Mode of Transportation
"What do you mean we're stuck?"
An irate, heavily French accented exclamation jolted Seras out of her thoughts. A few seats down, Private Wilkins was startled in a similar manner, nearly dropping the paperback in his hand. They normally sat together, but tonight, he had excused himself because on the weekend out in London, by some miracle, he had picked up a new book while the others were making the rounds of the pubs and was anxious to read it. She didn't mind; there was quite a bit for her to think about.
After waking up one evening with no memory of the previous night, her master had paid her a visit. His explanation was that due to limited intake of blood, her body had induced a coma to save itself and they had forced her to drink blood from the source: himself, their master, and an unnamed, willing donor. Regardless, they were putting their feet down and she was to drink enough blood to make up for all the nights that she did not once a month and there would be absolutely no exceptions. She would be a danger to the organization if she were to continue this reckless conduct and was reminded that as a police officer, she should know that the welfare of those around her came before hers. She winced a little remembering his harsh words, though that didn't stop her wondering why there was a child's set of clothing in her coffin when she woke.
Putting it aside to ponder another day, she motioned to Wilkins that she would go out and investigate. The latter nodded gratefully, nose back in his book soon after she nudged past the other men without clocking any of them on the head with her gun but having several very close calls on their part, opened the door, and climbed down in time to see Pip Bernadotte confronting the Geese's mechanic, Djamel.
"You told me that they had done the maintenance on this vehicle three months ago! She was solid as a tank to begin with; why won't she work now?"
"It looked fine when I checked it before we got the call and went out. I haven't popped open the hood yet, but it's probably the fuel pump. There's no warning before they quit."
"Check that now." Pip swore heavily under his breath as Djamel assented and went to follow his orders and turned around, startling a bit when he saw Seras. "Merde! Bon Dieu, girlie; don't scare me like that."
"It's not my fault that you frighten easily, Captain," she retorted as neutrally as she could, trying to ignore the increased rhythm of his heart and how mesmerizing it sounded. "What do you need?"
"It's bad form to mouth off to a superior officer, police girl; watch your tongue," he reiterated, and then softened. "We may be here a while. Can you contact your master and tell him there's been a delay?"
She nodded and closed her eyes, remaining still for about five minutes. "He wants to know why."
"We'll know in a minute." Djamel opened the hood and pulled off a plug wire, placing the end near the block. "Someone needs to crank the engine."
After a brief flurry of activity within the convoy involving swearing, shouting, and shoving, Wilkins arrived at the wheel, bookless, and began to do it. The engine sparked and the snapping sound was audible, but there was no buzz coming from the direction of the fuel pump. "Yeah, we're definitely going to have to be towed."
"Tell him the fuel pump wore out and ask if there's a number we can call."
Seras nodded and there was a brief internal exchange. "There's a notebook in the glove compartment with the number of a towing company that is affiliated with the Round Table. Don't worry about the vampires; he can handle them himself. Just be sure to call Sir Integra and tell her what's going on; she doesn't like to be the last to know. Her cell phone number should be in the notebook as well."
"Cell phone?" He asked as Djamel went inside to get it.
"She had to go to London to arrange a meeting with the Vatican's Section Thirteen. Before we hired you and before the attack on the mansion, they violated the peace agreement we had with them a while ago when one of them crossed into Northern Ireland and attacked Master and I after killing the head vampire that we were supposed to get. He also went after Sir Integra and killed two of her bodyguards; he only backed off when Master was able to pull himself together after his head had been cut off."
"Damn. Hope he gets hold of the mechanic; the fool certainly deserves it."
"You can say that again." She stretched and subtly shifted away from him. "It will be a while before anything actually comes of the meetings; they're busy people and apparently don't get along with us."
"Because we're Protestant and they're Catholic."
"They're still hanging on to that? I thought that stopped a while ago."
"Not in their minds, apparently. I guess they have that privilege because they officially don't exist—"
Something rustled in the forest nearby and on the edge of his peripheral vision, Pip saw a black and white shape dart through the trees; catching the eye of his companion, he confirmed that it was not his eyes playing tricks on him. "The hell?"
Quickly putting himself in front of Seras when he heard distinct hissing, he called orders into the convoy and was handed a gun. "Are you sure that your master got all of the vampires, police girl?"
After a moment, she answered. "He found a house a few miles from the village they were supposed to attack; they left the three newest fledglings behind. They must have picked up fragments from the leader and the rest of the coven when he caught them on the edge of the forest and panicked."
"Shouldn't they be dead if the leader's dead?"
"They should; that's the thing." She received a weapon of her own and prepared it, sniffing the air. "Manic Panic."
"Hair dye. They haven't washed in weeks, either."
A low-pitched hiss made up of several voices emanated from and around the area that the vampire had disappeared to. It grew louder and Pip was able to understand what they were saying. "Heretic, blasphemer, heathen, consorting with victims, lapdog of the killers of your kind, humanity's whore!"
Behind him, Seras fired and then dropped her gun, lunging at the draculina who had gone for the captain's back over the body of her fallen female sister. Hitting her side hard enough to knock her to the ground, she straddled her lower back and twisted her opponent's free arm against it, wrapping her spare arm around the offender's neck and squeezing tightly. She went limp and her neck snapped; Seras, eyes red, let go and leaned far back with an expression of relish just as the remaining male vampire came charging out of the relative safety of the clearing towards the fledglings to avenge his fallen comrade.
Though he was going fast and had his arms out ready to grab her, he was within a reasonable distance and the butt of the rifle jabbed directly at his throat caused a sickening thud and he toppled backwards. A bullet hit between his eyes as he choked on the blood from the damage and he soon died once more. Pip looked him over critically and shot him again just to be sure, not lowering the gun until he felt satisfied. Seras's eyes faded back to blue and she rose; both confronted each other simultaneously.
"Abruti! He was right behind you; why the hell didn't you get out of the way!"
"Git! This is entirely your fault! If you had been watching more closely, I wouldn't have had to move!"
"It's a damn good thing that you…" He trailed off and finished awkwardly. "Saved my ass."
Judging by the lack of reply and the sudden flush on Seras's face, her thoughts had followed a similar vein only with the roles reversed. After a moment or two of mutual self-conscious silence, she spoke up. "Captain, this doesn't have to get…strange. Neither of us owes the other anything and we did our job."
He flicked his braid which had loosened during the confrontation, back around his neck and nodded. "It was a necessary action that had to be undertaken for the mission to be completed successfully."
"It can only get weird if we let it get weird, and that's not going to happen."
Bending over the nearest corpse which had not yet disappeared, he prodded it onto its back with the toe of his boot. "What was so special about those vampires, anyway? They're not usually talkative."
"They're part of a cult called the Children of Darkness. They believe that becoming a vampire is predestined and that they're servants of the Devil, who along with them ultimately serves God. They prey indiscriminately on whoever gets in their path; graveyards, particularly crypts, are their preferred hideouts but modern policing has caused them to choose more discreet areas. The leaders usually have the members dye their hair black and dress alike, usually in rags in order that none of them try to overthrow the leader, as part of being a member of the cult to make their brainwashing easier. "
"Hard to believe they've only been around for twenty-five or so years." She shook her head. "In the nineteen eighties, some idiot got his hands on an Anne Rice book and bloodshed and paperwork ensued."
"Are they always small covens like this?"
"Yes, they're easier to control that way." She paused and sniffed the air. "Hang on a minute."
While Pip went into the van to soothe the ruffled feathers of the Geese and inform Sir Integra of what had transpired and how soon they would be back, the draculina dragged over the three bodies and examined them carefully. When he returned and assured her that they were all caught up, she frowned.
She had no idea what the words meant, but his tone gave a fairly good impression. "They've all got a weird smell in common that I didn't notice before. It has a burning smell to it but it's not flesh."
"Rubber?" He thought a moment and came to the more obvious conclusion. "Or more likely plastic."
She was already turning one of the girls over on her side. "Do you have a knife?"
Wordlessly, he withdrew one from his boot and bent over the cadaver, making a shallow horizontal cut in the middle of the nape of the neck. When she told him that the smell was getting stronger, he widened the laceration and dug the blade in deeper. "Watch out; there's something in here."
A bloody microchip the size of a thumbnail fell into her gloved hand. Half of it was burned and the design that they could discern through the heavy bloodstains appeared to be fairly complex. With a sinking feeling in his stomach as Seras placed it in a sealed plastic bag and disappeared inside the convoy to put it in the safe they had on board for evidence, he called out orders and the Geese who were on cleanup duty appeared and after an explanation, executed similar investigations of the fledglings.
Several minutes later, the results were visible. Coming over as she came out of the van, Seras saw the grim expression on the captain's visage, but could not help but ask for clarification. "Chipped?"