Hourglass of the Hostile

Biting the Hand that Feeds

My world is briefly consumed by twisted metal and smoke. An unfamiliar sensation blossoms in my abdomen and left thigh, in the tiniest measurable moments between falling through the air and landing heavily on the concrete floor (where more of the as yet unidentified sensation assaults my brain), I finally remember what it is that I am experiencing. Pain.

Dragging myself to my feet, my vision remains obscured by smoke, I can make out some kind of industrial equipment, which flanks either side of me. I shift blood to my left thigh, and feel the shard of still cooling steel embedded in my flesh and bone begin to shift, as ancient muscle and sinew reform around its leading edge, shunting the foreign object from my flesh. The rapid healing wrought by my arcane blood is accompanied by a strangely satisfying ‘ding’ of something metal falling onto the floor near my left foot, my leg already feeling stronger. With a sudden ‘pop’ acuity is returned to my hearing, allowing in a sound which gives me pause for concern: A growing cacophony of human voices, rising in both volume and number. Theirs is a call not heard by my ears in many decades; it is a distinctive call of the species, a call of conflict and fear. In my multiple lifetimes of human experience, I have come to know this as the opening lines to the song of war.

I catch movement in the slowly clearing acrid mist, left behind by the destruction of the metal over-way. My ears catch the sound of many footfalls, all heading in my general direction. To my right, across the machinery, I hear sounds of conflict, of sharp things striking flesh. These noises are joined with an animalistic snarl issued from a human throat, this too is a sound I am familiar with, it is a sound made by those of my kind, the raw bestial nature unique to my Kindred.

As the echoes of that bestial snarl die in my hyper-acute ears, I am beset upon by no less than five humans. They are dressed in dark silken robes, deeply hooded, obscuring all but their chins and clenched teeth. Their dark robes bear the silvery symbol of a beast that is part lion, part goat and part snake – a Chimera, if my memory serves me correctly.

Their assault is well coordinated and furious. I raise an arm and feel bone and wood shatter on contact, a shocked gasp is offered in response following by the hush of air forcibly expelled from lungs as I drive my fist into the source of that gasp, satisfied with the crumple of flesh and bone on contact. Something sharp tears through my Dris-a-bone jacket, sending a brief tendril of pain across my back, I lash out with a foot, and am rewarded with yet another surprised expulsion of air accompanied with further noises of snapping bones and human pain. I am grappled, each arm and my neck. I throw the two on my arms into opposite sides of the machinery, snapping the neck of one, and crumping the skull of another with the ferocity of my blows. The one around my neck attempts to tighten his grip, the fool perhaps forgetting that his prey had forgone the need to draw air centuries ago. My fingers bite deeply into his flesh, crushing ribs and vertebrae as I wrench him from my back and throw his body into another group of approaching attackers.

In the brief reprieve this action gains me, my vision lifts to the higher structures of the manufacturing warehouse. I catch a glimpse of a woman, lying prostrate before a man who stands dressed in a dark silken robe, embroidered with some kind of dog or lion like symbol in silver thread. A child clutches his leg in a near perverse fashion. I also espy a female form, garbed in tight fitting black clothes, her skin the colour of dark stained oak.

My attention is forcibly pulled back to my immediate surroundings, as the assault is renewed, this time with double the numbers, my assailants bearing an unwholesome variety of very deliberate anti-Kindred weaponry: Stakes, long knives, ensnaring chains, nets and sledge-hammers. Calling again on my blood to lend me further unnatural strength and speed, I respond to their well-coordinated attacks, their movements in near slow motion as I stir into action. Theirs is a world of deflected blows, blurring target and pain, as I deliver unwholesome destruction to their flesh and bones. Of course, many blows find their mark on me, most of which are deflected by my ancient and resilient hide, however theirs is a game of volume, and through sheer number of blows, I experience the occasional gouge or snap, as incorrect positioning or a lucky strike slip past my defences.

There are at least a dozen mangled and ruined bodies surrounding me now and yet their numbers surrounding me continue to grow. I can see a press of five to six deep in those that immediately surround me, and I can smell and hear many more swarming throughout the complex.
There is a sudden sharp cry of pain from my left, and I feel a wave of fear briefly pulse through my grouped assailants. Could this be the allies previously observed outside, now joining the fray? Something changes in the faces of my assailants, a rising scream is issued from the throats of those immediately surrounding me, they surge forward and I am buried beneath a wave of snarling and screaming flesh. Fists slam into me, nails claw and blades seek purchase of my flesh. Stunned, briefly by the ferocity of the assault, I gather my limbs beneath me, inching my arms and hands free.

There is a sharp resounding crack, which issues from the north-western edge of the complex. This harsh sound, sends the tiniest pause through the mob piled on top of me, and it is in this briefest of distractions that I make my move. With strength many magnitudes greater than should be possible for my bulk and body mass, I launch myself from the floor, uncoiling my limbs in an explosive burst of unnatural power. Bodies fall away from me like water droplets from a sprinkler, showering the floor with their soft masses. Something grates between the ribs in my back, sending a lance of pain along my spine. The beast, previously stirring around in the background, now takes a step to the fore. I feel my canines elongate, and my eyes glow with the distinctive glare of darkness perception.

My gaze takes in my surroundings, and I am drawn to the silvery rollers of the conveyer system on my western flank. With brutal speed and strength I grip the 3-metre long stainless steel roller, and wrench it free from its setting, bringing the item to bear like some kind of gargantuan baseball bat.

Spinning around I witness a dark shape leap metres into the air, beyond the still massing hordes of attackers. His mass comes slamming down atop several attackers who were mid-clamber across an adjacent conveyer system, flattening them in a bone-jarring motion. Rising briefly, I see his red glowing eyes regard me briefly, his hands elongated, misshapen and claw-like, covered in glistening gore. His vision lifts, first to the scaffolding above, and then to the concrete dais where I had previously caught a glimpse of the strangely attired male and his dark-skinned female accomplice. With speed and power akin to my own, he leaps an inhuman distance towards the individuals on the elevated platform. The human throng before me, presses in again, wary now of the weapon I wield. I reward their bravery with a chest-height swing of the stainless steel pole, crumpling all those in its path as I carve an arc of pain and death. The end of my impromptu club now slickened with blood and human gore.

I catch movement above me, and in the space the swing of my club has afforded me, I witness a familiar shape spring through the air. His distinctive black leather jacket trailing behind him as he soars through the air with shocking speed, I watch as his clawed-hands snags the head of an assailant standing atop the conveyer near to my back. In act of horrific strength, the ensnared body is slung into a further group of attackers, the force of the throw bowling over a mass of humans as if there were mere skittles. Glancing behind him, our eyes meet, and I reply with a fanged smile, a smile which is reciprocated with something feral and only near-human. Thus ends the extent of our communication as yet again our attackers close, their fanatical purpose seemingly greater than any mortal fear of pain or death.

More gunfire, this time it’s origin is from above me, the same weapon, although this time it is answered with an aggressive burst of automatic weapon fire, soliciting a rain of sparks and a somewhat feminine grunt of surprise. Tirelessly, the fanatics press in on me, Further sweeps of the commandeered conveyer support-turned club, cuts swathes through their ranks, bringing me closer to my Grand Childe, who appears to be struggling with the press of humans swarming in from the south western side of the building.

As my position changes, I spy a figure leap from the upper roof scaffolding and descend towards a burly looking dark skinned male. Whilst the leap is well placed, connecting solidly with the figure, the large male seems to be minimally shaken, falling back from the darkly clad female with short hair, whom I presume is the understated Dr Freda Otto.

Back to back, Randal and I hold off our assailants, forming a ring of bowed and bleeding bodies around us. There is more noise coming from the raised concrete platform where I last saw Dr Otto disappear. The sound of a door nearly being torn off its hinges, cries of pain voiced from something more Kindred than Kine. As the seconds pass, and the press around us begins to slightly thin, Randal and myself rotating, young Randal having taken heavier insult to his being than myself, there is a ring of metal on concrete, and then a bright blinding flash, followed by a concussive rush of heat and air, fortunately too far away to be of any threat. Catching Randal’s eyes, his concern brazenly displayed, we are forced to continue our defensive assault, the humans somewhat heartened by the noise. Further moments pass, the numbers of wrecked bodies climbing to multiples of tens, the soft scuffle of feet and cries of human pain briefly overwhelmed by the sharp distinctive roar of a large calibre automatic weapon, leaving a brief eerie silence.

Tapping Randal on the shoulder, I break towards the sound, sweeping another two Robed assailants aside with my gore-slick metal pole hoping the younger Vampire is following in my wake. A sharp metal on metal noise forces a stutter in my step as I gaze upwards at the source of the noise. Situated amongst the pipework and metal walkways is a small thin and pale woman, holding a fire extinguisher. The curious nature of the implement is lost in the greater action of her having forced a rent in a pipe carrying Carbon Dioxide, the contents of which were now forming a descending and thickening cloud around me. Passing through the crowd, I hear an accented female voice call:

“Grab the Elder, and get out of here”

I quicken my pace, leaping over bodies and sweeping aside more figures foolishly attempting to bar my way and slow me down. As I sweep aside the last assailant with a bone-crunching blow from my metal pole, the body becomes entangled, with haste now as my priority I release my warm sticky grip on the bar, tendrils of slow-to-congeal blood stretching in a toffee-like fashion. There is a slamming of metal on metal, shortly accompanied by a brief squeal of tyres and I catch a glimpse of a large commercial truck exiting the now-opened large galvanised doors.

As I clear the conveyor lanes and associated equipment, I am distracted briefly by loud coughing and sounds of caught breath, glancing back I see a group of eight or so robed figures, doubled over and clutching at throats and chest, having foolishly attempted to pursue Randal and myself and passing through the CO2 cloud facilitated by the young Raisa Matvey. My concentration is again broken by the harsh bark of large calibre machine gun fire, the timbre of this weapon carrying a distinctly familiar sound. None-the-less I flinch and reactively duck, instincts even one of my age and experience find difficult to ignore and throw off. The origin of the weapon fire originates from the east of the building, the direction from which I entered. Sweeping my vision around I witness a short squat muscly form, brandishing a Steyr-Aug automatic rifle, his distinctive over-wide and filed-tooth grin strobed by the muzzle flash of the weapon. The roar of the weapon ends mere moments after commencing, and as I close on the concrete ramp leading to the now departed trucks’ last viewed position, I witness a scene of grisly precision slaughter. A line of human bodies, lie wrecked and ruined, their bodies perforated by a myriad of bullet holes, an assortment of viscous rich-iron smelling fluids spilling out onto the floor. Hungry and tired from my trials, I employ every mental trick learned in an effort to push the gnawing call of the beasts hunger. Someone blurs past me, the supernaturally adroit form leaving a brief stretched after-image of a black leather jacket and blue jeans.

As I return my gaze to the line of grisly carnage, my attention is caught by movement from a body lying amongst the torn human bodies. It pushes itself gingerly up on all fours, its body a depiction of horrific punishment. What remains of its clothing is burnt in encrusted strands on its (his?) back, pieces of skin curled and blackened from some kind of intense heat exposure and in the centre, a large puckered wound where glistened bone can be seen in the fluorescent light shining in through the opened door. His brawny arms are covered in what appears to by glassy black splinters, and there are several large grooves bored through parts of his arm, wounds distinctly caused by firearms.

There are further shots from the street outside, accompanied with a feminine cry of rage, however these things no longer concern me, as I approach the slowly moving figure rearing up from the ground. The individual turns his face to me, his twisted visage familiar to me. “Are you ok lad?”, my enquiry sounding almost lame in my ears. Now standing, I can see the hunger in his eyes. Surrounded by so much slaughter and free flowing blood, he is unable to resist the call, and I watch, detached, as he snatches and drains a still gasping Kine.

“Fuckers got away.”

A raspy uncouth voice breaks through the sounds of choking and the low moans of the dying, noises I had somehow blocked from my perceptions. I turn and regard the black militaristically clothed and grey-skinned individual standing beside me. Nodding towards the sound of escaping gas and choking humans I order “Clean-up time Jarrod”. Understanding all I desire in those four words, he departs, the spring in his step a reflection of his enjoyment of his unique and specific talents.

A gasp of hunger satiated returns my gaze to the bruised and battered Vampire, dropping the pale and no-longer breathing corpse onto the concrete floor, I clasp the Kindred on the shoulder. “Sebastion Doyle! You did well lad, I was not expecting such a force”. There is a hint of pride in his animalistic stare, his wolf-like eyes a sign of control let-slip, glare at me, and I am answered simply with a nod and a slight up-turn of the edges of blood-rimmed lips.

As my perception of time begins to return to normal, I am aware of the sounds of humans running, fleeing from the building. Two-figures appear at the top of the concrete ramp, male and female. The woman’s shoulders are slumped forward as if bearing some kind of burden. The male bears an excessive amount of rips and tears in his black leather jacket and jeans. Brandishing a phone in one hand and a still-smoking hand-gun in the other, he appears to be mid conversation, the woman steps forward, a look of defeat and anger on her bookish featured face. “Dr Otto?” I enquire.

“They have gotten away with Doug, I tried to stop them but there was someone else in the cabin” Her accented words, sounding hollow and troubled. I answer simply with a nod, unable to offer more.

“Rick is on his way, probably no more than 2-3 minutes, we are unable to obtain any kind of significant police response as some kind of stouche has erupted down south, between the Angels and the Jokers” There is anger and disbelief conveyed in the tone of voice used by the cities’ Sherriff.

“Is Rick bringing someone to drive?” I ask, the intent of the near cryptic question easily understood by Randal.

“Yep, Kris is with him”.

Nodding I turn to face the assembled members of the Scourge, my eyebrows rising slightly at the recent soundless appearance of Raisa. “We need to get out of town for a few nights”. I raise a hand to silence the protest appearing suddenly on Freda’s face. “You cannot stay here in the city, at least not for the immediate future, I am not ready for my presence to be known to the other elements of the city, and it’s necessary that the three of you are made scarce in the wake of what has transpired here.”

Knowing my explanation to be barely adequate, I am mercifully saved by the arrival of a heavy-looking black Toyota Landcruiser, followed closely by a blue Porsche 911. The plain-featured Rick Fitzgerald disembarks from the Landcruiser, throwing the keys to the concerned looking Kris, having barely exited the Porsche.

With no further explanation, the Scourge is herded into the leather wrapped interior of the armoured four-wheel drive. After a brief quiet word with Randal and Rick, I too, join the Scourge and in uncomfortable silence and bearing the burning gaze of one Dr Freda Otto we depart Adelaide.

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