Forty-eight years ago.
The dockside warehouse was dark, the windows boarded up. The Vampire
and his entourage moved to the table. The man on the other side lit a
cigarette. The Vampire gracefully slid into the seat across from the man.
They both nodded.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice." The man said.
The Vampire looked around at the empty warehouse. "Such.luxury." A
broad grin drew across his face.
Smoke hovered like a ghost above the table between them. It glowed
bright from the lamp suspended above. The man laid his cigarette in the
ashtray. He looked up at the man standing next to him. He put out his hand
and was given a small leather satchel.
"I'm sorry that better accommodations couldn't be provided,
Ambassador. This, as you can imagine, was put together swiftly." The man
The Vampire Ambassador folded his hands. "So, what is so important,
and secret, that you felt compelled to meet here and now?"
The man reached into the satchel and extracted a small jar. The clear
contents inside gave little hope to the Ambassador. The man slid it across
the table to his counterpart. The Ambassador studied it for a moment.
"What is it?" The Ambassador said after a while.
The man took a long drag. "It's called Medreth. It's a synthetic
plasma. Straight from the oven. Our people, working with your scientists,
finally isolated the components of blood that the Vampire physiology needs,
the nutrients it draws, and their uses. They were then able to synthesize
the components in the lab. Medreth is cheap and easy to produce." The
Ambassador continued to stare at the jar. "Go on, " the man said, "try it."
The Ambassador removed the lid. He sniffed the Medreth and then
pulled it to his lips. He drank it. His aides stood shocked. He drank it
without fear. The humans couldn't be trusted. For centuries they had forced
the Vampires into caves, killed them with wooden stakes. Spread lies and
fear, saying that they were the undead spawn of evil. How could he drink it
without thorough testing? Was he insane?
The Ambassador put the jar down. It tasted bitter. Something had to
be done about that. But the hunger was gone. The hunger that for ages had
driven his people to drain livestock, vermin and .others. It lifted. The
reign of blood was over. He looked up at his aides, who looked on in
horror. He looked back at the man and smiled.
"Can something be done about the taste?" he grinned. The man returned
the smile and nodded. The Ambassador stood. "This is a great day, Mr.
Johnson. A great day for all the world."
They shook hands.
Frank Johnson put his hat back on and lit another smoke. "Mr.
Ambassador, I will talk to the mayor and prepare a press conference. The
negotiations can begin immediately."
The two groups parted company like thieves. Quietly. Each wearing its
game face. But the joyous treble of history hung in the air. Peace was
finally coming. Frank thought of the changes he had seen. The changes he
had caused. His wife was soon going to give birth to his first child. He
smiled at the thought that his child would grow up in a world where the
fear of sorcery and Vampires would be a thing of the past.
Frank Johnson dropped his cigarette to the ground as he stepped into
the limousine. His mind was full of only one thought.
'I hope it's a boy.'
by Eric Schwartz
Needless dropped from the window and bolted down the alley after the
perp. As always, his Elven blood wanted to pick up speed, but the dense
human muscle and bone kept him from reaching what he was sure was his top
speed. Ahead of him, the perp reached the open street. Needless' legs
As he emerged from the alley, he stopped for a moment to try and
locate the suspect. His keen night vision was rendered nearly useless by
the blaring headlights. The stopped traffic and blowing of car horns
indicated that the man Needless was chasing had crossed the street. Without
a thought Needless headed into the neon-lit, nighttime boulevard.
Stack Fury reached the car and hopped in. The engine roared to life
and the tires squealed as he pulled away from the curb. He snatched the
radio microphone and pulled it to his mouth.
"This is BC1138. The suspect is on foot, Sgt. D'Yen is in pursuit. I
am following in the car. This suspect is armed, but MUST be taken alive.
They are heading west on Prodane Blvd. We need infrared from the chopper. "
He threw the lights and siren on and barreled through Prodane to the
next street that ran east and west. He rounded the corner. They had to take
this guy. They had to take him alive. He was the first real lead to
Manzetti yet. A mag pusher with a taste for Fleck and whores. Stack hoped
that Needless could control himself.
Stack picked up his cell phone, pushed a button on its side, and
spoke to it. "Smiles." He said. A hundred years of technological
advancements dialed the phone.
A moment later the phone rang and a familiar voice came out. "Yeah."
"It's Stack. You get anything else?"
Across town, Smiles was icing his hand. He turned and looked across
the dimly lit room at the goblin with a bloody nose, cuffed to the chair.
"That's all he's got. He's just a small time Fleck dealer. He doesn't know
anything else. But I'll let you know if something comes up." Stack thanked
him and hung up. Smiles closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. He
walked back over to the goblin, called Vsar. He crouched down until he was
eye level. "Hey! Vsar. Good news. Because you're an idiot.you get to go
Vsar's eye was beginning to swell shut. He looked at Smiles and
growled. Smiles chuckled. He stood and walked across the empty room toward
the door, his foot falls echoing as he walked. Smiles pulled the cuff keys
out of his pocket. He turned back.
"Vsar, thanks for all the information. I'll make sure the word gets
out that you squeal under pressure. I'm sure your clients will love that."
Smiles chuckled as he dropped the keys by the door. He turned and left the
disgusting drug dealer alone in the empty room.
Paul Mest tried to fold himself into the dirt. The taste of Fleck
still lingered in the back of his throat. His minded raced. His breath came
in fits and he gritted his teeth. It must have been the bitch. She must
have sold him out. He thought about slitting her throat. Sweat raced from
his hair line into his eyes, stinging the homicidal thoughts from his mind.
He looked up as the helicopter began to hover above.
Across the park, Needless ran a line from his radio to his ear.
"Sgt. D'yen, this is Blue 14. If you copy, wave your arm." On the
monitor in the chopper, one of the luminous forms waved its arms. The other
form sat perfectly still in some under brush on the far edge of the park,
near a building wall. "All right Sgt. D'yen, the suspect is about 30 yards
from you. Turn to your left."
Needless extended his gun and peered into the dark, his night vision
returning slightly. The voice in his ear returned. "He's not moving.
Approach with caution." Needless rolled his eyes. Special Weapons loved
their little toys. All the same, he was glad for the extra set of eyes. He
stepped quietly toward the invisible suspect.
A block away, black and whites had started to seal the area. Stack
came to a stop and stepped out of the car. He fixed the earpiece from his
radio to his head. He crouched and made his way toward the park, behind his
partner. "Blue 14, this is Sgt. Forray. I am entering the park. Does the
suspect have a clear means of escape?"
"There is a break in the fencing about 20 feet to his right and a door
at the far end of the building to his left, your right."
Needless stepped closer and closer as he listened to Stack and the
chopper discuss possible exit routes for the perp. As the lights began to
slip behind the trees of the small park, Needless' elven night vision
returned, to a degree. He strained to make out the form of the guy through
the dark. Nothing.
Stack slowed when the lights of the street began to go away. As things
became clearer he could make out the form of his partner about twenty yards
"I'm right behind you." Stack said quietly.
One thought seemed to fill Needless' mind. 'Know your limits.' Kali's
words still haunted him. He needed to cool the human. This guy was too
important to go Needless Action on. He froze in his spot and shut his eyes.
He pulled the earpiece out and listened to the sounds. The chopper. The
sirens. The distant drone of the city. Each individual sound began to blend
into a hum of background noise. He waited for the subtle nuance of
movement. The unexpected pulse. His breath became shallow. He cleared his
mind and listened.
A twig broke. The bubble on the surface of the white noise.
Stack's ears were filled with Blue 14. "He's moving! He's heading to
Needless' eyes snapped open and he bolted toward Mest, who burst from
the foliage in a dead run. Stack also broke into run after his partner,
praying that Needless didn't shatter Mest's neck.
Calm seemed to come over Needless. His breath never seemed to burn as
he approached Mest. In a Fleck-addled bid for freedom, Mest dove for the
fence. Effortlessly, Needless flung his leg around, catching Mest in the
ribs. The crook flew back, winded. As he hit the ground, he rolled
backward, climbing to his feet and extracting his gun.
Not allowing the split second it would take Mest to kill him or Stack,
Needless leapt onto the criminal. He drove his skull into the bridge of
Mest's nose and pried the gun from his hand. Mest's knees went weak and he
dropped like some one had removed his skeletal structure. Needless pulled
his radio to his mouth.
"The suspect has been.apprehended." He chuckled into his radio.
Stack caught up a moment later, gun extended at Mest's prone body. He
looked at Needless, "You didn't."
Needless clicked his tongue. "Man. You have no faith." He pulled a
paper napkin out of his pocket and wiped a spatter of Mest's blood from
between his eyes. He smiled at Stack and chuckled as he walked back to the
Stack looked down at the suspect who was groaning quietly on the
Smiles sat finishing another cigarette in the dim light and loud
chatter of Tucker's Tap. His fist still hurt from questioning Vsar. The
shots of Glonish Hollow whiskey seemed to make the pain dull, but it eased
his mind into thinking about Gina. It had been two weeks since he had been
given the photos of Gina at the hospital. Someone was playing with him.
Someone had arranged to put those pictures in his hands. The whole thing
stunk of one of Manzetti's mind-fucks, but still.
Four years had aged the girl in the pictures. She was still young. The
hair was slightly different. Even though he didn't have the pictures with
him, he had committed every detail to memory. In the photos she was
crossing the street, unaware that someone was taking pictures of her.
Someone knew where she was. If this was Manzetti, it could be a threat. A
threat against Gina, wherever she was. Either way, he couldn't tell Stack.
Smiles took another drink. If this was Manzetti playing another round
with Stack, Smiles couldn't let him do that. Telling Stack is exactly what
Manzetti would want. Smiles needed to look into this further before he told
Stack anything. Especially if it was some kind of trap. He blinked slowly.
The whiskey was affecting him quicker than normal. He chuckled because he
was sure his mind was inviting the booze to take control. It needed the
Smiles had become fairly aware of another presence at the table. He
glanced over at the face smiling in amusement. Charlie chuckled.
"What are you chuckling at, boy?" Smiles monotoned.
Charlie nodded at the two cigarettes burning in the ashtray. "Heavy
thoughts, old man?"
Smiles looked at the two cigarettes. "I swear. Not 2 minutes ago there
was a buxom, red-headed elf girl sitting right where you are sitting now,"
he deadpanned. "You should probably find another seat. She should be back
any minute from the can."
Charlie laughed and shrugged out of his coat. Smiles reached over and
stubbed out the older of the 2 squares. A moment later, Stack and Needless
appeared at the table. Smiles raised his glass. Needless half-nodded his
greeting. Charlie and Stack clasped hands across the table.
"Nice work tonight." Needless said to Smiles. Charlie looked over at
Smiles quizzically. Smiles shrugged. Charlie glanced down and noticed
Smiles' gauze wrapped hand. Needless chuckled. "Your boss got some
information for us."
Smiles' eyes drooped slightly as the corners of his mouth turned up.
He raised his injured hand. "I cut myself shaving." He looked back up at
Stack. "So you get anything from him?"
Stack shook his head. "Nah. The guy is still detoxing from Fleck.
And," he nodded toward Needless, "Harry the Head over here clocked the guy
with a skull kiss. He's a little out of it. We should be able talk to him
"It's a good thing I've been around you guys for a while. Other wise I
would have no idea what you were talking about," Laura said, flopping down
in the chair next to Charlie.
The waitress they all knew as Bev put a pitcher of beer and a tray's
worth of glasses on the table. Needless looked up. "Bev. You know us so
well. What would have happened if we all had decided to change our drink
"Right," Bev chuckled and moved on to some other patrons.
Charlie finished pouring the first round of drinks. As everyone took
Smiles raised his whiskey.
"Hey! Here's to a blow struck," he said, offering a toast.
The others stared at him for a moment and burst into laughter.
"He's been here a while," Laura laughed.
"Yep," Charlie nodded. "He's bag bound."
They all clinked glasses and took long drinks. As a few more "pathetic
drunk" comments were flung at Smiles, Needless noticed Sioux enter the door
at the far end of the bar. He stood and waved her over. She moved
gracefully through the smoke and noise like she didn't belong there. Her
pale skin glowed red and green from the neon beer signs that lined the
walls. Needless met her a few tables away. He took her hand and kissed her.
At the table the others looked at each other. It was unusual for
Needless to let the machismo level drop. As they joined the table, the
others all greeted Sioux warmly. They seemed to sense that this was
Needless moving his relationship with Sioux to the next level without
announcement. Sioux took the sixth place at the table.
It was a swirling, blue-purple vortex of sweat, flesh, smoke and
sternum-pounding rhythm. The mass undulated and swayed, rising and falling
until all individuality melted into a sea of youth. High above the Serenity
dance floor the master of ceremonies, DJ Bzjau, listened with his left ear
to the crowd and with his right ear, cued tracks with his headphones. He
matched beats and set levels until the night had become a singular vision.
A night-long orgy of sequencers, drum loops and low end bass.
No one knew that the phone lines had been cut. None of the myriad
dancers noticed that the bouncer had been shot, or the management herded
into a security office. As the black hooded figures began to surround the
dance floor, no one panicked. There were forty in all who moved into
positions around the room.
As a colorless nerve agent billowed into the room through the vents,
the cloaked figures moved forward with precision, closing off all means of
escape for the patrons. The beats of the night reached a fast-paced keen,
the computer sequenced music flowing in and out of each other. As the
jumping crowd worked themselves into a delirium, the nerve agent began to
hit their lungs.
When the first patrons began to drop, several of the cloaked figures
lowered their hoods and sank their teeth into the necks of whoever was near
them. Those who were still aware of their surroundings screamed in absolute
horror as the rest of the hooded figures closed the circle.
High above the carnage, Bzjau collapsed, tumbling down the flight of stairs
to the DJ booth, his unconscious mind unaware of his neck snapping during
TO BE CONTINUED