The thunderous cacophony of pulse rifle gunfire around me had already become muffled and stale to my oversaturated ears. Distant. Uninvolving. While my military focus had been so intense just moments before I took cover behind this wreck of an old Buick, my concentration had suddenly broken down on me without warning, taking a momentary break from the chaos and leaving me to fend for myself in the hostile warzone of Old Chicago.
I watch as small chunks of debris fall into the puddles of mud all around me. I double check my ammunition levels, simultaneously running a diagnostic on my cyber-synthetic suit to make sure that I had enough fuel and battery power to jump back into the battle with my teammates once I gave my mechanic parts a moment to cool down and recover. No time for emotion. No time for fatigue. 'Get up, Roland!' I told myself. 'GET UP!!!'
"God's Gift!!! Are you online???" Came a message from HeriTech. She sounded stressed out, but her cyber armor seemed to still be fully in tact, so her communications came through loud and clear. "TALK to me, Roland!"
Catching my breath, I answered. "Battle suit, 'God's Gift', is online! I'm a go!"
The others in our small platoon sounded off as soon as they heard that I was getting back into position.
"This is battle suit, 'Exorcyst'! I'm definitely a go!"
"Battle suit, 'Attrition'! Fully charged and ready to go!"
With a few loud blasts of heavy gunfire in the air, "Zion, aka 'BLASTphemy'! Online! Ready to go! Let's rock, baby!"
"'Hell-Razor', clocking in! I'm a go!"
I knew that I was supposed to be team leader for this mission, but there was something about the overwhelming cluster of daylight Nosferatu vampires in this sector that had me worrying for the loyal members of my urban platoon. There were WAY too many of them for just the six of us to handle alone. This mission required more than just the strategy and skill to spontaneously wiggle our way out of this situation! It required a level of pure dumb luck that hardly seemed worth the risk for a random search and rescue mission. Especially since we had no idea what we were looking for here. The 'God's Eye' initiative just kept us searching for hostiles to neutralize while bringing back as many legalized civilians as we could find to base. Our detail wasn't given much more info than that.
Still, with my weapons locked and loaded, and my cyber armor fully recharged, I was prepared to do what I was sent here to do, and I linked up with the rest of my wrecking crew to continue the charge forward.
"Does anybody have an elevated view of the situation? Somebody talk to me!" I hollered into the com in my suit.
Hell-Razor answered with, "It looks like we've disturbed a nest! They're pouring out of a hole from the underground! State Street subway tunnel, a city block North from here. I'm counting 30, 40, they just keep coming! All of them sunblocked! It's not looking good here!"
BLASTphemy shouted, "Bring 'em on! They didn't make these guns and give us all this ammo for us to just stand around looking pretty! Let's send these vampire scumbags straight back to HELL where they belong! I'm moving in!"
I shouted, "Do NOT engage! I repeat, do NOT engage! Just hold the perimeter for now! Wait on my order!" I tapped a few buttons on the armband of my suit to get a holographic map of our surroundings. "This says that the detected distress signals are just a few blocks West from our current location! Who's got visual?"
HeriTech answered with, "I'm not detecting any warm bloods at all, sir! Are you sure the intel was accurate on this one?"
"The Watchers said there were humans in the area that needed rescue! Right here! Keep checking your monitors! If they can be saved, then we need to extract them from this zone immediately! I need answers, people!" I shouted, but before I could finish delivering my commands, I found myself standing in the shadows of a three large monsters pouncing down upon me from an elevated position, eager to rip me apart.
You never know what you're going to face or how you're going to react once one of those creatures has targeted you and charges at you, top speed. Bearing its crooked, misshapen, fangs, its muscular arms and legs propelling it forward like an angry gorilla. And that sound, that awful sound they make. A bloodcurdling screech that sounds like it hurts their own throat even more than it does our ears. There's nothing more terrifying than a nest of Nosferatu vampires, no matter how big or how small. Nothing else in this world.
The year is 2118, and what ever civilization that my great grandparents were a part of here in Old Chicago? It's gone. And it has been for almost a century now.
The Daylight Wars of 2092 were just the beginning. The disclosure of the hidden population of vampires in our major cities, underground clusters of murderous parasites, infiltrating every nook and cranny of our societal infrastructure, was a shock and a horror that our kind couldn't bear. It was a revelation that many were not prepared for, and they met the lack of awareness with bitter hatred and 'snap judgement' executions. There was a brief period where it looked like both species could coexist in peace until a compromise could be figured out, but the peace talks didn't last long. Ignorant and aggressive actions on both sides of the issue ruined it for everyone. But, then again, how can I disagree? How does a field full of cattle discuss peace with the butchers in charge of sending them to slaughter? They FEED on us! That's what they do. They need human blood to survive. There is no substitute, and they can't just drink a little bit of nourishment and let go. In order for them to live, we have to die. So humanity came to the conclusion that in order for us to live, THEY have to be wiped out. It was that mentality that led to the first few major conflicts in the Daylight Wars. Mankind had to fight for its survival, hoping to return to the top of the food chain after the vampire threat had been eradicated.
Once the V's were exposed, and the 'puppet show' peace talks had come to an end, the mass exterminations began. We hunted them down and wiped out their numbers during the day, while they retaliated by wiping out our numbers at night. The soldiers of vampire-kind are strong. SO strong! Those who are born into darkness are faster than we humans are. More powerful. More agile. And despite that power often being hidden behind the face of your average teenager in most cases, they are not to be trusted. Vampires possess a plethora of magical abilities that we can't predict, and therefore have no protocols in place to defend ourselves against if it comes down to a one on one confrontation.
To keep from being totally powerless against them, science stepped in to design our cybernetic battle suits. Flexible metal that gave us freedom of movement and access to a variety of different weapons in the field, but also strong enough to take some serious punishment while we were out there in the city ruins. Our enhancements, hopefully giving us the edge needed to compete with the supernatural extras being used against us. I can't say that I don't get surprised every now and then though. Those vampires, they're all so different. Tricky. As usual, technology has no way to keep up with the speed of nature's evolution. For every puzzle we solve, their dark purpose creates twenty more. It can be a terrifying situation to think about.
The beginning of the war between species was inevitable. In fact, the killer commands were given much sooner than the rest of the world was expecting. In this day and age, the ridiculous masquerade of there being a separation of church and state has become extinct. There's no need to bother with the illusion anymore. Both operate as a single unit and do all they can to wipe out the filthy burden of sin while providing what's 'best' for the rest of us. When the vampire war was on the brink of being a reality, the escalation took place in a matter of weeks. The church used its influence and manipulated the faith of its blind followers to begin the massacre. And the government used its influence to manipulate the non-religious with repetitive slogans and propaganda, questioning people's 'patriotism' and loyalty to the state if they didn't join in the horrific acts taking place. Then both sides used the media as the flammable kindling, adding kerosene to fuel the fire on both sides. Planting the seeds for a vampire holocaust and letting the loudmouth voices of the internet tend the garden until the fruits of an all out war were just ripe enough for the picking.
Sickness. When you really look at it, it's just another form of socially acceptable madness.
It all happened so fast. My parents filled me in on what the history books said, but seeing as most cities, including Old Chicago, have been deeply infested with their kind for so many years, not only in peace, but practically undetected by mankind, I can't help but to doubt my faith from time to time. I can't help but to wonder if our floating fortress in the sky, the 'Global Outreach Directory' (G.O.D.) is doing the right thing by rescuing human refugees from the disaster filled cities below, while ordering troops to wipe out the current evil that has burrowed itself so deeply underground. Nothing escapes G.O.D.'s watchful eye out here. Nothing.
The United Church Of America gave me focus. Purpose. They gave me a list of adversaries that could not be tolerated, and told me that I was doing good work in the world when I fought against them and worked hard to erase them from reality. But, am I really blessed?
Looking up at these monsters falling down upon me at this very moment, I was forced to ask myself...
..."If I died for this cause today, right here, right now...would I really understand what it was that I was originally fighting for? Is the vampire infestation really our biggest threat? Or is it the people who tell us what to be afraid of and how to angrily wipe them out of existence for causing us a moment of discomfort? Who are the true monsters in this scenario?" My rational mind just won't let questions like these go unanswered. A deeper part of me NEEDS to know.
It's a conflict that I keep to myself for fear of being cast out. In a time when religion and politics are one and the same, questioning your faith makes you a terrorist. A cult like following will justify MURDERING you for going against their forced beliefs. And with no government resistance...such things are deemed intolerable by the state. No political figure can get elected unless he pleases the church, and once elected, laws are put into place to allow those same churches to do whatever they please, without question or consequence. 'God' is in charge of every decision we make now. I sometimes wonder if vampire life is any different. If maybe, they have a different perspective of the way things should be...and it is simply accepted...and not enforced through fear and violence.
My mother used to tell me that such thoughts would get me imprisoned or shot if I spoke them out loud. So I kept them quiet my whole life. But silence doesn't equal absence of thought, and those feelings stay with me. Maybe they always will.
But that's not something that I'm going to worry about right now.
Right NOW, I've got hostiles dropping down on me from above. It's time to put in some serious work before we die in the wastelands of Old Chicago.
I didn't have enough time to draw the 'God's Gift' electro swords from behind my shoulders, so I instead fired off pulse rifle rounds from my weapon and fell backward as I watched the howling creatures being sprayed above me! Each cyber outfit came with its own unique set of defense systems, seeing as bullets don't really do anything significant to these creatures, unless you count a few wounds and just enough pain to piss them off when they get back up. But rounds of ammo are the only real long distance options that we have. And ammunition can be sloppy, especially when doing an extraction for human survivors. There's always a chance that we'll end up killing the very people we're trying to save in the crossfire.
During the earliest peak of the Daylight Wars, while our scientists were building combat armor and cyber enhancements, their vampire minds though of a way to breed a small, but manageable, army of Nosferatus. Deformed creatures with a ravenous taste for human flesh as well as vampire blood. Hulking creatures that shook and twitched when they moved, often falling and rolling on the ground when they walked. But dammit if they weren't fast! STRONG! Mindless nightmares, lost in an insatiable bloodlust. They never sleep. Never tire. Bred to withstand the sunlight to stand guard over the V population during the day. But vampires never knew how rapidly these new creatures would multiply. How vicious they would become. Feeding on G.O.D.'s rescue teams, feeding on the humans left behind, feeding on the vampires themselves. The Nosferatu have become a boogey man for the both of us, winning their own war while the rest of us argue over who's winning ours.
"We've got more incoming!!!" HeriTech reported. "We've got a fight on our hands, here, Roland! Please advise!"
I rolled to the side as three of the bloodthirsty creatures hissed and spat mucus at me. Getting to my feet, I drew for my swords and turned the energy burn up to eighty percent. With guns, only a shot through the heart will do. And even then they don't die until days later. A heart shot is a hard one to make under pressure. We needed to hurt them. Sever limbs to incapacitate them. In order to fight a vampire, or any one of their monstrous forms, you've got to get up close and personal. And as I heard the rising hum of my electro swords alert me that they were battle ready, I started to feel more confident in my ability to fight off the current threat.
Let's do this!
"Give me a read on the playing field, Exorcyst!" I said.
"More hostiles are incoming! They're popping up everywhere!"
"HeriTech! Can you plug up a few of those holes?"
The HeriTech battle suit was already using its high powered sonic waves to find every entrance and exit that our attackers were coming from, sending fierce tremors to collapse the entire foundation around them. But unfortunately, she said, "Every time I plug one hole, they find another way out. There are too many of them."
Tossing one razor sharp disc after another at the Nosferatus surrounding him like a collection of hellish frisbees, the metallic blades slicing through the enemy with a whistling sound that they couldn't hear until after the damage had already been done, Hell-Razor spun himself to a kneeling position to check his stats. "Still not reading anything! I think this mission is a wash, sir! Wait, hold on a second!" Hell-Razor found two more creatures moving in for the kill. He jumped up to spin kick one of them to the ground, firmly planting his boot on the back of the creatures neck to hold it down to the ground. He took aim at his next target, using one circular blade to cut off its right arm, and another to cut off its left arm. The third blade, he threw slightly off target, having the blade tilt and curve to slash at the vampire's throat from the side. Blood spilled everywhere, and the creature fell to its knees. Then, Hell-Razor stomped his foot down on the other Nosferatu's neck, snapping the vertebrae and rendering it paralyzed, for now. "I think we need to call for immediate evac, man!"
At the moment, I was using my dual swords to cut my way through a small cluster of them, the smell of burning flesh polluting the air as I cut through their muscle and bone like heated marshmallows. "BLASTphemy??? How are we doing on that perimeter? What gives?"
He could barely hear me over the sound of his overly excessive use of hardcore firepower, the legs of his cyber suit expanding metallic tripods from both knees to connect to the rooftop he was standing on to anchor him and keep his own kickback from knocking him off balance. "I'm holding the distant hostiles at bay, but they seem to be creeping up from beneath our feet! These fucking things found a million ways in! You want me to bring the pain?"
As I saw more and more shadows popping up all around me and the rest of my team, the pressure to make a quick decision had me conflicted about whether to abort this wild goose chase or not. Where were they all coming from? Why didn't mission control monitor the activity in this area before sending us out here?
"Just keep as many of them at bay as you can, BLASTphemy!" I told him. "Ration your ammunition until we get ready to head home! We don't want to fully crack open this hornet's nest just yet!"
As more Nosferatu vamps began to charge out of every corner, some now even crawling out from the sewer manholes in the street, I hurried toward the location of the distress signals we had received earlier and began frantically looking around for any civilians that we needed to bring back with us.
Hell-Razor had his hands full, protecting himself while still scanning the area for friendlies. Exorcyst was using his cyber suit's chains to fend off enemy attacks and buy us some more time. HeriTech had her hands full trying to keep as many of those things below ground as she could, but there were simply too many for her to contain.
Attrition came to my side, her electric shocks and nerve ending agitators offering me a chance to breathe as she stood, back to back, with me in the middle of the street. Punishing the enemy without mercy while they wailed from the pain. "We need to go, Roland! This initiative is going South on us really fast!"
"This is the spot, Mara! This is where the strongest of the signals came from!"
"Hell Razor says there aren't any traces of humans in the vicinity. Nowhere! Let it go! If needed, we can regroup and come back later!" She said. Just then, two creatures jumped over the hood of a wrecked car to the left of us, and we both had to split up in order to keep their bulky weight from landing on us and pinning us to the ground. Exorcyst jumped into action to protect us! She spun around, her chains lashing out to wrap around two of their throats to choke them both and yank them backwards to the ground. The unnatural way that these monsters roll around and use their wild deformities and off balanced shifting of weight, their movements were always wildly unpredictable. Had Mara not been so incredibly agile and well experienced with the 'Attrition' battle suit, they would have overtaken her in seconds.
I was able to dash and duck two of Hell-Razor's blades as they whizzed past my head and shoulders to hit two more targets directly behind me. All three of us did what we could to get ourselves some space, but the Nosferatu were getting more and more aggressive, toppling over one another to get a shot at us, salivating over the promise of fresh meat. My electro swords cut off so many limbs that I had to be careful not to trip over them as I was fighting. As much as I wanted to save whatever civilians there were that thought it necessary to ask for G.O.D.s assistance, it was quickly becoming clear that we were fighting a losing battle. Merely delaying our inevitable demise by denying the hopelessness of our situation. Maybe it's time that I...
Before I could finish that thought, I noticed one of the massive Nosferatu vampires rushing in to ram me at top speed, digging its shoulder deep into the center of my chest and knocking me CLEAR off the street and into a nearby alley! Shit! Got lost in my thoughts there for a moment. I've got to focus!
As more of them approached me, I fired up the swords and began to jump, spin, and slash at everything moving, until it stopped moving! The blood coated my armor, splattering and spraying the walls around me in excess. We needed an exit. NOW! It's time we get back to the Ark and just write this operation off as a total clusterfuck before we end up in a level of trouble that we can't get out of.
"God's Gift? Where are you? Tell me you're still online!" Exorcyst shouted.
I checked my surroundings for a moment to make sure the area was secure, then answered, "God's Gift, online! Alright, ladies and gentlemen, let's call it quits! Gather up at the rendezvous point! We're making this place a memory!"
"It's about goddamn time!" BLASTphemy replied, and the rest of our squad began to finish off whatever horrid vampire menaces they had standing in their way at the time as they headed back to the pick up area.
But, just as I was leaving that dingy and dirty alleyway, I heard a noise behind me. Something like a tin can or a random piece of trash being dropped to the concrete. My instincts kicked in immediately, my swords lit up brightly enough to create a glow on the walls surrounding me. The crackle of white hot electricity popping and snapping in the air around me.
Silently, I scanned the alley. Listening. Watching. Waiting. And then, I saw it.
A small hand, gripping the side of a dumpster. And when the glaring, nearly white, mop of a teenaged boy peeked out from behind it, I found myself completely lost for words. Aqua blue eyes that radiated beauty, even in the wreckage and blood and the trash filled ruin of the city itself. Once our eyes met, he knew he was caught, standing up and forcing his shoulders back as if to tell me that he wasn't scared of me. An illusion that he wasn't pulling off very well.
Neither one of us said anything at first. The boy was maybe 14 years old. 15 At best. but what troubled me most was the fact that none of my cybernetic tracking systems were picking up on his signature at all. He couldn't be a vampire. It was still daylight hours. But, if he was human, then what the hell is he doing out here all alone like this?
"Roland?" Attrition's voice came over my radio.
"Copy." I answered, still bewildered.
"Um, escape route? That was the plan, right? We're kinda waiting on you to join us."
The boy was frozen before me. I think I was a bit frozen myself. I double checked my monitors, and then asked, "Hell-Razor, pinpoint my location and do a scan of the area. I think we have a survivor here."
After a brief pause, he said, "Nope! Not seeing anything!"
"Check again, " I kept my eyes focused on the boy, as the tension within him seemed to be increasing.
"Nanobot baptismal scan isn't showing anything in your area. Nada! Why? What's up?"
The kid was surrounded by monsters. Monsters that WE brought to the center of State Street with our arrival. As he stepped further out from behind the dumpster, I saw that he was holding a single metal pipe in his hand. That was all he had to defend himself from the horrors waiting just outside of this alley.
"We've got a rescue situation here. I'm bringing him in."
"Bringing who in? There's nobody there." He told me.
"I'm looking right at him, Razor. I'm bringing him in."
There was a longer pause in our communication, and he replied, "Is he a warm blood?" I didn't answer at first, but he repeated, "Is he a warm blood? You've GOT to be sure!"
"He's...I don't know! He looks like one."
"Audra and the guardians of the Ark aren't going to accept a 'maybe' past Heaven's Gate! You've got to be sure on this, Roland!"
Determined, I said, "He won't make it out of this zone alive if we don't take him with us."
"Our mission ONLY pertains to legal civilians! The boy hasn't been 'baptized'! If he hasn't been legally baptized, then he's NOT on record and the G.O.D. initiative isn't responsible for him! Get back to rendezvous point! We need to abort!"
I knew the law. I knew what our mission was and what we were supposed to do, but the fear I saw in that boy's eyes penetrated through my duty to an elitist ideology and, instead, touched upon my humanity. Even if he hadn't taken the nanotechnology injection that allowed G.O.D.'s eye to watch and track him wherever he went, whenever they felt like it, I couldn't just leave him there to fend for himself. 'Baptized' or not.
"I'm bringing him in! Keep the evac protocols steady for just a FEW more minutes!" I said to the others, but as soon as I took a step or two forward to retrieve the boy, he panicked. He ran to the other end of the alley to avoid me.
Then, putting his fist in the air, he turned and shouted, "Justin is TRUTH! Justin is LIGHT! Long live the Vampire DAWN!!!" And with that rebel cry, he quickly climbed on top of the dumpster he was hiding behind and jumped up to grab onto a rather rickety fire escape ladder, pulling himself up and scaling his way towards the roof!
"Wait! Where are you going? Come back! Crazy kid! I'm trying to fucking HELP you!!!" With a frustrated grunt, I fired up my boosters and I started to chase him down. Great! Now I've got THIS to worry about!