Meirakat’s spy, Sorsha, returned to the house just a week after her departure. As she swept into his current office, Meirakat raised a brow at her attire. There was scant cloth covering her skin and what was there merely teased a watcher as to what was hidden beneath. She’d dressed to draw a different kind of attention to her presence. He wasn’t sure he liked the idea.
“A lady of ill repute?” he scoffed, his voice dripping disapproval. “You were supposed to be inconspicuous.”
“My Lord, many prostitutes frequent that area. I found it to be a perfect cover to be loitering around the target building each night. Believe it or not, this look didn’t even get me a passing glance.”
His silence on the matter stretched out. Finally, he said, “And what were you able to find?”
“The location was accurate, My Lord. There is a small lab on the ground floor that employs about ten.”
“Is this Phillip with them?”
“I caught sight of him a couple times, yes.”
“And what else?”
“He has a small group of armed men hanging about. They’re housed on the second and third floors. Several patrol the bottom floor at any given time. The rest seem to be waiting. From what I’ve seen, they seem to have bought into the idea that they’ve eliminated us.”
“Were that the case, would they not have disbanded?”
Sorsha shrugged, saying, “You’re the tactician, My Lord. I couldn’t say.”
“Perhaps they err on the side of caution,” he muttered.
Sorsha remained silent on that point, but instead said, “I counted about thirty-five, lab techs and fighters.”
“That’s it?” Heat flushed Meirakat’s cheeks. Thirty-five felling a house of over a hundred vampires? Even counting the men they’d already slaughtered, that only made a group of about forty-five. Such a small number overcoming their might was mortifying. His anger reflected when he growled, “Weapons?”
“Nothing special, My Lord. It’s obvious they aren’t militia or military. No high grade weaponry at all. I saw shotguns, semi-auto and automatic rifles, and even some hunting rifles in the mix. No grenades, rocket launchers, bazookas or the like. From the look of it, we’re up against a group of pissed off locals who’re trying to take a stand against a threat to their lives.”
A grin spread on Meirkat’s face.
She grimaced a moment later. “However, there is one threat we need to be cautious of – silver. I saw them loading silver powder into the shotgun shells. Packing it around the pellets. The rifle rounds were fitted with silver tips.” She grimaced. “They may be untrained, but they’re dedicated to seeing us out the evolutionary door.”
“If silver is all we have to worry about…” he trailed off as his mind worked the possibilities. Silver didn’t kill. It burned. It retarded their healing ability, but unless massive amounts were introduced into a vampire’s system, exposure to the mineral was normally a recoverable wounding. “Thank you Sorsha. Dawn is coming, you should rest.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“I will ask that you periodically stop by there to keep us updated.”
“We’re not going to hit them now?” she asked incredulously.
He afforded her a patient smile. “We’re not ready for that yet. A few more weeks.”
Though she looked ready to argue, she simply clamped her jaw shut, bowed her head, and took her leave of his office. He watched her go, mulling her news and planning just what to do with it. Sorsha’s news was heartening. Their opposition was small in number and seemingly unaware of the vampire’s tiny survival party.
When a few more had recovered. It was very hard to be patient, but he knew rushing into this action would only end in disaster. He needed a squad of vampires who would not be debilitated by their illness. They needed to be able to fight, to think and react quickly to the situation. None of them were to that point yet.
Meirakat pushed up from his seat at the desk, happy when the world didn’t spin for once. He’d been fighting that for so long now, that most times he just compensated automatically for the off-kilter tilt of the world around him. Now he found he had to correct himself because the world remained upright.
Even the rumble in his stomach was less pain and more true hunger. He wondered if, finally, his body was recovered enough for a meal. He could only imagine how gaunt he must look. He could see the effects in his hands. They were bony, thin, and decrepit looking. His claw tips stood past their protective nail sheaths no matter how relaxed he was.
No wonder those around him looked ready to catch him all the time. They seemed to think he was constantly on the verge of another collapse. Not that any of them were much better.
There was a glimmer of hope, however, in those who had fallen ill before him and were now ahead of him in recovery. Several had already resumed eating regular meals, and their appearance reflected their returning health. He was anxious to get to that point himself.
Changing directions, he started for the pens, determined to test his stomach. The few remaining humans were now isolated from even one another. The escape of so many of their fodder was vexing, to be sure, and it was frustrating to find that some of the ones they had retained, because of their violent or unpredictable nature, had died from lack of care.
He frowned, not sorry for the humans’ death so much as the loss of an asset, and wishing there had been someone who had been spared this dread illness who could have cared for their bank of meals. But there was little to be done about it now. They could only work to maintain the ones they had left. It was crucial. Especially if they were to keep from giving their continued survival away to the humans.
That is, keep it secret until they were strong enough to announce their continued presence in Providence.
With this he arrived at his destination. Keying the lock, he let himself into the room where his night’s meal resided. The human leapt to her feet, her eyes as round as saucers – her dark hair frizzy and flying all about her head. She retreated under his shadow until the back wall left her nowhere else to go.
“Meirakat,” she snarled in helplessness. “Yer supposed to be dead! They said you’d died.”
A crooked grin cropped up on his face. Despite the expression, anger swelled. Who said he had died? Did she hear that from another captive, one of his vampires, or impossibly from the outside world? “Rumors of my demise are greatly in error.”
“Don’t touch me!” She threw an ineffective punch, one he ducked with ease.
“Now, now, my dear.” He toned his voice down, soothing her even as he reached into her mind. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Liar!” she protested weakly. “You’re not… the first fanged… bastard in here.”
“Which proves my point,” he purred feeling her resistance soften. “You’re not hurt.”
She struggled feebly as he laid a hand upon her shoulder. Hunger – it was as much pleasure as pain, and his teeth quickly extended into his mouth in anticipation. He smoothed down the woman’s hair, supporting her with his other hand. A small grin turned up one corner of his mouth. She was a pretty young thing. He was reminded of…
A frown shattered the previous expression, the familiar lump in his throat rising to choke him. Blinking, he stepped back from his meal, searching her face, telling himself it wasn’t Elpis, this human could never match his mate. Not in looks – not in personality – not in accomplishments.
Elpis was dead.
Meirakat struck before he could think any further, burying the falling tears in the woman’s hair as he buried his fangs into her neck. He tried to plow over the surge of emotions with the high of a feeding, but it was only partially successful.
His mate’s body still lay where she was felled. His beautiful, capable mate, rotting like weeks’ old garbage.
He gnawed harder, hearing the distant grunt of pain from his subdued meal.
All of the bodies – his friends – his family – still stunk up the hallways and rooms and the main hall.
When he released the woman under his fangs, he managed not to just drop her weakened body. He lowered it to the floor, but made no more effort to make her comfortable or make her recovery from his attention easier.
Turning away, Meirakat stormed back out.
Despite the logic of staying hidden, he was angry he couldn’t care for the needs of the dead. He was unable to clear the halls of the rot and the stench. The reminders of the pain the humans inflicted on his clan were plain to see any time he visited those floors.
Clenching his jaw, he wished for the strength to hit the humans back, eliminate their threat so he could honor the fallen properly.
In his anger, he didn’t even notice when the hunger eased and strength seeped back into his frame.
Twelve of the twenty-seven remaining vampires had volunteered to be a part of the insurgent team. They were now positioned around the building. Sorsha’s intelligence held true. It was obvious by the lazy way the patrols were working the property, they felt the threat to be eliminated. He glanced at his spy, crouched at his right hip, and she grimly smiled and nodded.
While Meirakat didn’t expect much resistance, he readied himself for a battle just in case. He would not be lulled into complacency just because these were local men and women. Beings, human or otherwise, fought hardest to protect their homes. Perhaps they were untrained, but their tenacity could make up for any lack of formal skill.
At his side was an ancient sword, one he’d gleaned off a Mycenaean co-combatant during one of the many Trojan skirmishes. He’d kept it as a reminder – well of many things, including the good old days of combat. Others in his squad held more modern weapons, and while he had been known in several of the more modern wars to carry projectile weaponry, he didn’t feel this skirmish would warrant such firepower. Besides, his target wasn’t a warrior…
Meirakat peered above him, seeing the crouched shadows on the fire escapes above, or clinging to the walls above the windows like flies. They all awaited his word. Soft reports were drifting into his ear through the miniature earpiece.
“Now,” he hissed, disseminating his order through the airwaves.
Twelve moved as one, shattering windows or ducking in through already open doors. The surprise was complete as shouts arose, around and above him. His contingent laid fighters low quickly. Guns lit off, barking in different tones depending upon the caliber, as friend and foe alike began a firefight.
Meirakat strode down the middle of the room, heading for the knot of scientists who bunched up at the far end of the floor. Several of them, including the man in charge of the vampire genocide, dove for weapons. Meirakat drew his sword halfway across the floor, taking his time. He knew what he was doing, and wasn’t sure his opposition did.
Though they aimed at him, only one fired. Meirakat did it again – without thought – he found himself a foot to the right without ever making the step. He could smell it now, the scent of his newfound ability, almost like sulfur. The bullet intended for his chest whizzed harmlessly by. Again he was fired upon, this time all three finding the courage to pull triggers. Meirakat simply leaned forward, bending space, and coming out again behind the three. The sword came around, cleaving the man on the left in half through the waist. His guts spilled with a slopping sound onto the tile, blood spattered equipment, all before the two halves thumped lifelessly to the floor. Spinning, Meirakat looped the blade over his head and came down on the second man’s shoulder, lopping off his gun arm with little effort. The man went down screaming, trying desperately to staunch the bleeding.
Two down before Phillip could even gather his wits. By the time the man spun to face him, Meirakat was already reaching in. He simply closed a hand on his throat and lifted him by the grip off the ground. He spared one glance behind him, to ensure none of the other scientists were going to attempt an attack, and then focused on the mastermind.
“Hello, Phillip,” he growled. He was a tall man, six foot, perhaps six two, and the man’s toes scrapped the floor as he tried desperately to find purchase.
He could feel the man’s Adam’s apple working against his palm – could feel the racing of his heart through the beat against his clenched fingers. The man had abandoned his gun, trying instead to loosen Meirakat’s grip with both hands. The effort was ineffectual. Still he continued to struggle.
“I think you know why I’m here, Phillip.”
While his eyes were still wide with shock, anger was starting to seep in. Slowly his struggle ceased and he glared at Meirakat with contempt.
“Vampire!” he spit. “Go ahead and kill me, you psychotic son of a bitch! You might as well! I can’t be a meal for you! I’m infected. I’m a carrier, you bastard!”
Meirakat tilted his head to one side. “Infected, eh? Is that what you think will stop me from sucking you dry? Tell me – what does that matter anymore? We have all been infected. We have all suffered – many of us came to death. But some survive. We survived your disease. As a scientist, you should anticipate survivors. No plague ever to sweep the world has ever claimed all lives.”
The man swallowed.
“Wait, you did plan for it. Your little death squads. How many would still be with us, if you hadn’t had them all shot in the face while they suffered?” He glanced away, whispering, “Oh, my Elpis was one of those casualties.”
His expression hardened as he regarded the human once again.
“You carrying doesn’t worry me anymore.”
Phillip became stone still as the words sank in. “Wh… wait.”
“Death.” He grinned maliciously. “That would be the easy way out for you. I’m not extending you that courtesy. You have taken our family, destroyed our health and our home. No… you deserve to be paid in kind – to suffer as we all have. A blood meal – a blood slave, yes, that is the fate best suited for your crime.”
He tossed the human to Cummings.
“Take the survivors back to the pens.”
“No!” Phillip cried. “You can’t do this!”
He wheeled on the human. “I can’t? You filii meretricum, what makes you think not?”
Whatever words he intended to counter with froze in his throat.
Meirakat peered up at Cummings. “Take him away.” He took three steps into the slaughter and peered about for some moments. He wheeled once again, this time to bark an order to the others in his squad. “Burn the place.”
He strode back into the fresher air of the night, not looking back as flames began lighting the neighboring buildings.
“Now, perhaps, my love,” he whispered, “we can find closure.”