My body was weak and I was starving. I heard the rapid heartbeat and shuddering breathing of a panicking human next to me. I smelled the fear as it rolled off her in waves. Ignoring the screams of fear and the ineffectual blows from her fists and feet I dragged myself to her, unable to rise from my hands and knees. I bit and drank and her vitae was absorbed by my body as the land absorbs rain after a drought.
When I could process thought beyond hunger I took stock of my situation. I seemed to be in a small cell with a barred steel door, the dry corpse of a woman I thankfully didn’t recognize and nothing else. I was still wearing Cor’s flak jacket and the much abused pair of scrub pants. The room was completely dark and I didn’t hear the hum of the generator. I wasn’t sure if I was even still in the same building.
I reached for my Gift and found it to still be fractious, but otherwise unaffected. I stiffly walked toward the door, idly noting the scrapes on the floor and trails of blood along the edges next to the latch. It had been a very long time since I had been disturbed by the thing I had become, but seeing the bloody scratches and broken pieces of fingernails stuck in the metal door frame made my skin crawl.
Although I had killed many people before, the vast majority had brought ruin down upon themselves. This woman had sat for hours in the darkness next to something that she knew was a blood drinking demon from her nightmares. She had torn her fingers apart trying to open the door and died in agony. Had she screamed? I shuddered. I couldn’t remember.
“Are you calm now?” A vaguely familiar voice came through the steel of the door. I could also see other marks on the door. I put my fist into a dent and found that my knuckles fit perfectly.
“Yes.” I said, “But I won’t be for long. Who are you and where am I?”
The latch outside creaked and the door opened. The man standing on the other side was wearing nondescript civilian clothes, his faded jeans and threadbare t-shirt seeming strange and out of place in the dark hallway. His eyes glowed a faint purple though, and that fact seemed to fit the scene perfectly.
“You let us go before.” He rasped, his voice sounding like a file running over iron, “Now you led us to our best meal in … our best meal ever.”
“I’m sorry; you will have to excuse me for being a little out of sorts. I demand you bring me to the remaining survivors at once.” I said, “I need proper clothing, a decent weapon and… you wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette would you?”
He gave me a surprised look, “What?”
“One of my … friends was in the room where you found me. Strapped to an operating table? Burns on her torso? How the hell long have I been here? What’s going on out there?” I stepped out of the door my face intent, “Are we even still in the same building?”
“Uh, I don’t think that girl is still alive. She was burned almost beyond recognition… she’s probably still there.” He said, “We’re in the basement of the building in the holding cells where the rest of the humans were.”
I pushed past him at a run, “Where are the stairs? How many floors down are we? Damn it take me to her right NOW!”
“Wait, it’s daylight out there!” He shouted.
I paused with my hand on the door. “It can’t be daylight everywhere.”
“We… might have destroyed most of the building when we took it.” He said, “I’m sorry, but… there’s just no way one of your kind would still be alive out there.”
“She isn’t one of my kind.” I said, “If she’s out there still and there’s even a chance of her being alive I have to get to her.”
“Stay here.” He said, “I will have some of my followers go and get her, even if it’s her corpse I’ll have her brought to you.”
I looked at my hand still on the doorknob, and then back at him. “What’s your name?”
His eyes grew distant for a moment, “Donchivo.”
I cracked the door and flinched involuntarily at the sunlight that streamed in even though it wasn’t close to touching me. “Well Donchivo, is there a place other than the cell you locked me in last night where I can wait for you?”
“There’s some kind of research lab down the hallway.” Donchivo said, “I guess you could wait for us there. The rest of the complex is unstable or else exposed to the sun. As I said, we were not gentle to this place when we took it. We took the strength from those we devoured and turned it on the others.”
I narrowed my eyes, “If you have been even a little untruthful, I will destroy you. I’m a bit short on trust.” Hell, I really should kill him anyway, but I didn’t need to tell him that.
“What reason would I have to lie?” He asked, seeming truly offended.
“What reason would I have to trust you without question?” I shot back.
“The fact that you awoke in a room with blood and not in a sunbeam should be plenty.” He said.
“Prove you aren’t just playing some game and I might let you live.” I said, my anger flaring.
He shrugged, “I don’t care.”
“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” I ran my fingers through my hair, “I’m not in the goddamn mood for this shit! Give me a straight answer or I’ll fucking kill you now and to HELL with the consequences.”
“We’re going to die off.” He shrugged, “There are so few of the Hunters left, and our Fallen brothers and sisters … well all they can eat is humans, and humans aren’t enough. Human flesh will never be enough, not for us.”
“Oh.” What else could I say? I remembered Hex and how he had fed upon the Hunters we had met, tearing their beating hearts from their chest with his bare hands. Devouring them and stealing their powers for a short time in the process. I don’t know if it was that I wanted to believe him or that he really convinced me.
“I’ll go get your friend personally.” He said, “I’ll try and find some smokes for you too, and then we can discuss payment for my kindness.”
Donchivo walked out, and I was unable to follow into the sunlit world beyond. All I could do was wait.
It only took perhaps a quarter hour for my host to return, he carried a limp form in his arms and had a pair of other Broken behind him, one with a heavy army rucksack and one with a variety of firearms. He gingerly set the body in my lap and stepped back.
“Sorry.” He said, and offered me a fresh pack of cigarettes. When I ignored him he set them on a nearby table and left me to my inspection of Svenka.
She had no pulse and her body was stiffening from what I could only assume was rigor mortis. I forced myself to be calm and exerted my Gift slightly to ensure I was seeing what was really here. The chance that I was being fooled once again by a Glamor was fairly remote, but I didn’t want to risk it. I couldn’t afford to be fooled again and it would be nearly impossible for that trick to work if I focused my Power properly. It was her without a shadow of a doubt.
I bit my wrist as I had the night before to whoever the imposter had been and allowed a trickle of my blood to run into her mouth. There was no way to tell if she had truly died or if I might still be able to rouse her blood to my call but I had to try. She didn’t stir, and I felt something inside of me change. The part of me that still cared for others turned its face to the wall.
To my surprise and bemused relief, I realized that I did not feel as though I should end my existence because she was gone forever. Instead, I felt liberated as I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I was hungry for power and revenge. Far from wanting to enter Final Death, I discovered that I instead wanted to bend the world to my will more than I ever had in the past.
“Donchivo, how many of you are there?” I asked, snatching the pack of cigarettes off the table. I lit one and stalked away from the body on the floor, allowing any emotional attachment I might have felt at one point to stay there dead on the floor with it. “I have some things I’d like to accomplish. I believe I might have a use for you and your fallen people. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find some more Hunters for you to eat.”
“I have thirty survivors and perhaps a thousand Fallen.” He said, “We are always hungry, even right after we eat. Even as we eat.”
“You control them.” I said, blowing a cloud of smoke. “How?”
“They listen when we speak.” He said with a shrug. “Why do you ask?”
“How far away can you call them from?” I asked, opening the haversack and selecting a clean set of clothes from the variety of sizes inside.
“They all listen if we speak loud enough.” Said Donchivo, watching intently as I took off Cor’s torn jacket.
I ignored his scrutiny and pulled a shirt over my naked torso. “Then shout.” I said grimly. This struggle had gone on long enough. It was time to end it.
“It will likely take them some time to get here, perhaps as much as a day.” He closed his eyes, and then frowned. “There… don’t seem to be as many as there were.”
I shrugged, “Yeah.” I took off the shredded scrubs and tossed them on the floor, sorting through the clothes until I found a pair of cargo pants that looked like they’d fit and pulled them on.
“What’s your plan?” He asked, still staring at me as I found a pair of socks and boots.”
“We will lure the ones who need to die here and then I will destroy them.” I said, my expression hard.
“What of us?” He looked at me with dead eyes.
“Those of you who survive can do as you please.” I said, turning a baleful eye on him. “I will stop slaughtering you pathetic, weak, worthless pieces of shit and will let you leave.”
Donchivo stared at me for a moment, his eyes still flat and unemotional but his left eyebrow twitched with the effort of keeping himself still. “Why?”
“Because I just don’t give a shit anymore.” I said, “You can kill every Hunter in existence, your fallen kin can eat everything in sight or you can all burn.”
He stumbled backward, tripping over Svenka’s body and falling on his back. I realized I had been advancing on him, my fingernails extending into six inch razor sharp talons while my teeth had extended far enough that my jaw had unhinged to accommodate them. I stopped and composed myself with effort.
“Gather your brethren. I want them here by midnight.”