Chapter LXXVII: The Pawn Crosses the BoardI walked into the building purposefully, my jaw set. It was time to end this game.
Chunk stood awkwardly as I approached, a look of misery on his face.
'Trust me Chunk, you've got no idea what's going on here. The less you know the better. I'm going up.' I said the words firmly, but kindly. I liked the guy, and didn't want anything bad to happen to him.
I brought the force of my will to bear down on the man.
'Chunk, I still want to buy you that beer. I owe you that much. But for your own safety, and our friendship, get out of the building. Now.'
Chunk placed the gun on the table, and with one final look at me, ran out of the main doors. I didn't like what I had just done, but I would have liked killing the man less.
As I stepped up towards the elevators, I could hear the clicking as several guns had the safety taken off. Although Chunk had left, LaCroix had put extra security on detail tonight. Seemed he was a little nervous when he found out I survived the bloodhunt. Drawing my own weapon, I ran towards the men, killing one with a shot to the throat. His companion ducked behind the revolving sign, cursing. Another shot took out the man to the left, and two more left the third guard groaning on the floor. It wasn't a gun fight...it was an execution. I walked around the sign, and picked up the last security guard by the shirt.
'What are you?', he squealed, looking at me in fright. I didn't answer.
Once the man was drained, I threw him to the ground. My thirst momentarily sated, I felt strong enough to take whatever was coming. I returned to the elevators, and hit the 'up' button with the barrel of the gun. When the doors opened, I stepped inside, and pressed the button for LaCroix's suite. The lift proceeded up the shaft, but I wasn't content. It was too easy. LaCroix couldn't possibly have ju-
The lift shook, dropped a floor before the emergency catches prevented the elevator from plummeting to ground level. I swore, frustrated. I'd barely got halfway up.
The doors opened, and I crawled out of the elevator, landing silently on the floor. A guard looked out of the window whistling, not noticing my arrival. As such, I was content to let him live, and crept past him to the door that led to the offices, and through to a small boardroom. Walking to the door at the end, I came to a maintenance room, with a door that led up some stairs.
Kicking open the door at the top, I found myself in the staff cafeteria. The security guard turned in surprise at the noise of the door slamming into the wall, pulling his gun from its holster. I fired back quickly, killing the man, and ran towards the door he'd been standing in front of.
I stopped, turning my head towards the sky at the sound of breaking glass.
The glass ceiling shattered, several cables falling to the floor. Special Ops combatants slid down the cables as I watched in amazement. LaCroix had spared no expense in his hopes of seeing me dead. If he had such power at his disposal, why couldn't these grunts have dealt with the Sabbat in the hotel?
Simple. He didn't want them dealt with as much as he wanted me out of the picture.
I ducked as one of the men began firing at me. Fired at him once, before leaping over the table to grab him, using him as a human shield. His body jerked in my arm as he was riddled with bullets, continued to jerk as I dropped him, firing back. One of the Special Ops guys went down clutching his chest, and another flipped a table over, using it for cover. Did he expect me to stay and fight? I fired a few shots to keep him pinned down, make him think I was playing along.
Turning, I jumped onto the strange sculpture in the middle of the room, and jumped from platform to platform, using a steel beam from the glass ceiling to pull myself onto the roof.
'Shit! He's on the roof! Repeat, he's on the roof!'
They began firing, bullets hitting me in the side, knocking me back. I steadied myself, took a step forward and returned fire. Running forwards, I grabbed one of the operatives and hurled him over the edge of the building. He fell, screaming, the sound dwindling. I continued to fire at another operative, bringing him down, and saw another climbing up the platform I had used to get to the roof. I ran towards him, kicking him hard in the face. He lost his grip and fell off the platform, screaming as he landed on one of the tables, his back broken. He continued to scream as more operatives began to climb the platform, others coming from the door that gave roof access.
It was then I saw the maintenance shaft.
That would save me some time. Besides, I didn't see another way of getting any higher. Before more operatives could spill out of the door, I ripped open the maintenance shaft cover, and climbed in.
For several minutes I climbed up the maintenance tunnel, levering myself up with my arms, feeling the ache set in as I carried my body up the vertical shaft.
This floor of the office complex was a mess. From the rubble and burn marks, I deduced that this must have been where the Sabbat got to before being taken out. I pushed open the door. Creeping between the large sheets of plastic that blocked off the room, stepping around the crates of building supplies, I quickly eliminated three Special Ops guards who had been positioned in the room. I ran across the space, and opened the door at the end, leading to a flight of stairs.
I reached the top, and peered through the door cautiously. A man stood, glowing with an eerie blue light. His face was that of LaCroix's, but something was wrong. I approached carefully.
He spoke with LaCroix's voice, looked like LaCroix, but the man was not LaCroix. An ordinary human, possessed by whatever ability the Ventrue cretin possessed. An astrolite bomb was strapped to his chest, a machine pistol in his hand. A sacrifice, in order to ensure my death.
'I'm coming, LaCroix. I'll be with you in a few minutes.'
The figure laughed.
The prince's voice gone, the man's original voice spoke falteringly.
Seemingly against his will, the man raised the gun and began firing. I cursed, unable to fire back. I couldn't risk setting off the explosive. Instead, I ran around the man, grabbing his head in my hands, and wrenched his skull to the side, snapping his neck quickly and cleanly. I felt the man die in my hands.
'One more to lay at your door, LaCroix', I muttered with disgust. Above, I heard the clicking of weapons.
I looked quickly towards the maintenance lift, and then at the dead body. Struck with an idea, I unstrapped the man's harness, and grabbed the astrolite.
Jumping onto the elevator, I quickly affixed the astrolite to the wall and armed the explosive. With my back to it, I pressed the up button, listening to the gears as the elevator raised into the air. The clicks grew more frequent as the safety catches went off, the weapons aiming towards the elevator shaft. I waited until the elevator rose into the air, and just before it reached the next floor, jumped off. The elevator stopped on the floor, and I could hear the confusion in the silence. Then, someone saw the bomb.
'Oh. OH FUCK!'
The explosion ripped through the floor above, making the walls shake. Timber and concrete fell around me, burning masonry shattering the newly placed windows. The sounds of the dying filled the air, but I had no time to stop, to put them out of their misery.
Instead I ran towards the elevators, and opened the one in front of me. I pressed the button for the top floor.
The doors opened on an opulent room, white marble veneers and intricate carvings. I stepped out of the elevator, and ran up the stairs.
As I ran to one door, I heard the other door open behind me. Pain wracked my body, the bullets penetrating my back.
A Ventrue hitman stood in his ankle-length leather coat and expensive tailored suit. He dropped the empty clip and began to load the next one, but I was too fast, too angry. I ran towards him, thrusting the katana blade through his chest, the folds of his white dress shirt apparently not enough to stop the steel. He burst into flames with a look of horror, and I freed the blade. I was tired of killing lackeys, killing those who were only following orders. I wanted LaCroix!
A guard had run past, looking for me, not thinking to look in the shadows. I quickly ran him through with the blade and he died silently, too surprised to even make a noise.
At the end of the corridor was a large set of double doors. I pushed them open.
I stepped into an executive boardroom. I smiled, running my finger along the glass table as I walked towards the elevator on the other side. LaCroix was so self-impressed, so sure of his position as Prince of the City, Ventrue vampire of the proudest stock. But still he played at being human. I stepped into the elevator, and pressed the button for the Penthouse Suite. As the doors opened, I stepped into the foyer outside LaCroix's personal office. Looked up. Saw him.
The Sheriff. His long coat removed, showing his muscular form, so developed as to appear almost deformed. His bastard sword was gripped in one fist, holding it as though it weighed nothing. His eyes glowed malevolently, the red balls watching me with undisguised hatred. He vaulted over the railing, and ran towards me.
I fired at the approaching figure, but the bullets were pushed aside by black tendrils of energy that escaped his figure. When they parted, he had disappeared.
I roared in pain as I felt his blade, the blade that had killed my sire, bite deeply into my shoulder. Whatever power the Sheriff possessed, he had used it to warp space, appearing behind me. I turned to face him, my left arm hanging limply by my side, blood flowing freely from the deep wound.
I faced the Sheriff, the Beast in me raging. I forced the voice down. I would fend off the Beast as I would the Sheriff. I drew my own sword, felt my strength grow, my senses heighten. He was big, he was strong, but he was slow. I raced towards him, the featherlight blade dancing in my hands. A cut across the thigh. Across the chest. An upwards arc, slicing deeply into his bicep. The large sword swung down, but I leapt to the side, the blade whistling harmlessly down to shatter the wooden floor. I lashed out with the katana again, biting deeply into his arm. The Sheriff didn't make a noise, merely curled his lip in pain as his other arm slammed into me, pushing me to the floor. I skidded along the surface, keeping my grip on the blade tight. The Sheriff advanced, blood dripping from his wounds, yet his walk was steady. Again the blade whistled down, seeking to split me in half. I rolled quickly to the side, but the blade caught the damaged shoulder again, carving a large chunk of flesh out. I hissed, looking at the wound. Another like that, and I'd lose the arm. I didn't care to find out how long that would take to heal. I jumped to my feet, ducked quickly under another swing of the oversized weapon, countering with a stinging cut to the side, thrusting the blade into the Sheriff's face. He did scream then, a loud, inhuman noise. Again, he was enveloped by the black tendrils, his form disappearing.
In times of desperation, instinct kicks in. Keeps us alive. Call it adrenaline, call it survival instinct, call it whatever the fuck you want. Inside us all is that Beast, that survival instinct, that desire to kick and scream and live, for just one more day. You'd think, being dead, that instinct would have faded. You'd think, being nearly indestructible, that instinct wouldn't exist beyond the obvious. Stay away from fire. Avoid direct sunlight.
Insinct at that moment told me to duck. I fell to my knees, the edge of the blade skimming past. Had I stood still, the sword would have decapitated me just as surely as it had decapitated my sire. The Sheriff groaned behind me.
The Beast works differently in us. It teaches us that to survive, you have to be one with your nature, learn to bend it to your will. It teaches us to be aware of our limitations, our strengths, of what our triggers are, what causes us to lose control.
Most importantly of all, the Beast teaches us to kill.
The Sheriff staggered backwards, the katana buried hilt deep in his stomach. As I ducked, I had thrust the sword back and up, similar to a samurai committing the most honourable suicide. Not into my stomach however, but next to it. As the Sheriff had appeared behind me, he had leapt forward, intending to land the killing blow. Instead, his momentum had brought his full weight onto the point of the blade, running himself through. I stood, trying to ignore the screaming pain in my shoulder, trying to ignore the numbness in the fingers of that hand. The Sheriff took another step back, and shrieked.
Then there was a flash of light, so bright I shielded my eyes. Dazed, I looked up as my vision cleared.
When I could see again, I wished I couldn't. The Sheriff had transformed into a giant bat, a bat which was swooping down towards me.
The bat picked me up, and threw me through the wall of the tower, letting me fall onto the balcony. I landed hard, my head bouncing against the concrete, dazed. I struggled to sit up, ignoring the aches, the dizziness. Shrugged my shoulder, brought some life back to the screaming sinews. The bat-creature flew into the night, circling the tower. I finally managed to bring myself into the sitting position, holding my head.
Groggily, I stood up. Fired a few shots into the night, although it was futile. The bat-creature flew too fast, too high up. The bullets had no chance of reaching it. The Sheriff swooped down, traveling down the length of the tower. Just as quickly it flew back up, carrying something in it's claws. I squinted, trying to steady my vision long enough to make out what it was. When I realised, my eyes widened, and I ran.
The car exploded on contact with the ground, machinery and twisted metal exploding in every direction, the shrapnel cutting into my skin. I cursed again, looking for a way to slow the bat down.
I grinned, hope rising in me as I saw the spotlight. As the bat circled the tower again, I ran towards it, and positioned myself behind it. Willing my damaged arm to move, I flicked on the power, and swung the light around to face the bat. As it came towards the centre of the tower, I raised the beam, shining it directly into the bat's eyes. It screeched, trying to cover its eyes with the tiny clawed fingers at the end of its wings. It was difficult to do that and stay afloat at the same time, especially giving the disorientating effect of the light. The bat fell heavily to the floor, writhing.
It was now or never. I ran up to the bat, and began to unload the clip into it. Several shots to each wing rendered them incapable of flight. And a flightless bat was pretty fucking helpless. Emptied the clip, reloaded. The bat screeched, attempting to turn its head to bite at me, but it wasn't flexible enough.
I circled the body, firing. Every shot connecting with the unprotected head, chipping away at fur, at flesh, at bone. Blood began to drip, and then pour from the wounds as clip after clip was emptied on it. It struggled to move, to drag itself away from the onslaught. Another clip emptied. The eyes burst, the nose shattered, the mouth bled freely. Another clip. Another. And another. The head was a sticky mess, barely recognisable as a head at all. A final clip. I moved closer, made every bullet count. The vampire twitched, blood and brain leaking from the giant holes in its swiss-cheese skull.
The body burst into flames and dissolved, leaving only scorched brown bone. The Sheriff was dead. I dropped the gun wearily, clutched a hand to the shattered shoulder. It was healing, but still agonising, the fingers tingling, the arm drooping. But I was alive. In the end, that was what mattered. I was alive.
I walked slowly but determinedly towards the door. It was time to end this.