Tate felt great. He hadn’t been able to do a single pushup last night. With Gian’s temporary infection, Tate stood inside a spacious shipping container. The truck hauling the large metal box was going at a decent speed, mildly shaking the trailer left and right. Three yellow spotlights along the ceiling gave Tate enough light to celebrate properly.
The young man was still wearing the pants he had worn when he was dragged by Gonzo’s jeep. Gian’s sloppy kiss had completely healed everything from bruises to a few deep gashes. Tate noticed a few scars where he remembered being cut pretty badly. Gian had had to fix Tate’s two broken ribs by hand, but Tate was too high to care.
“This is better than any fuckin’ shroom I ever had!”
Gian sat on a bench that ran the length of the container. He smiled to a few of the others before turning back to Tate, “Works even better if you’re already healthy. And Tate my boy, we plan to keep you and…” The pointy eared vamper motioned across to the young woman with her toddler and baby.
Tate could see the last of his tribe wasn’t as enthusiastic as himself. “Megan, her son Tommy and… Did you name her yet Meg?”
Megan held her children as tightly as she could; wild brown hair veiled her widened eyes. Judging by her shaking, Tate didn’t think she would be talking anytime soon. Shit.
Tate turned to the front of the trailer. Deborah was handcuffed to the ceiling, her ankles also shackled to the floor. She stared back with red eyes, completely naked. Tate hated her so much he couldn’t even make himself check out her legs.
Why didn’t I do this earlier? Tate charged forward and slammed an uppercut into Deborah’s stomach. He followed up with a thoughtless pummel into the remainder of her torso, screaming, “You’re fight was with me! Why? Why kill everyone I’ve ever known? No one, no one you killed down there was a fighter!”
Tate pulled back, aiming for her face. His arm was stopped by Gian. The bald vamper tilted his head in what looked like disapproval. “First off, you’re not hurting her. Secondly, if you punch her in the teeth, there’s a chance you’ll get redeye yourself.”
Catching his breath and blinking his eyes dry, Tate backed off.
Gian turned his gaze to Deborah. “Red-eyed vampires might be as tough as my clan, but she will eventually lose her mind. The first thing to go is her conscience. That means ‘right and wrong’ caveman. Any boundaries she had before are nearly gone. Next, she’ll just stop caring about the ones she loves, probably forget about any grudges either. When that’s gone, she’ll forget her own name, and not even care.”
Tate noticed a small glimmer in the vamp bitch’s face. Did that scare her?
Gian walked back to his seat, “Trust me Tate, you don’t have very long to torture her. And if you’re going to torture a redeye, you’ll need more than punches.”
Tate balled his fists again, “You forgot something.”
Gian raised a hairless brow, “Oh?”
“Making her a punching bag ain’t just for her.”
Tate resumed his assault on Deborah. He hit her hard enough to slam her body into the metal door behind her. Every punch and kick carried the weight of his people. Brody, Genie, Leah, Blaire, Donnie, Luke, every face he could remember losing in the last week.
One face made him stop. Deborah stared back with nothing. She had stopped flinching before Gian had even interrupted. She had lost everything after her flawless victory. The vamper had just learned that her brain would wither away. What can I do to her?
Tate swallowed a lump in his throat. “Is it true? Do you feel yourself slipping away?”
Deborah didn’t change her face in the slightest, still staring blankly back.
“As many of my people as you killed, I don’t want to do the same to yours. Fighters deserve a fighter’s death.”
Deborah finally blinked, “I let those three go.”
“Three. Fuckin’ three?!”
Tate roared and continued the barrage. What hurt worse was Deborah’s face. This time, she laughed. Tate felt tears finally fall down his cheeks as he screamed. Deborah’s laugh was just as loud, and she never broke eye contact.
Physically, Tate felt like he could go all day, but the vamper’s laugh was slowly draining the fight out of him. “Fuck you! Fuck you!”
Time became a blur. Tate was panting for air, still launching his best punches when Gian patted his shoulder. Looking up, Tate wasn’t sure if Deborah looked more annoyed or bored.
Gian sounded ready to yawn, “We’re here.”
Tate glanced over his shoulder to see the rear of the container was open. Fluorescent light illuminated the edges of the exit, and beyond the trailer’s ramp was a heavy duty garage door. Only Megan and her children were left seated. How long was the drive?
Gian gently pulled Tate away from Deborah, “I’d like to show you four to your living quarters if you’re ready. Would you all like to remain together, or should we prepare two rooms?”
Tate was still catching his breath, “Together, for sure.”
Megan squeaked like a mouse, “Two rooms.”
Tate wrenched his head towards Megan. Even with Gian’s health booster, Tate felt a sudden swoop of lightheadedness. She won’t even look at me. His gut twisted so painfully, he couldn’t remember taking a harder hit. He formed the word as if it was in a foreign language, “What?”
Megan had huddled her children to her lap. She kept her eyes averted to them or the floor, Tate couldn’t tell. Before Tate could ask again, Gian gently barred him back with his forearm.
“Perhaps you could use some time apart for a while. You’ve all been through so much,” Gian may have been speaking for them both, but his icy blue eyes had never left Tate’s desperate stare. He removed his arm from Tate’s chest and took a knee before Megan. “You can wait in here as long as you’d like Miss. We have a nice apartment waiting for the three of you. I promise it’s not a cage. You and your youngin’s are safe here.”
Megan didn’t raise her head, “Are we prisoners?”
“You won’t find any water or food for miles. We even have bras and shirts for you.” With no response, Gian tilted his head to Deborah, “Also, I will be sending someone in to remove her soon. I recommend you not be in here when that happens.”
Megan glanced towards Deborah, still avoiding Tate altogether. She slowly stood with her cradled baby, and held Tommy’s tiny hand. “Where?”
Gian motioned for her to exit, “The lady outside will lead the way.”
Seemingly hesitant, Megan eventually walked her children out of the trailer.
Tate dropped his head into his hands. “They are prisoners.”
Gian shrugged, “We won’t treat them like prisoners unless they try to leave. I doubt she’ll try to take her chances with two kids, especially after she’s spoiled with our living standards.” Gian started to walk away.
Tate glanced back at a blank faced Deborah. He flipped her off and joined Gian. “Did you see her face? She’s just as scared of me as she is of ya’ll.”
“Well, that may be because she watched you assault a naked woman for the better part of two hours.”
“That bitch ain’t no woman anymore.”
Gian spun on his heel stopping inches from Tate’s face, “Oh yes she is. As long as she speaks, she’s a person. When she’s ready to aimlessly wander the planet thinking about nothing but the next meal, then she’s a gender-neutral punching bag. If you’re going to fit in around here, you better learn to leave your bigotry back where I picked you up.”
As close as he was, Tate felt like he might piss himself. He tried to hide his nervousness, “What about our home? Our real home.”
“Your oasis is lost. Word has it another tribe moved in already.” Gian eyed Tate up and down before continuing down the trailer’s ramp. “Seems like fate to me. Two tribes and a woman with a vendetta, all converging on your people within days of each other.”
“What?” Tate glanced at Deborah once more before exiting. Walking down the ramp, Tate immediately looked up at the concrete garage’s two story ceiling. There were identical trucks and trailers parked on either side of the one Tate had ridden in. All three were painted in beige.
Walking away from the garage doors, Tate caught up to Gian. The garage stretched far enough to fit another truck and trailer. A solid wall of shiny metal, almost as tall as the trucks, separated them from the rest of the building.
Gian wasn’t standing far away as he waved two guards over. Tate leaned out of their way and matched Gian’s pace. “What are you saying? What would’ve happened if you got to us before the bitch?”
He frowned, “We were aiming to invite all of your people here. There were rumors that the Red Bones had had a recent shift of power.”
“You were only going to start talkin’ to us with fuckin’ Gonzo in charge?”
“No. That would’ve been too quick for us to notice. We heard you had become the new chief. Your last leader had told us ‘No,’ but he had a means of contacting us in case he changed his mind. He called about our terms from time to time, so we assumed he was getting desperate. Then one day he outright refused us.”
Dad? “What was his name?”
With a shrug and a wave, Gian started walking again, “It looks like you already guessed. I liked your father. He had the charisma of a natural leader. He didn’t tell me about the oasis where we found you. Did he find it?”
Gian smirked, “He was paranoid that way. Though I imagine he would admit that’s a horrible place to live for the long haul.” He walked through the open door of the shiny metal gate that divided half of the garage, “Forget about your old life Tate, you’re part of something bigger now.”
Wooden crates filled each side of the garage, with another gathering in the middle. The boxes ranged from the size of a head to sizes that would barely fit in the trailers. The wood itself looked fresh and clean. Each of the three stacks looked very sturdy, almost like solid blocks on their own.
Tate also noticed a few small turrets mounted to the ceiling, red lights and black orbs shining. He smirked, “Sorry man, but I’ve seen warehouses before.”
Gian smiled back, “Typical teenager. Not even around for two decades and you think you’ve seen it all.” He turned his attention back to the trucks.
Deborah’s wrists were cuffed closely together with a solid bar. Her ankles were shackled together so that she couldn’t walk with a full stride. Another long bar connected her wrists the chain at her feet. Two guards, in matching desert camouflage, held her by her elbows. They wore light brown balaclavas, but that didn’t hide their icy eyes and pale, blue veined skin around them.
Gian nodded to the guards before leading the group. He walked in the wide aisle to the left of the central stack of crates. They were walking towards a tall set of double doors against the far wall.
Gian spoke loudly enough to sound a slight echo, “Tate, by the time you’ve settled in here, the home you left will be a bad memory. And Deborah, you won’t have a memory soon, so don’t worry about it.” Gian stopped to open the doors, but froze. He spun on his heel and grabbed the door handle behind his back. “Welcome, to Wayne Manor.”
Tate jumped when Gian and one of the guards started laughing. The sound was just as grating as before. The vampers seemed to be breathing in the wrong direction as they projected their strange frequency of vocal expression.
Gian was smiling wide, his canine teeth noticeably sharp. He waved his free hand dismissively and shook his head, “Sorry, inside joke. But really, come on in.”