look back.  Seven told her to do it. 

 

Shadow-steppers were hidden outside on either side of the door.  Worm changed to her human self and grabbed the wheel which centered at about her chin height.  She pulled on it, it wouldn’t turn.  Again she tried to no avail as her feet dangled, jerking the wheel with her weight.  Then she leapt up and put her feet on the side frame of the door while keeping her hands on the wheel, her legs and arms bent as she scrunched herself in the gap, then she thrust with her arms and legs.

 

“Getting more activity behind the door.”  Seven reported.

 

Grunting and straining from a young female voice came over the radio. Her pickup had activated. A sudden stifled cry accompanied the sound of the wheel turning.  Snow’s eyes shot back to the mini monitor.  Worm’s hands were on the wheel, it was spinning.  She looked up across to the door.  It opened and Worm ran out and to Seven who grabbed her and was gone.  She barely counted to five when the faint hum of the gyro tickled her ears.

 

Baby-Go-Boom could only be seen but a split second.  A clank came from Snow’s earpiece as she checked her radio display for member position.  Still no marker from Baby-Go-Boom. 

 

“Set.”  Came in a whisper next from the radio. 

 

The two commanders looked at each other and gave each other a nod. 

 

“Squat, take over.”  Bait radioed.

 

“Baby, go boom.”  Squat’s voice said.

 

The display from Baby-Go-Boom’s camera showed her elevated on the door as she looked back a second then her head tucked in behind something, this allowed a visual of her legs pulling up into what gave the appearance of a turtle pulling into it’s shell.  Snow would learn later that that was a fairly accurate description.  Baby wore her charges.

 

There was a sound of thunder.  A fireball along with smoke and debris blew from the open door.  Squat ordered his squads to move.  The battle was on. 

 

-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 shadow-steppers came into the room with swords and water cannons drawn.  The pistols were firing and working well.  Several explosions from the vampires caught in the stream could be seen from the perspective of the camera she currently had on.  Baby’s had gone black. 

 

“Second wave go!”  Squat called out over the radio.

 

A mass of werewolves streamed in out of nowhere in the street then to the door.  An over powered midsized SUV pulled up, the back hatch opened and a fire hose was deployed by four people and pulled through the door Worm had opened.

 

“Air assault commencing Commander Snow.”  Lord Frost’s voice said over the mission channel.  The sound of Sea Mist’s chopper working hard filled the background.

 

That meant at their locations the ground assault had already begun.  Sea Mist and Lord Frost’s teams were to follow three minutes behind the first assault by the ground teams.  The vampires would never expect eighty airborne werewolves.  Snow wished she could be there.

 

The radio network became a flurry of activity.  Worm’s voice popped in and gave quick accurate information from the gyro.  Twitch launched off to pick a fight.  There were twenty teams stationed to follow him.  He had a private link to them to report his locations.  Hovlek went another direction.  The two seemed to be working together on spreading the mayhem.

 

Baby’s cut off!  She went under to blow their escape tunnel she’s in trouble!  Came a horrific urgent cry from one of insurgents in the building.  What Snow could see was filled with water spray.  She tried Baby’s camera.

 

The blade of a werewolf slayer was filling the main part of the view.  At the top the blade stop where the hilt began could be seen, Baby-Go-Boom was slumped on the ground.  She had two plates for armor, one front one back.  The plate on her front was oval and came up to just below her neckline. 

 

The sword was run through her, in at the neckline and down at an angle.  She was paralyzed.  Squat’s shadow-steppers wouldn’t be able to reach her in time.  Her head rolled, the face of a vampire came to the display.  Then the camera fell and landed on the ground next to her.

 

Dallas.  A viceroy of Alexander’s.  Snow knew this prick all too well.  She had left many a scar on him.  Leveled two of his covens.

 

“Take the stick, take it, hold it like that, good.”  Seven’s voice said over the radio.

 

“NO!”  Snow yelled loud and stood fast without actually keying the radio.

 

Seven’s voice continued from the radio as he worked on whatever he was up to.  “I got this I got this, hold on, I got this, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, I got this hold on hold on I can do this I got it… YES!”

 

Her eyes were glued to Baby-Go-Boom’s live video feed.  The fall had left the camera with a vantage point that showed Baby-Go-Boom’s face and the back and side of Dallas’s.  Snow watched as little lights began illuminating on the chest piece she was wearing, they blazed red.  She broke into a toothy grin.

 

“Ah, bless you my boy.  I do loves that boy Sevens right now.”  Baby said.

 

The vampire looked at her with a confused face, he looked to be questioning the lights and now what Baby-Go-Boom just said.  Clearly to him it made no sense.

 

The earth shook.

 

“I detonated her front blaster plate.  Had to hack her code first, sorry about the wait.”  Seven said with Worm’s voice in the background informing him he could not have his flying machine back.

 

“Oh sweetness, that was a blast!”  Baby-Go-Boom called out.  “We’ll be out in a jiffy here, just a bit… (grunt) stuck right (grunt)… now.”

 

Movement to her left.  Bait had taken off and was running towards the building.  “Frell!”  She screeched and followed.

 

Inside the building most everything was wet and quiet.  They had caught their enemies off guard.  They had walked right through them taking them out with holy water delivered with force.  Teams and squads were going through room by room, level by level cracking open any enclosure that might offer safety to a vampire. 

 

Most weren’t water proof anyways and the volume they had put down between the extreme amount of water pistols and the fire hose flooded lower levels and permeated light proof sarcophaguses on its run through.  Bait was off hunting.  The site was clear where they were at.

 

“Open this door, now!”  Bait barked.

 

People scrambled to where he was standing and looked to where he was looking and pointing.  Looks went between her partner and the wall with a small staircase down on either end of it.  There was a large bloodcrest of the Darkness with Alexander’s mark in the upper middle.  That is, through werewolf eyes.

 

“Colonel Bait, there is no door.  That’s a bloodcrest inlaid in the wall, sir.”  One of the men on his right said solemnly. 

 

“Incorrect; the whatever the frell it is, it’s covering a door.  I can see it.”  Bait said firmly. 

 

“Bait, there’s nothing…”  Snow trailed off.

 

“Want to have Baby-Go-Boom, go boom on that wall?”  An officer asked him.

 

He shook his head.  “No.  Picks and hammers, blasting might destroy what’s on the other side.  Center… right here.”  Bait stepped forward and placed his palm on the center of the wall.  “Punch a hole right here.”

 

The hammers flew into the wall from the two men swinging them.  At first only the sound of steel on stone was all the effort rendered.  It was looking as though Bait’s secret door was a bust.  The wall didn’t even sound hollow.  Then a crack ran up and down the height of the picture on the wall. 

 

“We have something, get those picks in here!”  One of the men yelled. 

 

Others moved in and joined the hammer crew with picks.  One man swung a hammer in again, then the picks were sung in.  Soon a false front fell and a large door with Alexander’s second seal was uncovered.

 

“There’s the real second door.”  Bait said with his hands on his hips and an ‘I told you so’ expression on his face as he looked around.

 

They called for Baby-Go-Boom to come.  She bopped up to them with her usual cheery demeanor.  Checking the door over she assured her commanders she could pop it like a fruit bat eating a grape.  It took her about fifteen minutes to do her thing then she called for all to take cover especially the squishies, she looked at Bait when she said this. 

 

“I’m clear Baby-Go-Boom, count it out.”  Bait reported in.

 

“Alrighty then mate, and please, call me BGB, everyone does.  Fire in the hole in five…”  BGB called out her countdown. 

 

After the blast two people pulled back the remains of the vault door protecting Alexander’s thrown room.  Inside was a collection of holy symbols, mostly crosses and crucifixes.  A few stars of David. The room was dark and clearly hadn’t been occupied for some time.  Alexander had sealed it from his slaves. 

 

“This is a trophy room.”  Bait said as he looked around.

 

“Everyone of these symbols represents a life lost.”  Snow said in a grim voice.

 

“Why holy symbols?”  Bait asked absent mindedly.

 

“Because, the people who tried to use them on him didn’t have the faith behind the symbol.  Vampires thrive on the weak.”  She answered 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-

 

All forces were attacking now.  They had left the former home of their enemy and taken position in an upscale gated area where some of Squats squads were lurking about making ready to begin another attack on a viceroy’s mansion. 

 

“Stick close to me.  I’m armored and not as squishy as you think.” Bait said to Snow when she objected to his moving in and covering the door while the squads moved in.

 

She looked at him with concern in her eyes.  He could tell she was trying to come up with anything to rebut his argument.  The battle inside her was lost, not for lack of reason so much as desire to do what he was suggesting. 

 

“Fine!  Stay on my ass.”  She told him then started inching forward from her crawling position towards where Squat’s people were ready.

 

“No problem.”  He answered, she was immediately on his right, her bottom was barely an inch in front of him. He brought his open palm down on her butt as it stuck out while she was moving.  After the sound of the crack his hand made she looked back at him and he gave her his embarrassed look.  Quiet.

 

As the squads charged in the sound of a helicopter banking steep was in the night air above them.  Sea Mist was coming around to position to drop more of Lord Frost’s raiders on the main compound of the property they were engaging.  They were trotting through the landscape of groomed trees.  Snow stopped and was looking towards the sound of the chopper, Bait stopped with her and looked.

 

His contacts did their job and brought Sea Mist’s chopper into view.  She had finished pulling around and was now coming almost at them.  She let the Sea Stallion plummet a short distance then brought the craft to a hover.  He could see small figures fall from the helicopter then become big shadows in the night.  There were quite a few shadows that dropped through the sky.

 

“Come on!”  Snow said grabbing his arm sleeve then breaking into a run.

 

Bait drew his weapons and followed. 

 

Machine gunfire resounded through the mown woodland.  The end run of bullets came very near them and Bait ducked into an out building.  Snow didn’t see him go.  He would catch up to her in a second. 

 

Movement.  The shooting had stopped, he wasn’t alone in the small building.  He turned. “Screech!”  Came in an ear piercing assault when he turned around.

 

The face of the vampire was three feet from him, it was trying to take him from behind.  Bait reached for Bad Betty.  The evil bellowed again, it almost sounded in pain.  It’s face.  Small marks formed on it’s face after small flashes were picked up by his contacts.  Dagger points!  Quick, extremely quick stabbing was coming from behind the old and powerful vampire.  Snow must have followed him after all.  But this wasn’t her style.

 

DOWN!” Bait yelled, the person behind dove to the floor, Betty barked into the chest of the vampire.

 

“BOOM!”  The vampire blew.

 

“Forty-five’s quicker then four -oh-nine, Betty cleaned the house for the very last time.”  Bait said looking to the smoking spot on the floor where his adversary had been.  “Thanks…”

 

He looked over to the now standing person.  “… ah, Morning Dew?”

 

Mud’s mate, who at one time had tried to kill her, bowed to him.  “Colonel Bait, sir.”  Morning Dew said to him, then shadow-stepped away.

 

Moving from the building he radioed for Snow.  She was already down by the door, she told him she was just about to track back to him.  He told her to stay and broke into a run towards her marker on his radio display.  Squat’s squads had secured the yard. 

 

Sounds of Bad Betties and water impacting sang from the night around him.  Bait didn’t stop when he arrived where his partner was, he continued on into the building pulling his water pistol to join Bad Betty.  Snow protested but never finished her first word and was now tight on his ass.

 

Complete savages, that’s what Lord Frost’s men were.  Damn good ones too.  The sight that greeted Bait’s eyes when he first looked into the room was the sight of one of FUALT’s members (Frost’s Urban Assault Lightning Teams) snapping into werewolf form while skewering the vampire to his left with his sword, firing an exploding bullet into the one on his right, neutralizing the protection of the suit and now blessing the lad with a goodly amount of holy water while biting the head off another vampire thrusting a werewolf slayer at his chest. 

 

The sword bounced off the armor which he noticed was similar to that Hovlek wore only crimson, as the body slumped to the ground.  The werewolf spit the head out into the room and moved away from the site of the impending explosions.

 

“Now that is bad ass.”  He said aloud to himself as he took aim with Betty and activated the water cannon, fanning it around the room.  “Bark!”

 

He spotted Blade Dance, mind you he was doing no handed back flips through the back center part of the room, pulling a dagger from his belly as he did, when Bait spotted him.  A water cannon was in each hand and in full force discharge while he did his acrobatics. 

 

Blade Dance stopped, spun one of the pistols in the air, reached to his side, pulled a shotgun very similar to the one he had, fired twice, returned the Bad Betty and caught his pistol as gravity took its toll on the upward rotation of it bringing it to his hand in perfect timing.

 

Bait fired his water pistol, then held the trigger as the others were doing and moved to where Blade Dance was fighting from.  On the way he leveled his Bad Betty toward the head of the vampire that had just knocked his partner down.  “Bark!”

 

He put his back to Blade Dance’s and the two slowly turned while firing water pistols and Bait his shotgun.

 

“Nice shooting Tex, you been watching John Wayne movies?”  Bait yelled over the noise to him.

 

Blade Dance let out a guffaw.  “Frell no man, ‘Loony Toons!’ HA!”

 

I’m pinned down, room looks like a dance room.  Sea Mist’s voice rasped over the radio.

 

“There!”  He heard Snow yell in  the earpiece.

 

Looking over he saw her about eight feet from him.  She had chosen a sword to go with her water cannon.  No surprise there.  He looked to where she pointed.  “Go!”  He said to Blade Dance as he indicated the direction of travel he desired from his meat shield with a push on his waste.  He was sandwiched between Blade Dance on his front and Snow on his back.  They held fire from the water pistols as the moved.  They were definitely going to keep the bishops busy.

 

“Hovlek’s separated from the operation, he’s in heavy combat.”  Worm’s voice reported over the radio.

 

Inside the room Sea Mist had the company of at least twenty vampires.  She was behind a bar off on the far end of a dance hall.  The bar looked to have been modified to hold disc jockey equipment.  Arrows protruded from walls and pillars in the room and water dripped from many locations.  Snow had pulled up her sister’s combat camera.

 

“What the…” Bait said as he glanced over.

 

“There must have been a meeting tonight, these are some of the big players in Alexander’s clique of cronies.”  Blade Dance said.  “We need to get every single one of the frellers.”

 

“I was thinking the same thing.”  Snow agreed.

 

“I got an Idea.”  Bait said.  “Baby-Go… BGB, need you at our location A.S.A.P!”  He radioed out.

 

Sea Mist’s voice came back over the radio  “Screw that old man, they aren’t going to be around long enough.”

 

“What is she doing?”  Bait half yelled.  The noise in the room prevented any attention being drawn to their presence tucked under tables and behind chairs.  “Is that an mp3 player?”

 

Snow appeared to titter though he couldn’t hear if she laughed.  “I haven’t a frelling clue Colonel Bait, but I can tell you what I know about my sister.  She love music, she loves it loud.  She loves to practice her skills while fighting to loud music.  Whatever she is planning, when she engages, so do we.  I know those that trained her.  Blade?”

 

He winked and gave her a nod with a devious understanding smile.  Bait understood that smirk, he was wearing the same type.

 

Sea Mist’s hands flew around the controls of a soundboard, there was noticeable loud feedback for a second.  Some pistols fired in her direction.  She quickly lowered two of the slide volume controls on the board.  The sound of a bass beat filled the room over the noise of combat.  A high pitched squeaky whiney girl’s voice came on after a man asked something about if someone thought they could mess with them. 

 

Sea Mist came spinning in like a Dreidel from behind the bar high into the air as the song started its full sound effect.  Her bow was in her hands.  Three arrows flew from the spinning traveling girl.  Two explosions followed, the sound of the bowstring slipped into Bait’s ears, a third, fourth and fifth explosion followed. 

 

Snow was in mid air, water streaming from her right hand and a sword gleaming in her left.  Blade Dance was also sailing through the air, only he had his hands raised to his chest outstretched with a pistol in each.  He entered into another acrobatic run switching between pistols and daggers when he was close enough to a foe. 

 

His hands were quick with the daggers, he would stab through his victim at amazing speed, in and out, in and out again and again.  Then he would soak them down, injection via one of the wounds closing slowly.  Werewolf blade wounds, those from the living metal, didn’t regenerate as fast as from a wound from anything else.  With the exception of Bad Betty’s light cartridges. 

 

Bait raised his water cannon and started firing, everywhere.  His team mates were too all over the place to use the shotgun.  Hitting one of them would be too possible right now.  Arrows and more arrows and still more flew from the horizontally spinning archer.  Everyone a hit, sadly not every shot was a fatal one.  He could hear two things, the squeaky girl who thought she was a big deal and the string of Sea Mist’s bow.  It confused him why he could hear it but he had stuffed it to the back of his mind for now.

 

A clear shot.  “Bark, Bark!”

 

He felt force against his chest, a vampire had swung on him with a sword and connected with his chest.  The armor absorbed the blow.  The vampire’s muscles in his arms moved, without thinking Bait slammed a hand on the blade pinning it to his chest preventing the man from raising it again.  A look of shock hit the vampire’s face as he saw Bait’s bare hand on the blade, then grab it and jerk it from his hands.

 

“Human!”  The vampire’s mouth mouthed, the words were lost in the heavy techno-rap downbeat of the music.

 

Three arrows entered his mind, staggered about an inch apart with one that went from ear to ear.  ‘I’m a wild and crazy guy!’ ran through Bait’s mind briefly as he stuck the business end of his water pistol in the vampire’s mouth and squeezed the trigger then dove for cover.

 

The fight was over when two of Squat’s shadow-steppers popped into the fight as at least a dozen wolves charged through the door running to where the main brawl was.  Then the wolves were gone and the crimson glimmer from the uniforms of Frost’s urban raiders filled where the wolves had been.

 

“Snow, let’s go help Hovlek, report said he was knee deep in the shit.”  Bait radioed out.

 

Useless with the music.  Bait pulled the fifty caliber and fired.  The music stopped and he repeated his call.

 

“Hovlek asked for help?”  Snow radioed back.

 

“No Commander Snow, I was watching his video, ma’am, he’s out numbered bad!”  Worm responded.

 

Bait had started towards the door, only three vampires were left, two.  Well, they were done here now.

 

“Station commander Max says ‘get your head out of your ass woman, Hovlek would never ask for help.”  Worm’s voice said accompanied by Max’s.  “No! No!  Don’t actually tell her that, oh damn!”  He had started imploring when he realized she was repeating what he had said without the intention of it being repeated.

 

“Sorry commander Maxi, that was actually my head up Snow’s ass, I have it out now, we are moving to Hovlek.”  Bait said trying to taunt embarrassment from his command deck officer. 

 

-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-

 

Hovlek had ventured off the beaten path, they were no longer in the affluent gated community, they were in a quiet suburb.  Small shops and houses intermingled along the street they were going down.  They turned a corner and went down another road, the shops were gone, only houses lined the streets. 

 

They passed a park with a small playground and a dog walking area.  They were onto another block when Bait looked around then stopped.  He was in front of a middle school to his right.  Just down from him was a county equipment building and where the street came to a T, across from the intersection a Catholic church.

 

“Duncan, sorry, Bait, what is it?”  Snow asked as she returned to him.  Her voice heavy with concern.

 

“Grover Cleveland Middle School.”  Bait pointed as he recited.  “Saint Christopher’s Catholic Church.”  There, on the corner.  “And a Lutheran church.”

 

Her face was a mess of confusion now.  “So?”

 

He shook off the incomplete and misguided thoughts in his head.  “Nothing, more… nothing.”  He said looking at the buildings around him.

 

They returned to running, Bait knew he was slowing Snow down.  But he needed her protector abilities.  Even though he was very well armored, he was still fragile next to her, any werewolf for that matter. 

 

They cut down another side street that ended in a dirt road that led to a small industrial park on the edge of the suburb.  They were a ways down the road when the sounds of combat could be heard.  Snow led them off the road and across a field to a small knoll that rose up next to a building.  They were overlooking a back area of the building where an inward corner was formed by two parts of the building that were constructed ninety degrees from each other out. 

 

In the corner formed by the large flat roofed building was Hovlek.  There were several vampires in front of him and a few more moving in to attack from one side.  There was a pile of something behind him.  He was about to radio to Hovlek when Snow grabbed his arm.

 

“No good, he’s lost his radio, I can see it on the ground.”  She said.

 

Hovlek was wielding a weapon that looked like a half circle mounted on the end of a long pole.  Light flew from the weapon, then the weapon went along the path of the light and a Hovlek with it at great speed.  He grabbed the head of the vampire he just decapitated and stepped away from the falling remains and tossed the head towards the pile behind him.  That’s when Bait fully realized what the pile was , hundreds of heads.

 

Closing in the vampires had him surrounded.  Hovlek’s weapon changed to meet his needs, it was now a double balled flail, one in each hand.  A skull collapsed under the substantial force of the weapon, his right arm moved awkwardly back.  Then a thrust as he drove the talons of his armor into another vampire then loosed his prey and swung that flail which destroyed an evil mind.

 

“Holy shit!”  Bait gasped as he watched his ‘weapons master’ display his title. 

 

Snow gave a soft chuckle.  “Told ya buck-o, you don’t need to be worrying about Hovlek.  He can handle himself.”  She said dropping a hand on his shoulder.

 

The last vampire fell.  Hovlek stood as though waiting.  One second, now two.  They seemed like hours.  Five seconds.  What was he waiting for?

 

Seven seconds.  Two figures approached Hovlek from out of the shadows.  Laughter, sinister callous laughter followed.  A second sound of laughter joined as the clearly lesser of the two vampires joined in. 

 

“Hovlek, my my, times must be very tough my pretty, if they are dusting off a relic like you.  Honestly we thought you were dead.”  The vampire who laughed first said in a silky almost soothing voice.

 

Hovlek grunted.

 

“No, Bait.”  Snow said as her hand went to the one he was pulling Betty with.  “Watch.”

 

He looked back to the showdown before them.

 

“The small one is Ludlow, the master he is assistant to is Viceroy Raddien.”  Snow informed him as to the identities of the two that remained currently.

 

Snow looked to Bait.  “What we need to do is let Hovlek do what Hovlek do.  We keep watch and avert any outside participation, got it?  I’ll get us some back up, another team should do.”  She said then called out her orders.

 

The three below were facing each other down.

 

“Tell me old shoe, when I finish you, is you’re woman going to be happy to finally be rid of your stench?”  Ludlow seethed to the weapons master.

 

His eyes remained locked on Raddien.  Hovlek didn’t even seem to be breathing.

 

“I’ll give you this opportunity old… friend… to surrender.  You have fought well for someone of your…” Raddien waved a hand aimlessly at Hovlek, “advanced years, but alas, the time has come for your life to end.  Surrender and I will kill you quick.  Off with your head, nice and simple, make it quick for your mate too, don’t want that bitty to suffer, or do you?”  Raddien gave a slow even cackle.

 

Ludlow started moving and swinging his sword around, he spun it from the hilt while he wielded it in a show of skill, and ego. 

 

Raddien cocked his head looking at his victim.  He blinked.  “No?”  He said softly.  “Not interested?”  He continued after some small head movements and tsk sounds as though he seriously thought Hovlek was considering his offer.

 

“Well then, that’s just too bad, I guess we’ll have to do this the hard way then.  Ludlow, proceed.”  His voice was calm and cool, he was full of belief that Ludlow would take Hovlek down without any trouble.

 

Ludlow started chuckling demonically, sweeping his sword around.

 

“What’s the problem old friend?”  Raddien said mockingly.  “Nothing to say to me?”

 

Hovlek bent at the knees, his eyes still on Raddien.  His left hand rose to his opposite shoulder and he grasped the pole of his weapon. Hovlek bellowed a word as he swung the weapon from its sheath, but the word was lost in the volume of the battle cry that came with as the weapon came out and he took to a knee.

 

The half moon blade struck the ground in front of Hovlek, light engulfed him then formed a wide beam that ran to Raddien who had produced a tower shield from someplace then to Ludlow.  The light ricocheted off of the shield Raddien held and Hovlek appeared at the end of the light beam run with the pole arm he wielded flowing on a swing that was just connecting with the neck of Ludlow, his right hand grasped the man’s hair when the blade finished its travel.

 

Hovlek turned towards the growing pile of heads by the wall behind him, tossing the head he held onto as he walked from Ludlow’s body as it slumped to the ground then blew up.

 

“Shut up and fight.”  Hovlek rasped.

 

 

 

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