A war older than the nation
An enemy with agents at every turn
An ancient foe with an offer of peace
The alliance with the Elfin Warriors has allowed the United States Government’s supernatural forces, the Omicron Branch, to hold the line against the demons and take the war to the Vampire Familias, defeating them in battle and reclaiming their resources.
Victory against the vampires, however, leaves David White with a moral dilemma as he captures an entire convoy of freshly turned vampires: beyond saving, but innocent of their species’ crimes. Duty only allows one fate for them—but then an ancient vampire arrives to negotiate for their freedom.
Letting them go drags David into the middle of a political nightmare as the Omicron branch must decide which is more important: Omicron’s authority and revenge for their dead, or the very Constitution and people they are sworn to defend…
Dawn broke to the sound of sirens, dozens of black-and-white vehicles screaming through the streets of Reno in response to the evacuation order. None of the officers in those trucks and cars knew the truth of what was going on, only that Homeland Security had ordered one of the Nevadan city’s suburbs completely evacuated due to a terrorist threat.
If the police beneath his helicopter had any concerns or problems with the “Feds” sweeping in and giving orders, none of it had come across in their communications with Commander David White, Office of the National Supernatural Enforcement Teams.
Now his Pendragon helicopter, a magically stealthed gunship, led a squadron of six of the eerily silent black aircraft across the same suburb, heading towards the glittering casino in the heart of the area.
“What am I looking at, Control?” he asked over the radio.
“The Golden Twilight Casino shut down at two AM,” Cynthia Leitz, the former CIA agent who now worked as the dispatcher for David’s ONSET Thirteen strike team, responded. “They don’t open again for another two hours, so there should be no civilians on site.
“Number of vampires in the building is unknown,” Leitz continued. “The back half of the building either has no windows or has them closed off with security shutters. It’s officially kitchens and private entertaining spaces but could easily hold as many as a hundred fangs—and that’s assuming no underground facilities.”
“What about the intel dump from Dresden?” the stocky team lead asked. The facility they were hitting belonged to the Romanov Vampire Familias…and they’d been provided intelligence on it by the Dresden Vampire Familias.
There were advantages to your enemies having a civil war.
“His data says there’s about two dozen personal suites, and what looks like a frigging dungeon under the building. Any info from that dump is at least six months out of date, though, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve run into an underground structure we have no idea how the vampires built!”
“That’s fair, if less than useful,” David groused.
“I’ve had worse briefings,” Commander Kate Mason, the leader of ONSET Fifteen, the other strike team attached to this operation, interrupted. “Command says you’re in charge, David. What’s the call?”
“Is Klein on the channel?” he asked.
Jun Klein was a trained battle Mage, seconded to ONSET from the Elfin Warriors, a paramilitary supernatural organization that wasn’t supposed to have trained battle Mages. He also commanded the three squads of Elfin Warriors deputized and assigned to this operation.
“Klein, I want your people to ground in the parking lot and lock down the exits,” David ordered. “You’ve got the drawings, same as I do. There are multiple entry and exit points and I want them all secured.”
“The fangs won’t run in daylight.”
“They may try and run via vehicle from the parking lot,” the team leader pointed out. “Once you’ve secured the exterior, move in and take control of the public spaces. Secure civilians, try and keep a low profile.”
“And us?” Mason asked.
“You’re going to hit the roof above the main casino, punch through and sweep,” he answered. “Dresden’s intel says we’ve got at least one hidden floor up there, so our undead friends are almost certainly hiding up there.”
“ONSET Thirteen is going to hit the main loading dock and move in. That’s where we expect the heaviest resistance and the most likely route of egress. We’ll all punch inward and meet in the gooey center.
“Remember, people, there are almost certainly prisoners being held as portable blood supply,” he said grimly. “We want to keep those poor bastards alive.”
“And the fangs?” Klein asked.
“You know the standing orders,” David said flatly. “Take them out.”
A steady stream of cars and busses flowed through the streets away from the Golden Twilight, loaded and guided by the uniformed men and women of the Reno police. At the center of the expanding storm was the area they’d already evacuated, an eerie silence seeming to ripple outward from the casino as the ONSET helicopters came overhead.
The four carrying Klein’s Warriors landed first, disgorging twenty armed supernaturals who swarmed the exterior of the building, taking cover behind the scattered vehicles as they moved to lock down the entrances.
The vampires wouldn’t be able to come out into daylight, but they almost certainly had blood-bound Thralls who would willingly fire on Federal agents for their undead masters. The sirens and evacuation had robbed them of the chance for surprise, but David wasn’t willing to risk civilian casualties—or civilian witnesses to his people’s supernatural powers.
Powers that were demonstrated as the helicopter carrying Mason’s ONSET Fifteen stooped on the roof of the casino. Mason herself was a powerful Mage, and her second-in-command, Bella Samuels, was a weaker but still potent magic-wielder.
A fifty-meter-square chunk of the casino roof simply vanished, disintegrated into dust by the power of the US government’s combat-gear-clad wizards, and then the Pendragon’s cannons opened up, walking explosive shells through the wreckage, the ONSET team flagging targets for the guns as they dropped into the chaos.
“Our turn,” Shevon McCreery, David’s new pilot, lilted as the chopper plummeted towards the loading docks. “Door-knocker preference?”
The lanky and shaven-headed McCreery was Empowered, a member, like David himself, of the grab-bag of supernaturals whose gifts didn’t line up with any particular myth or legend. In her case, she was slightly faster and stronger than a regular human, with vision she could dial from microscopic to “read the flag on the moon,” and perfect kinesthetic sense.
She was the perfect sniper, pilot—or helicopter gunner.
“Take those loading bay doors down,” David ordered.
“Coming right up.”
The Pendragon charged across the parking lot toward the industrial-scale loading bay, currently empty, and the cannons spat fire. A different pilot would have used the chain guns’ fully automatic fire to shred the doors. McCreery fired six shots—and the two big metal doors cooperatively collapsed, falling forward onto the ground to create convenient ramps.
McCreery landed the helicopter neatly at the foot of her newly created ramps and smiled back over her shoulder at David.
“Access granted, sir.”
David hit the ground to the echoing thunder of a trio of explosions.
“What the hell was that?” he demanded on the command channel.
“Three SUVs with blacked-out rear compartments just tried to make a run for it,” Klein reported. “They fought the LAWs and the LAWs won.”
Light Anti-armor Weapons were one-shot anti-tank rockets. The SUVs might have been armored, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the Warriors had hit them with the disposable missiles.
“I take it they aren’t going anywhere?” David replied.
“And neither is anything else,” the Warrior replied in a satisfied voice. “Parking entrance is debris, wreckage and fire. Nobody is getting out until we bring in a bulldozer.”
“Good. Leave a few more of the rockets with a team to make sure of that, and then move on the main entrance. We’ll meet you in the center.”
“Is it soft and gooey?”
“That depends on how many explosives it takes to get there,” David told the Warrior, shaking his head. Klein was very competent, but he was not a professional. Working with the Elfin was taking some getting used to.
David’s prescient threat sense flared even as his subordinate began shouting, dodging sideways as a machine gun opened fire. A stream of silver bullets flashed through where he’d been standing, but the big man was literally inhumanly fast.
By the time he hit the wall, his sidearm was out and a three-round burst of fifty-caliber silver rounds spat back at the machine gun. An ordinary human’s wrist would have shattered under the impact of the caseless rounds firing, but David hadn’t been ordinary in quite some time.
The machine gun fire stopped—and then a new gun opened fire much closer to David as Chris “Stone” Johnson, his team’s heavy weapons expert, returned the favor. The tall shaven-headed Agent walked the fire from his magically stabilized M60 across the area the defenders had attacked from, shattering walls and crates alike.
Then a streak of blue flame blasted through the hole Stone had created and exploded as Kate Hellet, David’s Mage, finished clearing the zone.
There was no more incoming fire, but the brief firefight had made a mess of the loading dock. Crates of food and the various supplies needed to run a casino were scattered around them, many of them shattered or thrown aside by the firefight. One wall was a burning wreck around a set of double doors, leading toward where David’s augmented-reality helmet overlay said the vampire quarters should be.
“Control,” he addressed Leitz. “Shouldn’t there have been some kind of vehicle here? This kind of loading dock is almost never empty.”
“Checking,” she replied crisply. “Shit. There were four trucks parked there when we pulled the recon photos at sunset. They must have moved out overnight.”
“Find them,” David ordered, then holstered his pistol and drew his sword, a leaf-bladed weapon with a strange red tint. “Thirteen, on me. Let’s go burn some vampires.”
“Secret upper floor is a nightmare theme park,” Mason reported on the radio. “There were about a dozen fangs up here—all neutralized—but it looks like it started life as the private party room. And then someone added the lovely stone blocks with the restraints and the blood channels.”
The Mage sounded more than a little sick.
“They’ve been used recently, too,” she concluded. “We’re sweeping the area, but I think we’ve secured this floor. Thermal scans suggest prisoners—and secret walls hiding said prisoners. We’ll find them, because Horned One give me strength, a mere wall is not stopping me from saving those people.”
“Understood,” David replied, his own suit’s thermal scanners sweeping the backrooms. Vampires weren’t quite room-temperature, but it was definitely easy to tell the difference between them and their prey via thermal scans.
It wasn’t so easy to tell the difference between their prey and their blood-addicted minions, but that responsibility went with the job. By and large, you could draw the distinction by who was shooting at you.
His pair of subordinates trailed in his wake as he charged into the central hallway of the rear section of the casino, the demon-forged sword Memoria glowing red in his hand as the squad of Thralls waiting for him opened fire.
Assault rifles barked, the reports echoing in the enclosed space as David dodged where the bullets were going to be, ducking under the gunfire as he blurred across the room.
Self-preservation won over the combination of addiction and mind control that made the men Thralls, and half of them threw down their weapons as the Empowered cop arrived in their midst. The others tried to open fire at point-blank range.
A blur of steel later and half a dozen men collapsed to the floor. Those who surrendered would live. So would some of the ones who hadn’t, if they made it to a doctor in time.
“Put pressure on the bleeding,” David snapped at the Thralls who’d thrown down their guns. He calmly wrecked each of the weapons in turn. “A follow-up team will be here momentarily. If you don’t cause trouble, you’ll only be arrested.”
The three dead men on the floor were a mute answer to what would happen if they did cause trouble.
“No vampires here,” Stone noted, catching up. He pointed his M60 at one of the Thralls. “The fangs. Where’d they go?”
“Down,” the man said, his eyes crossing as he stared at the barrel of the gun. “They went downstairs. We were to hold while they got out.”
“Where are the prisoners?” Hellet demanded, joining them.
“Upstairs,” the Thrall said quickly.
“There are cells under here,” David pointed out. “What was down there?”
“We use them for prisoners sometimes, but they’d kept everyone except the fangs themselves out of the underground for the last month.” The man was starting to hyperventilate as Stone’s gun, held in hands that had literally transformed to granite and had no give to them at all, sat motionlessly in his face. “I don’t know anything.”
“Stone,” David said warningly. “He surrendered. Everything from here goes by the book.”
The only reason the Thrall wasn’t likely to be executed was that the process of weaning him off vampire blood was excruciating…and had a sixty percent likelihood of killing him before he ever went to trial.
“Thermals show this floor is clear,” Hellet told David. “I guess we’re going downstairs?”
“Klein, Mason,” he said into the channel. “Back section is clear of vampires. I have prisoners; I’ll need a security detail.
“We’re going to hit the dungeon. Mason, I want ONSET Fifteen coming in right on our heels.
“We don’t know what’s down there.”