She awoke in her apartment with what felt like a massive hangover. Tyver’s note lay atop the vase and after she had a shower and coffee, she read the message he had left her.
“My deepest apologies, but it was through a debt to an old friend that you got the vase; unfortunately, I had to erase some your memories of that night. If anything, the past week hasn’t been remembered… forgive me. One day I know you’ll understand. I need to disappear for a bit… don’t worry I just need to lay low and fix the timeline. – Love Tyver”
She reread his note, fury and anger boiling to the surface that he wouldn’t tell her outright what was going on. Instead he left her with a blank memory of black void. Well at least she had what she was looking for, and after filling out her notes on the mission she headed out to see Jack. After all it was the vase he was after.
There were two men arguing in the back when she entered the museum that night.
She watched quietly as Jayson and Jack fought, swear words flew like spears and fangs glinted off the workroom light. Both men seemed agitated but she got the impression that the fight was more one-sided in Jayson’s favor. She crept closer, sticking to the shadows.
“I need your help Jack; the Blades are back and causing trouble.”
“I was a ghost for centuries after the last war. Why have they reappeared now?”
“Their getting stronger and bolder; no more isolated attacks on holdings and warehouse ransacks. They tried to take Eryn.”
“Did they succeed?”
“Please do you even need to ask that, knowing me?”
“Fair enough, why are they attacking now though; we nearly wiped out the Blades in the last war. And they in turn halved our ranks.”
“I know, those were dark times, but I fear darker and worse times may be coming.”
“Alright, what’s got you so worried?”
“The Blades are after the enchanted vampire jewelry; Keene said they were going to combine them into a weapon that would obliterate vampires entirely. Unfortunately, Eryn also seems hell-bent on finding them.”
Jack went pale at the news, his eyebrows creasing together. “Well then, this is rather serious.”
The two men were quiet for a long time; Jayson knocked back the rest of the beer that was in his hand. Sighing heavily, he drew a hand through his hair.
“Have you told Eryn about this?”
“About the fact that there’s a war between vampire clans restarting and that she may be caught in the middle of it? No, of course not; I’m trying to keep her safe not put her in harm’s way.”
“She’s not going to like it if you keep things from her.”
Jayson chuckled, shaking his head. His eyes clouded and his thick Scottish baroque was made thicker from the alcohol. Jack sighed and scratched the back of his neck; he had the niggling sensation that by the end of the conversation, he would be pulled back into the service of the Armies of the Night. She was just about to slip back to the front of the building when she heard Jayson talking again.
“When is she supposed to be back, do you know?”
“Could be weeks, could be months; she’s off-world looking for a vase I need for a display.”
She stopped listening then as her mind tried to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why she couldn’t remember anything.
The farthest back she remembered was picking up the contract from Jack, nearly a month ago. The note Tyver had left her swam before her mind’s eye and she shook her head. Disappearing into the shadows she needed to figure something out before she saw them again.
Speeding through the early morning hours on her custom built blue and silver Kawasaki ER-6N, the city flying past her in blur. She couldn’t stay long she knew, but she needed answers and getting those required his help. She felt his presence a moment before she saw his shadow against the starlit sky.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“Uh, nothing… I need your help.”
“I can’t be your partner again; Hades made that quite clear the last time I saw him.”
“I know, and I’m sorry, but it’s not for that; it’s for my memory. I can’t remember my last mission.”
“Your memories? Need I remind you that the last time I tried to “fix” your memories, it made you go comatose for two weeks?”
“I know, but I need your help JB. I didn’t come here to fight; I just want your help making sense of everything.”
JB looked at her for a long time; he could see the pain in her eyes and the confusion of not being able to remember. Knowing that deep down, he could never deny her, he finally sighed and agreed to help her. He sifted through her memories until he found the right one. It was a blurry mess of swirling color and heavy pounding music. He remembered coming to rescue her using her panther shadow form, but the memory was so distorted it was like looking at a ball of moving murky water.
Removing it would damage her mind, but if he shifted the memory until it became an old memory than she would be able to vaguely remember it and it wouldn’t cause her confusion. He watched her sleep, free of nightmares and haunting memories. Still sated with powers at max, from making love to her; he ran his thumb over her cheek. Through his selfishness, he bound her to him; by his love and respect he let her go.
The doorbell was ringing obnoxiously loud and reverberating through his skull. His eye screened the front door and he chuckled in fond annoyance at the short girl with the spikey chestnut brown hair who was enthusiastically ringing the bell. Vaguely he wondered how long she had been on Earth before coming to see him, and what had her so excited.
“Eryn, what the hell? It’s 8 am on a Saturday.”
“I know, but I have news… great news.”
“And this couldn’t have waited until after coffee and cartoons?”
“You watch Saturday morning cartoons?”
She raised an eyebrow at him, and he shrugged; a mischievous grin tugging the corner of his mouth up.
“Your 5000 plus years old, don’t you think you’re a little too old to watch Saturday morning cartoons?”
“You’re never too old for cartoons.”
“I suppose so. Got you coffee, before I forget.”
She handed him a steaming cup of black coffee and went to flip through channels on his widescreen television.
“So… what’s this great news?”
“I found out where the last couple pieces of the jewelry are.”
A guarded look crossed his face, and he slowly sipped his coffee before asking where they were.
“One is off-world and the other is in a chest…”
“Alright; and where’s the chest?”
“Sunken beneath a frozen mass of ice. It’s under the north pole.”
“Great and when were you thinking of going?”
“After breakfast if possible.”
He gave her a dead-panned look with an arched eyebrow. She shrugged and grinned back. He laughed then; he could practically feel the excitement rolling off her. After breakfast and waiting until Jayson was packed up and ready to go, they headed towards the airport where his daughter and one of Eryn’s best friends waited for them.
“So, explain the weapon the Blades want to create.”
“How did you know?”
“I overheard you and Jack talking.”
“Oh, how long have you been back?”
“About a week… are you avoiding the question?”
“Not entirely… How was your trip?”
“Hazardous from what I remember… but other than that I don’t remember… How were things here?”
“Things were fine, I figured out why Admiral Keene wanted to kidnap you. And I researched the bounty hunter who was after you…. He was hired by the Blades to capture you so they could essentially use you as a bargaining chip.”
She had gone quiet at that and watched the city fly by outside the window of Jayson’s custom-built ford ’72 mustang.
“Are you alright? You seem distant…”
“I’m fine; I just can’t remember anything about my last mission. I woke up in my apartment with a note from Tyver, and the vase and all I can remember about my mission is that I was off world. I don’t remember anything else…”
“It’s alright, you’ll remember this one.”
She looked out the window, anger clouding her eyes and her cheeks flushed. Jayson reached over and took her hand in his, lacing their fingers together. The rest of the ride he told about the vampire weapon the Blades were trying to put together.
Since receiving the news about the weapon, Jayson always kept the vampire jewelry on his person.
Katrina was tinkering in the engine port of her custom-built AC 1240 helicopter when they pulled up. After pleasantries were exchanged and the luggage was packed up the three of them were up in the air and sailing through open blue sky on their way up north to the land of ice and snow.
“You know dad; it’s just a little weird you’re dating my best friend. She is closer to my age than yours.”
“You’re older than her by more than 100 years, also need I remind you; your last boyfriend was a child.”
“He was not; he was like 30ish… I think?”
“I didn’t like him, he was immature and stupid.”
“You think everyone is immature and stupid.”
“Only the boys you bring home Hun.”
The rest of the trip was spent quietly listening as Jayson briefed them both on the war between the Blades and the Armies of the Night. Katrina was more than a little surprised that they had decided to re-emerge now. She landed on a sheet of thick snow, the whirling blades of the chopper creating a snowy tornado.
The temperature hit them like a slap in the face, a freezing wind that glinted off the frozen tundra and whipped into a frenzy surrounding the helicopter.
“Text me if you need anything; I’ll be close by making deliveries. Good luck!”
Katrina yelled over the noise of the chopper blades. They watched her take off, squinting against the glare of the sun off the snow. Once Katrina had disappeared over the horizon they began marching across the expanse of snow and glittering ice. They were looking for a specific island, once found though; they began the arduous task of reaching the island. Since this was a mission where both dangerous temperatures and a limited time played a vital role in locating and retrieving the artifact; they needed to hurry.
Once Jayson had a sizeable hole dug through the center of the island, Eryn hooked up all the equipment and her thermal scuba suit, since there was no way both could fit down below and she needed someone up on the surface to help monitor and guide her.
She nodded, her breathing amplified by the mouthpiece.
“I feel and sound like Darth Vader.”
Jayson chuckled. He liked her odd sense of humor, her determination and strength of will both surprised and intrigued him.
He watched carefully as she lowered herself into the hole, treading water for a few minutes before diving down and disappearing into the churning black water. He kept a close eye on her vitals, listening to her breath and talk about previous missions. It was so dark he could barely see what she was looking at despite the high vision camera attached to her headlamp.
She was in an underground labyrinth of dark tunnels and one wrong move could result in death. She inched her way through the icy tubes by feel mostly. It wasn’t until she touched upon something slimy and squishy that she recoiled, bumping into the wall of ice behind her.
“Eryn! Are you alright? What was that?”
Jayson’s voice crackled in her earphone; concern coloring his thick Scottish brogue and making it just a touch thicker.
She smiled to herself; unlike JB, who would have had an entire crew out here in the middle of nowhere, on an iceberg, helping them find an artifact that may or may not exist. Whereas Jayson, helped her as a partner not just a lover; and though they tended to butt heads often, and he drank too much on occasion, he still made her feel strong and capable and beautiful.
“Just a sea creature, I think. I’m ok; I’m almost there.”
This was not her first mission where she was trapped underwater in freezing temperatures. Jayson watched from on top of the iceberg, glaring at the screen showing her vitals and breathing and the screen that saw what she was seeing. So far it was mostly dark eerie ice tunnels and a sickening pull of current. He hoped she would hurry up soon.
The cavern sparkled with a shimmering luminescence; a translucence that only ice underwater could have. In an odd way, it was strikingly beautiful as the ice caught and reflected the light from her flashlight back to her. The chest sat near the bottom, something about it drawing her in. Jayson knocked back another drink from his flask and watched as the camera showed where she was heading.
Within moments she had wriggled the chest free from the ice and was now slowly making her way back through the labyrinth of ice and freezing black water. Her vitals were still good, so he began to wind the ropes and tubing back up. Suddenly all the lines pulled tight, and the computer began beeping wildly, her stats going haywire.
“Eryn?! Are you there? Respond? What happened?”
The communication line remained static and the screen had gone blank. Had he pulled the line to much? Or had something else happened?
Nothing happened when he commed her again, and for a few minutes time seemed to stand still; the tubes and ropes holding her slackened but something didn’t feel right.
“Eryn, are you alright?”
Static crackled back to him, and he snarled, slamming his fist against the desk that was set up to hold all the equipment. The wooden and steel desk cracked under the impact and he dove through the hole into the churning black water, not bothering with his own thermal suit. He followed the breathing tube by feel, his computerized eye giving him a heads-up display depicting the stability and structure of the iceberg.
Whoever had hidden the damn piece of jewelry had done very well considering that it was not meant to be found. The outlying structure of the iceberg was stable enough to stand on, but the interior had been scooped out and then left to refill slowly over time causing massive shifts in ice plates and even underwater the plates moved, shifted, broke apart and shattered against each other. This had created a dangerous maze of ice shards and unstable platforms. The breathing tube ended at a sheet of ice that had come loose and fallen, effectively crushing the tube in half. He could see Eryn’s camera light on the other side, outlining her body in shadow.
There was no way he would be able to get to her without puncturing the breathing tube or dislodging the sheet of ice properly. He heard a click and a hiss and then she disappeared, snarling he swam back up to the surface.