We have arrived in the observation region and begun taking exploratory samples of water chemistry. Results will be included. We have also begun the preparations to deploy the deep-sea rover.
Have located a swarm of sea jellies. This swarm will serve as the first data point for our study. The swarm contains hundreds of individual sea jellies and we have set an undergrad to counting them.
I send the undergrad down to medical. I think she’s hallucinating. She swears one of the jellies exited the water. I’m going to check the tapes tomorrow and see what happened.
She was right. I don’t know what I’m seeing, but she was right. Worse, they did it more than once. I’m setting up more cameras. I need to send this data home and hope someone else can make something from it.
Vessel is being swarmed by jellies now. They’re in the air. Have barricaded ourselves below decks. Two of the crew were stung and they’re down in medical. It looks bad.
They may be flying, but at least the damn things haven’t learned to open doors yet. I radioed for help but I don’t think they believe me. All I can hope is that someone finds our footage and figures out what to do before these things swarm the mainland.
Demons weren’t hard to track, but they were hard to pin down. Locating the depravity they left in their wake was easy. The hallmarks of demonic presence in Whitechapel were plain to see, bolstered and nurtured by the poverty. It was left, though, to Daniel Voss to figure out which of the thousands of people in the city were the demons he sought and which were simply human monsters. There were so many of that latter group that it was hard to be certain. Then again, that was another sign of the presence of the creatures.
Daniel strode down the street keeping his head down. He carried a leather case that bore his tools, but far more important at this stage was the pocket watch he wore. Passed down through the generations of his family, that watch was what truly enabled Daniel and the entire Voss line to hunt demons as they did. Stopping on the corner, he checked his watch. The hands showed only the time. But wait. For just a moment, the watch face flickered red and the hands spun to guide him. One of the demons was near.
Quickly, he made a plan. It was nearly nightfall. He could identify the demonic host and then come back to deal with them once he wouldn’t be seen.
Part 1 can be found here
Her bass drum heart boomed so loudly the band on the stage could have used it to keep time. The trumpet crooned and the snare drum begged her to follow her dreams across the room to the beautiful brunette leaning against the bar. She took one last sip and set her glass down on the table. Pulling her courage on, she hummed along as she wove through the crowds. Stepping in alongside, she smiled and held out a small bunch of lavenders.
“How’s about a dance, sweetheart?”
The brunette turned, smiling shyly as she took in the flower and the suited woman offering it. Taking it, she slid away from the bar and tucked it into her hair in a fluid motion.
The night went on like that, with laughing and dancing until the midnight hour approached. The doors were suddenly flung open, church bells tolling the midnight hour somewhere in the distance. Heads snapped up all over the room as the lights came up and the police poured in. She turned, meaning to run together, but the brunette was gone. All that was left were their memories. She had no time, though, to worry about that. She had to make it out before she got caught.
“I didn’t get her name.” The realization hit her like a truck as she stepped into her small apartment. “Dammit!”
Running her fingers through her short blond hair, she wondered if they would ever see each other again. But it was so unlikely. So unlikely that it hurt. With a sigh, her shoulder slumped and she hung her coat by the door. Leaning against the wall, she wondered. That club would be closed for a while after the raid. How could she possibly know which one to go to to find her again? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack or trying to find Cinderella without her glass slipper. Hopeless.
Cataclysm wavered where she stood and fell to her knees. She was out of tricks, exhausted, and overwhelmingly done. That meant Vanguard had won again. She looked up at him, ready to surrender, and realized something was wrong. The look on his face. Eyes wide in shock, mouth open. What was happening? What was he looking at like that? Suddenly he stepped in front of her, arms thrown wide.
“What? What are you talking about?”
His voice cracked as he spoke again.
“Just…just stay down. I won’t let them. I won’t let them do this.”
She stared up at him and realized there was a single tear rolling down his cheek.
“I always thought they’d listen to me. I’ve always believed in you, that someday you’d listen and stop all of this. I…I guess they didn’t believe.”
He was shaking.
“Vanguard, what are you talking about?”
Her voice was hard with fear and confusion and he just looked at her, his own eyes full of sorrow.
“There’s a sniper on the roof behind me. Right now, they’re trying to decide if I’m an acceptable loss in taking you down for good.”
“But.” She faltered. “You’re a hero! You’re their hero. Why would they do that? How do you know?”
He hesitated and reached to brush her auburn hair away from her forehead.
“I saw the laser sight. I’m so sorry. If I’d known… If I had any idea.”
Cataclysm reached up and pulled her mask off.
“Jamie. My…my name is Jamie Fisher. Tell them I’ll stop. I’ll surrender. Hell, I’ll become a hero, if that’s what they want. But I’m not worth you dying over.”
Vanguard relaxed slightly and started to move, reaching for the radio that would let him speak to the police. Then a single world shattering crack tore through the sky and he fell. Cataclysm stared in horror as his white body armor began to turn red.
Catherine called Katie plugged her ears with headphones and sound, ignoring with frustration the history surrounding her. She didn’t want to be here, nestled in Tudor walls. When her parents had said they were going to England on vacation, she had dreamed of the shopping in London, of partying in the clubs, and maybe even seeing a rugby match. Instead, her parents had declared that the trip would be a good chance to see history. She snorted. History. Yeah, right.
The gallery was a long one, full of paintings and ornately carved wood. It seemed like the sort of place her parents would linger for hours, so Katie picked a spot she hoped was out of the way and waited, idly gazing at a portrait and listening to her music.
The music died suddenly, leaving Kate suspended in a heavy, sorrowing silence. She signed and pulled her headphones off. No point keeping them on if her battery was dead, after all. That was when she heard the footsteps behind her. Turning around, Katie expected to see her mother, maybe her father, maybe even another tourist. She did not expect to be alone.
But a moment later, she wasn’t alone. A young woman burst into the space in front of her, reaching for Katie almost desperately. She grabbed Katie’s shoulders fiercely, their faces close.
“Please, please you have to help me. I must reach the chapel. I beg you, please.”
Katie tried to pull away and the strange girl’s grip tightened.
“Don’t leave me to their mercy, I beg you. They’ll kill me.” She was crying, tears running down her pale cheeks. “I only need speak with my husband, the king. If I can but speak to him, he’ll understand. He will see my innocence. I’m certain of it. But I must reach the chapel.”
Terror gripped Katie and she labored to breathe. Somehow, she was certain that not all of this fear was her own.
“Who…who are you?”
The young woman rocked back on her heels, surprised.
“I am Lady Catherine Howard.”
For a long moment, the two Catherines merely watched each other and Katie’s hands trembled. It was then that Katie grabbed Catherine’s hand.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the chapel. I guess.”
“Thank you! Oh, thank you. I will never forget your kindness.”
Just as she’d appeared, Catherine Howard was gone again. She didn’t fade, simply vanished. Katie stood there for a moment, trying to catch her breath, to understand what had just happened to her. Footsteps sounded in the hall and she looked up, expecting to see Catherine again.
“Uh…yeah, Mom.” Katie paused, looking around curiously. “So…uh… Do you know where the royal chapel is?”
He didn’t know what the package sitting in his trunk was and he didn’t need to know. Knowing was dangerous. Knowing made you suspicious when you made it to border checkpoints. Certainly, you couldn’t be too calm when you crossed or the border guards would notice. They always did. Just the right amount of innocence mixed with caution. That was the ticket. Everyone was doing something wrong, something forbidden. Just don’t look like you’re doing something big. Rolling down his window, he saluted the guards and then put his hands both back on the wheel.
“Anything to declare?”
The guard leaned in, a frown on her face but her expression otherwise masked by mirrored sunglasses.
“Trying to be a smart alec?”
“No, sir. Uh…Ma’am.”
She looked into the back seat and then nodded.
“Move on through.”
Relieved, he drove past the checkpoint. Now his curiosity could be piqued, he could pull off in the no man’s land and find out what he was carrying. After all, the true destination would be on the package.
He pulled off onto a side road and drove for a bit longer before he got out and opened the trunk. A small girl blinked up at him, her brown eyes solemn.
“Are we there, Mister?”
“What do we do?”
His voice was quiet, barely a whisper tucked in at my side. Looking down, I could see that his whole body was shaking. Or was it mine? We were pressed so tightly in that darkness that it was hard to tell.
“We’ll be alright, Danny, I promise. Just…just trust me.”
It was a lie. The look in his eyes, though, the way they shone. He believed me. That was the worst part of it. He believed me. I put an arm around the little boy’s shoulders and tried to think. 500 yards, a barbed wire fence, two guard towers with searchlights, and guard patrols. That was assuming they didn’t have the horrors out tonight. My promise weighed heavily on my heart as I stood.
“Come on, see that window? I’m going to hoist you up.”
We’d never make it. It was too far, we were too weak, and he was too small. They would see him, they would see me. And even if we made it, what then? I heard a sound and grabbed his arm. Crunching. Something was crunching nearby. Almost like something moving over gravel. Offering up a silent prayer to whoever might be listening, I hung on the window ledge and looked out. The outer perimeter was on fire and a line of tanks was bearing down. It was impossible and yet there it was. Freedom.
“Wait, wait, go back. You like me? Like me like me?”
Slowly, I lowered my deathray and stared at Captain Courageous. He had a wry smile on his face and a bit of a blush under his mask.
“I know, it was a surprise to me too.” Taking a step towards me, he slung his shield on his back again. “To be perfectly honest, before I met you I’d never even…” He took a breath and looked me up and down. “I’d never considered that I might-”
“What?” I cut in, grinning. “That you might be capable of love? That you might have a crush on a villain?”
He reached out and grabbed the front of my costume.
“That I might be gay.”
My breath caught in my chest and then I let my deathray fall from my fingers as I reached for him.
It had been so many years ago that she had gone to the ball. So long that it seemed like nothing more than a dream. Only the memories could tell her that it had really happened. Hadn’t the carriage faded back into a pumpkin? And the gown to nothing but tatters? Even the glass slippers had faded into nothing, leaving her feet once again bare. The Prince had seen her run, had given chase. He had found the lost slipper but it had disintegrated in his hands as the bell tolled one. Gone was hope. Gone was a chance to leave her miserable life. Gone was Ella. Only the Cinder Girl remained. Everything else was a fairy tale, a distant hope perched on a long forgotten shelf in her mind where she danced and whirled in the arms of the Prince until the hours grew late. It was nothing but a dream that tasted like ash and cinders.
“Have you ever noticed,” he started, leaning forward on the bench to light his cigarette. “This shit never starts on a normal night. No one ever says ‘oh, it was a quiet evening when all them corpses came shooting up out the ground.’ No, sir. It’s always a dark and stormy night when the dogs are howling and lightning cracks the sky.”
I leaned back, trying to ignore the smoke. Mack was my senior partner. I couldn’t exactly tell him to cut it out. The smokes or the tales. He was like that. It was why he kept getting stuck with the newest guard walking a beat. None of the folks with seniority would take him. Of course, it didn’t help that his last partner had ended up throat-cut and left in a ditch. Not that anyone blamed Mack. That’s just what you did when your partner turned into a soul-sucker. Me? I wasn’t going to get turned, and I wasn’t going to ditch Mack for a desk or a partner with less odd in them. He was one of the best at getting results in a job where most of us died or got turned. He tapped the top of the silver stake holstered at his side and I wondered briefly just how many soul-suckers he’d gotten with that thing. Or how many soulless he’d taken out with the axe holstered on his other side.
Those were our normal kit. A silver stake for the soul-suckers, a steel axe for the soulless, and zip cords for the thralls. They weren’t strong enough to require more than that. Add on light armor to cover all the major arteries and we were pretty well equipped for the job.
“When it starts, sure, but it happens all the time. Any night and sometimes during the day, if it’s dark enough.”
“Aye. Them damn tunnels. And whoever thought traveling underground was safe? Too close to the devils down in Hell.”
Sunlight stopped soul-suckers, but artificial lights did nothing. Didn’t even annoy them, more’s the pity. Standing, Mack took a long drag on his cigarette and turned to look at me.
“Come on, kid. We’ve got a tunnel on this patrol and I’m keen to give it the monthly clear-out before we find out we’ve got ourselves a breeding den or some such.”