The doors in the hallway behind me burst open and armed men poured out, firing as they tried to box me in. I ran toward them, my speed to allowing me to run from the floor and along the wall. They tried to follow me with the barrels of their guns, but I was moving fast enough that I was among them before they could adjust their aim. By that point it was too late.
I tore them apart with brutal efficiency and leaped sideways into an open door, dragging the last of them with me with my teeth in his throat. I only just managed to get out of the hallway before the Hunter who blazed like the rising sun stepped into it. My only option was to use my Gift.
“I have your filthy little Bloodslave.” A dread voice echoed down the hallway, “I’ll let you talk to her again.”
“Ren, you have to run. Get out of he-“ Svenka’s voice echoed in my head for just a moment. It was all I could do not to run to her.
“This was a gift from a dear friend of yours. Call him Mec, The Machinist, or James… I called him Mentor. He gave us many tools and although my ability to use a Glamor is much less than his was, I can at least use it to interfere with your blood magic.”
I wasn’t about to run and we all knew it but I couldn’t just lash out blindly. Thankfully I had been killing plenty of humans and as a result wasn’t in the least bit hungry.
“Cor.” I tried to reach him through the Mindlink but it was dead again. Whatever this Hunter was doing to disrupt my power was disappointingly effective. A crackle of static nearby grabbed my attention. I plucked the radio from the body of the man I’d dragged into the room with me.
“Cor, if you can hear me come back.” I said, hoping the Hunter was too cocky to have his radio on, “I need you to get out of here and bring in the reinforcements. There’s a Hunter out there who somehow makes sunlight and can intercept the Mindlink. So watch your ass.”
“Copy.” He said, and the radio broke out with a flurry of commands from others listening in. I ignored them, I only had one thing to focus on. I reached out to Svenka over the visual portion of our Mindlink, completely disregarding the audio aspect. It was much shorter range and a lot more difficult but under the circumstances I knew she would be trying anything in her power to reach me.
A clouded version of the hallway overlay my vision without warning. I closed my eyes and saw a dozen human guards approaching the door to the room I was in. Directly in front of what I could see was a person shaped outline of pure light and as I looked down I could see her burned flesh and an arm circling around her neck. She looked to the left and I could see down the stairs.
She was being held behind by someone other than my horrid sunlight producing Hunter, and I knew exactly where she was. Soldiers ran into the room, sending hot lead my way as they came but it didn’t matter. My wings of light unfurled and I unleashed Destruction on any who dared oppose me.
First were the half dozen armor clad Hunters who ran into the room on supernaturally fast legs. I let my Gift claim them from the waist up, the aftereffects singing the ceiling above my head. Then I closed my eyes and allowed Svenka’s vision to guide me. The hallway outside groaned in protest as I annihilated the Hunter with sunlight skin, not allowing even the floor he stood on or the roof over his head to survive.
I rolled out of the room, pistol aiming towards where I knew my lover’s captor held her. He was still attempting to recover from the shock of the Hunter who had been standing in front of him vanishing in a flash of light. I put one round through each of his eyes.
Behind them a dozen men exited the stairway, weapons held at the ready. With a caress of Destruction I made them go away, the Power flaring outside of my control for just a moment and destroying the stairwell and half the wall behind it. Pain gripped me and I knew I was nearly exhausted but the thrill of victory ran through my veins. They had tried to kill me and the ones I loved and I had thwarted them.
“Baby.” Svenka’s voice was beautiful. “You came for me.”
“Of course.” I whispered, “I couldn’t stay away.”
“Are you hurt?” She asked, looking at me with concern on her face.
“No.” I smiled so hard my face hurt. “But you are.” I took her in my arms, horrified at the burns that covered her.
“I have never felt better my love.” She said.
“Take some strength from me.” I bit my wrist and allowed some of my vitae to drip into her eager, open mouth. “You will need it; we’re far from out of this.” The pain nearly undid me. The euphoria nearly overpowered me.
“Oh Renyovalia, I’ve missed you so.” She said, gently licking at the wound on my wrist. I watched in satisfaction as the burns on her body knitted together, the worst of the damage healing. It wasn’t perfect, but there were some distinct advantages to being an active Bloodslave. She needed to drink my vitae or she would go into terrible withdrawals after
“I love you Svenka, but right now I need the Mork Varg.”
She smiled a truly horrifying smile. “I was hoping you weren’t going to demand we leave because I didn’t want to start off by starting trouble.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, too relieved to be holding her in my arms to think about much else.
“I’m not leaving without them.” Her eyes narrowed although the smile remained and grew more fierce, “All of them.”
“How many are we talking about here?” I asked, frowning. I had no way of taking care of myself let alone a bunch of other people.
“Maybe two hundred.” She said, “I haven’t seen everyone all at once, but they took all the girls-”
“What?” That was enough to snap me out of my reverie, “Are you serious? What the FUCK am I gonna do with a few hundred girls? In this fucking wasteland? You’ve gotta be kidding me. I love you forever, but you’re crazy. Where would I put them? How would I feed them?”
“I have a plan baby.” She said, “You can trust me right? Let’s deal with these pieces of human waste first.”
At least on that we could agree, “I came here thinking I’d have to kill them all to get to you. Turns out I found you and now we get to do it together.” I kissed her and was lost for just a moment in the embrace. I heard a door scrape quietly open and fired Cor’s .45 without looking or breaking the kiss.
“Fucking hell.” Svenka said, looking up from my lips to survey my handiwork. A guard was slumping out of the doorway with a hole in his head, “I’ve missed you so much.”
“Ok, so lead me to these assholes.” I shot a second guard who was attempting to sneak back up the stairwell, catching him in the leg and then in the head as he fell, “I don’t have your knives, and the ones I brought with me are in a store room along with the rest of my clothes… I’m sorry.”
“Why did you get naked in a storage closet?” She asked, smiling at the thought and raising an eyebrow.
“Long story.” I said, watching her approach the hole I’d made in the floor and inspect it with curiosity.
“I’ll make do somehow.” She said, “You’ve already done away with most of them anyway. I think we can get to the proper floor through here.”
I came up to her side and looked down. Apparently I had let a touch more Power loose when I took the Hunter down than I had thought; it went down several floors. From below, I could see what appeared to be tendrils of smoke lazily making their way up. The whole building was suspiciously quiet.
“So, which floor do we need?” I asked, keeping my voice low. I hadn’t attempted to use the Mindlink because apparently our enemies could intercept our thoughts.
“We need to go up two floors.” She said, pointing. I grinned and picked her up. “Hey!” She protested with a smile on her face.
I crouched slightly at the edge of the hole and leaped upward at an angle, barely breaking momentum before pushing myself back the other direction to land lightly at the edge two floors higher than we had started. Setting Svenka down gently I spun, taking stock of the hallway we were in. It was still eerily quiet.
“So where to from here?” I asked, frowning.
“The door is right there.” She indicated an innocent looking door. Like all the others in the building it was made of steel and had a deadbolt. “Are you all right?”
“Never better.” I said, “Why?”
“Because this is going to be … difficult.” She folded her arms and I was startled to see tears glistening in her eyes, “There are a half dozen armed guards in there and I know they’ll start killing hostages as soon as we get in the door.”
“So we have to move quickly. That shouldn’t be a problem.” I said. “We might lose a few hostages but I’m sure I can keep most of them alive. Why is it so quiet though? That’s what is bothering me the most.” I focused on my hearing, straining to hear anything.
Svenka’s breathing was controlled but her heartbeat was elevated. There was nothing coming from behind the door. I could hear a mouse crawling through the duct work overhead, and the far off rumble of the generator but nothing else. There weren’t even footsteps of guards on lower floors. I relaxed my focus on hearing, very loud noises could stun me if I wasn’t careful.
“They have some kind of Archo-Scientific machine in there, you can’t hear anyone who is more than a few feet away from you.” She said, “It blocks the Mindlink too…”
“What the hell is really going on here?” I asked, “The group of Hunters I overheard earlier were saying this was a trap for me… like they expected me to come here. They sounded like they expected to defeat me easily too.”
The radio I had absently clipped to my belt crackled, “Renyovalia, do you copy?” It was Cor.
“I read you Cor, what’s up?” I said, moving slightly away from the door and trying to look everywhere at once.
“You need to get out fast. The Broken are converging on your location. Thousands of them. You might not even be able to blast your way out.” He said, “That’s not the worst of it either. They are being led there… the ones who seemed smarter and less uh, well, dead are actually leading them.”
“Shit!” I looked at Svenka, “You heard, there’s no possible way we’d be able to escape from here with a couple hundred women.”
Tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes, but she folded her arms resolutely. I knew that look; I’d seen it quite a few times. I was in trouble.
“Svenka, babe, it just isn’t possible.”
“They’re experimenting on them.” She said, “Trying different formulae on them to see what happens. I guess a lot of Mec’s work was poorly documented and these few surviving Hunters are trying to figure out how to make more of their kind.”
I set my jaw, “What good is it to save them from that only to turn them over to be eaten? The best I can offer right now is a quick death.”
“Don’t you dare.” She said, eyes flashing, “There are girls in there… girls and a few pregnant women, how can you even think that?”
“Fine, what’s your plan then?” I demanded, not breaking eye contact.
“First we kill the Hunters, then we hole up in here until the Broken go away.” She gestured at the door, “This place is pretty well fortified, I think we can hold out for awhile.”
I hesitated, on the one hand I really didn’t think I’d be able to persuade her to leave and the likelihood of us getting out was pretty slim if Cor was to be believed. On the other hand, I worried about the maybe dozen Hunters inside this room. Even one or two of them would be trouble if I couldn’t use my Gift.
“OK, here’s my compromise.” I said in a tone that let her know I was serious, “We try and kill the Hunters, but if I get in there and it looks too bad we bail. I’m willing to try, but I’m not going to get us killed for a bunch of people we don’t know.”
“I know them.” She said softly, “And if you leave, I’m staying.”
Well fuck. I took stock of my weapons. A single .45 with a half spent magazine and my hands. I could run back to the corpses of the dead to scavenge more, but by the time I got back I would have wasted more time than we had to spare.
“I’m not leaving you, so I guess that puts me in a tough spot.” I handed her the pistol and let my fingernails harden into claws again. It was a testament to how worried she was that she took the gun. She hated guns.
“I’m going in hard and fast.” I said, feeling the floor with my toes. “Once I get inside, I need you to keep as many of them off my back as possible while I attempt to destroy the machine.”
“Who cares about the machine?” She asked, “I just want to kill those fuckers.”
“If they’re using it to disrupt some of my Gift, I don’t want it to be around anymore.” I said, “Besides, if it can mess with one aspect, who’s to say it won’t influence other things too.”
I didn’t wait for her to say she was ready, I just ran at the door and slammed my foot into the deadbolt with all the force my body could muster. Although it was heavily reinforced, it didn’t stand a chance. My foot shattered the lock and the door slammed against the wall, leaning drunkenly on warped hinges. I ran inside, looking for the nearest target and skidded to a halt. The room was empty except for a man in a wheelchair, an operating table with a limp form strapped to it and a huge machine emitting a rhythmic humming sound.
A reinforced steel shutter slammed shut behind me and the figure on the table moaned and twitched slightly. I froze in disbelief. It was Svenka.
“It works so flawlessly!” The man in the wheelchair said, laughing with maniacal glee, “You never suspected, not even for a second that my doppelganger wasn’t your precious Bloodslave!”
I blinked, feeling as though I’d been sucker punched. How had I not even known? I couldn’t focus, all I could think of was how I’d seen Mec use his Glamor to make people believe horrible things. I’d seen men tearing at their own skin with their fingernails, certain that there were insects crawling in their flesh.
That machine had to be destroyed. I attempted to gather my Gift, but when I tried I found the well of my Power had gone dry. “What is…” I stumbled and fell against the wall.
“Drink deep my precious.” The man purred, touching the machine lovingly, “Take what is hers and give it to me.”