Blood Bonds Pt. 04byphoenixphair©
Hey, everyone. Sorry this took ages. I have not abandoned the story. Life is annoying sometimes. Thanks to my Canadian fan for letting me bounce ideas off him and for great suggestions. I think I have my plot down, I just have to put out now. As always, let me know, any comments or suggestions. Love, pphair.
Jobias' eyes flicked over to the door as it slowly opened, a young Hunter poking his head into the office cautiously from the dimly lit hallway.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, sir," the boy said, his demeanor and posture mirrored in the military cuts of his clothes and hair, sharp cheekbones, all angular planes and deception. "But there has been a significant development out of New York in the past hour."
"Report, then," the old man said, waving the new recruit inside.
"I'll get the documents, sir," he said, making a visible effort not to salute, before turning and marching back out down the hallway.
"New one?" Turner asked, cocking an eyebrow at his old friend.
"He's been with us about a month. Former Marine. Good shot. Head like a block of marble. Very few targets can read him."
"Or NSA," Thompson said with an unconcerned shrug, blue eyes glinting in the golden lamplight. "I figure I'll give them a taste. At least they sent a good one this time. He'll get antsy in a few months, get himself killed in a heated fight. They always do."
Turner huffed a laugh, falling silent as the young man came back into the room. He laid down a file folder in front of each of the elders, holding one himself.
"Steven, this is Eric Turner," Jobias said, introducing his companion. "He's with another branch of our organization. Deals mainly with Lycans and other Animorphs."
"Yes, sir. I've heard of you. You took out those two Jaguar brothers in Toronto in '84."
"Lord, does that date me," the man chuckled, running a hand through his greying chestnut hair, fingertips lingering unconsciously over a set of three parallel scars that slashed across one temple and disappeared into his hairline. "That was a different time for all of us. The marks were different then too. None of this video surveillance everywhere to catch the lot of us and be aired on the evening news."
"Those were the days, eh?" Jobias sighed. "Report, kid, start from the beginning and give detailed explanations. Eric has been in deep cover and may not know every part of the operation."
"Yes, sir. As you know, we generally steer clear of the particulars of the larger Vampyr Houses, especially Arkon, since they're relatively stable and, in the main, police their members internally. We focus more on rogues and the lawless Houses, as I presume you do in the Animorph division as well. However, with the ascension of Talera, we've begun to watch the House of Arkon closely, namely those Immortals most commonly associated with her. Due to her level of power and the potential for chaos if she were to lose control, she is a concern of most organizations like ours."
"That's an understatement," the lead Hunter said with a small shake of his head. "She is THE concern of every other organization."
Lifting a brow, Turner flipped open the dossier, looking over the page which gave her stats, noting with a pang of sadness how very young the creature was. Barely twenty with the power of gods at her command.
"Given the spectacular failures of previous reconnaissance missions and strikes by other Hunters, we're trying a new surveillance system in this case. At each of the known residences of the most powerful and influential members of the House of Arkon, we have installed advanced units. The sound captures and cameras were put in place during the day, at times when the Immortals and their close familiars were known to be out of the country or area. Nearly undetectable cameras were discreetly installed with views of the residences, street or surrounding areas and on any available buildings or other tall structures to provide aerial views of rooftops and upper stories. Only those of us with Level One control over our thought process know of the program to prevent any discovery through telepathic means. The feeds run constantly, monitored from here by a handful of technicians. We've yet to capture anything of great interest— until tonight."
He cleared his throat, handing Jobias a flash drive, which the older Hunter plugged into his computer, starting the video that popped up on his screen a moment later. The two experienced men watched intently as Talera faced off against Micah Johnson's best team. Jobias was pleased with the quality of the video, leaning closer to see the flash of gunfire, the red burst of blood against the black of Talera's side as the bullet hit flesh with an audible' thump.'
He glanced up at Turner as Pershing himself roared to a halt, followed by his top wolves, Talera soaring overhead as the giant wings extended and caught the wind, her friend clinging tightly to her back. The other Hunter shook his head slightly, but didn't comment. The foolishness of taking on not only the demon herself but with a Pack at her side wasn't worth the breath.
They watched the entire confrontation up until Talera apparently sucked the life out of the entire team, collapsing into Pershing's arms. Thompson focused on the rooftop, seeing the flare of golden fire as Andrenin turned each body on the street into a tiny conflagration, reducing them to ashes in the space of a sigh. The Immortal then took the human girl in his arms and vanished, the Lycan giant that had been her guard hopping off the side of the building and gracefully dropping to the pavement several stories below.
Jobias sighed, shaking his head, as he stopped the video.
"She never even looked at the camera," Turner noted, shaking his head as well. "She's got more control than I would."
"We don't think she knows about the surveillance, sir. There has been no indication that she's aware we're watching."
"Trust me, son. She knows we're there. And if she doesn't know about the cameras, I can assure you that Master up on the roof does."
"That is... Andrenin. Age: approximately six millennia. Origins: unknown. Currently known as Andrew Farrell. This was outside his residence."
Turner fell silent a moment, flipping through the collection of photographs in the file folder.
"At least you have an inside guy," he commented, eyebrows rising as he looked up at Jobias.
"What are you talking about?" the other asked, confusion twisting his weathered features.
"The Alderman kid," the werewolf hunter explained, holding up the picture of the demon arm in arm with the strapping youth.
"No one told you," the leader said, glancing down at his desk. "I forgot you know his parents. The kid's not with us anymore."
"The two of them are really together? When did he go native?"
"Almost the minute he met her. We sent him off to the same university over two years ago, never heard from him again. I went down myself after a few months, tried to talk some sense into him, but he wouldn't hear me. Called her up, and she came, of course."
"Does she know he was there on assignment?"
"We can't tell. She's an extremely powerful telepath, and even though he has a mind like a safe... I'd have to say she knows. Tolbert tried to read her, but he couldn't even scratch the surface of her mind, so I can't say for sure. She seems to genuinely care for him, though."
"How are John and Camilla taking it?"
"They don't talk to him much. When he does come home, kid won't have any sort of conversation about it. You know he actually put Lord Ash'Tine on the phone with John one time? Creature said the kid was safe with them, but hinted that Talera had her sights set on the kid being Turned."
"Yeah, he won't talk about it, though."
"What about this girl here?" Turner asked, indicating the chocolate-skinned sylph on the roof in the arms of the big black Lycan.
"Human. There are three females, all her age. All, as far as we know, completely normal. No background in the paranormal nor any particular supernatural affinities or talents. They were her roommates freshman year of college and they've stuck together since."
"Why did the Council send her to university? As I understand it, she's dead smart."
"She is. Our sources say they were concerned that she was loosing her sympathy for humanity. While they prefer to keep their distance, with a being like that, it's a slippery slope to seeing and treating normal people like cattle. She wasn't happy about it, but she agreed to put herself in a situation where she'd be forced to interact with mortals constantly. The best thing any one could think of was to send her to college. We found out and sent the boy in at the same time. Arranged for him to be housed down the hall, trained him to see past her human facade. All that work for nothing."
"But you're still getting inside information? Where do these shots come from?" he asked, holding up interior images labeled as various rooms of houses belonging to her.
"We get those photos from someone on deSoto's team. He has a mole who is extremely close to her. We can't get a bead on who exactly it is, but we think it may be one of the three girls. Probably not the black one, because she's the closest and no one can get in that tight with Talera and still manage to betray her. She would have disappeared long ago."
"What is deSoto planning, that damned Bible-thumping nut? He was close to Micah and his men. Can't be taking this well. Must be planning his own Crusade right now..."
"I wouldn't doubt it," Thompson sighed, rubbing his eyes. "This whole situation makes me uneasy. Most of the other Organizations want to off her and be done with it, especially the Christian ones like deSoto and Peoria. We seem to be the only ones who think that's a bad idea. I don't think she can be killed, and if they go in guns blazing, someone she loves is going to get hurt. The boy made it crystal clear that if any harm comes to those girls, she will lose it. I don't think we should push her..."
The young man cleared his throat, to which Thompson raised an eyebrow.
"Sir, I mean this with all due respect but— why aren't we with the other groups on this one? Seems everyone has come to a consensus that—"
"Because, son, the others aren't always right. This organization has been in business for centuries because I don't always do what everyone else does," he snapped, eyes flashing. "The strong Houses like Arkon and Pershing can destroy any of us at any time, and it would do you well to learn a proper amount of respect when dealing with them. As yet, Talera has completely defied anyone's ability to predict. At her creation five years ago, she was given six months until she lost it. She hasn't. She was deemed unstable a year later, but so far, she's proven remarkably well-suited to her power. So when I say I don't want to upset this creature, it's for three reasons. One, we doNOT kill anyone, demon, vampire, werewolf or otherwise, because we THINK they may one day be unmanageable. Two, she's on the cusp of this world, her own sanity; I will not be a party to pushing her over the edge and unleashing her particular hell on this realm. Three, by having as much control over herself as she does, she's proven she's actually much more dangerous than anyone realizes. I've seen what she's capable of. I will not set her lose on my loved ones or yours. She wipes out entire lines if she's crossed. Viciously. Do you understand me? Did you not read her file? When she went after the men who killed her own family, she destroyed everyone who was remotely related to them first."
The young man swallowed hard, face paling slightly.
"Dismissed," Thompson muttered, waving him out. The young hunter saluted out of ingrained habit and hurried out the door.
"You told him," Turner said after a moment, looking sidelong at his old friend.
Thompson just scowled at him.
"What's this about her offing entire lines?"
"She's a swift killer. Clean. Efficient. In the main, no fuss, no mess. I wouldn't half be surprised if the government wants her so badly because they need her as an assassin. I think she decided that since the three bastards killed her whole family, she was going to do the same to them. Wasn't a complete massacre, but she cleaned them out."
"Twenty-three total. No kids, thank the gods, but they all just disappeared into the night. Except the men themselves. The police thought they were ripped to death by wild animals. Big claws."
"Those talons are functional?" Turner asked, eyebrows coming up as he indicated the long metal claws glinting on the video.
"Lethally. Nothing on her is for show. That tail can punch through the side of a car and hoist a man, door and all up into the air, toss them twenty yards. I've seen it. As much as she's designed for seduction, I wouldn't doubt destruction was high on the list when she was remade as well."
"Girl's got to you. She scares you... but that's not all, is it? What's really worrying you?"
The silver-haired man sprang out of his seat, pacing for a moment.
"About a year ago, I started receiving some disturbing intelligence from one of our people inside her House. Council is terrified of her. Except for Ash'tine's usual group, Andrenin, Visarius, a few other Ancients, most of the House wants her dead as well. It's not an open...decree but... I don't know if she's aware of it. Any of them...."
"And you can't tell her. Not that she'd believe you if you tried," Turner finished with a sigh. "Tell the Alderman kid."
"I can't get near him. I'm afraid if she catches me passing information to him, she'll think he's back with us, and I can't put him in that position."
"Just goes against your ancient sense of fair play?"
"Something like that. I meant what I said to that idiot. I'm not unleashing her little corner of hell on my world."
Sarah stared at the thatched ceiling, not moving, letting the warm breeze tickle her skin, breathing deeply, smelling the sea, tropical flowers, hearing the clack of palm fronds and the disjointed melody of insects warming up for their nightly chorus. It took her a long moment to remember where she was, what had happened the day before.
The ride from D.C. to New York. The attack. Talera in all her Dark glory. The plane trip to Talera's island in the Pacific.
The deaths of the Hunters. She kept picturing all of them falling like so many dominoes, lifeless, to the pavement. The expression on Talera's face when she pulled the life from their bodies. She'd looked comfortable with it, some part of her that Sarah had never seen before showing its face.
With a frustrated sigh, she turned over on her stomach, burying her face in the down pillow. A small part of her wondered how she'd managed to get herself in this situation. Befriending a full-fledged demon. One who had seemed fairly benevolent until the night before. That Talera loved her, she had no doubt. She didn't fear for herself, but in a primal way, the creature worried her.
Given, Talera had been trying since the day they met to impress upon all of them that, though glamorous and generally fantastic in every way, her world was dangerous. It just took seeing her friend pull the life from a large group of experienced killers to make her understand.
With another sigh, the girl turned back over, sitting up and looking around, crossing her long legs in front of her.
"Thought you'd never wake up," a deep male voice said from the shadows.
Sarah snapped to attention, straining her eyes to make out Kevin's form in a chair on the corner, leaning back, feet propped up on a small table, knees bent. Something about him seemed off, his size, his voice, maybe the way his eyes glinted unnaturally in the few rays of the afternoon sun that managed to filter through the trees outside.
"How'd you get here so fast?" Sarah asked, stretching, trying to make out more of him without seeming obvious.
"You've been asleep for nearly two days," he said softly, chuckling. Again, Sarah thought, something about his voice. And why didn't he stand up? Come closer?
"Being with her takes the energy right out of you the first time," he continued. "You get used to it."
"How did you know?" the dark-skinned girl asked, cocking her head to the side, smoothing her mussed curls.
"I can sense her power in you."
"Whatever. What are you doing here? I thought you were in Rome helping your parents on their dig."
"I was," he sighed, rubbing his eyes with one big hand. "Pershing told me about the attack from Johnson's team. I'm sorry you had to be there for that. I didn't know."
"What are you talking about?" she asked, alarm beginning to circle her consciousness. Something wasn't right. The situation was moving forward too quickly for her to get a handle on everything.
"Don't be scared," he murmured, a low note of sadness in his voice. "I promise I'll explain. Let me finish the story, ok?"
Sarah nodded, bringing her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees.
***The night before****
Kevin's eyes widened when he opened the front door, mouth falling open when his brain caught up and confirmed that it was indeed Pershing, head of the largest North American Pack standing outside his parents' home.
"Who is it, darling?" Camilla Alderman called, her footsteps sounding on the stair above, moving closer.
"It's, uh, Petra, mum," he replied, naming the teenage blonde from across the piazza who always found an excuse to visit when she knew Kevin was in town.
"Ciao, Signora Alderman," the giant man offered, his voice a perfect imitation of the Italian girl's. A long-toothed grin stole across his rugged features at Kevin's expression.
"She needs help with her faucet, mum," the boy yelled quickly. "I'll be back later."
He slammed the door, hurrying out of the light at the doorstep, looking around for the dark werewolf, who had since vanished.
"Just like a human, Hunter," the man's voice rumbled from the left, making Kevin spin to find the Lycan leaning casually against the side of a black Hummer. "Always more than willing to be under the paw of some pretty girl."
Kevin swallowed, recognizing the test for what it was. He not only had to think fast, he had to respond to the goad without resorting to outright disrespect to the Alpha.
"As I understand it, Master Wolf," he replied, layering on his accent heavily in a trained attempt to cover his nervousness, though he knew the Lycan could probably smell it on him a mile away. "If your females ask you to jump, you not only do you do so, you throw yourselves off the nearest cliff for good measure. Looks to me like you've done just that more than your share of times."
The man broke into genuine laughter, big chest heaving.
"Damn, that hurt," he chuckled.
"Truth always does," Kevin replied, on high alert, the Lycan's presence still unexplained.
"That it does," the Alpha sighed, holding out one hand, palm forward. "Relax, kid. I'm here on a favor."
For a moment, Talera's Mark burned brightly against the skin of his palm, then disappeared. It was an ancient method of verifying the authenticity of a message, unique to Talera's House and impossible to counterfeit.
"Ok, you have my attention," the boy said, shoulders dropping slightly as he relaxed. "Why are you here and not her?"
"Something's come up," the Lycan said, his Southern accent deepening as his face grew serious. "The Lady requests your presence at a private gathering this evening."
"Far enough away that you need to say good-bye."
Taking a deep breath Kevin nodded, mentally preparing himself for the barrage of questions and outrage when he told his parents he was leaving when he just gotten there. Motioning for patience from Pershing, he walked back into the old palazzo, deciding upon entering the foyer to take the age-appropriate way out. Snatching a pad and pen off the table in the entryway, he dashed out a note stating he would call them when he got to his "friend's" house, he slipped into his room on the lower floor, snatching the bag he was trained to keep packed at all times.