Harris squinted through his rifle scope into the fully lit plaza below. Laying atop the crater’s edge, with the sun fully set, the old hunter wasn’t worried about anyone below spotting him. He rolled to his side to zip his jacket higher. Harris was getting cold before the sun had fully set, and there was a constant breeze above the cliff’s edge.
After shooting Tsara, Harris had taken out a few other scouts before missing his shot at James. Lucky kid. The old man reconsidered his thinking. I just killed his wife, or fiancé, for information…
Harris had noticed that three or four vamps had chased James into one of the smaller houses. Been a while, he’s gotta be dead by now. Harris swiveled his rifle to the mansion, checking for reflections of rifle scopes or binoculars. Too bad I can’t confirm James’ death. Might have to kill everyone to cover my tracks.
Harris felt a tug on his ankle. He immediately released the rifle, rolled over and sat up with his four-barreled shotgun. A loose knot ran from Harris’ ankle to a small perimeter of rope staked a few inches off the ground. The tug on the line had come from directly behind where a feral vamp had touched the perimeter.
Gripping the forearm-long shotgun in both hands, Harris was just close enough to take a confident shot. He fired a barrel loaded with shredder rounds, enough to throw the creature on its back. Harris squinted in the surrounding darkness and pulled out an ear plug. All he heard was the wounded vamp writhing.
Mindful of his ammo, Harris picked up the heavy machete he had lying beside him. He slowly rose to his feet and hunched over to the edge of the small perimeter. Harris flicked on his flashlight with a red bulb. The shredder shot had lacerated most of its shriveled chest and face. The veteran didn’t see any particularly deep gashes in the scalp or neck, so he raised his machete for the easiest section to chop through. In two swings, Harris had sliced through the vamps mouth to the sand below.
Harris kept watching his surroundings as he tossed the vamp’s corpse off of his perimeter line. He felt like he was being watched, but there wasn’t much he could do about that. The veteran walked back to his rifle, laid his blade down, and reloaded another shredder shell in the shotgun.
It’s too quiet. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he had more company up top with him. More vamps will trip the line. Shouldn’t be any people stupid enough to be walking around at night. Harris was mildly impressed that as bright as the plaza was below, barely any light shined past the crater’s edge. Someone knew what they were doing when they built this place.
Harris couldn’t shake the feeling in his gut. As before, the veteran quickly rolled to his side and drew his shotgun. Few things scared Harris at his age, but in that moment, he thought he might piss his pants.
A dark figure with blue refracted eyes was crouching in front of Harris, and it had a firm grip on the shotgun and Harris’ coat. Harris tried to control his breathing as his heart pounded away. Fuck.
The silhouette tilted its head to gaze into the crater, and slowly leaned back in front of Harris. The masculine voice seemed to vibrate through his throat, “What ya shootin’ at boy?”
Harris tried to grab his machete, but the man pushed forward to pin Harris. The faintest glow from below illuminated the pale man’s blue eyes. He was a large man with a large jaw and no facial hair. Straight black hair dangled past his bare shoulders. It was hard to tell if he was wearing any clothes. The thick man sniffed the air, “Ooo, why you gots ta send my babies down like dat? Hmm?”
Unable to move his arms, Harris couldn’t think of a way to get back to his feet. Gotta stall him at least. “Didn’t know they were babies.”
“Why yes they are butta-cup. My babies. I wake up and find an empty nest, wouldn’t that make you a lit’ agitated?”
The vamp leaned forward to look below once more. “I’ma blame you for da for I just lost.”
“Yep. An guess what? I’ma start repopu-latin’ wit you.”
Harris’ eyes widened as the blue eyed vamp vomited into his face.
“Drink up butta-cup.”
Harris vomited in turn. The big man grabbed Harris by the jaw and faced him up. Harris’ punches to the face and ribs did nothing.
“That just tickles boy.”
“How ‘bout this?” Harris didn’t recognize the voice, but he hoped he was glad to hear it.
The large vamp released Harris and tried to run. A gunshot rang out, with a pause before three more followed. Harris rolled to his left to see the naked vamp trying to crawl away, he promptly rolled to his right to aim at the newcomer.
Already on top of him, another blue eyed vamp with pointy ears and a narrow chin took Harris’ shotgun and tossed it. “Sit tight.” The new vamp was dressed in all black with a coat that flapped past his knees. He also grabbed Harris’ rifle and briefly examined it.
Harris asked, “Who are you?”
The vamp stepped over him and kept walking, “Call me Ishmael.” Harris flinched when Ishmael laughed a horribly penetrating shriek that echoed like a gunshot.
Harris tried to force the vamp vomit from his mouth as he untied his ankle and stood with his machete in both hands. “How many more are like you!”
Ishmael dangled his chrome pistol above the other vamp’s head and fired. The naked vamp on the ground stopped moving. Ishmael didn’t acknowledge Harris at all. He removed a blade from under his coat, chopped the naked vamp’s head off, and tossed it aside.
The well-dressed vamp holstered his pistol and cleaned his blade as he walked back. “Never counted.”
“Why’d you kill him? Isn’t he part of your nest?”
“From what I gather, you just killed a few of your own people. Why should I be any better than you?”
Harris could barely process that he was talking to a blue eye, let alone meeting two at once. “Did you know Daniel? Do you know who turned him?”
Ishmael sniffed the air as he reclaimed Harris’ rifle from the ground. “Sounds like you don’t like my kind very much. Don’t worry, I won’t give you time to turn.” Ishmael drew a different gun from his hip and fired two or three rounds into Harris’ chest.
Harris clutched his chest as he spun face down in the sand. Fuck. So close. Sorry Daniel.
Gian inhaled the smoke from his pistol, held it, and slowly exhaled. The bald sniper lay face down in the sand. Gian holstered his pistol and reexamined the rifle. Nice piece. Gian tapped his ear bud, “Found Willy.”
Oliva replied over the radio, “Is he coming peacefully?”
“Nope,” Gian eased his way to the edge of the crater and hunkered down to a knee. “Well Willy found some trouble by the Red Bone camp.”
“No. Looks like scavengers,” Gian glanced to the dead sniper, “I think one of them got greedy or something. Tried to kill them with Willy’s nest, but Willy found him and tried to turn him. I got here in time to kill them both.”
“Was the scavenger going to turn blue or red?”
“Didn’t give him a chance. Hey, listen, I heard Willy say he lost a few babies, hence the hasty infection. We might have two or three survivors in the morning.” Gian watched a few red eyed vamps below, cleaning up a corpse in a truck and at a doorstep. “What are we thinking?”
“Do you think this group got along with the Red Bones?”
“I’d say not. Looks like they’re cleaning house to taking presents back home.”
“Any idea where they’re from?”
“Wanna bet this is Deborah’s gang? Not many people have been visiting the Red Bones in a while. Not even us.”
Olivia seemed to hesitate, “Gian, is there anything there that can link back to the manor?”
“Tate didn’t know what toilet paper was. I highly doubt anyone here kept a record about us.”
Olivia paused again, “Neal doesn’t want to take any chances. Can you confirm how many survivors are there?”
“No. There’s five vehicles, two of ‘em are filled with blood and I see another body getting picked clean. The way they packed the trucks, I don’t think there’s many left.”
“Can you handle it?”
“I was out here to sniff for Willy, I’m not equipped…” Gian glanced to the scoped rifle in his hand, “Get me some backup, I’ll keep them pinned for a while. And send Red Bone Tate.”
“He’s not trained, and he’ll be too close to this.”
“I want him to feel like we need each other. Whether he can help or not doesn’t matter, he just needs to be here, for his sake.”
“Neal won’t like it.”
“Is Neal listening?”
A quick pause, “I’m here Gian.”
“Fuck you Neal. We need humans that at least feel important. They aren’t cattle, they’re our partners.”
Neal quickly answered, “He’s your stray. See if I care when you get him killed.”
Gian muttered, “Thanks.”
Shouldering the rifle, Gian walked over to the previous sniper’s other weapon. He shook his head. Homemade, quadruple-barrel, pistol grip shotgun… How is that more practical than a normal shotgun?
He examined the bald man’s perimeter of tight ropes and three empty casings in the sand. Been here a while. Gian made his way to another position in case anyone below had figured out where the shots had been coming from.
Gian moved towards the south side of the crater so that he had a view of the mansion’s front doors. He had to squint through the small scope, but it still had decent magnification. All of the windows on the first floor were barricaded, with a few curtains on the second and third floors moving slightly. Hopefully they packed thermal goggles instead of night vision.
There was movement at the front doors. The six feral vampires in the plaza all noticed it as well. Gian followed them with the scope as they all bombarded the entrance in a disorganized heap. Can’t work together too well without Willy.
Gian kept his scope on the mansion, but his mind wandered. I wonder if I’m ready to control my own nest again. It’s the closest I’ll get to having kids… or dogs. Are there still dogs around? Probably up north.
Olivia transmitted over the radio, “Backup’s on the way Gian. Sounds like your boy’s really excited. They’re coming in fast for you.”
Gian saw one of the survivors in a second story window. They quickly leaned out with a gun and shot at the wild vamps below. The shot echoed clearly throughout the crater. None of the ferals looked crippled, but the survivor continued the routine three more times.
Good job. Waste all your ammo; makes my life easier.
Gian looked at the ferals; how they mindlessly assaulted an immovable object for blood. Every time he saw a wild nest, he was more than happy to end their pointless cycle of death. In the old world, you would’ve gotten all the blood you needed. Hell, maybe we could’ve cured you. Now you just drift with the wind and the dust. You drink your fill and leave nothing behind. At least zombies are easier to kill.
Harris woke up. He rolled to his back and picked warm lead out of his coat. Still warm? Harris held his chest as he stood. He grabbed his machete and shotgun before examining the tracks around him. A narrow boot with deep treads lead to the southern end of the crater.
Fucker can’t be far.