Srathek didn’t like being in human form. Humans were the weakest of creatures he could appear as, but that was the only creature that was on Earth. Sighing to himself he approached a non-descript warehouse in Blackpool, Lancashire. The warehouse seemed abandoned, but Srathek knew better. This was likely a base for the Guardians of Humanity council. One of the few still guarded by people who listened for certain passphrases.
With a swift knock on the door Srathek stated the passphrase. “May Gormaliev not calculate against you.”
The door opened slowly. “And may The Calculating turn her schemes away from you, as well. Enter.”
Srathek walked into the warehouse. “I believe Shane is waiting for me. I’m Stan.”
“Yes, he is. Down the hall, third door on the right, Stan.” The guard closed the door and locked it before sitting back down behind a set of monitors watching the exterior of the building.
“I see you’ve added cameras to the setup.”
The guard grunted an affirmative then motioned back to the hallway.
Shrugging Srathek walked down the hall. “Third door on the right…ah, here we go.” He knocked on the door in rapid succession, three knocks. “It’s Stan.”
The door opened so fast it practically flew off the hinges. “Stan? I thought you weren’t being serious about meeting here!”
Srathek looked amusedly at Shane. “My, my Shane. You sure set the appointment, though.”
Shane pushed his round glasses back onto his face and brushed his long, sweaty, black hair to one side. “I was making the precaution. Do you want to go for a walk, perhaps?”
“That would probably be best, Shane.” Srathek looked him up and down. “You look like you need the sun.”
– – –
Cerdic and Veron sat at a petrol station in the town of Hurst Green. They were waiting for the tank to fill and Cerdic was polishing off a hamburger.
“So, we’re just going to drive back down to Rawtenstall, then?” Cerdic fed the last bite of the hamburger to Grimm.
Veron sighed. “Yes, we are. We need to get you back to your handler and the railroad may be compromised. You remember the hyb-” He caught himself and looked around to see if anyone was listening. “The guy you met on the train?”
“He may have been working for Albrite. We can’t be too careful.” Veron paid for the petrol and started the car back up. “Let’s get going. Southward bound.”
Cerdic shrugged in the left seat. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school, or something?”
An annoyed expression crossed Veron’s face. “First, it’s summer, and second no. I finished school and am a full-time agent.”
“Well, don’t you need to be on your assignment, then?” Cerdic said sheepishly.
“I guess they think I don’t need to worry about it.” Veron shrugged. “Let’s just get you home and back to work, shall we?”
– – –
Veron and Cerdic sat on the shoulder of a country road next to the car. Grimm sat nearby, watching the road, though there weren’t any cars in sight. The back-right tire was flat, and the spare tire was on the road. The jack kit was lying open without a spanner in the kit.
“Well, I could have sworn I kept a spanner in there.” Veron leaned against the car. “My phone died and yours doesn’t have service. Man, we’re so lucky.”
“I know, I know.” Cerdic checked his phone again. “I just have the wrong carrier, I guess. Do you think your phone is charged up now?”
“Doubtful. It doesn’t turn on until it’s at 20% or more battery.”
With a sigh Cerdic stood again. “I’m going to take a look at that tire. Something’s bothering me about it.”
Veron shrugged and patted Grimm on the head. “He’s a strange one, you know. Maybe you should bond with me instead.”
Grimm cocked his head to the side and barked lightly.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Gormaliev didn’t make a pact with me for a reason.” He slumped a little. “Don’t know why, but she has her reasons.”
Cerdic looked over the flat tire. When he looked at the right angle, he could see some sort of collection of triangles slowly fading away. They seemed to be made of shadows. Shrugging, Cerdic pulled on the rubber of the tire. It flaked away, as if it had become brittle. With a tug the rubber ripped from the wheel and Cerdic was able to see the inside of the tire. The tube was torn to shreds, but the inside of the tire had score marks all along it perpendicular to the rotation. He picked up the rubber and walked back over to Veron.
“Hey, Veron. Does this look like a normal flat to you?”
“What?” Veron stood and looked at the rubber Cerdic was holding. “Is that flaking off?”
Cerdic flicked the side of the tire and rubber flakes fell to the ground. “Yeah, I think we’ve been sabotaged.”
“That’s not good. Looks like necrotic magics.” Veron pulled an amulet out of his trouser pocket. “This is an emergency amulet. Do I need to use it?”
“There’s another thing, I saw something. It looked li-” Cerdic was cut off as a series of popping sounds went off.
“Shast!” Veron gripped the amulet and said something that sounded latin. “Help will be here soon. Keep your head down until then.” He dragged Cerdic down and around the car. He reached up and pulled a sheet from the back of the car. “Umbra,” he whispered as he pulled the fabric over Grimm, Cerdic, and himself.
The fabric was see-through from the inside, but Cerdic could have sworn the fabric was tan like the interior of the car.
A pair of feet worked their way around the car and when the person came into view Cerdic put a hand over his mouth to keep himself from gasping. He was a lanky with sunglasses, and blood streaming from his mouth.
“Pah, the local wildlife taste disgusting. Too bad we have orders not to feast on the targets.’
“Do you see them?”
“Nah, there’s nothing over here. Did Shane know who they were, exactly?”
A burly man came around the other end of the car. “Uh, a pactless Aelfson and a Usual.” He froze mid-step. “Grak! They activated an emergency amulet. Someone’s coming.”
“Well, let’s hurry, then. They must be cloaked. I’ll try sniffing for them.”
The burly man sighed. “And why, pray tell, were you not already doing that, dear vampire?”
With a sigh the vampire sniffed the air. “Because I still had the smell of my meal in my nostrils…they have a dog with them.” He walked right next to Cerdic, Veron, and Grimm. “Should be right here.” He groped in the air over their heads. “Odd.”
Rolling his eyes, the burly man started to bring back his leg as if to kick. He never completed the action, as a new set of popping noises surprised the man. “Quick, let’s get out of here.” The burly man made motions in the air with his hands and Cerdic saw geometric shapes forming around it. As the shapes started to intertwine a dagger-like triangle smashed through them, breaking them to pieces. As the shattered shapes dissipated two other men circled the car.
“Ah, Jeremy and Patrick.” Eric said. “What are you doing here?”
“Treeft,” the vampire swore. “I told you this was a trap, Jer.”
Jeremy sighed. “No, Pat. I told you to hurry. You were taking your time.”
“Grimm. Bite the vampire, will you?” Eric looked directly at Grimm, through the fabric.
Breaking out of hiding, with a snarl, Grimm chomped onto Patrick’s leg. The vampire cried out and started striking at Grimm. Most of the blows passed right through the grim.
With the fabric moved Cerdic and Veron were in the open. The second man that had arrived with Eric pulled the two of them to their feet. “I’m glad you used the amulet. I remember you telling me once you’d rather die than be rescued by me.”
Veron half-heartedly punched the man in the shoulder. “Shut up, cuz. Just deal with these guys. Henry won’t give Eric all the credit, will he?”
“Oh, fine.” Henry made a series of jerking motions with his hands. “Lux!” A ray of sunlight went directly into the vampire’s face. Cerdic noticed that the geometry that made up the spell was also designed to melt his sunglasses, and they did so readily.
With a loud shriek Patrick fell to his knees. “My eyes! My eyes!” He groped at his leg, trying to grip Grimm. “I need blood, now!”