Chapter 7: Prague
Czech Republic, Central Europe
The roads leading out of Prague got progressively bumpier, but that didn't really shake the occupants of the large black van that was heading towards a cluster of warehouses on the outskirts of Prague.
Asad was driving. Next to him sat Nyssa Damaskinos, as regal as her father even in tactical gear. He glanced at the rearview mirror, casting a discreet look at the Bloodpack. They were seated in the back.
Chupa and Priest had hit it off almost immediately after their first meeting. "I sense the beginnings of a long and wonderful friendship, Chupa," Priest had said to the other vampire when the Bloodpack had first met each other. As usual, they were making rude jokes about Blade. Regular bouts of laughter sounded from the back. Snowman signed something to Chupa, and the American snickered.
Verlaine was listening in, very much amused. She was still somewhat sulky about having to work with her sister's killer, but that was to be expected. None of them were very happy with the arrangement either. Her relationship with Lighthammer was no secret — they too had hit it off almost immediately. He never showed affection to her in public, but there could be no doubt about how he felt about her. There was just somethingthat came off the both of them that seem to announce they belonged to each other. The huge Dane was also protective of Verlaine. Priest had made a comment about her once and Lighthammer had spent the rest of the day scowling.
Reinhardt had, through an unspoken agreement early into their training, become their leader. Asad conferred with him the most. He had been surprised that of all the Bloodpack members, Reinhardt had been chosen as their leader. Granted, not all of them were leadership material, but Reinhardt had been the last Asad had expected.
None of them had been very happy to discover that their aims had, for the time being, shifted to working with the Daywalker instead of against him. Verlaine had been the most upset and Lighthammer had been influenced by her moods, not that thatwas uncommon. Priest and Chupa had voiced loudly violent protests. Snowman was disgruntled, but he accepted the assignment with grim resignation. Reinhardt had also voiced strong objections, but they had no choice. What Damaskinos said they do, they did. They didn't really have much of a choice.
On reflection, Asad found that they had taken the news quite well. Nothing had been blown up or was damaged too badly. Even if Reinhardt, Chupa and Priest had savagely riddled a few of their test dummies with bullets.
They had grown in the past two years. Asad had spent much of their second year of training with them, and the change was remarkable. Their trainers had also reported that many of them had matured, especially the two pranksters of the bunch, Priest and Chupa. As a whole they were still volatile, but they worked together well and the chemistry and trust between them was amazing.
The Bloodpack were the finest of the Vampire Nation. While not quite subtle enough to handle inter-family politics or the Shadow Council, Asad was sure that one would be hard-pressed to find a better fighting force in Europe. And who better to assure the survival of their race? He felt a spark of pride in knowing that this force had been assembled by him. Damaskinos may have made the choices, but it was he who had actually gone around the world to round them up.
Nyssa glanced backwards as another roar of collective laughter erupted from the back. Chupa and Priest had come up with some sort of joke about Blade being able to blush, a joke that Asad or Nyssa didn't understand, but even Lighthammer was smiling while the side of Snowman's mouth was quirked upwards slightly.
Asad pulled the van to a stop inside the warehouse. The laughter instantly silenced, almost in awe; but most likely in disgust or anger, maybe even both. Verlaine looked like she might start sulking again, but as Lighthammer helped her out the back of the van, she kept it at bay.
He had just stepped out of the van when Scud's head poked around the corner. Priest spotted him and snapped at Scud like a wild dog, causing him to jump a foot in the air and quickly disappear behind the shelves.
"I'll get Blade," Nyssa said to him. She glanced at the Bloodpack; as one, they were already heading to the railings that lined one side of the warehouse. Reinhardt and Whistler were giving each other the evil eye.
Snowman leapt up nimbly onto the railing, giving Verlaine a hand as she climbed up onto it as well. Lighthammer took up guard in front of her and she wrapped her arms around his huge chest, pressing her cheek against his. Her red hair was in stark contrast to his bald head.
Chupa, Priest and Reinhardt took up positions, Priest opting to stand next to Lighthammer and Chupa next to him. Reinhardt was at the corner, choosing a low-key position. They waited. Scud and Whistler glared at them and they did a good job of glaring back. Verlaine whispered into Lighthammer's ear and he nodded every so often. Chupa and Reinhardt were muttering to each other, probably plotting something. Priest had a sort of amused expression plastered on his face, like he was keeping another joke to himself but couldn't kept that small smile off his face. Snowman, as usual, was stoic and unflappable.
"They're ready when you are," Nyssa said from upstairs. Asad could hear it, loud and clear. She added, "Daywalker."
Nyssa descended the stairs first. Blade was soon behind her and Asad turned to the Daywalker as silence again came down upon the Bloodpack.
"Blade, meet the Bloodpack." He did a half-turn to indicate the motley crew assembled on the railings. "Lighthammer" — the Dane's gaze was challenging — "Verlaine" — she looked up from where she had been nuzzling Lighthammer — "Priest" — the comedian gave a half-wave — "Snowman" — the Asian gave an old sign of greeting one's respected enemy, touching his chest and chin and topping it off with forming a rotated L-shape with his fingers — "Chupa" — he stopped muttering to Reinhardt, turning to look at Blade, as if daring him to do something — "and Reinhardt."
Reinhardt stepped forward, ending his conversation with Chupa. He strode boldly forward and came to a stop just in front of Blade. Asad started to get nervous; strife was not what they needed right now, early in their alliance with the daywalker. It could spell disaster.
"Hey, chief," Reinhardt started, gesturing at his friends. He spoke as if Blade was not the Vampire Nation's mortal enemy. "Me and the gang were wondering..." He muttered something that even Asad could barely catch. What was Reinhardt trying to do, sabotage their mission before it even started?
"What was that?" Blade asked.
Reinhardt grinned. "Can you blush?" he repeated smugly.
The Bloodpack laughed. And the rest, as they say, is history.