The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 27
Midnight At Noon

Chapter 27

 

 

Midnight At Noon

 

 

 

Bait had his face in the toilet again.  River Stone’s snake oil had stopped helping at all, and seemed to have an inverse effect now.  He had thought about going to visit him again and see if there was something else he could use to ease his bouts with the commode, but decided he was too far gone for medicine even from a werewolf doctor. 

 

He spit the last chunks into the bowl, wiped his mouth and stood, grabbing the walls for support.  These bouts were leaving him very weak, he was barely able to stand now.  After he regained enough stamina to walk, he went to the sink and washed his face and brushed his teeth.  He inspected his face and teeth, flossed, then went to the shower and took a quick one.  After getting dressed, he moved from the bathroom.

 

Snow’s face greeted him in a lost look as she brushed her hair counting quietly to herself.  Her hair was getting longer, faster than it should he thought.  Maybe the brushing stimulated her hair growth, maybe, but he suspected there was something else at play here.  A scent caught his nose and he looked from Snow in the direction of the scent.

 

River Stone sat in a chair across from where Snow was committing her new ritual of hair brushing.  His hand moved in a tossing motion and something flew towards Bait.  He caught the bottle it turned out to be in his hands and looked at it.

 

“You’re far enough along to handle this.  You may feel a bit stoned at first when you drink it, but that will pass in about five minutes.  Was too strong of a medicine before for you.”  River Stone sighed, his head gave a single twitch to one side.  “But now, well, it’s the lesser of things.  Let me know if there’s any nasty side effects.” 

 

He gave a quick tight lipped smile to Bait, the look said to him that the doctor wished there was more he could do, and that he felt his own failure.  But River Stone hadn’t failed.  Bait had his own course to follow.  A course that had been set in motion long before he was even born it seemed.

 

Bait read what was on the bottle, instructions on dosage.  He didn’t look up at River Stone, but rather continued his inspection of the new medicine asking,  “And what kind of nasty side effects might I encounter?”  He said in a distant fog of thought.

 

River Stone clapped his hands together and stood.  “Oh, nothing to serious, you might turn into a lizard or some other type of reptile.  That would be one of the more mild ones.  Suddenly bursting into flames, now that might be a bit more serious.”  He said then turned and started towards the door. 

 

He stopped short of the door and stood waiting with his back towards Bait, who was counting down.

 

River Stone didn’t laugh. 

 

“Turning into a lizard, interesting side effect.”  Bait said to his back.

 

“Yes, but like I said, that is a mild one, and like the intoxicating effect, doesn’t last long, fifteen minutes maybe.  The longest is half an hour that I have ever seen or heard tell of.”  River Stone said.

 

Bait rolled the bottle in his hand.

 

“Take it, side effects aside, it will be more than beneficial to you through your last days.”  River Stone added, then walked to the door and left. 

 

Snow looked up from her chair and put her brush down.  “He’s giving you potions for werewolves now.  Strong medicine.  You’ll be alright, he wouldn’t have done so without consideration.”  She said to him.

 

Bait looked over at her and opened the bottle then looked down at it and drank the contents in a single go.  Snow raised an eyebrow at him.

 

“Drink entire bottle, more in the fridge in your room, do this once at the breaking of day and once at the falling of night.”  He read from the label.  “Bit different than what human doctors put on their label.”  He said with a chuckle then recapped the bottle and tossed it at the trashcan. 

 

The room whooshed and he felt dizzy.  Things looked strange and everything looked larger for some reason.  Bait tried to walk, his feet felt funny.  All four of them, he looked back at his tail.  He saw Snow reach for him.

 

Snow picked up the iguana her mate had become and set him on the bed.  “Well, that is the most common change.  I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you.”  She said then walked to where their office was.

 

Great.  He thought to himself.  I’m a lizard.  I wonder if Worm feels like this when she does her tricks.

 

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It was five minutes later when Snow poked her head into the room having heard him cry out.  He was sitting up in bed rubbing his face.

 

“Oh, that didn’t take long, back to normal?”  She asked.

 

Bait jumped to his feet and tried his legs, then he felt around his body and looked at his hands and danced a little jig.  Stopping he looked at Snow with a goofy smile.

 

“No, better than that I think.  I…”  he looked at his hands again and chuckled again, “I actually feel great!  Better than I have in a long time.” 

 

Snow gave him a comforting smile.  “Strange side effects but good medicine.  Humans can’t handle it unless they are sick to the point of near death… I… it’s good it is helping.”  She said as her face dropped.

 

Bait felt the hurt inside his mate, the medicine helped only because he was sick to the point of near death, twelve days from it.  They had to finish their work well before then.  And the day was starting.

 

“Sea Mist back yet?”  He asked looking around the room.

 

Snow’s eyebrows raised quickly, then fell with an uncertain look.  “Actually, yes.  Her and Blade Dance  are both back, and in their own room together… getting busy… you know.  Days in the sun seem to be helping them. 

 

Bait nodded with a faint smile.  “Did you talk to Allahna?”  He asked.

 

Snow nodded her head trying to take her mind off of its current track.  “Yes, everything’s ready that we asked for.  How do you expect to find her?” 

 

Bait cocked a witty smile.  “Because, she may have disabled the Hovlek tracking system, but he never removed the human one, and Worm doesn’t know about it.”

 

Snow’s head raised slowly and a smile of pleasure grew on her face.  Bait was going to be able to track their missing miss.  How things were going to work out, she had no idea, only a feeling that they needed to let things run their own course. 

 

They would be leaving soon, first to take care of the issue with Worm, then they would be taking a few people and visiting the elusive and despicable Lolith.

 

But now, with a groan then a grunt, the first battle of the day awoke.

 

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Hovlek sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes.  His sleep had been good, a hard rest he hadn’t had in many years it seemed, though it may have only been two, maybe three.  He gave his morning yawn full release and stretched his arms high above him; he became aware of eyes watching him. 

 

Blinking a few times just to clear his eyes and make sure he was evaluating his surroundings accurately, he grunted again and looked between Snow and Bait who each sat on one corner of the bed he was centered on, looking at… no, glaring at him. 

 

Their eyes, yes their eyes, questions in them.  Questions that demanded answers, yes, and those answers the eyes said would be extracted from him.

 

“What?  What is it Snow and Bait want from Hovlek?”  He felt a muscle in his neck twitch.

 

They continued to stare at him, not saying a word.  Hovlek pushed up from the bed and slid himself towards the head of it, to better support himself in a sitting position against the back of the sofa the bed came from.

 

“What is it you have done?”  Bait started.

“We know you have done something.”  Snow followed.

“Bait knows you did something involving Worm, Hovlek.”

“Snow also knows this Hovlek.”

“Bait knows there is other things you aren’t telling Bait and Snow Hovlek.”

“Come clean Hovlek must, else anger Snow and Bait Hovlek will.”  Show followed with.

 

Hovlek looked between the two of them fast, a smile broke of true joy.

 

“Yes!  This is good!  Snow, Bait, acting, thinking, speaking, all as one, together they are!”  Hovlek was truly happy about this, but as suddenly as his face of joy came, it also went.  “Hrm, Hovlek, Hovlek not like being subject of Snow-Bait union, no, Hovlek not like this at all.” 

 

The eyes glared harder at him.  Hovlek started nodding after he made the rounds of the eyes on him again several times.  “Yes, Hovlek did a thing, bad it was not, but early it was.”

 

Snow: “Hovlek will tell Bait…”

Bait:  “and Snow what it is…

Together:  “Hovlek has done to Worm.”

Bait:  “Hovlek will tell…”

Snow:  “Bait and Snow…”

Together:  “now what has been done.”

 

Hovlek growled at them and waved a hand at them.  “Cut it, both Snow and Bait.  Make Hovlek not feel right.”  He said, he looked at them again.  He sighed.  “Yes, Snow, Bait, linked.  No stopping Snow and Bait now.”  He scratched his face and under an arm.

 

Sighing again he nodded in a small motion.  “Hovlek spoke on child, rights of werewolf passage.”  He looked down at the covers over his legs with remorse in his face, shamed at what he had done by giving the rights, not of a proper bishop, and before her time.

 

Together:  “Snow and Bait, no objections do they feel, in Hovlek, there is no fault.  What you have done, was guided by your heart, and your heart is pure.  You have been tested.”  They said, then rose from the bed and stood near his side with their backs to him.

 

It took some time to consider what he had heard, to let it fully sink in.  Their backs were not an act of shunning, on the contrary, rather a time of privacy for him to reflect and understand and feel.  A good five minutes passed as Hovlek let what had happened and his feelings churn and work their way through him.

 

 His worry that he had acted against the law was fading, replaced by understanding that those over the werewolves now were restoring an order, taking them back to the paths they had abandoned.  Giving leniency where it had been earned. 

 

They, when linked, saw better than any werewolf could, Hovlek knew his actions were not of freewill or a bad choice. 

 

“Hrmf, that’s why, no choice was actually offered to Hovlek, was there?”  He said to the backs of his friends.

 

The link between them broke, allowing them to be themselves again, and both turned to face the warrior master.

 

“No, you had no choice offered.  You did as told.”  Bait said in his place as Inquisitor.

 

Snow was also facing him, Hovlek read her face, he didn’t like what he saw.

 

Snow cleared her throat.  “I need you to tell me about the unregistered clans.  How to find them.  We need them now, humanity needs them.  Their time is now.”  She said stately to him.

 

Hovlek shook his head looking down to the bed again, sighed then looked back up.

 

“Hovlek, does not know how to find.  They always find Hovlek.  Show to Lady Snow, Lord Bait, few dens, dens that give Hovlek nights for training, food for help, nothing more.  How to find these that you seek, help Hovlek would most assuredly, sorrow in heart of Hovlek that Hovlek is unable.”  The frame of the man wilted.

 

“And what of Cody, does he know?”  Bait asked.

 

Hovlek shook his head.  “Knowledge Cody has, but not like you want Hovlek is sure.  A few places to hide, most reject him even among rejects.  Ask Cody, best way.”

 

Snow sighed.  “We have already, his memory is a mess, still recovering you might say.  Baby too.  We had hoped maybe you could help him with some of the missing details.”

 

Hovlek gave a confused look between the two of them.  “How Hovlek help with that?  Cody, Hovlek, move in circles different.  Not same kind of people Cody and Hovlek.”

 

Bait turned fast towards Hovlek.  “Your… mark.  The full color emblem.  You changed it from when you first became a weapon smith.  Why?”  He asked bluntly and in a stone dropped voice.

 

Hovlek shrugged.  “New times, Hovlek’s mark, not his own.  Was mark of another, Hovlek finally make his own.”

 

Hovlek looked blankly at Bait, he returned the blank stare.

 

“You made your mark with a red stripe, and a white.  Why?”  Bait asked.

 

Hovlek shrugged again.  “Colors used by Hovlek’s friends.  Hovlek carry on tradition.”

 

“And what about the werewolf characters.  Two of them, one representing the number eight, the other the number one.  Not the mark for the werewolf number eighty-one, a separate eight and one.  Explain.”  Bait charged.

 

Hovlek’s eyes narrowed and his lips tightened as his breathing became hard and shallow.  “Reason only matters to Hovlek, Hovlek ask Bait respect Hovlek’s privacy.  Meaning is nothing to werewolves and Snow and Bait, only to Hovlek and Hovlek’s friends does this matter.”

 

“Are you claiming silence?”  Snow asked coldly.

 

Hovlek’s head raised slightly.  “Must Hovlek ask this of your Graces?”

 

Bait snorted.  “I’ve already explained the significance to Snow Hovlek.  Red and white stripes, numbers eight and one, explain this.”  He said and bent and picked up pictures he had stashed on the corner of the bed on the floor and dropped them on Hovlek’s lap.

 

Though the man in the pictures wore goggles, it was easy to tell it was Hovlek on the back of the motorcycle.  The vest he wore bore the name of the club he rode with, a hand written date was only a couple years past the clubs origin.  Hovlek looked through the pictures, from times in his past, and some from more recent times.  He smiled and mumbled as he recognized faces and places, remembering the times he had.

 

Hovlek dropped the pictures on the bed.  “Hovlek loved to ride, it was freedom to Hovlek.  A good place to hide, for other werewolves too.  Rogues, misfits, we stay not in one place long, always riding.  Was Hovlek’s life until needed.  Riding is how Hovlek met others like Hovlek who invited Hovlek in.  We ride separate from humans mostly, only on occasions grouping with them.”

 

“And how does this tie into the IRA?”  Snow asked.

 

“Again, good place for werewolves to hide.  Hovlek not part of those, Exten, his people hid among those of IRA, but not to hide.  Rather. to work unnoticed.  Many werewolves in IRA Hovlek told.  Not know for sure though.”  Hovlek looked at Snow with heavy eyes.

 

“How many werewolf Hell’s Angels are there Hovlek, ballpark figure?”  Bait asked bluntly.

 

Hovlek rocked his head and his lips moved silently as he considered the answer.  “Two, maybe three thousand worldwide.  Hovlek rode with many.” 

 

“Would they be willing to join with us?”  Snow asked.

“In old ways, not what is.”  Bait filled in after her with.

 

Hovlek’s face went blank for a moment, then he shrugged.  “Hovlek not know, however, Hovlek will ask if Snow desires Hovlek to.”

 

Snow smiled and Bait chuckled.  “Snow wishes you to ask Hovlek, we need every set of paws we can get.  And they will be respected.”  Snow said to her mentor.

 

Hovlek smiled.  “Of that my Lady, no doubt does Hovlek have.” 

 

“Good, and thank you Sir Hovlek… Bait?”  Snow said to Hovlek before turning to her mate.

 

Bait sighed.  “There is rumor, something Cody mentioned, about a leader of the unregistered clans, someone who has been keeping them… together as it were.  Getting them to work together helping each other.  You know who that might be or have any ideas?”

 

Hovlek grunted.  “Yes, this rumor Hovlek also has heard.  Try to find this werewolf Hovlek has, ride many, many miles, ask questions.  Nothing, that is what Hovlek find, but Hovlek believes this man exists.”

 

They began talking and throwing around ideas on how to locate this person, who might be able to help.  There were no new names on the list that hadn’t already been looked into.  Everything came up to a dead end.  There was a knock on the door.

 

Snow and Bait looked at each other.

 

“Come in.”  Snow called out and Sea Mist entered.

 

“Here’s the report and pictures from my flight with Sheriff Hanks.  Ends up being a huge nothing.”  She reported handing the file in her hand to Snow.

 

A puzzled look came to her face as she thumbed through the photos the Sheriff had taken.  “What exactly was he looking for?  These are pictures of the farm lands near Bait’s old house.”

 

Sea Mist shrugged.  “James had said something about how neat and orderly all the farm houses looked from up in the air, Thomas thought he might be able to locate covens by looking for what was out of place.  In the end, nothing was.”  She said with a depressed expression.

 

“What’s this here?”  Snow asked Sea Mist holding out a photo and pointing.  “In the middle of this circular area.”

 

“Oh, water tank for the irrigation runs around it.  They travel in a large circle around the tank, that is a big one, way bigger than any of the other farm fields, so it stands out more.”  Sea Mist pointed to other pictures.  “See, same thing here only smaller.  Difference is the smaller ones are private farms, this big one is corporately owned, more bucks ya know.” 

 

Snow handed the pictures to Bait after she looked at them and he glanced over them and she read the report, which said about the same thing as Sea Mist reported.  No covens found, nothing out of place.

 

“Any word on squirt?”  Sea Mist said off topic.

 

Bait looked up and over to her.  “Yes, we’re going to go find her, deal with the situation, you two want to come along?  We could use the help.”  He asked looking between Sea and Hovlek.

 

“Sure, might as well, we’ll be with you for Lolith anyways, cuts down on travel time.”  Sea Mist said then gave Hovlek a look that said ‘you are joining us, right?’

 

Hovlek nodded at her.  He could see if he refused the girl would chide him until he did join, and most likely with the help of Snow and especially Bait who Hovlek had pushed in certain directions hard himself, and he would return the favor ten fold if he refused.

 

“Alright then tail waggers, Bait has a truck waiting for us, time to load up and hit the dusty trail.”  Snow said with a light, pleased tone.

 

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Worm woke, stretched good then looked out the windows of the truck to see what was around.  She had spent the night in the vehicle to avoid any inconvenient run-ins with her werewolf kin, especially her commanders who surely were looking for her. 

 

The truck blended in well with the surroundings she had chosen as a hiding place behind an old abandoned building away from the main parts of where the teams would be working.  There wasn’t much for vampire activity around here, or day walkers. 

 

She would need to relocate the truck for her day operations.  The coast was clear and she was hungry.  She sniffed herself she wished she could sneak in someplace for a quick shower. 

 

Her kin would be working the nights, during the day their numbers would be far less, sticking close to dens for their day work.  She dug in the glove box for her cash.  $3,800 and change.  That would hold her for a while, accessing her account would give her away, and now she wouldn’t be getting her paychecks, so she took it all out in one shot. 

 

She fixed her hair the best she could and fired the truck to life, making her way out onto the streets of the rundown part of town she had hid in. 

 

Breakfast, humans had eateries all over the place.  She just needed to get to a part of town she belonged in, fit into, then stash her ride someplace where it wouldn’t be noticed.  She found a parking garage near a decent restaurant and paid for a day and night of parking. 

 

The attendant didn’t question her on her age now, Kevashka’s appearance was old enough that no one thought she was a kid.  Snow wasn’t quite her style, and Sea Mist would be too memorable.  Plus, she couldn’t alter the effect, a blind woman driving would draw attention.  Mud was too gruff and being a man didn’t appeal to her at all, so, she opted for the plain forgettable looks of Kevashka. 

 

She could still only maintain the change for about half an hour still, Bait insisted she train at it and she had gotten better.

 

The waitress at the restaurant had asked if she wanted sausage or ham with her breakfast.  She had ordered a fruit cup, eggs and a slice of pie.  Meat for breakfast?  She shivered at the thought and the waitress gave her an odd look when she said no, she didn’t want an evening food for breakfast.  Eggs over easy were plenty to go with the fruit cup. 

 

With her belly full and her attitude held high, she made her way into the streets hunting.  Day walkers, they had been left untouched during the day for to long now.  They took her parents, it was time to level the playing field. 

 

She wished she had had the foresight to grab more weapons.  She was running low on water canisters now too after yesterdays events.  Not bad for her first time out though, she put twenty-eight notches on her belt.

 

After she got a lay of the land and a feel for the number of victims for her day’s activities, she went back to the truck to get what supplies she had left.  Seven canisters, and her dagger.  She sighed as she looked at the paltry stash. 

 

She wondered if she could slip into the remains of the Stormhold building and kipe some goods.  After a quick thought she realized the den was actually untouched below the ground.  There would also be plenty of watchful eyes around.

 

“Well, go with what I have, my brains and this stuff.”  She said to herself aloud then stuffed as much as she could into her backpack and went off to raise some cane.

 

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“And this is where Worm is?”  Snow asked as she looked around the rundown park.

 

Bait shook his head.  “No, this is where she was, at least I think it is.  This is where the water problem the city is trying to figure out happened.  Want to check it out before we find miss Worm, clues you know.”

 

Snow looked at him.  “I thought you said all the dots were connected, no more puzzle pieces, all that happy crap was done.”

 

Bait chuckled.  “That part is, just some answers to questions still, I think Lolith will provide those, but this bit with Worm, just want to be sure of something you know.”  He said as he looked out the window at the damp park.

 

“It was definitely holy water.  Not a sucker around, no day walkers, nada.  This place is clean.”  Sea Mist stated.  “Had to be her.”

 

The four of them got out of the four door truck Bait had for them.  They started across the park.  Some local hoods had taken to the park again, regulars that were dealers more than likely, but they were one hundred percent human, and seemed a bit twitchy, even for dealers.  Bait wondered if the recent influx of day walkers had anything to do with that.

 

They circled the outside of the park and found nothing.  The people that were in the park stayed clear of them, most would give Hovlek a look, then back away.  Bait led them towards the middle area of the park, it wasn’t that big, and they started looking around.  That’s when Bait called out.

 

“There, that tree, the big oak.  Those branches.”  He said as he pointed.

 

The tree was large, and on one side most of the branches had been broken,  There was a concrete table under it, one of the few that wasn’t broken.  Bait trotted up to the area, the others followed.  He looked the tree over and was certain Worm had used water canisters hung from the tree for a trap. 

 

He was giving his interpretation of what had transpired when he suddenly stopped talking and looked towards Hovlek who seemed disinterested in the site, and was looking off in a different direction with his back towards them.

 

“Am I right Hovlek?”  Bait said abruptly causing the others to look to him then Hovlek.

 

Hovlek turned around, his eyes darted around and he shrugged.  “Hovlek, not a detective, Bait is detective, why Bait ask Hovlek?”  He said with a bit of a sheepish look.

 

Bait nodded as he put his hands on his hips as he looked at Hovlek.  “That I am.”  He said then started looking around to the far edges of the park.  He turned in place with his hands still on his hips, Hovlek didn’t relax, his face said he was cornered and he knew it.  This was no ordinary sleuth. 

 

“There.”  Bait said and pointed and looked at Hovlek.  “Is that where you watched from?  See if you had trained her well enough, make sure she could handle herself?”  He asked Hovlek.

 

Hovlek looked to the ground and nodded.  “Yes, that is where Hovlek sat and watched little girl set and unleash her trap on day walkers that killed little girl’s mother and took from her, her father as well.”  His voice was that of a caught man.

 

“Good, glad someone was keeping an eye on her.”  He said with a glance at Sea Mist.

 

“What?  I had to go and…”  She started, Bait cut her off.

 

“What’s this?”  He said as he reached to the ground and pulled something from the mud.

 

It looked like a playing card, the ace of spades with an altercation to the center spade, a white A that was apparently upside down.  He looked at the card, turned it over and back again and looked at the emblem as he wiped the remains of the dirt from it.

 

“Anyone know what this means?”  He asked as he looked from one of his team to the other.

 

They all seemed to know what it was, finally Sea Mist answered.  “The mark of vengeance.”  She said in a cool somber voice.

 

Bait nodded, he knew as well as they did what the werewolf mark meant.  He looked at Snow.

 

“And you knew what she was up to and didn’t say a thing.”  He said to her with accusation. 

 

Snow scoffed and looked at him with her hands on her hips.  “No, I wasn’t sure, yes, I suspected but... I wasn’t sure and just like you, I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.  You have a problem with that?”  Her tone was hard when she finished.

 

Bait dropped his arms and went blank for a moment.  “No, actually, I don’t.”  He answered then started off in the direction of the truck.  “Let’s get to our little Worm’s truck, my truck, take care of business.  Then we have Lolith do contend with.”

 

The others followed keeping up with his steady gate with ease.

 

“Tell me about these neutrals I keep hearing about.”  He said to Sea Mist after he moved to walk beside her.

 

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It was nearing one in the afternoon, Worm had been busy seeing to the elimination of day walkers.  Unfortunately, she was out of supplies now and had to take to using werewolf forms. 

 

She favored Hovlek’s but had tried to expand to others she knew.  Their abilities came with the form change, since her own ability was to become any living creature.  The changes wore on her heavy though, she was tired and hungry now. 

 

She made her way to a small café with a lunch counter.  She had decided to sit there, then changed her mind and moved to a booth further back so she could watch the people as they came and went. 

 

She ordered a salad and cut fruit and the waitress told her what a smart girl she was for eating so healthy.  Most of the kids that came in here ordered the greasiest food and soda, she informed her.  Worm gave her a complacent smile and waited for her food.

 

It wasn’t as good as the food at the dens, but it was better than hunger.  As tired as she was, she considered finding someplace to take a nap and had fallen asleep in the booth when the waitress woke her up.  A police officer was with her.

 

“I thought she might be a runaway, so I called.”  She said to the officer who was looking at her with a stern face.  “I called the police because you shouldn’t be out alone, especially in this part of town little girl.”  The waitress said to her with a well meaning motherly look.

 

Worm scoffed.  “I’m perfectly fine and I’m not as young as you think.”  She said then dug into the pocket of the jeans she was wearing and pulled out her drivers license and handed it to the officer.

 

The cop looked at the license, then at Worm who had a perturbed look on her face and was giving the waitress the stink eye.

 

“Sorry to bother you miss.  I’m sure you’re tired of being bothered like this.”  He said then handed the license back to Worm as the waitress gave him a shocked look.

 

“Excuse me, you’re just going to leave her?  Just like that?”  The woman pleaded as she quickly walked after him as he moved to leave.

 

The officer stopped and looked at the waitress with an emotionless face.  “Lady, she’s nineteen.  I think she’s old enough to be out without her mother holding her hand.  Thanks for your concern, have a nice day.”  He said then continued on his way out.

 

Worm looked back at the waitress who was looking at her with a stunned face and mouthing ‘nineteen’ when worm saw someone she thought she knew. 

 

A man, a man in a nice suit, grey hair, stately looking.  She huddled back into the booth and tried to be small and unnoticeable.  Was that him?  What was he doing here?  Was he looking for her?  He hadn’t noticed her, he was sitting at the lunch counter finishing his food.  He was getting ready to leave and dropped a bill on the counter as he stood to pay his tab.

 

She quickly took on the appearance of a human female she had recently seen and watched as the man left.  He folded his newspaper and put it under his arm then turned around to push the door open with his back as he exited, he looked right at her. 

 

It was Sebastian!  He didn’t seem to recognize her though, not now.  Did he know about her talent?  He didn’t stop and went out the door, crossed the street and got into a nice car and drove off.

 

Worm finally exhaled then dropped her change and became herself again. 

 

The waitress came up to her with her check in her hand and placed it on the table with an embarrassed look.  “I’m really sorry about that, I… I never would have thought…”

 

“Save it.”  Worm said as she stood up fast, grabbing the check.  She folded it in half and stuck it in the waitresses apron pocket.  “You can take care of that for me.”  She said in a monotone voice and hurried from the diner. 

 

The waitress looked after her as she went with a stammering look but said nothing.  Once Worm was gone she reached into her pocket and took out the check, looked at it then looked back to the door with a bewildered look.

 

“Alice.”  A man yelled at her from behind the counter with a sour look on his face.

 

“Yeah Mel.”  She called back still looking at the door.

 

“That one’s coming out of your check, let me decide when to call the cops, I own the joint, got it?”  Mel said to her in a firm reprimanding voice.

 

Alice looked at Mel and sighed dropping a shoulder down with an exasperated look.  “Yeah, sure thing Mel.”  She answered.

 

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Worm beat her feet hard making her way back to where the truck was parked, checking behind her and around as well as up as she ran making sure she wasn’t being followed, and that Sebastian wasn’t near.  Her nose wasn’t as keen as if she were of age yet, but she still had a better sniffer than a human. 

 

She didn’t bother to change to Kevashka when she ran into the garage and the man at the booth only glanced in her direction as she went by.

 

She made her way up to the third level of the five story garage, carefully looking around.  There was no way they could track the truck, if they had been able to, they would have caught up to her already, right?  Worm wasn’t taking any chances though. 

 

Before she was on the third level she changed into a sparrow and flew around the level the truck was on and gave it a good once over, then checked on the truck itself.  She almost flew into a pole from shock when she saw it. 

 

She went and landed on the far end of the garage and hopped around checking under vehicles and scoping the area again.  She took to wing and made a more thorough search of the garage but was running out of gas to maintain her form and was on the verge of passing out, which would return her to herself in an unconscious state, which was not a good thing anyplace, and most certainly not here. 

 

She had parked on a middle row so the truck wouldn’t be visible from the outside of the garage, she landed several vehicles away and let her sparrow form go.

 

She was exhausted now.  She sat on the concrete floor panting, and tried smelling the air for hints of werewolves in the area.  The scent was there, but it was fading and not from anyone currently in the garage, but they had been there.  She looked at the truck.  It was just as she left it except for the addition of a large crate in the box of it.

 

She had to think.  This didn’t make sense, why leave a crate in the truck?  If they were going to try and catch her, that would be a dead giveaway that they knew where she was.  So that was a fact, they did know where she was, yet, they had left because the scent of her kin wasn’t fresh, unless they were using neutralizer, they were gone. 

 

It also wouldn’t make sense for them to be using neutralizer and tip her off that they had found her.

 

She looked at the crate in the box of the truck.  That left only one inconceivable deduction.  They had given her supplies that she would need to do her work.  Worm stood up with a glowing smile on her face that hadn’t resided there since her mother was shot and killed before her very eyes.

 

“BAIT!”  She screamed joyfully and ran for the truck.

 

Stapled to the side of the crate near the drivers door was a folded paper with her name on it.  Worm grabbed the paper, ripped it from the crate, unfolded it and read what was written.

 

From Bait with love.  Get in and turn on the nav system, Hovlek fixed it, and follow the instructions.  Snow says that’s an order. 

 

Worm unlocked the truck and got in and brought it to life.  She pressed the button activating the navigation system and the screen lit up and Snow’s face came on.

 

“Sea Mist says good work squirt.  I guess I’ll go along with that.  Now for a little help from your friends.”  Snow’s voice said to her.  “Follow the directions programmed into the first destination button and drive there now.  The crate has some supplies you’ll need in it, the location is a safe spot.  I took your cash from the glove box and will deposit it to your account, I left your debit card there and about three hundred in cash, keep it on you.  Someone is waiting for you at your destination, and I put a radio pack under your seat, use it.”  Snow’s message ended and the screen went dark.

 

Worm put the truck in gear and backed it out of the stall and headed down the ramp.  She waved at the man in the booth as she went by who looked up, then gave her a shocked look after he raised the arm and saw her driving the truck out.

 

She followed the navigation systems instructions and was wondering if it was programmed correctly as it led her to a storage garage area out near the edge of town.  The system kept telling her to drive on, that she was almost to her destination and led her through the maze of storage buildings. 

 

She was  fifty yards from her destination the system said as she turned the corner at the end of the strip of garages it directed her to.  She saw a rather rough looking man with one eye and an eye patch sitting on an old three legged stool in front of a garage door.  A motorcycle was just down from him away from the direction she was driving in from. 

 

She rolled down the window and sniffed.  He was human.

 

As she got closer, she could see the door he sat in front of was painted red on half of it, an arch of letters across the top of the door - ‘AFFA’ in black.  The man looked up from the magazine he was reading and watched the truck pull up. 

 

Worm stopped with the front of the truck a few feet back from him and put the truck in reverse in case she needed to make a speedy getaway.  The instructions did say someone would meet her here, but the leather vested biker didn’t seem quite the werewolf friendly type.

 

The gruff man walked to the window she had rolled down and smiled.  “You Worm?”  He asked.

 

She let go a sigh of relief at the sound of her name.  “Yes sir, I’m Worm.”

 

He laughed coarsely.  “Easy on the sir business.  Like the name, I’m Maggot.  Hovlek said to give you this key and garage door opener.  Place is yours.”  He said and handed her a padlock key and a remote control.

 

Worm smiled back.  “Thanks Maggot.”  She said taking the items he offered her.

 

Maggot turned towards where his chopper with high handlebars was and went to it, climbed on, kicked it to life and thundered off.

 

Worm looked at the garage door, held the remote out and pressed the button.  The door squeaked open.  She backed the truck up and swung wide to pull into the storage garage, which was wider inside than it looked on the outside, with the stall on either side of the one she entered part of the space. 

 

The doors on the outside were for looks only and they didn’t exist on the inside, only brick was where they should have been.  Once inside Worm closed the door with the remote, killed the engine of the truck, and climbed out.

 

She checked out the amenities inside.  There was a power hoist that hung from the high ceiling over where the truck was.  Good, she could use that to get the crate out.  On one side of the room was a large wall locker with a padlock on it, she assumed the key would open that, and next to that was the best part; a bathroom with a shower.

 

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“You did what!?”  Bait said loudly at Snow, in shock.

 

“I promoted her to sergeant.  You’re the one who said she was a part of this no matter what anyways and got her involved in the first place.  You of all people shouldn’t object, I mean really.  Now she’s out there and will hopefully join forces with us again.  We can’t stop her from leaving.”  Snow said in her defense.

 

He looked over at her with a calm glare.  He knew she was right, and he did organize the care package for her.

 

“I am going to change a few things, of what I gave her.  Considering her calling card, I think she’s earned the name Ace, how bout you?”  Snow said with a cantankerous smile at her mate.

 

Sea Mist, Hovlek and Blade Dance who had joined up with them all laughed from the back.  Bait turned a eye back to them with a ‘stifle it’ look that only encouraged more tittering from the crew with him.

 

“And just what all did you give her besides what I ordered put in that crate?  What else aren’t you telling me?”  He looked back to the road then at Snow again.  “That crate seemed awfully heavy, and big, for the supplies I requested.”  His voice was coarse.

 

Snow continued smiling and gave a glance back to the back seat of the truck.  “Oh, it wasn’t just me, as soon as word got out you were sending a care package to Worm, well, lots of people donated items.  Hovlek, Sea Mist, Kevashka, Max and Meadow, Squat, all of the command team, some of my father's people got into the act. We all chipped in you might say.”  Snow put her hands between her thighs and waggled her shoulders around as she grinned at her lover.

 

Bait let go an exasperated breath.  “And just how did all these people find out about this?”  He looked to the road and back to her again.

 

Snow shrugged while the tittering from the back rattled on.  “Oh, you know, I told Kevashka, and Hovlek, Hovlek told Sea Mist, Kevashka told some people, Sea Mist told some people, I told a few more, they told some people.  I am commander, I can tell who I want you know.” 

 

Bait tried to keep his pissed front up, but the feeling of gladness towards the participation of his command team and the members of the den was hard to keep down.  He also felt no objections to what had been done.  No reason for him to object then. 

 

“And, if I may ask your Grace, exactly what all else got put into that crate?”  Bait asked, his voice no longer containing his forced tone of disapproval. 

 

“All the things a girl needs.  Makeup, boots, armor, guns, holy water, sword, bow, good sturdy hammer.”  Sea Mist interjected.

 

Bait guffawed.  “All the things a girl needs.”

 

“New ID”  Snow said softly.

 

Her comment got Bait’s attention.  “New ID?”

 

Snow grinned smugly and nodded fast with tight lips.  “You might say, I created a new department for us.”

 

Bait looked back to the road quickly and brought the vehicle back from the edge of the road.  Once he was stable again, he looked back to Snow.  “A new department huh.”  He said as Snow continued nodding with her smirk and giggles came from the back.

 

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Bait locked the truck into all-wheel drive like Hovlek told him.  The chassis raised up giving the truck more clearance as it chugged it’s way through the marshland they had to cross to reach Lolith, if she was still where she was supposed to be due to her banishment. 

 

By the looks of the land around, she should be.  The trees had lost their bark, empty branches covered in dark green and black stringy moss covered the wetland.  Even the marsh grass was dingy and tainted looking. 

 

The buzz of insects and croaking of toads gave hint of life.  No birds flew from branch to branch in this part of the marsh.  What had been a green and critter filled land was now a drab and mostly lifeless bog.  The smells of the marsh were different here too, dank and rancid, the air heavy and unmoving. 

 

The logging trail that they had followed in, for what it was, ended just short of the interior of the marsh, where everything went gray, and the sky had an overcast that seemed to be permanent. 

 

Lolith had to still be here. 

 

Everyone was looking around as they made their way along in the swampland.  Anxious faces with serious eyes checking every direction for whatever might await them.  It was easy to feel the darkness in the place, the darkness of Lolith.

 

“Everyone has their mission cams on them right?”  Bait asked.

 

Nods started around him followed by affirming statements that all had their cameras on them.  There was no other conversation until the navigation system told Bait to ease left and go between the two large trees that looked like twins.  He did as the device instructed, and just ahead the marsh rose up and a dry drivable path was visible through the marsh mist.

 

“This place gives me the willies.”  Sea Mist said as she looked ahead.

 

“You and me both.”  Blade Dance agreed.

 

Hovlek grunted.

 

Bait pointed straight ahead of them down the questionable path.  A building of sorts was there.  “Alright, get those cameras recording, I want everything documented.”  He ordered.

 

The others complied and reached to their cameras and turned them on, Snow turned Bait’s on for him after she activated hers. 

 

He kept the truck moving at a slow, slow rate as they approached the building.  Through the fading mist it looked like an old cabin made from slat board logs with the bark fallen off.  There was what appeared to be a window and a door facing them. 

 

He stopped the truck some fifty feet from the building and parked.  They all sat and looked at the building for what seemed like a good five minutes before Snow finally opened her door.

 

“Sitting here isn’t solving anything.  Let’s go see if this bitch is home.”  She said in a damning voice. 

 

As her feet touched the ground, she reached and pulled her sword.  Bait took position behind her and the others drew their weapons, Sea Mist went to Snow’s left while Blade Dance took her right protecting Bait and Hovlek covered his back.  Their eyes went every direction, always returning to the house and window.  They slowly progressed to the door.

 

Snow looked at Bait.  “Should I knock?”  She asked not sure of how to handle this situation.  It was a rather unique one at best.

 

Did one need to worry about politeness and manners with the creature the former werewolf had become?  Bait looked around the area again then focused on the door.  He took a deep breath and slowly let it out before answering.

 

“I suppose, why not?”

 

Snow reached her hand out slowly and made the final step so she could reach the door with her knuckle and knocked slowly, once, then twice, three times, a fourth, then her final knock.  The door sounded solid yet hollow and the sound echoed hauntingly around them in the dense air of the marsh.

 

One minute, then two.  Nothing.  The third minute passed, a creak came from inside the cabin, movement from behind the window.  Snow reached her knuckle out again and rapped, once, twice and thrice.  Another minute passed.  Faint sounds of footfalls could be heard inside, they moved from one side of the room to the other then stopped, they didn’t come near the door.

 

“Lolith!”  Snow yelled as loud as she could.  “You know my name, open the damn door or I’ll kick the son-of-a-bitch in, not in any mood for your shit!”  She said as loudly as she had called Lolith’s name.

 

Sea Mist faced over at her sister with a wondering face then shrugged.

 

Nothing.

 

“Make it an order lover.”  Bait encouraged.

 

Snow looked back.  Her face said she wasn’t happy about ordering something like Lolith, but she couldn’t be worse than a vampire, could she?

 

“Lolith the Banished, I am Lady Snow, Trustee under his Grace Lord Leyland, Exalted Master of Clans.  I order you to open this door and present yourself immediately!”  Snow barked.

 

The cabin creaked again, the footfalls started for the door then backed, shuffled a bit then came fully to the door.  All weapons were leveled on the door as it opened.

 

The hair of the woman was black and white, stringy and oil filled.  It hung around her face like a dirty curtain.  Her skin was pasty, gray and wrinkled with pock marks and scars.  Her nose was bent to one side, her teeth black and pointed. 

 

Her eyes were black where the irises were, and what should’ve been the whites of her eyes glowed yellow and red.  Her clothes were threadbare, dirty and greasy like the woman herself.  She was also thin, tight skin stretched over bone and her clothes hung from her loosely.  She looked like a walking corpse. 

 

She thrust her head forward and hissed at them, her breath smelt like rotting wood in a swamp.

 

“How pleasant.”  Sea Mist said, wrinkling her nose and waving a hand in front of her face.  Hovlek grunted.

 

Snow became intense, she stepped forward into the doorway, Lolith backed from her.  Snow pressed forward as Lolith retreated until she was fully in the cabin.  Snow pointed to a chair.  “Sit!”  She ordered.  The rest of her crew followed her in once Lolith sat.

 

Snow reached to a dim-pocket on her side and pulled the shotgun used to kill Noniena and dropped it at Lolith’s feet.  The creature woman looked quickly down at it then up at Snow, her face was fear.

 

“Got something I want to talk to you about.  Recognize that?”  Snow said.

 

Lolith backed from Snow in her chair.

 

“Answer her!”  Bait yelled, his voice carried with two others from his mouth, a tone up and a tone down.

 

Lolith’s eyes grew wide, her fear intensified.

 

“Inquisitor!”  Lolith shrieked. 

 

“Answer the Trustee!”  Bait barked in the entrancing voice again that she could not resist.

 

Lolith looked to the gun on the floor, conviction and guild in her face and her features shrank.  “Yes.  It is my creation Trustee.”  Her voice was jagged and scratchy. 

 

The stench that oozed from the woman increased and intensified fueled by her fear.  Her eyes darted around the floor with her head down.

 

Snow looked disgusted at her answer in addition to the appearance of the woman herself.  She looked at the woman with both contempt and pity, what could drive a werewolf to this state?  Freewill?  She shuddered at the thought.

 

“Why?”  Snow asked, her voice was filled with question and longing to understand, her eyes driving into the woman.

 

Lolith looked up at her, her face the face of a broken and beaten woman, no longer with any will or emotions other than self loathing.

 

“Because, I am both poisoned and poison.”  She said in a faint whisper then lowered her head again.

 

Bait moved forward beside Snow, Blade Dance moved aside to allow him room.  Bait’s face was of pity and sadness.  He was feeling what was inside her.

 

“Lolith the Banished, Lolith the Betrayer, Lolith the Despicable, Lolith the Grotesque, Lolith the Abomination, I am His Grace Lord Bait, Inquisitor under the Judicator Night Harvest, Grand Inquisitor of the Protectors of Humankind.  Before these witnesses, and in their curse for this witness, I now call you to final judgment in the Light.”  Bait said in a metered voice.

 

Snow raised her head.  “Before me, Her Grace, Lady Snow, Trustee of Exalted Mater of Clans, Governor of Protectors, Lolith the Banished, Lolith the Betrayer, Lolith the Despicable, Lolith the Grotesque, Lolith the Abomination, I have no objections to this judgment.”  Snow turned her head to Bait.  “Inquisitor Lord Bait, commence your duty by my order.”

 

The two, the Trustee and Inquisitor had become linked again, though they did not see, they were shrouded in a soft blue light that also went between them. 

 

Bait called for Lolith to speak her born name, which she did.  Hovlek the Bull, Sea Mist the Sister of Trust, and her mate Blade Dance watched and listened as Lolith recited her given name then, by the command of the Inquisitor Bait, spoke of her betrayals and crimes against humanity and werewolf kind. 

 

Then she spoke her words that she wanted, she seemed to speak them only to the Inquisitor, but the words were in no order and gibberish.  When she finished speaking as she was allowed by the syllables of conduct, Bait judged her, called for her to be consumed in light. 

 

And she was. 

 

Then the Inquisitor Bait escorted the witnesses and the Trustee to the front of the home of Lolith and made each to stand in their position.  His ways spoken to him as he did his deed.  There, standing in the haze of the marsh, bright sun broke the haze and light of the sun flooded the marsh causing the fog and mist to disperse.  Bait called all to witness what was to happen and remember.

 

They stood facing the home Lolith was consumed in by the Light of their creation. Lolith then walked from the door of her home, clean and ethereal.  Her face was turned to the sky, no longer the gray creature of poison she had been turned into, but rather again the creature of Light she had once been.

 

“Sunlight!  The Sun, so many decades since the face of the sun has touched mine!”  The ghost of Lolith cried out, no longer Lolith but rather her true self, basking in the light of day that had been forbidden to reach her.  She walked past them towards a brilliant blue glowing mass that consumed what remained of her in spirit and heart. 

 

Lolith was no more.

 

The witnesses, the Trustee and the Inquisitor stood watching where Lolith had gone, where she ceased to exist.  She hadn’t been damned, no torches burned for her, no ferry at the end of an old pier, no ferryman awaiting payment.  No, rather Melina was cured of her poison, then she was taken home where she belonged.

 

“Her choices were not her own, her decisions would have been opposite of what she did had she had the mind to make her own choices.”  Bait said softly as he looked with the others to where the blue light had been, sunlight filled the marsh, no leaves of tree blocked it.

 

“Search the house, find what you can and bring it to me.”  Snow ordered.

 

Hovlek, Sea Mist, Blade Dance and Bait complied with her order and reentered the former home of Lolith, twenty minutes into their search, they found the secret hatch to the lair below.

 

Blade Dance went outside of the cabin and called to Snow, telling her they had found something.  She ended the conversation she was on the radio with and came to see what they had found. 

 

It had been under a kitchen cabinet that pulled out and allowed access to something below.  Bait had dropped a ladybug near the edge of the trapdoor and moved it through the crack and into the area below before they opened it and found the vast expanse of the secret laboratory of Lolith.  Her minions still worked below unaware of their masters leaving them unattended.

 

“Secret lab, I like it.  Answers within we shall find, eh Bait.”  Snow said with a smile to her mate.  “Alright Egon, heat ‘em up, nothing left alive, got it?”  She instructed Blade Dance.

 

He snorted and returned a large wry smile.  “You got it boss Lady.  Dr. Venkman, the door if you would please.”  He said to Hovlek who at first looked at Blade Dance with a hint of confusion before his face changed to amusement and he loosed a chuckle.

 

Hovlek looked over at Sea Mist who was enjoying their humor.  “Heh, Blade Dance, not fraid of no vamp.”  He nudged her with another chuckle and reached for the handle of the trap door.

 

Sea Mist smacked Hovlek on the shoulder and laughed at his joke then stepped back, pulled her guitar, and made ready for the attack.

 

In a single jerk Hovlek opened the trapdoor and removed it from it’s hinges, tossing it behind them.  Blade Dance was the first down the hole, three arrows flew by him.  One buzzed by each of his ears touching them with their fletching as they passed and the third went over his head, each finding a target to land on.  Blade Dance’s blade knuckled fists finished the first of the vanquished off. 

 

He turned to engage another with the bladed living metal, brass knuckle style hand to hand fighting weapons, attached to his fists as Hovlek dropped behind with a large war hammer drawn which he quickly put to good use on a few heads.  Sea Mist was the last to drop down, covering the forward fighters with her volleys of arrows.

 

Lolith had about fifty or so people working in her secret workshop.  The werewolf warriors made short work of them, trained in fighting their foes were not.  Once they had finished off the last, Sea Mist went to the spot right below the open trapdoor and called up to her commanders informing them of their work being finished and asking if they’d like to come and grade them.

 

Bait dropped down and looked around, Snow followed a second behind.  He turned to Sea Mist with a smile after he surveyed the bodies around and the numerous arrows protruding mostly from bodies, with a few stuck in beams and walls.  He kissed her on the lips then patted her on the head.

 

“Good job cutie, I’ll give you an A minus, have a few in places they shouldn’t be, but over all, great job.”  He said to her then walked off to have a look see in the rooms.

 

Sea looked at her sister who gave her a not so impressed look and held up a hand flat and wobbled it from side to side.  “Eh, I’d give you a B.  Should’ve gotten a lot more arrows out for suppressive fire.”  She said then walked off to join her mate.

 

Sea Mist scoffed as she took after her sister.  “As if.  Screw suppressive fire, I was going for accuracy and instant death.”  She said with an offended tone, completely mocked.

 

They rutted around the workshop, digging though boxes and everything on the tables, benches, and in cabinets and lockers.  Trunks were opened and the contents dumped on the floor.  They collected what they wanted, which were the prints and plans for the shotgun and the grenades, and a few other select items.

 

“There’s boxes and boxes of grenades ready to be shipped out, some have already been shipped maybe.  The shotguns must have been, the only thing left on them are the schematics Lolith had from Beautiful Flower.”  Blade Dance said at one point.

 

Bait shook his head as he looked at the single table the plans for the shotgun had been on.  Only a few tools and some random parts remained, nothing else to indicate the shotguns had been mass assembled.

 

“No, she only had one made.  That was made first, the grenades were the second part of her gambit.”  He said to Blade Dance.  “And she didn’t get the plans from Beautiful Flower, she’d have gotten them from Lord Clay himself.”

 

Blade looked at him with puzzlement.  “Why would she make only one?  And why would she make a weapon against werewolves then turn around and make one against vampires if she was helping them?”  He asked.

 

A sinister smile formed on Bait’s face as he stared at the table the shotgun that killed Worm’s mother had been made at.  “Betrayal.  Lolith was made from it, poisoned by it.  Since then she has been learning the ways of betrayal and returned it to the ones that made her this way every chance she got.” 

 

Bait looked over to the boxes of grenades.  “She only needed one shotgun because she only needed the vampires to kill one werewolf with it and see that it worked.  Then any weapons she gave them after that would be used without question.  They’d trust her then, and she betrayed them.  She just didn’t know Seven hadn’t fully finished the grenade yet.”

 

Blade Dance nodded now, understanding Bait’s reading of the situation and agreeing with what he had said.  It made perfect sense.

 

They loaded up a few boxes of the grenades and all the prints and plans they could find.  They were finishing their final sweep of the workshop when Snow ordered everyone out and Bait pulled a slender stick about eight inches long and maybe a quarter inch round, gave it a twist then pushed the ends together. 

 

He tossed the stick into the middle of the room and Snow helped him up and out.  They ran to the truck as flames started licking their way up from below.

 

Everyone was in the truck and Bait wasted no time in turning it around then blasting his way back out of the swamp.  As they were getting in before they left, everyone noticed birds singing and springing from branch to branch of the trees.  Life had returned to the marsh of Lolith.

 

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The crate had a convenient clevis attached at the top that made it easy for Worm to lift it, and the hoist was mounted on a track that ran the depth of the room.  Hovlek the motor-head must have used it while working on vehicles and other things of his design. 

 

She had brought the crate up above the top most point of the truck, then ran it towards the front, and as far back as the trolley of the hoist would carry it before she deposited it.  Now she needed tools to open it with. Unfortunately she didn’t have werewolf strength.

 

She opened the wall locker, inside there were clothes, and armor with a note.  Hovlek says, wear in good health young one.”  Was written in flowing cursive writing.  She smiled at the black leather talon embedded armor.  She knew the size would be perfect for her.  The other clothes were normal human street clothes, nothing special, and no tools.

 

Worm looked around the garage.  This had once been Hovlek’s workshop.  What would Hovlek do?  She walked over to the other side of the garage.  The side she had been on had a bed that pulled down from the wall, a table, the shower she had used, a refrigerator, and small cooking area. 

 

Hovlek would have had his work area, either on the other side or down in a bunker beneath or possibly both.  There was a small workbench, but it was made of common lumber and not something Hovlek would have had as his main bench. 

 

She surveyed this side of the room, looking for anything that said Hovlek to her, there had to be something that changed the room, the tools would be there.  She tried a couple of the light switches, which mostly turned on lights, one turned on an outlet someplace and music started from a radio on a shelf up on a wall.  Nothing.

 

She had plopped down on the floor and was considering changing into a werewolf of her choosing to rip open the crate, but wanted to conserve her strength and also wasn’t sure if she could.  She had exhausted herself already and wasn’t recovered much yet. 

 

She was feeling she was wrong about the hidden workshop, her head hung low when she started contemplating the thing she was staring at.  It seemed ‘normal’ in a human world, this garage was in their world, but this was Hovlek’s bin.  Her head raised.  It wasn’t normal in the human world, humans didn’t put fire alarms in storage bins.  Her eyes were transfixed on the red pull lever box with the small glass rod mounted on the wall. 

 

And Hovlek most certainly had no need of it.

 

Worm snapped up and ran to where the fire alarm was.  She tried pulling the lever, it didn’t move, it was one solid piece, it wasn’t real, it only looked like the real thing, exactly.  She giggled to herself, then cupped her palm over the face of the alarm box and tried twisting counter clockwise. 

 

It turned, and she rotated it till it stopped a quarter of the way around then moved it back in place.  She turned around and watched as the sound of clacking and some electric motors working made themselves known and the room moved.

 

The floor of that side of the room dropped down forming stairs that she quickly took to the magnificent workshop below.  She beamed at the walls covered with tools and swords, the cutting torches neatly placed near walls, the grinders and band saw, the drill press and all the other nifty tools and devices Hovlek would naturally have in his personal workshop.

 

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Worm unpacked the contents of the crate, clearly more than just Bait and Snow had stocked this gift. 

 

There was a normal uniform with her crest on it, water and air canisters, two pistols, a fully loaded shotgun, and four extra canisters.  A bandolier belt like real werewolf fighters wore with many dimensional pockets was also included. 

 

She found a wrapped leather holder which she pulled out and took to the table in the dinette.  She unrolled it and inside was a note, ‘From Snow, swing hard’ it read.  Worm smiled large at the custom blades that cinched to her arms and fit her well and the throwing blades she had once admired.

 

A box from Max and Meadow was it’s own dim-cart type of thing, filled with food and drink.  Kevashka’s parcel had werewolf, human and scent neutralizer, vials of holy water and a computer tablet with maps of the city.

 

Worm burst into tears when she opened the rolled paper Lord Frost’s people had included.  Hand drawn plans for a wall carving, relief carvings of Thuobfen and Noniena, their names below the faces and Lord and Lady above at the respective places.

 

Faldo had sent a makeup case and instructions on how to make herself look older than she was so she could blend in, if needed, better in the human world.  She shrugged and set the case aside.

 

From Sea Mist there was a bow she had crafted herself, guided by Hovlek’s teaching.  She also included a Beats Boom Box and an MP3 player with a note: ‘Hey squirt, keep your rhythm and play this LOUD!’.  Worm giggled and looked the player over.

 

She checked out what Seven and Silence had included, a radio pack with a note that said to keep in touch and some ladybugs and controller.  A set of contacts with tracking and human vision were stuck in a pocket of the equipment belt they also sent with. 

 

Someone knocked on the door of the garage.  Worm looked up, a light flashed near her catching her attention.  Security system, Hovlek would have had that, she checked it out and found a monitor that covered the front of the garage.  A man in a uniform was standing there with a box in his hands.

 

Worm went to answer the door, she found a small entry door had been built into the larger garage door that was only visible from the inside.

 

“Sign here please, registered delivery.”  The man said holding out an electronic device for her to sign on.

 

She signed her name and he handed her the package.  She went back inside with it, closing and latching the door behind her. 

 

The box was fairly good sized but not that heavy.  She placed the box behind the truck and pulled the paper wrapping it off, then removed the burlap that had another smaller box and a cage with a crow inside.  She looked oddly at the bird which woke up now that it wasn’t covered and started moving around in the cage that was rather small for a bird of it’s size.

 

Picking up the smaller box Worm looked it over, there was a fancy envelope taped to the box which she removed and opened.  It was a hand written letter from Shyhon.

 

Dear Noble Worm, House of Squat:

 

I am writing to you in the stead of her Grace, Trustee Lady Snow and by her orders alone.  I’ve been instructed to inform you, by Trustee Snow’s order you are permanently promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the ranks of House Squat and are formally placed in charge of forming the special operations unit Trustee Snow has authorized. 

 

This unit is in charge of hunting day walkers for House Squat and is the Day Watch Unit.  If you choose to accept these orders, release this crow outside and it will return letting Trustee Lady Snow know that you have accepted your position and assignment.  If not, enjoy your pet crow.

 

Worm stood with her hands both covering her mouth and backed from the letter she dropped and the other items in the small package.  The crow cawed out and bounced in the cage.  Her eyes were wide and the color had drained from her.  She felt she might faint. 

 

After a minute she composed herself again and reached for the other items in the box.  She picked up a smaller box and opened it, it said ‘calling cards’ on the top and inside was a few hundred business cards with the name Ace on it, and under was an upside down spade, black with the white werewolf V of vengeance and the words Day Watch Sergeant beneath the emblem. 

 

The last item in the box was a leather covered crest that resembled a human cops badge.  The number 1 was the officer number, Day Watch was across the top and Sergeant Ace below.  She couldn’t contain the joyous laughter anymore, nor the tears that fell.  She quickly gathered up the items and brought the caged crow with her to the living compartment of the garage and started making ready.

 

She put on the armor Hovlek had made for her, the fit was perfect.  Then she put the street clothes on over that and the dim-pocket bandolier and started stowing her gear where she wanted it. 

 

She checked the radio pack, she had contacts for the command team and other members of the House of Squat and access to a command channel between clans for special operations units to coordinate.  There was also the number for Hyden.  She smiled and grabbed the crow and set him on the table and put on her topcoat then picked the crow up and started for the door.

 

She felt something in the normal pocket of the coat and set the bird down by the exit and reached to see what was in the pocket.

 

It was a black case that looked like it was supposed to hold glasses, but werewolves never needed corrective lenses, glasses were only part of a disguise if ever used.  She opened the case.

 

Inside was a pair of sunglasses.  She thought this odd, then looked in the top of the case above the glasses where a piece of paper was.  On it was written: ‘For better hallway vision.  Leyland.

 

Worm almost dropped the case.  Lord Leyland… he must have slipped these in without the others knowing.  Lord Leyland had sent her, little Worm, a gift.  She had no idea why he would send her sunglasses, but not being one to look a gift werewolf in the mouth, she put the glasses on and set the case on a shelf then picked up the crow, opened the door and stepped out.

 

Outside Ace looked around, the glasses were doing something to her vision, she wasn’t sure exactly what, but if the Master of Clans had seen fit to give them to her, he had his reasons and the glasses would be a benefit to her, that she was sure of. 

 

Ace jerked the top of the cage and it fell apart and the crow flew off towards House Squat.

 

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Seven walked into the command deck, Bait was working on something and he walked up behind him to see what he was doing.  He was watching the recording made from his camera of Lolith and her final words. 

 

Bait would watch the video, back it up, watch and listen again and scratch down words.  What Lolith was saying was gibberish for the most part, random words thrown together, occasionally some actually fit, but made no sense in the sentence. 

 

“You’re not actually trying to get some meaning out of that mess are you?”  Seven asked cautiously.

 

Bait glanced back at him then back to the monitor and continued working.  “What she is saying is very precise.”  He answered as he continued on with his work. 

 

Seven left him to his work and went to one of the computers in the command deck and started his own work.  Sea Mist wandered in aimlessly as she always did, singing a song and plucking on her guitar. 

 

“Hey, pumpkin cake, got something for your concert you might be interested in.”  She said then walked over and set a USB flash drive by him.  “Check it out when you’re done…”  She took a sudden interest in what Bait was doing.

 

Sea Mist sat down next to him and watched with him.  He was writing when she stopped him.  “Nope, see, her eyelids droop slightly there, different word.”  She said.  Seven moved closer.

 

“Oh, you’re right.”  Bait responded and changed the words on the paper.  “I think I have it all, want to check me?”  He said and turned the computer over to her when she nodded at him.

 

Sea Mist turned her face to the computer and let the video play.  She only made a couple corrections on the page Bait had written on.  The video finished and she ran it one more time for accuracy then faced towards her commander and gave a single firm nod to him.

 

“I’d say you’ve nailed it, good show daddy-o.”  She told him with a smirk.

 

“You mean, that wasn’t just the ranting of a crazy woman?”  Seven asked a bit taken back.

 

Sea Mist answered before Bait could respond.  “Not a chance fish eye, Lolith has been always as sane as you and I and anyone else, for the most part, just poisoned I guess.”  She smacked her knee.  “Really, I thought you would have picked up she was speaking in true werewolf.  English converted but still, full were-style.”

 

“I’ll be damned.”  Seven said as he watched the video Sea Mist played for him again.

 

After he watched it again he looked at Bait.  “And you’ve translated what she said?”  Bait nodded.  “Is it useful?”  Seven asked.

 

“Yes, I think it is.  Here, tell me what you think.”  He said and handed the paper he had been writing on to Seven.

 

Be I sent down the River Styx, or be I sent home, to either gladly I go, even hell is better than what I have become.  The watchers are missing.  They have diminished to nonexistence.  War is not anything trifle, not to be civilized, cut the brutality and render it useless.  War is to be savage.  There is more to war than killing, in the old ways are the answers.  To your enemies, be brutal and eliminate them, else problems with them will only arise again.  I was raped by a vampire, his seed made me what I am, poisoned.  All things have a purpose and reason, look for those and understand.  Cleanse the vision, wash with the water of the kin and see.  Thank you for freeing me Inquisitor.  Damn me.

 

Seven looked up at Bait with a perplexed look.  “And… this means something to you?”  He asked.

 

Bait took the paper back and scoffed lightly with a twitch of his head.  “Not sure what it means to me yet, but I know this, everything has a reason, and these were her last words, therefore, she said them with both meaning and purpose.

 

Seven’s eyes were in thought.  “Yes, I suppose you’re right about that me chum, right about that.”

 

“She sure was happy to see the sun.  Must have sucked major ass to live in her swamp for all those years.”  Sea Mist said off the cuff as she thought.

 

Bait looked towards her and nodded with a somber face.  “Yeah, no day, no night, caught in perpetual dusk.  Even though we went during the day, it would have looked the same if we’d came at night, would have been easier to see with the glow of dusk around her.”

 

His eyes narrowed as he considered what he just said.  “What’s between the light and the dark?”  He asked then looked up and turned between Sea Mist and Seven.

 

Seven’s face moved as he thought, he was unsure of his answer.  “Nothing I suppose, I never really thought about it.  Gray space?  You know, shadows?”

 

Sea Mist’s head twitched and her lips parted in an assuming small smile.  “The fracture, the neutral.”  When she finished her deduction she smiled goofy and faced from Seven to Bait and back between them several times.

 

Bait’s hand went to his lips and chin, considering what his sister said.  “Neutrals, Jibble’s men that we stopped, they looked around when we told them we couldn’t attack them unless they attacked us and said something about not being in a neutral.”  He looked from Seven to Sea Mist.  “Tell me about these neutrals.”  He said to them and gave them his full attention.

 

Seven dispelled some air and gestured with his hands randomly before he tried to answer.  “They’re the areas caused by the fracture, where light and dark don’t exist.  If a werewolf and a vampire were to both stand in one, they could swing at each other all day and never touch the other, sword, claws, swipe right through and not do a thing to them.” 

 

“Yup.”  Sea Mist said.  “You could probably see them with your contacts, hard to miss, big yellow, bright tunnels from the ground to the top of the sky, they even feel empty.”  She shivered at the thought of the way the neutrals made her feel.

 

Bait got a knowing smile and raised a pointed finger that he bobbed in front of him at neither of them.  “No, not fractures, separations, that’s what’s between the light and the dark.  The neutrals, shadows are either light shadows or dark shadows, werewolves use the light side of the shadows while vampires use the dark side of them.  In between…”

 

“Has to be the neutral!”  Sea Mist finished for him with excitement, though she didn’t know why.

 

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Allahna came bursting into the command deck where Bait, Sea Mist and Seven were sitting filled with excitement, turn and ran back out, hit the door buzzer then started back in stopping halfway through the doors.

 

The three watching her as she attempted to follow protocol through her excitement.  “Come in, by all means enter Sergeant Allahna!”  Bait said with his laughter continuing over the situation. 

 

Allahna jittered up to them, trying to control her body movements and failing.  “The crow your Grace, the crow, it’s come back!  I must tell Lady Snow, she is… where she is, I mean where is she?”  The excited woman finally said.

 

Sea Mist made a gleeful sound accompanied by Seven’s own positive proclamations.

 

Bait pointed to the door upstairs.  “Room one.”  He said and Allahna darted off in the direction of the door, opened it then turned and looked back to Bait.

 

“I may?  I mean may I go up?  Yes?”  She danced in place between forward movements through the door and backing up waiting for permission.

 

“Go!  Go!  Before you explode!”  Bait said shaking his head at her antics.

 

Allahna didn’t waste a moment and charged away.

 

“Good news that is for sure.”  Seven said.  “I’m sure you already knew…” he gestured at Bait, “or at least had a good idea she would.”

 

Bait’s face went limp.  “No, I’m afraid I was in the same position as everyone else, Snow too.  We don’t know the decisions others will make until they make them, and we find out usually when we are told, just like you.  Choices are a personal matter.”

 

The room was silent for a little bit, no one wanting to mention what the outcome might have been had Worm not chosen to accept her calling as Ace that was offered.

 

Allahna burst out the door from the stairs, dripping wet.  Seven and Sea Mist both raised eyebrows at her.  “Snow was in the shower.”  Bait said with a shrug.

 

“Oh.” They both said and laughed.

 

“Yes, she was, she’s coming down!”  Allahna bounced and water flew from her a short distance.  “I have to go, I have to tell others!”  She said staying in place and looking at Bait.

 

He nodded at her and she was gone in a flash.  The room lulled with the lack of activity in a moment of awkward. 

 

“I can show you a neutral if you want, before night sets.”  Sea Mist offered.

 

Bait nodded.  “The construction crew lead wants me to stop by, he has the new draft of what they are doing since I changed the design back to original style.  We’ll check in with him on our way out.”  He said.

 

Sea Mist nodded in agreement and the two left Seven to himself and he went back to his work.

 

“Would it be alright if we stopped by Ace’s and I dropped something off for her?”  Sea Mist asked as they walked towards the new den area.

 

Bait looked at her questioningly.  “Ah… I suppose, what is it you’re giving her now?”  He asked with suspicion.

 

Sea chortled and gave a nonsensical motion with her hands.  “Well… you know, having fun and being myself.”  She said with a grin.

 

Bait looked forward as they walked on.  “There is no force on earth that could stop that.  Sure, we’ll stop.  Go get what you have for her and meet me in the new den.” 

 

“No need, have it on me already.”  Sea  Mist said and patted one of the dim-pockets on her belt.

 

“Naturally.”  Bait said with a quick glance at her and a knowing smirk.

 

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“Actually Lord Bait sir, with the changes you ordered, going back to original design, the build is going a lot faster.”  Hagelnug looked up and motioned to the new area towering above them from the floor of the new den.  “All this space is not needed now, with the House living above ground and at houses on the surface, workshops and offices won’t take up any room at all.”

 

Bait looked around with him and Sea Mist followed suit.  “That’s why the dens of old were so small.”  He said.

 

“Right you are Lord Bait, here, this is what the finished project will look like.”  Hagelnug said and flipped to a print that was an overview with the den house central and the houses around with dashed lines showing the tunnels.

 

Bait looked at the print and his eyes narrowed.  It looked like an aerial view of the project in schematic form.  The locomotive operator moved the throttle to position seven and let the ponies run.

 

“These running tunnels, that’s what they used to be called, before cars they were how we got from home to work den, are the main trunks with tunnels from the homes linking to them.  Officers will have the homes at the ends of the running tunnels, but we will have electric carts for people to use in addition to running the few miles.

 

Hagelnug looked off towards the direction of the original den.  “With this design the old den would’ve been enough space had the prison not been filled and sealed.”

 

Bait’s head snapped at him, Sea Mist’s did too.

 

Bait: “What was that?”

Sea Mist: “Say what?”

They said together at Hagelnug.

 

“The prison part of the den, we could have opened that up and had enough space with this design, no need for this addition.”  He said with a confused look.

 

Bait ripped the overview page from the binder holding the pages of the den design together and took off at a run.  Sea Mist was on his heels.

 

“Don’t worry, he does this all the time!  It’s not you, it’s him!”  Sea Mist yelled back over her shoulder at the shocked Hagelnug.

 

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Bait charged into their quarters with Sea Mist a half step behind and slapped the page he took down on the table.  Startled from the abrupt entry of her mate, Snow jumped and looked his direction.  Bait went to the office and Sea Mist stayed by the table.

 

He returned with one of the pictures from Sheriff Hanks’ aerial inspection of the area near where he used to live and set it next to the page on the table.  Sea Mist looked with him and Snow joined as he looked from the picture to the page and back several times.

 

“Son of a bitch!”  Bait exclaimed.

 

“It’s the same layout!  Exactly the same!”  Sea Mist included as she looked.

 

“What’s the same?  What am I looking at?”  Snow asked as she wasn’t in the loop yet.

 

“This is one of the pictures of the pump station for the commercial irrigation system and the farm houses around the area I took with Sheriff Hanks yesterday.”  Sea Mist informed her sister as she pointed to the picture.

 

“And this is the drawing Hagelnug made of what the new den and tunnels will look like with the houses when their done, I just took it from him now.”  Bait informed her.

 

Snow looked between the two items on the table.  “Inconceivable!”  She exclaimed then shot a look at Sea who didn’t even notice what she said.

 

“That means… werewolves!”  Snow said with sudden understanding.

 

“Exactly, living just a stones throw from my house.”  Bait concluded.

 

Snow looked at her lover.  “So what are you going to do now?”  She asked intending her question was about the den they had discovered that was built to old standards.

 

Bait returned her look.  “Now, we go stop by Worm’s then head to a pet store.  You coming?”

 

“Pet store?  Why a… ah, yeah sure.  Let me put my hair brush away and I’ll go.”  Snow answered, deciding not to press her mate on why he suddenly needed to go to a pet store.  “And with the return of the crow, I think we can officially call her Ace now.”

 

Bait nodded.

 

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Ace walked around scoping out the area she would hunt tomorrow.  She was spent for today and desperately needed to rest.  She used the mini tablet computer and it’s maps to mark out her hunt zone and make notes.  She kept a low profile, but had an uneasy feeling she was being watched, and followed.  She wasn’t sure if it was day walkers or possibly some of her kin, so she started to path in a way she would pick them up by sight.

 

A rather rough looking man was in the same area she had traveled to several times, but there were others as well.  It took about an hour but she was able to figure out about a dozen people were following her, nine men and three women. 

 

Some were better dressed than others, but all had a rather gruff appearance.  She spotted the first man she noticed following her sitting at a table, not looking right at her but still watching.  She started to walk down the sidewalk towards him, then the sound of thunder came from around a corner at the end of the block down from where her watcher was. 

 

Eleven Harley’s came around the corner towards her, traveling somewhat slow as they passed her by, cracking their throttles as they went.  She watched them pass, no one even so much as looked at her, then she looked to where the first man still sat.

 

He looked right at her, held his eyes on her for a moment then got up from the table, turned away from her and walked across the street.  The one eyed man she had met at the garage came around the corner on a trike and picked the man up and they roared by her.  This time, both waved at her.

 

Smiling to herself Ace started back to the garage, she wanted to rest before she watched the night's events sponsored by her kin.  When she arrived at the rows of garages on the way towards hers she smelt a familiar scent, Snow… sniff sniff, Sea Mist… and Bait. 

 

She approached with caution and looked around.  She wasn’t ready to face any of them yet, especially Sea Mist for some reason.

 

Convinced that they weren’t around any more she went up to the garage door, and there in front and right up on it were two packages.  One labeled as being from Bait, the other from Sea Mist.  Ace grabbed the packages and went inside.

 

Inside Bait’s gift she found a body holster that would hold four pistols, and the pistols to fill them.  In his note he explained that these were similar to his fifty caliber; Hovlek had helped him to make a recoilless version that would fit her small hands better. 

 

Ace smiled as she held one of the .50’s in her hands and read the words ‘Day Stalker’ engraved along the barrel where his had said Desert Eagle.

 

She gave a curious look at what she found in Sea Mist’s gift, not fully knowing why she would give her what she had, a cigar box filled with fat rolled joints, beside the cigar box were several plastic bags with about an half ounce of her own weed in each, Blue Moon it was labeled. 

 

Her face broke into a maniacal conniving grin as she read Sea Mist’s note.  In a plastic food box Sea had included brownies with a paper that said ‘do not eat Ace’ on the top.  These would be the special sweets she mentioned in her note.  Sea Mist did have a knack for a good and very practical joke.

 

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Sheriff Hanks put his radio pack away and looked at James with a serious face.  “That was Bait, says he found something in the pictures Sea Mist and I took, wants us to go check on something.  Get the Yukon and meet me out front, we’re heading to the Solven Foods pump house.”  Thomas told his Chief Deputy.

 

“Yes sir Sheriff.”  He said then went out the back to pull their SUV around.

 

At the commercial farm area that was closed down for the winter, fresh tracks in the fresh snow were all around.  Sheriff Hanks and James spread out and began checking the area out. 

 

Sheriff Hanks was following a set of track that went off beside and away from the main large white water tank central to the farm.  There were no other buildings in the circular area around the pump tank as the irrigation arm traveled the land out from the tank it was attached to when the land was producing. 

 

“Captain Thorn”  James said into the pickup on his throat for the radio pack he now carried since he went to work in a new capacity, and for his own protection.

 

“Yeah, go ahead Helper James.”  Sheriff Hanks replied.  Outside of the office and out of earshot of normal humans they tried to keep to their new guidelines. 

 

“Didn’t you mention someone named Seven that worked with Inquisitor Bait?”  James asked.

 

Sheriff Hanks turned and looked back to see where his helper was at, he couldn’t see him directly but could pick up he was just on the other side of the tank via his nose and ears.

 

“Yeah, what of it?”  He asked.

 

There was a pause before James responded.  “I think you should have a look at this, it probably means something then.”  James responded.

 

Sheriff Hanks went to the other side of the tank where James stood.  He pointed to a box with a keypad on it, there was a barrel keyset at the bottom and between the two were the words ‘Boxx-Seven Security Systems’ just like the one at Galt Labs.

 

Thomas looked at James.  “I’d say that’s something.  You found it, you get to report it.”  He said then slapped James on the back of the shoulder as he started back to where the Yukon was parked.

 

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“It’s worth a shot, I’m at a loss, get them topside.”  River Stone said when Seven gave him his thoughts on Mud and Morning Dew.

 

“When the atomic bomb made us like this, it took months for us to return, we were kept in a dark place.  I’m sure of it, nothing else does what sunlight does.  Soak them in holy water, in the sun, it has to work!”  Seven said with intensity and decidedness. 

 

Shyhon helped them set the two frozen in place werewolves in chairs with their faces towards the sun as it sank into the western sky.  With the water cannons set to a low setting, they drenched them with water and waited.

 

Twenty minutes had passed with no change, Doctor River Stone kept checking Mud and her mate as they waited.  After he would check them over, expressionlessly, he’d look to Seven and Silence with a tight lipped frown and give a small fast head shake with his eyes down and return to where they stood.

 

Another twenty minutes passed, River Stone had said it wasn’t working and said they needed to get them back in, but Seven insisted they stay outside in the sun a bit longer, what harm would it do he reasoned and River Stone gave in letting Seven admit defeat on this problem on his own.  He finally had and agreed to take the two victims of the light grenade back where River Stone could work with them. 

 

“Seven!”  Silence screamed in shock and surprise.  “Morning Dew moved!”  She ejected, a strange joy was in her stunned voice. 

 

River Stone came to her side and looked at him.  “Are you sure?”  He asked her and she nodded fast then River Stone checked Morning Dew again. 

 

He moved his stethoscope around his chest and on his neck.  “Got a pulse, a real one now!”  He said with a smile forming on his face as he straightened.  “More holy water, hurry!”  He encouraged Seven and Silence who moved to soak their patients more.

 

The long red shadows of dusk were starting to fall.

 

It was another ten minutes, then both Morning Dew and Mud returned, greeted by the jubilant faces and hugs of River Stone, Silence and a sheepish Seven who they repeatedly thanked since they had heard and seen everything that went on around them and were very much aware that it was he whom returned them to the world to fight another day.

 

-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-

 

After they made their drop at Ace’s place, they drove towards a pet store Bait had picked.  It seemed strange calling Worm Ace to Snow since she hadn’t had her coming of age day yet, but she had taken the rights of her kind and was being a protector, so it was only fitting to let her have everything a full Protector would have, a position in the ranks, supplies and a name.

 

“So may I ask exactly what are we doing here?”  Snow finally asked as curiosity finally got the best of her.

 

Bait shot her a grin as he turned the vehicle off.  “I need to get my spice weasel and knock things up a few notches.”  Was his answer.

 

Snow rolled her eyes at him, ‘fine’ she sighed and they went into the store.

 

Bait looked around a bit and picked up food for the critter he had apparently decided to buy and Snow followed him around watching him closely but not saying a thing. 

 

He called a store employee over and took her with him to the critter he wanted.  The young woman started to tell him about how to care for the animal and what it would need, he let her go on until she asked if he had any experience with animals at all.

 

“I live with a few thousand werewolves, I think we have how to care for critters well in hand, now, that animal in this cage if you would.”  He said with a stone face and handed the woman a roll of bills.  “That’s a thousand dollars, for the critter, cage, food and tip.”  He said finally giving her a patronizing look.

 

Her eyes widened a bit, mostly at the cash.  She seemed to want to let the werewolf comment pass as a bad joke.  She put the animal in the cage for him and asked him to come to the register so she could ring him up.  Bait walked with Snow towards the door out.

 

“Sorry human, have a werewolf to find, don’t have time.  That’s more than enough to pay for what I have, figure the rest out on your own.”  He said to her as he passed by towards the exit.

 

She started to protest and Snow held up her ID.  “CIA, stuff it okay.”  She said with a snotty smile and followed after her mate.

 

Once in the truck and back on the road, Snow was looking at the critter he purchased.  “You know, this is a ferret, not a weasel, right?”  She stated and asked.

 

“Yup, but it serves the purpose.”  He answered.

 

Snow turned from the ferret secured in the backseat and looked at Bait.  “And just what purpose is that?”

 

“Finding Exten.”  Bait’s face was hard and cold.  “I’m going to explain everything to the entire team, including you, when we get back.  The shit has hit the fan and the fan is on high.”

 

Snow looked forward in thought.  She wanted to press him and find out more but held herself back.  He had his ways just like she did, and now was not the time to be a bitch about it.

 

-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-

 

River Stone had radioed into them about Mud and Morning Dew so their fist stop was to visit them.  River Stone had wanted them to stay for observation for the night but both argued against it and both Bait and Snow agreed, they needed them, every werewolf they could get; they were part of the command team and Bait was finally going to spill the beans.

 

River Stone shot Bait a look and nodded in agreement.  “I’ll take that as a good enough reason.”  He looked back between Mud and her mate.  “If anything, and I mean anything that isn’t one hundred percent normal happens with either of you, back here pronto, deal?”  He said.

 

Mud and Morning Dew nodded in agreement then followed after their commanders and Sea Mist to help get the rest of the people they wanted in on the informational meeting.  They had no trouble getting people to show as everyone was more than eager to hear what Bait had to say.  All had been wishing he would let them in on his secrets. 

 

-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 had the ferret out of the cage and was letting it dance and play around the room as people made their way to the command deck. 

 

Their command team was there along with Squat and the leaders of his squads, Lord Frost and his top people, department heads and leaders from other dens and clans.  The room was packed and the ferret had no trouble finding people to pay attention to it and play with her.

 

As if she knew it was time, the ferret left whoever was playing with it and danced her way to the front and Bait picked her up and set her on the table.  Snow was seated on his left.

 

“Alright, I know you have been putting up with me and my dots, puzzle pieces and unending questions…” he gave a look around the room at everyone, “but now, I have it all together.  It’s time for you to know what has been happening.”

 

The room held it’s breath.  Bait asked Kevashka to put his first page on the wall behind him then he readied himself to begin.  The doors to the command deck opened as he opened his mouth to let his first words out.

 

Ace had decided to accept the invitation to the meeting.  She quietly took her place in the front row where a chair with her name on it sat empty.  Bait and Snow looked at each other with smiles when they saw her.  She didn’t smile anymore and looked older inside.  The ferret bounced from the table and went to Ace, climbed her leg and curled up in her lap.

 

“This story begins some two hundred years ago and fulcrums on the day Music died when a man by the name of Fyodor, the right hand of Alexander, acquired a book.  Music and Kicks were trying to prevent this and were also tracking this book.  This book had plans and instructions for reconstructing The Well that allowed both the Light and the darkness to travel to our world.

 

Bait gave a look around the room.  “Alexander ended up with it and figured out how to repair the well himself and only allow the darkness back across.  I assure you, we are not about to let this happen.”  Bait nodded at Kevashka who changed pages again.

 

“There are more players in this gambit then just Alexander and the vampires, werewolves have been playing along with him.  Playing along for their own desires of rule and power, a certain clan has been trying to position themselves to rule in place of the immortals.”

 

There were murmurs from the crowd.

 

“This clan has been using humans, half turned humans to cause problems, why I don’t know yet, or how, but they play into this grand plan somehow.  This den that we are in, used to be a prison.  The doors on the living quarters had to have their locks changed around so they didn’t lock people in.  This would have been pointless for werewolves who could have broken though the doors at anytime.  Humans were being kept prisoner here.”

 

Bait looked at Snow.  “Humans that had been half turned.  They would be held here for five years then put on the streets helping vampires.  I know, it’s frelled up big time, but that’s what happened.”

 

Bait paused while this sank in.

 

“Clan Clay.”  He said in answer to their unasked question.

 

Many heads nodded.

 

“The laws we, you, have been living by, aren’t the original laws.  Clan Clay has used this to deceive humans and werewolves alike and keep things from the immortals.  Their vision is lost and Night Harvest, Sebastian, has had to travel to learn of what has happened with people he has had to judge.  I don’t know what had caused them to loose their sight, but I assure you, I will know very soon.”

 

A murmur crossed the room, a murmur that spoke of their trust that Bait would do exactly as he said.

 

“Clan Clay has been using Lady Beautiful Flower, still mate of Lord Frost, to get information.  He has done this by bugging my lover and mate Trustee Lady Snow, she has also used your Darby to get information on your goings on Squat, and you will remain quiet on this fact.”  Bait said looking at Squat.

 

“And that is an order brother, to all of you.”  Snow added looking at Squat then the rest of the room.

 

Bait went on.

 

“Clan Clay has been keeping empty dens a secret and using them.  They want to rule here and keep the immortals out of power here and most likely across the water as well and assume control and run things the way they want them run.  Robert of the Clay, has been called a traitor, I tell you now, I witnessed his judgment.  No torches burned for him.”  He pointed to Kevashka who changed the page on the wall again.

 

A report from the bishop of Clan Clay was now displayed.

 

“The bishop of Clan Clay knew something Lord Clay didn’t want him to know, he figured out what Clay had done.  It had been accepted that Robert was mated to a Clay daughter who went into a coma when he committed acts of betrayal.  She was never his mate and the coma was induced with her compliance and assistance by her father.”

 

He signaled Kevashka to flip the page.  “In this report the bishop comments on her breath smelling of burnt almonds.  I had a good number of you smell a glass that I had scotch in, almost all of you said the same thing, it smelt like burnt almonds.  And as you all know, hard alcohol renders a werewolf unconscious.  A large amount will keep a werewolf in a coma like state for weeks at a time.  How long can be determined by administering specific amounts of liquor to a werewolf and seeing how long they’re out.  This is what Lord Clay did to his daughter to give the appearance of Robert being a betrayer.  Robert was his fall guy.”

 

A murmur came and went again.

 

“Robert wasn’t turned for mating, he was turned by a member of the Westbridge clan to save his life.”  Bait nodded at Kevashka again.  “He was actually mated, unknowingly to a member of a small clan, clan Strong Oak.”

 

Bait pointed to the report on the wall.  “Sandstorm, a daughter of this clan, never fell into a coma, and died the same minute Robert was judged.  Robert, had to obey Lord Clay, but he also was planting hints and clues along the way that helped me find the pieces and connect dots.  I tell you now, as your Inquisitor, Robert of the Clay was not a traitor.  He was an honest werewolf and a true protector.”

 

His audience seemed very pleased to hear this.

 

“Clay has been very naughty, his time is coming.  He has been putting werewolves in prisons he calls treatment centers for the mentally disturbed.  Treatment centers that are hidden in abandoned dens, that is why the records of them were hidden.  I figured this out thanks to Lord Squat.  It was because of his efforts to find an abandoned den to start his own, that I figured this bit out with the help of many of you.”

 

Kevashka changed the page again, this time it was two pages of a personnel file.

 

“Twenty years ago Alexander started building his portal, at the Ag Church.  It’s not a church at all, it’s his coven and we are going to destroy it.  Many of you have seen the billboards or heard and seen the ads we have placed.  I’m calling the bastard out.”

Sounds of approval and encouragement came from the crowd.

 

“We are short of numbers, so I am going to take from Lord Clay his victims, those he has imprisoned wrongfully.  Trustee Snow and I will offer these people sanctuary in House Squat until they can find new homes and when I am finished, Clan Clay will no longer exist.”

 

The room broke into a cheer.

 

“The first prisoner to be released from Clay’s treachery will be released from this very den.  Shortly before Squat made this prison a home, there was activity here.  Clay was very upset about Squat’s choices of locations.  Lady, who is no lady, Beautiful Flower was also a part of the attempt to thwart Squat’s building here.”

 

There was commotion in the room.  ‘Prisoner, here?’ and other comments came from the people listening.

 

“My spice weasel if you would please Sergeant Ace.”  He said as he pointed to her.

 

Ace stood, without any expression, and brought the ferret to Bait.

 

Bait held the little ferret in his hands and petted it.  Snow followed and motioned for the others to come with as he headed for the door and out of the command deck.

 

They went to the bottom of the assembly area and down the hall along the tenement area and down to the lowest part of the den near where the oubliettes were.  As they walked along, Hovlek and Vikki who had his people armed with hammers and pickaxes joined the precession.  Once on the lowest part in the open area around, Bait held the ferret near his mouth and spoke to it in a whisper that the werewolves could easily hear.

 

The ferret looked him in the eyes and listened.  Alright sweetie, his name is Exten, he is a werewolf and he is hidden.  I need you to find the seal keeping him from us.  Show Vikki’s people where to dig, okay?  Can you do that for me sweetie?

 

The ferret chittered and made other noises at him and bobbed her head as though she understood every word, because she did.

 

Bait set her down on the stone floor and she began slinking around, sniffing and dancing as she made her way along.  She sniffed and scratched with devotion to her task.  The people watching stayed behind Bait who kept a ten foot distance from the ferret as she worked. 

 

She led them down a small hall and into what had been a small store room for the clan of Squat, what purpose it served before as a prison, who knows.  It was in this room Sweetie started scratching at the floor and looking to Bait, scratch and look, then she stood up on her haunches and shrieked loud then patted her front left paw on the floor.

 

Bait looked at the floor and the pattern of the set stones in it.  “X marks the spot.”  He said calmly then looked at Hovlek and Vikki.  “Gentleman, you know what to do.”  He said, his voice was dead and aggressive.

 

“Alright lads, you heard the Inquisitor!  Hammer crew, where the ferret has shown, set Exten free!”  Vikki commanded his people.

 

They came forward in a rush, hammers crashed into the stone and sparks flew.  The men and women raised the hammers again and repeated their task again and again until cracks formed.  Then the pickaxes joined and began pulling chunks of the stone floor from place.  After about ten minutes of hard labor on the floor, a hole opened over a staircase leading down.

 

Torches were lit, battery operated ones, and Bait with Snow at his side descended into the true prison.  They passed by silver barred doors of empty cells.  The place smelt of death and rot.  They came to another staircase and went down into the darkness and followed that row of cells, and again down and down another level, five levels in all of empty cells.  They were now on the last level.

 

At the end of this run of cells stood a large stone looking door.  At it’s center, a round area with a three dimensional carving into the front of the door.  Though the door looked like stone, it was actually made of metal, silver more specifically.  Bait pulled the key Penelope had given him, placed it in the center of the door.  Once the key connected and locked into the door it slid into the floor.

 

“Exten!  This is Inquisitor Bait!”  He yelled into the room beyond.

 

A faint weak voice from the cell inside called back.  “Here your Grace.”

 

Several people led by Snow and Bait went into the room and to the cell where a starved to death and forced to suffer through regeneration Exten lay gaunt on the floor.  Snow reached to the bars of the cell door and with a scream of rage pulled the metal keeping the prisoner in from the wall and slammed it with such force against the opposite wall that it embedded itself into the stone.

 

Exten fell into tormented unconsciousness caused by his disheveled state again as Bait picked him up.

 

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

 

Ruth

 

Where she had spent the day was far from the supposed comforts of Alexander’s coven, in contrast, though it didn’t have all the amenities, it also didn’t have all the downsides.  Like… Alexander. 

 

Melvin had managed to take what had once been an underground electrical and phone vault and turn it into a fairly decent safe room for them.  Though, it still left a lot to be desired with no real furniture, running water or bathroom, it worked. 

 

Melvin was still asleep, as much as a vampire slept.  When she came in for the day he had come on to her and she pushed him away abruptly, she wasn’t in the mood for sex, which was odd for her.  After she'd messed with them, Snow and Bait had messed with her back.  It threw her groove off and she didn’t like it when others threw off her groove.  She was the one that was supposed to put others off kilter. 

 

She had tried to open the letter to Jibble and couldn’t, tried to tear it up, still couldn’t, and now she wanted to do her own thing, but she had to follow Snow’s orders.  What the frell was up with that?  How could a werewolf order a vampire and said vampire have to do it because they couldn’t disobey?  She was assuming it was something to do with Snow being Trustee now having made her choice. 

 

She couldn’t lie to Bait either.  She had wanted to tell him he’d have to try the smoothies and find out, but when she opened her mouth the truth came out instead.  Werewolves were the ones that weren’t supposed to be able to lie to the Inquisitor and had to follow the orders of the Trustee and the immortals.  This was bullshit.

 

“Melvin!  Wake your ass up bitch boy.  I want some of what you’re packin’ so get up now!”  Ruth screamed at her servant. 

 

That proved a bust too, she tried to come on to him, and found she only ordered him to get ready because they were flying to Jibble’s.  “Frell!”  She screamed after she tried to seduce him a second time, and ending up repeating what she said the first time.

 

“I got you the first time Ruth.  Getting something to drink, you want something before we go?”  He asked.

 

Ruth looked around.  “You have food here?”

 

Melvin shrugged.  “Yeah, in the tunnel, well, what’s left of a tunnel anyways.  Only power around.”  He said and then by her order showed him to this second ‘room’ in their hiding place.

 

It was a twelve foot wide eight foot high service tunnel that was collapsed about twenty feet down from the vault. 

 

The manhole above emptied into an alleyway behind an old fish processing business.  The place smelt of the years of use. Melvin had used the old wiring still in the tunnel and connected it to power for the fridge that he acquired from someplace.  She didn’t ask.

 

“Ruth, we really should get something better than this soon, our… your people are scattered and we keep loosing them because they haven’t a safe place during the day.  Honestly, I thought you would have planned better.”  Melvin said to her.

 

She was about to lash out at him for his impertinence, but instead said they needed to get to Jibble’s, and had the thought that she didn’t want to sound like her old master and reprimand her sla… servant for being honest, and trying to be helpful she guessed.

 

“Yeah, well, sometimes you have to improvise when things happen a bit faster than you realized, due to the stupidity of the person you’re backstabbing.”  She answered him once they moved towards the exit.

 

“We should grab a bit on the way, I’m not as strong as you yet, getting a bit faded.”  Melvin said to her.

 

Ruth thought it was a good idea.  She didn’t want him to know she wasn’t as strong as he thought,  Even though she had Alexander’s abilities and strength, she still wasn’t an aged beast yet, and that’s what would give them the ability to sustain themselves without regular feeding.  As it was, she could go about three days without blood.

 

Melvin used a small flexible camera inspection tool to check the alley before they moved the cover and left the sewer.  Then they went off to a club of a vampire that wasn’t part of Alexander’s coven, and who’s master wasn’t exactly friendly with him.  They’d find fresh human there. 

 

Inside the bar and grill there was plenty of fresh meat.  The restroom was a good place to hideout and wait for the unsuspecting human who went in to relieve themselves.  This was an established vampire spot so the utility panel in the wall was actually a dump chute for bodies.  It was a common setup.

 

Since they wanted to keep a good rapport with the owner as they might need to regular his establishment, Ruth said they’d hang out for another half hour and have a drink to keep up appearances for their host.

 

They were about to leave when a rather loud and flamboyant ‘female?’ vampire entered, buying a round for the house.  Ruth gawked at the vampire who looked very similar to Alexander.  It took her several minutes to catch the scent of the person and realized it was Alexander when he/she recognized her.  Fear shot through her.

 

Was this some trick he was pulling?  Alexander was a very comely woman now.  All the men in the place fawned over… her.  When… she came to Ruth she was… friendly. 

 

“Ruthless my sweet!  I do hope you’re not still mad at me, you didn’t really think I never wanted to see you again did you?”  Alexander laughed loudly and flailed her arms around.

 

Ruth was very on guard now, not knowing what to think.  Was this some trick?  Seemed rather unlike something her former master would do just to trap her, but then again… nothing was past him, her.  Whatever Alexander was now. 

 

“You know, I’m rather glad you’re on your own now, truly using what I have given to you.”  Alexander said with a happy face as the waitress brought drinks to their table and her former master sat with her.

 

“And I am truly sorry for calling your friend here a worthless filthy nigger, that was really unkind of me.  He is a fine specimen if I do say so myself.”  Alexander continued with a flamboyant hand movement at Melvin. 

 

The owner of the bar was just as put off by Alexander’s odd behavior and new appearance.  He, like Ruth, was wondering how long until the old Alexander burst from the mask he wore.  Not wanting to wait and find out, Ruth and Melvin chugged their drinks, made their excuses and escaped Alexander’s charms and hospitality.

 

-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 coming of the near full moon night offered serenity as they flew towards Jibble’s.  It was a good four hour plus drive by car on the interstate, but a half an hour by wing.  They didn’t talk.  As Ruth and Melvin flew, he would look at her and wonder what was on her mind, she could pick that up from him, but he never asked.  She had plenty on her mind too, more than just what Bait had in his letter to Jibble and why he would bother sending a letter to an enemy.

 

As they neared where Jibble’s was, a scent caught her nose, they weren’t alone in the sky here.  Soon they had company.  Jibble’s people had tracked her and were now closing in from the sides and behind.  She had been distracted by her thoughts and missed their approach. 

 

“Ruthless, my, what are you doing this far away from your master?”  Krox said to her as she swopped to her open side. 

 

“I hope you know what you’re getting us into Ruth.”  Melvin whispered to his master.

 

Ruth looked over at Krox, she was an attractive woman of mixed race, not as tall or as smart as Ruth, but every bit the looker. 

 

“I see you haven’t been keeping up Krox, I’m my own boss now.  Doesn’t Jibble keep you informed of these things?”  She said snidely.  “And my business is with Jibble, not the help.”  She added then dove down towards where Jibble’s home was. 

 

“Keep on her!”  Krox ordered her people and they dove after Ruth and Melvin.

 

Ruth lit on the balcony of the house on the east side outside of the top floor of the three story home that served as the night rooms that Jibble would be in now that sun had set.  To her luck, Jibble happened to be in the room she landed at when she and Melvin charged in through the French glass doors before Krox and the others could catch her.  She really didn’t want an ugly scene where Krox died.  Was bad for relations with Jibble and she needed to be on his good side, now more than ever.

 

Jibble had a crossbow with wooden bolt aimed at her when she turned to face him.  Ruth laughed at him as Melvin moved behind her, for cover.

 

“Jibble, really?  You know I could catch that before it ever got near enough to me to do anything.”  She said with mock glee and humor as Krox and two of her people came in through the doors.

 

“Sorry Jib, tried to stop her before she got here, she’s persistent.”  Krox said in her defense.

 

Jibble looked at his lieutenant and smiled a little.  “No need to worry, I’ve got her under control Krox.  Go now, you and Zimmen go play, have fun.  Alexander isn’t over her anymore.  Tell the others Ruthless is as I now, she serves only the darkness.” 

 

His words were far from an order of friendship or alliance, but rather notice to them that they had new competition.  With Ruth on the same level as Jibble, a future war was a possibility.  He’d be keeping an eye on her now, just as he did with the others and as they did on Jibble.  There was no trust among the minions of darkness.

 

Krox and the two with her nodded in acceptance of their master’s order and left the same way they came in and took to the night sky on their watch.

 

Jibble sat down in the chair he had risen from when she burst into his home.  “Dear Ruthless, to what do I owe the honor of your visit, please be brief.” 

 

He was making it clear to her that she wasn’t fully welcome and he didn’t appreciate her constant self welcoming to his lair.

 

Ruth smiled wryly at him.  “I came to deliver a message, favor for a friend you might say.”  She reached into a pocket and pulled out Bait’s letter but didn’t extend it to him yet.

 

Jibble smiled and reached to the side table and picked up a sniffer of brandy.  “Yes, Bait’s letter.  Tell me, how does it feel to be ordered by the Trustee and turned into her messenger on behalf of the Inquisitor?”  Jibble’s smile fell away fast.  “The next time someone gives something to any of my people to deliver to me, keep your frelling ass out of it or I will take after you myself!”  His voice remained controlled but was filled with anger and his threat was real.

 

Ruth knew she wouldn’t stand against the experience of Jibble, nor the intellect.  He was nothing like Alexander, he was very cool and calculating.  Polite.  When Jibble extended his hand for the letter, Ruth went to him quickly and fulfilled her order. 

 

Jibble let her stay while he opened the letter and quickly scanned what was written.  He looked at Ruth knowing she wanted to know what was in the letter.

 

“You’ve been a good little pet for the werewolf Monarchs, not be gone lest I get very pissy with you.”  Jibble said with a venomous grin and too polite in voice.

 

Ruth rocked on her feet and looked to her feet then back to Jibble again.  “Jibble, I need your help…”

 

“Be gone or be waste!”  He yelled at her.

 

The door to the room from the hallway opened and two stern vampires entered.  Jibble’s personal guard, a man and woman well armed and very good at their duties.  Jibble treated them well, this assured his safety.

 

Ruth bowed and followed Melvin as he had already started for the glass doors to the balcony.  Into the night sky they went, followed by Jibble’s people until they were a safe distance away.  This time if she tried anything, she wouldn’t be so lucky.

 

-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-

 

Jibble read the letter from Bait again, his two guards stood facing him and waiting.  They wouldn’t leave until he assured them he was feeling safe again.  He folded the letter and put it in a safe place then turned and faced his guards.

 

“Tell Stephaney to bring the Delorean round front, I’ll be traveling alone tonight.  If I’m not back by daybreak, keep the house secure and everyone near.  I may not return until the marrow’s night.”  Jibble instructed.

 

-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 carried Exten up and to the medical deck of the den and walked into the room he had told River Stone to wait with Corn Stalk.  When she saw her Exten in the arms of Bait she fell back into the chair she stood from and nearly fainted

 

“My son.”  She said faintly.  “My Grace, where did you find him!”  She struggled to say as River Stone took the limp man from Bait.

 

Bait gave her a reassuring smile.  “He was here all the time.  When he awakes, he will confirm that Lord Clay put him here.  But before then, I will give his lordship enough rope to hang himself m’lady, and hang him we will and his accomplices as well.  I give you my word on that Noble Corn Stalk.”

 

Corn Stalk looked off blankly for a moment, her eyes drifted to where River Stone had her son on a gurney and was checking him over.

 

“He’s in rough shape, to be expected being held in prison without food or water for so many year, but he’ll be back on his feet soon now.”  River Stone told her and gave an honest assuring and comforting smile.

 

Corn Stalk looked back to Bait.  “Thank you my Grace, a million times thank you!”  She said as she started to cry.

 

“No need, you have covered my ass more times than I can count, I am honored to have been able to return some kindness to you.”  He said tenderly, then took a more serious stance.  “I’m sorry I must ask this of you at this time, but time is something we don’t have much more of.  I need everyone you can spare.”  Bait said.

 

Corn Stalk nodded understandingly.  “They are yours my Lord, they always have been.”

 

Bait nodded to her then turned to Sea Mist behind him.  “I need…”  She cut him off.

 

“The Sikorsky is on the pad fueled and ready for you Inquisitor.”  Sea Mist said.

 

Bait snorted.  “Good, time to meet up with Captain Thorn and his Helper James.”  He said to Sea’s smiling face.  “Tell Seven he’s coming along for the ride and to bring whatever tools he’ll need to crack that box of his if they’ve changed things, and I’m sure they have.”

 

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When Bait and Snow climbed into the Sikorsky they noticed they had some additional company.  Ace was at the controls and Hovlek had the shotgun seat.  Sea Mist was in back where they were and shrugged when they looked at her.

 

“They said they wanted to come too.  Squirt, Ace said she needed to log some hours, and you did say that yourself your Grace, and Hovlek, who can say no to him?  So, if you don’t want ‘em along, that’s your job not mine.”  Sea Mist said with a ‘what was I supposed to do’ expression.

 

“You?”  Bait said to Snow, looking over at her as they situated themselves and strapped in.

 

“Nada, I’m cool with it.”  She answered.

 

With that settled, Ace took them into the sky towards where Sheriff Hanks, to the humans, and now Captain Thorn, among the werewolves, would be waiting for them.

 

By air the trip wasn’t that long, but they were growing short of daylight hours and would want to be back to House Squat before nightfall.  They made this clear to the others, but mostly to themselves as they needed to hurry and didn’t want to lose their focus in the details, again.

 

Ace brought them down a safe distance from the pump tank, Captain Torn and Helper James were waiting in their Yukon and climbed out of the vehicle to meet them as they were landing.  They met up with the Sheriff and he led them to the side of the tank where the Boxx-Seven Security Systems box was mounted, there was no visible doorway.

 

Seven tried his master code and as expected, nothing happened.  He was working on opening the front plate to hack his own system when men approached from the side.  They were armed.

 

“Hold it right there, this is private property.  Unless you have a writ or warrant of some kind Sheriff Hanks, I’ll kindly ask you and you people to vacate my property.”  The man who wasn’t holding a rifle on them said.

 

Besides the leader of the group, there were eleven others with him, a full squad.  They all turned to face the men that were approaching, Bait held his hand up to Sheriff Hanks letting him know he and Snow would handle this.

 

“And just who might you be?”  Bait asked.

 

“Other than the owner of the property your on, none of your damn business, now leave before I force you to leave.”  The man said.

 

“Aside from the fact that you’re holding weapons on an officer of the law, which does give me legal rights here, human law isn’t the issue, and I think you already know that.”  Captain Thorn said coldly.

 

“I’m Inquisitor Bait, your name, now!”  Bait said firmly.  “Secondly, I’m human, therefore, you can’t do thing one to me.”

 

The men around the leader looked a bit nervous.  One whispered something to him from his right side.

 

“Yeah, I know who you and Lady Snow are, and I’m telling you to leave.  We have separated from werewolf ways and live our own way now.”  The man said equally as firmly.

 

“I have never given you the choice to leave my service.  Your name.”  Snow said with her own tone of command.

 

The man looked at her.  He waited a moment, realizing she would command him if she needed to but was allowing him this freedom.

 

“Hugh Gueydan.  Gueydan.  I am leader of these kin here.”  He answered Snow.

 

Bait looked back at Seven.  “No one told you to stop, hack that thing.”  He ordered and Seven went back to work.

 

Captain Thorn was watching everything with his own interpretations. 

 

“Tell him to stop.”  Gueydan asked Bait.  His men readied their weapons.

 

Snow’s voice was hers and a tone up and down again when she spoke.  “Drop your weapons now!” 

 

All the rifles fell into the snow.  The squad of men stood looking at her.  Captain Thorn walked over to where Seven was having difficulty and pushed him aside, Seven giving him a look of chagrin.  Thorn pulled his pistol, stepped back and fired two shots at the back of the box and it fell from it’s mounts and hung by three wires.  Thorn took out a knife, cut the wires one by one then stripped the ends and twisted two together.  There was a soft clang from the tank and a door opened next to where the box had been.

 

Seven looked at him with a look of shock.  “No, no, my system… not that easy!”

 

Captain Thorn laughed as he looked at the gadgettier.  “That’s because it isn’t your system.  It was supposed to look like it to keep werewolves from trying it.  They couldn’t have gotten one of your security systems without you knowing I suspect.” 

 

Thorn pointed to the ground in front of the box.  “Also, there’s no foot prints around this box, so they never used a code to open the door, remote control like a garage door opener.  They weren’t worried about anyone looking too close.”  He smiled large at Seven when he finished.

 

He nodded at Thorn.  “Righty, right you are, they wouldn’t have been able to get one.  Damn good Sheriff Thorn, I must say, seems you’ve outfoxed the fox on this one.”  He said with a glance at Bait.

 

“Now then Gueydan, are you going to show us around your home, or do we go in and look around ourselves?”  Snow asked.

 

Gueydan looked to his men then back to Snow and nodded twice.  “I’ll show you around.”  He said.

 

As Seven passed by Gueydan he turned his head towards him.  “I’ll install a real one for you.”  He said with a smile.

 

Gueydan watched Seven pass with a blank face, unsure what to think.

 

After they had seen all there was in the den, all the people and what they were up to, Snow addressed him alone with Bait.  “You’ve done well.  I have an offer for you.  How many people do you have, I am finding myself short handed.”  She said to him.

 

“Just over twenty-five thousand Lady Snow.”  He said proudly.  “But like I said, we have all chosen not to partake in protector duties.  Whatever your offer, I’m afraid I refuse.”

 

“I think you should hear her offer before you refuse it.  And the rules say, she doesn’t have to give you a choice unless ordered to.”  Bait looked mean when he spoke.

 

“My offer is this General; under my command, under true werewolf law and with no Clay’s involved, you will have the opportunity to remove the influence of the Clays from our people.”  Snow offered.  “A person who can organize and maintain this many people, I have need of, and it earns you the rank of General in my command.”

 

Gueydan’s eyes widened.  His jaw slacked and his mouth opened but he didn’t speak yet.  He looked off with distant eyes considering the offer made to him, and them rules.  This clearly was not anything even close to what he expected to be offered.

 

Gueydan took to a knee before Snow.  “Lady Snow, Trustee, I commit myself and my people to your service.”

 

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Gueydan came with on the return flight, as he was now part of the command team and would need to coordinate where his people would stage at and work from.  His unnamed clan had been working against vampires their own way and in accordance with werewolf law so they were trained and armed. 

 

During the flight, Bait and Snow pressed for information from him to find out if he was the leader of the unregistered clans.  Unfortunately he wasn’t, nor could he identify the man that he received orders from, he had only heard his voice as the commander of the free clans kept his face hidden.

 

But from their conversation, they found out the unregistered clans were far from disorganized and untrained.  Most worked outside of the view of the Clay’s and wanted to stay that way.  Word would spread now that the Clay clan was about to go down, and that alone would cause a strong alliance with the new foundation and it’s leadership of Snow and Bait. 

 

They needed all the help they could get, even with the addition of Gueydan’s people, they still were far short on the amount of fighters they would need to take on Alexander’s coven.

 

Gueydan was able to help Bait out a bit on locating the real leader of the unregistered clans, somewhat.  He told Bait he had conversations of orders recorded, he would be able to hear his voice if that would help.  Bait wasn’t sure how much but wasn’t about to let any tidbit of information slip by un-scrutinized. 

 

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Ace brought the chopper in for a landing as the long shadows of nightfall were stretching across the land.  She helped Sea Mist put the aircraft away and Hovlek was asked to escort her back to her new abode so she could get ready for the morning when her shift started.

 

Back in House Squat, Gueydan was turned over to Kevashka and Max to coordinate his people with their operation, and how they would be a part of the downfall of Clan and Lord Clay.  The first step of that was about to happen as Seven set up the video link Bait had wanted with the head of the clan.  Finally all was set and the video call was made.

 

To avoid being handed off, as the lord of the manner wouldn’t want to take a call from Bait or Snow, Seven made his own link to Lord Clay, he didn’t have any chance of avoiding the call.  Every phone in the den and every computer made known the call was coming in, Lord Clay, to end the blaring sound of Bait’s voice calling his name throughout the den, took the call in private.

 

“Mr. Galt.  Just what the frell are you doing?  I have half a mind to come there and arrest you for what you’ve done.”  Lord Clay began.  He was clearly about to close the link and hope Bait would leave him alone, like that was about to happen.

 

“Shut it.  It’s Inquisitor Bait and you know that.  I’m here with Lady Snow, Trustee and I am ordering you with her permission and support to present yourself for judgment at House Squat at first light tomorrow.  Acknowledge and confirm.”  Bait said harshly.

 

Lord Clay started laughing.  He clearly wasn’t about to take Bait or Snow seriously or comply in any manner, he hadn’t followed any orders they had issued yet, no chance he would start now.

 

“Go frell yourself, I don’t take orders from peon humans and abhorrent dishonored slime.”  Lord Clay moved to close the connection.  Seven had seen to it the link wouldn’t close. 

 

“You are aware, Clay, that we, Snow and myself, have been placed in command of operation here on this continent by Lord Leyland himself.  Are you defying the orders of the Exalted Master of Clans Clay?”  Bait purposefully left out his title name. 

 

“It’s Lord Clay human, and I have no knowledge of any such orders, and if you set foot on my land, I’ll take your head personally.”  Clay roared at the webcam, then smashed the computer ending the link the only way he could.

 

Bait looked over the top of the monitor he had watched Lord Clay from and looked at Lord Sebastian, who was on the other side with Lord Leyland, out of sight of Lord Clay.  Sebastian bent his head down and turned around leaving his back to Bait.  He had no objections and no further comment.  Now, it was Lord Leyland’s final call over the Monarch’s of the New Foundation.

 

Lord Leyland cleared his throat with a gruff face.  His eyes left Bait and Snow then he turned around and looked to Sebastian.

 

“Come my friend, our duty here is finished, let us retire to our homes, drink wine and play chess and leave our people to their tasks.”  He said and the two men walked from the room without another word.

 

When Bait looked around the faces of the witnesses in the room were smiling, with the largest of smiles coming from Gueydan himself.  Clay had hung himself well this time, he was most assuredly going to face the music in a way he never envisioned. 

 

“So, do we go tonight?”  Squat asked.

 

Snow shook her head.  “No, that is business for the morning, daylight is the time to reveal.  Bait has a visitor coming, he is certain Jibble will come tonight.  Ruth will deliver his message as soon as… well, she is probably on her way now.  Dark is here.”

 

Squat nodded.  He didn’t like the fact that a minion of the darkness, a leader of vampire, was going to show up at his doorstep, and he would be under orders not to kill him.  But, the new Monarchs had their ways, and their ways seemed to be very good. 

 

They were taking out the trash.

 

“And you’re sure he will come tonight, as soon as he reads the letter?”  Squat asked.

 

Snow nodded.  “Oh yeah, Bait asked him to meet him here, gave him the location, address and even a phone number should he need assistance in finding us.  He also told him that should he not show, we would be showing up with Vikki’s hammer crew and all of your shadow steppers along with an entire division of werewolf warriors to level his home like we did Hondigahl’s.  You think he’s going to show brother?”  She ended with a cocky smirk.

 

Squat laughed with his sister when she finished.  “Most certainly, he’s probably flying faster than the speed of sound.” 

 

“Nope, Bait told him to drive.  Don’t ask me why, he wasn’t even sure, he just felt the need to include that bit.”  Snow said with a wondering look.  She had felt the same thing Bait had and was equally confused by it.

 

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“Come on Vikki, Calamity and I will show you around Beverly Hills, it’ll be a blast I assure you, you’ll love it, and wait till the humans get a load of yous guys.  It’ll be a hoot, great show if you ask me.  We’ll take the stagecoach.  Make a grand entrance.”  Cody told Vikki with a beaming smile.

 

Vikki eventually gave in and said he’d play along with what Cody and Calamity had in mind for their night's raids.  Vikki wasn’t much for a showman, and didn’t particularly care for Cody’s ways, but this was a new land and they were embarking on new ways of handling things and doing battle.  Vikki favored a large hammer to the head of a vampire rather then messing with their minds first, but the idea was growing on him.

 

“Trust me, you will have loads of fun, and our commanders did order us to have fun, and be ourselves.  So if you feel like bashing some skulls in, shit man, live it up, bash skull all the live long night if that’s what’en you wants to do Vikki.  Hell, use another vampire to bash some skulls in, while eating an ice cream cone.”  Cody went on.

 

“Ice cream cone?”  Vikki said with a question on his face.

 

“Oh blimy, he’s never had one.  Comes from the land of frozen asses, never had a cone.  We are going to change that my friend, change that we shall!”  Calamity piped in with.

 

Vikki laughed hard for a short moment in his warrior manner.  “Okay, frell, why not.  Brother has been with humans and enjoying life while Vikki works his ass off.  Why not.  Okay, I’m in.”  Vikki finally conceded.

 

“Great!  I’ll hitch up the team, and we’ll paint Beverly Hills red, so to speak.

 

Cody went off to ready the stagecoach and Vikki went to get some of his people and his weapons.  He passed Sea Mist and Blade Dance on the way.

 

“What’s got you in such a cheery mood Vikk-ster?”  Sea chirped out to him as Blade Dance looked at the Viking with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Eh, Cody, he’s convinced Vikki to go with him to Beverly Hills and hunt vampires tonight.  I wasn’t going to at first, but that Cody, he’s a salesman for sure.  He talked Vikki into it, so, I’m going to have fun and be myself, like Snowbait ordered.

 

Sea Mist rocked her head with a snort.  “Snowbait, yeah, that about sums them two up doesn’t it.” 

 

Blade Dance tittered in agreement.

 

“Sounds like it might be a fun time.  Good luck Vikk-miester.”  Sea said and was about to walk on when Vikki grabbed her by the shoulder.

 

“Eh, you want to come?”  He asked her.

 

Sea Mist gave her mate a look.  He shrugged then smiled.  “Shit, why not babe, might be fun to run with a hammer crew.  We finally have someone to compete with Ven-Hide.” 

 

Sea Mist looked back to Vikki.  “Count us in!”  She said, gave Blade a high five then said, “I’ll grab my guitar, stuff your bass someplace incase we run late.  Don’t want to miss Ruthy on the roofs.”  She laughed and the two of them trotted off.

 

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Cody cracked the reigns of the stagecoach sending the team of fire snorting horses into a faster gallop and they passed the semi truck on the freeway.  The looks of drivers with shocked expressions amused him and Calamity as they watched drivers pull off the road when they saw them. 

 

“Vikki wants to know Cody, just how fast does this contraption of yours go?”  Vikki asked as he sat behind Calamity and Cody on the top of the stagecoach.

 

“Going left Calamity.”  Cody said to her and she stuck her arm out signaling the intended movement of the coach and he changed lanes.  “Well, I’ve had her up to bout hundred forty.  Think that’s top end on her.  We’re doing about, oh, ninety now.”  Cody said as he watched traffic.

 

Vikki nodded.  “Is that fast for this human road?”  He asked.

 

Cody laughed.  “Yeah, it is.” 

 

Vikki nodded again.  “That’s probably what the traffic police want then.”  He said and pointed back to the two squad cars chasing them.

 

Cody looked back with an ‘aw shit’ look on his face.

 

“Don’t worry, Vikki will take care of this for you.”  He said with a laugh.

 

Cody looked at Calamity and laughed as well.

 

Vikki climbed to the rear of the top of the stagecoach and readied to jump.  When the squad car was close enough, he leapt through the air and flew into the squad car through the windshield, twisting around so he landed facing the front of the car as though he’d been sitting in the seat the entire time.

 

Vikki ignored the stunned officer who slammed on the brakes and punched his fist into the center of the dash consol of the car and ripped it apart killing the lights and siren.  As the car screeched to a halt he looked over at the cop beside him.

 

“This thing you drive is very loud.  It annoys me.  You should find something quieter.”  Vikki then laughed loudly, shoved up on the top of the car ripping the top up, jumped and turned into his werewolf self leaving a clawed footprint in the hood.

 

He chased up the freeway till he caught the other squad car, jumped over it landing just ahead of it and kicking backwards into the grill of the car sending it skidding backwards and into the meridian between the two directions of traffic.  Cody had slowed the coach enough that Vikki could catch up and he leapt onto the roof of the coach, changing back into his human self as he lit on the top.

 

Cody slapped the reigns again and looked back at Vikki.  “That’s the spirit!”  He said with a laugh and the coach sped away down the freeway towards their destination.

 

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The stagecoach clacked along the road in the Beverly Hills area as they made their way to a posh club that was known to be run by vampires, one of their few upscale recruiting and feeding clubs left.  Tonight, however, would be their last night of operation.  The hammer crew was in town to see to it that their final night was a smashing good time.

 

Another squad car came up behind them as they plodded along almost to where they wanted to be and warbled it’s siren at them a couple times, not leaving it on but keeping it’s lights flashing.  Cody pressed on the last remaining block and stopped in front of the club.  Two vampires made their way into the club when they saw the stagecoach and smelt the werewolves inside.

 

The officer got out of his car and was starting towards the stagecoach when Vikki and the four other members of his clan got out.

 

“Back in the… stagecoach!”  The officer yelled.

 

Vikki laughed.  “Why would we do that?  We just got here.”

 

Vikki and his people started moving towards the officer as Sea Mist and Blade Dance got out of the side near the sidewalk and took position to watch.

 

The officer drew his gun, the sight of the men and woman clearly rattled him and he was expecting trouble and radioed for backup.

 

“No, I’m afraid there will be no help for you, you see, Seven, he gave Vikki, I’m Vikki just so you know human, he gave to Vikki this device, it blocks your eight hundred megahertz radios and other communication devices.  Seven, if he says this box does this thing, then that it does.  You can always trust Seven and his gadgets.”  Vikki told the man.

 

“Keep your hands where I can see them!  Put your hands on top of your heads!”  The officer ordered.

 

In a snap Vikki pulled a four barreled shotgun and aimed it at the officer.  “Mine is bigger.”  He said.

 

The two mated with Vikki changed into werewolf form and one went to the front of the man’s car and one to the back they picked the ends up and folded the car in half as the officer dropped his gun and ran as fast as his legs would carry him away from them.

 

Vikki laughed.  “I guess he changed his mind about arresting us.”  He said as he put his gun away and the two mated changed back to human.

 

“Imagine that.”  Cody said as he and Calamity came down from the top of the coach to the sidewalk by Sea Mist and Blade Dance.

 

Then he held his hand out with the palm facing the coach and said a few werewolf words.  A red and soft blue light formed around the stagecoach and it began to swirl in light and flow towards his hand and was soon gone from the street.  In Cody’s hand now was a miniature stagecoach and horse team in a small snow globe.  He stowed the item in a pocket and smiled back at the people with him.

 

“Shall we?”  Cody said as Calamity took his arm and he motioned the other towards the club.

 

“We shall!”  Vikki said and followed as Cody and Calamity walked to the doorman followed by Sea Mist and Blade Dance.

 

The man at the door held up a hand at them.  “This is a private club, you’re defiantly not welcome here.”

 

His objections to their presence was cut short as Vikki’s large battle hammer came down on the top of his head sending bits of it flying onto those near him.  People scattered with screams and the body of the man fell, then exploded into nothing.

 

Cody flicked chucks that remained of the man’s head from his sleeves and shirt.  “See, what did I tell you, fun times isn’t it?”  He grinned at Vikki who smiled and went to open the door for them.

 

Inside the club Vikki and his people drew stares and humored looks from the humans that were there, but the vampires looked at them with evil, angry eyes.

 

“Yo! Man love the duds.  Where did you get that?”  A young human male said as he came up to Vikki.

 

Vikki grunted sounding like his brother and laughed with the man speaking to him.  “Hand made, finest leather and talons from master crafter Hovlek, the Bull.  He is Vikki’s brother, my brother.  Exquisite craftsman.  You should see his swords.”  Vikki said.

 

“You don’t say.  Awesome really.  Welcome to Beverly Hills, where’s it you come from?”  The man asked.

 

“Norway,” he pointed to his people, “we come from Norway, these are our kin here in the states.”  He said and pointed to Sea Mist and her mate, Cody and his mate.

 

“She, she is Sea Mist, sister of Lady Snow, Trustee of the American werewolves, and her mated, Blade Dance.  Good fighter is he, yes.”  Vikki pointed to Cody.  “This here, this is William Cody, he used to have a wild west show here in America, some years ago now…”

 

“Let me guess, and his mate Calamity Jane, right?”  The man said with a condescending laugh.

 

Vikki stopped his introductions, clearly the conversation had taken a different direction and his face showed his perception of that fact.

 

“I can understand you wanting to see the high end of our culture, but, this isn’t the place for you.  Now, unless you want to see the inside of the Beverly Hills police station, why don’t you and your rabble scamper back to whatever hole it was you crawled out of.”  The man said and gave them a smirk with a nod of his head.

 

Vikki grabbed the man by the back of the neck before he could move and pulled his sword presenting the hilt of it to the man’s face, not striking him, but showing him the jewel covered hilt.

 

“This sword, over thousand vampires has Vikki slain with it, I will slay those here tonight with it.  The jewels in this sword alone are worth more then ten million of your dollars.  As for your police, Vikki has met them.  My warriors folded their car in half.  Now, go away, vampires to kill.  Where is this private party area, is that the stairs to it there?”  Vikki said and turned the shocked and scarred man around and pointed with him.

 

Vikki didn’t wait for him to answer, instead he tossed the man, somewhat gently, away and started for the stairway with the next guard, a day walker, by it.  As the man turned towards them to stop them, Vikki flicked his wrist and split the guard from his crotch up the his middle through the top of his head.  One of his team stepped forward, opened a dim-pouch and slid the corpse into it.  Vikki led the way down the stairs and the bottom door guard received a similar disposal.

 

“In here, here we will find the vampires main party.  You were right Mr. Cody, this is fun.”  Vikki gave a belly laugh and opened the door to the room that Ruth had once been in not too long ago.

 

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There was a band playing on the stage as the crowd danced in their costumes and openly had sex on the floor.  Vikki had his people guard the door and fan out in the room, separating the humans they would protect from the vampires they would slay with their eyes. 

 

Sea Mist, Blade Dance, Cody and Calamity moved towards the stage.  The crowed had yet to fully acknowledge them, except for the vampires who gave away the location of the next room below when they went to it.

 

Cody and Blade Dance took the stage over, the musicians performing objected, but not for long and were soon in dim-pockets and the crowd didn’t seem bothered by their sudden slaying and disappearance, not realizing what exactly happened in their drunken and drugged states.

 

Sea Mist pulled out her guitar and the others took some of the instruments the last band members left behind.  As Sea Mist stepped forward next to Cody who was getting ready to play she asked him what song they should play.

 

Cody shrugged and gave a look around the room.  The audience was clearly restless for them to play and wasn’t enjoying the absence of music any. 

 

“Well, considering where we are, how about that Weezer tune?”  Cody said with a smirk.

 

Sea Mist tittered and gave Blade Dance the cue to begin and the downbeat bass started with Calamity leading them off on the drums.

 

Where I come from isn’t all that great, my automobile is a piece of crap, my fashion sense is a little whack and my friends are just as screwy as me.  Cody sang and the crowd began to dance again and hoot when they recognized the song.

 

I didn’t go to boarding schools, preppy girls never looked at me.  Why should they, I ain’t nobody, got nothing in my pocket.   Beverly Hills… That’s where I want to be!  Living in Beverly Hills…” Cody went on.

 

The rest of the team started the battle, with the smash of a very large hammer coming down on one of the vampires that had just cut a human in half.  The dance floor for now wasn’t privy to the combat that was erupting around them.  Cody was barely into the second verse when that changed drastically as two mated changed form and took to ripping and tossing parts of vampires around in rhythm to the music. 

 

Vikki side bashed a head that splattered across humans who now started screaming.  He stopped his forward motion, tossed his head back and gave a woo-hoo yell and shook his shoulders and stomped a foot to the music then dropped to a knee, pulling his sword and swinging through the torsos of three vampires that were closing in on him, he stood and finished the job and walked off juggling the heads as the bodies blew.

 

As the crowd started a full out panic, some twenty werewolves stepped from the shadows and unleashed streams of holy water into the air and crowd.  Some humans were harmed in the attack, but collateral damage was to be expected, and if you’re hanging with vampires, well, you have to expect that was Vikki’s logic, and Bait’s.  Once they had cleared the room of day walkers and their masters the hammer crew moved to the next room to continue the nights festivities there.

 

The woman guarding the door gave each person wishing to leave a sniff before allowing them out the door.  She was smiling kindly and assuring the panicked humans, that if they were human and not a vampire, they would be allowed to leave in safety. 

 

When some vampire attention turned to the musicians on stage, Sea Mist quickly ended their objections to the werewolf band with her guitar, which became her bow.  The arrows through the foreheads of the objectors came fast and she returned to playing as soon as she could.  Blade Dance took to the floor and helped out at times but for the most part, he let her have her fun.  And Sea Mist, she always managed to keep in rhythm.

 

Once the vampires and day walkers were eliminated, the guard stopped checking people.  Holy water made the detection much faster and all were soaked to the skin. 

 

One of the officers that had stepped from the shadows ordered the place soaked down and fire hoses were brought in to accomplish this task.  No vampires would be returning to open the operations now that the place was permeated with holy water.  Vikki rather liked that idea.

 

“So, what’s your verdict Vikki, are we fun or what?”  Calamity asked as she and her mate walked with him back to the street.

 

Vikki laughed and slapped her on the back a bit too hard and sent her lunging forward.

 

“This, this I liked, you two were right, Sea Mist and Blade Dance too, this was fun, where to next, the night is young and so is Vikki!”  He roared with laughter while Cody dispensed the stagecoach again.

 

“Want to have some fun in Holly Wood?”  He asked once the coach was ready.

 

Vikki looked thoughtful for a moment.  “Hrm, Vikki rather likes this Beverly’s Hills, anyplace else we can go here?  To nice of an area to leave vampires in.  If we’re going to clean house, lets clean it all!”  He said looking between the crew that he had come with.

 

Cody shrugged and keyed his pickup.  “Cody to Kevashka, any other vampire spots here in the Hills?  Vikki likes it here.”  He radioed out.

 

-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-

 

Tonight was the night, Ruth had held off destroying the club her life was stolen from her at because it belonged to Alexander, that had changed now since she no longer belonged to him.  She stopped by one of her caches of goods she had stolen from Alexander on her return flight from Jibble’s and collected several pounds of C-4 that she had neglected to use in the futile attacks on the werewolves. 

 

She was rounding the corner as she saw Sea Mist in front of the place.  “Hovlek?”  She said aloud catching the attention of the people with Sea Mist.  She really needed to control her mouth better, this time, it was going to be a fight.  And what was that they were riding in?  An old stagecoach? 

 

The man she thought was Hovlek turned and faced her.  It wasn’t Hovlek.  “Sorry, mistook you for someone else.”  Ruth said and was about to make a hasty retreat when the man charged her along with several others of similar build and armament. 

 

Ruth’s fist connected with the Hovlek wanna-be sending him flying back at the others.  Drawing her sword she lashed out at them, she almost got the head of one then Sea Mist fired arrows at her which she dodged with ease.

 

Ruth changed, not to her flying form, but to her new daemon form which towered above her victims below.  Her fist slammed into the werewolves charging her crushing them.  She thought she killed one as another that she didn’t hit fell down with a scream.

 

“Frell!”  She heard Sea Mist scream and order the others to retreat.

 

Ruth roared at them as they dashed away.  She was too much for them now that she was a minion.  She had caught them off guard.  Had they been expecting her, or Alexander, the fight may have gone worse for her, but she wasn’t here for them.  She also didn’t want to deal with the possibilities of the reinforcements that may be lurking around in the shadows. 

 

Werewolves had a new breed of fighter that could move as she did through the shadows, only they seemed stronger at it then she was.

 

Opting for safety and fighting another day, Ruth leapt into the sky, changed to her flight form and escaped while shadow steppers came from hiding.  Good call on her part.

 

-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 stood with Squat and some of the House guard while the classic Delorean Jibble arrived in parked at the front of the den house.  Neither of the two men that greeted him had their hearts in their welcome, but Snow and Bait had wanted him here so they did their best.

 

“Ah, Hovlek, you’re looking well I see.  And whom might you be good sir?  Master of the den I presume?”  Jibble said to Hovlek and Squat respectively.

 

Squat gave a reserved nod with his answer.  “I am Lord Squat, Patriarch of House Squat.  By the orders of my Monarchs, we are to bring you to meet with Lord Bait and Lady Snow, by Lord Bait’s request and Lady Snow’s approval.  If it weren’t for that…”

 

“Squat, shut it!”  Hovlek said cutting him off.  “This way Jibble, Hovlek will take Jibble to Lady Snow and Lord Bait.”  He looked at Squat and pointed a finger with a stern look.

 

Squat sighed as he looked at Hovlek, his face was pissed at the situation and respectful of Hovlek.  He was right in cutting him off before he said things best left unsaid.

 

They led the minion of the darkness in through the garage entrance, which was actually a shed not a garage, though as a prison it had never had an actual garage built and Squat never put one up.  Normally the house was used since, until recently, he and his family lived in the den with everyone else.

 

“Not much for the artful displays are you Lord Squat.”  Jibble commented looking around as he was escorted through the werewolf home place.  He turned his face towards the patriarch as they walked.  “You know, looking at this place, a piece by Escher would fit nice, really dress the place up, scatter a few around.  I think you’d like it.  You strike me as the Escher type.”  Jibble smiled.  He actually was honest in what he said.

 

Squat kept his hard jaw set face aimed forward.  “Art is not an interest of mine, we have much more pressing issues to deal with than interior decorating.”  He answered snippily. 

 

Jibble scoffed and made some disappointed gestures with his hands and body.  “Now that is truly sad.  The appreciation of art is one of the few things that sets us apart from the animals.”

 

Squat started to turn his head towards Jibble.  A grunt from Hovlek made him look forward, and not to say what he was about to, which would have been very insulting to their ‘guest’ in everyway.

 

“You should come by my place sometime.  There you will see true class and style in home design.  Just because you’re a military type of person doesn’t cast you out of the art appreciation lot.  You know some of the best human military minds were very much into art.”  Jibble went on as they walked.

 

Squat turned his face with a forced smile to Jibble.  “Sorry, I’m just not one of those.”  He said with despise in his voice.

 

“Escher Jibble says.  Hmn, interesting.  Hovlek, more of a Picasso person.”  Hovlek grunted in.

 

“See, if a great warrior such as Hovlek can appreciate the finer things in life, my good fellow, so can you.  Take in a museum some time.  You might just find yourself enjoying life more.”  Jibble had a chime in his voice as he spoke.

 

“What’d make me enjoy life more would be to take yours.”  Squat finally said.

 

Jibble held a hand up at Hovlek that was unnoticed by Squat.  “How rude.  Tact my young gnat, you truly would benefit from learning some.  True, we are sworn enemies, but in this time of Krevdaush, tact and candor are appropriate.  I have been nothing but polite to you Lord Squat, and you have only pissed on me.  Learn tact boy, you will get farther.”

 

Squat became very angry but contained himself.  Hovlek had said much the same to him many times, he detested being told this from a minion of his enemy.  He heard Hovlek grunt when Jibble finished scolding him.  Clearly his mentor agreed, since he had told Squat the same thing so many times.  Tact, candor, those were his shortcomings.  He preferred a much more direct method.

 

“Dark Lord Jibble, Hovlek presents to you, her Grace Lady Snow, Trustee and his Grace Lord Bait, Inquisitor.”  Hovlek said to their guest as they entered the main assembly area where the two Monarchs sat at a large ornate table facing the direction Jibble would be brought in from.

 

In addition to the ornate table, on it were fancy decanters of drink, plates of food and arranged vases of flowers.

 

Jibble smiled and held his arms out at the  presentation then gave a look to Squat.  “Now, see youngster, this here is a proper display; polite and pompous.  They have tact.”  He commented.

 

When they stopped in front of the table facing Snow and Bait, Jibble placed an arm across his waist and bowed to his hosts.

 

“The tantalizing Lady Snow, a pleasure.”  He said with a bow then turned towards Bait.

“And good sir Bait, Lord Inquisitor, honored to make your acquaintance my good man.”  Jibble said with a bow to him.

 

Jibble was well known for his fine taste and polite meter.  Squat hated the man for his style.  People always spoke nice of Jibble, humans, werewolves, both.  Squat could only see a man he wanted to kill in the most abrupt and painful way. 

 

Bait and his sister were smiling kindly at him, that galled him even more.  He knew they were putting on airs, but it still chapped his ass that everyone was being polite to Jibble.

 

“Thank you Squat.  You’re dismissed.”  Snow said to him.

 

“Excuse me, your Grace, if Hovlek may, it may be well the boy stays.”  Hovlek said with a respectful demeanor. 

 

Snow looked intently and with concern at Hovlek.  She considered his reasons for the request but a scant moment.  “Very well, Squat, you will stay.”

 

Snow turned her attention to Jibble.  “Please, Lord Jibble, sit and join us.  Bait tells me he understands you enjoy brandy.  I must admit, my knowledge of this beverage is little, he has assured me this is a fine one.”  She said as she took a crystal decanter and set it beside the glass in front of where Jibble was to sit.

 

Jibble took to the luxurious chair with a smile.  “It is true Lady Snow, a good brandy I enjoy, thank you, you are a generous hostess.”  He took the bottle and poured from it into the sniffer provided.

 

Hovlek and Squat went to the side of the table that Snow and Bait were at and sat beside but a few feet down from them.

 

Jibble sipped from the sniffer as his eyes moved around low and slowly about his surroundings.  They were far from alone.  He detected many werewolves around, all focused on him, protecting the protectors in front of him. 

 

Crossbows with special tips that were assured to pierce his hide, the metal of their swords filled the air that came to his nose.  Tact only went so far, then came positioning.  Jibble smiled large and raised his head and set the sniffer down.

 

“A very good choice Lord Bait.  Jibble likes.”  He tittered a bit, trying to be light but mostly to cover his assessment of the situation, which was to be expected.

 

Bait smiled back politely and gave a head motion of you’re welcome.  Jibble sampled some of the food without worry, no tricks would be in the cuisine, that would be simply impolite.  But tricks were not out of the question, or not to be expected.  This meeting was a chess game for sure.

 

“These!  They are delicious!”  Jibble said with a pleased face at the food he had tried.  “Werewolves have such great pallets, I must admit, far better than my chef.”  He tittered again and used the napkin to remove crumbs from his face.

 

“That was made from Noniena’s personal recipe.  All the food here came from her private personal recipe book.”  Snow told Jibble.

 

Tact.  Despite her less than favorable reputation, Snow had a knack for it, a slow cutting knack that she would deliver with great poise while serving pure chide.  Jibble held his composure, he knew well the name of Noniena and what had transpired.

 

Jibble looked over at another plate that held tarts.  “If these came from Noniena’s mind, then try them I must, though no other hands could make them as she would.”  He said and took a tart and bit in with desire.

 

Snow and Bait watched as Jibble sampled the treats they had presented to him.  Aside from his true passion for fine food, he also ate the food because of who they had said inspired it.  It was Jibble’s way of showing his dislike for what Alexander did, there was no tact in it, the act had been very rude, and Jibble did so hate rude people. 

 

Now he cleaned his face again and cleared his pallet with brandy and looked back, it was down to business time.

 

“I must say Inquisitor Bait, it was very hard to resist your offer for this meeting, though I must tell you, had you simply told me you would have Noniena’s splendid pastries for me, I would have braved daylight to come here.”  Jibble said moving the conversation which so far he had only provided for the most part, to the matters at hand.

 

“I’ll remember that for next time Jibble.”  Bait said with a smug, tight smile.

 

Bait had his own manner of candor, not the chide of his mate, a far more poignant blaze in his style.  Bait was the type of man who would stab you in the heart and you’d thank him for it.

 

Jibble straightened in the chair and focused on his hosts.  “In your ‘invitation’ for tonight, aside from other things, you mentioned you had an offer for me, prey tell, what might this offer be.  Jibble is curious what a ‘werewolf human’ would have to offer that would be of interest.”

 

Bait folded his hands and interlaced his fingers as he rested his elbows on the table then placed his chin on top of his hands and put on a calm, soothing face.

 

“The deal dear Jibble is that you get a pass from us this go around.”  He said to the now concerned minion.

 

Jibble gave a soft scoff and picked up his brandy glass and sipped before he spoke.  “And, if I may, just what must I do for this pass from you?”  He was very suspicious now.

 

“Nothing.”  Snow said bluntly.

 

“Nothing?”  Jibble returned to her.

 

“Nothing.”  Bait repeated.

 

Jibble took a moment to look to each of his two hosts.  Nothing, there was something in this nothing, that he was sure of.  Nothing was never simply nothing, nothing would be something.  He was starting to get the feeling this deal was rather sour, for him.

 

Jibble sipped from his glass again.  “And just what does this nothing entail?”

 

Both Snow and Bait smiled the same smile together, it made Jibble’s skin crawl.

 

Snow started the explanation.  “Exactly what it means, nothing.  You do nothing, nothing to help Alexander and nothing to help any of his people.”

 

Bait followed.  “Keep out.  You keep your people out of everything, retreat to your homes and do nothing.  Quid pro quo, you do nothing, and so do we.  You get left alone, so long as you do nothing and keep every single Jibble servant and slave out of sight.  We’ll give you a twenty mile radius around your house to exist in, not an inch farther.”

 

Jibble looked at a plate of pastries and nodded slowly as he considered the offer.

 

“That includes day walkers.”  A cold feminine child’s voice said from behind him.

 

Jibble looked back at the hairless girl that walked up to the table from his back, he hadn’t noticed her.  She walked up and stood right beside him and stared at him with blank dead eyes.

 

“My mother would be pleased that you enjoyed her specialties, she truly would have even though you are who you are, it always pleased her when people enjoyed what she made no matter who they were.”  Ace said with a cool bluntness.

 

“This is Ace, she is the sergeant of our new day watch division.  She keeps the streets safe during daylight hours, and like she said, all servants and slaves, including your half turned day walkers.  If she finds a single Jibble skagg, the deal's violated and you’re finished.”  Snow informed Jibble who was still looking intently at Ace.

 

“She’s just a child, still has her human stink.”  Jibble said, his tact faltering.

 

Ace smiled, the sight of her smile made Jibble shiver.

 

“I assure you Mr. Jibble, I am as fierce as Hovlek, as shrewd as Kevashka, as ingenious as Seven, as cunning as Lord Bait and as decisive and Lady Snow, whenever I choose to be.”  Ace told their guest.

 

Jibble looked back at his hosts.  “What else?”

 

Snow smiled.  Her smile bothered him as much as the little girl’s had.

 

“You’ll be spending the day with us and returning home tomorrow night, during your time with us you will be the test subject of Lord Boxtemmill the Seventeenth.”  Snow informed Jibble.

 

“Test subject?”  Jibble said confused.

 

“Yes, Lord Seven will be examining your eyes primarily, and you ears.  Seeing what makes them tick you might say, seeing how you see, hearing how you hear.”  Bait clarified. 

 

Jibble chortled.  “You have to be kidding.  I would never agree to that, that would be helping the werewolves far too much.  No deal.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I shall be exercising my right under Krevdaush and leaving now.”  Jibble stood from his chair.

 

Bait looked at Snow who had raised her head with a threatening face at Jibble, he didn’t step away but rather held Snow’s gaze.

 

“You may have your guards on me, but I did come under the offer of Krevdaush, you can’t attack me, you have to let me leave.”  Jibble said with a smug smile aimed at Snow.  He was clearly sure of himself. 

 

“Trust me, I would love to help in felling Alexander, I have no loyalty to him.”  Jibble explained.  “Do you know what he calls me?  Not even by my name, I’m just that nigger, that’s what Alexander calls me, that nigger.”  Jibble’s face was pained.

 

Hovlek grunted.  “Next time Hovlek puts a blade in Alexander, Hovlek will tell Alexander, Jibble is no nigger.”  He gave a solid single nod when he finished speaking to Jibble.

 

Looking at Hovlek, Jibble gave a soft smile.  “Thank you Hovlek, I really do appreciate the sentiment.”  Jibble knew Hovlek would do just as he said, should he ever put a blade in Alexander again.  “But what you ask, to much, I would betray my people, Good day.”  Jibble said and made indication he was going to leave now.

 

Snow cleared her throat, causing him to stand fast.  “Above you is five hundred thousand gallons of holy water, set to be released in an instant.  This table, the decorations are Venus light material, much of the room around you has the same material in it, and I know you know what Bait’s Venus light material does, and Seven has his finger on the button that will feed unrestricted power to the material.  My mate made the deal with you, I made no such deal of Krevdaush.”  Her face and look was pure ice.

 

Bait watched Jibble’s reaction.  “Doesn’t feel so good to be on the receiving end of a raw deal now does it Jibble.”

 

Jibble looked at Bait then his eyes fell to the table.  “Thank you no, it doesn’t.  But I’ve been on the raw end of the deal since Alexander showed up.”  He looked to Snow then ended on Bait.  “Fine, I agree to your offer.  My people will be ordered to my house and not to set foot beyond the fifteen mile mark, just to keep them safe, can’t trust their judgment of distance to far.”  He tried to smile.  It looked wrong.

 

Bait had a pleased look about him, and a smile came to his face Jibble detested.

 

“One more thing, your keys.”  Bait said coolly.

 

Jibble’s face crunched.  “My what?”  He said with  lack of understanding.

 

“You’re keys, the keys to the car you drove here tonight,” Bait held out his hand, “give them to me.”  He said with a confidant look.

 

Jibble stammered a bit then dug in his pocket and pulled out the keys to the Delorean he had driven to the house.  He gave them a look then tossed them to Bait who caught them.

 

“Ace,”  Bait said looking at her, “I’ll trade you the keys to the Delorean for the keys to my truck.”  He smiled at her.

 

Ace perked up.  “Like the car Ace Frehly drove?”  She asked with excitement.

 

“Yup, one in the same.”  He said to her.

 

Ace fished in a pouch for the keys to Bait’s truck, pulled them out and tossed them to him as Jibble looked on in astonishment.  Bait tossed the keys to Jibble’s Delorean to Ace, she looked at the key with joy.

 

“My car, that’s my car, you can’t just give it to that kid, it’s mine!”  Jibble argued in a high pitched voice.

 

“Not anymore.”  Ace said with a giggle.

 

“Hovlek, go with her and see her safely home please.”  Snow said and Hovlek went to Ace and the two left.

 

“And just how am I to get home then?  Are you leaving me with some pathetic werewolf sedan?”  Jibble said with angry disgust.

 

“No.”  Bait said.  “This will be your room for your stay with us.  Be warned, I have a cornucopia of bishops surrounding this room, and you know what nasty customers bishops can be.  Especially since my lover here has lifted most of the added on guidelines they were forced to live by that weren’t exactly law.  As to getting home, you have the ability to fly, you can use that to get home, or walk for all I care.  Good day Jibble.”  He said with a confidant smile.

 

Then he and Snow left Jibble as Seven walked in.

 

“Jibble, are you ready, I have some fun tests I want to run on you.  Is it too dark in here?  I could turn up the lighting some if you’d like.”  Seven said with a cackle.

 

“This deal is getting worse all the time.”  Jibble muttered under his breath.

 

 

 

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