Hunting Shadows

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Chapter 28

By evening time, the city had been evacuated minus the Blades and Armies of the Night vampires. Jayson and his crew were sweeping the streets for mines, bombs and any other explosives.

As it turned out, Eryn and JB had done quite an impressive and thorough job of defending the city; the explosives were designed to target creatures not human. Unfortunately, they hadn’t taken in to account Ace’s men kidnapping, draining and killing the main person who had set up and designed the system.

Timothy Roger’s body was found strung up the church steeple; displayed like a trophy.

A small recon group burned the body along with the rest of the casualties. The city still smouldered and burned; and though a lot of it was rubble and debris, fallen buildings and large craters, there was still a little over half of it that was left untouched. The Blades had used Timothy’s knowledge to redirect how the explosives reacted; instead of other creatures, they targeted humans and vampires specifically.

Such fragile creatures these mortals be.

“Larry, Scotty, Bryan, and Kevin; what’s your status? Over.”

The long-range radio crackled with static while he waited for his men to reply. He was walking toward a fountain enjoying a smoke.

“Lieutenants report. Over.”

“This is Scotty; I’ve got hostiles opening fire – western side of the city; requesting back up over.”

“Scotty, keep ’em on their toes, I’ll send units to your location; over.”

He switched a channel going up to reach the sub commanders so that they could respond to Scotty’s request. He went back to trying to reach his other lieutenants.

“This is Kevin reporting in. North-side all clear, the Blades have been taken care of and all is quiet; proceeding with explosives sweep; over and out.”

“Be careful, Eryn and JB rigged the entire city; explosives are set to target vampires and humans; over and out.”

“Got it General. Kevin out.”

Jayson switched off the radio for a moment before it crackled to life again.

“This is Larry, all clear in the center of the city. Everything appears stable and all the Blades have been dealt with; commencing explosive sweep and deactivation; Larry out.”

“This is Bryan reporting in. I’ve secured the southern side of the city; the Blades have been cleaned up. Jay, I’ve got Slayer signatures on my radar… should I engage?”

“Do not engage, I repeat do not engage Bryan. Steer clear and I’ll deal with the Slayers.”

The radio crackled with static and even when he switched channels it was nothing but indistinct static – something had just cut off their communications. Jayson growled in frustration; however, he hadn’t seen a single Slayer in his part of the city and that was a worry all on its own.

Project Slayer was a division of the military that were enhanced super soldiers who had been tasked with the disposal of vampires, ware wolves, humans and anything else that seemed like a threat. Trained specifically by Jayson and his men; and now they were hunting the Armies of the night.

The portal spewed her out just outside the city limits into a small clearing. She lay there on her back panting, her pistol still pointed at the portal; waiting for anything that might have followed her through. She knew there was a camera in the tree two feet and up from her left; and that a motion –sensor timed trap lay not even three feet from where she was.

They had set them up and coded them to any signature not human… mostly so that the citizens of the city wouldn’t set them off accidentally. They had also been coded to deactivate when Eryn or JB pressed their finger or thumb to the inside of the tree before and after the trap.

A minute turned into three; three turned into five. Sweat dripped down her back and her shoulders were beginning to cramp, her arms were beginning to shake as well and she gritted her teeth against the physical discomfort she was in. when nothing happened; she got to her feet, ejected the clip and slammed home a fresh one before putting the safety back on and sliding it into her hip holster. It was almost twenty minutes before she moved, readjusting her pack, she began walking toward the city.

JB wandered through the empty city; quiet but for the crackle and crash of still burning buildings. The minute explosions of the traps still going off, the larger explosions of the buildings finally giving way and collapsing. He was just waiting now – waiting for the slow burning fuse in the city center to ignite and blow. It was a backup failsafe that was designed to lure the creatures attacking the city to be drawn into the exact center of the city and then the rest of the bombs would go off.

Vaguely, he also wondered how Jayson and his men were doing and if they had finished clearing the city; he had made sure to tell the vampire mage about the bombs before the entire population was caught up in the explosion.

A tingle went down his spine and he smiled; all pointed teeth and glowing eyes. She was back. Closing his eyes, he reached out to her; assessing her physical status quickly before sending her a mental message letting her know about what was going on.

“Hey Sweetie; glad your back… things have gotten a little interesting in the time you’ve been gone. Also, you know you’re bleeding heavily… right?”

She smiled tiredly at the alarmed concern in his gravelly voice growling across her thoughts, though she was certain none of the injuries she had sustained were life threatening; but she would have to get them looked at or else she would be in danger of bleeding out and even though she couldn’t die thanks to the bonding tie between her and her ex-husband – now reaper; she could suffer from severe blood loss.

“I know; it’s only a couple of scrapes and scratches… possibly a bullet wound; I got shot while I was away. Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it looked at when I get into town.”

“Don’t worry? Don’t worry? Eryn, you got shot off-world and come back bleeding and you’re telling me not to worry about it?”

She could hear the anger in his gravelly voice as it echoed through her mind.

Look, its fine; really JB. Besides don’t you have a soul to take?

He backed off slightly at the dark undertone in her voice. She walked on, determined to get home. After a while he spoke up quietly.

Did you want me to come heal you?

She sighed; feeling him waiting for a response. Eryn debated whether she should let him. On one hand; he could heal her without any repercussions… but the flip side of that was that he would need a power boost after.

Maybe; I’m almost to the city limits anyway. I’m just outside of town.”

Well don’t wait too long; it’s a dangerous time to be in the city.

Why? What’s going on?

I’ll tell you more when you get here. Should I meet you at your place?”

Yea… that’s fine.

Her mind went quiet as he left, and she felt the immediate response through her body. Her head was starting to swim and her vision began drifting in and out.

The bullet wound in her right shoulder throbbed painfully and she couldn’t feel anything in her arm. Though she had bandaged it as best she could; she could still feel blood slowly seeping through the bandages and down her arm. The painkillers hadn’t taken effect yet and she had lost a lot of blood.

Ten feet to the next tree; five more to the top of the hill and then she saw the city; a smouldering, burning mass of crumbling buildings and broken roads. There were piles of rubble and debris and broken bodies lying all through the streets. A building collapsed a street away from her, the crash sending a shockwave outward and Eryn steadied herself against the nearest building to keep her footing.

Panting heavily, she slid down with her back against the rough stone wall overwhelmed by the destruction of it all. She began crying; her breath coming in short, shallow bursts.

“JB; I can’t do this anymore.” It was a whisper on the wind; but it was all she needed. He appeared a moment later; looking oddly energized and human. He crouched down in front of her and took her into his arms.

“Hey; are you alright?”

She opened her eyes, and blinked at him slowly. Tears were tracking lines down her cheeks and he wiped them away with the pad of his thumb. The gesture was comforting and human. She offered him a weak smile.

“You came. Thank you.” Her voice was rough and scratchy.

“Of course, I came; I’ll always come back for you. Hold still a moment.”

He flinched as he laid his hand on her shoulder, and she screamed in pain. Nobody said healing was painless, and bullet wounds were incredibly painful. She blacked out, slumping against him. He healed the rest of her body, and then brought her to the safe house they had set up years ago.

He let her sleep, and sent Jayson a quick text knowing that the vampire would have liked to know that she was back safe and he wanted to know about the evacuation. Though he hated the vampire general with a passion, he respected him.

His phone vibrated with a message from Jayson letting him know the city was secure, the evacuation was complete and now they were just setting up a perimeter around the hospitals.

It was what JB had expected. He made sure Eryn was alright and sleeping soundly before disappearing in a flash of black red light. It had been a long night and it wasn’t going to end anytime soon by the looks of things.

Jayson’s men had set up a barricaded perimeter around the hospitals. Anybody who could move freely was evacuated and sent to safe houses outside the city. The Blades had been dealt with and the air still stank and smouldered with the remains of some thousand vampires being burned. It was a sobering realization. The hostiles on the western side of the city continued to press the attack forward, slowly gaining ground and proving to be hardy, resourceful and well-organized.

The Slayers were aiding them and had effectively taken out just under half of Jayson’s men. It was like conducting an orchestra of chaos; of moves and counter moves. Setting off traps and explosives; retreating from one location only to come around and surround the Armies of the night from behind.

One by one the radio communications stopped coming and his lieutenants fell. A headache was pulsing like a thundercloud at the base of his skull and his mechanical, computerized eye kept blinking at him alerting him to the pressure building in his head, telling him to breathe deeply and take something to alleviate the pain. He blinked the warnings away, trying to focus on the surroundings around him. His men had been knocked unconscious and most likely captured by the Slayers; which meant that Jayson was on his own with a sub unit.

He was inside the hospital talking to the head doctor about moving the patients when suddenly his eye started blinking rapid red lights and his screen lit up with warnings. A moment later the entire perimeter around the hospital exploded in a shower of debris and cement catching his unit in the shockwave. He watched in shock as an entire battalion of men and women became a screaming, wailing mess of blood and body parts.

Jayson charged out of the hospital, guns blazing and he laid down heavy suppressive fire driving the Blades back. His eyes spoke of murder and death for anyone who dared do that to his men. A hail of bullets sprayed across the parking lot, catching him in the chest and torso.

He stumbled back; snarling. Another wave of bullets screamed across the pavement and Jayson dove for cover behind a car listening as the bullets ricocheted off the car panels. He roared in rage and pain, coming out wielding his own mini-gun that lay waste and tore through Ace’s forces with brutal efficiency.

Though not nearly as powerful as Scotty’s, it still got the job done. The oncoming vampires blew apart when they were hit with the ultra-violet bullets Eryn had given him.

His face was a rictus of anger, baring his fangs fully and charging in with the mini gun blazing. He snarled and kept firing until the gun clicked on empty. After that he switched to his twin .45 colts and finished off the remaining survivors. Panting heavily, he holstered the weapons and waited for the smoke to clear. The air hung heavy with the scent of gunmetal and gun powder. The acrid tang of blood misting the air and the haze of gun smoke made the entire ordeal seem surreal.

A canister flew out from behind another parked car releasing a thick cloud of gas, three more accompanied it. Coughing and choking, Jayson pulled on a gas mask and typed a command into his wrist computer.

There was a moment while his computer accepted and responded to the command and then he was in stealth mode.

A program set up by Bryan that allowed him to be virtually invisible when in thick fog or smoke. His vision turned the dark green of night vision goggles with infrared and picked up on several heat signatures.

Undoubtedly human; these were the Slayers that had turned against him, taken out his men and had sided with Ace’s forces.

“You want me? Come get me.”

He growled grinning; a hint of madness in his gleaming eyes as he slid into a crouch. He waited in the gathering smoke though it wasn’t long before his scanner picked up movement. Three in front of him, two more on either side and three behind him; a tactical maneuver that he and his men taught the Slayers themselves. Dark shadows moved like a well-coordinated body; a silent hunter. He flexed his fingers around the hilt of his sword before giving it a twirl; he breathed out slowly, the sound amplified by the mask.

The shadows moved as one, getting closer. A flash of silver was met with the ringing of metal on metal. Snarling Jayson came face to face with the leader of the Slayers unit who snarled back at him.

“Don’t you remember who it was that trained you?”

“I don’t remember anything but the brutal training; every day, all day.The serums they gave us, altered our memories and turned us into the perfect soldiers. One’s who could defeat anything.”

“Who was your commanding officer?”

The ring of metal shivered through the fog as vampire and slayer fought.

“My… commanding officer…. Was… Storm… General Storm.”

The slayers ice blue eyes awakened and he stepped away from Jayson clutching his head as memories and pain assaulted him. His growl turned into a scream and he ran into the fog disappearing in the heavy white mist.

More Slayers rushed toward Jayson and he lost himself in the savage brutality as memories of all the previous wars and fights and constant training overtook him. He roared in defiance; hacking and slashing at faceless forms; metal rang and screeched as it clashed again and again. His eye fed him information which continually got in the way and he kept blinking it away.

They were ballerinas on a smoke-filled stage; parrying, lunging, blocking, slicing, stabbing; a dance of death where the players were evenly matched. Howls, snarls, and screams of anger and pain rose from the smoke; cries suffused with brutality and rage. Darkness began creeping in around the edges of Jayson’s vision.

Something caught him in the stomach and he coughed blood onto the surface of his gas mask; behind him the hospital exploded.

Thicker clouds of dust and debris clogged the air and pieces of rubble went flying in every direction. He heard a scream and a grunt of pain, disoriented and dizzy he turned with his sword raised halfway up to block when someone smashed the stock of a heavy rifle into the side of his skull.

His sword clattered to the ground and the last thing he saw was his sword being kicked away from him, out of his reach as he fell to the ground.

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