A rhythmic beeping filled the air, causing Jacinta to groan as it broke the silence. It took her a moment to realise the source of the noise belonged to her cell phone. Raising an eyebrow slightly, she awkwardly tried to pull herself upright, exaggerating her movements to accommodate for the chains binding her wrists to the wall. When she didn't feel the resistance of the heavy metal chains, she looked down in the dim light to her forearms. Once her eyes focused she realised that they were bare. Thick red bands of raw, inflamed flesh marked where the restraints once held her. Her eyes widened as her vision accommodated for the decrease in light, to see a patterned quilt under her arms, covering her legs and lower abdomen. It took another moment for her to realise that it was the quilt that usually adorned her bed.
Looking around the confines of the room, she realised that instead of the cold metallic walls of her cell, she was residing in the warm inviting accruements of her apartment bedroom. Darting her head from side to side as if it was on a turntable, she tried to find anything that would tell her that this was simply a facsimile, a façade instead of her actual house. Pinching herself to check if this was a pain riddled delusion, she winced at the act, informing her of its reality. Reaching over, she tapped the control pad of the bedside lamp, illuminating the room, confirming that she was in fact back in her apartment.
"What the hell?" she muttered disbelievingly as the beeping from her cell phone repeated itself, looking down at its dark surface, she noticed that it was a notification warning her of the devices impending shutdown due to lack of power. Fumbling slightly, she placed it in its docking station, causing the screen to light up once more. A series of notifications on the home screen informed her of over a dozen missed calls – most where from her voicemail service – with a small number being from her sister, as well as a pair from Victoria. The notification beneath it highlighted that she had six unread text messages.
Slowly, she pulled the covers off her frame, noticing that she was still dressed in the same clothes she had driven back from her sister's house in. Thankful that whoever had put her to bed had allowed her some measure of dignity of not changing her attire. She shuddered when she realised that in her time of incarceration, she was not as fortunate. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she slowly stood up. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she exited her bedroom, her shoulders hunched slightly as she made a slow tour of her apartment, looking for anything out of place in the otherwise unkempt living area. She caught her reflection in a mirror and gasped.
Her eyes were cloudy and sunken and her skin had gained a thin film that did little to mask the greyish tint it had become.
Entering the bathroom, Jacinta peeled off her clothes and manipulated the faucets. A thick stream of hot water erupted from the showerhead as she tentatively stepped inside. Reaching for her shower gel she slowly started soaping herself up to try and remove the filth of an unknown number of days. As she washed her mind wandered, back to her time in the cell. With the only sound being that of the pelting water, she remembered what happened when she was brought in. She had first come too in the back of a black military-looking vehicle, the kind she had seen on occasion during the police counter-riot drills she had participated in. In the past she had enjoyed riding along with the riot squad as they pretended to quell social disorder, this time, she was groggy and handcuffed to the grated floor. When she had tried to find out what had happened, the vehicles other occupants had ignored her.
When the vehicle finally stopped, things did not get much better. She was dragged into a holding cell, one much larger than the cell that they eventually dumped her in, with a pair of gowned medical technicians with identity-obscuring face shields. Together, they had stripped her in a clinical precision that bordered on the malicious. When she finally standing before them, nude, they took deliberate care to check every centimetre of her skin, grabbing and prodding at her body, looking for any scars or marks that would indicate that something had bitten her. They documented each of her tattoos, checking them against a database. The silent manner in which they conducted themselves only served to dehumanise her.
Scrubbing down her body, she remembered how they manhandled her, she noticed how they paid particular attention to her breasts and thighs, looking for anything that would explain her presence in the safe house. As she recalled how their hands felt on her body, she could hear Henry, the man she had mistakenly found herself becoming attracted to repeating himself. "Its standard procedure."
Looking down at her body, she could still feel their hands on her. Scrubbing, she tried to purge the thoughts from her mind as she rubbed harder and harder against her skin. She scrubbed until her skin was as raw as her wrists and ankles. Pressing her back against the side of the shower, she slid down its tiled surface until she was crouched on the floor. Hugging her knees, she felt her eyes sting. She had been violated, betrayed by someone she thought she knew. Tiny rivulets crept down her cheeks as the mental shields she had raised to distance herself from what had happened finally collapsed. As she cried she envisioned Henry standing over her, reminding her that it was only standard procedure. She hated herself, hated herself for finding Henry attractive. Hated herself for believing that she knew him, for trusting him.
Hardening her gaze as the water started to cool, she slowly stood. She felt the ice return to her veins as she turned the faucets and stepped out. Enveloping herself in a towel she walked out towards the living room. Taking a seat on the sofa, she pressed her knees together tightly as she blankly stared at the opposite wall. It took a crisp morning breeze nipped at her bare shoulders to bring her out of the hate fuelled haze. Standing, she discarded the towel, before picking up an oversized blue sweatshirt and a pair of black tights from the nearby laundry hamper. Donning the garments, she stood barefoot in her apartment, a moment of disorientation as the quiet room failed to disclose just how long her faceless captors had held her. Turning to her bedroom she paused when she reached the threshold, as if trying to catch out anything stirring in the shadows. Crossing her bedroom to retrieve her phone from its cradle, noticing that its nearly depleted battery status had only marginally improved. Checking the date, she noticed that she had been held for nearly a day and a half, and that it was nearly eight am the day before she was to return to shift. Shaking her head in shock, she brought the screen once more to her face and opened her phonebook. Pressing a contact she started a call.
"Morning Sin, how's the family?" Zack voice emerged from her cell phone's speaker.
Jacinta's mouth felt dry and words failed her, something Zack appeared to have noticed.
"Sin? You there? Everything okay?" the tone of his voice sounding more urgent.
Taking a breath, Jacinta forced herself to speak, "Zack, I'm in trouble."
Urgency and concern joined his words, "Jacinta, what's the matter? Where are you?"
"In my apartment."
"I'll be right there, stay where you are."
Jacinta let the phone slide out of her hands and onto the floor as she sat on the sofa, curling her legs up under her chin.
Jacinta had no concept of time as the door to her apartment silently swung open. Had she noticed, she would have seen Zack's suspicious frown when he saw the usual tough-as-nails paramedic curled up on the sofa.
It took him standing in front of her for Jacinta to register his arrival, his body language suggesting that he had been talking to her. Without a word, Jacinta launched herself into his arms, wrapping hers around his neck. The sudden move took Zack aback slightly as he enveloped his colleague tightly, her body shuddered as he heard something he hadn't in nearly six years: Jacinta crying.
Raising a hand, he brushed it against the back of her head, stroking her hair as she sobbed into his chest. "Shhh, Sin, its okay, I'm here now," he murmured as her shuddering continued.
"No it's not," her voice, muffled. Zack felt powerless as he continued to console her, he looked around, trying to find anything that would explain the mood she was in, but only finding familiar trinkets.
The two stood like that for several minutes, occasionally, Jacinta would say something unintelligible and swallowed by crying until the torrent slowed to a trickle and her throat had become like sandpaper.
Zack released her momentarily, sitting her on the sofa to pour her a glass of water. Sitting beside her, he held her left hand while pushing the glass into her right and raised it to her lips. "Drink," he urged as she blankly stared at the unpowered television.
As the cool liquid flowed down her throat, her faculties slowly started to return. Her eyes, swollen and puffy from crying focused on Zack immediately, and she smiled weakly.
Zack's smile failed to hide the concern on his face as he collected the empty glass and placed it on the coffee table, "You up to telling me what's happened?"
Jacinta's vision finally focused as she looked over to Zack, her voice barely above a whisper. "Remember the townhouse fire when I got the rookie killed?"
Zack started to protest that it wasn't her fault when she silenced him with a raised hand, "Not now," she breathed. "Well everything started going to shit after that night."
As Jacinta told him what had been happening, Zack's expression changed from concern at the beginning to pensive scepticism as she described her unique relationship with Erik. She paused before rolling up the sleeves of the sweatshirt, exposing the thick bands of raw, inflamed flesh. Zack stood in muted shock as she told him about her captivity under the scrutiny of the infamous Agent Henry Miller. Shock turned to seething rage as she described her treatment, the abuse and violation at the hands of his subordinates.
The strength in her voice wavered to breaking as she finally looked up at him, "So, yeah. I'm in trouble."
Zack dropped to his knees in front of her, realising her hands where shaking slightly, he held them softly. Dropping to her eye level, he gave her a half-smile. "It certainly looks like that, Sin." He took a breath, "Is there anything that can be done?"
She shook her head, "Doesn't look like it. Henry made it perfectly clear that I should be dead."
Zack glared at an unseen point behind her, "I wouldn't be believing anything that bastard had to say about…" he trailed off when he looked back at Jacinta. She was sitting upright one hand was tightly holding his shoulder, the other was clawing at the front of her chest. Her eyes were wide with fear as her breathing became short.
"Sin? What's wrong?" he asked as she tried to slow a heartrate he could feel through her hand.
Jacinta felt her heart pull back against her spine, holding her breath only caused her to cough. Locking her gaze squarely on Zack she forced words through gritting teeth. "Get Victoria, she knows how to fix this."
Pushing him back she tried to stand, only to have her legs give out beneath her. Crumpling to the floor, she saw Zack pick up her cell-phone from the floor and feverishly scrolled through her contacts list.
Raising the phone to his ear, his expression one of curious suspicion. Due to the volume of the call, even from the floor, Jacinta could make out what Victoria was saying.
"Hola," Victoria answered almost immediately.
Zack raised an eyebrow, "Hello? Victoria?"
Victoria's tone became defensive, "Who is this? Where is Sin? Why do you have her phone?"
"It's Zack," Zack must have realised how vague that was, "From the stationhouse." He added sheepishly, concern still evident in his voice, "Somethings happening to Sin."
There was a brief pause, and it was obvious that the firefighter was driving. "Describe what is going on."
From the floor, Jacinta grabbed at Zack's left leg, her other hand still gripped at her chest tightly. "Tell…tell her it's the Hunger."
Victoria must have heard her, "I'll be right here. Zack? Keep your distance, I'll explain when I arrive."
As the call ended, Zack looked down at Jacinta. She had started perspiring profusely and her movements had become slower. Crouching just outside her grasp, Zack sighed, "Hang in there Sin, helps on its way."
She tried to respond, but nothing intelligent emerged from cracked lips before the world around her went grey.
The feeling of someone stroking her hair, brought Jacinta back to consciousness, it took her a moment to register that her head was slightly elevated off of the floor. Opening her eyes, she looked up to see a figure leaning over her. Reddish-purple hair hung loosely from underneath the hood of a striped jacket as purple lips continued to mutter in a language Jacinta didn't recognise.
"Victoria? What? What happened?" she breathed hoarsely. Victoria shushed her before reaching for something outside Jacinta's field of vision before presenting an opened insulated bottle to her.
"Just drink, you were right, it was the Hunger. Which considering how long you were the guest of those goons, I'm not really surprised," Victoria replied while she continued to stroke Jacinta's hair soothingly.
As the acrid, coppery scent of the liquid in the bottle reached Jacinta's nostrils, she was overcome with an animalistic sensation. Grabbing the bottle she brought it to her lips and quaffed its contents. As she drank, she felt her higher brain functions start to return, with it brought the realisation of the thick, slimy liquid she was pouring down her throat. Gagging slightly, she pushed the bottle away, spilling some of the contents on the surface she was laying on.
A disappointed groan caught her attention and a quick glance revealed that her head was resting on Victoria's lap. And the dark red liquid now stained the front of her dark grey jeans.
"Feeling better?" Victoria asked as Jacinta slowly sat upright, Jacinta nodded before her vision focused on the girl sitting on the floor of her apartment.
"Where's Zack?" Jacinta asked, panicked as she became aware once more of her surroundings.
A form entered her field of vision. She was able to focus the form into Zack, it took her a moment to immediately notice the bandage that was wrapped around his forearm.
He must have picked up on the concern in Jacinta's face, "You were a little feisty when Victoria got here," he looked a little sheepish, "I wasn't paying enough attention."
Jacinta's eyes widened, "I, I attacked you?" she tried to move before Victoria laid two firm hands on her shoulders.
Zack shook his head before sitting on the ground next to her curled form, "Nothing like that Sin, you got a little raucous when Victoria arrived and gave you that concoction, we had to restrain you as it took effect." He looked over to the redhead, "She moved, I didn't and got this as a reward."
Victoria helped her sit up and onto the sofa. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess," Jacinta replied before looking over to Zack, "I'm sorry I injured you."
Zack stood, shaking his head, the smile he wore served to mask the concern he still felt for his long-time colleague. "Oh please, Sin, you gave me far worse than this when we were dating."
Victoria stifled a laugh while cocking an eyebrow in surprise, but otherwise remained silent as Jacinta turned a bright shade of red.
The embarrassment allowed Jacinta to settle slightly, Zack who was still standing looked over to the now reclining Victoria. "So Victoria, what's the story, are you really not human like Sin says?"
Victoria's creased her forehead slightly before looking over to Jacinta, an expression of 'what didn't you tell him' etched on her tanned features.
Tilting her head slightly she looked back at him, "That is partially correct, my father isn't human. My mother however, is. I'm somewhere in the middle, a Dampyre if you will, a hybrid."
Considering how new he was to the whole situation, Zack was taking it surprisingly well. "So what does that actually entail?"
"Well I don't suffer light-blindness like my father does, nor do I need to consume blood to repair damaged tissue if that's what you're wondering. My strength, speed and stamina are considerably higher for someone of my build, the only trade-offs are an intolerance to processed meats, a moderately reduced lifespan and my vampiric cells are actively trying to kill me."
"That sounds familiar," Jacinta commented morosely, causing both Victoria and Zack to frown.
"Is that why you brought Sin that concoction she's nursing?" Zack asked crossing his arms over his chest.
Nodding Victoria picked up the insulated bottle and handed it back to Jacinta, "I'm not entirely sure what is going on in your situation Sin, as Erik pointed out, they aren't supposed to happen. However, when I found you on the Interstate and took you to see the healer in the safe house, he said your presentation was identical to the Hunger that afflicts me, in fact he was surprised that I had let a fellow hybrid get so bad before bringing her in for treatment."
"You do realise you have to finish it, trust me you'll get used to the taste and it's the only way to stave off the Hunger." Victoria remarked.
"You're lying," she retorted as Victoria laughed.
"Yes, but it doesn't change the fact that the Hunger will continue to return unless you consume the full amount daily."
Jacinta looked into the murky liquid that sloshed around in the container, unable to see its colour, "Are you at least going to tell me what's in it?"
Victoria shook her head, "Its better that you don't know, trust me."
Zack raised a hand, his expression showing how left out of the conversation he had become, "Ah, what exactly is the Hunger?"
Victoria stepped off from the sofa so she could address both Zack and Jacinta. "Dampyres go through their transition at the onset of puberty, which is around the same time that vampiric cells start to become haemolytic. After that point our vampiric cells start attacking our human ones. Its similar to what occurs to our vampiric kin, except that human metabolisms can't break down blood enzymes like vampiric ones can so for us," she looked squarely at Jacinta, "Consuming human blood will do nothing. The issue is, that our higher brain functions tell us that that is what we need to stave off what is happening. Hence why it's called the Hunger, the Elixir is supposed to offset the effects of the haemolysis. However, I'm not entirely sure why it works for Sin, I mean she doesn't have vampiric cells in her system."
Jacinta frowned, "When I was held by the…" she trailed off as she tried to remember what Henry Millers' little band of thugs was called, "Peacekeepers. They said that I had the highest concentration of something called haemovampiris. Apparently they were surprised that I hadn't died yet."
Victoria narrowed her gaze as if trying to translate what Jacinta had said into terms she understood. "I wouldn't be surprised, Blood Bonds are practically unheard of between humans and vampires. If the Coven considers these bonding's taboo, I find it highly unlikely that those goons would have picked up anyone like you before. But it has me wondering where that basis of comparison came from."
Jacinta shrugged, "I don't know what to tell you, they weren't exactly answering my questions as they stripped me of my dignity."
Zack took a seat next to Jacinta and placed a supportive hand on her knee. Jacinta flinched at his touch before interlocking her fingers in his hand, her gaze still locked on Victoria.
"Victoria, there can't be a coincidence here, how did you get assigned to the stationhouse," Zack commented trying to redirect the tone of the conversation the three were having.
Shrugging slightly Victoria removed a small case from the inside of her pocket, withdrawing a thin, black cigarillo and placed it between purple-coloured lips. She gestured towards a sliding door leading to a balcony, "May I?"
Jacinta looking surprised, before nodding. "I had no idea you smoked,"
Victoria laughed as she lit the end, "The joys of a hybrid genealogy my dear, those hazardous vices that plague humanity are not so hazardous."
"Sounds like a good deal,"
"I wouldn't say that." Victoria cocked and eyebrow slightly before taking a series of puffs on the cigarillo. "After your first encounter with Erik, he arranged through our operatives at city hall to have me assigned to the station."
At the mention of Erik's name, Jacinta scowled. He was the cause of all the problems that weren't caused by Henry Miller. "How did you end up involved with that bastard anyway?"
Victoria's cheeks turned a faint shade of red, as she rested the cigarillo between two fingers. "He's…he's my father."
Jacinta felt a knot form in her stomach, and could feel Zack shift awkwardly beside her. She started to apologise. Victoria simply raised a hand, her eyes gaining a glossed over appearance. "No, considering everything that has happened to you, you're entitled to hate him. Hell I'd be pissed to find out what you have. Besides how were you to know. It's not like we look similar."
The room fell silent as the trio comprehended what had been revealed. Zack appeared to run the implications over in his head before leaning forward. "Let me get my head around this. This Erik guy has a blood bond with Sin, which to him is the equivalent to a marriage, and he is also your father." Jacinta did not like where Zack was taking this. "Doesn't that make Sin, like your step-mother?"
Jacinta went bone-white, Victoria simply laughed. It was the first time either of them had seen her mouth fully open, and it showed a row of sharpened incisors that ringed both sides of her mouth.
"Only on the strictest of technicalities. Vampiric society doesn't quite work like that," Victoria looked at Jacinta, "Sorry, but as they say, you're not my real mom," she remarked, her tongue firmly in her cheek.
Zack laughed, Jacinta only looked confused, but the colour started to return to her cheeks. "So what does that make us then?"
"Sin and Victoria." When Jacinta's expression didn't improve, Victoria continued. "If I was a pureblood, it would be a different story. Vampiric society puts great importance on genealogy and bloodlines, but only for their pureblood kin. Dampyres aren't raised by our vampiric kin, we aren't apart of their families, we serve the Coven as a whole. My mother raised me up until my transition. After that my brethren in the Blood Caste trained me to be what stands before you."
"We're you assigned to keep an eye on me?" Jacinta asked as wisps of smoke drifted past Victoria's lips.
Victoria nodded slowly, "I hadn't questioned why until I brought you to the safe house. After the raid I tracked him down so he could explain himself. He was concerned that if either his rivals or the vermin found out about you, that it would make you a target. He claims my proximity to you was for your protection."
"Why would it make me a target?" Jacinta asked.
Victoria took a series of short puffs, before exhaling smoke. "Vampiric society is very strict on genealogy. All births have to benefit the coven, so births are heavily regulated. The Blood Bond is supposed to only be possible within a pair that is genetically compatible. To bond with a human is taboo and is meant to be impossible, as it would sully the bloodline. If the Coven found out about you, they would be bound to have you killed to protect the bloodlines."
Taking a sip from the bottle, Jacinta scrunched her face as soon as the liquid touched her tongue. Swallowing she looked to Victoria. "But you said you are a hybrid."
Victoria sighed before taking another puff, before blowing out white smoke. "Never said I was the result of a Bond. Vamps outside of the Breeding Caste are not permitted to breed. That safe house I took you to is a haven for the Sullied and Forgotten, those who have been cast out for not being a benefit to society." She pointed to herself, "Breeding with humans isn't as regulated, but it is still controlled. But for different reasons. They like to keep an eye on how many of us are around, it's only a problem if a bond in involved."
"So what does that make this? Our friendship? Is it a lie?" Jacinta asked, her tone accusatory.
The hybrid appeared visibly wounded by the statement and the implications that it made before creasing her brow slightly, "Sin, how can you say that? No our friendship isn't a lie, at least I don't think it is. I'll admit that the reasons for my assignment to the stationhouse was to keep tabs on you for Erik, but it was my decision to actively engage you, to talk to you and get to know you. I can understand how hurt and betrayed you are feeling right now, but I want to apologise if you feel any of that is the result of me."
Jacinta stared at a spot on the floor. Her limit had been reached sometime during her brief stay in Henry Millers custody. These new revelations were beginning to be too much to deal with.
After a moment Jacinta looked up from the spot of the floor she had been staring at, finally making eye-contact with Victoria. "No I don't blame you for any of this. Of all the new people I have encountered that I could blame, you are not one of them. That distinction falls directly on your father and that spineless bastard Miller."
The room fell silent before Zack spoke up, "So what happens now? Is there a way Sin can get cured of whatever this thing that's causing the 'Hunger' in her?"
Victoria shrugged. "Can't tell you. As I said the Coven considers what happened to Sin to be taboo, so there isn't a lot of information that is freely accessible on the side-effects which has me thinking there isn't any effort on a cure for it. I also suspect that the Peacekeepers won't be as much help either."
That realisation made Zack frown, he paced the room slightly before coming to a stop. "And mainstream medicine would be out of the question wouldn't it?" He muttered slightly.
Victoria nodded, "If the test results didn't raise a red-flag, Sin's presentation would. There is a reason why the Coven and the Peacekeepers have been able to exist under the radar for as long as they have." Victoria extinguished her cigarillo and re-entered the apartment. Sitting next to Jacinta she placed an arm around her shoulders before picking up the dropped bottle. "At the moment, the best thing I can suggest is what I've already told you. Drink the Elixir daily. Tomorrow I'll take you to where you can acquire it. I'll keep digging around and I'll see what I can find."
Jacinta looked defeated, "I suppose that's the best I can hope for, right?" Victoria nodded again, "Thank you. You are putting yourself in a lot of risk unnecessarily."
Victoria shrugged "It's nothing really." Standing, she collected a small bag that she had apparently brought with her. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but there is a government looking town car parked out front, so I'm going to make myself scarce."
The paramedic smiled slightly before standing, "Thank you, I mean it."
Victoria picked up a scrap of paper and scribbled an address on it. "Meet me at this location tomorrow." Smirking slightly she headed for the door. "I'll take the fire escape, Zack, look after her."
Zack had stayed at the apartment after Victoria made her hasty exit. The concern that he had for Jacinta had still not been abated. As he pottered around her apartment, one part keeping an eye on her, one part looking for anything that might be a surveillance device, Jacinta sat curled up on the sofa in a catatonic state. The television in front of her played the shopping channel, but it was obvious from the blank expression Jacinta was giving it that she wasn't paying attention.
Victoria had given her quite a bit to process not all of it were things she wanted to think about. She could hear Zack enter the kitchen and the sounds he made informed her that he had started preparing a meal, not that she felt hungry. While she had no concept of time, she had lost over a day to her internment, she knew at some point she probably should eat something.
As Zack continued to make more noise than was probably necessary, a sharp knock sounded on her door. Sitting up suddenly, she caught the clock on the nearby wall as she jerked her head towards the source of the sound. She was surprised how late it had become. When the knock went unanswered, it evolved into a hard, reverberating thumping. She stood slowly as she rounded the sofa towards the door. Zack intercepted her before she reached the now visibly shaking door.
"Mrs Salvatori? Is that you?" She called hopefully as Zack stood with his back pressed against the door. The only answer was more thumping. The strength of the thumping made it appear as if whoever was on the other side may beat the door down. Her eyes widened slightly as Zack gestured for her to go back towards the sofa as he reached into a nearby collection of umbrellas to remove an aluminium baseball bat. When she had moved sufficiently back, he peered into the peephole.
"Miss Ruthbridge, we know you're in there. We have means to open this door by force if need be, so just open the door, there is some urgency here." An irritatingly familiar voice called from the opposite side of the door. There was a slight tension to the timber of his voice as Zack looked over to Jacinta, his steely blue eyes narrowed slightly as he read her body language.
Jacinta snarled slightly as she heard Henry talk through the door before wrapping her arms around her chest tightly. The thumping had managed to get louder and more forceful. "Go away!" she called, wishing there was more strength to her words.
Zack kept his back pressed against the door, occasionally looking through the peephole. His own body language stiffened at what he saw.
"They have a sledgehammer out there," Zack whispered, suddenly realising just how pitiful the baseball bat he was carrying was as an improvised weapon.
"Miss Ruthbridge, your fate is already up to my decision, your compatriots don't need to suffer a lengthy incarceration for interfering. Just open the door, as I said, there is an urgent matter out here."
"They're going to break the door down anyway." Jacinta could feel her pulse quicken, but this time she was positive that it wasn't due to the Hunger.
Zack shared a concerned glance with her before slowly returning the bat to its hiding place and unlocked the door. As he reached to open it, the door was forced open, pushing him back to a spot behind the sofa.
Six black-clad figures entered the apartment. Their identity-obscuring black balaclavas and helmets sent a chill down Jacinta's spine. The one standing at the front of the group removed his helmet and balaclava. Jacinta frowned as Henry announced his appearance amongst the assortment.
"Now, that's better," Henry commented as he looked around the apartment. "Pleasure to see you again Jacinta."
Jacinta scowled as she stayed where she stood, "What right do you have to come barging into my apartment, Agent Miller. Didn't you get enough pleasure with watching me stripped and violated by your cronies?"
Zack did a double-take before glancing between Jacinta and Henry. "Wait, this is the cowardly piece of shit that did that to you?"
Henry turned from Jacinta, appearing as if he finally realised there was someone else in the apartment. "You must be Zachary Thompson. Paramedic-in-Charge of Stationhouse 26 and one time fling of our dear friend Jacinta. Tis a shame that the job got in the way of what no doubt was a passionate affair. Sorry to hear about the miscarriage though. You two would no doubt have been adequate parents. Our techs found…" the condescension was dripping from every word. But he was unable to finish his soliloquy as Zack stepped towards him, left hand raised in a fist. The punch connected against the side of Henry's face before anyone could react as he grabbed the agent by the front of his combat harness and shoved him against the doorframe.
"You, bastard. What right do you have to intrude in other people's lives?" Zack berated as he repeatedly shoved Henry against the frame. A series of metallic clicks sounded in unison as three of the uniformed men that accompanied Henry drew their weapons and pointed them at Zack. Two remained where they stood, carrying one of their colleagues, a large bloody gash crossed their body from one shoulder to the opposite hip.
"You really must be a love-crazed fool to pull off a stunt like this," Henry commented, all humour and sarcasm gone from his voice as an audible click came from the opposite side of the living room.
Jacinta pulled back on the cocking lever of a matte-black pistol. Behind her in the bedroom, Henry could see a metal door hidden within her closet was swinging slightly. With their attention drawn to Zack, his team had completely forgotten about Jacinta.
"Drop them," she breathed. It had been some time since she had held the graduation present she had received from her father before moving to Chicago. "Zack, let him go."
Henry rolled his eyes before glancing downwards, Zack's eyes followed suit, to see Henry's service pistol pointed at his stomach, cocked and ready to fire. The two men shared a glance, Jacinta could see the white fury, barely contained behind Zack's eyes, while Henry regained his smug expression. Zack reluctantly complied while Henry told his colleagues to holster their weapons. "You know, we really don't have time for this."
A faint moaning from the wounded figure banished the red she had started seeing when Henry revealed himself. Her instincts took over as she slowly lowered the pistol, but kept it at the ready. Approaching warily, she gestured for the wounded intruder to be placed on her dinner table.
The remaining faceless figures all turned to Henry who stepped away from Zack and stood behind Jacinta, "Standard search and seizure, the target didn't take kindly to our prodding."
Balling her fists, Jacinta stepped away from Henry and checked for a pulse while clenching her teeth, forcing her words through. "Why bring them here?"
Henry placed a hand on her shoulder. Jacinta immediately shrugged it off, her back became rigid in a defensive stance. "Because you know what's going on, there was a pack of ferals sniffing about around here, like the ones that killed your partner. Helendez here was caught in a Lycan ambush before we were able to drive them off." He moved to look at her in the eye, as his colleagues started removing pieces of their wounded colleagues body armour. "Please, help her."
Jacinta looked down at the wounded figure, now clad only in black fatigues the front of their tunic was torn open, a blood-soaked wound dressing was wrapped tightly around a slender, yet muscled torso. She looked up at their face. The face that looked up at her was pretty by most standards. Her skin was pale and she was shaking, partly from shock, partly from fear.
"Please, don't let me die," she stammered in a trembling voice.
Taking a breath, Jacinta looked up at Henry, "I need equipment, I don't just have supplies lying around the house."
Without a word a military grade medical kit was opened on the table in front of her. Removing some gloves, Jacinta leant over the wounded woman, lifting the wound dressing slightly, she inspected her wound site. The claw marks where jagged and deep, and blood pooled under the dressing. "Whoever applied this dressing has no idea about even basic first aid." She looked up. "Zack, get over here, I'm going to need some help." Looking to her uninvited guests she hissed. "The rest of you need to get out of my way."
"Can you save her?" Henry asked as the others stepped back.
Jacinta glared at him as she removed an IV kit from the bag and placed a bag of saline under her armpit. "I can't make any promises, we're not surgeons. But we'll do our best." Looking over to Zack who was in the process of replacing the wound dressing. While his movements were automatic, his body language spoke volumes about his disinterest with the task. Every so often the pair would exchange glances as they worked, trying their best to ignore the armed men that surrounded them.
Removing the trauma shears from the bag, Jacinta cut open the woman's sleeve. Due to the blood-loss, Jacinta found it difficult to find a suitable vein until she attached the tourniquet. "Come on, give me something." Probing solely on touch she tore open the clear tubing and inserted the white needle into the bag. Thumbing open the wheel, she squeezed the fluid down the line until it started dripping onto the floor. Letting it run, she removed a cannula needle and pressed it against the woman's forearm before attaching the tube to it. Securing the cannula she hung the bag from the light fixture above the dinner table and took a breath. "Pushing bolus," she stated matter-of-factly as she checked her patient's observations as Zack withdrew a drug bag from the kit and started drawing up a morphine injection.
"Time is not on our side here," she commented before Zack handed her the prepared syringe. "I do hope you're organising some kind of transport for her out of here, cause she's going to need surgery, and don't really want to be doing that in my living room."
Behind her she could hear someone talk into a radio as she pressed the tip of the needle into an access port on the IV line. "Pushing 2.5," she reported before delivering the dose.
"Transport is fifteen out," they reported as Zack checked the integrity of the wound dressings.
Jacinta looked away from Helendez and straight into Henry's stone-faced gaze.
"In that case, you can wait in the park across the street. Because, and don't take this the wrong way. I don't want any of you in my apartment."
Henry appeared, for an instant to contemplate protesting, before nodding. "Very well, Miss Ruthbridge. Montoya, Nixon, stay with Helendez. The rest of you, outside, it appears that we have overstayed our welcome." The masked men stifled laughter before filing out of the apartment, leaving Jacinta standing with her hands still balled into fists.
After a moment, Jacinta felt a hand on her shoulder. The sudden movement startled her already razor-thin nerves. Turning, she realised it was Zack.
"Sin, I need you to do obs on her."
In an instant, her training reasserted itself and she nodded. Helendez had lost a lot of blood, and while the saline that they were pumping into her was doing its job, it was nowhere near enough to stabilise her. Helendez's blood pressure was through the floor, and her breathing was erratic at best. Her skin –that skin that was visible through the overlapping layers of tattooing– had gained the tell-tale ashen pallor of someone who was in a bad condition.
To their credit, the remaining 'guests' kept their distance. Neither spoke, but they both kept a wary hand close to the handgrips of their customised sub-machine guns.
While Jacinta still had her pistol sticking out of the waistband of her tights, she really had no actual intention of using it. but it felt comforting to have it with her.
The two of them continued to keep watch over Helendez. Remaining silent save for the protocol ingrained notifications of when one or the other was injecting more analgesia, and the response of the Peacekeepers vital signs. Non-verbally, however, their body language spoke volumes known in a way that only can occur after working side-by-side for over six years.
Zack's hunched shoulders and set jaw informed Jacinta that Zack was still furious about the position Henry had placed them in. While he would treat Helendez's wounds without complaint or hesitation, he was far from happy with the notion.
Jacinta wasn't much different, she was equally angered to see Henry so soon following her internment as she was upset at the fact that Zack had now been dragged into this whole mess. The betrayal she felt about Henry was still quite raw. She knew that this was another thing that she and Zack were going to have to talk about, assuming that he stayed after the Peacekeepers left.
By the third dose of morphine, Helendez finally slipped into unconsciousness, giving into the pain of having half of her torso torn open. Jacinta had been surprised that the woman was still alive, let alone awake considering the amount of blood that now stained her dining table. She was about to make a comment about billing the Peacekeepers for the cost of a new table when the call came in that their transport was approaching.
Without a word, the two remaining Peacekeepers approached, pushing Zack and Jacinta aside as they collected their colleague. Jacinta frowned before standing in their way. "And what do you think you're doing? We only just got her stable. Do you have someone in your transport that is going to take over her care or are you just going to prop her into a seat and have her bleed out on the floor?"
The two guards shared awkward glances before Jacinta could hear a slight click from a throat microphone. "A medical team is aboard the BearCat." Jacinta was surprised when a female voice came from behind the balaclava.
Raising an eyebrow, Jacinta collected the ampoules of morphine they had given, "Were you paying attention to what we did? Do you know how much morphine we gave your associate? Keep track of her observations?" the two shared another glance. "Cause your medical team is going to want to know those things, and you missed all the stuff that Zack and I didn't say. So cool your jets, I'm coming with you."
Zack was about to protest, all he got out was "Sin, I." before she cut him off.
"One of us has to give them handover, it may as well be me, and I'm the one whose fate they control."
He frowned as she started packing up the medical bag, she didn't need him to tell her that what she proposed was a bad idea. Coming to her side, he placed a hand on her shoulder, his expression suggesting caution. Jacinta smiled weakly before zipping up the bag, slipping its strap over her shoulder and unhooked the saline bag from the light fixture. Turning back to the Peacekeepers she raised an eyebrow and pointed towards the door, "Well, shall we?"
The three descended the stairs in silence, with Jacinta walking alongside them to keep the IV line from going taut. She was thankful that Helendez had slipped into unconsciousness, as it made carrying her easier, it also saved her the indignity of being juggled around the corners of the stairwell. Exiting the building, Jacinta could see a matte-black military looking truck sitting in the middle of the street. Its large turbocharged engine was still purring as a bank of floodlights on a roof-mounted rollbar, lit the neighbourhood. Jacinta could see Henry and the rest of his team climbing into the back of the truck as a trio of Peacekeepers stood by the heavy metal door. They immediately noticed Jacinta and approached, a collapsible stretcher between two of them.
Helendez was quickly loaded onto the stretcher and one of the new Peacekeepers collected the kit and IV.
"You're medical?" Jacinta asked as they moved to load Helendez into the back of the transport.
The lone Peacekeeper, one armed only with a sidearm nodded, "I take it you treated her?"
Jacinta nodded, "She has a deep laceration running diagonally from shoulder to opposite hip. I pushed a bolus and whatever is left in that bag to try and offset the blood loss. I also gave her 7.5 milligrams of morph through the IV. Resps are shallow, BP is through the floor, pupils fixed and dilated, she's going to need surgery and fast," Jacinta's recitation of her treatment held the same cadence as a machine-gun.
The Peacekeeper nodded curtly while taking notes on the back of the surgical glove he was wearing, "Thank you, your help could have saved her life."
As Helendez was carried towards the back of the transport, Jacinta saw Henry, who was milling around at the rear of the truck look towards her and approach. She was about to return to the apartment before he held up a hand, asking her to stop.
"What do you want now?" she asked, arms crossed over her chest.
Henry raised an eyebrow slightly. "I wanted to thank you. You did excellent work on Helendez, the both of you did. Despite your circumstances, you still performed, which is commendable."
Jacinta wasn't impressed by his smooth tone, or the half smile he gave her. A look that once made her heart skip a beat, now made her skin crawl.
"Just don't do it again, I'm not an emergency clinic. And who do I send the bill for replacing my dinner table?"
Henry laughed slightly, "That will be taken care of, it is the least we could do for your assistance."
Jacinta resisted the urge to say, 'The least you could do is leave me alone and stop spying on me.' And simply kept her mouth shut before turning slightly, "Am I free to go now?"
Henry nodded slightly, "Of course Miss Ruthbridge, no doubt we will cross paths again."
Jacinta rolled her eyes at the comment, before simply turning on her heel and stepped inside the building. Balling her hands once more into fists, she slowly ascended the flight of stairs before silently opening the still ajar front door to her apartment. As soon as the door was closed, she started shaking. Zack looked up from her dinner table that he was attempting to clean off with a dishcloth and mop bucket. Dropping the cloth, he quickly went to her, embracing her as she screamed into his chest.
Her muffled expletives subsided as her throat started to become hoarse, causing Jacinta to cough instead. Looking up from her spot nuzzled into Zack's chest, her face felt as puffy as it probably looked. "I'm sorry," she rasped, "Sorry for dragging you into this."
Zack shook his head before kissing the crown of hers. "Don't worry about it. Go sit on the sofa and I'll prepare you something to eat, no doubt you are famished."
At the mere mention of food, Jacinta's stomach growled. She tried to think back to her last meal, and realised that it was the late breakfast she had had with Henry before driving to see her sister. Frowning at the realisation, she nodded before moving to the sofa.
Jacinta hadn't noticed the meal Zack had prepared for her, she simply ate it. The textures and tastes felt bland to her, a side-effect she attributed to the Elixir but had no real proof to support it. Zack reclined back on the sofa while Jacinta lay curled up beside him, resting her head on his chest. The television opposite them showed the final act of a scripted crime show. Jacinta was struggling to remain awake, while Zack ran a hand through her dark brown tresses.
"Thank you for being here," she murmured softly while entwining the fingers of one hand with Zack's.
"It's okay Sin, I only wished you told me sooner."
"I didn't know how you would react, considering," she trailed off, "But you took this rather well. Better than I have in fact."
Zack shrugged. "Sin, I grew up here, I've seen things. And besides, you know that I'll always be there for you." He commented while shifting slightly in order to get comfortable.
"Zack, can you stay? I don't want to be alone tonight," she asked awkwardly looking up at him.
"I wasn't planning on going anywhere."