My name is Drakela Sanguinas. No, it’s not my birth name, but it is my legal name. Better than the one my father gave me, at any rate. Mostly people call me Kelly or Kel.
I was sitting in South Central’s head Necessarius office, waiting for my boss to finish reading my report. It was all for show, of course; he had already read it.
My boss was a lupe, a wolf kemo. He had thick hair—not fur—covering his body and dexterous silver ears poking out of his graying hair. He looked about sixty but carried himself like a thirty year old, which probably put him at forty five or so. The lupes respected age.
He had enlarged canines and jaw muscles that reminded me uncomfortably of the biters we had just cleared out. But his were less noticeable, and probably more useful in the long run. The screamers had massive horse-teeth that crowded their mouths and looked useless for anything but biting.
It was the claws that made me sweat, though. Six inches long and the highest quality steel, bonded straight to his enhanced finger bones. I had seen claws like those disembowel friends of mine without much difficulty, and I had no doubt this man had done so more than once.
My boss wasn’t just any lupe; he was an ex-Rahu, a warrior wolf. His kind had hunted mine for a long, long time, tracking us by the smell of blood and cold flesh.
I was hardly innocent either, of course. I was an ex-Belian, and had killed my fair share of lupes and canes and whatnot. I even managed to take out an angel once. A full-born daybreaker, not some crazy kid who took the glow on a whim.
We all had sins. But we were with Necessarius now. Nothing we did before we joined mattered, and nothing anyone else did before we joined mattered either. Set aside your differences and fight for the common good. Because it was necessary.
“You worked with the girl, the black-haired one?”
“There were two black-haired ones, sir,” I clarified. “The Asian went inside with the other Asian—she had a blonde cosmo—and the man.”
“But the one who stayed outside, you followed her orders?”
I shrugged. “She gave good orders. And she sure as blood was doing a better job of it than I was.”
“Hm.” He didn’t say anything else, just tapped through his tablet. It was made specifically to withstand his claws.
“It says here they caught one alive. That correct?”
“Yes, a small female. The little blonde Asian trapped her in some sort of rock handcuffs.”
“Interesting. You actually saw her use this power?”
“Yes sir. She did it right in front of me, pulled up big chunks of asphalt like it was clay.”
He finally put the tablet down. “Describe her to me.”
“Uh…short, blonde…Asian…looked pretty athletic.”
“Full description, please. Spare nothing.”
I sighed. “Fine. Just an inch over five feet. Well-toned, definitely plays sports; probably soccer, judging by her kicks. She was wearing a good, strong deodorant, but she was sweating less than you’d expect in that situation. She wasn’t as anxious or worried as I would have thought. She has problems with authority. She didn’t like us, and she questioned her boss’s orders every which way.”
He waved his hand, indicating for me to continue.
“Blond—natural, I think—and blue eyes. Strong jaw, wiry muscles. Looks like a rat hunter, but moves like a soldier. He has the voice of command; he gave me an order and I obeyed. He’s protective, especially of the girls he came with, but of everyone else too. He smelled afraid, but he didn’t hesitate. He trusts himself, and he trusts his girls. At least the one with the sword and the one he left with us.”
“Start with the girl with the sword,” my captain advised.
“About average height; maybe a little shorter, but she looked taller compared to soccer-girl. She had a katana, and she knew how to use it. Black hair is decorated with beads and a few other things I didn’t understand, and she had it in a ponytail to keep it out of her face. Despite that, she’s a soldier. She smelled like death, and she followed orders without question.
“The other one is a strategist. Face like a knife. Heart like a knife, too; she was ready to make hard decisions, though she didn’t really need to. She coordinated us well, and anticipated the enemy easily. Maybe that doesn’t sound impressive when you’re dealing with zombies, but they were unpredictable. And she…predicted them.”
I paused for a moment. “What did she smell like?” my captain prompted. It would have sounded a little creepy coming from anyone else, but when you’ve got a nose like us, that’s no stranger than asking what color her hair was.
I shrugged. “Lilacs. Real ones, I think. Or a really good perfume. She wasn’t really sweating. I feel like it wasn’t her first command. She probably just plays too many video games.”
“Excellent work, corporal. There may be a promotion in this for you.”
I frowned. “Sir?”
“The Big Boss wanted to field test his new toy,” he explained. “And you were quite helpful.”
I felt my heart drop out of my chest. “Sir, if he released those screamers—”
The lupe waved his hand airily. “Not the screamers, girl. The Paladins.” He gave me a toothy grin. “He wanted to test the Paladins against the screamers. And to see how they’d work with Necessarians in the field.” He nodded sagely. “I’d say you did a great job.”
I swallowed. “Thank…you, sir. I think.”
“Of course,” he mused, idly scratching his chin, “the fact that most of your direct superiors were killed doesn’t hurt your chances either.”
I immediately felt better. These were circumstances I understood. “They did their best, sir, but we were all caught by surprise.”
“Of course, of course.” He made a note on his tablet. “Well, promotion or not, you’ll need to pick your team.”
I blinked. “Sir?”
“You’re going to be attached to the Paladins,” he explained in the most infuriatingly off-hand way possible. “If nothing else, provide transportation.”
I nearly jumped out of my seat. “But, sir, I—”
He waved his hand. “You’re dismissed. I want those squad assignments before you leave today. Five slots.”
I recognized I wouldn’t make any more headway, so I nodded and left his office without a word.
One of my friends, Specialist Alex Gabriel, stood leaning against the wall. He smiled at me. “Problems with the old wolf?”
“He can hear you,” I grumbled. I stomped off, and Alex followed.
He was definitely going to be on this team I had to assemble, no question. In addition to being a close friend, his talents were invaluable.
Of course, I use the male pronoun for the sake of convenience. As a full-born daybreaker, Alex was completely asexual. He was tall, thin, and completely hairless, covered in dimly glowing tattoos in strange, circular patterns, largely revealed by the white t-shirt he wore. Most of them terminated on his hands, where he had leather gloves with small, high-quality magnifying glasses in the palms. When he concentrated, he could focus the glow from the sunspots on his palms to devastating effect—especially against vampires. At his sides were matching long knives made out of mirrored steel.
“I need a team,” I said bluntly once we were out of earshot.
“On the books?”
“I have no idea,” I admitted. “But it’s sanctioned. We’re the Paladins’ retinue.”
“Cool,” he chirped happily. Even his voice was asexual, being both husky and soft at the same time. “Want me to assemble to old team?”
“No. We need ranged attackers. We’re going to go against screamers, and I don’t want to get within reach.”
He nodded in agreement. “I’ll start with Nevin.”
“Nevin died a couple days ago. Sliced to ribbons by something with claws.” I shrugged. “Probably a monster, but maybe a kemo.”
The angel winced. “Ooh. He was the best. Well, there are some alternatives. How many we need?”
“Five total. Think you can make that happen?”
He paused, thinking. “Yeah, I can. When do we need to be ready?”
“The old wolf wants the list by noon. I want to be ready for a quick training run in an hour. Need to know we can work together.”
He grinned, revealing perfect teeth. “Consider it done, boss.”
I sighed. It was necessary.
Behind the Scenes (scene 14)
Yes, this is the vampire Derek yelled at in scene 12. You’ll meet her team later.
Oh, and yes, “Drakela” is the feminine form of Dracula. As you might expect, a lot of vampires have variants of the name. It’s an English bastardization, though. The actual Romanian version sounds too similar to Dracula to be useful.