Authors: Matthew Burkey
“Boys!” Marissa interjected. “We need to focus.”
“Oh we are focusing,” Tony smiled, jamming another clip into his assault rifle. “How else do you think that we managed to create all these piles of bodies?”
“I’m still winning by the way,” Cody smiled, sending an arrow lancing through the head of another Satyr. “That’s what, fifteen for me.”
“I’m on sixteen,” Tony grinned, firing off another series of shots. The Heat rounds sizzled through the pouring rain, striking each target that Tony scoped out. “No, make that seventeen now...and now eighteen.”
“Hey, Legolas and Gimley,” Marissa, called over her shoulder. “Do you think that you could cut the damn chit-chat for a moment, we’ve got to get this figured out...”
“Up there,” Tony pointed.
They shifted their attention to the direction that Tony indicated. On the outskirts of the village, a figure emerged, barely visible against the backdrop of the flashing sky and holding what looked like a staff. He was human, that much they could tell from the fact that he didn’t possess the legs of a goat.
“Maybe he’s the one causing all this,” Cody offered.
“Cody, Tony, get up there and see who the hell that is,” Ryan ordered.
“And what are you two going to do?” Tony asked.
“Stay here and keep them busy,” Ryan smiled, spinning around and unloading another several shots from his weapon. The line of charging Satyrs collapsed, sprawling out on the gravel road.
Tony nodded and took off in a sprint, Cody right behind him. Both fired at the Satyrs as they ran past, attempting to thin the herd that Ryan and Marissa would have to deal with on their own. Bodies fell around them as Heat rounds and steel tipped arrows punched through skulls and chests.
The mysterious and dark figure was dressed in all black leather armor, his face a black mask that showed a vague impression of a face. They had never seen anything like it before, he whirled the staff around in a flourishing move before taking a step forward.
“Hold it right there,” Tony ordered, bringing up his assault rifle.
The figure laughed, lighting flashing in the background. It was a haunting sound, seeming to echo inside the mask. Both Cody and Tony slowly started to circle the man, weapons still targeted on him.
“We don’t want to hurt you,” Tony urged. “Just put down the staff and answer our questions.”
The figure struck out, his staff slamming across Cody’s face, sending the young Irish Guardian spinning to the ground. He stabbed it toward Tony, knocking his assault rifle away and then striking him in the chest, sending him to stumbling backwards. Tony was back on his feet in an instant, drawing his katana. The blade called Stormbringer glinted in the flashing lighting. Tony too a step back and readied himself for the attack.
“Who are you?” Tony asked, parrying another strike. Sparks flew when their weapons connected. “Listen up jackass; this is not going to end well for you. Release the woodland creatures and we can find a nice white warded padded room for you.”
The man did not speak; instead he lunged toward Tony again, aiming the staff at his head. Tony barely dodged a blast of green energy as it leapt forth from the end of the staff. The figure dropped low and swept Tony off his feet, sending him to the rain soaked ground.
The figure let out a strangled grunt as an arrow slammed into his shoulder, sending him spinning around. A mere second later, Cody slammed his bow across the man’s face with enough force to crack whatever material the mask was composed of. Sadly, it appeared to barely slow the man down. The man attacked back, striking Cody several times, dropping him down to one knee.
Cody ducked away from the next attacked and rolled backwards popping back up to his feet to fire another arrow, burying it in the masked man’s shoulder. Tony slammed into the attacker from behind, sending them both to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. Tony was flung off and slammed into the side of the tree.
“What the hell are you?” Cody demanded. The masked man attacked him again, sparks flying as the weapons bashed into each other. Cody went through an attack kata, driving the man backwards but halting when he noticed something around his attacker’s neck. It was a glowing green necklace that appeared to be in the shape of a leaf. Wisps of energy wafted off of it, curling up around the attacker’s neck.
“Didn’t see that before,” Cody commented.
Tony had recovered now and leapt toward their attacker, Stormbringer up and ready to come down with a killing blow. He never got a chance, the attacker whirled around, his staff knocking Tony from the air and sending him back to the ground.
“Just die already!” Cody yelled, firing another arrow, this time striking the man in the chest. He let out a growl and started to wheeze but was still on his feet. Cody notched and fired another arrow, this time hitting the man in the heart...or at least where he assumed his heart was. They still didn’t have concrete proof that it was even human. The attacker lurched forward and then fell down, apparently dead.
“Is it dead?” Tony asked, poking their attacker with his sword.
“He had on a necklace,” Cody said, kneeling down next to the body. “See, look it’s still glowing...do you think that’s a good thing.”
“Nothing that glows is a good thing,” Tony grunted. He stabbed Stormbringer down, shattering the necklace.
“There, now it’s not so glowy,” Tony shrugged.
“You two ok up there?” Ryan asked, over the comlink.
“Just fine,” Cody responded. “We’re on our way back down.”
“Take your time,” Elise responded. “The Satyrs bugged out a few seconds ago; I think it’s safe to say that whatever you guys did it broke the spell.”
“Assuming that was a spell,” Ryan said. “Get your butts back down here, we have wounded.”
“On our way.”
Cody and Tony sprinted back down the hill.
“Demon incursions have increased by fifty percent since we killed Sainte-Pierre,” Aadesh stated, stepping out of the elevator. “And it’s not just demons either, look at what happened in Greece with the Satyrs, Washington State with the harpies, and the zombies that started attacking en masse in Egypt.”
The Indian doctor and medical expert looked like he had seen better days; not an uncommon site around the base over the past few weeks. Aadesh was usually clean shaven and wearing the most fashionable of clothes. At the moment however, he had a full week’s growth of facial hair and was wearing a button up that looked like he had slept in it last night.
“You look like you need sleep,” Jonathan commented.
“I believe we could all use some sleep my dear friend,” Aadesh grunted.
Jonathan sighed heavily, there were times when he longed to be back in the field and not stuck behind his desk facilitating operations. As operation director for this branch of the Guardians it was his job to oversee overall operations; he was supposed to look at the big picture and not worry about the day to day things like actually getting his hands dirty.
Jonathan missed those days. Sainte-Pierre’s mysterious partner had opened the floodgates, creating havoc on a scale that they hadn’t seen for decades. What made a bad situation even worse was the fact that the lycans and the vampires were at each other’s throats and so far the vampires showed no signs of backing down.
“Do have you the latest casualty reports?” Jonathan asked, as they made their way toward the command center. Every Guardian post around the planet had been pulling almost triple shifts, doing their best to keep the vampire and lycan war from spilling out into the streets and taking its toll on the otherwise unsuspecting human populace.
“Right here,” Aadesh nodded, handing Jonathan his tablet. “We have been lucky so far, we did lose one last night though. Aside from that we had three serious injuries, and the rest got away with minor wounds only. Ethan’s team has successfully evacuated the pack that they were sent to protect and Ryan’s team did manage to end that Satyr attack in Greece.”
“What caused them the Satyr’s to attack in the first place?” Jonathan asked, as they entered the command center. “They are normally peaceful, this doesn’t really make sense.”
“Ryan and his team should be back shortly, I imagine that they might have some of the answers that you seek. And I think that it is safe to say that there are a lot of things going on that don’t make much sense my friend.”
The doors to the command center opened, admitting Ethan, Gabriel, Elise, and Everett. All three looked exhausted; each carried a large steaming mug of coffee.
“You eggheads figure out who this jerk is yet?” Ethan asked, flopping down into a chair.
“We still haven’t been able to ascertain Sainte-Pierre’s partner...”
“So, we’re still back to nothing,” Ethan grunted.
“You’re such as ass,” Gabriel sighed, sliding into another chair.
“Oh we both know that everyone enjoys that part of me,” Ethan winked. Gabriel groaned, Everett sighed heavily, and Marissa just ignored that comment entirely.
“How are the lycans holding up?” Elise asked, turning her chair to face Aadesh and Jonathan.
“Let’s wait until Ryan and his team arrive before we dive too much into questions.”
A few moments later the doors opened again and Ryan and his team came in. They looked just as exhausted as everyone else in the room; though they had they added pleasure of just getting off a plane. No one bothered to exchange pleasantries.
“Good work out there,” Aadesh said.
“Here,” Tony said, tossing the remains of the necklace on the table. “I’m hoping that you can figure out what that is because I have no idea.”
Everett reached out and took it, holding it up to the light to examine it. He turned the necklace over in his fingers a few times before setting it down and speedily going to work typing away on his tablet. Everyone else took seats and waited for Jonathan to start the morning briefing, they all just hoped that they could stay awake through it.
“The good news is that we’ve managed to seal another three hell rifts since last night as well as arrest an entire contingent of the Herald’s elite enforcers in Rome,” Jonathan said, looking at his tablet. He tapped a few buttons, bringing up the reports on the larger screens. “That means that they won’t be able to throw them at us for the time being.”
“What about the lycans?” Elise asked again. “How are they holding up?”
“They’re holding their own but barely,” Jonathan sighed. “The lycans appeared to have abided by the treaty, whereas the vampires clearly have not.”
“Gee, thanks genius,” Ethan said, rolling his eyes.
“What does that mean?” Gabriel asked. After eight months, he still felt like he had a lot of catching up to do when it came to some of the finer points of Guardianship. The treaty between the vampires and lycans was one of those points. He knew the basics but he hadn’t read that far into it.
“Originally the treaty limited the amounts of weaponry that both sides could have and even limited the amount of elite guard units that they could field,” Cody explained. “Seems like the vampires weren’t really paying attention to that, they’ve got way more weapons, arms, and elite guard units than the lycans.”
“They’re rushing to play catch up,” Aadesh added. “But they are already, as you would say, behind the ball on this one. A lot of them have retreated back to heavily fortified pack strongholds like New York and Seattle. France, Dubai, and Ireland have also seen an increase in the lycan refugee population.”
“Is there an end in sight?” Gabriel asked.
“Not so far, the vampire covens are calling for what amounts to genocide,” Jonathan nodded. “They won’t stop until they eradicate every last lycan on the planet. There are those, like Anton’s coven that are still neutral. They aren’t helping us but they aren’t helping their own kind either.”
“It’s so stupid,” Gabriel sighed. “Why hunt each other to extinction?”
“Aye,” Cody shrugged. “The annoying part is that they are so tight lipped about it no one knows why they are always at each other’s throats.”
“Well, it’s still stupid.”
“Oh we know that,” Cody responded, leaning back in his chair and placing his hands behind his head. “But they like to keep their traditions.”
“What about the other covens?” Gabriel wondered.
“The Bloods and the Heralds are two of the most powerful covens in the world,” Jonathan explained. “Each is strongly allied with smaller covens, most of who have already joined in their battle with the lycans. Anton and the Endless Knights are the last independent coven out there, no doubt that both Marcus and the leader of the Heralds are going to work hard to persuade them to join the fight.”
“Almost all the smaller covens fell in line with the war at once,” Everett explained further. “I’m guessing that most of them were threatened into it, they didn’t have the manpower to stand up to the Heralds or the Bloods.”
“Then how are Anton and his Endless Knights still remaining neutral?” Gabriel inquired.
“Anton is smart,” Everett went on. “He’s also one of the oldest vampires around. He knows how to play the game. It’s possible that Anton may actually know a great deal about the leaders of the both the Heralds and the Bloods.”
“That might explain their reluctance to push too hard for them to join in the war,” Marissa nodded. “We’re still working on tracking down leads from Sainte-Pierre’s network, its slow going...although we have had some luck.”