My name is Laura Grand. I am a Mal passer, a vampire trained to look and act like a baseline. Every culture has people like us, though most of them deny it. Considering that we have a reputation as assassins, it’s to be expected that they’d want to distance themselves from us.
Of course, some of us are assassins.
Myself, Frank Goebel, and Serena Delgado worked together on missions like this. Our last mission—to take out the Paladins’ retinue—had been scrapped during the restructuring of our warlords. Our new Noble, Nyashk, had asked me how I felt about that.
I had answered with the truth: I felt that it was an order, and I would carry it out. I hadn’t really understood why she was asking, but that wasn’t my job. Soldiers don’t question, they obey.
Such as this mission. It was simple enough: Infiltrate the Necessarian camp under the guise of guards, and make the kill. Don’t kill any ‘sarians.
There were plenty of questions I could ask. Why now? Why not let Necessarius handle it? Why even bother with passers? Why not just send in a shadow squad, with toys optimized towards pure stealth?
But we didn’t ask questions. We just obeyed.
Getting past the perimeter had been surprisingly easy, mostly because there wasn’t one. They were relying on secrecy to protect this place, not armed guards.
Not that there weren’t plenty of those, too, but they kept themselves hidden. A dozen snipers on the city wall, looking down like hawks. A number of carefully-placed shipping containers to provide cover, and some more soldiers posing as ‘random’ Ring residents, apparently lounging in the shacks and lean-to’s.
The only thing that was obviously guarded was the crane, a giant old yellow thing with the Necessarian red-on-black hastily painted on the main structure. There were three men armed with assault rifles guarding the controls, and another five patrolling around it.
Obviously, that wasn’t the actual cell. It was just a decoy. But where WAS it? We couldn’t just go up to someone and ask, they’d capture us or worse.
Frank was the one who noticed that the power magnet the crane used to grab things was directly above a certain shipping crate…a crate that a couple Dagonites happened to be eating dinner in front of.
It was dark, so we could probably sneak past them, but we didn’t want to risk them having nighteyes. Not to mention getting into the cell itself would probably be loud.
“The Big Boss said we’re your relief,” Serena said cheerfully as we walked up. “Go home.”
The pair looked at each other, then back at the tall blonde passer. “We just got here this morning. I thought he said we had to stay on site for two days?”
Serena shrugged. “Men and monsters, don’t ask me. He says jump, we ask how high on the way up.”
The Dagonites eyed us oddly, but slowly put away their sandwiches. “No complaints here. But if it turns out we were supposed to stay, you’re taking the fall.”
“That’s only fair,” my comrade admitted. “But it won’t come to that.”
As the ‘sarians left, one of them turned back. “Be sure to check on the prisoner.” He tossed two heavy pairs of keys at us, and I caught them. “We just let one of the lab techs in a second ago.”
I glared at him. “You shouldn’t have let him in unsupervised.”
He shrugged. “Clarke’s techs know better than to poke things. I’m sure he’s fine.” They waved as they headed off.
“Eternal night,” I muttered under my breath, stomping over to the shipping crate with Frank and Serena in tow. “Butler’s hiring standards seem to have relaxed since last I checked.”
Turns out the reason there were two pairs of keys was because there were two locks, which had to be turned simultaneously. Serena and I handled that while Frank kept guard with his rifle. In a couple seconds, the door was open, and we slipped inside.
And there was Elizabeth Greene.
Manacled to the steel wall, like a butterfly pinned down for study, it was only expected for her to look weak. She was captured, defeated. It was only expected that she should lose some of her fire.
But she hadn’t.
She still looked as healthy as if she was living in a five-star hotel. Her bronze skin had lost none of its color, her golden eyes still shone as bright as stars. Even her hair retained its sheen. The only sign that she was even the slightest bit uncomfortable was her unkempt hair. And even then, it looked like she had just rolled out of bed, not been trapped in a Necessarian warcage for a week.
And then there was the lab tech the idiots had let in five minutes ago.
He looked about seventeen, and tall, with the ruddy skin of a pacific islander, and garish green hair. That color looks bad in general; contrasted with his skin it looked horrific. He was standing too close to Greene for my taste.
Serena stepped back, letting me take charge. “You there. Step back from the prisoner.”
The tech eyed me warily. “And who are you?”
I didn’t waver. “The new guards. Now step back.”
He smiled thinly. “I have a better idea.” He placed his hand on the wall.
And ten square feet of steel just rusted away, like a thousand years had passed in a handful of seconds.
The three of us stumbled back. Eternal night, what was—
Elizabeth Greene landed lightly on her feet, not even stopping to rub her wrists, apparently completely unharmed from being pinned to a wall for eight days.
And she was grinning, showing gleaming white teeth, and canines nearly as sharp as a vampire’s.
“Thank you,” she said to her minion. “I assume Nabassu and Oleander are nearby?”
“Oleander only,” he replied crisply. “Nabassu wanted to minimize the people involved.”
“Hm, I suppose I’ll allow it.” She turned her attention to us, still grinning. “You can kill these three.”
I’ve spent most of my twenty-six years on this Earth around guns. Worked for the McDowells when I was a kid, before they blew themselves up. Did some escort duty for Zero Forge Guns for a little while, until I joined the Mals.
ZFG was where I got the Red Knight ZF678. A nice, stable 6.00 mm hand cannon, generally referred to as a hip gun.
Twenty-six years around guns meant I could draw steel faster than pretty much anyone on the planet. A few carefully chosen internal toys lowered the number of people faster than me by a good amount.
And when I was using a Red Knight ZF678, a gun designed for being drawn from the hip at lightning speed, I was the fastest on the planet.
I didn’t hesitate. Not for a single millisecond. I whipped that gun out and emptied eight rounds into Elizabeth Greene’s skull before anyone had a chance to blink.
That’s not hyperbole.
6.00 mm is pretty big. Big enough that one is usually enough to take a fist-sized chunk out of the back of someone’s head. Eight was enough to reduce it to a fine red mist.
I sighed in relief as the Composer’s headless corpse slumped to the ground, then nodded to my companions.
“Take care of the Blackguard,” I said, indicating the green-haired boy. My gun was empty, and I felt too emotionally exhausted to reload. “No loose ends.”
“You’re right,” a female voice hissed. “No loose ends.”
Then Elizabeth Greene rose from the floor, grinning from ear to ear.
I stepped back, horrified, sputtering wordlessly. I reloaded my gun hurriedly, even as Frank and Serena started firing into the woman’s chest.
But although bloody wounds erupted in the Composer’s flesh, she didn’t seem more than mildly inconvenienced by them.
“Sorry, kids,” she said mockingly, that too-broad grin still on her damn face. “It doesn’t work like that!”
She killed me before I finished reloading.
Behind the Scenes (scene 162)
I hate scenes like this, where nothing important is going on. Oh well. There’s always gotta be a little filler, right?