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 …”

“Unreliable.”

“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!”

Post Mortem Chapter 7

“Hey.”  A gentle, familiar hand touched my shoulder.  “Sun’s down, it’s time to go.”

“Thanks Miranda.”  I said, rolling out from under the truck where I’d been sleeping the daylight away.  It was a touch morbid to rest inside a body bag but they were proof against ultraviolet radiation and honestly I was a walking corpse anyway.  I had forgotten how great it was to have someone who could look out for me that I could trust, I slept soundly knowing Miranda would be watching out for me.  “We ought to be there at around midnight.”

“Are you sure you want me to stay here?”  She asked, a touch of concern in her voice that I wouldn’t have been able to discern had I not been able to feel her emotions as easily as my own.

“Yes, you would only slow us down out there.  Besides, I don’t want to risk you; this is likely to get nasty pretty fast.”  I looked at her and found myself wondering how I had been able to survive without what she gave me.

“Ok, but you need to get back to me as soon as you can.”  I could feel her allowing me to feel fear, compassion and sorrow without emotion taking me over.  “I don’t want to lose you to the bitterness again.”

I touched her hand and smiled a genuine smile, “Yeah.”  For just a moment I felt something else, but then it was gone.  “I’ll be back before sunrise.”

“Take care.”  She said, smiling at me like I imagine my mother would have.

“You as well.”  I replied, smiling at her as though I imagine I would have had she been my mother.  “I don’t expect trouble but…”

“Oh please.”  She said with a laugh, “You always expect trouble.”

“Fine.”  I said, mildly annoyed.  “I expect trouble and that’s why I want you to stay back here.  If anything big happens you should be far enough away that you’ll be able to-“

“Get away?’”  She interrupted, “Escape and go where?”

“No, not escape.  I can tell you haven’t done anything like this before.”  I said with a grin, “I’m leaving you and most of the muscle out here so you can come in and bail me out if I get into shit I can’t get out of.”

Her eyes widened in mild surprise, “Really?  I thought you were being all over-protective… isn’t the rear guard the most dangerous position?”

“Only when you’re running away.”  I said, wondering what movie she’d seen that gave her that bit of insight.  “Right now it’s a lot safer than walking straight into the lion’s den like we plan on doing.”

We were on a mild rise above the city, and it was an unsettling sight.  Broken shambled about aimlessly, making me wonder just how long they could continue to be mobile until something gave out.  Burnham had designed this disease quite well it seemed.  What could burn below was doing so, bright orange flames belching black curls of smoke that blended into the darkness of the night.  Those flames were the only lights visible.

“Why hasn’t the government stepped in to do something here?”  Miranda asked, her voice reflecting the disbelief I could feel from her when she surveyed the scene.

“I don’t know.  My first guess would be they tried and failed.  I said, grimly cataloging the number of vehicles that had been destroyed.  “I’m honestly surprised they haven’t called in an airstrike.”

A burst of automatic gunfire drew my attention and I squinted, trying to focus in on the spot it had come from.  As one, the entire group of Broken turned and moved toward the sound.  It was frightening to think about that many of them moving all at once.  Of course I could use my Power on them, but that would destroy any innocent survivors there might be too and would leave me ravenous and exhausted.

I wasn’t completely unwilling to sacrifice survivors, but it was a last resort that would leave me vulnerable and in the hands of humans who would most likely be unfriendly at best.  In this particular time and place I was walking a razors edge.  I had to be careful.

Besides, I didn’t necessarily need to use my Gift for this exercise.  I had enough weapons to arm a small police force and a highly trained group of mercenaries waiting to pull me out if things went south.  I began to buckle on my gear, black flak vest over long sleeved black spandex shirt, twin silenced 9mm pistols in shoulder holsters, thin black leggings made of Kevlar webbing, throwing knives in a thigh sheath on the left and a collapsible night stick on the right.

My only truly unconventional pieces of attire were my shoes; black Vibram soled toe shoes.  I liked to be able to feel the terrain and I could move with almost absolute silence wearing them.  It wasn’t as though I had to worry about bruising my feet on rocks.  I wiggled my toes, making sure they were settled and suppressed a chuckle.  They did look sort of silly.

“Holy shit…” Cor said, watching as the Broken began to run toward the center of the city.  “What exactly is your plan?  You do have a plan right?”

“We’re going to have to play this close Cor.”  I said, switching my attention to him.  “I hope you know how to run because I don’t plan on moving slowly.”

“What?”  He tore his gaze from the burning city and its throngs of undead.

“Keep up.  I don’t want to leave you behind.”  I said, crouching and giving Miranda a languid wink before leaping from the hillside in a bound that covered nearly a half mile.  He landed about a hundred yards behind me, aggravation carrying over the Mindlink.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” He asked, exasperated.  “This isn’t a fucking game, you can’t just run in headlong without a plan-“

“I do have a plan.  To run in headlong.” I snapped, “There’s no guarantee I’ll have another chance to get by all those damn Broken so if you have a better idea tell me right FUCKING now!”  Not wanting to lose momentum, I was already leaping again heading for a rooftop this time.

“Well.  No.  But that doesn’t make this any less insane.”  He said, following my leap with one to match.

“Then shut the hell up and watch my back.” I said, “And help me keep a lookout for something that doesn’t look like it’s been overrun with Broken.”

“What?  Why?  Just exactly what do you think you’re going to do?  Just kick in the door and demand their surrender?”

“I was just going to kill them all.”  I said, “Why ask for surrender?”

Cor hesitated while we landed and jumped again, “Was that a joke or are you serious?”

“They have fucked with the wrong whelp, and this bitch is out for revenge.”  I said, “Wait, look left.”  I landed on a rooftop and Cor was only a few seconds behind me.

“You think this is their stronghold?”  He asked, and I gave him an ironic smile.  The building in question was a high chain link fence topped with a triple row of barbed wire surrounding a warehouse that took up half of a city block.

“I don’t see any Broken inside the walls, do you?”  Although he was on the opposite edge of the roof, the Mindlink made him sound as though he were standing next to me.  “Besides, there’s one other thing that sets this building apart.”

He looked for a minute and then sighed in understanding, “Lights.  There are electric lights inside.”

I listened carefully and could hear the low thrum of a diesel engine underneath the cacophony of other sounds that fractured the quiet of the night.  I circled the warehouse, easily leaping from rooftop to rooftop, trying to pinpoint the location of the generator by feeling the vibrations it made.

“Renyovalia, we only have a few hours before sunrise.  We should move quickly if you want to escape.”  I could feel the tension in his sending; he was afraid.  I didn’t know if it was fear of the sun, fear of the unknown or fear of fighting but I didn’t care.

“Shut up Cor, we have four hours until sunrise.  It’s time for you to be useful.”  He had been with me for days now and I’d never seen him use his Gift even once.  “Their generator is on the first floor of that parking ramp.  From here I can’t see it but I’d bet there’s a fuel tank right next to it.  I want you to Shadowstep over there and shut it down.  Once they come to investigate we can evaluate whether to kill them and retrace their steps or move in on another entrance.”

I shifted slightly, positioning myself to get a better view and almost didn’t notice a rush of air passing my face.  Behind me a chip of a brick chimney broke off and the whine of ricochet made me drop to my stomach.  Several more silent bullets whined as they hit the edge of the rooftop, mere inches from my face but there still wasn’t any sound of a gunshot.  It was pure luck that I’d avoided being shot the first time, but now I was relying on skills gained from a lifetime of survival.  This was my game.

“Cor?”  I reached out through the Mindlink and found it dead.  Shit.  Either he had been shot or someone out there was using something to block me.  Whoever these Breakers were, they knew something about my kind.  That was enough of a red flag for me to tread far more lightly than I had initially intended.

Since they were shooting from a distance with a silenced rifle I imagined they were likely using night vision.  Well.  I could do something about night vision.  Even though my Gift was becoming more and more unstable, I still refused to shy away from it completely.  It was a part of me and I needed to be able to trust it even if it was becoming a wild, untamed thing.

I took a small flashlight from a pocket on my vest, turned it on and rolled it across the rooftop.  It bobbed for a moment and when I heard the snap of a bullet hitting the brickwork I lashed out with a thread of Power.  Instead of only destroying the flashlight, I took a pumpkin sized section of roof with it.  The dazzling light of my Gift would have certainly blinded anyone looking through an augmented scope.  Even as I tamped down the wild rage of Destruction I knew I’d only managed to bypass the first challenge.

Before my adversaries had time to recover, I ran with blinding speed, leaping off the second story rooftop, sailing easily over the chain link fence and tucking to roll to my feet a mere hundred yards from the warehouse.  I kept my pace, barely breaking stride and covered the distance to the parking garage in seconds.  An easy leap took me to the second level and I was weaving between concrete pillars, slowing my pace gradually.

The generator was right where I thought it would be.  In moments I had located the kill switch but I hesitated.  Was I really going to try and do this alone?  Had they actually killed or disabled Cor, not just shut down the Mindlink?  Up until this point, I hadn’t considered what had happened on the rooftop.

I had only been reactive; if someone really had blocked the Mindlink that meant there were other immortals here, and that meant trouble.  If they were actually using bullets that could kill one of us that quickly and silently, that could be even worse.  A door opened, spilling a beam of electric light into the parking garage and I ducked behind the generator.

Heavy footfalls tromped over to the other side of the machine, the glare of a headlamp illuminating the instrument panel on the side.  “Still got half a tank of fuel.”  A man’s rough voice said in clear, unaccented English.  The click and hiss of a radio letting me know he was reporting this to someone inside.

“Any sign of intruders?”  A voice came over the radio, audible to my enhanced ears.

“Nah.  Whoever it was across the street either Smith got ‘em or they took the hint and fucked off.”

“Good.  So no sign of the target?”

There was a hesitation, “I don’t think so.  Smith says they dropped a flashbang and messed his optics.  You don’t think that’s her do ya?  One way or another she’d have reduced this place to rubble right?  She aint known for being subtle.  There was a brief blip of chatter but-”

“Do a perimeter sweep.  A serious, full perimeter sweep.  Use the serum to make sure she’s not hiding somewhere and then report back to me.”

The man sighed and clipped his radio back onto his tactical vest.  I narrowed my eyes and gave his outfit a closer inspection, there were no sigils or insignia on it anywhere.  When he pulled a vial of faintly glowing green liquid and placed it into an injection gun I froze.  This wasn’t just a highly trained mercenary, nor was he some operative from a government agency.  He was a Hunter.

Specifically designed to destroy my kin, Hunters were a genetic experiment taken to the extreme.  The architect behind their creation was a man actually codenamed The Architect by The Tribunal and he had been slain some weeks ago by Hex.  Well with a little help from a few others, myself and Svenka included, but without Hex, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Now some things fell into place.  This place wasn’t an accident.  The Mexican military not being involved wasn’t an accident, the sheer number of Broken in the city wasn’t an accident.  This was an elaborate trap and I, being the blind idiot I sometimes am, had walked straight into it.  Of course, they didn’t realize I was here yet and with luck they wouldn’t until it was too late.

I whipped one of the throwing blades from my thigh sheath and threw it underhand, taking the Hunter in the throat.  He grunted and pulled it free, the wound seeming to be more of an annoyance than anything else.  Before he had time to do much more than turn to look my way another knife was in the air and I had a pistol in the other hand.

He brushed the knife flying toward his face aside as one might a gnat, but I was already firing.  My target wasn’t him, but the injector gun in his left hand.  He realized my ploy too late, growling in anger as it shattered in his hand.  The Hunter flung my knife back at me and brought up his sub machinegun.  Taking advantage of the wall behind me, I kicked off the cement and kicked him in the chest so hard that I heard his sternum shatter.

His body flew backwards and smashed into a concrete pillar.  He slumped to the floor of the parking garage, his gun clattering from limp fingers.  I ran to his side, grabbing the tactical bowie knife from its sheath on his hip and savagely hacking his head from his shoulders.  There was no way I was taking chances with a Hunter.  His blood was a slow, sluggish trickle of glowing emerald ichor.

I hefted the knife with approval.  It had good balance.  I stripped the sheath off his belt and added it to mine, carefully cleaning the blade before sliding it home.  I also grabbed his radio and crushed the other vials of serum that were in a pocket on his chest.  No reason to leave that shit for anyone else to use.  After a short search, I also turned up a single key.  Hopefully it would open any door I needed to bypass quietly.

After a quick scan of the area, I decided I was still in the clear.  The door opened with the key I had appropriated from the fallen Hunter and I slipped into the hallway, squinting against the light.  My vision adapted rapidly and I moved down the hallway, looking for a staircase down.  Instinct told me what I was looking for would be hidden and hidden usually meant down.

Post Mortem Chapter 6

After realizing I was serious about Ciudad Obregón, or perhaps after seeing me destroy half a town and then drink human blood, most of the survivors decided they were going to stay behind.  It was a much better option; I had killed the majority of the Broken and Cor had sent his men out during the day to finish the job.  Individually or in small groups, the Broken were far less dangerous and attracting them was as easy as making a bit of noise.

The only thing that nagged at the back of my mind was that they found no trace of the self-aware Infected.  I wasn’t sure if I hoped I had Destroyed them all or if I hoped they had somehow survived and escaped.  I needed to know more about them, that much was certain and if there had been a dozen here there were likely to be more elsewhere.

“We’re leaving tonight?”  Miranda asked me for the tenth time in as many minutes.  She had attached herself to me ever since I’d bitten her wrist the night before.  I had originally intended to leave immediately, but the sheer amount of work it took to organize the group of survivors had taken up so much time that I had eventually given up.

“Yes.  As soon as the sun goes down I plan on moving.”  I had found, with a bit of work, a couple of old Land Rovers from the early 1980’s with no computer bits.  The headlights were shattered, but I didn’t need them to be able to see anyway.  The only real problem was they had to be push started, but that didn’t bother me much.  I had plenty of people to put to work when it was time to go.

“So you really can’t go out in the sun?”  She asked.

“Not for long.”  I said, not wanting to reveal the entirety of my weakness.  This was foolish of course; everyone knew about vampires and sunlight unless they read those stupid sparkly books.

“You don’t seem so bad really.  I mean I guess I thought you’d be more like…” She trailed off, averting her eyes and looking out at the shadows the setting sun was throwing across the section of the city that I’d destroyed the night before.  I wasn’t sure if she was thinking about the Broken or how I’d obliterated upwards of a dozen city blocks or something else entirely.

“Well, I might not now, but you haven’t seen me when I’m truly hungry.  Or angry.”  I took the last cigarette out of the pack and lit it, wishing the sun would set faster.  “Why the hell are you following me anyway?”

She blinked, as if startled I was asking such a strange question before shrugging.  “I thought we were tied together or something now.  I mean, you fed off me right?”

I gave her a level look.  “If every human I drank from was following me around like an abandoned puppy I would repopulate this town ten times over.”  I blew a perfect smoke ring, refraining from telling her that it was when she tasted my blood that the bond would begin.  I didn’t trust any of these people to know that much… many of my own kind didn’t know that secret.

“Why can I sense where you are then?”  She asked me.

“It’s your imagination.”  I said, taking another drag, “Lots of people think there should be some sort of connection or bond between us and those we bite, but time and experience have shown me it’s purely psychological.  None of the people I’ve bitten without them knowing have expressed any sort of attachment.”

Miranda met my gaze for just a moment before looking down.  “I was I guess just hoping…  I’ve lost so much… I wanted a new beginning you know?”

“This isn’t the beginning you want.”  I said, exhaling a narrow stream of smoke, “This isn’t the beginning anyone in their right mind actually seeks out.”

“You don’t know what it’s like.” She put her face in her hands and tears leaked between her fingers.

“I don’t know what exactly?”  I grabbed her chin and forced her to look into my eyes.  “I have seen generations of people I cared about die.  I have killed children to live.  I don’t even remember what it was like to feel the sun on my skin without it blistering me.  I’ve destroyed the lives of more people than you’ve ever met.”

“My babies.”  She sobbed, “I let them take my babies.”

Her words hit me like a punch to the solar plexus.  I had never been able to have children.  “Sorry.  Living forever won’t make the pain less.”

“I don’t want to make the pain less.”  She said, looking at me through her tears.  “I don’t think one lifetime of suffering is enough to atone for my sins.”

I considered her for a long moment, wondering why I was even thinking about this.  She wasn’t anything special, didn’t have any fighting ability like Svenka or really anything else that made her stand apart.  Something else was resonating between us.  I decided I needed to know what it was.

“Sin is an illusion created to keep the masses afraid.  I will not give you the Last Kiss Miranda, but I can give you something else.”  I said, “Svenka might kill you though.”

“Is that who you are after?  Is she … who is she?”

“She is my lover and my anchor.  Only one other has ever made me feel the way she has and he died to save me.  Died to save us… to save everything.”  I said, finishing my cigarette and flicking the butt into the street.  “Miranda, you don’t understand what you are getting into so I’ll let you have a taste.”

“A taste of what?”  She asked, tears still leaking from the corners of her eyes.

“A taste of the horror that is immortality.  Most can’t handle it.  I have the feeling that you won’t last long, but that’s your concern, not mine.”  I gestured toward the building, “Come on, do a shot of Mezcal with me; I promise it’ll make you feel better.”

She followed me into what was left of the building I’d destroyed the night before.  I walked into the room that had once been a bar and snagged the last bottle of Del Maguey Arroqueno off the shelf.  With a flick of my thumb I broke the top off the bottle, making sure to allow the jagged edge to cut me enough that I would bleed.  The two shots I poured had a slight reddish color as my blood mingled with the alcohol.

“To misguided trust and unfortunate circumstances.” I said, raising my shot glass.

“To Miguel and Angelina.”  She said, raising hers in return, “My they forgive me.”

“I hope you can feel the same for me.”  I said, pouring myself another shot and waiting for what I knew was coming.  Miranda sat down hard, falling backward to land slumped against the wall.  She looked at me, her eyes becoming unfocused like she’d just shot heroin.

“What.  Was.  That….” She trailed off, only able to stare into my eyes.  After over a minute without blinking, she finally shuddered and closed her eyes.  “I can feel you.  Really feel you.”

I could, of course, feel her also.  I had plenty of practice and though I buffered myself against her emotions I felt the tears waiting to claim me.  How could she resist this emotion?

“How can you stand the pain?” Miranda asked, looking at me with tears streaming down her face, “How can you … why aren’t you crying?

“What?”  I was surprised, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh gods… the sorrow.” Miranda closed her eyes, but tears continued to stream down her cheeks, “I never imagined… I never thought…”

She was losing her mind and I knew the only way to help her was to take on some of the burden she was experiencing.  Even though I didn’t want to, I opened myself to her.  Her pain became my pain, I allowed it to course through my mind.  It was almost more than I could take.

“I never had children.”  I said, my voice flat.

“How are you not crying?  Right now?”  She repeated, looking into my eyes.  “I’m bawling my eyes out and you’re there like this pillar of ice.”

“You don’t have any idea.”  I said, “You have the sorrow of one generation in your veins.  I have the pain of several.”

“How…”  Miranda turned her tear stained face to mine.

“Time to go.” I said, “The sun’s down.”

“What do you mean?” She asked, stumbling to her feet.

“I warned you.”  I gave her a feral grin, “Most can’t handle what I have to offer.  You have lost your children and your husband.  I have lost lifetimes of friends and family.”

“You never had children.”  Miranda said, looking at me and smiling through her tears.  “I may feel pain but you will never know the joy.  I am sorry.”

Her emotions washed over me and I realized I was a fool for thinking I knew all there was to know.  I cried for what my mother must have felt for me before she died.   I wept for the things I’d never known.  The things I would never know.

“Your babies.”  I said through the tears I couldn’t stop from coming, “I wish I could have met them.”

“What?”  The surprise in her voice was palpable, “I thought-“

“I know.  You thought wrong and so did I.” I said, “There’s so much more.”  This was what I needed from her.  I needed to balance my destruction with her love of life and creation.  Oh, Svenka wasn’t going to be pleased… or maybe she would get some perspective from it as well.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath I reached into one of the pockets on the tactical vest I’d appropriated from Cor’s extra clothing stash and removed a fresh pack of cigarettes from it.  Miranda was stumbling after me, dazed and unsure of herself.

“Don’t worry too much.  It’ll get better.”  I said, lighting the cigarette and moving toward where Cor’s mercenaries were loading one of the trucks.  “Maybe try and sleep it off… although I’d recommend getting up at around midnight.  If you’re traveling with me you’ll need to keep my hours.”

“Ren.  We’re ready to move out.” Cor said, giving my companion a dismissive glance.  “We have a lot of ground to cover before sunrise.”

“Let’s go then.”  I climbed in the first truck, pulling Miranda into the passenger’s seat and Cor got into the second.  We each had a half dozen people, a mix of mercenaries and civilians.  It was going to be a long drive.  I grinned, feeling hopeful for the first time since Svenka and I were separated.  I was going to find her and then I was going to make the ones who hurt her pay.

Post Mortem Chapter 5

There were forty people in the building still alive.  Cor’s men were barricading the doors so we could have some time with the survivors without being interrupted by the occasional Infected.  When none of the people in the room seemed as though they were going to step forward and take the lead, I chose one at random.

“What were you all doing in this place with those Infected?”  I asked a man with a shocked, beaten expression on his face.  With intense concentration, I found learning Spanish hadn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

“They were… keeping us.”  He said hesitantly, looking at me and then at the soldiers.

“I’m not blessed with an overabundance of patience in the best circumstances.”  I said with an intentionally toothy smile.  “Answer the fucking question.”

“They eated some and keeped the others safe from the broken ones.”  A regarded me with too-serious eyes.  He couldn’t have been older than ten.  “That what mommy said.  How many are you going to eat to keep us safe now?”

I looked at the man I had originally been speaking to.  He didn’t meet my eyes.  Whatever the cost had been, they’d paid it to survive.  How had things gotten so out of hand for them so quickly?  Why hadn’t anyone been fighting back?  What could possibly possess anyone to make such a deal?  I certainly couldn’t sit around here and babysit, I had things to do.

“I’m looking for someone.”  I said, forcing myself not to look at the kid and instead focus on the man.  “She has an athletic build, white blonde hair in a braid that hangs to her waist, lots of silver knives, might have been here a day or so ago.”

“She’s gone, with the rest of them.”  He said in a dull voice.  “The same guys who took the others.  They all had guns… what could we do?”

I looked around at the room and realized there was one major discrepancy.  The only women here were under ten or over forty.  “Was she OK?  Look, I know her there’s no way a bunch of thugs with guns would be able to just drag her off.”

“No.  She didn’t go quietly.” He said, his face finally showing something other than despair.  “She killed seven of them.”

“Only seven?”  I asked, “She must have been really hurt.”

“Yeah.  There was burns an stuff.”  The boy said, “Just standing cracked her skin and made her bleed but she fighted anyway.  She was amazing.”

“Burns?”  I knew where she had gotten those from.  Protecting me from the heat of the sun, putting out the fires that were blossoming on my skin had cost my lover dearly.  In spite of knowing I had hurt her terribly, I wanted to sing.  She was alive.

“It was the strangest thing I ever saw.”  The older man said, “She had such terrible burns… but only on the front of her body… almost looked like it was in the shape of a smaller body.”

“That’s exactly what it was.” I said, “Where the hell is she?  Where have they taken her?  If I can’t get there in time she’ll have died saving me instead of just being burned.”

“They’ve got a place in Ciudad Obregón.  It’s mostly gone to the things… the Broken.”  He said, “There’s only two powers there, the Broken and the Breakers.”

“Damn.  I guess I have to go there then.”

“But… you can’t.”  The boy said, “You taked our protection.  We will all get eated if you go away and you will get eated if you go to Ciudad Obregón.  You will get eated if you leave here at all!”

A crash against the door echoed his comments.  How many of the damn Broken were out there anyway?  “I’m going to go check it out.”  I said, turning to climb the stairs.

When I got to the second floor and found a window to look out of I was honestly astonished.  There must have been nearly a thousand shambling forms outside, drawn by the scent, light and noise coming from the building.  Did I dare use my Power?  I didn’t know how far reaching The Tribunal’s influence was.  Even if I chose someone at random they might have something worse in their veins than their last little ‘present’ David had.

Of course the alternative wasn’t stellar either.  I didn’t have anywhere near the firepower I’d need to shoot my way out of here and if I left these people without protection they would certainly die.  Things had gotten more out of hand than I’d ever anticipated they could have been but now that I was in the thick of things I could hardly turn my back and walk away.

I went back downstairs and sought out Cor.  I wanted his true, unvarnished opinion and for that I didn’t want to use the mindlink.  I wanted him to tell me what he thought on his own.  Cor was supervising the reinforcement of the most vulnerable portals against the tide of Broken.  When he saw me approaching he came over.

“What’s it look like out there?”  He asked a slight frown on his face.

“Bad.  Upwards of a thousand of them from what I could see.”  I said, “We don’t have enough rounds even if we take every one down with a single bullet.”

“So what’s the plan then?”  His slight frown deepening was the only sign of his increasing concern.

“I was hoping you might have an idea.”  I said, “I can’t use my Gift… I don’t know if I can trust the blood of any of these.”

“Yeah, it’s tough with the Broken all around.  You never know who might have some of that contamination in their vitae.”  He shook his head, “Damn.  Well… I might be able to scrounge up something…”

“Like what?” I asked, curious as to what was going through is head.  Before he could answer, we were interrupted by the back door shattering under the pressure of the Infected battering away at it from the outside.

I only hesitated for an instant; but even that was too much.  The nearest person to the door was grabbed by horribly strong fingers and pulled into the ravening horde beyond.  I never even knew the little boy’s name.  It was too much.

I crossed the room in the blink of an eye the pistol appearing in my right hand and the machete in the left.  The first three Broken fell with bullets through the forehead, and then I was among them with blade forming a wall of sharpened steel that struck with the strength the Dark Gift granted us all behind it.  Skulls split like pumpkins, but they kept coming.  In less than a minute there were so many corpses in the doorway that the other Broken had to climb over them.

I gathered myself to use my Gift, to remove them from existence and I felt the Power flare inside me.  It was just like when I’d used it and nearly killed Svenka.  I pushed it away in terror; I couldn’t risk losing control again.  I fought desperately, dropping the pistol and switching the machete to my right hand.

“DOWN!” Cor’s voice broke through the red mist of combat and I dropped like I’d been poleaxed.  A burst of gunfire swept across the Broken, all but sealing the entrance and I backed away, shaking.

“We have to leave.  We have to go, right now.”  I knew I was panicking but I couldn’t stop, “I can’t use it Cor, I don’t trust myself… nothing that big… I can’t… without her it’s too dangerous, I get close to the precipice and there’s nothing holding me back.  If I fall from it I’ll take everything with me.”

“Relax.  We have time to evacuate.”  He said, staring at the corpses blocking the doorway with a look of mild surprise, “I can’t believe that actually worked.”

“There is another building across the alley that I think we could use.”  A woman in her late forties approached us, trying not to look at the bodies.  “If we’re quiet they might not notice us.”

Was I really going to run away from this?  These things were what I’d come to destroy, was I going to let them intimidate me?  If I left now, what would become of Hex’s sacrifice?  I needed to overcome whatever was standing in my way and this should be a small obstacle.

“No.  I will remove them.”  I said, squaring my shoulders.  “The rest of you should get ready to run.  I will deal with the Broken.”

A flash of Destruction removed the front of the building.  I was vaguely aware of the people behind me, but was too focused on what I was doing to pay much attention.  The raging flood of anger and fear boiling within me lashed out in a column of pure white annihilation and I could feel it breaking free of my control.  I fought desperately to rein it in, but all that happened was it burned hotter.

An arm linked with mine and I saw the woman who had tried to convince me to run just moments before.  Someone else did the same on the other side and I could feel the rest of the Survivors forming ranks behind me.  Their trust was more than I could bear and at the same time pushed me beyond my limits.  I dominated the need to destroy by trusting that it would obey.  This was my Gift, no matter who had altered it and made it more powerful… it was still a part of me.

I opened my eyes and saw a wide expanse of perfectly clear sky.  The buildings ahead were all gone; their foundations gaping like empty graves in the light of the waxing moon.  The restless dead were also absent, nothing was moving within my line of sight.  I was hungry, but not as ravenous as I feared I would be.

“What… are you?”  I expected incredulity from the humans, but this question came from Cor.

“She’s our savior.”  The man on my right said, “That’s enough for me.”

“You don’t know what I am.”  I said, my voice low and hollow.  “You wouldn’t be so accepting if you knew the truth.  Not that it matters; I will take what I need when I need it.”

He tried to remove his arm from mine and after a moment I let him.  There was fear in his eyes, but after all he’d seen and agreed to what more could I possibly do to him?  Certainly I could end his life, but I hadn’t so far and in fact had protected him.

“I’m leaving.  Right now.  If you want to come with me, you will have to accept that I can’t always keep you safe and the likelihood of you dying will grow with each passing day.  I will require you to give me your blood, but not your lives, in exchange for this protection even as unpredictable as it is.”  I turned to look at them, knowing my eyes would be shining silver in the moonlight.  “If any of you moves to betray me in any way you will die.  I have no time for scheming, power struggles or games.”

“You need our … blood?”  The woman on my left quavered.

I smiled a feral, toothy smile at her, “Yes.  I am a filthy, bedamned bloodsucking monster in spite of whatever misconceptions you might have had based upon my briefly winged appearance and the fact that I saved your lives.  I’ll do whatever it takes to do what needs doing and if you stand against me nothing will save you, no matter which of your impotent gods you pray to.”

“Then take mine first.”  She said, meeting my eyes with a fearful but determined gaze.

In spite of it all, humans never ceased to amaze me with their strength… and their cowardice.  I knew she was overcoming a terrible fear but also that she was giving up at the same time.  It had been a long time since I had overcome such an obstacle.  All too often I’d been content with giving up lately.  That was going to change.  Without ceremony, I grabbed her hand, turned the wrist so the inside faced me and bit.  And drank.