The only thing worse than waking up to two Hunters standing over your coffin is waking up to three of them having coffee in your kitchen.
Heather, my friend/roommate/neighborhood slayer, is washing out the coffee pot. Her mentor Craig is cleaning his gun and loading his clips with phosphorous rounds. He hates me, not because I'm a vampire, but because I refuse to act like his idea of a vampire and kill innocent people and therefore Heather won't let him kill me. Josh is tentatively handling a light crossbow. The Heralds sent the clumsy teen after me for a crash-course in vampire hunting a few weeks ago and Heather has been training him ever since. But even after Ralph made him that potion to improve his dexterity, I still think training him is an exercise in futility. But I'm just a vampire, so who am I to question the Heralds….
"You're up early," says Heather as she puts the milk away. She pulls my bottle out of the fridge and hands it to me. "It only ten minutes after sundown."
I take a drink from my bottle without taking my eyes off of Josh. He's picking up the crossbow and seems confused by it.
"What's wrong?" asks Heather.
"What are you guys doing?" I ask. I step toward Josh and show him the safe way to handle the weapon.
"Josh found a lair of Sabbat Nosferatu last night so we're gonna go clean them out," answers Heather.
"No, seriously. What are you guys doing?"
"That's what we're doing."
I sit down at the table and try to collect the proper words to effectively express my concern for their well-being.
"Have you all lost your fucking minds!"
Craig shrugs his shoulders at me without looking up from his gun. Josh looks to Heather and asks with his eyes if they indeed had lost their minds.
"There are only four of them," says Heather.
"Let me see if I'm understanding correctly. Josh here, who can't walk down the steps without spraining his ankle, managed to track down a few sewer rats without being noticed?"
"It wasn't sprained. I just had a bruise."
I point at him to prove my point.
"Kid's gonna make a hell of a tracker one day," says Craig. He holds his gun up pretending to examine the cleaning job he did, and in the process points it directly at me.
"Alex, we'll be fine," says Heather.
"You guys are walking into a trap! There's no way he got pass ONE Nos, let alone FOUR!"
"If they saw him, don't you think they would have killed him right then?" asks Craig.
"No, I don't. You know why? Because those sneaky bastards probably already know Heather's been training this kid and they figure they can lure her out into an ambush."
"You make it out like I'm Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
"And how many vampires have you personally killed in the last year?"
"And you really think they DON'T know who you are?"
Heather looked down at her feet and contemplated the statement.
"Alex, where are your keys?" screams Ralph from the garage.
"Why?" I scream back as I head for the garage. If he's playing with my bike again…
"I just installed a self-defense mechanism and I need to synchronize your fingerprints to your keys and the mechanism so you don't blow up."
I rush into the garage. My Harley appears to be in one piece.
"What have you done?"
Ralph smiles and puts his hand out for my keys. "I just corrected that bug with the ultraviolet headlamp and worked the kinks out of the stealth mode and adjusted the safety on the laser guns and…"
"Oh, I didn't tell you about that?"
"Oh. Anyway, and I installed a self-defense mechanism so if anyone tries to steal it an air bag goes off full of gunpowder. So can I please have your keys so I can make sure you don't blow up?"
I drop the keys into his pre-teen palm. "You realize vampires don't have fingerprints."
"No, vampires don't LEAVE fingerprints. You don't produce the oils necessary to leave them. But you still have them. The mechanism is pressure sensitive so it can detect the creases in your fingertips."
"Wouldn't an electrical jolt be more efficient and less obvious?" asks Craig. He's leaning in the doorway with his arms crossed in front of him and his head tilted against the doorframe. His eyes are squinting together as if he's bracing for a flash of explosive light.
"Yeah, but if they're wearing rubber soles they'd be grounded and besides the gunpowder is more fun."
"We need to get going," says Craig as he shakes his head and walks out of the garage.
Heather pats me on the back. "You two have fun."
"Hey, where are you going?" asks Ralph.
"Good-bye, Ralph," says Heather.
She waves as she gets into Craig's car and they drive off.
"Is it drivable now?"
"I'm still working on the auto-pilot."
"I can finish that later."
I start the bike up.
"Are we gonna follow them?"
"No, I am." I activate stealth-mode and follow Craig's car.
Craig parks in a McDonald's lot and they get out. I really should get off the bike and follow on foot, but chances are they will detect me. Ralph's stealth-mode is as much technology as it is magic. They seem not to be able to sense it yet.
They walk four blocks into a burnt out former drug war zone. Craig suddenly points his gun at a rooftop and fires. He catches the would-be assailant in the face and it lands short of Josh. Twelve more pour out of the alleys and buildings.
Ambush. I hate being right.
I decide to end this quickly and drop the stealth mode, put on my shades, and hit the headlight.
The ultraviolet light fills the street. The vampires panic as their skin burns away. They run for cover. I turn off the headlight as Heather looks toward me.
"I can't believe you followed us!"
"I can't believe you think I wouldn't." I get off my bike and walk toward them.
"We didn't need your help," scowls Craig.
"No, maybe you and Heather didn't need my help, but he's in no condition to be in this situation." I point to Josh and wave him over to me.
Someone starts shooting at us from a building and we duck for cover behind a bullet-ridden truck up on bricks.
"Any bright ideas?" asks Craig as he returns fire.
"Hey, this is your party. I'm just crashing it." I eliminate one of the snipers with two phosphorous-filled shots from my Anacondas.
"We need to get out of here before the police show up," says Josh. Heather and I look at each other and laugh.
"You could drop a bomb out here and the cops wouldn't show up until sometime tomorrow," says Heather.
The shooting stops and we hear a laughing coming from the street. "Come out children. Party's over."
I look through the shattered glass of the car to see two Nosferatu standing about 20 yards away. One of them is holding what looks like a small rocket launcher.
"You can come out from behind the truck and talk, or my friend can just fire and we see what happens."
Just as I think about wrapping a tentacle around the weapon I hear a muffled scream from Josh. Then I feel a cold tap on my shoulder. I turn my head and I'm face to face with three wiggling shadow tentacles.
"Don't get cute, Austin."
We cautiously walk out from behind the truck. From my new angle I can see my fellow Lasombra. The tentacles threateningly follow as he moves forward to join the other two.
"You know what the price is on your head these days, Austin?" says the Nos. "One million dollars. Do you have any idea what someone like me can do with that kind of money?"
He snorts through his deformed snout. "Now, we could just shoot the rocket here and blow you all to hell, but then my friend here doesn't get what he wants." He looks toward the Lasombra. "So perhaps we work out a deal."
"What's he talking about?" asks Josh. I look toward him and see absolute fear in his eyes. I look up at Craig, who seems to be staring past me. He finally realizes I'm looking at him and his eyes meet mine long enough to start a silent conversation. He looks up without moving his head then back at me, nodding slightly. I look back toward the vampires, then up at the roofs in an exasperated manner.
"What do you want, as if I didn't know?" I see thousands of small black forms congregating on the wall of a building just behind the vampires.
"Your blood. Your soul. And with it, your power," says the Lasombra.
"You cannibalistic bastard!" Screams Heather. "Who the hell do you think…"
"It's o.k." I say to Heather. "And in return?"
"Alex, you can't…"
I lean in close to Heather and grab her arm. I make eye contact and smile as I tilt my head enough to point her in the right direction. As I turn, a spider the size of a Volvo is getting comfortable out of sight behind the vampires.
"You agree, we let your little friends go free." Out of the corner of my eye I see Craig has turned Josh around and is pretending to comfort him. Last thing we need is Josh freaking out over Jason's giant spider form.
"You know, this whole thing is just further proof my undead existence is just a really bad B-movie. I mean, let's face it, you guys just made the classic bad guy error."
"And what would that be?" asks the Nos.
"You talk to much."
A ten-foot blanket of web covers the threesome. Then I see Ralph on a damn hover board. He points what looks like a penlight at the launcher and a beam of red energy crackles through the air and strikes it.
Jason crawls over quickly and lowers his body suggesting he expects somebody to go for a ride. I pick up a panicking Josh and put him on Jason's back.
"It's o.k. It's just Jason," I say as he struggles to get off. Craig is returning fire as our unseen assailants resume shooting at us. Heather picks up the crossbow. As she fires, the bolt turns glowing blue, goes through a door, and apparently strikes true as a target screams.
"We need to get out of here!" screams Ralph.
"No shit," yells Craig.
"I mean now! Just start running. It's gonna get real bad in about thirty second!"
Heather jumps on Jason's back and grabs hold of Josh as Jason sprints down the street. Craig jumps and grabs hold of the hover board and gets lifted out of the area. I jump on my Harley and hit the overdrive.
Thirty seconds later, the whole block goes up in an explosion.
We get to the McDonald's parking lot. A girl taking out trash screams and starts running as she sees the giant spider. Jason shifts back into human form and casually opens his trunk looking for clothes.
"Alex, it's o.k. The Delirium will make her forget," he says as I start to follow her.
"But…" I point at the security camera.
"I fried that when we got here," says Ralph as he waves the magic penlight.
The manager comes out of the store and looks around. He scratches his head and goes back inside.
"I thought stealth mode was untraceable?" I ask Ralph.
"Of course it is. That's why I had to install a special tracking system into my Palm Pilot. Otherwise I'd never be able to find you."
I kiss him on the forehead. "That's my boy."
Fire trucks roar pass. I check my wallet. "You guys hungry? My treat."
"Can I get a Happy Meal?" asks Ralph.
"And a milkshake?"
Craig heads toward his car. "You don't want anything, Craig?" asks Heather.
"I'm not a part of the Justice League."
"That's you're choice," I say. We stare at each other for a moment.
"Let me call my daughter and see if she wants me to bring her something home."
Ralph runs ahead. As we approach the building he comes out of the door sulking.
"The Playland is closed. Go use Jedi Mind Trick on the manager and make him open it up?"
"Keep it up and no milkshake."
I hear Craig laugh behind me.