Continues from Happy New Year
Oh, got no reason, got no shame
Got no family I can blame
Just don't let me disappear
I'm 'a tell you everything
- Secrets, One Republic
Viv stood with her gloved hands on her hips, trying not to throw up.
"You get used to it."
Viv turned away and gagged. "Charlie...I really don't...ever want to get used...to this...oh god," and Viv threw up. Again. Her entire body shook with spasms as she threw up what was left of her big breakfast. Hammer waited until she had eaten to tell her about the sewer trip. It was her penance for Siberia and Charlie was forced to do sewer mapping detail with her because of his help.
"Oh god, I will get him for this. I swear to god."
The voice in her ear chimed in with a slightly amused tone. "How's it going down there, Vivienne? Mapping system giving you the shits?"
Viv wiped her mouth, waiting to see if she was going to throw up again before standing back up. Hammer's voice was happy in her ear. Happy. She had turned off her VOX setting on her throat com to prevent the rest of the team from hearing her vomit constantly. Shuddering, Viv took off her glove and pinched the PTT button on the throat communicator with her bare fingers.
"What, I didn't catch that, Hammer? I'm surrounded by shit. It doesn't carry sound as well as you'd think."
Spitting quite unladylike, Viv looked over at Charlie who gave her a sad smile. His VOX setting was still on, but he remembered to censor most of what he said to Viv. "Once we move through the sewage system pipes, it'll be a lot better."
Viv pulled her Therian-weave glove back on and looked down at her legs, knee deep in human waste. They were both wearing their suits, but Charlie wore his field coveralls over his and the top half off with the sleeves wrapped around his waist.
"God, that fucker," she mumbled and moved down the sewage pipe behind Charlie.
"Ok, I hate him, too," he mumbled unhappily to which Viv replied with laughter and more gagging. It was taking everything not to throw up with her, his gag reflex not being what it once was, but he had gotten used to the smells fairly quickly.
Charlie pinched his throat com and spoke to the rest of the team he had in sewers with them. Marthinus, Red, Domingo, and Lewis - the same Pipers who had helped Vivienne with her meet with Simon Huntington that facilitated the Siberia trip. They were all being punished, but they were at least beyond the sewer tunnels. Charlie was curious as to Marthinus' knowledge of the sewer lines.
"Hey Marty," he called out, forgoing Marthinus' nickname given to him from Red who immediately objected by chattering into the com. "Shut up, Red. Marthinus...what do you know about these sewer systems?"
Marthinus voice chirped in, "Honestly - not much. These are strictly vampire paths. No reason for any of the familiars to learn the routes. I can tell you there are tunnels leading everywhere in the city and outer edges. Where they are?"
Charlie could hear Marthinus shrugging. He checked his equipment to see what had already been mapped out in the system and the entire sewage area was blank, and for good reason. They had been avoiding it for months, so it was good a team was out mapping the area, it just sucked it had to be them.
"I'm sorry about this, Charlie. I shouldn't have gotten you involved."
Charlie turned back and looked at Viv as she leaned back against the circular tunnel. He shrugged at her, helpless with his reasons for helping her. He retrieved her passport and did it without letting anyone at the Den know Viv was planning on leaving the country purely out of his feelings for her. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Viv, and he knew he was an idiot for feeling that way, but she need only ask and he'd do it for her.
"What's done is done. Unfortunately it's time to pay...."
"Oh don't say it."
"The piper," he said chuckling.
"Oooh, you went there."
Charlie grinned and turned back toward the sewer tunnel, moving through the thick sludge of god knows what.
Ringo looked over at his second in command who was talking into a walkie-talkie. A blast of static and a number came through loud and clear.
"Dozen more and it'll lead them to here."
Ringo looked around and up into the dark alleyway building roof tops. The sun didn't reach down into this part of Nachton. Shadows were everywhere, some natural from the awnings and fire escapes, some unnatural. It was the latter that made his lip curl instinctively.
"Think it's wrong?"
"Do I think what is wrong?"
Ringo turned to Phillip and pointed into the darkness as the sun began to make its way west toward the horizon, hiding behind the skyline.
"We all have our paths, Ringo. And sometimes our path is dictated by the amount of money we are paid."
"I don't like my fate settled by monetary values, Phillip."
"We're not paid to like anything, much less our jobs, Ringo."
Ringo gave his second a quick nod and smile. "Good point. Carry on."
One by one they called in their numbered manhole over their walkie-talkies, signaling to the next crew to continue on. They were back to their full baker's dozen thirteen again, having replaced their dead from the silu that had attacked both the Nakubili and their Piper brothers. With their Alpha and second waiting for them, they quickly finished their job of creating a path with a single end.
The Nakubili and Pipers were brothers by curse, but unfortunately money was thicker than blood that afternoon.
"What the hell?"
Slipping out of the bed, he walked barefoot and shirtless to the bathroom and leaned over the sink. Looking at himself in the mirror, he contemplated his reflection when a sudden, vicious spasm hit him, making him throw up in the bathroom sink.
"What the hell?!"
"Are you throwing up?" Ellis was behind him, standing in the doorway of the large bathroom connected to their master bedroom. She was wearing nothing but body lotion. Simon looked at her and felt the tinge of arousal to which Ellis smiled and hooked her hip out vivaciously.
"It just hit me." Suddenly he pushed Ellis out of the bathroom and shut the door, just barely making it to the toilet to throw up again. "Oh Jesus Christ," he muttered unhappily.
"Why are you throwing up?" Ellis called through the door.
Simon rolled his eyes. What kind of question was that? He waited, his head poised over the toilet bowl and his knuckles were white, gripping the edge of the seat. A minute passed and just when he let go of the seat and got up on one leg, the spasm hit him again, making him gag into the toilet.
"Stop throwing up!" Ellis yelled.
Resting his head on his arm, he took a deep breath and wanted to cry.
Brig looked at his watch and inwardly moaned. He had been not just late, but extremely late to meet with the Customs officer regarding their recent shipment from Canberra's R&D facilities. Brig had made the mistake in having it shipped ahead of his father and Elder Hammerthynn and the new Therian-weave suits were being held by Customs until someone from Stafford Enterprises came in with the proper paperwork.
So the majority of his morning and now his afternoon were spent sitting in a small room with his two boxes of Therian-weave suits and three Custom's officers. Apparently the one had to call not one but two supervisors from their main office at Nachton airport.
"So...Mr. Jameson." Custom's officer #1 came into the room with a clip board and sat in the chair on the other side of Brig. The officer asked him a series of questions about the suits - their origin, where they were produced, what they were made for, etc. He answered all the questions politely.
"Ok, Mr. Jameson. I'll be one moment." The man got up and left the room. Brig began to stand when Custom's officer #2 came into the room.
"Ok, Mr. Jameson?"
Brig raised his eyebrows.
"So...about this Therian-weave?"
Brig narrowed his eyes and answered the same questions again. The officer thanked him dutifully and left. Brig began stacking the boxes when the head supervising Custom's officer came into the room.
"So, Mr. Jameson...just a few more questions."
Brig looked at the supervisor and sat back down in his seat with a long sigh.
Viv had been breathing out of her mouth and it was beginning to help with the nausea, not a whole lot, but enough when Charlie started asking her questions, requiring her to breath. Unhappily she answered.
"You mean the camouflage?"
"Well that, too."
The Therian-weave suits had been completely redesigned by the time Viv had gotten to Siberia two weeks prior. Charlie had been part of the research for the updated suits, but had not gotten a chance to field test any in Nachton when Diego, the head R&D technician from Canberra, died at the Glenveagh compound in Ireland. Viv knew they had offered Charlie the position, but he turned it down quickly, much to her surprise. Well it wasn't a surprise, not really; once a field Piper, always a field Piper. The adrenaline rush that came with protecting the Alpha and being a home based Piper was just too much to give up and the position, third in command, was coveted throughout the Pipers in the pack. Charlie wouldn't give that up for the world, especially since it meant the Lieutenant position when LT stepped up into the Commander spot when Brig took over for his father as Elder. Hell, Viv knew they were contemplating giving Charlie his own command for a second Piper team in Nachton. Being a Piper was what Charlie wanted, the only thing he had ever wanted and been. No, he'd stay in Nachton for his usefulness here and there was no taking him without the Beta's say so. Hammer knew quality leadership when he saw it and he had already denied home base's request for Charlie. The Sergeant wasn't going anywhere.
Instead of the dark blue or black diamond weave, the new Therian-weave was now a neutral gray, but it had been molecularly changed to mimic surrounding colors by bending light and other scientific terms that Viv had only vaguely understood. Viv knew Charlie had degrees in computational and systems biology, being integral in the suit's development, but she knew he wasn't interested in the dynamics of the suit, but its functionality in the field. She gave him her best review.
"It's pretty super cool."
Charlie stopped moving down the tunnel and looked at her with a strange expression that was mixed with humor and confusion.
"It's functionality and capabilities were duly tested in the field, performing exceptionally well in camouflaging against multiple environments including weathering temperature differentials spanning from extreme cold to heat. Its modified durability, namely the enhanced level 5 body armor, was suitably put to the test and did super awesome."
"See, you were doing so well up until you called it super awesome," Charlie said fully turning toward Viv, giving her a large smile.
"Smart is sexy when coupled with humor."
Viv looked at Charlie as he stood about ten feet in front of her, surrounded by damp, moldy green tunnels with rushing water and sewage up to his knees. His face was covered in grime and black Therian-weave suit glistened with what little light present. Viv could see the outline of muscles on his arms and chest, and honestly, she could not think of one reason why she did not hook up with him when she had the chance. Well, she could think of one, and that one reason was plenty to keep her from kissing him, right then, in the nastiest place she had ever step foot.
Charlie's eyes were hooded yet kind; his smile ever present, subtle in its charm and warmth. The way he looked at her with those blue eyes made her stomach twist, but not with threats of nausea, but with genuine attraction. If it wasn't for Brig, it definitely would have been Charlie, and somehow he knew that. He was subtle with his attraction to her and not obtrusive in the least. It never made her feel uncomfortable, save for maybe New Year's when presented with the opportunity to kiss him at midnight. Her libido said HELLS YES but her heart said no and in the end Brig was there, the one true love of her life, to kiss her at midnight. Charlie had been stuck with a little tongue from Red, much to his obvious disappointment. Viv only made it worse by walking that thin line between encouraging him and physically stopping him from kissing her - the mixed signals were unfair to Charlie, but she could not help it. Her mind kept telling her: if not for Brig, then it would be Charlie, without a doubt. And as he stood there, looking down at her, covered in grim and human waste, that message was conveyed loudly and without a word.
Viv rubbed her nose with her shoulder and looked down at his GPR, taking it from his hand. "You guys should be getting your new Therian-weave today, I think. The Commander went to collect it from customs."
Charlie let her take the instrument without a word and then turned back toward the tunnel. The moment had been there but was gone as quickly as it happened. He had enough class not to push it, Viv thought to herself. She had already told him there was someone else and he respected that. Most men probably wouldn't.
He reached up and switched his throat com back to voice activated. "Yeah, I'm looking forward to testing them out for myself. See how the armor holds up to shifting."
And like that, Charlie went from friendly sweet guy to total professional. Viv looked at the GPR and nodded. "Yeah," she mumbled softly and followed him deeper into the darkness.
Ellis watched from her perch on the bed as Simon got dressed. Her expression was unreadable, but their aura pulsated painfully with her mistrust and suspicion. Simon chose not to comment on it as he slipped on his V-neck black pullover and heavier wool trousers. The cold was bitter in Nachton, not that it bothered him all that much, but he still dressed warmly to fit the part out in the dying afternoon. The sun had already dipped behind the skyline, hiding the uptown area in shadows making movement easier for a vampire his age, but he'd still have to avoid the direct sunlight, so he dressed for sewer travel which included black high tread boots he didn't care too much about getting dirty.
She didn't ask why he was going or where, instead she just raised her eyebrows and watched him. He took that as a stroke of good luck and kissed her quickly before leaving.
Her part of the aura clung to him as he took the steps down to the ground floor two at a time and almost ran to the door. Something was wrong with Vivienne - her nausea had subsided but the strength of it had been enough to make him worry. It wasn't like him to rush off for someone he wasn't sleeping with, but rush off he did. The more distance he put between him and Ellis, the intensity of Vivienne's bond grew. By the time he reached street level of the Grand Piazza, Ellis' aura had faded enough for him to get a better sense of where Vivienne might be located.
Simon walked out of the front entrance of the hotel and narrowed his eyes against the dying rays of sun. He ignored the faint stinging on his face as he closed his eyes and let Vivienne's connection to him direct him. A few pedestrians grumbled as they walked around him, but Simon concentrated, opening his perception and mind, searching. Suddenly he was off, heading downtown on foot down the sidewalk.
The flash of her had been odd. It was wet, somehow. Something, coupled with nausea and disgust flashed in his mind as he walked toward the lower end of Uptown Nachton. The closer he got to downtown, the quicker he began to move, weaving in between the sidewalk pedestrians with a faster than human speed, leaving people confused in his wake. He was a shimmer of something physical moving with liquid speed until he made it to the downtown area and felt himself pulled east - toward the back alley.
It had been a clearly thought out, prodigiously conceived form of punishment for disobeying a direct order. That had been Vivienne - pursuing the blood memory origin for whatever reason. She had said it was to help, but it only caused more than twenty deaths and the destruction of a small Siberian village. Not to mention countless man hours and money just to get to her, putting his Piper Commander in jeopardy, nearly killing them both.
His Piper Sergeant's folly was this undying devotion to Vivienne and her crusade. The LT and Brig couldn't impress upon young Charlie Hammond to start thinking with his brain instead of his penis, so a couple days doing sewer detail, along with the Pipers who aided Vivienne with her ridiculous meet with that silu Huntington, was a fitting judgment as well as lesson in prudence, Hammer thought.
So with a happy grin, he put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, listening to vomiting and grumbles of the Pipers and Vivienne.
She was in the sewers.
Why would she be down in the sewers, he wondered? Moving further down the alley, he kept his eyes on the ground until he came up on a manhole. Kneeling down next to it, he put his fingers on it when he noticed welded metal around the edges. He ran his fingers over the smoothed steel and it still felt warm, almost tacky to the touch. Rubbing his fingers together, he checked the area around him and concentrated on his perception abilities, not exactly sure what he was looking for, but again rewarded with nothing out of the ordinary. Viv could be within a few feet to a mile - he was unsure of the intensity of their bond, it being of a different variety that he was used to sharing.
He had unknowingly bonded with Carol several years back, just before he tried to kill Ellis. It was an intense, protective bond born out of love for Carol. It withered quickly, quicker than he thought it would once he bonded with Ellis.
Now his bond with Ellis was completely different. Where he could sense Carol and speak to her via the bond, the bond with Ellis was born out of near death and undying love. It was raw and vibrant - a shared aura that enabled them to be able to detect the other's emotion. Love, fear, guilt, pride, hate - it was all there and naked. Ellis could hide nothing from him, but he could hide it from her and she hated that with a passion.
Simon possessed subterfuge - an ability that allowed him to hide his emotions, even vampires that possessed empathy. It infuriated Ellis that he could still have secrets, and he did.
His bond with Vivienne was just as intense as it was different; it was born out of survival and trust. Siberia had nearly killed them both, but in the process they learned more about each other than no one else had ever in their long lives. It was a different kind of love - a focused kinship that connected them with a bond similar to his shared aura with Ellis. It was in its infancy, but it was growing. He could track Vivienne down if she called out to him or was in some sort of distress. She might have unknowingly called out to him out of her disgust for playing in the sewers and he could not help but laugh, that was until he came across the welded shut manhole.
Although he could not speak directly to Vivienne via their bond, not yet anyways, he could send impressions to her: specifically words or images. Like the balcony at the New Year's Eve event at the Grand Piazza. If he concentrated, he could communicate with her, but at the moment it was only if she was in line of sight. His bonding abilities were varied, as was its results. Still, it came in handy.
Simon slid his fingers into three holes surrounding the edge of the cover and pulled. The metal creaked and then snapped. It was a loud cracking noise as the metal broke, but did not attract any attention. He put the manhole cover next to the hole and stepped into the darkness, pulling it back over his head and closing it as he descended into the sewers.
Lewis was the Com officer for the Pipers. He loved his job: part hacker, Information Technician, conducted reconnaissance, surveillance, and survey assessments of potential objective, and all around super geek god from his console at the Situation room. Dougie was exceptional at filling in, but had shown no more skill than necessary, except for this moment.
Dougie read the results of the instantaneous script which he was now programming to leak information to an outside source, giving access with his cell phone in his right hand. He typed in the information with his thumb without looking, keeping his eyes on the monitor and the back of the Beta's head. The script performed its job and embedded itself within Lewis' personally designed program and disintegrated within the code while his thumb finished typing in the message. His finger rubbed the green send button as the sweat beaded on his fair skin and ran down the sides of his face. If he did this one thing, this tiny minuscule thing, it would be all over, they told him. Once he pressed the green button, he had exactly twelve seconds to abort the signal before he left open a back door for anyone to come into the system and do and see whatever they wanted. The technology Lewis was developing was priceless, but the access Dougie was giving the outside source would be unprecedented, as well as treacherous. But it wasn't as if he had a choice.
Dougie pressed the send button and then returned the cell phone to his pocket.
Dougie began to chew his bottom lip, his teeth gnashing down on the skin, drawing blood.
This was it. His career, his life for the pack and Alpha. This was everything.
Dougie was the simplest tool into the Piper's system. There was no way Lewis would ever give up control to the system or see it infiltrated. He designed the system from the ground up and Dougie was single-handedly destroying it.
Dougie leaned forward and opened up a C command prompt, not even bothering to check to see if the Beta was watching. He typed in a single 48 key command that he developed, beyond what everyone thought Dougie was capable of code-wise, doing the one thing that kept him from putting a bullet in his head after his shift.
Wiping the sweat from his face, he entered the command just as the monitors flickered, opening the back door.
Leaning back in his chair, Dougie listened to the Beta chuckle to himself. In less than thirty seconds he had condemned himself and did the unthinkable. His shirt was soaked in sweat and as he took a deep breath, he detected the sour smell of betrayal and it was coming from him.
"Why haven't we hit a run off, yet? The water is only getting higher."
"Search me," Viv mumbled unhappily. She paused behind him and then asked, "What are you carrying?"
Charlie twisted as his hand went to the Piper standard glock handgun that was tucked into the compression holster slightly behind and beneath his left armpit. "Just a 39 Glock."
"No, Viv said nodding to the gun into waistband at the small of his back. "What's that?"
"Oh this?" Charlie pulled out a revolver and held it up and checked the safety was still on. "This is a...."
"Oh shit, is that a Mateba? May I?"
Charlie grinned at Vivienne, her eyes lighting up at the Mateba Model 6 with the walnut grip and black steel. It was his treasured personal firearm that he kept with him during outings that required them to be in human form, always tucked neatly away against the small of his back. He was picky about it, rarely letting anyone handle it, not even the LT or Red, but he twisted the gun grip first and handed it to Vivienne.
"It's slightly modified, but it's carrying .357 magnum rounds right now." Charlie watched as Viv expertly popped out the moon clip and gasped.
Reaching up, she checked her VOX com, making sure it was off voice activated and then squealed. "Shut up, is this," she popped the clip out and looked at the tips, instinctively flinching back, "wait - what kind of ammo is this?"
"Half JHPs with a slight silver tip and the other half," he paused for effect, "incendiary."
"Shut up!" Viv slipped the moon clip back in and let the gun balance in her hand.
Charlie chuckled at her excitement. "Had I known you'd get such a kick out of it, I would have showed you earlier."
Viv looked up at him and grinned. "It is very nice."
"Stop," he said as he reached out and took the Mateba back, holstering it, "it's super awesome."
The moon clip was for special targets, the silver tips for hostile Vyusher R'asa and the other for vampire. He had not had any cause to use the Mateba since the truce with Huntington's clan and their encounter with Ringo and his Nakubili, but he kept it on him just the same.
"You have two guns and I get zip."
Charlie looked down at Vivienne, currently armed with nothing but harsh language. Her hand-to-hand would get her out of a jam, but they had been under strict orders. He wasn't sure if she was asking for his weapon. Watching her face, he wondered if maybe she wasn't testing him. Touching his glock, his fingertips tapped the grip, feeling the raised texture, but then let his fingers fall away.
"Sorry, Viv. Beta's orders that you remain unarmed still stands." His voice was not apologetic, but firm. Viv's expression did not falter, but instead a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.
"Aye, Sergeant," she replied, her voice practically purring.
It resonated in him, pulling and twisting the arousal that threatened to spill over. Charlie wondered if she did it intentionally or even had an inkling as to how much something as trivial as watching her breathe had an effect on him. Flashing her a smile, he turned away.
"You know your guns though," Charlie said as he turned back toward the dark tunnel ahead of them, "they don't make Matebas anymore, not since 2005."
"Yeah I heard. Never had the chance to use one. Little over-sized for me."
"I'll let you shoot it off when we get back to the Den, just don't tell the other Pipers."
"They covet it, huh?"
Charlie turned his head to the side as they sloshed forward, "Red especially. One time...."
There was a suddenly clang of metal that reverberated behind them. They both turned toward it, stopping immediately in their tracks. Charlie pinched his VOX com and whispered.
"Charlie to team - anyone on our six?" Charlie knew there wasn't; he and Viv had been bringing up the rear, but maybe they had gotten turned around.
"Negative on that, Sarge," Lewis replied.
Charlie nodded toward the GPR and Vivienne looked down at it. She twisted her head around and pointed forward, east. No one was showing up from the direction of the sound.
"That is a big negative. We are due east of your last mapped position," Red replied in a hick southern accent.
Viv looked at him, her eyes wide but he could see her mind working. If whatever was behind them intent on being hostile, then the noise was a misdirect to move them toward something else. They could move toward it, but again it was the same result.
"Up and out," Viv mouthed silently, reading his mind.
Nodding, they moved toward the nearest manhole.
Viv was currently down in the city sewers, working off her imposed penance satisfactory to Hammer's approval. He had left his cousin giggling like a school girl down in the Situation room with Dougie and he had to make a point to tell Hammer to stop enjoying it so much. It needed to be done, but Brig knew that this would not be the last thing Red, Viv, Marthinus, Lewis, or Charlie would have to do to appease the Beta.
Brig attention returned to the aforementioned name: Charlie. He had finally asked Vivienne directly about his Sergeant's infatuation with his mate, finding the young man's barely hidden longing stares at Vivienne just a hairline away from physical rebukes. They had spent the weekend at her rooms in the Den, Pipers dismissed, Hammer off the property with Lily. They spent two glorious days together and as the second day was drawing to a close, they made love for the umpteenth time that day and lay content in her bed. Her scent was no longer tainted by Huntington and had returned to the warm, delicious notes of orchids mixed with his own.
Kissing the spot above her cleavage, he nuzzled his face against her chest and just inhaled. Having been around her for the past forty eight hours had not dulled his senses to the effect her scent had on him. Arousal mixed with an intense satisfaction filled him and he hummed happily as he pressed up against her.
Brig ran his hands along her legs and nodded silently. "You smell like you."
"Uh huh," she said in a slightly annoyed voice.
Looking up at her, Brig opened his eyes lazily. "What's that for?"
Viv had been less than complacent about his approach to telling her that she smelled like that snake Huntington. It had almost been disastrous, but he knew no other way to tell her why he had been avoiding her touch because she smelled.
Still, she smiled at him, tempering the tone with a little humor. "No I'm fine with your complete and utter lack of trust. Really, it's great."
Brig pulled himself up from his perch against her mid section and leaned onto his right elbow, looking at her with irritated expression. "I trust you. It's everyone else I don't trust. Huntington. Charlie."
Viv turned to her side and looked at glared at him. "Wait, what? Charlie?"
"Viv, seriously? Have you talked to him?"
"Yes, I talked to him the night you and Hammer destroyed my living room. I told him there was someone else and that I loved that man. I was clear with him."
"Not clear enough. You see the way he looks at you?"
"No, I don't, because I'm not looking at him. I spend half the time trying not to jump you when we're with the Pipers."
Brig grinned, pleased with the notion that the arousal he felt around her was reciprocated. "Well, he's in love with you. You shouldn't string him along."
"String him along? Did you just say that?"
"You shouldn't string Huntington along either. Don't think for a second I wouldn't break the truce if I found out he touched you."
"You did just say that." She glared at him. "You would not break truce, even if you wanted to."
Brig huffed angrily. She was right, he couldn't unless provoked. It was by Alpha decree and there wasn't anything that could compel him not to follow the Alpha's command. Rolling onto his back, he stared up at the ceiling and shrugged. "It killed me to see you with Charlie on New Year's."
"I didn't like seeing you with the bimbo, either."
"But you never have to see her again."
"Mr. Jameson?" Brig snapped up into his chair and looked at the door. A tall man with a severe haircut and a sharply creased, nondescript black suit entered the room. "I'm Allen Hamil from Homeland Security."
Brig mentally tacked on another six hours to his day.
Viv was breathing heavy through her nose as she pointed out with one hand and lifted the GPR with the other. "Two heads into a larger open area, the other two out."
"Go," Charlie said standing directly behind her, looking at the GPR. Viv took a step and he stopped her. "If something happens, you change and run. Do you understand me?"
Viv looked up into Charlie's blue eyes and fought back the urge to prove she could handle any situation that came at her, but she wasn't stupid. Unarmed left her useless to Charlie.
Red's voice chirped into their earpieces. "Charlie, do you read?"
They had not replied to their location check several minutes earlier. Charlie pinched his Vox com and whispered. "Unknown on our six, we're popping."
Viv listened as Charlie gave the order for the teams to exit the sewers immediately. "Copy that," Red and Lewis chimed in and signed off.
Viv turned toward the further right tunnel when Charlie grabbed her arm. "Yes," she immediately said, "I understand. Shit goes down, I'm off. I call for extraction."
They quickly jumped into the tank and Viv was immediately chest high in water. She swam across about twenty feet and pulled herself up and out into the tunnel. Reaching out, she pulled Charlie into the tunnel behind her and they ran in the damp, but fortunately empty, tunnel toward where the GPR mapped out one of the manholes below the Strip's sewage pipes. With the ledge with the ladder up to the man hole in sight, Charlie gently pulled her back and took the ladder up, pushing with his fingertips. Then suddenly, he stopped.
"What?" Viv asked, looking back from where they had just come from. "What's up?"
Charlie looked up at the manhole and put his hands flat on the cover, pushing up until the muscles of his arms bulged against his Therian-weave. "Oh fuck." He peered at the edges and touched them. "It's welded shut."
"Come on, the next one. Further down the line."
Together they ran down the tunnel another one hundred feet to another ledge with a ladder up to manhole. Charlie climbed it quickly and shoved. Nothing.
"What the fuck?" Red's voice chirped in their earpiece. "Lewis, Charlie?"
Vivienne flicked the VOX com on her throat to voice activated. "Piper Command, this is Field Piper. We have a serious fucking problem here."
"Piper Command, this is Field Piper. We have a serious fucking problem here."
Hammer immediately spoke, "Field Piper this is Piper Command. Say again?"
Red's voice this time, "These manholes are welded shut."
Lewis: "Same here. Checked five already."
The Sergeant's voice: "Request extraction, Piper Command. This...isn't going to end well."
Hammer looked at Dougie and noticed the sweat on his face, running droplets down his neck. "Marko, LT en route."
"Already notified them, sir. ETA is 15 minutes."
Hammer stood, pulling the head set off and putting in his ear piece. "Notify the Commander. He's at US Customs at Nachton Airport. And the Alpha," he said sitting up and heading out the door to get his Pipers, "god help us, please nothing blow up."
"All these fucking manholes are welded shut."
"Why are they shut? We're trapped?"
"We're fucking sitting ducks. They're pushing us forward. Lewis...Lewis you read me?"
"I got you Red, what's your location?"
"Looks like I'm further down the line than you...what's that?"
Dougie heard the crackle of gunfire and Domingo roaring.
"Sarge? Sarge, we've got incoming, we're 100 meters from you..."
"They're in front of us, they're fucking in front of us."
"Dom shut the fuck up! You fucking keep it together...."
"They're in front of us and behind, we're being corralled, Charlie."
"Viv, go...just fucking go. Lewis, Dom - change, Red stay frosty for me."
"You heard him. Marthinus, you read?
"I got you, Red."
"Listen, here's the plan...."
Gunfire erupted in Dougie's ears as the Pipers were interrupted by god knows what. Shouting for them to move aside for clear shots, the distinct sound of shot guns, and the throaty growls of werewolves filtered into his earpiece. Dougie looked down at his fingers and felt his face crumble.
"Dougie! Dougie do you read me?" It was Red, yelling in his ear. "Get us the fuck out of here, Dougie! Do you read me? We need reinforcements! Dougie! DOUGIE!"
Dougie closed his eyes just as the localized EMP he knew was coming cut off communications, leaving him in silence.
"Shit," Charlie mumbled. He grabbed the GPR from Viv and checked it. "It's dead. Everything is dead."
"This is what happened at Glenveagh, right?"
The Piper Compound in Glenveagh Ireland had been the site of a massacre that almost killed the family Elders Duncan Jameson and Vigo Hammerthynn. A Piper had allegedly gone rogue and tried to assassinate Vigo with vague tales of his family being held captive if he did not act. Turned out that it was true and his family had been wiped out. The fact still remained - there were plants within the Pipers with some sinister secret mission to take down the Family Leadership to ensure the Blood Memory not be exposed. It was conjecture on Vivienne's part and Hammer had nearly killed her for it once she had been retrieved from Siberia.
A localized EMP had been used to cripple communications and the compound had been attacked by human and vampire leaving no other explanation. It was happening again now - isolating the Piper team in the field, the core of what was left of the Pipers, killing them in one strike. Nachton Pipers had been infiltrated; there was no doubt of this, since who else could have tracked their movements so efficiently, if not without help.
Viv watched as Charlie pulled off his Vox Com and dropped it in the water. The last thing she heard was gunfire, barking and howling, along with the other Pipers losing their shit. "Where the fuck was Dougie?" he snarled.
Viv felt the terror rise up in her throat. No, no typical female reactions now, she thought to herself, and quelled the terror down with rage. "You heard Hammer, LT and Marko are en route - they won't be alone."
"We need to get top side, but there's no way out."
Viv narrowed her eyes and considered their options. "Fuck this, Charlie. I'm not going to stand here waiting to die. Fuck if I let it be that easy for them."
Charlie straightened and tossed the GPR in the water. "We go, we go out taking a couple with us." With a grim smile, he handed her his glock and Viv took it.
Popping the clip, she checked it and then loaded it back in with a profound snap of steel. Wrapping her fingers around the grip, she pointed behind her. "They're waiting for us to push forward. God willing they're not expecting us to double back."
"Promise me you'll run, Viv. If...just promise." Charlie's voice was soft and his blue eyes glistened in the darkness.
"Oh you're one of those girls."
"Fuck you," she laughed. Then she sobered. "You ready, Cassidy?"
Charlie pulled his Mateba and grinned. "Ready, Sundance."
The other end of the call rang three times as Hammer plowed through the downtown district, managing to sideswipe several parked cars to squeeze by the growing traffic. On the fourth ring Brig picked up.
"Hey Hammer, I'm still at the US Customs," his cousin started before Hammer interrupted him.
"Why are you still there? Did Dougie get a hold of you?"
"What? Why? Mr. Hamill, excuse me please. Hammer I've got Homeland Security breathing down my fucking neck."
"Brig, listen to me! LISTEN!" Hammer roared into the phone just as he made it within two miles of the Pipers location. "Get your ass out of there and meet me downtown. NOW. We are about to have a seriously fucked up situation here if you don't...."
Suddenly the car engine cut off and it began to lose its momentum. The power to the SUV completely shut off and Hammer looked at his phone. It was dead. Dropping it he undid his belt buckle and checked his watch.
It had stopped.
"Oh you have got to be FUCKING KIDDING ME!" Hammer yelled as he stopped the SUV and got out of the vehicle. People were doing the same around him. It was eerily quiet, save for the chatter of the people on the street. No nosy cars, honking, slight hum of electrical lines above them...nothing.
Hammer ran his hand over his mouth. The area was dead. No electronics, no stop lights, no walk signs, and people staring at their cell phones. It was Glenveagh, all over again.
Running around to the back of the SUV, he opened up the back doors and climbed in. Inside were electronics, now dead, and various secured weapons. Taking off his khaki button up, he pulled out a compression pack made for the Therian-weave he was wearing underneath and strapped it on, along with two standard glocks and extra clips. The compression bag pressed them tight against his body, ready for transformation, as he took his belt and boots off. The rest of the equipment was now useless to him, having been subject to what was undoubtedly a localized EMP that had hit the downtown area. He turned to jump out when he looked back and opened another secured box.
Inside were more rounds of ammunition. These were stowed within the secured box that Hammer opened immediately. Inside were more ammo clips and as he touched them, his face tightened with disgust from the scent. Each clip contained either silver tipped, hollow points or incendiary rounds that Charlie had recently introduced into the Piper arsenal from Canberra's R&D. Hammer pulled out another gun and wedged it and the clips into the center pack of the compression straps, just at his breast bone. Bursting through the SUV doors amid several gasps, Hammer slipped his pants off and broke out into a run into the dark alleyways along the strip. Once in the darkness, he forced his change and landed on four paws, his thick nails gouging into the asphalt as he prayed Brig got his message before the EMP hit.
His mind strayed to Ellis and their aura; how different it was compared to Carol and Vivienne. Their aura always betrayed her, if he was concentrating, and he always knew if she was near. Now, he felt nothing in him - not Ellis' presence, Carol's giggling laugh, nor Vivienne's increasingly erratic mood swings and heart flutter. He never knew a woman who could go from angry to flirty to cold as quick as Vivienne.
Rounding a corner, Simon stopped and listened again. A loud clank rang out ahead of him, startling him. Moving quickly, he walked toward the noise when several racing heartbeats crept into his perception range. If ever he wished for blending, this was it, but he made use of his ability to sneak up on people and moved silently through the tunnel when the echo of gunfire erupted ahead but in a slightly different place. The tunnels forked and Simon moved away from the clanking metal noise and toward the gunfire when he began to hear voices yelling.
"...us the fuck out of here, Dougie! Do you read me? We need reinforcements..."
Simon broke out into a run, moving with his liquid speed toward the noise when he rounded another corner and came up on three men, cowering low and shooting into the darkness of the tunnel. Three men and a wolf.
The wolf noticed him first and turned, racing toward him. Simon sneered and reached out to the wolf, catching it as it threw its three hundred pound plus body directly at his face. Simon grabbed the muzzle, pushing it down into the ground with a sickening crunch of bones. It did not get up and it took less than three seconds, plenty of time for Simon to move up to the shooters and attack.
Marthinus stood across from Lewis who was in his wolf form as they used a stone doorway of the tunnel they were standing in for cover. The gunfire was coming precariously close when the distinct yelp of a dog rang out and then human screaming. He looked over at Lewis who flicked his tail and then bared his fangs, readying himself. Marthinus held out his hand to Lewis and lifted his standard issue 9 millimeter.
The Pipers had taught him almost everything he knew about combat, save for what he had already been trained as a vampire descendant in a clan that wasn't recognized by its own kind. Tacharan leadership protected their property and that was all Marthinus had been - Ellis' property - despite being a direct descendant of Simon Huntington. But today, he was not that man. Today he was physically half the age of that sixty year old man with a rapidly atrophying heart. Today he was a werewolf with instincts and reflexes he never knew any one man could posses. And today was not going to be his last.
Marthinus held up his free hand and pointed to himself, held up three fingers, and then cocked his head toward the echoes of screams coming from the darkness.
Marthinus turned the corner, crouched slightly down into a tight ball, and pointed his gun directly into his grandfather's face.
Simon held his hands up. They were bloody as well as the bottom half of his face. "Marthinus, Marthinus wait!"
The blood memory unraveled in his mind, clouding his judgment, and pushing him toward the inevitable response that all Pipers possessed. This was not Simon Huntington his great grandfather, but the bane of his werewolf existence, the main focus of such an intense hate that it nearly blinded him.
"Your rings, Marthinus. Where are your rings?" Simon said quickly, backing away from him.
Lewis growled and began barking viciously, trying to push past Marthinus. Marthinus blinked his eyes and reigned in the hate as best he could, remember the thin silver rings he carried with him at all times. He turned and held Lewis back.
"Lewis, wait! WAIT!"
Marthinus successfully pushed his Piper brother back and hastily dug into the compression bag held tightly against his Therian-Weave suit. His fingertips burned and Lewis backed off, his nose sneezing at the silver stench. Slipping the rings on, he felt the rage in him recede. The sizzle reminding him that he was not just a werewolf, but his own man with his own mind. Fuck this blood memory.
"Lewis, he's here to help." Lewis snarled at him, Marthinus knowing what he was implying. "We'd be dead already," Marthinus said in a soft voice. Lewis looked him in the eye and backed off, away from the silver stench and Simon. "All right, wait here."
Marthinus turned and Simon rushed him, grabbing his shoulders. "Are you all right? What's going on here? Where is she?" Simon demanded.
Marthinus shook his head. "They came out of nowhere. Then all the electronics shut down. We're in the dark and sealed shut in here. Where is who?"
"Vivienne. Where is Vivienne?"
Marthinus blinked at Simon and felt the strain of his grandfather's fingers on his shoulders. "She's down here, behind us I think. She's with our sergeant."
Simon turned back into the darkness and peered into it, silent.
"Simon you're not," he paused, cautiously picking his words.
"We don't have time for this," Simon said avoiding Marthinus stare.
Marthinus looked at him, the implications of Simon bonding with Vivienne...a werewolf...were insurmountable. He let it go, for now. "We can't get out. Can you get the manholes open and find the others?"
"Others? How many are you down here?"
"Six total. Two somewhere ahead, our Sergeant and Vivienne behind us."
Simon walked down to the next manhole and climbed up the ladder. He tested it first with his shoulder, hit it hard enough to bend the three hundred pound manhole, but then reached up and began digging his finger tips around the edges. Little bits of metal and steel clanked down to the ground of the tunnel. Again he tried with his shoulder and the steel creaked, then finally snapped, opening up.
Lewis walked back; his face covered in sweat and flushed red. He was eyeballing Simon suspiciously as he stood next to Marthinus. "I don't trust him."
"You don't have to, but I do." Lewis continued to glare at Simon who walked back, wiping the blood off his face. Suddenly he turned and threw up onto the ground.
"Those were werewolves," Lewis said quietly.
"I don't know, I can't tell," Simon said in between gags.
Marthinus didn't question it, even though Lewis' rage left his face and filled with confusion. "We need to get up, out and contact the others somehow."
"Let's find Red and Dom, lead them here."
"Roger that," Lewis said and drew his weapon. He walked past Simon, his eyes never leaving him, but paused for a moment. "Thanks," he said slowly.
"Don't mention it," Simon said looking at Lewis. Looking back at Marthinus, he pointed behind him. "That way?"
"That way." Marthinus reached out and clasped Simon's arm. "And thanks."
Marthinus watched Simon disappear with his vampire speed into the darkness. Turning toward Lewis, they double timed it further ahead to find Red and Dom.
The Homeland Security agent was talking to him, but Brig ignored him, trying to decipher Hammer's cryptic message before they had gotten cut off.
"Get your ass...of there an...meet me down.... NOW. We are...to have a serio...fucked...."
The building had made the signal sporadic, despite being at the airport, so his message was broken up and then gone. Meet Hammer down where? Brig dialed Hammer's cell number and held the phone to his ear, but it only went straight to voicemail. He tried Dougie at the Den. It rang, but then voicemail. Finally he tried Vivienne. Nothing.
"Mr. Jameson? I just have a few more questions."
Brig looked up at Mr. Hamill and shook his head. "I'm afraid not. My boss needs me. I'll come back for my property later."
"We're not done," Mr. Hamill said with cold gray eyes.
Brig pulled out his passport and flashed it at him. Then he laid down his business card with the name "Stafford Enterprises" in bold lettering underneath his name and title. Then he leaned down onto the table top, pressing the flat of his fists onto the surface.
"I am a foreign national, Mr. Hamill, but I'm legally here. You have no probable cause to hold me here. You have no evidence of terrorist activities, only if you want to call my body suits a weapon, which they are not. Comfortable, yes, but not a weapon." Brig pulled the label off one of the boxes and tore out the accompanying official paperwork that had come specifically to Customs. "There is no reason for you to hold my property here and sure as shit no reason to hold me. You try and hold me, I'll have my Embassy here coming down on you like a shit storm you have never seen. So it's not a question of there being anything else. There is nothing else."
Brig picked up his passport and paperwork, tucking them into his jacket pocket. "I came as a courtesy and now you're just insulting me. I'll have one of my staff come for my items. Have a nice day."
And with that, Brig opened the only door in the interrogation room and pushed past the smaller security guards trying to look intimidating, but against Brig's six foot four, they were having a hard time doing it. He was out of the building and heading to his car without incident and tried calling Dougie at the Den again. Still nothing. He got into his SUV and roared the engine, heading back to the property, his knuckles white on the steering wheel.