Chapter LXX: A Hidden HellBehind the Hollowbrook Hotel, an old maintenance lift from the roof was sitting at ground level. I stepped inside and slammed down the switch, the lift slowly rising into the air. At the top, I stepped off and quietly opened the fire escape that led to the inside of the building.
The inside of the building was a disgusting wreck, the walls gutted by fire and wanton destruction. How it had escaped the notice of the people of L.A., of LaCroix's network of eyes and ears, was beyond me. Down the stairs I could hear the sound of guns being loaded and reloaded, the safety catches checked.
'Where is the bastard. We heard the lift come up, where is he?' A human thug, presumably hoping for an invite to the Sabbat club. He spoke nervously. It seemed my reputation preceded me. I smiled without humour.
'Shut up you fuck', rasped another voice, the unmistakable grating of a Sabbat foot-soldier. 'Want him to hear you? He's probably outside pissing himself over the suicide mission king-bitch sent him on.'
The gang members laughed. Two of them, plus the vampire. Not being nearly as attentive as they should be. I crept down the stairs, unsheathing the blade given to me by the demon-hunter from Japan, and peered around the corridor.
That the Sabbat monkeys had torn down most of the inner walls was a great advantage. I was easily able to spy the vampire, his long claws hanging by his sides. Staying out of his line of sight, I carefully moved behind him, standing silently.
'Hey asshole, guess which bastard's already inside?'
Before the startled vampire could turn around, I thrust the sword through his back, penetrating his heart. The blade pierced his chest, sending a spray of blood to hit the wall in front of him. He gasp a final rasp, his body bursting into flames, the disintegrating flesh freeing the blade.
'What the fucking-' One of the gang members watched me in abject terror, trying to retreat, tripping over some loose cinderblock. The other raised his gun, the whites of his eyes showing in the fires in the middle of the room.
I grinned, wagging the finger of my free hand. In one quick movement I traversed the room, gutting the man who was about to fire his gun. He fell to the ground as I was turning, the blade turning in an arc to decapitate the man trying to rise. Both had died without a sound, the guns not being fired. The more I could kill quietly, the less I'd have to face head on. Wiping the blade, I walked through a demolished doorway, stepping carefully over the fallen door. I struggled to keep my bearings, so extensive was the damage to the internal workings of the building. Stepping out, I realised that I must have been in some kind of bedroom-suite, and now I was in a corridor.
The masonry that the vampires had begun piling as makeshift barricades worked just as well for me as for them. Crawling hand over hand, dragging my stomach over the debris on the floor, I was able to escape the notice of the Sabbat thug wielding a shotgun. He held it by his side, tapping it idly against his leg, his expression bored. The Sabbat had no discipline. Were any of them paying attention, I could have easily been outnumbered by now. As it was, my job seemed relatively simple, moving from fool to fool, dispatching them without effort. This one died just as easily, his brutish face barely changing as I gripped his head in one hand, my sword going through his throat. His body collapsed, giving me time to climb over the barricade.
'Fuck! He's here! Get over here you fucks, he's here!'
I cursed. Apparently my luck had run out.
Vampires appeared from every orifice. The first female Sabbat I had seen raced towards me, brandishing a handgun in each hand, firing wildly. Bullets spraying everywhere, I dived into one of the doorways to the left, sprawling along the floor. I lay on my back, leaving the sword by my hand as I pulled a gun out of my belt, waiting for the bitch to reach me.
The woman appeared in the doorway, making no attempt to be covert, to protect herself. The Sabbat seemed to throw their lives away. I raised the gun, aiming for her chest, firing off three shots. The bullets penetrated her chest, sending her backwards. She screamed like a banshee, firing back in her wild fashion, hitting everything in the room except me. I could have laughed, except for the knowledge that now every damned vampire in the building knew I was here. I fired off another three rounds, these penetrating her neck and face. The final bullet seemed to do the damage, sending her head smashing against the back wall, before her body crumbled. I stood up again, grabbing the katana, and leaned carefully out of the doorway.
A fast slash sent me flying backwards, blood spraying from the gashes in my chest. Some sort of beast approached, a flat, ugly ape's maw, overly long hands ending in clawed fingers, reaching out for me, blood lacing the talons. I growled, looking at the monstrosity. Trust a fucking Sabbat to be fucking ugly. The creature lurched forwards again, seeking to turn my face into mincemeat. I dodged backwards, raising the blade in defence. The creature gave a hiss of pain, pulling its hand back from where it had run along the blade, severing a finger. Seizing on the vampire's retreat, I knelt down, slashing across the creature's leg, hard. The leg split down the middle, blood and muscle escaping from the wound. The creature fell to the floor, squealing.
Moving quickly, eying the Sabbat wielding a shotgun at the end of the corridor, I thrust down hard with the point of the katana, impaling the creature's hindbrain. It squealed once more, before disintegrating, its final cry being drowned out by the fire of the shotgun. The pellets hit me in the face, but at such distance that they did little damage. I called down the corridor to the vampire at the end.
'Didn't they ever teach you about using the right weapon for the job?'
'Fuck you!' The creature was easily enraged, and jumped over his barricade, running towards me mindlessly, bloody saliva flowing from his lips. I waited for him to come closer, holding the gun I still held in my right hand at waist level. Fired. Fired again. Saw the vampire topple as his knee gave way, the second bullet shattering the kneecap. Fired again, hitting it between the eyes. Again, the body bursting into flames. Reloading the gun, I jumped over the body, and ran down the corridor.
A hole in the floor where the beams had given way gave me access to the floor below. Feeling around, I found another weakspot, and jumped through the floor, to land bodily in another room. I quickly scanned the area, looking for more Sabbat to hunt. I was no longer functioning rationally, but working on instinct. The Beast growled, yearned to be free, wanted to taste the blood of Sabbat. A distant, human part of me wondered what I had become, fought against those impulses. Cannibalism in humankind was bad enough. I massacred my way through the floor, taking some vampires by surprise, using the stupidity of others. I took several wounds, most of which healed quickly. The rest was covered by the human fodder the Sabbat had so kindly provided, their blood replenishing my vitality. Another floor down, I began to run low on ammo. I'd have to be more sensible, more rational. Grimly, I forced down that killing instinct, tried to think logically. Leaning against a wall, ear to the doorway, I listened intently.
'Is he coming?', a female voice asked.
'Fuck if I know!', snapped a rasping voice. 'He ain't here yet is he, you stupid bitch.'
'I don't hear gunfire no more.'
As silently as possible, I leaned down, lying on my stomach, looked carefully into the room. Two vampires hid behind upturned tables, guarding a large set of double doors. Each held an automatic rifle, aimed at the doorway. Aimed at head level. Capitalising on the bad lighting, I crawled along the floor, moving along the darkened corners of the room, staying out of sight.
'You know, I'm getting hungry', whined the female. 'Can't I eat one of those gangbangers? They're not worth vamping.'
'Will you shut the fuck up? Watch the fucking door!'
'Why don't you fuc-'
Dispatching her the same way I dispatched the first vampire, the woman gave a death-rattle as her body decomposed before my eyes. Her words cut off, the other vampire turned look at her, his brow rising as he took in my bloodstained and bullet-riddled form.
I kicked the remains off the blade, rushing forwards. The vampire fired off a round, hitting my side and the wall next to me, the pain barely noticeable. I flicked the blade, carving a deep mark in the vampire's wrist. He cursed, numb fingers unable to grip the trigger. He raised his other hand to protect his face. A wasted gesture, considering the blade being driven through his stomach. I twisted the blade, the vampire giving a throaty shriek as I yanked the blade upwards, filleting the foul-smelling wretch. He fell to the floor, disintegrating as his body made contact. I turned, about to open the door, when someone did it for me.
Another long-claw jumped through the doorway, sending the door flying off it's hinges. I quickly stepped to the side, preventing myself from being brained by the wood as it hurtled past, kicked the creature in the back as it went past. It sprawled to the floor, but quickly jumped back to it's feet.
'Yoooooou'll pay for that, fuckeeeeer', it growled, hard work for it's modified throat. I ignored the comment, dropping the sword and pulling out the colt. The creature took a step forward, dropping in its tracks as the gun fired. I turned, making my way through a series of larger rooms, dropping through another floor to come into a room that must have been a kitchen before the Sabbat moved in.
'You Sabbat make fucking lousy guards', I deadpanned, watching in amusement as they looked up. Had I taken them so by surprise that they hadn't had time to plan? It seemed ridiculous that just one person could do so much damage. But the Sabbat didn't pay attention, didn't use their superior numbers to their advantage. It was a slaughter, but the wrong way around. I fired the gun, killing the vampires in the kitchen, wondering how much further I had to go.
I looked to the exit quickly as the doors flew at me, hurtled by one of the Sabbat. I kneeled behind one of the large benches, taking the assault rifle from under my jacket, and spraying blindly in the direction of the door. The vampires ducked behind the doorframe, giving me the time to stand, running to meet them. As one leaned around to look for me, the rounds from the automatic hit him in the face, his skull bouncing to the floor as I dispatched the other vampire. I ran into the next room, gun raised.
The vampire laughed.
'Wanna say hello to your girlfriend?'
The vampires advanced on Heather as she screamed, looking towards me.
'Help me, please!'
I tried to cross the distance. But they were too far away, too close to her. I watched in horror as she was cut down, her body mutilated in seconds, the vampires laughing.
'Heather.' I whispered the word, the name. I should have sent her away.
The Beast took control. It had the moment it had waited for, the loss of self, the pain of loss. The rage. With a mindless roar, I raced towards the creatures, my eyes covered with red film. The monsterlike vampire looked at me, its mouth open in a silent laugh. I roared again, gripping its jaw in my hand, ignoring the teeth that carved deeply into my flesh. Ignored the pain, ignored the other vampire firing at me with its handgun. Roared again as I ripped the jaw from the creature's face, blood spraying out, pulsing. The creature screamed, it's hands going to its ruined face. I held the jaw in my hand, blood dripping from the deep cuts, taking the jawbone and thrusting it teeth first in the creatures eyes. Kicked it to the ground, stamped on its throat, killing it. Turned, roaring again, ignoring the bullets that penetrated my skin, the little bee stings. I jumped, grabbing the vampire by his arms, ripped them from his torso. The scream became a high-pitched whine in my ears, the ringing like that suffered after a large explosion. The redness wouldn't leave my vision. I wanted to kill, wanted to hunt, wanted to drink the blood...
My foot nudged her dead body.
Just as quickly, I was me again. The pain came back. The loss came back. I fell to my knees. The red film finally cleared, the unshed tears rolling down my face, red droplets landing on her broken form.
'No. No no no no no.' I let the tears fall. I should have sent her away. Why hadn't I sent her away? In my loneliness, in my selfishness, I kept her with me, knowing how dangerous it was. Who was responsible for her death? The vampires that kidnapped her, or the vampire that enslaved her?
Slowly, I rose to my feet. Heather was dead. That, I could not change. But I could make sure the Sabbat paid for it.
The twisting corridors led me to an opulent ballroom. Standing at the top of the stairs was a figure that bore some resemblance to my own. Something in me resonated with the figure.
Tremere. Can't your blood feel it?
The man raised his hand, and was surrounded by a shield, blue flames burning at the foot of each staircase. He raised his hand again, and a blue ray of light reached from the floor to the ceiling, moving forwards, coming towards me. A rumbling noise came, like distant thunder. I didn't want to be touched by that light. I moved to the side, firing several rounds at the shield, which seemed impervious. I braced myself.
'Seems the only way is through the fire.'
I didn't know whether it would incinerate me. Didn't care. I rushed forwards, leaping through the flames, wincing as I felt my flesh bubble, the fat dripping to sizzle on the floor. I was in agony, but I was alive.
The vampire felt that shot. He turned to face me, his shields disappearing. I fired again, the bullet taking him in the groin. If he felt the pain, he showed no sign, smiling a lifeless smile. The pain I had felt, the loss, all focused in on this man. I raised both hands in clenched fists, thrusting them towards him with a roar. The smile faded as the man looked at first puzzled, then alarmed. He opened his mouth, blood pouring from his mouth, the blood bubbling as it hit the floor. His skin began to steam, his body making strange noises as he gave a gurgling scream. He fell to his knees, and then toppled over, his skin continuing to steam. Whatever power I had tapped into had caused his blood to boil, killing him near instantaneously.
I'll have to remember that one, came that infuriating voice. I ignored it, continuing down a side corridor.
The carpark was bathed in an ominous red light, the only sound the buzzing of flies. I groaned, remembering the last time I'd heard that noise.
I pulled a hand away from the wall, sickened. The entire house had been decorated in human flesh...
It was painfully obvious who was in charge of the Sabbat in L.A. I should have realised before. I moved across the carpark, making sure my weapons were loaded, drinking from the bloodpack I had brought with me, the worst of my injuries healing. The skin was still tender and tight where it had been burnt by the flames, but the majority of the pain had subsided. I pushed open the door, and awakened a new nightmare.
Macabre human chandeliers hung over a pool of blood. The floor had given way, revealing the earth underneath. Seeing no other way to proceed, I jumped into the pit, sinking to my knees in the blood.
I wasn't buying his pseudo-mystical bullshit.
'The only thing I'm wondering is what your insides look like. If it's anything as bad as your mouth-on-legs, or the fat guys, I can understand why you're so irritable.'
'Oh, I don't know about that. The Sabbat are finished in L.A. for now, seems like a pretty good use of blood to me, keeping you animals in line.'
'Afraid not, Tzmisce. It's none of your concern.'
'Enough talk. Let's get this over with.'
The Tzmisce changed, becoming larger, muscular, claws growing longer, teeth sharper. With a reptilian hiss, he jumped into the pit. I raised the blood shield, instantly being overcome with nausea. Whatever was in the blood in the pit, it was tainted. I reeled, dizzy, as I quickly let the shield fall. I coughed, crimson staining my mouth. Jumped back, as a large claw ripped the air where my face had been.
Don't you feel it? The blood calls...corrupts...
'Not now!', I muttered under my breath. Stepping back, I ripped one of the torches from the sconce in the floor, and thrust the burning tip into the creature's face. It roared as the flame singed its face, stepping backwards. With a scream, the Tzmisce jumped into the blood, disappearing. I paused. The blood wasn't that deep. How could he have...
I gasped in pain and surprise as the claws raked across my back. The creature could manipulate the blood, use it to travel. I exaggerated my fall, landing on my back. The creature laughed, coming forwards. As it moved to kick me, I rolled out of the way, firing the colt into its ankle. The bone shattered, causing the creature to topple slightly. I seized the opportunity to grab a second torch, thrusting this one into the Tzmisce's eyes. Due to the angle, the left eye was barely touched, but the right eye sizzled and burst.
'This evens things out a little', I muttered darkly.
The creature struggled to rise, favouring it's unwounded leg. I fired again, hitting the creature in the back. Blood sprayed out, burning me where it touched. Again the Tzmisce jumped into the blood. I didn't wait this time. Instead, I ran towards a small island in the corner of the room, my back to the wall. The only place the creature could surface was in front of me. I raised the gun, and waited.
In a large splash of tainted blood, the beast rose into the air. I fired, hitting it in the chest. Again, catching the stomach. Lifted the gun as the creature fell back, firing twice into the face. The force of the magnum rounds toppled the giant, landing on its back on another dry patch. I ran forward, grabbing a remaining torch. As the Tzmisce tried to rise, roaring, I pushed it back down with my boot, pressing the burning wood against the remaining eye. Blinded, the Tzmisce struggled to throw me aside, but I continued to hold the torch close, melting his face. Weakening, the roars of anger turned into groans of fear, frustration. I drew the katana, and raised it, point downwards. With a cry, putting all my weight forwards, I dropped to my knees, the momentum forcing the blade through the creature's head, catching in the dirt underneath. The Sabbat leader shrieked, kicking its legs as I jumped clear, watching as his skin slowly burst into flames. The shrieks rose in volume and pitch, his hands pounding the earth. With terrible certainty, the shrieks cut off as the flesh melted, exposing the blackened skeleton underneath. In moments, that too dissolved. Gasping, I wrenched the sword free of the dirt, and climbed out of the pit. Hopefully that was enough excitement for tonight.