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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.

April 27, 2019 - Family emergency finally calming down. Hope to get going again shortly. Thanks for understanding. ~ZEPH

Maya Rowen

Cold night in hell...

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Febuary 13th, 2022


Waterfront Warehouse


A lot had changed since the first resonance. Sometimes Maya barely recognized the world she lived in anymore. So it was comforting when something familiar survived a brush with their near apocalypse. Or it normally was anyway.  It seemed even the near end of the world didn’t really change how those on the other side of the law operated. That was why Maya was freezing her ass off instead of relaxing at home. Snow fell so thick that the dockyard was even darker than normal, the few lampposts illuminating the area lost under the sheer weight of it, the moon and the stars blocked by the clouds above. Most would have trouble finding much of anything in this, but it wasn’t much of a problem for Maya. The warehouse in front of her was a beacon of neon colors that painted the place like the site of a rave to her sight.  


That was far from comforting. When Graft had dragged her out of bed a few hours prior with a phone call and a job he’d been brief. According to him the people who had what she was after were everyday street trash being handled by a couple of thugs who’d managed to get a little bit of power after one of the changes. It seemed like that information was out of date. Dammit this was supposed to be any easy score she thought with a frown. It made sense now why the money was so good. Apparently whoever her client was had had an inkling this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. She’d have to tell Graft to burn him after this job. In the meantime though…


She studied the buildings wards in silence, pulling her coat tighter around her as she began to shiver.  She was dressed for both the weather and the job in dark military surplus, but even her thick coat wasn’t a match for an hour in a New York blizzard. Her hood and and balaclava protected her face from the worst of it, but snow and wind stung at her golden eyes. Despite her best efforts snow kept working its way between her cargo pants and her boots. The storm would help hide her approach to the building better than anything she could have managed herself but damn if it wasn’t a miserable experience. As bad as the storm was the wards on the building seemed worse.


Nobody really used old school security systems anymore. Well not on an individual basis anyway. It was too expensive, too unreliable since the resonance. Most of the plants that made them  had been lost overseas, and with magic even the best of them weren’t exactly what one would call reliable. Technology and the arcane just didn’t mix. Wards had popped up as a decently reliable alternative. If you had the skill and the patience you could theoretically ward a building against pretty much anything. In Maya’s experience though that tended to be more of an academic point.  The average gifted didn’t have the skill to lay down ward after ward on top of each other without eventually running into...issues. Occasionally the fatal kind. Good warding was expensive, but it was usually worth it. It could keep out your average thug, or any gifted careless enough to set them off. This wasn’t good warding. It was great warding.



Either her client had completely lied to Graft about the kind of people she was dealing with, or they’d gotten taken over by someone new. Both options were bad news for her. Part of her was tempted to split. To just go back home and crawl into bed under a pile of blankets. Or a warm shower. As tempted as she was though it would have been bad for business. Graft would handle her client after he’d finished payment, but until then they had an agreement. If she didn’t keep up her end it made her look unreliable. Even if she’d been OK with that Graft certainly wouldn’t have been. Their partnership was a fragile thing. She wouldn’t have been able to manage what she did without his security, his connections...but if things went south between them she had no doubt she’d rather deal with every petty thug and crime boss she’d angered than Graft himself.  Plus the money for this job really was good. It almost made her curious what she was stealing. Almost.


She didn’t bother trying to hide as she trudged towards the warehouse. If something could find her in this than anything she could do wasn’t going to change that. She stopped a few feet away from the building near a side door and took a resigned breath. She’d been all around the place but there weren’t any breaks in the wards she could exploit and they were well done enough she didn’t dare try to tamper with any of them. That meant making her own entrance was out. She’d have to use one of the actual doors. That was going to be risky. If they were good enough to have guards at all the entrances this was going to be a short job. She pulled off her gloves and pulled her lock kit from a pocket on her coat. Cold bit at her fingers and she clenched her teeth as she bent down in front of the door. She’d have to do this fast before her fingers got too numb to manage it. Or frostbite set in.


She pulled out a rake pick and slid it into the keyhole, gently strumming it against the pins inside. It seemed whoever was in charge had put more confidence in the wards than decent locks and a few seconds later the latch gave way. Too bad they hadn’t worried about someone getting through the lock the old fashioned way. She peeked inside as she slowly swung the door open, her heart pounding. Thankfully it seemed deserted.  It wasn’t really surprising. Even criminal types weren’t likely to be going out with the weather as bad as it was. Hopefully it stayed that way. There were far fewer wards inside as well. With all the traffic that probably came through here they probably wouldn’t have been much use...that was good. Mostly. The wards were a pain in the ass to get around but they also made it a hell of a lot easier for her to see.


She kept low as she worked her way further into the building. Aside from the sheer number of wards on the place it almost looked like a normal warehouse. These guys weren’t sloppy. Her eyes darted constantly as she carefully moved through what looked like a loading dock. The biggest problem she had breaking into places like this was open spaces. They were a dangerous thing when you couldn’t tell if you were standing in pitch black or lit up like a Christmas tree. Usually she could hear the soft hum of the bulbs but it wasn’t something she really liked to chance. Her best option was to keep her head on a swivel and spot anyone who might spot her first. It did mean she noticed though when that humming stopped. When every man made sound in the place stopped in fact.


The roar of the storm outside was deafening in that sudden silence. Power outage?  That much wind and snow definitely could have managed it… that was a mixed blessing though. She might not have had to worry about the lights, but whoever was left in the place was going to be paying close attention now that was for damn sure. Paranoia had a way of doing that. Of course, paranoia might not have been a fair description. It wasn’t paranoia if it was justified. Her golden eyes were all that could be seen of her as she crept into the darkness.


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Missions for ARMA’s Cloak Division were rarely clean cut.  Never black and white, always shades of gray with the greater good in mind.  This was something a Cloak operative had to come to terms with before joining the Division’s ranks.  The faction itself was pure in purpose, with clearly defined goals and objectives.  The Cloak Division kept the faction righteous by fighting the subversive and reprehensible battles that needed to be fought.  Not all, but some Cloak agents had essentially become the “sin eaters” of ARMA.


It’s not uncommon for an ARMA Cloak operative to ask then, what makes ARMA any better than the Order of the First Light?  The answer is simple.  The Order’s goals while pure on the surface, are much darker beneath.  The Order’s leadership was corrupt since the organization’s inception.  Their true mission to accumulate unchallengeable power amidst the greatest peril the world has ever seen.  Power that would hold them above those without it.  ARMA was founded on the Order’s superficial principles, but those principles were its true objectives. 


No war in the history of mankind has ever been won without a side sacrificing their ideals at some point.  Despite their recent internal struggles, ARMA still holds a strong presence within the supernatural police community.  However, the reality is they are few in numbers.  Amongst other world powers their faction is one of the smallest and arguably the weakest in outright warfighting potential.  For ARMA to maintain its position of power, and to limit the First Light’s growing influence, sacrifices needed to be made. 


Agents like Ryan Harker made that sacrifice.  If ever they were captured while conducting an operation ARMA could not openly support, the agent would be disavowed.  At best a nameless Soldier lost in an unspoken battle, at worst a traitor to the cause.  This culpability meant that Cloak agents operated with a lot of autonomy and little oversight.  It is for these reasons Cloak is viewed with mixed regards by even its own sister Divisions.  Some revere them as the most elite operatives in ARMA’s arsenal; others view them as half-cocked cowboys who believe themselves above the law.  As always, the truth was somewhere in the middle.


This mission was part of an ongoing investigation Harker had been conducting on the “unseen threat.”  His objective was to secure an artifact he believed the hidden faction was trying to attain.  The “unseen threat” was not yet public knowledge.  Outworlder registration had sparked enough civil unrest.  If the public was made aware non-magus were murdering magus, stealing their blood, and using it to conduct black magic in pursuit of an unknown goal, it might start a war.  This mission was a black operation, completely off the books.


Truces were a delicate thing.  The Order of the Light provided ARMA with secret information when they wanted their assistance, but withheld it otherwise.  ARMA managed their information sharing similarly.  Harker wasn’t convinced the Order of the Light wasn’t connected to this new threat, and neither was ARMA.  For this mission to have been sanctioned and official, the information would have needed to be have been shared and made public.  A search warrant would have been issued and the warehouse would have been stormed by an ARMA tactical team in cooperation with the Order, the NYPD, and possibly the Pharos.  Too many potential leaks, too many problems, too many points of failure.  A black operation like this violated the many treaties between ARMA and the other factions of the world.  Which is why ARMA knew nothing of the operation.      


Clouds filled the night sky, blotting out the moon’s luminance.  The blizzard outside was uncharacteristically strong even for this time of year.  The wind howled, a constant wall of snow buffeting anyone unwise enough to be caught outdoors.  A blanket of fresh powder lay over anything left outside for longer than a moment.  The ambient temperature was well below freezing, and with wind chill it felt even colder. 


The storm concealed Harker’s movement to the warehouse.  A white poncho covered his black tactical gear, camouflaging him amongst the night’s snowy veil.  When he reached a maintenance door near the southeast corner of the building, he braced himself against the structure and took a knee. 


The gale tore through the chinks in the agent’s thermal armor; slithering across chest and arms like icy snakes.  Nose was numb, hands struggled to stay warm as he reached into a cargo pocket for his “master key.”  The key was essentially a charmed bump key, the enchantment allowing it to defeat most mundane locks.  A useful tool for a supernatural spy.  Once the door unlocked, he stripped off his white cloak and discarded it. 


A press of button activated the communications jammer Harker had set up on a fire escape across the street.  Radios, cell phones, Bluetooth and wireless internet within a quarter mile radius would be disabled until the jammer’s battery died.  Charges had been placed on the power transformers that provided electricity to the entire block near the warehouse.  The charges had been rigged to detonate on a timer.


Ryan gritted his teeth and embraced the bitter cold. Ski mask and thermals felt as though they were doing little to protect him from the elements.  Just a few more seconds.  Gloved hands pulled his tactical goggles down over his eyes.  Like most of his equipment, they too had been spelled.  The operative’s night vision would be perfect, even in the absence of ambient light.


Harker threaded the silencer to the barrel of his Sig 229 pistol.  These gangsters had gotten themselves in over their heads.  The loss of life could not be helped.  The mission was too important.  By taking the lives of these few, he would be saving the lives of many.  Ryan reminded himself of these facts as he readied himself for what was to come next.  A fox in the hen house.


The agent looked to the watch on his wrist.  He gripped the maintenance door handle with his left hand, his gun with his right.  A whisper under his breath, “Three… two… one…”  The “pop” of the detonating charges wasn’t audible over the screaming storm.  The transformers sparked, the power failed, and the entire street fell into darkness.  Warehouse maintenance door slid open, and Harker crept inside.


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The sudden void of quiet was far from filled by the distant sounds of the storm, and it raked at Maya’s already frayed nerves. She was used to being on edge. It was part of the job. It kept her alert. It kept her alive. She was used to that. This was different. She didn’t know why, but it was. She felt it in her gut. It was possible, even plausible the storm had knocked out the power. In fact if she’d been anywhere else she likely wouldn’t have even batted an eye. Now though? The timing of it all seemed far too convenient to just be a coincidence. The storm. The power outage. The urgency of the request. The wards. They all added up in a way she wasn’t comfortable with in the least.  She was quickly beginning to regret taking this job.


Unfortunately that wasn’t a good enough reason to end it. Graft had built her a reputation and a big part of it was her reliability. When people hired her to get things, they got them. End of story. Now though she was beginning to wonder exactly what it was she was supposed to be getting. She worked with as little information as practical.  The kinds of people she stole things for rarely did so with good intentions. It was better if she didn’t know what the things she took were going to be used for. Better for Graft’s clients, and better for her conscience. What was left of it anyway. She took a steadying breath and forced herself to focus on the task at hand...and not to listen to that whispering doubt, that dread that sat in the back of her mind.


Finding what she was after was likely going to be simple enough. If whoever was running the show had the cash, or the juice to ward the entire warehouse so heavily then she should expect her prize to be behind the same kind of protection. She’d just have to wander around until she found more neon. From the sound of things there hadn’t been a generator. She probably didn’t have to worry about the lighting anymore. She also didn’t have the sounds of the warehouse to mask her. That was fine. On a nice solid concrete floor like this she’d be practically silent, even without the layer of material she’d put on the soles of her boots to absorb any excess sound. With it she was a ghost in the dark. She moved easily throughout the place, room after empty room. It should have relieved her, but each one only strummed her nerves that much more.


If what she was after was really here then there should have been muscle here to keep it safe. Even with the storm. A light crew would have been understandable, but so far she wasn’t seeing any crew. Nobody was dumb enough to leave something this valuable totally unguarded...so where was everyone? She found an answer in the next room. Or part of one. She almost tripped over it as she came to some kind of loading dock. She hadn’t really been looking at her feet, after all why would anyone leave something on the floor out in the open like this? She stopped and pulsed it to get a better look at what it was and her blood ran colder than the storm outside. It was a body. The cold seemed to sink into her as she noticed something the edge of her pulse had illuminated and she sent out another small burst of mana. Another body.  She’d been keeping herself in the dark. If she started throwing mana around the place she was likely to trigger some kind of ward, and it would be impossible to miss the aura of anyone she ran into...or so she’d thought.


She put her hands to the ground and sent  a gentle wave of mana a few feet in every direction. Golden dust spread out  before slowly settling and painting her surroundings with a soft glow. The pleasant glow clashed horribly with the horror show it revealed.  At least a couple dozen bodies had been dumped along the length of the dock. Unreality had taken hold after she’d found the first one and as she stared at mound of corpses she wondered briefly if she was dreaming. If she was it was a nightmare.  She bent down by the nearest body, examining it with a sense of morbid curiosity. She smell any blood. Not even a little. They didn’t seem to be rotting yet either which was probably how she’d gotten so close without noticing them. That meant whatever had killed them managed to do it without breaking skin, and had done it recently. All of them. Well she‘d likely found the crew her client had been expecting.  As she was mulling it all over she noticed something odd. A buzzing. Or maybe it was a scream. It dug at her, incessantly pressing against her consciousness. She noticed her hand was trembling and reached out to steady it with her other before she noticed it was trembling as well. In fact it wasn’t just her hands.. Her whole body was violently shaking. Shivering. As she realized that she understood. It wasn’t a scream. Not out loud anyway. It was in her head.


Something broke as she realized that and terror she’d never felt washed over her. It drowned her. There was no thought. No rationality. Only the primal instinct to get away. She sprinted through the warehouse so fast it felt like her muscles might tear. Sneaking was done. This was a frantic mad dash to the nearest door. To escape. Away from whatever the hell was in this warehouse. Luckily the soles of her boots muted the pounding of her feet on concrete as she darted from room to room as fast as her legs would carry her. It didn’t take long to find a door. Maybe a minute or two. It might as well have been an eternity.  She was so focused on it that it took her a second to notice the thing beside it.


She’d seen it before. Nothingness. A void her sight couldn’t reveal. A void wearing a cloak that seemed to burn with magic.A mage hunter. If she’d been in her right mind she would have remembered new years eve. Remembered when she’d seen them that night at the Satyr. She wasn’t though. Beneath the all consuming panic that seemed to close in on her there was very little right in her mind. She only saw another monster.  It was too much. She’d frozen when she’d seen him. Stopped so suddenly she’d fallen backwards. As she stared at him the panic pressed in on her. It settled in her chest like a weight. It was hard to breath. She pushed herself away from him desperately, not even standing, only stopping when her back hit the wall behind her. Her eyes were wide and full of fear as she struggled desperately to take a breath...

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The target would likely be located near the center of the warehouse.  Aside from the warding on the building’s perimeter, there was nothing extraordinary about the facility’s security.  A squad sized element of 10-15 men would be guarding the target inside the warehouse.  They were equipped with small arms and likely possessed some military or paramilitary tactical training.


          Harker moved into the building and closed the door quietly behind him.  Weapon at the ready, he scanned the area for immediate threats.  Finding none, he pushed further into the warehouse.  Slow was smooth, smooth was fast, as the agent began methodically clearing his way through the empty aisles of shelving.


          The ARMA operative wasn’t far from his point of entry into the warehouse, when he saw the first body.  Then a second, and then a third.  Someone had beaten him to the punch.  Ryan cursed silently in his mind.  The agent moved to the nearest body and checked for a pulse.  There was none, but the corpse was still warm.  No blood, no gun shot wounds.  The man’s neck had been snapped.


          Suddenly, there was movement down the aisle in front of him.  Harker was already on high alert.  Sights came up on target, and he nearly put two rounds center mass before he identified what he was aiming at.  A young girl in dark clothing was sprinting toward him at full stride.  Terror streaked the girls features.  She wasn’t running to him; she was running from something else.


          The girl looked as though she might run straight into the covert agent.  Harker’s weapon was still trained on her when she finally noticed him.  Abruptly, she came to a halt.  Feet planted and then slid out from underneath her as she failed to stop her own momentum.  She fell on her ass and then stared up at him.  Eyes fearful.  The panicked girl then skittered backwards, until her back found a wall.  There she sat, in a state of shock.


          Ryan looked to the girl and placed a finger to his lips, “shhh,” he whispered softly.  What was she running from?


          A feint tingling sensation brushed across the back of Ryan’s neck, a chill stemming from the base of his skull.  His sixth sense.  Danger was close.  The girl?  No, it was something else. 


          As if to answer the agent’s questions, a figure emerged from the shadows.  A man walked toward them now; from the same direction the girl had come.  Slicked dark hair, pale skin, and a muscled frame stood about six feet tall.  The mysterious man wore a skin tight black shirt, charcoal black pants, boots, and body armor.  Harker couldn’t see any weapons on the stranger’s person, but his instincts told him the man was deadly regardless.


          Only a creature of the supernatural could have killed all these people without the assistance of modern firearms.  Ryan aimed his Sig Sauer at the man with his gun hand, while his left hand reached into the pouch on his hip.  Gripping the dispelling ward in his fist, he kept his hand hidden in the satchel.  If the man’s abilities were magic based, the agent could dispel them with the ward and execute him before he recovered.


          “Are you a hunter?”  The man asked coolly as he continued to walk toward them.  Harker responded only with the metallic ‘click’ of his Sig’s hammer cocking back.  The man froze, “My night just keeps getting better.”


          “Run,” Ryan said to the girl out of the corner of his mouth.  An icy chill ran down the length of his spine.  Danger.  Eyes remained fixed on the creature in front of him, “Run now!”


          The creature leapt forward, closing the 15-yard gap between them in an instant.  Harker had already activated the portable ward in his pocket.  A supernatural EMP blasted out in the area around him, disrupting the flow of mana and neutralizing any functioning spells.  Unfortunately, this had no effect on the monster that barreled toward him.


          For Harker, time slowed.  His mind continued to work at normal speed, but the world around him was in suspended animation.  All except the man charging toward him.  The man continued driving forward in a slow-motion trot, much faster than any mortal creature should be able to move.  Not a magus, the ward had no effect.  Too fast for a werewolf in human form.  That left only two possibilities.  A speedster, or a vampire, and vampires were ‘supposedly’ extinct.


          The girl remained in place, motionless.  That was to be expected.  Even if she was moving it would look as though she was sitting still.  The creature was definitely coming after Ryan, but it would kill her as soon as the operative was disposed of.  He wouldn’t let that happen.  Though he wondered what she was doing at the warehouse in the first place. 


          Initially, Ryan had been aiming at the man’s head.  However, its head weaved much too quickly as it sprinted toward him.  The agent didn’t have time to anticipate his movement and line up the shot, which is what he would have done against anyone without super speed.  The man wore body armor as well, which meant that even ARMA’s enchanted rounds likely wouldn’t penetrate with enough force to fell the creature.  Instead, the agent lowered his sights to the man’s pelvis, below the bullet-proof vest.  His own arm moved at a painstakingly slow pace as the monster rushed forward.  Finger squeezed the trigger and fired a single round.


          The shell casing hung in the air as it was ejected from the pistol.  A blue flame flowered from the barrel.  Ryan’s eyes followed the azure glow as the enchanted bullet was propelled into the man’s lower abdomen.  Surprise flashed across the stranger’s face.  The round struck his hip, bone fractured, and his leg buckled beneath his own weight.  Lowering his shoulder, the man thrust himself onward with his last sturdy step.  Harker tried to brace himself for the impact to come.


          When the creature collided with Ryan, he felt as though he had been struck by a car.  The man collapsed to the ground where Ryan had been standing and the agent was launched across the room.  His body slammed hard against the warehouse’s sheet-metal wall, leaving a deep impression when he slumped to the floor. 


The agent’s pistol had been sent sprawling elsewhere, its location eluded him for the moment.  Bursts of light had flooded the darkness around him.  He shook his head and blinked his eyes as he struggled to refocus his rattled brain.  A sharp sting tore at the back of his head.  He felt the warmth of his own blood as it soaked the back of his ski-mask.  His hand moved to the wound instinctively to assess the damage.


An anguished growl brought Ryan back to the present.  It wasn’t his, the bellow belonged to the creature he had shot.  Definitely a vampire, he thought to himself when realized how far the creature had knocked him.  The vampire lay on the ground where Ryan had been standing a moment ago.  It climbed to all fours, already beginning to recover from the crippling wound. 


Now, the vampire was only a few steps away from the girl.  Its head swiveled, eyes locking onto the young woman.  Fresh blood would no doubt expedite the healing of his wound.  “Fuck…” Harker groaned as he willed himself to move.  He had to get back into the fight before the vampire fed on her, otherwise they were both dead.

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Maya struggled to breath as the figure approached her, but it was a losing battle. Panic swallowed her as the enchanted items seemed to float towards her and it peaked, crashing in around her as she felt a finger press against her lips. A finger she couldn’t see. She started hyperventilating. Her vision flickered even darker than normal as she fought to stay conscious. She managed somehow. It wasn’t easy. Far from it. It took everything she had to clamp down on the fear. The terror that had a hold of her. That primal fear that drove away thought and pressed in until all you could think about was escaping. Surviving. Her breathing still came shallow, ragged, but it was coming now. Before she could truly pull herself together though her boogeyman seemed to  have turned his attention elsewhere. A stray unformed thought told her it was now. She should get out of here while he was distracted. While she still could.


Then she heard the footsteps. Heavy. Unhurried. Her head snapped around as her eyes darted frantically looking for whoever was making them. No...not whoever. Whatever, because whatever she was looking at wasn’t a person. It looked like a person. A corpse to her really. Ashen gray skin shone where it’s clothing didn’t cover. Dead. People didn’t look like that. They were vibrant. Alive. People weren’t empty. Neither was this thing. Not entirely. A spiderweb of sickly red light seemed to bleed across its skin. From its eyes.She shrunk back against the wall as it approached and began gasping for air once more. Her boogeyman had been terrifying. When she’d first seen his kind a few months ago on new years eve it had scared her senseless. She’d had nightmares about him. Him finding her. Busting down her door and hauling off to a prison for people like her. A prison for gifted...and other dreams. Dreams where she went to sleep..and he made sure she never woke up.


It had been hard to sleep after that. Still was some nights. It was completely irrational. He likely hadn’t even realized what she was, or not what she did, who she was.That didn’t stop him from getting in her head. Didn’t stop the fear of the man she couldn’t see from creeping into the back of her skull like poison. Her boogeyman. That was what she called him. Nameless. Formless. Omnipresent. Like a bad story come to life. He was the worst thing she could imagine. This thing was worse. Her boogeyman was dangerous. This was...EVIL. Her throat burned as her dinner threatened to show itself. Whatever semblance of control she’d regained vanished when she laid eyes on that thing. Her boogeyman told her to run, but he needn’t of bothered. She was already in motion. She just wasn’t fast enough. The creature darted forward so fast she barely saw it as she began to push herself to her feet.


Then the world went black. Not the dark, shadowy landscape she’d learned to navigate. Just. Black. She screamed. A keening anguished sound that seemed to burst from her without end as her hands shot to her eyes. Their golden glow flickered slightly as the mana jammer washed over her. The screaming continued as she buried her face in her hands, unable to think, unable to move. She’d been blind before. Back when her sight first began to manifest. Several times since when she’d run out of mana. Never like this. Never so abruptly. So unprepared. Without her cane she couldn’t run even if she wanted too. A gunshot echoed and her scream cut off abruptly in it’s wake leaving the warehouse suddenly disturbingly quiet. Her hands came away and her eyes darted frantically as she tried to see something. Anything. Instead she heard, what exactly she had no idea but whatever the noise was it was getting closer.


She shot to her feet and started to run, but she only made it a few steps before her shoulder collided painfully with something and she went sprawling back to the floor. She blinked and wasn’t sure if it was the pain or the sudden shades of grey that brought tears to her eyes. Her relief was short lived. As her sight returned she saw that the thing was only feet away from her. Her blood ran cold. Her boogeyman was nowhere in sight.  Before she had anymore time to think, any more time to react he was on her. She stumbled to her feet only to come crashing back down as he grabbed her ankle so hard she thought he might have broken bone. As she went down it pulled itself over her, and its fang filled mouth lunged towards her throat...and sank into golden flesh.


The ethereal layer of golden skin that surrounded her was all that had saved her life, and the hole from the creatures assault bled golden light as mana flowed from the wound in her projection, quickly becoming whole once more. The monster snarled and continued to savage her, its fangs coming a hairsbreath from the skin that lay beneath the golden aura. It was agony. She felt every bit of it as the thing tore the conjured flesh from her neck again and again. Every nerve as those fangs dug into them and then stripped them raw. She couldn’t hear anything over her own screaming and the creatures guttural snarls.It seemed like it would never stop. The things need to feed seemed to have stripped away it’s ability for rational thought it seemed incapable of concerning itself with anything aside from tearing out her throat. Tears streamed down her face as she lay pinned beneath the thing. Unable to move. Unable to escape.


Was this it? Was this how she was going to die? Trapped in a dingy warehouse? Eaten alive? Eventually her projection would fail. It couldn’t hold up to the assault of the creature on top of her, and when it did the thing would eat her alive. It’s fangs sunk into the aura around her neck again and she screamed. As much as she could anyway. Her throat was raw. She thought she taste blood. She was going to die.Here. Alone.No one would ever know. As the thought flitted across her racing mind a trickle of anger began to flow with the pain. With the fear. No. SHe hadn’t survived, hadn’t suffered to die here. Forgotten. Alone. No. She wouldn’t allow it. No.No.NO!


A snarl escaped her every bit as feral as the thing atop her as the rage flared within her.  It recoiled, likely surprised. It wasn’t much but it was enough. Her right arm bulged within the sleeve of her jacket, tearing through the material as new muscle seemed to ripple across the limb. The creature was utterly unprepared for strength or speed of that arm as it lashed out at its face. It darted back and almost managed to evade the blow,  would have if not for the golden claws snapped out from her fingertips and sank deep into the creatures flesh. It howled in agony as a torrent of red poured down the left side of it’s face as it was reduced to bloodied meat, mixing with the golden ichor that stained it’s jaws. She pushed herself up and swung at the thing again but it had more time to react and it skittered away, once again moving on all fours.


In a heartbeat it was gone. Out of sight. She took a shaky breath as the anger and adrenaline kept burning through her. Her fingers trembled pushed herself shakily to her feet, letting her arm fade into a cloud of golden dust. She needed the mana more. She needed to get out of here. She’d gotten lucky. Insanely lucky. She wasn’t stupid enough to believe she’d done any real damage to whatever that thing had been. It was probably going to be back, and it was definitely pissed off.


She started towards the door when she noticed the enchanted arsenal that was all she could see of her boogeyman up against a wall. Unmoving. She bit her lip. She should run. Now. She didn’t want anything to do with a mage hunter...but she might not have a choice. They were a lot more likely to survive together than alone. If nothing else she could run away while the monster was snacking on him. A slight smirk crossed her features as the wry thought flashed through her mind and faded just as quickly. “You alive?” She rasped, her throat burning from the effort.

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“You alive?”  


          “I’m fine,” Harker answered, though he wasn’t really.  Body ached in painful protest as he climbed to his feet.  The girl seemed to recoil away from him when he did.  The Soldier took a moment to evaluate his condition.  Bones were rattled but intact, laceration on the back of his head, vision and breathing were normalizing.  Mechanically everything was working well enough, though he probably had a concussion.


          Ryan looked to the girl.  She was frightened, but otherwise appeared to be unharmed.  He had witnessed the vampire’s attempt on her life.  Seen the aura of mana that scaled her flesh to withstand the assault.  She was a magus, though not of the typical variety.  Her manipulation of energy into physical form was instinctual, not a spell cast.  This made her unique, unlike anything he had seen before.     


          The mage-hunter searched the immediate area, enchanted goggles still allowed him to see through the lightless dark.  Swiveling head stopped when he found his displaced weapon.  He walked a few steps and scooped his pistol from the floor.  A quick function check of the firearm was conducted, then he glanced back to the girl.  When he spoke, irritation laced his words.  “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”


          Harker ejected the magazine from his pistol and performed a tactical reload.  Magazine of enchanted silver munitions was exchanged for one loaded with wooden bullets.  They would be more effective against his current quarry, but the single clip of wooden rounds was all he had.  If he could put just one of them into the vampire’s head, or heart, he would be able to slay it.  Otherwise, his only chance of killing the creature was to burn it alive or decapitate it in hand to hand combat.  Neither option had a realistic chance of success.  The hunter would have to be disciplined with his shot placement.


          “Stay close and stay behind me,” Ryan told the girl.  He wasn’t wasting any time.  They had to kill the monster before it healed enough to resume the offensive.  Now that it knew their abilities, Ryan doubted they would survive another confrontation with the vampire at full strength. 


“It has our scent,” He explained as they moved deeper into the warehouse.  “If we run, it will hunt us down, and kill us both…” Weapon was at the ready as the agent paced quickly through the warehouse corridors.  “I shattered its pelvis, but if we let it feed, it will heal, and it will kill us both.  The only way we live through this is if we find it, and kill it, before it has a chance to feed… It won’t run, it needs us dead.” 


Their pursuit of the creature took them deeper into the building.  Outside the storm raged on.  Furious winds still howled against warehouse’s metal walls.  The sheet-metal creaked and moaned but refused to yield to the violent gale.  The noise made it difficult, if not impossible, to hear movement or footsteps within the pitch-black structure.


          They were nearly at the warehouse’s center when Ryan finally happened upon the monster he hunted.  The vampire was mounted on one of the victims it had slain earlier that evening.  It drank passionately from the corpse’s neck, never mind the heart no longer pumped life through its veins.  The creatures head snapped to attention as the ARMA operative leveled his sights.  Fangs bared angrily, blood dribbling down the vampire’s chin. 


A flash of movement.  The creature bolted to escape the Harker’s aim, but he anticipated the trajectory and adjusted accordingly.  The agent fired three rounds in rapid succession, striking the creature twice in the leg before it managed to slither out of sight.  Harker chased after the vampire, but when he rounded its cover, it was gone.


“Fuck!” Ryan cursed under his breath.  He turned to glare back at Maya.  The operative knew he had sprinted away from her, but he chose to vent his frustration nonetheless, “If you don’t want to die, you need to fucken keep up.”    

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