I am still not finished with what I thought was going to be a nice little short story. No Beast so Fierce is now up to about 15,000 words, and if I had any inclination at all, I could make it into a nice little novel. Who knows?
I have not been feeling well, though, and that's made the writing rough. I'm going to just add a little bit past what I'd snippeted last week. I hope you still enjoy it.
A thousand years ago. Some people you never forget.
She plainly hadn't forgotten me. Delora paused only long enough to say something to the man standing next to her. I saw his hand reach for what had to be a weapon, but she patted his arm and waved him toward the back of the lounge and the private rooms beyond.
Then she walked toward me. Well, stalked is a better term. O tiger's heart, wrapped in woman's hide. I had thought of Delora the first time I heard those words said on stage, and wished she had been there with me in London. Delora moved with the stance of a human-shaped tiger, ready to spring at anything that got in her way. People moved aside without thinking much about it, and watched her when she passed.
I moved a little to the right and leaned against the wall, a smile taking hold of me despite my better intentions. She looked good -- tall, sleek, and tan-skinned. The years had been good to her, and she hadn't changed much at all. Shorter hair, but still a lovely dark auburn color. She wore a plain black jacket and pants that looked manly, but still didn't quite hide all her curves. The style suited her. I had seen her in armor of one sort or another often enough, but never in a dress. I'd seen her in nothing at all a few times as well...but best not to think about that just now.
She had a weapon at her belt, but it had to be registered or else she wouldn't have gotten it onto the train. That made her a professional of some sort, and I wondered what work she did here. I wondered if we had chanced on this train together because we sought the same enemy.
"Anatoli," she said, finally stopping in front of me, one hand on her hip and her eyes flashing in anger. "You were supposed to meet me in Rome."
"Rome? I thought it was Athens. Ah well, here we are."
She snorted at that answer, as though a thousand years, and another world entirely, made no difference to us. A little grin played at the edge of her wide mouth and the anger melted away. "You look well, Toli. I see you still wear your hair long. It suits you."
"And you've cut your hair. It looks good. Enough small talk. Do you have a private room?"
Her eyes went wide and her cheeks colored a little.
"I didn't mean --" I began in haste, and felt myself flush with embarrassment. "We don't have time --"
"If we don't have time, then no one does."
The door slid closed behind me and I gave it a quick, nervous look, plainly not lost on my old friend. The train immediately started to move before I turned back and she staggered a little. I caught hold of her arm -- shivering at the feel of her beneath my fingers, only a little cloth between us. I thought she did as well, and I let go again in haste.
"We have a problem, Del."
"We --" She stopped, her mouth clamping shut for a moment as she shook her head. "Hell. Don't tell me you still hunt vampires."
I gave a single nod of my head. She drew breath in, a little hiss of sound between her perfect white teeth, and glanced around the room. "Do you know which one it is?"
"I know six of them. I suspect there might be more."
"Son of a bitch."
"Was that personal toward me or just things in general?"
"Both." She drew a hand to the side of her head and tapped something at her ear. Electronics; I suspected she had just given some kind of warning to her partner. I wondered, briefly, about their relationship -- but I wasn't fool enough to ask. "Let's get a table and talk."
"Here in public?" I said, startled.
"No one will pay any attention unless we draw it to ourselves," she replied and took my arm. "Don't start yelling about vampires or change and we should do fine."
I lost the ability to argue with her in that moment when she took hold of me. I think she knew I would, too, and she led me across the room and to the most secluded table she could find. I regretted when Del let go of my arm, and I dropped into the chair with a bit of a graceless thump. Emotions raged in ways I hadn't felt in centuries. Oh, there had been plenty of other women since Del. I'm no saint, after all, and wolf-bred hormones can come on pretty strong. But Del...
Del was fire and I was ice. We should not have mixed, the cat and wolf, but after our first snarling match in an alley -- Was that Persopolis? Or perhaps it had been Troy, during that ill-fated war. We soon found that we had more in common than a penchant to go wild. We had stayed together a long time -- far longer, in fact, than we had been apart.
She ordered tea for both of us. Professional -- we were both on the job, and though I would have gladly bought the finest wine this crate on wheels had to celebrate being with her again, I knew it wasn't wise. As I settled in the chair it conformed around me and I let myself relax into it. I did like some of the modern conveniences of life. Comfortable counted for a great deal after the years I'd spent out in the northern wilds, sleeping in caves.
And as I thought that, the train surged up out of the long underground tunnel and into the bright light of day. Windows brightened on the right and left, and a long line of skylights ran through the middle of the room. I blinked, looking out the window at the long stretch of open ground. I wanted to run, just then. I really wanted to let loose and run with the wind.
Or just run away. Stupid feeling, since I had put myself here. I mentioned that problem with stupidity, didn't I? I gave a quick look around the little area and spotted two of my prey. They appeared to be scouting out the appetizers. I saw one lick her lips and wondered how the hell the humans missed that look of hunger.
A man came to the table and settled too glasses of tea before us. Del nodded her thanks and he slipped away again, but I watched, unsettled. I'd grown too used to the modern age and robos. The live service unsettled me.
"Okay, Toli," she said, her voice dropping. "Tell me what's going on."
I filled her in on everything I had heard, seen and gathered over the last few days -- all of it bringing me to this train, following a gaggle of vampires out on a romp. She didn't doubt any of it. She also didn't look happy.
"I'm sorry I didn't see you earlier. I could have warned you off --" I said.
She shook her head and gave a little flick of her long, thin fingers. "No. My employer would have demanded a really good reason not to take this train, and I suspect 'a bunch of vampires' wouldn't have done it. I suppose I could have changed... but then I'd be out looking for new work. Or more likely a new world. I'm going to go talk to my people --"
"Five others. I'll tell them that you... you're a private guard, like me. And you recognized some gang members. That'll at least give them a reason to stay on their toes."
"You can recognize vampires. Can they?"
"No, but they can be careful of everyone until I can get them cued to which ones. I'll tell them they're probably hypered and very fast."
"And that they kill for fun."
She swallowed that time and looked back at me, nodding. "They're not used to those sorts here on Terra Nova. They haven't lived in the darkness like we have, back at the edge of civilization. They aren't ready for this, Toli."
"Humans never are. That's why we're here."
Del nodded and lifted her tea, sipping at it. I knew that look -- the little distance in her eyes as she considered other things. I wondered if she thought about the work at hand, or if she remembered other days and other jobs we'd done. I thought of both in those heartbeats while the train sped on.
"I better get back before people think I'm fraternizing on company time," she said, sipped more of her drink and then stood. "I'll see you later."
I nodded and watched her walk away, an alluring view of hips moving with just the right motions. Del disappeared too quickly, but I could mark her path for a while longer by the turning of heads. Two at least were vampires. They had no idea what she was. In the old days scent would have clued them that we were not normal humans, but we lived in the age of soap, perfumes, colognes and even gene enhanced deodorants that masked all the immediate signs. It was all Del and I had going for us.
Del worried about her people, and with cause. They were not ready to handle vampires. A good thing I hadn't come on board counting on their help. I had Del, though, and that was an unexpected boon.
I needed to know how many we were going up against, since I suspected more than six. I had counted seventeen in the gang in the city -- a rather larger than normal congregation. Vampires in large groups never lasted long. They drew too much attention.
Contrary to old myths, vampires are born, not made. It is a gene passed from the male -- and they're promiscuous little bastards. They usually capture human women, hold them until the child is born, and then in quaint little vampire custom suck the mother dry and feasting on her flesh. The child is handed over to a female vampire to raise. The females are sterile and so have no children of their own.
Sometimes the babies don't inherit the gene, and those children are immediately abandoned at some appropriate spot. It's not done out of sentimentality or kindness. Chances are the gene will resurface in a few generations, and the descendant's nature will manifest at puberty. They feel the call and go to their own kind.
It's bad timing. A few more years and the child would have learned some manners. Instead, most vamps never grow out of the tough kid, punk stage. They also have no trouble eating and drinking human food -- though getting drunk is a problem, eventually overcome with enough liquor. They cannot, however, get any real sustenance out of regular food. They need human blood and flesh to survive.
They were here to feast.