Your Blood In My Veins

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Sarah smiled, "Yes but how else can I get someone pale like you out of the school?"

The limo cruised through the streets and Sarah found herself falling silent, simply studying the boy. He wasn't usually what she would go for, he was far too boyish, too young, even if he tried to put on a falcade of early adulthood by smoking. She could see him tapping his fingers on the seat of the car, something she noticed her father had done whenever he wanted a cigarette.

The sleek limo pulled into the underground parking and untinted its windows as the driver turned off the engine. He got out and opened the door for Sarah who motioned for her companion to follow. They entered the small but somewhat dressed up restaurant. A small table was pulled aside and the waiter, a little more stiffbacked than he ought to have been arrived to take their order.

Sarah gazed over the menu briefly before selecting the single blood shot with a cranberry juice, while ordering a broiled salmon with a Caesar salad on the side. The waiter nooded curtly and took Seras's order, which turned out to just be soda mixed with blood. Sarah nodded; so he didn't like his blood pure....

Their drinks arrived and Sarah took a small sip to wet her throat before turning to Seras, "So, now that we're out of the school for a little while, why don't you tell me about yourself."

***

The degree in which a plan succeeds is the planner's ability to make any plan organic and evolving. While most plans fail because of some inherent need for one specific thing to happen, my own plan has gone much further than that. Yes I do have some pawns that need to put some things in place, but really, today has gone all too well. The protests, this hostage taking in progress, it is all the means to my end.

I stand over the body of our dear Chair member, who sleeps deeply, due to the drugs I slipped in his drink. I pick his hefty frame up being sure that every piece of my body is covered as I do it. I realize, as I take his body to his balcony, that either someone is going to see me or someone is going to find the roofies in his blood, but its too late to turn back now. And I realize I'm much better at the plans than executing them.

His hefty frame soars toward the ground as I return to the bathroom to change and return to my desk.

***

The rally was about to start, there were reporters, bloggers and university students in the crowd, their signs painted with red paint in a hamfisted effort to showcase blood maybe? The screaming, chanting and jeering at those who walked past them, it was evident that the protest was one in name only.

As the frenzy got larger and larger in nature it was only so long until the rioting started. Until a body hit the ground in front of the project and showered the front of the crowd in something that was definitely not red paint.

***

After the shots were fired Jack kicked in the order. Screaming at everyone to drop their weapons. The girl, who appeared to live there had already disarmed their assailant, who laid moaning on the ground, a small cut on his lip slowly healing. There was one vampire down, "Is he with you miss?" Jack asked before getting a short nod from the woman, who looked in between sick and angry.

Jack called the paramedics up and gestured to the wounded vampire, "Make sure he's ok."

It was strange that a Red Cross paramedic got here before the city ones. Could be that these guys were paid better or just really good at their jobs. It didn't matter anyways, he had to take this other man into custody and try and piece together what had happened.

Cuffing the assaulting vampire, ignoring the man's grunts of pain from what were obviously broken ribs, he forgot that vampires couldn't heal broken limbs, and drug him to the elevator where they began the slow descent down to the lobby area, "You're disgusting I hope you know that you piece of murdering shit," Jack mumbled to the man and to his surprise it caused the man to laugh.

The vampire looked at him, a couple of his teeth were missing, "I'm disgusting? I simply acted on instinct out of hunger. I may be a monster, but those who control the monster are the true evil. After all, who keeps the blood money in the hands of the rich, who strips the blood from the street so that they can sell us the 'pure stuff?' These people are the evil; I'm just chaos that comes from evil imposing its will."

Jack grabbed him and pushed him forward into the lobby, where two cops through a Cape over him, the sun blocking cover that most vampires were taking into custody with to avoid the death by sunlight.

They hauled him to the car and opened the doors to the drivers and passenger sides, but strangely enough, at least to Jack they never opened the back door. It then hit him a little too late as the two lifted the Cape off of the vampire and stepped into the car before anybody could react.

As the two sped off, the screams of the vampire were all that Jack could hear, as the skin bubbled before his eyes, tumours appearing in seconds as lesions on his skin and his eyes boiling over before bursting right out of their sockets. Blood gushed from the wounds and poured out of his nose, boiling on the street as it struck it. He then collapsed to the ground, a few spastic twitches remained before he was just a mass of red swollen skin, burned flesh and blood.

End of Prologue

Alex and Marie had just finished covering the clearly deceased and were about to join with the second FDNY team that had arrived at the scene to attempt life saving treatment on the people classified as merely 'lifeless'. However, before they got that far they were called up to the penthouse floor by who they presumed was the police officer in charge. He most certainly didn't have to ask twice, as both Alex and Marie rushed up to the top floor as fast as their legs and the elevator could carry them, readying the supplies they thought they would need and putting on their gloves as they waited for the elevator to descend and ascend again.

Once they arrived at the penthouse suite the officer in charge had merely a single comment for them before returning his attention to a restrained vampire and having him escorted from the scene, "Make sure he's ok." accompanied by a gesture at a male individual slumped near the couch. Walking over to him, Alex unzipped the backpack that contained their supplies as he took a closer look at the man, it didn't take him more than a moment to notice the large red stain on the stomach of the otherwise white bathrobe that he was wearing.

"Marie, find the supplies for a gunshot wound, please." Alex told her calmly as he passed the pack to her and kneeled by the wounded man, seeing that he was somewhat conscious, though obviously in pain he started talking to him as he examined him and readied him for emergency treatment. "I'm going to remove the robe from your chest and have closer look at the wound, alright?" Apparently in too much pain to readily reply, Alex just took that for a yes and removed the garment from his upper body, exposing the two bullet wounds in his abdomen. In any normal situation this was a potentially fatal set of wounds that would need him to be rushed to the nearest hospital, but luckily this wasn't a normal situation, or rather, this wasn't a normal human they were treating. As he had removed his robe and taken his pulse Alex had realized that his patient was a vampire, his skin was cold, if he'd been a human he would have been suffering from hypothermia, and the fact that he could now visibly see the bullet wounds slowly healing themselves removed any doubt.

"Marie, he's a resilient patient, and there's no silver, we just need to get the bullets out before they get sealed in." He told her quickly and asked the patient to lay down, helping him do so while Marie found the equipment they needed. "Also, I'm truly sorry sir, this will hurt a little bit." He said shortly before using a pair of surgical tweezers to remove the bullets from the wounds, normally they wouldn't do this, but vampire cases were always special, and due to their rapid healing often had their own unique problems. After a few more moments the work was finished however, and the two bloody and slightly misshapen pieces of lead had been removed from the wounds, which in turn had been quickly bandaged to keep any more blood loss at a minimum while they regenerated.

"There you go sir, sorry about the rough treatment but we couldn't let the bullets get sealed inside you, I hope you understand." Marie told him as Alex packed up their supplies, sealing the bloodied tweezers in their own bag for cleaning back at the station. "Uhm... We'd like for you to come with us if that's alright? You did loose some blood so the hospital will want to keep you under observation for a few hours to make sure everything is fine and that the wounds seal up properly. We strongly recommend it."

While Marie was talking to the man Alex walked a bit closer to the woman who he guessed was another inhabitant, she had a few bloodstains on her clothes from what he could see, since she didn't seem in pain they were likely not hers, but Alex couldn't be completely sure of that. "Excuse me Miss, if you need medical attention we're here for you." He told her as he looked over at the man they had treated earlier. "And don't worry about him, he's going to be fine now that the wound has been treated, but we'll advise him to stay for observation at the nearest hospital for a while regardless. Just a precaution."

Chapter One: The Next Revolution Has Been Brought to You By....

"Can someone tell who the fuck those two were?" It was hard for Jack to remain calm in such a situation. After the two 'police' had burned out in a cruiser, two more squads, including Jack himself had taken pursuit. It had been a wild chase through the city with at least two injured in hit and runs and one with a gunshot wound when he refused to move for the car. Luckily it appeared all would recover. The ensuing gunfight however had claimed the lives of one of his own men and both of the assailants. They were being DNA tested as he spoke, but he refused to wait that long.

"I've never seen them before sir, but the uniforms, they were identical and they had IDs, I had no reason not to let them in on the scene," one of the officers that had blocked off the street during the hostage taking was stammering out his answer, he knew that this could very well be his last day as a police officer, but he was doing his best to make his case.

"You...you'll be having a disciplinary hearing once we get the DNA results. The rest of you, go...go back on patrol. We're done here."

As the board room cleared out only he and the police chief remained. The chief sat down at the nearest chair and pulled out a flask, offering it to Jack, "Well you handled that well."

Jack smiled wryly before taking the flask and drinking deeply, "Barry, you know that this looks bad for me now; I can't let the shit stop here, it's gotta keep going downhill."

"Go home Jack, we'll talk about this tomorrow," the Chief stood up and dusted himself off, "You can keep that too, I'll have a squad car take you home..."

***

Sarah sat at home watching the news with her father. Her and Seras's lunch had been interesting, he didn't live too far from her. She wanted to get to know the little vampire a bit better. He seemed like he could be fun, oh yes a little angsty with his darker demeanour and his cigarettes, but that was what attracted her to him, the utter naivety at the world. She would change that; she would show him what the adult world was like. Maybe she'd take him to the club tonight, there was supposed to be a good DJ there, at least he was amazing according to Mary who was seeing him at the moment.
She got up and looked at her dad, "I'm going out tonight, I'll be home before 3."

Her father raised his eyebrows in a look of disbelief, "So we're not sneaking out anymore, you're just going to tell me you're breaking your curfew. Seems a little too honest in my opinion; why does this seem too honest for me honey?"

Sarah walked out of the room without answering.

***

James had spent the rest of the day visiting his newest husk at his apartment. She was so sweet and now she was desperate. She knew what she had gotten herself into, yet he was surprised she had so readily accepted it. She shared her blood and her body immediately with him, only breaking off to say that she did have to work. He protested lightly, if only to feign some interest in her so she'd come back. She promised she would and left quickly.

He stood up and walked into his kitchen without bothering to dress. He poured himself two fingers of whiskey and added another finger of blood into it. Swirling the glass gently he pondered his latest situation. He wondered how long he could keep this one, how long he would keep this one before he got bored.

His phone rang in the other room; he quickly downed his drink and answered it. A familiar voice spoke before he even had a chance to greet him, "Plans have changed, the game is in motion."

"What does that even mean you reclusive fuck?"

"It means you and him are doing that thing tonight."

"I have plans."

"James don't lie to me, she just went to work. Now shut up and listen, we'll call the other guy, you'll meet at the Red Cross building at one thirty am. The door will be open. Get the files, plant the worm and leave."

James sighed, "Please tell me you got someone competent."

The line died without an answer.

James looked at the clock on his bedstand. The time was 5:15 pm. He might as well enjoy a nap before escorting this egghead to the job.

***

Well the police have had a busy day haven't they? Between a CEO suicide and a hostage taking in a penthouse suite belonging to a very famous man hiding in the shadows of normalcy, one could almost guess that they were completely unaware and unprepared for the revolution that will begin.

It is not that vampires need to lead, nor is it that they need to be enslaved. Humans do not deserve to rule and the Husks that find themselves in the middle are no more qualified than half of each. Who should govern then? No one, but we cannot have that can we? People cannot be trusted to govern themselves. That would be anarchy. That would be chaos. That would be freedom of the people. Someone this country once prided itself on. Not this enslavement of the common man, tied to works, tied to products and tied to this disgusting perversion of a capital system that hasn't worked as it should have since its imagining. No, we have allowed this system to fester, to infect the entire world because we knew that it would give the power to us. Now I'm going to use this power to end the system.

Nathanael looked at the clock hanging over to Brad's office; Brad wasn't inside. Four fourty-five. With a slightly tighten grip Nathanael looked down at it and check the arrival times. Two delivery truck arrivals, and no Customs pickups between now and shift end, at five fifty. Stephen was usually here by then, but he could have just as easily have been talking to Brad outside.

Nathanael's radio crackled on, "A truck just arrived for shipment seventeen-eighty-five-twenty-one-A-B-2; they're fourty minutes early." Nathanael clicked the radio on beside his shoulder and ordered back, "Direct them to loading dock three. I'll get the order moved over there." "Roger, loading bay three," Came back the confirmation, as Nathanael checked his watch. Four fifty-five and Stephen still isn't here. Nathanael marked down the changed arrival time on the sheet. "John the items on rack D, sixteen A through J need to be moved to loading bay three," Nathanael told a forklift operator.

The second hand on his watch ticked twice; it was now five thirty. Stephen wasn't here and Brad hadn't returned to the building. Nathanael was now officially covering the night shift. Couldn't have gotten a bit of warning? Nathanael felt the dull, silver edge of the knife clipped to his belt; most of the night shift workers were vampires and husks. There were a couple new faces, and more than a couple people Nathanael didn't exactly know about. Half of the people under him could have easy been vampires without blood for few days. An uncomfortable feeling was starting to worm its way into his mind.

It was about five after six. Jason, the night supervisor, had just informed Nathanael that there was still no word from Stephen. Calls to his contact numbers hadn't proved fruitful. If Stephen hadn't shown up past eight, Jason was going to find someone to cover his shift tomorrow. Running over twenty-four hours awake didn't sound like an enjoyable idea, but the day off tmorrow and the "company expense" dinner Jason had said they would be ordering might turn out to be worth it.

Nathanael looked down at the clipboard and got back to work. "You on that fork lift. Sorry I'm not familiar with your name. Rack F, items twenty F through M, need to be moved to loading dock four. The truck should be there in fifteen minutes."

The school librarian shuffled over to Seras' table and told him, almost regretfully, that the library was closing and he would have to leave. He thanked her, and began stuffing his books into his schoolbag. His lunch with Sarah had run especially long and he'd missed his last hour of biology, so he'd picked up his work from the teacher, apologised profusely, and chose to finish it before going home. The walk back home from school would make up for gym class, he delusionally told himself.

Lunch with Sarah had been awkward. He didn't sorely appreciate eating out. Perhaps it was something he'd get used to, but surrounded by humans eating food made his sodas look limp and flat. Maybe when he graduated to alcohol, he would feel less... Childish. But, she herself was strange. Inquisitive in an unnatural way. Almost every time she spoke, it was a question, with a tone that made it sound like she was cataloguing him. Even as his eyes brushed their way around the room, he could feel her gaze sitting on him. She was never aggressive, but she'd pout if he brushed aside her interrogation.

Once his books were in, Seras pulled his phone from his bags sidepocket. He saw Ashley had sent him a text just before the end of school. His phone was flickering between no coverage and a single bar, so he made a mental note to text her as he was walking back to his house.

-

Ashley restrained herself from sending Seras a second text. She wasn't furious, not exactly, but she certainly wasn't impressed. When she'd discovered he'd slunk away from classes, maybe with that husk, she found herself disappointed. First the smoking, then skipping class? If it happened again, she'd have no choice but to bring it up. Whether it would do much good was another matter.

Dinner with her Dad had been good though. Every time she had an appointment with Maria he was almost frothing with the need to know every detail. He relished the opportunity as much as she did to discuss how it was going. And it had been going well - the pupil attacks had been as overblown as Ashley thought. Every kid snaps now and again. It wasn't uncommon - and hell, it probably would have been more worrying if Ashley never had a single cross against her.

After she'd talked with her Dad and watched some TV, Ashley headed to her room and considered calling Seras.

-

The walk home was darker than Seras remembered at this time of year. The sun was well-hidden by now, sunk deep behind the city skyline. It wasn't late enough for the moon to make its presence known though, and so above was only a muddy shade of grey. Down below, the place was deserted. He didn't see a single person as he walked. Strangely, it felt good. Despite the cloudy sky above him, there was a comfort in the air. He slipped in his earbuds, blocking the sound of the footsteps as they rushed behind him.

-

Ashley threw her phone on the bed. Her fury seemed to have come from nowhere. She wasn't jealous or properly angry. Just frustrated. All it would have taken is one text, one call, one hint of communication to know where he was and how he was doing. She lay down on her bed and tried distracting herself with her ceiling light. Her dad had put new bulbs in, and they were duller than before. She could see the tiny little metal pieces inside, buried in the blooming yellow light.

Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot.

-

Seras couldn't remember the transition. How he'd ended up on his feet, to how how he'd ended up on the ground. He'd put out his hands, stopping a complete fall, but they shook violently. But he didn't remember that part. It was as though someone had reached in and taken a slide from his memory. From the feeling of an arm, reaching around from behind and striking him in his abdomen to now - it all felt like a dream.

There was a nasty, dry, metallic taste in the back of his throat. He tried to heave but it only grew worse. With one hand he tried to feel for the screaming pain in his stomach, but he couldn't support himself. His cheek grazed the pavement as he fell.

A voice spoke around him. It was muffled and droning, like Seras had his head under the water. 'It's a shame the son must pay for the sins of the father' was all that he heard before the voice dropped from earshot.

Seras' tried to pull himself to his feet, but he couldn't. He strained and tightened but the pain in his stomach grew worse. Lifting his hand back from, Seras noticed the deep red. It coated his palm and dripped down his wrist and under his sleeve, but he felt no sensation. When he braved a glance down, he saw the dark stains across his hoodie along with a deep tear. The fire inside seemed to grow, consuming the sound and sensations around him.

He tried to let out a scream but he scarcely let out a whisper. His limbs had stopped working, turning to dead logs. Above, the streelights finally burst into life. The sky had now turned black, but he still couldn't find the moon. The streetlights were all he could see. Imposing and grand, tall beacons that kept the sky from crashing down upon him. Seras kept his eye on them and tried to count his breaths so that he knew he was still there. He felt like he was slipping, like the pavement was dipping underneath him and carrying him away. A shadow spread out across his vision, killing the lights. Seras knew he couldn't hold on and felt himself go.

5:59:57

5:59:58

5:59:59

6:00:00

6:00:01

Valerie was tapping her foot angrily in the parking lot. Brett was sitting on a bench beside her, immune to the fact that their ride was one second late. Two seconds late. Three seconds late. Neither the red car nor its blonde driver were anywhere in sight. Valerie yanked open her bag and pulled out her cellphone, furiously dialing Julie.

Hey, this is Julie, sorry I can't get to the ph-
"Shit! Where the hell is Julie!?"
"I dunno, she's probably caught up at work or something. Maybe she's stuck in a meeting..." The kid put his earphones back in, clearly a lot more relaxed. "Why don't you just sit down? Pacing isn't gonna make her get here any faster."

Valerie redialed the number.
Hey, this is Julie, sorry-
6:01:00
"We should have been at the intersection by now!" The only other option she had was taking a taxi, but she wasn't desperate enough to climb into that tin can of germs and diseases yet. She dialed Julie's number 3 more times, so she would have called 5 times. The woman better be dead. She wanted to smash her phone to the ground. A migrane was starting to flare up in her head. She wiped her phone clean before returning it to her pocket. There were some painkillers in her bag, but she decided not to use them yet.

"I'm going to start walking." As if she could walk all the way back home. That would be 301,092 steps, and a 10 hour walk. The sun was setting and it was cold. Stubborn as ever, she wrapped her arms around herself, dialing her cousin.
"Helloooo Valerie!"
"Maelle, I need someone to pick me up. I'm right outside Quest."
"Ah... Val, I'm still at home. It'll be a while. Hang out somewhere nearby?"
"Fine."

It was all she could really say. She wasn't going to take public transportation, and she wasn't going to call a taxi. 301,092 steps... After a quick look back into the parking structure to make sure Julie wasn't there, she started walking. Valerie produced another small sanitary wipe to clean her phone. There were several restaurants and coffee shops. She walked into the fifth door on her right, a coffee shop. It wasn't too crowded, and it looked pretty clean. She opened the door with a new wipe. You couldn't be too careful.

"Small coffee, 2 cream, 2 sugar."
She swiped her card, ignoring the cashier's cheery "Have a nice day!". She sat down at a table, tearing off the corner of the sugars and pouring them in. They were placed on the right of her cup, side by side, with their respective corners replaced. The creams were opened and slowly poured in while she stirred, and were placed above the sugar packets, their foil covers replaced as well. Her nails tapped incessantly on the table, a steady clicking matched with her muted foot tapping.

Earlier That Day

Max had spent most of the day in the hospital as per the paramedic's suggestion... though he was still in a state of shock at the time. The impact of the shots entering his body, followed by a powerful searing sensation... it had been unlike anything he'd written or watched. No dramatic music, no slow-motion close-up shot of the intruder pulling the trigger. Just the cold metal punching through skin and flesh.

During his stay at the hospital, the writer had spent some time sleeping and been declared fine, but the doctor strongly suggested he stay until nightfall. It was a good thing too: Max hated having to shroud himself to avoid sunlight. Then later, Breana had gone on a small rant at him.

"I can't believe you did that. I can't believe you did that. You tried to beat a gun with a knife. What were you thinking? You could have been killed! You could have actually died. You...idiot! You...just...augh! What were you thinking? Don't you know I'd - what I'd - what were you thinking!"

The room was not big enough for Breana's need to pace. She tried anyway, fighting the need to just escape the hospital entirely. She walked briskly from the door to the window. Her steps were precise despite her anger. Each time she reached the window Breana tried to see outside. The room was in standard vampire-mode. Which meant that the windows were treated to prevent the sun's rays from coming inside. The result was a filmy haze that made everything look blurry. Like someone forgot to focus the lens on nature.

The sharp smell of antisceptics and disinfectants came with every inhale Breana made. Hospitals. She thought with disgust. She couldn't stand them. Couldn't stand to be in them. But she couldn't leave either. She couldn't and she wouldn't. Realizing she'd stopped at the window Breana turned around. She had to move again.

"I loathe hospitals." Taking Max's chart from his beside table she thumbed through the pages. "Where's that nurse with the update you were due five minutes ago?" Bypassing the chairs set out for visitors Breana hopped onto the window sill with the chart still in hand. "She's late."

"I know," Max hesitantly answered, weary from the shock of his injuries even though it had passed. He tried not to look at the needle in his arm: there was a bag of blood hooked up to an IV. Injections and needles and whatnot always made him cringe. "It's just... the way I saw it, it looked like you were in a lot of trouble. I thought... I thought getting the jump on him would have put him at a disadvantage."

Breana opened her mouth to interrupt Max, but the vampire raised his free hand to stop her before she could start. "I messed up, I know. And I'll take measures myself to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. If I have to I'll upgrade the entire building's security out of my own pocket. The door to our apartment will be replaced as soon as possible." In the meantime there were two members of the current security guard standing watch in the hallway, since the door could no longer be locked and neither Max nor Breana were home.

Max's publisher, a human named Martin Walker, had called the hospital as soon as he had heard the news. Martin had been in nigh hysterics, but both Max and the nurse in charge of him had both assured him that the writer was okay. Marty was now watching over the apartment himself, careful not to disturb anything that had been touched or damaged in the scuffle. A team had already been through the apartment to collect evidence.

"As for me... well, the nurse did say I was fine. I'm just... just tired, is all," the vampire finished.


Present Time

The trip home from the hospital was one that was welcomed by both vampire and husk. What was not welcome, however, were the four news crews milling about outside the building's primary entrance. Max hated having to deal with the news. They could show what they liked, but he wanted nothing to do with it. He gave silent thanks for underground parking as Marty's car pulled into the space next to Max's small vehicle.

From there it was a short elevator ride up to the penthouse, and a short survey of the damage to the property. The door had already been replaced, and new keys had been cut for its lock; there were a number of bullet holes in the walls; a vase had been shattered - shards of glass and half a dozen flowers now lay in a pool of water on the floor; and one of the less expensive paintings had been ruined by a splash of blood. One of the security guards had informed them that the investigators had been quick, quiet and thorough, adding that they would likely call or visit within the next few days to obtain statements from the witnesses.

Max insisted on cleaning up what was left of the mess himself. The bag of blood packs that the would-be thief had scavenged was gone, presumably taken as evidence. It didn't matter all that much, though. There were still a handful of packs - of both types - left in the mini-fridge.

The writer, however, was satisfied for the present. The blood IV from the hospital had helped, even though he hadn't liked the idea of it. After cleaning up the aftermath of the ruined vase and finding a temporary replacement to hold the flowers in the meantime, he crashed on the couch in the lounge for a nap. He was too exhausted and worried to bother going all the way upstairs.

Maxine hated the winter, the dark alleys just leered at her, their shadows lengthened by the early nights. She just knew that she was going to get mugged one of these days, which is why she had finally gone out and bought a Browning 9mm pistol. The man at the counter had argued with her, saying she should have gone with something lighter, but she had read about the gun on the Internet and knew that it was the right thing for her. It was powerful, it looked intimidating and that was what she wanted. Those thugs wouldn't know what hit them.

As if on some cue, someone tackled a teenager on the other side of the street from her. The kid never saw it coming and the larger man was all over him. Maxine panicked, it could have been a robbery, a murder, a rape, and she needed to help. Shaking, she grabbed the Browning out of her purse, ignoring or perhaps not noticing her iPhone clatter onto the pavement as she lined up her shot. She saw herself on the range again, as that good looking instructor helped her hold and squeeze the trigger. She smiled and her finger tensed on the trigger.

He looked up to see a woman witness. He pulled down his hat and popped his collar quickly to avoid any identification. His eyes widened, she had a gun pointed at him, but wasn't firing. He had to make a split decision; if he ran, she might fire at him, but if he waited, he could be caught and his work would be stopped. He ran.

Maxine tried to squeeze the trigger, but the Browning has a particular flaw, one that still has not been corrected on a stock model, in which the trigger requires a lot more pressure than your average 9mm weapon. As a result, while her instructor had helped her before, her strength was still not enough to flawlessly pull it. The man started to run and Maxine panicked, the extra adrenaline giving the strength needed to pull the trigger. The muzzle flashed.

He heard the explosive sound of a round fired and the concrete building ahead of him took the round, spraying concrete into his face, cutting it slightly. He kept running, hearing two more explosions but neither came close to hitting him. Ducking in an alley and running over to his car, he popped it into first gear and launched out of the area as fast as the car would go. Wiping the blood off his face, he realized that the knife was still beside the dying boy.

Maxine swore as the trigger snapped back a third time and pinched the webbing of her hand. He dropped the gun and watched as the car sped away. There was no plate and the car was black, making any identification impossible for her.

Remembering that someone had been attacked, she ran across the street to find the boy covered in his own blood, the knife laid near him as well. She scrambled to find her phone, upending her purse quickly, but couldn't find it amongst her things. Almost in tears, she began rifling through the boy's pockets, finally coming across a phone. Opening it up, she selected the emergency number and an operator picked up almost immediately.

Maxine cried into the phone, "There's someone here, he's been stabbed with a knife. He's bleeding a lot."

The soothing voice of the operator was very calm despite the chaotic situation, "Alright miss, I need two things from you. First I need you to take a deep breath and compose yourself and then I need the address of where this has happened. I'll have an ambulance on the way immediately."

Maxine gave the address and looked at the knife. The brand was "Forture Silver," the same brand of steak knife she had at home. Realizing that this could mean the kid was a vampire she told the operator and immediately she heard the tone change in the operator's voice, "Alright, if that is the case that wound won't seal on its own. The bus is still a while away so I'm going to have you do something. Take a piece of his or your clothing and wrap the wound tight."

Maxine did what she was told and the operator continued to talk to her, "Aright do you smoke?"

Maxine said that she did.

"Alright if that's the case get out your lighter and something metallic, it needs to hold the heat. Take your lighter and use it to heat that piece of steel as hot as you can. Once you haveyou place and hold it against the wound."

Maxine put her lighter against the knife itself after wiping the blood off on the kid's shirt. It wasn't like he'd be using that one again anyways. It took a long time before she could feel any heat on the blade and the lighter was beginning to burn her hand as well. Finally a patch was hot, not red hot like the operator suggested but she didn't have any more fluid and angry blisters had already formed on her hand. She took the knife and pressed it against the boy's stomach. It hissed and she could hear the boy moan a little before she removed it. There was still some bleeding, but most of the wound was closed off.

Putting her head on the boy's chest she finally let herself cry as the sirens wailed towards her.

***

It was a busy night for the police indeed. They were clearing up a suicide at Quest Laboratories. On top of the shooting spree at the Penthouse of that author, the suicide at the Red Cross building and now a reported shooting of a vampire teenager, the heavy crimes of the day seemed higher than normal.

Silvia looked at the hanging corpse in the office. The blinds had been drawn to avoid any on lookers, the office was in perfect condition. The choice of noose was the drapes from the window that faced out of the office, meaning that there could be witnesses that could have seen what happened here. The floor was videotaped so they could check for foul play.

The blood dripped from the woman's wrists, which had been slashed with a pen knife, which one of the forensic scientists was dusting at the moment. It looked like a classic suicide, although no note had been left and according to the few people they had interviewed, the woman had shown no signs of depression. For now, they had locked down the building and begun contacting people that knew the victim.

Leaving the crime scene, she began dialing her boyfriend's number and hit send as she entered her car, his voice coming through on her Bluetooth headset, "Yeah babe?"

"I'm gonna be late again, just found a dangler in an office. Need to go ask a few questions before I can clock out tonight. Sorry."

He sighed and Silvia knew he was pissed, even though she had no control over the situation, she was sure that her late nights and missed dates were wearing on him, "Alright, I'll pack up dinner and you can have some when you get home I guess. See you then."

She was shocked as he abruptly hung up on him. Such was life and she weaved through traffic towards the address she had in her notebook.

She glanced at her phone as she knocked at the door. It was 7:30 pm; God she was going to be late tonight.

***

James got in the car and headed towards the meet point. He knew he was going to be early, but he preferred it that way. He liked to retcon an area before breaking into it, made for less surprises at the end of the night. He expected that the egghead had been contacted and briefed so they'd get in and out without too much difficulty. He wondered what his Husk was up to at work. He picked up his phone and dialed her number. He knew that the driver who worked for these guys wouldn't dare to eavesdrop. It dialed twice and she picked up.

***

She answered the phone immediately. It was like he knew she had break around this time. It was unnerving. The guy was too perfect and yet she couldn't help but be attracted despite the disgust of getting hooked on his blood.

"Hello?"

"Hey there, " his voice was full of his natural arrogance, "Can I ask you what you're wearing right now?"

She shook her head and sighed, "I don't really have time for this James, I need to get back to work."
She could hear him laughing despite having his mouth away from the receiver, "A lot more brave now that you're full of blood and a couple hours away aren't we? No matter. Just letting you know the code for my place is 8-11-1847. Go ahead and let yourself in. Have a good night at work Missy."

She made a move to retort and the line went dead. She swore and left the break room.

***

The answering machine of the tech support beeped. Whether he hadn't answered or wasn't at home was irrelevant, the message was as clear as it could be, "Adrian. Change of plans. It happens tonight. The time will be 830 pm and your ride will be there an hour beforehand. Be ready."

The man hung up and looked at his partner, "Well that's set in motion now; a vampire found robbing the Red Cross for the government, that will set off some alarms. Now it's time for humans to rob a blood shipment for the Red Cross."

His partner smiled, "It is all coming together. Did you know the CEO died today? It's nice that we didn't have to do that either."

The first man raised his eyebrows, "So she finally did it huh, well that makes our lives easier from now on I guess," he looked out the window, "There's the place, pull in."

The cube van slowly pulled into the parking lot of Landing Storage Inc. and the driver gave a man on the forklift a nod and a short honk of the horn.

The man ran into the office and was shocked to see the day shift manager had not left yet, "Where's Stephen?"

Nathanael smirked bitterly, "Nobody knows, wish you could tell me? What's the problem?"

The vampire looked nervous, "Go on break Nathan."

"Excuse me?"

"Go on break Nathan; come back in an hour please."

"Tell me what's going on Gabe," he had noticed the name tag on the man's chest."

The vampire left the room and ran down to the van where cargo that usually constituted Nathanael's 'under the table' business and grabbed one of the two suited men, "Stephen isn't here, the day guy is, we gotta reschedule."

The man laughed, "No we don't," and the vampire jumped back as if electrified.

The vampire looked down and saw bullet holes before he even heard the explosions that rattled from the Knight's Armament Company Personal Defence weapon. The KAC-PDW uses 6x35 mm rounds, a little more rare than the standard NATO 5.56 mm round used in most PDWs and machine guns used at this point. The muzzle velocity is slightly increased as well and so its stronger firing speed tore through the vampire before he could even expect it. He crashed to the ground, bleeding from the silver rounds and the two men continued to load the large crates onto the cube van.

***

I debate calling them, to see how they're doing but I restrain myself. They know what they're doing.

Again the red light of the FDNY ambulance pierced through the streets of New York, and again Alex was riding with it. He had been able to get six hours of rest between the morning and night shifts, but since his boss had apparently been unable to get a replacement worker for this shift it kinda fell on his shoulders, no way he could ask Ray to do this alone after all.

And besides, if he wasn't on the job things like this particular job might just go all that worse, or so he kept telling himself anyway. "Operator can you please repeat that?" Raymond asked as he held in the button on the ambulance radio, due to the still noisy traffic in NY it was sometimes difficult to catch parts of the operator's message, even this late in the evening.

"We have an update on the situation, the boy appears to be a vampire and the weapon should be treated as silver. We've given the caller instructions on how to preform a cauterization, but we cannot be sure that she's succeeded." Raymond drew in a breath of air between his teeth making sharp hissing sound as she repeated the message, his sharp canines pronounced by the red light being reflected from the glass clad skyscraper they were driving past. Still it didn't take him long to get an 'affirmative' to the operator on the other end to let her know that the message had been received.

"Stabbing a vampire kid with a silver knife... Just another crazy case to top of an otherwise crazy day." Raymond mumbled as he kept his eyes on the road in front of him, guiding the ambulance to where they needed to be. Alex just nodded and replied "Yeah, no kidding." as he repacked the outer pocket of his supply bag, making sure he had the things he needed for a knife wound right at hand, if there was silver involved they had to be quick about it after all.

"We're here, next block, get ready." Raymond uttered as they rounded another corner, a Honda Civic pulling over to let them pass by. "You get him patched up and I'll get the gurney out." Alex nodded in confirmation as they pulled up to the scene of the assault and undid his seat belt before exiting the vehicle, bag in hand.

On the sidewalk there waited an, unfortunately, rather familiar scene, that of an injured patient and a crying bystander who appeared at her wits end. Alex kneeled down beside the injured boy and opened up his bag as he started telling the woman that she had done a good job, that everything was fine, she need not worry anymore. But even that didn't seem to stop the stream of tears coming from her eyes, and as much as Alex wanted to sit down and try to comfort her he had more pressing matters at hand. Two quick snips with the scissors and the improvised bandage was gone, a quick look with the flashlight to survey the wound for residual silver, none. He adjusted the flashlight get a good look a the cauterization, not optimal but good enough, and on went a slightly damp sterile compress and a fresh bandage to keep pressure on the wound.

The whole treatment had only taken a few minutes, but by now Raymond had arrived to calm down the woman, Maxine as her name was, and was tending to her blistered hand as Alex unpacked a blanket to wrap up their patient, hypothermia being as prevalent a problem as ever. "Ray, give me a hand here." Alex told him before they both lifted the kid onto the gurney and secured him before Alex rolled it over to the vehicle.

At this point the police had arrived at the scene as well, and Maxine seemed to be well taken care of, praising her actions to himself, Alex felt glad that people still felt obligated to intervene when things like this happened in front of them. Closing the back doors of the ambulance and sitting down beside the injured boy he nodded at Ray in the seat in front, now he and Ray just had to make sure that this didn't become a day that she'd rue to remember.

It was around eight o'clock when the company charged meal arrived, Chinese food. It was hardly the worst thing could have been ordered. After dropping off the food, Jason had left to see if he could dig up someone to cover Nathanael's shift the next morning. Naturally Nathanael had to cover for Jason, should anything arise before he returned. That was half an hour ago.

Now Nathanael was confronted a very nervous and clearly worried night worker. The standard attempts to figure out what was wrong didn't work, but it wasn't an extremely high concern; no active alarms in the building, or codes issued over the radio assured this. Nathanael watched as the man left the office and started to run.

Well it isn't like he set the place on fire, but I should still follow him and find out what's going on.A sigh left Nathanael's mouth as he put down the Wonton soup container he was eating from and stood up. As he rounded the desk and was about to go find out what was going on, Nathanael stopped for a second and threw a chicken ball into his mouth. As he stepped out the door, Nathanael grabbed his blue hardhat off of a hook beside the door, and put it on.

Nathanael wasn't in a rush to follow, as he could tell where the man was going; straight to a loading dock. As he got closer he could here Gabe's voice say something about rescheduling. In an instant the echo of the gun shots filled the air. Nathanael took cover behind a crate and edged forward as he slid off his hard hat and jacket, to avoid standing out from the background of the building. He detached the radio and kept it in case he needed it.

Slowly he edged to the end of the racking he took cover behind and peered around the corner. Two men in suits that were carrying what looked like submachine guns, were loading crates into a van with a forklift. There aren't any scheduled deliveries right now. Nathanael cocked his head to one side to get a better view of the area, and threw his hand up against his mouth to muffle a quick sound of shock.

Shit. They killed Gabe. Shit. What do I do? Shit. Shit. Shit. Okay think...protocol. Okay I need to issue the evacuation code for an intruder according to the emergency procedures. Wait what if this one of those jobs done by those people who pay me to not notice shit? Damnit. Shit. Okay I'm not even supposed to be here. Fuck you Stephen. Shit. Calm down. Think!

A moment passed and Nathanael had a second to compose his thoughts. Okay they might not be the same people. They never seemed like the type to create a body count. They seemed pretty intent on staying unknown. Next even if it is them, I can't be blamed for shit I wasn't aware of; Stephen can take that blame. Also, since no else heard that others might be paid off or tipped off. That means I need to make this seem like I legitimately know nothing beyond my job, and am just out of the loop for everyone else.

Nathanael activated the radio, and spoke over it. "Code blue thirteen. I repeat code blue thirteen. No need for panic, some bolts just launched out of an old steam pipe." The actual code signaled an intruder at section thirteen of the warehouse, the loading docks, and to evacuate in the rear of the building. The message afterwards was just in case they could hear the announcement over Gabe's radio.

Nathanael turned to leave and go to the back of the building like he just told everyone else to do. As soon as he took a step away the darkness in his chest squeezed tighter; it didn't want to run away. Nathanael tried another step, but could raise his leg forward. It didn't want to leave, and it was like a morbid curiosity was taking over Nathanael's mind. So what are they actually stealing? This is probably my one chance to find out what I've been paid not to see. Almost instantly Nathanael had his own version of a plan that had been commonly used in countless movies that he'd seen, and numerous video games that he'd played.

The iron grip on his stomach loosened to a point that Nathanael couldn't remember experiencing before, as he unlaced and took off his work boots. The boots were loud and made it impossible to be silent in. He removed his radio in case anyone tried to call over it and pulled out his cellphone and quickly recorded a message. Slipping back around the rack he was behind, Nathanael made his approach from behind a closer racking that created a blindside to the loading dock.

Without being noticed, Nathanael set up his cell phone on top of a crate and maxed out the volume. He placed one of his work boots so the toe was sticking out from behind the racking, and then hit a button and his messaged started playing. There was a fifteen second prerecorded silence, so Nathanael could get to his ambush location before the message played. He watched the two men as he waited for it to start.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING LEAVING A BODY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING FLOOR? DO YOU SHIT HEADS WANT TO MAKE IT THAT OBVIOUS THAT SOMEONE WAS TAKING SHIT FROM THIS PLACE? YOU'RE WEARING SUITS LIKE PROFESSIONALS, BUT YOU'RE ACTING LIKE FUCKING ROOKIES. SERIOUSLY, WHO PAYS DUMBASSES LIKE YOU TO DO THIS SHIT?

YOU'VE GOT TO HIDE THE BODY AND WASH AWAY THE BLOOD TO PREVENT SUSPICION. THEN YOU NEED TO HIDE YOUR SMGS SO PEOPLE DON'T FREAK OUT IF THEY INVESTIGATE THE GUN SHOTS. WHILE YOU'RE AT IT YOU MIGHT AS WELL DRESS IN A WORKER'S UNIFORM. YOU'RE DRESSED LIKE LAWYERS IN A SHIPPING WAREHOUSE FOR FUCK'S SAKE. YOU ARE NOT A CHARACTER IN A VIDEO GAME." The audio message on his phone continued to insult the two intruders in whatever manner Nathanael thought at the time of recording it.

Stephen awoke to the thin steel wire digging into his wrists. Acting on instinct he pulled away, causing them to cut even deeper, drawing a bit of blood the dripped on the floor. The pain finally shook the sleep from his system and he called out in shock, "Where am I?"

A man sitting on a chair stood up. He was dressed well, a well cut suite jacket over a black dress shirt with the top button open. His eyes looked dead, a pale blue and his hair was cut short, almost a buzz cut. Most importantly, he held a knife in his hand, "Good evening Stephen, you've been a bad boy recently haven't you? You got greedy, sold our product to a different customer and now we need to go get it ourselves. Isn't that right Stephen?"

Stephen gasped, "N-no, fuck it wasn't like that I swear. I didn't sell shit man, I don't know what you'r-ahhhhhh!"

The hot silver blade cut across his face like lightning and the blood poured from the thin cut on his face. The man spoke again, "Don't lie Stephen, it only makes this hurt more. Tell me who you sold it to."

"Gah, fuck man I don't know, I don't know man!" Stephen pleaded, almost crying in fear, "Two guys, it was two guys that talked to me, they paid cash and that's all I know man."

The man stood up, "That's a shame then Stephen, that's not enough to buy a quick death," the man jammed the knife to the hilt in Stephen's neck and pulled out his phone as he left the room, "Is the team nearly there? Good, so this is how we'll do this..."

***

As the two men loaded their cargo a voice began screaming at them. The taller one immediately fired at the offending voice and it fell silent. The box slid off his forklift and spilled to the ground breaking open. A small woman fell from the crate, IV's and other various tubes were inserting and extracting various fluids. It looked like blood was being pulled and water and nutrients were being put in. She was pale and her eyes, despite being open, appeared blank. A small moan of pain erupted from her lips as she rolled onto the asphalt.
The shorter man cursed and looked at his partner, "Go make sure that disturbance is taken care of, while I clean up this mess."

The tall man nodded and moved towards the shattered remains of the cell phone...

***

Adrian arrived just when James's patience was beginning to wear thin, "It's about goddamn time, you ready to go?"

"Yeah, sorry, I don't really get what we're trying to do here, what's the point?"

James scoffed, "It doesn't matter egghead; all that matters is doing what needs to be done so we can get paid. C'mon, they gave me a key to the staff entrance."

The guard changed at this time, which is why they had chosen the time to break in. James slid the card through the reader and the door buzzed open. The two of them moved through the building. Adrian's ragged gasps growing more and more distressed as they got deeper into the building.

Finally they arrived at the deposit bank, the place where the information was apparently stored.

Adrian opened up a console and inserted his homebrew USB drive into the system. He booted the drive and used it to open a hole in the security of the server. Once he was in, he began scanning for the file numbers that were written on the note he was given on the ride here. Most were easy to find, but the last one was buried under multiple encryptions.

Once the files were all located, he inserted a second USB and began transferring the files.

James's phone vibrated and an unknown caller tag was given. He picked up the phone and nodded once, "Alright, but this means I get his too."

Adrian turned around, "Excuse me?"

James had his pistol leveled at Adrian's head, "Sorry buddy, just the way things are," and with that he pulled the trigger twice and Adrian's head splattered against the monitor.

As if on cue, the alarms went off in the building and James grabbed the USB drive and took off down the hallway. He could hear the shouts after him and a few bullets struck the walls beside him. He took a corner and slid into an office. He lightly closed the door and took cover behind a desk.

The door slowly opened and a light female voice echoed through the office, "James, we're here to get you out now."

He sighed in relief, none of the guards knew his name, it had to be them. He stood up, "Well I hope you got the money because I got the infor-" his arrogance was cut short by a single 9mm silver round that entered into his throat. Clutching at his throat, he sank to the ground, dropping the USB on the now blood stained rug.

***

I walk up the dying vampire, "You're serving a real purpose now murderer," I tell him as the life fades from his eyes. I look at the USB. The files on it mean nothing, simply a distraction. I raise my foot and crush it. I take out my phone, dial a number and walk out of the office....

All Seras could feel was a gentle rumbling, moving him back and forth. Other than that, he was almost weightless. He tried to open his eyelids, but they felt heavy and damp. There was a low hum from somewhere in the distance and a distorted crackling, going back and forth between his ears. Slowly, like warm blood flowing through his veins, feeling and sensation started to return to him. First, he felt the heaviness of arms, then legs. He tried lifting his fingers, but could only manage a pathetic twitch. There was a sudden rush of light-headedness, but at least he was starting to feel something.

It then struck him - where was he? The noises around him were too disjointed to make out. His eyes still refused to co-operate with him. What did he remember? Nothing. Or at least, very little. He remembered walking from school, he remembered holding his phone. He remembered the street lights, up above, casting down on him like burning stars set against the sky.

And that's it.

With the panic, came the pain. And with the pain, he remembered. The hot feeling of his stomach, the shadow on the street, how he'd collapsed to the pavement. He started breathing heavily. The flickering sounds around him grew louder, more impatient. His eyes shot open and he felt the ripping, a tear in his torso that blasted pain across his entire body. A scorching agony shot through his legs, up his spine and into his head. His eyes shot open and a pounding white struck him. The sounds seemed to be shouting now, bellowing down at him, yet he still couldn't define them. They were just a blur of scraping, screaming noise.

Seras felt the horrible acidic taste of vomit rising from his throat, before he collapsed back into unconsciousness.

-

The ambulance shook slightly as Ray drove them closer to the hospital they had been instructed to bring the kid to, the rattling sound of the equipment lockers intensifying every time he sped up or had to make a turn. But the rattling of unsecured equipment was a minute sound compared to the wailing of the ambulance siren when Ray had need of it, and this being New York City it was an almost perpetual noise.

Alex was in the back of the vehicle, more interested in monitoring their patient than caring about a little noise, but so far the kid had seemed largely stationary, whether that was a good sign or not he would refrain from thinking too much about for the time being. His breathing was normal, or as normal as one could expect given the circumstances, and his face seemed to have taken on an even paler complexion. That might be a trick of the light though, as he was relatively sure that vampires didn't share a humans symptoms in regards to blood loss.

As he was thinking about that he noticed the kid's pulse was shown to quicken on the monitor beside him, not a good sign, until now his pulse had been higher than normal, but also relatively steady. Taking a closer look at his patient he noticed that his breathing had also changed, growing heavy, almost panicked.

As patients often seemed to retain their hearing even in these kind of circumstances Alex started talking with the kid, trying to calm him down as he kept monitoring him. "It's alright, you're safe, we're getting you help now, stay calm alright?" He tried telling him in a calm voice, despite feeling a little uneasy himself, that was never something that he'd expose to a patient in need of his help though.

As if responding to his voice the boy's eyes shot open, but it was plain to see that he was disoriented and still only in a semi-conscious state from his diluted pupils and unfocused stare. "Hey, calm down, it's fine, it's fine." Alex tried to reiterate to calm him down, his patients panic quite obvious to him as he kept an eye on the monitor. Then he moved, the kid's torso spasmed a bit as a hacking sound exited from his throat together with a small torrent of crimson liquid streaked with darker patches. Acting immediately due to his patients obviously semi-conscious state, Alex removed the worst of the vampire vomit with his fingers as he got a small piece of absorbent material out to remove the rest from his throat, he couldn't have him drown in his own sick after all. In some ways the stuff was worse than human vomit, just a mix of blood and bile, with an acidic stench that clung about it. No matter, he just needed to keep this boy alive.

"Ray! How close to the hospital are we?" He asked his colleague in the front as he sat back down, keeping extra vigilance on the kid, he hoped that the blood was something he had consumed and not a part of an internal bleeding.

"Not far, couple more minutes until we're there!" He heard in reply from Ray as the ambulance turned towards the right, making him have to hold on to the handle beside him to keep him in his seat.


Alex was greeted by one of the nurses on duty as he wheeled the gurney through the doors of the emergency department of the Clifford-Gardiner Medical Center, here he delivered the gurney directly over to a pair of personnel standing by to take him to be operated. Seeing the gurney disappearing down the corridor he hoped that he and Ray had at least given the boy a fighting chance. But even so it wasn't something that he could afford to remain here and dwell on, this wasn't the last job of the night after all, and he couldn't afford to rest until his shift was over.

Nathanael waited quietly behind a crate. His breathing shifted between nonexistence and quite short breaths. The situation he convinced and moved himself towards was frightening and nerve racking, maybe even exhilarating to some degree near in the depths of it.

The gun fire was expected, loud and slightly echoing, filling the room for a second or two before it was gone; along with his phone.

The crate dropping was not expected at all; for some reason the contents weren't either. A naked woman, likely in her mid to late teens, fell onto the floor with a series of tubes. Nathanael saw her face, pale and blank; a sedated pain if he ever saw one. A soft moan of pain left her lips; to Nathanael it sounded like the loudest of bombs. The pain contained in such a soft sound echoed throughout his body; the rest of the world went silent to him. It resonated with something inside of him, something that he had tried to bury away so long ago; hidden well within his darkness.

Then it was anger. A pure raging fire burned inside of his stomach. It felt like it was going to explode throughout him; leave no cell untouched as he'd charge both of the men, knife in hand, ignoring the bullets they fired in order to take their lifes. "Blood farm," was silently spoken across his lips.

The anger exploded within him. He didn't know why, something in his memory was driving him, but he could remember what it was. Just when he heard that sound of pain he wanted to kill those two men more than anything.

The man who was searching for Nathanael walked past the crate he was hiding behind at that moment. Nathanael launched out from behind the crate and slammed into the intruder. The gun the intruder was holding flew out of his hands and the man slammed an elbow into Nathanael's side. Nathanael was knocked off of the man and he struggled to pull himself over to his lost weapon.

Nathanael only got angrier and he pulled out his pocket knife. There was a gleam off of the silver as it entered the air and Nathanael lunged out at the man on the ground. The intruder managed the grab the stock of the gun as the silver blade pierced the small of the man's back before being pulled out. There was a scream of pain from the man as he grabbed the gun and rolled over, attempting to aim the gun at Nathanael.

Nathanael stopped the gun's movement by pushing the gun up, away from him with his left arm. BANG! A gun shot went off and the bullet flew past Nathanael's head; a buzzing whine was left in Nathanael's ears as he stabbed the man through his left arm. The man's grip on the gun's foregrip loosed and the gun was force completely clear of Nathanael's head.

BANG! Another bullet fired well clear as Nathanael pulled back his knife and this time sliced up the man's right arm and into his face. The gun broke free and was pushed over the man as he let out another cry of pain. The slice had left the man with a deep cut from his right elbow to his right shoulder, followed by a shallow cut from his right ear to his forehead. Blood was pouring out from the wounds and Nathanael looked down at the man with his knife against his throat with intent to kill him.

Then from the back of his mind Nathanael remembered the reason he came back here anyways. To find out what he can about these two men and potentially about the people who have been paying him for a while now. Shit I can't just after the other with his gun either. We've made a lot of noise.

"Today's your lucky day. I'm not going to end your life at this moment. I've got a few questions to ask you and your friend, but I have a feeling that he won't be so inclined to answer. Because of this I'm going to need to use you as a hostage till we don't have to worry about him trying to kill me. So when I get up you're not going to do anything stupid like try to attack me and we're going to calmly walk over to your friend." Nathanael's voice was so devoid of emotion that it didn't sound him. This was his natural state from his oldest memory and yet he was starting to feel like there was something more before that.

The knife in his hand was slowly piercing into the man's skin before Nathanael heard the man's reply to comply with what he had said.

The rattle of gunfire made him look up towards the source. The other one wouldn't have been that loud, he knew discretion was important in this job. And now he would have to investigate. Picking up his own weapon, he set the girl back down and began walking towards the crates. He had his weapon raised and sighted. He wasn't taking any chances.

"Lower your weapon or your partner dies. I have a few questions to ask the both of you and I would rather prefer that your gun isn't pointed at me while we talk."

The voice rang out from behind the crates and He levelled his weapon at the foreign voice, "I'm supposed to lower my defence when you have both a weapon and a hostage? Don't take me for a moron."

"But I do take you for a moron. My message from earlier should have said as much. I perfectly well expect you to do something rash and stupid, like shooting at me and killing my hostage out of anger. It's perfectly reasonable considering you walked into my place of work and killed one of the employees for no reason."

He had to laugh, "You are so ignorant of the situation at hand it is hilarious. Do you have any idea what is happening around you when you're not working. Do you not see the tears at the seams of what we call civilization as these corporations, as these thieves drain the people dry? I assure you, you think me a monster and perhaps I am, but I am nothing, nothing at all compared to even those you work for. I'm not referring to your employer by the way, I'm referring to you side deals."

"True I am ignorant of the situation; of course that is what they paid me to be, ignorant. I didn't know what I was paid to not notice, besides a missing worker or two. Now your theft has shown me what that is and I'm not exactly happy about it.

As for a monster, you are far from that title. So are these corporations that you demonize. Let me assure you that you are both greedy and evil, but neither of you know nothing of monsters. At worst you are greed stealing from another greed without the courtesy of doing so quietly and paying me to keep me in that curious ignorance.

So do you honestly think yourself as something more than I see before me? Greed stealing blood farms from other greed." Nathanael began moving himself and his hostage towards the man he was talking to.

The suit had lowered his gun but as this assailant approached he raised it again, "Don't be stupid, I will kill you if you come closer," he took an exasperated breath, "It's a shame you think I'm stealing, I accredit it to your ignorance of the game being played miles above your class, but I'm going to try and rectify this ignorance right now."

He finally lowered his weapon, letting the assault rifle hang by his side, "You seem to be under the impression that I'm a blood farmer, nothing could be farther from the truth. Blood farmers trade people in order to make money, they extract blood and sell it on the black market for cash. I'm not interested in that. This is not a money making endeavour."

Finally Nathan's hostage said something, "We've stalled enough, its time to do it Sam."

And the one called Sam looked at him, "I know, for the record it was a privilege working with you."
Nathan had backed Sam up to the point where they were both practically standing on top of the girl who had spilled out of the capsule. Suddenly, Sam raised his weapon and fired a burst into the chest of his partner, and continued firing blindly as he jumped into the truck. A quick glance back and he saw that Nathaneal had taken cover behind the dying corpse of his partner. He popped the truck into gear and sped off into the pitch black night.

***

  She could hear the bass of the club behind her as she dialled her phone.  It was almost 9 pm now and he still hadn't texted her back.  It was unacceptable, especially considering the pace in which she was moving their relationship forward.  Well maybe he didn't even know about it yet, but really, he couldn't say no to her and she would get what she wanted; another puppet.
 
She had insisted on getting his number before they had left lunch for this very reason and as she punched  the phone number into her iPhone, she wondered what kind of excuse he would come up with for not coming out.  Please, let the Lord himself strike her down if he said that his parents didn't let him.
 
She was preparing a playful taunt at his expense when an unfamiliar voice answered the phone.  She seized up a little and the man repeated himself before she found her tongue, "Yes, sorry is Seras there?"
 
She heard a sharp intake of breath and wondered who this was that it would create such a reaction to a simple question, "What is your relation to Seras ma'am?"

She said the first thing to come to her mind, "We're dating, why did something happen to him? It he in trouble?"

The man had a dry laugh, "No, no he's not in trouble, but you're going to want to come to the hospital tomorrow. The Clifford-Gardiner Medical Center, is the place. Give your name and I'll put you on the relations list."

"Just Sarah please," she said, "His parents don't approve of my family, so seeing the last name would only make them angry that I was there."

She hung up before she could say anymore. Tomorrow was going to be interesting at least.

Valerie's nails tapped steadily on the table, matched by her tapping feet.

6:52:31
6:52:32
6:52:33

It only took 44 minutes and 32 seconds to get from their house to the coffeeshop. Where was Maelle?
As if on cue, Valerie's phone started to ring.
Call. From. Maelle. Ring ring...
"Hello?"
"Heey Val! Guess who-"
*click*
Valerie hung up. She had already spotted her cousin's purple Mercedes pulling up to the curb. It was an unmistakable waste of 55,857 dollars and 65 cents: Maelle was nescient when it came to cars. She probably couldn't tell the alternator from the fuel injection. Valerie preferred something more sensible like her small electric car, or, carpooling. 104 horsepower and nowhere to go. She opened the door, sliding into the passenger's seat and fastening her seatbelt. She tuned the radio to 102.5. Maelle didn't mind: she had learned to put up with her cousin's habits years ago.

"So I have a show in Milan this weekend, you're free to come if you want."
"..."
"It's okay. I understand. I still think you should take breaks once in a while... You're all work, no play."
"Last time I went out to a show with you I sprained an ankle."
"You nearly sprained your ankle-"
"I was also nearly left at an airport in Germany."
"The only reason you had a bad time was because the clock they had was a minute fast."
"... a minutes and 12 seconds."

It took them 45 minutes to get home, due to a little traffic. As they pulled into the garage, Valerie noticed someone at the door. A policewoman, talking to a woman with long brown hair. Her aunt, Madeline. With the sun hours away, Madeline stood outside without any worry. The two women looked over as the car passed. Were they waiting for us...?

Madeline greeted the cousins as soon as they stepped in the door, arms crossed, but appearing generally amicable at the moment.
"Good evening, Madeline..."
"Valerie. Maelle." she smiled, her sharp canines giving her a slightly sinister air.
Maelle hugged her mother before bouncing up the stairs to her room. Valerie was busy taking off her shoes, placing them on the shoe rack. She hung her coat on a silver hanger in the closet.
"What is it, Madeline?"
"There's a policewoman here. She's asking to speak to you."
"Does it have to be now" Valerie groaned, letting her hair down. When she got home, she smelled like the lab. Not that she didn't like the smell, but it was distracting when she was at home. She took a small brush out of her bag and ran it through her hair 20 times before putting it back up in a ponytail, this time with a gray scrunchie.
"Well, Valerie, she's in the living room. It's about one of your coworkers."
"So?"
"Tell her to leave if you must." she shrugged, motioning to the door.

"I'm Valerie." She strode in the room, up to the policewoman, arms crossed in a state of aloof indifference.

Drip.

Another drop of the combination of sweat, tears, and blood dripped from the tip of Nathanael's nose into the pool of blood below him.

Drip.

One more from below his chin hit next to the spot of the one from his nose as he looked down at her, or at least he appeared to be.

Drip.

A memory was frozen in front of his eyes. A still frame memory of another girl...the same girl...another girl. It was hard to tell if he was switching between the girl the laid in front him, breathing so shallow so that it was impossible to tell if she was breathing at all, and the memory of another girl who looked the same and yet different in his mind. Both seemed blindingly white in his mind, like whom they were was being obfuscated intentionally, and yet the pool of blood that surrounded them both was so vividly similar.

Drip.

Suddenly a drop of blood that ran down Nathanael's forehead, rolled down the side of his nose and into his left eye. The mixed in sweat cause it to sting and Nathanael snapped back to reality. The grip on his hands loosened as he dropped the knife that he was holding over his head. The knife silently fell onto the corpse behind him and Nathanael remembered that he had been kneeling beside the girl from the crate.

I remember seeing her suffering there, nothing but a calm suffering lying against the cold conceit floor. I felt sorry for her, like I had seen her before...this before, and wanted to put her out of her misery. I raised my knife above my head in order to pierce her heart and end her suffering sooner and then it went blank. Nathanael tried to remember before he looked up at the clock on the wall.

It had been thirty minutes since he had set up his cellphone. That meant he had to have been kneeling there for at least twenty to twenty-five minutes. And as that realization came in, everything came back to Nathanael. Suddenly Nathanael's forehead began to hurt a great deal as blood continued to slowly bleed from the open wound on it. Then his whole body hurt and a pressing grip on his stomach and core caused him to quickly struggle over the dead corps of the thief, before vomiting a few yards away on the other side.

Next what had happened before he was kneeling beside the girl.

"We've stalled enough, it's time to do it Sam." "I know, for the record it was a privilege working with you." A hail of gunfire followed those words as Nathanael ducked behind the corpse that fell in front of him. The man was likely already dead, but Nathanael's knife opened the man's jugular anyways as he pulled the knife back as he went down, which didn't help the mess surrounding the two bodies on the ground. He hadn't chased after the man like he though his bloodlust would have lead him to. Did he even really have such bloodlust?

Nathanael threw up again and turned back to the mess. Everything was starting to clear in his mind again as he push those thoughts out of his mind. He needed his cold and calculated mind now more than ever. Things were more fucked up now than he ever could have imaged. His simple, quiet, small bonus from illegal black market smuggler getting job just turned into a small warzone, and now he had to pick up the aftermath.

Quickly Nathanael made his way over to the loading dock's door and hit the button to have them close. As they descended behind him, he walked over to Gabe's dead body and searched it. The only things that he could find on it were; a key ring with a car remote, a car key, and what Nathanael believed to be several house keys, and the man's wallet.

Dropping the items back onto Gabe, and Nathanael walked over and started to search the thief. The only thing that Nathanael could find on the man was a prepaid cellphone. Searching the call history only brought up incoming calls from blocked numbers and the rest of the phone contained no information. With his own phone destroyed, Nathanael knew he had to use it.

With a plan beginning to form in his head, Nathanael walked over to a first aid kit located on the wall and removed an antiseptic wipe and a large gauze bandage from it. Quickly Nathanael wiped his wound, grimacing at the sting, and quickly applied the bandage to keep himself from tracking blood everywhere.

Next he walked over to where he hid and retrieved his boots along with the memory and sim card from his phone. He put the boots before looking at the two cards and deciding that they looked like they weren't damaged. The sight of the trail of blood on the floor from that area made Nathanael sigh; he'd half to clean it up in the worst case scenario, and with so much blood he was liable to miss some of it.

Walking back to the employees' locker room, Nathanael dialed a number and pressed the talk button. After two rings Brad picked up the phone and answered, "hello."

"Brad its Nathanael. Are you in a room by yourself?"

"Yes. Why?" Brad's voice didn't sound distressed, so it was probably the truth.

"Are you able to contact whoever's paying us to overlook things?"

"Why does it matter?" Brad sounded confused, but Nathanael knew by the why he answered that he could contact the organization.

"I need to you contact whoever's paying us to look the other way. Two guys showed up at the warehouse and stole some of their cargo. I'll save you the details, but one got away and we need a cleanup crew to take care of two or three bodies. I also need someone who can perform stiches and they need to send a crew to fix a fire sprinkler system as well. You also need to pull up a shipping manifest remotely from the office computer and cancel all of tonight's pickups. Tell them a water pipe broke and the warehouse is shut down due to flooding."

"Nathanael wait, what happened?"

"Brad did you understand everything that I said?"

"Yes, but you still need to..." Brad was cut off by Nathanael.

"Everyone else who was here left, the whole night shift must have known it was coming and they left. I got screwed over here. Now just shut the fuck up and do it." Nathanael had no mask on his voice at this point in time. His words were frightening, like ice cold daggers being passed through the phone, there was way a nervous coward like Brad would question them.

Nathanael hung up the phone and placed it inside of his bag with the change of clothes he had in his locker. Quickly he grabbed a hammer and a stepladder as he walked over to a room on the far side of the warehouse. The room itself wasn't well known to anyone outside of management and required a key to get into. Luckily Nathanael had such a key and walked into a small long room with several pipes, valves, and gauges.

Sticking out from a pipe that ran across the top of the room was a fire sprinkler head. Just a little bit further down the valve that controlled the pressurized water which fed into the fire sprinkler system. Nathanael quickly walked over and tested the valve which turned like it had been recently greased. Quickly he loosened it and threw his bag, boots, and other clothing outside of the room so he was fully nude. He quickly set up the stepladder and took aim with the hammer. The sprinkler head shot off with the pressure water as it dispersed and spread erratically upon leaving the jagged and broken base of the head. The water was freezing as it landed on Nathanael's skin, but he endured it until he was sure all of the blood and bile from earlier were off of his body.

Next he quickly made his way over to the valve and shut off the water for the building's sprinkler system. This whole action wasn't just to clean himself off. It gave a reasonable cause for several work vans to show up at the warehouse with any prior notice, plenty of cover for a cleanup team.

Quickly Nathanael dressed himself in his change of clothes after drying himself off a little with a role of paper towel he had taken from a nearby supply closet. With the materials he had previously acquired, Nathanael made his way back across the warehouse and returned them back to their designated place.

Finally Nathanael made his way back to the loading dock and put his bloody clothes and the cellphone next to the thief and the girl. He sat there waiting for the mysterious group to show up. There was the possibility that they'd show up and kill him too but Nathanael wasn't thinking about that. Instead this was the first moment since this frayed chaos started that he had to think, and right now the only thing on his mind was who was that girl from his memories.

The Cleanup man took the call on the second ring, "Hello?"

A rushed explanation came in from a man who sounded practically hysterical and The Man had to interrupt him just to get a word in edgewise, "Yes yes, I heard about the situation, but what you're telling me is that its resolved? No? Cleanup is still needed eh? Alright his name is Nathanael huh. How many stiffs? One? Maybe more? You don't know huh? Alright good thing I came prepared. Yeah I'll be there shortly so your guy won't have to worry. No, no I'm not going to kill him, he did good, I don't kill good boys, that's bad for the group. Alright, you just let the boss know that I'm taking care of it. No, I'm not fucking telling him, it's your boys who shit the bed and caused the leak. No, I'm not discussing this, deal with it or go drown in a lake."

He hung up and looked at the sign that told him he was on the right track. His sleek black Chrysler slipped into the shadows, occasionally breaking through the lighted sections of the dock until he came upon the carnage wrecked by the group before him. There was a lot of blood. And vomit. It was going to stink.

He got out of the car and walked towards the man, who seemed to have cleaned himself up before he got there, "I'm glad to see you had the sense to clean up before I got here, shows class and I appreciate that," he saw that the man was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, "Well we best fix that cut before anything else. Do you have any other injuries, bullets, anything like that? Nothing? Alright well that simplifies things."

From the pockets of his suit he retrieved a small clear bottle of Everclear, a thin needle in antiseptic packaging and a small spool of fishing line. He sat the man down and tilted his head slightly before pouring Everclear on the wound. To the man's credit he only winced and didn't complain as the Man pushed the needle and thread into his forehead and slowly stitched the wound shut.

Once he was done, he passed the bottle of alcohol to the man, "Drink it if you need something for the pain, not too much though, you still need to be able to drive home."

They moved onto the next order of business. The Man took two body bags from the trunk of his car and set them near the bodies. He then began placing the dead man's body inside one of the bags and indicated for Nathanael to do the same with the girl. Nathanael made a strange, strangled noise in protest and the Man looked up to see the girl was still breathing shallowly. Sighing and setting the other man down, the Cleaner walked towards the poor girl, "It's a shame that this had to happen deary, but this is a better fate than those that left with our enemies," he raised his silenced Glock and put two rounds into the girl's head, her brain and blood splattering over the concrete.

He put the Glock away, "Now there's no more problems, get to work. The rest of the cleanup crew will be here shortly and I want this scene ready for cleanup and departure in the least amount of time possible."

***

The officer stood and offered her hand to Valerie, "Hi, I'm Silvia, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

Her hand left hanging, Silvia awkwardly put it to her side before grabbing her notebook and sitting down again, "You may want to sit down for this, it's about your friend Julie. I'm afraid, it appears that today in her office, she hung herself. Now we're still investigating the scene completely but I have to ask; did you notice a change in your friend's behaviour in the last few days, maybe even weeks? Has she seemed depressed or distant in any way? Any unusual new habits?"

They weren't on the news yet, Breana noted with some relief. There were probably too many reporters scrambling to get headlines and exclusives about the riots. Their home invasion and 'small scale slaughter' was pushed to the sidelines and scrolling highlights.

Breana muted the riot news when it devolved into politics. Sidelined though they may be Max's fan club gossips were ravenous for the slightest bit of information on the author they could get. Marty would probably need to give some sort of official statement later.

Despite the dramatic events of the evening Breana still had a deadline to meet. She frowned at the kitchen clock and set about finding her paper. The first few pages were clean and untouched on the kitchen table. The scribbled notes she'd made on quarter-sheets were strewn about the floor. The rest of the pages she eventually assumed were permanently lost to the bloody mess that was cleaned up by the crime scene unit.

She stacked the remnants and borrowed one of Max's pens from the study. If she worked for a solid hour she should be able to get back on schedule.

*Brrrrring* The trill of an emulated rotary phone dragged Breana from her brainstorming. She scowled at the device, waiting until the multicolored display flashed an unknown number to flip it open.

"Hello?" Her greeting was sharp and borderline hostile. If some newsperson had gotten ahold of her personal number she was going to have Marty buy her a new phone and pay this month's bill.

"Ms. Sterling?", the elderly woman who replied seem unaffected by Breana's irritation. "This is Dr. Taggert's receptionist."

Not a newsperson, then. But not a welcome person either. This was a complication that she did not need.

Hello, Judy. Breana thought but let the woman continue her speech. She tilted her borrowed pen to one side, and then the other, making harsh indentions in the fresh paper.

"Dr. Taggert requested that I call you and see if you'd like to set up an appointment."

But why was she calling now, Breana wondered. Unless. Of course.

"So, Judy, how did she find out? The guard? The detective? Have they put me on probation again without telling me?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Give the doctor the phone...please."

"I'm sorry she's not-oh hold on one second-"

"I just finished with another client." A different voice, calm and steady with a hint of an European accent took over the call. Whereas Judy the Receptionist was secretary standard - elderly and polite - Dr. Taggert was in her early thirties, confident, and tended to tailor her words to her clientele. Breana was certain that the subtle manipulation ability came with the degree.

"You heard what happened."

"Mmm." The single syllable wasn't a legal confirmation or denial. "We have an standing agreement with the police force, to ensure our patients' safety. Your name was flagged on the statement that you gave regarding the attack on your place."

"The apartment belongs to Max." Breana corrected.

"Regardless, I was told of the incident. I thought that perhaps we could meet a bit earlier this month. Say maybe Wednesday?"

"Hmm." Two could play the syllable game. And 'earlier' apparently meant a full two weeks earlier.

"Breana," Dropping the 'cool and collected' doctor persona Carol went for the 'friendly therapist' approach. The one where she tried to be Breana's friend, "you know that the schedule is ultimately up to you. I simply think it may be helpful. To you. I just want to make sure you're..." there was a slight pause.

'Okay? Breathing? Not Crazy? Breana filled in the blanks to amuse herself.

"That we're still making progress."

Ah, progress. The thing her doctor loved most. Breana sighed, a long exhale during which she seriously considered telling the good doctor what she could do with her concerns about her condition. But that was the old her, the one that lashed out at everything and blamed the world for the blood she craved as much as she hated.

It wasn't the doctor's fault that some crazy vamp knocked her 'progress' backwards a few steps. And antagonizing one of the few people that genuinely seemed to care, or was paid to care, was foolish. Breana thought of her employer...of Max bleeding on the floor as the paramedics worked to keep him stable.

"I think. I have this paper due so. I'll check my schedule. But," Now it was Breana's turn to pause, "maybe meeting early would be okay. Thursday?"

"Good." Carol sounded pleased. "Thursday sounds perfectly fine. My receptionist will call to verify the appointment on Wednesday, okay?"

Verify to make sure that she would actual be there and not have an excuse to have forgotten.

"Yeah...okay." Breana nodded out of habit. "Goodbye."

"Take care."

Breana closed the phone and slid it across the table. On the television some fool was professing his undying love for a bleached blonde wide-eyed and innocent female. Reaching for the remote Breana turned off the tv. Romeo vanished into a dark screen.

She had a paper to finish.

"You may want to sit down for this, it's about your friend Julie. I'm afraid, it appears that today in her office, she hung herself."
Valerie shrugged. "Ma'am, Julie is- was, merely a woman whom I carpooled with occasionally. Anything I can tell you about her... well, it would be the same as anyone who casually met her aquaintance on the street." She sat down on the couch, straghtening the thin books on the low coffee table.
"Now we're still investigating the scene completely but I have to ask; did you notice a change in your friend's behavior in the last few days, maybe even weeks? Has she seemed depressed or distant in any way? Any unusual new habits?"
"I never thought her to be the type to kill herself, in what little I knew of her. She must have been a truly bitter person on the inside, then, no?" she pushed up her glasses. "Julie has not taken up any habits that I have considered strange in the past 30 days. Of course, none within the hour or so 5 days a week that we've been in the same car. Honestly, ma'am, I don't even think I am sure of her job title. We do not even work on the same floor, much less in the same field. I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can help you with concerning her. Is there anything else?" Valerie already stood by the door, ready to show the policewoman out.

The quick drink of Everclear went down hard and burned deep into his stomach, but it helped take the edge of the original burn on his head and the following stitches. The presence of body bags took Nathanael back slightly as he hadn't expected to be doing the cleanup himself. When the man mentioned the girl, Nathanael tried to tell him she was still alive, but his voice failed and he just made a strange sound. Once the two shots were fired his memory of the girl was gone; how her and her body had been now looked so different that Nathanael couldn't place the two together.

Quickly Nathanael reverted back to how he had made himself at his core. He was a follower and the man in front of him was a clear leader, well rather a vicious lone wolf, but his demeanor was close enough to the same for Nathanael. Soon enough he picked up the naked girl and moved her into a body bag and zipped it up. The handles on the side of the bag helped him carry her easier into the trunk of the car, where he found a third body bag. Nathanael then went over to Gabe's corpse and did very much the same as he had done with the girl.

After Gabe was loaded into the trunk, Nathanael washed his hands and arms and then he remembered something. The gun that had made that nice little cut on his forehead. Walking over to where the struggle had happened, Nathanael found it just sitting there with a few shell casings around it. Carefully he picked up the gun and what the intruder had said about the people the Cleaner worked for ran through his head. A single thought raced through his head about using the gun to kill the cleaner and wait for the rest of the crew, but the intense tightening of his stomach made him decided against it for now.

For he who is lost to himself and the world around them, Nathanael flocked back to the Cleaner as if he was his shepherd that would see him clear for now. Still the thought of the blood farming and the cold heartedness of the group burned slowly in the back of his head, far away from the strangling tightness at his core.

Silvia moved quickly to disguise the look of surprise on her face. This woman was cold; very cold about the whole things. She made a few notes in her pocketbook before nodding and making for the door herself, "Well thank you for your help," she pulled out her card, "If you think of anything, do not hesitate to call this number, I'll be happy to pick up any additional details on this case. Have a good evening."

As she got into her car and set off towards home, Silvia's brain was already going over the potential clues for the case. While it seemed like suicide, it was also too messy, not that suicide was clean per sec, but it was hard to rule out foul play. Regardless, it would have to wait until tomorrow now, she had already worked far more than she'd planned to today, and there was the matter of a pissed off boyfriend to attend to...

***

The cleanup man finished his cigarette and doused it on the ground before putting it in a plastic bag and putting that into his pocket. He turned to the man in front of him, "You did good kid, there are far worse things that you could have done, most of 'em would have put you in a bag much like these ones. But you didn't fuck up, because you're smart and we could use someone like you."

He moved right into the guy's face, "So it's like this, you can do one of two things here. First one, is that you forget any of this ever happened, you quit your job and a nice little sum of money goes into your account. You never hear from us again."

He turned and faced away from Nathan, "Or you can take the card in your pocket and call it tomorrow afternoon. It's your call really, I won't tell you what to do. I will however say that that choice is a lot more...lucrative."

And then he was gone, his taillights blurring in the rain that began to fall.

***

Sarah's phone blared a hit pop song as the alarm she had set for 7 am went off. She could barely hear it though, as it was muffled by her clothes that were unceremoniously dumped on the floor after she got home last night...this morning? She couldn't remember, most of the night was a blur of blasting Trance music, sweating and grinding bodies and more pills than she could ever remember taking before.

Struggling out of bed, she located her phone and turned off the alarm. Pulling on a bra and a t-shirt over it, she went to get ready for the day.

The night had been... decidedly unproductive. That bloodstained painting had had to be taken down and set aside in the spare room. Max was annoyed by the red patches and flecks. And then there'd been the inevitable online mess to deal with... Max loved his fans, but they needed to be kept under control at times. A quick post to his official forums later, he hoped it would be enough.

Hi all. Just got a little bit of news to take care of.

Yes, my place was broken into earlier. No, nothing of value was lost, except a vase. I'm fine, you guys don't need to worry about me. We're toughening up the security at my place in case someone else tries it. Though I do note that it might take a while to get back to work, especially if the police need me for anything else.

Other than that... well, my goals haven't changed. I plan to continue work on Paraselene and Ruler's Bane. Keep an eye out for more news on both!

-G

It wasn't that easy, though. Even though all the damage from the bullet wounds had healed up, Max thought it still ached a bit. A dull ache in his gut that lingered long after the injury was gone. It was an annoyance. Made him get up and walk around instead of lounging at his desk like normal. And a flash of anger ran through him every time he caught sight of the holes in the walls.

It's always easier when it's someone else, isn't it. Reading about it in the news, or hearing it on TV, it's infinitely simpler to just ignore it when you're not involved.

In the end Max got no work done. He was too worked up, irritated in the aftermath of the attempted robbery. He ended up alternating between pacing around the apartment and browsing the internet for most of the night. When the clock struck seven, he and Breana fed off of each other as per the usual morning rite. Though Breana's blood seemed to be lacking in flavour... maybe it was just his mood. Max shut the few curtains that were open and wandered back into the study to try and relax. His knife, he tossed into a drawer. Didn't want to look at it. Needed to find a distraction.

Note to self. Reorganise mini-fridge to use up the older stuff first. Maybe do the same for the other one.

As if the rains of April hadn't given them enough flooding, the
clouds continued to burst on the cold Saturday evening of May 17th.
Jack stepped out of the squad car and noticed that the water was
already up to his ankles. He muttered a quiet curse and signaled the
men in his tow to follow him into the Warehouse. They had finally
tracked down the former CEO of Red Cross, after a month long manhunt
for her. Her name was Anna Hendricks, just under 30, Ph.D in some
sort of business, much too young to be a CEO in his opinion, but
apparently she had been somewhat of a protégé.

The first door was little more than rotten wood and was easily kicked
in by one of the SWAT officers. They quickly spread around the room
where they encountered a more reinforced door with an electronic
keypad. While the SWAT team went about setting charges, Jack wandered
around the room. It looked like an old reception area, like at one
point this had been a business of sorts. It had to be years ago
though, the dust looked like it had been built up at least that long.

"We're ready sir," Jack had to stop himself from jumping when the
large SWAT officer put his hand on Jack's shoulder, "We can breach
when you give the order."

Jack inhaled sharply. The fact that he had even been allowed to man
this operation surprised him, usually SWAT would answer to one of
their own, but orders from the top, far beyond even his chief had
stated that he would lead the search for Anna. Intel had been hard to
come by, it appeared that she had cleaned up her tracks quite
thouroughly. It was only when one of her pawns attempted to murder a
vampire student once in an alley and another time in the hospital
where the boy was recovering, that the police were even made aware of
her existence in their various cases. It appeared that she had been
pulling the strings of various underground smuggling and murder rings,
even before she became CEO of Red Cross. What the investigator called
a 'metric fuck ton' of illegal blood and people had been brought in
through the ports of New York and shipped through various companies to
stay under the radar to police and other syndicates.

A small fry by the name of Nathaeal told him most of this. Guilt
trip induced by an arrest and charge of murder in the first degree.
He had told them a lot of things. Ended up hanging himself in prison
before the trial even began. Some suspected it of being a prison
murder covered up, but Jack had seen the haunted look in that man's
eyes. Some could do his work without blinking, he had been a decent
man with a few bad choices in life. At least he had given them
something before passing into the afterlife, one could only hope God
would find that cause to forgive him.

The charges exploded and as if on cue a hail of automatic fire met
the incoming SWATs. Luckily no one was immediately hit, but they were
entrenched behind cover, pinned down by whatever enemy lay ahead of
them. Smoke and Flashbangs were thrown in to no avail as the gunfire
continued uninterrupted. A few rounds of blindfire and finally a
fragmentation grenade cause a silence to fall over the warehouse once
again.
Jack walked through the wreckage of what remained in the room. A
couple of automated turrets, bogged down with enough ammo to fight a
war in itself, lay wrecked on the floor. Amongst the rubble a few
canisters were blown open, their contents spilling onto the flood in a
slow oozing red puddle. What appeared to be hundreds more, if not
thousands, of the little canisters were stacked on shelves. Each one
was white or grey, about six feet long and 3 feet across. The
explosion had knocked a few off of one of the closer shelves, a blonde
naked man's comatose body spilt out of one and a small Asian woman in
the other. As Jack felt for a pulse, he looked at the insides of the
'coffins,' a series of wires and tubes, many of them connected in
various unsavoury ways to their occupants. The tube that had been
connected to the wall was also seeping blood, assumingly of the man
and woman's origins.

There were no pulses, but the bodies were still warm, leaving Jack to
suspect that the canisters were both a method of harvesting and a form
of basic life support. Radioing in that they were in need of quite a
few buses, Jack and his team continued on. The next room wasn't
guarded, nor secured in anyway, just a wide open room with no
furnishings or defining features. Sitting in the middle of the floor
with a 9mm pistol in front of her, sat Anna, her legs tucked up
covering her chest. Something that Jack noticed almost immediately
was that she was naked and she looked starved. Even from a distance
he could almost count her ribs and her blonde hair look patchy, as if
it had been ripped out in large chunks. As he approached her, he
could smell sweat and sick, her eyes looked bloodshot and she wore no
makeup. She might have been beautiful in the photos his team had been
given in the hunt for her, but now, well the only way to describe her,
would be to call her disgusting. He continued walking towards her,
pistol drawn when her voice, surprisingly strong for someone in her
condition called for him to stop. He was so surprised that he
actually did.

When she stood up the pistol was in her hand, but she didn't raise it
in any direction, "Why have you come here tonight?" She asked, "What
purpose does it serve? Couldn't you have just left me to waste away,
contemplating the suffering versus the easy way out? No instead you
barge in, intending to interrupt what cannot be stopped. You know
this to be true and yet you came anyways. Is it justice for the dead
you seek? Or are you just looking to close another file Detective
Jack?"

Jack retrained his gun on her, "Drop the weapon Anna, we can talk all
about this back at the precinct, this is hardly the location for such
conversation."

Anna smiled and coughed before answering, "Now that is simply not true
Detective, this is clearly the best place to discuss such matters,
outside of such distractions as the city, the streets, the crowded
precinct or even my old office, carelessly torn apart in the search
for me. If you had only asked the Vampire Killer who I was before you
shot him, maybe you would have stopped me before things escalated this
far, but you were distracted."

"I do not need to justify myself to you, you know that he had a knife
to the boy's throat when I shot him, any information he might have
given me was irrelevant at that point."

"Was it though Jack?" Anna managed another weak smile, "The fact is,
the things I've placed into motion cannot be stopped at this point,
not by you at least. People are going to die, more people than a
single boy held at knife point. Don't you see? He tried to bargain
with you even, but you turned him down. You had to give him one
person, one person to kill and he would have been all yours. Would
his life be worth as much as it was, knowing what you do now about all
of this? Your wife's job, this city, maybe this country's economy,
the millions of dollars in looting and vandalism to come? The
injuries and deaths caused by violence and civil unrest?"

"All of that is on you Anna, if this is true," Jack snapped back
angrily, "This entire charade you've created is all on you, I have
done everything that I could have to get here and that entire time you
had the power to stop it all, but you didn't, so really what I have
done, pales greatly in the cost you've put forward to further your
twisted ideas."

"True, but unlike you, I accept these losses in the greater need for
change Jack. We aren't free anymore, none of us, not even I, one of
the richest people in the world. We're all trapped, bound by social
and economic obligation. Government is irrelevant, the people's
choices, hollow. This country is a corpse, a rotting festering
corpse, with the maggots of corporations and greed eating it from the
inside out. It is true that I am an evil person, I am a bad woman who
deserves to die, but I will not die until you understand what it is
that needs to be done."

"And why is it so important that I understand Anna, I am only one
man, one that cannot even change your plans apparently? Why must I
understand before you are willing to die?"

"Because you've spent so much time chasing after me Jack, it seems
almost tragic that after seeing everything you have these last few
months, you would still seek to stop me rather than standing aside and
watching the fireworks. I want the one person that knows me most
intimately to understand why I'm doing this, that's all," her voice
cracked as if almost in tears, "And it seems that either you are
unwilling or unable to see the truths in front of you."

Anna turned and began walking towards a door on the other side of the
room and Jack remembering the gun at his side, tightened his hold and
cried out for her to stop. The rest of the SWAT team also had their
rifles cocked, ready to deliver a deadly barrage of bullets.

She turned and looked at Jack, "It is pointless to debate with you it
seems. I am going to my place of death if you want to join me. This
country is about to burn in the fires of revolution, but I will not be
around to observe. You can shoot me where I stand now, or you can
follow me into this last room where you can watch the first pieces of
this coup d'etat against all that is wrong in America fall into place.
I do promise that it will be worth watching."

As she finished talking, she tucked behind the door with agility that
surprised Jack and he hurried to follow her voice.

The following room could only be described as a testament to
capitalism itself. Computers upon computers lay strewn about the room
and monitors, some broadcasting strong, some flicking with damage,
displayed numbers, stock prices, company names and commodity values.
Anna sat in a chair placed in the middle of the room. The chair
didn't look like it belonged, it was a recliner, a tattered blanket
and pillow were folded and placed neatly on its left arm.

"This is where I have lived the last month, I have fasted, living only
on water until this day. And it is on this day that you have decided
that all of my plans shall now come into action. The moment you
stepped into this warehouse, the timer began and I've simply tried to
keep you engaged so that you would stay around to watch it all."

A few of the smaller companies suddenly experienced a small drop in
stock price. Soon the drops grew into larger ones. The Dow Jones
began to lose points and Anna laughed, "It won't actually happen this
fast, these are just the smart ones getting out now. The Red Cross,
owner of, as of April 15th, 87% of the US blood market and
distribution, and 56% of the world blood economy, has now started
selling blood at a loss. A large loss at that. The other companies
may do the same for a while, but they won't be able to as long as we
can. Shells all over the world, controlled by us, but not known to
you are also doing the same. You saw the stockpile and this is only
one of hundreds of warehouses. We have tons of cheap, clean blood
that people would be happy to see their first born for and companies
willing to take that first born. Not anymore. We will burn and with
this industry's death, a bubble will burst and people will once again
need to take stock in exactly what they put value in. They are about
to learn that money is not that. Maybe they will even learn something
from this all. I really hope they do."

"Have you no concern for what will happen during these next weeks,
months or even years," Jack couldn't help but scream at the woman,
"Will you simply laugh and die while you wreak havoc on the lives of
millions around you. You cowardly bitch! You deserve nothing less
than to rot while you watch this world burn."

Anna smiled without saying anything for what seemed like forever.
Her brow furrowed in thought for a few seconds, weighing the words
that she was going to say before whispering what would her last, "Yes
I am," and for a second it looked as if she would pass out.

Jack moved towards her in a burst of speed, but her eyes opened and
she raised the pistol, shooting twice, the second round catching him
in his gut, dropping him to the floor. The SWAT team jerked back into
alertness and fired indiscriminately, bullets smashing monitors and
computers, causing sparks and small fires all over the room. Anna was
on the ground, her blood pouring onto the floor. Her eyes shook, she
blinked twice and went still.

For a month I was in that room. I watched many people in that time,
hacking into various cameras in various establishments from banks, to
Seven-Elevens, to street cams. I watched the suffering of man,
watched as he struggled against the very society that was designed to
spit upon him while profiting off his toils. Drugs, alcohol,
violence, they existed before, but now even they are consequence of
this fat Babylonian Whore.

I tore my clothes and hair as I watched in despair, only taking
comfort in one thing. That I was stopping this all. I knew it wasn't
true, if anything I would only create more. For that I was a coward I
know, but I needed something to carry me while I did this work. I
needed some justification for what I was doing, if only a shallow and
ultimately hollow lie. I will not see if this gambit works or not. I
have faith though, faith that it will. Maybe the faith I had will be
in vain, or maybe it will be the catalyst man has been waiting for.

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