Clive lowered the binoculars from his icy blue eyes. He had been turned in his mid-thirties, with a mostly healthy build. His black hair was shaved nearly clean around the sides of his head, while his scalp was just over finger length with a shallow widow’s peak. As a human, his skin had been a deep black complexion. The transformation had lightened him slightly, but only with a faint bluish hue.
Unlike most of the manor’s Chosen, Clive hadn’t been given the chance to bring his body to peak condition before being turned. Compared to his peers’ toned and pumped bodies, Clive was a little bony at the edges, but he was no pushover either.
One of the men called over the radio, “Scout Four, no movement, over.”
The flat expanse had a faint white glow, even without moonlight. Clive watched his footing as he slowly advanced with the rest of the line. He walked at the far south side of the formation, with everyone approximately ten meters apart from each other.
Clive tapped his earbud, “Scout Five, nothing. Over.”
The squad leader’s voice replied softly, “Stay frosty. Point man out.”
Deborah had left an easy enough trail to follow, but Clive and the other hunters weren’t about to underestimate her now. Clive still fought the urge to feel the right side of his face and neck. The explosion from Major Julie’s Humvee had launched pieces of burning shrapnel into most of the party. Clive had lost a chunk of his right cheekbone, eye socket, entire right ear, and a slice off the right side of his neck.
Most of his tissue had grown back with a mouthful of blood from one of the hostages. Clive and the others had never had to hunt a redeye before. Every redeye became automatically submissive when exposed a Chosen’s pheromones. Rumors floated around that Deborah had to be some kind of experiment Neal or Gian had been working on.
Clive had dabbled in phlebotomy, but that was the extent of his scientific studies. Can you really make a red-blue hybrid? Maybe someone just shot her up with a vaccine or something. Clive shook his head. Not important. She’s a target. That’s it.
The explosion had crippled two members of the party. One had lost a leg, while the other was paralyzed enough to only use one arm. No one had found Major Julie’s body, and it was widely known that she had loved grenades. Clive and his squad were prepared for the worst.
Neal had personally warned everyone how fast and lethal Deborah was. No one had really believed one woman, much less a redeye, could flawlessly kill six guards and a fellow Chosen after escaping an ultraviolet cell she had been held in for nearly a week.
Major Julie Davidson’s apparent murder at the hands of Deborah had added a whole new layer to the myth. Deborah’s name was quickly becoming synonymous with “Baba Yaga.” This single woman was gaining the reputation of a demon that fed on other shadow monsters.
Clive hadn’t been legitimately afraid in a long time. Being practically immortal had had that effect on most people. He could sense it in the air though, everyone was beginning to remember what fear felt like.
Someone quietly exclaimed over the radio, “Hold! Scout Two, I got a trip wire here. Over.”
Clive froze in place and scanned the ground around his boots. How did she have time for this? Then he saw a glimmer ahead. A length of wire caught Clive’s attention. He tapped his earbud.
Deborah had buried herself only a few minutes ago. Her right ear was just at the surface of her pile, listening to her pursuers stop just past her. She had been worried that sweeping her tracks with her vest wouldn’t be convincing enough. Worked well enough.
Two lengths of wire had been planted in the direction the hunters should have been following. One wire was tied tightly between the two boots she had buried nearly an hour before herself. The other wire was tied between two ends of a tire iron. She had spent more time making it look convincing than she cared for. Must look good.
Another hunter quietly called out, “Scout Five, I see one too.”
Listening to the two hunters had given Deborah a good idea of how far away the six of them were. With her left ear and both eyes still buried, she slowly rose her right arm out of the sand, holding a flashbang grenade that she had already pulled the pin out of.
Deborah flung the grenade in a large arc, where she hoped everyone would be looking. In the same motion, Deborah plugged her ear.
Someone quietly asked, “What’s that?”
Deborah sprang out of the sand, wiping it out of her eyes before she opened them. Five hunters on her right had dropped flat to the ground, rubbing their eyes and ears. The last one was just ahead of her.
Leaping on his or her back, Deborah kicked the hunter’s assault rifle away as she lassoed a length of bare wire under their throat. Whoever she was strangling reached for the wire, but Deborah was standing now, working her shoulders back and forth as her feet stayed planted on her victim’s elbows.
Deborah flinched when someone fired a round. She looked and saw that no one was aiming in her direction. Someone yelled, “Hold your fire until you can see!”
A wretched stink cut through the air. Deborah looked down to see green blood coating the wire. The hunter was still flailing. Just a little more. A little more work, and Deborah felt the wire skip through a cavity before meeting more resistance. The hunter’s head was unnaturally angled forward with a puddle of green sinking into the sand.
The other five were groggily pulling themselves up to a knee. Deborah reached down with her bare hands and ripped off the rest of her victim’s head like a hangnail.
Deborah leapt for the rifle she had kicked away and ejected the magazine. The .223 rounds were tipped with a shiny, almost white metal she wasn’t familiar with.
A brief memory flashed in her head. Just before the invaders from Wayne Manor had captured Deborah, she watched her small army of vamps be wiped out in a single hail of bullets in all directions.
Anti-vamp bullets? Deborah ejected a shell from the mag and tucked it in a vest pocket.
The hunter to her right held her head as she looked in Deborah’s direction, “You see anything?” Her eyes widened immediately as she met Deborah’s eyes.
Deborah quickly slapped her magazine in. Assuming she had a thirty round clip, Deborah allotted a quick burst of four or five rounds in the other woman’s face.
Another hunter rallied the others, “Left!”
Deborah ran forward and slid on her knees in front of the hunter she had just shot. Up close, she could smell the cavity inside her target’s face melting. Grabbing the woman’s vest, Deborah held her up as a shield from someone else’s gunfire. Deborah blindly launched a barrage of automatic fire.
Someone’s boots thudded to the right. Deborah let her shield lean against her as she grabbed the other woman’s rifle. She tracked her right gun in the direction she heard the boots. A few shots returned, Deborah felt a strong burn radiate in her right thigh. It felt like pain.
Deborah turned her full attention as she continued firing. The third hunter fell with a sudden thud, firing into the air as he rolled.
The body shield was still vibrating. Gotta get out of here. Deborah fired in a wide horizontal line until her primary rifle clicked empty.
A voice boomed, “Flank!”
Deborah peeked through her shield’s hollowed head and tracked two hunters flanking each side. She lifted her left gun as she rotated her shield right. A few rounds whizzed by Deborah’s head, one or two landed in her left side. Fuck.
She could tell she landed a few rounds in her opponent as well. The left flanker looked confused as he dropped his rifle. Good enough. Deborah steadied her rifle against her body shield and fired a tighter grouping after the right flanker. The woman stayed low to the ground, so Deborah settled for the knees, aiming just above the rolling sand dunes. Her target finally fell after a long burst.
Deborah winced as she lowered her left gun arm. There was one more body lying in the distance. She fired a round in its direction. No movement. Whether he was playing dead or not, Deborah kept an eye out as she rummaged for a fresh clip.
The last two flankers were making noise. Deborah could hear them crawling. Maybe a third as well. Deborah ejected her current magazine to see a few rounds left. She stuffed her vest with another anti-vamp clip from the body shield. Then she calmly limped to the left flanker. Two rounds in the back of the head ended him.
A short walk back across from the shield, Deborah found two hunters crawling back where they had come from. Double-tapping each stopped them.
As Deborah gathered more ammo and supplies, she continued watching the last body. If he’s alive, maybe he’ll let these people know I’m not to be fucked with. Or maybe Neal will spend more resources to come at me. Doesn’t matter.
Deborah dug her boots back up and cleaned them as best she could. The last hunter still hadn’t moved. She considered collecting his gear before she left. He might just be waiting for me. Deborah could feel the silver bullets corroding her insides.
Clive’s eyes were barely open. He stayed on the ground, not moving in the slightest. How the fuck did she do that?! His back was facing the general direction she had ambushed from. All he could see was endless sand before him. Nowhere to hide from a rifle scope. Where the fuck was she? The man did his best to listen to Deborah’s movements.
None of Clive’s teammates were ready to give up. He could hear them crawling, presumably for better positioning. Proud idiots. Clive could tell Deborah was confirming her kills on anyone still moving. She had fired a stray shot at Clive, but he knew that game. Maybe she’s hit. Maybe I can get her… No. She’s probably keeping an eye on me and anyone else she didn’t double-tap.
Clive had dropped his rifle after a bullet had grazed his skull. His sidearm was in hand, just in case Deborah came closer to confirm the kill or steal his gear. The pistol was loaded with typical round nose lead bullets. All he could hope to do was empty the clip in her chest if she got close enough. She’s not stupid enough for that. She has the long range advantage.
The soldier waited and waited to hear Deborah fire a shot in the back of his head, or just walk closer. There was a dead silence for too long. Clive felt his trigger finger curl tighter. Then he heard Deborah’s boots walking away, back to the northwest. She’s going back to the truck. For the hostages? There’s easier ways to get blood… unless she’s trying to save them.
Clive had never heard of a redeye holding onto their humanity for much longer than a few days. Some reports stated that Deborah had been turned nearly two and a half weeks ago. As a human raider, Clive didn’t have a lot of luck finding people in the sand. As a Chosen, hunting humans was what he lived for. His people were lucky to find vulnerable prey once every other week.
How Deborah could hold a steady supply of human blood was baffling to Clive. The Manor had been hunting the Red Bone tribe for months after their previous leader cut off trade. Deborah, alone, with no drones or formidable resources, had found them.
Clive had her image frozen in his head. He had raised his rifle scope after his head was clear. The red dot scope had found Deborah as she ran for cover behind Erin’s body. Deborah’s eyes had had a glow that surpassed any mindless redeye’s hungry gaze he had ever seen.
Clive had to stop her before she wiped out the rest of his people, but he was afraid to die.