"Nothing personal, preacher," said the General with a snarl. "I just don't like people that try and screw with my plans."
Roy closed his eyes as the General pulled back the hammer of his gun.
His life did not flash before his eyes like it had at other times, during some of his harrowing experiences as a missionary, and that seemed rather unsettling. He at least expected to see flashes from the last year, from the rise of the vampires, but even that did not happen. Instead, he felt only trepidation, and a building sense of despair. That feeling continued to strengthen with the length of time that passed in which the General did not put a bullet in his brain.
Not that he minded, but he couldn't help but wonder why the man was taking so long.
Roy opened a single eye, turning his head slightly to see what the General was up to, and was surprised to see the General no longer concentrating on him, but aiming his gun elsewhere. Roy looked in the direction that General Brightton was facing, expecting to see a vamp in the shadows, and let out a gasp as he spotted not one, but dozens of dark, semi-solid shapes in the near darkness.
"If you value your life," spoke a man that seemed to suddenly solidify, "then I suggest you put your gun down."
Brightton looked terrified beyond belief, his eyes open wide and sweat pouring down his face, and Roy didn't know of if the man was capable of rational thought at the moment. He hoped that the General listened, even if it was to the commands of a vamp, because he certainly didn't want to get caught in the savagery that would surely transpire if he didn't.
"Put the gun down," reiterated the vamp. "Now."
A calm seemed to envelop Brightton, a resolve coming over his face, and he placed the barrel of his gun against his own head. The panic that had been his expression only a moment ago was now replaced with defiance.
"I will not become one of you," stated the General.
"I would hope not," replied the vampire. "I like to think that our group would not lower its high standards."
Roy smiled at the vamp's remark, not feeling threatened in the least by the new group's arrival, and looked back to see how Brightton was taking it. The General was blinking, apparently not sure what to make of a vamp jokingly insulting him.
"We're not here to kill either of you," said the vampire. "I am Herb Dolph. Father Herb Dolph."
"You're one of them, aren't you?" asked Roy. "From Vatican City."
"Those reports were true?" asked Brightton, amazed. "You're all some kind of… What? Holy vampires?"
"Yes, we are," confirmed Dolph. "And the entire world needs this man very much alive."
Roy got up from where he had been kneeling, thanking God that Dolph and his bunch had shown up when they did, and started walking towards the Master. He wanted to find out what had happen to his friends, and what Dolph had ment by the world needing him alive.
"Hold right there, Preacher," threatened Brightton, once again aiming his gun at Roy. "We have no reason to believe these…things."
"I have reason," said Roy. "I know. I see a white aura around all of them."
"A white what?" asked the General, confused.
"Aura. A…glow," explained Roy. "I can see it around vampires, sort of like a gauge of their power."
"Scott," said Dolph.
Brightton cried out in pain as his gun was suddenly ripped from his hand, and he was sure that at least three of his fingers were broken. He cradled his hand against his chest, anger flaring on his face.
Scott was back by Dolph's side, and handed the gun over to his leader.
"Jesus, you broke my damn fingers."
"It could have just as easily been your neck," stated Scott.
"But we only kill literal vampires," added Dolph. "And watch the blasphemy."
"Diane and Bill," said Roy. "Are they with you? Are they okay?"
"We are to meet them close to the entrance of your base," said Dolph. "We told them that we would be there just after nightfall."
"Then we better get back up there."
"I do not think it would be a good idea for you to return there, in the General's jeep, without the General."
"You're all fools if you think I'm going to help any of you," growled Brightton. "I don't care what you say you are. You're vampires, and that means you're the enemy."
"Maybe we can catch them on the road before they get too close to the base," suggested Roy.
"That won't be necessary," said Dolph, stepping up to face the General.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" demanded Brightton.
Dolph just stared into the General's eyes, reaching out mentally and connecting with the General's subconscious. Brightton opened his mouth, about to say something, and stopped, his face going slack as Dolph seized control of him.
Speaking slowly, in a soft, commanding voice, Dolph explained exactly what he wanted the General to do. Brightton confirmed each instruction, a mumbled yes his response, and Roy smiled as he realized what Dolph was doing.
* * *
There must have been at least a dozen of them, white blurs that were glimpsed briefly as they passed from one thick of shadows to the next. Small and fast, it was impossible for Diane or Bill to tell what they were, but it was obvious that Timms knew. He started walking faster, almost carrying Bill along.
"What are those things?" asked Bill.
"It's a pack," said Timms, both answering their question and not.
"Wolves, dogs, what?" demanded Diane.
"Vampires. Infant vampires."
Diane almost stumbled, shock trying to take down her senses and close off her mind from what she had just learned. She blocked the numbing sensations out, focusing on her hatred for the vampires by remembering her husband and daughter.
"That just ain't freaking right," said Bill, accepting it more easily than Diane. "That just ain't freaking right."
"We'll never make it," said Timms. "I've seen them in action, they'll rip us to shreds then fight over the remains."
"I can't deal with this," said Diane, her voice trembling. "This is too much. This isn't right."
"Keep it together, Di," said Bill, gritting his teeth as pain shot through his ankle as he tested its strength. "We've got to think of something."
"We only brought hand guns with us," said Timms. "That will only stop them for a few minutes."
"No. No. No. No. No," kept saying Diane.
"DIANE!" yelled Bill, grabbing her by the shoulders.
"I can't shoot one of them, Bill," she managed to squeak out. "I can't."
He looked in her eyes, and he saw that she was losing it. Those steel nerves that he so admired in her had come up against something that she couldn't face, and she was close to panic. The thought of something like an infant being turned into one of those creatures, of having to kill it, were more than she could deal with.
"We have to get back to the plane," said Timms. "It's our only chance."
"Diane, stay with me damn it," said Bill. "I need you here. I love you."
She just looked at him, the terror slowly fading from her eyes as she forced herself not to give in. Her determination was coming back, not as strong as before, but it was coming back. She could get through this, she had to, if for nothing else than to keep him from going through what she had.
That, and, though she denied it, she thought that maybe she felt the same way about him. She didn't want to admit it, not yet, but she thought that those feelings were there, buried under the hate that she held for the creatures.
"Okay," she said, her voice steadier. "Let's get back to the plane."
Bill hobbled along as best he could, cursing with each step as pain shot through his leg despite the help of the others. He was doing his best to make it on his own, not wanting to slow the others down, but he knew that he couldn't keep it up more much longer, the pain was getting more intense with each step.
The sand didn't help their progress much, but it didn't send as intense pain shooting through his leg with each step as the tarmac had, and Bill thought that maybe they would make it. The plane had listed to one side so at least they were able to run under the right wing instead of having to go around it, and quickly made it to the nose of the craft.
Timms cast a glance back as they rounded the nose, and cursed loudly as he saw the white shapes scrambling across the tarmac, the thin tinge of red on the horizon no longer enough to keep the pack to the shadows of the forest. They were barreling along much like monkeys, swinging their legs forward then their arms, hissing and screeching the entire time. Cursed forever to be as they were, the pack members were driven by nothing more than their desires, their beings never able to advance to a stage where they could develop higher learning abilities.
They were nothing more than blood crazed creatures, enhanced with the powers of a vampire, and they would never be anything more. Gratification was the only thing that mattered to them, and that gratification came from acquiring blood.
"We've got to hurry, people," shouted Timms.
"How in the hell am I suppose to get back up there?" yelled Bill.
"Di, support him," instructed Timms, leaning down and cupping his hands for Bill to step in. "Come on, damn it!"
Grimacing, Bill stepped into the cup of Timms hands, the man boosting him up as Diane helped to lift. Bill grabbed a hold of the rim of the shattered windshield, new pain racking his senses as his hand found a piece of glass. He pulled himself up, ignoring the pain and blood that was encompassing his hand, and started climbing into the craft.
Timms gave Diane a similar boost, the young woman clamoring up the nose of the plane and climbing through behind Bill. Timms leapt up, trying to grab a hold of the frame of the windshield, but the sand belayed his attempts, giving way with the attempt. A second try, with Bill leaning out of the opening, trying to grab his out stretched hand, proved as futile.
"What are you doing?" yelled Bill, as Timms began looking about the area. "There isn't time!"
"I need something, damn it!" shouted Timms, scouting for anything that would help him.
"The pole!" said Bill, pointing to the twisted piece of metal that was wrapped around the nose and had shattered the windshield and killed Captain Bowie.
Timms grabbed a hold of the pole, testing it, and decided he had no other options. He began shimmying up it, straining to keep from twisting around, and soon was within reach of the windshield. Grabbing a hold of Bill's hand, he let the man help him over to the opening as a hiss rose from below.
"Shit, shit, shit," cursed Timms, scrambling through the windshield.
Bill fell backwards into the cockpit as Timms clamored through the opening, cursing the entire time. A new pain lanced through his shoulder, and he was beginning to wonder if he would get out of this without hurting every part of his body. That thought was banished with the visage that rose before the shattered glass, snarling with a tiny mouth filled with fangs.
White, wrinkly, and with eyes that were almost entirely black, the pack member hissed at the two humans, terror and revulsion rippling through the two men. The thing was nearly desiccated, reminding Bill of those commercials he used to see pleading for help to feed the starving children.
He understood Diane's hesitation to confronting these things. A more heart wrenching victim to the entire plague of vampirism, he couldn't imagine. Neither could he imagine facing a more terrifying byproduct of it.
A blast echoed through the cockpit, the creature flying backwards from its perch, and Bill and Timms looked up to see Diane standing in the doorway, tears streaming down her face as the smoking gun shook in her trembling hands.
"We have to get below, barricade ourselves in one of the compartments," said Timms, helping Bill up.
Two more of the pack replaced the one shot down, and Timms turned and dropped them both with well placed shots. He continued covering the opening as Diane helped Bill down the stairs to the lower level of the craft, quickly going through his clip as he repelled one pack member after another.
Slapping a fresh clip into his .45, Timms fired off a volley of shots that cleared the window once more, then turned and ran for the stairs. He leapt down them, hitting the bottom and rolling into the small hallway as Diane slammed the door shut.
"This won't stop them for long," said Diane, thuds already echoing from the door as the pack slammed into it.
"Cargo hold," said Timms, helping Bill down the short hall. "We can lock the door there, and there's more weapons."
Bill grabbed at the latch of the door to the cargo hold, much like the cross bar on a door in a submarine, and pulled it up so he could open the door. He pushed the door open, stifling a curse as the door stopped after only a few inches.
"It's blocked," exclaimed Bill, moving aside to let Timms try.
Timms pushed on the door, finding it holding its position rather resiliently, and could barely make out the shape of something blocking the door from the other side. He pushed again, putting his weight into it, but the door barely budged at all.
"What's wrong?" asked Diane, her voice still shaky.
"Some of the cargo must have shifted in the crash," said Timms. "It's blocking the damn door!"
There was a much louder thud from the door that led to the upper level of the plane, and a crack appeared in its plastic surface. No matter how resilient the door was to everyday use, there was no way that it was going to stand up to the battering it was taking from the pack.
"They're coming," said Diane, another crack splintering the door.
TO BE CONTINUED…