This is the second book in the Third Company series.


Prologue

I had always thought that dying would be peaceful. And I did feel a sense of peace as I lay there, feeling the life drain out of me. I could feel everyone around me panicking, trying to help. I tried to tell them not to bother, but I couldn't get the words out.

I never thought I would live a long life. All the things that had happened before now had changed that idea a bit, but apparently, I had been right all along. I was never meant to last. It was incredibly ironic. It was all just like before, as if the universe had been trying to finish what it started all along on that fateful night in which my whole life had changed. This was how it was always supposed to be.

But if I could think of any way to die, I was sure I was doing it right, like this, in the service of someone else. I didn't feel much pain anymore, and that was a blessing. My vision blurred, so I closed my eyes. I supposed, it was time to let go. I let my mind fade.


Chapter One

Mission

I walked the streets with the confidence that came from the acute sense of sight and hearing I had. I could see something at almost three times the distance of what I normal human could see, and my hearing was better too. So I wasn't worried about getting snuck up on.

I heard a whimper. I stopped in my tracks. I wasn't in the best part of town, so I wasn't sure what I would find there. Normally, a small girl like me wouldn't be caught dead in that area if she didn't belong there. There was always something going on, though. So it was a good place to patrol.

The sound had come from a nearby alley. I crouched and made my way over with the silence of a deadly predator. I looked around the edge of the building. There were two beings moving about. They were against the wall and blocked off by a high fence that stood between the two buildings. The whimpering was coming from the person that was blocked from my view by the other being. I could tell, whoever it was, they were struggling, fighting. It sounded like a woman. But the man that had her in his grasp was too strong for her. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the man's mouth was at her neck. I saw blood trailing down her collarbone. That's when I knew. Vampire.

I stepped into the air. Just like that, I stepped, and I was floating. I glided over to the two in complete silence. I was right behind them when I let myself touch the ground again. Then, with inhuman speed, I wrapped my arms around the vampire's face, forced my hands in his mouth and wrenched his jaw apart so that he had to release the girl. She fell to the floor.

I quickly pulled my hands away before the vampire bit me. He whirled around to fight me but I was already squatting down at his feet, swinging my leg around and knocking him onto the ground. I swiftly pinned his arms down with my knees and sat on his chest.

He snarled and fought me, but I held my ground. I reached behind my back, pulling my long black coat up and out of the way to reach one of the three stakes that were tucked into my pants. I pulled one out, lifted it above my head, and then shoved it down into the vampire's chest. It made a weird thud sound when it hit the skin, and I pushed, hard, making sure it went as far as I could make it go.

I watched as the vampire's immortality drained from its body. His skin became ashen, and he seemed to wither into himself. And then, the blood began to pour out of his wound. The stake had been soaked in a special venom that stripped the vampires of their immortality and their ability to heal. So, once the venom went through the body, the vampires were no longer nearly invincible. Then the stake did the rest of the work in killing them.

I got up and went to the girl. I checked her pulse. She was still alive. She would be fine, but she wasn't about to be going anywhere. I needed to call for help. I pulled out my phone and dialed.

"Hello?" said a male voice on the other end.

"Hey, Orion. I've got a female victim here that needs taking care of. Think you can send someone over to Lincoln and Green? She's in an alleyway near the intersection."

"Sure thing. I'll take care of it. You should probably be finishing up. It's already five."

Five o' clock in the morning? I hadn't realized it was so late. "Yeah, okay. Thanks." I hung up the phone.

I checked over the girl one more time to make sure she was okay. Then I began the walk home. I was tempted to fly, but I couldn't risk it when dawn would break so soon. It took me an hour to reach my house. Luckily, none of my family members woke up until after seven.

I climbed through my window. Thank goodness my bedroom was on the first floor. Once inside, I began to get undressed. My uniform was made up of a lot of separate pieces. I needed a lot of protection, along with loops and pockets and things for all my weapons. My shoes were black, heavy-duty boots that weighed a ton. It took my about five minutes to get everything off of me and put away.

I looked into the full-length mirror hanging from the door. I didn't have any major scratches or bruises, and no blood. That was good. My deep red hair was an unruly mess. I pulled out my hair tie and let it fall in ringlets about my shoulders. My eyes, normally a bright green, were darkened from fatigue. Overall, I didn't look too good. I slipped into my pajamas and got into bed. I had a couple of hours before school would start.


After school I went over to Orion's house. It was usually my habit to stop by in the afternoon and see what was going on. I went into the library, the first room you reached after going in through the door, and the place we all hung out when we were there. Randi and Orion were already there, lounging on the couch with books in hand. Randi lived at the house with Orion.

"Hey, guys," I said with a smile, taking a seat in the recliner.

Randi looked up from her book and smiled in greeting. Her curly dark hair was casually thrown up into a bun, and strands of it had fallen, framing her face. She was about half a foot taller than me, which I was envious of. I only stood just above five feet. She was more muscular than me, and her face had stronger features. But she was pretty, in my opinion. Randi never seemed to think so.

I looked over at Orion; he was still in deep concentration reading his book. He had on his black-framed glasses, which he usually wore whenever he was working on something. He was just under six feet tall, and pretty attractive, in my opinion. His facial features were a bit harsh, but they went together nicely. And he had a good body, from years of training. His dark brown hair was always unruly, and his eyes always seemed to have a seriousness to them. I always got the sense from him that he had gone through a lot in his past. He never talked about it though.

Although Orion was our leader, he wasn't that much older than us. He was twenty-six, and we were all seventeen or eighteen in Third Company. Third Company was made up of me, Randi, Leo, Han, and Orion. We were the smallest company in Animagia, and one of the most skilled, or so they told us.

Animagia. The name that would rule over our lives, probably forever. That was a long time for me, since I was the youngest Animage to ever be recruited into the company. I was only eleven when I had encountered the red-tailed hawk. It had followed me around, eventually flying down at me. I was scared at first, screaming, but then a sudden calm had overcome me. The hawk landed nearby and stared me right in the eyes. It had a strange glow about it, and I felt drawn to it. I reached out and touched it gently. The glow transferred to me. I felt a wave of warmth wash over me, and then it was gone. The hawk flew away, and hours later, confused and wandering the streets, I had been found by some of Animagia's people. They had explained what happened to me. I had been given a gift, they had said. The powers of the hawk. I could use those gifts to fight evil. I had wondered what kind of evil they were talking about. And that's when they told me. All the horrors of the world I thought didn't exist. Demons, vampires, werewolves, black magic. It was all real, and I was destined to fight it.

So that's what we did. We fought. Me and the rest of Third Company, and all of Animagia. We kept the world safe from all the threats that it didn't even know existed. The animals chose their warriors, gave over their powers. They always chose right. There could only ever be one of a given species. I was the red-tailed hawk. Randi was a wolf. Orion wasn't gifted. He had gotten involved in Animagia some other way. I wasn't sure how. He never explained it to us, and I didn't want to pry.

"How'd patrol go?" Randi asked me, wistfulness in her voice. She had been forced to take a leave of absence a few months ago. She missed it, I knew, the fight. She took on the job with more gusto than the rest of us, except for maybe Leo.

Orion looked up from his book to listen to the answer.

"It went okay. I killed a few Wasawasa demons. Don't know why they were out and about but I figured might as well take them down. And then there was a vampire feeding on a girl."

"The Kesari clan?" Randi asked, leaning forward in eagerness.

I shrugged. "Not sure. Probably." The Kesari clan of vampires was the biggest and most powerful vampire clan in the area. They were one of our biggest enemies. There was a constant war going between the clan and Animagia. But, we also needed each other sometimes. Sometimes we had a common enemy, or information that the other needed. It was a strange relationship.

"Good work," said Orion with a nod at me.

I heard the front door open and a few seconds later Leo was walking into the room. "Hey." He took a seat in the other recliner opposite me. Leo was gifted with the abilities of a lion. He was probably the best agent out of all of us, and he enjoyed the job the most. He was in charge of his own squad now, Easy Squad. It had originally been given to Randi, but due to certain occurrences, it had been stripped from her control and given to Leo. Randi didn't seem to mind it too much.

"I killed like five Wasawasa demons last night," Leo said, putting his feet up on the table and his hands behind his head. "It was fun." He flashed a smile.

Leo was, for lack of any better words, extremely hot. His smile could draw a girl's attention from a mile away. His teeth were so straight and white, and when he smiled, it took away the darkness that always seemed to travel with him. I wasn't sure what it was, but he always just seemed a little off. Sometimes, I wish we were closer so that I could ask him about it. I mean, we were all close, but Leo kept the most distance. He had sharp brown eyes, a strong chin, and was well built. His brown hair was cropped short, a style he had just adopted that suited him quite well.

"Yeah, I got a couple, too," I said. I wondered again why there were so many of them around. Usually they didn't go out and about much, especially at night. They were completely white, from head to toe, and so easy to spot in the darkness. It was a good thing too because they were amazingly strong, and if they got you in their grips, you were pretty much done for. They were also incredibly silent.

Orion seemed a little perturbed by the presence of the demons too. He frowned slightly. "I should probably report this. I'll be right back." Orion left the room to make the call.

"Do you think they're plotting something?" Leo asked.

"The Wasawasas? They usually don't cause too much trouble of their own accord. If they're up to something, someone's probably just using them."

The door opened again and Han came into the room. He sat down where Orion had been sitting and splayed himself out. He gave a sigh of exhaustion. "What a night. I got attacked by a group of Wasawasas. Can you believe it?"

I almost laughed, if it weren't so alarming. Han had been given the gift of a gorilla. I was thankful for him every day. He was the life of the group, in my opinion. He always had something to say to make everyone laugh. But he could be serious if you needed him to be. He was as tall as Leo, a little over six feet. He head a kind smile that made you want to smile back and forget your worries. He had soft brown hair and eyes to match. His attractiveness wasn't as obvious as Leo's. He had a general subtlety about him. He and Randi had been best friends for a long time, before even Animagia. It was such an amazing coincidence. They had gotten their abilities on the exact same day. That almost never happened in Animagia.

Orion came back into the room. He stood by the couch to talk to us. "Okay, we need someone to do a mission tonight."

"Well, I obviously can't do it," said Randi, somewhat bitterly.

"Can't," said Leo. "I got another job to do."

"I could," said Han with a sigh. "But it'll involve skipping out on Game Night with my family, and I'll definitely get grounded."

"I'll do it," I volunteered. I wasn't doing anything anyway, and I didn't want Han to get grounded.

"Okay. You remember the diamond that Easy Squad retrieved for the Asari clan? Well, it's gone again."

The Asari clan was a peaceful clan of vampires. Animagia had a pact with them. They were non-violent creatures, so we protected them if any threats ever arose against them. A lot of times, we helped each other with projects and things.

"Who took it?" I asked.

"We don't know exactly who, but we know where it is. It found its way into some sort of private art gallery. One of our guys saw it there the other day by pure chance. They want you to get it back."

I nodded. "Okay. Sounds like an easy job."

"I have all the information here." Orion kicked Han's legs out of the way and reached beneath the table to get a folder. He handed it to me. "That should be all you need. They're counting on you."

I smiled. "No problem. Just leave it to me."


Okay, so here's the first chapter of book two. Not much to it but hope you enjoyed it so far. I've got about twelve chapters written so I should be posting this pretty regularly. I'd appreciate any input. Thanks!