Post Mortem Chapter 16

“So… we’re supposed to be your attendants?” Ian asked me with trepidation in his voice.

“Yes.”  I said, “Now get me a cigarette.”

I had no idea what to do with these two idiots, but I was getting used to being waited on hand and foot, although it’d been a long time since I’d had the luxury..

“Go damn it!” I prodded him with the toe of my slipper.  I had insisted on having proper clothes and was now swathed head to toe in a luxurious silk robe that whispered against my skin like butterfly kisses.

In short order I had a cigarette, and sat smoking idly and trying to figure out what Vlad had in store for me.  Either he was going to sell me out, he planned on making me a marytr, or he was relying on me to somehow regain my Destruction and remove his biggest enemies.

I was hoping he didn’t think I was going to be able to anihilate the factions arrayed against him.  Even though I was getting used to this strange method of ‘seeing’ my regular powers hadn’t returned at all.  I sighed, trailing smoke out of my nose.

A feeling like the first thirst, only not quite as strong tickled at the back of my awareness and it was starting to get annoying.  I didn’t need blood, I needed something else.

“Hey, you morons don’t know anything about what Vald is planning do you?”  I asked, more for a distraction than anything else.

“What?  The professor…” Ian was still having trouble adjusting to reality, “I mean we didn’t even know there was anything going on at the university…”

“I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going on.” Phill said quietly, “I wish I didn’t know.”

“Oh relax, so the world’s full of monsters…” I laughed, “And you’re trapped in the room with one of them.”

“Uh.  Great.”  Ian said, but my moment of levity was gone and I was back to puzzling over my problem.

“Damn it, what’s he thinking anyway?  Why wouldn’t he fill me in on the plan beforehand?” I muttered, crossing my legs and kicking a slippered foot in irritation.

“Maybe he wants your surprise to be a part of it?  Like maybe it’d be more authentic if you were actually shocked by what happens?”  Ian suggested, “Otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense.”

“That’s not a bad idea actually.”  I admitted, “I mean your comment, not his stupidity.  What could he possibly be planning?”

“No idea, but my guess would be it’s not good.”  Ian said, “Not good for you anyway.”

I decided I was starting to like this boy.  “I appreciate your concern.”  I said with a wry grin, “But I’m probably going to be fucked one way or the other.  When a true blue bastard like Vladimir wants you to come to trouble, you tend to come to it no matter what.”

“Well shit.” Phil said, “Is… is there anything we can do?  I mean I’m not hero, but it seems like our lot is thrown in with yours and…”

I would have been touched if I didn’t know that he was just trying to save his own ass.  “Yeah… why don’t you go ask around and see what you can come up with?  Someone must know what the hell is going on.”

“I don’t know anyone here.”  He protested, “I haven’t seen even one single student and everyone seems so…” He trailed off.  I got the impression he was trying to choose his words.  “So unfriendly.”

“Yes, well, most of them are probably bloodsucking fiends like me.” I said, “So you’re probably being prudent.  But that’s not my problem, get out there and see what you can dredge up.”

“I don’t know…” Phil began

“Oh shut up man, we’ve been in and out of this place a hundred times.” Ian said, “There’s no reason someone would try and kill you now if they hadn’t before is there?”

Phil paused, making me wonder what was really passing between them.  Damn but I hated not being able to see expressions.  They were plotting something; I’d stake my … death on it.

“Yeah, fine.”  Phil said, “I’ll probably get killed but what do you care?”

“I’ll be honest.  I don’t give a shit about either of you… but you probably feel the same about me.”  I said, stubbing my cigarette out on a nearby table without bothering to find an ashtray.  “Other than the fact that you know I can eviscerate you in a heartbeat.  I’m probably doing you a favor by sending you away Phillip.  Aren’t I?”

“What?”  The tone of his voice told me I’d hit the mark.  “You’re cracked.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  I said, holding my hand out toward Ian.  He put another lit cigarette into it and I smiled.  I liked an attendent who could anticipate my needs.  “I’m fine with it anyway, you’re free to run away with your tail between your legs.  I wouldn’t mind if you gave me a touch of intel to work with, but you’re a liability if you don’t want to help so get the fuck out.”

The door slammed open and I looked over to see a bright flame moving through the door.  It was Vlad; I’d recognize the signature of his flame anywhere.  How strange that I’d grown this accustomed to seeing beings with this new sight.

“I trust you’re ready for battle Renyovalia?” He asked, and then paused, I assumed looking at my attire in disbelief.

“Battle?”  I asked, “BATTLE?  If you wanted me to be be ready to fight then why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

“What did you think was going to happen?  We are showing up uninvited to a Tribunal inquiry.  A full meeting at that.”  He chuckled, “Then again it won’t really matter.  Your weapons don’t care what you’re wearing do they?”

“I’ve told you.  My Gift is gone.”  I said, shaking my head at him, “If you wanted me to be able to do anything for you maybe you shouldn’t have broken my power.”

“Don’t sell yourself short.” Vlad said with a strange fanatic glee in his voice.  “Where is Gem?  What happened to Dog?”

“I don’t know.”  I hissed, losing my temper in truth now, “Why don’t you tell me?  In case you hadn’t noticed I’m blind, Powerless and it seems my body is coming apart at the seams from cuts that don’t seem to want to heal.”

“As I said, you’re far from Powerless, and as to the healing… if you do what I want, I will look to some of that.” Vlad said with some of the insane pitch bleeding from his voice to be replaced by a scholarly tone. “Rebecca has some interesting ideas about necrotic regeneration that I think you will appreciate.  But first you must prove your usefulness.”

I sighed in resignation.  Either this was only so much noise or else he really could help.  Either way it wouldn’t matter in a few hours, I’d be dead or they would be.  Maybe both.

Post Mortem Chapter 15

The harsh lights of the operating room would likely have been difficult to withstand, however I couldn’t see a damn thing.  I could only distantly feel the needle as it pierced my flesh and the drag of the thread as I was stitched closed was barely more than the stroke of a feather.  Even had I been able to feel the pain I doubt it would have registered; I was in a state of shock.

“What’s with her do you think?”  One of the nurses whispered, “We had orders not to use anesthetic and yet she’s not even flinching.”

“Quiet.  Vladimir told us not to speak.”  Another whispered back, “I don’t know what the fuck is going on and I don’t want to.  She’s not even bleeding.”

“Why are we doing this anyway?  I’m pretty sure she’s not breathing either.”

“Shut up.” I said, shaking off my stupor. “I don’t want to hear any shit from you goddamn mortals.”  I could barely see their tiny candle flame souls burning; they didn’t interest me in the slightest.

“Leave us!” A sharp female voice cut across the room and I heard footsteps retreating.  “Listen to me bitch, I don’t give a shit about who you are but the Boss wants you stitched up and kept quiet.”

I looked around the room and saw a small campfire burning beside me.  I was feeling tired, irritable and hungry.  “Who the hell are you?” I demanded.

“You don’t need to worry about who I am.” She said, moving close enough that I could feel her breath on my face.  “You need to worr-aaaaaa!”

I sprang up toward her neck with bared teeth and was snapped back by the restraints on my wrists I hadn’t noticed before.  My nerves had apparently deadened to the point that I couldn’t even feel shackles against my skin.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” She exclaimed in surprise.

“Not even close.”  I said, straining against the handcuffs.  The chains hummed in protest and the cuffs dug into my wrists but they stayed intact.  “But give me half a chance and I’ll be your own personal Devil.”

“Well, you won’t be so tough in a second.”  She said, sounding much more reserved now.  I heard a click and a low electric hum.

The chains on my wrists dragged me back down link by inexorable link until I was pinned to the cold steel of the table.  Similar shackles on my ankles also tightened, leaving me in a spread eagle position barely even able to move my hips.

“That’s so much better, don’t you think?”  Her calm and smooth voice was infurirating.

“Fuck off.”  I growled and tried to thrash away when a thick leather strap was placed over my forehead.

“Oh we can’t have that.  The Boss wants you to be nice and safe until he needs you.”  After the strap was tightened, more were fastened over my chest, hips and knees.  To my horror, I felt a needle pierce the skin of my face right next to my mouth.

“Don’t struggle now or you’ll tear the thread.  It’s made of Kevlar and quite strong in spite of being exceedingly thin.  It would be such a shame to slash your lips to ribbons, especially since you can’t really heal anymore.”

I went absolutely still.  Struggling was useless without the strength of my Gift anyway.  I couldn’t imagine a more humiliating way of being treated.  The rents in my flesh were efficiently stitched up after my mouth was sewn shut and then the table I was on slid forward on smooth bearings to click into place.

This was a morgue shelf.  I was being stored like a lifeless corpse.

An indeterminable amount of time passed, hours blurring into days.  I distantly heard people moving outside my prison and wondered absently what they were doing.  Vlad had called this the ‘lab’ so likely he was performing some kind of experiments but I was just too tired to care anymore.

“Not that one.” A voice said as my drawer was partially pulled out.  “Rebecca said that one’s supposed to stay in storage.”

“Oh fuck Rebecca.”  An annoyed voice responded, “I don’t see her around here and if she’s hiding some secret I want to check it out.  If the Professor didn’t authorize this little pet project I’ll see her expelled for it.”

“OK, but just a quick look Ian.”  The first one said, obviously nervous.

“Hell with that, I’m getting a sample.”  Ian said and the drawer slid all the way out.  Ian let out a low whistle.  “Get a load of this shit.”

“Where do they dig this shit up?  Is her mouth stitched closed?”

“Yeah, and look at these wounds man.  Why bother to sew up the stab wound on the eyeball… and it looks like the body was already dead when these wounds were inflicted.  Look at how the dermis is peeled back from the flesh here; there’s very clear necrosis.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“I’d bet there’s something in the mouth.  You know, like some burial ritual.  She always goes in for that kind of shit as though those ancient rites really have the power to bring something back from the dead.”  Ian said, “Look, if you’re losing your nerve Phil…”

“No, it’s fine.”  Phil said annoyed, “You aren’t the only one who wants to see Bec taken down a notch or six.  Just because these cadavers were donated doesn’t mean the donors or the staff are OK with them being used for her weird shit.”

I felt the snip of scissors cut the Kevlar threads holding my mouth closed.  The men were breathing quickly and unsteadily; their hearts racing.  One tried to pry my mouth open, but I kept it closed.

“Damn Ian, hand me something to pry these teeth apart.” Phil said, “This is just weird.”

“Untie me.” I said, making my voice deliberately low and gruff.

“Holy fuck!” I heard them stumble backward to the accompaniment of a variety of glass and steel implements crashing to the floor.

“Untie me or I will suck the marrow from your bones when I free myself.”  I rasped, “It is only a matter of time before I break free on my own Phillip.  When I do you and your accomplice Ian will either be very high on my list of people to kill or will share an equally exalted position on my list of people to thank.”

“Goddamn.  She really did it.”  Ian whispered, “She brought one back.”

“Rebecca is currently on my bad side.”  I said, turning the eye that wasn’t stitched shut to stare at him.  “Release me or you will join her there.”

It was Phil who approached and unbuckled the strap around my forehead.  He touched my face, “You were so beautiful once.  Who were you?”

“Am I so distasteful now?” I asked, “Well I suppose I am.  No matter.”  My lover was dead.

The mechanical hum announced the release of tension on my restraints and then there was a problem.  “Hey… where’s the keys to these cuffs?”

“I don’t know, but it hardly matters.  Surely you’ve got acid or something here.”  I said, “Don’t make me wait.  I am not a patient person.”  I sensed some hesitation from them, “Or a person really.”

“Uh, I don’t know…”

“Get a fucking hacksaw or a file or ANYTHING, because I swear if I have to break free from these metal bracelets myself you will both be in for a WORLD of pain.”  I said, baring my teeth.

“Oh shit.” Said Ian.

“Ohhhh… fucking hell.” Said Phil at the same time.

I licked my lips and felt the razor sharp points that all of my teeth had grown into.  It was strange that my being a moving corpse didn’t truly frighten them until they saw my teeth.  I guess knowing that I wasn’t a human creation, made the difference.

“Yes.”  I said, keeping my voice calm and quiet. “Those are appropriate reactions.  Another appropriate reaction would be doing as I request.”

“She… Rebecca didn’t make you did she?”

“Very astute Ian.”  I said, “I have been alive for over a hundred years, feeding off the blood of your kind.  If you don’t want to be part of that statistic I suggest you do as I say.”

“Shit Ian, if she was trapped by Becks do you think she poses any challenge to us?” Phil said, “We’re gonna be rich once we-”

“She did not trap me you stupid mortal!” Power coursed through me in a random burst and I raised my right wrist to my mouth and bit through the chain with a snap of my jaws.  “Just because I ask you do accomplish something does not mean I cannot do it myself.”

A hacksaw began rasping against one of my leg shackles.  It took a lot longer than I had thought to cut through the metal that circled my ankle than I thought it would, giving me ample time to puzzle over exactly why I had regained a touch of my Gift?  Or A gift anyway.  That strength of jaw and teeth hadn’t been mine.

My shackles were gone and I stretched my stiff limbs.  Just how long had I been stuck in that gods forsaken drawer?  “Find me some clothes.” I ordered, it was difficult to be commanding or intimidating while naked.

“I don’t have any… uh you can have my lab coat.” Ian offered.

I held out my arm, “Better than nothing.  Then you can take me to whatever you call your home.”

“Uh… you want to go to the dorm?” Ian asked, sounding genuinely confused.

“I want to go somewhere that is not.”  I paused and looked directly at him.  His intake of breath led me to believe that my gaze was perhaps not the least distressing thing in the world.  “A fucking morgue.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, sure.”  He said, sounding frightened to within an inch of his life.

“I will not tolerate these conditions.” I used my haughtiest tone, “Bring me to your home.  I tire of this.”  If one of Vlad’s flunkies came down here I’d be back where I started, only worse.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get you out of here without being discovered.” Phil said, “You don’t know what you look like, but it’s pretty bad.”

Here is where I lost my temper.  “I don’t give a FLYING FUCK about your tender feelings you piece of human filth!”  I shouted, “You will do as I say or I will EAT you!”

“Temper temper Renyovalia.” Vlad’s urbane voice cut through my anger and I felt fear creeping around my carefully constructed walls of indifference.

“Vlad.” I said, my voice dripping venom.  “How wonderful to meet you here.”

“Professor?” Phil said, his voice trembling.

“Oh Renyovalia, you have convinced these cute little puppies to do your bidding?  How adorable.”

“If I thought it would do me any good I would flay the flesh from your bones and drink your bitter marrow.” I said, looking around the room in an attempt to find him. He was nowhere to be found.


“He isn’t actually here.”  I said, interrupting Ian.  “But he’s close.  If you don’t want to die you’d better get me out of here as fast as you can.”

“I am closer than you think little rabbit.” Vladimir said, stepping out of a shadow next to me.

I wanted to scream, to run, to do anything but face a demon from my past without anything I could use to defeat him.  It took all my self-control to turn and face him without flinching.

“Oh Vladimir.  There you are.”  I said, smiling a toothy, hungry smile.  “I think I’m quite done being stored like some common corpse don’t you?  If you want my help I demand you give me clothes, a decent meal and start to treat me with a little more respect.”

“I am glad to see that you have recovered some of your fire Renyovalia.  You are going to need it tomorrow night.”  He purred.

“Why, are we going on a date?”  I asked flippantly.

“Yes.  We’re going to a Tribunal formal inquiry hearing.”  He said.

“I thought you didn’t give a shit about the Tribunal and their summons.”  I said, “What changed?”

“Oh, it is not MY formal inquiry meeting.”  He said with a dangerous laugh, “We are going to be uninvited guests.  I do hope that you can properly … prepare yourself by then.”

The After-Death Chapter 1

So I thought I’d put the first chapter of The After-Death up here for throwback Thursday… I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1: Awakening

­­I forced my gritty eyelids open, expecting to see the glare of the early morning sun shining through that single crack in the curtains that I can never quite block out and was slightly surprised to find total darkness instead.  A feeling of foreboding crept over me as flashes of nightmares about being buried alive leapt to the front of my mind.

The surface I was on was hard and cold and I failed to choke down panic when extending my arms met a similar surface and trying to sit up earned me a sharp crack to the skull.  The pain brought the rational part of my brain back online and I began to explore my tiny prison.  A chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the metal box ran down my spine… I was not able to force my chest to draw a breath.  Kicking hard with my feet slid me down against the wall which gave way slightly.

My vision was assaulted with a brilliant white light that shone through the opening, another pair of hard kicks and the shelf in the morgue where my body lay slid out fully into the harsh metal halide lighting of the room.  What happened last night?  If my body really is dead then why do I burn with the desire for vengeance, and vengeance against whom?  Looking at the stitches crisscrossing my body, and the unwholesome pallor of my skin, I decided that my primary course of action must be covering myself.  Then I would find answers if there were any to be found.

There is something decidedly disturbing about taking clothing off a dead body; even when you yourself are dead.  I cast about the room for anything else that I could possibly do, however the only other option was to cut holes in a body bag which would have drawn at least as much attention as my pale scarred flesh.  The young man whose clothes I was stealing didn’t complain despite the fact that I had to dislocate his shoulders to get his Led Zeppelin t-shirt off without tearing it apart.  It shocked me how easily I was able to do it; perhaps he had some sort of muscle weakness or joint problems.  My fingers and wrists felt stiff either from rigor mortis or maybe just from laying inside the cold steel embrace of the morgue drawer.

I had never been in a morgue before, the stark cleanliness of the stainless steel drawers and white tiled floors, walls and tables suggested either a new facility or else a very fastidious caretaker.  I decided on the latter as I surveyed the neat tidy rows of scalpels, saws, needles and even a tape recorder set out at precise distances from one another on a nearby shelf.  I felt a sudden uncomfortable pressure inside my head as though I was in an airplane making a rapid descent, as though there was a bubble behind my nose, eyes and ears pressing against them.

The pressure kept increasing at an alarming rate; I attempted to force air into my estuation tubes only to find that drawing a breath was a physical impossibility.  Afraid that my eyes would be forced from their sockets, I grabbed a steel probe from the table top and plunged it into my ear.  A burst of air and fluid shot out with enough force to leave a trail of phosphorescent vitriol from the edge of the counter to my shoulder its glow barely visible in the brightly lit room.  Before I had the chance to study the strange glowing purplish green substance I suddenly became aware of voices and the sound of footsteps so close I was astound that I hadn’t heard them before.

“-omething in the water or maybe an infection or some airborne agent.  I can’t wait for the next episode, seriously I was so pissed off when it was over.”

“Yeah and Fox will probably cancel it just like they have every other decent show.  I wonder what they have against making money.”

A sudden burst of adrenaline startled me, I drew a ragged breath and my heart suddenly thundered in my chest.  A pair of middle aged men dressed in white clothes walked into the room.  “What the hell are you doing in here?  This is a restricted area; you aren’t supposed to be here.  Are you one of those weirdoes who gets off on touching dead people?”  I backed up against the counter and grabbed the first thing my hand touched; the microcassette recorder.

“Gentlemen, I’m with the World News Daily paper and I’m looking to dig up a story on just such a subject, can either of you comment?”  I was shooting from the hip, desperate to distract them long enough to get out the door.  I held the small tape recorder in my hand out in front of my body like it was a weapon “I’ve heard there were some instances of necrophilia in this morgue, I promise I won’t mention your names.”

“My wife reads that shit God only knows why… get the fuck out before we throw you out.  We could lose our jobs just by you being in here!”

Needing no encouragement, I walked out of the room as fast as I could without, hopefully appearing any stranger of a spectacle than I imagined myself being.  I would ponder the sudden flush of life that was rapidly fading from my system later when I felt safe.

I broke into a run the moment I was out of view of the morgue attendants. I had to get out of this place and fast. There was too much I didn’t understand, I needed some time to figure it all out or at least get a handle on my body. What was with me suddenly starting to breathe and my heart beginning to beat again? Why did it stop? I stepped through a door and found myself in a busy hospital emergency room. It was easy to avoid notice in all the commotion despite the fact that my lungs no longer functioned and heart had ceased to beat once again. Once outside I ran blindly, taking advantage of not needing to breathe until I reached a park that seemed more or less deserted. As I slowed to a walk an old man approached me

“Spare some change youngster?” I dug in my pockets, surprised to find a couple dollars which I proffered to him. “I’ll take whatever you have in your wallet too.” he said lifting his other hand to show a knife with a wicked looking edge. In light of all that had happened I tried to laugh, all that came out was low groan. Suddenly fear blossomed on his face and he backed away slowly “Just a joke, you understand just a joke! Here take it back, I don’t need it!”

He dropped the money I had given him and the knife, took a few stumbling backward steps then turned and sprinted away. I sat down with my back to a large tree. The look in the old man’s eyes had been one of fear growing into stark terror. What was I becoming and what did he see that frightened him so much? The answer became clear to me as the sun began to set. I could see every vein illuminated from within by a faint glow, mapping out my now defunct cardiovascular system in a beautiful but disturbing trail of interlacing lines. My eyes were bright enough to shine a faint light wherever I looked, and everything I looked at seemed outlined in fairy fire, some green, some blue, some red. I put my hands over my face in disbelief almost dropping the forgotten cassette recorder. Of course, why didn’t I think of it earlier? With a morbid curiosity I re-wound the tape to listen to the coroner perform my autopsy.

“The time is currently 1900 hours 25 minutes, the subject is a John Doe who was found alongside the road apparently the victim of a shooting.  The subject is wearing leather protective clothing and a motorcycle helmet, he was found a few yards away from a motorcycle, there is a hole approximately 3 centimeters in width in the front of the jacket, no exit wound is visible.  This will be an attempt to exhume the projectile and ascertain the cause of death.”

I hit the stop button on the player as memories came flooding back.  It had been late, I was on my way home after a long day of work and despite the fact that the sun had gone down and it was far past rush hour I could see a long line of cars stretching out ahead of me in a traffic jam.  At the last minute I decided to take an exit, driving on the shoulder for a short while and then roaring up the ramp, smiling to myself at the disapproving looks from the officers directing traffic.  I knew these back roads well and although they took longer than the freeway it would be a pleasant ride with only a few places where I would have to stop.  The long swooping corners were the perfect stress relief; my dark mood from having to work late was lifting as I pushed my big cruiser to her limit.

Suddenly I saw lights in my mirrors, they were approaching at a speed that I considered borderline suicidal on this narrow winding road.  Looking for a safe place to pull off and finding none, I increased my speed.  I knew there was an overlook just on the other side of a small hill and was sure I would have plenty of time to reach it.

Topping the rise and turning on my signal I suddenly heard the high pitched scream of a sport bike exhaust.  The rider behind me blew by so close the wind nearly unbalanced me, his high intensity headlights illuminating vehicle that resembled a smaller Humvee parked in the overlook parking lot.  It was painted flat black except for a white reflective plate that I could clearly see marked “MUETF” I felt a sudden impact to my chest and my last memory is the motorcycle moving away from me in slow motion, my hands unable to keep a grip on the bars.  The illumination of a lonely street light behind me showed my bike loosing balance, tipping on the right side and knocking over a set of road cones on its way over an embankment.

“After cutting away the outer clothing I am making a vertical incision centered on the entrance wound.  It is a precision shot, appearing to enter the exact center of the sternum.  There is very little blood which is odd for a wound of this size.  Something else that is strange; as I was removing the clothing I note that none of the bones appear to be fractured despite the estimated speed of impact being in excess of 40 miles per hour.

“Other than being dead, this is a very lucky man.  Heh.  I am now peeling away the layers of skin and flesh, the hole in the sternum is clean without any splintering; I have never seen a bone puncture that is this perfect, almost as though a high speed drill was used instead of a projectile.   Probing inside I cannot feel the bullet, I am going to spread the chest in order to investigate further.“

Here the recording was interjected with a high pitched whirring.  I fingered the raggedly stitched vertical incision over my breast bone through my shirt and shuddered involuntarily.  The sun was now truly below the horizon, and the soft phosphorescence emanating from whatever lay in my veins was much too conspicuous for my liking.  I decided to try and make it home regardless of whoever or whatever might be waiting for me there; at least I could stay long enough to get some clothes that fit and covered my arms and hands.  And maybe a pair of dark sunglasses.  I could listen to the rest of the tape there.

Post Mortem Chapter 14

The pain of my many injuries faded slowly away.  It wasn’t the same as the regeneration that my Gift had given me, but it was a damn sight better than nothing.  I could care less about the reality of being injured as long as it didn’t hurt.

I was still blind, but I could see after a fashion.  It was as though I was looking through frosted glass or a waterfall at small fires.  Two before me were dying embers and one very close to me was a roaring bonfire.  A sound like shattering glass interrupted the relative silence of the room and Rakk’s voice thundered in my ears.

“-will rip the flesh from your bones!”  He was shouting.  Ah.  Gem’s barrier must have failed.  Did I kill her?  I’d barely scratched her…

“Oh, by all means.”  I said, my voice echoed with power that I hadn’t ever experienced before.  “Flay me.”

“What did you do to them?”  Rakk sounded astonished, his tirade abruptly stopped.

“The same thing I will do to you.” I bluffed, since I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

A group of small flames and some larger blazes were approaching quickly.  “You’d better hurry if you don’t want to be here when Vlad’s goons get here.” I said

Those fires seemed to be associated with … strength or power, and I was pretty sure that our little exchange earlier had set off some kind of alarm.  These things running our way must be people, I had little doubt of that.

“I will kill you.”  He said, “You will die by my hand.”  Then the flame of his Power vanished down the hallway.

The flickering flames came around a corner that I couldn’t see and shortly a quavering voice asked, “What the hell happened here?”

“Not sure.”  I said, “I heard some sounds of struggle and felt my way over here but I can’t see what happened.  Can you tell me what is here?”  I felt around with my hands as if reaching out for the speaker.  I could see his flame.  It wasn’t worth my trouble.

“There are … things that might have been bodies on the floor.”

A group of small flames and some larger blazes were approaching quickly.  “You’d better hurry if you don’t want to be here when Vlad’s goons get here.”  I said.

Those fires seemed to be associated with … strength or power, and I was pretty sure that our little exchange had set off some kind of alarm.  These things running toward me must be people.  My suspicions were confirmed when shouts of anger preceded the arrival of a pack of idiots.

“What the hell?”

“On the floor!”

“Hands behind your head!”

“No sudden moves!”

The cacophony was deafening.  I managed to summon a trembling lower lip and a quivering voice, “I don’t know what’s happening!” I wailed, “Where’s Vladimir?”

“What the fuck?  I thought this chick was supposed to be some kind of badass.”  A gruff male voice said, “Why don’t she have any clothes on?  The hell’s going on here?”

“Dunno Sanzo, but I wouldn’t mind finding out.”  Another voice said, and a hand ran down my back and cupped my ass.  I managed not to elbow anyone in the face, but I’m sure my face reflected my revulsion.  A chorus of crude laughter followed.

“You moron, get your hands off the girl, what’s wrong with you?”  Sanzo said angrily, “The boss said she’s off limits and only a complete idiot crosses the boss.”

The others stopped their chuckling and shuffled uneasily.  The hand hastily withdrew and I stepped closer to Sanzo.  His voice was the loudest and he seemed to be in charge… and he burned like a campfire instead of a candle.  The snack I’d had when I bit Gem had served to whet my appetite, and he smelled like dessert.

I reached for him, grabbing him easily in spite of the fact that he was stepping backward quickly, trying to avoid my touch.  “Oh please, what’s happening?”  I said, “Please tell me, it’s so terrible being here alone and blind with all these horrible sounds all around me.”

“Well.  I’ll give ya the horrible part.” Sanzo said, making a halfhearted attempt to fend me off.  “Whatever killed these two melted them into piles of sludge.  Just who were they anyway?”

“I don’t know.”  I said breathily, “How can I ever thank you for rescuing me?”  I pressed myself against him, suppressing a shiver of disgust at touching a man.  Damn, I thought I’d ditched those feelings.  My words set off a rumble of amusement through the assembled goons.

“What precisely the fuck is going on here?”  An urbane voice cut through the voices of the men.  “You aren’t trusting this devious cunt are you?”

Sanzo shoved me away, “Of course not boss.  She’s freaking out and I’m not far from it myself.  Look at this shit.  It’s like they melted or something.”

Vladimir was a cloud of blackness amid the bright fires of the others.  That was strange; what was wrong with him?

“Yes.  How odd.”  Vlad didn’t sound overly concerned, “Who were they?”

“We don’t know boss, that’s what I was trying to figure out when this girl started-”

“I don’t care.”  Vlad interrupted, grabbing my wrist.  “You’re coming with me.  Right now.  The rest of you clean up this shit and repair that door.”

He pulled me along and I slipped over whatever was on the floor as we left.  Things that didn’t have any power or life were still invisible to me and my Gift was still conspicuously absent.  I looked directly at Sanzo as we left and gave him a vulpine smile.  He took a step backward from me and my grin grew even more predatory.

I made sure to wipe my face clear of any gleeful or confident expression before turning to look in Vladimir’s direction.  “What is going on?”  I demanded, “You have no idea what it’s like to be blind like this.”

“The others did not notice in the heat of the moment my dear Renyovalia, however the blood on your lips did not escape my notice.  You’ve been quite naughty haven’t you?”  His grip was painful on my arm, but I found that I was able to tolerate it.

Whatever had been done to me was gradually being influenced by what I’d eaten and likely by the strange ability my body still had to preserve itself in spite of being dead.  I wasn’t about to let Vlad know about it though.

“You’re hurting me.” I said, sounding defiant but weak even to my own ears.  I was a little too good at this subservient thing for my own taste.

“Good!”  He shoved me forward and I stumbled with my hands out in front of myself.  I was less worried about actually getting hurt than I was about looking foolish.  Of course I needed to worry about injuries now that healing was an uncertain thing.  I had to find out how things worked before it was too late.

Vlad had reined in his temper and was once more casual and calm.  “Now it is time for you to tell me what happened.”

“It was Rakk, Gem and Dog.  They found me and decided to torture me for some reason”  I said, not seeing any real reason to lie. “Can I have some clothes?”

“Why were they torturing you I wonder.”  Said Vald, “Some people are good at holding grudges I suppose.”

“Well I did kill quite a few of their friends before the Reapers-”

“Why aren’t you injured then?”  He said, moving toward me in a sudden burst of speed.  I only barely managed to keep from flinching away.

“Gem was healing me somehow.  She splattered her blood on my face and then touched me… she said it was a secret she had been keeping.”  I said, “Please can I have some clothes?”

“No, you will remain nude.  It’s the easiest way for me to ensure that everyone who sees you knows precisely who you are.”  He said with a chuckle at his own cleverness.

I started feeling around for a chair, but he grabbed my bruised wrist again, “We aren’t done yet Renyovalia.  What happened to them?”

“Why don’t you tell me?” I retorted, “I’m blind, remember?  I don’t even know what country I’m in, much less state, city or building.  Shit, the only way I knew them is because of their voices.  Dog started to gurgle like he was drowning, Gem started stabbing me and then Rakk ran away and your goon squad showed up.”

He was silent for a few long moments, but then let me go.  I fumbled for a wall and found a chair.  There were small flickers that faintly outlined inanimate objects; I assumed they must be the life force of far away things that were only barely visible to me.

“Damn.” He muttered, pacing the floor as though he’d forgotten I was there.  “I will have to take steps to keep the other disruptive elements don’t come into contact with her before I’m finished.”

I realized that he didn’t think I could hear him at all… and that meant my hearing was becoming even sharper than it had been when I had full control of my Gift.  He continued muttering and I kept listening.

“That room isn’t secure enough.  I’ll bring her to the lab.  Nobody goes there anymore and there’s nothing she can get into as handicapped as she is.”  Vlad paused in his pacing and I assumed, by the outline of his body turned to look at me.

“OK my darling, I am going to bring you to a place where you can’t get into any more trouble.”  He said.

“Do you mean where nobody will find me?”  I said trying not to sound as annoyed as I felt.  “It’s not my fault people want to kill me.”

“Yes… well… not entirely your fault.”  He said, amused.  “I’ll get someone to stitch you up down in the operating room.”

“Stitch me up?” I said, truly puzzled.

“Can’t you feel it?”  He asked, “I thought you would be in agony, although it seems this amount of damage has overcome what your brain can still process.  Honestly, I doubt it will do much good since you can’t really heal but at least you won’t be falling apart… and there’s nothing we can do about the eye.

I touched my leg where Dog had bitten me and still felt the jagged lacerations.  My trembling fingers found the wound in my abdomen and the ruin that had been my eye.  “Oh no.” I whispered, feeling truly terrified, “What did you do to me?”  All I could remember was Hex and how the wounds he had sustained before he had re-awakened stubbornly refused to heal.

“I?”  He said genially, “I merely found you and brought you here.”

It took all I had to not scream myself hoarse.

Post Mortem Chapter 13

I paced the room, my right hand on the wall so I could get some idea of where I was.  My left arm I held cradled close to my chest; Vladimir had left after burning me and true to his prediction I was not healing.  It hurt like hell.

The room seemed to be twenty feet or so square and other than the bed and nightstand had no furniture.  I had sadly broken the bed, it seemed as though the frame had shattered down the middle under the impact of my speed.  Although I felt the outline of a door, there was no handle that I could feel.  I was stuck here, at least for the time being.

I didn’t know what was really going on, but knowing Vlad he had some insane scheme or another.  Most likely the idea was to use her as a puppet to overthrow The Tribunal and then kill her off and assume command.  That seemed simple enough, but without knowing the politics and background of the situation she might as well be … blind.  How fitting.

Sighing in resignation, I sat on the broken bed and lit a cigarette.  What a fucking pain in the ass.  I didn’t even have a way to kill myself.  A sound reached my ears.  It was faint, but it sounded like an argument.  I focused my hearing and the voices became more distinct.

“-seems to think she’s well in hand, but I don’t know.  This is the Angel of Destruction we’re talking about.” A female voice said.

“Well, as to that… if she were going to destroy everything don’t you think she’d have done it already?  There must me something to that serum he claims to have developed.” This was obviously a male voice.

“I suppose you’re right.  Still… I have a hard time trusting Vladimir.  He’s …”


“Yeah.  Unreliable.”

The two moved off and I lost track of their conversation but at least I knew that not everyone agreed with my captor.  That was some consolation, even if I was trapped, blind and powerless in a room without a door I could open at least I had one or two people who might think Vlad was… unreliable.

Well fuck.  At least I had something to go on.  I focused, but everything was silent.

Why did my Gift work to allow me to hear and move quickly but not to heal or to Destroy?  What had he done to me?

I stayed seated, taking advantage of not needing to breathe, allowing myself to be perfectly still.  Now I could hear soft footsteps on the carpet in the hallway outside.  There were three of them.

“You sure she’s in there?”

“Yeah, and she’s helpless too.”

“I owe her for the last time we met.”  I recognized that voice, “Cairo, 1948.  She killed the target I was supposed to be protecting and I didn’t even find out until the next morning.  As a result the bombing only killed a couple dozen when it should have killed hundreds.”

Shit.  These were members of The Reapers who I’d messed with before they had recruited me to join their ranks.  I couldn’t remember their names, but that didn’t matter.  They were here to kill me and I was nearly helpless.

I reached out and tried to access any dregs of my Gift, more out of habit than anything else.  To my surprise, I found I could still feel Cor through the Mindlink.  When I attempted to touch him, I felt something radiating from him like heat from a stove.  I pushed it away and focused on the problem at hand.

Rakk was an ancient being, I was surprised he had survived for this many centuries simply by being a brutal, efficient killer.  I supposed he managed to kill his enemies at a rate that equalled how rapidly he created them.  Gem was relatively new, she had only joined The Reapers a year or two before I was recruited.  She earned her name not only because of her power, but also due to her obsession with precious stones.

I wasn’t sure about the third, but I guessed it was most likely Gem’s shadow, a Korean man who she had managed to give the Final Kiss but still maintain an iron clad amount of control over.  Most of us know how to give simple commands to our ‘children’ but Dog did whatever she said without question or hesitation.  This was not going to be easy.

What should I do?  I knew the answer.  I stifled a chuckle and moved next to the wall near where I could feel the nearly invisible door opening.  What I should do was kill all three of them when they assumed I was helpless.  There was a marked difference between ‘helpless’ and ‘nearly helpless’ and this was something these pieces of shit were about to find out.

The door opened with a whisper of technology.  I would have appreciated the machinery under normal circumstances, but now I was focusing on the footsteps and the sound of their breathing.  Wait… why were they breathing?  Either they had lost the control needed to shut their lungs off or they were arrogant enough to believe I wouldn’t hear them.  Judging by my past experience with them… it was probably both.

I swung my right arm in a blurring arc that moved from waist to neck height.  I couldn’t see

them, but I damn well knew they were there somewhere.  I connected solidly with one of them, and felt the crunch of bone as my forearm slammed into something softer than it was.  Now I was thankful for all the training and conditioning Svenka had insisted I keep up with.

“I ain’t always gonna be there to watch your back baby and that Power is gonna fail you one day.  You can make your body something that you can always count on though, and I can help.”

The instant I made contact, I spun low, whipping my leg in a powerful sweep that knocked my target off his feet.  My intention was to jump on whomever this was and bite them, but I was out of time time.  The only advantage I’d had was surprise, and that was long gone, now the fact that they could see and I could not made my defeat all too easy.  Well, that and the fact they still had their Gifts.

I slammed into something impenetrably solid; that would be Gem.  A deep canine growl of anger rumbled and a jaw filled with horrendous teeth closed around my leg announcing that Dog had been the recipient of my first attack.  Something slithered around my waist and brutally strong, abnormally jointed fingers gripped my throat.

“So the parasite’s parasite survived.”  Rakk’s breath smelled of death.  Not the stink of decay though, the scent of old death; long rotted flesh, cast off snake skin and dried bones.  “Well, I will have to fix that little inconsistency.”

The growling increased in volume and Gem snapped her fingers.  The teeth released slightly.  “Dog has a point.  I thought we were just going to hurt her.  Since she cannot heal.”  Gem spoke in a precise accent that I couldn’t place.

“You really hold a grudge.”  I managed to croak before Rakk’s fingers completely cut off my airflow.  I’d forgotten how much it hurt to be injured.  A crunch told me that he’d crushed my windpipe completely.

“Of course we do, but it’s not just that we have hated you for years.  You killed him and he was going to make us Gods again.”  Rakk hissed, “But you ruined everything with your stupid -”

“That is enough.” Gem interrupted, “You are telling her things she does not need to know.”

“I don’t care.” Rakk purred, “I’m going to kill her so it doesn’t matter anyway.”

I twisted slightly and Dog’s teeth clamped down, slicing me to the bone.  My body shook as I attempted to scream in pain.  Dog let go with a whine and began a long howl that trailed off into a bubbling gurgle.  “NO!” Gem screamed.

Rakk let go of me and I fell to the floor, trying to keep the blood from flowing out of my wounded leg by sheer force of will but knowing it was only a matter of minutes before I would enter Final Death.  At last, I was truly getting what I wanted before Vladimir had ‘rescued’ me.

Blood splattered on my face.  I couldn’t stop myself from licking it, my instinctual self-preservation kicking in.  A small, warm hand touched my throat and my leg.  To my intense surprise, the wounds healed.  Not all the way, but the bleeding stopped and my crushed larynx re-formed to the point where I could breathe and speak.

“Now you will tell me what you have done to Dog.”  Her voice was a deadly whisper in my ear.  “I have hidden this Gift for a century and now I must use it to heal one of my most despised enemies.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said, my vocal chords burning from the pain.  “He bit me.

Maybe whatever cocktail of shit Vlad gave me that keeps me from being able to use my Gift is blood born.”

“Vlad may be an idiot, but he wasn’t lying when he told me he hadn’t done anything to you.” She said, “Try again.”  A knife slammed into my abdomen and pain exploded through my mind.  The blade was twisted and withdrawn.  I writhed on the floor for a few agonized minutes before the blood was carelessly splashed on my face again.  I hated myself for not being able to resist its coppery scent.

“I tried to help him but it’s like his blood was turned to mercury and this blade came out of your guts without a single drop of vitae on it.  When he bit you there was no bleeding.”  Gem said, “Now my sweet little puppy is on the floor, whimpering in pain and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Where is Rakk?” I asked, trying to organize my thoughts.  No blood?  But I had felt it oozing out of my lacerated leg… hadn’t I?

“Do not fret about that one.”  She said airily, “He may be flexible and hideously powerful but nothing breaks one of my barriers.  Now let’s try again.”

“Vlad told you I no longer possessed my Gift too didn’t he?  I’m obviously blind and powerless otherwise you’d all be de-aaaaa!”  Her knife had pierced my right eye this time and it was impossible for me to keep from screaming.

“All right, I believe that you’re blind.”  Gem said calmly, “Now convince me that your Gift has truly been taken.”

I couldn’t consider trying to speak, the pain was just too intense.  At this rate I’d just tell her whatever she wanted to hear just to make it stop.  I opened my mouth to beg her to kill me but all that came out of my mouth was a pitiful mewling cry.

The answer hit me in a flash.  It was blood.  Somehow I was surviving without any blood in my system.  Gem’s blood spattered on my face again, but this time I lunged up at her, my mouth gaping.  I didn’t feel hungry but that didn’t mean I wasn’t starving.  My mouth found her wrist and bit.  The sun rose inside me.

Post Mortem Chapter 12

Light bright enough to shine through my eyelids woke me.  I instinctively reached for my Gift, but nothing happened.  Even if I was completely drained I could always feel it there… and I didn’t feel even the slightest bit hungry.  I should have been ravenous.

I squinted against the light, feeling with my other senses while my eyes adjusted.  I was naked, laying on very high thread count sheets and a very soft and sumptuous mattress.  There was a scent of lavender and ocean in the air.  I could also smell Egyptian tobacco, sulfur, and coffee.  Chimes sounded in the wind and someone was sitting in a wicker chair in the room.  That person was not breathing.

I opened my eyes all the way and my vision still didn’t clear.  I sat up, looking directly at where I knew the person was sitting.  “Who are you and where am I and why can’t I see?”

“Ah, you are awake.  This is good.”  The voice had a pleasant Italian accent, “I understand you were involved in a bit of… unpleasantness in Mexico recently.  Do not worry yourself; that is all over now.

“I am Natele.  You’re in my villa.  We are safe from the light and for the moment, safe from The Tribunal.”

“Why did you take me from Cuidad Obegeron?”

“You would have died my dear.”  He said

“I WANTED to die!” I snapped.

“I am not one to leave a lady in distress.” He said smoothly, “I came to your timely assistance.”

“You SHOT me in the HEAD.”  I growled, my hands reaching, feeling for the edge of the bed.  I was unable to feel the sides with either of my hands.

“Well, you seemed to be in a slightly … unstable state, and you had recently shown yourself to be quite effective at eliminating any and all threats arrayed against you.”  I heard a rustle of cellophane and the scratch of a match head, the hiss of it lighting.  “Here, these are Fatimas.  Your favorites I understand.”

I reached out and took the lit cigarette from his hand, although I was certain he moved his hand to where I was reaching which annoyed me even more than I already was.  “You’re a regular Prince goddamn Charming.”  I took a drag.  The familiar taste of the smoke and the ritual was calming, “But you still haven’t told me why you brought me here at all instead of leaving me to die like I wanted to.”

“Because dear lady, the revolution still has need of you.”  He said, “You have created something even if it was not your intention in the first place.  I am afraid I have selfish reasons for bringing you here.  If you died under those circumstances it would have given much support and credence to The Tribunal.”

“What do you mean ‘under those circumstances’ exactly?” I asked, sliding myself to the side of the bed and succeeding in bashing my shins on the legs of a side table.  I felt on top of it and found an ashtray.

“Well… dying by suicide would confirm their claims that you are insane, unstable, dangerous and suicidal.”  He said, sounding mildly amused, “Even if it is true, I still need you alive.  I have been spreading rumors that it was all an elaborate trap that went horribly awry when they attempted to spring it on you.”

“Those rumors are true.”  I shuddered, feeling completely empty.  “What did you do to me?”

“I?  All I have done is render you unconscious and transport you here to be bathed and laid in a comfortable bed to recuperate.”  Said Natele, sounding a touch defensive.  “Please understand that although my reasons for saving your live are not altruistic in nature my uses for you are strictly political in nature.”

“Then why the FUCK can’t I see?”  I demanded, fumbling on the table for the pack of cigarettes and lighting a fresh one from the first.  “Why am I not ravenous?  Where is my goddamn GIFT?”

“What?”  Natele’s voice was horrified, “Your gift is gone?  It cannot be, the Dark Gift is forever.  It cannot be used up, it merely must be fueled.”

“You’re babbling Natele.  The fact remains that I am blind, unable to heal it and…” My voice trailed off to a whisper, “I can’t even feel it.”  I put my head in my hands and let out a slow, agonized breath.

“Well.  That changes things a bit, but doesn’t change my overall idea.”  Natele said, “Instead of a military leader, you will become a martyr.”

“I will not let you trot me out in front of the ignorant masses as some goddamn cripple.”  I hissed, “You’d better figure out another plan.”

“Oh no, I don’t think that’ll be necessary.” He said, his voice cold and harsh, “I have you here and you’ve admitted to being helpless.”

I stood from the bed so rapidly that the backs of my knees hitting it broke something judging by the splintering sound and covered the distance between us in less time than it would take for a normal person to blink.  My ears were not enough to show me his exact location, but they were enough for me to grab the front of his shirt.

“Do you understand me?”  I said, breathing smoke out of my nose.  “Try and play with fire and you get burned.  I burn hotter than the surface of the sun.”

“No my dear, you used to but not anymore.”  He said.  I could feel his breath on my face when he spoke.  “Your Gift has abandoned you.  You’re alone in a body that cannot heal with a mind that has memories of centuries.”

A cold sweat broke out on my skin, but I did not release him.  “I don’t give a rancid rat’s ass about life or death.  You may recall I was attempting to die when you intervened.”

“That’s as may be, however I am not allowing you to do so.”  He said, “As a result you are under my contro-“

I slammed my left hand into his throat and squeezed, cutting off his ability to speak.  “You don’t get to make decisions.  You don’t get to make demands.  I will do as I please regardless of whatever happens to me.  You cannot keep me from dying if I choose to any more than you can keep me from killing you right now.”

“Well then.” He croaked, barely able to get the words out, “I had better give you a reason beyond threats.”

My hand tightened and it was as though I was attempting to crush a solid steel bar.

“I am not as frail as you presume.”  He said, his voice not betraying even the slightest discomfort.  “I am one of your people, not some mortal weakling.”  A hand like a vice closed on my wrist and I was forced to let go.

“Make an enemy of me and you’ll regret it woman.” He said in Russian, “I know who you are.  You would best remember where you have come from and who allowed you to become what you are.”

Now I recognized his voice.  He had dropped the urbane Italian accent and the music of his native land was clear.  I knew him.  His name was Vladimir, a typical Russian mobster name… also quite the archetypal horrible vampire name, a reminder that sometimes stereotypes existed for a reason.

“Oh Vlad, certainly you’re beyond threats.  Especially with old friends.”  I kept my voice neutral, “Although you aren’t beyond deception which either means you’ve changed or you’re afraid.”

He chuckled, a truly dreadful sound.  “My dearest Renyovalia, you have always been at your most beautiful when you’re defiant, afraid and helpless.  This is just how I remember you.”  He sighed in satisfaction, “I never should have attempted to deceive you, but I needed to know if you had slipped.”

“What have you done to me?” I demanded, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer or not.

“As I said before, I have done nothing to you.” He said, his voice amused. “This affliction of yours is a truly puzzling and I must admit, a most entertaining surprise.”

“If that’s the case, then why did you bother with the accent?”  I said, “I know your face and there is no FUCKING way I would be misled by an accent alone.  You knew I would be blind.”

He was silent for a few moments, I almost thought he’d left.  I finished my cigarette and flicked the butt in the direction I’d last heard his voice.

“Same old Renyovalia.” He purred, “Always perceptive.  Always too free with your words.”

“What’s the game really Vlad?”  I asked, trying to keep my voice light.

“I told you why you are still alive.”  He said, and I felt the cigarette I’d flung in his direction burn my forearm.  “Do not press your luck.”

Post Mortem Chapter 11

The sun was setting, showing angry and red from the smoke of the fires still burning throughout the city.  Ciudad Obregón must have been beautiful once, but now it was painted from the palate of war.  It was about to get worse.

“Renyovalia?”  Cor’s voice intruded on my thoughts. “What exactly the FUCK are you doing?  We’ve been waiting here for you to tell us what was going on, the city is completely overrun with Broken, shit’s burning everywhere and … you seem … you seem dead.”  His voice dropped to a whisper, “I thought you were gone.”

“I’m not gone yet.”  I replied, “I’m just doing what needs to be done.  But you and Miranda are supposed to be miles away.”

“You sound dead.”  He said, ignoring the orders I’d given.  “What happened to you?  Are you … all right?”

“I’m fine.  You all should get out of here before midnight.”  I wasn’t sure why I cared, but for some reason I felt as though my Spawn should survive.

“My Sire, I want to help.  What is happening?” He sounded afraid.

“I’m going to send them all to the Final Death Cor.  They have earned this end.”  I said, “They will pay for what they’ve done and I will mete out justice as I see fit.” I could feel him shiver.

The lines of my Power were extended throughout Cuidad Obregon like invisible wisps of mist.  They wrapped around the buildings, swirled between the legs of the Broken that were milling aimlessly in the streets and threading through the flames and smoke.  I was nearly ready… just a little more.

“Here’s the last one I could find.”  I brought my eyes back into focus and saw Donchivo standing in front of me.  He threw a mewling human boy on the ground in front of me.  The boy looked up at me, his eyes glassy with fear.

“Please.” He whispered in terrified Spanish, “Don’t kill me.”

I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled his neck to my mouth.  With my heightened sense of awareness due to the sheer amount of blood I had consumed in the last few hours I could feel the red blood cells trembling in his veins.  I could also feel the archo-scientific trap waiting for me there.  I cursed under my breath; it was a trap.  Perhaps I could use that hidden trap for my own selfish vendetta, after all before it had made my power too strong to control and that’s what I wanted this time.

“Sorry.” I said, not even hesitating before biting his neck drinking deeply and allowing the tainted garbage that my former friend had designed to infect my Gift.

The stage was set, the players were falling into place and I was ready.  I could feel the Power growing inside me, flaring hotter with every breath.

“What are you doing?”  I turned and saw Miranda coming up the top of the stairs to the rooftop.  Although the sun had set I was glowing like a tiny sun.

“I told you to go away.”  I said, my voice sounding flat and far away in my ears.  “You came anyway and now you will pay for it with your life.  After all I did to keep you alive, what a waste.”

“But why are you-” She began, before the door slammed open behind her and Donchivo stormed onto the roof.

“You LIED to me!”  He raged, every vein in his body glowed bright purple and tendrils of Power snaked through the air around him.

“You knew better, or you should have.”  I said, “I told you I was going to kill you all even if you decided not to listen.”

“It doesn’t have to be like this.”  Miranda said, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes.  I do.” I looked into her eyes and she recoiled from whatever she saw there. The torrent of power inside me writhed and thrashed like a living thing.  Miranda backed away further, her face distorting slightly in pain.  “This will end in a blaze of power, in a flash of light.  It’s a better end than they deserve but I am in a generous mood.”

“You will not take ME!” Donchivo advanced on us, but as he drew near, the light froze his questing tendrils of Power and they shattered into glittering fragments.  I could see steam rising from his body and Miranda’s breath misted in the air.

I hesitated, this wasn’t how it was supposed to work.  Something was wrong with my Gift.  Fear skittered across the blank surface of my emotions, but I couldn’t stop the Power now.  The air chilled further, ice crystals formed on Miranda’s skin as she turned to run.  A wave of absolute cold rolled from me in all directions like an arctic tsunami and I stood in the center of a frozen wasteland.  I had never experienced such silence and stillness.  At last I had found peace.

Then my Gift snapped back to normal and the peace was destroyed in a flash of pure Destruction.  Everything in a mile radius flashed to a negative image of itself for a fleeting moment before vanishing without a trace.  I knew I was drained, I knew that in spite of the dozens of humans I’d eaten in preparation that I would likely be easy prey for anyone or anything that came along, but I was beyond caring.

I sank down to the completely smooth perfect surface left behind by the Destruction of my Gift and sat in the Lotus position.  Here I would wait until the sun rose.  Here I would welcome the Final Death.

I had been sitting for nearly an hour when a sharp pain struck the back of my neck and I felt myself slumping sideways.  The soft report of the rifle reached my ears a heartbeat later.  It was an impossible shot; after all for the impact and the shot to have been so separated the shooter must have been a mile or more away.

As consciousness gradually dwindled I felt a tear leak from the corner of my left eye I heard the sound of an approaching helicopter.  No rest for the wicked I supposed.  In that case it was fitting that I was immortal.

Post Mortem Chapter 10

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.”

Post Mortem Chapter 9

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.”

Post Mortem Chapter 8

With judicious use of the radio and my natural ability to be a sneaky little bastard, I managed to scout much of the building without being seen. Now, however, I was cornered in a small room that apparently had a goddamn board meeting going on outside.
“Jake hasn’t reported in, does anyone have a 20 on him?”

“No sir, he was last assigned to check the generator wasn’t he?”

“Does anyone know what Smith is up to? I thought he was holding off a potential threat across the avenue.”

“I haven’t been able to reach him by radio sir; however he often turns it off when he’s facing off against someone who requires his full attention.”

“Cut the chatter.” This voice held authority, something I was accustomed to hearing in my own voice. Hearing someone else use it to the same amount of advantage… put my hackles up for lack of a better term. Here was someone else who was a pack leader, and the animal part of me cried out to put him in his place.

“Jake hasn’t reported in. I believe he is dead, and I imagine Smith has shared his fate.” The voice snapped, cutting across the other voices and even seeming to make the ventilation system stop running. “She is here you idiots! Our target is here and we don’t have the slightest goddamn clue as to where to start looking. You know what she can do if we don’t stop her.”

“Boss, you can’t mean that. If she was really here wouldn’t she have given herself away in at least some small way? We have the entire complex under surveillance.”

“Yeah, if she was here, we’d know.”

“You fucking MORONS just don’t get it do you?” The ‘boss’ was losing his cool now, “This isn’t some fucking amateur this is the goddamn Angel of Destruction we’re talking about. She doesn’t take prisoners you dipshits, she strikes without warning and leaves no trace of her targets. We brought these bitches here to make sure we could catch her, she has a thing for not hurting innocent women, but if we don’t lock it down right NOW the mission fails.”

I froze, knowing that it was pure luck that I was waiting within earshot. I forced myself to relax, allowing my breathing and heartbeat to completely stop. This was a trick Hex had inspired me to try. After all, if someone was looking for anything other than a corpse this would throw them completely off my trail.

“Boss, are you sure we should be allowin this? I mean, I hate beaners as much as the next guy but hell… I seen what them things are doin out there. It aint’ right.”

“None of that matters. If we get the Wolf, her keeper will come and we can exact our revenge.” His voice became feverish,

“She must pay, surely the Master is not gone for good. If we enact his vengeance he will come to save us!”

“Yeah, you know the Master wanted to cleanse the humans. He wanted to eliminate the ones who couldn’t evolve to a higher form. That’s why he used himself as the first test subject, to prove he was worthy.”

I wasn’t sure whether to come out guns blazing, try and sneak away or keep listening. Curiosity won out in the end and I snuck closer to the door in order to try and get a look at the group. Besides, I still didn’t know where Svenka was. With any luck these assholes would let slip where their captives were being held. There was a clink and a hiss.

“I smell something.” The Boss’s voice had a euphoric quality to it. He must have shot himself up with that glowing sludge. “She’s here.”

“Renyovalia, where the hell are you?” Cor’s voice broke into my mind, forcefully enough to make me flinch. “Never mind, I can feel you now. You need to get out of there!”

“Come get me. Fast. They’re on to me.”

The shadows next to me elongated and twisted, reaching out to grab my leg. I admit to making a most undignified squeak of alarm as I was unceremoniously yanked through nothing.

“What the hell was that?” I demanded, glaring at Cor. “Where were you, why didn’t you respond? I thought you were dead.”

He coughed and took off his jacket, holding it out to me. I realized I was totally naked. I took the jacket and put it on, holding out my hand expectantly. When he looked at me with slightly panicked look on his face I grinned.

“I want your sidearm, not your pants.” I accepted his .45 and looked around the room. “Where the fuck are we and why did you ditch my gear? I’m sure it wasn’t just for an eyeful.” His jacket barely covered my hips. I resisted the urge to tug it down.

“I can’t bring other things with unless I am able to focus on them individually.” He said, “My clothes and my weapons are all familiar to me… but in a moment of stress all I had time for was you.”

“Huh. Well that’s interesting.” I said, checking the action on his pistol. “They’re bound to wonder what a plié of clothes is doing in that room. Never mind that, where did you bring me?”

“We’re in a storage room on the second floor.” He said, “This was as far as I could get without raising an alarm. Do you know where the… where your… where she is?”

“I don’t yet. They set this as a trap for me Cor, this isn’t going to end well for anyone.” I tore open a cardboard box and found medical scrubs in tidy plastic wrapped packages. A short search turned up pants that fit. I didn’t return Cor’s jacket.

“Why don’t you just start breaking things?” He asked, “Then when they show up you can just… destroy them.”

“Because I don’t know where Svenka is.” I said, “I can’t just go around blowing shit up without knowing where they have her.” I ached for a cigarette, but of course they were back in my flak vest. Not that smoking would be a great idea anyway; it’d give us away.

A crash sounded loud enough to quiet us completely.

“Was that a door being kicked in?” I asked over the Mindlink.

“Yeah, I think so.” He responded, moving to stand on one side of the door. I ran to the door and jumped above it, holding myself up by wedging fingers and toes into cracks and corners.

I held my position for a few minutes, and heard boots approaching.

“Go.” A quiet voice said, and the door was slammed open. Three men leaped into the room, scanning with flashlights mounted beneath the grips of sub machineguns. Even as they saw Cor, I shot each of them point blank in the head. His .45 was not silenced and the sound was truly shattering in such a small space.

I barely saw a pair of small projectiles fly through the door and I dropped from my perch, left hand batting the first of the grenades out the door and right foot hitting the other with a crunch that would have made me flinch if I had been focusing on it. The second one clipped the door frame and barely bounced back into the hallway before they both exploded.

The force of the blast sent me spinning into a pile of boxes, although I managed to escape most of the damage. The men in the hallway weren’t as lucky.

“Come on Cor, it’s on. We just have to kill our way to the hostages. Looks like we’re using your break shit plan after all!” I ran from the room and threw myself on the one remaining guard who was apparently shaking off the effects of the shockwave from the explosions. Judging by his scent I identified him as human. He died with my fangs in his throat.

I barely paused to grab his gun on the way by, my hunting instinct was up and I was out for blood. My initial feeling of wrath toward those who dared touch my family had died down to glowing embers, but now I fanned it to a bonfire’s flame again. It was time for these impotent little bastards to pay. They weren’t going to get away with messing with The Angel of Destruction. My reputation was earned with blood and fire. It was time for them to learn exactly how I had forged that reputation.

“Find her!” I shouted through the Mindlink, “Steal their gear, take one of their places and for fuck’s sake keep me apprised of where they are!”

“How am I supposed to do all that?” He demanded, obviously still shaken by the sudden turn of events, or perhaps the violence, or maybe just the explosion.

“Get a radio. Sweet Christ, do I have to tell you how to do everything?” I ran down the hallway, surprising a group of guards coming down the stairs.

My nails were sharp as daggers, shredding through Kevlar and flesh with equal ease. Blood and worse splattered the stairwell and I ran down, bare feet leaving a trail of carnage that even a child could follow. The only difference was a child would know not to follow it.

“She’s gone down the North stairwell.” The voice crackled over the Mindlink, Cor had simply turned his confiscated radio on loud enough to transmit loud enough for me to hear.

“Roger, follow at a discreet distance. Do not engage target until la Sonraisa arrives.”

My knowledge of Spanish wasn’t complete, but I recognized that bit. The sunrise. My skin shivered in the memory of pain.

Was this the bastard they’d sent to kill me? Was he the reason my Svenka had been taken from me? I was ready now. More than ready.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I kicked the door completely off its hinges, watching in satisfaction as it shattered the arm of the man who had been reaching to open it. A flick of the wrist removed his head from his shoulders, silencing his screams of pain. I absently licked his vitae from my fingers as I strode confidently through the spray of aortal blood.

“Wait!” The warm rain spurting from the remains of the man’s neck painted my face but I hesitated at that voice. Miranda stood at the base of the stairs, looking at me with wide, innocent eyes.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I demanded, “I told you to wait outside of town where it was safe!”

“Please.” She looked imploringly at me, “Just wait.”

I hesitated, and that was almost my undoing. For just a moment, her face flickered and I dove back through the door. A blast of brilliant yellow light seared the exposed flesh of my left leg as I rolled free. It took much of my blood reserve to repair the damage… this was what had created the artificial sun that had nearly killed me before.

“Ren get out of there!” Cor’s voice screamed over the Mindlink and at the same time I heard the voice through his radio.

“Move in! Corner her, she can’t be allowed to escape!”