December 24, 2010

Artwork by Denver Robbins

It took Lewis less than ten seconds into his check of Vaughn's vitals to realize he was in transition. "Did you find him like this?" Lewis eyed Elizabeth.

"Just keep him safe," Elizabeth said.

Lewis nodded.

"I guess we know now where Anna gets it from," Wendy said to Lewis as she cleaned the blood from Vaughn and retrieved an IV bag full of blood.

Elizabeth eyed Dain out of the corner of her eye.

"This is unit four, northwest corner... I'm gonna say... zombies?" Taylor's voice came over the radio. "Please advise."

Wendy gasped and shook her head.

"Vampires," Lewis radioed back. "Avoid at all cost. Decapitation and fire will take them out, but fire can be... unpredictable. Best advice? Avoid the teeth and run like hell."

"Copy that," Taylor said, sounding resigned. "My position is secure at the moment, but also surrounded."

"We'll go," Dain said.

Dain and Elizabeth turned to leave then stopped.

"Anna," Elizabeth breathed.

"What is it?" Wendy asked.

"She's..." Elizabeth started.

A rushing burst of flames shot more than a hundred feet into the air on the southeast side of town.

"Yeah, that sounds like her," Lewis grumbled. "All units, please report," he said into his radio. There was a pause. "Anna is unit one," Lewis informed.

"She's... safe," Dain sighed exasperated.

"Eyes on one," Lewis reported.

"This is two, I'm on the ground. I think I've located our missing weapon."

"I have three," Lewis reported.

"My position is warmer but otherwise unchanged" Taylor said.

"We're on our way," Dain said.

Elizabeth and Dain hadn't gone more then ten feet when they both gasped at the same moment. They both looked momentarily disoriented, then Dain turned back to Lewis. "Ashe and Argus have been shot with DNPi," he informed.

"That's not good," Lewis replied. "We need to get them here ASAP. Take the UTV. East side is going to be the easiest route."

"East side?" Dain confirmed. "The side that's on fire."

"No one else is going to be headed that way." Lewis said.

"I'll go help Taylor." Elizabeth said.

 

Chapter 52 - Battle Scars

"Five, this is one," Anna's called over Ashe's radio.

"Head east. Transport will meet you there." Lewis replied.

"Copy," Anna said. She had no idea how Lewis knew they needed help, but she saw no point in questioning miracles.

"East," Hiro sighed. "Past the inferno. Perfect."

"No one else is going that direction," Galen chimed in.
 

 

 

 

Elizabeth stopped within fifty yards of town, as a mass of Vampires came stumbling toward her looking dazed, confused and a little bit angry.

"Help me," a girl in a pink dress called out to her.

" Bitte, helfen Sie mir," another called out.

"Shit," Elizabeth said, slowly backing away.

She tried to focus her thoughts toward Argus, but had no way of knowing if he received them. His communications had stopped abruptly after he had been shot. She located a seasons old fallen tree and pulled it across the path. She pierced her thumb with her eyetooth and wiped a smear of blood across the wood. She licked her thumb, healing it, as she retrieved her lighter and lit the tree on fire.

The vampires erupted with rage behind her.

"Why?" one of them yelled "Why would you do that?"

"Wont Sie uns helfen?" cried another.

Elizabeth turned away from them and ran.

"Ik smeek u, alstublieft," another screamed behind her.
 

 

"If they're going to have any chance at all, we've got to get these bullets out." Anna said as they took refuge in a small outbuilding several yards behind the burning building.

Anna sank her teeth into Ashe's forearm, as Jonas did the same for Argus. Galen pulled out a pocketknife, Hiro a dagger. With surgical skill Galen removed the bullet lodged under Ashe's collarbone while Hiro skillfully plucked the two from Argus's back. Blood gushed from Ashe's wound. Galen was quick to apply concentrated salve to his wounds, but it had little effect. Argus's wounds however were healing as expected.

Dain arrived then stopping within a few yards of their location and hurried over to them.

"No," Argus ordered as they moved to help him to the UTV. "I'm alright."

Anna breathed relief as she reached a hand toward him. "Why isn't he healing?"

Dain stepped in and applied pressure to Ashe's wound.

"It's your blood," Argus said, taking hold of her hand.

"But," Anna hesitated. "He's not a blood drinker. You remember what happened to me. What will that do to him?"

The others eyed Anna, dumbfounded.

"Yes," Hiro said. "I'm sure he's still a virgin too."

"Let's call your credulity charming shall we?" Argus bit into her wrist then pressed it against Ashe's mouth.

Ashe drank instinctively, if not habitually.

"Galen" Argus said. "It may be more than blood he'll need. He needs life force. He needs immortality."

Galen's face scrunched as if he'd just been gut punched. He nodded, took a breath and sank his teeth into Ashe's forearm.

Ashe gasped.

Anna gasped a second later as Ashe took hold of her wrist and sank his teeth into her skin, opening new outlets for blood as the others healed.

"It's working. He's stopped bleeding," Dain informed.

Galen released Ashe's arm, just as Ashe released Anna's. He looked up at her, his expression awkward and unsure. "Thanks," he said softly, and a little embarrassed.
 

 

"Unit one, do you copy?" Ashe's radio buzzed.

"Go ahead," Ashe relayed.

"Good to hear your voice," Lewis said. "Our position has been compromised. We are under attack and have sustained casualties. Relocating to secondary back-up position and starting north side containment now."

"Define casualties," Taylor's voice cut in.

"Alive. Not well," Lewis said. "I'm sorry."

"Copy," Ashe acknowledged.

"I'm in route," Taylor replied, her voice rich with emotion.

Argus and his Elite exchanged nods and were immediately on the move again.

"What's happening?" Ashe asked.

"He's back," Anna heard Meline in her head.

"Not helpful," Anna said aloud.

"We're moving to rendezvous," Dain explained.

Their rendezvous was a location one mile directly east of town. The group from medical arrived several minutes after Argus's group. Vaughn had recovered enough to drive, which was not a good omen for the others. Lewis sat in the passenger seat, both of his arms bandaged, covered in sweat and blood. Elizabeth cradled Wendy in the back. She was drenched in sweat, bloody and shivering, nearly mummified in bandages and wraps.

"Oh no," Anna cried. "They were never supposed to be in harm was. I can't have this. We have to do something. We have to save them. We have to turn them," she said.

"What?" Jonas eyed her.

Argus looked them over, his eyes stopping on Vaughn for a long moment then he nodded.

"Do it," Anna said."

Elizabeth shook her head, her eyes darting toward Vaughn. "I can't," she said.

"I'll do it," Jonas said, taking hold of Wendy's hand.

Wendy moaned as Jonas bit her, as bad as she looked, it was a good sign.

"Not me," Lewis said. "I'm not going to outlive my children. I can't do it."

"We'll take it back," Anna said. "But we need you now, I need you now, and you made a promise."

"Where do you want it?" Hiro stepped forward.

"You couldn't have been a beautiful woman?" Lewis smirked.

"I'll do it," came a voice from the trees. It was Danay.

Galen and Ashe were quick to defend, their weapons drawn and at the ready.

"Wait," Anna and Dain said at the exact same moment.

Dain took a cautious step toward her.

Anna nodded to Hiro to proceed with Lewis then went quickly to stand at her father's side. "It's alright," Anna informed. "She's on our side."

"Like hell," Elizabeth said, coming to defend, Jonas right behind her, still licking blood from his lips. "You don't know her. You don't know what she's like, what she's capable of." Elizabeth glowered.

"This is not a discussion," Anna said, stepping between them. "Lower your weapons."

"Hej far," Danay looked at Dain. "Jeg ved, at der er meget at sige mellem os, men jeg er bange for vores tårevædet far og datter genforening bliver nødt til at vente." she said.

"Wait. What?" Elizabeth gasped. "My Danish is a little rusty but did she just call him father?"

Dain ignored Elizabeth and took another step closer to Danay. "Du har ansigt og form af min datter. Men har du hendes hjerte, og hendes sjæl?"

"Jeg er ikke det barn, jeg engang var, men jeg er stadig din datter," Danay turned her head toward the trees and nodded. Kevin stepped forward with his hand around Taylor's arm. "We found her trapped on a rooftop." Danay said. "Consider her a peace offering." She nodded to Kevin and he let her go.

Taylor ran immediately to Wendy's side.

"We surrender," Danay said then dropped her blade on the ground.

Kevin followed suit. He nodded at the group and waved, offering an extra nod and slight smile to Anna.

Dain looked for a moment as if he'd forgotten something. "Will you help us find Adelaide, Lucas and Patrice?" he asked.

"More than that, I can take you to Viktor," Danay said. "That's why I'm here. I know where he's hiding - where they're all hiding. I followed them there. When I discovered you were no longer behind me, I came to find you. We don't have much time. Things aren't going as planned. If the chaos starts to look like a loss they'll leave the area and go underground then they'll be near impossible to track down."

"It sounds like a trap," Elizabeth said.

"Of course it's a trap," Danay said. "They've anticipated your every move, even this very moment I'm sure. My role is to bring Dain to her by any means."

"And you just expect us to blindly follow you into a trap?" Elizabeth exclaimed.

"Well now, if you know it's a trap then it becomes less trap and more... obstacle course doesn't it?" Danay reasoned.

"You're not seriously considering this, are you?" Jonas eyed Dain. "She's Adelaide's right hand."

"And what does that make you Jonas?" Danay huffed. "You were so quick to align yourself with Argus, but not so quick to hand over his enemies. It's really quite remarkable how you've managed to gain his trust while maintaining your loyalty to Viktor and Adelaide. You're a traitor to the core or maybe the one you call Argus isn't as all-seeing as he would wish everyone to believe."

"What are you talking about?" Jonas said. "It was Viktor who warned me about Adelaide's depravity. We both planned to surrender to Argus. I left a day before he did."

"No. Viktor sent you," Danay countered. "He went into seclusion the next day and refused to be seen by anyone other than his lieutenants. He married Adelaide. They planned all of this - including you. We both know it's only a matter of time before you reveal Argus's true identity to her. But only because you're too much of a coward to take his life yourself."

Jonas shook his head, his jaw tense. "My king knows me Danay. I keep no secrets from him. You know nothing."

"You speak of Viktor Ingrid." Argus's brow furrowed.

"Yes," Danay gave a half nod.

"Not possible," Dain said. "Viktor is dead."

Argus shook his head looking pained.

Dain stepped close to Danay. "Viktor knew your mother," he said softly. "He courted her. But this was not the life she wanted. He could not save her from Adelaide, and so he saved me. Viktor would not ally himself with your mother's killer. He was a good man. He would have died first and so he must be dead."

"No." Danay shook her head. "I have seen him."

Dain took a breath and nodded. "I thought you dead once too. If you say he lives, then I believe you."

Jonas shook his head. Elizabeth slipped her hand into his.
 

 

Meline found Eden playing peek-a-boo with Elias.

"Where's Elias?" she asked, as she covered him with his blanket. "Is he under the blanket?"

Elias kicked the blanket off and smiled up at her, giggling at her mock surprise, his eyes a soft iridescent green.

"There you are," Eden cooed.

"Do you have a minute?" Meline asked.

"You have news about Ashe?" Eden asked, coming to meet Meline in the hall.

"He's fine," Meline said, biting her lip. She was nervous to say the least. She'd heard the order, knew the circumstances, had double, triple and then quadruple checked them, but was still absolutely sure - for reasons she couldn't explain - that following this order was a mistake.

"What is it?" Eden's brow furrowed. "It's bad isn't it?"

"No," Meline said. "I just-" she extended her arms as if asking for a hug.

 Eden's arms were barely around her when Meline set her teeth deep into her neck, injecting her with warm golden venom.

"No!" Eden screamed, fighting and shoving Meline away from her. She reached her hand to the tiny holes bleeding on her neck. "What have you done?" She gasped at the softly shimmering blood on her hands.

"He... ordered me," Meline breathed, confused and frightened by Eden's reaction. "Vaughn is... was turned," she reasoned.

Eden looked as if she might throw up, or pass out, or both. She fell to the floor, her body convulsing violently as the change overtook her. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"Eden!" Meline shrieked, falling to her side, "I'm sorry," she cried, realizing that something had gone horribly wrong.


 

The distrust of Danay and Kevin wasn't limited to Jonas. It was obvious that each of them were feeling it to some degree. Relationship patterns had abruptly changed and everyone was being cautious of how they interacted with one another. Even Argus, who was becoming more apt to be recognized for who he really was among his followers, had introduced himself as Fenton Sugar and was using his Elite to communicate for him.

"It's not going to be safe to venture west for a little while," Galen said, after a series of fires burst into being a mile west of them.

"Good. That gives us a little time to make sure we have a solid plan." Hiro said.

"Or we go around," Dain suggested.

"Yes," Danay nodded. "The more brazen and self confident you appear, the more they'll be convinced of their plan and their ability to defeat you."

"What is their plan?" Dain asked.

"I don't really know, but I believe she thinks Dain will be able to lead her to Argus. If not, she'll get to have her fun torturing him for the next thousand years or so. On the other hand," Danay sighed. "Adelaide has it on good report that Liz's eldest daughter married Argus."

Elizabeth took a sharp breath in and the color drained from her face as she realized she had been the source of this news.

"And it would appear that rumor is true," Danay said.

"You're enjoying this too much," Jonas scowled at her.

"It makes both of them targets," Danay sneered. "I'm only trying to help by pointing out possible weaknesses. It won't be quite as easy for them to figure it out as it was for me, but I wouldn't underestimate them. Especially given how the 'nobody' from fifty years ago who was so fond of wearing his symbol around now orders the Elite as if she were Argus herself. That being the case, I don't think it's safe for you to go with us Anna."

"It's true that I am not the same person I was fifty years ago," Anna said. "I'm not even the same person I was five years ago. Argus and his Elite are here at my behest. They fight as my allies. As long as they stand with me I will not abandon this fight. No matter what happens I will not abandon them."

"Spoken like a true queen," Danay said.

Her statement ruffled more than a few feathers among the group but it was Hiro that stepped forward. "I believe it's time to end this conversation," he said. "Before it turns into a misunderstanding that cannot be undone."

"Forgive me, I am not trying to upset anyone," Danay said. "Merely to warn. It's commonly known he keeps more than one consort. I'm only trying to look out for my sister."

"That your warnings sound like threats is just a happy coincidence I'm sure," Elizabeth said.

Hiro turned toward Anna, his expression intense. "Have faith my queen," he mouthed.

"She can read lips." Anna said, perturbed. "They both can."

The corner of Hiro's mouth curled into a smile, before it became a sneer and he quickly walked away.

It was odd behavior for Hiro, but maybe it was meant as a message from Argus, who had never referred to her as a queen, ever. So... probably not.
 

 

Lewis wasn't taking the transition well. "Talk about a mind fuck," he said to Anna. "You know I'm pretty sure you'll never be able to take this back."

"It does get easier," Liz said. "I promise."

"I need to call my wife, my kids. Ex-wife, ex-kids," he lamented. "Fuck!"

There was no time to wait for his head to clear. For safety's sake they left the newly turned immortals in Taylor's care and promised to return for them before dawn.

They headed south and took the long way round town, taking down more than a few stray vampires they encountered along the way. "Stories of vampires gave me nightmares," Anna said after running one through, immobilizing it long enough for Jonas to take its head off. "They're so much worse in reality."

"Not to worry," Galen said to Anna, tracing his hand gently across the small of her back. "Containment is fairing better than these strays would suggest."

She had wondered when Hiro had been so forward with her, now that Galen was she was sure it was part of a rouse to confuse Adelaide about Argus's identity. She didn't like it. It endangered them all, but she had little choice but to play along, even if that met ignoring them all equally.

Adelaide and her crew were hiding themselves in a manor house, several miles southwest of town. It was guarded by more than a dozen immortals that they could see, there were undoubtedly more inside. More modern in some parts than in others, it had the look of several failed attempts at renovation over the past hundred years.

"This was Estes's place," Jonas said. "It survived the fires, but no one felt it was safe enough to return here. There are three entrances; front, back and the far side," he pointed.

"It's his family's home," Danay said. "He never abandoned it entirely. He often talks of living here after the defeat of Argus. That is when he isn't talking about living at Buckingham palace, the pompous ass."

"Something we agree on," Elizabeth said casually.

"We split up, breach in five and meet in the middle," Dain ordered. "Anna, Galen and Ashe you have the back. Jonas, Liz and Hiro take the side. Danay Kevin and Sugar, you're with me.

Argus made a point of nodding to Anna before he left.

She was really beginning to hate this game.
 

 

Before they were even in position behind the house a commotion at the side entrance had all the guards running in that direction. "Wow. All of them are leaving?" Ashe gaffed.

"Let's go." Galen said and started for the door.

"Did you know that was going to happen?" Anna said.

"No," Galen said. "But I'm not surprised. God save the queen and all that," he smirked.

Anna scowled.

"Yeah, I know that look," Galen said. "Knock it off. No one is patronizing you. We're using you as bait."

Anna smiled.

"You're smiling at that," Galen mused. "No wonder he loves you." He raised his hand signaling for them to stop at an inside door. He looked as if he were listening for something. "To the left," he whispered then kicked the door open.

The door slammed into an immortal knocking him to the ground and allowing Hiro to take him out. Anna and Ashe entered with guns raised, mortalizing two in the fray and five that came bounding in from the left, while the others immobilized them.

"Traitor!" came a scream from an immortal with fiery red hair on the floor above.

The red head leapt onto the banister of the floor above and began shooting, Danay her primary target. Anna raced across the room toward the shooter as she leapt off the balcony, still firing. She was followed seconds later by two others, both men with dark hair. Anna slid underneath them and turned, shooting the three of them in the back as they landed. She was on her feet before they could turn to face her. The red head turned and snarled ferociously at Anna. She pulled the trigger on her gun. Click. She was out.

Danay threw her blade from across the room running the red head clean through.

Instinctively the man on her left yanked it free and started toward Danay. The redhead fell to her knees, the DNPi beginning to take effect. "Gretchen," the man on her right reached for her.

"Nothing can save her now," Anna said. "Surrender and live, fight and die."

He lunged for Anna. Galen stepped in swinging his blade, and took the man's head off. Dain and Kevin stepped forward, beheading the man who was racing toward Danay.

"You waste ammunition if you kill them," Anna said harshly.

"Sorry," Galen said. "Nice work."

"She really knows how to move, doesn't she?" Kevin said grinning at Ashe.

"She's my mother." Ashe replied, his voice low and disapproving.

"She... turned you?" Kevin looked mildly disturbed.

"I was born immortal," Ashe returned his look of disgust. "How do you know her?" he pressed.

"Oh, uh... we met in Denmark, in the sixties. We were on sort of an archaeological team together. We were just friends."

Ashe scoffed. "Yeah, I just bet you were."

"I was... mortal then," Kevin reasoned.

"Uh-huh." Ashe eyed him.

"Where to now?" Argus asked Danay.

"I don't know," Danay said

"I saw a security pad on a door when we came in," Argus said. "I'd guess there."

"Hiro, Jonas, Liz and Ashe, you make sure the rest of the house is secure." Dain said. "The rest of you come with me."

The door led them to the basement to a larger open area. The sweet aroma of immortal blood caught their senses at the edge of the far corridor. Dain ran his finger across a smear of blood on the floor and tasted it.

"Camille," he concluded.

Anna shuddered. "Some obstacle course," she groused. "You know there are no outlets on that end of the house."

Loud booming thuds sounded behind them as a series of heavy roll down fire doors blocked all possible exits behind them.

"Now what?" Anna asked.

Dain leaned his back against the wall and sighed. "Now we wait."

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart