Monday, August 6, 2012

Where there’s a 


By Russell Gilt

Logan Renan lay on his bunk in the dark, thinking. Logan was very good at thinking, it was essential in his line of work of you didn’t think when you were a Bane, you were liable to be found strewn over several counties when the night was out. He was thinking about his work, being a Bane that is and what it meant to him. For those few who do not know what a Bane is, allow me to clarify. However, before I explain them, you must learn of the Nocturnes.
Nocturnes”, as they are collectively known by the day-life are the Liken-throats and the Vampira, or Werewolves and Vampires to give them their common name. Human fables and tall-tales from across the world involve the Nocturnes, but for a while, nobody aside from lunatics and the few who knew the truth, believed that these creatures truly existed. They had their own world, the Regnum Nocturnus, and were for the most part content to stay there save for the occasional restless Moon-child or Blood-born. But then, a few years ago the Nocturnes’ supply of food in their world began to run low and more and more of them began entering our dimension to feed. And so the Banes were formed; an organization of genetically-enhanced soldiers, capable of protecting the humans from the Nocturnes.
Logan lifted his right arm into the air and stared at the tattoo, barely visible in the darkness of the dorm that stood out black against his skin, a gothic cross upheld by a battling wolf and bat. Below the insignia was a curling scroll with the words U.S. Bane inscribed in black ink on the skin. The tattoo was both symbolic and practical for a Bane. It marked them as one of the Corps, but it was also extremely useful when battling the Bloodborn as the cross would sear their flesh upon contact. The tattoo also covered the small scar that marked the place where the syringe had entered Logan’s arm and injected the serum into his bloodstream, the serum that was the only thing that gave the Banes a fighting chance against the Nocturnes, the serum that made them three times stronger faster and more resilient to injury than the average man.
Logan lowered his arm and thought about his team. There was Finn, their sharpshooter, able to hit anything from polar bear to a peanut at incredible distances. He was fifteen and small for his age, a wiry boy with a dark complexion who had originally come from Russia. He was not one for long-winded speeches preferring instead to cut straight to the heart of the matter or indeed shoot the heart of the matter as he often did.
Then there was Aaron, their communicator. He was not the incredible computer wizard that you hear about in stories who can do anything with computers. He was just as good at computers as any other communicator on the base, which meant very good but still only as good as was mentally possible. He was sixteen and was built like a bamboo tree, tall and lanky, looking like he would fall over at any moment.
After him was Vanessa, their explosives technician. She had blue eyes and red hair, a somewhat startling combination. There was almost no structure in the world that she couldn’t blow sky high if she wanted to. She was only fourteen.
Then of course there was Logan, the leader and strategist. His hair was of a reddish-brown and his eyes were plain brown. He was fifteen years old and almost as tall as Aaron. He could use explosives, computers and firearms to a certain degree, but I was nowhere near as good with them as the other three were. Still, he was a vital part of the team. All of the teams required a leader, someone to rally behind. It was a rank to be proud of.
The base was never still. There was always a call for help with the Nocturnes and so the teams were constantly being sent out to deal with them.
They slept when we could between calls to be ready for our next assignment. Logan had been asleep for a short while but had been woken by thoughts of his occupation as he often was. There was no feeling of guilt when he killed a Vampire; they were undead and their very existence was crime against nature. Werewolves were more of a problem to the conscience. They were still people most of the time, only becoming beasts once a month. Mainly they tried to cage Werewolves and get them back to the base where they could be kept away from people. But there were the times when there was no choice. When the Werewolf had to be killed before it killed you or worse yet, some of the human population. Logan did not relish these instances.
Logan shook these thoughts from his head, rolled over, and fell asleep.
Logan awoke to the buzzing of his alarm. He reached up and switched off the earpiece then sat up in his bunk and indulged in a swift stretch. He slept on the upper bunk above Aaron. Across from their bunk was Finn who slept on the lower bunk of an identical bunk bed. The barracks were full of such beds, all black with tuff mattresses and green blankets.
The walls, floor and ceiling were white and there was but one door leading out into the rest of the base. There were windows along one wall as there were in every part of the base in case of a Vampire attack. Morning sunlight streamed through them, illuminating the groggy faces of boys of all ages waking up.
Logan pulled on his grey team leader’s uniform, emblazoned with a red duplicate of the tattoo on his fore-arm, dropped from his bunk, and stood at attention.
Team 17, fall in!” he bellowed at his teammates who had been awoken by their own alarms. They leapt into positions behind Logan.
All over the room, other teams were falling into formation. The girls’ barracks were right beside ours so Logan’s team was not complete yet. They would have to pick Vanessa up from the other barracks on their way to the mess hall.
Once all of the teams were formed up, they marched out into the hallway in order by number. The girls were coming out into the hallway when they got there, and Vanessa quickly joined Logan’s team, completing the group.
Soon all of the teams were complete and formed up into ranks at which point they all set off marching down the hallway to the mess. The hall was blank white with a few doors leading off to various rooms and lit by electric strip-lights on the ceiling. The sound of four-dozen pairs of boots marching along the hallway echoed off the walls, but no recruit made a sound aside from that.
They arrived at the doors to the mess hall only minutes later. They were large, stainless-steel doors that swung open as we got closer to them, revealing the mess hall. It was an expansive white room with high ceilings, electric lighting and bullet-proof glass doors leading out into the outdoor training arena. The doors were glass for the same reason that every room in the building had a window: the Banes organization could not risk a group of Vampires getting into the place and moving through the rooms unhindered by sunlight. There were hardly any underground rooms in the facility and the few that were had mirrored tunnels reaching down to them to bring sunlight in. at night time, the base relied on its mechanized anti-Nocturne security which was some of the best in the world.
Stainless-steel tables lined the center of the mess hall and along one walk ran the serving area where food would be dished out to the hungry recruits as they passed by.
The ranks of teams marched into the mess hall and began filing along one wall towards the serving area, picking up steel platters, cups and silverware from a long table as they went. The silverware was laced with real silver, expensive but necessary in case of a Werewolf attack.
At the serving area carrots, beans and a serving of meat of some sort were dished out onto all of the recruits’ platters. None of the food was exactly restaurant quality, but it was not meant to be enjoyed so much as to be eaten, kind of like zucchini.
Once their cups were filled with coffee, the teams split off from the line and moved off to the tables. Aaron, Finn, Vanessa and Logan sat down at a table with a dozen other recruits. No tables were private in the mess hall; there were just too many teams for that.
The mess soon filled with chatter as the teams talked about what the coming day might hold. Teams were never called out to take care of either Vampires or Werewolves during the daylight hours as neither of the breeds could act anytime other than night. No, they would be called out tonight to take care of threats. Last night had been a rest for the section of the bas where Logan and his team slept.
There were four sections, each with a girls’ and boys’ barracks. Eradication duties were done in rotation giving the duties to the teams in two of the sections for one night so as to give the other two teams time to rest before their night of duty. Today Logan’s team would be resting mostly with the occasional wakeup call for training or meals.
Logan took a swig of coffee and began to eat. He only had a certain amount of time to finish his breakfast before he and his team had to leave for training.
“Logan!” Finn called, raising his voice to be heard over the background noise of the mess hall, “do you know where we’ll be going tonight?”
Logan shook his head calling back to him, “the office hasn’t told me yet, we’ll have to wait till tonight to find out.”
Sometimes the management of the base would give the team leader information as to where they would be sending him that night before hand, but not always.
Soon Logan’s earpiece buzzed, informing him that breakfast was over.
Mealtime is over you three!” he called to Finn, Aaron and Vanessa, rising from his seat as he did.
All over the hall, people rose from their seats. Most were finished with their food, but there were a few unfortunates who had to leave half of their meal uneaten.
The teams formed up into ranks again and marched towards the glass doors that led out into the arena. As they passed through the doors, they stacked their trays on a small table off to the side. They would be collected later on by the cooks and cleaned for the afternoon’s meal.
The teams tramped out into the dirt-floored training arena. High stone walls surrounded the place, their tops surmounted with silver-laced razor-wire smeared with a combination of garlic paste and holy-water. Placed at strategic points about the walls were sensor triggered crossbows that fired silver-tipped bolts that would inject a tablespoon of garlic-paste into anything they penetrated. The sensors were trained to activate the crossbows when any type of Nocturne broke their beams which were set on a random pattern that left nothing but the tiniest opening and could not be predicted.
The walls were lined with black and white 2D paper targets. There were many different types, bats, wolves, rats and humans all in varying sizes. Weapon racks stood all around the arena. Sunlight gleamed on the blades of various medieval weapons and shone with a dull luster along the black metal of the firearms.
The training started off with exercises, limbering up for the more exerting tasks presented by the arena. Then the teams shot at the targets for a while before moving on to hand-to-hand combat. Vanessa paired up with Finn, leaving Logan to spar Aaron.
The two boys circled each other, preparing for the attack. A few years back, when they had first entered the corps there might have been some posturing here, but now there was only silence between the two friends as they prepared for their opponent’s first strike. Logan knew from experience to never underestimate Aaron’s capability to thrash him in a fight. Though he was tall and lanky, he used these attributes to his advantage, employing a wind-milling fighting style that, while it seemed at first glance to be erratic and off-balanced, was completely controlled. Fortunately, Logan was no slouch when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
He waited for Aaron to make the first move. He came in with a swinging right which, while powerful, Logan recognized as a feint. Aaron let his punch swing him around and then dropped into his real attack, collapsing into a crouch and coming in low with one long leg lashing out to sweep Logan’s own from beneath him.
Logan hopped over his leg and swatted him in the back with a kick of his own, pushing him over. Aaron rolled into a standing position and turned to face Logan. They began circling again.
This time around, Logan made the first move, coming in with a flurry of quick, powerful punches. Aaron dodged them all and then came back with both arms swinging, spinning his body. Logan dodged the first of these blows but the second one caught him below the ear. The force of the blow would have been sufficient to break a man’s jaw.
An ordinary man’s jaw, that is.
But Logan was anything but ordinary.
He was Bane.
The blow hurt, but Logan had faced pain in numerous forms and knew how to stand it.
Nice shot,” He commented to Aaron, rubbing his jaw, “but you’ll have to do better than that.”
Logan was awoken from his sleep by the beeping of his earpiece. It was the sound that meant it was his team’s turn to go out on the hunt.
It was by now somewhere around 500 hours military time according to his watch, early enough in the night so that they could get to the place where a Nocturne had been reported early and be there waiting for the Vampire to arrive. It would be a Vampire Logan knew because he and every other recruit on base had studied the lunar phases chart so much that he all but had it tattooed on the backs of his eyelids and therefore knew that there would not be a full-moon for a few more days yet.
Logan had slept in his uniform so as to save himself the trouble of dressing when he was woken.
He dropped soundlessly from his bunk, doing his best not to disturb the other teams in the dorm. They needed their rest; they would soon be called out on hunts of their own.
Finn and Aaron were already awake thanks to their own earpieces and they left the dorm to meet Vanessa who was waiting in the hallway.
The four companions then set off along the hallway in single-file, stopping at one of the doors and entering through it into the armory.
The room was brightly lit by electric lights just like all the other rooms in the base. The window in the ceiling that led in sunlight during the daylight hours was now dark, revealing only a circle of star-spangled night sky. The electric light shone on the blades, barrels and lenses of the many weapons hung along the walls of the room.
The weapons in the room were divided into two categories, depending on what manner of Nocturne they were designed to destroy. Along one wall hung the weapons used when fighting a Vampire, steel stakes, garlic pellets, holy-water, etc.
Along the other wall were weapons effective only against the Liken-throats. Among these items were silver-knives, silver loaded firearms and other weapons both modern and medieval laced with the metal so deadly to the children of the moon.
Choose your weapons fast, people,” Logan said in hushed tones despite their obvious solitude as he consulted his wrist-watch, “we have to be on the helipad in two minutes max.”
The team went about their business in silence, first getting suited up in combat-fatigues of an opaque material unable to reflect light and then retrieving the weapons most suited to their own hunting styles.
Finn, being a gunman first and foremost, chose a shotgun and a sniper rifle, neither of which would actually kill a Nocturne but would certainly give them pause to think about the bog hole now showing in their chest. He also chose two spray-bottles, one loaded with garlic juice, the other with heated vinegar both of which would cause a vampire extreme pain and would eventually kill it. What most people didn’t understand was that while garlic was effective against Vampires, so was vinegar as it was a substance with a powerful enough taste to remind a Vampire of the life it had once had.
Aaron chose a steel cattle-prod/quarter-staff greased with garlic and a crossbow with holy-water smeared bolts.
Vanessa’s chosen weapons were a squirt-gun loaded with vinegar, two knives smelling strongly of garlic and vinegar and a couple of garlic grenades.
Logan picked out two dart-guns whose projectiles were filled with a mix of garlic juice, Holy-water and vinegar, as well as a cattle-prod capable of frying a grown man that would distract a Nocturne long enough to pull the trigger on one of the handguns.
The team would divide the explosives Vanessa needed among us so as not to slow her down with an overload of baggage. They carried no crosses, they did not need to. Their tattoos would work just as well as any cross on Vampire.
The team left the armory and headed through the base to the doors leading out onto the helipad. When they stepped through the doors the whup whup whup of the waiting helicopter filled their ears and the wind whipped their hair about. The helipad was empty aside from the Blackhawk in front of the team. The rotors where already spinning, thrashing the air around it.
The door slid open and Logan, Vanessa, Aaron and Finn clambered inside. The pilot did not speak as he lifted off, concentrating on the controls of the aircraft. The team sat, two on each side of the copter, checking their weapons and mentally preparing themselves for the hunt ahead of them.
Logan had been on trips like these hundreds of times in his past years in the service, but it was always, always the same. The thought of willingly coming into contact with such creatures as Nocturnes seemed madness and the only way he could make himself do it was by thinking of the people the undead would poison if not disposed of.
People will die and become one of these creatures if the Vampires are not destroyed, Logan thought to himself, snapping the magazine back into his handgun, I have an obligation to these people, no matter how afraid I am of it.
We’re nearing the drop zone!” the pilot called back to Logan and his team, “get your parachutes ready!”
Aaron, Finn, Vanessa and Logan all strapped on their parachutes, and stood waiting. They had been flying for about twenty minutes now and Logan’s stomach was filled with fear mixing nauseatingly with the thrill of the hunt.
The pilot had briefed the team on their mission during the flight. A boy named Felix Freon living at number 107 on Baker Street had been getting weak spells for a while now. Two red scars had been found on his neck upon inspection and the base had sent Logan and his team in to take care of the Vampire as he would undoubtedly return to drain the boy further. They would have to wait for the Vampire to arrive and then finish him off before he got to Felix.
“We’re over the drop zone now!” the pilot called. Logan moved over to the door and hauled it open with his team right behind him. The distance to the ground was dizzying. Logan knew that with Bane endurance the impact of the fall itself would not kill him, but his heart would explode long before he hit the ground if he jumped without a chute. Far below on earth he could see a small town spread out, lights shining in the darkness.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Logan leapt from the aircraft. The air whipped past him as he plummeted downwards and he could feel his heart rate rising. He waited until he was close enough to earth and then pulled his chute. He heard the ruffle and snap of the canvass as it unfurled and then the wrench as it radically slowed his descent.
When he reached the earth, Logan detached his chute and left it in the grass. He drew both handguns and swiveled in a slow circle, checking the surroundings for possible threats as the other three made their own landings behind him and detached their chutes.
Satisfied that there was no immediate threat in the area, Logan turned to his team, already armed and motioned for them to follow him.

Soon they reached the village and were moving silently through the streets, skirting the ones where houses had lights on, until they reached 107 Baker Street. Logan, Vanessa, Finn and Aaron set up a perimeter around the house and began the wait. The Vampire would not be able to get into the house without them seeing him.
After four hours of waiting, when the sun was just a distant memory and the moon shone in the star-sprinkled sky, the Nocturne finally showed himself.
A figure, just barely visible in the moonlight, began moving through the street, up the sidewalk and towards the house. Logan could tell by the peculiarly smooth movements and pale skin that shone in the moonlight that this was their quarry.
Logan waited for it to get close enough and then acted, giving a high-pitched whistle to signal the others and bursting from his hiding place as he did.
Logan fired off two shots at the Vampire. He dodged both and ran. Logan gave chase as did Aaron, Finn and Vanessa. Logan’s legs pumped beneath him as he sped after the Nocturne. He led the four Banes towards a church which was odd Logan thought. Why would a Vampire run to a place which stood for everything he wasn’t? Then Logan realized as he altered his course that he was no running to the church itself, but for the graveyard behind it.
He leapt the fence and ran off among the gravestones. Logan paused, contemplating his next move. Graveyards were a Vampire’s home turf; it would be dangerous to follow him in there. On the other hand, he was on a mission and had been charged with bringing the Vampire down. He looked at the other three and they nodded. They leapt upwards and cleared the fence easily.
Logan motioned for them to spread out and they did, scanning the graveyard, weapons raised. Suddenly there was a howl, not of pain but more like a call. Logan cursed under his breath; the Vampire was calling for help. They would have to finish him off quick. Logan motioned for the other three to close in on the area where the call had come from as he did so himself.
We moved in slowly, weapons at the ready. Logan saw a flicker of movement ahead of him in the darkness and fired off three shots. He heard two impacts and I cry of pain from the darkness.
Logan raced forward, both guns still raised in case of any tricks from the Nocturne.
He found the Vampire writhing around in the grass, limbs thrashing and fingers scrabbling at the dirt. There were two darts protruding from his chest and they were almost empty of the liquids deadly to the Vampire. He was still alive though he wouldn’t be for long with the amount of garlic and Holy water in the darts. He looked about fifteen, with stark white skin and red lips. Logan felt a flash of sorrow for the boy he had once been.
When he saw Logan and his team he smiled, inch-long fangs showing as he did.
Your hours are numbered, Nightstalkers,” he assured them, his voice inhumanly smooth, “You will not survive the night. The others are coming and they will kill you all.”
Not likely, Unholy,” Logan said, and stamped the darts further into his chest. With a groan, the Vampire ceased to move. He could not die per-se as he was not alive in the first place.
We’d better get out of-” Logan began, but then I saw the figures moving through the fog.
Nine of them.
Logan cursed again; this Vampire had had too many friends.
The Nocturnes did not waste time laughing or telling the team just how dead we were, but simply charged.
Logan spoke a prayer under his breath as he began firing off shots at the figures in the darkness.
Before long, six of the nine Vampires were down thanks to Finn’s accuracy and Vanessa’s garlic grenades, but three still stood, fighting like the unholy creatures they were. One of the Vampires leapt on Logan and slammed him to the ground. He tagged him with his cattle-prod and saw his body convulse as the electricity shot through him, but he ripped the weapon from Logan’s hand and grinned.
“Your soul is mine, Nightstalker, prepare to become one of the very creatures you once hunted,” he said, opening his mouth to a humanly impossible size.
Yeah right, eat cross unholy!” Logan said, and jammed his forearm against the Nocturne’s face. He screamed and let go of Logan as the cross on his tattoo burned his flesh leaving a smoking mark where it had touched him.
Logan stood, looking around him. The other two Vampires were both dead, having been taken care of by Finn, Aaron and Vanessa.
Logan looked down at the Vampire writhing at his feet and motioned to Finn who tossed him a pistol. Logan shot the Vampire three times and he ceased convulsing.
The sun was rising now, and the bodies of the Vampires all around them were crumpling into dust as their age caught up with them in the dawn’s orange light.
Logan let out a deep breath. There would be more of them, there always were. But when they came, he and his team would be there. Their hunt was over…for the moment.

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