Wayne kept his fireball steadily humming in front of the two of them. A warning that he could and would protect himself at any sign of hostility. She, in turn, had one arm linked around his like they were a couple. Her other arm kept Zoe pressed against her chest.
Despite his growing tension, Serena was the picture of relaxation. She leaned her head against his arm, knowing yet uncaring of the flames just inches away. A show of power? Or stupidity.
Either way, she hadn’t attacked him yet. Wayne was willing to entertain her at least until his arm was no longer in immediate danger of being torn off.
“How old?” Wayne asked.
“Fifty-six. I was sixteen when I joined the ranks of the undead.”
Half a century? Wayne thought with a frown.
So long as she wasn’t lying again, that might kill his theory on vampire hair. While it was entirely possible to go fifty years without suffering hair damage–mortals did it all the time minus the regular hair-cuts–vampires tended to lead lives filled with significantly more danger than their human counterparts. She must have regrown some at some point.
Unless she wore some illusion covering up any permanent injuries.
Wayne tried to remember whether or not he had touched her hair and came up blank. It looked real. As she rubbed her cheek against his sleeve, the shoulder-length strands of black hair moved naturally against the fabric.
“You look good for being twice my age,” Wayne prodded.
Serena looked up with a wide grin, visible even behind her mask. “Thank you,” she said. If there was any doubt about her smiling, it vanished when she spoke. Her smile came through audible in her voice. “I do try. I’m glad you appreciate my efforts.”
That answer could go either way. Finding he really didn’t care no matter what she said, Wayne moved his fireball closer as he moved on to a more important question. “This disaster in the city, is it you or yours who caused it?”
“Please,” Serena said, dismissing the notion with a wave of her arm. “There is a phrase. ‘Don’t shit where you eat.’ I believe at least half of it is very literal in these circumstances.”
In moving her arm, she jolted Wayne’s slowly mending bones. Noticing his grimace, Serena stilled as much as possible.
How kind of her, Wayne thought with a bit of mental derision.
“Starting just after Thanksgiving,” she said, tone more somber, “there was a meeting. All the vampires in the city had been called to it, even independents. Not something I usually participate in. The clans leave me alone and I leave them alone.
“I was the only independent who attended. The others, along with about half the Feral vampires and three of the ten August, were dead. Ashes had been found. Ferals thought it was the August and vice versa. Naturally, the meeting devolved into a war with a mere three August coming out alive.”
“Let me guess,” Wayne said, interrupting. “It wasn’t the Feral clan.”
Serena nodded. “I personally found the ash of three August at the meeting place just before Christmas. Humans had started disappearing.”
“You wondered if they were involved.”
“Oddly enough, the area didn’t look like it had been through another fight. More like the sun had risen inside the windowless cellar. At that point, I started making plans to leave the city. I was the last vampire in Lansing and had no intention of suffering the same fate as the clans.”
Wayne nodded. “Traveling isn’t easy for a vampire.”
“Nights only, no steady food supply, no real destination, no safe lairs along the way, no knowing the local politics of anywhere you pass through. I’ve been in Lansing for fifty years and it hasn’t been by choice.
“But as I was preparing to leave, new vampires started popping up. Feral and August for the most part. I did notice one Mekhet.” Serena clapped her hands together, only moving the one that had held Zoe to avoid jostling Wayne’s arm. “Guess what strain the other independents belonged to!”
Wayne didn’t bother to dignify that with a response.
“Anyway,” Serena continued undeterred, “I managed to keep most of them from acting out. None of them had proper sires to show them our ways. The story I gave you originally belonged to the two I had been traveling with. Most shared similar stories. At least until New Year’s Eve, I kept them in line. Forcefully, if I had to.
“On New Year’s Eve, people started waking up as vampires. Too many people. The city quickly devolved into chaos, as you have seen.”
Disturbing, if true. Sarah should have noticed people going missing. Surely it had been in the news. Unlike Serena, she wouldn’t have had the vampiric issues with traveling back before Christmas.
Wayne let a small curse escape his lips. Sarah could have called and mentioned that something was going on, even if the disappearances turned out to be an entirely mundane act of psychopathy. Part of it was his fault, he knew. After their parents’ death, Wayne had been adamant about not continuing the dragon ranch.
Serena rubbed the top of Zoe’s head. “I could have slipped past the military with ease, but I knew for a fact that the nuns were out hunting those who escaped the barricade. I’ve never seen one in person, and still hope I never do. The Lansing clans were terrified of drawing their attention. We all knew how to keep our heads down.”
“Not far enough down. Whoever killed your friends found out about you. And I don’t think it was the Elysium Order.”
“At this point, I don’t care. As you told the other scum, this city is done for. I watched you enter the city and assumed you had a plan to leave. We should execute that plan sooner rather than later.”
Ignoring the fact that he most certainly had no definite plan to leave, Wayne asked, “but you decided to attack me before asking to come with me?”
“If you couldn’t handle a few week-old vampires,” she said without the slightest hint of shame, “how could I trust you with my safety?”
“You’re awfully trusting right now,” Wayne said, flashing the fireball white-hot for a brief instant. “I could end you now and not lose a moment of sleep. I should end you before you attempt any mind tricks on me.”
“You haven’t yet,” she said. “And I won’t.” Behind her mask, Serena’s eyes narrowed to thin slits. “Did you see that repulsive thrall, lapping at the ground? I am a higher class of vampire.”
Wayne gave a short grunt of acknowledgment. Extinguishing the ball of fire in front of him, he replaced his tome under the crook of his arm. The movement was somewhat awkward with only one hand, but he managed.
Extinguishing the fire set off some sort of catalyst in Serena. She lifted up his injured arm, carefully, and slung it over her own shoulders.
He tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let go. At the first touch of pain, Wayne ceased moving and resigned himself to having a vampire under his arm.
“I am not your servant. Nor am I your lover or,” Wayne sneered behind his mask, “husband.”
“That’s okay,” she said, snuggling closer, “I have what I want.”
“The moment we are out of this city, you’re free to do as you will. Sarah and I won’t be a part of it.” He glanced down at Zoe and, after a moment of thought, added, “Zoe will be coming with us as well.” He could find her a set of proper parents at the very least. Being raised by vampires, even if Serena didn’t turn her into one, couldn’t be good for her mental health.
Upon hearing her name, Zoe glanced up.
Wayne was surprised to see somewhat angry eyes glaring at him from behind her mask’s visor. That surprise only increased when Zoe wrapped one arm around Serena.
Great. Just great.
That gave the vampire a short laugh as she started patting the kid’s head. “Are you sure about that?”
“Being raised by–”
“Not Zoe, cute though she is,” Serena said, giving the kid a final affectionate pat. “Sarah. If it is dangerous for me to move, someone completely ignorant will find it most perilous indeed. What will she do if she runs across a clan of hostile vampires when she is barely a few days old.”
Wayne grimaced. He had read books on vampires, as had most everyone–they were a very popular creature for some odd reason. None of the books he had read were guides on how to survive as a vampire, just information. He doubted any guide-type books would exist in a world where the Elysium Order was so well-regarded.
“Incidentally,” Serena said in a slightly angry tone, nodding towards a masked Sarah slowly making her way back to them, “your girlfriend–”
“That’s wonderful news!” The anger vanished from her voice as if it had never been. “Your sister is an August. One of the ones who just woke up as a vampire, based on me never having seen her before. I don’t know if or how she is different from regular vampires, but it is something to keep an eye on.”
“Noted,” Wayne said as he watched his sister.
Sarah no longer clutched at her stomach. Her arm wasn’t quite back to normal, but it was visibly on its way. Vampires’ regeneration was something special. Despite her elbow being far more damaged than Wayne’s arm, he was willing to bet that hers would be back to normal first.
“You alright?” Wayne asked.
“Fine. I just…” Sarah shook her head. “Let’s just leave. What’s the plan.”
Wayne shifted his weight to one side.
“Wayne. What is the plan?”
He shifted again.
“Please tell me you didn’t charge into the city with no idea on how to get out.”
“I figured we could wing it. That normally works out for me.”
Sarah tried to rub her forehead only to hit the visor of her mask. “How have you not been caught already?”
“I’ll have you know that I’m very skilled at what I do. My forging skills got me in with no problem.”
“Wayne,” Serena said, aghast, “you’re a criminal?”
Keeping his attention on his sister, Wayne ignored the finger running down his chest. “Three ways,” Wayne said, “find some helicopter. Surely even a town this tiny has a hospital or news station with some flight capabilities.
“Second, we could try going out the way I came in. That relies on the checkpoint not having found out that my papers were forged. Additionally, finding a way to contact them and let them know that it is me without getting my head shot off might be a good idea.
“Lastly,” Wayne frowned at Sarah, “you tunnel us out.”
“Those are all terrible,” Sarah said with a huff. “Especially the last one.”
“Yeah, yeah. I had a fourth plan. Basically amounted to hailing the nuns and hitching a ride with them. A good number of them are trained to teleport.” He glanced between Sarah and Serena. “Probably not useful so much anymore.”
“Quite,” Serena said in a clipped tone, lacking all her previous banter.
“Do you even know how to pilot a helicopter?”
Wayne shrugged. “Can’t be that hard. There’s a stick right? Push it forward and the thing goes forward, back and it goes back.”
He’d seen a few movies involving helicopters. They didn’t look too impressive. Though they did have an unnerving tendency to explode. That shouldn’t be a problem here; during his scoping out of the military, he didn’t notice anything that looked capable of taking out air targets. With enough altitude, all the ground forces should be easily avoided.
“Right,” Sarah said. Her opinion of that plan was plain in every word. “That plan is off the table.”
“Oh? Through the military blockade it is. I hope they’re friendly.”
“Don’t worry Wayne,” Serena said once again in her husky voice, “I can handle anything mere humans can come up with.” After a playful wink, her tone turned serious. “But we should wait until nightfall. Unless the smoke extends well beyond city limits, your sister and I will have trouble in the sun.”
Wayne nodded. “I could use a nap.”
“Me too,” Sarah said with a long yawn.
Did vampires even need to yawn? A leftover trait of humanity or some idiosyncrasy with how she just woke up as one?
A moot point at the moment.
Zoe tugged on Serena’s shirt. Without even a word of communication between the two, Serena hefted Zoe up on her back. Once settled, Zoe rested her head on Serena’s shoulder.
Possibly mental tricks of the Blacksky vampire reading the younger kid’s mind. He suspected manipulation for a moment before remembering the vehemence with which she spoke of the ‘mindless’ thralls.
In retrospect, Wayne had probably left Zoe and Serena to their own devices far too much if he wanted to prevent any sort of attachment forming from the former to the latter. A kid wouldn’t understand the dangers of a vampire. Her mother might have been a mage, but that didn’t mean that she had any lectures on the creatures.
As Serena relinked her and Wayne’s arms, he realized that he might be suffering from a similar problem. He had killed that other vampire without hesitation or remorse, yet Serena hung off of his arm without retaliation. All because he had bought into her earlier sob-story about becoming a vampire. A story she had freely admitted was untrue.
If he didn’t need her for Sarah’s sake, would she still be here?
“I’ll keep on watch for any nuns, I suppose,” Serena said.
“I don’t know how you can stand to be awake,” Sarah said with droopy eyes. Whatever adrenaline had been keeping her alert was rapidly vanishing. “No torpor for you?”
“Being the pinnacle of vampires that I am, I can easily ignore the effects for a day or two. Maybe when you’re older.”
“Alright,” Wayne said. “Let’s find a place to hold up for a few hours.”
Wayne clicked the CB radio off.
“Worthless,” he mumbled as he hopped out of the truck he had been sitting inside of for the last hour.
“No luck?” Sarah asked, yawning despite sunset being within the hour.
Shaking his head, Wayne said, “I didn’t expect much. It’s an unmodified civilian-band radio. Mostly certain that it is illegal to modify it to drop to military frequencies.”
“And you don’t know how to modify it yourself?”
“Can’t say that I’ve ever studied radios. Wouldn’t know where to start.”
A sharp clap in the back of the truck had Wayne turning around.
“We’re going for the break out forcefully plan then, right?”
“Unless Sarah wants to tunnel,” Wayne said, turning to his sister with an eyebrow raised.
“Not unless you want to be buried. While alive. Permanently.”
“No. Not so much.”
Earth magic had never come easy for Sarah, despite it being her primary element. After graduating, she hadn’t even passed her third class exam. Wayne was still sure that she could tunnel them out. He could even help with his own meager skills.
Pushing her to do it wouldn’t help. Wayne knew his sister. She would get either angry or nervous. Both could easily lead to a cave-in.
“We need to find a weak point in their barricade. The roads all have heavy-duty checkpoints. Snipers, several soldiers, flamethrowers.”
“The river? We shouldn’t have a problem finding a boat at one of the houses along the Grand.”
“Not sure. I didn’t thoroughly scope out where their fence met the river. I assume they’re watching it.”
“Better plan than charging through with a car,” Sarah said with a self-affirming nod. “We can ditch the boat shortly after and find a car. Probably switch cars a number of times to hide from any followers.”
Experience had taught him that getaways were rarely so clean. He’d never tried fleeing from the actual mundane military before, but it probably wouldn’t be so simple. It was a better plan than nothing, though, and he had been winging things for long enough that he was sure it wouldn’t be that hard.
Using a bit of heat manipulation, he could probably hide them completely from any night vision equipment they may have. Then it was just a matter of losing them long enough to hunker down at a hotel. Preferably in Detroit. Being a big city–bigger, anyway–it would be easy to get lost inside.
“Alright,” Wayne said. “Jump in the truck.” The river wasn’t far, but they needed to be indoors by sunrise. Even though the sun hadn’t even set yet, every second counted.
Serena jumped to her feet. “Oh, I call–”
“The back of the truck,” Sarah said.
Serena’s glare was muted by her mask, but there was definite hostility behind it.
Wayne stepped between the two before a fight could break out. Looking up at Serena, he tried to deflect her attention. “Is Zoe still asleep?”
“Out like a light,” Serena said, her eyes wrinkling in a genuine smile.
Great, Wayne thought even as he returned her smile from behind his own mask. I’ve got a bipolar vampire on my hands who thinks she’s my girlfriend. Or thinks I’m her servant.
“If you could keep her from sliding around,” Wayne said, “I would appreciate it.”
“Alright,” came the instant response. “I can do that.”
Shaking his head, Wayne turned to Sarah. He gave a sharp nod towards the truck’s cab before climbing back into the driver’s seat.
Sarah circled around to the passenger side and got in without a word. She remained silent until they had been driving for a few blocks.
“So,” she said, tentative hesitation plain in her voice, “the girl…”
“The kid or the granny?”
A heavy thump cracked the rear window. Looking through the mirror, Wayne saw a pair of eyes glaring at him.
“Guess she can hear,” he mumbled to himself.
“Zoe,” Sarah said. “Serena told me how you saved her, and that’s great, but what do you plan to do with her?”
“Find some orphanage and drop her off.”
“That’s it? Simple as that?”
“Simple as that. Why?” He took his eyes off the road for a moment to glance in her direction. “You want to adopt her or something?”
“I’m a vampire.”
“So?” He paused, considering his words. Serena, he didn’t like the idea of her raising Zoe. But his sister… “You’re not going to eat her, are you?”
“I’m a monster.”
“No. You’re my sister and you’re being overdramatic.” Wayne gave a long and drawn out sigh through his mask. “Sarah. It’s cliché but worrying about being a monster is a great sign that you’re not. Your message to me was about caring for the stupid dragons of all things. Not exactly the kind of things a monster would worry about.”
Smiling, Wayne said, “then again, those dragons are evil.”
“Wayne,” she snapped, slapping him lightly on the shoulder.
That was the response he had been hoping for. Why she cared about the overgrown lizards was beyond him, but she did.
“Maybe having a kid to care for will help keep you on the straight and narrow.”
Wayne caught a glare out of the corner of his eyes.
“Rich,” she said, crossing her arms, “coming from you.”
“I wish I was rich. Wouldn’t have to,” he coughed, “borrow so much.”
“So you’re just going to foist her off on me?”
Wayne cricked his neck back and forth. “Why not? She’s middle school, maybe elementary school aged. Only a few years before you can ‘foist her off’ to an academy. Her mother was a mage.”
“So I heard.”
“Either that or an orphanage,” Wayne said with a shrug. He turned down another road, bringing the river into full view. “In the mean time, let’s find a boat.”
“There’s a neighborhood,” she said, pointing vaguely, “they literally dug channels from the river into their backyards.”
“Rich people neighborhood?”
“Oh yeah. Unless they all took the boats, we should have plenty of choices.”
A genuine grin spread across Wayne’s face. “Perfect.”
“Two towers,” Wayne said as he passed his binoculars to his cohort. “A sniper and a spotter on top of each along with mounted flame throwers. Several soldiers patrolling along the shoreline fences.”
“And a big net dangling off the bridge to catch anything that tries to swim past,” Serena said, finishing his explanation. “Which shouldn’t be a problem for your flames. And I’m sure you’re proficient enough to take control of their flames.”
“Their bullets worry me the most. Both Sarah and I should be able to erect thaumaturgical shields without much difficulty, but they won’t stand up to the amount of lead that they can pour in our direction.
“The river is flat and free from obstructions. Not even much smoke down here. They’ll see us coming the moment we move the boat around the bend.”
Serena hummed a sing-song tune. “I’ll handle them.”
“I have no doubt that you can kill them or just slip past them, but the rest of us can’t. They’ll call for reinforcements. Those reinforcements will call for reinforcements. Someone will report our boat. Soon enough we’ll have an army trailing after our boat and they won’t stop if we ditch it.”
“You worry far too much, Wayne. Forgetting my strain? Never fear, the boat will be the last thing on their minds.” Serena tapped him on the nose with her finger. “But you’ll need to be fast. Return to the boat and rev it up. Charge full speed through. Both you and your sister should have your shields at maximum strength just in case.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Now now,” she said, chiding. “Can’t reveal all my secrets, even to you. Go, we’re already wasting moonlight.”
Wayne thought to protest, but shrugged. He scooted back carefully and slowly–he had no intention of being spotted by the spotters just yet–leaving Serena behind some bushes on the riverbank.
The boat they had found wasn’t the best in the neighborhood. It did, however, have its keys in an easily accessible lockbox next to the boathouse. Zoe was huddled up under a few blankets and a few life vests just behind the driver’s seat.
Sarah, who had been sitting on the edge, stood up as Wayne approached.
“Where’s the vampire?”
“Distracting the army.”
“Distracting or killing?”
“Didn’t ask,” Wayne said, hopping into the boat. “Come on, we don’t have much time.”
The engine of the boat roared to life. They had to siphon some gas out of the truck they had stolen, but it otherwise appeared fine. Probably hadn’t been used much for a few months.
Wayne was just glad that the river hadn’t frozen over.
“Well?” Wayne said. Sarah hadn’t moved to join him in the boat. “The army would have heard that. We don’t have time to debate. Get in and put up the strongest shield you can.”
“I thought you said that she would distract them.”
“Just in case,” he said, repeating Serena’s words.
After shaking her head, Sarah hopped into the passenger seat.
Before she even had a chance to settle in, Wayne gunned the engines.
At the same time, he heard the crystal clear crack of a rifle’s report. Machine gun fire followed soon after.
“What’s going on?” Sarah asked even as the telltale haze of a powerful shield popped up in front of their boat.
Wayne gripped his tome, adding to the magical effect. “A distraction,” he said with a light grunt.
Accelerator at full speed, Wayne swung the boat around to face the blockade.
Distraction might be an understatement.
Every gun the military had in this section of town was firing. None of them were firing towards the river. Trees and the buildings of a marina were the targets of choice.
Serena stood silhouetted against the white floodlights of the military. One hand held Wayne’s binoculars up to her eyes while she held the other out extended. One finger pointed out with the thumb up in a facsimile of a gun. As she mimed her finger-gun firing with recoil, a black beam shot out of the binoculars, aimed at one of the sniper towers.
Flame started spouting from the mounted turret, all aimed away from the river.
She repeated the action for the other tower, which also started spewing impotent fire, before turning to face the oncoming boat.
After giving a half-salute half-wave, Serena jumped.
“Shield down,” Wayne shouted.
Just in time for her to land on the bow of their boat.
Wayne immediately reapplied his own shield over their boat.
“Thirty-seconds,” Serena shouted over the engine.
Sarah shouted back. “For what?”
“Until they stop thinking that every vampire in the city is charging their outpost.”
“We’ll be clear by then,” Wayne said. Probably too quiet to be heard over the engine and the gunfire, but he didn’t care.
He was too busy dragging the flamethrower’s flame across the net. It was much easier than conjuring flame from scratch, but still required concentration. Doubly so as he was both driving and maintaining a shield at the same time.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t burning fast enough.
The front of their boat hit the net, most of it catching on their shield.
Weakened from the flames, it tore.
Wayne let out a sigh of relief as their boat sped through underneath the bridge. The rope hanging off of their shield quickly burned away with a smidgen of extra effort on Wayne’s part.
He had to slow down for another turn of the river, but that turn carried them well out of sight from the sniper towers.
“We have with us today a very special guest.”
Wayne blinked his eyes open, yawning as the last vestiges of sleep left him.
“He wishes to remain entirely anonymous, but felt it was his duty to report what actually happened during the tragedy at Lansing.”
Wayne rolled his eyes as he glanced over at the hotel television set.
This story again.
Lansing was all anyone had talked about for a solid week. No one knew what happened. It was all baseless speculation. Everything had been blamed as the culprit. From Russian satellite weapons test to aliens of all things.
This time, however, was slightly different. Rather than talking over pictures of the crater, the journalist sat in a chair on one side of the screen. The other side had been covered with opaque glass. Only the barest hints of a shadow could be seen on the side of it.
“So,” the anchor said, “what can you tell about Lansing?”
“Thank you for having me.” His voice had been garbled to the point where it was barely intelligible. Luckily for anyone viewing, whatever news station this was had hired a quick transcriber to add subtitles to the screen. “Everywhere else turned me away as crazy.”
“Of course, Mr. Blank.” She actually said the word ‘blank.’ “We’ll let the you speak and the viewers will decide.”
“My detachment had been rounded up for emergency containment of a biological threat. Initially, that’s what it appeared to be. A strange one, to be sure, but nothing unimaginable.”
“Can you tell us the nature of the biological threat? Effects and transmission vectors?”
“Transmission, we didn’t know. None of us had been issued NBC suits–that’s nuclear, biological, chemical suits–and none of the soldiers ever came down with the ‘illness.'” The shadow moved as the man put quotes around his word. “As for the effects,” he coughed, “some seemed to turn into zombies while others turned super-human.”
“Zombies, Mr. Blank?” Despite the way she phrased her inquiry, there was no mocking in her voice.
“Sounds crazy, but when you hear what I have to say later, it’ll be the sanest thing you heard. There are certain chemical cocktails that can turn a person towards a more brain-dead state while still leaving motor functions, so it isn’t too absurd to believe that someone would have weaponized such a thing.
“For three days and three nights, we fought off the zombies and the people who took a few extra bullets to put down–”
“Did these super-humans ever attempt to communicate?”
“Never allowed them to get that close. Our orders were clear. We couldn’t allow the threat to spread.”
He shook his head, ignoring her slightly accusatory tone. “On the third night, things started to change. If some people who took a few extra bullets to put down counted as super-human, these things counted as absolute monsters. They would charge the fences, dodging bullets. They could take entire magazines and still run forward with speed.”
“You called them monsters, but were they human? Or actual monsters.”
“About half and half. Some had limbs like bears while others looked human. Save for a few bodies for the egg-heads, we burned all the corpses. The ones we didn’t burn still had to be restrained with steel because they didn’t always stay dead.”
“Adding to the zombie motif of this attack.”
Again, the man shook his head. “Nope. Crazier than that. That same night, a man showed up at our post. Started spouting off this nonsense about vampires.”
Rather than speak, the anchor just raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I had that expression as well. Then he started a fire in his hand. A gigantic ball of flame the size of my head. He just held it there, casually. I could feel the heat coming off of it. He extinguished the fireball and a forcefield popped up around him.”
“Not like anything I’ve heard of. No, he wore a sharp, well-fitting suit. The only thing he carried was a thick book. It was honest-to-God magic.”
“Magic?” Unlike her comment about zombies, the disbelief was clear in her tone now.
“Some others saw it as well, but I don’t expect them to come forward. Scary stuff. He claimed he was special forces needing to extract a VIP stuck within the city, though no one I talked to could verify his identity.”
“You don’t believe he was a special forces?”
“Could be. Could be that no one I talked to had the clearance to know. Or the clearance to tell me. Either way, his papers checked out initially. So we let him in. Our orders were to keep things from escaping, mind you, not entering.”
“Did you allow him out of the city once he secured this VIP?”
“Never saw him again. Don’t know if he made it. Though there was a disturbance the next night in which no less than fifteen trained soldiers insisted that they were under attack by about three hundred of the vampires, only for the vampires to vanish into thin air. No body parts, no blood or gore.”
“That would have been the fourth night,” the anchor said. “That just leaves the fifth night?”
“I don’t have much to say about that. It was just a blindingly white light. Flooded over the outpost to the point where no one could see anything. When it faded, the city was gone. I learned more from the recordings that have been playing on various news stations. Our own cameras were too close and only display a white screen.”
As he said that, one of the clearer clips played. It showed the smoke rising from the city from afar. Clouds overhead literally parted to allow a bright white beam of light engulf the city. The time stamp on the video then skipped to the end, roughly thirty minutes later.
The only thing left was a crater.
Wayne shuddered. Roughly twenty-four hours. That was all the spare time he had had, just missing utter annihilation.
The Elysium Order was scary. Scary enough that he was almost considering dropping his current project.
As the television snapped back to the interview, Wayne shut it off. The anchor was just thanking Hicks–for who else could it be–for his time.
Looking around the hotel room, Wayne frowned. Zoe slept on in the adjacent bed, but there was no sign of either of the vampires. The bathroom door was open and the light was off, so they weren’t in there.
Wayne noticed the notepad propped up against the side of the room’s telephone as he got out of bed.
Went out for a bite.
Be back soon.
Took sis with me.
The three lines were punctuated with an imprint of lips. Serena had put on lipstick just to kiss the paper. She had to have. At no other point had Wayne noticed lipstick on her.
Wayne shook the thought out of his mind. It didn’t matter either way. She could have her games. He was beyond content in ignoring them.
What did matter was that they had gone out. The Elysium Order would surely be scouring neighboring cities for any vampires that managed to escape their wrath.
At that moment, Wayne made a decision. They couldn’t stay in Detroit any longer. The moment the girls returned, he would head out, find a large van that could have its windows blacked out, and they would drive. They would drive as long as they needed.
Clear to the other side of the country if they had to.