Chapter Nine: Blood Moon
Enrique Iglesias pulled his thinning coat tighter around himself, trying in vain to shield himself from the wind. He had not wanted to work this late, but in the interest of honesty, he could not bring himself to refuse the offer of overtime. The wind suddenly kicked up, and a chill swept over him.
It's cold, even for October, he thought. I hope Emily got them inside in time. It's not safe here after dark. He made it to his apartment and was about to turn the key in the slot when he heard a growl behind him. Enrique turned just in time to see a dark shape hurtling toward him. Suddenly, a shot rang out, and the figure collapsed to the ground, and an ominous red stain started to spread out from where it had fallen.
"Get inside." A low, grating voice sounded near him. "Get inside and don't come out until dawn, you hear me?" Hurriedly, Enrique did so, his eyes frantically scanning the streets. He was now aware of dozes of the dark shapes slowly creeping toward him, some hunched, others upright. Both types, however, moved with the same implacable determination. Enrique rushed into the apartment building and up to his room. He slammed and locked the door, breathing hard.
"What happened?" His wife, Emily asked. "Are you all right?"
"Someone outside," he breathed.
She shook her head, sighing. "The streets are getting more dangerous by the day. Isn't anyone going to do something?"
Dirk calmly drew the Winchester .410 from his hip. "I wouldn't," he growled. "Much closer, and I'll start blowing you apart."
"Please, human," one of them growled. "Do you really think a shotgun can-" His words were cut off as a silver knife suddenly buried itself in his heart. He dropped to his knees and crumpled in a heap.
"Stop." Dirk said forcefully. "I won't ask again." One of the vampires lunged for him, but no matter how quick the monster, Dirk's trigger finger and reflexes were faster. The weapon's muzzle flashed, and there was a muffled explosion as a silver-jacket slug ripped through his midsection. The monster dropped, and another lunged for him. Dirk changed his grip on the shotgun, while the other drew a long silver Bowie knife. The blade made short work of the other vampire, but the hunter knew there were too many for him to handle on his own.
That was when Alestair joined the fray. His silver wire sliced through first two, then four of the monsters. His eyes were glowing red, and the cold, sated smile on his face told Dirk just how much he was relishing the chance for a fight. His father's words echoed in his mind. Watch him, Edward Harker had said with his final breath. Don't let the monster take control. As much as the thought chilled him, it seemed to Dirk that that was exactly what had happened. Alestair's suppressed pistol suddenly appeared in one of his hands, and he opened fire on the vampires. But still, even with both of them firing and slicing their way through the cursed creatures, it would not be enough.
That was when Gavin stepped in. Even though blind, the dragon was a superior fighter in the dark, and his wings spread out as he tore into the monsters. His claws shredded flesh like paper, and intermittent bursts of lightning from his arms and wings sent the creatures flying backward.
A vampire launched itself at Dirk, and he only had the briefest picture of snapping fangs and red eyes before he sidestepped and brought his machete down in a vicious overhand swing. The blade separated the monster's head from its body, and it fell in two parts to the ground behind him.
Another, unfortunate enough to attack the hunter after he had primed his shotgun, took a slug straight to the chest.
Wire whirled around Alestair like a metallic hurricane. The sharpened razor's edge cut clean through his brethren, and his eyes burned with the cold light of vengeful fury. Within minutes, the dragon, the hunter, and the vampire made complete mincemeat of the vampires. As he sliced the final creature's head off, Dirk felt no pleasure. In fact, he felt like vomiting. It's like Krackow all over again. Or Paris. Or Kaktovik. He keyed his communicator. "Ruby, how's it coming?"
"There's so many of these things," she said, and he heard the roar of fire as she threw a UV flashbang. The light sent the vampires screaming and running.. "This ritual takes time, sweetie."
Dirk sighed. "You know what? Give Luther the go-ahead."
"Are you serious?" Ruby asked, and then he heard the crackle of electricity. Voltaic detonator, probably, he thought. "That's...big."
"Do it," Dirk replied, pumping his shotgun.
She sighed. "Luther? Yeah, Dirk said let them have it."
Luther stared at her. "Wait, he's serious?" He asked, swinging his axe clean through a vampire's neck. "I mean, really?" Suddenly, one of the vampires caught onto his shoulders and bit down on his neck. The vampire cried out, and as he withdrew his jaws, smoke curled up from his lips.
"What the..." he began, but he never got the chance to finish, because Luther drove the hilt of the axe through his chest. Blue light started spidering up and down his body. The vampires looked at him, unsure of what was happening. Horns punched through his scalp, and his skin began to change as his hair started to recede. In one second, he went from a relatively normal-looking human to a devilish monster, and the vampires knew they had just disturbed a monster. One of them spat a single word.
"Shadowborn. You are outmatched." And the bloodsucker went for his throat. The monstrous Luther swatted him away like a fly.
"Please," he snarled, his voice deep and echoing now. "Outnumbered maybe." He hauled the vampire to his feet and, tossing him into the air, slashed his head clean off. "Outmatched? No."
William watched out of the corner of his eye as he waded into the ranks of vampires. His teeth and claws made short work of the creatures, but then one appeared that stopped one of his slashes cold. The vampire's red eyes glowed in amusement.
"Oh, a primal wolf?" she questioned. "Now this should be fun." William kept on; slashes, cuts, bites, all of them got stopped by this vampire.
Ruby saw, out of the corner of her eye, that William was struggling. Off in the distance, she saw a brilliant streak of lightning, and she heard the deep, ominous roll of nearby thunder. Thor's hit trouble, she realized. And Kenji's with him, no less. That doesn't bode well. Raising her want, she fired off a Solar Flare spell into the air, and the vampires all recoiled as their eyes were momentarily blinded by the flash of light. She drew a Sig Sauer P227 and fired, cocked back the hammer, and fired again, dropping two of the vamps with shots to the head. No matter how many she killed, however, they just kept coming.
Lucas then joined the fray. Having taken Dirk's PSG1, he had set up on a faraway rooftop. The silver hollow-point rounds streaked down like the breath of God, and vampires fell. All around Ruby, like wheat in a field, Lucas' fire cut the creatures down. That momentarily bought her enough time to cast her spell, and she did. The Eclipse Shot spell sent out a flash so brilliant that, for a single moment, the entire city lit up like it was midday.
The vampires fell back, screeching in agony as they did. The light seared their retinas, making some of the creatures blind. Luther waded in, his axe spinning like a helicopter blade. William grabbed the female vampire and threw her against the wall.
"You're finished," he snarled.
"You moron," she gasped. "You think this is just one mindless frenzy?" William stopped for a second, trying to process what he was hearing.
"What the-" then he understood and keyed his communicator. "Dirk," he growled. "Dirk, listen. The attack is a distraction. Repeat, the attack is a distraction, over."
"I copy," Dirk said. "Do they have a target?"
William looked around, and then everything clicked. The attack on Stone Consolidated, all of it. "It's Stone and the professor. They'll be targeting them." Dirk swore quite loudly.
"Wonderful. I can make it to Stone's building, but what about the prof?"
"Leave her to me." Thor came across the communicator. "From the sound of things, that's where McCallen is. And believe me, you don't want to take her on the way she is right now."
"Once I have stone, we'll regroup." Dirk's line went dead.
"That idiot," Thor muttered. "He'll get ripped apart."
Ruby sighed, casting a Raging Hellstorm. The spell, though time consuming, put the entire rest of the vampires down. The flames caught them and burned like some horrible kind of adhesive. They fell to the ground, and she looked around. "There's too many. We'll never make it through the night."
"If we hang together," William growled, dropping a vampire to the floor, "we might. Let's hope, at least."
Stone Consolidated Building
Dirk saw them swarming the line of police tape from a hundred meters off, and the sight chilled him. Monster-on-monster violence was generally disgusting, but when vampires tore each other apart, it was the stuff of black-and-white Holocaust nightmares. The security forces, mostly vampires themselves, were barricaded in the main office, firing out small holes in glass panes. The main doors, not being glass, were impenetrable to small-arms fire. However, vampire arms, predictably, were not small. He took his Benelli shotgun from its sling on his bike, leveling the weapon at the nearest bloodsucker. Dirk fired, and the creature went down with a silver slug in its chest. And they turned as one.
Oh son of a bloodsucking...he thought. The weapon pumped and fired again, and again, and again. As the spent shells hit the floor, Dirk knew it was insufficient. There's too many, and I'm going to need to reload eventually. The thought hit him like a he had swallowed a lead weight. The shotgun dropped to the ground, and his revolver came out next. His wrists screamed in agony; Dirk had been shooting all night, and he knew that by now at least one of them had stress-fractured. Even so, Dirk's healing abilities kept him going. His wrists knit, even as each shot tore at the ligaments and ground the bones.
The silver rounds knocked vampires down, and the security men, for their part, were trying to kill them as well. Then the primals showed up. The first came down from the rooftops, descending in a swirl of shadows. His red eyes glowed malevolently as he lunged forward, and the three shells that Dirk put in his face barely did more than it make the creature furious. It slammed into Dirk, and the impact knocked him off his feet. The vampire attacked him in a flurry of teeth and slashing nails.
Dirk tried to focus, even though he was momentarily blinded by pain. His razor-sharp instincts came into focus as the scarlet haze and flying strips of flesh faded in his vision. He shoved his hand up and out, knocking the vampire backward for a split second. He raised his Winchester and fired. The creature screamed in agony and fell off of Dirk, and he flipped backward as the vampire fell to the ground, twitching in rigor mortis. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw another of the creatures, this one clearly a female, with her fangs bared. By her side was another male. He immediately rushed Dirk, his mate close behind
Two is two too many, the hunter thought, drawing his machete from its threadbare sheath. The blade slashed at the vampire, and the creature hissed as it bit its flesh. However, the blade did not burn the creature; in fact, as Dirk was rapidly realizing that the silver barely slowed the primals down. Again, the creature tore into him. I can't keep healing if there's nothing left. Dirk's blade came up, cutting the creature's right eye from the socket. It fell back, howling, and Dirk shoved his revolver in its mouth. It gasped in shock and pain, and Dirk fired.
The vampire dropped to the tiled floor of the office building. Where the bullet had gone, the projectile left a neat and smoking hole in its head. The female screeched in anger and went for Dirk's throat. Suddenly, a long, slender knife materialized between her eyes, and she collapsed. Behind the creatures, he saw Stone. The man was clearly a vampire, and also visibly upset.
"You're the hunter?" He sniffed, as though disappointed in the cologne he had just purchased. "I thought you'd be taller."
Dirk rolled his eyes. "Cute. Now, if you're finished being nonchalant, can we go?"
"Go where?" Stone asked.
"To fight McCallen," Dirk replied, coldly. "We have to get her eventually, like it or not."
The vampire sighed. "Fine. I'm coming."
Thor stepped into the devastated school building. The doors had been completely torn off their hinges, and several thick pillars had been reduced to rubble. What happened here? Thor wondered. This looks like someone blew something apart.
He scanned the area, trying in vain to find exactly what it was that could have done so much damage in such a short time. Then he saw the flashes in the next room. He stepped through another set of splintered double doors, and what met his eyes was a sight to behold.
The teacher, Janice Walther, seemed to be some kind of spirit. She was teleporting all around, trying to get the drop on the vampire, McCallen. The vampire's eyes smoldered in the flickering shadows like embers in a dying fire, and she slashed and snapped at the air.
Suddenly, McCallen caught Walther, whether by luck or intuition, and slammed her into the floor. The vampire raised her arm to slash her long nails across the teacher's throat. It was at this point that a streak of brilliant blue, purple, and white shot across her path. She spun like a ragdoll as Mjolnir, Thor's massive, spiked warhammer, cracked across her jaw. The hammer returned before the bloodsucker hit the floor, and he caught it. Leaping up, the former Norse deity slammed the hammer into the ground, trying to crush his opponent beneath it.
The vampire moved so quickly that even Thor's vision barely caught it. She spun, slashing her nails across his face. Lightning lanced out from his cheek, surging through her arm. However, she was not easily deterred. The vampire lunged for him.
One of her bites took him in the shoulder. God blood would not contaminate, he knew, but that did not mean having his shoulder punctured by two inch incisors was at all painless. He swore and grabbed the vampire by the head, hurling her off his back and into a wall. Suddenly, McCallen dissolved in a wisp of black smoke, which quickly dissipated.
Thor turned, trying to see where she had gone. Curious, echoing laughter rang throughout the room.
"So the god plays lackey to the god-killer. How bitterly ironic. You know what he has done to your kind? What he continues to do? He'll turn on you, lord of thunder. Just like he turns on all the others."
Electrical current poured up and down Thor's arms. "Oh, come on now. Can't be any worse than your sucker-eat-sucker world. How many vampires have you killed to stay alive? From what I gather, you're fairly competitive, and I know that there are others who would, quite literally, kill for your spot."
"When necessary, I defend myself," The bloodsucker intoned, sounding almost exasperated. "I fail to see how that makes me different from you."
"From what I know about you, you do it for fun," Thor snapped.
The vampire laughed, sounding actually mirthful instead of derisive. "And you don't? Tell me, what king or queen lasts without being willing to kill for that which he or she protects? What makes us different? We kill in the name of power. And by that measure, we are all too alike."
"If you kill to maintain your power," Thor asked, turning around again. "That's one thing. But from what I've heard, you are nothing better than a murderer who kills for sport. You're worse than I am. The worst part is, you know it." And that did exactly what he wanted. The vampire burst from the shadows, smoke still clinging to her skin like tattered robes. Her face, now shriveled and ugly, had its long, curved teeth bared savagely.
Katherine slammed into him, ripping flesh from his torso and tearing his shirt apart as she did. Suddenly, she felt a stabbing agony in her chest, and she looked down to see the spiked haft of a silver-bladed axe deeply buried in her chest. "What?" Thor was in front of her, so obnoxiously close she could feel his heartbeat. "Didn't see that coming?" As he yanked it out, she gasped, vomiting blood. He took the axe blade and swung it clean through her neck.
As the body vanished in a flash of blue fire, Thor felt little pleasure. The ringing in his ears faded, and he could feel his adrenaline petering out. He turned to face the teacher, putting his hands on his hips.
"Care to tell me what just happened?" He asked, holding out his hand so the hammer could return to him. "Because there had better be an amazing explanation for why a thousand-year-old bloodsucker wants to gnaw on the face of a girl who looks young enough to have not taken her first drink?" Walther looked at him and then down at the floor.
"About that," she said, shifting uncomfortably. "Can we talk somewhere safe?"
Thor nodded, holding out a pair of silver handcuffs. "As long as you don't mind being restrained."
"Wait, you're already done?" Dirk's disappointed voice came from the doorway. "Well, that's a shame."
"Be punctual next time," Thor replied coldly.