Tiras

Bonus Interlude – Joselyn Edge Visions

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1918

Her name was Joselyn Atherby. She had just turned seventeen a few weeks earlier, and now she was going to save the world.

Not from the Krauts. The Great War would be over soon, as the Allies had already pushed the Germans back to the Hindenburg line right around the same time as that birthday. No, this was an entirely different threat than the one which had been ripping the world apart for so long. This was a threat that very few knew of, let alone could do anything about.

Monsters. Evil creatures hiding within humanity’s own backyards, hunting and killing them from the shadows. And only very few select people could see and combat them.

Today, Joselyn would become one of those people.

She had always known that her parents weren’t her real parents. Dustin and Fiona Ossiler had always made it clear that, as much as they loved her, she was adopted. She called them Mom and Dad, they treated her as a daughter, but they were also honest with her as soon as she was old enough to understand.

They had also made it clear that her ‘Grandpa Zed’ was the man who had arranged her adoption. Zedekiah Pericles had visited at least once a month the whole time that Joselyn had been growing up, coming for dinner or just to talk for a little bit. Sometimes he took her fishing, or roller skating. She loved her Grandpa Zed.

And it was he who finally told her the truth, that her parents were Heretics. He told her what Heretics were, and that she could be one if she wanted to. Of course she had agreed, and the man had brought her to Crossroads. That was the year before. They’d come and gone several times, as he showed her around and told her what it would be like when she finally started attending in September.

Now she was here. Finally, after all this time, after all the anticipation, she was in the lighthouse with the Heretical Edge. Professor Gaia Sinclaire had just finished explaining everything that Joselyn already knew, and was telling them to prepare for the visions that would come as they were turned from ordinary humans into people who could actually fight the monsters.

The light came, blinding in its intensity. And when it began to fade, she heard a voice cry out, “Tiras, down!”

Whipping her head that way, she was just in time to see a young blonde woman around her age rear back and hurl a spear directly at her. A flash of terror shot her heart up into her throat,and she let out a reflexive scream before the spear passed harmlessly through her. It was just like Professor Sinclaire had said, they weren’t really there. It was like a dream.

All of that passed through her mind while she spun back to look at where the spear had gone. The thing had impaled itself through the body of a tall, white-furred creature with an incredibly ugly and misshapen face, which was tilted toward the sky as it howled in pain.

Monster. Real monster. It was Joselyn’s first real look at one, and her mouth fell open at the sight, even as she took a reflexive step back. A quiet whimper of terror escaped the young woman while she tried to tell herself that it couldn’t hurt her, that it couldn’t even see her. She wasn’t really there.

But the monster. The monster was bellowing. It reached back, yanking the spear from its back as it twisted to face the girl who had thrown it. The girl who was right then sprinting through Joselyn, which was a disturbing experience all by itself. Recovering quickly, her gaze snapped that way to see the big, white-furred thing give a terrible roar as it swiped a massive clawed paw at the girl who was racing toward it. But the girl’s hand snapped up to catch the incoming paw. Joselyn heard a dangerous wolf-like growl coming from her, before she lashed out with her other hand. Claws had appeared on the end of her fingers, which were driven past the heavy fur and deep into the monster’s chest.

It reared back, stumbling even as the girl released the monster’s wrist to catch her spear as it fell from the his grip. Her other hand was still extended, claws buried in the beast’s chest, and she used that to hoist herself up high enough to drive the spear through its neck with enough force that the blade went all the way through from one side to the other. Finally releasing her grip on its chest, the girl instead caught her spear from both sides of where it had impaled the monster’s throat. She brought her feet up to its chest and then kicked backwards off of it to hurl herself away. In the process, she literally tore the thing’s throat out with the shaft of the spear.

Some distant part of Joselyn almost reflexively thought she should catch the girl before she fell. But the vast majority of her was entirely too occupied with staring at the gory sight in front of her while a horrified scream tried to erupt from her. She had already stumbled backward, hand covering her mouth as she stared in shock. The girl… her… her ancestor? Her ancestor had just killed that monster like that. It was a vicious kill, one that reminded Joselyn of the pictures she had seen of… of bodies in the war.

The beast collapsed, even as her ancestor landed nimbly on both feet. Her hands had returned to normal, and she slowly straightened up. For a moment, the two stood facing one another. And despite everything she had been told, Joselyn couldn’t shake the undeniable feeling that her ancestor was staring directly at her. Their gazes locked, and something… finally clicked in a way that it had yet to up to this point.

This was her relative, her ancestor. Whoever she was, this was a blood relative, someone she was related to. This… this incredible girl who had single-handedly destroyed that monster was related to her.

Joselyn felt intimidated and awed in equal measure. Her throat closed up, and she tears rushed to her eyes in that moment. For so long, she had wanted to know about her real family, her only idea of them being that they had sacrificed themselves to defeat an invasion of monsters. But now… now she could look into this girl’s gaze. She could see herself in it. And somehow… somehow she knew this wasn’t just an ancestor several times removed from her. This was someone far closer to her. This was…

“Mother…”

The word left Joselyn’s lips in a whisper, and in turn she saw the other girl open her mouth. Once more the thought that she was actually there and that her ancestor–her mother was going to respond to her rose in her mind.

But her name didn’t come. Instead, the girl’s mouth finished opening and she blurted that same word that she had before. “Tiras!”

It was only after her mother raced past her once more (Joselyn twisted out of the way to avoid the sensation of being run through) that she realized who the other girl was calling to. Just beyond the dead beast’s collapsed body, a man slouched against the nearby tree. One of many. They were in a forest of some kind, Joselyn belatedly realized now that she had a chance to look around at things other than the big white monster or her mother. The man himself was almost disturbingly handsome, and the teenage girl’s heart beat faster for a reason entirely different from the fight she had just witnessed. He had strong Indian features, and even grimacing in pain as he was, the man looked incredible.

Oh, right, her ancestor. Joselyn’s eyes snapped back to the girl just as she reached the spot where the man was. He had slumped all the way to the ground, and the young woman went down to one knee. Her hand moved to an obvious wound in his chest. “Are you–are you…” The fear in her voice was obvious, and Joselyn almost forgot herself by stepping over to help.

“I’ll be fine, kid.” The man’s response was immediate, though he definitely didn’t sound fine. His voice was weak, and he gave a grimace of pain. “Just… gotta let it run its course.”

“Run its course?” the other girl demanded. “That thing was meant for you, Tiras. That poison on its claws, that was meant for an Akharu. They’re sending things specifically to kill you now.”

An Akharu? Joselyn was confused. What was an Akharu? Was that his… tribe? Why would poison work better on someone from a specific tribe?

The man managed a weak smile at that. “Not an Akharu. A vampire. I’m a little more than that, Virginia. Just because I make vampires doesn’t mean what kills them will kill me.”

… Wait. Wait. Make vampires? What… what was he talking about? An Akharu made vampires? Why would her mother be working with someone who made vampires? Joselyn couldn’t understand. Her mind was reeling, as she staggered backward.

The blinding light was back. It enveloped everything, and then Joselyn was back in the lighthouse. Back with everyone else.

“Hey, Jos!” The boy she had just met, Deveron, was grinning at her. His too-large nose and ears, skinny frame, and gawky expression was immediately endearing. “Did you see something good?”

“Good?” Joselyn echoed, the confusion fresh on her mind as she started to blurt a demand. “Why the hell would my…”

She trailed off, and Deveron, who had taken a reflexive step back, blinked at her. “Err… why the hell would what?”

Joselyn blinked. Then she blinked again. What… had she been so upset and confused by? “I…” Her head shook. “Nothing, yeah, I saw my… ancestor kill this monster with white fur.”

Ancestor… what did she look like again? The face was a blur, but the hair was… blonde, right? She was pretty sure it was blonde. Had there been someone else there? She thought there was someone else there.

Oh well, the Edge had apparently done its job, so who cared? Joselyn was ready to train and kill monsters herself now.

Whoever her ancestor was, it probably wasn’t very important anyway.

*******

2007

She remembered. Gods, she remembered everything. Joselyn remembered the friendships, the… the love. She remembered Deveron. She remembered her other children. Where were they now? Were they alive? Were they happy?

She remembered the war. She remembered what Ruthers had done. She remembered surrendering to save her children. All of it. She remembered all of it.

And that was all thanks to the monster in front of her. Fossor. He had brought her back into things, had forced her to remember who she really was just before he planned to take her Felicity away to do Gods only knew what to her.

So Joselyn had once more surrendered herself, had volunteered herself to take Felicity’s place. She could never allow her daughter to be alone with that monster, could never have lived with herself knowing that Felicity was out there being brought up by the amoral necromancer. So she had come instead, had voluntarily subjected herself to a ritual that bound her to obey the man, so long as he left with her instead of Felicity, and didn’t willingly allow any harm to come to her until she was eighteen.

Eighteen. That would give her time to get a message to Gabriel Prosser somehow. Or he would just take Felicity and Lincoln in once it was clear that she had disappeared.

Now, Fossor wanted her to be a Heretic again. Why, precisely, she didn’t know. To be his guard dog/soldier, no doubt. But what exactly was his plan? Joselyn didn’t know. All she knew was that to protect her daughter, she had to keep her end of the magical bargain. And that meant eating the Eden’s Garden apple that would restore her ability to gain powers through killing things. It wouldn’t restore all the powers that she’d had before, but she had a feeling Fossor had a plan for dealing with that as well.

At least… the normal powers. She was absolutely certain that he had no way of forcing the Edge itself to restore her connection to the Committee. That was beyond even him.

Still, she had to eat the apple, had to become a true Heretic again. And as she did so, Joselyn felt the light start to rise up across her vision once more. Once more, she was thrust back into a vision of her ancestor.

The light faded away, and Joselyn was standing in a burned out field of some kind. Smoldering ruins of buildings were nearby, while all that lay beneath her feet was charred ground and scattered, scorched rock. At a sound, Joselyn raised her gaze and found herself looking at… herself.

It was herself as a tiny child, a toddler, yet she knew without a doubt that the little girl being held up in strong arms was her. She just knew.

The man holding her looked like Michael Landon from his Little House On The Prairie days. Handsome, strong, with a head full of dark curly hair. Dad. He was her dad, her father.

“I wish we had more time,” the man murmured, while cradling the young Joselyn to himself. His strong hand tenderly brushed through her hair.

“There would never be enough time.” The response came not from the tiny Joselyn, of course. It came from a woman standing behind the adult Joselyn. She turned, just in time to see a familiar blonde woman step past her.

Virginia Dare. That was Virginia Dare. Gaia’s protege, whom she had brought to the school as a teacher after taking over as Headmistress. Which was after Joselyn’s time there, but she still knew the woman. They’d met a couple times, had seen each other mostly from a distance. What was… what was… she…

She remembered. Her first vision. Joselyn remembered that first vision, of her mother… of Virginia Dare with Tiras. Her mother. Virginia Dare was her mother.

The shock of that realization struck with the force of thunder through her entire body, even as Dare continued softly. “We could have a thousand years together, and it wouldn’t be enough.” As she spoke, the woman raised both hands. One touched the young Joselyn’s hair while the other brushed across the man’s face.

“I know.” The man’s two-word response cracked from emotion as he put one arm around the woman to pull her closer. The two stood there together with their daughter held between them. For a few long seconds, neither said anything, until the tiny Joselyn’s plaintive voice blurted out, “Squishing, Mommy!”

With a laugh that was almost crying, Dare stepped back a bit. “Sorry, baby,” she murmured in a weak voice before turning her attention to Joselyn’s father.

Joshua. Joselyn knew that much. Her father’s name was Joshua Atherby.

“The longer we…” Dare’s eyes closed briefly before opening once more as she clearly forced the words out past a dam of emotion. “The longer we wait, the more people will die.”

Oh no. Oh no, that’s what this was. That’s what today was. This was the day that Joselyn’s parents sacrificed themselves, her father losing his life and her mother losing her identity as his wife. They sacrificed their family to stop the Fomorian invasion. This was their last moment together. And Joselyn was seeing it, mere… mere hours after leaving her own family behind.

This was too much. It was too much, too fast.

But it kept going. From the side, a portal opened and two figures emerged. Joselyn immediately recognized them. One was Gaia Sinclaire herself. The other was Zedekiah Pericles, her Grandpa Zed.

“It’s time,” Gaia spoke softly, regret and remorse audible in her voice. “The spell is prepared, and if we wait any longer, the Fomorian line will overwhelm the token defenses we left in place. If we wait, they will escape Desoto.”

Desoto, the state that Gaia had been baroness of before… before sacrificing it to help halt the Fomorian invasion. That’s where they were, likely as close to the actual original Fomorian entrance portal as they could get.

Joshua held the young Joselyn up, meeting her gaze as his voice broke. “You be good, okay, Jossy? Papa loves you. You know that?” His words sounded almost… desperate. He needed his baby to know that he loved her.

“I love you, Papa! Jossy good girl!” Her younger self insisted, before wrapping both arms around his neck tightly. “Jossy stay, Papa!”

It was horrible. Through the tears that half-blinded her, the older Joselyn watched as Dare took her from Joshua, then hugged her tightly. “Baby. My baby…”

“Mama, want Papa.” Joselyn squirmed in her mother’s grip. “Wanna go with Papa!”

It broke something deep inside of Joselyn to hear herself say that, and she could see the same thing break in both of her parents, each for different reasons. Joshua’s daughter wanted him, but he was about to sacrifice his life. Dare was about to sacrifice her identity, about to sacrifice her own daughter’s memories of her… and that daughter was trying to squirm away from her. Even if Joselyn hadn’t understood what was going on at the time, seeing that… seeing that made her feel a deep pit of shame in her stomach.

Dare held her daughter tightly for a moment despite her protests, kissing her forehead and whispering something tender to her before passing the girl to Zedekiah carefully. “Make sure she’s safe,” Dare insisted, her voice equally broken. “Make her safe.”

“We will,” Gaia and Zedekiah promised, the former stepping forward to touch Dare’s arm.

“My girl… my… I am so sorry. I am sorry that you must do this. This is… not… fair.”

Dare’s lips trembled, before she shook her head. “The Fomorians don’t care about fair. Go. Take her. We’ll finish here.”

“When the spell completes, you will be teleported back behind the line,” Gaia reminded her, sounding as if she just wanted to say something, even if everyone clearly already knew that. “You will be brought to safety.”

She left unsaid, of course, the fact that Joshua would not.

Gaia and Zedekiah left with the young Joselyn, leaving Dare and Joshua alone (save for the adult Joselyn secretly watching through the vision). The two faced one another, taking each other into their arms before holding tight.

“I love you, Josh,” Virginia quietly murmured as she clung to her husband.

“My Ginny… “ Joshua murmured back, pressing his forehead to hers. “I love you. I will always love you. We don’t have forever, but if we remember, we can turn now into eternity.”

Raising her eyes to meet her husband’s, Virginia whispered softly, “I will remember. I will always remember.”

They said nothing else. With the time that was left, the two held one another. Their lips met one last time. Joselyn stood there, watching as her mother and father spent their last few seconds together joined together in one final kiss.

Then Dare was gone. Her body vanished from Joshua’s grip, leaving the man standing alone. Alone, that was, save for the Joselyn. But she wasn’t truly there. She couldn’t offer her father anything.

“If you’re there…” Joshua’s sudden voice startled Joselyn, and her gaze snapped up to find her father looking off into the distance away from her as he continued. “I want you to know that I love you.”

Who… who was he… talking to?

“Maybe I’m talking to myself. Maybe the Edge won’t show you this. But if it does. If it shows you this moment, I want you to know that I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you.”

Her. He was talking to her. He was talking to the older Joselyn just in case she saw a vision of him, of this moment. That realization struck the woman with such force that she physically staggered, hand reaching her mouth.

“I adore you, my Joselyn. My brave little girl. And no matter who you grew up to be, I am proud of you. Be strong. Be brave. Be everything that I know you already are. Because you are my daughter. Always… always know without any doubt, that I am your father.

“And I love you.”

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Interlude 2 – Tiras and Asenath

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July 2nd, 1803

“Higher, papa! I wanna go higher!”

The plea was followed by a loud squeal of happiness as Asenath’s father gave the rope she was clinging to a mighty shove, sending the eight-year-old girl swinging nearly to the top of the tree that the sturdy line hung from. It took barely a fraction of the man’s strength to propel her that far, while the tree’s slight groan of protest at the force was masked beneath the exhilarated cry of pure childish glee.

“Again, again, again!” Joyfully, the girl pled for another swing, and was rewarded with one more solid shove that sent her even higher. This time, however, the branch made its objections to the force known in the most dramatic way possible. It snapped off the tall tree entirely with a near-deafening crack.

Asenath’s happy cry turned into one of fear as she lost her grip on the rope and went flying through the air, her small body tumbling haphazardly end over end. She arced up and over several bushes before dropping toward the rocky ground that marked the very edge of her family’s property.

Before she could crash down, however, there was a blur of motion so fast that it was almost impossible to follow. Her father appeared directly beneath the girl, catching her easily in his strong arms, absorbing the impact without harm by pulling his child to his chest and taking a single step back.

Upon realizing that she hadn’t splattered against the rocks after all, Asenath brightened and wrapped her arms around her father’s neck in a tight, clinging hug. “Papa! You’re fast, Papa.”

Smiling, the man called Tiras went down to one knee while setting his child on her feet. Then he leaned back to examine her. His daughter’s features were a clear mix of races. Most prominent was her mother’s Chinese heritage, though a bit of his own face could be seen as well.

His own face. Most would have said that the man who called himself Tiras hailed from the Cherokee tribes, whose lands were only a week or so ride away. That assumption, however, would have been utterly wrong. Tiras had been born much further away than most would ever come close to imagining.

Tiras was not human. His birthplace lay in another realm, another world entirely removed from this one. To those in this world, he would have been considered a monster. And perhaps he was, in a way. His strength, speed, and other gifts were far from ordinary to the inhabitants of this quaint society.

But by far his most monstrous feature was the man’s incredible hunger, his undeniable need for one thing: the blood of the inhabitants of this world that he had found himself living among.

Upon the world that Tiras had been born, his people were a race of warriors known as the Akharu. One of four separate intelligent races that warred constantly for the meager scraps of resources that their world retained, the Akharu managed to claim the throne of the world, an act that granted them relative immortality. They would not die naturally, and an unnatural death could only be achieved through extremely rigorous actions, usually requiring the complete dismemberment and disintegration of their body. Most wounds would heal extremely quickly, and their other powers grew exponentially.

It should have meant the end to eons of battles as the Akharu established dominion over their rival races. Unfortunately, not all of those races were content to allow the Akharu to win so easily. Another race, the Vestil, pooled their impressive magic in one last desperate bid toward victory. Their efforts could not undo the power that Tiras’s people had gained, but they could force a curse upon their hated rivals. This curse poisoned the blood of the Akharu. As killing them with such a curse was impossible, this poisoned blood simply paralyzed their bodies, leaving them awake and aware, but incapable of acting. They would be trapped that way, helpless to defend themselves.

As the curse spread like wildfire through their people, the Akharu had searched desperately for a cure. Eventually, they had found at least a stop-gap measure. Partaking of the blood from other creatures actually seemed to dilute their own poisoned blood, sparing them from being paralyzed and trapped. It was not a perfect solution, as the new blood would slowly become tainted by the poison, requiring them to take in a fresh batch on a regular basis in order to avoid falling victim to the Vestil’s curse.

Many of the Akharu had left their world, searching for answers and a permanent cure. Tiras had been among those explorers. His search had brought him, like many of his fellow warriors, to this small world. There, they had discovered that they could create more of their own kind from the humans of this place by feeding them their cursed blood within a short period before they died.

There was, however, a weakness to these hybrids. Somehow, the act of becoming half-Akharu left their bodies incredibly sensitive to sunlight. While Tiras and his fellow full-Akharu were perfectly fine within its rays, the altered humans they created would burn very quickly if exposed to it.

Some saw this as a way to create enough reinforcements to storm their own world, defeat the Vestil, and force them to create a permanent cure for the curse. Others, like Tiras himself, saw it as a sign that they did not need to fight such a war any longer. Their world was broken and ugly, destroyed by millennia of war. This planet was pure, nearly untouched. And they were compatible with its inhabitants. They could live here in relative peace, retiring from their very long struggle.

Some of the Akharu, Tiras included, did just that. They attempted to live normal lives, feeding when necessary either from animals or those who were considered evil. Others sought to achieve their initial goal of turning enough of the humans to create an army, while still more simply tried to carve out their own kingdoms, terrifying and enslaving the local populace.

Sadly, the retirement and peaceful life that Tiras and those like him had chosen was not to be. The Heretics, humans of this world who could see the Akharu (and other creatures who had found this world) for what they truly were did not care to make distinctions between those who killed and those who lived peacefully. They hunted down all of what they called vampires, and a steady war had been fought for centuries, a war that Tiras had been avoiding as much as possible by moving constantly.

Twelve years earlier, Tiras’s lonely journey across these lands had brought him to a hospital in what the humans called New York City. There, he had found himself drawn to a Chinese woman named Jiao who lay curled up in one of the beds. The illness she suffered from was beyond what the doctors of this place were capable of healing. They had done all they could by making the poor woman as comfortable as possible, and then simply waited for her to inevitably pass away.

Still, Jiao tried to speak with the man who stood in the doorway of her room. And Tiras had found himself sitting next to her. They spoke, and, over a very short time, he came to care for the human woman more than he had cared for anyone else in his very long life.

Unable to bear the thought of her death, Tiras shared his blood with the woman. When she passed, Jiao awoke stronger and more powerful than she had ever been in life. The two escaped the hospital in the dead of night, and began to journey together while Tiras told her the truth of his existence and origin.

Jiao stayed with Tiras, and the two of them had become inseparable, considering themselves married for all intents and purposes. For several years, the pair had traveled together, until Jiao eventually became pregnant with the daughter that they would eventually name Asenath.

With a daughter to take care of and educate, the two of them had settled on this large ranch not far from the tribe of people whom Tiras’s features most closely resembled. There, they had raised their child for the past decade in peace, feeding upon the very livestock that they raised, as well as the occasional violent bandit who mistakenly believed that the peaceful ranch would be an easy target.

That peaceful life, unfortunately, had drawn to an end very recently. As Tiras embraced his daughter, he hugged her even more tightly than usual for a few long seconds before releasing her. “You understand why I must leave you here with your mother, Senny?”

The girl smiled just a little at the use of her nickname before nodding sadly. Her voice was small. “I know. You have to stop the bad guys from making the magic blood hurt everyone.”

It was a true, though simplistic answer. Several of Tiras’s old friends had tracked him down, explaining that the Vestil had not given up on their attempts to eradicate the Akharu. Over the centuries, they had apparently created another curse. This one would kill all who shared Akharu blood, including his wife and child. Unable to let that prospect stand, Tiras had agreed to go with his people to put a stop to it.

Jiao had wanted to come, but Tiras had convinced her that she had to stay with their child. The two had spent one last night together, and now Tiras had spent the morning with his daughter. Jiao, of course, could not leave the shelter of the cabin during the daytime.

“That’s right, my little Sunny Senny,” Tiras smiled, wanting his child to be happy. “I cannot say how long it will take, but you know that I will eventually come back to you. That I swear to you, my child. If it takes a millennia, I will return to you.”

The girl made a face at him. “I’ll be really old by then, Papa. You better come back sooner.”

Chuckling, Tiras shook his head. “I have given your mother a bit of my blood, child. If the time comes and I have taken too long to return, she will give it to you. Then you will both live long enough for me to come back and find you. Do you understand? No matter how long it takes, I will find you both.”

“I understand, Papa,” Senny’s head bobbed up and down in agreement, her dark hair flying from the motion. “Please don’t take too long though, okay?”

Smiling once more, Tiras embraced his child. “I promise, my beautiful child. I will return as soon as possible. You have my vow. Nothing will keep me from my family.”

******

Present Day

Deep in the bowels of an old warehouse in the middle of Detroit, dozens of men and women dressed in light blue jumpsuits and surgical masks worked diligently to measure and pack the illicit white substance that their employer distributed throughout the state. Here and there, armed guards in black uniforms patrolled through their ranks, ensuring that no one thought sticking some away for themselves or to sell on their own was a good idea. Not that any of them were that stupid. They knew, especially after today, what happened when someone tried to cheat Raul Frein out of what he considered rightfully his.

In the midst of this busy warehouse, the sound of shattering glass abruptly filled the air as a body plummeted through the skylight. The figure, belatedly recognizable as one of the armed guards that patrolled along the roof of the building, crashed hard into the concrete floor. Its sudden and loud arrival instantly drew the attention of every person in the massive room, worker and guard alike.

Conversations halted as two of the guards, automatic rifles held tight in their hands, came close to kick a couple times at the clearly thoroughly dead figure. His head had been turned almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees from where it should have been, even before impact.

“What–” The nearest of the guards, foot still poking his dead comrade, managed to get out. Before he could continue that sentence, unfortunately, the man was interrupted by the second figure who had dropped much more silently through the now-broken skylight. She landed smoothly and effortlessly directly in the middle of the gathered crowd, beside the dead man.

“Hiya!” Asenath, long-since grown into a young woman in her very late teens or early twenties, greeted the men with a wave of one hand. “Maybe you guys can help me. See, I’m looking for the nearest piece of shit drug dealing fucktard who thinks it’s okay to kidnap innocent kids. I asked your buddy there for directions, but you know…” With a small smirk, she indicated his thoroughly and fatally twisted head. “He just got all turned around.”

To their credit, the men tried to act as quickly as they could. Unfortunately, they were still working off of human reaction times. As the nearest brought his rifle up, Asenath gracefully spun away from his line of fire. Her hand snapped out, catching the edge of the barrel and adjusting its aim just enough that the man’s reflexive shot took one of his companions in the stomach.

Exercising a relatively small portion of her strength, the two-hundred year old vampire tore the rifle from the man’s hands. In the same motion, she continued her spin and swung the weapon around and over to collide with the head of another man. She then used that as a brace just long enough, while the man was falling, to flip herself up and around sideways. Her legs wrapped around the neck of the man she had stolen the rifle from, and she gave a hard twist while her weight and force dragged his body sideways. The lifeless man collapsed to the floor, while Asenath herself landed in a crouch.

Three men down, two seconds had passed.

One of the men tried to back away while opening fire and shouting for help. Asenath threw the dented remains of the rifle into his legs, tripping him up long enough for her to spring back to her feet. The kick that she planted in the stumbling man’s stomach drove the air from his lungs and dropped him to the floor, while a follow-up kick ensured that he stayed there.

Pivoting on her heel, Asenath regarded the three guards who remained with their weapons raised. She offered them a faint smile before asking, “Anyone? Anyone want to tell me where I can find the drug dealer of the house?”

The response from two of the men were a vitriolically spat, ‘Go to hell!’ and ‘Chink slut!’

Their fingers tightened on the triggers, but Asenath was already moving. With a blur of motion, she abruptly put herself between the nearest of the two men. While the first bullets were expelling themselves from the chambers, aimed at the spot she had been standing in a bare second earlier, she reached down with both hands. Catching hold of the knife attached to each man’s hip, she tugged them up and out, then stabbed in either direction.

The stream of bullets had barely started before ending. The two men who had opened fire stood with the girl directly in between them, their own knives held in her hands with the blades buried deep in their throats.

With a slight tug, Asenath pulled the knives from the men’s necks. Their lifeless bodies collapsed, and she turned to face the sole remaining guard with a bloody weapon in each hand. Regarding him briefly, she slowly tilted her head with a questioning look.

The man promptly threw his rifle on the ground, took a deliberate step away, and raised his hand to point off through one of the doors. The same gesture was copied by the crowd of workers, all of them pointing to that single door.

“Good boy,” Asenath praised before turning on her heel to walk toward the indicated door.

As she began to leave, the remaining guard let out a breath of relief and began to take a single step toward the exit, intent on getting the hell out of there before she changed her mind. Before he could finish that step, however, Asenath called back to him, “If you’re not standing in that exact spot when I get back, I will track you down.”

He put his foot back where it had been and didn’t move again.

Reaching the heavily reinforced door, the relatively diminutive figure tilted her head while examining it. A single kick a moment later snapped it off its hinges and sent it crashing inward.

“Luuuucy!” She called out while stepping through the doorway. “You got some splainin’ to do!”

The well-dressed man on the other side of the room from the entrance stood with his revolver pressed close to the head of a small, sandy-haired boy. The man’s eyes were wild and frantic while he stared at the figure who had just literally kicked his door in. “Fuck you! Fuck you! Cunt! Back off! Back the fuck off you stupid piece of shit! I swear to god I’ll kill the kid! I’ll fucking end him, you ignorant little bitch! You back the fuck off, I don’t know what the hell you are, but back the fuck off!

Staying where she was, Asenath regarded the man. “You’ve been a bad boy, Raul.” She made a disapproving clicking noise with her tongue. “Kidnapping an innocent kid?” Looking to the terrified child, she added, “Don’t worry, Dominic, you’ll be back with your mom in a few minutes.”

Raul pressed the revolver barrel closer to the boy’s head. “Hey, hey! No he won’t. Not until Dominic’s Uncle Patrick gets me my fucking money!”

In response, Asenath’s hand snapped upward and out. One of the knives that she had appropriated flew through the air with so much speed and force that it had sliced completely through the man’s wrist, severing his hand from his arm, before he even realized what was happening. His hand, with the gun still clasped in it, dropped to the ground.

His scream had hardly begun before Asenath was on him. She gave his head a hard shove into the wall while simultaneously snatching the young Dominic away from him. With a blur of motion, she gathered the boy into her arms and ran from the building. Before the dazed child registered that they were moving, she was setting him down in the middle of the parking lot. In the distance, flashing red and blue lights could be seen rapidly approaching.

“See those cars, Dominic?” She pointed until the boy’s head bobbed up and down. “You run right to them and tell them who you are and that your mommy is looking for you. Understand?” Another nod, and she gave him a push. “Go.”

The boy took off running, and Asenath turned in the opposite direction. Another blur of motion came, and she returned to the room where she had left Raul. The man lay on his side, half-unconscious from shock as he stared at his severed hand. “B-b-b…” He stammered upon seeing her.

“I know, I know,” Asenath gave a single nod. “Bitch. I’m a bitch, right? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you here to bleed out all alone on the floor. I’m not that harsh.”

Staring up at her, Raul managed a hesitant, hopeful smile.

“After all,” the woman returned the smile before slowly opening her mouth to reveal sharp fangs that slid into place.

“I’m hungry.”

Walking away from the warehouse a short time later as the police descended upon it in force, Senny drew a hand along her mouth, wiping the last few traces of blood from her lips before letting out a sigh of contentment.

It had been over two hundred years since her father had left with promises to return as soon as he could. She still held out hope that he would come back one day, but her life had moved on. She and her mother had been forced to leave their ranch or risk attracting too much attention. Over the ensuing years, Asenath herself had grown up, eventually partaking of her father’s blood and becoming a vampire alongside her mother. The two of them had experienced so many incredible things throughout the growth of this country into the force that it now was that Senny had lost track of all the things she wished to tell her father about.

She just wanted him back. Even now, two hundred years later, she yearned for her father’s embrace.

The phone in her pocket rang, interrupting her inner musings. Tugging out the cell, Asenath accepted the call with a simple, “Yeah?”

“Umm…” The tentative female voice on the other side of the line ventured hesitantly. “H-hello? I’m not sure I have the right number. I don’t even know if I should be calling. This is wrong. I just… I just…” The voice dissolved into obvious tears.

Asenath softened her own voice. “It’s all right, you called the right number. Did something happen to you? Something you can’t explain or talk to anyone else about?”

There was a moment of silence before the woman on the other end of the line whimpered slightly. “I, no, not me. My daughter. A friend said I should call this number, that you could help, but I don’t know… the police say sh-she killed herself.”

“You don’t think she did?” Asenath replied as gently as possible.

“My Denise wouldn’t do that!” The woman blurted. “And all the other things they said she did… th-they said she taped the gasoline nozzle to her own mouth, that she drowned herself on it! That she killed that poor man in the store and then killed herself, but how could she?! Sh-she couldn’t, I swear she couldn’t do that! She wouldn’t! But th-they won’t listen. They won’t listen and no one will listen and my Denise is gone, she’s gone and I can’t help her, they won’t help her!” The words turned into incoherent sobbing.

Waiting through that with long-practiced patience, Asenath eventually managed to extract enough details to understand what had happened at that gas station. Once the story was out, she glowered at the empty air. “Ma’am, it’ll take me a few days to get down there, but I will make it as soon as I can.”

“D-does this mean you’ll find out what happened to my D-Denise?” The grieving woman’s voice was a desperate, yearning plea.

“Yes,” Asenath vowed firmly as she strode into the shadowy night. “I will find out what happened to your daughter. I will track down whoever did that to her.

“And I will make that person regret they were ever born.”

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