(Sequel to A NECESSARY EVIL found her: https://www.weasyl.com/view/201002)
The Esoteric Collapse
October 1st, 2023 – midafternoon (Two weeks later)
San Francisco, California.
Karla Howard’s soft green eyes fell upon the oddly small fox. She looked around the alley then glanced back down at the little fox, staring up her skirt. The rather small creature sat on its haunches and wrapped its white-tipped tail around itself. Its blacktopped ears perked up tall. The gorgeous orange fur of its coat rustled in the soft breeze that whistled through the alleyway.
After a moment to stare at the petite animal, she knelt adjacent to the fox, palm up, keeping her hand beneath the fox’s nose, but not too close to its mouth. The small vermillion animal surprised her by ducking his head down in a submissive way, using her hand to pet itself. A grin tugged at the corner of Karla’s pink-painted lips. She turned her hand over and began to gently scratch behind the canid’s left ear.
In response, the little fox’s whiskers lay back along its muzzle and it churred audibly in delight. “Aw, the ‘feels’ are strong in this one.” The animal’s tone became a slight vibrato as she moved her finger from left to right behind its ear. “Aren’t you just the cutest thing? I’m not sure why but I seem to have this affinity for foxes as of late; every time I see one of you little critters, I get a case of the ‘feels’ all over.” She cupped the back of the animal’s head, using her thumbnail to rub behind each ear. Her fingertips brushed against something beneath the fluffy orange fur at the nape of its neck. She felt a rope collar and eased down a bit further on one knee. Beneath the fox’s neck, it had a paper tag. In small print was written, “Kuda-gitsune.”
“Well, uh, Kuda. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Karla, I’m a succubus; I immigrated from Wales to Washington DC in the 1600’s, then I came to California during the Gold Rush, just like everyone else. Let’s see – I like long walks on the beach, as well as sex on the beach. The drink, too. I can throw objects with my mind and teleport short distances. …And I’m addicted to the internet. So, little guy, what’s your story?”
Suddenly, the creature leapt from the ground with the grace of a cat. It ran up the sleeve of her blouse then settled on her shoulder. The fox’s tail trailed down her back, adjacent to her lengthy locks of blond hair. “Oh… kay then. I’ve never really cared much for fur coats or fur scarves, but… if you insist. One condition: You’ve gotta stay in your coat, kiddo. I’ve always shunned fur clothing, dearheart.” Karla began walking with the abnormally small fox still perched on her shoulder. She cut across the alley then stopped on the corner. Karla held her left hand out, palm up.
A young woman on a bike came by at a high rate of speed with a piece of paper in her grasp. As she passed by Karla, the two women looked away from one another. The cyclist turned at the next intersection and was gone.
Karla opened the piece of paper that had been deposited in her hand. She glanced over the words then folded the paper back into a small square and hid it in her bra. The little fox on her shoulder leaned down and sniffed at where she hid the paper, to the left of her cleavage. Its whiskers tickled her skin.
She giggled softly, “Hey, cut that out. You’re not my type.” Then she reached up and ran her fingers back through the creature’s headfur, between its ears. “I didn’t even know foxes came in your size.” She hooked her finger through the rope collar and said, “Hold on to your tail, kid.” All at once, she disappeared from the corner.
Moments later, she appeared in front of a gorgeous antiquated mansion. Karla took a moment to fix her wind-swept hair, from having teleported across the skyline, a few hundred feet at a time. The fox clung to her, nuzzled up against her neck, with its claws half-buried in her blouse. She smoothed the fabric down with her palm, then her skirt.
She marched up the marble steps, approached the front door then disappeared once more, only to reappear in the foyer. “Honey, I’m home!” she shouted. Her voice reverberated down the length of the hallway ahead of her.
On either side of the hallway, twin staircases came down from a splendid mezzanine. However, instead of ascending the stairs, Karla blipped from the first floor to the second and approached a set of French doors at the top of the dual staircases. The succubus reached for both handles and opened them together. “Kalen!” she called out in a Cuban dialect, “I want you to say hello… to my little friend!”
She walked into the master bedroom and approached an enormous bed against the back wall. Drapes were drawn over the balcony doors at the far left and right corner of the back wall. A chandelier, above the bed, illuminated the room but only slightly.
Karla reached for a fader switch on the wall then decided against it. Instead, she approached Kalen in the dim room and sat down on the left side of the bed. She reached across the large mattress and put her hand on his shoulder then gave him a gentle nudge.
Kalen Kincade pushed the covers down and eased up onto his elbows. He yawned softly then stretched. “Did you get it? What time is it?”
“A little after four-thirty. Yes, Kimosabi. I went into town, I got the message; I bring’ed you the information.”
Kalen sat up a bit more then leaned back against the headboard. “Christ. I haven’t seen The Lone Ranger since… actually, I think I only ever caught it on the radio. Speaking of the radio, did you hear they lowered all flags to half-mast today for those two cabinet members?”
Karla reached into her blouse and plucked the piece of paper from her bra. “Yeah. Weird, right? Those guys died two weeks ago. I was practically right there when it happened. There’s something weird about the whole thing.”
“Agreed. One can’t help but wonder – why wait two weeks?” He took the page from her and reached for a secondary fader switch on the wall, above the headboard, then edged it up. The chandelier brightened a bit. Kincade’s eyes danced across the words on the paper then he folded it again. “There will be a network sweep tonight; Falcon’s people have been granted access from six this evening until six tomorrow evening. Don’t go anywhere downtown. CCTV cameras would be able to identify your face. Geometrics are fairly accurate. It appears the hunting parties have increased their efforts in search of supernatural survivors. And…” he froze. Kalen tilted his head, staring at Karla. “Is that a ferret on your shoulder?” he asked.
“No,” said Karla with a smirk. “It’s an economy-sized fox. Only this one isn’t a Volkswagen.” She offered a Cheshire grin.
In a childishly clue voice, she said, “S’ mah new friend.” Karla cleared her throat then folded her arms. “So, bloodsucker-man, what’s the bloodsucker-plan?”
The vampire eased from the bed and crossed the room to a walk-in closet. He pulled a string switch. The closet bulb flooded the dim bedroom with a burst of yellow illumination. Kalen rummaged through the clothes hanging within.
Kincade called back to her from within the closet. “The message is from Donovan – didn’t you read it?”
“Nope. Not me,” she said with innocent eyes.
“Well, your new friend is quite useful. He said that there will be a several operations ongoing this evening. But the one that stood out to Donovan as particularly important was an attack on a family house at ten this evening. The parents apparently carry a supernatural gene but they never manifested. Their child, however, is said to display advanced control of telepathy. At eight years old, he can put his own voice into the mind of another, and make them hear his thoughts. That kind of mastery for his age… it’s undocumented. I wish the Esoteric Community hadn’t been destroyed – they would be able to help him through this part of his life.”
Karla frowned. “Poor kid.” A grin returned to her lips. “So, is he like the professor from X-men? Can he plant suggestions in your head?”
“Karla… telepathy. Not dominance. I only know of two people who have that kind of power – the St. Leonard brothers, Sire and Reinhardt.”
The succubus shrugged. “Reinhardt is dead. I saw the video – he was wearing a Google Glass headband when conducting a conference. Proof it was the real guy – his astral projections can’t wear anything physical. But, yeah, they were attacked during the meeting. Both the Grand Justicar and the Pacific Regional Justicar were killed by someone they apparently knew. At least… that’s what I gathered from the PRJ’s words in the video. And I don’t think I’ve met Sire. I’ve only ever heard his name once or twice. I’m told he’s a looker, though.”
“Alright, alright… let’s get ourselves back on topic. You and Donovan should rescue this child.”
“You won’t help us?”
Kalen Kincade stepped from the closet dressed in an expensive suit and blazer. “I’ve not spoken to Donovan Loupe because he had a falling out with Mistress Natalia.”
“Yeah, yeah… they’re related or something. They both do the shadow thing. You’re her ‘vampiric childer,’ but they were beefing before you were born, Kalen. Newsflash, ankle biter… Natalia has been in slumber for how long? Decades, right? Why not do whatever suits you? Hey! You know what’s funny? I’ve known you for a long-ass-time, Kalen… and I only just met Donovan. Small world, though, right? That you all knew each other already? And we’re all survivors…?” She frowned, seeing his stoic expression. With a sigh, the demoness tried a softer tone. “Look. Natalia is doing that whole… torpor thing. So let it slide.”
“Karla… She’ll be waking soon; I operate per her orders.”
“Kalen! Dammit, babe. Natalia would understand! There’re only a few supernatural people left in the world. I don’t care how easy it is to insult her… she would let this slide. There’s strength in numbers. Those goons are going after a child. That’s unacceptable.”
Kalen walked around to the far side of the bed and approached Karla. He put a hand on her shoulder, opposite of the fox, and said, “Listen… tonight was never about Donovan. There are others believed to be in danger. I am going to be working with your friend, Johann Foster. He and another boy, Evan, are working together against hunting squads. Unfortunately, those boys treat it like it’s some sort of joke game. I need to make sure they don’t wind up dead. YiaYia told me that there is a doctor who is in Oakland for a convention. His name is Cybil J. Powalski. He’s a seer; YiaYia said I need to keep him alive. To do that, I have to keep Johann and his friend safe. She said it’s important. I rarely hear from YiaYia personally. But she also told me that Johann and his friend think they’re on some great worldly mission. That worries me.”
The succubus grinned. “Nathanial said they were trying to act like superheroes and…” She trailed off then frowned. Karla pursed her lips together then sighed. “Nathanial…” She cut her eyes to the left, staring across the room. “This is the first time in two weeks that I blurted his name out as though he were still alive.”
Kalen lowered to one knee, in front of Karla. He put his hands on the mattress, on either side of her hips, and looked up at her. “He was a good man. I’ve known you to keep questionable company in the past, but I’ve always respected The Reaper.”
She scoffed. “God. ‘The Reaper.’ What a stupid nickname. Look, I know he could create a sickle-shaped beam of light, and that was his signature attack weapon or whatever… but c’mon. He didn’t go around killing people like the Grim Reaper. It was a dumb name in the twentieth century and it’s still dumb now.”
“Perhaps, but the lightning-scythe surely sent a potent message to the enemies of the sect. And I had the utmost respect for him.”
Karla slid down from the bed and put her arms around Kalen’s shoulders. They hugged in silence. The small fox shifted its weight to stay perched in place. Once Karla relinquished the hug, the fox settled back down once more, draping its forepaws over the front of her shoulder. Its tail hung down to her shoulder blade.
“Your little friend reminds me of Mrs. Parker.”
Kalen shook his head. “It is of no matter. She passed away from Cancer quite a number of years ago. Listen, Karla, I need you to be focused tonight. This child’s life depends on you. If Donovan is as powerful as Natalia, he will prove a worthy ally.”
She replied with a semi-snort of amusement. “Yeah, but he’s a pacifist.” Karla shifted her weight then reached a hand up and wiggled a fingernail beneath the fox’s muzzle, much to the delight of the little animal. “The night of the first attack, Donovan killed one man by accident while I took down a dozen others. Then he washed his hands for, like, three solid minutes. Anyway, I want you to keep Johann and his friend alive. Johann is a good kid.”
“Nothing will happen to them. Karla, listen, I’m going to lay low after this. This family has always been about scholarly pursuit. I’m going to move Natalia into hiding until she wakes. I’m going to move the library and all our old records. They have to be preserved. I won’t be around to help you in the weeks and months that lie ahead.”
Karla stared at him for a moment then she reached her hand up and brushed her thumb across his lips. “Yeah. It’s okay. I appreciate you giving me a place to stay for the last two weeks. I’m pretty sure my apartment is safe by now. And, as always, you’ve been a good friend. Y’know… for a bloodsucker.”
They both grinned at one another. Kalen remained silent.
“It’s too bad you’re undead. It must really suck not being able to produce bodily fluids. Well, it sucks for me, anyhow. I couldn’t feed on you if I tried, after all.” Her hand lowed from his lips and she placed her palm on his chest. “No heartbeat, unless you force one to fool the humans. No solid food without throwing it back up, later. None of life’s pleasures. You don’t know what you’re missing. Nothing is better than eating a good meal, and cumming your brains out until your heart is pounding its way out of your chest. You’re missing out on a lot of worldly passion.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” He put his hand on her forearm and gave a gentle squeeze. “My passion is for protecting this family and its scholarly pursuits. It makes life worth living. Conversely, you’ll never experience the rush I feel from blood.”
The succubus grinned. “Actually... I think I understand that part. My body-fluid of choice may be clear and creamy, but I still get a rush after feeding. Alright, I’m going to go and meet up with Donovan at his old jewelry store. He had to close it because of the attacks. But… it’s where we meet. Then… yeah. I’ll keep the kid alive.” She slid her hand into his.
Kalen smiled softly and brought her knuckles to his lips. He brushed his fangs against the hilt of her index and ring finger.
Karla grinned. “You may not have sex, my dear Mister Kincade, but I still know how to seduce a man. Any man.” She turned her hand over in his grip, and pushed it against his fangs, threatening to pierce the flesh of her palm.
The vampire cupped her hand in both of his. His right incisor sank into her palm, like acupuncture. The placement of his sharply tipped tooth caused her to shudder. Karla pressed her thighs together firmly from the rush of sensation. “Hey, now… Chakra number two is tingling.” She flinched then sighed softly, in content. “God. How in the hell do you do that?”
Kalen eased the fang from her palm then closed his lips around the puncture mark and suckled softly. After a moment, he pressed his tongue into the wound to keep it from bleeding. He held his tongue in place briefly, corking the blood flow. He waited a bit for the flow to stop then lifted his head, licked his lips, and told her, “The sacral Chakra is called the Swadhisthana,” in a soft voice. “Acupuncture, however, is an art form.”
Karla swayed somewhat, feeling a bit weak in the knees. “Right. That.” She exhaled softly then feigned a smile. Her soft green gaze lowered to her hand, where there was a circular mark. “Glad I’m a quick healer. Should be gone in a day or two.” She pressed her thighs together to keep them from shaking.
“Mm, I remember.” He glanced to the fox on her shoulder then his eyes returned to hers. “Thank you.”
She grinned. “Thank you. I’m the one who climaxed. All you got was a salty metallic taste on your tongue.”
“Which was enough to give me a small high,” he replied. “Stay safe.”
She reached up with her other hand and patted Kalen’s face, gently. “Yeah. You too.” Without another word, Karla disappeared from the bedroom.
October 1st, 2023, 8:55pm PST
San Francisco, California
Nichole Parker rolled over on the mattress, coming nose-to-nose with Inspector Reno Nevada. She lifted her eyes to his tousled, dark hair, then brushed her nose against his own. “You go back to work tomorrow. I know you miss being a cop. I still think you should consider a career with me at the DEA.”
“Yeah. And get transferred out of this city? Not many agencies approve of dating a coworker. Especially when you’d be my superior. I’d rather stay here, so I can see you every day. But… yeah, I do miss work. I like having a purpose. I like interrogating suspects.”
“And we all know how much you miss all the flack you get for your name.”
Reno smirked. “I just tell them that my parents were hippies, and then I tell them if they have a problem with that, they can see me in the ring.”
“You are such a boy. The big, bad, boyish jock.” Nichole cupped the side of his face and ran her thumb over his lips. “Reno, you need to stop that nonsense. Acting like a jerk to your superiors is why they suspended you for several weeks. You push back, they push back more. If you showed a little humility, even if it was faked, you’d get a lot further.”
“I show results where it counts,” he replied with a frown. “Closed case ratio is up, conviction rate is up… And getting suspended meant I had a lot more time lately to see you and reconnect with my little brother. I think it worked out in the end. But I promise I’ll stop being so thickheaded. That’s why I need you in my life, Nicky. You keep me level-headed.”
She furrowed her brows with a dubious expression. “I was standing right next to you when you acted like a fool on the phone with your boss. Were you trying to show off for me? You need to stop arguing with your Captain and your Lieutenant.”
Reno grinned and brought his hands from beneath the covers and cupped her face. “Baby, Lou starts more fights than I do. I can almost guarantee that the Lieutenant will start something as soon as I come back. We’ll take it to the ring in the gym, and I’ll put him on his ass.”
“You are incorrigible.” She leaned up and peered over her fiancé to the clock on the nightstand. “Did your boss really tell you to start your shift at midnight tonight? Seems a little ridiculous to me.”
“That’s how he likes to slap people on their wrist. Mess with their overtime; mess with their sleep schedule… It doesn’t bother me. I was in my senior year of college when I signed up to become a cop. I was fine with being tired. He tells me I got lucky for becoming an inspector after only three years of being a beat cop. But he knows it’s because I’m good.”
“I bet he hates your confidence, too.” She grinned.
“I wonder what happened to that redhead with the fire.”
“Oh, c’mon, you remember her, right?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“Nicky! In the back alley shootout the day I got suspended?”
“Nope. Sorry. Don’t remember a redhead with fire.”
Reno frowned and rubbed his chin. “Huh.” He shifted his weight somewhat, on the mattress, then shrugged it off. “So.”
Reno grinned. “Agent Nichole Marie Parker, my clever, sexy federal-owned fiancée… How about a little playtime before I go to work?”
“Oh, you romantic-freaking-stud, you.” Nichole grinned in return then draped her arms over his shoulders. “But you’ll have to make it quick,” she said in a joking tone. “I have important things to do, and errands to run, after you go to work.” She winked in a playful manner.
They shared a kiss. Reno reached over, behind her, and touched the base of the lamp on the nightstand, causing the light to dim significantly. He met her lips firmly and moved his body upon her.
October 1st, 2023, 9:10pm PST
San Francisco, California…
“So, am I fighting everyone alone?” Karla fidgeted with a gauze wrap on her hand.
“If you scratch at a scab,” Donovan started.
“Don’t change the subject.” Karla paused then sniffed at the air. “Hey, you smell that?”
Donovan rolled down the window of the rental car and sniffed at the air. “I’m afraid not.”
Karla inhaled deeply. “That smell reminds me of Indonesia. I don’t know why. It’s like I’m there all over again. Why can’t I place it?”
“Where’s it coming from?”
“I think it’s just… on the wind.” Karla opened the door, slid out of the car and shut it behind herself. “C’mon. Something is weird. No attacks yet? I’m not ready to dismiss our intel yet.”
“Karla, art thou…”
“Stop it,” she scolded.
“Yes, of course… I mean to ask, are you seriously going to bring the animal with you?”
She reached back and played with the little fox’s ears. “Yup. He’s only left my shoulder to pee on stuff and eat some fries. Come on, let’s go make sure things are alright. Call it woman’s intuition.”
“Fair enough.” Donovan adjusted his tie, shut the car door and followed her through the yard. “I understand that suburbia will disappear soon. It’s considered a waste of space – that the earth should be used for farming and trees, or town-like living arrangements, not for swimming pools and barbeques.”
“Psht. I’ll believe it when I see it. Just because parts of Europe are adopting that whole… Agenda-21 crap doesn’t mean this country will, too. Making suburbia illegal is just un-American.” She peered in through a window then teleported herself to the front porch and said, “Follow my lead. Our cover story is easy: I’m a woman in distress and need a jumpstart. Okay?” She rang the bell and waited.
Donovan asked, “What was it you smelled earlier?”
“I can’t place it. But I haven’t smelled it since I was last in Indonesia.”
Loupe narrowed his gaze. “I smell something out of place, too. But I know that smell.”
“Oh?” She rang the doorbell again.
“Dji Sam Soe 234 brand. They’re made by Philip Morris.”
Karla’s eyes widened. “Kreteks! You’re right, that’s definitely clove cigarettes. Wait, you can tell the brand by smell?”
“I don’t think the family we’re here to help is Indonesian, Karla.”
She glanced back at the vehicles in the driveway then hit the doorbell a third time. “We’ve been watching the house the whole time,” she muttered. “I told Kalen I wasn’t going to let anything happen to this kid.”
“Speak, you, upon the progeny of…?”
“Quit it,” she hissed softly.
“Natalia Kincade’s progeny?”
“Yeah. You two need to stop acting like you have no idea I’m working with you both.” She tested the door handle. To her surprise, the door knob was locked yet the door creaked open, not having been fully latched. It continued to swing open slowly, creating a soft whine from an unoiled hinge. “Like that’s not fucking creepy or foreboding.”
The fox on her shoulder hunched up. Its fur bristled up along its spine. The creature’s tail puffed up; the animal’s ears laid back and its nose twitched furiously.
Donovan narrowed his gaze. “Your friend feels the same way.”
“His name is Kuda,” she murmured and stepped into the house. Karla moved slowly, with caution, and whispered, “Okay. Let’s go. I’m ready for the poles to shoot up out of the ground or whatever. I hate suspense.”
The two moved into the foyer together then froze. A voice came from upstairs. Donovan put his hand at the small of her back and leaned close to whisper into her ear. “That sounds like… Surakarta Javanese. That places the scent of cloves. I’ve learned Falcon has been bringing in mercenaries from Asia, Russia and Australia to help find supernaturals that slipped through the cracks in England and North America. Keep your guard up.”
Karla blinked. “I’ve been to Indonesia but… how the hell can you tell regional dialect?”
“I…” Donovan trailed off. “Despite the fact you think I’m culturally ignorant due to my archaic speech patterns… I’ve studied… look, it matters not. Please prioritize your ability to focus.”
Karla pressed her hands together, cracking her knuckles. Only three fingers popped, a lackluster display of her readiness to fight. “Let’s kick some thug-mercenary ass.”
“Indeed.” He folded his arms. “Perhaps we should consider the strategy we employed a few nights ago.”
“Yeah, the college professor. Good idea. Go on.”
Donovan dissipated into a patch of shadow, swirled around Karla then dripped upwards until collecting on the ceiling above the foyer. The splotch of shadow slinked across the top of the house and into one of the bedrooms.
Karla teleported herself to the top of the steps and followed the carpeted hallway to a bedroom. She opened it. Four men in paramilitary gear turned to face her. One of them had an off-yellowish-green pack of kretek clove cigarettes sticking out of a pocket on his vest. None of them appeared American, but all four of them reached for their ski-masks and pulled them down over their faces.
They reached for their weapons only to find that their submachine guns and pistols had been teleported away. The guns reappeared between the men and Karla, hovering, with the barrels pointed at their prior owners. “Ever heard of an itchy trigger finger?” asked Karla. “You want to test a theory? If you distract me, I might actually misfire a synapse. Which might result in me shooting you bozos. Hey it’s possible.” No one replied. “Aw, don’t understand English banter; only orders and cash huh?”
Donovan appeared behind the men, emerging from the shadow beneath a bed. In well-enunciated Indonesian, he asked, “Where is the family that lives here?”
One of the men turned about, eyes wide, and asked, “You speak my language? How did you know I was… how do you know that Java dialect?”
Loupe spoke calmly, to better disguise that he felt rusty. “It doesn’t matter. Where is the family?”
“Doctor Falcon took them at ten o’clock in the morning. He’s studying the eugenics of the family. We’ve come to burn down the house and make it look accidental.”
One of the other mercenaries elbowed him and, in English with a heavy Hispanic dialect, said, “Whatever you’re saying to him, you need to callate! I mean it. !Cierra la boca!”
“No,” Karla said, “He does not need to shut his mouth. But you do,” she said, using one of the submachine guns to intimidate the second man by pushing its barrel against his forehead. “I’m not playing around. And since you speak some English, where is the little boy?”
Karla groaned in frustration then closed her hands into fists. Donovan looked up and saw her palms and forearms, which began to incandesce with pink glyphs just beneath the skin. “Karla, wait, no!”
She paused and narrowed her eyes. “What?”
Donovan sighed in relief. “Don’t kill them. We need to know more about these new groups that have been brought from overseas. We need to know how big Falcon’s operation is.”
Karla grimaced in disgust. She waved her left hand. A telekinetic force held the second mercenary still while another force turned his head from left to right sharply, with such strength and power that his head turned completely about, more than halfway. He fell limp, cradled in the unseen hands of her telekinetic grip. She then waved a finger and hurled the dead body into a nearby wall. He flew through the plaster, broke one of the studs beneath, and ended up in the hallway with one of his boots stuck in the hole. It dropped away from the torn wallpaper and landed on the carpet adjacent to a dresser. She folded her arms and said, “The rest of you can live if you quit this stupid job right now and agree to tell our friend, Lance, what you know about Falcon’s crap.”
The Indonesian man pulled his ski mask off and threw it on the floor by the bed then put his hands up. So did one of the other men. Karla couldn’t tell much other than he appeared to have come from one of the Asia-Minor countries. She glanced at the last man, who didn’t pull off his mask. “Well, Donovan… it looks like your Javanese pal understood what I said in English.” She paused then added, “I did hear him say something about Java in all that yackity he said earlier. I know a few words.”
Without warning, the fox on Karla’s shoulders jumped down to the floor and began to bark wildly at the man who still wore his mask. The demoness blinked. “Weird. He’s never done that before.”
“Didn’t you say that you’ve only had him a day?” murmured Donovan.
“Well yeah, but…” The little fox continued to yap incessantly. “He’s insistent on something,” she said then approached the man. “Okay. What’s your deal, pal? Why’s Kuda hating on you, huh?”
“You killed one of us,” he said in a calm tone. His dialect suggested European descent but it was mixed with several other European accents, and too difficult to pinpoint. “That’s murder. Even though his claim upset you, there needs to be law and order. There is a process of justice that you ignored.”
“Lara Norder, wasn’t that the chick from that cop porno?”
“You’re mocking law and justice?? You murdered a man!”
“So sue me,” she snorted.
“You are ignorant and stupid, woman.”
“No, seriously. Sue me. Get your litigation on. Punish lil’ litigious ole’ me in a court of law. Put me in prison.”
“No prison can hold you.”
“True… so is that why your kind attacked the Esoteric Community without warning, or any declaration of war? I murdered – one – of your pals. Yet you committed fucking genocide against my pals.” Karla clenched her hands into fists again. “No trials. You had no jurisdiction to act. Y’know what you are? You’re racist. You see supernatural people as a race and you’re not part of it, so you hate it. What religion are you, pal?”
“I am Catholic,” he replied, chin up.
“Oh.” Karla folded her arms and tilted her head. “Joseph of Cupertino. No, he doesn’t work at Apple. He’s a Catholic Saint. Kingdom of Naples. Back in the 1600’s I grew up hearing these wild tales of this Italian Franciscan Friar who was pretty ordinary and plain-minded… oh, except that he could fly. You can look it up if I let you live. I’m tired of being treated like a second class citizen, pal. How come your saint is allowed to fly, but not me?”
She wiggled a finger, discretely, causing the mercenary to levitate. The fox began running circles around him, still barking and yapping. Karla threw her hands up in the air. “OH my GOD! It’s a MIRACLE! You’re flying! Well damn! Maybe now you should me over here on the Dark Side! We have cookies!” The fox continued to bark at him.
“You’re going to pay,” he sneered.
Donovan’s eyes widened, still standing on the other side of the men who faced Karla and the floating weapons. “Karla, he has a detonator behind his back!”
All at once, Karla, Donovan, the fox, and the two remaining mercenaries appeared on the sidewalk adjacent to the rental car. The house across the street exploded, showering debris in all directions. Bits of burning rubble struck an unseen telekinetic field around the group. The pieces dropped to the street, charred and glowing. “Judging by the spread of the detritus,” Donovan murmured, “That man was wearing an excessive amount of explosives.”
The fox approached Karla and put its front paws on her shoe. She lowered to one knee and held her hand out. The fox leapt up onto her forearm and clamored up to her shoulder. “You smelled his adrenaline, didn’t you, Kuda? You knew he was up to no good, didn’t you boy? Good boy.” She reached up and ran her nails gently down his back then gave attention behind his ears. “That’s my good boy, yes you is.”
“Karla,” Donovan said with a sigh. “You’re treating him like…” He paused then shook his head. “Nevermind. A creature that small has a brain the size of an olive. Treat him how you please.”
“You can bite him later if you want,” Karla told the fox. “I won’t stop you.”
“He thinks you’re praising him for getting up on your shoulder. Surely he doesn’t think back on how he wouldn’t stop barking in the house.”
“Donovan…” Karla grinned at him. “Hush. You’re nowhere near as clever as a fox. Don’t be jealous.” She cut her eyes back at the two men who weren’t wearing their ski-masks. “You boys can go with Donovan to meet Lance. Don’t worry, Donovan honestly will NOT kill you if you work with him.” She glanced back at the shadow master and said, “Make one of them drive. Sit in the backseat where you can keep an eye on them.”
“Where on earth are you going?”
A handgun fell to the street from above. A wisp of smoke rose from the hot metal object. “God. It’s raining guns.” She glared at the steaming weapon. “Little kids are going to find that damn thing.” She gestured with her hand, levitated the pistol, then waved in a dismissing fashion. The gun sailed back into the burning remains of the house. “Don’t wanna contaminate the crime scene too badly. We’d better get our butts out of here before the first responders show.”
“Where are you going, Karla?”
“Home. My place,” she said, speaking of San Leandro. “I’m going to relax. Read a book. Take a bath.” She reached into her bra and pulled out her cellphone. It was clear, except a two-inch section at the top, about the size of her thumb. She opened the text-messaging panel, which was visible straight through the phone. “God. It’s almost eleven… I hope Johann is alright.”
“The boy that worked for the Justicar?”
“Yeah, him.” She lifted her head, looking up at the night sky. “HEY! Celestial divinity! You better watch out for the surviving supernaturals! I mean it! You messed up by letting all of us get wiped out! You better not let any more die!”
Donovan, embarrassed, shook his head and said, “Please, stop shouting in the middle of the street. You’re drawing attention to us. People are going to tell the police that a group of people were outside of a house that only just exploded.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She waved her hand. The mercenaries disappeared. They reappeared inside of the rental car, seated in the driver and passenger seats. “Okay, Donovan. Go ‘shadow’ your new pals.”
“You… are trouble. It hasn’t caught up with us yet but… you’re definitely trouble.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.” Karla disappeared with her miniature fox.
Donovan sighed then looked up to the sky. “Surely people had mistaken supernaturals as their deities. I am hard pressed to believe in celestial divinity.” He opened the back door of the car and slid into it.
The Celestial Realm...
“To the panel of deity judges assembled in our humble court this day, I bid you welcome. I am Grand Chancellor Eiyuu Geroi. As recently appointed leader of the Gendai-no-Dynasty, we have worked hard to prepare for an event that will reshape the Earth Realm that we are sworn to protect. It has come to my attention, however, that the ten-tail ‘fox spirit’ queen, Kiko Sigyn, has jeopardized the plans I had set into motion after the Celestial Dynasty Wars concluded. For those of you unfamiliar with her, she lived in the modern day country of Turkey. For a while, she moved around the Asian countries. For a while, she served as a pagan goddess to Germanic Tribes, and later as a Nordic goddess, where she married Loki. After his arrest and binding, she eventually returned to the Earthly Asian countries. Their son, Fenris, is also bound, currently residing in the Celestial prefecture of Fenrisúlfr’s birth.”
The Chancellor paced as he spoke. “I’ve called you to this assembly panel on this day to determine Kiko Sigyn’s actions: hostile or ignorant? Let it be known that she was never given information on our plans, and so it’s possible that her actions were not out of malice or intent. However, given the nature of her trickster ways, there is also the possibility that her actions were both premeditated and deliberate. I will call upon Kiko Sigyn in the second half of this trial. However, I would like to begin with the determination for overruling the fox-queen’s decision to punish her subjects: Tamamo-no-Mae and Sinopa Crevan. Let me remind you that, even though they are fox spirits, they are hand-selected and sworn to service the honorable Lord Inari, not their queen, Kiko, who rules over the trickster fox spirits of China, Korea and those who are called ‘nogitsune’ in Japan.”
The Chancellor waved his hand and Tamamo-no-Mae appeared behind a podium. She looked around the room, startled, and in a human form with flowing white hair. To her left, hung a silk kimono with hand-painted images of a cherry blossom. She reached for the clothing and drew it upon her body then tied the sash. Tamamo turned to the court and bowed. “I recognize most of you. Why have I been summoned from Kiko-tenno’s dungeon? I am only to serve one more Earth revolution.”
The Chancellor turned to face her. “Yes, I am aware you were sentenced to a solar year in solitude for asking Omoikane’s council in regards to another kami. You can meditate later, but whether or not it is in a cell will be left to this panel. I understand that you serve as ‘sensei’ to the one named Sinopa Crevan.”
“Hai. That is my current assignment, given to me by Lord Inari.”
“I understand that you are one of the oldest fox spirits still in existence. You are known as a lover of romance, and a romancer of powerful men; a woman who does anything necessary to possess the heart of a powerful human. Three thousand years ago, you were known as Su-Daji; wife of Zhou-Xin of Shang. At the time of your death in the physical realm, and nine tails later, you died as Tamamo-no-Mae, are these facts correct?”
Tamamo blinked. “Di Xin was a corrupt man and a horrible ruler. If you are referring to my ‘trickster’ nature, it was to teach him a lesson and help his subjects. At first, I tried to reason with him. He was an Esoteric – he possessed superhuman strength and could not be easily swayed. He invited me to parties with orgies and lewd company. They tortured subjects for amusement. I had my work cut out for me.”
“Continue,” said the Chancellor.
“At first, I resisted. Then, for a brief time, I am ashamed to admit that I became amused by his attempts to sacrifice humans for my amusement and affections. He killed people for me. He sacrificed people for me, by torturing his subjects to death. People told stories about how I killed my husband’s uncle, murdered pregnant people and chopped the feet off of farmers. That was partially storytelling, although I did find myself on a quest to learn more about the human body at the time. I was young, and human science had not yet been able to answer my questions. It was then that I decided to play along, and plot his demise. I simply charmed him and kept my husband distracted.
“The military genius, Jiang Ziya did the rest. In the end, I confronted Di Xin and told him he brought this upon himself for being cold-hearted and dishonorable; all things that a ruler should never become. I told him that it was his son who betrayed him, by giving information to Jiang Ziya. My husband took all his treasures, locked himself in his palace and set the compound on fire. Jiang Ziya helped me flee; disinformation was spread suggesting that I’d died a handful of different ways.
“Two thousand years later, in Japan, I… learned humility and love. Fate punished me by taking away the man with whom I fell in love. Then I was held responsible for his death and hunted. I was caught and captured. Because of a new treaty to ban deities from the Earth Realm, the supernatural gathered to fashion weapons that could kill me. An esoteric arrow was the instrument of my death in the Earth realm. After the slaying of my physical body, I took on a path of enlightenment. I am not the evil fox spirit that humans have written of me over time. Not anymore. Not since experiencing love.”
The Chancellor nodded slowly. “Fair enough. Perhaps a touchy subject; forgive me for bringing it to light in this court. I do not need for you to be defensive; I need for you to be honest and answer our questions. I won’t bring up your past, nor will I bring up Konoe-tenno. You have my word.”
She nodded respectfully. “Thank you. How may I serve this court today, Chancellor?”
“We have questions about the three-tail fox named Sinopa Crevan.”
October 1st, 9:10pm PST
Lafayette Square, Oakland
Cybil Powalski turned back towards the Convention Center, a few blocks away. The adjacent Marriott loomed over it like a beacon, with more tall buildings to its left. He glanced about himself, eyeing the surrounding park. His heart began to race. Without delay, he headed towards the southeast section of the square, holding his satchel close.
He stopped near a palm tree and looked down. A red dot danced across the walkway. He waited until the laser light passed then began walking again. Cybil crossed Jefferson Street. A Buick pulled up at the curb and a man in a nice suit stepped out. He turned to the doctor and asked, “Are you Doctor Powalski?”
“Yes.” An image flashed before the doctor’s eyes. He swallowed, then nodded. “They’re in the park.” He hooked a thumb to the entrance of the three story building he now stood in front of. Lettering over the door read, ‘CARLES.’ He cleared his throat then said, “There’s another one on the roof of this building. You’ll have the best opportunity to protect those boys by taking his rifle.” Cybil paused then said, “Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova Skladnaya. How, uh… how’s my Russian? It’s a night-capable variant. I don’t sound like I’m reading from a website, do I? Anyway, he’s up there. Beware his laser dot. Not sure why a true sniper would use a laser pointer. It doesn’t account for wind. He’s lying down on the roof – I saw you…” The doctor paused, frowned, then said, “I saw you sneak up and...” Cybil flinched at a mental image. “Exsanguination was once considered the devil’s work, but in your case, I’m sure exceptions can be made. I’m leaving now. Quickly.”
Kalen nodded slowly, handed Cybil the keys to the Buick and said, “I’ll pick it up from the convention center later. You shouldn’t have wondered this far into Old Oakland.” Kalen Kincade offered a grim half-smile then hurried up the concrete steps, and into the apartment building. Cybil looked down at the keys then slid into the Buick and pulled away. The sedan turned at the next intersection.
Kalen made his way up the steps. A man came from one of the apartments with a crooked letter on the door. “Get back inside.” The vampire paused then flashed a wallet with a fake badge, adding, “For your own safety. This will be over shortly.” The man disappeared back inside and shut the door. Kalen heard a latch slide into place. He continued through the hallway then made his way to the top floor.
He looked around then headed to the far end of the hallway. With relative ease, he pushed through a window, causing the glass to break. Kalen pulled himself up through the broken window then hoisted himself onto the ledge, above.
Down on the street, Kalen could hear a homeless man shouting up at him. A mechanical click sounded, followed by the thud of a body. Silence. Kincade closed his eyes, sighed, then continued to pull himself up the rest of the way onto the rooftop.
He moved quietly, behind one of several blind spots sticking up out of the roof. A second staccato click came from the nearby sniper, who shot another homeless person. Kalen moved across the roof until he was behind the gunner. He balled his right hand into a fist, drew it back then said, “You really shouldn’t be picking off civilian witnesses.”
The gunman began to turn his head back towards Kalen only to receive a hard fist across his face. The shooter slumped over, dazed. He reached for his pistol. Kalen placed one hand on the man’s wrist to stay his hand. He used his other hand to take the sniper’s face, firmly, by his jaw. Kincade opened his mouth then bit down hard on the mercenary’s neck.
The sharpshooter’s cry of anguish was muffled by the vampire’s hand that covered from his chin to his nose. He was immediately rendered weak, unable to fight off the vampire, from the acupuncture of a fang against his Vagus Nerve. After a moment, silence resumed.
Kalen gorged on his throat. Sanguine rivulets ran down the shooter’s neckline. Another moment passed. The shooter’s hands began to tremble and his body convulsed with shivers. Kincade’s hand moved from the man’s jaw to his hair, keeping his head tilted back until the spurting stopped. He rolled the man over then used the mercenary’s ski mask to wipe the blood from his lips.
He reached into the right pocket of his blazer and withdrew a small plastic packet of baby wipes then finished cleaning himself up. Kalen pulled the gunman’s gloves off his hands then put them onto himself and picked up the Russian sniper rifle. He crouched low, turned off the laser pointer then steadied the weapon and peered through the scope towards Lafayette Square.
Tree coverage made it difficult to see people in the square. Two boys moved into the clearing. One was white, of average build, and Kalen vaguely recognized him as the dead Justicar’s assistant. The other boy moved back-to-back behind Johann. He was a lanky black twenty-something youth, wearing a t-shirt with a home-made logo on the front.
The two boys began to lift their hands, slowly, surrounded by mercenaries. The vampire ground his molars together in frustration. He could see that the boys were at gunpoint from all sides, but the trees made it difficult to see any of the flanking attackers.
One of them stepped into view, and used the butt of his gun to strike Johann in the jaw. The attacker stepped back so that he was only partially visible in the sniper scope. The attacker pulled his handgun and pointed at white boy’s forehead.
Kalen held his breath.
The man with the weapon appeared to be arguing with Johann. The mercenary lowered his pistol, barely visible through a gap in the trees from Kalen’s vantage point. The pistol discharged, causing Johann Foster to double over.
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