Kelly was bleeding, but it took me a second to realize it wasn’t from an attack. She was scratching violently at the device on her left arm, slashing the skin around it into ribbons and getting blood everywhere. She didn’t seem to notice. She was just staring off into space without blinking.
Suddenly, the entire street shook as a massive boom resounded from farther up ahead, where most of the fighting was. I couldn’t really tell what was going on, even with the moonlight. There was a lot of dust in that area, billowing around too much to see.
Not my problem right now. We needed to cover the ‘sarians. The angels were doing a lot of damage, but using their light painted giant targets on their heads, that even the screamers knew to take advantage of. Without Kat, we didn’t have a sniper, which might be an insurmountable problem all by itself. Without Kelly, I wasn’t sure we’d even be able to contribute.
“Drakela Sanguinas,” I said firmly. “Wake up, corporal. We’ve got work to do.”
She didn’t react. She just kept scratching mindlessly.
This was going to become a problem sooner rather than later. It was a miracle she hadn’t hit bone yet. I tried to grab her hand to stop her, but she just swatted me away, flicking blood in my face.
Okay. New plan. It would either snap her out of her little trance or get rid of dead weight. Either way, we’d be able to continue.
I pulled out my pistol, placed the muzzle against the vampire’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.
She moved fast. I mean holy shit fast. I think she could give Akane a run for her money. Before my finger even finished pulling back the trigger, she was already moving out of the line of fire. By the time the bullet exited the chamber and the gunshot echoed around, she was standing next to me, her bloody right hand around my throat. She didn’t squeeze, but I could feel her claws hovering millimeters above my skin.
“Hello, corporal,” I said calmly, ignoring the wet feeling as a few drops of blood ran down my shirt, when my bouncing Adam’s Apple cut itself on one of her claws. “Ready to get to work?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Did you know I would dodge?”
“Of course,” I lied smoothly. Though it was only a half lie, really. I did think she would probably dodge, I just didn’t really care either way. “We need your head in the game.” I nodded at her arm. “And we should probably bandage that up before doing anything else.”
“The hydra will clot the blood automatically,” she muttered distractedly.
Sax strode up from wherever he had been hiding—probably helping the medics with the wounded. “No, Kelly, it won’t. There’s no active hydra in your system any more. Remember?”
The vampire blinked very, very slowly, before nodding firmly. “Right. Of course, you’re right. Get me patched up. We have a battle to fight.”
I followed both of them to one of the ‘sarian ambulances, where George was waiting patiently. To my surprise I could see tear tracks in the dust on his cheeks. He was taking Kat’s turning a little harder than I had expected, but otherwise seemed okay. He nodded as we approached, and called over a medic.
The young doctor whistled. “You did a number on yourself there.” He peered closely at Kelly’s arm. “Almost managed to rip the needles right out. Now that would have been the cherry to top off the little disaster, eh?”
She didn’t react.
He sighed. “Fine, fine. One bandage, coming up.” He pulled a roll of gauze from a nearby box. It looked tinted red in the multicolored light of the moon and the ambulances, but I wasn’t sure if that was my imagination or not.
The vampire let him wrap it tightly around her wound without a word, all the while eying me warily.
Okay, maybe shooting her wasn’t the best of ideas in hindsight. Or maybe I should have just come up with a better lie. Either way, it was too late now.
“What’s the plan?” George asked as he hefted his minigun. His perpetual grin was still gone, but I had a feeling it would be back eventually. He was a tough one.
Kelly finally looked away from me, back towards the fighting, or more specifically at the slowly-settling cloud of dust.
“A skyscraper fell,” she noted calmly. “Probably Medina’s doing. We need to head back there and provide support. Hopefully the enemy forces will be split, and we’ll be able to help turn the tide.”
I extended my hand, indicating the street before us. “Lead the way.”
She frowned at me, but did as I suggested, George and Jarasax just a few steps behind. I hefted my own Caedes and followed as well.
While the Necessarian redoubt was still nominally intact, there were large holes here and there from where the Nosferatu or screamers had gotten too close and started ripping into the wall. The soldiers had managed to push the enemy back away from the barricade, and meant that those same holes acted as pretty good sniping positions.
My Athena was the only thing with a scope. Even though it wasn’t exactly a full sniper rifle, it would work well enough. Our targets were only about a hundred yards in front of us, probably less, so even though the others just had iron sights, they wouldn’t have too much trouble aiming. The bigger problem was hitting our allies.
Kelly didn’t have a scope, but she did have a pair of binoculars she was using to look at the battle. She lowered them and readied her rifle—a Saint Euphemia, if I remembered correctly. The ‘sarian Saints were pretty popular weapons.
“They seem to have taken care of the screamers,” she noted. “There are just some of the crazier ferrets left. Take out the big ones, and the rest will fall into line.”
“Are those Nobles there?” George asked with a grunt, hefting something I assumed was his minigun. “I still owe Cinder for Hathsin.”
“No,” Kelly admitted. She glanced at him, and smiled a little. “You probably won’t be needing that.”
I glanced back as well, and was surprised to find the giant toting Kat’s sniper rifle. It was so huge that even in his massive hands it looked big, and I found myself wondering once again how she even lifted the thing. She had called it a Crisis 04111970, from BOB’s Crisis line. More commonly known as the Apollo Crisis. Fitting, all things considered.
“Keep it handy,” I advised. “We might need it.”
Jarasax snorted. “That’s an anti-tank rifle. It’s overkill even for most warlords. I really don’t think we’ll need it.”
I raised an eyebrow. I still didn’t know much about strategy and tactics and so on, but I was learning, and I knew enough to know that there weren’t any tanks in Domina. You don’t field that kind of armor in a city—they just don’t have the mobility to do anything useful. “Why the hell did she even have one, then?” I shook my head. “No, scratch that, why would Bob even make something like that?”
The changeling shrugged as he hefted his own weapon, a sleek rifle I didn’t know the name of. “They’re good for other things. Bunker busting, gargant killing, that kind of thing. Not to mention they’re one of the few weapons that can reliably one-shot a warlord.”
“Besides, tanks do show up here every once in a while,” Kelly added without turning from the battle. “They have some uses in urban environments.”
George grunted. “Why are we talking about this? Let’s shoot something already.”
I eyed him. He was in a bit of a mood tonight, though I suppose he could be excused due to Kat’s turning. I hadn’t thought they were close, but who knows.
Whatever. He had a point. I steadied my rifle on the edge of one of the holes, aimed carefully through the sights, and fired. I was still getting used to the kickback, but I managed to keep it from bucking out of my hands this time.
A small Nosferatu covered in a black carapace—but otherwise seemingly unaugmented—flinched as a small chunk of his head exploded. He wavered on his feet for a moment, and likely would have fallen in short order.
But I had enough experience with this city now to know better than to ever assume someone was dead. I shot twice more in quick succession, popping his skull like a tomato. Not even a warlord would be able to survive that, and he proved it by crumpling to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut.
“They’re coming,” Kelly noted dispassionately, as a cluster of vampires split off in our direction. “Don’t worry about headshots. Just focus on hitting them.” She fired off a short burst from her boxy weapon, and one fell. “Focus on the legs, if you can.”
We all nodded, and braced for the incoming wave.
Behind the Scenes (scene 33)
The reason the bandage Kelly uses is red is because its infused with a specifically-engineered solution designed to speed up blood clotting and repair. If a normal person (such as Adam) used it, they would heal two or three times as fast while the toy lasts.
For someone like Kelly, who is augmented specifically to take into account things like this, it works much, much faster. Her blood started clotting before she even finished wrapping her wound. The only downside is that the toy burns out faster as well. For Adam, the bandage could last a day or two. Kelly needed a new one in five minutes (though she didn’t bother replacing it).
EDIT: Updated the character page to include every named character so far. Formatting is still a little bit clunky, but I’m still ironing out my problems with the software.