Cliff joins Sandi, tucking in neatly behind. Dan’s summoned light sheds a glow over lapping water as far as it reaches: they can see that the basement is flooded, possibly deeply so. A wooden stepping-post, and another beyond it, seems to lead away across the room where Sandi can glimpse a square exit tunnel in the wall. She runs her experienced eye up the wall beside her: concrete, with some distinct pouring ridges. Routine, with no time pressure – at least for her.
“Everyone in… and we like, shut that door behind us, huh? OK, Cliffie, whaddya think? Remember Black River… getting across posts with only two planks… not luvvin the idea, ya know?”
“And we got no planks.”
“So ’less anybody’s real good at planking, I’m gonna try climbin’ around.”
“Pass my kit bag down, Paul,” Cliff asks, “There we go… help yourself, Sandi.”
Time passes, and while Sandi works her way along the wall, Dan and Paul check the wall and stairwell they’re waiting on, while Hitch keeps watch for nasty surprises. Apart from discovering a skull that was rigged to provide the arcane zap at the door, they find nothing.
“The tunnel lets straight through… Nothing else major here.”
“Well, what do we do? None of us can make that climb.”
“I’m thinking if Sandi fixes one end of the rope to the wall at her end, and I fix the other at this end, we can all balance across the posts. They go right across, huh Sandi?”
“Sure do. OK if we gotta use the posts, I better test them out. I’m gonna blaze across: get ready for something, Cliff.”
Sandi catapults off the wall, lands bouncing off the post nearest the exit tunnel, and zips across as fast as she can. The middle post collapses but with her momentum, a neat tuck and tumble to the next one saves her from a dunking. Two more hops and she plants a neat landing on the far side, and grins, pleased to be able to show her skills.
Once the rope’s in place, Cliff follows Sandi across. The others wait with due caution on the steps: let the combat team probe forward and make places for them!
Sandi moves from the position she took to piton the rope in place, to one above the tunnel. It’s cramped: handy for vampires that don’t mind scrambling on all fours but not great for Cliff.
“OK Cliff: I’ll take point, you follow up.”
“Yo! I gotcha back!”
With a reverse tuck and tumble Sandi lands face-forward on the tunnel floor: unbeknown to her, she’s now in Hel Howl’s ambush zone!
The double-tap chips stone near her, but Sandi’s speed and prone position has saved her from harm. She can see a pair of eyes flaring bright in her NVGs: Hel, the female Great vampire, is in good cover beyond a short stretch of tunnel. Cliff presses in behind Sandi, ready to move.
“Let’s book-end that vamp! We can’t let him keep us here!”
Sandi uses her whole body to launch forward, somersaults up and over Hel, double-tapping as she does so, and lands off to one side ready to deliver more 9mm pain. Cliff follows hard on Sandi’s heels: he may not have the acrobatic skills she does but he’s learnt techniques that keep him moving fast forward into combat and he brings these into play, rolling out of the tunnel off Hel’s shoulder and as planned, book-ending her. Cliff’s heavy Colt Python bludgeons down, dislodging Hel’s headgear: in spite of short hair, this one’s a female, he realizes.
Even as Sandi lands, James the other Greater vampire, hidden in the opposite corner, is lining her up and a round creases her shoulder.
“It’s a square room say 30 by 30, rough floor but dry, there’s another vamp in cover on my 2,” Sandi yells.
Good call: Hitch immediately activates a teleportation spell and he, Paul and Dan appear only feet away from Sandi, ready for action!
Paul sends arcane bolts tearing into Hel, as does Hitch. Cliff wallops her, receiving a bullet into his Kevlar in reply, and Sandi puts a couple more rounds into her. She launches herself at Cliff, fangs jutting, but Hitch’s final bolts send Hel screaming back to Hell!
Dan hears scrabbling from the tunnel: steps forward to place himself at 90 degrees to both tunnel and James, who’s well in cover at the room’s exit door.
“Flee from the power of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
James hisses in pain, and there’s a scream from the tunnel, but two pale common vampires slobber forth: right in front of Cliff and Sandi! A raft of bullets from Sandi’s guns sweeps over the common vampires and one abruptly dissolves and the other staggers. Paul finishes it with another flurry of bolts before it can even get into action.
In command of the room, the team takes cover and takes stock. There’s a break in the rough flooring over on the wall that James must have retreated behind, and water can be seen glinting darkly below. Some sub-basement is completely flooded. The only exit is the one James took, so that’s where they go: Sandi and Cliff use their skills to press forward and the arcane three keep well behind. But the chamber beyond, reached by an L-shaped passage, is blank part from some crude bedding and a closed door: James has already retreated further into this basement warren.
Sandi yelps in pain as Dan calls the blessings of mighty daylight to purge this dank tomb. As her NVGs adjust Sandi sweeps forward to the door.
Hitch stays sharp: moves close to Sandi as she checks the door cautiously. He probes with his arcane senses, but there’s no tell-tale glow around the door in his vision.
“Seems clear,” he says encouragingly. Sandi nods: swings the door open and dive-rolls through!
The frag grenade catches both Hitch and Dan, wounding them painfully. On the far side of the door Sandi, unharmed, rolls safely into cover in the fragged remains of a desk. A filing cabinet, PC and packs of pamphlets make up what would be a fairly standard office if it weren’t for the underground lair aspect of it. She winces afresh as Dan brings his Daylight into this room: looks around at the Grateful Dead posters on the wall and the general mould and decay starkly evident in the light.
“It’s even messier than your old apartment, Hitch!”
Again, there’s only one proper exit: but there’s also another hole in the flooring, down to the flooded sub-basement. By the position, it would allow someone to swim back to the previous hole and escape them. Uh-oh. Sure enough, checking back shows that James has left the building and has fled down a handy sewer accessed from the alley.
The chamber beyond the office is a vampire leisure center: it has two captives, one dead and one whimpering and barely alive. Marty Vincenzo is sure lucky to be alive after four days of torture. Once sure he’s not a decoy, the team release him and from Marty, learn the names of the two Greater vampires for posterity.
While Paul’s confiscated the hard-drive, Hitch has leafed through the desk, fling cabinet and pamphlets. The latter prove the most interesting: they’re printed by Frontline Merchandising, Utah but postmarked Lebanon, Kansas. A few clicks on Paul’s PDA tells him that Lebanon Kansas is supposedly the geographic center of the continental USA.
A Reunion is Promised
“Amazing! So, you actually killed a Greater vampire!” Fran exclaims as they debriefing ends.
“Yeah – we totally shot it. A bunch.”
“And fricasseed it with bolts. And Cliff smacked it round with the butt of his gun. So… how’s Emilia?”
“Emilia’s doing well thank you… away from danger,” Fran confirms. “In fact I’m thinking of recruiting her: she’s a surgeon, has some of the lore, has seen what’s going on… and we’re short of warm bodies.”
“So you’re OK if we leave Marty to you?”
“Sure, leave it with me hon. And I’ll make sure the police don’t build a case on the wrong evidence. Now: Elliott called and left word for you. You-all need to bring this Cup and meet up with him in Salt Lake City day after tomorrow. I’ve booked your flights in and don’t you fret: Elliott is freighting your rides over from Illinois.”
“Excellent! I’m really looking forward to it!” Paul exclaims vehemently.
“Salt Lake City?” Hitch asks, surprised.
“No, a decent set of wheels!”