Serial & Coded
Series: Serial & Coded, Vampyr Arc
Summary: It's the year 2149 and society is in chaos over the laws and relationships between the Rho, red-bloods, and those politely referred to as the Beta, the black-bloods. Amidst this, a Beta investigator's life is horribly torn apart by the murder of his partner. Led by that loss, his path crosses with a small suburbia family just as they suffer the same hellish misery. Slaughter, conspiracy and betrayal –can people really heal from such blows?
Warnings: Murder and conspiracy, as above. Some sub-plots and angst. Mature content.
Author Notes: For alice_montrose coz your Alucard icon and Blood Pocky kind of gave this a bit of a push. As usual, love goes to _profiterole_ for the alpha reading.
"First of February year twenty-one-forty-nine, time log twenty-three hundred hours and twenty seven minutes," said the disembodied voice of Petra, the Medi-bay artificial intelligence. "Medi-bay two-seventeen programmed procedures have been completed."
In the darkness, a few select lights began to soundlessly power up, barely flickering before casting their glow on the second row of suspended walkways. Medi-bay seventeen, just another capsule of surgical grade plexi-glass, promptly gave a hiss-pop of release as the suspension mechanisms reanimated, preparing to lower the tank from amidst its row.
Petra announced, "Final scans are conclusive. Unit 1123581321-Beta is ready for discharging."
"Alright already," Balis muttered sleepily, yawning a bit as he rode the Petra-controlled cart humming along the walkway toward the lowered bay.
The smoky liquid within the capsule began to bubble as the liquid drained via the chute attached to the bottom. As the fluid dispersed, to be recycled and revitalised before re-use, a figure within the capsule slumped slowly, gently, into its seat as the cabin drained. Clear, the capsule gave another hiss-pop of releasing pressure, the sealed door unlocking itself and raising slowly to allow Balis access to its occupant.
"Hey there," Balis murmured as welcomingly as he could, concern pulling his features as he watched the occupant of the capsule come slowly awake.
"Unit is ninety-seven percent restored after fifty-three days," Petra spoke up. "Rest and appropriate nutrition are recommended for the next seventy-two hours."
"Hear that, ya foolish vamp?" Balis muttered, gently stripping away the attachments and cables from the patient. He unlocked and lifted the respiratory mask from the patient's haggard face, the last piece to go, and pushed the equipment aside when the retractors began to pull them away. "Yer gonna be just fine." Stroking back the long blonde hair, his voice lowered, tinged with sadness, "Yer gonna be good to go."
Asher Kai raised his head for the first time in two months, staring up at his old friend's face. "Nothing—" he croaked, voice cutting out, broken from disuse. He swallowed and tried again, "Nothing is ever going to be the same again."
"No," Balis agreed quietly. "But the world keeps moving, Ash. Even as we grieve." He pulled out a small tube from his wrist strap and flicked a switch on it, a little pale white light coming on at its tip. He passed the light over Asher's left inner wrist, the tiny elongated white chip there vaguely visible for a moment; Asher's Bio-tag. The Bio-tag flashed its three tiny green lights and the device Balis held beeped, Asher's unit code coming up on the little screen.
"Unit identity confirmed. Welcome back, Asher Kai, and we wish you well." Petra responded.
"Come on," Balis murmured, reaching to help his friend rise. "Let's get you out of here." Asher obediently allowed himself to be helped out of the medi-bay, draped in a robe and deposited gently into the patient chair. As the cart whirred smoothly along, Balis spoke up again, "You've been here a while. Are you going to stay with a friend first or are you heading straight home?" The response he got made him think better of continuing any kind of conversation for a while,
"Does it matter where I go?" Asher desolately whispered. "My home is dead."
Asher didn't move right up until he'd been driven right into the semi-darkness of the examination hall, one door open at the opposite end and spilling light out into the hall. Inside, Asher blinking against the bright lights, waited the familiar face of Doctor Mina Parson, one of the few police-delegated practitioners. She was sitting quietly on one of the chairs but stood to welcome him. At the dispenser table that had opened up from the wall, two mechanical arms were busy pulling out the materials she would require for this final pre-release check up. Balis helped Asher onto the patient bed and, stroking back his hair in farewell, flashed him a quick smile and left.
A sealed tube arrived in one of the chutes, a panel whispering open, and Asher immediately detected the hot blood parcelled within, could smell the endorphins the blood had been infused with, his fangs extending slightly in reaction. Dr Parson nodded, pleased with his reaction, fetched and uncapped the tube before pulling out the red elongated capsule within. It was the length of her hand and half as thick around, the ends gently rounded; she handed it to him.
"Drink slowly," Dr Parson advised, watching him clutch the blood sac to his mouth, fangs quickly extending before he bit down to bury them into the soft flesh-simulating packaging.
Mechanically, he drank as the doctor examined him, taking notes and preparing the paperwork to discharge him. The room lights seemed to brighten as his senses heightened and he closed his eyes against it, focusing on the warm liquid slipping down his parched throat. His fang-roots ached, it having been so long since his last feeding. The medi-bay he'd occupied for the past fifty-three days had intravenously fed him his required nutrients but an actual bite was completely different. Distantly he felt the blood make his skin hum, his insides sing. Rich and heady and completely human blood, it was marvellous.
He finished the capsule and handed it back, shoulders slumping as he thought of the last time he'd had a real feed… the last time a graceful head had willingly bent and offered his own neck up to Asher's bite—
A choked sob caught in his throat because that was never going to happen again.
"Do you recall what occurred before you were brought here?" Dr Parson asked gently, tapping out notes on the screen-pad she held. Her wide brown eyes held a gentle expression as she waited for him to reply.
"I…" Asher struggled with his memories a moment before the last sequence of events returned in a rising collection of slashes and shadows. "I remember following Devon," he said at last. "He'd brushed me off earlier in the evening, said there was an emergency he needed to get to."
"Was it in relation to yours and Devon's latest case?" she softly asked.
"I don't know." Lifting a hand, Asher cradled his head in it, eyes squeezing shut. "We'd been working on the Bio-tag case. There's been… there's been rumours that some people have managed to remove and sell their Bio-tags to wanted criminals for ridiculous sums of money."
"Buying a new identity is useful when the one you usually hold is wanted for a crime," Dr Parson commented with a wry twist of her lips. "Was it another kind of lead?"
Asher shook his head, "I don't know. He wouldn't tell me, he just wanted to rush off. But at the time there was no indication, far as I knew, for him to need to be anywhere. Not as armed as he was and…"
"You were worried?" Dr Parson prodded when he trailed off.
"Yes," Asher breathed, lifting his other hand to his head. It had begun to hurt. "I… didn't want him going out with so much ammunition alone. I pretended I bought his excuse and let him go, and then I followed him." The memories cleared in his mind and the words fell from his lips…
"Tell me," Dr Parson whispered.
"Devon had gone to the docks," Asher murmured weakly.
Thing was, he'd gone to the docks south of the bridge where the best thing for respectable people was to be indoors after dark. It was the sort of place police officers spent a lot of time in travelling in packs, didn't chase after fleeing suspects without at least four others in back up with more on the way. Cops didn't show their faces around here on their off times because they had most likely been seen in uniform, and the risk of being recognised could mean their lives at stake.
That Devon dared this at all set Asher's nerves on fire. He'd fed earlier in the day, could afford to spend a little of his energy on focusing his senses and keeping them on high alert. He scented the wind as often as he could, paid attention to the thickness of the shadows and the creeping figures ever present. He watched where attention turned and was grateful every single time when he saw eyes turning away from his partner.
Idiot human, he thought desperately. Why didn't you bring me with you?
And yet he knew. It was a hi-risk gamble Devon willingly took because only people who had ties to power, who were more dangerous than you thought, would dare venture into the south docks area alone at night. Best to leave them alone even if they were inviting trouble; you never knew what you were up against.
Asher tailed Devon all the way to the warehouse area, parking his car and expending preternatural ability to follow by foot the rest of the way. Devon turned left between two empty buildings behind an old abandoned warehouse. Asher followed, dashing along the top of one of the fences circumventing the property, trying to keep his coat from flapping as he moved, leaping quietly up the twenty metres to get up the side of the nearest building and up into the darkness out of sight. As a pre-agreed meeting point, there could be people lying in wait and he didn't want to alert them, wanted to make sure that Devon—
He spied a sniper rifle to his right on the other side of the road, on the next building and one floor up, a thin tube not moving but glinting oddly in the moonlight. Judging the man's position, he quickly calculated where someone on his building would have to be to cover the parking lot area below and made for that section, slipping around the entire building the long way to avoid detection and hopefully scope out the possibility of other back up.
None found, and there was only a single sleek jeep parked in hiding. Maximum six people; it must just be the snipers and their back up.
By the time he'd made his way around and spotted both the second sniper and the sniper's cover, there pulled up a little jet ski to the tiny, broken down pier of the warehouse property. Devon had his phone lit up in his ear, facing the new arrival, and a tall lanky teenager got off, moving carefully, pulling his own phone free as he waved to Devon, obviously having just been coordinating and confirming their meeting.
They'd been so careful, Asher could see that. But they were busted.
He could smell the tension from the men below him on his building and he moved quickly, dropping down the side of building onto the two men, a hand each ruthlessly slashing their vocal chords and jugular; soundless and quick. A wave of awareness hit him at the scent of excited blood but he ignored it, snatching their mobile phones from their ears, and high-tailing it back to where the fences would connect him to the other side of the road to that other building where there was just that other pair to take care of—
One of the phones in his pocket gave a quick buzz on silent mode and Asher cursed, pushing himself now, not quite caring as much for silence as he had been. He got to the end of the building and leaped onto the fence, hearing it rattle beneath him but not caring.
In seconds he'd be up on that building, just mere moments and Devon would be safe, but then he noticed a shadow running along from where he expected the second sniper to be, someone coming to meet him. He growled, fangs extending, claws protruding, eyes on his target. He didn't give the man a chance to focus on him, pushing his speed to inhuman measures, using his momentum to pounce up the side of the building and over the man's head. He wasn't important, wasn't important, that person wasn't the one with the sniper gun trained on his partner—
Snarling, he came down on his mark, letting gravity and superb momentum pull him down on the defenceless man—Shit!—there swung a long double barrel from the stairwell doorway and— No!—the blast was deafening and Asher screamed at the tearing pain in his shoulder from the shotgun fire, the impact strong enough that he missed— Shouts sounded below and the men here began to scramble to complete their mission.
Dropping heavily, he attacked again, claws out, aiming for the sniper's neck, trying to turn the shot away from where he knew it would destroy the one thing, the one thing—
He keened when the rifle went off even as his strike connected; a jolt in his chest proof the assassin's bullet too had met its mark. And in the next breath there came another shotgun fire, on top of the gunshots from the man he'd avoided earlier who'd doubled back now and joined the fray. The shotgun blast shoved him backward with its force, whipped him around so that he could use the last of his strength to brace his arms on the half-wall barrier and look…
At the nightmare sight of the slumped figure in the parking lot below, at the kid running for his jet ski. The crushing realisation of loss froze him in place.
Another gunshot from behind and Asher arched then collapsed, pain rendering him immobile, gasping for breath because his lungs were filling slowly with blood. The shotgun shooter dashed past him, aiming for and firing at the escaping teen.
Minutes. It had taken minutes and the one thing that had mattered to him—
Too late, mouthed the sniper when Asher hit the ground near him, a smug grin on his ugly dying face. They stared at each other, the red and black of their blood pooling and mixing between them. Asher gasped for breath and hated him, hated him, hated him, hated this face that had stolen his partner away. Struggling to stay awake long enough, he watched as the light faded from the man's open eyes and felt no satisfaction. But then he saw, from the corner of his vision, the sniper's cover man approach, a new face to hate coming into a stream of moonlight, hand gun poised, aiming for his back, his heart, only it was useless because his Heart had already—
He jerked when the fire hit.
Darkness descended completely before the echo could dissipate.