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Chapter 1

The acidic rain splashing through the open door gives me a boost of excitement. That same feeling I get before any battle. Adrenaline courses through my veins, preparing me for the upcoming fight, making me the best warrior I can be. The last time I was scared before battle was a couple thousand years ago. Back then I was a human and scared of death. Too much has changed since then. I head up toward the cockpit to talk to Grinder, the craziest bat-shit of a pilot flying for HADES. A pilot fixated on what he’s read about gunslingers in the Old West. Ever since we rescued him from a sapien labor camp he’s been flying for my crew. I don’t know of anyone else who can handle the anti-gravity transport ships like him. He was born to fly the A-T ships. “Hey, Grinder, when we get close, just set it up so we can freefall. After that just keep under the radar.” “Sure thing. The only problem is, the radar’s down because of all this rain—we’re flying blind. We might crash right into our fucking drop zone.”

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“Just get us close, and I’ll take care of the rest,” I pat Grinder on the shoulder to reassure him that this drop is no different than the hundreds before it. I look out the window and hope the sky is blue: maybe we’re flying toward Oz. But I still see the dirty dark shithole I call home. Home, sweet home … “Alright, Hounds suit up and get ready: we’re dropping in blind. Check your gear and the brother next to you. We drop in five minutes,” I said looking over at my new rookie. The rookies been talking this entire time but I’ve been trying to shut out his pre-combat excitement jitters. Some ramble on about family, life, or they preach. This one appears to be a preacher. “Y’know, were’ all engulfed by a disease, a sickness has enslaved humanity and sold us to the highest bidder. Christ the rest of us live like dogs under the city. What was is, eight hundred years ago vampires and demons were made public? The Anti-Christ himself on T.V letting everyone hear that the end is near, and we have a side to choose. I remember seeing the old news vids in school. We pick his side he’ll make sure we live lives like a king, or we go against him, and perish. Looks like he won...” Dext’s rant 2


drifts off as he continues to check his equipment. Tell me something I don’t know. I was there when this all happened, and witnessed the destruction we all faced first hand. No one saw it coming, and when it did there wasn’t anything any of us could do about it. I block out painful memories of the past and focus on finishing my own equipment check. Click….click….click. The explosive uranium rounds go smoothly into my magazine. The three Exo Soldiers latch their armored helmets onto their exo-skeleton power-armor suits. Each rugged metal alloy suit isn’t much larger than the soldier wearing it, but the suit’s the only thing protecting their fragile human bodies from the damage they’re about to take. Titanium-colored plating is full of dents and scratches where bullets have impacted the armor. The visors are no longer clear from the beating they’ve taken over time. Massive hulks of metal that serve as humanity’s saviors, their only defense against the hostile world they now live in. The Exos fix themselves into their freefall pods. Rik and I do the same. I keep my light armor on, but Rik has already stripped all of his gear and clothing, getting ready to transform 3


into an unstoppable warrior. As my freefall pod hatch opens, I can feel the cool breeze and smell the acidic rain falling down. “Everyone get ready. I’m initiating manual freefall on the count of three,” I shout. “One … Two …” I pull the lever early, every little bit counts to try and keep my men on their toes. As the freefall pods spiral down from the Hounds’ anti-gravity transport ship, the pods’ rocket systems kick in. I misjudged the A-T elevation and it’s too late to stop the pods from slamming through the roof and crashing into the top floor of the blood bank. The room is filled with dust, broken ceiling tiles, and flickering lights from the dangling fixtures we’ve knocked off above. I check myself and smell the room, making sure we didn’t just freefall into the barracks of vampire enforcers guarding this place. Everything’s clear. “Everyone give me a head count,” I call out. “Check yourself and the guy next to you.” The team rattles off the okay, and I get them together. We form two teams. Rik, Logan, and Dozer go off toward the elevator shaft. The two Exos are working on prying the doors open when the monitor on top flickers, showing that 4


the elevator is coming up. The Exos step aside, glancing at Rik. His massive dark frame is much larger than the Exos around him, and his powerful arms and legs brace for combat, dark skin stretched over too much muscle. A small amount of hair covers his back and head—black fur mixed in with strands of gray. He resembles the ancient animal Canis lupus, fused with a bodybuilder. We can move on all fours or on two legs, but using all four gives us increased speed, and maneuverability. All of us have differences when we change, but we mostly look the same to an outsider. Rik has a split in his left ear from a silver arrow that pierced it twelve hundred years ago. Rik is hunched over, his back legs bent, ready to spring, and his front claws dig into the concrete floor. I grab Dext and make him watch what the poor fools in the elevator are about to meet. As the elevator door dings, Rik’s face shows a hint of excitement, a slight smile comes across his large row of fangs and his ears pull back. The door opens, and bullets spray everywhere, hitting Rik in the chest, legs, and arms, but it won’t help—in changed form, little can stop us, or even harm us for that matter. The vampire enforcers inside the elevator scream as Rik tears them apart. His claws rip through their basic-issue combat suits, and his teeth tear open their pale white flesh. 5


“Hey, Rik,” I call after a moment, as their screams fade, “you done fucking around? I have a blood bank I’d like to take down sometime tonight.” Rik sticks his head out from the elevator doors. Blood on his muzzle mats the fur covering his face. Fresh blood drips from his mouth, forming a pool underneath him. “Just cut the shit and get downstairs,” I shout. We’re able to communicate telepathically in changed form and out, but I don’t like anyone being inside my head but me and my demons. We keep working our way down the stairs, hoping to find the observation floor. Still no luck. The transmission coming through my earpiece interrupts my thoughts. “Four enforcers down in Sublevel 1, Copy?” “Copy last, just keeping moving forward.” That leaves two more enforcers and three scientists. We finally get to the door we need. Beyond it lies the observation room, with two enforcers guarding the entrance. The glass barrier surrounding them has to be bullet-proof, and

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possibly explosive-proof, so I’m gonna have to go in silent. “Dext, sit tight and monitor radio traffic from the other team. Stay out of sight until I take these enforcers down.” “You sure? I could distract ’em from the other side of the barrier, maybe even go in there and test out my hand-to-hand combat skills in my mech.” I walk away, hoping I didn’t make a mistake bringing him with me. “Stay put, rookie.” Rookies: they always want to rush in and be the hero but end up getting shot and leaving me to clean up after them. I hate cleaning up rookies. They always stink. I decide to go old-school and pull out the silver kopis sword held next to the rifle on my back. Lucky for me, vampires’ sense of smell is not so great after they’ve been hitting the dust all night.fucking junkies. I take both of their heads before they even have time to react to my smell. Dom, we have the rest of the scientists in the main control room, copy?

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The transmission through the communications link comes through loud and clear. Each soldier in HADES is surgically implanted with a comm. link in their right ear. Each implant has millions of source code for secured radio transmissions. A main communications center back at our headquarters monitors all incoming and outgoing radio transmissions. Yeah, I gotcha. The other two enforcers are down. We‟re heading your way now. I signal for Dext to follow me through the observation room entrance. We see Team 2 and their captives through the glass ceiling of the control room. The laboratories are encased in glass so the scientists’ work can be observed. A lot of money is invested in blood banks, and the owners don’t want their money going to waste through the incompetence of some two-bit scientist with his head up his ass. It’s also no surprise that Tartarus enforcement agents would rather use fear than diplomacy to make workers more efficient. The glass lets the scientists see that they are being watched, and if anyone takes a second longer on their lunch break they get a round through the head from one of the agents. Rik forces the three captive scientists to their knees. I stand in front of them with my 8


arms folded. “I’m not here to play games, just tell me which family owns this place, and we’ll let all of you go.” “We don’t know,” whines one of the scientists. “We were kidnapped and brou—” My Colt .45s are already out, and the hammer falls down, hitting the firing pin, pushing the bullet out of the barrel. The silvertipped round enters the vampire scientist’s forehead and comes to rest in the floor behind him, spraying bits of concrete. I can smell the gunpowder in the air, and my other gun presses against the next scientist’s head, locked and loaded before his colleague’s body slumps down next to him, turning to ash within seconds. “That’s one of you bloodsuckers down— who’s next?” “He told you the truth,” snivels the second scientist. “We’ve been forced to work here by—” The scientists ramblings are put to an end as one of my rounds exits out the back of his head. His body disintegrates as it slumps to the floor. Both of my .45s move to the last vampire. “Okay, okay, listen, just listen,” he begs. “I know which family.” 9


I don’t say anything—just keep my .45s pressed against his forehead. “There’s a data terminal in the next room: all of the information you need is on that terminal.” I walk away, leaving two circle indents on his forehead. I’m done wasting my bullets. “Oh thank you, thank you,” the last scientist gibbers. “I can’t believ—” His words are cut short, and I hear the sounds of an Exo’s blade being drawn. I look back to see Dozer cutting through the vampire’s back, piercing his heart, and being run up his body through the top of his head. I can feel the mist of blood fall on the back of my neck. Nothing makes a mission better than spilling vampire’s blood. Some might say these were non-combatant scientists, but to me they were still vampires. “Dext, get all the information you can off these terminals, and make sure you do it as fast as possible.” I picked Dext for two reasons. First, he’s young and ready to go on any mission with us. Everyone with the Hounds has to be willing to

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face death head-on. And two, he’s the best hacker in Necro. “Okay.” Dext is tapping away at the virtual keyboard, his fingers dancing around in the air in front of him, his eyes glued to the screen. “This terminal is encrypted, but I’m working on tracking the signal to the main server. And … I’m done.” A blue light, indicating that’s Dext’s Exo suit has downloaded data onto its internal hard drive, blinks on his wrist. Dext grins. “It’s amazing that a fourhundred-year-old system used for space travel communication is now used as a vid message and data searching service.” “Okay, Dext, wipe your dick off—and cut the techno-babble,” I growl. “Did you get everything you need?” “Yeah…I got it all.” “Everyone set your charges and activate the timer, then place them all on the structural indicators on your battle screens. Vampire Enforcement Teams are probably already on their way. We need to get out of here and blow this place with them inside,” I order the Exos as they type away on the small data screens built into their wrists. 11


The charges are placed strategically throughout the building, leaving no area safe. Everything in the building has to be brought down. I just hope we can get out before reinforcements block our paths. Heads up, Dom, you got company coming. Grinder communicates through the radio. How many? Can‟t really tell, it‟s coming down hard out here. We think three Vampire Enforcer teams. Shit. Listen, Grinder, get to the edge of the roof and open up the back hatch. We‟re gonna be coming guns blazing, so be prepared to haul ass once we‟re in. Got it, just keep me posted, he says. All the charges are placed, and we’re all running toward the roof, weapons drawn, waiting for something to happen. “Just got word that at least three V.E teams just came in to join the party,” I shout to the Hounds. “So keep your eyes open—and shoot anything that moves.” We enter the containment room, a massive warehouse full of rows, thousands of rows, containing two to three hundred thousand humans in cryogenic pods. The only light in the 12


room is the eerie red glow coming from each pod. Through the glass pods, you can see the humans’ bodies connected to different wires and tubes, keeping them alive and on tap, to provide the vampires with an almost endless supply of blood. Their brains are hooked up to biosensors that give them bursts of memory images to make their minds believe they’re alive. Their bodies twitch in reaction to the memory being forced into their minds. I notice one of them has their eyes open. It’s a woman and she seems to be staring at us, or possibly pitying us. Rik lightly pushes Dext, snapping him out of his daze. “Living out their lives as a fucking food source for the bloodsuckers of this shithole city.” Dext turns to me. “This isn’t right, Dom. I mean, can’t we save them?” Blood is sold to the highest bidder. There isn’t a more expensive or sought-after commodity in Necro. Fresh human blood for the rich and proper, while the poor get stuck with recycled synthetic blood. Looks like the captive humans are all going to get some good sleep after tonight—may their souls finally rest in peace. I smell the vampires before they’ve come all the way down the steps and out the door. There’s another team about to emerge from the elevator to my left. 13


“Rik, Logan, Dozer: elevator, now. Fire at will,” I shout. I grab a UV mine from my side and throw it at the door. The small circular disk expands and stops right at the crack of the door, waiting to unleash an explosion of ultraviolet rays on whoever comes through it. The elevator doors open. They never had a chance. Rik and his team let everything they have spray into that elevator, ripping the occupants inside apart to little bits and pieces. I turn my head toward the stairwell door as it flies open. Three vampire enforcers are engulfed in an explosion of purple light. I see the enormous white fangs in Rik’s mouth light up. The enforcers burst into flames, and seconds later their ashes scatter on the floor. Rik’s team heads up the elevator shaft, Rik climbing on the walls, the exos using their boosters. Dext and I run up the stairwell, weapons drawn, clearing every angle and space on each new step and landing we hit. I don’t smell or hear anything, and that’s when I realize we just walked into their trap. The landing right in front of us explodes, and sends Dext and me flying backward against the hard concrete landing a floor below. My ears are ringing, and my vision’s blurred. I try to smell, but no luck. Get up, Dom! Don‟t die here! Get up, you pussy! 14


The voice in my head slaps me in the face, wakes me up a bit - and I’m up, weapon at the ready. I grab Dext. He’s awake and shaken like me, but he’ll be okay. We got lucky this time. That explosion was meant to kill us. The problem is, whoever planted it set the switch too far away, and we were blown down the steps before the fire and shrapnel could hit us. It went over our heads and into the concrete wall above us. Rik, I radio quietly, be prepared for another team up there. They‟re shady bastards. At the top of the steps lie the vampire team, waiting with their weapons aimed at the elevator shaft Rik and the others are going to come out of any moment now. A slight tremor goes through the building. The indicator on my wrist is flashing zeros. Time’s up. I use the railing to propel myself up the flight of stairs to the top, where the enforcers are waiting. They turn around and get a face full of uranium rounds causing their heads to melt off their shoulders. I shut the bullet-riddled door with my elbow. “Dext, stand on the other side of this door from me, and light up the room as soon as you get the chance.” 15


I step back and kick the door as hard as I can. It rips from its hinges and flips wildly toward the three enforcers on the other side. Two of them dive out of the way, but the middle one isn’t so lucky: his face splits open as the door hits him. The tremors are getting stronger and closer, each one set on ten second intervals creating a domino-effect of destruction. Rik, Logan, and Dozer burst through the elevator doors. The other two enforcers are taken by surprise, and nicely placed shots to the head by Logan and Dozer quickly take them down. Grinder, we‟re up on the top floor. Blow a hole in the north wall. Got it, Dom. A series of laser rounds fly through the wall, forming the outline of a circle. The wall comes down and reveals the back searchlights of our A-T. We all load in and take off. Moments later, the entire building is surrounded by a bright blue bubble. The energy implosion devices we set are coming together and forming a large energy field that will crush and de-atomize everything within it. “I can’t even begin to imagine how beautiful it looks in there,” Rik says, staring in awe at the massive blue globe.

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Rik is back in human form, pulling on his clothes. Even after all these years he’s still kept some of our old Gaelic traditions. His bright red hair is shoulder length, with a few braided locks. He still binds his wrist in leather, the thick leather straps adorned with silver inlaid Celtic designs. A few traditional Celtic tattoos on his arms and body date back to the days of fighting with swords. Rik is much shorter than me, but just as muscular and fit. He’s stands next to me, looking out the A-T portholes. “Yeah, the calm before the storm,” I say. “Then every molecule in your body is ripped apart, and you’re left as dust among the rest of the shit inside the bubble. Real beautiful. My perfect day.” A few miles away, I try to see the ruins of the blood bank, but all that remains is a charred field of ashes and a tiny spark of the implosion bubble slowly fading away. Every battle is a constant reminder to how the world is. Unpredictable, and harsh, the second I stop to take a breath is when I’ll end up with silver tipped round to the back of my head. I always need to be prepared for anything. We finally get back to our stronghold, Babylon, and Grinder docks the A-T. I need to give the intel we found on the mission to the Commander, hopefully he can make sense of it all. 17


Chapter 2 The team unloads, and we head across the open structure. We are all eager to get out of our gear. The ancient clock is still ticking in the main concourse, showing train schedules not used for the last four hundred years. A large Humanity World Order flag hangs from the ceiling: a single star within the blue, the red and white stripes left unchanged, to signify that humanity is united, reminding everyone who they were before the vampires crushed them in the Great War. HADES is the name of our group, a makeshift paramilitary resistance created to go against the Tartarus Corporation. It’s the closest thing to a form of government we have left. It was originally a small guerilla unit that Rik and I started to free humans from the slave and labor camps throughout the city. We figured the 18


more humans and werewolves who joined the cause, the better chance we would have when we decided to stand against Casticus and his army. Everything changed when we freed Thomas King, our Commander and the leader of HADES. We found Commander King after he started a riot, and had pretty much taken out the guards in his camp. By the time we arrived the camp was under his control. We helped kill incoming patrols, and brought everyone down to where we’ve been hiding out. We picked a place far away from Necro, among the ruins of New York. What better place to put a headquarters then Grand Central, and from there it was dubbed Babylon. Without Commander King, HADES would never have been, he brought the organization and leadership to turn us into a symbol of hope for the remaining humans and werewolves. He grew up in this world, and this is all he knows, but he’s told me he envisions a world more beautiful than anything he’s ever seen. He envies those of us who lived in that old world, but I can also see the pity. He didn’t see everything get wiped out like I did, and you might say it’s easier to grow up in this world than to know what it used to be like. It probably would make it a whole hell of a lot easier to get up every morning.

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We make our way through the main hall, walking past different HADES training sessions. The training hall is composed of different sections, each representing one stage of training. Each month the recruits advance to another stage—a quick introduction to the tools of the trade. Their combat instructor is a pit bull on speed, five-foot-four, all muscle, and looking to skull-fuck some smart-mouth rookie. “This is your Dagr Assault Rifle, made of titanium alloy, fueled by a small fusion reactor, weighs about two pounds fully loaded. This baby will take all forms of ammunition in its magazine, and the constant energy flow from the reactor will condense and melt the round to fire from the barrel, turning all ammo into kinetic energy rounds. Slugs of metal charged by the fusion reactor are fired from the barrel at hypersonic velocity. The force from the slugs will burn a hole through most metals and surfaces, but the first rounds thrown downrange will be stopped by the kinetic barrier on an enemy’s armor. Repeated shots at that same enemy will rip him apart before he hits the ground. This rifle will always feel warm and if it doesn’t, then throw it down and go to your sidearm or bladed weapon.” The CI orders his class to fire. “Reload, aim, fire …” 20


Hundreds of rounds are flying down the makeshift range, where freshly painted targets appear on the heavy concrete wall. Brandspanking-new rookies. “You gotta be shitting me—I’ve never seen a sorrier bunch of recruits. How’s ’bout you all just put your weapons down, and we’ll go surrender to the bloodsucker scumbags over at Tartarus.” Most of the recruits put their rifles down. We all keep walking. I can hear the CI practically foaming at the mouth, bellowing every foul word in the English language, probably having them do rifle drills to build weapon discipline into their brains. Those kids will be covering our asses in a few years. On my left are the grunts and war cries of recruits learning hand-to-hand combat, followed by metal clangs of their bladed weapons crashing against each other. Our last defense in combat, old-school and straight to the point, decapitation is the easiest way to kill any of us demonic freaks. Just the way I like it. Another training class to my right is teaching the recruits about the various types of demons in the world. Academic instruction on each species is given to all new recruits regarding the world we live in. Each recruit is 21


giving extensive knowledge on all demons in hell, and their believed role within the social structure of hell. They also learn about their strengths, and weaknesses, and the fastest way to kill any demon, or vampires they confront. “….little is known about the next demon. The Crocell demon only has male species, and they share a strong resemblance to vampires, in that they need blood to survive. They are humanoid in appearance, but their skin is covered in reptilian scales. They have small devilish horns on the top of their foreheads. You will never see them walking among the citizens of Necro. They are known to keep to themselves, and only work for highest class of vampire families. Pray you never meet one, because few have lived after an encounter …” the teacher continues his speech, describing in detail about vampire society, and social class among the citizens of Necro. Demons weren’t something we dealt with until the Great War. During all my years of fighting vampires I never once heard the word demon mentioned. Shortly after the Great War started reports surfaced of creatures on the battle field. Even after hundreds of years we still don’t understand how so many came to be here. No one even knows how vampires and werewolves came about. Most of us have stopped pondering the question we’ll never get an answer 22


to. An eternity of seeking questions without answers will make anyone go crazy. We understand the basic roles each species plays, but know little beyond that. The teacher shows holographic displays of each demon species, and pinpoints the weakness located on their body. The recruits take notes, and seem interested, but many are probably close to pissing themselves thinking they might have to face some of these beasts one day. I feel a tap on my arm. Still in combat ready mode I whirl around ready to break someone’s arm, and probably their nose. It’s just Dext, looking startled. “Dom, we’re gonna go over to get our suits upgraded.” Dext, Logan, and Dozer go over to the Exos section, to be injected with the latest nanobot virus that will enhance their senses and make their bodies grow even closer to their suits, forming a complete symbiotic relationship. During the update, their surgically implanted computer spike receptacles will be cleaned and inspected. Logan is one of the oldest Exos in HADES: at 40, he’s still in very good shape. His face shows signs of battle and, looking at his hands, it’s obvious he’s a demolition specialist. He’s missing two fingers on his right hand, and chose not to replace them with robotic 23


prosthetics. He says that it reminds him to always be on point, and focus on his surroundings. Logan jacks-in—the computer spike receptacles lining his arms, legs, and back accept the metallic spikes built into the medical chair to receive his nano-bot injection and fire ware download as Dozer waits next in line. Not a lot of soldiers ask to be in my unit - as a recon team, we normally go into places where other units have entire platoons or companies of soldiers. The survival rate for humans isn’t great, but Dozer asked Commander King if he could be in my unit. After reading his file I decided to watch a few training sessions to see if he had what it takes. At an impressive 6 feet 8 inches, Dozer is easily one of the tallest in HADES. He’s built like a tank, and was an easy pick from a young age to be a heavy defense Exo. His large size and strength allows him to handle the mini-gun, and beefed up Exo suit. He comes from African descent, and his family passed down their dialect. A pretty common tradition among those seeking to keep some form of their ancient culture present among the melting pot of humanity that’s left. He keeps his head shaved due to his religion, and adds a new tribal tattoo for every vampire he’s ever killed so he’s got the whole walking canvas thing going on for him. All three of my Exos are the best of the best, and you can’t find a better unit in HADES.

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Rik and I watch some of the Exos’ training sessions as they jack into their suits and fire their assault rifles downrange. Dozer and another heavy-defense exo use their mini-guns on the range, letting the six barrels throw hundreds of rounds at the targets in seconds. Others are practicing their specific duties: the hackers are improving their computer and electronics skills, while the explosives experts are working on making bombs from the materials that might be around them—or, in extreme cases, defusing bombs left as booby traps for the other members of their teams. They also learn hand-to-hand combat in their suits, grappling with one another. A couple of the others are practicing using their bladed weapons while in their suits. Each katar blade is three feet long and extends from a slot just above each wrist. The blades of the two sparring exos clang together, sparks flying against their power-armored suits. Exo training also teaches them to use the different accessories of their suits, like their suits thrusters or environmental scanners. Some of the Exo’ s are also being trained in how to stay alive if their suit becomes damaged to a point where they have to eject from it and fight with rifles or hand-to-hand. A few werewolves and rogue vampires help show them how they are outmatched in human form without the 25


suits. From where I stand, I can hear an Exo’s arm break while he’s in hand-to-hand combat with a werewolf CI. We reach our quarters in the lower concourse, a wide space full of lockers sectioning off areas to create makeshift rooms. Rik and I share a space: two beds, two lockers, and two equipment chests. It’s basic living quarters, but it beats roughing it out in the wastelands. Rik throws himself down on his bed, still wearing all his gear, and stretches. “Finally … Feels good to be home. Yo, Dom, wanna grab a drink? First round’s on me.” “Not tonight, gotta take a rain check. I’ll be topside for a few days working on some intel,” I say. Rik shrugs, climbs off his bed, drops his gear into his equipment chest, and walks toward the dining concourse. We can’t even get drunk, but it dates back to our Old-World tradition of drinking before battle and after the battle is done. I drop my gear into the metal equipment chest at the end of my bed and grab a change of clothes from my locker. A black shirt goes under my basic armored vest. My favorite black trench goes over that, concealing the two shoulder26


holstered .45s. I leave by way of the dining hall, past the crowd having a drink to make the world we live in fade away, the grunting rookies trying to prove something, and the pissed-off CI who hates himself and takes it out on the recruits. I get into the cockpit of my personal A-T and let the silence take me in—peace and quiet, just for a moment. The weight is lifted off my shoulders, and I’m me again. War is never easy, and fighting in one for hundreds of years can take its toll, even on the immortal and supernatural. It feels good to get away from the HQ, it lets my mind forget the constant fighting, and the fact I’ve always been on the losing side. But we’re the good guys….

On auto, my A-T speeds through the old tunnels, passing subway stations where I once stood waiting for the F train to take me to Central Park. I pass the Old World, a longforgotten city buried underneath acid seawater and hundreds of years of trash buildup. Only the shells of former skyscrapers remain. Repressed memories of humanity being wiped out resurface in an instant. My guilty consciousness won’t ever let me forget. I stare at the ghost of the magnificent city that once stood here. It lies silent underneath the beast called Necro. 27


The city of Necro extends into the heavens, and the only lights are the thousands of vid monitors selling Tartarus Corp products. The city is alive with the undead, vampires, demons, and human slaves. All living—or dying—the rest of their existence in this shitty city. After spending a few hours or days down in HQ it’s easy to forget about the city. A life trapped in an old subway station doesn’t prepare you for what takes place up here. We shouldn’t be hiding in the shadow of Necro, I can feel the victory of taking back the city slipping away as time goes on. Skyways of A-Ts flying to and from their destinations constantly fill the air. The forty million inhabitants of this city never sleep and are constantly on the move. The sight of Necro and its citizens piss me off, but over time it’s scary what a person can get use to. Rusted transports, brand-new hundreds of years ago, are now falling apart, death traps. The Imperial Cruiser is the standard model A-T in Necro—and they were beautiful when they came out. Full of chrome: big beautiful shiny bumpers and accents. Since the A-T factories shut down, they’ve all continued to fall apart. At least once a day you see one burst into flames, the occupants screaming and roasting as the flaming rust-bucket crashes into the artificial

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metal ground. Seeing that happen to a vampire brings a smile to my face. I always get overwhelmed or annoyed coming into Necro. It’s a city I love to hate—the massive buildings, the constant traffic—a city built by death and destruction. The massive city is built on pillars over the old one, keeping Necro above the acidic and poisonous rising waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The pillars rise to support the metallic ground, full of sidewalks and considered the lower level of the city, where most of the criminals stay. Much of the lower levels are covered in large amounts of trash that pile up, and are slowly taken to trash factories that burn it and dump the ashes into the Old World below. From the lower levels, the massive fourhundred-story skyscrapers fill the city. Skywalks connect the buildings, providing the citizens of Necro with routes around the city. The Tartarus Corporation fills vid monitors all around. You see one at every turn, every inch of this city. Vampire propaganda, keeping the living dead in good spirits, and a constant reminder that we all have to follow their rules—or be killed trying to be an individual. I‟ll fucking take the latter, thank you.

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“One thousand credits for the capture of any rebel sapiens. Five thousands credits for the whereabouts of anyone working with HADES …” “Join the Necro Enforcement Squads, helping keep the city clean of human scum, and keeping the blood banks open …” “Try our new and improved Tartarus Corp blood packs, sold at your local Tartarus vendor …” Every vid monitor has its own message, or product placement announcement. They eventually all sound the same, and you forget the thousands of screens everywhere, their messages become white noise among the backdrop of the city. Around the year 2112, all Hell broke loose, when vampires decided to take their demon lackeys and go public. No one knows how demons came about, but I’ve dealt with a few soldier demons from time to time. What came this time was a whole population of demons. They had their own social classes and hierarchy like the human population. It was clear from the start that the vampires are royalty of hell. The Devil’s personal politicians, here to bring more soldiers to his side when Armageddon comes. There was no more hiding in the shadows, pretending to be human; they decided they wanted more—and that they should be at the top of the food chain. Before, the vampires kept 30


to themselves and stayed on their own turf, and we stayed on ours. Maybe every once in awhile a vampire and werewolf would go at it, but it was rare, and the fight was resolved before it drew the attention of any humans. The fighting among werewolves and vampires went on way before my time, some say tens of thousands of years. A few of the elder vampires talked about a war between werewolves and vampires going on since the first civilization. Humanity never had a clue about any of us until V-Day. This wasn’t the Crusades anymore; a public fight or death would have been noticed. October 2, 2112: Vampire Unification Day. The day vampires and humanity would become one, and live together peacefully and harmoniously. We didn’t have the numbers to make a stand; there aren’t as many of us werewolves as there are vampires, because we only turn people on rare occasions. Once it was all public, the media went nuts: vampires were the new craze. Movies, magazines, vid shows … They all wanted to broadcast the supernatural celebrities. Within a year the Tartarus Corporation was formed, promising a cure for all known diseases, and physical ailments. The cures for aids and cancer, and regeneration of limbs, were just a few of the medical advances that the vampire controlled corporation promised. The United Nations soon formed an 31


agreement with the Tartarus Corportion, contracting out medical research. A year after that the Tartarus Corporation was the richest company in the world, Casticus the richest man. Many of us began to think maybe the worst wasn’t going to happen. Some of us believed in the message the vampire elder and leader Casticus preached, about living together peacefully. That was until he revealed his true character: that he was the Anti-Christ sent here by his father Satan to destroy Earth, and amass the army that would burn down the gates of Heaven. The knowledge the vampires held gave the human race the potential to cure so many diseases and help mankind become a better species. I even worked with Casticus for a while, doing jobs here and there for credits—and because I thought I was making a difference. I knew he was the Anti-Christ, but what he promised the world outweighed his family ties. I overlooked the fact he was the son of the devil if it meant making the world better for humanity. Many of us saw what was coming next but it was too late, too many governments gave him free roam over their entire political structure, and exploited it. Bringing the governments of the world’s superpowers down, and wiping out their military leaders. It’s hard to think that I had a part to play in everything that took place. If only 32


I could turn back time, and fix all the wrong I helped create. After V-Day, things gradually changed around the world. One day it might be a government official who went missing, then reappeared a few days later, a paler version of his or her former self. The vampires were offing government leaders in other countries and turning them. The thought of having vampire politicians didn’t sit well with anyone. We all just wanted an end to the constant wars between humans, and to make the world a better place. Before we all realized it, the vampires had started their “unification process,” and humanity was becoming the minority, a species on the endangered list. Most of us werewolves were ready to stand up for humanity against Hell’s army. Humans lost the Great War, and needed all the help they could get. We believed we were created to be God’s soldiers, his beasts to fight against the darkness when man wouldn’t have the strength to. The Knights Templar’s were not ordinary soldiers, but werewolves ordained by priests to fight for God against the vampires. We were the first line of defense against the army of darkness. The Crusades were Casticus’s first attempt at Armageddon, but there were many of us back then, and he eventually retreated, vowing to finish what he started. He kept his 33


word, and humanity declined faster than I thought possible. We tried to fight, and the majority of us believed we could win the war, so we formed a resistance. Groups of us spread throughout the world, in the small cities, and later in places like Necro that took over major cities throughout the world. The resistance was given a name, something to inspire fear in our enemies and hope in those who need us. HADES was formed, a partnership between man and beast. We joined together with many of the last groups of humanity. We hadn’t had the numbers to fight back before, but things started to look better. We laid low for a few hundred years, we watched Necro grow, and we waited for the right time to strike. The problem is we waited too damn long. When the time came and we were ready to strike our enemies number had grown. We faced the strongest Army the world has ever known, and we didn’t stand a chance. Fast-forward six hundred years, and you have Necro—and all the filth that populates it. The largest city in the world, run by the vampire-controlled Tartarus Corporation, which is run by the elder vampire Casticus. I hate that asshole, but I respect the code he lives by; he’s old-school and keeps the code of knights as his way of life. I saw him fight a few times during the Crusades; had a few encounters with him in combat and barely lived to tell about it. 34


“Inform Vampire Enforcement Squads of all illegal narcotic activity. Users of „ivory‟ will not be tolerated …” The vid monitor announcements mostly get smashed out where I live: in the lower levels, which is the part of town that doesn’t draw much attention. Someone gets killed in the slums every day, and no one does or says anything about it. The vampires enforcement agency or the military whichever you prefer to call the Tartarus Corporation agents, could care less about what takes place in the lower levels. As long as it stays clear of the upper levels, among the aristocrats, everyone is happy. I used to live in a somewhat suitable building, but those days are gone. I don’t live in the worst neighborhood, that area is reserved for the gangs, and junkie scumbags. I live in the working class area, full of vampires, demons, and human shades just trying to make a living. You won’t find much political support here for Tartarus Corporation. They view their lives just as shitty as the humans in the work camps. My building was once a state of the art, eco-friendly building, but now it’s filled with urine-drenched hallways, junkie squatters, and everything else that goes bump in the night. My door is at the end of the hallway. I punch in a code to unlock it. It looks normal, but it is reinforced with titanium alloy, the same 35


stuff the rovers are made of. Strong enough to take a direct hit from a rocket, or an energy grenade blast. The security scanners built into the door frame read my DNA signature, making sure it’s me. If it wasn’t, the unwelcomed guest would be greeted with two mini-guns dropping down from the ceiling. Are two 7.62-mm mini-guns excessive for home security? Maybe, but when you work with the people I do, excessive is a word that has no meaning. Once in, I reactivate my alarm system, a safe practice when I’m staying here. There isn’t much to my apartment. I’ve made it as comfortable as possible. The style gives me the comfortable furnishings of the past with the advanced technological luxuries of the present. I picked this apartment for the view, the huge one-way window that gives me the penthouse view of what’s going on around me. From here I can see the center of the city perfectly: the Tartarus Corp building, larger and taller than anything else in the city, remains the focus anywhere you go in Necro. What I wouldn’t give to watch that building burn to the ground from here. I picture how amazing the view from here would be to witness the complete destruction of the Tartarus Corporation building, and know that all those bloodsucking motherfuckers were 36


being burned slowly to their second death, their real death. I look up to the sky, and can’t help but stare into the dark sky full of black clouds, and lighting. How could this have happened? Once I believed in a God that protected the souls on this Earth, but God or religion isn’t something that’s been talked about since the collapse of humanity. Churches now worship Satan, the dark lord, and human sacrifices are given instead of prayer. Mankind gave up hope that there was a higher power when Hell itself came to live among us. I can’t remember the last time I even heard a prayer, or someone mention God. I know I wouldn’t mind going a few rounds with the old man, make him feel the pain we’ve been living with for far too long. Humans instead put faith in each other as a guiding light, maybe showing a sign that God works in mysterious ways. I need to take a shower, so I strip off my coat. My .45s stay on and are fully loaded, ready to tear holes through anyone stupid enough to try to break in while I’m here. Fuck my security system, anyone getting in here has to go through me first. A bottle of whiskey and my smokes sit on the bar. This life is a fake, but I still enjoy the guilty pleasures of it, and it helps me to forget about the war—the war we haven’t even been close to winning for the last six hundred years. 37


A nice cold drink and a smoke: the right fix to a long day’s work—and what will probably be an even longer night. The holo-projector is streaming a slideshow of pictures onto the far wall to my right. A slideshow of how the world used to be: the snowy peaks in Colorado, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, beaches with bright blue sunny skies. A constant reminder of how the world should be—and how it will be again one day, once we fix this shit. Outside it stays black. I haven’t seen the sun in six hundred years, and the storms are getting worse every year. One day it was bright blue skies, and the next it was dark, and the light never came back. No one really knows why the skies went dark, but they did, no stars, or moon, just dark stormy clouds, and the occasional storm. The dark skies gave vampires the freedom they had never previously had. The freedom to fight and feed without fear of dying from the sun. This new advantage brought a quick end to the war. A few battles have followed since, but ever since the sun disappeared humanity has been in a constant decline. The incoming message indicator on my extranet terminal has been blinking since I got home, which means I have messages I shouldn’t answer, and don’t want to answer, but I will.

38


The whiskey goes down smooth, just like it should; on to my second smoke. I switch my terminal on and check my messages. A few past buyers looking to score some unique or hard-to-find weapons; they are willing to pay big. Being a hired gun who can also score top-notch weapons has its perks. Creating a cover to live among the fine citizens of Necro wasn’t my idea, but Commander King’s. The idea was I could get into the criminal underground in Necro behind my cover, which would give me the information I need on how Necro, and the Tartarus Corporation, operates. Nobody knows how a city operates more than criminals. The average population still thinks HADES is a myth, one to make humans never give up hope, so starting off in a seedy part of the city wasn’t hard at all. There’s an encrypted message from Commander King, he tells me something I already know, the intel Dext got from the terminal at the blood bank we took down had nothing. It traced back to a family who doesn’t even exist. Looking any further into the covered up tracks is pointless. I can find out more information by roughing up a few of the local punks who run numbers for the blood banks. I go through a few more messages. Junk mail, product advertisements from the Tartarus Corp. Then a message I’ve been waiting for. 39


“Hey, it’s Anya. Haven’t seen you in a while, babe. Got some words for ya. Drop by this week for a dance. Bye, sugar.” Anya isn’t a girl you bring home to Mom. Why? For starters, she’ll kill your mom and drink her blood. She’s a vampire, and she hates most humans. She also happens to be a stripper at Club Zero, the upper-class club for the socialites and royalty of Necro, where all the cool and rich kids come to blow their money and forget the world around them. When Anya says she has info for me it’s usually good, info I’m willing to pay for. Plus she’s a stripper—a hot one, at that. A thin smile comes to my face, thinking of those long legs. She might be a vampire, but I don’t know a man on the planet who could resist legs like hers. The rain has stopped for now. I decide to head over to Zero to see what Anya has for me. The club’s not far and I need to get the smell of polluted, acidic air into my lungs: it amps me up in case things get crazy.

40


Chapter 3

The skywalks are filled with vendors tonight. Each vendor looks and acts exactly how you’d imagine a two-bit hustler from the underworld to be. I feel dirty just walking by them; their stench fills the air and burns my nostrils. They seem to always be here. They are the true definition of bottom-feeders. Most of the vendors look like they shop at the same shitty store. Their second hand store suits, cheap cologne and greased up hair tell me they’re low class scumbags. Doesn’t keep them from making a profit off the death and torture of humans though. The best deals can be found on the skywalks, hundreds of vendors looking to rip you off for your hard earned credits. Psychopaths and junkies can get anything their 41


little heart’s desire, from the best drugs on the street, to a human child. Anything and everything can be bought at the street vendors for a price. I walk past a section where humans on stages are being auctioned off into slavery—men, women, children, all being sold for food, for entertainment, or to be used as workhorses in the various factories throughout the city. “Got a fine sapien here! Young, thin, and pretty!” A young girl stands on top of a small stage, naked: fresh, pink skin and long brown hair flowing down to the middle of her back. She stands there, knowing her fate, but doesn’t shed a tear or look hopeless. She’s too tired; she wants to feel the fangs sink into her neck and bring this miserable life to an end. “She’s been checked, and her blood is still good and pure! Minimum bid is ten thousand credits,” calls the vendor. Hands go up, and the bidding begins. Her blood is still good—well, as good as it can be. Humans’ immune systems have been shot to shit by the constant pollution and the fact that the air doesn’t get filtered by plants any more— because plant life no longer exists. Large air

42


filtration systems are scattered around the city, pumping breathable air in and around the city. Vampires and demons don’t need the air to breath, but their food does. The air tastes stale, and dirty, but it’s better than suffocating. Humans have been born into pollution for hundreds of years. Their bodies have adapted, but over the age of twenty-five your body starts to die, making a human’s average life-span around forty-five to fifty years now. They say the blood of contaminated humans tastes different than it once did, and only one out of every twenty thousand humans has blood that is considered pure, with few contaminants, making their blood a rare delicacy. “Got blood, one hundred credits per pack, straight off the Tartarus truck and into your hands! Blood packs, get your bloo-ood packs!” Stolen shipments of blood packs from the blood factories, just like the one I destroyed a few hours ago. These packs are sold for a cheaper price on the black market, but Tartarus doesn’t just let it happen. Constant patrols are cracking down on this type of illegal sale, making it a good profit but a dangerous job. A few Tartarus enforcement agents are busting up a group of junkie punks. Shaking them down for their money, and drugs. One of the agents catches me watching, and looks like he’s going 43


to say something, but passes. I stand there for a few more minutes staring at the agents, part of me hoping he says something to me. The enforcement agents could be consider like any old world police force, except they run themselves more like a military. Their the backbone of the Tartarus Corporation, the grunts who do all the dirty work, and use brute force to control the citizens of Necro. The agents finish shaking down the junkies. One of the junkies gets shot in the head, and they throw the other over the skywalk ledge, watching him fall to his death. They walk off towards their patrol A-T, laughing, and show off their new loot to each other. This isn’t a city where these agents will get in trouble for what they did. Fear is the tool the Tartarus Corporation uses to keep everyone in check. You disobey the rules, you talk back against the system, and you find a silver round through the middle of your head. I keep walking trying to mind my own business like everyone else. I feel like picking a fight with those agents, but I can’t afford the attention it would bring. “Titanium-plated combat shotgun, only two thousands credits. Fully modified and the controller chip taken out. The ID number has been burned out! Hurry, this deal won’t last long!”

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I don’t even look around. It’s probably a shitty lower-level copy that would fall apart after the first shot, leaving my head vulnerable for some asshole vampire to take it off. I’m not interested in letting that happen. I like my head where it is. The next vendor has a few enslaved sapiens that are being fed on by some vampires who can pay for that luxury. The vendor watches his product, a young male sapien, closely to make sure that the vampires don’t take too much blood as they’re feeding; he can’t have his source of income dying off after the first few customers. With advanced technology, a few stim packs will have that sapien’s wounds healed and blood back into his system in a few hours. Vendors give their sapiens out for food and patch them up for the next customer. Tables full of knives, swords, axes, and other bladed weapons are lined up underneath a tent. Next to the table stand a row of shackled human slaves, waiting to be picked out by any street junkie, drunken human shade, or just someone getting their jollies off. Once picked, the human slave gets to be the target of the latest combat move, the buyer using the various bladed weapons for rent on the table. Old-World tradition with the fucked-up flavor of the New World. Doggie bags are underneath the table, for leftovers. I can smell the blood soaked bags full 45


of organs and body parts waiting to be picked up. I only wish I could dangle the vendor over the edge of the skywalk, and hear him beg for his life before I let him go. I head past the skywalk’s twisted sideshow, up toward the Airtrak station. Train Number 4 is right on time, full of cheerful Necro citizens going home from a long day’s work. Most are shades, a nickname for the human pawns of vampires. Shades are the vampire wannabes, the shadows of vampires, who dress, and act like them, hoping to one day get turned through faithful service to individual vampires, or entire families. Most shades aren’t turned, but used for slave labor, or fed on. Very rarely have I heard of a shade actually getting turned into a vampire, poor bastards. The shades in the car are mostly dressed in suits and factory attire. A couple vampire junkies sit up front, tweaking off the latest type of ivory. The junkies keep rambling on about their latest score, a pure dosage of ivory. I turn around hoping they get the hint. One of them looks up, and I put my index finger to my mouth. “Shhhh. Shut the fuck up, or I’m going to put both of you junkies down when this train stops,” I say. They quiet down. A few of the shades give me a look like they want to stick up for the 46


vampire tweakers, but no one says anything to me. I’m not worried about anyone on this train except the Marax demons. They’re just as tough as they look, a creature not to be taken lightly. A few Marax demons sit in the back, massive creatures about nine to ten feet tall, black, hairy, and smelly, their bodies full of muscles, waiting for anyone to even look at them wrong. Their stench fills the whole car: burning shit, mixed with wet dog, and rotten eggs. All circulating throughout the Airtrak’s ventilation system. Great. Most talk basic English, what you might expect to hear from a four year old human child. I look at the one closest to me who seems to be staring out the window, oblivious to the world around him. His face resembles a man’s. From the torso up he has human qualities, just filled with too much muscle. The lower half is like a bull: two massive legs held up by hoofed feet. Black hair all over their legs, back, and arms. Two large horns on the top of their heads, and two massive fangs protrude from their mouth even when it’s closed. Not smart creatures, but tougher than an entire squad of vampires, and hard as hell to kill in a one-on-one fight, even by a changed werewolf.

47


He takes his stare away from the window, and moves his dark red eyes in my direction. He locks stares, and I can sense a hint of fight in him. They are pure bred warriors, created for the purpose of wreaking havoc on the battlefield. Just like werewolves. This Marax demon behind me wears a traditional family armor on his chest and torso— barbaric armor plating by today’s standards— but some choose to wear as little clothing as possible. Normally their weapon of choice is a combat-series shotgun on their back, and a battle ax or battle mace. This one has chosen a large combat shotgun, and a huge Celtic battle ax sits on his back. I see a brand on his neck, one of the local family families owns him. Marax demons aren’t much higher on the social scale then human slaves. Vampire families use them for bodyguards, or any jobs that take brute force. He goes back to staring at the window, and I turn around, realizing my stop is coming up soon. “Fifth and Twenty-third. Please exit, and do not block the doors,” cracks a voice over the train’s intercom system. Most of us get off at this stop. It’s the entertainment district, where these poor suckers are about to blow their hard-earned credits on women who could care less about them. Club 48


Zero looks like a massive ancient cathedral from the outside—probably some type of joke by the architect, but I don’t see it. The line stretches around the building, but the bouncer, a royal prick, knows me and likes me. “Hey, Dom, what’s up, bro? Haven’t seen you in a long time,” says the bouncer. One of my regular customers while I’m working my cover, a regular piece of shit junkie who pretends he’s not hooked on the dust. He grabs my hand and pulls me in for a shoulder-bump. “You got some of that good shit, Dom, like last time? That shit had me going for days, bro, days …” I slip him a vial of ivory gates. The meathead junkie lets me in, as the people in line flick me off. Fuck them. The club is built into two levels, the first floor being the main gathering area, with a bar, tables, and multiple platforms for the strippers. There are multiple vid monitors on the wall showing showcased videos of strippers in line to go on stage. The second floor houses a VIP club section, mostly for upper class socialites of the city. They can be seen through the atrium dining on humans, and looking down on the lower 49


class. The club is packed from wall to wall. It must be payday, or I missed the newsletter that Club Zero is the new hot spot. Club Zero is a “high-class” gentlemen’s club that doesn’t discriminate against species, and for the right amount of credits, anyone can have fun. The club is full of little sections: cliques who are trying to act important, Necro royalty, younger vampires from known families or clans, Tartarus Corp executives, demons, and humans. Some high-profile gangs from the lower levels are here too: the Cravers and the Brass Knuckles, two well-known gangs that include a mixture of vampires, demons, and even some humans wearing knock-off Exo suits, all trying to make a profit off the illegal weapon and drug trades throughout Necro. Some are my favorite customers. A few vampires are feeding on their enslaved sapiens in back VIP tables. The vampires let one sapien’s blood flow into wine glasses, and they all toast to the good life, as the sapien slowly dies on the seat next to them. One of the vampires waves to a waiter, and the drained sapien is carried off by the club’s staff. The dancers are mostly vampires, but a few drugged-up slaves move slowly on the pole they’re shackled to. Bite marks line their legs and arms. I spot Anya dancing for some suit, a top human executive at Tartarus. She sees me 50


and beelines to my location at the bar. Her tall and leggy frame is a sight to behold. With long dark hair, large breasts, a great ass, and a beautiful face she’s every creature’s fantasy. She would be the perfect woman if it weren’t for the addiction. The slight wear and tear of an addict is starting to show, but she hides it well with makeup. Whenever I need information Anya takes drugs for payment, never blood, or credits, just pure un-cut ivory. “Heya, Dom, what’ll it be tonight? The regular or something special?” “The works, babe.” She drags me back to the VIP room and sits me down in a chair nailed to the floor. The room is dark, with red drapes lining the ceiling and walls, creating a flowing feeling in the room. A few candles light the room, but not by much— just enough to make it interesting. Anya stinks of vampire and demon sweat, but she’s hot and almost naked, so I let it pass. “You called me here. What’s up? What’s the word?” I say. “Dom, I got a big one for ya, but it’s gonna cost ya.”

51


A bag full of red powder appears from my jacket pocket, and drops to the floor right in front of me. She turns and bends over to pick it up without bending her knees, her ass ten inches from my face the whole time. She runs over to the small table and cuts up a few lines, snorting the red powder just as quickly as she dumped it. “Oooooh, shit, Dom, did me good this time! Ooh, baby, this shit is good! Where did you get this?” says Anya, passionately letting the drug work its wonders to her system She’s moving her hand up and down her body; the effect of the red powder is kicking in. “Ivory gates”—the drug of choice in Necro. Crystallized blood turned into a fine powder and mixed with chemicals, some unknown corporation shit. Everyone knows Tartarus created this drug, but why would a junkie care? Anya is running her hands between her thighs and back up to her chest, squeezing her breasts and moaning. Her mind is having an ecstatic overload. The high different for everyone. A world of your wildest dreams. Maybe you’re running through a field with a bright blue sky and warm sun overhead, or maybe you’re surrounded by fifty human slaves ready for the taking. Whatever you most desire is what the 52


drug makes happen. There are no bad highs and no pink elephants, just pure bliss. The high only lasts a minute or two, and she’s back. The more you use, the quicker the high. Any junkie that hasn’t had a fix for a few days is a psychopathic killer, strong enough to make even me work up a sweat. Anya sips my drink and sits on my lap, rubbing up against my body. “You got a smoke?” she purrs at me over her shoulder. I pull the cigarette from my mouth and place it in hers. She inhales deeply and releases a long sigh. “A vampire captain from the enforcement squad came in last night. He was really high and couldn’t keep his hands off me.” She takes a few more drags and turns around to face me. Puts my cigarette back into my mouth. Her knee slides between my legs, and she whispers into my ear. “He was ranting and raving about topsecret intelligence, a high-priority mission he’s been given. Some V.E team patrolling the city for runaway sapiens came upon some kind of building in the sublevel of the city—in the ruins of the sapiens’ old city.”

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Her ass is in my lap again, my cigarette back in her mouth. “A bunker, he said, looked brand-new, and Casticus told him personally to find this bunker.” “Where can I find the captain?” “He walked through the door just after you. He’s armed and guarded by two Marax demons.” The vid monitor behind me shows different angles from the cameras in the club. The captain and his goons get all the stares. He must be a regular—and a big spender. Anya gives me a kiss on the cheek and skips out to the main room, where this captain is. She’s careful to close the silk curtain that serves as the VIP room’s front door. I take this time to find a hiding place—a good one that will keep me from getting stomped on by the captain’s guards. Room full of curtains … I make a place behind one of the curtains on the walls by slicing through it with my knife. It won’t work if he looks in this direction, but I’m hoping Anya will keep his attention focused elsewhere. I can hear her giggle getting closer, her high-heeled shoes tapping on the floor. I can smell the captain before he enters the room. 54


Anya places him on the chair, teasing him the same way she did with me seconds before. He’s drunk and trying to talk about his job with the enforcement squad. I can smell the grease in his hair, and it’s obvious he wants everyone to know he’s important from the amount of gold jewelry he has on. His expensive suit screams money. “I manage over three hundred squads, each with four officers. I don’t need to ask for respect. They just give it to me.” He slaps her ass and licks the side of her face. She was right. He can’t keep his hands to himself. His back is to me, and he’s continuing his macho speech about power when I wrap my arm around his throat and put him in a sleeper hold. The captain is out in a few seconds; his body slides from the chair onto the floor. I check his clothes to see if he has anything of importance on him. Some credits, a pack of blood, some ivory—then I find it. His A-T transmitter: not as good as a memory core, but hopefully this will take me to where one is. Anya runs back up to the front, closing the curtain behind her. The captain’s guards are too busy with the vampire asses shaking two feet in front of them to realize that through the 55


thin silk curtain their boss is slung over my shoulder and being carried out the rear entrance of the club. I activate his transmitter, and his personal A-T pulls up at the rear docking bay. I throw his limp body into one of the storage compartments and hop in the cockpit, engage autopilot, and enjoy the ride. This captain’s A-T is a step up from the Imperial Cruisers I normally ride in. It looks new, or barely used, full of upgraded technology and parts. I wouldn’t mind driving this bad boy every day. The A-T is flying through the upper levels of the city, meant for those with money, power, and connections. Docked in his personal bay, I drag the captain’s body through his apartment. The place is clean and smells fresh, with white metallic walls and floors - a lot nicer than I thought it would be. Modern furniture and technology are everywhere, giving the appearance that this captain is very wealthy—or knows the right people. Probably a little of both. But I’d bet that a lot of the wealth isn’t from his paycheck. The captain is waking up now, tied to a chair in the safe room where he keeps all of his weapons. I can see his eyes focusing. The bright light close to his face is confusing him. He looks down at the metal spikes rammed through each thigh, pinning him into the chair he’s sitting on. He notices the wires connected to those spikes, 56


and his eyes follow them up, all the way up to the wall, part of which has been ripped out. The wires are connected to the alarm system for the safe room. I step into his view. “The alarm has been deactivated,” I tell him. pleasantly, “but since the door is wide open, a simple touch of this button here will set it off. The sound generators are ripped out, but the electricity will flow through the system, then down the wires connected to those spikes. Once that happens, thousands of volts of electricity will fuck your entire body up. And if you don’t talk, I’ll keep it going until you burst into flames and roast to death in that chair.” “Mphf … Mmmphf!” “What? I can’t hear you. Speak up!” I press the button and hear the electricity work its way down the wires and into his legs. The captain’s screams are muffled by the grenade taped inside his mouth. “What did the V.E team find? Where is the bunker? I need exact location coordinates, or you’re gonna roast right here.” The captain continues to remain silent, so I leave him to think, and head out towards the 57


living room. Various pictures with elite socialites line the walls, bragging rights for his ego, and gangster friends. I notice a plaque on the wall, and can remember his name from a few clients of mine who bought weapons. They said this captain is a bit of a drug lord on the side, and a good amount of the junkies who buy from him are scared of him. I recall stories of him torturing his customers who went to cheaper dealers. I head to the kitchen to grab a cold beer. I can see my hostage sitting in the chair, thinking of a way to escape - but I won’t let that happen. I head over to try and get the information I need from him, it’s time to step it up a bit. “Ok, so here are your options. The first option is you tell me what I need to know, and I don’t kill you. The second option is I torture you to death until you do tell me, but by that time whatever you tell me may just be induced by shock, and I won’t know what to believe,” I take a swig of the beer from his fridge. I can tell by the look in his eyes that he wants to play hard ball, he thinks he’s a badass, and can take whatever I throw at him. Bad move on his part. I take out a small flashlight from my pocket, and point it in his direction 58


“You ready to talk?” I say. What appears to be a smirk fills his face, and I turn the flashlight on. The ultraviolet beam burns through his flesh and muscle, starting a small fire where I placed the beam on his left shoulder. He continues to cry out through the grenade taped to this mouth. I damp the fire out with my hand. He lowers his head, and shakes it back and forth. We go through a couple more rounds of flashlight torture, and I leave the room to grab another cold beer. When I come back his eyes immediately focus on the flashlight in my hand, and back up at me. I can tell he’s breaking down. Werewolves aren’t hurt by UV rays, but from what I hear for a vamp it feels similar to dipping your flesh in molten metal, which happened to me once, and took almost a year to heal from. Hurt like hell too. The beer goes down nice and smooth. I pull out a cigarette and light it, blowing the smoke in the captain’s face. He seems to take in the smoke as if it’s the last time he’ll ever experience a good cigarette. I remove the grenade from the captain’s mouth. I put the cigarette in his mouth and let him take a few drags. 59


“You need to tell me where the information I need is, or it’s going to get a lot worse for you. Do you understand?” I say. The captain says nothing, he just nods his head slowly, and with a slight nod of his head. I follow and see his personal data terminal. A quick search through recent messages, and I find what I’m looking for in an encrypted message. Everything gets downloaded onto the memory core I’ve been carrying in my pocket. “When is this mission supposed to go down, and how many enforcers were you planning on taking?” He keeps his silence again, but looks up to me with desperate eyes, a final plea to let him go. I have no sympathy for his kind. The captain’s screams and pleas for help are muffled once again. I can barely hear him once I’m in the hallway outside his apartment, heading toward the A-T bay. I can see the captain through the window, his chair frantically bouncing up and down as he tries to inch himself toward the door, the grenade taped to the inside of his mouth visible from out here. In seconds the apartment erupts. A wave of fire bursts through the windows, the brightly glowing flames destroying everything inside—the last remains of the captain burning and being 60


scattered throughout his apartment, a melted mess. The A-T continues to fly me back through the city along the same route we took to get here. I can’t help but think of the captain’s desperate eyes pleading to let him go. A creature who built his career off torturing those around him for pure pleasure was reduced to a frightened excuse of a warrior after a few minutes of torture. These vampires aren’t gods. They are simply men and women who gave or lost their souls to hell for the exchange of immortality, and the appearance of gods. They can be broken, and if I have to go through half of the vampires in this city to get what I need, and turn the war towards our favor then I will do just that. I ditch the A-T back at Club Zero, leaving a nice detonating present for the guards who will try to activate it, wondering where their boss went. I’m calling a cab. I need to get home and then back to Babylon to find out what’s on this memory core.

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Hounds of Heaven