Your Blood In My Veins

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

A Lost in the Void Production


image

The attack on Congress that left sixteen dead and twenty seven injured has elected officials questioning whether or not the security at the Congress building is enough to protect them during this heated debate. The National Guard has not yet been called but most of the political world agrees that it is only a matter of time before this thought becomes reality. The attackers were Husks, one white male and one black male, whose identities at this point cannot be revealed due to an ongoing investigation. The Washington police chief did have this to say:

"At this point, it is believed that the attackers hid the weapons in the chassis of the vehicle. They were flagged through due to counterfeit press passes. At this point the guards that let them through are on suspended duty with pay pending investigation. Security protocols have also been tightened around the Congress building. We will remain alert and vigilant in this time."

The station would also like to mourn the death of political correspondent Ron Hather, who was killed while on location last week during the attack. He will be remembered as a great father, excellent co-worker and an interesting person always open to discussion, a memorial presentation will be shown at 5 pm EST only on-

Sarah could hear the news playing as she got ready for school. Her parents always watched it, although today was missing their usual comments on the state of the world. Perhaps this unstable political environment they kept whining about was finally coming to a close. Or maybe they just couldn't think of anymore jokes to make at the expense of the conflict.

As she had breakfast her father came into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee before sitting down at the table with her. This seemed to be a growing pattern for him, his coffee and awkward silence ruined her breakfast every day. She just wished he would at least say something to alleviate the silence that strung between them every morning.

Finishing her breakfast as fast as she could without drawing attention to herself, she scrapped the remains into their dog's bowl and grabbed her jacket. As she opened the door her father finally spoke, his booming voice echoing from the kitchen, "I have clients over for dinner tonight, please go to a friend's house if possible please," he sounded almost bored as he said it and wandered off before she had a chance to respond. She would have to find a place to stay for the evening then, she would just go to Lance's house as she normally did, but that wasn't really an option for her anymore. She had kept an ear on the news for the last week or so but it appeared his death had gone unreported. She was almost sad before remembering the hell that he had put her through. The sex, the drugs and the blood; she kicked the street in annoyance as she walked down it.

She would normally take the bus to school, but in her rush to leave the house before it grew too awkward between her and her father, she had forgotten her bus pass. Not wanting to spend any money on the public transit system that always sought to set her beside someone that reeked of either sweat or stale booze; she had opted to walk instead. Sure she may miss the first block of school that day but she didn't care at this point, it looked like passing math was already out of her reach.

It was surprisingly busy, as always for 8am; it somehow amazed her everyday that this many people and vampires could cram into one city and continue to operate in some manner. It also amazed her how many scumbags could exist in such a city, as noted by him; her mind flashed back to the previous night's events. She was glad that he was gone, though she still couldn't shake that feeling of evil; she had killed someone, and one could argue that she killed him in cold blood.

As if on cue she heard the sirens of police cars and saw the black and white cars speed past her in the opposite direction. They could have been headed to any house in that area and there were many, but she knew that they were going to his house; it was just a feeling in her gut. Her pace quickened and she hurried to class without a second thought in her head.

The cameras flashed at the corpse lying in the kitchen; blood still slick around the gaping wound in the neck. Jack looked over the photographer as she took pictures, "This isn't my MO," he said, "The lab came back on garlic poisoning for the rest of the victims. Its subtle, well planned and a lot less noticeable than stabbing someone in the neck, speaking that do we have a murder weapon on the scene?"

One of the other officers flipped through his notes, "Not by the looks of it; no weapon, camera's in the parking lot and lobby are busted. No records from the elevator camera they both must have taken the stairs, maybe together?"

"Could be," Jack hated this; he had a bigger case to solve. They had already identified this vampire already; scumbag by the name of Vinny, notorious for blood related crimes; in and out for trafficking and at last encounter, had even been caught creating husks without consent. It was a waste of his time; he wasn't allowed to say it, but he was thinking that whoever stuck the knife in his neck had good reason to do so.

As if to condemn the corpse further, another cop brought out a bag of red powder, "Cherry Coke," looks like he's been up to his old tricks again eh Jack"

Jack grinned wryly, "You say that as if I should be happy Johnny, all this means is some poor soul is a Husk now and likely doesn't know it," it did mean however that they had potential motive, not many people like having their drugs meddled with. But that was someone else's problem, wasn't his MO, wasn't his case and he wasn't going to waste more time on a drug peddling asshole when innocent vampires were being attacked, "If that's everything though, I'm sure you all can handle this-" the sound of a phone ringing punctuated the air.

One of the attending officers threw the dead man's phone to Jack who opened it carefully before talking, "Hello, this is Detective Jack Richardson, who am I speaking to?"

James froze an unfamiliar voice answered the phone; it wasn't Vince as he expected, but someone claiming to be a detective. Had Vinny been busted? The voice coughed on the other line and James decided it was worth investigation, "Uh, is Vinny in some kinda trouble?"

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other line, "One could say so, I'm thinking you should come down to the station if you know him. Do you know of any kin of sort? Are you kin yourself?"

The questions were flying quickly and James had to compose himself before he snapped at the detective, "How can I confirm that I'm talking to an officer?" he figured it was better to cover his bases before revealing too much information.

The voice over the phone became a little more hostile, "Go to the station and ask for me you jackass and you'll have your answer," the line died and James wondered if perhaps the cop was actually a cop. Regardless it seemed like Vinny was in trouble and after the last husk Vince had sent his way had been so good, it seemed like he owed the guy.

He called a cab, let them know to use the vampire entrance and got ready to head to the police station, seemed like it would be a long day before too long. Fucking Mondays never went well.

After running the glasses under warm water, Seras stacked them one by one in the dishwasher, used his foot then his knee to close the door, and switched the machine on. He picked up the remote for the iPod dock, glanced outside to check his fathers car was absent, and boosted the volume. Seras then opened the fridge door and browsed the contents. The shelves were almost completely empty, with the inside of the door taken up by blood packs. A mix of legal and illegal. Each bag had a white label stuck to its packaging, and written in sharp, clear black letters was the blood type.

It's starting to look like a wine inventory in here, Dad.

Seras sighed, and slid the single bottle of milk from the lowest tray. He popped the lid off with his thumb and took several thirsty slugs. Having drunk his fill, he returned the milk and gently kicked the door closed. He pushed the letters and newspapers on the table to the side to find his school timetable. Almost a straight day of biology, with a token hour of gym stuck to the end. His mother had stuck a note to it reminding him to keep hydrated and be careful in the gym. He ripped the note from his timetable and stuffed it in his pocket, then folded the timetable and put it in his wallet.

He spotted the shopping list from yesterday morning still stuck to the fridge door, and he pulled a pen from his school bag to scribble a few extra things he wanted from the store. Bringing his pen up, he paused when he saw that his request soda had been scribbled out. Thinking his mother most have already bought them, he checked the fridge again. No soda.

Reading the list again, Seras spotted his father's elegant to the point of indecipherable handwriting beneath the pen scratches. Seras was only just able to make out 'Blood (AB+), Blood (AB-)'. Seras took revenge for his drink and scribbled over the requests for blood before rewriting his previous addition.

Jesus Christ. We're not exactly understocked on blood.

Seras glanced through his bag. Jotters, textbooks, pens, pencils. Everything in place. He checked both the sidepockets, and pulled out a half-full carton of cigarretes. He glanced around as though there was anyone who could possibly have seen, and stashed them back inside. Before leaving, he made his way through the house. His path was solely illuminated by the outside lights that shone through the windows.

He went up the stairs, silently hopping up two steps two at a time, and stopped in front of the door to his mother's room. He hadn't heard the door open once this morning or while he was in bed, although he knew his father had most likely slept in his study, if he had slept at all. Seras listened for any sign of life on the other side of the door. He brought his knuckles up to the wood, and paused. The lights from outside shown through the window at the end of the hall, black mixing with the faded natural colours of the house. Seras felt as though he was standing in a haze; an unnatural monochrome dream. Resting his forehead on the door, Seras spoke what was barely even a whisper, inaudible even to him.

'I'm going... to school, now. 'Kay?'

He let his knucles fall in slow motion. They brushed across the wood.

Bye.

After adjusting the straps on his bag on his way down the stairs, Seras slipped his cigarette carton from the side pocket. Arriving back in the kitchen, he pulled the electrical plug from the back of the iPod dock and chucked the carton onto the table and grabbed his pen. Sitting down, he withdrew a cigarrete and scrawled on the paper roll in clumsy black capitals 'NEVER KNOWS BEST'. Tossing the carton into his bag, he exchanged it for his lighter. With the newly embossed cigarrete held in his mouth, he switched off the lights in the kitchen and left out the door.

Outside, he flicked the lighter open, lit the cigarrete up and drew heavily on it. Within seconds the nicotine had relaxed him. Seras continued to smoke all the way to the bus station.

*Bee bee bee bee beep. Bee bee bee bee beep. Bee bee bee bee-* *blip*
Valerie opened her eyes, already awake. The first thing that came into view, of course, was the canopy on her bed. Dark velvet, soft to the touch, beautiful to look at. It kept the bed significantly shaded, on the off chance that there was a scratch in the tinted windows. The place was made for vampires, there was no spot of natural light in the damn place.

She grabbed a black scrunchie from the nightstand, tying her hair up. 6:05... The day was already going, she had to get up. Sitting in bed wasn't going to do anyone any good. She tilted her head, staring at the glowing numbers on her alarm clock for a few more minutes before getting up. Making her way into the bathroom, Valerie turned on the shower, letting the steam fill the room. A quick press of a button turned on the radio.

"Weather today will be partly cloudy, with temperatures reaching highs of 38. Traffic on all the main roads are moving at their normal speeds: there are no accidents to report at this time-" She changed the station. The weather was all she needed. If her carpool was late, that was the driver's problem. It changed to a music station, some woman singing. Ma chambre a la forme d'une cage... Le soleil passe son bras par la fentre. Les chasseurs ma porte comme les p'tits soldats qui veulent me prendre...

The water was warm against her skin. She picked up the a small bottle, dispensing all of it into her palm. The scent of apples floated up as she massaged it into her dull copper hair. She placed the now empty bottle back in its place: it was the first in a line of three identical blue bottles arranged an inch apart. The second was conditioner, its contents also emptied into her palm as soon as the shampoo was rinsed out. It was vital that the bottles were empty when they were put back: if there were any left at all, it would throw everything off, and at the end of the week when she refilled the bottles, there would be a little left in the big bottle. If there was a little left, she would have to use it before she went grocery shopping. If she had to use it, she would have to get some shampoo and soap to use with it from her sister's room. Maelle didn't mind anymore: she had grown used to her sister's fussing, but it would also mean that Valerie's schedule would be thrown off by at least 3 minutes and 29 seconds. That was 3 minutes and 29 seconds she could have spent staring down a microscope, or synthesizing vampire proteins.

The clock in the bathroom read 6:30. Valerie turned the water to cold. 6:35. She turned it to warm again. 6:40. She turned the water to cold before stepping out and turning the water off. While most of her habits were beneficial, and ensured she had a strict routine, some of them were utterly useless and wasteful. She wiped her feet 3 times on the rug, and then reached for her towel.


"AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!" Maelle jolted up from her bed, arms flailing in the air as she fell to the floor with a muted thud. At least the carpet is nice... She got up quickly, buttoning her shirt before running out to her half-sister's room. Their bedrooms were almost mirror images, and side by side, so it was a short run. When she got to the bathroom, she found Valerie dripping wet, no doubt from her shower, holding her head and hyperventilating. Having lived with her for all these years, Maelle quickly found the cause of the panic attack: a white towel hanging on the wall.

"Oh fuck... I forgot about that... Valerie... I'm sorry..." Maelle tried to calm her sister down without becoming the target of her simmering rage. "I'll uh... go get a white towel." She ran out of there like a bat out of hell, returning as fast as she could with a towel of the proper color. Valerie glared for a few seconds before grabbing it out of her hands, quickly drying off and pulling on her underwear. "Shit Maelle! It's 6:50! SIX FUCKING FIFTY! I should be downstairs by now!"

Valerie was brushing her teeth hard enough to make her gums bleed, trying to make up for lost time. Maelle just stared at the red froth Valerie spit out, watching it wash down the drain. The smell was muted by the strong scent of mint. Crisis semi-averted, Maelle walked back to her bedroom, collapsing into the sheets for another 5 hours of sleep.


The kitchen wasn't very alive in the morning: there was a cook, but the vampires in the household generally were asleep or still at work at this hour. Growling, Valerie stuffed a piece of bread in her mouth. It was going to be a long day. Her footsteps were quiet in the padded hallway, and even the door was well-oiled enough to maintain the silence as she locked it behind her.

7:00 Her carpool drove up in time, a plain red four-seater with a ding on one of the doors. The driver was a woman in her early fourties, Julia Andrews, who worked at the same lab. Valerie didn't bother to greet the cheery blonde, scowling as she was offered her usual coffee. "What's wrong? Wake up on the wrong side of the bed today, sweetie?" The other passenger was Brett Davidson, a quiet kid who was working as an intern between classes. He was a husk too, but even Valerie didn't know until she saw him take a dose during lunch. His headphones were on, so she didn't have to worry about not greeting him.

"Morning." she sighed, nerves still rattled from the wrinkle in her routine.

Taralyn hopped out of the pool, water streaming off of her cap. It was 6:00, she had just finished her 2 hour set. She pulled off her goggles and cap, letting her ponytail hang free, dripping water down her back. She shook it out, removing the elastic that was holding it back. She started to murmur to herself as she stretched herself out, starting with the legs.

"Four thousand metres. Not too bad, I need to get better if I want that gold. Eh, time to worry about that later, there's still 2 years."

After she finished her stretching, she headed for the showers, grabbing her towel from the bench as she left the pool deck. She entered the shower, stripping out of her training suit and turned the water to a reasonable temperature. She let the water wash away the time at work. It was fun working at the bar, Taralyn didn't doubt that, but it had been a busy night. She had been propositioned no less than eight times not including the unintelligible mumbling that had been directed at her. Most of them weren't too bad, the first rebuff was enough for them to stop. But some...

Taralyn sighed. There was a vampire last night that wouldn't be rebuffed with just a simple no. Drew had to forcibly kick the man out of the bar. It had gotten tense there for a minute, the bloodsucker looked like he was going to try and drain Drew. Luckily one of the other bouncers- Justin- was a vampire, and was able to take over. The atmosphere in New York was getting pretty tense between Vampires and humans as of late, almost as bad as during the Blood Riots, from what Taralyn could remember.

Taralyn sighed again, turning off the shower, the chlorine removed from her body. Normally she enjoyed these showers, they rinsed off the problems of the previous night. This one hadn't, and it disturbed Taralyn. She threw her hair back and retied it into the ponytail that it almost always was in, and headed for the lockers, where her bag was stored. She pulled out a pair of sweatpants, tank-top and hoody alongside her underwear and got dressed.

Feeling comfortable in her casual attire, she headed for the doors to the change room, grabbing her flats from the shelves. Out in the hallway, it was dead, one end heading towards the various courts, the other towards the exit, a full blown glass window. The false dawn shone in the sky. Taralyn looked at her phone- 7:00- still too early for full sunrise, that wouldn't happen for another good half hour or more. Taralyn sat down on one of the leather chairs in the hallway, putting on her flats. When she walked by the front desk, the vampire receptionist- Stephanie- was just packing up.

"Stephanie, you're heading home just now? You're cutting it a little close, don't you think?"

"I'll be fine Tara- home's only 10 minute away. And anyway, I have my car, all I need to do is get into it and I'm safe"

The pool complex was owned by a fairly large corporation- one of Taralyn's sponsors. The corporation itself was owned by a vampire couple and they gave some of their vampire employees particular benefits in terms of improving quality of life. Stephanie was one of the vampires that got one of the sunlight blocking cars.

"Still, be careful. It can be dangerous out there."

Taralyn thought about her own past. Particularly her father, it had been a year since he was arrested for the murder of four vampires. He had nearly jeopardized her own career, several of her sponsorships came from Vampire-owned companies. Not to mention all of the bad media. Taralyn scowled at the thought, the media was going to go nuts come the Seattle games. The first place American backstroke and individual medley swimmer has a father that's in jail? Yeah, those sharks weren't going to let that go under the radar.

"Right then, see you tomorrow Stephanie."

"You too, Tara."

Taralyn headed out the door, pulling her keys out of her pocket. She headed for her car- a 2022 Pontiac- and opened the trunk and threw her gear bag inside. She headed for the front seat, and turned the car on. The radio turned on, the host was talking.

"Weird fact of the day, ladies and gents: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, is a perfectly valid and grammatically correct sentence. When you would use it, I don't know, but there you have it. More tunes after these commercials."

Earlier That Night:

It was five o'clock in the morning, and as one resident of the penthouse apartment was waking up, another was preparing to sleep the day away. It had been a somewhat productive night for Maximilian Hawkesworth, as the central plotlines for the two novels he was working on were starting to take shape, though there were, of course, details that had yet to be hammered out or tied into the primary focus of the story.

Over time, Max had developed a system for his writing. He would begin by consulting the many, many notes he had for all of his other works, and then bombard himself with questions. Hypotheticals, suggestions, different trains of thought. What could I do differently? If this character had done one action instead of another, how would it affect them and their fellows? Were they in the right place at the right time? And what would happen if they were in the wrong place? Is there something, or someone, I haven't gone back to recently?

The latter question was the focus of his next book in the Victory's Hand series. There was, in fact, someone he had not mentioned since his third novel, Delaque's Choice. A big-time crime-lord named Z'Ell Yngw'rth, owner and controller of her own star system through brute force and a tendency to shoot before asking questions. Ezekiel Delaque and his crew had crossed paths with the non-human crime-lord after inadvertently entering the star system she controlled. And now Yngw'rth would return in Max's next novel, Ruler's Bane, to tear Delaque a new one. That was something that a few fans had always asked about: there was often someone questioning some vague detail or open-ended subplot in the many emails Max received each week.

One thing Max loved about his science-fiction series was that he had the freedom to do pretty much anything he wanted, including the invention of about half a dozen sapient alien species to populate the universe. Human-alien interaction was an interesting affair: Max had deliberately made every species different from its fellows. The species that came the closest to human was, of course, the few vampires that were mentioned: a fair number of the extraterrestrial species bore some similarities to humanoids, but the resemblances stopped at the basic level. For instance, only one alien race was bipedal.

At 4:30 in the morning, Max had glanced over at the small clock on his desk to find that he had been working a little later than usual. He took the next half-hour to wind down with a light read, one of the short stories in his copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, before Breana got up to provide Max's morning blood: it was never a good idea for him to work into the daylight hours, as he often found sleep difficult when his mind was buzzing with ideas.

Soon enough Breana Sterling had walked out into the lounge, looking like she had only recently gotten up. Max was aware that she cleaned herself up a little before and after allowing him to feed off of her. "Ah, good morning, Breana," Max jovially said to his human companion. "Sleep alright?"

After the pleasantries of morning conversation had passed, the exchange of blood began. As a human Breana naturally had more blood in her system than Max did at any given time, so they had since agreed that Max was the first to feed. A gentleman in all things, Max always asked Breana's permission before drawing blood from her. Upon her assent to the familiar question, asked every day for the four years they had been living together, the two of them took a seat side by side on the couch in the lounge. Max and Breana were seated close together, in the usual proximity that the two of them had become comfortable with - but only when feeding. They held their gaze on each other's face for a second.

In any other environment it would look like a couple just before the kiss: Max, however, did not plan to take that route. Instead, the vampire carefully leaned down to Breana's exposed neck, the skin of which bore a set of miniscule scars; the inevitable result of being bitten twice a day for one's blood. Max usually aimed to bite the exact same place on Breana's throat every time, so as not to cause more scarring than was necessary. To be on the safe side before he began, Max slipped one arm behind Breana's back, just slightly lower than her shoulder blades, in case he needed to catch her or hold her up. Most people didn't react very well to having a full litre of their blood sucked out of them: this was a precaution usually taken. Even though they were sitting down, Max did not want to take chances.

Then Max carefully, some might say delicately, bit into Breana's neck, doing his best to minimise the pain of the action as he always did. He always tried not to hurt the people from whom he drew blood, but it was an inevitability... an inevitability Max tried his hardest to avoid. As his fangs pierced Breana's skin, she tensed up for a split-second; an instinctive response to the bite. Max knew his fangs secreted a numbing agent that dulled the pain, but he often worried that he hurt people more than he realised.

Soon after the physical act of the bite, Max withdrew his fangs to allow the wounds he had caused to start bleeding. They did so almost instantly, and he hungrily drank in the sweet crimson fluid... though he was careful not to draw too much from Breana, or drink too much too fast. That would not go too well. Max took a few minutes to drink his fill, not spilling or wasting a drop of the precious liquid. After a couple of minutes, the two shifted a short distance away from each other, almost simultaneously. Four spots of bright red blood now adorned Breana's skin, accompanied by a slight glistening around the general area. Vampiric saliva somehow helped to heal the wounds caused by a bite. How, Max wasn't entirely sure. He was no biologist.

Max watched Breana carefully, ready to catch her should she sway. She did not, however, which was always good, and Max turned his attention to providing blood for her. He removed his watch from his left hand, pocketed it, and pushed his shirt's sleeve up his arm, revealing more of his pale skin... and a scar of medium thickness running perpendicular to the veins in his forearm. It was in the general area of Max's wrist, but not on the wrist itself so as not to somehow affect the writer's hand.

The vampire reached into his pocket and withdrew a small, plain knife in a sheath, removing the latter before taking the handle in his right hand. As he did so, he noticed the usual sight of Breana applying a small patch of gauze over her bite wounds, held on with medical tape. While she stuck the tape down to avoid dripping blood everywhere, Max raised his bare forearm, pressed the knife's edge to his own skin and carefully made an incision one and a half inches long. Instinctually, Max drew a sharp breath as his arm was cut, but he knew it would heal overnight.

Upon offering the bleeding cut to Breana, she quickly latched onto it and began to suck from the wound. Max could feel the pull of blood flowing out of his wrist... it was still a slightly strange one, despite the fact that he was familiar with it. Every day for the past four years Breana had drunk from his wrist, just as he had done from her neck.

As always, Breana took less time to satisfy her need for blood; she needed less than he did. It was just as well, considering that Max had less blood in his system than Breana even after taking a litre of hers. When she let go of Max's arm and gave him a small smile, Max responded in kind, each thanking the other as they usually did. Max retired to his room for twenty minutes or so, using the time to read a bit more before he settled into bed and fell asleep soon after.

8:45

James got out of the shower and looked in the mirror. His eyes were slightly bloodshot from the night before and he had stubble that needed shaving. Taking his straight razor and cream, he slowly began to cut away at the wayward hair. A straight razor always resulted in the smoothest of shaves and for that James would take nothing more than perfection. After he had shaved and rinsed his face, he began to apply his sunscreen, allowing himself to go slowly for a more thorough coverage. He rubbed the sunscreen in and then applied a hair gel to his hair sculpting it perfectly, as he did every day.

He brushed his teeth and finally left the washroom. A quick glance at his clock revealed that the time was 9 am. He buttoned up a shirt and left a tie fastened loosely over it. His slacks were next, sliding a Nixon belt through the loops and fastening it so that the pants hung around his hips. A stirring in his bed caused him to look up. The bartender from the night before sat up, holding the covers over herself, "Where are you going?"

"Nowhere," he said, "Just gotta go talk to the boss about having the rest of the day off, I don't wanna leave you alone today," he flashed a quick smile to show some sincerity behind the statement, even if that was a lie in itself.

She nodded, looking exhausted still and went back to sleep. James's cellphone vibrated at that moment, the cab company letting him know that his cab had indeed arrived. He threw on a jacket and fitted his hat over his hair before leaving his apartment and locking the door behind him.

9:00am

Sarah was already tired of walking, she still had a few blocks until the school even came into sight and she didn't want to arrive all covered in sweat. She spotted a vampire bus stop and decided that it was the way she was going to get to school. She was lucky though, this was generally the last stop before the UV rays became too much for vampires to stand. Slipping into the line, getting some dirty looks along the way, she sat down beside the only vampire that appeared to be her own age.

He was quiet and finishing the remainder of a cigarette despite looking younger than she was. She recognized him from a class behind hers, only because he silently flowed in for his class once she was done his. She had no idea that he was a vampire, "You don't mind if I sit here do you?" she asked.

9:15

They might have said that the cab would be there when he went into the garage, but as usual that was a lie. It took another ten minutes for the cab to get there, the driver babbling quick apologies before unlocking the door. Annoyed, James slid into the cab and gave the address to the police station. The cabby adjusted his fare metre and radio station and they were off.

As they exited the garage, James felt a little heated and saw that the sun, while still technically blocked, was showing a little more than it should through the tinted windows, "Would you replace your fucking windows soon?" he said through gritted teeth, "Or you're going to cook a customer at this rate."

The cabby ignored him and weaved through the streets expertly and James sat back to enjoy the ride.

9:25

He was hungry; he hadn't had blood in almost three days. Who could afford it with these prices? No one could, he couldn't even get a donation because he didn't fit into that pay section either; he was fucked. His emergency supply had always been his wife, but she had left him recently; he could feel the Beast rising in him and it terrified him.

His friends were in the same boat as he was, starving, they sat around a table playing poker when he said what they were all thinking, "Lets hit a house for some blood."

He didn't expect it to be so easy; they all agreed, they were all too hungry to care anymore, "But who?" one asked as he flipped over to reveal a pair of number cards.

"There's this vampire, lives in a Penthouse in the building I clean, there's security but I'm sure we could get in there, he has a ghoul so he doesn't need the bagged blood, he'll be fine with her."

His friend slammed his hands on the table, "Fuck it then, lets do it, we'll stop by the hunting club now, hit 'em in the daylight, he won't know what he's in for until its too late."

He smiled, it was all coming together, "Its time to show those rich fucks that the world isn't so great for everyone," he set down his own cards, a Royal Flush."

He had arrived at the bus station cutting it pretty close. The queue waiting at the bus stop contained almost everyone who was making the journey, so Seras took place at the back of the line. It didn't really matter where anyone stood - the instance of all drivers to never stop in the same place twice meant that the person at the front of the line was as likely as the person in the middle to get on first.

His cigarrete was almost dead, so flicked it into the nearest trash can and pulled another one from his bag to light up. The supply was dwindling and he glanced through his wallet looking for cash. He'd have to someone a few years up for a new batch, but that wouldn't be a problem. The school bus was crawling with those who sold alcohol and cigarrates to kids at an obscene rate.

A large, firm hand russled his hair. 'Oh boy. Have I got something for you.'

Seras turned to face the voice. Samuel - tall, broad, and cosmopolitan in his good looks - looked at Seras with a lopsided, dopey grin.

'That's what I was expecting.' Seras sighed. 'Can you not extort me to hell this time? You make three times profit from about five minutes work.'

'Hazard pay.' Samuel kept his smile glued on. 'Besides, I don't have any cigs on me. I got this instead.'

Samuel lobbed his phone at Seras, who fumbled it before securing it in his palm. 'I don't want to buy your shit phone, dude.'

'Not the phone, man. Look what's on it.'

Seras unlocked the screen. A still image of a dimly lit bedroom with what seemed like standard houselamps as lighting. The camera was focused on a queen-sized bed with no covers of any kind, just a mattress covered with a white sheet so thin Seras could see the pattern underneath. Seras tapped the screen with his thumb and at the bottom of the screen a play marker slid up. From the top of the screen, the title slipped down into view.

Fresh Husk

Seras looked up at Samuel, who eagerly bobbed his head for Seras to hit play. As soon as the video started, whoever was manning the camera lifted it from the tripod it was stationed and a tall, built man with cropped hair came into focus. He was wearing a plain grey t-shirt and blue jeans, which were artificially and cheaply faded. His jaw moved as he chewed gum. There was no sound on the video, although the man was smiling, nodding and talking to the camera operater. His fangs flashed everytime he said something

They both made their way to the door about a minute into the twenty minute climb. There, was a petite blonde. Curvy, well-toned and completely out of it. Her eyes didn't open so much as flutter, and she poised herself as though she was about to collapse. Seras noticed the door across the hall from the room was numbered, with an electronic key device beside the door handle.

The men shut the door, and made motions towards the girl. The camera leered and steered its away, in tight, around her body. She seemed unpeturbed by the whole thing, not shy but not eager either. After fondling her, the woman dropped to her knees and began to give the vampire a sloppy, unprofessional blowjob.

Seras rolled his eyes. 'This isn't exactly impressive.'

'Keep watching.'

The porntape continued as to be expected. Both the male and female 'stars' casually undressed throughout until they began having sex. The positions were all standard but the camera operater was clunky and could barely frame to save his life, trying to get right between the couple and ended up filming more skin than actual sex. After five minutes of penetration, the vampire threw her off and lay on his back on the bed. The girl looked confused and alone, glancing around the room. He beckoned for her to come forward. She looked at him, then the camera operator, before clambering on top. The ride looked uncomfortable and awkward as the girl lazily rode him. The camera operator then made his way up onto the bed, looking down upon the two, standing almost above their very heads. The vampire looked up at his partner, an ecstatic grin carved upon his face. It looked deformed, his almost oversized fangs standing out like beacons on his face. The camera lens nodded.

In a brief, furious movement, the vampire leaned up as though he were to kiss the girls neck. Seras' face crunched up in horror and disgust as the vampire sunk his teeth deeply into the girl. Her eyes shot open wide for the first time, a look of true horror as she gazed at the ceiling. Blood poured down her breasts and stomach.

Seras immediately locked the phone and handed back. Samuel burst out laughing. 'What did you think?'

I think you should wipe that smirk off your face.

'I don't know.' Seras said, shaking as he brought another cigarette from his bag. He could barely light it as his lips trembled.

'Did you like it?'

'Fuck you.' Seras turned his back on Samuel.

'I'm going to pick up some booze at the store once the sun's down. Give me $20 and I'll pick you up a carton of... What do you take again?'

Seras refused to answer. The bus pulled up to the stop, and the slick whir and clack of the electronic door as it glided open signaled the kids lined up to enter. Seras climbed aboard and made his way to the first free double-seat he could find. He put his bag down under his seat, held his cigarette in his mouth, shut his eyes and leaned his head against the window. There was a dull cold to the glass and he drew and exhaled the smoke almost subconsciously.

'You don't mind if I sit here do you?'

Seras opened his eyes to a girl who seemed like she spent hours trying to be effortlessly good looking. Expensive jeans and a shirt designed to accentuate her chest. Seras couldn't make up his mind if how she looked was intriguing or bland. Probably a little of both.

Yes, I do.

'No, of course not.'

Quest Laboratory. It probably wasn't tall enough to be considered a skyscraper in this area, what with all the other behemoths built around it, but from the ground, the place was impressive. From what Valerie remembered, it was about 20 floors of cutting edge technology, not including the archival basements and the underground garage.

Julie was drumming her fingers on the wheel as she drove down to the garage entrance, dropping her passengers off. Brett and Valerie got out, quickly parting ways without another sound. 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... She counted her steps to the elevator, pushing the button as soon as she got in range with an even number. The door opened immediately with a small ring. There was already another passenger, but he had his nose buried in a file. Nothing interesting. Valerie jammed her finger into the button for the 5th floor. For a while, it was just elevator music in the background.

"Hey, you've Valerie right?" It seemed her new companion felt a little awkward in the silence. "Ya know, I'm on the fifth floor too. I've seen you around-"
"I'm sorry, but we apparently don't need to know each other. If you don't mind, I'd prefer to not get to know you." Valerie recited, looking over her violet nails. It annoyed her to no end when people tried to be "friendly", especially when she had no reason to talk to them.
"Oh... right. Sorry..." The man mumbled an apology, going back to his notes.

She didn't look back once as the doors opened again to her floor. Maybe her title as ice queen was warranted after all. It wasn't that she didn't like having relationships, it was that she didn't think she had time for it. It was too much shy bantering back and forth, ending in an unromantic trip between the sheets. The last time Valerie had a relationship was also her first: a result of her sister begging and whining for a few months. "You need to get out more." she said. "Find some nice guy to take your mind off work." Maelle paired her with a man she had met at a benefit, some kind of computers engineer or something. They weren't a bad match, but Valerie didn't have the patience to tend to their relationship. The whole thing was unfulfilling, and left much to be desired. They dated on and off for about a year before officially parting paths: he moved to Canada for a job, she stayed in New York.

One quick card swipe later and she was in her office. It was small, and sparse: the only thing she did here was type up reports or put results into the computer. Still, it was meticulously organized. An "In" box sat on her desk, with a few papers in it from the night before. Her "Out" box was empty, just as it should be. There was a painting her sister made her on the wall. It was a colorful piece, but Valerie had never been quite sure what it was of. The shades were drawn. They would open halfway at 3:00pm to let a bit of light in, but that was all. She hung her purse on the middle hook, trading in her gray trench coat for a crisp lab coat that hung on the third hook.

After a quick look around she headed to the labs, swiping her ID in to unlock the door again.
Username: Valerie.Chevalier
Domain: bio5
Password: *********

Finally, she was back in her comfort zone. Today she was going to continue on her own little project: a vampire blood substitute. So far, she had come up with 50 failed concoctions: nothing seemed to take the edge off the craving, not even for a few hours. It looked like the addiction wasn't just an addiction. Sure, there was a part of it that had to do with the brain's pleasure center, but that wasn't all there was to it. It was like the human body suddenly needed the stuff. Sticking a husk in a room and depriving them of access to vampire blood was often fatal, with subjects usually committing suicide if given the chance. Even if they were tapered off, or given other drugs or placebos, the results were eventually the same.

Cloning the blood seemed to be a good option, but it was harder than it looked. The first problem was that she needed a vampire stem cells, which weren't exactly easy to get. Not very many people liked the idea of taking a drill through the bone for science. Then the harder part... getting the stem cells to begin differentiating. It was almost impossible, which was why vampire blood was still astronomically expensive. The little fuckers seemed to self destruct or go into some coma or something as soon as they were taken out of the body, making them impossible to farm.

Second, vampire DNA was currently incompatible with any of the animal embryos she had used. Currently, she was manually inserting the nuclei into empty monkey cells. It took hours slaving under the microscopes to get a few done, and it took maybe 300 before getting even 10 viable samples. Determined to find a compatible species, Valerie picked up her syringe and got to work.

Adrian hit the "snooze" button of his alarm. Fucking clock... I though I set this thing to wake me at eight tonight... He thought, trying to get back to sleep. He had almost pulled the covers fully over he heard a loud knocking from the living room. Goddamn it... what is it now... He slowly lurched from his bed and to the door. He checked to make sure he was wearing pants and opened the front door.

Two people, one man and one woman in business attire, stood outside the door holding pamphlets. The man started to speak. "Hello, have you heard the-"

"I don't want to hear it." Adrian interrupted

The man looked slightly offended. "Well, just take a pamphlet." He took a small, folded piece of paper from the stack he was holding and handed it to Adrian. The black cover had a wooden stake on the front with the sentence "Reject the deamons: fight the new Vampires" written in red

Adrian slammed the door and dropped the pamphlet on the floor. "Don't reject us, si-"

"Go fuck yourselves!" Adrian screamed as he stomped back into his bedroom. Fuckers... no going back to sleep now... he began to dress himself and opened the window, expecting the nighttime sky to greet him, but instead felt a burn on his skin as the sun impacted him. He quickly closed the curtains and backed away, patting himself down and rubbing his eyes.

After he made sure he was not burned too bad he went into the kitchen and to the phone. He debated trying to brave the outside again, maybe even try going to work, but the sun was still out, and would be a while longer. He thought about it for a second, then picked up the phone. He punched in a few numbers and waited for the tone to end. After a brief conversation with the receptionist he was talking to his boss.

"Hey, Boss, mind if I come in early today? Nah, just nothing to do today, and I could do with some overtime. Yeah. Yeah, that's fine. Be in around ten, 'kay? Alright, thanks. See ya around." He smiled and hung up the phone, then finished getting dressed. He walked back into the phone again and looked through a phone-book he had gotten a few months prior. He looked through the sections until he found the one for cabs. He called the first company with a name he liked, "Empire State Cabbies", and called. He wanted inside for a brief moment until he was called again to tell him that his car was there. He stood outside his door for a second, staring at it. He had put on a long-sleeved jacket with a hood on, fully zipped up.

Alright... deep breathes... just step outside... you've done it before... He opened the door and felt the rays of the sun hit his skin like a thousand tiny needles. He retracted his foot and rushed past into the shadows. He backed away, took another deep breathe, and rushed into the outside, his head covered in a dark gray hood. As he felt the hot rays of the sun hit him like hammer blows, he ran down the steps, staying in the shadows all the way and running out to the car which, luckily, had tented windows.

Adrian slammed the door behind him. "Hi, sorry about that... huh, take me to William and Sons. Forty-Third street." He smiled nervously and the cabby nodded and began to drive in silence. The tiny amount of sun coming through the windows stung Adrian, but he could at least bare it for a bit. He watched the lit city roll by, unaware of what the buildings looked like with sun on them.

When the car pulled up outside William and Sons, Adrian paid his fair and took another deep breathe. He rushed out of the cab at lightning speeds, nearly running into the doors of the building. He managed to get inside, though, with not a burn on him, though at least a little smoke coming off of him. He panted and sat down in a lounge area of the lobby, the receptionist giving him a strange look.

"Sir, are you alright?" She asked, tilting her head slightly to the side.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine... I just had to run here today, it's fine..." Adrian replied between breathes. The receptionist shrugged and went back to staring at her computer screen. After about a minute he stood up and took the elevator up to floor nineteen. Luckily, this floor had few windows, only a few on a far wall and in a few offices.

Adrian walked into the office with the words "manager" hung over it. Inside he found a small, young woman in her mid thirties filing a few papers.

"Oh, hello, Adrian. I wasn't expecting to see you yet. Still have twenty minutes." The woman said, a small, businesslike smile on her face.

"Yeah, the bus was kind today." Adrian responded, a similar smile crossing his face. "Anyway, I just thought I'd come in, tell you I'm here. I'll get to work on the Simian Tech page we're working on. Anything I should know?"

"Yeah. Todd did a bit of work on that this morning, so make sure you look for anything new before you add anything."

"Got it." Adrian's smile grew and he stepped out of the office into the dark cove of a room. I think... I think I just did something great... he thought, looking out over the room with people, and light, and music, and even a small sparkle of sunlight coming from the far side of the room. He walked to his cubicle and smirked as he logged into his account. I like the day... I like the day a lot...

And onto international news today there is public outcry as two demonstrators in the three hundred person march on the Canadian Parliament were shot by police. While the police chief said that they officers were attacked and justified in opening fire leaders of the protesters movement aren't in agreement. We are joined by the one of these leaders by Skype right now, Leslie Harrison welcome to the show.

Thank you Christine, I'm glad to be here.

Leslie you movement is seeking to restore equal rights to vampires, where in Canada they have been severely cut by the current Conservative government; as a human why do you wish to do this?

Well Christine it is quite simple. Before we knew they were vampires, they were offered the same rights as you or I, but because of a genetic difference, they are now unable to vote or register for office? This is nothing more than Apartheid at a new level. It is disgusting to see this happening in a country that once prided itself on a cultural mosaic.

What are your plans now with two of the members of your organization dead?

We will continue to protest with their memories in our hearts. They are going to pursue justice by police. The federal government has promised a private inquiry, but we feel that such an abuse of power by the police in Ottawa warrants public inquiry. We have filed a petition filled with signatures not only from our organization, but thousands of people from around the country.

And what about accusations that the two members killed were in fact carrying handguns, a violation of gun regulations in the country?

Completely false Christine, no weapons were found on the bodies as reported by our own people on the scene and the police that investigated the shots shortly thereafter. It is my thought that the police simply panicked and opened fire on what was indeed a vocal, yet peaceful protest.

Well we'll have more on the story as it develops, thank you Leslie for joining us.

Thank you Christine.

That was Leslie Harrison of the Canadian Party for the Rights of Non-Humans of Equal Intelligence. You can find more information on their movement at www.CPRNH.ca. Off to China now, where attacks by the Chinese Army could mean a military coup for the industrial giant. We'll have more after the break....

****

They say all vampires are fair in appearance; I must be the exception to the rule then for I cannot look myself in the mirror without recoiling in disgust. While the others are given the graces and classes in which to exploit the human race to allow them to feed, I am forced to feed off the scraps given to me by society.

Perhaps I am paranoid; perhaps this is all a figment and I am as beautiful as the rest of them, but that does not explain the looks of horror as I walk the streets at night, the humans who gawk and stare, their eyes burning into my soul, speechless at the monster that walks amongst them. I see them scurry like rats to the other side of the street. They can't stand me after all, the sight of me, the smell of me, the pure disgust that I feel radiating off them is suffocating. Is it no wonder that I wish to die every day of this pathetic existence some God decided to give me as a joke?

But I cannot go that route, but I am not only disgusting, but I am also a coward, hiding behind words, threats and other people, I cannot fight my own battles. I cannot protest the horrors that my race suffers, I cannot talk to those who would support my battle and I cannot confront those that would do me harm if given the chance. I cannot even pull the trigger as I stand here with the pistol in my mouth, its cold steel not warming as my shallow breaths come in ragged. I gag on the barrel as it touches my throat. I am so close all that I need to do is allow that trigger to click back and the hammer to strike. It would be painless...

But I cannot and my existence continues.

I am weak; always so weak. What do I do?

****

She awoke in a warm bed, the only warm bed she had in the last week or so. She had woken once already as her host had left, but the night's events had left her so exhausted. He had been so good to her, taking her back from the club after work, she remembered his scent. It was intoxicating, primeval, yet modern, musky and enveloping seeping through her skin and getting her drunk off of the scent. He had taken her here and before they were even past his porch they had come together. She was drunk, she had to be the way her clothes fell off so quickly, how she had found herself in his bed so rapidly. She remembered the love bites....she put her hand to her throat. The puncture marks were still there, they hurt slightly, but not enough for her to dwell on.

She swung out of bed naked and hunted for her clothes. She could hear the washing machine going and assumed that was where she would find them once they were done. Forsaking that particular quest, she instead stepped into the warm water of a shower. As she scrubbed, she thought about her options. Was this a one night stand? He said that he wanted to spend the day with her; what could that mean? It was hard to speculate with her head pounding so. She never got hangovers though, what caused this one to erupt with such ferocity.

She got out of the shower and wrapped herself in a red housecoat. She was thirsty so she took a look in the fridge to try and find some water. Naturally there was blood in there, it didn't fail to shock her though, it was strange; working in a bar had her deal with blood all the time, but serving a bloody drink to a vampire in a club felt different than seeing it sitting in a refrigerator, it was exotic in the bar, different than she knew, in this house though, it had become the norm.

She finally found a can of coke in the back of the fridge and popped it open. Finding a glass and some ice she lay back on the counter and slowly drank the soda. She felt slightly better, but an uneasy feeling was creeping into the pit of her stomach, she hoped that it would settle once her host returned home.

****

Her host sat in the back of the cab, only a few blocks from the police station. It was practically mocking him how close they were. The radio was cracking with some music from the 90's, some punk group. He hated punk music; it was sheer irony that those who protested against the corporations were all too happy to sell out to them once the chequebooks came out. He couldn't take their 'movement' seriously; it was almost as hilarious rappers calling foul for the word nigger being used, when in their songs it was repeated more than once. Maybe it was just the twist of 'a' instead of 'er' that made it ok; he'd have to ask a rapper if he even met one.

Finally the traffic started moving again and James exhaled an audible sigh of relief, "Finally," he muttered as he looked at the increasing cabby metre, "Drive into the tunnels please."

The cabby nodded and moved into the police station vampire entrance, where he let his grumpy patron out and collected the money. His nose wrinkled at the sign of no tip and looked expectedly at the vampire. James snorted, "Fix your fucking windows and I'll tip double next time," and walked away from the red faced cab driver.

The windows were all dimmed; the autotint had kicked in with first day's light. Checking in was simple, all he had to do was mention the Detective's name and it seemed due process was ignored. He was given a visitor's badge and an officer led him to an elevator. It slowly passed by the going into the Basement 3 label. James didn't realize how far the police station descended into the ground. There were no windows, just the sterile fluorescent lights that lightly prickled his skin as he walked under them. There was only one man in the morgue and it looked like he had been expecting him...

****

Jack took the stranger's hand in a firm handshake. As all vampires were, his handshake was firm, but cold, as if the blood didn't flow like it did in his body. Regardless, he normally found that the vampire's demeanor didn't match the handshake, but he wasn't so sure with this one. The vampire's eyes were cold and calculating scanning the room around him while also maintaining some sort of eye contact.

Jack looked at the vampire, "Are you ready?"

The vampire barely looked shaken as he shook his head yes. Jack lifted the sheet up and the dead eyes stared back at him. This is what finally shook the vampire as he paled more than Jack thought humanly possible.

"Yeah, yeah that's Vinny," James said choking back a small bout of nausea; he could see where the knife had been buried in his neck, the purple bruising only faint around the wound. His plan to find the killer became that much more urgent, "Can I go now?"

"You need to answer a few questions before you go, if you could step into my office."

The two moved towards Jack's office, the Detective was sure to grab a cup of coffee for he and the vampire, making sure to still in a couple teaspoons of blood. They both sat down, "So how long did you know Vinny?"

"Couple years, he moved into New York, couple of drinks and we bonded, couple vampires blazing up the city; you know how it is," he flashed a smile, "Anything else."

"Yes; just one. Vinny here was found with trace amounts of bloody coke in his system. We have reason to believe, based on his not so clean history, that he may have converted a human to a husk. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that would you?"

The vampire didn't even blink, "No, I might have done that in my early college days, but I've put that shit behind me officer. Whatever Vinny was into, I wanted him to get out of it. Can't help you I'm afraid."

Jack finished with a couple other questions, nothing as serious as the prior ones and finally sent him on his way.

****

"Thank you," Sarah sat beside the boy and looked him over, just as sure as he was looking at her. He looked well dressed enough, little shy and quiet, probably the brooding type. They were so adorable how they thought that was endearing to women.

But he was still her seat mate for fifteen minutes so she might as well get to know him. It was the least she could do, "So, I recognize you from school, you also have Biology with Mr. Ballard, although yours I think is right after mine right?"

She remembered him going into that classroom everyday after she did. It was strange though how much his face stood out from the hundreds she saw everyday. Maybe she just had a thing for faces and this was one that forced recognition now that she had to talk to him. The radio played while she waited for him to respond.

And what does the market have for us today Paul?

Well Beth we have some good news for American investors, the dollar rose to nearly par with the Chinese Yuan for the first time in nearly a decade. Economists claim that the reason behind this is due to the severe civil and political unrest in the country, but other sources say it could be that fusion power is set to make its debut in the United States, using in country resources, bringing the Chinese energy sector under threat.

Seras was a little surprised when the girl spoke up. He had pegged her as the type who did everything she could to draw attention towards herself, but wouldn't actively light herself up for it. Subversive, really.

Or maybe she's just genuinely interested in talking.

He smiled a little. On the inside.

Mighty cynical today, kid.

Seras, pushing thoughts of snuff films and large, spacious, quiet houses as far into the recesses of his mind as he could, nodded to her. She was probably right. And if she wasn't, he could at least humour her.

'Yeah, I think that's right.'

He had something else to say, but it froze on the way from brain to mouth. There was something... Off, about her. She was on a vampire bus, but definitely not a vampire. He could just tell. A quick look around the bus and he could see teenage vampire girls looking at her, shaded antipathy lighting up their eyes like fireworks stared at through through a thin black sheet.

But she wasn't human - she wasn't like his friends. She had a different aura. A different presence. She felt almost wrong. A rush of subconsciousness hit him and before he could register how long he had possibly been staring at her, he remembered the still lit cigarette in his mouth. He made a point of emphasizing his eyes darting around the bus.

'Sorry, there's no where to put this out. Or, I mean - You can have one? If you'd like. There's more in my school bag.'

Sarah eyed the no smoking sign on the bus but shrugged, "They can't really kick you off the bus, but they can kick me off, so no thank you," in a sign of gratitude though, she pulled a couple Red Bulls out of her bag, "Need one of these though, I know you guys aren't much for the early morning," one of them was their newest brand, "Blood Red," and carried the Red Cross symbol discretely on the can.

As she waited for him to either accept or reject the can, she continued to do her best to make the kid open up, "So, where in the city do you live if you take the bus in this area? Your parents definitely need to have some kinda money," she was sure his eyes had widened slightly, "C'mon you can tell me; I won't spoil your secrets."

Seras waved his hand in appreciation. 'No, thanks, but I'm all set for...'

He paused, glancing from the can to Sarah.

Why would a human have a blood-distilled drink on her?

'...Blood. Today. Thanks.'

Unless...

Grin carved upon his face

She's...

Blood pours down her chest

He shut his eyes, a dull pounding in his head. Not painful, but noticeable, like a bass drum thumping and ringing and rising in his mind. After a moment, the noise faded and the drone of the bus engine and chatter brought him back around. He saw the girl giving him a funny look.

'Sorry, bad morning.' Seras threw the remnants of his cigarette to the bus floor and ground it under his Converse.

'Anyway' He gave her a smirk 'Do you always take financial status before names? I'm Seras.'

Breana balanced a bowl of partially dissolved cereal in one hand and continued to scan a legal-pad page of notes held carefully in the other. Her bare feet traveled the short distance from the kitchen table to the sink by memory. Only when her foot hit the counter did she take her attention away from reading. 'Explain previous, give examples' marked her place. Breana tilted the bowl slowly, letting water from the automated faucet carry the remnants of cereal down the drain. She'd had her standard breakfast - generic corn flake cereal in two cups of skim milk. Fruit was a normal addition but they were low on strawberries this week. A short grocery list was taped to the magnetic whiteboard on the refrigerator.

Liquid soap was retrieved from beneath the sink and the legal pad gently tossed onto the counter-top. There was a dish washer not two feet from where the pad landed. A very pristine almost sparkling new dish washer. But Breana felt it was better to wash her dish and spoon individually. The only time the dishwasher was used was if Max was required to host a social event at the apartment. Without the guests Breana was the only person in the apartment who ate solid food. Cleaning her own dishes after each meal was simply more efficient. It saved water. It saved time.

She found a capped pen where the spoons were supposed to go. A clear sign that she had stayed awake too late the previous night. Breana shook her head, mentally adjusting her schedule for the day. She picked up the pen and reached for the pad of paper. The top sheet was filled from top to bottom margin. There was a writing assignment due in exactly two weeks for one of her courses. And despite owning a rather nice laptop - currently charging in the bedroom - Breana preferred writing out the first draft of every assignment by hand. Something about the feel of pen on paper appealed to her. She rarely wrote with pencil. Pencil, she'd explained once to Carol, could be erased too easily. The absolute certainly that her words were embedded onto paper. She needed that feeling. If she made a mistake she crossed out the incorrect word or phrase and wrote the correct words on the next line. No words were scratched out entirely or whited out with corrective ink. Each word written was still legible at the paper's end. Carol Taggart, Breana's therapist, routinely claimed that her "enjoyment" of writing with pens could also be due to her inability to properly hold a writing utensil of any type while undergoing physical therapy for her injuries. It was one of the minor items that Breana and Dr. Taggart disagreed upon during their sessions.

Breana scanned the living area. Everything was just as she'd left it. But there was an item missing. The New York Times Magazine. But there was no magazine waiting for her when Breana opened the door. Instead a small multicolored flyer fell from the doorknob to the hall floor. 'Stop the Hunger. Stop the Beast. Donate Today' the bright text proclaimed. Another Blood Donation flyer. This particular advertising company had decided to use every color except for red. The most obvious one. She let the door swing shut, secured the deadbolt and slid the security door chain into place. The metal chain rattled against the door before it stilled. Breana dropped the flyer into the nearest waste paper basket. After a quick trip to the bathroom to brush her teeth she returned to her notes.

Why aren't we able to look a stranger in the eye? I wonder this as a young waitress catches me staring at her and I quickly avert my gaze. When my eyes flick back to hers, it is her turn to subtly look away. It's like we're afraid to show ourselves to strangers, the intimate soul that one can see looking into your eyes. Are we so shamed by our inner selves that it becomes impossible to let them in? I know that in my case, that is likely true as I sit amongst co-workers at our weekly Board Breakfast. I know that I am most certainly bored at least, so it is most definitely serving its name's purpose.

Our Chair clears his throat; evidently he has something important to say. I sip quietly from my glass of blood with a touch of alcohol mixed in. I can feel the disapproving members of the Board looking at me, but it's the only way to stomach the bloody breakfasts, especially since I can't eat anyways. He clears his throat once again, the smoking is obviously catching up to him in his old age, "As you know the Blood distribution company Blue Veins has recently merged with our corporation," he pauses for a light sound of polite applause.

Under my breath I mutter, "Murders and executions," and smirk, reminding myself of my favourite Ellis book.

The Chair looks at me curiously, "Excuse me?"

"Sorry," I mumble, "It was nothing, please continue Chairperson."

He sniffs and clears his throat again, "As I was saying, with the acquisition of Blue Vein, we now control seventy five percent of the blood distribution channels, if we undercut the current shipping price, we can likely drive our main competitors into our grasp as well."

As he drones on about numbers and bullshit I wonder, when did capitalism die? When did the system that created America, the Empire, stagger and crumble beneath its own legacy? When did the corporations decide that it was they who would create demand, not the consumer? Some would argue that it happened way back in Wreck-a-Feller's days when his Oil trusts exposed the meaty core of capitalistic exploitation and the power of the corporation for all to see, it could have been when we found out that influencing social expectations using media could create demand where it previously had not been.

It could have been when things like healthcare, power, water became products rather than rights, or when the government decided that private militaries were better than public. But I have my own theories about the death of capitalism. It died when the consumer became complacent, when the consumer decided that it was worth sacrificing the freedom of choice and competition for monopolies of name brands, complacent to third world labour creating products at a minimum cost for first world nations to pay top dollar. Capitalism died when the words, "Made in America," failed to hold any weight to the consumer, it instead coming down to what brand made it.

And what do we do? We celebrate, we the bloated elite of the corporate world, feasting on the demand that we created, pressuring those who can't afford our luxury to borrow from our banks to buy our products. How long can this keep going, the lines between they and us continue to widen, our pockets lined with the bloody dollars of a torn nation.

She's back and we make that brief eye contact once again, "Can I get you another drink," she asks, it as if it was ever in doubt.

"Yes please," I say and my eyes follow her into the kitchen before turning back to the discussion at hand. It was getting into the Blood business that opened my eyes to the bloated system we have created to sustain our own unsustainable lifestyle as long as possible.

We deal and sell the stuff of life, while it is so easy to get blood, ours is safe, ours is preserved and pristine. Of course they want to buy from us, we're respectable, not like those dealers on the street, or the hookers that any beast driven vampire has sunk their teeth into. The blood market is rotten to the core and we shine the outside for the consumer to buy into. And they buy into it every time.

She brings me my drink and the bill, her shift is apparently up and she needs to clear up before leaving. I down the drink quickly, abandoning any pretense of class for only a few moments and stand up to excuse myself. She takes me to the front where I clear up. I pay cash of course, what better way to be sure that it's your money you're spending. I leave a hearty tip for her service and she leaves me with a present on the till slip; a phone number and red lips puckered around it. Strange that she looked past my looks and focused on me instead.

Perhaps I should look a stranger in the eye more often.

***

She stared over her desk at the two men in suites looking at her, "Look I can't just give you an employee without knowing anything," she said, "I'm losing money that way and it doesn't look good to shareholders, can't you just inform me a little and we'll put this all to the wind?"

One of the suited figures took off his sunglasses, setting them on her desk, "Look, ma'am I understand your shareholders won't like what we're doing, hell you might not even like what we're doing personally, but," he set his badge on the desk beside the glasses, "We have the power to make life hellish for you and the company if you continue to fuck with us, so call him in, we can wait."

The bastards had her in a corner. She realized her defeat and called the employee's phone, "Adrian, yeah, I need you to come into the office for a second, we need to discuss a project you may be assigned to...."

***

She was so thirsty as she waited for the lover who had held her so close but now wouldn't even call her back....

***

Two men waiting on a bench, they don't belong in the slums, they're too well dressed. Then what are they doing there?

***

Sarah felt the bus lurch to a stop at the school as the boy introduced himself with a smirk, "Sarah, she replied, taking his hand in a shake."

She stood up as the students made their way to the exit of the bus, "Look, just so you know, I feel as if you and I should hang out after school, so don't make plans ok?"

He looked at her in shock and she laughed, "Yeah I'm not used to asking, see you after school!"

She hopped off the bus before he could protest and met up with a couple of her friends. As they walked into the school Sarah looked to her left, "So, do you have it then?"

Her friend looked scared for an instant, "He's onto us, he knows I'm not a husk and he threw me out last night, said he didn't want some slut selling his blood, I'm sorry Sarah but whatever you have left, that's all we have."

Sarah panicked, she hadn't planned on this, "What? You're telling me we're dry?"

"I'm sorry Sar-"

"Sorry isn't going to do shit when the withdrawl kicks in, how could you do this to me Chelsea?!"

She took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. She then smiled, it was so easy, "Its ok, I'm sorry Chelsea, I shouldn't have put you in that situation, I'll find another way."

That was a small lie though, she had already found her next source.

The soft bubbling from the coffee machine barely registered on his ears as he tired to keep his heavy eyelids open, something the fluorescent lights in the ceiling didn't exactly help with, as the usually soft glow felt like needles this early in the morning. Groaning and closing his eyes briefly to shield them from the treacherous light sources, Aleksander sat up straight from his somewhat slumped position, feeling a slight ache in his back where it had been resting on the top of the chair.

"Looking a bit tired there, Alex." A female voice chimed in as he rubbed his eyes before carefully opening them again, still feeling the stinging from the overhead lamps.

"Mhm... A bit." Aleksander replied halfheartedly, opening and closing his eyes in an attempt to get them adjusted to the light. It had been less then 20 minutes since his boss had called him and asked if he could fill in for another co-worker of his, one that had apparently been hit by the flu. Aleksander himself didn't really mind, but it was very clear that his body didn't exactly agree with him.

"So it seems, here." She told him as she sat down two mugs of coffee on the table in front of him and pushed one in his direction. "Coffee, no sugar or cream, should help at least a little."

Accepting the mug he lifted it up to sip from it as he muttered a quick 'Thanks', being grateful for anything that would help him wake up properly. Setting the mug back down on the table he looked over at his co-worker where she had pulled up a chair and sat down, quietly sipping her own cup. "Again, thanks Marie. I'm not usually on the morning shifts so I'm a little bit sluggish after getting up this early."

Smiling back at him Marie just waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. "No need to thank me, you're the one doing us a favor for filling in for Frank on such short notice after all."

"Ah, I had the day off. Might as well help a little and get a few hours off some other day, it's not a big deal."

"That's good to hear, wondered if the boss dragged you off some of your volunteer work today, but if you had no plans then no harm is done, right?" Turning the cup in her hands, she looked up at the FDNY logo hanging on display on the far side of the break room, looking a little lost in thought. A few moments passed before she asked something that had been bugging her. "So speaking of your volunteer work... How's that project in the blood district coming along? Heard you might be in on that?"

Aleksander sighed audibly at her question, the Red Cross had attempted to start a sort of 'vampire soup-kitchen' for a while now, seeing as they were still in the business of accepting blood donations. They still had trouble getting approval for it though, and rumors inside the New York RC corps were that someone was actively lobbying against them. On top of that relations between the corps and the citizens down in the district were starting to grow a bit tense due to this promised venture getting repeatedly sidelined, and even more due to rumors that some of the tainted blood might have come from volunteers working solo, it was a frustrating mess to put it short. "It's not going well, frankly we're not getting anything done, not for a lack of trying though."

"Ah, I see. So it's not getting better... At least not soon." Looking down into the black contents of her cup there fell a silence over the room, the old watch over the coffee machine ticking away being the only audible sound for a while. "So... Not much happening yet. I guess that's a good sign, right? People waking up and getting to work without hurting themselves or others?"

Having woken up a bit more since having arrived, Aleksander looked over at the clock. "I hope you're right, but it's more likely just the proverbial calm before the storm, I'm afraid."

Looking up at him briefly, Marie could only add a reluctant nod to his statement.

Seras shuffled through the coursework in his locker to find his biology folder. He pulled his thin, unsubstantial coursework out and slipped it into his backpack, before scouring between the sheets of paper to try and find some cigarettes. He slammed the locker door shut when he couldn't find any.

'Someone's worked up.' Seras looked at Ashley, his best friend, back slumped against her own locker.

'Yeah' He said, light frustration sneaking in underneath his voice. 'Look, I hate, hate, hate to ask. But you don't happen to have anything to smoke on you?'

Ashley raised her eyebrow. 'Can't you just buy some off Samuel? Or some other senior?'

'It's like supporting an extortion racket with those pricks.'

'Fair enough.' Ashley sorted through her bag. 'They're not your brand.'

'I really could care less right now, Ashley.'

She tossed him the packet and he withdraw one cigarette, before tossing it back to her. She stuffed it into her backpack.

'Are you going to light that up in the corridor?'

'Uh hu.'

'I don't think they'll take kindly to that.'

'What'll they do?' Seras flicked the lighter open. 'Kick me out of the building?'

Ashley rested her head on his shoulder. 'Somebody's grumpy today.'

'Yeah, I guess so. I'm sorry.' He tilted his head so that it lay on hers.

'Don't worry about it. Anything you want to talk about?'

'I'm... Worried about my biology coursework. I kinda rushed it.'

There was a brief pause, before Ashley giggled. 'Oh please. When did you get so concerned about your biology coursework?'

'What's that supposed to mean?' He gave her a look of faux shock.

'It means...' Ashley poked him firm in the ribs. 'That you aren't being honest, mister.'

Seras thought for a moment, drawing on his cigarette. 'There was a shock video. You know, like... Did you ever watch that clip on the internet with the guy fucking the pig?'

'No, and I don't think I want to.'

'Good plan. Regardless, it was one of those. Sam showed it to me at the bus stop. It was just your average porn, but then the guy, who was a vampire, took a chunk out of the chick. It was really... Messed up. And then there was this strange, overly-friendly girl on the bus and I'm almost sure she was a husk.' He drew on the cigarette. 'I don't think I've ever met a husk. If she was, I mean.'

'That's it?'

'What do you mean 'That's it'?'

'I mean, yeah, it's weird but... A husk's a husk. It's like meeting a heroin addict or an alcoholic. They're fucked up people but they're their own problem.'

'Unless you happen to be a needle of heroin or a bottle of alcohol.'

'What's she going to do? Pin you down and take a drinking straw to you?'

'She asked me to meet her after school.' Seras mumbled.

'And you said no.'

'What?'

'You're not an idiot. You said no. Right?'

'I mean...' He stumbled 'She didn't give much of a chance for rebuttal.'

'Then don't go and meet her.'

'That's not exactly polite. And she seemed like a nice enough girl.'

Ashley pulled away from Seras. 'She's a fucking husk!'

'I think she's a husk. I don't have a great perception for these kinds of things.'

'I take it back. You are an idiot.' She slung her backpack over her shoulder and made her way down the corridor.

Seras called to her. 'I'll pay you back for the cig -'

'Don't bother.'

Seras watched her dissipate into the crowd.

Maybe she was just experimenting with the Red Bull. Not the first human to try it. Probably not the first to get hooked on it for taste alone.

This is all screwing with my head.

"Alright, be there in a minute, Ma'am." Adrian placed the phone back on the hook and got up from his chair, taking the time to straighten himself out as he did. As he walked through the dim offices he became more nervous. He'd heard other people on his team get the same call before being fired, and why did she sound nervous? Aren't bosses supposed to be good at firing people? He continued the fret until he stood outside of his boss' door.

He very carefully opened it and worked his way behind the door, making sure to look out for any rays of sun as he stepped in. When he saw the two men in suits he became especially nervous and began to sweat. "You, called me, Ma'am?" He asked once he stood inside of the room. He took a few glances at the two men in suites and looked for any badges or identification, but saw none. This made him even more nervous and made him start thinking that shadowy government agency had decided to come in and take Vampires away before they became a threat. Or, perhaps, they were corporate executives that were going to have him taken to some hidden bunker in the Ukraine where they're keeping test subjects. Either way, he figured he was fucked.

Ethanol. C2H6O. Molar mass 46.07 g/mol. Heavier than water, but less dense. Ethanol molecules penetrated the cell wall of bacteria, denaturing their proteins by interfering with the secondary and tertiary folding. Bacteria could divide every half hour, and that was under less than ideal environments. How much faster would they divide if she missed a single speck of agar, if the setting on the autoclave was a single degree under 134C, if the glassware wasn't washed twice with the dish soap (main ingredients Ammonium C12-15 Pareth Sulfate and Lauramidopropylamine Oxide) and twice with an Ethanol-Water solution???

Valerie scrubbed the glass again. They had to be clean. All 30 test tubes had to be clean. If they weren't clean, it would mess up her next tests. God knew the last thing she needed was to have another variable to account for in her experiments. The ethanol solution was cool on her gloves. They were green, light green: light green nitrile gloves. The ethanol smelled sweet. Just slightly sweet, like sugar. She preferred ethanol to acetone for obvious reasons: acetone ate her gloves. Sure it was cheaper and preferred by most other researchers, but not Valerie. It also tended to mess up her painted fingernails. She had bottles of them in her desk drawer just in case. Purple Pulse, Thinking of Blue, Fairy Teal, Gray by Gray. More properly, Fairy Teal, Gray by Gray, Purple Pulse, and Thinking of Blue. Arranged alphabetically, arranged properly. Teal on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Gray on Monday and Tuesday, Purple on Wednesdays, Blue on Thursdays. Except when it snowed. Then she wore Gray, regardless of the day. Or if she woke up at 5:00 instead of 6:00, she wore Teal. Today she wore Gray by Gray.

Lunchtime. 12:00 noon. If it were up to her, she would just work all day. Still, it was mandated. She returned to her office. Lab coat back to the third hook. The day was going pretty well considering how it started. She sat down in her chair, leaning back and staring at the computer screen for a while. She couldn't think of a good reason to hop on the internet at the moment. Instead she opened the bottom drawer of her desk, taking out a bottle of water. It wasn't that the water in the break room was dirty, or too cheap for her tastes, it was that there were at least 5 other researchers there at any given break period. Everyone on her floor was either human or husk: they had entire floors built for vampire employees. And she couldn't stand being around people. How could Maelle stand it, having everyone talking to her, and making small talk, asking about the most trivial of topics?

The last art gallery they had went to together was in France. First class airline seats, five star hotels, limousines... and crowds of people. Valerie frowned at the thought of it. She spent all night propped against a column, staring into space while occassionally bothering the waiters for another glass of champagne. On nights like this Maelle gave Valerie a vial of her blood. Her cousin never went home alone from these things, and she'd be damned if she was going to be asking for her daily dose while the woman had someone between her legs. The good thing was her date usually pulled double duty as her sustenance for the night. Convinience.

Tonight, actually, was going to be one such night. Maelle told her the previous night that she planned to have special company over. That left her with 4 free hours, and an hour to get home. Her mind immediately calculated her new route. There was a yogurt parlor down the street from her family's house. Vanilla, with a strawberry cut into 4 slices on the right side. It was a 15 minute walk, and it would take her 10 minutes to buy and get her order. From there, she was going to walk through the park. 30 minutes. She'd arrive back at the house at 7:55. She'd eat a late dinner, and maybe read a book before bed. Her plan was cemented as soon as she thought it out. Perfect. Back to work.

"Thank you for meeting us," the first man, slightly taller than the other said, "Miss, you may leave us now."

The manager looked as if she would protest, but a resigned look crossed her face and he slowly walked out of the room, quietly closing the door behind her. The second man looked at Adrian, "Now that we are speaking privately, we can now be complete and utterly frank with you," the first man stood behind him, "We are part of the National Security Agency and more specifically part of the division called the "Species Cohabitation Division." This division was created shortly after that fateful day when vampirism was exposed to the entire world."

The second man sat in the manager's chair, as if telling him these things was physically taxing to him, "We are tasked with maintaining order amongst the species for the greater good of the United States of America, something that appears to becoming more and more difficult everyday with the protests, murders and corporate secrets that become more and more annoying to obtain every year."

"So it is quite simple what you are going to do," the first man was talking now, "You and one other person we've already designated are going to infiltrate the offices of the Red Cross Blood Distribution Corporation and you're going to plan a bug, one that shall be given to you on the day of the infiltration. The person you're working with doesn't like humans you see and we'd prefer if he didn't kill our tech before the bug was planted."

The second person smiled as he looked on from the chair, "Don't play dumb either, we know that you are more than capable of putting a bug into a network, we've more than done our homework on you Adrian. So what you're going to do is go home after work and decide on the answer to this 'request' and contact us on the number, the only number found on a cell phone left on your kitchen table. We would advise saying yes, or you might find yourself a little hot in the midday sun the next day. Wouldn't want you to get a harsh sunburn would we?"

The two men moved towards the door and opened it, "We await your decision Adrian, do the smart thing and don't make us wait..."

***

They were finally ready to attack, they had made it to the club and gotten the guns, they had manoeuvred the late morning traffic, just missing the noon rush hour and found themselves in the parking lot of the penthouse. It was cool in here, an artificial air circulated through it, cooled by the air conditioner. It smelled sterile and rich to him.

He motioned to his companions who raised their shotguns in cool agreement; the three of them could overwhelm the one guard, he was sure of it. He walked into the lobby, not bothering to hide the pistol he held in his hands.

The cameras had recorded their entrance to the building, so they did not catch the guard completely unaware. The receptionist, well dressed and well endowed, it was apparent she didn't get the job for her brains, was already shrieking from behind the desk, on the phone with 911. The guard pointed his gun and fired one. The hungry one looked as his friend's head snapped back, his face immediately obliterated by the hollow point round. He fired at the guard who took the round in his left shoulder, his own pistol firing a round recklessly through the building. The receptionist, fell back, the blood spurting from the wound on her chest.

There is a point of no return for a vampire, when the Maslow's hierarchy proves true and hunger becomes the primary objective of the hunter. A blood frenzy, much like the great white shark is started and the hungry one could feel the Beast awaken inside him as he saw the blood soaking into the fine made carpets and over the receptionist desk. His friend dropped his gun and savagely leaped onto the receptionist, latching onto her throat and ignoring her choked screaming, cut off as he ripped her throat out from her body. It twitched, the life slowly leaving her as his friend lapped the blood in a greedy lust.

A gun fired once again, the guard, shakily on his feet, and the vampire howled as the silver hollow point ripped through his stomach and caused his own blood to saturate into the rug as well. A second round entered his left lung sending the vampire on his back. The hungry one was in the guard's face, his fist through the man's abdomen. He could hear his friend behind him gasping for air, the blood flowing into his lungs drowning him in his own and the receptionist's blood. The guard's face paled as he grabbed his throat and bit down hard, he could feel the man twitching and shuddering and reveled in the warm blood in his mouth. He was gaining control again, he could feel his strength and sense returning to him as he dropped the drained guard onto the floor.

He looked over the bloodstained floor guide and took the backup penthouse key from its hook under the desktop. Stepping into the elevator he began to ride slowly up the building until a small beep indicated his arrival. He fired into the door handle and through the lock, kicking the door open and training his weapon on the woman in front of him, the smile on his lips and the blood trailing from his mouth announcing his intentions before he even said them, "Where...is the blood kept?"

***

Classes came and went as they often did and Sarah was relieved to finally hear the sound of the lunch bell ringing. She packed her things up and left the study that made up her second block.

Sifting through the throng of students, she came upon the office, where she found the secretary looking over some boring class trend reports, "Excuse me, a teacher of Seras Crowe gave me some homework of his when I mentioned we knew each other, I was wondering if you could call him to the office so that I wouldn't have to look for him in the lunch room, he doesn't have a cellphone and this would save me so much more time," she was sure to flash her more brilliant smile for the secretary.

The secretary sighed and picked up the intercom, "Seras Crowe, to the office please, Seras Crowe, please report to the office immediately."

***

She is dying, she knows that she is dying, the can of coke did nothing to sate her thirst, it was killing her, she can feel it and she doesn't want to die. She calls him, her master, which was what he had to be, he now controlled her life by whether or not he picked up the phone. She can hear his voice on the other side and she just about screams in relief. She asks what it would take to end this thirst and she can hear his mocking laugh on the other end. The jar in the fridge marked 'pet' he says, will quench the thirst.

She rips open the fridge door, knocking cans and food out of the way before she sees the jar. Its contents are deep red and viscous as she picks it up. It doesn't matter though, the Master says that it will sate her thirst so she tips the jar into her mouth tasting the cool irony taste flowing into her, and the thirst that had just come so close to consuming her, vanished in an instant. And she continued to drink anyways, savouring every drop.

Seras jerked in alarm as he heard the voice cut through the music. An older student stood beside him in the lunch queue. Seras yanked his earphones out and silenced the song playing on his phone.

'You're Seras, right? Crowe?' the boy asked.

'Yeah, why do you ask?' Seras replied. He didn't recognize the student at all.

'Intercom said you needed to go the school office immediately. You didn't look like you were moving anywhere fast, so I decided to let you know.' His eyes indicated to the dangling earbuds.

'What, now?'

'I'm pretty sure that's what immediately means.'

'Right. Thanks.'

The boy nodded, pulled away from the lunch queue and dissipated into the crowd. Seras followed and quickly made his way around the lunchroom looking for Ashley. He had planned to pick up her lunch before she arrived - she was fairly predictable in what she ate - but now he would have to meet her later. After failing to find her, he made his way out and down towards the hallways towards the school office. On the way, he pulled out his phone and dialed.


Ashley set her tray down at the lone table and scrambled for her phone. She found it at the bottom of her bag and saw the name - Seras - flashing at the top of the screen. She hit the answer key before she really had time to think about it.

'Hey, I was going to pick you up something at lunch, but I need to be somewhere.' Seras said, a grain of guilt scraping his voice.

'Don't worry about it, I got myself something. Where are you headed?' Ashley asked, taking a bite from her wrap.

'I need to go to the office, apparently.'

'For what? Are they finally dragging you in for smoking in the hallway?'

'Maybe. Took their time, though.'

'I guess they didn't want to disturb your biology lessons. They know how much they mean to you.' She heard him laugh softly on the other end.

Ashley smiled to herself, then spoke in a flurry. 'Look... If you're meeting someone else, you can tell me. I can find something else to do, someone else to hang around with.'

'I am meeting with someone else, Ashley.' Her heart dropped. 'The office secretary.'

'You bastard.'

'Sorry, I just feel a real connection between her and I.' He said with a bright twang of sarcasm. 'I'll probably be ten minutes, at most. I'll meet you in the lunch room.'

'Good. I mean... yeah, good. Would you like me to get you anything?'

'A toasted sandwich would be great.'

'I'm sure a bloodsucker like you would just love that.'

'Heh. Talk to you soon.'

'Yeah, I'll be here.'

After hearing the dissonant click as Seras hung up, Ashley went back to her lunch. Once Seras got back, she would have to talk him out of meeting the girl. He had never even mentioned a name, but Ashley wasn't willing to let him take the risk of possibly entwining himself with a husk.


The office secretary looked frustrated when Seras approached her. She had her ear to the phone and he leaned against the desk and waited for her to finish. When she eventually put it down, Seras introduced himself.

'That girl has your homework.' The secretary replied, accompanying her glancing dialogue with a jerky indication from her arm.

Seras turned to the row of soft chairs across the room. Sat there, waiting, was the girl from the bus. He felt an immediate slowing of time. Without even moving, or acknowledging her presence, she had startled him. Her very presence took him by surprise, and he couldn't figure out why. He walked over to her, a blind dread seated somewhere in his stomach.

It's because she's not human...

'Hey.'

...But she's not like me, either.

'It's... Sarah? Right?'

That's it. Isn't it.

The clock displayed four thirty and the alarm went off. A hand moved across the bed and slammed into the top of the alarm clock hitting the snooze, before locating the "off" button. A pair of hazel eyes opened and the true sign of the start of his day made its appearance. The feeling of his intestines wrapping around, and crushing his heart. Its daily presence was the only thing that assured Nathanael that he was alive when he woke up.

A light yawn exited his mouth as he grabbed the remote of the side of his bed and turned on his TV. A repeat of last night's Rangers game came on the channel meant for vampires who've come home from work. On nights where he worked the next day, Nathanael could only watch the start of most sports games before having to go to sleep. He generally had an early work start time as shift starts were dictated by the sunrise. Because of this he found one benefit of the vampires coming out to the public.

As the game played in the background Nathanael walked into his bathroom and took a long look in the mirror. He examined his face thoroughly, despite not really looking for anything in particular. Next he took a deep breath and shifted his face. His cold aura disappeared and his sharp, hard eyes dulled to a more normal appearance. Certain muscles relaxed while others contracted, and he formed a smile that looked genuine. He finished his morning check of his mask and dropped it. His natural aura returned, his eyes sharpened, and his smile faded away into a still neutral slit across his face. He always liked to make sure he could properly form his mask every morning.

Next he applied some shaving cream to his face and shaved off the stubble that had grown since the day before. Halfway through shaving he turned on the water in the shower, so it was warmed to a temperature that he could use by the time he finished shaving. As soon as he finished, he stripped and got into the shower; which lasted no more than a few minutes. After exiting the shower he quickly dried himself off and got changed into the shirt and pants of his work uniform.

Looking at the clock only fifteen minutes had passed and he grabbed a bowl of cereal and started watching the game he had turned on. In the time it took him to eat his fill, the Rangers had lost the lead and regained it against the Red Wings. The game had looked to be a good one but Nathanael still had a morning schedule to keep. He walked into his kitchen and placed his bowl into the sink and filled it with water. He planned to wash it when he got home.

After heading back into the bathroom, Nathanael combed his hair and styled it with an appropriate amount of product, before brushing his teeth. After exiting his bathroom and heading back into his living room Nathanael changed the channel and saw the final score of the game was a four to three overtime victory for Detroit. Damn. He clicked off the TV, grabbed his lunch from the fridge, a bag with a change of clothes for after work, his cellphone, and put on his toque and gloves. Before exiting his apartment he put on his face and formed his fake smile.

The reason why he put on his mask before opening his door showed itself right away. "Leaving for work?" A neighbor named Shawn asked.

"Yes and are you getting home from work?" Nathanael responded back.

Shawn was a vampire that moved into the building with his husk boyfriend two years ago. As far as Nathanael could tell, their relationship had always remained stable. There was no reason to for Nathanael to worry about his beast instincts taking over him. Still that didn't help when his morning greetings caused Nathanael's neck hair to stand up.

"Yes I am. Well I hope you have a good day," Shawn replied as he unlocked his door.

Nathanael finished locking his own and let out a simple reply, "You too." I can honestly say I officially hate morning small talk with him at this point.

With Shawn inside and his own door locked, Nathanael walked to the elevator and pressed the down arrow. Before it arrived another two building residents appeared, a woman by the name of Lynda and her new born son Jonathon. Before he could even say hello, Jonathon had started to cry and Lynda quickly moved to calm him down. The effect of the child's restlessness was visible on her face; indicated by large bags under her eyes. After a few seconds she had managed to subside the crying.

"Sorry. He doesn't like to be still," Lynda said as the elevator arrived and they both entered it.

"It isn't a problem. He should be out of that phase soon enough," Nathanael said in an attempt to reassure the woman.

"I hope so. I'm not sure now much more I can take," Lynda replied with more than a hint of sadness in her voice.

"Don't worry, I was like that too. It wouldn't be much longer," Nathanael lied as the elevator stopped and opened at the lobby.
Lynda got a tiny glimpse of hope in her eyes before it was washed away by the Baby's crying. She then quickly left the elevator and headed for the front entrance as if she hoped it would make the baby stop.

The doors closed again and the elevator moved down two floors to the parking garage. It was Nathanael's favourite part of the building. The air was always cool, there was rarely anyone in it and if there were they never seemed to even want to exchange greetings. It was also a blessing in winter since you didn't have to clear the snow, ice, and frost off of your car.

It took a minute for Nathanael to get to his Chevrolet Impala. He quickly started up the car and turned down the fan speed as the car engine hadn't warmed up yet. He put the car into drive and pulled out of his parking space and headed towards the exit. He was the only person leaving as the garage door automatically opened and the opposite side to get in was three cars long. Leaving was always faster since it was pressure activated. To get inside his building's garage, you have to enter the building either had to register your license plate or a swipe pass.

After pulling out and leaving, Nathanael switched on the radio and listened to the news. Primarily stories included violence between various husks and vampires and the governments of the countries they lived in, murders throughout New York City, rapist warnings, and some celebrity sleaze bullshit. There were probably more stories to hear but Nathanael shut off the radio as he pulled into employee parking lot for the warehouse workers. He looked at the clock in his car and it read five forty-five.

After exiting his car, Nathanael walked halfway to his warehouse before he was stopped by his boss, Brad Parsons. "Let's have a smoke," Brad basically ordered when he walked by. Nathanael followed him over to a section of the fence that surrounded the property that was almost completely black. There weren't any lights or security cameras in this particular spot, so it was the only place for this business.

"I still don't know why you took up smoking for this," Nathanael said as Brad took out a cigarette, lit it, and took in a drag. He held out his hand with the pack of cigarettes and his lighter and Nathanael took them. "It's a good excuse to come over here," Brad finally said as Nathanael took out a cigarette and lit it. He almost choked on the smoke as he slid out a small role of money from inside of the pack. In the center was a piece of paper with dates, flight identification codes, and warehouse employee names. Nathanael dropped his mask a little as he looked over all of them and counted the cash in the roll.

The corruption that leaked over his face was a sign of trust. Not Nathanael trusting Brad, but for Brad to trust Nathanael. The man was a little paranoid about this under the books work, and if he didn't see a little darkness when the deals went down he got way too nervous. Nathanael thought the man was a little tightly strung to start with so he always played ball.

As Nathanael got to the last bill and Brad had almost completely relaxed to his normal self. "It's a twenty short, ya thief," Nathanael accused him as he put seven hundred and eighty dollars into his pocket and handed back the pack and the lighter. The cigarette in his mouth was almost half gone while Brad's was almost finished.

"It's the handling fee for all of the cigarettes that you smoke," Brad replied in jest.

"You're a cheap son of a bitch you know that?" Nathanael shot back.

"Of course," Brad said laughing as he put out his cigarette.

Nathanael followed suite and turned to walk back towards the warehouse. "Even after all of these years I don't like that we don't know what they're smuggling in."

Brad was behind him and sped up a little to match his pace. "It's not what we're paid for. Our job is to not notice when the listed people are gone when those flights come in. Whatever product it is doesn't concern us."

Nathanael sighed. He's gotten the same answer for years but it still bothered him a little. It was probably just that fact that his neck was on the line and he didn't know all of the information. He put the topic from his mind as he walked into the warehouse's employee room entrance.

From that point forward Nathanael's day progressed normally. He took over floor manager position from the night manager, Stephen Harkness, at the shift change. His team arrived and finished prepping the products for the incoming delivery trucks. Not long after they were out receiving the incoming shipments from Customs. And somewhere between then and noon, when a flight that was indicated on the paper arrived, a certain person disappeared for a few minutes but eventually returned as if they were never gone. No one had noticed but the person paid not to, and the machine that was the warehouse kept moving smoothly.

It took five pages, front to back, for Breana to complete the next stage of her assignment. It was not the true first draft, but once the notes were expanded it would make the complete paper. The finished project could easily be eight to ten pages. Breana stood next to the kitchen table with her arm resting against the back of her chair. She idly spun her uncapped pen in one hand. There were breaks worked into today's schedule. But there was still another ten minutes of time blocked off for the 'planning' phase. The free time would be nice to-

-the front door burst open.

Breana turned even as she processed the sounds that had occurred mere seconds from each other. There was a gunshot followed by a heavy impact. The door being kicked. Years of warm-up drills took affect without conscious thought. Her stance shifted and her weight rebalanced. Her shoulders squared to the broken door just barely attached to its frame.

"Where...is the blood kept?"

"Easy." Breana kept her voice low and even. Inwardly she was incensed. How dare this intruder come into her home. He was bloodied and filthy. A thief or possibly one of the unbalanced animals that roamed the streets. Breana's gaze stayed fixed on the arm that held the gun pointed towards her. The gun bloodied recently enough that it was still dripping.

Slowly, moving only her right arm Breana pointed toward the kitchen. She knew the angle was off but the direction was clear. "There is blood. In the mini-fridge. Beneath the island." She kept her answer simple. Bringing the intruder further into the house was not ideal. But if she could get the vampire distracted she could gain the upper hand. Breana allowed her right hand to shake - just a bit - while she altered the grip on the pen now held in her left hand. It was the pen that sparked the reminder. 'Max.' Her employer was still asleep upstairs.

Twists, turns, routes winding back and returning to the same place. Alternate paths, choices, options. In the end it boiled down to one specific set. Three options, one of which was rarely used but still chosen for convenience. They were always swapped out for one in the end. And even then that could be discarded.

A lone figure running through a top-down, isometric view of the land below. What little there is of the land, anyway. A group appears to meet the lone wanderer. He drives them back, but there'll be more of them. There'll always be more.

BLAM.

A single gunshot.

Not from the dream. The sound jerked Max from his sleeping state. Confused, he looked around to find the source of the noise. It wasn't in his room.

Thump-Whap. More noise. Almost as loud as the shot.

The follow-up sounds came from downstairs... it sounded like the front door. Was Breana making that racket? What was going on? But if it was her, why would she have a gun? Max didn't ever recall her mentioning that she owned a piece. Even more confused, Max threw the sheets back and got up, throwing a white bathrobe (embroidered with a single drop of dark red blood on the left breast) over himself for modesty's sake and deftly knotting the 'belt'. Max collected his knife from the nightstand, just in case, before leaving his bedroom... then just before stepping through the doorway he heard an exchange.

"Where...is the blood kept?" Someone he didn't know. Male. Had Breana invited him over? Unlikely, given his tone of voice. What was this person doing here?

"Easy... There is blood. In the mini-fridge. Beneath the island." Breana's voice. She sounded different from normal... something was wrong. Taking care to keep his bare feet quiet on the carpeted second floor, Max made his way to the stairs and looked down to the ground floor below. The stairs were perpendicular to the door when it came to the layout of the apartment, so he had a clear view of the scene.

The front door was wide open, its lock and doorknob shot to hell. There was someone standing there... armed with a pistol. Evidently he had shot the door's lock off and forced it open. An intruder. And now he was here to threaten the safety of his home and potentially the lives of himself... and Breana. Max would not be able to live with himself if she was hurt while in his employ.

With that in mind, he unsheathed his knife and stuffed the case in the robe's pocket. This was unlike him, he knew that much... so he had to be someone else, someone who could deal with this kind of thing. Max was good at pretending to be his characters when writing. So he slipped into the familiar mindset of Ezekiel Delaque, the protagonist with whom he was most familiar.

What would Ezekiel do? First off, he would try to get behind the invader and catch him at a disadvantage, most likely with a weapon of his own. His pistol, most likely. Max didn't own a gun himself, but his knife at the intruder's throat would be just as effective. Holding control over the situation was the first step. Second would be to disarm the man and secure him for Coalition pickup, having already sent a blink-communiqué at the tap of a button on his wrist computer... but this wasn't the 38th century. The NYPD would be a good replacement, though. A 911 call would be in order after detaining the invader.

Max began to make his way down the stairs, knife in hand, hopefully unseen by the stranger who appeared to be focused on Breana. If she kept him occupied by the notion of available blood, Max could sneak up on him and catch him before things turned violent. If the guy made his way further into the room, so much the better. That would make it easier to catch him off-guard.

Claire was excited to see Ellen today. She finally had a day off to have lunch with her girlfriend, something that Ellen was constantly telling her didn't happen enough. Concerned that Ellen might leave her if she didn't spend at least a little time with her, she had told her boss that the lunch meeting had to be put on hold. He wasn't pleased, most of the time CEO's weren't used to being told certainties by lowly secretaries, but he relented once she explained to him why she was taking lunch off.

She had stopped at a small sushi stand close to the apartment complex and picked up some California Rolls and drenched them in Soy Sauce like she preferred and at about ten after twelve she stepped into the front reception area and screamed at the sight in front of her. The guard was still twitching, only because of the nerves in his brain refusing to die, his eyes hollowed in and sunk, the remnants of his once prominent guy spread over the floor. A corpse missing part of its face was still pumping blood into the fine carpets and finally, Ellen had another body on top of her, her throat was torn out, and the man on top of her, Claire assumed her assailant was choking on his own blood. The front desk phone was off its hook, the dial tone beep driving into her head.

She backed out of the hotel shaking and promptly vomited onto the street. When she was done, she stood up and was met with the whining sirens of police swerving through traffic towards the complex. She started yelling, flagging them down before heaving once more. The sushi sat on the floor of the hotel, completely forgotten and unwanted.

***

Jack had gotten the call when the 911 call was cut short by the woman's screams of pain and terror. Dropping a line to the paramedics and Red Cross private paramedics, he had departed with his SWAT team for what appeared to be a botched robbery turned hostage situation. The woman screaming and vomiting at the address only seemed to confirm that.

He got out of the squad car and the woman fell into his arms screaming, "They killed Ellen, they killed her!"

She was obviously hysterical, "I'm sorry, very sorry for your loss Ma'am, the officer here will take you to safety and we'll go catch the scum that took Ellen away from you," he had no idea who Ellen was, but he needed to get to the crime scene before more bodies would have to be taken out in bags. He stepped into the hotel and the stench of dried and fresh blood assaulted his nostrils. It was in this environment he began to assign orders, "Alright I want two snipers on the roofs adjacent to this one, see if you can get a clear view on the Penthouse. I want three with me, we're going to the Penthouse, the rest, we need on the ground; find me a negotiator and get him over here, this could get messy if we do it wrong."

***

He moved into the house, keeping his gun trained on the woman, "Open it," he hissed, jerking his head towards the location of the mini fridge, "And do it quickly, we don't want me deprived of blood at all, I do some very terrible things when I'm thirsty."

He could hear the sirens, but he didn't care, the Blood was what he wanted and he was about to get it, he was still so thirsty, the guard wasn't enough to sate his starvation. But with the stuff this rich cunt had, he would be stuffed for the foreseeable future, maybe he'd even take this Husk with him, she had the smell about her, the sweet seductive smell of fresh blood.

***

Sarah smiled and stood up, "Very good Seras, I see we're going to be great friends."

She laughed and handed him the books she was holding, "Not really your homework, but I figured you could use some notes from someone who was in the class you're in now. Figure little work instead of a lot of work means you're available to hang out more," the edge of her voice was cold, but she masked it under a warm smile, "So enjoy the notes, I'm sure they'll do you good."

She moved to walk away, but stopped and turned around, "You wouldn't happen to have lunch plans would you, because I feel we should have lunch together, my treat."

Seras wasn't sure what to make of Sarah. She seemed to have had skipped the awkward small talk and half-jokes of an acquaintance. Great friends? They'd only talked once, and he hadn't thought it an enlightening conversation. Hang out more? He was starting to think she wanted to be less his friend and more his shadow. That thought made him even more uncomfortable.

In a school full of vampires and humans, age had always seemed to be the most exotic trait on the market. The older the crush, the little more special it was. But Sarah didn't resonate like that. She had an uncanny look to her - her young face and hairstyle having collided with a more mature, adult body before the two were ready to meet. That wasn't it either. Seras could call her attractive, sure, but he didn't find himself interested. Maybe it was her friendliness, uncommonly fierce as it was. Maybe it was just hormones.

He flicked through the biology notes as an excuse to keep his eyes off her. 'I don't think cafeteria food is much of a treat,' the self-aware arrogance in his voice didn't suit him, but it smothered his unease, 'Unless you mean somewhere outside of school?'

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ashley hated this God damn room. It was coated in signs, with three ugly wire stands in each corner, pamphlets stored and stacked like a thin, glossy wall. The text on the covers pushed themselves out in disconnectedly cheerful fonts - pregnancy, safe sex, autism, diabetes. A roster with at least one piece for every kid. We're all fucked up. Some just get the benefit of hiding it.

The room was crushingly small, sandwiched between the school dentist and the nurses' office. Its slender walls reminded Ashley of the fact every time she was here. There were several bright yellow stickers clumsily plastered on the walls and the surface of the small coffee table, telling anyone waiting to turn off their cell phone. Ashley found it hilarious - they found time to be concerned about the noise of her cell phone, but not the buzzing and spitting heard from the dentist, or the whining and mumbling from the nurses'. It was like the room had been set up to gnaw away at agitated kids, rather than outright spook them.

She had her folder with her. Inside, her progress report and some notes she'd written herself. It felt like she was carrying around a calculated diary, and in a way she was. Ashley had started to learn to tweak every last word and phrase so that while she told the truth, she did so in the most pleasant and inoffensive manner possible. If she at least made an attempt to understand her failings then it might save her precious minutes of lecturing.

Ashley was giving it a second read through when the psychiatrists door opened with her trademark click. She was a tall, smartly dressed woman with tight fitting glasses that matched her conservatively styled brown hair. Her face was pleasant though and her soft, numbing voice betrayed her strict appearance. Her smile gazed upon Ashley. 'You can come in now.'

"Open it. And do it quickly, we don't want me deprived of blood at all, I do some very terrible things when I'm thirsty."

Breana inhaled sharply and her back straightened. She exhaled slowly - anger still brushing the surface but no longer visible in her stance. She took another careful breath as she began to move. With long strides she walked passed the pillar that marked the edge of the lounge and took a sharp right to enter the kitchen. The special refrigerator where the 'extra' blood was kept was smaller than a mini-fridge, and built into the short end of the island. Though the door itself was made of metal it had been painted to mimic the pattern on the rest of the actual cabinets that ran along the island's longer sides. The casual passerby was supposed to think the fridge was a normal cabinet. Unfortunately for the designer the painter hadn't done a very good job so the casual passerby would have to be intoxicated or blind to think such.

Keeping her gaze on the vampiric intruder Breana reached down with one hand. She felt along the edge of the door to the metal clasp that served as both lock and handle. A sharp twist released the catch and allowed the door to be swung open. A wave of cold air rushed into the room accompanied by a quiet hiss. Neatly labeled bags of blood swung gently on their individual hooks as Breana used one foot to steady the small door.

"Here."

The single word was a shade too harsh to be polite. 'Where are the damn police?' Despite the faint sounds of sirens "New York's finest" were nowhere to be seen or heard. They were rapidly falling in Breana's already low respect level. At this rate she might have to call 9-1-1 on her own and ask for a more competent team. Like the amateur hockey team at the local high school. Once she got through this encounter Breana was going to give a strongly worded request to her employer to install a phone in the kitchen. The closest phone was in his office. Breana stepped away from the island and shifted a bit so that she was facing the office. During the turn Breana checked the lounge. She spotted her cell phone on the sofa where it must have fallen from her pants pocket earlier that morning. 'Careless.' she berated herself.

The Hungry One looked at Breana smirking slightly as he kept his gun trained on her with one hand, moving slowly towards the fridge. Leaning down, but still pointing his weapon, he took one of the bags of blood and torn the thin packaging with his teeth. Slowly pouring a bit into his mouth, he sighed in satisfaction, "This is the good stuff, almost tastes new, your boss has the money for sure."

He began moving the bags of blood into a larger grocery bag when the sound of sirens perked his ears. They had gotten here faster than he had anticipated. He closed his eyes for a second in exasperation, "Well, I guess this is why we have a hostage right?"

He moved towards her, "Turn around," he commanded, taking her arms behind her and forcing the gun to her back, moving towards the window, using her as a shield.

---

Above him a figure appeared in the window of the penthouse, a young woman, couldn't be more than 25 at the most. She wasn't in the report, so the negotiator had to assume she was a hostage. In the span of a few seconds she was gone again and he radioed Jack, "Do not breach, he has a hostage."

He heard Jack curse over the radio and relay the message. He responded with a curt, "Keep me posted."

---
Two men still sit on a bench, one receives a call. He nods quickly, "Make sure its over, you know exactly what you need to do. They cannot die remember that."

---

Sarah laughed, "Wait you actually eat here? Well I guess you'd have to, buses don't take students during school hours and its not like you can just walk outside. Luckily, I have my own transportation, so yes, I was planning on going out to eat, much more enjoyable than eating the trash they serve here."

She walked closer to Seras as they continued walking down the hallway, "You saying you don't want to come with me or something? You don't have any friends holding you up do you?"

'How are you feeling, Ashley?' her therapist asked.

Her name was Maria. Ashley didn't know her last name, though she'd never thought to ask. It wasn't really important. Maria was comfort enough. 'I'm good, yeah. I hate that room though.' Ashley smiled, though she could tell her therapist saw through the veneer.

'You always mention the waiting room.'

'Yeah, I guess.'

'Do you not like it?' Maria quizzed as her desktop computer whirred and choked into life.

'No.' Ashley kept talking to stem the questions, 'It's not exactly... Homely. It's small, it's uncomfortable it's cluttered. It's - ' She stopped herself as she heard the agitation crack her voice.

Maria smiled. 'I know. But I can't do anything about it. I can't even get the sign on the door changed.'

Maria was placed in the school temporarily. The previous therapist had left on account of a nervous breakdown and so far the only person to apply for the job had been a vampire. Regardless of qualifications, it wasn't something that sat well with certain parents. The job had remained open. Maria made it clear she wouldn't be around for long, though she encouraged outside appointments once she had left. Ashley's foster parents said they would be happy to pay the fees.

The keyboard clicked as Maria quickly fed the computer information, her rail line fingers darting around. Ashley made herself comfortable on the grossly oversized chair. Maria had once said it would be fine to put her feet up on the glass table in the centre of the room, but Ashley was afraid she smash it to pieces. It looked so thin. Mom did say I have clumsy feet.

'So,' Maria looked up from the monitor, 'I've been told by your teachers there's been trouble in class?'

The directness caught Ashley a little off guard. 'No, I thought my grades had been fine.'

'Your grades are great, by anyone's standards.' Maria's eyes scanned the screen before turning back to Ashley. 'I'm talking about your interactions with other pupils.'

'Yeah.' Ashley quit playing dumb. 'Yeah. I know what you're talking about.'

He'd been flicking bits of eraser at her all day. It wasn't uncommon. Peeling them off, scrunching them up and aiming for her hair. Sometimes she wouldn't notice and she'd run her hand through and tiny bits of rubber would fall onto her desk. Mostly though, he'd giggle like a moron loud enough for her to hear. She'd shoot him daggers and go back to her work and then, sometimes seconds later, feel the glancing thud on the back of her head and that pathetic, dog whistle of a laugh. Repression is a girl's best friend, she told herself. Outside the classroom, she didn't feel so repressed. 'What the hell is your problem?'

The smarmy grin he gave said it all. He was short and skinny, a weasel with an ugly, feathery teen moustache. She shoved him against the wall. His taller, bulkier friend tried to grab her, but she was small enough to move out the way. The short one lunged, but Ashley went at him with force. After a jumbled flurry of movement, his head came down on a nearby fire extinguisher with a sickening crack. He collapsed on the floor. Ashley made her way to her next class as fast as possible; adrenaline high and stomach lurching. He hadn't been in school for two days, and when he came back he reserved himself to looking at her with a burning that, for any other boy, would have been damning. For him, it looked ridiculous.

There had been repercussions, from both the school and her parents, but what she had feared most was this conversation. She explained how the prick always acted - with his brand of immature but devout hostility - but knew it was a losing battle. 'Kids can be so cruel.' She ended on a joke, a trick she'd pulled from Seras. It had never worked for him. Ashley didn't know why she thought it would now.

'That's not an excuse to attack another pupil.' Maria had always been as much a lecturer as a therapist.

Ashley shrugged, not making eye contact. 'I'm a kid.'

'That's - ' Maria's phone buzzed on her desk, gently gliding around the table. 'Sorry, I'll - ' She stopped, and held the vibrating phone in her hand, reading the screen, before hitting the touchscreen and silencing it. Her throat softly growled as she cleared it. 'I'm afraid... That was a fairly important call. We might have to reschedule this appointment.'

'That's fine,' Ashley said, 'Are you thinking next week or...?'

In a way she was relieved. She had time to think and calculate. 'No, no. I actually have time during lunch today. I don't mean to intrude on any plans you might have, but I think this is a topic we need to close sooner rather than later.' Maria offered.

'Yeah, yeah. I agree.' As much as Ashley would like the extra time, she'd rather the discussion end than be drawn out for another week. 'So what time should I come over?'

'About fifteen minutes or so after the bell goes, to give you some time to eat.'

'Okay, great. I'll see you then.'

Maria flashed her a smile, and Ashley left. Outside, she slid her personal folder into her backpack, pulled out her phone and shot Seras an explanatory text. She hoped it wouldn't disappoint him too badly. He was an idiot, for sure, but she still held a small nugget of guilt for her outburst that morning.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Heya, Sleepyhead.

Therapist's appointment was cut short, so I'm going to have to miss lunch with you. I'm really sorry! We can hang out after school, k? Don't be mad :(

It didn't make him mad. Ash's therapist had an incomprehensible schedule that fluctuated like crazy. He couldn't blame her for that. What was starting to make him mad was this girl. Her friendliness seemed to be growing less amicable and more arrogant every time she talked. But... maybe getting out of the school would be a refreshing change. It was a slim opportunity to ever visit anywhere that wasn't the cafeteria. He'd spent far too many lunch hours in a windowless room with a straw and a smartly packaged blood pack. A change of scenery would be nice. And she's not an awful person.

He tucked his stilted arrogance from before away. 'I wouldn't know about the trash they eat,' he smiled, flashing his canines, 'But somewhere that isn't here? Somewhere that isn't here sounds great right about now.'

Max kept moving, not wanting to leave Breana in danger any longer than he had to. The intruder was busy with the blood they had stocked in the mini-fridge in the kitchen, intent on stealing it. Scumbag clearly didn't know where to go to get a feed: there were plenty of shelters that provided vampires with their sanguinary needs. So why raid a high-end apartment, threaten the residents and potentially end up with nothing as a result?

After a drink from one of the bags of blood - that was theft right there, plain and simple, and now that the bag was open the blood was going to spoil - the bastard grabbed Breana with one hand and presumably had the gun in the other. He intended to use her as a hostage... dragging her over to the window. Was the man crazy? Clearly he was either a vampire or husk, and it was probably the middle of the day. Surely the sunlight would at least weaken him, Max assumed: he didn't have much to do with daylight weather.

The writer continued his approach towards the intruder, doing his best to keep as quiet as possible. Fortunately the intruder appeared to be focused on his hostage and whatever was outside the window. As he pulled Breana back from the glass, Max made his move. He stepped up behind the man, quickly curling the hand holding his knife around to lightly touch the intruder's throat with the blade. The other hand gripped the man's shoulder tightly in case he tried to break out of Max's grip. It was a stance Max improvised, largely based off of those he had seen in TV shows.

"Give me a reason to do it, scumbag, and the last drops of blood you see will be your own," Max hissed into the intruder's ear. "Now. You're going to let her go and we're going to walk away from her. Nice and simple." The words were more of a command than a negotiation. Max was not about to sit down and reason with this man.

It certainly didn't take long for Aleksander's prediction to come true, as shortly after their coffee break had finished they were in their ambulance and speeding towards an area in New York City's Vedhearth district, sirens wailing and red light reflected in the lower story windows of nearby high-risers. As Marie concentrated on driving the vehicle Aleksander was replaying the information they had obtained from dispatch in his mind, he needed to at least prepare himself a bit for what he was about to walk into, both to steel himself and to provide the correct aid in the least amount of time. However, the information they had received was a lot less substantial than Alex would have liked, but at least that meant that the situation had been reported early, before anyone had managed to get a complete overview of the situation, that could give the possible injured parties a grater chance of survival. From what little they knew it seemed like an armed robbery had gone wrong, and a dispatch call had been interrupted with screams and the sound of gunshots, and that was never a good sign.

"Next block and we're there, Alex. Get ready." Marie told him as she rounded a street corner, passing by the cars that had pulled out towards the side of the road to make room for the ambulance. Alex finished steeling himself for what he was going to witness, people freezing up when faced with blood, injury and death was common, but he couldn't afford for it to happen to him. The ambulance rounded another corner and sped up for the final stretch leading up to the building where the 911 call had originated, and where the police had already arrived and was in the process of securing the area. Marie brought the ambulance to a halt as Alex unfastened his seat belt and opened the door of the vehicle, within moments he had procured the equipment that they would need and he was running up towards the barrier tape that the police had secured around the entrance to the lobby while Marie drove the ambulance down towards a similar barrier blocking access to the underground garage in case they had any vampires that required immediate transport. Reaching the edge of the barrier, Alex was brought to a halt by a police officer standing in his path, holding out one hand to indicate that he was not to approach any further.

"FDNY Paramedic," Alex told the officer as he lifted his ID badge to prove his point, "What's the situation?"

"The current situation is that I'm not allowed to let you enter the premises, sir. One of the assailants, assumed armed, has not yet been apprehended and that means that the area's not secured and off-limits to all non-law enforcement personnel." The officer explained as he lowered his hand again, keeping an eye along the edge of the barrier to assure that nobody else tried to enter while he was busy talking to Alex.

"What? But, is he still on this floor?" He uttered in alarm as he thought of the ramifications this would have for the injured people inside that building, with the assailant loose he essentially had an extra hostage for each person wounded inside.

"Not currently, no sir. But if he's going to escape the building he has to exit from the lobby or the garage, and that means that this area is not secured until he is caught, as I told you sir, and that we cannot guarantee the safety of you or anyone who might require your assistance." The officer replied in a fairly unaffected tone of voice, though more due to training than actually not having a concern for the people stuck inside the area he was guarding.

"Can you at least inform me about the situation inside?" Alex asked while the officer again started looking over the perimeter, assuring that no-one else was attempting to enter in an attempt to save or rescue someone inside, however from the frown on his face it seemed obvious that he was less inclined to part with such information in public, that did not dissuade Alex from trying to convince him though. "You and I both know that if I know what I'm walking into the injured have a better chance of recovery." He told him, attempting to appeal to a logical viewpoint.

Sighing a little in defeat, the officer took one final sweep of the area to make sure that no one else was within earshot before replying. "Alright sir, from a preliminary sweep of the premises I can tell you this..."

"Its quite simple, we have three to four bodies on the ground floor, all likely dead but not comfirmed. We have a hostage situation on the Penthouse floor with one confirmed hostage and a potential second. We have forces stationed around the place so we're hoping we can resolve this without anymore bodies to clean up," the officer looked flustered, having to coordinate while his superior was playing cowboy was not something he had expected to do today. He radioed Jack, "We got paramedics here, can we let them enter the ground floor?"

Jack responded quickly, "I don't know how much good they'll do but as long as they stay on the greound floor and in radio contact."

The officer nodded and waved the two paramedics into the yellow tape, "Good luck," was all he managed before turning back to crowd and media control. Thats when the shot was heard from the penthouse, followed by a second.

5 Minutes Prior

The hungry flinched as the cold steel ran across his neck. The razor sharp edge grazed him lightly, nicking the skin that bled for about a second before sealing up. This caused him to smile, the yuppy asshole apparently didn't have silver. He moved quickly, the blade slashing him throat sending a spurt of fresh blood across the room. As it was beginning to seal up like his prior wound, he raised his pistol and fired once, then a second time, both rounds striking his assainlant in the stomach...

***

Some who know me would call me a murderer. It seems like an unfitting title, as I feel I have never commited a murder in my life. I've executed vampires, I mean for heaven's sake its my job right now, but they are not deserving of our laws. They do not belong, they're unnatural, drinking blood of the living is both naturally and morally wrong and so I must cleanse the world of these beasts.

The first vampire I killed was messy, unorganized so to speak. I tried to stab him, but the unholy creature shrugged it off, the beast was strung out on heroin, he had just drained a homeless woman dry without a second thought and I hated him for it. When stabbing didn't work, I panicked, I must admit. He was drawning closer, I could smell the wet blood on his breath and I gagged in disgust.

I fell to the ground and he was almost on top of me, I strugged to find anything I could use as a weapon. My fingers brushed over the dead woman's neck, a small chain with a silver point drawing into the center of the necklace. It must have been God's dvine will that I took the point and jammed it into the assailant's eye.

His screams of pain were the sweet sounds of my life being returned to me. It did not heal and he fell back cursing as I stood up with a renewned sense of faith and purpose, I continued to drive it into his eyes until he could see no more. He slowly bled out through his eyes and walked on, knowing that one less monster was on the street. I was called by Them, they told me what to do, that I was now allowed to do this great work with their approval and their pay. They had understood and empowered me to do the work no one else would do, cleansing the Earth.

***

Sarah smiled, "Sounds good, c'mon we gotta get going though, my ride is waiting for us. She flashed a grin, grabbed Seras by the hand, ignoring his cold touch and drug him through the hallways, dodging students and teachers before arriving at the garage where a limp was waiting. She opened the door and hopped in, beckoning Seras to do the same. She then tinted the windows, shouted the name of some faux French place and the driver exited onto the main streets and began heading to their destination.

The shock Seras had felt as she pulled him through the corridors seemed insignificant when they go to the limousine. It was a monolithic thing - sleek and black and chrome, a monstrous juxtaposition amongst the more drab cars. He'd seen limos before - been in them more than once - but the one that sat in the parking garage seemed more like a waiting, preying creature than a vehicle.

The inside betrayed it. It wasn't exactly cosy, but there was more of a tenderness within the beast than on the outside, with polished wood and sparkling tumblers and glasses framing the sides. The windows tinted almost immediately after Sarah commanded. Why would a human have windows that tint on the inside? She sat on a luxurious pew to his left, her legs crossed and her fingers intertwined. Grace seemed to resonate from her, far more so than within the school. Like she was in her element.

As the limo pulled away from the garage and moved its way onto the streets, Seras saw the sun through the tinted glass. It was high in the sky, but with the windows it seemed so small and weak, a blot of yellow against the sky. Even though he knew if he were to step outside, it would unfurl itself into a seething, shimmering flare, and would torch him before he could open his mouth to scream. With his natural mortal enemy shielded from him and the limo's engines a whisper, Seras let himself slightly relax.

He turned to Sarah. 'Isn't this kinda elaborate for a school lunch trip?'

"But yeah, I'm glad you liked the final prints, Mrs. Wallace. Yeah...uh huh...oh yes, if you ever want me again, just give me a call. You got my card. You have a nice day...and enjoy the honeymoon! Bye!"

END CALL

"Good riddance," Liz mumbled under her breath as she put her phone back in her pocket. Mrs. Wallace was one of those women who had an unhealthy obsession with her idealized vision of a 'dream' wedding. Nitpicky, stubborn, and willing to step over anything and anyone to realize her fantasy. In other words, absolute hell to work for. Every step of the process was an exercise in frustration. From the ceremony to the editing, not a moment went by without that woman nagging about something. Too dark, too bright, too colorful, too dull. And for some reason, she wanted a terrible sepia filter over everything. After a while, Liz gave up on trying to explain why it wouldn't look good and followed her unreasonable demands. The photos ended up looking like shit put through an Instagram filter, but if Liz got paid and her client liked it, then it was no skin off her nose.

Liz took a sip of her coffee and returned to her laptop. The wifi at Starbucks was a lot slower than the connection at the apartment, but she liked the atmosphere of the bustling coffee shop. Despite all the people around her, she found it all to be quite relaxing. It also made great background noise as she wrote her blog post. For the last year and a half, Liz owned and operated a pro-Vampire activist blog. She gained a considerable following after a while and posted as often as she could. Thanks to her frustrating job with Mrs. Wallace, it had been over a week since she made her last post. But today, she planned on making up for her absence. After she finished this update post, she planned on going to Central Park to photograph a pro-Vampire rally and sharing the results with her followers. Her blog was in sore need of good content.

I know it's been about a week since I've posted. Don't worry, I'm not dead! Life gets in the way sometimes, as I'm sure you all understand. Anyway, I'm going to be at the Equality for Vampires and Husks rally in Central Park today. I'll be taking plenty of pictures and I promise that you'll all be the first to see them!

Don't forget to call your representative about the Husk Registration Act! This bill forces Husks and Vampires to register with the government and tramples over their civil liberties. They're American citizens just like the rest of us and therefore deserve the same protections under the Constitution! Everything about this bill is wrong, and we have to take that message straight to Washington. Sign the petition and share it with everyone you know. We can stop this bill, but it won't go down without a fight! Let's make our voice clear, no Husk and Vampire registration!

- Liz

It was hastily written, but an update was an update. She hit the submit button and finished her coffee as the public wifi struggled to make her request. When the post was successful, Liz made double sure it was up and powered down her laptop. She placed it into its bag, grabbed her camera pouch, and headed out the door. After spending so much time inside a Starbucks with central heating, Liz had forgotten how cold it was today. 'Shoulda taken a coat,' she thought as she braced herself against the cold and started making her way towards Central Park.

[...he raised his pistol and fired once, then a second time, both rounds striking his assailant in the stomach...]

Breana closed her eyes as heated blood dripped down her neck and collarbone. The bullets had hit Max. She knew without looking. She could smell the blood, all of it, calling to her. Fresh blood. No. She turned sharply driving her elbow in the vampire's stomach and followed with an uppercut to his jaw. Never again. The vampire brought his arm in to shoot but he was too overextended. Breana caught the vampire's forearm just as the gun fired. Through the ringing of her ears she hear something shatter nearby. They grappled for control of the gun - Breana with the wrist in a hold and the vampire with his free hand slashing at her. He hissed angrily sending more blood and spit into the air. Breana gave her own cry of anger and increased the pressure. 'Never again.' She refused to be weak.

With the vampire spitting curses Breana dodged a strike and spun around his body. A sharp twist forced the vampire's captive arm up at an unnatural angle. The shoulder dislocated with a short but satisfying pop. Unable to restrain the enraged vampire any longer Breana caught the released gun and jumped backwards. Clumsily turning the weapon she fired as she moved. The shots tracked the vampire's quick dodge. The last bullet buried itself high on the vampire's shoulder. But the wound didn't slow the full body lunge already in progress. Breana threw the gun aside and sidestepped to aim a roundhouse kick - 'Damn.' - that was caught in mid-air. Breana twisted violently to free her leg using her weight against the vampire's awkward grip. She stayed close to aim a sharp jab at the vampire's head.

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked