1: Radio Silence
Jacob should have been looking across the ocean to the sun as it set at the horizon. The hour was obvious, even when he wasn't seeing the sky. Its reflection was perfectly clear in the waves, the amber and orange – the reds with the deep blue creeping in at the upper edges, but couldn't bring himself to lift his head.
Instead, he watched the bow of the ship split the ocean asunder, turning aqua blue into bubbly white before the water dove away from the steel and rejoined the other molecules in webs of spume. His neck was starting to hurt – both from the angle of his view and the way he tried to lock onto a particular portion of the wake until it released the infused air in it and returned to its normal shade.
There was something mesmerizing about it, and it kept his attention away from the real reason he was up here, away from his crewmates and isolated up on the bow of the frigate.
His body jerked upright and twisted all in one graceful motion, belying his job for all too see.
"Tell me you're not contemplating suicide off the side of this tub," a voice cut through his hypnosis. "Not that I could blame a guy after the past six months!"
"Lee," he breathed, shaking his head. "No, not even, just watching the waves."
She shook her head, making the dark bangs swing stiffly in front of her swarthy face, even as a snort worked out of her slightly flattened nose. "You were like halfway over the gunwale, thought I was going to have to pull you back by the waist band or something."
Grinning ruefully, Jacob stepped away from the railing and moved someplace Lee would consider less risky. If he didn't she would probably pick up his much skinnier frame and physically move him out of "danger."
Lee glanced him up and down, her eyes straying to the railing now to his left and then back at him. "Don't tell me you're still obsessing over Betty's welfare," she grunted once, putting a hand on her thick hip.
"Brenda," he corrected, his exasperation clear.
"Whatever," Lee waved a gloved hand through the air as if shooing a mosquito. Seeming determined to needle him she followed it with, "That Bitty in Qaanaaq."
His blond brows drew down over his grayish green-eyes. "Fuck off, Lee." He leaned on the bulkhead next to him, looking anywhere but at her for a while. Finally he leveled his pinched expression at her again.
"Enrique was never caught!" he growled. "There was no indication that he ever made it off Greenland at all."
Running a hand through his long bangs, Jacob realized he should have gone back to regulation after leaving Greenland. There was no more undercover for this stint. Yet here he was looking like a former boy band member trying to hold on to the glory days – about a decade too long.
Lee was having none of it. "And no indications that he stayed either, dude. Let it go. We'd have heard by now if Enrique popped back up with the usual MO."
Frustrated Jacob turned away, glaring at the sunset as if daring the night to actually fall. "By the time word did get to us, she could be very, very dead."
A lot of other people too. And while the others dying was worrisome, it didn't strike him nearly as hard as the thought that Enrique would finish what he started with Brenda. The matronly store manager, the first to befriend him upon arrival, had been through enough.
Letting out a heavy sigh, he added, "How do we know Enrique isn't one of those that would, I dunno, take offense to leaving a survivor?"
Lee shrugged shoulders thicker than his, dropping an unconcerned, "We don't?"
Jacob waved her direction as if she'd made his point. "Exactly! When we kept him under pressure, on the run, there was no worries. Now that we've backed off, what's to say he won't back-track?"
Brenda had suffered recurrent nightmares about Enrique reclaiming her only cemented his unease over losing the dhampir's trail in the icy interior of the island. There had been no part of him that wanted to leave, but HQ, his CO, and his teammates wouldn't allow him to stay behind.
While he trusted his fellow Victor Sierra Wanders – the teams that had been left dotted along the coasts of Greenland, he would feel more comfortable if he'd stayed behind to finish the damn job.
"You're giving vamps too much credit, man."
"And you're giving them too little." Jacob returned the jab. "Besides, Enrique's not a vampire…"
"…he's a dhampir." Lee threw up her hands and glared at the sky. "Damn dude, you are a broken record. The Half-Breeds are not superior to their full bred cousins, my friend. Pale imitations from what I hear."
"Pffft. Where'd you hear that garbage?" Jacob scoffed, shaking his head and resisting the urge to swipe overgrown blond bangs out of his eyes again. His expression tightened, trying to get her to understand. "We're talking about a creature that is as strong and nearly as fast as a vampire and can stay out in the daytime and not get scars."
"They don't heal like vampires though. They bleed out."
"Eventually, yeah. However, they can take a ton of punishment and still be coming for your throat."
"You sound like you idolize the bastards."
He frowned, angry with her forced ignorance. "They're not monsters, despite what HQ would have us believe."
"Tell that to their victims, Jacob," she groused.
His cheeks heated and he glared at the ground. "I spent the last three months doing just that, Lee. Not like you were there."
"Fuck you, I wanted to be."
She didn't fit into their undercover operation so she'd been forced to remain on the ship as back up in case the situation escalated and then needed the heavy artillery.
"So bloodthirsty," he jibed her.
"Isn't that why we're here?" she returned without regret.
She cut off his statement. "I think you need to get your head on straight."
He laughed. Shaking his head he tackled her first accusation. "Look, I don't idolize them, I respect them – where they're coming from. Dispossessed. Abandoned. Angry. Powerful. It's a hell of a combination. Makes them more dangerous and unpredictable than vampires. They've learned that no one likes them – wants them. I get that… I really do."
She still looked dubious about where his loyalty lay.
He just laughed at her expression. "I get it. You're new to this. You haven't been in the field and seen it yet. You will, if you last long enough."
That seemed to sober her. A stubborn mask clung to her face when he met her eyes again.
He shook his head. "Don't believe me. It's okay. But I reserve the right to tell you 'I told you so' when your erroneous, biased assumption nearly gets you killed and one of us has to pull your ass out of the fire."
Her nearly square face pinched, as he finally managed to truly make her angry. She was the proud sort – strong independent female, so it didn't surprise him when she was offended that a man might have to come to her aid.
Jacob went on, not sparing her pride at all. "You can't underestimate other predators – and vampires and dhampirs are alpha plus. Even if you don't want to admit they're intelligent – a huge mistake to be sure – you need own up to the fact that they're cunning and ultimately instinctive survivalists."
"Don't talk down to…"
"Wait," Jacob cut her off as a sensation moved up through his feet and into his ears. Like the world had changed tilt. Spinning and holding the rail, he glared at the horizion. The sun was no longer off the nose of the ship, now it was on the starboard side. He looked at Lee – who looked confused. "We're turning. Why're we turning?"
"Aren't we supposed to in-port tomorrow in Miami?" she grunted.
"We wouldn't turn south this early though…"
Before either of them could discuss it further the claxon sounded – two quick bursts followed by the standard general-quarters pattern.
The two Wanderers glanced at each other in confusion before bolting across the haze grey deck to the nearest hatch leading below.
Jacob was faster, gaining the hatch a full three strides before Lee. Using one hand to anchor himself on the thick steel frame, he swung neatly through the smaller than average entrance and into the ship's interior. He almost spilled face first down the ladder-well, but managed to recover and turned the momentum into a rail-slide to the level below.
Hitting the bottom running, he heard Lee on his heels, even as he dodged other people in the narrow passage as they headed for their battle stations. He turned a left and then two rights before he came to the place he knew he needed to be.
Flinging the door back, he moved forward just enough to clear the door before halting, sidestepping closer to his team, and assuming a frame of decided interest.
Lee slipped in next to him, trying to hide how winded she was with the exertion. Weight training did not equate to endurance, and hopefully she'd integrate the lesson that she needed to balance the routine with a bit more aerobic exercises. There was no doubt she was strong. Hell she carried the biggest gun in the crew. But as yet, she couldn't go long distances, and he feared her response time against creatures whose normal speed was faster than the fastest human could sprint.
They made cheetahs look positively sloth-like.
He let out a sigh, reminding himself not to judge. This was only his fourth year in Victor Sierra, he'd only been a full-fledged Wanderer for two of them. Sad to think that his short stint made him think he was the hardened veteran in this scenario.
Well, surviving vampires and other supernatural entities that long was saying something. Victor Sierra had very few people who'd made it a decade much less a career – their jobs were that hazardous. Those who made a life out of it were often rumored to be just as bad as the creatures they hunted.
When their CO straightened and leveled her best glare at them, Jacob stopped wondering what the hell was going on and listened intently.
Troubleshooter, Wanderer, and now Commander of their little military operation at sea, Taryn Sauceda was not a woman to trifle with. She leveled pale gray eyes at the gathered, scratching absently at the jagged scar that marred her slim, graceful neck. There was nothing to hide it, because she kept her head as cleanly shaved as most of the men.
Many of the crew was muttering the same thing Jacob was thinking, curious – angry even – that their course was now taking them down the middle of the Atlantic instead of west across it towards five days of liberty.
They all needed it after such a long six-month stint chasing after the baddies.
"Liberty has been cancelled for the time being," she started without any fanfare.
"What's going on Taryn?" Boats growled. Boats was a big dude, thick, tall, his voice matched his frame. His shaved head sported more than a few sets of scars from his chosen profession. He crossed his arms, but the frame didn't intimidate their CO in the least.
Taryn shook her head. "We haven't been told much, being that we're guests of the Navy on this tub, but…" she glanced around, the seriousness on her face quieting the most raucous of the crowd. "The Coast Guard seems to be missing a ship."
Confusion rippled through the gathered.
"Missing?" Jacob asked, voicing the general feel in the room. "With tracking these days, how can an entire Coast Guard cutter come up missing?"
She grinned as if she expected someone to catch the nuance. "Not so much missing as not talking."
Jacob's brow lifted even as the room went completely silent. He wasn't a seafaring sailor or anything, but he did know it wasn't like military vessels to just top communicating with others in their chain of command.
"From what I can gather by the reaction of the Skipper, there was no orders or announcements that they were running silent for reasons."
Reasons ranged from intercepting drug-runners to emergency operations in sensitive locations.
She glanced about at the small crew of gathered Wanderers and Troubleshooters. "We're steaming towards their last known location. Supposedly, the Navy's taking point. But, it sounds bad, so be ready to step up and help. After all they've been taxiing our asses all over the globe without complaint the past six months. If they need us, they got us."
"Yes Ma'am!" filled the space to the point of breaking an eardrum.
A/N: Okay so this came out of NOWHERE! I finally had a lucid (if horrifying) dream I was able to remember. The roots of this story lie in that dream. I can't say what the dream was without giving away some things about the upcoming story. I have to say I haven't been this excited about writing since The Devil's Own or maybe Crimson Death. So say hello once again to Jacob ( you may or may not remember him from White Out a while back...) This could prove to be an interesting story.
This is, so far, a short story in my head... a tales from the dead zone if ever I get enough to put a third one together!
Stay tuned more to come! I hope you enjoy!