As a general rule, our race are terrible parents. Most of the children we make are accidental before we know better or poorly conceived mistakes based on some former emotional attachment. Once entering Second Life, most of us undergo a complete alteration of self as the Dark Gift renders its blessings and curses upon us. As with an apple seed, you never know what the result will be until the tree bears fruit.
I didn’t recognize Cormir, but that didn’t mean I didn’t know him. I had been so young when I was brought into the world of the Undead; both in years and in attitude. Barely twenty one, I had grown up living on the streets in the slums of Moscow. I was part of a gang of between a dozen and a score of kids. We looked out for each other to enough of a degree that we didn’t have to worry about freezing or starving.
The older we became, the more complicated our needs were. It didn’t take long for us to get into more trouble than we could handle. Kids like us were as common and as disposable as toilet paper and all too many people were willing to treat us as such.
I’d seen a lot of kids come and go, as well as more than my fair share of death by the time I had been bitten. I still don’t know who my Sire was, or what made him or her choose to turn me instead of just killing me. Perhaps it was a backwards attempt at revenge on one of my companions.
I say this because I awakened in the abandoned warehouse where my crew, such as they were spent most of its free time. We’d never really evolved past pack mentality, the strongest, fastest and smartest lead and the rest of us followed until we thought we could do better. When consciousness returned to me I exploded into a ravenous rampage; tearing apart nearly all of the people I had once called family and feasting upon their blood.
My old human self would have been horrified, but the newly born Nosferatu only knew hunger. By the time I recovered from the blood frenzy my surviving friends had fled. Very little of what I had been before remained and, like many of my kind, I began to build a small empire based around my newfound power. Humans did what I told them to and I was allowed to run rampant through my little corner of the Moscow underworld for a short time.
Instinctively, I knew how to create more of my kind and I was beginning to build an army by the time The Tribunal sent the Reapers to ‘deal with’ us. That is when my Power of Destruction first manifested itself. That is when I was offered a choice between Final Death and fifty years of service. None of my undead progeny were offered the same choice. I had thought them all sent to Final Death.
Now, a lifetime later here was a survivor of that first genesis. I could… smell his blood. He smelled like me.
“This is where we think they are.” Cormir’s voice was a whisper in my mind, “There should be at least a hundred of the monsters holed up here.”
“Fine. Move in and clean them out.” I said, “We leave no infected alive… if you can call it that. I’ll cover this exit. Oh, and this time if there are any humans still alive in there don’t I repeat DO NOT kill them.”
“You’re the boss.” Was his cheery reply. In spite of myself, I was discovering that his positive, irreverent attitude was growing on me. He and his armed escort had only been with me for a few days but the ease with which I was able to integrate them into both my modes of travel and my fighting style was a bit surreal. The soldiers were impressively effective, especially for being simple, un-augmented humans instead of being bloodslaves like Svenka.
I waited outside the door, the Kalashnikov one of the mercs had given me held at the ready and was not surprised when it slammed open with enough force to remove it from its hinges. A group of figures poured out of the door. I wasn’t sure if they were human or not so I held my fire, waiting to see what would happen.
“Oh God. Oh GOD!” The man in the lead yelled, running away from the building. “Run! We have to get away!” The people behind him ran with a single-minded determination in his wake. Well shit; this was a group of survivors, not a nest of Infected.
“Cor, stand down. These aren’t Infected, they’re survivors.” I made sure the sending had plenty of intent behind it; bending him to my will.
“Sure… the few you saw might have been…”
“If there are Infected in there END THEM if not, leave the humans alone!” I all but dominated his emotions, forcing him to accept what I was sending. After a moment’s resistance I felt his will crumble.
“Of course Ren. I will do as you require.”
“Damn right you will.” I continued watching the dozen or so figures as they ran, waiting to see what was following. The last person to leave glanced in my direction and I froze. Its eyes were glowing a faint phosphorescent purple.
“Keep moving.” It said, “I’ll cover the retreat.” The thing was looking directly at me and somehow I knew it could see me as clearly as I could see it. The remaining survivors ran down the empty alley toward another building and the last one… the one with eyes like Hex… the one pulsing with a hint of Power finally broke eye contact with me and turned to follow.
Shit, I couldn’t just let it go… could I? “Wait.” I said, my flat, normal tone of voice hiding the tension I felt.
“You are there.” It said, spinning back to face me faster than any human could have. “Who are you? Why are you killing us?”
“I’m not killing them.” I said, gesturing to the retreating survivors, “And I can’t kill you.”
It raised its hands and cocked its head to one side, “Why?” The glow was slowly fading from its eyes.
“Because you’re already dead.” I said, keeping my rifle trained on its head. “Why are you following those people?”
“I was protecting them.” It said, still standing with hands raised.
“You don’t need to protect them from me.”
“Not from you. From them” It pointed over my shoulder.
A quick glance showed me a street filled with the dead. I hesitated, looking at the strange, seemingly intelligent Infected which was still standing with its hands up and then back at the shuffling forms of the mindless ones. They made my decision for me; the one in the lead raising its face toward me and sniffing loudly before breaking into an awkward run.
“Shit! Cor!” I all but shouted through our mindlink, swinging my Kalashnikov around and picking them off with precise bursts of lead. The Infected might be uncoordinated but they made up for it with speed, raw power and utter immunity to pain.
Cor failed to appear before they were so close that I let the rifle fall in its harness and whipped the machete from the nylon sheath at my side. I wove through the charging bodies, blade flickering as I removed heads in quick succession. The last of them almost got a hand on my arm, but I deftly twisted and hacked off the offending arm before following up with a brutal overhand strike that split the skull down to the collar bone.
A low whistle made me spin back to the building. I knew it was Cor by the admiration coming over the mindlink before I saw him in the doorway. He had his rifle in his hands and was scanning for any other enemies but his attention was really on me.
“Where the FUCK were you?” I demanded, “I call, you come. That’s how it works.”
“Well, I was trying to obey your first command. I was inside, protecting the survivors… there’s about fifty or so in there still.” He looked at the bodies strewn across the street, still radiating admiration, “I have to say, that was really amazing, but I have a question. Why didn’t you just … delete them all?”
“It’s not good to rely too much on your Gift I find.” I said shortly. “I’ve seen what happens when someone becomes dependent on it.”
“Did you get that group of them that fled when we broke into the building? Last I saw they were heading for this exit.” He said, giving the corpses a closer inspection. “They seemed… different you know? Like they knew we were coming or something. Like they were still able to reason.”
I shivered, “What? Those were Infected? Jesus… Cor, I actually talked to one of them.” I had known that the one I had spoken with had been … well he’d been like Hex. Hex was the one who started the whole plague infection in the first place, but I hadn’t even noticed that the others were dead too.
“Yeah, didn’t you see them? I mean sure, their clothes were in better shape and they didn’t seem to be rotting but there was no mistaking it… was there?” He gave me a quizzical look, “Wait, you talked to one of them?”
I nodded. “It said it was protecting the others from these.” I gestured with my machete and realized it was still covered in gore. I bent and carefully wiped it clean on the shirt of one of the corpses before sheathing it again.
“Damn.” He ran his fingers through his hair, “So… what now?”
I frowned and paused to light a cigarette, “I don’t know.” I let the smoke trail from my nostrils, trying to think. “I really don’t know.”