the second installment of a vampire seeking answers
Tawny Roberts had been a bit of a drunk for a very long time. She had found the vice at a young age, her inattentive parents thinking a cupboard more than enough to keep their 12 year old angel out. But the taste for vodka and boredom was all she got from authority, leading her down a rough, dangerous road. Booze turned to drugs turned to loss of control. Hooking got her paid after addiction almost got her killed but pimps are a tricky lot, especially in the city. Hacking came after hooking and it got her out from beneath her pimp's thumb, later allowing her to bankrupt him, take his property and his girls, passing his wears onto the people whom he had called property.
Six months after her twenty second birthday, she moved into a small town outside of a small city in the northern part of New York, buying a bar after laying low for an additional six months. As good as she was at hacking and theft, she knew the value of hiding when you need to. But the city was easy to influence, a few numbers here, a couple jobs there and almost every local official was in her pocket, eliminating any local opposition with money and influence. The minimal criminal element of the city fell to her like wheat at harvest, no word of her sex or her age coming into play. She knew that her looks had something to do with it at the time, not to mention her experience with seduction and physical manipulation a plus that she was reminisce to employ but not completely against.
At twenty six, she had been done with that nonsense for a year, her heart jaded but her mind sharp. Tawny could have been called the unofficial mayor of the city but no one would have backed it up. In her bar, anything that had to do with booze went, save violence. Everybody knew that the sheriff was at her beck and call any hour of the day, keeping them on their best behavior. But downstairs, with it's own three separate entrances, was an almost catacombs of rooms for many different types of activity, this area run by the last drug dealer in town, Spencer Alvinson. There was an age limit on all of the activities, though she and Spence were the only employees, the locals kept just about everybody else in line. Her dividends weren't really dependent on the bar and the drug level never entered the narcotics phase.
Late in July of 2012, the temperature moderate at best, Tawny was all ready four tequila's in, the few regulars milling around without intent, a drink clutched in at least one hand and a glazed look in their eyes. Only one stranger tonight.
He was short, couldn't have been more than five foot three, a crown of red hair on his pasty head, holding up a cabbie hat too small for the melon he sported. If he was a cabbie though, he was the best dressed one she had ever seen. He wore a suit, some high end dealer but in an odd color, that of grass on the top layer and sky blue beneath, a tie of black, his brilliant eyes gazing at her. He looked like an oxymoron stereotype.
" 'Lo, Tender Roberts, c'n I ask a fayvor of ye?" A brogue out of a cereal cartoon made her hold back a giggle.
"That depends, paddy, what makes you think you can just appear and start using my name, even with the stupid title thrown in?" He laughed haughtily, almost a cackle. He raised a drink to his lips, a drink that she hadn't given him but was in one of her cups. "Where did you get that?"
"Ye gave it ta me. Havin' memory trouble, lass?" His eyes sparkled as he sipped the beer. She couldn't figure out what color they were.
"Oh." There was money on the bar, exact change with a generous tip. Had she given him the drink? The tequila sang in her stomach. "Doesn't answer the first question."
"I know ya rep. Called ye Binary Void, last time you were actually recognized on the grid that is. Nice set up here, ya got though."
Warning bells went off in her mind. No one used that name, not since one of the many federal agencies after her had almost closed in, almost getting physical evidence. The choir of alcohol lowered its voice to a murmur, her focus sharpening.
"Don' get all uppity, do sumthin yer liable to regret. Aye am in need of someone like yerself and I wus just hopin' ta ignore the usual style of beat aroun' the boosh. Jus' a man inna bar askin' tha barkeep ta meet a friend o' his. No strings, no trouble an' absolutely no chance of a problum."
"Sounds like you're feeding me shamrocks and calling 'em clovers. What's the catch?" One of her regulars stepped up and ordered a scotch, by the time she turned back, the strange Irishman was gone, a small note on the bar napkin the only evidence. Simply said 'think on it, Red.' "Great. Crazy tourist."
More than one way to skin a soldier
Agent Tiers had been given some perspective by the injured wrist, his clothes fitting me quite nicely, though I opted to leave him his undergarments. They all watched me as I dressed, with the eyes of gazelle when first it sees the lion. I stretch, stalking back and forth in front of them for a few moments, feeling the blood coursing through me. I feel off, overcharged, like my skeleton is electrified and wants to jump out of my skin. It’s difficult to keep myself from being slightly giddy.
"Well, Tiers has bought his walking papers, though it will be just a bit longer before he is actually able to breath free air. I still want that information. How he knew things, how you managed to get me out of the ground and a little lay of the land. Are there more than you three men left? Another contingent of reinforcements, perhaps?"
They all avert their eyes. All but Roberts. His thin eyebrows are arched, his eyes narrowed on me. I do believe he wants nothing more than to kill me. How I love a challenge.
"Oh good. Let's resist the monster who just slaughtered our compatriots. Humanity has become completely stupid and all I had to do was sleep for seventy years. Which one of them dies first, Roberts?"
The technician was no longer crying. She only stared at me in anticipation, her breathing shallow. But I don't have an affinity for rabbit. I advance on Roberts, surprised by the outcry of one of his compatriots.
"We aren't told things like that. It's just a job. There is nothing for us to reveal." Hicks was typed on his small tag, his weapons dropped on the floor behind him as he stepped in my way. "But I bet you could get something from."
Roberts blew Hicks a fresh new hole for his head, cutting him off mid sentence. The gun hit the floor before I lay hand upon him, his hands raised in surrender.
"Well, there ya go. Narrowing my choices does not work out well for you. Tell me something, I don't think it will compromise your job ethics. Do you know anything about the healing properties of vampire blood?" His eyes don't waver. I kind of respect him. "No? Let me educate you."
His gear is quite intricate, my nails clipping through buckles and seams until he is bare chested, his mask falling away. His hair is neatly cropped, the color of wheat. He tries to keep his composure, still not saying a word. I angle the table and sink it into the floor and wall, making a makeshift operating table. Flipping him easily, his back slams onto it's surface with a fleshy thud.
I unsheathe his knife and staple him to the table with it, through his right hand. I grasp his left wrist, forcing him to extend his fingers. My talons cut the tender flesh of his palm, splitting it down the middle, blood seeping down his arm. I cut lines up the front of each finger, beginning to filet the flesh from muscle slowly, his screams approaching shrill. His blood flows over the steel, hot and pungent, a torrid flood that would take his life in only a brief time. Before the receptors can cool, I nip a few fingers and repair his mangled fingers, sealing the palm. The pain flowed away the moment the wound closed, his screams tapering off to sobs.
"Tell me something now Roberts. Anything. Give me the indication you are ready for this to end and I will stop. Otherwise, we are going to continue." He stared hard at me, tears still edging his vision. "Okay then. Stay with me. If you pass out, you will wake up praying for death. My word once more."
I repeat my actions, the freshly healed skin pulling free easier this time, moving farther up, his wrist and half of his fore arm became a masterpiece of gore. His muscles tense wildly, his screams beyond shrill now, approaching animalistic in his agony. I stare at Tiers and the technician while I work, not needing my eyes for such a simple procedure. When it's complete, I take a moment, to let him truly experience what it will be like when I get the rest of his skin, a nudity unlike anything he has ever felt before.
"Tell you what Roberts. When you crack, and you will, I'll let you decide if I kill you or let you live. Do you see what stubborness can buy you?"
It becomes almost ritualistic, cutting and healing, cutting and healing. The other two living humans in the room stare, hypnotized at my speed and lack of hesitation. I get to the shoulder, the skin draping to the floor, his blood level dangerously low. Soon, it won't be his choice at all.
"I can't lie, I never thought I would meet a human able to stand up to this pain. By now you should have started lying to me, just to make the pain stop. But I'm tired of this. It should have only been a distraction." This time, I begin on his chest, slicing down from his clavicles to his belly button, peeling the flesh quickly backward, almost ripping it off instead of surgically removing it. There was no time taken, no care given. His line had to be close.
"Stop it!" In her desperation, the technician rushed to us and grabbed my hand, her fingers sliding free, the blood preventing a grip. She gagged slightly, trying to heave the contents of an empty stomach before continuing. "I'll tell you what you need. Kill him or fix him, just stop, please."
"Finally. Reason." I catch her staring at him as his breathing becomes erratic. He is entering the final stages of blood loss, just before death will claim him, his mind most likely shattered by the amount of pain that he has endured. I take pity, if only for my stool pigeon’s comfort. I put him back together and he slips into unconsciousness. If he dies, he will die whole. I lick my claws clean, gesturing for her to continue.
"The general has a tablet, it has everything about everything in any of his operations. I'll get it." She hesitates until I nod. A small square of thick plastic is presented to me a minute later, gripped easily between two fingers as I examine it's outter shell. It has the shine of a television but it's the size of a small paperback novella. "You'll need codes to get into it but they were in the general's head. But if you agree to let us go, unharmed, I'll tell you how to get at them."
"Are there more soldiers on their way down? Or lying in wait for me when I leave?"
"No. We are part of a skeleton crew. This is strictly not happening as far as the company is concerned." Truth.
"How did you get me out of the ground? What happened to the Syphons?"
"I only saw you when they brought you in. Never heard of a Syphon. But I do know that something happened in the area where we got you, something decades earlier. Nothing good." Truth. She kept glancing at Roberts, fear in her eyes. "Is he dead?"
"No. Not yet, anyway. You want life, you get it. Tell me how to get what I need and I'll leave with nary a despairaging word." I step off of Roberts, glancing at Tiers. He holds his wrist and averts his eyes.
An hour later, I stand in the most amazing elevator I have ever seen. No attendant and a soft hum of lovely music through speakers I cannot see. The floor is carpeted and there is a lovely smell in the air. I find disappointment at the end of my ride, the doors opening to reveal a sunset drenched lobby. There were benches followed by desks, all leading to the expansive entranceway, a small coy pond on either side of the two enormous glass doors. Only a single secretary sits in the small island desk just before the coy, a faint smile crossing her lips as I exit the building.
I stand in a valley, mountains jumping up to meet the sky, the only clear area the snaking single lane roadway that delved between the distant ridges. The moment hesitation just outside the door stopped me from running headlong into an old 50's style El Dorado, a greaser driver leaning against it with a toothpick in his teeth. Upon seeing me, he opened the passenger door and smiled at me.
" 'Ello, boyo, I believe I'm here fur ye." His voice is kind of scratchy, the brogue obviously not real. For a moment, his appearance seems to ripple, as if I stand before a specter. He solidifies. "Been hired to take ye anywhere ye be needin."