Year of the Spectre - Episode II:
"Summer Twilight"
Page 4

        "Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred."

        "We serve tequila here, Harry Potter. And I suppose you'd like a smoke with that? And maybe a shot or two of the really strong stuff? How are you with guave worms, young man?"

        Garland looked across the bar and gulped.

        "I.D. four-eyes, and if it turns out you're not old enough to vote, I'm gonna have you out on your ass."

        It was becoming a routine thing for those fingerless gloves to grab these young Slayers by the shoulder and yank them out of trouble. Lothos spun the naive Slayer-Baker around and grinned at him inquisitively. "What exactly are you attempting?"

        "Um. To fit in? To be ambiguous?"

        "Garland, you're 17 and barely out of High School. You're wearing a bright orange Atari T-shirt and you have a backpack strapped on. You couldn't look any less ambiguous in this particular bar. When I said blend in I didn't mean `see how quickly you can get arrested for underage consumption.' And another thing. No one orders James Bond Martini's. They're so revolting even Russians condemn such blatant waste of Vodka."

        The young Slayer pushed his glasses up his nose a bit and shrugged as Lothos turned towards the barkeep and started to place an order. "Then what are you doing?"

        "I'm about to get piss drunk, and I'm blending in. Go mingle with your comrades in arms, boyo, while I explore the fascinating world of 230 Proof jet fuel."

        Garland, completely confused, turned towards the pool room where the young Slayers had gathered around two orders each of Nachos and Buffalo wings.

        Sasha was sitting at a table with Marco and Kysha, the only other girl in the class.

        Seth, a Slayer-Chimneysweep, and Cory and Clint, Rednecks, were taking turns with the dart board.

        Jude was walking around the room with a pool cue looking for someone who would challenge him to a game unsuccessfully. Apparently no one wanted to deal with his attitude. He would undoubtedly be a sore loser or an abusively braggart winner.

        "Enjoy, my Chaos Apprentices! You've been training hard and this is a furlow well-earned!" Lothos had come in with two trays loaded with various virgin daiquiris, pina coladas, and soft drinks. The group cheered simultaneously as they surrounded the trays and grabbed what they could. Effortlessly balancing the platters of drinks as they reached, Lothos kicked the door to the pool room closed so that the group of Spectre Hunters could have some privacy. He then set down the tray which had only one drink left on it, a watered down Diet Coke.

        "I wanted to talk to you all a little bit more about expecting the unexpected. You see, part of being prepared for anything is being able to make weapons out of anything. Use the environment to your advantage if you're surprised. Even in the most comfortable of situations, something dreadful can happen that could wind you up in a fight for your very life."

***CRASH!***



        The skylight broke into a million shards of frosted glass as an ash-skinned figure dressed in filthy rags came crashing down upon the pool table, scattering colored cue balls in every direction along with the glass. The group stared at the figure with their jaws on the floor as the figure quickly rose from its bed of green felt and hissed loudly at the group. They all started from their stupor at the blood-curdling sound and then doubled over as the pain of an unexpected Rush kicked in. Drinks were spilt and chairs toppled as the group experienced the temporary agony associated with the presence of undead.

        From the roof a purple-eyed GAVAL smiled at the groups' reaction and tipped his hat over to Lothos who grinned up at his comrade just as Kris Binder lept upon the long-haired New Zealander and bit angrily into his arm.

        "To illustrate this point....THAT'S MY COLORBONE AHHH!.....GAVAL and I...decided to stage a surprise occurrence of....GET YOUR CANINES OUT OF MY JACKET...a vampire attack I'd least expect it....so...OWWW....you could see how I cope with...AGONY OVERWHELMING... the incident completely unprepared."

        Jude looked up with pupil-less eyes that emitted a navy blue light. "You brought an undead nosferatu to our R&R getaway just to teach us about being prepared?!"

        Pinned to the wall and taking continued cuts and bruises from the completely bloodlusted vampire Lothos continued his lesson, ignoring Jude's question. "Note how I've managed to use this broken bottle to slow......AHTHAT'SMYLUNG....the obviously angry minion of evil....STOPDRINKINGMYLEGWOUND....by injuring it in key weak spots...like the funny bone and achilles tendon."

        "Looks to me like the EVAL is doing most of the injuring," observed Marco as he pulled up a chair and sipped what was left of his Dr. Pepper.

        Sasha, eyes glowing a pretty shade of Cyan sat and joined him. "Do you think that shoe will make a useful weapon against a walking corpse with ten times the strength of the average man?"

        "And more importantly," added Clint, "Is the human torso really supposed to bend like that?" he shouted over Lothos screams of agony and excitement and the vampire's cries of frustration.

        Kysha brushed a bit of broken glass out of her hair and shook her head. "Ya know, back in June I might have found it surprising that one of our benefactors would hurl fanged death at another just to show us how to use a t-shirt to subdue a thing of evil, but now I'm kinda breezing though the shock and acceptance phases of this workshop. Cheers." She tinked her glass against Cory's and swallowed the last of her Strawberry Daquiri, making a face as the few seeds that had settled to the bottom went down uneasily.

        Lothos turned away from the vampire who he had hogtied with a pair of his own socks and a belt. The creature was snapping at Lothos' ankles with its elongated fangs while the Kiwi raised his hands in a "V" like a cowboy who had just roped a calf. "How'd I do?! Anybody get a time?!"

        The group shook its head "no" almost nonchalantly as Jude paced back and forth angrily.

        A knock came at the door along with the voice of a Tampico barmaid. "Is everything alright in there?"

        "YES!" cried the young Slayers in unison as they grinned at one another. These lessons, though they seemed to have zero to do with hunting down Plague-Sever, were at the very least entertaining.

        "Can I come in to make sure everything's okay?"

        "NO!"

        Lothos propped one barefooted leg onto the bar, pouring several shots of whiskey into a few shiny shot glasses. "Post-evil vanquishing Lesson one. Get more education on first aid from someone who understands gaping bite wounds than I bothered. Lesson's over. Get some sleep." He then proceeded to pour one of the shots of whiskey over a deep vampire bite in his leg. Thus began a two minute scream as the young Slayers grabbed their belongings and prepared to head home.
        
        "I liked the part where the vampire tried to strangle Lothos with his legs until he tickled the thing's foot with his ponytail."

        "Nah. The best part was when he head-butted the vampire with a shotglass attached to his eyebrows. Probably hurt him more than it hurt the evil."

        Lothos smiled as he listened to the kids share thoughts on the experience while wrapping his leg wound in a bar napkin.

**********

        Thirty minutes later Lothos was limping into CWAL Headquarters with an unconscious vampire slung over his shoulder.

        There was nothing Operation CWAL was unaccustomed to so no questions were asked as he meandered his way through the living room, across the LAN room, through the kitchen, across the warehouse garage, and into Pez's workshop where a wryly smiling GAVAL was waiting for him.

        "Get hurt?"

        "Nothing that won't heal after a few days of agony, and that's what beer is for."

        Lothos dropped the vampire onto a chair and watched it for a moment as its head waved slowly back and forth.

        "Thought you'd send in more than one."

        "Ah figured one was enough to make our point."

        "Yeah, but did it have to be a sick one?"

        "What?" GAVAL got up and approached the weakened undead creature.

        "If this one weren't turning to ash right now I'd assume it was dead."

        "Man, it LOOKS dead. Skinniest bloodsucker ah've ever seen. Didn't put up much of a fight either before I caught it."

        "Or when you threw it into the skylight at Tampico's. So it's a sick one."

        GAVAL leaned closer to the vampire. He had never been so close to one without going into an adrenalized and heart-pounding Rush. Now that his Rush was completely will-induced he could examine one of the creatures with a clear and almost calm demeanor. "It looks like a corpse with pointed ears. Smells awful too," he said as he covered his mouth with a handkerchief and leaned to within a foot of the creature's face. "But I've seen this condition before. Vampires don't get sick. There's only one thing that can make an undead like this look and behave so oddly."

        "You mean odd for a walking corpse with superhuman strength and an affinity for gore-cocktails?" asked Lothos.

        "Yeah, even odd for dat," finished GAVAL. "Dis evil is starving. Bloodlust. I'd guess it hasn't eaten in days, and true vampires can only eat one thing."

        "I'm guessing you're not gonna say mutton on rye with a touch of dijon mustard and bananas?"

        "Well, if that were de case we'd have a much more peaceful supernatural world out there. No, these things can only eat human blood."

        Lothos reacted with little enthusiasm. "There's a newsflash. FILM AT ELEVEN!"

        "And the only way a vampire would starve like this is if it were either bound and prevented from eating or if it didn't know how or what to eat."

        "Couldn't he have just decided to starve itself to death?"

        GAVAL shook his head, taking his fedora off and scratching his scalp under his longer-than-usual hair having not had a clip in almost seven weeks. "We've never ever seen a case of a vampire being able to starve itself because they get so hungry day jus' go into a bloodlusted frenzy and lose control until they find food. All self control is lost and day jus' chow down automatically or die hunting for food. But ah don't think dis is the case here. This thing doesn't look like he's been bound or chained lately. Ah'm willin' to bet this is an abandoned kindred with no clan or nest to belong to. Vampires don't always embrace their victims and if dis guy was turned and left for dead it's prob'ly still tryin' to figure out what's wrong with him. Dat's how it got so bloodlusted. Probably lost control after realizing dead rabbits and alley rats wouldn't keep it satisfied anymore, him."

        "So what do we do with him?" asked the New Zealander as he poked Kris Binder with a stick.

        GAVAL thought for a moment about the consequences of how many ASG rules he had broken already and figured he was in so deep that little he could do now would get him into any deeper trouble. "I say we keep it for training."

        "Yeah but what good is he if he's acting like a rabid wolverine all the time?"

        GAVAL put his hat back on and scratched his scruffy chin, the sound of stubble scritching repeatedly. "We're gonna have to feed it."

        "But you said it only eats human blood? Where we gonna get THAT?!"

        "Well there's Mu's blood banks, but CWAL needs that for emergencies."

        Lothos stopped grinning for the first time in months at the tone GAVAL's voice had taken.

        The Cajun turned to Lothos and nodded decisively. "I say we feed it a Jolt cocktail."

        Lothos gulped and reached for his jacket. "I'll get the sedative. Jolt's not gonna like this."

        "Good idea," added GAVAL as he began tying the vampire up with chains. "But it's gotta beat being impaled with a Protoss Psi Blade or incinerated by Dragoneyes on a bad hair day."

**********

        It was hard to resist the urge to impale the undead creature with a sharp wooden object. This surprised GAVAL to great lengths. His training had been so straightforward and unquestioned that he had never even considered what he'd do in the presence of a vampire who was completely at his beck and call without the Rush compelling him to dispense holy universe-balancing justice.

        "Are you done, thing?"

        Binder looked up, his chin covered in crimson liquid, and stared at the milk jug GAVAL was holding as Lothos tinkered with something in the background.

        "More," whispered Binder as he focused on the jug so hard it seemed he was willing it in his direction.

        "Not till you answer a few questions," said GAVAL as he put the bloody jug down besides the lawn chair he was sitting in.

        Struggling against the heavy chains he was bound with, the vampire spat. He looked around at his surrounding and realized the jet engine he was attached to wasn't going to allow him to move anywhere, supernatural strength or not.

        GAVAL gestured at Lothos who was slouched on a table grinning broadly. He was also tinkering with a cutting torch and had an industrial grade welding mask flipped back on his head.

        "What are you going to do, psycho? Kill me? I've been trying to kill myself for weeks, and selling out the things that made me like I am would wind me up suffering worse than anything you two losers could bring."

        GAVAL nodded. "Understood. Lothos? Cut off his ears."

        Lothos straightened and took off the welding mask, revealing a gleeful grin. "Caaaan do!" he cheered as he stepped over one of Jolt's expended bodies.
The vampires pupil's dilated to points. "WAIT!"

        "This is my associate, Lothos. He'll be helping to facilitate our chat."

        Lothos gave a scruffy salute. "Pleasure doing business with you." He jerked his head, bringing down the welding mask, and lit the torch. The vampire looked uneasy.

        GAVAL continued. "Now, I would very much like you to cooperate and give us the information that we desire. The smell of your burnt earwax could really turn a Cajun's stomach. So you belong to no clan and have no affiliates with any of the vampires clans?"

        "What vampire clans!? I don't even believe in vampires!"

GAVAL grabbed a mirror from above the lavatory Pez used to wash his hands after working on greasy engines and showed it to the naive vampire. "That tattered outfit moving around with no one in it ought to convince you otherwise."

        Binder starred into the mirror, jaw dropping. It was as though he were invisible. His ripped and blood-stained polo shirt moved as he did, but there was no face to greet him.

        "Trus' me," said GAVAL. "There's not much to look at anyway."

"You can see my face?" he asked as he touched the mirror with hands shackled at the wrists.

"Unfortunately."

        "How the hell am I gonna comb my hair?!"

        "Hmm....maybe that's why so many vampires shave dere heads," wondered the Slayer.

        Binder was silent as he thought about his predicament. He had consumed human blood now. Pints and pints of it over the last few days with GAVAL. There was no going back. Somehow instinctively he knew that now. The fact that he had almost killed someone made him feel sick enough to wretch and he might have if his vital organs were still functioning as they once had. "So what are you gonna do with me?" he asked, thinking fearfully of the shaggy guy with an Australian accent who until 20 minutes ago had been dancing around the warehouse with an oxyacetylene torch testing how quickly he could cut through various metals.

        "Well, dat's pretty much up to you." said GAVAL.

        Binder thought about his situation further realizing he was in even deeper trouble than he had at first realized. He now depended on blood to survive and it had to be human. And he needed a lot. There was no way he could afford to buy that much blood even on his doctor's income and who would want to patronize a dentist who only worked at night? Would he have to kill to survive? Would he ever be able to see another sunrise? Would the taint of evil prevent him from ever going to church again? He had never been a very devout Methodist but the last few agonizing weeks had really put the fear of god into him. "What do you want from me?" he asked the Cajun.

        "You could help me. Ah have some friends who could benefit from having a vampire around."

        "Don't call me that, okay!" cried the shackled dentist.

        "Fine. The word makes me uneasy anyway. We'll refer to you as an evening special for now," self-corrected GAVAL. "My friends and I are preparing for a little expedition and let's just say that having you around would greatly increase our chances of surviving the hunt."

        "What, you want me to chase a few deer around for your buddies or else you'll sick your leather-clad friend on me?"

        "No, not at all. I'm leaving your fate up to you, but I saw how pathetic you were out there. You couldn't even take a drunk college girl down to suit your needs. You're harmless and it would be an easy matter for me to find out if in time you ever killed any innocents...which you probably would. All vampires turn to evil eventually. Kinda sad, really. It's the hunger that really drives them."

        "Don't call me that!"

        "Sorry. Evening Specials."

        "So I can just walk out of here? You'll unbind me and just let me leave?"

        "Yeah, sure" said GAVAL as he reached for a set of keys clipped to his utility belt. "But consider this: I can provide you with unlimited supplies of fresh blood and no one has to die. In return all you have to do is show up at our little...hunting class...for a few more days and then come with us on the hunt. I'll keep you fed, you help me and my friends."

        "Who are you?" asked Kris with an increasingly frustrated voice.

        "Oh, sorry. I'm GAVAL Van Helsing. I live here with a bunch of ...um...other people...with similar careers in...um...hunting and security and...uh....private investigating and stuff."

        "Privateers..."

        "Exactly!"

        "And your friends need me along for a little supernatural muscle?"

        "EXACTLY!"

        "If you're offering me a job, I'd have to know more about these friends of yours. How they're organized. How they go about performing their contracts. What the pay is like. Benefits."

        GAVAL grinned and thought about the Ambiguous in A.S.G. "Well, the job I can tell you about, but the organization...well...let's just say if I told you I'd have to kill you."

        "Ah...covert government work, right?"

        GAVAL grinned again. "If I told you I'd have to kill you."

        A thick Cockney accent echoed from behind the hull of a boat undergoing refurbishment. "What oy don't get, moyte, is why you 'aven't killed the bloke already." Strolling slowly out from around the vessel with eyes ablaze in bright golden light as the Rush coursed through his veins was the Slayer-Chimneysweep known as Dick. With his hands on a loaded bandolier, he strolled slowly in GAVAL's direction with hardly a smile on his face.

        The Ragin Cajun's cover was blown and all hell was about to break loose. "Craters," mumbled the Cajun.



Year of the Spectre Episode 2 - Page 5