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Seated on one of the two couches were Garreth McCleod and Sarah Roth. The vampire was impeccably dressed in a royal blue, pin striped suit over a black shirt and matching royal blue tie. He looked for the world like a banker, although, most bankers weren’t so pale as to be almost translucent. Smith could even see some of the surface veins under his skin. Plus, most bankers wore shoes. It was an effect that leant a peculiar quality to the outfit. His hair was short and immaculately styled. Smith momentarily could not help but feel a twinge of envy. His own bald scalp, though currently in vogue, was not a style of his choosing.
The witch was looking at him with a genuine smile on her face. And it was an extremely pretty face. She wore a simple dress of a natural fabric, and a scarf of the same material was wound around her head. Though Smith knew her age to be forty-one, her face was unlined and there was a youthful spark of mischievousness in her eyes.
On the opposite couch were Hamish Roth-McCleod and Melissa Benton. Intellectually, Smith knew that Hamish was chronologically only five years old, but he had the appearance and build of a young man in his mid twenties. His features were almost Asian, with olive skin and eyes that were less rounded than a Caucasians. He wore a tight white t-shirt and army fatigues that had been cut off just below the knees. He was well muscled and yet he still retained a very adolescent look. On his feet were tan coloured sandals and his arms were decorated with numerous tattoos. He had short, spiky black hair and brown eyes. His lips were full and pushed forward slightly in a contemplative pout that made Smith just a little bit nervous.
Melissa Benton wore a simple outfit of jeans and a blue shirt. She was diminutive and had that physical perfection that one often saw in people with a small build. Her auburn coloured hair hung loosely around her shoulders and she had a pleasant face.
Seated in an easy chair, perpendicular to the two couches was Marcos Theonakis. The young Greek man was stop-traffic handsome and Smith could easily believe that this had been a man who had earned several thousand dollars a day as a model. He, like Benton, was simply dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops and yet, he wore it so well one could be forgiven for thinking he was dressed to the nines. He possessed the usual lithe and lean body of a model, and he his blue-black hair was a mess of short curls.
The only member of the group standing was Carol Holfensteim. She was dressed in a designer, two piece beige suit of slacks and a waist length tailored jacket. She stood with her hands clasped behind her back and she radiated an aristocratic air that filled the room. Her hair was styled in a short but feminine hair cut, fairly short around the sides and back with some length on top. She wore a few modest, but clearly expensive pieces of jewellery and she had designer label heels that only added to the overall look. Her gaze dissected him from startling silver eyes. She was going to be one tough cookie.
“Good Morning, everyone.” Director Thomas said in greeting. “I’d like to introduce to you Agent Robert Smith.”
Smith nodded to the group.
“So,” Hamish began in a cheeky tone, “You’re the new baby-sitter?”
Smith was taken aback. “It’s my understanding that I’m here to work with you on one mission.”
Director Thomas stepped in as Hamish was about to reply. “We can discuss the pertinent details of Mister Smiths’ stay with us later. But right now, we have a plane to catch.”
The witch raised a hand. “One moment please, Penelope.”
Director Thomas nodded.
The witch rose and approached Smith. She walked with easy, casual grace. She had a light, woody fragrance that smelt very good. When they were about a foot apart she stopped and spoke.
“We scare you.” She said quietly.
Smith straightened his shoulders. “Not at all.”
“Liar.” She reprimanded him gently with a smile.
Smith gave in to his own curiosity. “How can you tell I’m lying?”
“Answer my question first. Are you scared?” Her tone was gentle but probing.
Smith was getting lost in her eyes and scent. They were kind eyes, and they held you to them with an intensity that came from concern, not authority. He nodded. “Yes. This is way out of my comfort zone. You people should not exist.”
“And yet we do.” She responded gently.
“And that’s why I’m scared.” Smith admitted. It was not something that he would normally do, but he found himself unable to lie to this woman.
She smiled. She waved her right hand slowly over him, as if she was experiencing the contours of his skin but without actually touching him. “I’m an empath. But rather than the actual emotion that you experience, I feel how it affects your bio-electric signature. We all have our own electro-magnetic field, and it changes with our emotions. What some call witchcraft I call advanced neurological sensitivity. I can feel the changes in your bio-electric output and interpret them. It lets me know what people are feeling.” She continued to run her hand ‘over’ him. “It’s what we all are after all; bits and pieces of matter held together in an electro-magnetic field. We are all alike.” As she finished, she placed her hand on his shirt over his heart. “And I like you.”
He was startled by the amount of warmth that radiated from her hand, out and over his chest. He shyly returned her smile with a small one of his own. Campbell cleared his throat and they all made their way to the lift and car back to the plane.
Upon arriving back at Melbourne Airport, they stepped out of the limo and onto the tarmac. It was a shockingly hot day. In midsummer Melbourne could get up to 45 degrees Celsius. Smith could tell that it was easily in the mid thirties, and the reflective quality of the tarmac amplified it. He felt a droplet of sweat drip down the back of his head into his collar, and the heat blasted through the soles of his shoes. He glanced at the vampires’ bare feet and pointed.
“No shoes?” He asked.
McCleod replied with a voice that froze the air around him. “No need.”
Smith could tell that he and the Vampire were not going to get on well. Once they were airborne, their attendant re-appeared, this time with a well stocked tray. Smith took a closer look at the young woman this time. Whilst she was immaculately dressed and groomed, Smith recognised ex-military when he saw it. Giver her olive complexion and slight accent, he was guessing Israeli, most likely ex-Mossad. With that in mind, he decided not to flirt with her as he usually would with a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman who is ex-Mossad would be able to kill him ninety-three different ways before she even bothered reaching for a weapon.
The attendant greeted each person by name, dispensing drinks with aplomb and a smile that Smith found completely adorable.
“Organic fruit juice for you, Miss Roth.”
“Organic fruit juice for you, Miss Roth.”
“One glass of bubbles for you, Baroness.”
“Long Island Iced Tea, light on the ice, heavy on the booze.” She handed the large glass to the Hamish who winked at her in return.
“Thanks Darl.” He replied irreverently.
The attendant merely waggled a finger at him in response.
In response to his curious look, Hamish answered Smith. “Mega metabolism. My body processes it faster than the alcohol can do anything.” Hamish held up the glass. “Cheers!”
“I suppose that solves the issue of drinking on the job.”
Hamish winked in reply after taking a generous sip from his glass. “And our little jaunt gets us out of our annual evaluations.”
“You’ll complete those on your return Hamish. Never fear.” Thomas corrected him primly, to which he pouted in return.
The attendant handed coffees to Thomas, Campbell and Benton.
She gave the Greek lad a bottle of purified water. Smith refrained from rolling his eyes. For lunch he half expected the ex-model to consume exactly half a celery stick. She handed the vampire a tall glass of something red, thick, and possessed of a metallic odour. Smith could not help but say something.
“Should I ask?”
McCleod looked to him boldly. “Up to you.” It sounded like a challenge.
Smith accepted. “Blood?”
“Yes.” McCleod replied. “Bovine, in case you’re wondering.”
“No victim today?” Smith challenged back.
“Not this week.” McCleod’s eyes deadened, becoming deep, red pools of infinity. “But the week is still young.”
Smith found the remark uncalled for to the say the least. “So how do you choose who gets the bite?”
McCleod took a slow, long drink from the glass. Smith perceived he was doing it intentionally to cause him no small amount of discomfort.
“I’m like Santa. I know who’s been naughty and I know who’s been nice.” McCleod replied in a tone devoid of inflection.
“So who did you do last? What did they do to deserve that kind of death?” Smith was horrified by the man’s apparent lack of respect for life.
McCleod put his half-empty drink down and replied through narrow eyes. “The last one was a nurse who thought it amusing to torture the elderly patients in her care.”
Smith was feeling himself get angry. “So you didn’t think to just report her to the police? Let the justice system deal with her?”
“I am justice.” McCleod replied flatly. “And you should be thankful for that. Under your system she may have gotten eight years in prison, ten if the judge was in a bad mood. Under mine, she received the sentence she deserved.”
Smith found that he was unable to respond. Truth be told, he was finding himself in full agreement with the bloodsucking vigilante. He just wasn’t going to give the smarmy bastard the satisfaction of hearing it.
Two hours later they landed at the airstrip of the town of Williams in western Queensland.
Williams had been founded with the railway. It sat exactly half way between the southern stock trade and the Port of Darwin where beef, lamb and pork were sent on their way to the Asian Markets for consumption. Its’ sole purpose was as a rest stop for the trains and the people manning them. In time, the town had grown to include several abattoirs and large stock yards. With the influx of workers came families who required schools, a hospital, stores and the usual conveniences of modern life. There had been exactly 1083 people there until nine days previous. Now, there were 1083 decomposing corpses and some six thousand decomposing cattle carcasses. The stench was awful.
Though his arm still ached, Smith was thankful for the inoculation that had been given to him no less than four hours earlier. Looking around at what he could only vaguely recognise as an airport, there were probably a dozen bodies, all decomposing and bloated in the afternoon sun. The witch walked past him over to the bodies. She held a hand over them and concentrated.
“There’s nothing.” It was all that she said. It was enough.
During the flight, they had each been given a part of the town to cover. With a gesture from Director Thomas, they all dispersed.
Williams was not particularly spread out, so it was not too difficult to cover the distance on foot. Smith was glad he had left his jacket on the plane. He removed his tie, bundled it up and shoved it in his back pocket. He also loosened his collar and rolled up his sleeves. He had been given the part of town where their shopping strip was located. It was approximately a dozen stores that consisted of a butcher, a bakery, a supermarket, several supply stores, a dentist and two pubs. Bodies were everywhere. He was horrified to see children and infants amongst the dead. He knew he shouldn’t have been surprised at their presence, there were families here after all, but it pained him none the less.
The thing that surprised him the most was the absence of insects. Ordinarily, he would expect to see flies and maggots happily feasting on the bodies, but there were none. He bent down and examined one corpse closely to see any sign of bug activity, but there was none. It was a little hard to believe. As he stood, he suddenly realised that he had not had to contend with any insect whatsoever since he had landed. Anyone who had travelled in the outback knew that flies were a fact of life, and swatting them away became almost a subconscious reflex. Here, there were none. No ants. No spiders he could see. Nothing. It was all very wrong.
Hamish strode through a residential neighbourhood. Although he maintained a world-weary exterior, he was not above having the same emotional response as others. Here, unseen by his team mates, tears streamed down his face. He did not sob, that was something he had never done, but he would ‘leak’ – as he put it – for the victims around him. It was a macabre scene. It was as if people had dropped dead right in the middle of what they had been doing nine days earlier. There was a woman underneath a clothes line, with her laundry basket still half full. Two children lay unmoving on a lawn with a ball next to one of them. A man was half concealed under the car he had been repairing. It was all a bit too surreal. There was even a car whose driver had simply slumped backward. Hamish was able to tell that it had been moving at the time as it had ended up half in a fence at an odd angle. For some reason, he found that extremely disturbing.
He walked over to the car and looked in. Inside was what he assumed to be a husband and wife, or at least girlfriend and boyfriend, slumped back in the front seats, festering in the heat like the rest of the town. He walked to the front of the car and with a deep breath, he bent down and grabbed the bumper and lifted the front section clear of the ground. With minimal effort, he dragged the car to the driveway and set it down. For some reason, he felt it the right thing to do. His good deed done, he turned and walked away to continue his lonely trek.
Carol Holfensteim did not like death. She had experienced her fair share of it, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Indeed, she found it most disconcerting. As with all her kind, death was something that was an effect, and not a foregone conclusion. The only death she had ever known was when the odd member of her pack had gone insane and had to be put down. It was regrettable, but immortality had its responsibilities after all.
She was walking through the stockyards. Her enhanced senses picked up every little sound and smell. From the pop of bursting skin - the result of decomposition and the gas that was its’ by-product - to the occasional rustle of dust as it was disturbed by an errant breeze. She heard it all.
The smell was something she was not appreciating, that, and her outfit. She wished she had have been given more notice about the mission so she could have dressed appropriately. Dolce & Gabbana was gorgeous of course, but it really wasn’t appropriate death-wear. She stepped delicately around the carcasses. Having absolutely no understanding of what she was supposed to be looking for, she simply took in everything for later consideration and analysis. All the fences were intact, all of the stock were accounted for, and the rail-tracks themselves were in perfect condition. If this had been a robbery, it was the worst one she had ever seen.
This was getting her nowhere. With a small grunt of dissatisfaction, she morphed into her hybrid form. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her auditory and olfactory senses. In her hybrid form they were many times more sensitive. She took several slow, measured breaths. Interestingly, she detected a faint sterile odour, not unlike what one would encounter in a hospital. Knowing she was several kilometres from the one and only hospital, she knew this was not correct.
Dropping down onto all fours, she sniffed at the ground. Her aristocratic sense of pride was thankful that there was no one around to see her scrambling around on all fours, in Ferragamo heels no less. Amongst the odours of cattle fur and diesel, she found the scent trail. It resembled anaesthetic. There was a sickly-sweet but sharp tinge to it that stood out beyond all the other scents. She followed it, occasionally sweeping her nose back and forth to confirm direction. She was stunned when, eventually, she came to the train platform and a single leather bag that sat apart from everything else. She returned to her human form and retrieved a walking stick that lay next to its previous owner. With it, she carefully opened the bag to see six empty medical containers inside. With a final sniff, she knew she had found the home of the anthrax.
Melissa Benton fervently wished they could have been able to pair off, rather than have to conduct a search on their own. She was still very new to all of this and she had little in the way of professional detachment. Walking through the school, she tried not to look at the bodies of students who now lay where they had fallen. Unfortunately, there was no space that didn’t contain bodies; the playground, hallways, class rooms, toilets all had children of various ages slumped over. It was very depressing. Thankfully, the school was not particularly large so it didn’t take too long to search. She had walked onto the school oval when she noticed something strange. Everything else in the school was in perfect condition, and yet what appeared to be a storage shed on the perimeter of the oval seemed scorched.
She walked over to it and tried the doors. They were locked. Noting the presence of skylights, she crouched down and then leapt up onto the roof. As per usual, the skylights were not locked shut. Why would they be? It wasn’t like there was someone around who was supposed to be able to reach them.
She propped up the skylight and dropped through and down to the floor below. She surveyed the room as she straightened up. With the exception of some exercise mats and athletic equipment, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. What was strange was the smell. There was an antiseptic quality to it. It reminded her of the crème they used at the gymnastic halls when she scraped something on the beam. She was always scraping a knee or an elbow on the balance beam. It was her worst apparatus. You’d think that someone with genetically enhanced agility would have no problem on a piece of wood only two feet off the ground. Unfortunately, reality had taught her never to assume anything.
She looked around for a medical cabinet. She found none. She pulled down a large gym mat that had been leaning up against the anterior wall and was surprised to see a door. There must have been a second storage area. She tried the handle only to find it locked. Not interested in searching for the keys, she simply kicked the door in. It flew off the hinges and connected with a bench on the other side. She was just about to step through when something caught her solidly in the stomach with sufficient force to launch her back through the main doors which were torn from their hinges with a metallic groan. She came to rest on top of one of the doors, gasping for breath and clutching at her stomach. She looked up to see something exit the shed in a blur and dart back across the oval and into the bush nearby. With a grunt she got up to follow it but stopped when she saw that her brand new jeans were torn almost the whole way down the left leg. It had taken her ages to find a pair that would actually fit. With a curse she sprinted off in pursuit. She had spent several hundred dollars on those jeans and she was going to make someone pay.
Sarah Roth walked through a semi-industrial area on the north side of town. She was not surprised by the amount and diversity of equipment required to maintain the stockyards. She herself only had a hundred head of cattle back on her Hunter Valley property and yet the amount of equipment required for them seemed inversely proportioned to what she had determined their needs to be.
Thankfully, the area she had to search had few bodies, although, the few that were present caused her pain. Sarah was a gentle person with a kind and compassionate heart. Furthermore, she knew people like these. Her main residence was in an agricultural and stock breeding community and she knew that even though the faces might have been different, the personalities of the people would have been remarkably similar. Farmers were the same everywhere. They were a stressed lot who agonised over the weather and their mortgages. Many would attempt to repair their equipment first before calling in a real mechanic. A dollar saved was yet another dollar available for the bank.
As she continued her search, she began to feel something that she was positive would not be there – life. A faint prickling on her skin announced that there was something – or someone – alive nearby. She hastened her pace. It was difficult to perceive a direction as the signature was so faint. She had to consciously moderate her own breathing. She could not allow the excitement of the moment to overtake her, resulting in her own emotions drowning out the life sign. Unfortunately, the towns’ electricity sub-station was also putting out a significant amount of electro-magnetic energy, and it was beginning to cloud her sense. But even with the ‘static’ of the sub-station, she could clearly sense the bio-electric signature of a person.
Her search took her into the administrative building for the sub-station. Even here, bodies sat, lay or slumped where they had died. Some were slumped back in their seats at their desks; others had fallen forward and were now slowly decomposing into their keyboards. She suppressed a shudder. She also felt a building rage. She wanted to know who had done this and she wanted to see them brought to justice – swiftly. The thought that a community so similar to her own could be so mercilessly cut down was abhorrent. The signature was getting stronger the higher she went in the building. Climbing the internal staircase, she finally exited onto the roof of the six level building.
The roof was cluttered. Several water tanks competed with large crates for space. But she was triumphant. There was a life sign, and it was somewhere here. Closing her eyes, she took several calming breaths. The life sign was in front and off to the left of her. She opened her eyes and walked towards it. Something was amiss, though. It was a life sign, but it was not the life sign she was expecting. This was familiar, but not human. As she rounded a large crate marked ‘Feed’ she came face to face with a Lycan. Unfortunately, it was not just any Lycan. This was one was covered in pustules and seeping sores. Her skin was falling off in large sheets and she reeked of gangrene. Sarah could also sense that the poor thing had gone insane. Her neurological signature was fluctuating uncontrollably and putting out an obscene amount of energy, even for a Lycan. The creature pivoted to face Sarah and shrieked like a Banshee.
Sarah took several slow steps back whilst the being processed the shock and surprise of seeing her there. The sick woman looked this way and that, clearly confused and unsure of what to do. Sarah could feel waves of terror and anger emanating from the ill Lycan. Negotiation was clearly not going to work with the sick individual.
Before she could do anything, the Lycan moved forward in a blur of motion, striking Sarah and knocking her to the ground. She cried out in pain and shock. Her left forearm bled from a series of scratches the Lycan’s sharp, claw-like nails had rent in her skin. She quickly got herself back to her feet; she would tend to her wound later. She gathered her strength and reached out with her sense. Now that she had experienced it close up, the Lycan was much easier to track, and it was coming back for her.
She was beginning her strike before she even saw the Lycan emerge from behind a tank. Using her ability, she gathered up the static electricity in the air surrounding her and struck out with a concentrated burst of energy. The bolt of electricity lanced out and struck the diseased Lycan as it sped towards her. A scream of fury and pain rent the air as the Lycan was thrown from her feet from the force of the bolt. The smell of singed skin and flesh quickly filled the air and Sarah had to concentrate to fight down the urge to heave. She had been successful. The infected Lycan now lay on the ground. She was barely conscious and moaning in obvious pain, but she was clearly not going anywhere in a hurry. Sarah had taken great care in making certain that the bolt was strong enough to take her out of action for several hours. She retrieved her phone and sent a quick text message to Thomas informing the woman of her catch.
Looking down at her arm, she noted that the scratches were not deep. Given the nominal strength of a Lycan was many times that of a human, she was surprised. She knew there was no danger of infection, thanks to the inoculation provided by their Lycanthropic team mate. Still, she would make certain the wound was properly cleaned and the risk of infection dismissed.
Director Thomas watched as her assistant, Campbell, knelt and took tissue samples from several of the corpses. It was a moderately gruesome task, but one that would hopefully provide some answers. What Thomas had difficulty believing was the 100% efficacy of the Loki itself. Even the Black Plague had only killed about a third of its victims. The most overly engineered bio-weapon could usually only manage 70%, so the fact that everyone had succumbed to this bug was a serious cause for concern. Thomas quickly dismissed the possibility of a genetic fallibility shared by everyone in the town. That could happen in a dozen people, but in a thousand it was highly improbable.
She retrieved her PDA and called up the latest report from their medical section. Whilst the data provided by their agent in Williams had been helpful, it had been far from complete. There was an enormous amount of guesswork going on and very little hard research. She became disturbed by the repeated use of the phrase ‘incomplete data acquired’ throughout the report. She quickly typed out a message requesting a redoubling of efforts.
“Ma’am?” Campbell said.
Thomas leant down and looked to what Campbell was pointing at. It was a patch of skin that had reacted in a very different but very familiar fashion. It was certainly different to all the other symptoms – pustules and scarring and haemorrhaging – but familiar in that it resembled the skin of their Lycanthropic associate. With a skill that impressed Thomas, Campbell quickly removed the section of skin and stored it in a sample container for later analysis. He handed it to her.
“Now, why would this be showing up here?” Thomas mused out loud.
Campbell put away his tools and stood up. “According to our records, there were no Lycans here.”
Thomas frowned in disapproval as she peered over the top of the sample container. “We don’t know the whereabouts of every Lycan in the country, Mr Campbell.”
Her assistant dipped his head in apology. “Of course, Ma’am, but with an agent on station, we should have known if there was one here.”
Thomas nodded slowly. He was right of course. But it brought up an uncomfortable possibility. Had the Pack and the Haemocracy lost control? Were rogue elements responsible for the attack?
“Why here?” Campbell mused out loud.
Thomas frowned. “What do you mean?”
Campbell shrugged. “At the risk of sounding insensitive, Ma’am, why target a backwater town that has no real significance? The economic impact is minimal and the loss of life is low on the terror scale.”
Thomas shook her head slowly as she spoke. “The tangible effects are not the only results achieved here.”
Campbell looked confused. “Ma’am?”
Thomas gestured at the surrounding bodies. “This was a test site.” At his still confused look she began to walk, gesturing for him to follow her. “Look around. Cattle; domestic pets; people of various racial and genetic stock; diversity of age and health; this was a perfect site to test an experimental bio weapon.” She pointed to a tour bus that now contained only remains. “I bet we could go through this and have six or seven different racial profiles. And yet, all of them died. It’s unheard of.”
Campbell now understood. “Genetic variance, in combination with external factors like immunisations and childhood illnesses, usually give at least a minority of people some protection.”
Thomas nodded. “But they all died. The cattle first I think.”
Campbell’s face became set. “It was the entry vector.”
Thomas smiled a grim little smirk. “That’s how I’d infect a cattle town. I want a forensic team up here to conduct a full investigation.”
Campbell nodded. “Local authorities?” He asked.
Thomas shook her head. “They’ve already been dealt with. We have complete control.”
Campbell nodded and set off to make the necessary arrangements.
Thomas looked back over the corpses one more time before turning on her heel and heading back to the relative comfort of their plane. She stopped as her phone buzzed. A text message from the witch informed her that another Lycan had been caught. Her theory had been proven at least half right. She simply hoped that the other half would not similarly prove prophetic.
Garreth McCleod was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Death he could handle, but disease he could not. Of course, his Haemocratic biology could easily defeat all but the most specific viruses and bacteria quite easily, but he found that the presence of disease brought up too many memories. The down side to an immortal life was the remembrance of those he had once knew who had died and how. If he closed his eyes, he could almost feel himself back in London during the Great Plague. It was a part of his life he cared not to remember. It had been a time of starvation and sickness for him. Somehow, the Plague had broken through his vampire immune system and he had spent almost a month seriously ill. During that time he could not feast, and thus slowly starved to the point of death. It had only been the timely intervention of one of his own kind that had saved him.
Now as he walked around yet another small neighbourhood, he cast his gaze over the bodies. In his eyes they were all children, even the elderly. In his mind, elderly was a term of mortality, and as such had no claim on him. He could never be called elderly, he was ancient. For thousands of years he had lived, wandering the earth as he saw fit. His earliest memories were of a small village by an oasis in a desert. It was the crudest of tents, basically some animal skins strung between two trees. If he had to make a guess he would say it had been over three thousand years before the Common Era. He remembers his first taste of blood coming from a goat that the family kept. He remembered ‘nursing’ from it often, and yet he did not remember it dying. It was most curious. His daydream was interrupted by a familiar smell. It was the smell of another Haemocrat.
According to their intelligence, there were no Haemocrats within two thousand kilometres of Williams. The scent was fresh. They had been through here only minutes ago. Stepping up into a jog he followed the scent to a two-storied house only a couple of streets over. All the windows and doors on the ground level were locked. He could smell that the Haemocrat was definitely inside. Choosing a stealthy approach, he utilised his ability to adhere to almost any surface and scaled the wall to a second level bedroom. He slipped through the open window and paused. The only sound seemed to be a muffled growling coming from the ground level. He quietly padded down the hall to the top of the stairs. The sound was coming from the kitchen. Not trusting the wooden stairs, Garreth jumped up onto the wall and slowly crawled his way down. Pausing near the arch that was the entrance way to the kitchen, he gathered himself before slowly moving forward to look inside. What he saw sickened him.
A member of his kind, infected and sickly, was literally biting chunks out of a body that had fallen in the kitchen and was devouring it. It was a ghastly scene. To think that a fellow Haemocrat had been reduced to little more than a scavenger of meat turned his stomach. Ordinarily, a Haemocrat would be disgusted at the thought of consuming meat. Their sustenance, their reinvigoration, this was something that came from the blood. Dropping down into the entrance way, the ill Haemocrat took notice of him. It did not run nor did it attack straight away. It squatted there, small pieces of flesh dropping from its mouth, staring at Garreth uncertainly. Slowly, with obvious fervour, it put down the arm it had been feasting on, and started to pad towards Garreth like a panther would approaching a kill.
“Stop.” Garreth commanded in a voice that ordinarily would have made even the tide pause.
And pause the creature did, at least for a moment. Then it began to again move forward. There was no rationality in its’ eyes. It didn’t even walk upright. It awkwardly crawled over on hands and feet until it was only a metre from Garreth. It then sat back in a kind of squat, and seemed to look him over. Garreth took a cautious step back. At the very least, he wanted a little more room should the creature attempt anything. And he was thankful he did.
Without any forewarning, the creature leapt at him with its mouth open and incisors extended. Blood and gore coated its face and teeth. Garreth easily sidestepped it and brought his elbow down hard on its spine. The creature was sent sprawling on the floor and into a wall. Garreth clearly heard its skull crack. For a moment, it appeared dazed, and it seemed unable to shake off the after effects of the blow. A healthy Haemocrat would have barely felt the blow, but this diseased thing, although sick, was clearly without the usual biological tricks possessed by a member of their kind. This was confusing to Garreth, but he put it out of his mind for the moment.
With a roar, the Haemocrat again attempted to attack Garreth, but this time it simply tripped over itself and again went sprawling. It did not get up this time. Garreth waited to see if it would try again, but it was clearly unable to do so.
Garreth stepped up to it and squatted down to look it over. Whatever had infected this creature had clearly affected its entire bio-chemistry. Haemocrats were extremely difficult to make sick. Their hyper aggressive immune system would usually neutralise any virus or bacteria within seconds of entering the body. Smallpox; Malaria; HIV; Tuberulosis; none of these were able to move past their internal defences. So how had this one been made sick? Garreth retrieved his phone and sent a text message to Thomas advising her of a specimen. Not wanting to soil his new suit, he dragged the body onto a small trailer in the garage and began his walk back to the plane, dragging the little red wagon behind him.