"Darkest Before The Dawn"

After traveling through a maze of corridors and three hidden doors, Albert Cutherman beamed proudly as he showed the survivors his private laboratory. Six stories tall and at least a hundred yards in diameter, the circular chamber was brimming with a wide and varying selection of equipment.

"Very few people have seen this section," brimmed Albert. "Very few indeed."

Miller, still quite wary of the mad doctor, was impressed by what he saw. He had served at military research centers that did not have as advanced equipment as that which filled the chamber.

"Unfortunately, some of my research had already been passed onto the main labs for developing, most notably, my work with nanites."

"Nanites?" wondered Doug.

"Miniaturized robotics," explained Miller. "The pentagon's had several firms working on such projects. None of them have proven possible."

Cutherman simply smiled and rocked back and forth on his feet.

"I take it that you've made them a reality?" broached Miller.

"Indeed. As I said, unfortunately I had passed the designs onto the main labs for final development, and the vampires have been able to make use of the science."

"What use would they have for nanite technology?" asked Mai.

"They have converted most of the staff here, except for those that they keep alive for feeding from."

"Their own little nest," muttered Doug.

"Those that have died…the vampires did not let their bodies go to waste," said Cutherman, his eyes distant, as if he were seeing something horrible. "They…molded them. Used them to create monstrous soldiers."

"And the nanites?" wondered Miller, thinking that he already knew the answer from their previous encounter with the Warriors.

"They instantly repair any damage done to the Warriors, making them nearly as invincible as the vampires themselves."

"I don't get any of this," said Amber. "I mean, how can they even be? Why didn't these vamps die when Bartholomew was dusted?"

"Because they were cloned from living material, my dear," explained Cutherman. "For all intent and purpose, they are living beings. They were not connected to Bartholomew in the same way as those that were resurrected."

"You mean, they're alive?" wondered Miller.

Cutherman simply nodded.

"Then we can blow the shit of them," growled Doug, slapping the firing pin back on his machinegun.

"Perhaps," offered Cutherman.

"You don't sound too sure of that," argued Miller. "Are they alive or not?"

"Yes, but they have the very same attributes as Bartholomew. Once dead, they may simply…become the undead."

The soldiers looked at each other skeptically.

"But I have a solution," exclaimed Cutherman, stepping over to a worktable and scouring its contents.

With a cry of success, he turned and held up a glass case that had been hidden by some papers, and showed it to the others. The case seemed to be filled with a black mist that pulsed and ebbed, much like a swarm of insects.

"I was able to finish this batch here, and program them myself," announced Cutherman, proudly.

"Nanites," guessed Miller.


"How are they going to help us?" asked Mai.

"I programmed them to destroy the vampires. To tear them apart on a cellular level. Once they are done, there will be nothing left of them but dust."

* * * * *

Apone felt his gut tighten as the Cutherman Institute came into sight, the burnt and twisted wreckage of the three helicopters of the assault team scattered before the main building. As they drew nearer, he let out a curse, seeing the many bodies laying about the yard, all of them in military garb.

"Sir?" asked the pilot, bringing the Jet Ranger to a hold over the main courtyard.

"Get us out of here," ordered Apone. "I think it's clear what happened."

The pilot simply nodded, a grim expression on his face as he listened to Apone reporting back to Captain Green.

A tactical nuclear strike would be carried out within two hours.

* * * * *

Paul sat up and groaned, his head pounding, vision swimming, and he briefly wondered if it was New Year's Day. The memories of what had happened washed over him, and he looked down at himself, expecting to see burnt and shredded flesh. Instead, he found himself completely healed under the tatters of his shirt.

"What the…?" he whispered.

"You're a Halfling, the same as I am."

Paul thought of what Bill had told him, of his true being, and he shook his head in denial.

"Weather you like it or not, it's what you are. It's what we are. Us, and about half a dozen others in the world."

Paul felt his face become flush with anger. How could this be? How could he be…related?…to the damn vampires? He hated the creatures, despised them for their very existence, for what they had done to his family and friends, and now he was supposed to blindly accept the fact that he was born of something close to the same genetic make-up?

Rising from the cot that he had awoken on, Paul stomped over to the door of the enclosed room and jerked on the knob, his anger rising as he found it locked.

"We have their strengths, their abilities, and sometimes…their hunger."

"Open the damn door!" yelled Paul, rattling it harder.

"It'll be a struggle at first, when you start to open up to it, but you can over come it."

Screaming with rage, Paul attacked the door, his fingers ripping into its metal husk, and with no thought he tore it from the frame. He flung the ruined door against the back wall of the room, the thundering clank snapping him out of his rage, and looked down at his hands in horror and self-loathing.

"No," he whispered, realizing that no matter what he wanted to believe, it was true. He was a Halfling.

"What the hell?" demanded a man, suddenly appearing in the now open doorway.

Paul spun around, snarling, and leapt onto the man, knocking him to the ground.

"Vampire," hissed Paul, his rage rising once more.

The vampire was nearly powerless against Paul's Halfling strength, and its struggle was only an annoyance.

"You've fed recently," noted Paul, sniffing at the air.

"What are you?" demanded the vampire, still trying vainly to free itself.

"I'm going to destroy you kind," whispered Paul, his promise sending a chill through the vampire.

"Y-y-you're not strong enough to destroy us all," the vamp feebly argued.

"Then I'll have to become stronger," countered Paul, his mouth opening impossibly wide and showing off teeth that had grown long and sharp.

The vampire's scream was cut off as Paul tore into his throat.

* * * * *

With the threat of death to the others if he did anything against them, Roy grudgingly followed the clones as they led Christina towards the Combining Chamber, the female cursing them the entire way. He was amazed at the hold that they had over her, able to force her to do as they willed, and he wondered why Bartholomew had never used it against her in their final battle.

A number of theories had come to his mind; maybe it had something to do with her turning; or with her proximity; or perhaps Bartholomew had been too preoccupied. In the end, he decided it didn't matter. The way that she was now, turned into a self proclaimed Lady, Roy was simply glad that she couldn't tear into him.

Dismissing the thought, Roy instead concentrated on trying to come up with some way that he could escape from the clones. He had a basic idea of how he could accomplish it, but it hinged on him knowing where the others were being held.

"Every thing is ready as per your instructions, my Lords," said a female voice that snapped Roy's attention directly to them.

"Katt?" gasped Roy, seeing her standing before a set of double doors that she held open.

"Aren't you happy to see me, too?" asked another person.

Roy's gaze moved to the other side of the doorway, his eyes widening as he saw Diane standing there.

"I think you will find this most interesting," said Cobe, smiling slyly as he motioned for Roy to enter the chamber.

To Be Continued…