Descent: Child of Shadows

Interlude

The battered jeep rattled and shook as it went off road, following what could charitably be called a trail out across the dusty land. They were out in Arizona, in the back country where there were less people and more chances to get yourself killed.

Aileen 'no last name' was a hitwoman, though of a oddly virtuous sort. The cool, dangerous redhead killed crime lords and their soldiers for a living, as well as occassionaly handling monsters and things that go bump in the night. Once a trainee priest in the Knights Templar she had been expelled from the order for the sin of lust, but still fought the good fight.

Beside her and looking rather out of place was a nun, her black and white habit fluttering in the breeze. Rosette was no nun in any order Aileen knew, though, the pretty blond haired woman dressing in the robes for her own reasons. To be blunt the young lady was crazy, believing herself on a mission from God, and used a weighted rosary and other items to kill.

They had met hunting the demoness Descent, and in a moment of what she thought was temporary insanity Aileen had decided to watch over the mad nun. Keeping her on her anti-psychotic meds Aileen had discovered Rosette was a surprisingly pleasant companion, but she also knew she could turn on Aileen at any time.

"So where are we going now?" Rosette asked, the blue eyes curious as she looked over at Aileen. The hitwoman was dressed in simple jeans, a t-shirt and cowboy boots, with a gun holstered under her left arm.

"A town out in the middle of nowhere," Aileen answered briskly as they bounced over a gully, "there's been a rash of disappearances. Cathy says some bloodless bodies were found, so..."

"Vampires," Rosette nodded thoughtfully. She looked out at the near desert conditions around them, the lack of cover and the pounding heat from the sun. "Seems a strange place for them," she noted thoughtfully.

"Or the last place you'd look," Aileen said as her phone rang. She awkwardly plugged it into a phone adapter on the dashboard as she said, "Yes?"

"Hey, Boss," Cathy said briskly. Aileen had saved the girl's virginity, supposedly, and at least prevented a rape while carrying out a hit. Cathy had been intrigued by the idea of Aileen being a heroic killer, and had with great stubborness made herself Aileen's assistant and secretary.

"What's the update?" Aileen asked, concentrating on the road, or what little road there was. Really, it was like a rarely used game trail or something...

"I found a series of maps on the area online," Cathy said eagerly, "it's not on current maps, but a older one shows there's a old mine within about five miles of the town. If the map's right..."

"That might be our vampire den," Rosette agreed, her eyes narrowing.

"Is SHE still there?" Cathy's voice dropped several degrees.

Aileen sighed softly. Cathy thought that Aileen was out of her mind trying to take care of Rosette, something that Aileen couldn't exactly blame her for. But Aileen felt that people were safer with her keeping an eye on the killer than just letting her run free. And maybe, just maybe, Aileen could help her, too.

"Yes, she is," Aileen said firmly, "now drop it." There was a moment of silence as they drove, then she asked, "Is the special equipment on it's way?"

Cathy sounded a bit sheepish, "I'm getting it FedExed but the soonest will be tomorrow, boss. I suggest you hit the town, lock up and wait until morning."

"Got it," Aileen said, "and send me the map showing the mine. I want to study the layout before we go out tomorrow."

"Yes ma'am," Cathy said, sending a email to the woman's phone. "Should I call to wake you tomorrow?" she offered meekly.

"Yes please," Aileen smiled, "sunrise, about six am. Thank you." Much more briskly she added, "Now get to bed yourself, Cathy. I'm sure it's been a long day."

"Yes ma'am," Cathy said much more warmly as she signed off.

The used jeep bumped and jerked over rocks sticking up in the 'road' making both women grab on to the handles in the roof. Rosette smiled as they straightened out, quietly commenting, "She loves you, you know."

Aileen very nearly swerved the car, but managed to get it under control as she got over her surprise. "I thought you disapproved of that sort of thing?" she asked.

"Love is love," Rosette shrugged as she looked at the other woman scoldingly, "I thought you understood that."

While happy about her open mind Aileen decided not to mention the whole 'seducing a nun' bit from her expelling from the Knights, just in case. "She just looks up to me," Aileen said about Cathy, "it's not that serious."

Rosette raised her eyebrows as she asked disbelievingly, "You think Cathy sticks beside a hitwoman out of gratitude?"

"That and my paying her obscene amounts of money," Aileen said with a shrug. Changing the subject she nodded towards the phone, "Can you use one of them?"

"I suppose," Rosette took the phone from it's mount as she asked Aileen, "What would you like me to do?"

"Call up that map Cathy sent and compare it to the one we brought along," Aileen said as she kept them from running into a tree, "how far are we, etc etc?"

Rosette unfolded the map and checked it against the email even as she asked, "You aren't thinking of...?"

"Might take a look," Aileen shrugged, "but I'm not taking on a army of vampires with just the guns we have on hand." She pointedly did not mention the sports equipment bad she had stashed in the back, with several back up guns, a few grenades and other party favors. Aileen did not believe in being unprepared for anything.

"Right," Rosette gave her a wry look as she navigated. After a few moments she concluded, "I think we can find the mine if we detour to the north. I can't say it'll be safe though, the old map has no terrain details."

Aileen shrugged eloquently, "Well, this thing is supposed to be built for off road... let's see if it can live up to the reputation."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"Apparently it really is good on off-road," Rosette noted wryly as the two women came to a rest not far from a battered looking old shack.

Aileen nodded, getting out of the jeep and wincing slightly. "We sure made the poor shocks work," she noted thoughtfully. Without really thinking about it she took her automatic from the holster and made sure it was fine, before putting it back in it's holster.

Rosette got out too, her Nun's habit slightly wrinkled from the ride. She reached up and slid the hood back, revealing her shimmering blond hair. She gracefully pulled it back then replaced the hood, before calmly checking over the weighted rosary she wore, as well as the cross shaped throwing knives she often used.

"Do you think we might be in danger here?" Rosette asked politely, her eyes flickering around them warily.

"No guards outside, seems strange," Aileen noted thoughtfully, "even low-rent vamps usually have a thrall or two obeying them."

"So it's a trap?" Rosette asked, her expression as polite and open as before.

"Or something unexpected," Aileen said, moving around to the back of the jeep. She looked up at the sky, judging they had at least a hour or two of daylight left. They could run to the next town and wait until sunrise, or...

"You're thinking of attacking now, rather than wait?" Rosette asked as she watched Aileen unzip the bag to reveal the weapons there.

"Yeah," Aileen admitted, "bad idea?"

"I think it's a fine idea," Rosette smiled cheerfully as she added, "but remember, I'm insane."

Calmly Aileen clipped two grenades to her belt, picking up a shotgun and snapping it open. "Incenderaries?" she asked curiously.

"Fire is always good," Rosette agreed, picking up a pistol herself. "How do you want to handle this?" she asked as they advanced towards the shack, presumably the access to the underground mine.

"Kick the door in and see what happens," Aileen said, "no other way since we have no idea how deep the mine goes. Assuming they even use the mine."

"Then let's go," Rosette startled Aileen by hurrying ahead, kicking the door in and going into the shack first.

"Damn it!" Aileen cursed, hurrying in after her. She ran into the dim room only to blink, taking in the still forms and the massive hole ripped in the floor. The bodies slumped around the hole, all clearly dead but not how they expected.

"They're... kind of melted," Rosette noted as they backed up towards the still open door.

"Whatever the hell is in here it's not a vampire," Aileen agreed, pulling a grenade and yanking out the pin. She dropped it down the hole, grabbed Rosette and bolted.

They made it back to the jeep as the grenade went off, blowing the walls off the shed and making light stream down the now smoking hole. Something down there screamed in rage and pain, and then the first tentacles began to emerge from the earth.

"You can let go now," Rosette noted as Aileen still kept a death grip on her.

"Oh, sorry," Aileen said, watching the thing dragging itself from the hole. The greenish tentacles browned and withered in the sunlight, the beastie clearly not liking the light. Wounded the thing was trying to escape, but it had nowhere to go.

"So this was killing the villagers?" Rosette asked, watching as the critter struggled to move across the mostly bare, rocky earth.

"Considering it don't like the sun it hunts at night, maybe dragging back prey to the den," Aileen noted, standing up as she pulled another grenade from her belt. "Either way, it's hurt, not dead. Let's put it down," she said.

It wasn't QUITE that simple, but another grenade, the incendary rounds and a fair number of bullets successfully stopped the thing, and it began to dissolve into the sands. The smell was horrid and after taking a few photos with her camera-phone, they got into the battered jeep and took off.

"There's just one thing that bothers me," Rosette noted as they drove across the quiet plain, the only sound their engine.

"Yes?" Aileen looked at her curiously.

"That thing was dragging back and melting it's prey," Rosette frowned slightly, "what caused the bloodless bodies?"

There was a moment of silence then Aileen groaned softly. "There are vampires out here TOO?" she yelped.

"Looks like it," Rosette sighed.

"We'd better get under cover before nightfall," Aileen sighed, knowing there was yet another long day ahead of them tomorrow.

To be continued...

Notes: Wanted to cover what the heck happened to Aileen after the big bounty hunter war. My thought was she skipped town one step ahead of the Lady's killers, possibly dragging Rosette after her. But THEN what?