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October 03, 2022

The Complex 17

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper continued to ponder what he'd discovered over two hundred years ago, when he went out seeking the Master vampire who'd dared to use a forbidden ritual for turning humans into vampires rather quickly and at a cost. The ritual was forbidden by the current reigning Vampire Council, as well as by most Master vampires who'd lived for over two or three hundred years. The cost was that when the turning ritual was summoned, any vampires within a certain proximity were completely drained of their own vampiric skills and powers -- which were then pushed into the turning and flooded through the Master using the ritual. The vampires became little more than weak fledglings until they'd drawn enough blood from the human populace. The glamour that most vampires used, if they didn't push into their victim's minds, was gone and they were vicious and brutal trying to get their power back as quickly as possible.

His fledgling, Julia, looked thoughtful then asked her Master, "Sire, what will happen when the humans notice the slaughter?"

Jerry chuckled. "With the storms covering the region, they will claim a collapsed building or a horrifically large gas leak and the drained bodies will just disappear. It's happened before and will happen for hundreds of miles as the many vampires we've pulled from begin to prey on humans as to regain their missing skills. We are the only vampires not out trying to replace what we've lost," Jerry reminded Julia.

She looked pensive.

"We'll be fine, my Child. But the hunter that landed in Florida will head south slowly but surely. After the vampire has peered into the faces of a couple dozen Master vampires littering the state, southern Florida is pretty much the next destination. Our window of opportunity is limited and we will need to be gone before the Council's tool shows up." Jerry well knew how the Vampire Council operated. Hell, they'd shoved him in a coffin and tried to break him and kill him.

"Sire, what if Ben doesn't show up?" She asked, putting a very good query.

He laughed, "Ben Richland pretty much has to show up. He really doesn't have much of a choice, since he's the territory vampire. He's not considered a Master vampire since he's just an enforcer for the Vampire Council, but for the region he is pretty much 'it' as far as the Council's concerned. If he doesn't show up, the Vampire Council will put out a kill order on him and lay the blame for all the chaos happening in Florida on his throat." Jerry wasn't kidding -- that was Ben's future. Win, lose or draw ... well, except for the little sojourn to the dark side when Julia and he would snatch him out of his world into theirs. If he survived the meet, which Jerry wasn't so sure was on the agenda. Before Jerry was heading out to find Ben, the Council was sending an envoy to meet and greet Ben. He was now being held responsible for the utter chaos within his territory.

Jerry nearly felt bad, but then again he wouldn't have even been in Florida if it hadn't been for Ben and his crew.

She looked a bit concerned then said, "But it wasn't his fault."

"No matter. The Council willingly sacrifices the vampires they need to in order to keep the general vampire populace happy and nicely deluded. They know perfectly well that everyone needs a scapegoat -- vampires and humans alike." Jerry answered while waiting for Julia to realize his point. He didn't want to shove everything down her throat -- so to speak -- but needed her to comprehend how bad the Council was. They had swayed more than one vampire on the edge to their point of view. Most of those vampires were literally dust in the wind. The Council talked a good game but most of what they said were lies. Pretty little lies, but lies all the same.

"But with my creation Ben doesn't have any actual vampire power." She didn't meet Jerry's gaze, but then she had only been a vampire for less than twenty-four hours. She was still battling her base humanity. Jerry found it mildly endearing and more than a bit exasperating as she struggled with her change. It was times like this that he truly missed his minions and older fledglings. They'd taken control of educating new fledglings without him having to explain anything or wait for the newly-turned to comprehend the basics.

But yes, he'd created her using that ritual, but it wasn't something she'd had a choice about, and he didn't regret it for a minute. He'd gained more skills and talents than he'd had for a very long time. They added to his vampiric repertoire for which he was very grateful. Short of true death, there was nothing anyone could do to rob him of those gifts. But after his involuntary incarceration by the Vampire Council, he knew that his gifts could be buried deeply for a long time.

"My Child, that actually has nothing to do with you. Ben made his own bed and I fully intend to help him die in it." Jerry freely admitted.

She sniffled a bit and said, "But somehow I still feel like I am to blame for all of this."

Jerry laughed even louder. The wind picked up his mirth and carried the laughter out while he summoned his reply.

"Julia, look at me." He commanded her.

His fledgling lifted her eyes to his and he saw that blood-thick tears filled her gaze. She was so raw that he didn't want to point out she was leaking blood down her face. He knew it had to do with her youth and the stress of the moment, but still it was disconcerting, to say the least. Instead of drawing her attention to her tears he went closer and pulled her face into his dark shirt.

With her face ensconced in his chest he said, "We will get through this. Don't you worry." He was worried, but he didn't want to panic her. The meeting with Ben wasn't that far away. He knew he had more power and strength than he'd had a few years ago, not to mention he didn't even look like the same person, but the feeling of vulnerability he'd experienced under Ben's control still weighed heavily on him. And he wasn't as arrogant as he had been since he'd had to scramble from the bottom up all over again. He'd lost some of his pride. He didn't delude himself and think that he was perfect, but he had tried.

Julia nuzzled into his body and said, "Thanks I needed that."

He bit back a smile because he did, too. The feeling of warmth that spread throughout his body having her pressed into him was good. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed having a family, how he'd been desperate for kin. Julia was reminding him of his past. A piece of his heart was healed with the creation of his fledgling.

The pulse of feeling that he'd noticed had diminished. Julia felt it also because she said, "The hunter's gone?"

Jerry sighed, "No, the vampire just found some new Master vampire to feed on and isn't focused anywhere but there. We don't have much time."

And they didn't. Jerry couldn't make Ben appear, nor the vampire he was to meet. They still stood in the shadows of some heavy vegetation on the southeast corner of the road. The fountain in the center of the roundabout seemed to be the most logical meeting point off one of the barrier islands along the Florida coast.

Jerry knew it was around ten-forty because to his surprise, the drawbridge was raised. A single boat puttered beneath the bridge not more than six inches higher than the bottom of the road. He didn't believe anyone was stupid enough to venture onto the water during a storm, but it seemed that he was wrong.

The boat rocked back and forth in the canal, almost crashing into the sides of the raised bridge. Jerry had to wonder why the bridge operator didn't simply turn the craft back. He was close enough to slip into the human's mind so he did. To his horror he found the man was truly embracing the suggestions Jerry'd shoved into his brain, allowing the boater to make his own decisions and praying to God that it was the man's destiny. That the operator had so easily taken Jerry's suggesting served to prove how easily the man was swayed. Mentally Jerry redirected a bit of the human's thoughts to be a little more practical. Shrugging, he hoped he'd get a chance to check on him again and see what sorts of progress the mental programming had taken after a few years. He didn't think that he'd have time before he left Florida to head to the West Coast, but he knew the man wasn't going to leave his job anytime soon. It was always good to have tools at his disposal.

They watched the bridge lower back into place and turned towards the fountain in time to see a shadowy figure lurking on the north west side of the water feature. It was a very weak vampire. Jerry mentally ran over the vampire's thoughts and sighed.

"That's Maxwell. It means that Ben is somewhere near, watching."

Both of them began to mentally seek out the older vampire when another vampire suddenly appeared. Whoever the Vampire Council had sent had taken the time to drink down a human or two because the speed wasn't human, and yet not entirely vampiric fast. Without uttering a single sound the new vampire struck Maxwell to the ground.

Then a soft hiss of a voice, "Where's your Master?"

Maxwell looked up from the wet pavement beneath the shadow of the fountain's edge and said, "My Master is dead."

"Ben Richland's dead? Who killed him? When?" The vampire staggered back and was illuminated by the evening skies. The dark clouds had dissipated enough to allow the stars to shine down. And they both saw the Vampire Council's envoy. It was an amazingly handsome male. Long chestnut hair tied back with a strip of leather, chiseled features reminiscent of Roman and Greek gods carved into marble and dark eyes. The vampire wasn't ancient, but of Mediterranean origin, and he was shattered by the idea that Ben was dead.

To Jerry it looked like the unknown vampire actually knew Ben. He thought about it for a minute and saw the logic. The enforcers didn't always work in the same group. A few vampires who'd never worked for very long together had been responsible for his capture, he'd discovered as the tensions came out when Jerry refused to crack under their taunts and torture. Celina Holston had worked with Ben before, but she hadn't worked with him in a while as she was sent off on her own little vampire games at the Council's directive.

Maxwell looked shocked, "What? Not Ben. He's not my Master. Shit, you don't know anything."

Even after being driven to the ground, Max couldn't resist the smart-ass comments. For that, the vampire brought his right booted foot back and slammed the toe into the fallen vampire's rib cage. Even from their distance they heard the audible crack of bones breaking. Maxwell whimpered and said, "Fuck that hurts. Still doesn't mean you know shit."

The vampire's face was expressionless as he continued to kick into Max's curled up form. Each time his boot made contact Jerry heard another bone fracture or crack in half. Max didn't do much more than huddle with his hands over his head protecting his face. He didn't resist or even try to turn away from the abuse.

Julia looked at Jerry with huge eyes. Seeing the puzzlement, he slipped into her thoughts and said, "To resist would mean the Council could take Maxwell's head."

She shuddered and wrapped her arms tighter around her stomach. The skirt and shirt she'd dressed in hours ago wasn't particularly thick material, but the evening was warm and tropical in wake of the storms. She wasn't cold from the elements but from watching the Council's dog brutally kick the crap out of Maxwell.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-03-26
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